I'm a former TV news anchor who is raising quadruplet daughters. I don't claim to be an "expert" parent, but I think my tips, triumphs and struggles will give you some insight to my life. Have ideas for this site? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A fellow mom of multiples recently brought an alarming development to my attention. According to an email she received from Easter Seals, President Obama has sent a budget to Congress for review which would freeze funding for Early Intervention. For those of you not familiar with Early Intervention (EI), it is a program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. The definition of "disability" is quite, vague, though and you may be surprised to know who is using or has benefited from these services. My daughters were born at 28 weeks and 2 days. Clearly they had their work cut out for them the moment they arrived in this world. As their discharge from the NICU approached, our assigned hospital social worker (all NICU families at our hospital were assigned a social worker to help with a multitude of issues that arise during the stay) asked us if we had contacted the local EI team. Um... no. What? Huh? I had no idea what she was talking about. So she explained EI to me and it made sense. The team (typically made up of a physical therapist and an occupational therapist... although speech therapists can also be involved for older children) evaluate your child(ren) to determine if there are any developmental concerns. It could be something as simple as teaching a baby how to hold her head up, or it could be more complex than that. The team came to our house and evaluated the girls. Turns out Roo had torticollis (basically tight muscles in her neck). The therapist showed us some things to do and she was fine within a matter of weeks. Sue Sue had low muscle tone in her core. We were taught various techniques and exercises to help her build her strength. By their first birthday, only Sue Sue needed to continue her services. By age two, I had concerns about their speech (basically they had developed their own "multiples language" that only they understood). Sue Sue continued to receive EI therapy until her third birthday. The four of them received speech therapy from age two to three. After that, they qualified for our school district's preschool program, where various therapies are offered. We were fortunate during all of this to also have health insurance through Hubby's work. At any time had EI services not been available we could have simply switched to a private therapist covered by our insurance, which is what we currently do to supplement the sporadic therapy Sue Sue receives at school. Let's face it, not all families have this option. In my experience, EI is a great program. It gives our youngest citizens the building blocks they need to be successful later in life. Sue Sue's current physical therapist is contemplating ending her therapy at the end of the summer because of the strides she has made. I truly don't know if she would be this far along if we hadn't hit the ground running with her therapy at such an early age. So, now you may be thinking, "Well, you said the President wants to freeze the funding, not cut it." OK, then let's consider this. My family is one of the lucky ones. We needed services, but we needed simplified services. We will not need lifelong services. The agencies providing EI are sorely underfunded and typically need more funding, not the status quo. About a year ago, I called the agency that provides our EI services. We needed help funding some of Sue Sue's therapy and I was at my wit's end. Sue Sue qualified for our state's child health insurance program, but because Hubby had insurance through his employer, she was rejected from the program (long story involving too much red tape to discuss here). Our income isn't low enough to qualify for Medicaid or SSI and her needs aren't severe enough to qualify for a Medicaid medical waiver. Anyway, I contacted the EI agency, distressed over the mounting medical costs associated with private physical therapy... Therapy to make her a productive, non-therapy needing member of society by age 5. After a lengthy process, involving zillions of questions, the agency informed me Sue Sue would be put on a waiting list for a program designed to help offset certain medical costs (not a free ride, mind you, but assistance with what we pay). The woman estimated it would be three to four months for Sue Sue to reach the top of the list. Throw in a poor economy and budget cutbacks and here I am a year later without making any progress. Imagine a family with a child with much more severe needs, who may only be able to receive help from Early Intervention. I'm starting to drift away from my point. Early Intervention. It is the first steps to helping our children succeed. It is not just for multiples. It is not just for preemies. It is not just for infants and toddlers with severe disabilities. It can be teaching an infant a simple task, such as rolling over. Helping a child with a speech impediment. Any parent can contact their EI agency with questions and concerns and ask for an evaluation. So, what can you do, if you're as concerned as I am? My first step was to write my Congressman. I received a generic email back from him, but I'm hoping his staff will at least take the time to read what I had to say. My second step is to start spreading the word. My third step is to encourage you to take action if you've benefited from Early Intervention as well.
I love music. I need music in the car. I need music when I work out. I've even started wearing my IPod when I'm at the grocery store. I want my daughters to enjoy music, too. It has been trial and error to figure out what they like, as opposed to what I like. But this time, I think I've found something we all enjoy. As part of the Music Moms program through Team Mom, I recently received a complimentary CD from EMI Music. The CD is Celtic Woman's "Songs from the Heart." I was curious to see how my girls would react to music they don't recognize (not nursery rhymes, not from a movie, etc.). Celtic Woman is a five-member Irish female ensemble. The vocalists are Lisa Kelly, Chloe Agnew, Lynn Hilary and Alex Sharpe. The violinist is Mairead Nesbitt. The group has sold more than 3.8 million records in the U.S. alone and has had seven sold-out U.S. tours. They've also performed on Dancing With the Stars and have performed on PBS specials. I've caught at least one of the PBS specials in the past and have been blown away by the beauty of their music. On much of the disc they put a Celtic spin on popular songs, such as Billy Joel's "Goodnight My Angel" and Sting's "Fields of Gold." I think of all the songs featured on this CD, my favorite is "Nil Se'n La." It's a little more upbeat than some of the others and has such an "Irish feel" to it. I really don't know a better way to describe it. I dare you not to feel chills on "Amazing Grace" with its bagpipes and haunting vocals. My daughters enjoyed Celtic Woman's take on "You'll Be in My Heart." They also enjoyed looking at the cover art and seeing the performers in their "princess dresses." Want to experience Celtic Woman for yourself? One lucky reader will win Celtic Woman's "Songs From the Heart" live concert DVD. To enter:
Leave a comment telling me what music you're listening to right now... be sure to include your email address in the comment
Earn an additional entry if you follow Buried in Laundry or become a follower (You MUST leave a separate comment for your second entry to count)
The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. A valid email address is required to enter. The deadline to enter 11:59 pm MST Thursday Feb. 25, 2010. The winner will selected via Random.org and will have 48 hours after notification to provide me with a mailing address or a new winner will be selected.
Yesterday I had the chance to volunteer at my daughters' preschool. I try to do this once a month. Lately, though, it seems my volunteer day ends up being on the day of a party (Thanksgiving and Christmas), but not this time. There were no parties lined up and I finally got a good idea of what goes on at preschool. Interestingly enough, the same things they do at preschool, my girls claim they simply cannot do for themselves at home. Put their coats on? At school they'll at least attempt it. The coats sometimes ended up being put on upside down, but they tried. At home they give me the line of "I can't do it." At school they clean up their mess. Yes, it took a reminder, but they did it without argument. At home I am often told "I'm too tired to clean up" or "My arms are too tired." All joking aside, yesterday's volunteer stint was fun. I had a chance to see that my daughters enjoy preschool and are actively involved in the classroom lessons. Now if I can just remember to sing the Clean Up song at the end of the day, maybe they'll clean up at home, too.
I've made it no secret that I allow my daughters to watch television. Hubby's new job comes with the perk of free cable, so for the first time in their lives my daughters have come to realize there is more to TV than PBS. Occasionally on Nick Jr. there are videos in between shows. We now have a special ritual when one of those videos is on. For some reason we all enjoy The Laurie Berkner Band's "Family" (it may be called "My Family." Google searches result in various titles). When the video is on, we all have to drop what we're doing and sing and dance. I mean drop everything. I had the TV on one night during their dinner, so everyone "danced in their chairs." It was quite comical. The best thing about all of this is that yesterday when it came on, I had flipped the TV on out of desperation. Everyone was grumpy and the littlest things were making them mad. The video came on and poof everyone was in a happy mood. It's hard to stay mad when you're jumping around the living rooming shouting out the lyrics to a fun song.
I'm always looking for ways to teach my daughters new things, or emphasize what they already know, without making it seem like they're learning. Hubby had an idea after lunch the other day that almost backfired. The girls brought home Valentine's Day heart candies from school (you know, the candy with messages). Our daughters always want a treat with lunch, so I usually oblige them with a small piece of candy, a cookie, or whatever fun treat I can find. It's only once a day and it's the only "bad food" they typically have all day. The one stipulation: they have to eat all their lunch first. Yes, there have been days when they don't finish their lunch and simply say "I'm not hungry so I won't be eating a cookie today." Anyway, Hubby decided they could have as many pieces of candy as they could count. I decided to sit back and see what happened. Roo, Tortilla and Cakes each became distracted around 5. They wanted more and could have counted more, but were more interested in eating the candy. Then came Sue Sue. I knew we could be in some serious trouble. When she hit 10, I distracted her. I'm convinced that, if given the chance, she would have hit at least 20... and while I'm not a sugar-phobe, that seemed like way too much sugar to me. Still, they all had fun with this exercise, so when I'm at the grocery store today I'll be picking up some treats other than candy for them to count and eat (blueberries, grapes, etc). Reminder: There's still time to enter the $50 Safeway gift card giveaway.
When I wrote a post last week about whether I'll separate my daughters in school, a good question came up: will I be forced to separate them? There are some school districts with policies stipulating that siblings can't be in the same class. Fortunately, my district is not one of those. For now, it has been my decision. As I explained in my previous post, I kept my daughters together their first year of preschool and this year, as well. Now I'm being "encouraged" by their teacher to split them next year. I just don't know. I don't intend to keep them in the same class for their entire school career, but I don't know if now is the time to do it. Still, I'm grateful that my input matters. I have a good idea of which of my daughters are ready for some independence and who may need to be with her sisters a little longer. Yet I appreciate the input from their teacher. She sees them in an environment that doesn't involve mommy and daddy. She sees who blossoms without my protection and who relies on her sisters for comfort. I don't like the idea, though, that there are school districts that have policies on the books that don't allow multiples to be in the same class. I really think more states need laws similar to the Minnesota Twins Law, which gives parents of multiple birth children the right to decide whether they'll be separated. There are many reasons to keep multiples together. There are many reasons to separate them. It really needs to be an individual decision. I'm not suggesting teachers shouldn't have a say in what happens, but I think it needs to be an open dialogue between the parents and the school rather than a set policy. I'm also concerned that with a specific policy deterring multiples in the same class, then you effectively set one (or more) of the children up for failure. Would some of my daughters be denied entrance to honors classes because they can't be in the same class with their sisters? Growing up, my parents made me take all honors classes... even in my worst subject (math). Their philosophy (and I agree with it to an extent) was that it's better to struggle in honors classes and actually learn something, than to coast through an easier class. Throw in some electives and hundreds of other students and it would be hard to keep all four out of the same classes. Clearly I've just scratched the surface of this issue, but I'll leave you with this final thought: if a parent of a "singleton" can request that their child be in a specific teacher's class (even if you've never done this, you can't tell me you don't know a parent who has), then why can't parents of multiples do the same thing? ****Don't forget to enter the $50 Safeway gift card giveaway.
As a member of My Blog Spark, I recently had the opportunity to receive a VIP coupon for a free four pack of Fiber One yogurt from Safeway and Fiber One. I took my coupon to my local Safeway (more on the Safeway connection in a moment) and tried the strawberry flavor. Our refrigerator is full of yogurt. My daughters like it. I like it because it curbs my sweet tooth after a meal. I'll be honest. To me, yogurt is yogurt. The Fiber One variety was delicious, but I don't know if I would say it is more delicious than any other brand I've tried. Still, it is the only leading nonfat yogurt with 50 calories and 5 grams of fiber, which is a nice bonus. It's also a good source of calcium and Vitamins A and D. When the price is right, I'm happy to put this yogurt in my cart. Today and tomorrow you can purchase two Fiber One 4-packs for only $4 at your local Safeway family of stores. Definitely worth checking out if you're at the grocery store on these days. So, the bad news is that I don't have any VIP coupons to giveaway. The good news is that Safeway gave me a $50 gift card to use while I shopped... putting a nice dent in my grocery bill. The better news: one lucky Buried in Laundry reader will win a $50 Safeway gift card, which can also be used at Dominick's, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Vons and Genuardi's. You can use the card to try Fiber One and stock up on other grocery essentials. To enter the giveaway: (A valid email address is required to enter)
leave a comment telling me your favorite healthy snack; remember to include your email address
Earn an additional entry if you become a follower of Buried in Laundry, or if you already follow this blog (PLEASE leave a SEPARATE comment for any additional entries)
Earn an additional entry by blogging about this giveaway and including a link to this post (again, leave a separate comment if you do this)
The deadline to enter is 9 a.m. MST, February 14, 2010. The winner will be chosen via Random.org. The contest is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours after notification to provide me with a delivery address or a new winner will be chosen.
At some point, every parent of multiples is faced with this question "Do I separate my children in school?" It has been something that weighs on my mind as the beginning of each school year approaches. When my daughters started preschool last year, they only went two days a week. I talked with the head of the preschool program and she suggested I keep them in the same class the first year. She had some good points: I wouldn't have to deal with multiple field trips, multiple in-class birthday parties, all the homework would be the same. On the first day of school I was so glad I made the decision to keep them together. My daughters had were on the verge of turning three. Many of their classmates were already four. My girls were the teeny, tiniest things in that room. It helped to have them together, simply so they didn't stand out. When the time came to figure out what to do for this year, I decided to keep them together again. I really like our teacher and I couldn't imagine only having one or two of my daughters in her class. I'm pretty sure I'll keep them in the same class next year for their final year of preschool. But then comes kindergarten. They'll be in a different school, so initially I thought I should keep them together to help ease the transition. Then I thought maybe it's good to have all the changes come at once. I still have some time to think about it. Until my daughters are in high school, I doubt there will be a chance to truly separate them... in other words, putting all four of them in different classes. Our school district isn't small, but it's not so big that the elementary schools have four classes for the same grade level. I'm not going to spend my time driving them to and from school all day, so splitting them into am and pm kindergarten won't work. Also, don't even suggest putting them in different schools. Not. Going. To. Happen. So then what? How do I split them up? Two and two, most likely. But which two? We're giving them a second bedroom in the spring, so I doubt I'll want to put the "roommates" together. They'll get enough of each other at home. There are some personality conflicts on occasion and some of the girls tend to thrive out of the shadow of the others. Clearly I have a lot to consider over the next year and a half. I'll let you know how I sort it out.
When people find out my daughters are four-years-old, they often say something along the lines of "Oh, kindergarten will be so much fun next year." I'm sure it will be... for the children who are in kindergarten. My daughters won't be among them. Based on the guidelines of our school district, my daughters will turn five exactly three days after the cut-off for kindergarten. Three days. It has been a long, thought out decision (and I've changed my mind numerous times), but I will not ask the district to let my daughters start kindergarten in the fall. Initially I was concerned that my daughters would get burned out on another year of preschool. We are fortunate to live in a school district that offers preschool and fortunate to be accepted into the program. Last year my girls didn't notice when all but two or three students moved on to kindergarten. At the end-of-school party this year I think they'll notice that they're among the only students not getting a "diploma." (They still receive a nice keepsake from the teacher). I think in the fall they'll notice most of their classmates are "new." I was also concerned about having my daughters be the oldest in their class. Think about it... they'll turn six within a month of starting kindergarten. Most of their classmates will have just turned five. I am a November baby. I have been asked countless times if I was held back in school. No. I didn't turn 5 by my school's deadline (I think it was Sept. 1). I started on time by my district's guidelines. I just don't want my daughters to be asked throughout their lives if they were held back. Silly, I know, but it was still something that bothered me. But those aren't good enough reasons to start them early. It may only be three days, but it would still be starting them early. A third year of preschool may give them the confidence that they need to enter kindergarten full-steam ahead. Being among the oldest in their class means by high school they will hopefully be at the same maturity level as their peers, rather than feeling as though they constantly need to keep up. A mom of triplets once discussed what happened when she had to hold back one of her children. One of the ones who advanced to the next grade started doing poorly in school. When the mom got to the bottom of it, she discovered that her daughter was purposely doing bad in school in hopes of going back to her brother's class in the lower grade. Do I expect my daughters to have some struggles in school? Sure. Didn't we all? But starting them on time, rather than early, could help me avoid some heartbreaking decisions. Besides, my daughters were born at 28 weeks gestation (and two days). Had they been born on time it would have been months past the kindergarten cut-off and I wouldn't have given their "start time" a second thought.
Have you ever noticed that when you have a sick child everyone has a suggestion on how to help her? Yes, for the most part these people are well meaning. Still, when you hear the same advice over and over, it's enough to make you want to scream. For instance, about a year ago, Sue Sue was sick. Sick. Sick. Sick. This culminated in a long (4+ hours) visit to the emergency room where we found out she had croup. Before I took her, on the advice of the on-call nurse, I sat in a steamy bathroom with Sue Sue. Then I took her outside in the cool air. I won't get into the science of it all, but this helps with croup. Except it didn't work this time. The next day I had to go to work. I clocked maybe four hours of sleep but knew I had to show up because in retail you don't call off the week before Christmas. People wanted to know why I looked so tired. I explained I was in the ER very late with a sick child. When they found out she had croup every stinkin' person told me I could have avoided a trip to the ER if I had just put Sue Sue in a steamy bathroom. Or taken her out in the cool air. To their credit, a few nights later when she was having problems again, those remedies did work. Right now we have a cold/laryngitis/fever thing going through the house. Today I had two different people tell me I should take the girls out for fresh air so they'll get better faster. Yes, getting out of germ-ridden house definitely helps.... but not when your children are so exhausted they can barely muster the strength to do anything more than be on the couch. I do appreciate advice, tips, suggestions to a degree. But when I am dealing with a sick child (or two or three or four) it's not always the best time to critique my parenting.
Some days I think I need to change my name. I'm not sure what I would call myself... anything but mommy. I know... that's terrible, right? It's just that some times I think if I hear another person yell "Mom? Mommy?" I might just lose it. Here's a typical experience in my house: Everyone is entertained, playing with dolls or quietly reading a book or something and I take the opportunity to leave the room (bathroom break, fold laundry, figure out where the cats are... take your pick). Then this happens. "Mom?" "What?" "Mom? "What?" "MOOOMMMYYYY!!!!" "WHAT?!" "Where are you?" "Upstairs." "Mom?" "What do you need?" "I love you." Or "You're my best friend." Hmmmmm... on second thought I guess I'll just keep going by Mommy.