Monday, June 25, 2012


Back in 1995 I was a Junior at the University of Texas in Austin and moved into my own apartment for the first time. I decided to get my very own cat and went to the Humane Society. I came home with two - the last of their litter. Hardy and Serafina. They were both adorable and I couldn't bear to leave one behind. They turned 17 this May and have moved around with me many times. Texas>Germany>Colorado>Texas>Colorado>Ohio.

Hardy has always been good at sneaking off. I used to let them play in my little yard in Schopp, Germany while I cooked dinner and he'd be gone in a flash. He wouldn't ever get far and I'd find him after circling my little apartment building and calling his name a few times. He also ran away for 11 days when I was pregnant with the twins. This was right before we knew about TTTS and I went on bedrest. Dave and I posted signs everywhere and spent countless hours wandering the neighborhood looking for him. We even saw him a couple of times and he ran away from us not ready to come home. Finally, he showed up at our door one day as though he'd been gone only a few moments.

Hardy had long white fangs that hung out of his mouth. It was fun to show them off - everyone was always impressed by them. He liked to snuggle but also liked his independence. After he and Sera started peeing on our new carpet they were cast out of the carpeted area of our house and had to live in the kitchen, fireplace room, and four seasons room area. It was plenty of room but I always felt guilty when we sat on the couch to watch TV in the living room and they couldn't come join us.

Hardy snuck out some time on Friday. He'd been attempting it for weeks. Every time we opened the back door to let the dogs out he'd dash out. I'd scoop him up and put him back in. But I didn't notice him sneak out on Friday. Then I went to give him his nightly pill and didn't see him. I decided to give it to him later and then forgot. Saturday morning I realized he was missing. I wasn't too worried, though. He'd spent the night out at least once at this house. I decided not to go on a crazy manhunt like we did three years ago. He'd show up eventually - or not. Whatever. The little turd.

Then last night, after putting the girls to bed, I went outside and smelled something coming from the neighbors yard. I scrambled up the 7 foot fence and saw something on the ground. I ran in for the flashlight. Dave was outside and caught up to me as I hurried into the neighbor's back yard. He took the flashlight from me and confirmed it was Hardy. We don't know what got him but we've seen groundhogs going under the hole in the fence nearby. There are also raccoons with adolescents all around us. We're surrounded by wooded areas. Who knows what got him but it must have happened Friday because he was already pretty well decomposed. And, in retrospect, we saw the dogs paying a lot of attention to that hole in the fence. They must have smelled him and we thought they were just smelling one of the animals we've seen going under there. Dave pulled him out and let me take a look. I don't know why I had to see. For some reason I had a flashback of the ultrasound when they told me Leila was gone. They were careful to look quickly and turn it off before they told us but I wanted to see for myself. I wanted him to point out her not beating heart. I wanted to see and recognize for myself that that was Hardy and, sadly, it was. We were losing light but Dave used his post-hole digger to quickly dig a hole and bury him. I cried all night. It's amazing how sad you can feel when you lose an animal who was often a major pain in the ass. We loved him.

I'm miserable and keep torturing myself imagining his ending and guilt-ridden at the fact that I was too busy or preoccupied to notice him sneak out. Not to mention my attitude at his initial disappearance. I had to tell Solana this morning that he'd died. She was a total wreck. A 7 year-old meltdown over a lost pet is something no parent wants to see. "How did he get dead?"she wanted to know. Bawling she asked the obvious, "So we're never going to see Hardy again?" I tried to comfort her with hugs but she just wanted to curl in a ball and cry. "What can I do? What do you want, Solana," I stupidly asked for her to give me any way to comfort her. "I want Hardy." She suggested we take his collar and flowers to the grave. He hadn't worn the collar ever since Monty arrived.

We cut some pretty flowers and placed them on his makeshift headstone, along with his collar. "I keep thinking of Hardy and it makes me cry" Solana told me. I know how she feels. I then watered the grass by hand for a good hour and let the girls play in the water. Anything to distract Solana from her crying.

Hardy was a good cat and I miss him. The feel of his fur as I stroked his back. The smell of his stinky breath as he purred in my face. The heft of him. His meow. It's sad to think that we won't ever have a chance to experience those things again but such is life, I suppose. Losing a pet is definitely the worst part of pet ownership. Bye Bye Hardy-Boy. We love you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Last Day of First Grade

Solana will be home in about 30 minutes from her last day as a first grader! Here are her first/last day pictures for comparison. She seems to be growing. I definitely felt a little tug on her buttons when I helped her with her shirt this morning. Lots of changes this year. Glasses. Short hair. 

Her pants definitely fit shorter. Maybe they just shrunk...


They had "Bubble Day" this morning. I was a sucker and volunteered. The kids loved it. The parents were exhausted! But what a fun last day of school! The kids were bubbleologists and they had bubble experiments set up in five different rooms. The parents stayed at their stations as the five first grade classes rotated from room to room so I only got a couple pictures of Solana when her class was in my room.  Here she is about to go in the giant bubble.

Doesn't that look fun? I wanted to get in and do that!
My sweet girl. 
Solana came back to see me during the last rotation. She said, "Mommy, I'm really uncomfortable." She had run right up to me and I squatted down to talk to her. All I saw was her face. Then she looked down and my eyes followed hers. She was soaked in bubble solution basically from her neck to her knees. Dilemma. I didn't bring her extra clothes and I didn't want to pull her out of school on her last day. Luckily, Dave would be heading to the school in an hour to have lunch with her so he brought her a change of clothes. She had to stay in her wet clothes for a while but I figure that's the price of bubbly fun. :-)

Her bus driver, Mrs. Tickle is great. She saw me with a camera at drop-off and had Solana sit down to pose before getting off. There were cars waiting so I didn't ask her to stand up for another picture like I wanted :-) Solana was sad when she got off because she'd never see her teachers again but Leticia was on the phone at the time and told her to write letters to them. I think she was ok with that.

 Bye Bye PVN! Hello Stingley! She starts second grade and Elementary School next year. Such a big girl!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transition Meeting

The next step in Chloe's transition from Early Intervention to Pre-School was a transition meeting at our house with the Director of the Centerville Pre-Schools.

A little background on Centerville schools: we have two Primary Villages - North and South. Kids go to PVN or PVS for Pre-K through First grade.  After first grade the kids from each Primary Village are split up into 3 elementary schools which they'll attend from 2nd through 5th grade. We live in the PVN area and that's the school Solana attends.

The Pre-Schools are physically located in PVN and PVS but are sort of a separate entity from Kinder/1st. Each of the Primary Villages has its own Principal but the Pre-Schools at both PVN & PVS are run by a single Director. She came to our house a couple of weeks ago for the Transition meeting.

We sat on the floor in our living room and discussed the program for about an hour and a half, filled out paperwork, and observed Chloe at play. It was a good meeting and I like the director. She's professional but personable and very agreeable to just about anything I wanted to request for Chloe. Linda, Chloe's current VS, was in attendance (mainly because she's almost as over-protective of Chloe as am I) and her presence was a blessing.

Here are some of the things the Director agreed to:
-Linda will accompany Chloe for her first day or two of school.
-Chloe will work with the orientation & mobility person to help her learn the school
-The floating helper will be assigned specifically to Chloe during recess for the first year. Their sole responsibility during Chloe's recess will be to keep her from getting hurt.
-Chloe will attend PVS even though that's not our home school. This was suggested by Linda because she knows that PVS is a much newer building full of natural light. This will make a HUGE difference in Chloe's ability to function easily at school.
-We'll work with the nurse so that I can train someone on Chloe's contacts in case of contact emergencies during school.

It was a good meeting. I'm pretty certain that Chloe will qualify for special services just based on her diagnosis, doctor's report, and Linda's report. They can't tell us that for sure now but I think that's just a formality. They've given every indication that she'll be approved. The fact that the Director was so agreeable to special requests right at the start made me feel good. I know we're in a good school district but it's relieving to have such a smooth first meeting.

Chloe's New IFSP

We've been working toward Chloe's transition from Early Intervention to Pre-School for a while now. I'm not quite sure why I haven't blogged about it very much at all but suspect it may have something to do with the fact that I'm in total denial.  The first step was to update Chloe's IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan). We actually did this at the beginning of April.

 Here are the results:

Cognitive/Problem Solving = Within Range
Chloe dramatizes using a doll, engages in simple make-believe activities and talks intelligently to herself while playing. She matches identical pictures and primary colors. She uses size words to describe objects. Chloe identifies objects by their use. Practice identifying the larger or smaller of two objects as well as body parts by their funtions. Have Chloe sort objects. 

Physical/Gross Motor = Caution
Chloe walks independently on a variety of surfaces. Her gait pattern is maturing as arms are down, feet are closer together and she is using a heel-toe pattern. She is demonstrating less extension and toe walking overall. She can push, pull, carry, and pick up a toy while walking. She can throw and kick a ball. Running skills are developing. Chloe can walk up and down a short set of steps holding the handrail. She is beginning to step onto and off of a single step without holding on. She climbs well. She jumps on a small trampoline and attempts to jump on the floor. Continue to provide opportunities for typical toddler motor play:  ball play, riding toys, swing, slide, climb and run. 

Fine Motor = Caution
Chloe is able to put oversized buttons into a vertical slot which requires advanced prehension and wrist movements. She can engage resistive knob pegs into a rubber pegboard but seems to develop some eye fatigue after about 5 placements.  Chloe needs about 50% physical assistance to get  1 1/2" plastic  loops onto a slightly oversized pipe cleaner as her bilateral hand skills are just beginning to develop.  She needed verbal cues for hand positioning and repositioning.  Bristle blocks were used to challenge the strength component of her hand function and she needed some assistance at times
Next Steps: Continue to offer activities to develop fine motor skills but include a strengthening and bilateral component  such as stringing or oversized beads and stacking of bristle blocks. 

Communication = Within Range
Chloe is using 2-3 word phrases frequently now.  She has started to use ‘ing’ ending appropriately.  Communication is a strength for Chloe.  Chloe follows simple directions and makes choices consistently.  Next steps: Continue to expand Chloe’s vocabulary and length of phrases through books and modeling. 

Personal/Social = Within Range
Chloe feels strongly possessive of loved ones. Chloe shows independence and sometimes insists on doing things independently. Chloe takes pride in her clothing. She dramatizes with a doll, shows shyness with strangers and obeys and respects simple rules. Begin to show Chloe how to cooperate in circle games (ring around the rosie). 

Adaptive/Self Help

Chloe has progressed with her feeding skills.  However, she continues to have some difficulty biting food and tends to stuff large pieces into her mouth.   She also has difficulty clearing any food that is stuck on the roof of her mouth and is unable to spit. Next Steps: Mom will continue to work with Chloe on biting of foods laterally not frontally.  She will work on her tongue movements, in particular touching the roof of her mouth and making sounds such as la-la-la-la.     

It was pretty exciting to see so many "within range" areas. This is a huge leap even from her last IFSP six months ago. Her Physical and Speech Therapists are totally comfortable being taken off her plan. We went ahead and left them on just in case we wanted them for anything but they're not really working with her any more. There's not much time, anyway, since Chloe turns 3 in August and no longer qualifies for Early Intervention services. The first step toward Pre-School. It seems strange.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day blows my mind yet again. Saturday night I mixed up a batch of their Whole Wheat Brioche, let it rest, and then put it in the fridge.  Sunday morning I woke up and went for a run with my friend, Kristine. After I got back everyone was awake and ready for breakfast. Dave was drinking coffee and it smelled so good. I couldn't wait for what I had planned.

In the time it took me heat up oil on the stove I rolled out a pound or so of dough and cut out doughnuts. I got to use my handy dandy Pampered Chef candy thermometer for the first time as I watched the oil temperature. Very exciting.  When it hit 165 I dropped in the doughnuts. They cooked in two minutes flat and I did about 5 batches. The whole thing from start to table took about 20 minutes (and that includes me making everyone wait while I ran for the camera to take a picture).

I had read online that these doughnuts are more substantial than say, Krispy Kreme. I'm not a huge cake doughnut fan so I was anxious to see what these would be like. But while I like the lightness and the melt-in-your mouth factor of Krispy Kremes they really are way too sweet.

These doughnuts were...perfect. We only buy doughnuts about 5 times a year and, with this recipe, we may never buy them ever again. They were soft and light and airy and perfectly sweet. We ate them all. But we didn't feel disgusting afterwards. According to the book, if you fry at high temperature the water inside turns to steam immediately and "pushes out through pores in the developing doughut crust preventing inward movement of oil." So there you have it. Healthy doughnuts. :-P Our doughnuts only absorbed 15-45 calories' worth of oil each. Yeah baby! The recipe is called Indian Spiced Whole Grain Doughnuts. The sugar you dredge them in at the end has ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves in it. Oooh. I just had a full body shiver remembering them.

I told Dave that, if these were good, I'd order the Pampered Chef biscuit cutters so I could cut the correct size holes. These were too big. Looks like I have an order to place!

The girls were very excited to try their doughnuts. It's a big deal when we have straight-up sweets for breakfast. Solana loved the doughnut holes. I thought they were just adorable the way they poofed into little balls.

Chloe was all business. We didn't get a smile or hear a peep out of her the entire time she ate.

Mmmmm. Doooooughnuts. Think Homer Simpson. That's who Solana reminded me of. :-)

Finally a smile!  Look at that sugar face!