Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books For Babies

For the second year in a row, Jason and I have helped a local organization collect books for babies. We learned about Project: Cameron's Story two years ago after a news story I had done. A local mom started the foundation in memory of her son who was born very premature. Cameron spent more than 200 days in the NICU and at times his parents couldn't hold him. They turned to reading as a way to bond. After Cameron passed away, the family wanted a way to help other families in similar situations. Now they collect more than 2400 books every year to donate to our local hospitals. The goal is to make sure that EVERY baby admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has a brand new book.

Here's a shot of some of the books
we collected at the game.

I felt a bond with this mom as soon as I heard her story and knew instantly that Project: Cameron's Story was something I had to get involved with. Cameron and Ella were in the NICU at the same time. Although we never met during that time, there is connection that every parent that goes through this experience can relate too. It is a scary time and a situation no one ever expects or wants to be in. I know how important reading was for us while Ella was in the NICU. Jason would sit for hours next to Ella's isolate, reading her stories. They still share this special connection!

Jason reading to Ella in the Nicu...June 2009
 Every February, Cameron's story holds a book drive for one week...collecting new children's books at businesses and offices around the area. This year, Union's hockey team was kind enough to help us promote a big book drive at a game. We ran promos on News 10, the team emailed season ticket holders, blasted the event on the radio and hopefully really helped bring a lot of attention to the cause.
Sara Quartiers, the founder of PCS being
interviewed by News 10.

We collected lots of books (more than 2 big boxes). The Quartiers family (founders of Project: Cameron's Story) came out to the game to watch Union beat Princeton. It was a great night. Jason and I are so happy to be able to take part in this year after year and I look forward to a time when Ella is old enough to understand and be more involved herself.

I'll have an update soon on the total numbers for this year's bookraiser!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Time Flies

It is so hard to believe that Ella is almost finished with her early intervention services. She has been receiving services since she was just three months old. This week, we had what is likely the final team meeting. She transitions to the preschool program August 31st...and really that process has already begun.

Our meeting was really good. I would say probably one of the best we've had in terms of progress for Ella. She made huge gains in her motor skills. At our last meeting in August, Ella had literally just started walking. Today she is walking, jumping, and climbing. Jen and Linda have worked so hard, pushing Ella to reach her potential (even under great protest at times!) She reached all of the goals we set for her six months ago. This is the first time in nearly three years that she was able to check everything off the list as accomplishments. Her speech is coming along as well. This is where we are still seeing the greatest delay, but she is slowly making gains and we are confident she'll continue to improve. Michelle is constantly looking for new ways to help Ella communicate and her hard work is paying off. We have been using sign language for quite some time and now we are adding a picture system to our day as well to help Ella pick up more speech. She is a very visual learner and although we have just implemented the pictures, she is already showing us how much it will help her. Ella is also doing great in Toddler group and loving the routine that school gives her. She is a star student!
Getting ready for the pool!

Next up is the move to preschool where she will likely continue to have services. The biggest difference is that her physical therapy, special education and speech services will happen at school rather than in our home. We have a meeting soon with the school district to discuss how often she will have each service and how it all works out. The goal is to have Ella in a position physically, socially and academically to start Kindergarten in a few years at the same level as her peers.

This is a bittersweet time for us. We have some of the best therapists who have devoted so much time to Ella's development and success. They have calmed Jason and me down in times of insecurity and taught us to be better parents and really better people. It will be sad to not see them every week and be able to share every new accomplishment Ella makes. I can honestly say that our precocious two and a half year old would NOT be where she is today without the support of Jen, Linda, Michelle, Jess and Jamie.

I remember that first phone call in August of 2009 from Jamie, our service coordinator, telling us that Ella qualified for an EI evaluation. It was hard to hear, but thankfully I was aware of how beneficial this could be(thanks to Kristin who does this for a living!) and was able to keep an open mind and follow through with service. It is so easy as a parent to be in denial....to think your child doesn't need these services. At times it has been a tough pill to swallow, but the positive aspects of EI are amazing. We started off slowly...with just one visit a week. Now we have a packed schedule that at times seems crazy and exhausting, but I would never trade it. The benefits far out weigh any day that I am tired or frustrated with the lack of extra hours in the day. I will continue to advocate for these services for all babies who qualify. It's a true testament to how a little extra can go a long way!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sesame Street Fun

All eyes on the show...Sesame Street Live 2012
Ella is feeling much better and it was time to have some fun this past weekend. Erin and Lucy came for a visit and we went to see Sesame Street Live. They got all dressed up in their pretty dresses and hit the theater like the two sassy girls they are!

This was the second time we have taken Ella to a live show. She enjoyed it last year...but LOVED it this year. I don't think she blinked the entire time. She was totally engrossed in the singing and dancing and of course all of her favorite characters. Lucy was pretty happy too, but sitting still is not that fun for Lucy. She would have much rather been up on the stage dancing along side Elmo :-)

Getting ready to dig into her ice cream sundae.
  After the show, we treated the girls to dinner at Friendly's. Not the fanciest of places, but perfect for our two little monkeys. They chowed down on chicken fingers and finished off a really fun day with some ice cream sundaes. We need to fatten Ella up. She lost about four pounds (four more than she could afford to lose) while she was in the hospital. She is literally a rack of bones now, so it was great to see her dig into her sundae and finish every last bite!

 I think Ella smiled almost all day long. She was so happy to be out and about doing something fun, spending time with family, and of course enjoying a sweet treat. It put a smile on my face too and warmed my heart. I have spent so much time worrying about her and keeping such a close eye on her that you forget to enjoy the little moments. Time goes by so quickly. I need to remind myself of that constantly and take that extra moment to enjoy her precious laugh and beaming smile.

mmmm...the cone is the best part!