Practical Moms Feature: Things I Can’t Say


I know what you’re thinking…we just got out of school.  Some of you might even be thinking that you’re still waiting for school to end.  So why are you staring at a picture of a miniature pencil worn to the end?  Because sometimes the end of school is also the time that you need to think about the beginning of school…even if you really want to think about cocktails and sunsets.

The beginning of Kindergarten is a big change.  And when you have kids who need a little extra help (with or without the IEP)…you need to plan ahead.  I asked my friend Shell to drop by and share her thoughts, because she is one of the best advocates out there.  She works hard and she is a lot of great things but, above all, she loves her boys and advocates for them every step of the way.

If you are a blogger, chances are you already know her.  I’m sitting here trying to think of all of the very best things I can say about Shell (there are many, trust me), but the thing that stands out the most is that she’s kind.  She truly cares about other people and when she jumps in and helps it’s because she genuinely wants to help.

Shell blogs over at Things I Can’t Say, which is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking depending on the day, and you should definitely head over there and introduce yourself and visit her very active Facebook Page.  But first…some very practical advice from Shell.


Right now can be an emotional time for any mom whose child will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Your baby is growing up and heading off to school full time.
But when your child has special needs, there can be a whole different level of anxiety that goes along with that big step.
My middle son has ADHD, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, an autism spectrum disorder), along with sensory issues, and a speech delay. He is just finishing up his kindergarten year and he has had the best experience.
As you get ready for next year, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Call the school and talk to the principal.

Let her know what concerns you have for the upcoming school year. The principal is the one who can ensure your child gets the teacher who will be the best fit for your child and can get the ball rolling on services your child will need. Start that communication early.

Gather all evaluations and paperwork.

You’ll save a lot of time if you have all the paperwork on hand from the beginning instead of waiting for the school to do its own testing. When we enrolled my son, we had the paperwork from an eval done just weeks before, so they were able to use that instead of having to go through the process of reevaluating him through the school. The more information you have and can share with the school, the further you’re starting in the process. Though if you don’t agree with some of the evaluations and you’d prefer to start over, that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Have a conference before school starts.

The absolute best thing I feel that we did for my son was to have a meeting with the principal, classroom teacher, special needs teacher, speech teacher, and OT before he even started his first day. While they couldn’t write an official IEP before they actually were able to observe him in the classroom, they were able to take the information that I gave them about my son and put interventions in place from his very first day of school. They weren’t official IEP goals and they did make some changes as they better came to understand his needs. But from day one, they knew that we couldn’t just wait and see what would happen with a sink or swim attitude. They didn’t want him to sink. Your child shouldn’t have to sink before he gets help.

View the school as being on your child’s team.

I know there are nightmare stories out there about schools that don’t help our special needs kids. I’ve lived through those at my son’s kindergarten prep school. But start with a positive attitude and thinking that the school is there to help your child. The negative stories get a lot of attention but there really are good caring teachers and administrators out there. If you start with a negative attitude, you’ll put them on the defensive and it will set the tone for your interactions. Try to start with everyone working together. You can always change your tune if the team isn’t being helpful, but start out positive.

Know your child’s rights.

Know what is possible to do for your child and what is not. Talk to other special needs parents. Talk to the district’s special needs coordinator. Know that you don’t have to agree to anything right away. You can do research before signing any IEP. Know that while the norm is to have an IEP meeting once a year, you can call a meeting of the team at any time to discuss progress and any changes you feel need to be made.

Isn’t she great?!?! Thank you so much, Shell.  I just know that sharing what you’ve learned will help some other nervous mamas out there…

Project Happy Week 25

It’s officially starting to feel like summer around here!  Lazy mornings, swimming, and spending all day outside are a welcome change, indeed.

Sean took three days off this weekend (which is practically unheard of around here), and we enjoyed every minute of it.  That’s a lie.  We didn’t enjoy dealing with ADT and Time Warner Cable…but we enjoyed the rest of it.

Sean and Riley have a sweet little special time activity when he’s home for bedtime.  They wrap themselves up in blankets and read bedtime stories on the balcony off of our master bedroom.  I finally got a picture of it in action…

Isn’t that the cutest?  It melts my heart…

finally took the time to dig out the old (possibly not so clean) sand from Liam’s sandbox and Sean brought in six 50 pound bags of fresh, new play sand.  Wow.  Sand gets really dirty over the course of one year!  Liam is in heaven…he is officially back to full-time digging status.

And Riley and I decided on matching manicures the other day…can you guess who chose the color?

I started this week off right with an early morning trip to the grocery store and a mid-day workout.  I like this summer schedule, for sure!

What made you happy this week?

Maybe just one quick favor?  I’m over at The Writer Revived today (and again on Wednesday) for a little Q&A.  Won’t you stop by?  See you there!

When Thank You Isn’t Enough

If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that my daughter has some significant allergies, gets croup regularly, and was recently diagnosed with asthma.  Some people find these things to be a burden, the things that make parenting hard.  I have never, not even for one second, felt that way.

But I have been scared.

Lately, we’ve been able to control the croup and asthma attacks at home with a nebulizer.  It seemed like the attacks were getting just a tiny bit better…more manageable for her.

But last night…something happened.

Last night, as my husband worked hard at a studio 45 minutes away (with his phone on silent), Riley started gasping for air.  Really gasping.  Like no longer able to communicate and skin turning a different color gasping.

I was up there in seconds.  I ran her out to the balcony.  I poured the medication into the nebulizer and started to pray.

But she couldn’t get the medicine in.  Her airways were blocked.  Her eyes were so full of fear that even her tears couldn’t escape.

911: My daughter can’t breathe.  Please send help.

Within minutes, six fire fighters from the El Segundo Fire Department were in my bedroom, putting a mask over her face and helping me get my son settled down…because that is a scary way to wake up for a three year old boy.  Thank you isn’t enough.

Within minutes, my amazing babysitter was here to hold Liam, get him some milk, and settle him in with Max and Ruby and markers and paper.  Thank you isn’t enough.

Within minutes, my neighbor was peering into the ambulance offering to help and agreeing to be on standby to pick us up at the hospital later…because they understand the hours Sean keeps.  Thank you isn’t enough.

Within minutes, we were in the ER at Torrance Memorial Medical Center where one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever encountered helped us through this ordeal.  Four breathing treatments and one steroid later, she was stable once again.  Thank you isn’t enough.

When your child can’t breathe, you depend on those around you to help.  We are very lucky to live in a tight knit community where the fire fighters feel like friends, your neighbors would drop everything for you, and the hospital staff truly cares about your little girl.

My little girl is back home, breathing once again.  Thank you isn’t enough.

I had big plans for another post, but this will have to suffice for today.  Thank you for your understanding and continued support of Practical Parenting.  You are all appreciated.

I am over at Mommy of a Monster today sharing a Mommy Moment, so I do hope you will come see me there.  Thanks, Natalie, I am honored to spend a little time at your place.

And I am rounding out National Infertility Awareness Week with a post about the importance of friendship and support over at Clomid and Cabernet.  Thank you for your support with the launch this week, this cause is near and dear to my heart.

With that, I am taking the weekend off to nurse my sweet girl back to health…


p.s.  Shout out to my dear friend Jenny, who was ready to hop in the car and care for my son…even though she has two little ones of her own.  Some friendships are meant to last a lifetime.  Thank you isn’t enough.

The Monday Muse…

I must admit, when my friend Nicole asked me to be her Monday Muse this week…I went into a bit of a panic.  As you know by now, I am constantly writing.  I generally don’t run out of ideas, but if I do I just stop by Twitter and am given 10 requests in 30 seconds.

Usually when blogging buddies ask me to guest post they have a very specific idea in mind…

But my sweet Nicole simply stated, “your knowledge that you share with others is priceless, people relate to how you talk.”  Is that the best compliment ever?  And yet, I sat frozen in front of my keyboard.  Suddenly, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

So I did what I usually try not to do…I put it off for a few days.  And then, just the other night, I sat down and finally started musing about this parenthood gig.  So please do me the huge favor of stopping by By Word of Mouth Blogging to visit me there.  Promise?

And also?  I can’t say enough wonderful things about Nicole.  She’s smart, supportive, funny, and always there exactly when you need her.  So please spend some time getting to know here while you’re there…I just know you will love her too.

The Making of a Bully

It's never too early to start teaching social skills...

People often wonder what causes children to bully.  Why is it that some children feel the need to hurt and humiliate other children?  What do they really stand to gain from this cruel behavior?

Some studies indicate that some (not all) bullies have naturally aggressive and/or hyperactive personalities from the start. Some.  But that doesn’t mean that all “spirited” kids will bully while all “mellow” kids will be perfectly empathic and kind.  Those are just a couple of traits that have been identified in some bullies.

The truth is that bullies are not born into this world.  Bullies are raised.

Bullying, at its core, is a learned behavior that is used in response to stress.  Bullying is an attempt to gain superiority or control over another.

Bullies do tend to have a few things in common:

  • Immature social skills
  • Lack of compassion and empathy
  • Poor impulse control
  • Watch more aggressive TV shows and play more aggressive video games

Due to immature social skills, bullies tend to view threats where there are none and identify other kids as hostile when they are not.  Accidentally bump into a bully in line at the cafeteria, and a fight might erupt based on a snap judgment. Due to lack of compassion and empathy, bullies have difficulty understanding how others feeland they are unable to accurately decode situations in which other kids are actually attempting to show empathy toward them.

Although it can be difficult to find compassion for a bully, particularly when your child is the target of one, there is generally a reason behind the bullying.  That’s not to say that bullies should not face consequences.  They should.  And zero tolerance is the only way to truly eradicate bullying…

I’m over at Confessions of a Dr. Mom today talking about what makes a bully and how we can raise empathic children.  Stop by to continue reading “The Making of a Bully”.

Letters For You – Dear Sarah

My friend Tonya is an incredible woman.  While her story is not mine to tell, it is one that will forever change your life.  Her courage, strength, and love will both reduce to you to tears and inspire you.  Over at Letters For Lucas, Tonya shares her thoughts and feelings, often in letter form, about motherhood, grief, loss, and trying to conceive.  She records all of her memories so that her son, Lucas, will never be left wondering…she says all of the things that need to be said.

When she asked me to write a letter for her “Letters For You” feature, I just couldn’t wait.  I considered the options:  My dad, my mom, my sister, my husband, my children, or any of the four that didn’t make it….but then it hit me.

I consider myself a very lucky girl for many reasons.  I have two incredible children, a husband who would do anything for me, a mother who is always just a phone call away, a sister who is irreplaceable, and many, many friends who make my life complete.  But I have one friend who knows me better than I know myself.  I have one friend who knows exactly what I need before I even utter a sound.  I have one friend who has been there since the beginning and will be there at the end.  Her name is Sarah, and I am grateful for her friendship every single day.

Please stop by and read my letter to Sarah…

The preschool days...

Porch Swing Stories

When Ashley asked me to share a story for her new series, I was practically jumping out of my skin:  Partially due to excitement, partially due to nerves.  Ashley is a great friend; the kind of friend who is always there when you need her.  She’s also a great writer.  She often brings me to tears…even when her stories are happy.  So I wanted to share a story that I wouldn’t normally share somewhere else.  I wanted to go just a little bit deeper for my dear friend Ashley.

Please head over and check out my Porch Swing Story.  Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a child to help us find peace with life’s big decisions…

Tips for Long Term Marital Bliss

I can’t possibly pretend to have all of the answers.  In fact, I might not even come close.  But I can tell you this:  Parenting is hard work.  It’s wonderful, fun, mysterious, and miraculous, but it isn’t easy.  That’s a fact.  Keeping your marriage alive when you’re exhausted, stressed, and thinking about your kids constantly can be a challenge.  Today I’m over at Literal Mom talking about keeping the bliss in your marriage while coping with the ups and downs of parenting.  We can all use a little marital bliss…right?

Please stop by when you get a chance.  If this is the first time you’re visiting Missy, please stay a while.  Literal Mom is a great place to hang out and enjoy your morning coffee (or evening cabernet).  Missy is fun, supportive, and one smart mama.  What’s not to like?  Spend a little time getting to know her….you will lover her, I promise.

6 Tips for Putting the Thanks Back in Thanksgiving

I’m over at Life Is Hard, Laugh Anyway today talking about ways to focus on being thankful this Thanksgiving.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a football game as much as the next person, but I would like my kids to learn a little bit more about Thanksgiving than just turkeys and football (minus the massive deaths during the first winter.  That’s a bit much for preschoolers…wouldn’t you say?).  So please stop on by and check out 6 Tips for Putting the Thanks Back in Thanksgiving!

And take a look around while you’re there…you will love her, I promise.




Blog Friend Feature Post!

Today is an exciting day.  Shell, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, asked me to write her Blog Friend Feature (BFF).  Yes, that’s right, I’m Shell’s BFF this week (insert happy dance here)!

If you’re not following Shell, you really should be.  Her tales of raising three boys 6 and under while working from home are not to be missed.  And…she’s truly one of the most supportive people I’ve encountered in this alternate universe.

Today I’m leaving the practical behind and sharing a few of the more impractical things that happen around here on any given day.  Stop by and visit me there….pretty please?