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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Last Day in August....

In one week I return to work.....Oh how I wish I didn't have to go back. I do love the people that I work with but I love those who are at home much much more. I can feel my gray hairs gearing up to pop out. This transition is very hard to deal with every year. I love waking up in the morning and doing stay-at-mom things. I don't like the rush, rush of going to drop this person off, wait for the school bus, pick up these people, etc. etc.... I feel like I ran a mile before arriving at the steps of C.S. 50.

I love the time that I have with my monkeys. Teaching them songs and shaking our booties. Arts & crafts and culture....

Back to waking up at 5am... large coffee one sugar... three book bags and my purse.... coming home and trying not to hit the deck when I walk in the door....whoa!

It's time to put my Super Mom cape on and get ready for BACK TO SCHOOL!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Italian Rice

Here is a great spinach recipe that I picked up from Taste of Home "The Busy Family Cookbook."
Here is what you need:
2/3 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped roasted sweet red peppers.

Cook rice to your liking. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute garlic in oil. Stir in spinach and red peppers. Cover and cook until tender; drain well. Add salt and pepper. Stir in rice and TA-DA.

When I first made this dish Big Bea did not like it. She didn't like green stuff IN her rice. She has learn to love it. Little Al loves it too.... Big Al picks out the spinach and just eats the spinach....weirdo.

Friday, August 27, 2010

El Museo del Barrio New York

Our 15th Cool Culture visit was to the El Museo del Barrio New York. This museum is the U.S. dedicated to Caribbean, Latino, and Latin American art. This museum is very very small, but great! Today it was extra small because they were taking down an exhibition. We were able to see the permanent collection. This museum has a photography rule. No es bueno. I love taking picture of everything and I couldn't. The guard was watching me like a hawk. I couldn't even sneak a picture, like I did at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Big Bea's favorite painting is called Peek-A-Boo by Arnaldo Roche-Rabell. My favorite was The Bed (La Cama) by PepĆ³n Osorio. "The Bed" is covered in capias. Capias are typical wedding favors presented to guests at a Puerto Rican wedding. They also are used for baby showers and birthdays. I've seen them presented at graduations, too! They are narrow ribbons imprinted with the names of the bride and groom (or event) on one end and the date of the wedding on the other. The bed had many different types of capias on them. It was very interesting to me because I have a collections of capias.

Big Al recognized the neighborhood that we were in. He remember from last weekend that we play in a playground in Central Park on 5 Ave. He bugged the heck out of me to go to the "PLAYGROUND!" While at Central Park we saw a photo session for a Sweet 16 party.

On the way to the museum Little Al napped the whole way. This was awesome. She normally gets very upset with the bus and train rides. I was amazed that she napped until we got to the E103 St train station. This nap did wonders for her. She was able to enjoy the art and park.

I think the MTA gods read my blog post about the terrible delays and service changes. Today, the stars aligned. When we got back to the train station, the train was approaching the station and it was an express train! Also, the BX19 bus was approaching the bus stop! I got him within 30 mins. Last week it take us an hour and a half to get home from the same spot.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New York Transit Museum Part 2

Three museums in three days and boy is Mommy tired. This is our second visit to the New York Transit Museum. Read about our first visit here. My husband, sister and her kids joined us on this visit. MTA provides a very informative museum but gosh getting there is a journey. Service change and delays can drive any Super Mom crazy. When we finally got to the museum it was great. Just as great as the first time. Big Al remembered a lot from our last visit. Of course, He loved the old school trains on the lower level. Big Bea's favorite part was riding the pretend bus. We joined in on an art workshop. The work shop was about the Red Robin trains. When the MTA retired a train, they sink it in a body of water to create new habitats for ocean life. The kids had to create pictures of what the train would look like when it ocean life moves in.


Besides the muggy, rainy day and the train mess it was an all right trip.
PS: Not everyone was made to keep up with Super Mom. ;-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Museum of the City of New York


What a great museum! The trio and I visited the Museum of the City of New York, today. The museum is located on E 104 Street and 5th Ave. I have been trying to get to this museum since the spring and I finally made it. This museum has many different exhibitions about different times in New York history. I can't pick out a favorite part because I love it all. You must visit! The only down fall of today's trip, I forgot my camera. I used my IPhone camera for today's pictures. It's not the same. Big and Little Al really enjoyed the exhibitions "America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York." Becky's favorite was the dress in the picture below. The dress is from the 1900's.
This museum is very sensory friendly. The exhibitions are visually friendly and the audio displays are quiet and controlled by its user. There was not a lot of traffic within the museum. Those in the museum enjoyed looking at the trio enjoying themselves. Big and Little Al did not have an overload in this museum. AWESOME! I can't wait to go back.

I also discovered that you can rent out the Museum of events, especially wedding. I told Big Bea she is having her wedding there. I am saving my pennies now!

After our museum visit, we walked across 5th Ave to Central Park. We sat in the Garden and watched a wedding party take pictures and other wedding party practicing for tomorrow's wedding all while snacking on baby carrots and water.

Before heading back home we stopped off to a playground. It was refreshing to be in a playground that wasn't loud. I don't know what it was but it was peaceful. Big and Little Al did not want to leave one bit. There one and only meltdown happened. Once I got some bananas from the NYC Green Cart all was well in the world.

What a great day!

What is in that Backpack?

After using my Cool Culture Family Pass 12 times, I think I have packing for a trip down to a science. This is the backpack that I take with me on my adventures:
On very hot days, I take my Camel pack with me. A Camel pack is a backpack with a water bladder in it. My husband picked it up for me when he was at Twenty-Nine Palms, USMC base.
A few high-traffic museum require a search of larger bags, some even require you to check-in your bags and strollers. I always check the museum's website for these requirements and pack accordingly. These what I pack on an average trip:

1-water for Mom and Big Bea
2-milk to Big and Little Al
3-cold pack for milk
4-wipes
5-diapers and Pull-ups
6- change of bottoms for Little Al (after our first trip to NYBG, never leave without it)
7-cellphone
8-Metrocard
9-Cool Culture Family Pass
10- pen & paper (Never know when you need to write something)
11-gum (Fresh brethe)
12-wallet
13-sunglasses
14-asthma pump and spacer for Big and Little Al
15-band-aids, cream & hand stantizer (mini first aid kit)
16-cereal (Cheerious or Frosted Mini Wheates)
17-fruits & veggies (snacks for the trip home, my sister's kids especially love this)
18-fully charged camera
It seems like a lot of stuff but most of the items are gone by the time we are heading home. Longer trips mean more stuff. Usually my husband is driving on those trips and I can pack foods in a cooler.

Friday, August 20, 2010

MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art

Today's adventure led us to the MoMA The Museum of Modern Art. This museum is located on West 53rd Street. Mid-town Museum equals A LOT of people. There was people traffic everywhere. Good thing I went with my sister, Katrina, and my brother from another mother, Jay. We were a big enough group create our own traffic.

This museum is jam packed with art. Paintings, portraits, sculptures and installations everywhere. Heck even the restrooms was modern to the point of art.
Jay is a very entertaining dude. He made himself into art. He created a "Tired Fat Man" instillation. It was him sitting. It was very funny.
My sister was pretty quiet the whole trip....hmmm.... maybe she was creating art..."Quiet Hispanic?" ...lol

We covered nearly the entire museum before a complete sensory overload set in with Big Al. Besides the visual sensory over load from the art, the sheer volume of people was an assault on all senses. Little Al was able to handle it within the museum but the train ride overloaded her. MoMA is not sensory-friendly today. I can see it being less overwhelming on a slower day with less visitors.

All in all we had a lot of fun. Big Al's favorite piece was Projects 93: Dinh Q. Le. This was a display of a helicopter that flew over Vietnam. My favorite a collection created by Yoko Ono. It is a "Wish Tree" where you tie your wishes to. I took a picture of my wish.


Today, I realized that modern art is not for me.

After all that walking around yesterday Little Al was very very hungry. He tried to convince me to buy him a hot dog every hot dog cart we passed. So that must of been about 10 carts. "Mommy, hot dogs? ....Look hot dog...Yes? Mooommmmiiieeeee?" Sorry sweat heart I am not emptying my wallet on hot dogs for five children and three adults. I am not a fast food person but thank god for Burger King. The staff at the Burger King JACKED up on my order but who cares? The food was yummy.

While at Burger King, Little Al was showing off her sign language skills. I didn't get regular fries for Big and Little Al, I got apples fries. Little Also wanted regular fries....which my sister happen to have. So...... she ask Katrina to "give" "more" "eat" "YAY". She did it over and over and of course she got some yummy fries. YAY!


Edited 8/21/2010:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rainbows & Lollipops


I always try to share the happy time with my family on my blog. To tell the truth the bad times out weigh the good.

PDD-NOS isn't rainbows and lollipops. In short, PDD-NOS is considered the milder form of autism. (If you are unclear what PDD-NOS is, go to Autism Speaks defines it the best.) Big Al has been diagnosed and Little Al is showing a lot of the same behaviors as Alex but has yet to be diagnosed.


What behaviors do they have?

Good question.


Their major issues is verbal and nonverbal communication. They have major speech delays. Little Al's is turning 2 years old next month and has yet to say "Mommy." Big Al was very similar at the same age. Now, he struggles with continuing a conversation after it has begun.


They both have repetitive use of language. Big Al must say "Mommy?" 10,000 times a day. (You'd talk Little Al would pick the word up?) He also struggles with echolalia. (repeats over and over a phrase they have heard previously.) He sings, "I ain't got no IPhone." (a song he picked up on his DSi) over and over. Little Al says "AH-DA" just about 5,000 times day. "AH-DA" is her way of saying her name.


This language restriction seriously impacts there social interactions. Big Al is starting to get the hang of it thanks to the wonderful Easter Seals staff. Little Al socialization with us very little and prefers to be alone in the kid's room on her bed. She only comes out for food and a diaper change. This frustration because I want to play and she doesn't.


They both crave sameness and routine. Wake up, bathroom, milk. Play, lunch, nap. Dinner, bathe, sleep. Little Al must have her red spoon when she eats, Bi must have a cup of water. Change the routine meltdowns are a given. Now that Big Al is not in school for the next couple of weeks, their world's are up-side down.


I would consider today the worst day of the summer. Every autistic behavior came out in both of them today in full force. Repetitions, emotional outbursts, hand flapping, sensory overloads and food protests. It started at 6:38am. I had to cancel Little Al's speech sessions, mid-session because she was not having it. I cancelled her SI because I wasn't putting Roberto through that. Good thing Karen, the OT, came at 8 am before the craziness.
I am exhausted and its only 3pm. Who needs the gym? lol


What is this Super Mom going to do?


I have to take something out of my bag of tricks fast before I hit the deck.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Little Al & PECS


We started using PECS at the beginning of the month. Here is the link to the post when we began, PECS. It's been only a short time and Little Al is getting the hung of it. I have a set of cards for her to use daily and her speech therapist has a set to use during her sessions. When I use the cards, I have two cards, cup & crayons, sitting on a table in the living room. These are the two things that she asks for the most. When she wants either of them, she now knows to walk over to the table grab the card and gives it to me. I say, "You want CUP? YES." She doesn't response verbally, she flaps her hands. I do the same if she wants crayons. She has started to cry less because she is able to communicate with me two things she enjoys the most.


When with the speech therapist, she hands the cards over about half the time without asking. She has responded verbally to the therapist with given the blocks card. She says, "On top." Which is the action when you are building a tower.


When Little Alstarts her center-based program, I am going to inform the new SE teacher and ST about the PECS that we are using at home and help them integrate it into her routine at the center.

Who's The Greatest?


BIG BEA!!

She is the greatest 9 year old I know. Not only she is a joy, she is super smart. Her father and I have built and learning machine....LOL... His smart genes and my smart genes melted together and created SUPER SMARTNESS!

Why am I saying this? Well, if you remember my post, How Do You Spell Success? , this joy is an extension of that. Yesterday, New York City Department of Education published the individual scores for the New York State English Language Arts and Math exams via ARIS Parent Link. The scale for grading is ranges from in performance levels of Level 1- Level 4.

Level 1: Below Standard
Level 2: Meets Basic Standard
Level 3: Meets Proficiency Standard
Level 4: Exceeds Proficiency Standard


In order to fall into one of the levels your scale score (the amount of "points") have to be a range. The scale scores for the test change between tests and grades.


For the third grade test the highest scale score for the English Language Arts is 780 and for Math is 770.

Well ladies and gentlemen, Big Bea scale scores are ....drum round please.... 780 and 770.

Perfect!


She is 1 of 8 students of 70 3rd graders at her school to score a performance level 4. I don't know if any of those kids got a perfect scores.


I am a very proud mom.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Congrats!

I attended the Rogers-Lawrence last night. It was a beach wedding and the rain held up long enough so that the bride would be the sunshine of that cloudy day.
"Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. "

I wish the beautiful newly webs endless happiness & joy and thank you for sharing your wonderful occasion with all that attended.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amy vs. The EIOD


If your child is 25% cognitively delayed would you accept no for an answer. Apparently, The City of New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene thinks its ok. Well if your child is 2 years old and is 25% delayed they have the cognitive abilities are the same of a 18 months kid. Your child would not get special instruction for early intervention. Now, let's say you wait until Kindergarten to enroll your child into school and they still have a 25% cognitive delay. Your 5 year old would have the abilities of a child that is 3.75 years old. How frustrating is that? What if the trend continues throughout your child's school career. Your child functioning 25% less then her peers. Imagine working as hard as your can and only getting a 75% on every test you've ever taken. How successful will that child be? Would that child want to drop out of school at an early age?
Will if you haven't figured it out Little Al is 25% cognitively delayed. In other areas she is plus 50% delayed. Today I had her 6 month IFSP review. I was very confident walking into the meeting that Little Al 's was going to go move from home-based services to center-based services. Unfortunately the Early Intervention Official Designee (EIOD) was not on the same page as me. As soon as a sat down, the EIOD didn't want to beat around the bush about the service changes. She looked me in the eyes and said " Because of Little Al 's progress, I can't not approve center-based service...She doesn't qualify for Special Instruction any more either because she is only 25% delayed."

Tears filled my eyes and I spoke my mind on why she needs center-based. Here are some of the reasons I stated:

Little Al  lacks the vocabulary and social skills to behave age apporitae on the play ground

Little Al  lacks the attention span to play with toys made for children her age.

Center-based services allow the educators to closely track Little Al  s behavior which makes tracking overall progress easier.

The EIOD noted that other children in EI are loosing services because of progress and Little Al  should be treated the same. If there is a disagreement with the IFSP, the parent can have an impartial hearing. Well, she has never met me before. She never met a parent that knows the ins and outs of EI, SE, CPSE and every other abbreviation there is for special education. My children are not the same of the other kids. They have a fire fulled mother behind them. I told her that I am going to fight every step of the way to get everything my daughter needs so that she is a successful independent American.


We continue our meeting so that we could continue the current services until the hearing. As I explain what outcomes and goals that I wanted Little Al  to have in the same jargon "they" use, she realized that I am not like the rest. I fought every decision she made and second guessed her every move. The 30 minute meeting turned in 3 hours. She kept insisting that Little Al did not have a behavior problem it was only speech and sensory issues.... I said " I am the only person in this room that knows that knows Little Al.  You are trying to convince me that communication issues don't cause behavior problem and you are dead wrong. Little Al  has a behavior problem that need to be addressed not matter what the City of New York has to say." After that statement she smiled. I smiled... because I knew I had her. The next thing that came out of her mouth was...


"You are an intelligent mother and the directors at my office are not going to believe that a parent wrote this IFSP. I have no choice but to approve center-based services."


She wrote into the IFSP, "Due to SI justification, but more Ms. G's explanation of her concerns, Little Al sensory issues are grossly interfering with her cognitive and speech development. EIOD approved an EI CBP 3 day week."


I won.


Once again, I showed the City of New York there are capable parents of disabled children in this city. Changing the format (dumbing it down) of the IFSP doesn't help any one. I understand the need to putting "it" back on to the parents but all parents should have knowledge of what your child needs special needs or not.
I will not accept no for an answer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Cool Culture strikes again... Today's destination was the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The museum is located on Pier 86, 12th Ave. & 46th Street. It was a journey getting there because I didn't know that the Domician Republic parade was going on. So on top of normal Sunday tourist traffic there was the added DR traffic.

This experience was AWESOME. The retired battleship sit on the pier on the Hudson River. The sights are breath taking. We visited the mess hall, hanger 1,2 &3 and the flight deck. Big Al completely loved every inch of the museum. His favorite part was sitting in a rescue helicopter. Big Bea's favorite apart was the interactive games and exhibits in the hanger. Little Al's favorite part was being on the flight deck. She didn't like the tight spaces below deck. She ran to every exit trying to get to the top. I have to agree with Little Al... the flight deck was the greatest. The view of the city and NJ were amazing.

My sister and her kids joined in on the fun... we have a lot of kids...lol

We were all tired by the time we were done with the museum... the journey home increased the tiredness... Good thing mommy had snacks in her book bag. Little Al spent the entire day tired.... she went napless... until we were heading to the M42 bus. Good thing she napped a little because the train ride ahead would have been horrible for her.
The flight deck is the only portion of the museum that is sensory-friend.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Little Al's PECS

What is it?
"A picture exchange communication system (PECS) is a form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that uses pictures instead of words to help children communicate. PECS was designed especially for children with autism who have delays in speech development.

When first learning to use PECS, the child is given a set of pictures of favorite foods or toys. When the child wants one of these items, he gives the picture to a communication partner (a parent, therapist, caregiver, or even another child). The communication partner then hands the child the food or toy. This exchange reinforces communication.

PECS can also be used to make comments about things seen or heard in the environment. For example, a child might see an airplane overhead, and hand a picture of an airplane to his or her parent. As the child begins to understand the usefulness of communication, the hope is that he will then begin to use natural speech." (Autism Therapy, 2010)
On Saturday, Little Al's speech therapist suggested that we start using a PECS for her. She said, "Since she hasn't really taken to sign language with should try this." I had suggested it about five months ago and she said Little Al may not get the concept. You know what....(whispering) Mommy was right...hehehe.
We are starting her with larger 4 by 6 cards of things around the house, some of which are her favorite. So, in the block of time I normally clean, I took my camera and clicked away. When I printed them, it turns out the banana was not photogenic...weird. I glued the pictures to card stock and labelled the back. Her's Special Education seemed very impressed when I showed him my work. He is going to integrate the cards into his sessions.
Big Al started PECS around 2.5 years old at Easter Seals. They used it to help set routine. I started using it with him at home with he turned 3. He was focused enough to start using the smaller drawing of objects and actions. Little Al is not ready for that just yet but Big Al's PECS is a great hand me down.
We are going to use feelt for Little Al's PECS because hook and loop tape will distract her.

Big Al's PECS

Sunday, August 1, 2010

So Where Have We Been?

WOW! We have been to a lot of places. We have been to a lot of these place thanks to our Cool Culture Family Pass.

So where have we been... on the lower right hand side of my blog I have links to the websites of the places we've been and here's a list:

1- New York Transit Museum (Brooklyn)
2- New York Hall of Science (Queens)
3- New York Botanical Gardens (Bronx)
4- Bronx Museum of the Arts
5- Children's Museum of Manhattan
6- Brooklyn Children's Museum
7- American Museum of Natural History (Manhattan)
8- Bronx Zoo
9- Queens Museum of Art
10-New York Botanical Gardens (Bronx) (again)
11-American Museum of Natural History (Manhattan) (again)

I am happy to say that I have used my Cool Culture Family Pass 10 times. HIGH FIVE!

Like I've said in my earlier post, I want to join together with some Cool Culture Families and go get some culture... Those without a pass are welcomed too.. the more the merrier. Here are some places I would like to have our cultural event:

1- Wave Hill (Bronx)
2- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Manhattan)
3- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (Manhattan)
4- Children's Museum of the Arts (Manhattan)

I would like to have this event on August 22nd. What do you think?

Maybe we can have one in Sept and Oct before our cards expire.... the wheels are turning.

American Museum of Natural History ~ 1st Floor

Today's weather was so great for some culture. So, we went visited American Museum of Natural History again. We explored the 1st floor and the Rose Center for Earth and Space. My husband didn't realized how large this museum was. Our last visit we explored 2nd & 4th floors, so that leaves the lower level, 3rd floor and the Blue Whale. Alex remembered that we had visited this museum before and didn't want to go near the floors we visited and he kept asking for a dinosaur lollipop.

American Museum of Natural History has an iPhone app. I was very excited to use the app but did not work for me. The app couldn't connect to the museum's server. I guess too many people were using it. The app works at home expect the tours. :-(

Big and Little Al loved the North American Forests. Go, Deigo Go!, has brainwashed my children into thinking that all trees are in the rain forest. It's very cute. Especially Big Al... when we drive down Pelham Parkway he screams, "RAINFOREST!"


My favorite part of our trip was the Bio-diversity section. I heart diversity...lol

I think that I am going to get together some more Cool Culture families before the summer is over and go to a great museum. Any suggestions?