CHAT Bag {GIVEAWAY}

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I recently had the opportunity to test our new iPad for speech purposes- Eli has been working so hard to communicate, so we began to explore PECS and electronic communication devices to relieve his frustration as he learns. The iPad was our first choice, and we quickly got Proloquo 2 to help Eli tell us what he needs. It’s a slow process, but we are thrilled at his progress and at the promise of his being understood. 
The CHAT Bag was recommended to us shortly after that as an easy way to carry his iPad with him to school and out in the world. It had not even occurred to me that he would need help taking his iPad with him when he was away from me! What a brilliant idea! 

So what is a CHAT Bag?

Simply put, it is a durable bag that makes holding, transporting and accessing the iPad so much easier (and more fashionable!) for children and adults who use the iPad for their daily life and communication. 

Lori created the CHAT Bag for her daughter, and I’m so glad she did! Our children need to be able to communicate wherever they are- CHAT Bag makes that possible.  (Learn more about Lori and her daughter Hannah here: http://www.chatbag.net/pages/AboutUs.php)
45631256Initially I was concerned about Eli’s ability to carry such a large and heavy device. His gait isn’t the most balanced and he can be a little clumsy. I was pleased when I saw that he was able to carry his iPad with no problems. The CHAT Bag has several carrying options- handles, so he can carry it one handed, or a strap that allows him to carry his device over his shoulder or cross-body (or talk to Lori, I know she will help your child maintain independence any way she can!). Eli is only 31lbs, but he was able to independently carry his device using the CHAT Bag cross body. This is huge! 

Another thing I loved was peace of mind. He can be responsible for his own things, and it also makes me feel good about the safety of his device while he is at school- I know it will always be with him and easy to find.

During the ordering and design process, Lori (the creator and designer of CHAT Bags) was amazing and attentive. She made sure that the protective case that we already had for our iPad would work for her CHAT Bag design. (Our iPad remains safe in its protective case while also snugly inside the CHAT Bag itself). 

CHAT Bag is light and small- when it came in its tiny package, I was so surprised! But it stretched to perfectly fit our device and it’s case. The CHAT Bag can be custom-made to fit your needs- Lori is able to add custom features like openings for USB cords and camera, extra handles and carrying options. We got to chose from various adorable fabrics and even had the option to have Eli’s name added to the back panel. The bag is of the highest quality. It stretches to fit perfectly over his device and is quite durable.
It’s also easy to clean and has stood up to several weeks of use with three toddlers already (we share a lot in this house!). 

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We have greatly enjoyed the ease of access this allows Eli and the ability to take his voice anywhere we go. The best part? Lori has graciously offered to sponsor a CHAT Bags giveaway*! Awesome, right? The giveaway ends 9/12/15 at midnight! You can enter to win one for your kiddo today! Simply comment on this post (via the comments section on WordPress, on Facebook or Instagram) with your email address and why your child would benefit from a CHAT Bag! You can gain extra entries by tagging your friends! 
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Good luck my friends! And happy chatting! 

Check out Lori’s amazing products here: http://www.chatbag.net
FAQ: http://www.chatbag.net/faqs.php

*Giveway: $35 value (iPad 1-4 & iPad Air 1/2) or $30 value (iPad Mini) CHAT Bag- upgrades additional

ARD, IEP, PPCD

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Eli had his first day of PPCD. If you must know, I didn’t cry until I picked him up. Dropping him off was like any other day. Because he started school with only 6 weeks remaining in the school year, I didn’t get the experience of walking him back to his room and talking with his teacher. I sat in the car rider line like every other parent (I’m a real mom now, I’ve decided- I’ve leveled up!), I dropped him off and didn’t look back. 

But picking him up? That was different. The three hours he was gone, I thought of nothing but him. What he was thinking and experiencing. I grappled with the trust I had just given to these strangers. I had handed them my best three year old. That’s a little scary. 

I sat in the line anxious and excited to get him back. He walked out of the building holding his teachers hand, back pack on his back and a smile on his face. I was so proud in the moment that I couldn’t help but weep. He’s so great. Adaptable and flexible. He’s eager to learn and wants to know more about the world around him. He really embraced the change and has been thriving there ever since. 

As much as I hate to admit it, starting him (even with only 6 weeks of school remaining), has been the best thing we could have done. His ARD went so smooth, it was scary. We hired an advocate to help interpret and bring a sense of protection over the situation. I felt safer with her there and and more able to focus on interpreting the ARD paperwork instead of worrying that I would miss something or get tricked into something that isn’t in Eli’s best interest. And the best part? Eli actually looks forward to going and I get more time with just Wyatt and Ruby. It was the right move. 

The staff at his school has been very supportive. He’s currently receiving PT, OT and SLP while attending PPCD. Here are some important take always from my first meeting:
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1- Hire an advocate.
 I would highly recommend hiring an advocate from the very beginning. Most people only look into one once there are problems but I say start with the best and get the best. I felt protected and safe with someone who knew the law. I could focus on what was being offered and going over paperwork instead of stressing over laws I don’t understand. 

2- Have a pre ARD.
I requested Eli’s paperwork prior to the ARD. I went over it with a fine tooth comb with my husband. Then I went over it again with my advocate. From there, we contacted the coordinator to let her know our talking points and concerns. We were able to resolve issues outside of the ARD so those changes would then be reflected on the new paperwork instead of arguing over issues at the meeting. It helped me feel more prepared too. 

3- Ask questions.
If you don’t understand something, ask! It’s that simple. You’re adding a lot of new terminology to your already busting special needs terminology. Just ask. It’s easier that way. 

4- Make sure goals are attainable.
You will see the goals outlined by the school and based on what they are offering (push for as much as you think your child needs. READ that evaluation!) make sure that the long term goal is reasonable as well as the short term goals to get your child there. It’s a lot of think about- will Eli be able to complete 20% of this task in 6 weeks? I’m not sure, but ask. What do they normally see? How do we adjust this goal? How to we measure progress? Are there other ways to assess his success? 

5- Relax and trust them!
That’s been the hardest one for me. I would say this is an emerging skill 😉 but you have to give them something. They are the ones who have been charged with taking care of your child. Instead of focusing on the negative stories all over Google, focus one what you actually see. Eli’s principal actually pushed for even more therapies than what we had lined up (and we were perfectly happy with what was being offered!), his teachers seem to genuinely care and the whole front office staff already knows who he is. PPCD *is* a gift and I have to give them some trust or Eli will never get these valuable experiences. Will we have some negative experiences? Yeah probably. But isn’t that part of life anyway? I can be their friend until we aren’t anymore and then we will already have support in place to address issues. 


With only 13 school days remaining, I’m actually sad to see it end. He brings home work every day, he’s always got the sign of some kind of craft experience on his person (paint or markers or glue!- he participated and made something. That makes my mama heart happy), and he really likes it. Our lives are busier and our mornings are more of a hustle and bustle but this is good for all of us. Looking forward to our new partnership and growing together. 

For more ideas, IEP and Educational ideas, check out: https://www.pinterest.com/1213rockinmoms/iep-and-educational-information/

Family Update

Summer is settling in and I’m slowly accepting it. For Texas, we have had a pretty mild start with lots of rain and overcast days. I’m not complaining. 

Last night, I sat on the driveway with a cold beer in my hand while my children ran up and down the street. The breeze was helping with the humidity, the sunset was beautiful and I had the sweet scent of Gardenias wafting straight to my heart. That smell…it only comes this time of year and I’m always caught off guard when memories come flooding back, triggered by that simple little white flower. 
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On this same drive way, three years ago, I was painting and preparing an old armoire with the smell of Gardenias in the air. The armoire now resides in sweet Rubys room after many hot nights of refurbishing and transforming that old piece of furniture. So many hopes and dreams…I would come home every day after work to dive back into my project. 

A girl. I was going to have a baby girl. 

So of course the armoire needed to be the perfect shabby chic coral color with wallpapered insides. My heart swelled. What would this armoire become for her? A dress-up closet? A place to store toys and dolls? The perfect tiny linen closet? Would she want to repaint and redesign it later? Would she take it with her to college? 

Because I wasn’t the one carrying her, I would spend countless hours imagining what that pregnancy was like. What her personality was. What she would look like. I tried to imagine how I would feel the first time my eyes met hers. And I filled my time up with preparing the perfect nursery because it was my only way to connect with her. 

Ruby will be two in August and I still feel like I am working to learn who she is and understand her. There are so many days I feel like I’m failing her. But then the wind blows, and the sweet scent on the air pulls me out of my thoughts. I look down and I see her standing there smiling at me. Her favorite blanket tucked under her chin, she waves and says “hiiiiii” and then runs away laughing. 

“She’s going to be ok” I tell myself. 

And she will. 

SPD has come in waves. When we make a gain in one area, SPD comes back to remind us that there is still real work to be done. Now that Eli is in school and has private therapies, I am busier than ever. We are not home as often and Ruby is forced to face things that agitate her. Thank you SPD. 🙂 It challenges me- all the things I thought I knew about parenting and being a mama…all the things I said I would never allow my children to do become so relative when run through the “SPD” filter. My heart has grown in so many ways and I have a new respect for my mom and other moms like her. I also care a lot less about what other people think, because they don’t know my children or our situation. Grace. I’m trying to have more of it and give more of it. 

I’m still learning. I think I always will be. But learning to embrace who my children are instead of who I imagined they would be has been such an introspective journey. I’m learning more about myself and enjoying these changing seasons. The Gardenia is a picky little plant- requiring just the right environment to flourish. It means “secret love” but the secret it out and I want to spend more time with this fickle flower. Oh my precious Ruby- I’m working on your environment. I want to get it right. I want to see you flourish and I want to enjoy the love the blooms as a result. I know you do too. I want to be a mom worthy of you. 

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