Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Top 10, Bottom 10

Top 10
  1. Sunny days
  2. Clean floors
  3. Healthy children
  4. Looking forward to an event
  5. Orange juice in the morning
  6. Iced coffee in the afternoon
  7. Cute summer clothes
  9. Chic haircuts
  10. A/C in the car

Bottom 10

  1. 96-degree days
  2. Vacuuming
  3. Sick kid home from school
  4. Scrambling to get ready for an event
  5. Orange juice all over the floor
  6. Iced coffee condensation that drips everywhere
  7. Summer clothes that barely fit
  8. Being unable to access Sparkpeople for days on end
  9. Freaked-out fandide hair due to humidity
  10. No A/C in the house

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Article on VideoKin

The Ledger ran an article on my friend Janet Gilmore today. Through her business, VideoKin, she preserves family memories, and does other cool stuff like projects for the JFK Library in Boston.

I didn't write the article, as business isn't my beat. Read it anyway, and think about all those old photos, home movies or Kodak slides you have in a box somewhere. Now imagine them, neatly organized and preserved on DVDs. Janet can do that for you.

Janet also creates presentations for special events like birthday parties, retirement parties, graduations, and the like. And, with her background in film and the visual arts, she brings an artist's vision to your project. She's fast, friendly and funny, and you'll enjoy working with her.

Drop her a line, and tell her I sent you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music on a Sunday afternoon

My annual studio recitals were yesterday. They're always fun events, filled with music-making at many different stages: kindergartners through adults; beginners through students who have been with me for 8 years now. It's a nice way to wind down the academic year of lessons, and to celebrate the students' hard work and accomplishments.

Yesterday was different for me, as a teacher. Both Abby and Brian played in the recital, and I experienced firsthand the nerves, pride and joy of watching my own dear ones perform.

I'm not Abby's teacher; she's a budding violinist, and studies with a teacher through the applied lesson program at the local high school. I do practice with her at home, and put all those years of my own violin study to work, helping her with little things while leaving the big things to her teacher. I also accompany her on piano, and we played together at the recital yesterday.

She looked beautiful (she always does, of course!) and played confidently and musically. My sister commented on how in tune she played, which I often take for granted, but it's not a given with elementary string players, by any means. She's turning into quite a musician.

Yesterday was Brian's recital debut. He's been picking out tunes on the piano for years, but I only began tutoring him in earnest in September. He's a dedicated little pianist, practicing before school each morning (as does Abby.) He loves to play and was very excited about the recital.

The poor guy was very sick on Saturday, though, and I wasn't sure he would be able to play. He woke up with a fever, didn't eat breakfast or much of anything else, and basically moped around and cried intermittently all day. He was a mess. He woke up at 9:30 p.m., after he'd been asleep for an hour or so, crying from a bad dream, totally soaked with sweat. A change of pajamas and an inning or two of baseball on TV, plus a couple of cool facecloths on his forehead, and he willingly went back to bed.

Then, lo and behold, he woke up Sunday, perky as ever. He ate his customary two breakfasts, practiced his recital piece, went to church and generally was back to his cheerful self. Earl said he didn't eat much lunch, but I think that was pre-recital jitters.

He arrived at the recital all smiles and ready to play. When I called his name, he took the bench like a champ, played flawlessly, and bowed like a pro. My heart nearly burst, and I had to make an effort to subdue the tears of pride and happiness before I could announce the next performer.

I'm proud of all my students, of course. But watching one's own children perform is another experience entirely. I am sure the parents at the recital yesterday all felt the same way about their little (and big) musicians. You did us proud, kids.

My brother-in-law videoed the kids' performances for me, but somehow my camera accidentally went home with my mother-in-law. I'll post video when I get the camera back next weekend.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This weekend's column

My column on a recent book-signing event I attended ran in today's Patriot Ledger.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recent wellness stories

I had four wellness stories run in the special "Living Well" section of the Patriot Ledger yesterday. You can see the section here. My stories, on yoga for golfers, the health benefits of ginger, and knockout salads are on pages 3, 8, 13 and 15.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A milestone for Brian

This morning, Brian was determined to be ineligible for special education services. My heart is singing today.

My sweet middle child will be six years old in three weeks. Our special needs journey with him began on March 4, 2006, at the Federation for Children with Special Needs conference. I had attended because Abby was recently diagnosed with PDD-NOS, and wanted to learn all I could about supporting her.

In one breakout session, the two presenters were talking about their autistic children. I had some concerns about Brian; at 18 months old, approximately three months prior to the conference, it had seemed that he had stopped adding new words to his vocabulary. I wasn't sure, though; Abby had been so precocious in her language development that I didn't know if what I was seeing in Brian was more typical. But then, in that breakout session, one of the presenters mimed her young son looking at the wheels of a toy train as he played with it on the floor. I immediately started shaking, recognizing Brian's behavior with his toy cars.

I felt like I was in a horror movie, having the autism monster claim yet another one of my children. The anguish in my heart over what I perceived to be another tragedy for my family was too much to bear. I slid into a deep depression for several months, even contemplating suicide at one point. It was the absolute low point of my life.

Although I was in many ways functioning very poorly during this time, I did spring into action immediately on Brian's behalf. He was evaluated for Early Intervention services, and began a robust program of individual play therapy, speech therapy and music therapy. That summer, he began attending play groups at the Early Intervention site, and when he was formally diagnosed later that fall, he began receiving several hours of ABA services each week.

I have often said that Early Intervention saved Brian from a full autism diagnosis, and I still believe that, today. In particular, his primary EI therapist, the incomparable Tricia Carroll, brought his level of social, emotional and language functioning an incredible distance prior to his diagnosis, and continued to help him make rapid progress until he aged out of EI on his 3rd birthday. The other therapies were invaluable, but Tricia's understanding of ASDs and her ability to connect with Brian and bring him out of himself -- teaching him to make eye contact, helping him learn to play with his brother, challenging him in different play and learning situations -- was a the most influential factor in his development for the 15 months or so he was in EI.

At age 3, Brian then enrolled in the Milton Integrated Preschool, where he was fortunate to have Mary Beth Callahan as his teacher every morning and for double-sessions two days a week. He received speech and ABA services, and continued to grow and develop under her care. When he was four, Sarah Richardson was his teacher at the Integrated Preschool, and we also enrolled him in afternoon sessions at the Adams Street Early Learning Center, with Kathleen Corliss as his teacher. He continued to make progress, and we had high hopes for kindergarten, as well as a very robust IEP to help him make the transition.

Those hopes have been more than fulfilled this year. In Soondarie Barker's incredible kindergarten classroom, Brian has become indistinguishable from his peers, which has been our goal for the past four years. Looking at him, one would never guess that he carries an ASD diagnosis. He is social, he is engaging and he is age-appropriate in all observable ways, including his tendency to get in trouble now and then. Academically, he continues to work and test well above age level, and will require differentiated instruction to keep him challenged as he goes on to first grade.

I feel like Brian has graduated, and I am so proud. I am also eternally grateful to those individuals who have helped Brian, and us, over the past four years. You have built my little star-shooter's launch pad, suited him up and tested all flight systems. Now, the sky's the limit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Xiang Yu feature

My article on Xiang Yu, the winner of the 2010 Menuhin Competition, ran in yesterday's Patriot Ledger.

I really enjoyed talking with Yu. He has an unusual maturity and Zen-like attitude about the Competition, which I didn't expect at all. Perhaps that was due to remembering how competitive and driven I was in music school, myself. He's a genuinely nice kid, and I hope he achieves his dreams.

You can see video of his performances at the Competition here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This weekend's column

I had an unlucky streak a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, today started with pancakes I didn't have to make, myself. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, and may good luck find you today and always.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A good week

Accomplishments this week:
  • Stuck to my nutrition and fitness programs every single day. Well, except for the m&m incident on Thursday.
  • Did not beat myself up for the m&m incident on Thursday.
  • Walked the kids to school one day. They've been wanting to try it, and although I wasn't sure they could walk the mile, they did. Next time we'll just have to leave earlier so we're not rushing the whole way.
  • Received a very nice email from the editor of one of the publications to which I regularly contribute, congratulating me on my Erma Bombeck award and saying various other nice things about my writing. It made my day.
  • Also had another very nice email exchange with another editor at the same publication, which turned into a mutual admiration society. It's nice to have that now and again.
  • Practiced with Abby and Brian most days, taught lessons, made good dinners and tried new recipes.
  • Taught Timmy how to play Pachisi, after my mom sent us a game in the mail (thanks, Mom!) We've each won one game.
  • Met a few little deadlines.
  • Made time to read, which is something I love to do but rarely take the time to do it.

All in all, a good week.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Abby's bike camp

The Boston Globe ran a few photos of the Lose the Training Wheels program in yesterday's "Globe South" section. There was a much more in-depth pictorial online. A smiling, helmeted Abby is in the third photo. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Concert preview

Here's my preview of the Plymouth Philharmonic Celtic Pops concert, coming up this weekend. I didn't play up the Guinness as much as I would have liked to.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It's been two days since I wrote my last post, and I'm feeling much better. It's been a good weekend, with some extra sleep and downtime for me, both of which I desperately needed.

I did my Sunday-morning yoga, and although it was hard (because I haven't done it in more than a week, almost two) I felt better for having done it. I got some household things done. The boys had two birthday parties yesterday and Abby had friends over today, so that kept them occupied and cut down on the regular cries of "Mom!"

I also lost almost two pounds in my second week of using SparkPeople, an online weight-loss/healthy lifestyle resource. When I started it two weeks ago, I was pretty overwhelmed by all the information on the website, plus just trying to find my way around. I told myself I'd give it two weeks and if I hated it, I'd stop using it.

I've lost just over 4 pounds in the two weeks, and am actually really loving the website. I'm writing a small article about it, so I'm not going to wax too poetic here, but there are a lot of features and functions that are just great for an introverted planner-type who loves data, like myself.

This is another unusual week, schedule-wise. Some lessons are rearranged; I need to teach some additional makeup lessons; I have a dentist appointment (boo!) and a hair appointment (yay!) I also have Timmy's preschool teacher conference, which is fine, but it means Timmy doesn't have school that day. I think I see a full morning of the gym and grocery shopping for us after the conference.

Last but not least, Abby has been in a much better frame of mind, which makes everything easier. She had a terrific day at school on Friday, and has continued to be chipper and mostly cooperative for much of the last two days. She isn't even too upset by the boil water order we're under here in the Boston area, because of a gigantic water main problem.

All in all, it's been a good weekend. I'd like it to carry over into the next 5 days.