Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I am a teacher. I am a parent. I am a human being.

I am a teacher.

I have fought with my school district over and over because there is no safe place to hide children in my classroom. They gave me a piece of black construction paper to cover my window.

I have sat through an unannounced lock down drill.

I have sat in a dark classroom with a child sobbing silently in my lap, quietly repeating "I shouldn't have worn sparkles today. I'll never wear sparkles again." because she is not sure if this is real or not.

I have looked around my quiet classroom 20 minutes into the drill and prayed that the kids could continue to stay that way. Keep quiet, keep us safe.

I have had to finish the drill and get up and go back to teaching- like this is normal. The kids who goofed around are disciplined, the ones who are scared are counseled.

I have come to terms with the fact that I work in a dangerous business, on the first floor, in a classroom that faces an open field. Going to work is a risk.

I am a parent.

I am a parent in a different district than I teach in.

I pray every day that my babies will be safe. That they will have another beautiful day.

A part of me breathes a sigh of relief, every time I pick them up at the end of the day. Our guardian angels have kept us safe.

What a world we are bringing our kids into.

I am a human being.

People are hurting. People are sharing it on Facebook and people aren't responding.

People need to start taking things seriously.

People are in need of help and our systems to help them (people like you and me, agencies, our government) have failed them.

Until these systems are fixed, this will continue to happen.

Love and kindness and hope must prevail. We need to bring humanity back to our country.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pink Cup or Blue Cup and Why We Shouldn’t Always Take Parenting Articles to Heart

Pink Cup or Blue Cup and Why We Shouldn’t Always Take Parenting Articles to Heart
            When I was newly pregnant with my first child, I read this article about the five reasons modern day parenting was in crisis. I devoured the piece, soaking in every word, swearing to myself that I would not commit these wrongs. The point that resonated most with me was what she called “the Sippy Cup test.” She surmised that if a parent filled a blue cup of milk, handed it to the toddler, and then quickly switched the cup after that child threw a fit over the color of said cup, it proved that the parent feared his/her child and was letting them rule the house. I swore, that scenario would never occur in my house. I would control the color of the cup my child drank out of at every meal.

            Then, I had my daughter. Getting her to eat or drink ANYTHING was far more important than the color cup it was in. She had bigger issues to work through. If drinking out of only one certain pink cup calmed her to the point where she would drink her milk (which contained crucial medicines), then we would make sure to only offer her that cup. I struggled with this. Was I the horrible parent the author talked about, the one who was causing a modern day parenting crisis? Was I ruining my child? Believe me when I say, I dedicated a lot of time and unnecessary worry on this issue. What I should have been doing is looking beyond the cup and asking the questions, why did my daughter need this cup? What did this tell me about her? Is the cup even the real issue?

            Had I taken the time to look beyond the color of the cup being the issue, I would have discovered that the milk was the problem. My daughter was lactose intolerant and drinking milk was extremely painful for her. She took the cup because pink and purple were her favorite colors but she fought drinking the liquid every day because her little body was screaming at her “don’t do it, it’s bad for you!” She fought eating, not because she was trying to be picky, but because her body was so uncomfortable there was no room for food. In an attempt to make her gain weight, we were actually hurting her more. The cup was the only thing she could control. It was her attempt to let us know that something was horribly wrong.

            I am writing this article so that other parents, who have read similar articles, trust their instinct instead of their eyes. While, I am not discounting that the author had a point in her piece, there needed to be an asterisk at the end of the article that said “this does not apply to all scenarios”. It took us a long time to get to the bottom of our food/lack of weight gain/extreme emotional responses to everything problem but after years of questioning doctors and pursuing every avenue, we landed with a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. It all began to make sense. We had to keep her environment constant so that she could orient herself in this scary world. Eventually, the color of the cup, the size of the spoon, the shape of the plate, began to matter less and what was in it mattered more.

            Today, the dishwasher was dirty when we got up and my son’s normal cup was not clean. My husband gave my son one of my daughter’s cups to drink out of and I thought “Oh God, this is going to be ugly,” and it was at first. But, before my daughter could reach a full blown meltdown, Brian explained why he had to use her cup and she understood. The drama ended there. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief and we moved on with our day. It was just a small example of how far we have come. It was also a great reminder to us both that if you do have to bend on a cup for a little while, it doesn’t mean you always will have to, or that you are a horrible parent. Sometimes, there are just bigger fish to fry. Oh and in case you are wondering if my son threw a fit over getting a different cup, the answer is no. He will drink from any cup you give him because he just got up, and that kid is thirsty.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Watering the Flowers and Other New Year's Eve Musings...

I think New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap. It is not the resolution that is the problem, it is the process. For example, if you make a goal of losing weight during the following year, you are setting yourself up for definite failure. You will never lose weight if you don’t have an idea what caused you to put it on in the first place. You will never achieve your New Year’s Eve goals if you don’t dig deeper than surface level.

Last year I decided to try something new. I had just started back writing and the mild success I had achieved inspired me. I picked a theme for my resolutions. I set out to remind myself who I was. Almost five years of being pregnant, having babies, raising babies and going back to work had resulted in a loss of self. I couldn’t remember who I was and what really mattered to me.

So, I took this theme of reconnecting with my inner self, and set out to recommit to writing and getting published, establishing a daily yoga practice and actually hanging out with my husband and close friends. Guess what happened? I found I had been there deep within my body the whole time! I grew really strong, rediscovered my love of my profession, repaired broken friendships and let others go. I wrote a book and became a blogger once more. I listened to a lot of great music and had a lot of hard, deep talks with myself and others. It was an amazing and challenging year.

So I have decided, since it worked so well this year, to pick a new New Year’s Eve theme. This year, I am sharing my theme with you because it may require your participation. This year I will focus on watering the flowers. This is kind of an odd one for someone who is extremely allergic to the outdoors, but it is something that has really begun to resonate with me. Like, if I was someone who was big on tattoos, I would get it inked somewhere. So what does it mean? In order for flowers to grow, they must be watered and for relationships to grow, the same must be done. So that was my focus when I sat down to write my resolutions. This will be a year spent with people. It is also going to be a frugal year for the Ferrignos. Most nights out will need to be free or really cheap so that we can start dumping money on our student loans. This is a debt that weighs very heavy on Brian’s mind and one that I would like to relieve this year. I am at peace with the fact that we could really have them for the next 15 years but this bothers him and we need to remedy that. His piece of mind is very important to me. So, I look forward to spending time with all of you in creative and inexpensive ways and watching our lives grow together this year! (I will refuse to let you pay for me. A beer/wine/coffee or an ice cream is really cheap and a walk, run or hike is even more inexpensive!)

Since we will be spending much more time at home, look for an exciting new teambfsquared site that will be co-created by Brian and me. When we were dating and married before children, we loved to go out to dinner and spend hours talking over a glass of wine. It was our way to water the flowers and keep our relationship growing. Now, as we set forth to get rid of student loan debt, we are looking forward to the time at home working together and building new memories right where we stand. I am really excited about what we have planned and using it to showcase my first children’s book (which is a collaboration between Jen Varn, Molly and myself) and hopefully many more books and blog posts in the future!

So come for a run or a walk with me! Come sit in my back yard and share a beer or join us for dinner! Let’s watch our children play on playgrounds and listen to free music in the park. We look forward to watering the beautiful flowering relationships in our lives this year. We can’t wait to see where we land next December! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

In the face of tragedy, we need a different plan...

We have had a very busy and exciting weekend, and all of us are lacking in the sleep department. "No songs, no books, Mommy" my son said as I finished getting him into his pj's. I asked him if I could at least rock him and he said "yes." So we sat in the rocker and did just that, rock. Eventually, I stood up with him still snuggled on my chest, and he fell asleep. He's almost 3 now, so that just doesn't happen very often anymore.

A child's breath changes when they fall asleep, so I knew he was asleep before I asked Brian to look. Thumb in his mouth, his body was relaxed and heavy. I could have stayed there forever but his sister called so I took one more deep breath of his scent and placed him in his crib, taking a moment to be thankful before moving on to her.

I said good night to my daughter and went downstairs to spend a few free moments catching up on Facebook. I was caught off guard. Another mass shooting. More children dead. More lives forever altered. I am glad I asked my son if it was OK to rock him tonight. I am thankful that I took the time to do so. We don't know in this day and age what is going to happen. The man, like others before him, attacked a church. Each week we take our children to a church, so that they can learn the values we hold dear. The people today were just going about their lives in a sacred space.

So in the wake of another tragedy, let's change the conversation. Let's not turn it to gun debate or who qualifies as a terrorist, let's dedicate this moment in time to a better discussion. Let's concern ourselves with the arduous task of getting people to care about their neighbors again. Let's dedicate time and money to recognizing and providing assistance to those who are struggling with feelings of isolation, abandonment, fear of the unknown and loneliness. Let's not provide those same people with access to extremist groups, websites detailing how to pull off attacks and movies/television that depict events like this. Instead, let's surround them with resources to help them feel supported and cared for.

In teaching we are told that some of the most difficult students are the ones who are in the most need of love. What if we looked around us and acknowledged the humanity in each person we pass on a daily basis, maybe we could prevent the next attack. Maybe, I would be able to tell my children "I love you very much," every morning when I leave for school without stifling the urge to say it another time just in case something happens today. We have to do something. This can't be come normal. Something has to give. We need to be the light in this world that is becoming darker by the second. It is our choice, and I chose to act. One hello, one hand shake, one shoulder to lean on or one "I hear you." might make all the difference in the world. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Network Spinal Analysis

Subluxation: a distortion in your body that interferes with your health. That was a new word for me. Prior to arriving at the chiropractor, I had been unaware the word even existed, yet, here it was. It was sitting near the bottom of the glossary page in the chiropractor’s folder right before vertebra. This word would become the center of our world for the next few months and I am relieved it did.

Our family has been living and breathing the world of Network Spinal Analysis Chiropractic Care for the last four months. After the initial tests, we were made aware that our daughter did not have a curve in her neck, that her lumbar spine was curved in the wrong direction (this usually takes seven years to happen), and several other physical ailments. The conversation did not stop there. We were asked about Sophie’s diet and given pointers on foods that could be causing inflammation in her already tense body. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. We already can’t eat dairy in our house, now grains too?

We were told she would need to visit for entrainments twice a week for 24 visits. During the entrainments light pressure would be used at the ‘Spinal Gateways’, the term used to signify key access points to the nervous system,  to help the body heal and return to its proper alignment. We were told this was not a normal recommendation for a child but Sophie’s subluxations were so severe, a rigorous approach was necessary. After turning over all of our “summer fun” money to the office, we began a journey that was worth every penny. 

I will be honest, I was very skeptical of the whole process at first. I wasn’t sure if this was going to help Sophie at all, but we were desperate to help our child progress and several other friends with sensory children had seen marked success after seeing a network spinal analysis chiropractor. The academic in me turned to research and I found quite a lot of information on the topic. Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) was developed by Dr. Donny Epstein in 1984. It is practiced in the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand. One article, in particular, documented how Network Spinal Analysis helps improve concentration in students who are labeled as ADHD (see Chris Lucks et al. case study for the complete research findings). This was also listed in the handouts we received during our first visit. I also learned that  NSA is part of a larger approach to healing called Reorganizational Healing or ROH. In this approach to healing, a disease is not viewed as something that has to be eradicated and then set aside but an opportunity to reevaluate your body, grow from the experience and ultimately heal yourself. If done correctly, you walk away from the event stronger, healthier and wiser. This information was very interesting to me but I needed to see it with my own two eyes before I was a true believer.

So I went, questioning if I was seeing a change in Sophie because I wanted to make it worth the money or because something was actually happening. It took Sophie several visits to even lie down on the table. We had entrainments sitting up and with her lying on my stomach. Progress with Sophie can be painfully slow. I will tell you one thing, the first couple of visits ended with her wound up like a top running around the waiting room. Her nerves were definitely talking! Eventually, we made it to the large room. NSA chiropractors believe it is beneficial for people to have entrainments together. Often times our doctor will work on one patient, give them time to rest, and visit another person, and then return to the first individual. During one of Sophie’s rest times, I watched a woman have a network wave. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Spinal waves occur when your body releases the tension and the spine is free to reorganize itself back to a healthier position. It is incredible to watch. What was even more amazing is that the doctor applied pressure and then stepped back while the body released and realigned. From that point on, I was all in.

In 24 visits Sophie regained the curve in her neck and a more stabilized pelvis and sacrum. At the suggestion of our chiropractor, we have made a few nutritional tweaks to Sophie’s diet and are happy to say she and her newly aligned gastrointestinal system are now medicine free. Her knees are also thanking the chiropractor because the realignment of her cervical spine has improved her balance, preventing her from losing coordination in even during the most sensory overload experiences. She still has some muscle weakness that we will continue to support but we are now able to visit the doctor’s every other week instead of twice a week, which makes our bank account very happy. I now recommend this form of chiropractic care to anyone who complains about an ache or pain in front of me. I truly believe it has helped Sophie’s body heal so that all of the great work she is doing with her Occupational Therapist can really take root. Call me a believer. If we had more money, I would sign everyone in my family up to participate.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

House Rules

Silence is never a show of support. But in the light of all of the horrible events that are occurring both in the United States and the rest of the world, I feel I am beginning to run out of useful things to say. I am shocked. I am horrified. I am appalled. I am deeply saddened for our broken world. The educator in me is always looking for a solution, something to help this not happen again. So here is my humble suggestion; I think our country and the rest of the world need to sit down, have a family meeting and create some house rules.
Our house rules started because my children were in week six of summer vacation and had spent way to much unstructured time together. They had begun to fight, hit and be mean to each other. Out of frustration, I had begun to yell. One day I looked around my house and thought, is this what I want for my children? The answer was no. So we sat down in front of our fireplace with a piece of paper and a marker and had a talk.
What I discovered that day was that my children inherently knew how they should be behaving. They knew the kind of person I wanted them to be. Our house values were in line, we just needed to take the moment to be reminded of what mattered and recommit to our common purpose. So we created four simple rules and consequences.
Rule 1: We listen when others talk.
Rule 2: We play together and take turns. What we have is ours and not mine.
Rule 3: We talk in calm, quiet voices.
Rule 4: We help each other.
And then we signed the paper, committing to spending our days trying to do right by our family. Since my children are small, I added an incentive to our new rules. Every time they are caught being good, they get to put a bead in the jar. Eventually that jar will be filled and a reward will be earned. Right now they are so excited to do good so that they can see the physical result and look at how that one act of kindness is helping fill a previously empty jar. They have returned to the kind, helpful versions of themselves and the tenor of my house has changed.
As I sat and pondered all the horror that is currently occurring in the world, I couldn’t help but think that every community needs to sit down and make some house rules. We need to be reminded of the things we should be doing and then have someone catch us in the act. Daily on Facebook and in the mainstream media we are negatively reinforcing the horrible acts of violence people are committing all over the country while thousands of good deeds go unsung. Let’s give our children examples of the goodness that still exists in the world so that they have something to follow, the shoulds instead of the should-nots. Let’s positively reinforce the right instead of reinforcing the wrong. So that if our children accidentally open our Facebook feed they will see that kindness, openness, fairness is newsworthy and evil deeds are worth looking at twice.
Mr. Rodgers said “When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in the world.”

Maybe if we all made our house rules and day by day added beads to our jars, we could change the world for good. Our current approach is certainly not working so maybe it is time to sit down with our pens and papers and try something new.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Funny Similarities between the Renovation Process and Living with Sensory Processing Disorders...

Raising a child with sensory processing disorder is like spending your entire life renovating a house. Renovating a house is a huge undertaking; it can sometimes be really messy and ugly and occasionally, your work uncovers a rare gem that would never had been discovered if you hadn’t started pulling back the layers of wallpaper in that &@#^ dining room!

Having lived through several renovations in my adult life (all of which were taken on by my husband and not myself) I think I am an excellent source to make this comparison. Renovations begin with the stage I like to call, “the lofty goals time period.” During this time period the renovator looks around, makes a lot of notes and says to him/herself “yeah, I can do this! This will be a piece of cake!” The renovator creates a timeline for the project, presents it to his/her spouse/partner/whatever and says “this will be way better and cheaper than if we hire someone!” The partner is sceptical that this project will turn out the way it is being sold but her loved one’s enthusiasm sways her and in a show of support she says “Ok! Let’s do it!” When our daughter was diagnosed with SPD my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Now that we know what this is we can fix this.” “We’ll get this under control and be on our way to a blissful child raising experience in no time!” Our friends told us “She’s so smart, she’ll only need an IEP for 6 months!” A year later with a new IEP, additional services, glasses, other diagnoses, I can’t help but look back at my naive self and shake my head.

Enter stage two of the renovation or what I like to call the re-evaluating your plan and timeline stage. At this point you have pulled down the wall paper in the dining room only to find there are four more layers and you think…”no one would really notice if I just paint over this right??” This is the stage where you tell your very pregnant wife that the baby’s room might take longer to prepare than you thought and promise that the baby and your mother in law will have a place to sleep before the baby arrives. It is at this time that the non-renovating partner looks around the mess in his/her house and thinks “Why the h--- is this taking so long? It can’t be that complicated?” You begin to consider giving up and just hiring someone to do the job. Is the sense of accomplishment really worth all of this hassle?

This renovation stage involves a lot of research, trips to Home Depot, calling friends and possibly other handymen to help, lots of late nights and an abundance of cursing. In our parallel SPD world, this is the time  that occurs after you have your diagnosis and your child is set up with services. Quickly your providers beginning to notice things and all hope of this processing being a quick detour off the child rearing path you always planned for are shot. The professionals begin to comment on her eye tracking, notice that she doesn’t cross the midline and ponder on the fact that the behavior they witness at home is not what they see in the therapy session. You begin to get frustrated so you buy books and read every page. You join online support groups, searching for help and as a last ditch attempt to put the picture of your child completely together you start seeking alternative therapies. And then one day you find yourself at a very Eastern medicine workshop holding jars of herbs buying into what the nutritionist is saying and you stop and look around and think, never in a million years did I think I would end up here!

Finally comes the home stretch. This is the most satisfying stage of a renovation. (It is also the time in our life that usually coincides with a move to a new home and new projects.) You have done your best, you have asked for help with the aspects of the project you couldn’t do yourself and you are generally pleased with the results. You know that soon there will be another project that will absorb your nights and weekends but for one brief moment you pause and admire your work and pat yourself on the back. For a sensory processing parent that occurs when your child achieves something two months, two weeks, or two days ago he or she couldn’t do. When your therapist looks at you and says he/she can’t get over the progress your child is making and how far she has come. When the warmth of pride and tear inducing joy bubbles up inside of you and you begin to let yourself think that maybe everything will be alright. We have all been there and while we know that more than likely tomorrow or the next day will contain a setback of some level, for one moment we can step back and look at our beautiful child and appreciate the hard work that has been done to help his/her light shine bright.