Monthly Archives: August 2015

1067 Days of Reading Aloud

For the third day of school, third grade, Zoe gets to bring in a small paper bag with three special things. She chose, “Little House in the Big Woods,” a small elephant carving from India, and our reading streak log book. Two of her three precious items are connected to the shared experience of reading aloud. “Little House in the Big Woods” is the first book of the first series that we’ve read multiple times. We’ve been reading aloud since she was a baby, and reading chapter books since she was four. We’ve been keeping track of our daily reading streak for nearly three years, tallying more than one thousand days of consecutive read aloud with only a few guest readers at times when I had to be away overnight. Last night and this morning, I captured to a digital log the last several months of reading just in case our little notebook log doesn’t make its way all the way to school and back. Though, Zoe assures me it will, after all she took it for a similar show-and-tell event in first grade too.

Since my last major update about our reading streak at the 800 day mark, we’ve read several more series or parts of series. “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and the four books that follow were hits as were the “All of a Kind Family” books. For those, Zoe was really bothered that the books were not in chronological order and so she wanted me to read them in the order that made the most sense to her. The fourth Penderwicks book came out, we heard the author speak at the Brookline Public Library the day before Zoe was due to make a presentation and perform a puppet show in school all about the author, Jeanne Birdsall. Zoe read “The Penderwicks in Spring” in three days, impatiently but politely informing me that my pace of one or two chapters per day would not cut it. Later, she let me read it aloud. That marked a turning point in our reading streak. Zoe’s reading level has caught up to much of what I read.

I continue to choose books with lots of words, like “Little Women” and the two that follow it, and we’re into the second book of “Anne of Green Gables” now, intent on continuing. Some of these books are “too many words” for Mia who protests by doing headstands during reading time, or being even more provocative when she really has had enough. To  keep her in the mix, we also include books that hold her interest. The Doctor Dolittle books, “Dear Mr. Henshaw” and “Shiloh” have been recent hits with Mia, and the next Shiloh book is on deck after we finish “The Borrowers.” Interestingly, even when it seems like Mia isn’t exactly listening, she is. Out of the blue, she’ll make a comment about one of the characters that is spot on in relevance. The characters of these books become like members of our family, used in conversation to explain how someone might be as evil as Dexter Dupree, for example.

All summer, I read a chapter from each of their chapter books each morning and night. As school begins, we’re struggling to shift to a more workable morning routine which means I may need to start using the timer in the morning to limit our read aloud time. Protests mean that I’m thinking about alternatives, like doing some of my other morning jobs before the girls wake up so we can still fit in the two chapters. Tough choices for a beloved shared time we spend together morning and night.

While we listened to “Mary Poppins” and “Stuart Little” on our trip to Ithaca and the Adirondacks, we didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as in past summers. One reason is that Zoe can satisfy her thirst for words by reading chapter books independently. There were several books that she devoured in one or two days of sustained focus.

Our reading streak continues, and while we started with a modest goal of making it to 100 consecutive days of reading aloud, we just hit 1067 and keep counting.  As always, we welcome suggestions on titles, authors, series, and all genres that might interest two girls, ages 6 and 8.

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Pediatric Stroke Clinic – 6 Years Old

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Today was our fifth visit to the Pediatric Stroke Clinic at MGH. The first was when Mia was 2 months old, then 14 months, 26 months, 4 years and 2 months, and today at 6 years and 2 months. Every one of these appointments has been in mid August. The stroke clinic happens once a month, and we’re on an August schedule, at first once a year until Mia turned two, now once every two years. It’s a form of time travel for me, revisiting this place, with an older and more capable child each time, answering the same questions and some new ones, sharing information, seeing if I’ll learn anything useful.

The heat, the drive, the traffic, parking garage, finding the bathroom, remembering doing it all with a stroller, getting a snack at the cafeteria, finding the right elevator to the eighth floor, waiting, the really friendly staff in the waiting area as the stroke clinic shares space with the pediatric oncology team. They seem friendlier and more gentle with families than the other floor with pediatric neurology and gastroenterology. The toys in the waiting area are nicer. There are many books and a beautiful huge fish tank.

Today, there was a new neurologist on the team and she was great! She is an M.D./Ph.D. from Buenos Aires, spoke Spanish with Mia, and is eager to learn from me as they work to set up resources for families. Mia’s main pediatrician is a woman, and all of her therapists have been women, but this is only the second specialist we have seen who is a woman. She took time to get to know us, was patient when Mia wouldn’t answer her questions, gave her time to warm up, and asked really good questions. She asked me what kind of support system I have. She asked me to share resources with her as they are setting up a website to support families. She offered to write letters to support me in advocating for Mia to continue to receive occupational therapy through the school district and to get speech therapy too.

I found a sweet video of Mia at that first appointment six years ago. She was swatting at the toy horse hanging from her carseat, snapped into her stroller frame. Then and now, I watch this video clip and see that she is hitting the horse a bit more purposefully with her left hand than her right. It’s subtle but noticeable. And yet, her right hand is active too. I used to wonder what it meant, what would she be able to do with her hands.

Today, Mia read aloud for the new neurologist on the team. She ran down the hall, with no apparent gait issues. She hopped as easily on her right leg as her left. She turned pages in a book, took off her sandals, all using two hands in a very functional way. She can tie her shoes, paddle a kayak, climb trees and rock walls, swing across monkey bars, ride a bike, swim, waterski, play soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse, and piano. She is amazing and our journey has been rich with rewards and challenges.

I know a family new to this world of pediatric stroke. I know several such families in the online community of CHASA (Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association). It’s a scary, bewildering journey. Love your child as if they are fine. Educate yourselves to advocate for the best care possible.

I have felt sick this week. It started as a bit of congestion Monday evening and then turned into intense fatigue Tuesday afternoon, worsened overnight as Mia needed some nighttime parenting. I did get good sleep Wednesday, night but still felt tired in my bones this morning. I felt sick again this afternoon from the heat and sun during the drive as I didn’t take the time to put on my sunglasses. I have been doing some amazing healing work with Irene Lyon to support my nervous system in healing from stress and traumas small and large, recent and distant. I sensed that my fatigue this week is a release of long held stress. And, then today, as I was trolling through my memories brought on by the heat and places on our route into Boston and through the MGH campus, I was moved to write here to process all of this, and it made sense all of a sudden. I am releasing some of that stored tension, the wonder and worry that started when I learned my two day old baby had suffered a stroke.

I felt it all today, the fear and uncertainty that made me anxious through the early days, weeks, months, and years, intense pride and connection with Mia as she showed off her many skills, compassion for my imperfect parenting of both of my children through a tough several years, and joy to have them both on this journey with me.

Since I had to take the afternoon off from work for the trip into Boston, after we finished with the appointment, Mia asked me to take her to get new sneakers before school starts next week. We found shoes she loves, blue boys’ ones, no laces please. And, I agreed because last year in Kindergarten, she learned to tie her shoes in September and had to practice all year with her lace sneakers that are now two sizes too small.

We met Zoe at home after her afternoon playdate and took her to soccer practice. Mostly now, life goes on like this with our full schedules of work and camp, soon shifting to work and school. We get help from our au pair to fit in all the activities, transportation, meal prep, and care needed to support the development of both of my girls. And, occasionally, I make time to pause, write, and share how much I appreciate the wonder of it all.