"Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature." ~St. Augustine

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Parker had his first hippotherapy appointment last week and it was wonderful!  A little bit about hippotherapy for those of you that would like to know more:

First and foremost, there are no hippos involved.  :)  A friend of mine said I should not tell Parker we are going to hippotherapy because he will be very confused when he sees a horse!  I found out that "hippos" is Greek for horse, in case any of you are wondering where it came from.

Anyway, hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, or speech therapy treatment strategy that utilizes the multidimensional movement of a horse.  It uses the movement of the horse to influence the client's posture, balance, function and sensory processing.  The horse's pelvis moves in the same three ways as a human pelvis does creating a movement pattern similar to human walking.  This type of movement cannot be replicated in the typical clinical setting.  For some riders it's the first time that they have been able to feel what walking is like. 

Hippotherapy is beneficial for a wide variety of diagnoses and impairments including:
  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Delay
  • Sensory Integration Dysfunction
  • Language Disabilities
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Down Syndrome
  • Spina Bifida
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
I had first heard about hippotherapy when Parker was first diagnosed.  A friend told us about it, but when we did our research we found out that a client needs to be 2-years-old to do the therapy.   I couldn't wait until that day that we could get Parker in there!  I have grown up around horses and was so excited to try out this type of therapy.  And it didn't let me down.

After doing a 30 minute evaluation of Parker inside the office, the physical therapist (Laurie) took us out to the barn.  It was an  extremely windy day so all the horses were  in their stalls and they were restless.  The wind was so loud and the horses were feeling cooped up.  I could feel the energy in the air.  So I was a little worried.  Would Parker's horse be a little skittish?  Well, that was cleared up pretty quickly. 

Laurie took us straight to Blessy's stall and introduced Parker to him.  I put Parker's hand on his soft muzzle and Blessy just stood very still and welcomed Parker with his big liquid brown eyes.  Parker smiled.  I knew Blessy would be a good fit.  We went into the arena and Parker was put on Blessy's back.  There wasn't a saddle.  They just used a pad so that Parker could feel the horse's movements.  Laurie was on one side of Parker, another woman was on the other side and there was a third leading the horse.   

I wasn't allowed in the arena and I thought surely Parker would start crying when they led him away from me.  Nope.  Parker did not cry, but I did.  Ok, I didn't start sobbing like I thought Parker would.  But tears came to my eyes as I saw my little man riding Blessy.  I don't know why it got me.  Maybe because for the first time in his life he could feel what walking is.  Maybe it was that I could see the smile on his face.  Maybe it was because I could see him working so hard to say sitting up and holding his head up.  (which isn't easy with a riding helmet)  Either way, I dried my eyes before he came back around to me.  I waved and cheered him on.  He was focusing so hard he barely noticed.  I took some pictures on my cheap little camera but they didn't turn out very good.

After the session, Parker got to take Blessy back to the grooming station and feed him treats.  I love this part because they really want the kids to know that they need to take care of "their" horse and thank them.  Parker reached out for Blessy's face and I helped place his hand on his cheek.  Then Blessy gave love nibbles to Parker's hand (just lipped him).    Next time we are going to bring some treats for Blessy.  I know the usual snacks for horses are carrots and apples.  But the therapist told me that horses also love peppermint!  Anyone know of any other special treats we can bring our little horse?

If anyone out there is looking for a new therapy, I would strongly recommend hippotherapy.  Not only will it be amazing for Parker physically, I think emotionally it will be the best type of therapy for  him (along with ABM).   He loved it!  He had a smile or a very focused face the whole time.  There was no crying or frustration that often comes with regular physical therapy.  We have only gone once, but I am sold.  I will keep updating you and letting you know the progress he is making.

Another good sidenote, they can bill insurance because it is a trained physical therapist that you are working with.  It is considered a therapy session.  We are not going that route because we are only allowed 30 therapy visits per year, and that includes speech, physical, and occupational therapy!  Ridiculous, I know!  So we are going to pay out-of-pocket for the hippotherapy because it is more affordable than our other types of therapy.  Our occupational therapy appointments at one facitlity (that we don't go to anymore) cost $408 (for an hour).  Hipportherapy is $35/15 minutes.  So we are just going to do 30 minute sessions (especially since Parker is so young).  $70/week is still expensive, but we are going to find a way to make it work. 

I will let you know how it goes.  Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don't Forget You!

*Again, this post was written a week ago, so it is a little out of date.

I don't write posts just about me.  This blog was intended to be about my sweet boys and our journey through the life of "special needs".  However, I had such a great experience last weekend, that I just have to write about it.   And let's be honest, even when I am writing about my kids, it is still about me. 

I am turning 40 soon, March 1st to be exact.  Now with turning 40, you know that someone is going to have a big party for you - usually they turn out to be surprise parties.  So I go into January knowing this and discussing it with my husband.  He is an amazing man and I know he will try to do something extraordinary for my special day.  I was really worried that he would try to do a surprise party.  I was worried because I don't think he would even begin to know how to contact my friends.  That is the other challenge.  I have many different groups of friends.  I have some close friends, work friends, twin mama friends, daycare mama friends, and many of these Jimmy doesn't even know.  So I told him straight out, don't try to plan a big party.  "Seriously, honey.  I don't need that."  I also told him that I didn't want him to plan a trip to Vegas to celebrate.  I know that one of my good friends would have definitely encouraged him to do that.  And  although it would be fun, it was too expensive.  I really didn't want to spend money on a trip to Vegas when I could put that towards therapy for Parker.  I was so serious about my thoughts that I also told my mom so that she could influence Jimmy appropriately. 

So a few weeks ago he told me that he had a weekend planned for us to celebrate my birthday.  It was going to be early (Feb. 18th) because he had to find a time that would work with his coaching schedule.  Feb. 25th he thought he may have a play-in game and March 3rd is a possible play-off game.  So he told me that we would have a night at a hotel (thanks to the United Cerebral Palsy respitality program) and my  mom would watch the boys.  I was so excited, but a part of me was a little sad that I wasn't going to be celebrating with any friends.  I didn't want a huge party, but I was kind of hoping to at least meet up with a few friends for dinner or drinks.

Saturday came and my sweet husband informed me that it was "my day".  He had scheduled a massage and blow-out for me at one of my favorite spas.  After the most amazing massage and a less amazing blow-out, I came home and got ready for our night out away from the boys.

My mom came over and after finishing getting ready I came downstairs to her feeding Parker  his bottle.  And then I hear a knock at the door...
It was one of my best friends from high school and her husband, also a friend of mine from high school.  Now, I wasn't too surprised. Although they do live in Seattle, they come down to our area often to see family.  They also have 2 older boys and are extremely generous so they always have stuff to drop off for us. So when they showed up with a bag of clothes for the boys, I was happy to see them but not too suspicious.  But then the doorbell kept ringing.   And one after another, my best friends, my life long friends from high school kept showing up.  These friends came from Seattle, Corvallis, Medford and San Fransisco.  These friends...they are the best.  I cried each time a new one showed up.  

Now I need to insert a little aside here about these friends.  These are the type of friendships that are very rare.  I realize that not many people have life-long friends they still keep in touch with from high school.  Most made those friends in college.  Not me.  We have this amazing group of friends from high school that time has not affected.  We used to try to get together at least once a year, but with growing families this has become much more challenging.  However, these are the friends that I know I could call and they would be there for me at the drop of a hat.  We support each other, love each other and are fiercely loyal.  Even if we go a year or two without seeing each other or talking, we pick up with each other like no time has passed.  I love these people.
I just kept saying to Jimmy, "These are the best people ever!  How did  you do this?"  It was so amazing.  I kept looking around and couldn't believe that they all had come here for me.  It meant more to me than anything in the world. 

Everyone was able to meet our sweet little boys while we hung out at our house and had pizza and drinks.  My husband had made an amazing slide show of my life, which brought many of us to tears.  And then we all left to go out for a night on the town. 

This night on the town included many fun things, most  hilarious of all was that all 10 of us squeezed into a 6 person limo as we were driven around to our many destinations.  And we are not small people.  My husband is 6'8" and at one point when he was sitting in the middle on the cooler, we actually had to open the sunroof so that he didn't have to hunch down.  Just his head was sticking out -  it was like Harry and the Hendersons! 

We played pool and shuffle board, we went to a dualing piano bar (by far the best place), our guys did Elvis impersonations, we sang, we danced, we ate cupcakes, and we made great memories.  It was one of the best days of my life so far (after my wedding and the births of my boys.)

The funny/worst thing about it was that we had this great hotel to go back to.  No kids.  We could sleep in as long as we wanted to!  The blackout curtains are drawn, the bed is comfy, I fall asleep quickly at around 2:00 AM ...only to wake up at 5:45!!!!  Then I layed there in bed trying to will myself to fall back asleep.  But I couldn't.  I. Was. Awake.    Getting up and making bottles at 5 AM has been what I have done for the past 2 1/2 years, even on the weekend, so my body says "Get the hell up, Marcy!" - even when I don't have to.  Sigh...
So I  layed there and replayed the events of the previous day while listening to my  husband sleep soundly next to me.  And I was  happy. 

The night was filled with great friends, good food, good drinks, and some very funny moments.  There was not one minute when I worried about Parker's therapy, or if he would talk, or how he was eating, or when we would get a wheelchair for him, or how we would find a house that is one-level and accessible to him, or what pre-school/daycare would look like for him.  I didn't worry about Brady and finding a good pre-school for him, or if he would grow up resenting the fact that Parker naturally gets more attention.  I didn't worry about Ryder and his lack of interest in eating, or the fact that he is the third child and does not have near as many pictures and videos as the twins did when they were babies, or that, God forbid, he also would resent the extra attention Parker gets.

That night, I was not the mom of 3 baby boys, one with cerebral palsy.  I was just that lady in the bar turning 40 - and it felt good.  It felt good to be 40 (although technically I wasn't yet) and it felt good to be just a lady out partying with some friends.  I can't even remember the last time I did that.

This would be my wise advice for parents of children with special needs (now that I am 40, I consider myself wise):   Don't forget to nurture YOU.  Not you as a mom or dad, but just you.  Yes, you are a parent, and if you have a child with special needs, that can be all-consuming.  But you have to take care of yourself and remember that you are still an individual.  Don't forget about you.  Take some time to read, or write, or run.  Go out with some friends.  Snuggle with your spouse.  Walk in the sunshine.  Get a massage.  Do all of these things.  Your sweet kids will still be there (along with all the worries) when you are done. 

Now if I was really wise, I would take my own advice.  Let's see how that goes.  Writing on this blog has given me enjoyment, but I have been a real slacker.  I just can't seem to find the time.  I know that many people commit to writing a post every day for a month.  That I can't do.  However, I am going to commit to writing more.  (I know, pretty vague, huh?) 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Including Parker

*This post was started 2 weeks ago, so it is a little out of date. 

Well, I have not been very disciplined about blogging.  I had a feeling that would happen.  I just can't ever seem to find the time.  I don't know how you  busy moms do it!  Kudos to all of you!

Last weekend, my husband and I went to a viewing of "Including Samuel".  I would recommend this highly to anyone who has a child with special needs, to anyone in education, to anyone who has a child in the schools, to anyone, period.  It is a wonderful documentary about inclusiveness in education. 

I had many different emotions as I watched it.  First and foremost, I did what I always do.  I watched closely every detail of Samuel and compared him to Parker.  I always do that when I encounter anyone with cp.  I so badly want to know what Parker will be like as he gets older.  In fact, there was an ADORABLE little boy who also came to watch the movie with his parents.  He was in a wheelchair, but was holding his own water bottle, munching on some snacks and talking.  I couldn't take my eyes off of him!  He seemed so happy!  I so wanted to go ask his parents his age and pray that Parker could be that happy and verbal at his age.  So  there I was watching him out of one corner of my eye and the movie out the other corner.  Luckily he was up front and to my right so I could easily see both!  I wonder if his parents noticed me staring, and if so, I hope they realized that I was staring with admiration.
One emotion that I really felt was embarrassment.  I was embarrassed or rather ashamed that I hadn't thought about this important topic before, and I WORK in a school district.  Inclusiveness was not taught in my Master's for teaching program.  We had never had an in-service training about it at work.  It never crossed my mind...until I had a child with special needs.  Why is that? 

Another emotion that I started to feel was panic. I started to panic because I want to find an amazing school that has this type of inclusive environment for Parker, Brady and Ryder to go to.  Then I start doing the math - they will be in school very soon!  Are there any schools like this in the Portland area?  I don't know, but I am determined to find out.  I hope that I can find some amazing schools in a small community.  That is my dream for the boys.  I want them to grow up with a community of love and support around them.  It is hard to find that feel in bigger city like Portland.  You have to find just the right area that has that "small town feel" and then hope that they have good schools.   And of course the housing market is horrible, so that makes me panic also.  If only I could win the lottery...

The topic of inclusive schools also brings me to the topic of inclusive daycare/preschools - which we are in the hunt for right now.  It is sad to me that it is so difficult to find a preschool that could offer the right environment for all of my sweet boys.  I hate that I may have to separate them!  I hate even worse the fact that I can't seem to find a good place for Parker at all.  I would love to start my own preschool/daycare.  It would be staffed with amazing, loving teachers.  It would have physical, occupation and speech therapists.  There would be animals, and an outdoor play area that Walt Disney would envy.  It would be brightly colored with windows everywhere to let in the light.  We would have typical developing kiddos (if there really is such a thing) and differently-abled kiddos.  There would be music and field trips and guest visitors.  There would be crafts and learning and sharing and most of all, laughter!  Aahhhh...what a perfect world that would be.  All of my kids would be included, even Parker.