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Jul
04
2018

I was honestly overwhelmed by all your comments here, on Facebook, via email, through skywriting. Okay, no one hired a plane to skywrite to me. Maybe next time.

But your outpouring of support after I posted about my son Cash was amazing. Your personal stories and journeys with your own children lifted me up and gave me hope. Thank you for sharing them.

Scary Mommy asked to publish my post and I was honored. I want parents to know – no matter what a doctor tells you, there is always hope. Always.

Many people commented that I should sent the post to the child psychologist who assessed Cash. And I was hesitant. I had said all I needed to say right here.  We had already consulted with many other experts who deemed her dim and definitive prognosis unprofessional and not even possible – given he is only five.

So what did I have to gain from sending this doctor my feelings on how she had handled the situation? She basically turned our world upside down in just a few minutes.

But then I talked to Devorah Kaplan. Devorah runs the Downtown Jewish Preschool here in Fort Lauderdale where Cash spent his first year of preschool.

When we first moved to Fort Lauderdale, we were trying to find a preschool for Cash. Rick said to me, “I found one. It’s a Chabad preschool. It’s Orthodox.”

I reminded my husband that I was not exactly Jewish so maybe an Orthodox preschool wasn’t the best fit. He said, talk to Devorah and then decide.

It took one phone call to sign my son up.  Devorah Kaplan is an amazing educator and a person filled with compassion and a true understanding of how children develop and grow. Her energy and passion for her work and life is inspiring.

She called me recently to tell me how much she appreciated the post I wrote about Cash. And then she said something else that sort of began to haunt me.

She said that sometimes when parents are given a grim diagnosis about their child’s cognitive abilities, it freezes them in their tracks. Instead of propelling them immediately to get special services for their child, they feel hopeless. They think nothing will change the diagnosis, so they do nothing.

Then it can almost become a self-fulfilling prophesy because early intervention is so vital when kids have special needs and challenges.

Now this thankfully didn’t happen with us because we immediately sought other opinions. And Cash was already receiving OT, speech and physical therapy. But what about a family who walks into that first child psychologist and given all her credentials and experience, just believes her. And just loses hope about the future of their child.

And this began to really bother me.  So I decided to write the child psychologist who assessed Cash an email. And here is what I said..

_________________________

Hi Dr. ——-,

You recently completed a psychoeducational evaluation for my son Cash. Thank you for the time you took with him. Although Cash certainly faces many challenges, I was stunned by how definitive you were in your predictions about his future – especially since you don’t make it a practice to follow your patients longterm. I don’t question your diagnosis but only your definitive predictions about his long term prospects.

I think it’s important for you to know the impact you are having on families. I’m a writer and I wrote this piece so perhaps you can better understand what it’s like to be the parent sitting on the couch listening to the way you deliver your vision of a child’s future.

I only hope you can open your heart to the possibilities of every child, no matter what challenges they face. Because we all have limitless potential. And it’s important for every family to leave your office knowing that their son or daughter can not only rise to the challenges life presents but thrive in amazing ways.

Good luck to you.

_________________________

I have not yet received a response and I don’t really expect to. But I hope my words will just maybe give her a tiny bit of compassion for the next “Cash” who walks into her office.

I have such respect for doctors. Science and the study of the mind is an incredible thing. But there is something else that is hard to quantify. It’s the magic and resiliency of children. And she should stop doubting it.

We have been so blessed to find amazing speech, occupational and physical therapists to work with Cash. These professionals are so committed and talented. I sat down the other night to play a matching game with Cash that his occupational therapist had sent home.

It’s not easy for Cash. This is not a boy who wants to be bothered with sitting down when he can possibly figure out how to jump from the counter to the couch with his brother.

But for a few minutes, we played.

And then he did something I never saw before. He read the numbers off the pieces of paper. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I was stunned. Cash has never read anything before and he recognized these numbers.

I made him do it again to make sure it was real.

It was.

My son is making progress. In his own time. Cash does everything his own way. So why would this be any different?

Cash has magic. And resiliency. And so does every kid out there.

We just have to support and believe in them.


Jun
24
2018

I sat there listening to this woman.

Child Psychologist.

PhD.

20 years assessing children just like my boy.

She talked. And I listened. But I’m not sure I really understood. She threw around phrases like “global developmental delays” and “borderline intellectual functioning.”

My kid certainly has his own way of experiencing the world.

He likes to go into random stores so he can “smell the breeze.” He named his toy elephant Todd. He’d rather spend a half hour inspecting a centipede than do whatever you think he should be doing.

More often than not, if I stop to pick up some sushi to go, he will sit himself down at one of the tables with some strangers and say hello.

As my husband Rick once said, “I’m a friendly guy but this kid is in another league.”

Cash is friendly. Sometimes aggressively friendly. Because he wants to know you. And definitely wants to know what kind of sushi you’re eating. And he’d like to know the name of your dog too. And maybe how old you are.

He has no fear. Of good things or bad. He’s adorable. And sweet. And perfect. In that imperfectly human way.

He went to see this child psychologist four times. Part of an assessment for a psychoeducational evaluation. The purpose was to better understand how he processes information so his speech and OT specialists could better tailor his sessions.

We have known for a while he’s delayed. He’s our 5th kid. We saw the difference. But this woman was attempting to tell us his future. She talked about limits and “altering our expectations” to the reality of his situation. She was definitive. And convincing. I’m not sure how I sat there for an hour without crying.

But then I walked to my car, got in and the tears were unstoppable.

Over the the next few days, we sent the report to a number of people… speech therapists, our occupational therapist and the director of a special needs school. We spoke to another child psychologist and to our pediatrician.

And what we heard was hope.

We were told that you can’t determine a 5 year old’s future unless you’re some kind of proven fortune teller. That her dire predictions of Cash were worst case scenarios. Not a given. That we were doing the right thing with early intervention and the enormous progress we’ve seen is real and positive and encouraging.

I was still rattled. But less so.

I guess in the end, I was most saddened by this woman’s limited view of my son.  She will never know what it’s like to inspect a centipede with him.  Or how on a recent trip to New York City, he made it his mission to pretty much pet every dog in Manhattan.

Or how he convinced some guy to give him a ukulele lesson during a long delay at the airport.

I hope one day that doctor is sitting in a restaurant. Just waiting for her food. I hope Cash bounds over to her and sits down. I hope she finds out what it feels like to be the center of his universe, even for a few minutes.

Because I think if she felt that she would stop doubting this boy. This gregarious, energetic, unstoppable boy.

Because I will not alter my expectations. I will not accept her limitations. Mostly because he doesn’t.

This beautiful child will become whatever he wants to be.

And someday her official report will be a small footnote in his amazing, probably unconventional life.

Now I’ve got to go. I’m off to smell the breeze with the sweetest boy I know.


May
17
2018

(This is a sponsored post. And it’s so important. Because as American Conservationist John Sawhill once said, “A society is defined not only by what it creates, but what it refuses to destroy.” )

Magaly Fuentes of West Palm Beach always cared about the environment. She even started a business to promote eco friendly fashion companies. But she knew the moment she had to really get involved locally in the fight for clean air and water.

“My son got diagnosed with asthma when he was 2-years-old so it made my commitment to the environment even stronger,” she says.

That’s why she recently showed up at Miami City Hall with her now 5 year old son, to support the Moms Clean Air Force “Moms and Mayors” partnership to improve the environment and children’s health.

The program connects moms with mayors across the country to make positive changes on the local level. In fact more than one million moms nationwide are working with local officials.

And right now, local action has never been more important. Our federal government may be rolling back air, water, and climate protections, but mayors across the country are finding innovative solutions: running their cities on clean energy, to save money and protect children’s health.

And we must act. Nearly 40% of Americans—125 million people—live in areas where the air is officially unhealthy to breathe because of air pollution. Air pollution takes a toll on the wellbeing of our kids, our seniors, and those frontline communities living close to pollution sources.

Caroline Lewis of the Cleo Institute (a non-partisan, non-profit dedicated to climate change education, engagement, and advocacy says, “There is such a lack of awareness of what’s happening with the environment.” But she says, once educated, local officials are often anxious to jump on board and make things happen.

And she insists every mom (and dad) out there can do something to push forward change and protect our world. “You’re not filling a pail. You’re starting a fire. Embrace the arsonist in yourself.”

Because we are only borrowing this earth from our children.

So be noisy. Write emails. Follow and retweet action items by @CleanAirMoms and @momsAction.

Educate your local leaders.

Urge your elected officials to do more.

Introduce yourself to your mayor. Write a handwritten letter of introduction. Then follow up with a phone call, to see if you can schedule a time to sit down in person and talk.

And think about joining a city board or commission.

Need more ideas of what you can do? Join the Moms Clean Air Force. Contact Heather McTeer Toney for more information at htoney@momscleanairforce.org.

Mom Magaly Fuentes has faith in the mothers out there.

“Moms are tough. They’re on a mission to protect their kids. They won’t stop until they are heard. Until they protect their kids.”

So let’s unleash the arsonist within us and get out there and protect our world.

(This is a sponsored post. All ideas are my own.)

 


May
04
2018

When Rick (the Jewish husband) said to me (the non Jewish wife), “I want to have a bat mitzvah for our oldest daughter – this is how the conversation went…

Him: “Let’s have a bat mitzvah and a party!”

Me: “Let go to London for a family vacation instead!”

(Repeat this exchange at different volume decibels roughly 568 times.)

Then it finally went like this…

Him: “Let’s have a bat mitzvah and a party!”

Me: “Alright, let’s do this thing.”

And we did.

I started planning a pretty simple event while Dylan got to work learning her Torah portion.

I was very helpful in her endeavor by saying things like… “That’s definitely not English!” And “After you learn your Hebrew, I have an intensive Latin camp you are going to love!”

Then the bat mitzvah day came!

Dylan was amazing! (I guess. Again, I don’t speak Hebrew but she seemed like she was killing it.) The service was long – so long that one of Rick’s cousins was reading a newspaper. First of all, I’m relieved to know they are still making newspapers. And second, how smart is this guy to bring one?!

Then the party!

My girls and I did the required outfit change and then it was time for our family to be introduced!

At which point 4 year old Cash said, “I have to poop.”

I turned to that boy and said very seriously, “Kid, there are going to be times in your life when you have to poop and you just can’t. This is one of those times.”

And  he nodded his head – likely absorbing the deep wisdom I had just shared – and then we all got introduced like a boss!

(No idea when Cash got to poop – I hired a sitter for the day to watch him because I’m looking to avoid nervous breakdowns whenever possible.)

Now early on in the bat mitzvah planning I said, “I’m not going up in the chair during the hora.”

And I meant it.

And like my declaration, “Let’s go to London!” it was not taken very seriously.

I got a lot of sad eyes from my daughter Dylan and well, I caved.

Family peer pressure is real yo.

Here I am going up…

And then I turned into some kind of Royal Duchess of the Hora because here I am waving to my adoring fans…

After the party, out of town guests and family came to our house for more revelry.

(Why aren’t people using the word revelry more – I’m on a one woman mission to change that.)

I knew the after-party had reached its full potential when someone said, “There’s poop all over the stairs!”

And there was.

And it wasn’t any of my children!!

Some poor young cousin had eaten too much junk food at our party and had some belly issues. This is the dark side of the candy themed bat mitzvah that no one ever cautions you about.

We got it cleaned up pretty quickly and then got busy pretending it never happened.

Now I remembered that my daughter had asked if four friends could sleep over. I countered with one and then we never talked about it again.

My daughter assumed that meant five.

So I think I ended up with 9 children in my house that night but that’s an estimate.

In the end, the bat mitzvah was a pretty amazing event – despite being flung up in a chair and the cleaning of the poop and at moments wanting to be in London.

Because I knew how much it meant to Dylan, Rick and all of his mishpucha.  And if you don’t know what mishpucha means – you probably don’t have to throw an expensive bat mitzvah.

And it’s funny – sometimes fulfilling other people’s dreams can feel a lot like filling your own. It’s a gift. A mitzvah. Something I’ll never regret.

Because my beautiful jewish child will only be 13 once.

London will always be there.


Mar
23
2018

(This is a sponsored post for the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel. All ideas are my own.) 

When you think of an airport hotel, what do you think about?

Super convenient for frequent travelers but probably not the hippest accommodations around, right?

Not anymore. Seriously.

I recently had the chance to review the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel (a Marriott property) at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

It only opened 10 months ago. And it’s gorgeous. It’s got a contemporary vibe with lots of southern inspiration.

You’ll find cool couch swings, wicker chairs and lots of different areas to lounge and relax in the bright space.

It also has a super cool bar. I enjoyed an insanely good cafe mocha (choice of dark chocolate or white chocolate) on a recent morning.

You can enjoy delicious southern cuisine at the hotel’s restaurant, Hickory & Hazel. It’s locally inspired with a New Orleans twist. Did someone say New Orleans?! One of my most favorite cities EVER so you know I was impressed.

There are some cool, quirky things about the hotel that I just loved…

The office meeting space is creative and contemporary – taking a little of the boredom out of those long meetings when Lila from accounting can’t stop talking. (Now my apologies to anyone name Lila who actually works in accounting.)

Quotes of inspiration in the hallways…

A question mark or exclamation mark on every door. What does this mean?! Mysterious.

The housekeeping employees are called stylists because they style your room. So you kind of get your own stylist. Glamorous!

The windows have a triple pane which means you can see but can’t hear the planes. And we all know planes are meant to be seen and not heard.

It is steps from the Sky Train (which takes you to the airport) and then you can get on MARTA to get into the city. It’s also close to the Georgia International Convention Center.

And you have access to the indoor salt water pool across the street at the sister Atlanta Marriott Gateway hotel. Plus, another Marriott property, Springhill Suites is also walking distance. And the Delta Flight Museum is close by and a great place to visit with kids.

And once you’re in Atlanta, there are all kinds of things to do… The Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca Cola, The Children’s Museum and my favorite activity… eating biscuits.

Hot Little Biscuit? That might be my new nickname!

You can find more info on the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel here.

Plus, follow on Facebook @RenaissanceAtlantaAirportGatewayHotel

And on Twitter @RenATLGateway, #GatewaytoDiscovery



kelcey kintner


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