How ridiculous is this face? It’s Parker’s new go-to expression, and he knows how insanely adorable it is. This baby keeps me on my toes as he becomes more and more like a little boy every day. Each new development reveals a new facet of his personality, and it is so much fun to get to know him better.
The last couple weeks have been pretty great. Since I’m on summer break, we’ve spent basically every waking hour together with the exception of a few hours of grandma time here and there. I try to keep our days as interesting as possible, because being cooped up in the house during the summertime is just wrong. We go on daily walks, take lots of trips to the park, and of course, get our pool time in.
Parker is still a huge fan of the water, though he doesn’t quite understand why he has to be in his floatie or in someone’s arms the whole time. He’s pretty independent for a tiny tyke. He is also way too cool for sippy cups; he’d much rather drink out of mama’s water bottle. Don’t ask me how, but he figured out how to drink out of the Camelbak — which is pretty amazing considering you have to bite the straw and suck.
When we do have some downtime around the house, Parker’s favorite activity is reading. This kid is obsessed with books! He likes to take them all off his bookcase and then plop right down in the middle, going from book to book. He flips through a few pages and then moves on to the next one. His favorites at the moment are Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy and the That’s Not My…(Dinosaur/Kitten/Monkey) series.
I’m going to miss these lazy summer days when the pace picks up next week. We will head to Denver for a long weekend on Thursday, and then it’s back to work for this mama (only 4 days a week). As usual, summer is already going by too quickly and I’m trying to soak up every last drop.
The following is a guest post by Jennifer Gossett, MT-BC, NICU MT. Jennifer is a Board-Certified Music Therapist based in Charleston, SC. She ventured into the field of music therapy after a 15-year career as a band director in public and private schools, and opened her private practice, Noteworthy Music Therapy, in 2012. Jennifer and her husband, Kevin, are parents of two sons, ages 12 and 10, each of whom has both special needs and special talents.
My sons were born in 2001 and 2004, and both were preemies. My youngest weighed 700 grams at birth, and the Beanie Baby that nurses placed in the isolette with him was as big as he was. Thankfully, our city has a Level 3 nursery for these tiny, fragile babies, so our boys had access to wonderful care and best technology available at the time. Between the two boys, we spent 18 weeks making daily visits to the NICU, rejoicing on the good days and crying on the bad ones, feeling helpless to do much of anything besides wait and pray.
Blessedly, both boys survived their early starts, and for the most part they have thrived and blossomed. Today, they’re tweens who love music, video games, Pokemon and Legos. Like so many of these former preemies, they’ve had bumps in the road, developmentally speaking: one has a diagnosis on the mild end of the autism spectrum, and the other has the hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD and a moderate hearing loss. So, we’ve spent many an hour visiting pediatric specialists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, etc., and being immersed in the special needs world.
Becoming a Mom changes any woman’s life, but I could never have guessed in 2001 how drastically my life would change in the years to come. I had been a music teacher before I was a parent; my training was in how to play the trumpet, how to conduct a concert band, how to assemble a bassoon or correctly grip a pair of drumsticks. I was NOT prepared to negotiate a world in which I would watch my child breathe on a ventilator, bring him home on oxygen, or advocate for his education year after year in IEP meetings.
But as I grew and learned, I became drawn to the world of these special children and their families, and looked for a way in so that I could work with those children as I saw so many amazing professionals do for my own boys. It was then that I discovered my calling as a music therapist, and went back to college at the seasoned age of 38 to begin my new training.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2013: I’ve completed the training, passed the board exam, and I’m a board-certified music therapist. I’m doing exactly what I set out to do—using music to connect with and enhance the quality of life of children with autism, Down Syndrome and other special needs. It was a dream come true, but something was missing. I felt that “pull” again, realizing there was something else I needed to pursue—an advanced, specialized training in music therapy practices for NICU babies.
I headed to Florida, to the only site in the country that provides this level of training, for an intense few days of hands-on experience using MT strategies with these fragile infants. One other MT-BC was in the program with me, so we agreed to take turns holding the babies and going through the specific music therapy protocol. She took the first turn, which meant the next baby would be mine.
He was very small, very squirmy, and very easily overstimulated. I held him as I’d been taught, began to hum…and realized tears were trickling down my cheeks. I was shocked, not realizing that the memories would come flooding back like that after nearly 10 years since I’d last entered a NICU. Call it PTSD, call it a trip down memory lane, call it what you will, but for me it was a powerful Mama Moment — realizing that my life-changing experiences as NICU Mom had now come full circle to my career in MT.
Once I dried the tears and got through that first encounter and those moments of doubt, I knew I’d come to the right place and was doing what I was meant to do—to make a difference in the lives of children and families who face the same challenges that I’ve faced, and to use the awesome, powerful gift of music to do that. Or as a favorite quote says: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” (Aldous Huxley)
Are you a music therapist with a “mama moment” to share? If so, please submit your story, along with a photo and short bio, via email.
I’ve been on a bit of a summer songwriting hiatus this month, so it was nice to sit down and spend some time writing and recording over the weekend. My baby & toddler class starts next week, so I have a lot of work to do!
This particular song is actually one that I prepared for a music therapy student several months ago. We are working on singing, playing, and performing movement tasks TOGETHER (as opposed to taking turns), so I chose to adapt a familiar song that she could readily pick up and join in.
I’ve used this same song for lots of music therapy applications as well as in my early childhood classes. It’s great for playing a particular instrument, or multiple instruments, and of course, it’s easy to add or substitute other kinds of motions.
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Good news: I survived my first overnight trip away! And not just one night, but three. I wrote about flying solo as I was waiting for my flight in the airport, and I honestly had no idea how I’d handle the long weekend. But I did much better than expected, and now I know that leaving my baby in my husband’s very capable hands (with the help of grandparents) is no big deal.
I had a fun and productive weekend with my friends and colleagues. We got a lot of work done and managed to have a little fun, too. I got to experience Napa Valley for the first time, and can’t wait to go back again soon. I wrote all about my trip here.
Traveling home seemed to take FOREVER, especially since once I finally landed after two long flights, I still had to drive almost 2 hours home from the airport. When I walked in the door, Parker saw me and got the biggest grin on his face. He toddled over and fell into my lap…it was so cute! I could tell he was happy to see me, but not as happy as I was to see him.
I don’t have any solo trips planned until AMTA conference in November, which is just fine with me. Parker gets to tag along on our next trip, which is coming up in less than two weeks. We will be off to Denver to visit my brother and sister-in-law! Can’t wait.
On the morning of Parker’s birthday, we took him downstairs so that he could open up his BIG gift: a brand-new playroom! I’m so happy we caught the reveal on video, although he has since grown much more excited about it than he was that morning.
This playroom has been a work in progress since the day we moved in. We referred to it as the “Bozo room” for the longest time, because this is how it looked originally.
I wrote a blog post about the beginnings of our playroom makeover way back before Parker was born; it only took 15 months to complete this little project! Isn’t it amazing what a coat of paint and foam tile flooring can do to a room?
The last week or so before Parker’s birthday, we spent just about every evening downstairs putting in the floor, decorating the wall with decals, putting together the furniture, and slowly moving in the toys. I took some photos before that last step, so in these photos the room is looking pretty stark. Trust me, it’s chock full of toys now.
It was actually my mom who came up with the ocean theme for the room. I had chosen the wall color last year just because it was bright and pretty, but I didn’t really have a them in mind. Once we agreed on the ocean theme, we ordered the blue foam tiles. Zach found the decals online to complete the look.
My mother-in-law ordered the Carolina craft table from Pottery Barn Kids as a gift for Parker. It comes with two different sets of legs, so there are longer ones for when Parker gets bigger. We also have chairs for the table, which we are storing in the closet until Parker is old enough to use them.
The nautical rope mirror is also from Pottery Barn Kids. I found the frames at Target, and filled them with some of my favorite photos from Parker’s first year. Never did I expect that those photos would be one of his favorite parts of the room!
Here is a close-up shot of the photos. It’s so funny to watch Parker go up to the frames and touch them, and then look at each photo. He is a little vain when it comes to pictures of himself ;)
The wooden letters are from Hobby Lobby. I have added a few more decorative touches to the room since these photos were taken, though I wanted to keep the walls pretty sparse (besides the decals). I imagine one day they will be full of Parker’s art work.
Parker received SO MANY TOYS for his birthday that this room was pretty much a necessity. I love that it is self-contained; there is a door to the downstairs family room that can be completely shut, so when we are playing in the playroom, he almost forgets that any other rooms exist. It’s big enough that we don’t feel claustrophobic, and with all the toy choices, he doesn’t get bored easily.
This summer has been insane so far, and we haven’t had much time to spend at home as a family. After Zach gets home from the World Cup in Brazil (yeah, that’s a different topic for a different day), the plan is to start hanging out in the basement more often. I don’t think Parker will have a problem with that!
Welcome! I’m Rachel Rambach, board-certified music therapist and creator of Listen & Learn Music — educational songs and musical materials for children. I love sharing my work with you, along with my behind-the-scenes creative process, adventures in business ownership, and life as a mom of two little ones.
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Next month’s music therapy sessions, early childhood groups, or classroom music…planned for you in advance.
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