Writer & Stylist LisaG Photographed in The Evolution Vintage Studio. Image by: Tamara Wickstrom

Friday, November 6, 2015

Down The Rabbit Hole With Marc Jacobs

I adore the story and concept of Alice in Wonderland. I adore it so much that I used it as the inspiration for my family portrait in 2013.
Image by: Tamara Wickstrom

I was pleased to discover that designer Marc Jacobs has designed a collection of Alice inspired goodies in collaboration with Disney. 

Some of my FAV pieces:
I adore the enchanted garden motif (there is also a tote and back pack - the scarf in the same print is SOLD OUT)  and this door knob iphone case ($88)
Sadly for me both the sweat shirt and the hinged cuff are SOLD OUT!  The double "This Way" Ring not pictured here there is 2 left!  You can still get your hands on the flower lap top case ($128) HURRY though it seems like everyone is taking the plunge down the rabbit hole.

In other Alice news watch the trailer for the new Alice Through The Looking Glass film.

You will have plenty of time to prepare, the film will open on Memorial Day 2016!

Image: Tamara Wickstrom / MAU: Hanna Fisher / Wardrobe/Concept: LisaG 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The 30 Day 30 Dress Challenge

Image by: Tamara Wickstrom

This concept has been percolating in my style brain for some time now. I have many discussion with friends about fashion and personal style and it got me thinking about dresses. Why did they cease to be a woman's daily uniform? During war time when women stepped into men's job's we saw pants come on the scene (20's and 30's). Flash forward to the present and I am of the personal belief that women wear more pants than dresses day to day.

Meet my friend Sydney. She is a huge proponent of the dress as the daily "uniform". Her theory is that it is much easier to slip into a dress than it is the standard jean, legging or yoga pant that I see everywhere, everyday. I wanted to put this theory to the test. 
1935 Dress Ad

I thought it would be an interesting  project if we, for the next 30 days wore nothing but dresses. 

Challenge Rules:

1) Nothing but dresses for the month of November
2) changing into work out or yoga gear to attend the gym or a legit class permitted, You must leave said activity in the dress you have arrived in
3) Snap a creative photo each day and share it on social media. Hashtag 30Days30Dresses
4) You may wear the same dress more than once. Flex that creative muscle and style it differently.

Participation is open to ALL. Size of your closet or budget for clothing are both irrelevant, It is about working with what you have. Try and think about what it would be like to re-style what is considered an evening look for daytime or what could you add to a dress to change the look completely? 

Before the excuses start to pop up: If you live in a climate that is transitioning into fall's cooler temperatures consider the the two L's Layering and Leggings. The same goes for people who's work environment that requires a lot of movement, hands on work, like a teacher for example, remember the 2 L's.

If you are just tuning in and the month has started you may still accept my challenge for as many days that are left in the month.

This challenge will build your style stamina and force you to be creative in your closet. 

Sydney's look Day 1: 
Dress: Vintage
Shoes: Just Fab

My Look: 
Vintage Mexicam Sundress
Shoes: SJP Collection TARTT Mary Jane's

Are you up to the challenge? Sydney and I would love for you to join us. 
I wont be posting here daily with our looks (maybe for a few special pieces) but follow my Instagram or LIKE my FB Page to see the looks.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

DSAM: Dad's Devotion

The 31st day of October marks the end of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. For me DSAM is every month but I am grateful to have this time to share information, shatter myths/misconceptions and hopefully shed new light on this marginalized population. Over the last month I have shared personal stories, expert advice and information about speech, occupational therapy and education. I have also had the pleasure of sharing several stories from amazing mothers in my community. My last DSAM blog for the month is from the best Father any child could ask for. Four children have been blessed to call this man 'Dad'. My husband wanted to share his thoughts about our son and the Down Syndrome community and I could not think of a more perfect way to close this amazing awareness month.

Blake has brought so much awareness and compassion to my life for a community I had overlooked.  Blake has Down syndrome, not “Downs” as many people unknowingly refer to it as, surprisingly including several doctors I have encountered.  Blake has love, passion, fear, anger and all the emotions so called “normal” people have. 
I am learning to slow down in my everyday busy life in being patient with his often delayed cognitive processes.  In approaching life in such a manner I see how much is missed by having expectations for instant gratification and results which plagues our society.  Many people are searching for ways to be more present living in the moment via yoga, meditation, etc. while Blake has taught me this just by spending time with him.  He has also taught me to be more accepting and compassionate towards others.  He is completely nonjudgmental.  This is one of his strengths that many adults could learn from.  Much of my evolution has taken place naturally by being in his life.  

I have had people say how sorry they are when I tell them my son has Down syndrome and my response is why?  I feel sorry for all the people who do not take the time to educate themselves about people with disabilities and the families who care for them.  I have been disgusted with the discrimination I have experienced with many people in how they treat people with disabilities. 

 I treat Blake the same as my other three children, each of whom has their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses.  I put more time into helping each of them in the areas where they need more support as do any loving parents.  Blake truly brings joy to life along with many challenges as do children in general.  Blake is making me a better person each and every day.  He has a purpose in this life that I can see unfolding in the goodness he has brought to so many he has touched.  

I am honored to be Blake’s father.

Friday, October 30, 2015

DSAM: Para Perfection

First Day Of School

The last two days of Down Syndrome Awareness Month I saved for two of my favorite people. Today I have the pleasure of introducing one of my best friends, mother of 3, teacher and now para educator to my son. As a parent of a child with different abilities navigating the education system is exhausting, frustrating and daunting to say the least. The school assessments and IEP Meeting (IEP = Individual Education Plan) where all of the experts use the opportunity to discuss all of the things "wrong" with your child, all of their weaknesses and how they fail to 'measure up' to the performance of their peers, one emerges from the darkness shaken and quite frankly disgusted. By one I mean me. At the end of the day Blake received the placement he deserved and I was charged with finding the perfect para educator for him. Truly without hesitation I thought of my friend and highly skilled, credentialed teacher Jensine. Thankfully the planets were aligned as she was available and willing to dive into these uncharted waters with us. There is no one that I would rather be on this (or any) journey with. 
First Day Of School

She has kindly shared her thoughts and feelings about being Blake's bridge between him and his peers, his voice as he learns to find his own and also his friend who TRULY has his best interest at heart and cares about his progress, no matter what the pace so long as it is forward. With her love and guidance it has been. I know it is not an easy job but I appreciate it more than any words could possible capture or articulate. She along with thousands of para educators and educational aide's are providing an essential service to our society. They are opening their hearts and utilizing their skill sets to address the educational needs of a marginalized community who administrators would rather lock away and forget about. It is because of Jensine that Blake will be able to learn and grow in a traditional classroom setting and not in a contained classroom. He will not come of age to live in a "contained" world so I personally find it preposterous that he is to be 'educated' in one. She will have my heartfelt gratitude FOREVER.

Blake and I are well into our second year at UMCC together.  I have known Blake since he was an infant, when his mother and I became fast friends (I had just had a baby as well).  I always remember Blake trying to keep up with his dear older sister, Kaleigh. He has always been such a lover, too. I mean, this little guy will steal your heart in a split second with a loving gaze and sweet smile, followed by the most sincere, back-patting embrace.  So while I have known Blake for years, it wasn’t until I acquired the position as his para educator, now I can truly say that I really know him. What a gift that is. 

To be a part of Blake’s education has given me a chance to connect with a beautiful boy, who happens to have Down Syndrome.  He is honest, genuine, and unfiltered. If only I could use his unique talent to politely get rid of somebody by simply waving, while saying “Buh-bye!”  He is passionate and deliberate in anything he wants to do.  Whether it be independently navigating and climbing an elevated bridge with a giant hole in the center, or not wanting to cooperate during a transition in class, Blake is quite the determined youngster. 
To be present for and to celebrate Blake’s milestones and victories, is nothing short of amazing. He has grown so much since attending a mainstream preschool where Blake is well liked by the staff and all of children that Blake attends school with.  Blake will play with anyone, but has several best buds at school that prefer to seek out and play with him.  A few of his friends enjoy recognizing new skills that Blake masters and new words that they hear him say. What a pleasure to witness the excitement when one friend runs toward me from across the playground to announce, “Blake said /k/! He is trying to say ‘Kal’ because he knows I’m his friend!”  These preschool-aged children have kind, innocent, open hearts. Inclusion benefits all parties involved.  We can all learn from one another.  What better way can we improve our society than to teach acceptance and compassion for all?
Working so closely with Blake has taught me more about persistence and patience.  In many instances, an extra second or two can make a big difference. I feel that there are great benefits in learning to take a moment before responding to people and/or events, while also granting that “wait time” to others who may need or desire that. This is just a snapshot of what I have gained and experienced while working with Blake.  I can’t even fathom what it must be like to see the world through Blakey’s eyes, but I know that being his para educator has given me unteachable insight and a vast wealth of knowledge regarding human nature and what it feels like to love without conditions.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

DSAM: Inclusive Education

The current education climate for people with "disabilities" from my perspective is a disgrace, putting it nicely. The battle between school administrators, "experts" and parents of children who have perceived "disabilities"  is a horrible one that need not exist. Parent's quickly become the expert of the acronym; IEP, IDEA, FAPE, LRE, OT, PT, SLP ... BS!!!! It seems never ending. Under the guise of well intention our children are being "contained" and segregated from their "typical" peers and deprived of the educational experiences and certain rights of passage because they are considered academically sub par. Most of what I have seen is three fold; lack of education from the "educators", budget's and massive EGO's. After standing up for my son as the most qualified expert I was able to enroll him in the same pre-school my daughter attended. He is able to learn along side his typical peers and receive the education opportunity that he deserves.

The staff has been loving and receptive from day one and they think INCLUSIVE. Inclusion to me goes far beyond just having a child with a disability in a classroom but including him/her in every aspect of that room and that is exactly what the administrators and the staff have done. 

I wanted to share this experience from their perspective in honor of this 29th day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

The Morro Bay United Methodist Children’s Center believes that each child is unique and beloved of God. We are dedicated to the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual development of young children. We celebrate the unique development of each child. The MBUMCC instills values of trust, concern, guidance, love, acceptance and community outreach through our faith, knowledge of child development, and passion for the education of young children. Inclusion has helped our center celebrate children’s unique similarities as well as their different abilities. 
Inclusion is not a single event but a process of education, acceptance, and tolerance. Inclusion opens the doors and provides the opportunity to learn together and create a platform in which we accept one another’s differences and learn that each child has something to offer to his or her community. Each child has an untold story, no ability or limitation should prevent a child from celebrating childhood. 
When approached with the opportunity to enroll Blake into our Preschool Program, there was no hesitation. Our staff and parent meeting included mutual collaboration of each of our abilities and limitations in providing quality care for Blake. We discussed behaviors, modifications, short and long term goals. As a team, with Blake’s amazing mother at the helm, we jumped into the unknown together. 
As an educator, you never really know how a child will adapt, connect, learn, or develop. We blindly accepted Blake, and let him tell us his untold story. Page by page, day by day, Blake’s story is constantly reinventing itself. The MBUMCC offers a safe, trusting, fun, and nurturing environment. Through inclusion we have provided each child the opportunity to engage and learn acceptance, tolerance, offer role modeling, expand their communication skills, and share in a collaboration of love. It has been through tremendous confidence and faith that Blake’s family has entrusted our center with Blake’s education and opportunity to learn. 
Blake is guided by his amazing Para-Educator who offers compassion, encouragement, consistency, direction, and guidance. Blake has given as much as he has received. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in Blake’s learning, growth, and development. We are excited to see his next chapter.

On behalf of the Preschool staff at The Morro Bay United Methodist Children’s Center
Christy Hilliard
Executive Director/Founder Morro Bay UMCC 
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors 

We ALL need to think inclusive from day ONE. Studies suggest that children with Down Syndrome benefit from an inclusive classroom, (Buckley), and my personal experience thus far can fully support this clear data. Children with Down Syndrome are more alike their peers than they are different, it may just take them a little longer to show it. I can't wait to see all of the success Blake will have on his educational journey!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

DSAM: The O.T. Necessity

Carolyn and Blake in January 2014

We are almost to the end of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Can you imagine me having an entire month full of content primarily dedicated to Down Syndrome? This is a very mulit-dimensional topic and there is enough material for every day of the year (and beyond) really if I sat and broke it all down. Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is no joke, but it's also joyful.

Being an Occupational Therapist to someone with Down Syndrome is a fine balance of challenge and reward. Carolyn Myles (Occupational Therapist MEd, OTR/L) was assigned to Blake as part of the early start program in our county. He was 3 month's old when she came into Blake's life and I have been grateful ever since. She is a knowledgeable practitioner who truly cares about your child's success.  We have received customized care and guidance from here and amazing tips and tricks for activities that cater to Blake's strengths, likes and to address his challenges.
Carolyn & I

She has agreed to share some of her wisdom and experience as it pertains to the Down Syndrome population and Blake!

The Role of Occupational Therapy with an Individual with Down Syndrome

Occupational therapy practitioners ask, "What matters to you?" not, "What's the matter with you?" In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (American Occupational Therapy Association – AOTA).  We are trained in child development, neurology, medical conditions, psychosocial development and a range of therapeutic interventions.

We guide individuals with Down Syndrome and their families to help them master skills for independence and reach their potential! (Yamkovenko, 2008).  Stephanie Yamkovenko, writer for AOTA, recommends that Occupational Therapy intervention should begin as soon as a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is established and could potentially continue throughout the individual’s life!

“An occupational therapist can help parents place expectations that are appropriate to the ability of the child,” says Asher, MA, OTR/L, chairperson of the AOTA’s Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Section.

For example, occupational therapy practitioners can help mothers whose children have feeding problems possibly due to weak muscles in the face.  During childhood therapy can focus on mastering motor skills, especially fine motor skills, for independence overcoming potential challenges such as low muscle tone, loose ligaments, and visual and auditory deficits. (Bruni, 2001)  Occupational therapists assist in school to facilitate fine and visual motor skill development to access to the curriculum as well as provide adaptations for optimal performance. Adults with Down Syndrome may benefit from therapy to maximize independent living skills and participation in healthy active recreation.  The goal is always to enable the individual to “live life to the fullest” (Asher).

We, as Occupational therapists work with the whole person and our philosophy is commensurate with that of John Colman, President of the National Down Syndrome Society in 2008 when he stated “People with Down Syndrome, like everyone else, are people first, each with their own unique gifts to contribute.”

We provide our intervention and expertise in a variety of ways:
- observing  the child
- coaching the adults that interact with that child
- adapting the environment to provide the “just right challenge” for the child
- breaking down skills so that expectations are appropriate
- suggesting positioning or adaptations
- providing a range of play based, sensory motor, skill based therapies
- providing programs in school to promote and enhance sensory motor development
- address any sensory differences a child has and offer suggestions 
- work with families to embed therapeutic activities into their own unique routine
- working as a member of the team to help children achieve their potential in life.

Finally, we understand that ALL children have varied personalities, temperaments and motivations.  The true “art of therapy” is understanding and working with the whole child and discovering the “key” that unlocks their highest ability!

It has been my absolute pleasure during my Occupational therapy career to work with children with Down Syndrome.

I have often met these children as young babies, and watched them grow and develop.  To me they are first and foremost children with their own personalities and temperaments and my goals are the same as for all children; to reach their highest potential.

I had the pleasure of meeting Blake and his family when he was just a few months old.  He was always social and charming, and very early on showed his opinion regarding his likes and dislikes!  For example, he loved books and would sit and turn the pages, but resisted the transition from a bottle to a sippy cup (many were tried!) and would throw it across the room!

Blake is quite the “sensory seeker” and the “art” of therapy with him has been to provide opportunities for him to have his sensory needs met so that he can use his body appropriately to develop his gross and fine motor skills.  He enjoys climbing, and “crashing” and all kinds of active play.  

At home now he enjoys being outside  and wandering around his garden.  Now the emphasis is on providing natural opportunities as he wanders to engage and explore – such as digging in sand or mud, drawing on  his easel or on the ground with side walk chalk.  The goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible to work on Blake’s motor skills in the most playful and natural way through his every day routine.  Blake continues to have strong opinions and likes and dislikes!  He responds best to peer modelling and is lucky to have his older sister Kaleigh as his very best therapist.

It was so rewarding to visit Blake recently at his preschool.  He followed the class routine and played appropriately with his friends and the toys.  He was just “one of the boys” with the train set, cars and toy garage.  What an amazing example of inclusion working!

With the support and advocacy of his family, and appropriate therapeutic support when needed there is unlimited potential for what Blake can achieve.  I feel so privileged to be a small part of his journey.


American Occupational Therapy Association – The Role of OT with persons with Down Sydrome – by Stephanie Yamkovenko

Bruni, M. (2001) Occupational therapy and the Child with Down Syndrome – -Down-Syndrome

National Down Syndrome Society

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

DSAM: Siblings Sound Off

Kaleigh's hand written submission for this blog. Published here unedited.

On this 27th day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month I wanted to look at Down Syndrome from the perspective of the Sibling. Blake is lucky enough to have 3, flanked by 2 sisters with a big brother to watch over the group.

Did you know? In 2011, Dr. Brian Skotko found in study conducted at Children’s Hospital Boston, “among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome.” (see reference below).

I have said many time's that Blake being born with Down Syndrome is making my children more compassionate, empathetic, helpful and kind human beings. I asked them to communicate, in their own words their feelings about Down Syndrome, Society and their little brother Blake.

Kaleigh Rain, 7 Years old:
"Kids that have Down Syndrome are just like regular kids. There is nothing wrong with having Down Syndrome. Blake and I like to dance together to music. We also like to play outside. Blake is very good at art. Blake sometimes gets a little dirty and everyone needs an extra bath.
 We like to laugh and wrestle. As sister Kaleigh I have to stick up for Blake. Blake has fun at school. I love him even that he doesn't even know his name yet and everyone is different. I hope you will be nice to kids and grown ups with Down Syndrome." 

Danica, Age 13: 
"My baby brother has Down Syndrome. Many people thing Down Syndrome is bad and that but they're just like any other person. My brother Blake is just like any other kid, he's fun, sunny, caring, sweet and so much more, I enjoy having him as a brother so much, he has brightened my life since he was born. I have had so many memories with him that I will remember my whole life.
He makes me remember what it was like to be younger and how I just wanted to do what I wanted to do and how much I loved my family. Blake has shown so much to me. I may be the older sibling the one to be an example but he showed me things that I didn't know before like I didn't even know what Down Syndrome is before I found out Blake had it. I didn't think any different of him, he was just like everyone else. When my step mom and my dad told us what it was I still thought Blake was normal. I'm so thankful to have my little brother Blake and can't wait to share many more memories with him."

Dylan, Age 17:
"Don't let Down Syndrome change your opinion on a person. I have watched my little brother grow up for 4 years now and he is still just as loving and kind as anyone else if not more.

 He excels everyday just as any other kid does. I'm positive hes just as smart as children without Down Syndrome in his age group. I wish people wouldn't put titles on people like my brother. 
His life is just as important as mine or yours. Never judge a person just because they have a so called disability, it doesn't change who they are."

When I look around I see the impact that Blake and every other member of the Down Syndrome community is having on the lives around them. They are contributing to the lives of people in their community, classrooms and those closest to them, their siblings. I don't think that my children would have changed their answer in any way if asked by another person. I love that they are considering the impact's of labels society places on people and how a label, like disability does not change who you are. An important life lesson for any child. I am so proud to be raising such loving advocates and allies!

Further Reading:
Skotko, B.G., Levine, S.P., Goldstein, R. (2011). Having a Brother or Sister with Down Syndrome:  Perspectives from Siblings.  American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A: 155:2348-2359.