Using a Christmas Tree for Child Development

I am really in the Christmas spirit this year. Partly because I was looking for some happiness and positive energy after a bleak fall, and partly because this year my son can really start to enjoy the season. He pays attention to everything and has plenty of commentary about what's going on, so he was very excited when the first decorations went up (during his naptime) and asks everyday to turn the lights on.

For a little while, there were no ornaments on the tree. I didn't want my little climber to get any ideas and try to get up to the higher branches, and I know that there is no way to keep some ornaments intact around kids (they can come back in 10 years or so...). But I decided to make the tree a more interactive experience for him with minimal hassle from me.

Closer view of some soft ornaments
A couple ornaments for mom on top, most for the baby on the bottom.

I set out the ornaments that were soft and unbreakable. I took off all the wires that we normally use to hang ornaments. I made sure that all of them had a loop to hang by- some needed additional yarn to have a larger loop. The loops are varied lengths and materials which presents different challenges. I also made sure to put out a bucket and box so that my son had a location to put in and take out (a favorite toddler past time).

I really only showed him how to pinch and spread open the yarn loop to make it large enough to fit on a branch a handful of times, and that was enough to inspire hours of self-directed play. It's a very easy activity to set up, and from that we have an easy starting point for practicing communication and cognition concepts. We talk about the characters, what color they are, on/off, in/out, up/down - it's a very natural way to play with a child and promote development in multiple areas.

Here's some ideas for good ornaments for toddlers and preschoolers to use for their personal decorating:

- Pipe Cleaners / Beads: If you have a preschooler or an older sibling, there are plenty of ways to make inexpensive, unlikely to break, ornaments that you can treasure as kids' projects in years to come.
     - Easy bead and pipe cleaners
     - A variety of easy ornaments
     - Triangular beaded candy canes
     - lace and bead wreath
     - pipe cleaner wreath

- Plastic Canvas: One of my aunts just loved to do plastic canvas crafts. Some of these were designed to be magnets, but many were ornaments. Since they are all yarn, they are no worries about injury or ornament damage.
     - Pre-made from Etsy
     - Ornament patterns  1  2  3
- Clothespin ornaments: The pinching requirement to operate these is another great fine motor challenge, and it makes for a nice change of pace.
     - DIY Snowmen
     - Etsy set

While ceding my tree to my toddler seemed pretty logical to me, especially since I don't want to spend everyday telling him not to touch the most interesting thing in the room, my husband reminded me that it was my OT brain and not just a "common sense" thing. So hopefully this will be a helpful share to others.


My Next 30 Years

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age 
The ending of an era and the turning of a page 
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here 
Lord, have mercy on my next thirty years 
-Tim McGraw "My Next Thirty Years"

 I've had a number of milestones over the past couple of years, and thought I'd spend a little time reflecting back and looking forward.

My 30th birthday hit me pretty hard. I was still in the newly in the throes of motherhood, and learning that there is never a day off or vacation from that role. All I asked for was to be able to take a nap, and if memory serves, I did not get it. I had also started back to work at a sort-of new job. No one remembered it was my birthday. Other stuff going on as well, I can't really remember. I did reflect personally, but didn't get around to making a more public reflection. I think I'm ready for that now.

In many ways, I feel like I have spent 30 years just finally getting my life started. I spent the majority of those years in school and college, which was a fairly direct route since I didn't change majors or anything. I got married. I moved all over (something like 7 places in 7 years?) and worked all over and got to live in a big city for awhile. We bought a house. I found out what kind of work I like to do, and where I wanted to be, and made it through "my year of patience" to finally get the job. We got a supportive church family and some stable friendships. We had a beautiful baby and really became a family.

After taking my job and going through all the orientation, I started thinking about the next 30 years. My husband started talking about when I have put in 30 years with the schools that I'll be fully vested and at the top of my pay grade. It is weird to think about working for the length of time that you've been alive. It can feel more like a life sentence that way, I wouldn't recommend it. Looking in that way, it's as if I spent 30 years preparing, 30 years working, and then I would have less than 30 years of actual living, not beholden to anyone else.

Obviously, you live everyday. You live for the journey, not the destination. You find your daily rewards and enjoy everything you can. There's no point in worrying too far ahead about 30 or 60 years down the road when you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

My dad used to say that you have to be able to keep some of the introspection, gigantic life questions, and such in boxes- you can't leave them out all the time or you'd never get out of bed. You can't ignore them forever and really understand many things. This is a moment to reflect, not a spiral of navel gazing.

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life 
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife 
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear 
Make up for lost time here in my next thirty years

My priorities have changed a lot in the last 10 years. I have gone from worrying only about myself to having a family. Family has eclipsed (but not eliminated) my personal aspirations. Leisure pursuits have changed dramatically and often, and managed to survive after a year of neglect. I don't know if men can really identify with this change in perspective, but I think it's fairly common in women. I'm pursuing a more mature balance of my occupations and even my moods.

I do foresee that the time ahead of me will be wonderful. For all that I have traded in settling down into a stable life, each day now with what I have is far better than what I could have had. For all that has passed me by, I am trying to remember the good times with fondness and let go of the things that were not worthwhile. Everything til now has brought me to this point, where things are largely well. There are toddler tempers and work stresses and general crap, but overall, things are great. Let's hope it continues to be so.


My Personal Performance Goals

I had some interest on Twitter (where I am so much more active!) about the performance goals I had to write for work. Essentially, the term is our district's way of saying SLO's (student learning objectives) that can be personalized to oneself.

Because these goals are sorta-kinda related to SLOs, I tried to find some OT related SLOs as a starting point. This wikispace has some example OT SLOs, the only ones that I could find on the internet. If you will peruse, you will notice they are EXTREMELY DETAILED, which from my understanding, SLOs have to be. Redundant even. I didn't get the message that our goals could be significantly less detailed, so I think I've overshot on my goals a bit. Such it is.

With my caseload, my kids have a wide range of ages and abilities. So I couldn't think of (in the time allotted) a good measure of student performance that would have a large group to pull from. My largest group of students are those in the regional certificated classrooms. For many reasons, including that I am evaluated as a teacher though I have not trained as a teacher, I wanted to spend more time in these classrooms learning special education techniques, dynamics, and observing the skills of the teachers and students in action. So I set a goal to observe for 1 hour each week, bringing myself to each classroom at least twice for 30 minutes in the course of the year. (I know this does not seem like a lot of time, but my schedule is packed and it is actually difficult to even get that amount of time.) I adapted a teaching reflection sheet that I found to keep a record of insights and questions.

My second goal involves our district's technology focus. There is a push to expand our technological reach and impact. I made a twitter account for our department and sent out an initial survey on usage of social media for professional development. Analyzing these responses (weighted on a Likert scale), I identified a few questions to focus on for growth (specifically, those that had a lot of room to grow). I have prepared a presentation and will be working with our team on getting started. We have a range of users, from the very tech-savvy to those who do not use social media at all. It will be interesting to see how well I differentiate instruction to the group! It is also interesting to sort of feel like a social media manager and be trying to figure out how to do that job. I hope that we will be able to meet on branding and find some great ways for us to grow as team.

So those are the (measured) targets I am working toward this year, in addition to working with my students, interfacing with teachers and parents, and several other irons in the fire! I don't feel as compelled to have true SLO goals since all my kids are working toward IEP goals that have to be constantly measured and reported quarterly anyway.  I have probably over-thought and over-measured these and they may need to be adjusted at midyear. But it is nice to have some concrete personal goals. This also helps me narrow down my focus, which long time readers will recognize as a major challenge for me!!

Do you have to write SLOs or a similar type of goal as a school-based OT? Do you have to write performance goals in a different setting, such as a hospital. Please let me know below, it would be great to dialog about this!


self care for young children

I really enjoyed putting together the Chores for Young Children entry, what OTs might call IADLs. Here is the compliment- the ADL for young children, between 6-18 months.

Obviously kids are mostly reliant on mom and dad for care, but as they get older and more able to interact with the world, they can begin self care tasks with support. These skills necessarily overlap with gross motor skills and communication skills. If you have a child who is having trouble learning a new skills, you may need to isolate down to only a component instead of asking for a motor response and a communication response simultaneously.

When I think of basic ADL/self care, I think of feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, and toileting. (It's the FIM training in me). I will address those areas.

One of the first self care tasks that a child can do is eating. Very young children can learn to put their hand to the bottle or breast to focus on hand to mouth activity, and 5-6 month olds may hold their own bottle. (most recommendations are for a child to not take a bottle to bed with them, FYI) If you introduce foods around this time, a child can actively participate. Yogurt or thickened cereal will stick to a spoon pretty easily, and the child can dip the spoon instead of scooping, and start feeding themselves. They will likely need assistance for much of the meal, but starting this bit of independence early is very important.

Grooming is another area where young kids can participate early. With a soft bristled brush, a child can brush their own hair after a demonstration even before 12 months. If you use baby wipes or a wet washcloth to clean up after meals, provide a second one for the child to work on their own hands and face first. The third part of grooming is brushing teeth, which can be a battle for some kids. However, we started with a set of graduated brushes by Nuby that move from being all rubber to having bristles. This worked well for my son and he loves to imitate us and move the toothbrush himself. Your mileage may vary- the mouth is a very sensitive area!

My baby loves bathtime, but again, this can be a struggle for some kids. Keeping the bathroom warm and steamy by running the shower beforehand can be helpful. As your baby starts to learn words for their body parts, they can better understand lifting that part for washing or using their own washcloth to help. They may even enjoy dumping rinse water on themselves. In a related way, my son loves to help apply his lotion after bathtime. We put a little squirt on his stomach or legs and he works on rubbing it in.

When it comes to dressing, it is easier to take something off than put it on. So very young children will work on doffing hats, socks, and pullover bibs. Then you will start to see the child help you put his arms through shirts and take a more active role in dressing. By 18 months, the child can play at dressing with spare, larger clothing in free time. Be forewarned, he might start undressing in awkward places! Doffing clothes before bathtime is often a good time to practice. You can begin work on fasteners by undoing velcro closures on shoes, though getting them off his feet may still need help.

Finally is toileting! You can teach your baby to change his own diaper in 2 easy steps! Really? Of course not, just checking to see if anyone is reading this far! But it is realistic to have an older child  (~15 months) carry the clean diaper to the changing table, and tap his hips or tummy to indicate that he has a dirty diaper. I do have friends who potty trained very young, but at this point we're just working on indicating so that he can concentrate on other skills.

What do you think? Are there additional strategies or self care tasks for toddlers that you'd like to share? Please let me know!


Chores For Young Children

My primary life role at this point is as mommy, though I definitely bring my OT perspective to the table. This can mean presenting my toddler with frustrations to find the "just right challenge" or trying to have him follow an "if/then" chart. Another feature has been including self-care and chore tasks early on into our routine. Kids like having a purpose, being helpful, and celebrating an accomplishment so learning chores is positive at any age. I am focusing on chore activities for kids under 18 months.

(isn't he just adorable, even from the tush angle?)

Before your child has the motoric control to help with chores, you can narrate the activities you are doing as he is with you. This can be very simple- "I'm turning off the light. Now I'm locking the door." etc. This helps build his speech processing and general cognition.

One of the first things we taught our son was how to turn the light switch off. It was easier to push down than turn up, and it gave him an instant and noticeable effect. We probably started this about 7-9 months and it continues to be a favorite.

Placing things in and out is another early skill that is learned. Before he could really follow directions to transport an object, we let him play in the laundry baskets and dump items in and out (before they were folded!). Then he graduated to putting dirty clothes in the hamper, into the washing machine, and taking trash to the trashcan. (13-15 months)

Kids enjoy housework activities with real or child sized versions of typical cleaning items. Usually this is more of a pretend play than actual help, but there are some exceptions. A regular swiffer sweeper can be modified so that it is small enough for a child to use, and can then still have the swiffer wipes attached. Also, the swiffer dusters are lightweight and can be used for cleaning surfaces your toddler can reach. Any dirt picked up is a bonus, since it's something he enjoys anyway. (14-18 months)

Here's a list of some of the chores that we have been working on. Obviously all of these should be done only while the child is supervised and with child-safe products. You may also want to visit my pinterest page for ADL activities which has several additional lists of chores and guides for teaching children with disabilities. 

Turning lights on/off
putting dirty clothes in basket
pushing basket to room
putting dirty clothes in washing machine
pressing buttons to start washing machine, dishwasher, Roomba (my son is fascinated by buttons... I try to discourage this but he has gotten really good about starting the washer even without me helping him)
Taking trash items to trash can
picking up spilled food (crackers, large pieces)
cleaning tray with a wipe after eating
taking bowl to sink to be washed
picking up toys
sweeping the floor
spraying cleaner on windows (there are a ton of recipes for child-safe cleaners, or you can just use water)
putting away bath toys
hanging up towel

Please feel free to share additional ideas! I will do another post on self-care activities when I can!


goodbye summer

Another summer officially over and now I'm back to work for reals. I can't really say I'm on maternity leave from the blog anymore, so I'll explain more in this post.

My baby is not a baby anymore... he's a real walking, semi-talking little boy. It continually astounds me that he is able to do so much and learn so well. Truly an experience unlike any other.

As he has gotten older and I had my first summer off in the school system, I have been able to find some leisure time. But I am leaning toward leisure pursuits that have a tangible result. This summer, I made a shadow box, a board book, some t-shirt scarves, and a photo book on shutterfly. I haven't wanted to spend a lot of time on the computer, and it was next to impossible to get my brain in gear to thoughtfully write a post. I haven't even read many posts through my rss reader.

I still spend too much time on my phone, as my poor little fingers and growing sudoku numbers can attest. But I'm trying to cut back there as well. And now that I am on the computer everyday for work purposes, I really am not anxious to pick one up at home. 

So I'm not sure what that means for the future of the blog. I have lots of great ideas and have been taking photos to share still. I liked doing the interviews and I think people enjoyed them. I like the quick-sharing on twitter but I usually don't have the time for tweet chats when you can actually discuss a topic further. 

I'm going to try to return to writing, but I'm most hopeful that I have leisure time at all and that I consider it well spent. The start of the school year has been very stressful, and combining that with 2 funerals requiring out of state multi-day travel has been awful, so I already feel underwater. And while writing definitely has its place as a stress-reliever, the analytic nature of crossword/jigsaw/sudoku puzzles provides a lot of comfort, and completing projects (as terrible as my craft skills are) may take precedence. 


Celebrating an OT Ironman

I recently received an email from an OT that I had worked with many moons ago, Allysin Bridges. Allysin is one of those superb people that has positive energy and is just wonderful to have around, a great representative of OT daily and even with the state legislature. And in an example of good things happening to good people, Allysin was selected from a lottery to participate in one of the greatest races in the world- the Ironman Triathlon Championship in Kona, Hawaii. If you're not familiar with triathlon, it is a three part race requiring the athlete to swim, bike, and run. The Ironman takes this to a level that only an accomplished athlete can finish: 2.4 miles of open-water swimming, 112 miles biking, and a 26.2 marathon run! I think that participating in an Ironman is reason enough for joy, but Allysin is taking it to another level of awesome by racing to benefit the Blazeman Warrior Foundation for ALS! Read on to learn more about Allysin's story and her challenge which is much bigger than a bucket of ice water!

- Where are you working now?

I am working for JHU School of Nursing on the CAPABLE study with Dr. Sarah Szanton. It is a grant funded program to help low income, Baltimore City older adults age in place safely using a three discipline approach - an OT, RN and a handyman (we are working with CivicWorks). I love it!

- How did you get interested in triathlon? Have you completed an Ironman before?

I had returned back to MD in 2002 after finishing grad school at NYU and had picked up a few (ahem) pounds. I was bored with the gym and was looking for another outlet. A neighbor told my mom about triathlons (she had been doing them for years) and that was her outlet. So I looked into it and I had been a mountain biker since I was 18 and loved the water so I figured it would be a good fit. So I did my first experience was Dewey Beach Sprint. I was pretty green going into it not really knowing the logistics of it (like transitions!) but I finished with a huge smile on my face and knew I had been bitten by the tri-bug. I then went into longer tri's (1/2 Ironmans) with Team In Training and I really loved the spirit and comraderie of the tri community. I trained a year for FL IM 2006 with 10 of my TNT friends and we all but 1 finished (she went back the following year and crushed it!). I took a hiatus after that to have babies and went back to it in 2011 and don't plan to stop until my body tells me so (but I don't listen well).

- How many hours are you training now each week? How do you find a balance between work, family, and training?

Training for an Ironman is a different animal. And knowing it's the World Championship, even more so. My big training days are on the weekends. And those usually add up to be 5-7 hours each day at this point since I am only 8 weeks out from the big day! A week, I average 15-23. It's basically a part time job. The balance of life while training for this type of endurance event is difficult. I rely on my mom, Jason (my sons' dad) and Dennis (my partner). Many people joke and call themselves "Ironman Widows." It is definitely a lot of time dedicated to this one thing, but in the end, this is a once in a lifetime experience and fortunately, my loved ones understand that and back me up.

- Have you found support from your colleagues in your athletic pursuits?

Aside from them thinking that I am clinically certifiably nuts, they are very excited for me. My boss knew that I was getting close to crunch time and offered a different schedule that will work out great for the next couple months. I'm very lucky. I can't get any of them to train with me though!

- You are racing for the Blazeman Warrior Foundation for ALS because you have a personal connection with this disease. Can you tell us more about that?

They are personally invested in finding a cure and raising awareness as they lost their son, Jon, in 2007 to the disease. Jon did the Kona IM in 2005 after being diagnosed and finished! ALS hits me hard. My dad died of it in 1997 after being diagnosed 2 yrs prior. It was devastating to watch an incredibly healthy and vibrant man turn into a shell with no movement, speech but had all his mental capacities. I think that's the worst part of it; being completely aware that your body has betrayed you. Imagine how annoying it is when you can't reach that itch on your foot when your shoes are on. It's like that but he couldn't scratch it and eventually couldn't even tell us he had an itch. I also feel that the caregivers go so unnoticed and they are in need of so much support.

When I became an OT, I knew that I was not capable of treating patients with ALS. I would break down as soon as I saw the diagnosis. I tried again in 2012 in an outpatient, multidisciplinary setting. They appreciated my personal connection to it but not so much what I had to say. There isn't anything positive I can tell people because it ends the same - the diaphragm shuts down and that's it. I tried comforting the patients and caregivers especially but I just didn't feel I was doing them any good as an OT. I was too close. To this day, I am haunted by the death of my dad. That's why I am passionate about finding a cure. It has to stop.

- Do you have any tips for families dealing with ALS or therapists who many not be used to the disease?

Advice: give the caregivers TLC because they are going to need it during and after. Keep researching and keep up with the newest technology for communication. Coping strategies are going to be important for all involved. It's hard for us, I think, as OTs to separate sometimes from our patients, especially when there is a personal involvement. But for those who are good with ALS patients, I thank you, applaud you, and owe you! They need you!

- Have you found any part of your OT training to be helpful in triathlon training?

Great question and I had to think on this a little. A lot of the sport is mental, whether it's during training or the race itself. It's funny how your brain can get in your way. So I have to refer back to skills I've taught my patients (a lot of psych stuff). Planning out tasks, setting goals (that's a big one), asking for help (this is a work in progress). Anatomy and physiology really helps when I have to describe and locate my pain! Actually, A&P and kinesiology help a lot during strength training, stretching and simple modalities.

- Do you have any advice for finding balance between work, family, and leisure pursuits?

Let them all mingle and be involved whenever possible. On the same coin, be sure to set aside time for just those roles/aspects - they deserve it.

- Any other info you want to share is welcome!

After I finished FL IM, I told myself that I'd do one more, and if at all possible, it was going to be Kona. I knew I wouldn't qualify so when I thought the timing was right, I put my name in for the Lottery. April 15th, Mike Reilly made that dream come true when he called me and told I was going to Kona, baby! He actually has the phone call on his website :)

Way to go Allysin! Completing such an awesome athletic pursuit is great, but to do it to fundraise for others is absolutely terrific! If you can, please consider making a donation through Allysin to the Blazeman Warrior Foundation. The Ironman championship takes place October 11 and is televised (in an abbreviated format) in the US.


Summertime and the living is ... different

Ahhh... sweet summertime. As a school-based OT, it's a good time. Not easy, per se, but still good. 

I very much enjoy my job. It's the best fit that I have ever had with coworkers and type of work. Particularly, there are many built-in mind breaks that are really beneficial for me to stay sharp. I'm usually at a different school everyday, so I have time to be refreshed and think of things to do at each place (or sometimes overworking to try to do something before the coming week) and the natural break of the school year helps as well. I was never great while in school myself about doing all the productive things that I could do, and I don't know that it will be much better as an adult. But it is good.

I had a major grocery extravaganza, purchasing a number of items that I've never worked with before in hopes of following some new recipes. There's a lot of international flare in them, which reminds me of living in the big city and eating at splendid restaurants. Last week was the first week of vacation, and I made a Greek beef and orzo casserole, today I made a Thai chicken pizza. I also made a set of freezer meals on Saturday, so overall that's a lot more kitchen time than I do normally. I would like to become a more competent cook so that making dinner after work isn't an ordeal. I am hoping to spend some time in the kitchen this summer to work towards that goal.

I haven't done a lot of reading since the 18 months that I took to read the entire Wheel of Time series. Someone recommended another series and I just haven't been able to jump into another fantasy land yet. I did bring home a couple of work-related items to read and review for the coming year. One of these is the Coleman Curriculum for school-based OTs, which I hope to do a review on.

Today was my first full day off with only myself. Husband went to work, Baby (dare I say, toddler) went to daycare, and I was left to my own devices. Last week I got several calls to pick him up due to fever so there was never a full day. I slept in, watched crap TV, and spent most of the day in the kitchen. I did 3 crossword puzzles without hints (ahhh, Monday). I tend to loll about a bit when not scheduled, especially after a period of strict scheduling. Just as I started to get ideas for the coming days, I got a text to call me in for some prn work at the hospital. Totally needed, since we have a number of home repairs to pay for, but it does require a change of plans from relaxation to productivity.

I spend an inordinate amount of time writing during the school year. Session notes everyday, emails everyday, progress notes, evaluations, programs. However, it seems really hard to break back into blog writing. I have taken a long break, obviously, but I have plenty of ideas. I just have to remember how to connect the dots. I've read that one of the best ways to get writing done is to have a routine and stick with it, but my schedule that is so subject to flux makes that difficult. But I do want to get into a regular writing habit this summer that I can stick with during the school year.

Lots of busy-ness coming up for me... family vacation, family visiting times, trying to get together with friends, and trying to make enough to offset the cost of my second state license, daycare, and new windows (ugh). I'm trying to get active again, going so far as to climb a mountain, and have actually lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks, so I'm happy that is finally going in the right direction. My little boy is starting to chatter, walk on his own, and climb, so things are getting very exciting with him. My life is good, even if my blog isn't. And that's what's most important. So I'll set my summer goals and new school year resolutions and work towards those plans, but I'm learning to just enjoy the day to day successes and smiles that come along the way.

Happy summer to you!


Baltimore Attractions

The 2014 AOTA Annual Conference is fast approaching! Here are a few tips regarding attractions from my lived experience in Bawlmoor- your mileage may vary, but hopefully this will be helpful.

There are numerous neighborhoods in Baltimore, which is confusing and you may wish people would just tell you in relation to your current location. this is a nice map you may want to refer to. Also, if you get directions from a non-GPS source, you're likely to get either numbers or names for roads, which can be a little confusing since they all have numbers and names (e.g. 83 is Jones Falls Expressway AKA JFX).

Baltimore is equipped with multiple public transportation options. The light rail runs North and South, from Hunt Valley (which has an outdoor mall and indoor movie theater) to the airport. The Metro runs NorthWest and SouthEast, connecting Owings Mills (another mall) and inner city Baltimore, with the ultimate stop at the Johns Hopkins and Kennedy Krieger buildings. The metro is low cost and pretty safe, however the time between trains increases drastically after 5pm. The standard bus runs all over the city, but I did not use this and can't comment on it. The special Charm City Circulator bus runs through downtown and is free. Keep in mind that it only runs in one direction, and wait times between buses can be longer than expected.

Things to See:
Harborplace is home to an indoor/outdoor shopping plaza and multiple chain restaurants (California Pizza, Cheesecake Factory, etc). It is a nice place to walk around and there are a few unique places such as the little fudge shop. If you're up for a longer walk, the other side of the harbor has Federal Hill and I believe several walking trails are lined up there. Fort McHenry is farther South so you may want to get a ride down there but I've heard it is nice to walk around.

Thursday and Friday the Orioles are playing the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Let me just say- I have been to the inner harbor area once when the Red Sox were in town, and had I known that their visit would overlap with the conference... I might have thought twice about coming. I still would have come, I just would have been very grudging about it. I'm not anti-Sox, but it will be absolutely PACKED downtown those days due to the games. It is cheaper for a Bostonian to come to Baltimore and see the game than to try to get tickets at Fenway Park. And so they do. In droves. If you plan on eating anywhere within 2 miles of the park (excluding the AOTA expo on opening night), plan on waiting about 2 hours. If you are able to go to a tour of Camden Yards sometime it is really cool to see the behind the scenes action and appreciate how it was built from an architectural standpoint. 

The National Aquarium is a great collection of marine life. Great for kids, cool if you haven't seen it. Bear in mind, when you buy tickets, you are buying to enter at a time in the future, not that precise moment. You may be walking around outside for a considerable time before you are allowed in. Say hi to the 3 legged sea turtle in the main entryspace for me, I have been there a few too many times.

The Baltimore Comedy Factory has DL Hughley in town. I don't believe Rams Head or PowerPlant Live have any major events planned. I've seen ads for Geppi's entertainment museum (across from the ballpark) and heard nice things about it, but never been there. And if you've never been to IKEA, there's one in White Marsh and one in College Park, just don't buy anything too big to take home. I recommend the Pear Cider and Cinnamon Rolls.

The number one inanimate thing that I miss about Baltimore is the food. I dream about eating in Baltimore sometimes. It's sad.

Lexington Market- is a hopping place for lunch. This is a block or two North of the Convention Center. It will be crawling with Hopkins employees in their signature scrubs, and super busy, but people like it.

Little Italy- you absolutely cannot pick a bad restaurant in Little Italy. The competition there is so fierce, nothing lousy can make it. If I could have lived here, I would have gained hundreds of pounds by walking to awesome food every night. the only bad thing about the timing of the conference is that it is not during the time when they show outdoor movies for free. If you are driving, they have a garage that is relatively cheap not far from the restaurants.
.     Sabatino's is a good red sauce place, and everything is very quick. Chiapparelli's serves their iconic salad and a variety of pasta and non-pasta dishes. Amicci's might be my favorite place, with salads that are simultaneously sweet and savory and unique dishes such as Peppi's Lasagna which are all delicious. Germano's features live entertainment. Nobody gets dessert outside of Vaccaro's, home of delightful gelato and pastries galore. 

Pazo- If you have a group that likes Mediterranean tapas, this is a nice place to go. A little pricey, and I believe it has a dress code.

Nacho Mamas- has sentimental value to me as a fun (little) Mexican place in the Canton/Fells Point area.

Don't Know Tavern- Now we're talking real sentimental, this is the little WVU version of Cheers that exists in the Federal Hill area. If WVU basketball hadn't completely tanked this year, this would be the place to catch a game. You'll probably never go there, but I love them.

Chap's Pit Beef- If you watch Man vs Food, this dive was on an episode. My husband thinks this place is awesome. Know that you can't eat inside and that you probably shouldn't go at night.

Also- apparently Baltimore is a great place for seafood, particularly crabs. Hate it, don't eat it, you'll have to look elsewhere for that info.

I have to leave off my favorite food place, because they don't take reservations and always have a wait beyond compare. But I must eat there this trip... even if I have to go alone, even if it takes 4 hours. And if even one person reads this and got in line ahead of me, it could be ugly. sorry, but I have my priorities.

Hope this is a helpful organization of a few attractions in the area! I never end up going anywhere at conference because I'm either preoccupied at conference events (AOTPAC night what what!) or exhausted from conference sessions. But maybe someone else will have some fun. See you all in Baltimore!


Time Warp

It's incredible that life can simultaneously move so slowly and so quickly at the same time. I'm astonished that we're halfway through the school year (with many of my resolutions from August still unmet...) and that the baby is in his third outside trimester. The days can drag on, and by the time evening free time rolls around I'm pretty well done for the day. I'm not even well able to hold conversations by that point, so devoting brain power to functional writing is pretty well out of the question. I do still want to continue to blog, but it's going to be pretty far on the back burner for awhile.

I registered for the AOTA Conference and am looking forward to reuniting with some of my buddies from school, my old job, the state association, and the online world. I'm eager to get back to some of my favorite Bawlmor places and enjoy some much needed ME time. 

I do hope to get some entries done in the not-too-terribly-distant future... My current treatment bag is Olympic themed so I'm pretty excited about that. Until then, look for me on twitter.