Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Walk4Hearing and Team Hannah

Michael and I, and most of all Hannah, would like to thank all of our amazing friends and family who supported us on the fifth annual Walk4Hearing. Our hearts have truly been touched and we are so humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of  kindness and generosity over the past several weeks. Hannah is surely one lucky girl and we know how blessed we are. We raised almost $12,000 for The Children's Hearing Institute and The Hearing Loss Association of America and we were one of the top fundraising teams in the country. The money we raised will be used to help provide the resources and services as well as improve the quality of life for all our friends and community who have a hearing loss.

The day was a beautiful fall day, cool and crisp and thankfully sunny.  Well over a thousand gathered at 101st Street in Riverside Park to march the 3 miles together in solidarity. What is most amazing to us about the day is that in the New York area, there are many places children can receive speech therapy and other services (and Hannah has been to a number of them), so it's great to see all the families come together as one. It gives the chance for the kiddos to see each other and the parents to reconnect after a busy summer.

Personally for Michael and I, it was just amazing to see how much Hannah has grown in the year since we walked with everyone last year. In 2011, when Hannah was only about 4 months old, we were so new to the deaf and hard of hearing community. We heard about the walk about a week prior and went not knowing what to expect. We clung to Laurie Hanin, the director of the Center for Hearing and Communication, who guided us through and showed us all the possibilities Hannah had in her future. We met MJ and his mom Eileen  -- and saw how easily MJ could hear in all the noise. We saw lots  of children with various hearing technologies charging up the path, excited to be part of the walk. This year, we're so proud of how much our little girl has grown. She was just one of the little kids skipping along the walk, enjoying her day in the sun with her friends and family. We ran into her little friends along the way and it was just amazing.

We also talked about how many words Hannah can now say.
Bye Bye
P p p...Please
I waaa...I want
Shhh...Whenever she sees anyone sleeping
BoopBooo...Beep Beep
WoooHooo...Her version of the siren

In addition, Hannah is a little songstress and can hum along to a variety of tunes and even fill in the words at times. The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle as well as Hello Hannah will elicit a huge smile followed by some Hannah singing and hand gesturing.

Here are some photos from the day Grandpa took. They do an amazing job capturing the day. Enjoy!

Michael, Hannah, me and Steph along the walk

As if the walk wasn't enough, Hannah played a little pickup hockey 

Hannah and Daddy

Team Hannah

Our girl

Hannah and me

Team Hannah

Give me an H


She didn't like his driving so she's going to push her way through the finish line

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for your support and generosity!

Much love,
Jen, Michael and Hannah

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mr. Met and AG Bell Fall Picnic

We spent this past weekend with oldish friends and new. We attended the New York Mets 6th annual Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Day at Citi Field presented by the Children's Hearing Institute. It was an awesome afternoon with amazing families from CHI as well as Hannah's fabulous speech therapist Liz. The sun was shining bright, the sky was a perfect blue and we enjoyed Shake Shack while sitting in the Delta Club. Hannah even got a lift by Mr. Met. In all there were about 900 hard of hearing kiddos from schools from all over attending the game and some even signed the National Anthem. It was really amazing and Hannah loved running around the stadium. 
The Children's Hearing Institute's Hear-o's and Mr. Met

Hannah with Mr. Met but I know she is looking at the Yankee score.

On Sunday, it was another beautiful day and we drove out to Hartsdale, New York to attend the New York chapter of AG Bell's picnic. We got to meet lots of new families with hearing impaired children, all at different stages along their hearing journeys. It was great to see all the bigger kids play together, running around the park, screaming and laughing with each other. We're so lucky to be part of such a group with supportive families and Hannah can grow up having a great mix of kids in her life.

We're very excited for next Sunday and the Walk4Hearing. Go Team Hannah!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meow...Introducing Sammy Cakes

There is one special little guy in Hannah's life. His name is Sam. Sam is our furry friend who was the first one to meet Hannah when she arrived home from the hospital and the first one Hannah smiled at when she opened her eyes after her cochlear implant surgery. He has been the most amazing little friend to Hannah, he's gentle and protective and has helped Hannah say MEOW.

Hannah's first visitor

Michael and I are animal lovers and Sam has enjoyed the years he was the king. But he has taken on his role as big brother with such grace. Hannah too sees Sam as her family. At lunch this week, we were sitting at the table and Hannah looked around and asked "Where?" I told her Sam was sleeping and asked her to turn to Sam's page in her little family photo book. Sure enough, she went right to it. I then showed her a small figurine of a cat and matched it to the picture of Sam. Hannah took the cat figurine from my hands, turned the page in her family photo album to the picture of the three of us and then added the cat figurine. So clever, so creative in her showing me how she sees her family.

A few weeks before, we were again eating. Sam was also eating, but in the kitchen. He let out a meow, probably trying to get in some extra treats. Without skipping a beat, Hannah meowed back to him. It was so cool.

I was told that having a pet will be an early indicator on how Hannah can hear. When the cat or dog or other animal makes a noise and the child reacts, you'll know she/he can hear. Seeing Hannah turn when she hears Sam meow is so endearing - seeing how happy he makes her and knowing that she hears him -- is always a reason to celebrate.

Today is Sammy's 8th birthday and we'll have a little ice cream party to celebrate.

Best buddies

Happy birthday Sammy Cakes! We love you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FM System

Hannah received her FM system today. I've heard so many wonderful stories about it, how it can really help Hannah hear more clearly in noise, but right now I'm a bit concerned with even more technology.

The FM is a wireless system that will help Hannah better understand speech in noisy situations - while in her stroller, a classroom, a restaurant or the playground - and over distances within 50 feet. It works like this: The person speaking (her parents, a teacher, a coach) will wear the transmitter microphone or in our case, the transmitter can be placed in the middle of the group to pick up speech from all around. Then the system will use radio waves to send speech signals to Hannah who will be wearing a small receiver attached to her cochlear implant. The result is Hannah will hear the speaker's words directly in their ears, without any distracting background noise, allowing her to enjoy and participate fully in every conversation.

The FM system comes in two parts - a transmitter and receiver. Hannah will be using Phonak's SmartLink+ transmitter. It features 3 microphone models - superzoom, zoom and omni, the last which will provide a 360 degree setting that picks up sound from around the transmitter. This will be great for family dinners as we can place the transmitter on the table and it can pick up every one's voices.
The Transmitter

The Receiver

Hannah lives in New York City. We do a lot of walking and there is a lot to see and talk about. Unfortunately it's very noisy and hearing clearly can be a challenge for anyone and especially for Hannah. With the FM system I'm really looking forward to walking around with Hannah, showing her the sights and knowing she can hear me loud and clear through all the noise. It's a big relief.

Food Attacks and Grandma's Birthday

Fall has unofficially begun in New York City and the sidewalks are alive again. What better way to explore the kingdom and learn a little bit more about its history than a food walking tour. That's exactly what we took Hannah on over the weekend. We joined Sidewalks of New York for a and Hannah really went to town, devouring all the tasty treat along the way, including bagel, pizza, cupcakes, cannolis and rice balls.

This rice ball is delicious. I'll take ten.
Hannah will make a great cannoli tester.

And if that wasn't enough, a few hours later, Hannah got her BBQ on at Neely's to celebrate her grandma's birthday. Grandma got a special birthday treat this week - a hug from Hannah. What can be better. Hannah developed a particularly close bond with my mom this summer over the Itsy Bitsy Spider, their theme song. My mom would sing it and as she did Hannah would mimic all the hand gestures. This week the song has changed to the Wheels on the Bus and Hannah likes to fill in the blanks with words. This week at speech, Hannah has been playing with figurines representing Grandma and Grandpa, which she is enjoying immensely. She even gave the toy Grandma and kiss.

Happy birthday Grandma! Love you!

 Hannah's third dessert of the day. Life is rough.

Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hello September

Wow, how fast time really does fly! From the last time I've updated on Hannah's journey so much has happened.  I can now say I've gone from being a total nervous nellie to totally excited for Hannah. That's not to say that I'm not going to worry. If there is one thing Michael and I took away from the AG Bell conference in July is that you can never rest on your child's accomplishments. We need to stay vigilant and make sure Hannah is hitting all of her milestones. But as Hannah has progressed, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable teaching Hannah to talk, to listen and I have found my own way to be Hannah's mom, which I will get into later.

Most importantly, Hannah is progressing nicely and is flourishing. She is saying new words...such as  around, wait, please, to name a few...and is understanding simple commands like, "Hannah can you brush the baby's hair?" She is also amazing at discriminating between sounds, and able to pick out with ease which animals says BAAAA vs. MOOOO vs. QUACK QUACK. She also is an expert at Meow thanks to her kitty Sam. Last week we were at a baby yoga class when Hannah pulled a cat out of the bag and she proudly said Meow in front of the class. I was so proud.

Hannah is also letting us know when she hears things both in our apartment and outside. So when a plane whizzes past or a taxi goes beep, Hannah will point to her ear and approximate the words, "I hear it."

Another amazing achievement is her singing. Hannah has always loved music and music relaxes her. She has hummed the words to her Hello song and now she participates in songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It" by clapping her hands, patting her head when she listens to someone sing. She also says round and round and shhh shhh to the appropriate parts of "Wheels on The Bus."

Hannah is also walking, or rather running towards anything. We recently got her a baby doll stroller so she could push through the city. You can catch her walking with pride, waving to folks along the way. It's so cute to see.

I know all this progress came with a lot of hard work by Hannah and to the amazing speech therapy services she has been receiving. But we reached a point where we thought it was too much therapy and not enough time for Hannah to just be a kid.  While we increased speech services through EI at NYEE, we had to say good bye to the Center where Hannah began. We wanted  give her more time to go to story hours, museums, play in the park and get dirty. Hannah has an unbelievable zest for life, she is open to enjoying new experiences -- and living in Manhattan offers just that. I've learned so much over the past 15 months, more than I have ever learned about life and I know I can help her progress even further.  We have also enrolled Hannah in a couple of mainstream programs. She will be enjoying a musical animal adventures program at The Art Farms in the City as well as gymnastics at NY Kids Club.

We're really looking forward to the fall.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Team Hannah

Michael and I became involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America's (HLAA) Walk4Hearing in New York City last year when Hannah was only 4 months old. She was already diagnosed with profound hearing loss and was wearing her hearing aids. This world was so new to us but to see so many children and their families was so inspiring and has become a tremendous support system to us. It has been quite a busy year since our last walk - Hannah received her cochlear implants about six month ago and she is flourishing. We're so proud of her and all of her hard work. Along the way, we have come to know so many amazing people - both families and professionals and we have been so lucky to experience so many wonderful services that are available to help Hannah along her hearing journey.

Walk with Hannah

This year, Michael and I decided to form Team Hannah to raise money and help spread the word that hearing loss will not limit Hannah's growth but instead can be used to empower her and other children in NYC like her to live a full life. The money raised will also benefit one of Hannah's school's, The Children's Hearing Institute, where she attends her speech therapy sessions three times a week as well as receives all of her audiology services. 
We are so fortunate to have so many friends and family who have supported our journey, but Hannah's journey is just beginning. To help in our endeavor in raising awareness, we would love you to join Team Hannah on Sunday, September 30, at Riverside Park, NYC (W. 97th Street and Riverside Dr.) Registration begins at 9 and the 3.1 mile walk will kickoff at 10 am.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Walk4Hearing increases awareness about hearing loss, helps to eradicate the stigma associated with it and raises funds to provide information and support for people with hearing loss. Since 2006, the Walk4Hearing has raised more than $5 million and has become the largest walk for hearing taking place in cities across the United States.
For more information on the Hearing Loss Association of America, please visit HLAA and for more information on Hannah's school, The Children's Hearing Institute, please click CHI.
Thanks so much!
Love,Jen, Michael and especially Hannah

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Splish Splash

Hannah made quite a splash this week. She now has no fear with the sprinklers or just about any body of water. Just a few weeks ago you couldn't put her near water beyond the bathtub without her feet becoming alligator-like. Now, she screams more with delight than fear and as soon as we are close to the sprinklers at the playground I can't get her out of her stroller fast enough. I'm so glad she likes the water, especially with this crazy, hot summer.

I'm especially excited that the cochlear implants she wears by Advanced Bionics, The Neptune, is the only swimmable implant available. What this means is Hannah will be able to hear when she is in the water - be it the bath, the pool, the beach and the sprinklers. While it's of course more fun to be hearing, it goes without saying how much safer she will be. Hannah will never know the difference, she will only know that she can hear in the water. But for so many kids this summer, this will be the first summer they can hear while running through the sprinkler and I'm so happy for them. 

Hannah wears the same processors she wears all day, we just need to swap out the head piece for the water proof one. Hannah will always know what it means to hear in the water as she was implanted at the same time the Neptune became available in the US. And I love that she is able to hear herself laugh and sing and hear the kids around her as well. 

It makes me wonder too what new, amazing advancement Hannah will get to enjoy that will be a game changer for her the way the Neptune is for countless other children and adults.

These pictures were taken by my Dad at John Jay Park near our apartment. Enjoy! She sure did.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Birthday Celebration

We had a pretty fabulous weekend. It was Michael's birthday and we spent the weekend frolicking around Manhattan. Michael is such an amazing dad - he's attentive, loving and always has Hannah in fits of laughter. He even makes washing up after one of his yummy meals fun. I'm pretty sure Hannah's determination and fierce independence comes from her Dad. 

We celebrated Michael's birthday by brining the greater outdoors to the urban jungle. We spent some time at The City Tree House, a hidden playroom that is centered around a treehouse. In the tree house there was a hidden cave illuminated with stars that Hannah wasn't too sure about until two older kids went in. There was also a small water flume where Hannah enjoyed splashing around with balls in the cool water. After the tree house, we walked along the The High Line, an elevated park in Chelsea, and enjoyed the unique city views. Summer seems to be a great time to visit as the lush plants and trees was a cool juxtaposition against the city backdrop. Hannah really enjoyed taking off her shoes and splashing along a shallow stream of water gushing along the sidewalk. 

Of course, it wouldn't be a birthday without lots and lots of good meals. After the long walk, we went and got our BBQ on at Blue Smoke in Battery Park City. It's a great restaurant for kids. They gave Hannah an adorable pig-shaped piece of cookie dough that she could sprinkle herself and they would bake for her to eat for dessert. The next morning Michael made Hannah a special "H" pancake and it was delicious. 

Happy birthday to you Daddy! I love you so much!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Me and Grandma Down By The School Yard

We had a great day with you on Monday Hannah dear, especially when we went to the park and you got into your swimming attire for a run through the sprinklers. Well actually Mom did the running, but it looked like fun.

Of course you played on the swings and the climbing towers but we all enjoyed the image of grandma taking you by the hand (or you taking grandma by the hand) into the schoolyard for a pickup basketball game. You would’ve won if they gave you the ball. Next time for sure.

Ending the day with ice cream. Not a bad ending. What’s not to like?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot Town Summer In The City

We are living through the Hot, Hazy, Humid and Hannah days of summer. Not that you haven't noticed. We're trying to stay as cool as possible in the greater air-conditioned indoors, but sometimes a young girl needs to be outside and playing. 

Hannah and I enjoyed an afternoon at St. Catherine's Park, a local playground by us, with Grandma and Grandpa. Hannah got to show them her adorable walking skills as she sashayed through the sprinklers. Of course, what would a summer afternoon be without sidewalk chalk and swings. We ended the day with a real treat - chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Yummy!

Thankfully the fourth heat wave of the summer is supposed to end today and we can soon venture out and enjoy more of the outdoors.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sing Me A Song

Hannah has been wearing her Cochlear Implants on the right ear for nearly four months and on the left for about three months. It's hard to believe how quickly time passes by and how many new sounds Hannah is now producing. We marvel at each one and are so proud of how hard our little girl is working.

Hannah's first word was "UP" and we were so thrilled when she would say it. Everything was up. When Michael came home at night, he was greeted by Hannah calling him "UP". But now she is using it with meaning. For instance, when she sees monkeys playing she points to them and says "UP", when a toy falls down she tells Mommy and Daddy "UP" and when she is done eating she says "UP" to come up and out of the high chair. Some other words she is now using with meaning is "OPEN" or "Ohh-p" which is exciting because it's two syllables. When doors and elevators need to be opened, Hannah lets us know what she wants. Hannah is also waving and saying "BYE-BYE".

Hannah is also babbling much more. Sounds like "MAMAMAMAMA", "BABABABABA",  "DADADADADA" and "RARARARARA" are part of her everyday talk. It sounds so much like she's excited to share a story about her day with us. It's just wonderful to hear her sweet voice.

One of the most exciting things Michael and I heard over the weekend was Hannah singing a song. There is a "Hello" song she has been hearing in her therapy sessions that goes something like this: "Hello Hannah, Hello Hannah, Hello Hannah, Hello and How Are You?" There is the same pattern with a "Good Bye" song as well. On Friday morning, I brought Hannah over to her stuffed animal collection from The Central Park Zoo to say Good Morning to them. She carried it with her to get her diaper changed and started to sing the song in her babble voice to the spotted leopard she grabbed. It was just amazing and she's been singing the song all weekend long.

Hannah also took a hearing test at Friday. She did great in the hearing booth, turning when she heard the sounds to the drumming panda much like she did when she was activated with her CI's. Her hearing took a slight dip in the higher frequencies. She now has hearing ranging from 15 to 35 decibels. Her programs were readjusted and hopefully we will start to see the "EEEE" and "SHHHH" sound emerge. Her next hearing test is Sept. 14.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Sounds of Summer

The first time I went to Coney Island, my brother and I ran directly into the water. My Dad warned us not to because we didn't have anything dry to change back into for our drive back home. Oh well...live and learn.  Since that day, the sound of crashing waves have always been soothing for me and has lured me back to Coney Island many times. 

I couldn't wait to take Hannah to Coney Island. There are so many sounds for her to soak up. The Cyclone as it roars through the sky, the ort oct of the seals, the music coming out of the boom boxes, the laughter, the wind blowing off the ocean. As we strolled down the boardwalk, Hannah was already sitting at the edge of her stroller, greeting the world with her amazing smile. The whole world is now hers to dream, to explore, to hear. 

This past Monday, my parents were also able to joined our escapades. One of the highlights was Miss Hannah going on her first rides. BY HERSELF. I can't take how quickly she is growing up and how independent she is becoming. I love how free-spirited and fun Hannah is and I love watching her soak up life. Next year, I'm predicting she'll sit in the front row of The Cyclone. 

After the rides, we hit up the beach. Hannah is slowing building up her feel for the sand under her feet. For a city girl, pavement is more her speed. 

We also went for lunch at L&B Spumoni Gardens for their famous pizza. I goofed by not ordering the "square" pizza and opted for the traditional round pie. It was so mouth-watering delicious. Hannah had a few bites and judging by her smile, we'll be back for the square pie. After, we indulged in the Pistachio Spumoni which was pretty spectacular. 

This is Hannah's first summer where she can actually hear all the sounds. Her smiles tell it all, she is loving them. My Dad's photos below capture it all.