Friday, March 29, 2013


Massage, Aromatherapy, Organizing, Breathing, Exercise, Real food.

What do all of these things have in common?

They are ways to help us relax. Something that we moms aren't always very good at.

I'm not sure which chromosome or hormone is responsible for giving men the ability to tune out all the surrounding chaos and just chill, but they definitely have it in higher amounts in general than mamas. Not that they don't have their stresses. They just seem to be able to flip the switch a whole lot easier than we can.

By the way, I'm not currently doing any of the above suggestions to relax. So of course I'm all out of whack. Thank goodness that today is the last Friday of the month.

Each month, when possible, a group of us get together for a Mommy Meet-up. We all live a good distance from each other, so we try to meet in a somewhat centralized locale, usually at a playground, so that we can just catch up. We vent, we laugh, we've cried. We bring whatever kids are with us and let them play while we visit (and chase babies). It's fun for the kids, but it's really for us mamas!

It's definitely the best therapy I've found! Laughter really is the best medicine (that, and coffee), especially when it's dispensed by some of the best friends anyone could ever have! 

Hope everyone has a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Tactile

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!
Today's subject:
1. of, pertaining to, endowed with, or affecting the sense of touch.
2. perceptible to the touch; tangible. (

Getting started young. 

Our first sensory experience takes place in the womb, and do you know which sense it involves?

Yes, our sense of touch. This sense plays an enormous roll in our lives everyday, an essential roll. Not only is this an external sense, but we have receptors inside our bodies as well.

It's these receptors that alert us when we are hungry or full. That let us know that our bladder needs emptying, that our throat hurts because of illness, or allows us to feel pain because our appendix is about to burst! It's how an expectant mother can feel the fluttering kicks (or stabs and pile drives) of her precious baby before it's born.  

All of these receptors are part of the greater somatosensory system which can be divided into four general areas: 1. touch, or tactile information (smooth, rough, wet, dry, etc.) 2. temperature 3. pain 4. proprioception

Each of these senses relay essential information to our brain by themselves, but we use them almost constantly in combination in order to most efficiently experience our world. From before we are born this sense of combined touch teaches us how to best function in, and understand, our surroundings.

It's for this reason that tactile play is so important for babies and kids. Children learn more about their world and their place in it through touch than any other sense. This should come as no surprise. Our skin is, after all, our largest sensory organ.

It's understandable then that individuals who experience difficulties processing these sensory messages could show difficulties functioning in "normal" environments or settings.

Those with tactile defensiveness have felt, often from infancy, that their body is constantly under attack, and so the world to them can feel like a very unsafe and unpredictable place. This would probably make you quite agitated too. Our bodies were not designed to be in a constant adrenaline rush.

For those who have seeking tendencies though, the world can be a very exciting place! Everything must be touched and tasted! This may be very thrilling for the child, but is usually worrisome (occasionally terrifying or embarrassing, or both) for the parents, I think, especially for mothers.

A bit of a nature rant...

All children, whether they have processing challenges or not, need to be able to freely explore the world through their sense of touch. This has become a challenge of sorts in our technology driven, high speed, sanitized world. Especially in industrialized countries. Opportunities for our children, and for us as well, to experience their natural world through touch are disappearing. 

We have been persuaded to believe (by those who have profits to rake in) that anything natural is "dirty" and has "germs". As a result the all-too-familiar phase, "don't touch", has created voids of tactile information that our brains are hungry for. This is especially critical when our children are very young and their brains are experiencing such rapid growth. 

There are many fantastic experiences to be had and tons of information to be absorbed by means of technology and the modern marvels of plastic. But our bodies are composed of the same elements as our beautiful earth and all it's flora and fauna. No wonder then that nature tends to have a very restorative influence on our bodies, minds and emotions. 

Think about it, what do we like to listen to in order to relax or to help our babies sleep? Often it's the sounds of nature. Waves, crickets, rain. Not traffic or copy machines. Most of us prefer natural lighting and seek it out as much as possible, even sometimes suffering from things like Seasonal Affective Disorder if we don't get enough of it. Aromatherapy consists of essential oils and actual plants or minerals. Not bleach or "new car smell".

The point is, the human brain is designed to interpret and respond to our natural world. And the results are vastly superior to artificial environments. Why do you think camping is so much fun? Just walking outside on a nice day can release endorphins. Much more than will be released by googling "tropical paradise images".   

Our kiddos need this type of input. It can calm and soothe them too. (I do realize that kids with tactile defensiveness often have a lot of difficulty with outdoor experiences. I hope that they gradually find their comfort zone that allows them to enjoy instead of dread outdoor activities. Until then, maybe bringing some of the outdoors in might help lessen their anxieties, and allow them to experience nature closer to their terms. Do whatever works for your kiddo!)

It's a regular occurrence around here that the kids, usually lead by Zak, will be tearing through the house, falling, jumping, crashing, shouting, whooping, just being rowdy and crazy. So I will tell them to go do that stuff outside. Within minutes of being outside, they are suddenly calm, conversational, and usually bent over examining some rock or bug. No trace of the crazies that just went on and left the living room in shambles. They nearly instantaneously morph into different children, quietly digging in the sandbox, rhythmically swinging, diligently following a trail of ants.

After a while they will trickle back in, and almost like clockwork, the noise level gradually increases, the walking turns to chasing, and what do you know, there they are right back to exactly what got them put outside in the first place. Very unfortunately for us we don't have a hundred acres for them to go out and explore, and imagine and really experience what this earth offers.

Plastic and Play-doh are fine, even great sometimes, but they cannot replace the real experiences offered by natural textures, smells, and sights. I know I need to be much more proactive in providing these opportunities for my kiddos.

Have your pie and eat it too!

In the in-between times though, here is a tactile activity that I was able to put together for my Goat Baby who eats everything, thus making it challenging sometimes to provide her with relatively clean tactile play. (Some days I just can't handle cleaning up finger paint pudding or sprinkles again!)

I bought a couple of refrigerated pie crusts to keep on hand. When I need to keep Kit busy for a few minutes, like when I'm cooking, I can pull it out and give her a ball of it with little surprises like chocolate chips or coconut flakes or raisins hidden in it. 

She gets to smoosh, squeeze, pat and roll it. She digs through it to find the treats, and, the whole thing is edible! It's not too sticky or messy either. This is wonderful since I can't let her play with play dough or clay without me being right there next to her. Win, win!

This is a cool article with some fun ideas for kids of various ages.

My last point, I promise!

How can we expect to raise our kids to care about the earth and the plants and animals that inhabit it if they themselves are taught that it is full of things that can hurt them or make them sick? Why would our kids grow up and want to preserve trees if they've never climbed one? How much will they care that birds habitats are destroyed everyday if they've never had the chance to see a nest, and how hard the birds work to build it, and feed their babies?

We can't expect them to show respect for this jewel that we live on if we surround them with concrete and plastic and tell them that HD is the best way to view the world.

Sorry Blueray, but you can't hold an LED to an actual sunset and fireflies.

Monday, March 25, 2013

From Snap, Crackle, Pop to Pillow Talk

Well, maybe not as exciting as the title led you to believe, but we kept busy yesterday anyway.

Here is the surprise I walked in on. Kit was sitting right in the middle of it when I found her. Feeding herself fistfuls of course.

Half of a giant bag of Rice Krispies dumped out on the bench. Miraculously, there was relatively little on the floor.

Grace's animals seem happy to have a snack!

To put in perspective how much cereal this is, here it is in my 13x9 inch baking dish. This was what we were able to salvage for future consumption.

Hope your Sunday afternoon was far more relaxing! 

Here's what else she's been up to.

She has a new sleep oddity to add to her ever growing list. In the past we've occasionally laid a pillow over her legs and hips to provide pressure when she sleeps. Sometimes it works and others not so much. Lately though, as in for the last five days, she has been wanting a pillow on her. She has actually pulled one on top of her, then laid back down and fallen back asleep!

Burrowing in the couch pillows to get comfy at naptime.
A few times in the middle of the night, she will finish nursing, crawl back to her spot in the corner of the couch (yeah, we're still here), and slither under her pillow and go right back to sleep. Amazing!

She likes the big square couch pillows best. I guess they provide the best weight and pressure. And I'm all for it. She can use whatever will enable us all to get more than one or two hours of sleep at a time at night.

I'm more than a little worried about this as far as transitioning back into our room plays out. There really isn't enough room in our bed for the three of us. When she is with us, she's the only one that is in any way comfortable. But she is definitely not sleeping through the night on her own yet either.

We are looking at toddler beds, and I hope that she likes it enough to be comfy sleeping there as much as she's capable of. We will probably keep a couch pillow there for her, since that seems to be helping right now. Perhaps the pillows will be a way to gradually transition to sleeping under her weighted blanket. One step at a time.

It does put kind of a damper on my excitement of getting my room back since I know that even though I might be back in my bed, I don't think I'm going to be getting a whole lot more sleep just yet. Sigh...

It's okay though.

I'm pretty sure she has officially ditched the highchair. She prefers to be right there at the table with the rest of us, and she's been doing really well eating with us that way, so it might be time to pass that along.

She just started saying "ni-ni" (night-night), and that's an exciting addition to her relatively short list of words.

She also just today signed "eat" when she was hungry and wanted me to get her something to eat. That joins "please" and "more" and the occasional, though much prompted and demonstrated, "drink" and "ball". 

So, there are plenty of bright spots every day around here.
Especially when there are adorable little piggy toes peeking out at you from under a big fat couch pillow!

UPDATE: Kit slept ALL night in her spot under her pillow! She didn't wake up once! I'm pretty sure that is the first time EVER! Hip! Hip! Hooray!!!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In Her Own Words

Today's post was written from Kitty Bitty's point of view as she flew solo for the afternoon. Ahhhh, the house is so quiet when the big kids are hanging out elsewhere!

Big Brother and Sister are off with friends today. What's a little sister to do?


I can climb onto their desks and write on their drawings. I can wear their shoes around. I can nap with Daddy. I can eat dog food. Or steal Grandpa's newspaper. Pretty much all the same stuff I do when they are here.

But going outside is not nearly as fun as when they are there to play too. They pretend that I am going to get them while I swing, or play that I am the monster at the bottom of the slide and they can't let go or I will eat them. I growl and gnash my teeth in true monster fashion.

They blow bubbles from the fort so that I have lots of time to try and catch them as they float down. They dig with me in the sandbox, or let me chase them while we run squealing through the yard like a bunch of little piggies.

When it's just me and Mama, it's not nearly as rockin'. Though there's plenty of actual rocks. I love to pick them up and show Mama my treasures.

Running the cars down the ramp was fun, but not as fun as when Brother makes noisy sound effects.

The sandbox is boring when there's no one to play "restaurant" with, and Mama keeps telling me not to throw the sand.

Picking flowers was fun!

So was eating them!

Here is the Slide Monster, but where is my dinner?

Nobody to scream and run away from the swing. Nobody to swing next to me.

Well, at least I finally got to try this bubble thing out myself. Even got to hold the jar and everything!

I blew ONE bubble! Just one, but it was AWESOME!

Chasing Mama's is fun too.
Yeah, getting Mommy and Daddy all to myself is cool, but it's way more exciting to fight over them with my two best buds.
Come home soon, guys!

Nothing to Sniff At

There has been an awful lot of sneezing, coughing, headaches and general blah around this house for the last few weeks.

We aren't suffering from another round of winter colds. No, we have full blown, raging spring allergies.

Now I, unfortunately am plagued by allergies on and off all year, but usually I suffer alone. Perhaps because when you sneeze twenty times in a row, you blow everyone else out of the room! But this year is different.

This year we are all in allergy misery. I have finally given in to taking my Zyrtec daily again for a while, yet also needing the extra Benadryl for those especially awful days.

The kids aren't as bad. But there have been a lot of headaches, "rubbery eyes", and coughs that only happen at night. They get a particular look about them that shows such confused distress. They mope, and whine, and act as though their bodies are under much more gravitational pull than usual because they collapse into the furniture and me much more frequently and with less gusto than usual. Or they never quite stand upright, they walk around in the allergy slump. This looks like the waking-up-when-I-don't-want-to slump, only it's all day!

This is not a state of consciousness that is conducive to peace and patience around here. We all get very snippy with each other. Not a good way to spend day after day with the same people who made you mad the day before.

So, then, my interest was piqued when I read this update from ivillage health. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to find time to shampoo my eyelashes twice a day, but some of the suggestions are very practical and have lower risks of blinding oneself with baby shampoo.

10 All Natural Ways to Treat Allergy Symptoms


Friday, March 22, 2013

More than One Way to ABC

I've not taught either of my children their ABCs. This isn't because of negligence, quite the contrary in fact. They taught themselves. Or more realistically, picked them up on their own. But the way they each did it and when are as different as night and day.

The Professor

Zak absolutely loved every avenue of learning possible from a very young age. He attentively watched Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, and any other teaching media, and absolutely loved for us to read to him. He was two months shy of five when we started Kindergarten at home, but he already knew how to count to twenty, his shapes, colors, and most of the letters. He knew the ABC song very well, and thus the order of the letters.

I don't remember learning how to read. Or learning the ABCs. So when it came time to teach my son how to read, I was intimidated, to say the least. It was during that first semester of our educational journey that I became aware of how deteriorated, redundant, and purely irritating the English language is!

Half of learning to read and write in this language is entirely based on memorization. While the roots and origins of certain words understandably influence their spelling and pronunciation, this is an infuriating concept to try to explain to a logical thinker.

Zak follows lines of logic and often comes to black and white conclusions. Things have to make sense for him to really understand and remember them. So concepts like silent letters, homophones, and odd spellings (basically any word with a <gh> combo), are very irritating to him. He often acted as though it was a personal assault that the English language wanted him to spell city with a 'c' instead of an 's'. 

These concepts typically must be memorized, and while he has an outstanding memory, it's very selective. He has entire movies committed to memory, but still regularly gets mixed up which kind of dear/deer begins a letter to his pen-pals. Nevertheless, reading has always been a strong subject for him, he just has trouble writing in his native tongue.

The Rebel

Then we have Grace. This girl flat out refused to have anything to do with the alphabet, the song, or the letters themselves. She would get furious if I started singing the song, covering her ears until I stopped. While she too, loved to be read to, she would slam shut a book if I showed her a letter and said it's name or the sound it made, even if that was part of the story! Nor would she allow anyone else, including her beloved older brother, to educate her in any literary form. Yet when we weren't looking, she would copy letters and words into her notebooks. She would copy entire sentences, but if she caught me looking, she'd stop and close the book.

She was happy to talk about the color pink, but would tell me that she didn't want to say the names of the others because they were not pink. And we didn't "learn" shapes. We just used the names in passing, for example: "please bring me the square box for the tea set?", or "can you put all these shoes in the circle basket?"

If ever she suspected we were trying to "teach" her something, she withdrew faster than a clam into it's shell. It was confusing to see her react so dramatically different than her brother. She still learned so much, just so differently than him.

I was again nervous about Kindergarten, but this time in a new way. Would she let me teach her anything? Would she cooperate? I really wasn't sure.

We choose a different program for hers, one that was looser and brighter, more playful than scholastic. And when she was 5 1/4, she was excited to be joining her brother at the table for school. That was a good sign.

She still wouldn't let me teach her to say or sing the letters though. When we attempted to learn the sounds of the letters in her reading book, we rarely could get past half an exercise before she was clearly tuning out and sometimes crying.

We just put it away. Every few months we would pull it back out and try again. Same results. Meanwhile she was excelling in math, she loved her science work, she had no problem copying the letters, though she went through a phase where she felt she was "too old to color". Thankfully that's passed.

Sideways, Backward, Whatever Works

Then one day, we pulled out the reading book again. We started to talk about the sounds of a few letters. No whining. No heaving and sighing. No tears. She completed nearly a whole lesson! It was suddenly working!

Ever since then she has been making excellent progress. For the first few months of real progress, she still didn't know all of the letters by name, but she knew almost every one by it's sound. Almost the complete opposite of her brother, who knew every name, but struggled with the sounds if they differed from the name.

Sometimes I was scared that someone would ask her what a certain letter was, or ask her to sing the ABCs. I thought they would blame me and homeschooling her for her lack of knowing her letters by rote. That they would judge me and my little girl who was working very hard to learn to read. No one ever did. If they did ask, she usually told them the sound it made, and they would praise her. She would just shake her head when asked to sing the ABCs, and most people just attributed it to her shy ways.

Fast forward a few more months. We are now deep into first grade, and she is reading very well. Silent letters are no biggie for her, she asks for help periodically because she forgets sometimes which ones are supposed to be silent. She isn't phased by new consonant blends, even if she just has to memorize the new sound. She is like a whole different girl.

The other night, she read the book Chika Chika Boom Boom to me. I helped her in a few places, but she really read it. Then when she was done she said:

"I can say all my letters. Want me to say them to you?"

"Of course!"

She pointed to each letter as she said it out loud, by name! And aside from calling both G and J the same name, "G", she said them all perfectly.

It was a great moment. I had only taught her sounds. She picked up all the names herself. And guess what I over heard her singing today?

"A, B, C, D....."

And now, after knowing Kitty Kat for 18 months, I have come to be sure with no doubt that she will shock and awe us just like the others, but certainly with her own vibrant flare! She already does every day. Bring it on Baby, I'm ready for anything now!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Home Sweet ... Tuna

I didn't start out building houses for lunch. But as I cut off the crusts at an angle a roof emerged. Since I had already warmed the beans an they were sitting right there in the bowl, I thought, this would be cute.

So, I cut off the side edges of the bread also. Shaped a door and window out of green beans. A door handle and chimney out of red beans. And smoke out of wax beans. (I had warmed up a can of three bean mix.)

When Zak saw it he asked what it spelled. I said it was a picture. He said it looked like a monster with tuna drool coming out of it's mouth. What?!?!

I called Grace over an asked her what she saw. She said, "A house!"

Thank you! 

I think Zak needs to clean his glasses.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Sibling Revelry

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday!

Today's subject is:

Sibling Revelry

Yup, you read it correctly. We are celebrating the upside of being in a brood! There are many advantages to having siblings, not the least of which include having a partner in crime, and having someone else there when you're scared of the dark.

Maybe it's because we homeschool and my kiddos do a lot of their activities together right now, like gymnastics, but I'm always amazed at how much my kids miss each other when they are apart. The big ones, that is. Kit doesn't yet realize that the kids are gone until they come home. But then she is super happy to greet them with arms wide and an energetic, "HIIIIIIIII!!"

The big kids, of course, love to get individual attention, but they are always so happy to get back to their dynamic duo. They fight, and squabble, and tattle-tell on each other, but, they also giggle, and conquer, and empathize with each other.

Adding Kit into their special sibling world was no chore for either of them. They adore her, chase her, save her. Each has developed their own little games with her, their own special relationship.

I've often referred to Zak and Grace as "two peas in a pod," but it seems that they have had no trouble at all making room for a third.

"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero." - Marc Brown
Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Making Cents

On Saturday I braved up and invited the big kids to run errands with me. It was time to start gathering items for Grandpa's new room, and I had a tiny burst of energy that I could take advantage of before is disappeared. I usually prefer to do this alone, mostly because I get to be alone in the quiet bliss of no children chattering/fighting/begging etc.

But the kids had been stuck around the house for a couple of days, so I knew they really needed a change of scenery. I also knew that this was not a grocery run, so it's more fun for them that way.

All in all it worked out pretty good for most of us. They had fun at the flea markets that we visited. And in general were good while we took on Wal-Mart.

Somewhere among the many shelves of household items and toys though lies a tiny little roll made up of six dollar bills held together by a red Flexie.

Much to her dismay, Grace, without realizing it, set her precious currency down to examine something, and accidently forgot to pick it back up. 

She did not discover this until we were in the checkout isle and she found what she finally was sure she wanted to buy, a little pack of lip glosses and nail polish. When she went to count her money to get it ready, she couldn't find it. We searched all her pockets, and as we stacked all the items from the cart onto the conveyor, we saw that it had not been hiding in the cart either. 

She really was a big girl about it. She didn't even cry, though she was clearly very sad and upset. She asked if I might buy the lip glosses for her.

At first, I wanted to say, "No, because you should have left your money in your pocket where it couldn't get lost."

But I didn't. I thought about being six. I said, "I'll think about it."

And I did. The whole time our items were being scanned, I wondered what the best action was. I thought about how many weeks of chores she did to manage to save up six whole dollars. I remembered how long it took her to finally remember just to bring it to the store with her in the first place.

To my surprise, but made me very proud of her, she did not ask about it the rest of the time. I'm pretty sure she assumed the answer was no.

As I pushed one loaded cart toward the exit, I heard little muffled voices coming from behind the second one that Zak was pushing. All I could really make out from the whispers was:

"Don't worry! She bought it for you."

"Oh, she did? That's nice of her...THANK YOU, MAMA!"

"You're welcome," I smiled as she approached to give me a hug, "but I think it would be fair if you paid me back a least a little bit of it, don't you?"

"Of course! You're a sweet mama."

"Thanks baby."

After a brief stop at Radio Shack, where Zak had been asking us for days to take him so he could buy a HexBug (which he purchased on sale), we finally made it home. An exhausted but content mama, and two bubbly kids, who immediately shared their long-awaited purchases with their baby sister. Grace smeared about six different flavors of lip gloss on Kit's lips, and Zak made her squeal by chasing her with his new electronic inchworm. Everybody was happy.

I haven't seen a penny of payback yet though. But, really, I'm okay with that. I was when I bought it for her. After all being six is hard. So is being ten, or one, or...even thirty-one.

Sometimes we all just want to hear someone whisper to us, "Don't worry! She bought it for you."


Sunday, March 17, 2013

All For One and Four Plus...Laundry (?)

Things are about to change around here again! This time definitely for the better.

We are putting the finishing touches on Grandpa's new room, and if everything goes as hoped, he should be moved in by Wednesday at the latest. Here's hoping...

That means we'll be back in ours! Hooray!!

Yes, I do believe applause is in order!
It's been about 2 1/2 months since I last slept in MY bed. In MY room. It's been so long that I don't miss it any more. I've actually forgotten what my bed feels like.

There is a long list of positives that will result from this new arrangement. But I will only mention four here today.

First and foremost, everyone will have their own space again. This has been a large contributor to elevated stress levels around here, so I am more than relieved to have some designated private space again.

A second and enormous benefit will be getting back the arrangement for putting everyone's clothes where they belong. No more will I be finding things like my sweaters and shirts in Grandpa's drawers. Everything in his new room will be entirely his, so that will lesson his opportunities for confusion in this area significantly. In fact we are not even giving him drawers. (Except in his side table.) To better facilitate him finding his things with ease we are just using a simple shelf system and shallow baskets so that everything is easily visible.

A third but closely related benefit is that since everyone's clothes will have proper places to be put away again, I may be able to get my laundry situation somewhat under control again.


Where I Deviate for a Brief Laundry Rant

I currently have all but given up on the laundry. It's everywhere it's not supposed to be, clean and dirty all fraternizing on the floors I haven't swept because there's too many clothes on them! I stopped folding it because there is nowhere to put it away. I stopped washing because there was nowhere to put the clean clothes; all my baskets, beds and couches are currently full of people. (The baskets obviously are full of clothes, not people!) But of course that doesn't stop the dirty pile from growing. And growing! And GROWING to the point that it now looks like some giant monster vomited dirty laundry all over my pantry. I literally cannot get to the peanut butter or spaghetti without wading through our unmentionables! (Eeeeww, Judy, that's just gross!)

I am kidding, but it is taking over in there.

I wash the essentials as needed. As in, the person in the shower is waiting for a towel to come out of the dryer, and the kids have to swim through the unfolded baskets in search of clean underwear. It's truly pathetic. But I can now see the light at the end of that long, dark, stinky laundry tunnel. End of rant.

Making Myself Clear

On a more successful note (!), I have finally found a phrase that clearly conveys to my big kids how I want them to make a room look when they pick it up. The floor at least. I now tell them:

"I want you to pick up everything off the floor except the furniture and large household items. I want the floor to be ready for me to sweep, and I will assume that any items left there when I sweep are trash. So if you would like to keep it: Pick. It. Up!"

So far, this has actually worked remarkably well. For a few minutes anyway, before someone (usually Kit) inevitably scatters something (like the newspaper Grandpa is still reading) across the floor again.

Yeah, she's quite the spitfire!

And Now Back to My Original List

Good ole' number four! Ah, how long we've waited for a second bathroom! Indeed, it will be nice when only the five of us are sharing a bathroom again instead of six. Yes, ironic isn't it! All of the benefits the rest of us gain by one person having an entirely new space that the rest of us do not get to use are, well, numerous. (Potty emergencies will be easier now at least.)

Hopefully a few other wrinkles will get ironed out by this new arrangement, and perhaps a healthy routine based on forward progress will emerge. This is opposed to the current one which is based solely on making it through the day without getting swallowed by the laundry oozing out all over the floors!

And since babies and their feet and Lego cities are way more awesome than laundry, I have included pictures of these instead!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Violin Lessons

Today was Grace's first violin lesson after a few months hiatus (my fault, I got tired and let it go). She's been asking me for a long time to start them again, and as I resolved in my post last week, today was the reinstitution of her lessons.

She's really quite a natural. Once she gets some more stamina, she won't have any trouble learning the rhythms or the notes and fingerings. She has a naturally good bow hold and curve of her fingers along the neck.

Her biggest obstacle will be her stubbornness. She has a tendency to argue, and can get a bit mouthy sometimes. That was one reason I stopped her lessons before, she didn't want to listen to what I was trying to teach her, she thought she already knew it all.

She has been more cooperative lately in general, and today she didn't argue with my directions at all. So that is a big indicator to me that her interest is genuine.

Big Brother Too

I asked Zak if he would like me to teach him either the violin again or the viola, and he said he'd like to learn the viola! Yay! For now I'm just going to order a set of viola strings to put on the violin that we currently have. If he really likes it and makes decent progress, then we can look into purchasing a real viola later. If they keep up with their lessons and practice hard, they may even be able to join the volunteer orchestra that I play in. Our director encourages all to join who are willing to work hard and she very kindly provides simplified parts for our beginners.

As a result, our beginners get the benefit of playing real music with real musicians in a real concert. It helps their confidence grow and keeps them excited which is very important when you are first learning. We plan to work hard all summer so that they hopefully will be ready for next year!

A note about the purple violin that Grace is playing. This violin started out as Zak's. Back in the day when my life wasn't quite as insane, I used to teach violin and piano a couple afternoons a week. At the time Zak was about four, and he started asking me if he could learn too. After he showed persistence for a while, Vincent agreed to buying him an inexpensive violin to learn on until he grew to fit the ones I already owned. We looked online for a long time and every time we asked him, Zak always picked out the dark purple ones. He just thought it was the most beautiful violin he'd ever seen, and he knew for sure he did not want an "icky brown one". Since he was so insistent, we acquiesced, happy that he found a surefire fit for his personality, and satisfied that Grace would probably be more than happy to inherit it once Zak outgrew it. We were so right!

This is one of those parenting choices that I am so proud of! When you just know right away that you did the right thing. Zak LOVED his purple violin! He took such good care of it and he attentively listened at each of his lessons. He never would have stopped if I had been more disciplined after we moved that time. Who knew five years would fly by so fast!

Passing on the Passion

So instead of just continuing to be mad at myself for neglecting to give my kids the chance to find out if they share my passion for making music, I'm giving them that chance. Maybe they will decide that making music isn't their thing. I'm okay with that, as long as they have had a real chance to find it out for themselves. Even if that means they experiment with several different instruments. Even if they don't want me as their teacher. I just want them to have the opportunity to the degree that I can provide it.

This is one of those core values that I will never forgive myself for if I let it get swept under the rug while they are young. And it's so easy with all the demands on us these days to let it, but I'm determined not to.

I know how much having a passion for something, music, art, animals, can really shape the people we become. I want to encourage my children to find their passions, and never have to tell them that I let those things slide because I was too tired.

I can't live with that.

And they should never have to.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Growing Grace(fuly)

Scene: I'm sitting in the recliner nursing Kit in an attempt to lure her into taking an afternoon nap. Grace enters and stands next to me.

Grace: "Mommy, I apologized to Zak for being so harsh on him about waking me up last night because he was crying because he was sick. I told him sorry for saying he was just being whiney."

Me: "Well - thank you. I'm sure he appreciated it. That was kind of you."

Grace: "You're welcome! I'm going outside now, okay?"

Me: "Okay." (did she just say "harsh"?)


Scene: Grace is in the far backseat of the van. It's just the two of us as we drive to orchestra practice. The radio is playing music.

Grace: "What happened to my favorite song? It's not on."

Me: "I don't know. What is your favorite song?"

Grace: "You know. 'Someone That I Used To Know'. I haven't heard it all day. They sang it on American Idol all the time!"

Me: "Yes they did."

Grace: "Well, I guess it just must have gotten deleted! That's too bad. It was my favorite."

(Nary had she finished when a familiar intro started up on the radio.)

Grace: "Oh I remember this music! I heard this song before!"

Me: "Well of course you have! It's 'Someone That I Used To Know'! Your favorite song."

Grace: (giggling) "Oh yeah. I knew that."

Of course she did.


Scene: Same drive, a little further down the road. Still listening to music on the radio. I emphasize that music is on.

Grace: "Oh, Mommy, I forgot! You need to call Geiko! It can save you money on car insurance!"

Me: (chuckling) "Okay, thanks for telling me."

Grace: "You're welcome!...Hey, Mommy?"

Me: "Yeah?"

Grace: "What's car insurance?"

Me: "Ummm, it's paying a little money each month or year so that just in case you get in an accident, then they will pay to fix your car."

Grace: "Oh, that's good. So are you going to call Geiko to save money on it?"

Me: "Probably not. We already have insurance."

Grace: "That's good. Is it Geiko?"

Me: (kind of in disbelief that we are still talking about this, she is so much like her father) "No. We use a company called State Farm."

Grace: "Why not the other one?"

Me: "Because, State Farm has just always been cheaper for us." (please, let's just get back to singing along to the radio!)

Grace: "Well then why do they keep showing those commercials over and over? They should just delete them!"

Me: "I agree."

Grace: "Yeah, they are so annoying!"

Oh how I miss the blissful days when we didn't get any tv. When it's just movies, there are no commercials for my children to become tiny salespeople for! (although I do think the gecko is pretty cute! it must be the accent ;)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Speech Delays

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday
Today's subject:
Kevin is a busy, healthy 2 year old. His platinum blond hair reflects the sunshine he exudes from his happy smile. Nevertheless, his parents worry about him. They worry because at two, Kevin only pronounces one vowel sound and 4-5 consonants. Kevin has a speech delay.
The more research that I have been doing on SPD and related conditions, the more I have become aware of how prevalent speech delays are. There are several different kinds of speech delays (see videos below). 
Some may be related to hearing problems. Speech delays are not an uncommon coexisting problem with or even symptom of other conditions such as autism, Asperger's, Down Syndrome, and even Sensory Processing Disorder. In fact it is not uncommon for children who are found to be highly gifted to have significant speech delays as toddlers. 
However, speech delays often occur as a completely independent condition in an otherwise typically developing child.  
Some delays can clearly be identified as early as 12-18 months or before, but the majority emerge closer to the age of 2 years when toddlers often have a language development explosion, and parents or teachers notice that their child seems to be lagging behind.
Does a child not verbalizing his/her needs and wants automatically indicate a speech problem or delay?
Not necessarily. Almost everyone knows someone who "didn't say a word until they were ________", fill in the blank. And that was completely normal for them, and they grew up to have no speech issues whatsoever.
So then is a child's non-verbal habits nothing to worry about?
Again, not necessarily. Early identification is critical to early intervention, and intervention and therapy are key factors in helping these children overcome their delays.
So when should parents worry?
Parents should remain alert as their child develops, perhaps even documenting their concerns and looking back as their child grows to see if they are making even slow, but steady progress. If nagging doubts or plain, all-out worry, plague you in regard to your child's speech, talk to your pediatrician.
Sometimes, they will recommend waiting until more obvious symptoms arise. This may be warranted, or even required in order to get tests and treatments covered by insurance. However, if you feel very strongly that your child has a speech difficulty or delay, find out what resources might be readily available, such as a hearing test, or evaluation from the Early Childhood Intervention Program. These steps are often inexpensive, but can be helpful in ruling out certain conditions that may be contributing to problems with speech.
And empower yourself and your child. Research activities and exercises you can do at home to continue exposing your child to language and giving them plenty of opportunities to participate until they can be evaluated for intervention or therapy. Just remember keep it POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE, and FUN!!
Most importantly, believe in yourself and your child. Take Kevin for example. Though his mom suspected a problem around 18 months, it has taken until now for her concerns to be taken seriously. But she didn't give up. At her insistence, Kevin was finally referred for a hearing test, which revealed no hearing problems, so now they await an appointment for an evaluation with a speech therapist. You can follow their journey on her blog, More Than Words.
Here are a couple of videos that might get you started if you want more information:


Have a wonderful evening everyone!