Friday, February 28, 2014

A Poetry Kind of Day

Before  I get to poetry, I just wanted to take a second to say thanks to everyone who stops by and checks in with us here on the blog. Today is my 200th post! That's amazing to me! To those of you who support me here and in every other way, Thank You! I appreciate you!




We read poems today during lunch.

I never fail to be amazed at how much kids love poems, even when they don't really understand them. But my kids often surprise me at how much they do understand without much explanation. 

No doubt it has so much to do with the flown and rhythm. It often evokes calmness. Reminders to slow down and notice things. Which is what childhood is supposed to be like to begin with.

We have a variety of poetry collections and every few weeks or so we have a few days of reading them aloud together. I usually read while the kids eat or draw or paint. It's a nice little lagoon of peace amid all our usual busy.

This was my favorite today:

BARTER
Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
   All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
    Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
    Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
    Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you. Have for loveliness,
    Buy it and never count the cost,
For one white singing hour of peace
    Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
 
There was a little while today when the kids were content. The house was quiet, despite us all being home. The sunshine through the windows made the house light, but the floor still felt cool because of the chill outside. A friend happened by during that short while, and even commented on how quiet everything was. 

I bought that loveliness today. I breathed it in, and let it sweep over me like a perfect breeze. 

Life really does have ''loveliness to sell".

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not so Organized Chaos - Our Homeschooling Day in the Life

Big thanks to SimpleHomeschool.net for this great link up, and the chance to share our crazy days!

Homeschool for us looks different every day. And since we are in the midst of trying to hammer out a new family routine, our schedule is often precarious, but some things are starting to smooth out. I'll do my best to give you a general idea of how our routine is kind of supposed to go, if everything goes smoothly, which in reality rarely ever fully happens. Life here is crazy, and we just ride the waves as best we can!

The Kiddos:

Zak - 11, 6th grade, our in-house cartoonist, and amazing sketch artist, he is especially into making his own movies these days, and is quite good at it. Especially since it is really a one man show, he does everything from plot to acting to filming and editing all on his iphone. Zak also has some super powers thanks to his Autism Spectrum Disorder, like a crazy awesome memory, his art, and a very curious and scientific mind, but he has some struggles because of it also, such as not being able to read other people's body language or tone very well, getting very exhausted during extended writing projects, and trouble with transitions. He also has Sensory Processing Disorder that makes his body and his mind not always cooperate together, and this can be frustrating for him and for us, so he does a lot of little things throughout the days and weeks to help him keep himself regulated and balanced.

Grace - 7, 2nd grade, our painter and little chef. She loves science and geography right now, is very proud of her new-found reading independence, and is trying out dance this year, which she has a very natural talent for. She loves to do puzzles and play ''office''. She has super powers also, her most amazing is her extraordinary amount of patience, considering the demands and chaos of having two siblings on the Autism Spectrum. She is herself a matter-of-fact, tell-it-like-it-is personality who tends to make us chuckle with her very grown up way of saying things. She gets easily overwhelmed by too many demands, so we tend to break her work, especially brand new concepts, into very small easily understood steps, but once she understands, BOOM! She's off like a rocket!

Kit - 2, our little tornado! She LOVES circles. Playing with them, lining them up, stacking them, running or spinning in them too! She also loves to jump, swing, play with any kind of water, and move the cat from room to room, a lot. She also LOVES her ABCs! She sings them, signs them, shouts them, and wants everyone to do it with her over and over and over again! Her amazing ability to take in and remember everything is one of her super powers thanks to her Autism. She is super smart, and ultra huggable, but she has a lot of Sensory Processing issues as well that make some things very hard for her some days, including talking at times. When she can't use her voice, she uses her hands, and tells us with sign language. Much of her daily activities revolve around play therapy. Someday, it won't have to be "therapy" and it will just be play, we are getting there, and she is learning fast!

Grandpa - 76, with Dementia and Autism himself. He keeps to his own routine for the most part. Coming out just long enough to turn on all the lights in the kitchen, make as much noise as possible with his newspaper, eat nothing but salads for three months in a row and then instantly in one day decide that he can't stand them and won't eat them anymore. But, he lays out the comics every day for Zak, and ignores, in large part, the craziness that constantly buzzes around here all day. As long as he stays away from my coffee pot in the mornings, we usually get along just fine. (He can have as much as he wants, just stop turning it off!!!)

An (Almost) Average Day:

8:00-ish: While everyday here can be totally different, they always start off with a nice hot cup of coffee for me (or two, or four)...and sometimes Kit helps me finish it off.


8-8:30: Kit's occupational therapy with me. We do hands, feet and back to get her ready for the day!

After coffee:  Breakfast. We are not fancy and I am not a morning person so this usually is cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

Mid- Morning: Outside time, rain or shine! Or depending on the day, swimming, park, museum, bowling, or whatever other activity we have planned for the day. (we're still working on making this happen everyday and every week, sometimes we're all still in pjs and playing ;) Tuesdays Kit has dance/gym class, and Wednesdays, The Incredible Miss V comes to teach me more Occupational Therapy for Kit.


Locker hide-n-seek at the pool!

Checking out the "snow" which was really just dusted ice. They loved it anyway.
Lunch Time: While I make lunch and the big kids do chores, Kit has some tablet time, or plays toys or games.Then it's lunch time!



Three at once is way better than one at a time!

My little rabbit loves a good salad for lunch!

Early Afternoon: Quiet time! I put music on in the living room for Grandpa. Kit attempts to fight taking a nap. The big kids do a variety of quiet activities. It changes from day to day. 

This is when we do our major school time. Right now that means geography games, research and projects. Then they can do independent activities. These include writing, poems or letters to pen pals. Book work if they want. Art, reading, games, building, science experiments, putty, play dough... anything that engages their brains, makes them think and problem solve, or be creative. 

No electronics are allowed at this time for kids. (This is where I have my quiet time to catch up on email, blog a little, and just let my mind take a few minutes.) 







Zak likes to make his own games.




Zak's poems always make me laugh!






Our under the counter chalk wall!

Reading in the bathroom is always a favorite. There is usually several books or graphic history novels left in the bathroom on any given day.


Our newest geography tool. World Map shower curtains rock!

4:00-ish - Wed - Fri the kids can do electronics now. Grace usually picks a movie to watch, or watches SuperNanny on the tablet. Zak usually makes videos on his phone, or watches videos on how to make videos. Kit plays toys, or with her sensory bin. If dinner is easy, I get to play with her, otherwise she usually plays near me while I make dinner. And by near me, I mean mostly trying to climb me. So sometimes she gets to play on the phone or tablet while I cook. Monday (me-orchestra, Zak-gymnastics, Grace-dance, Daddy-chauffeur) and Tuesday (weekly congregation bible meeting) evenings are very busy here, and everyone's focus needs to be on the tasks at hand, so, no electronics on those days.  





Just got this out again for Kit. The little metal balls pull to the top when you trace the letters with a magnet. It's a big hit, she loves it!




Evening time: It's not as soothing as it sounds. This is often our most challenging time of day. After dinner, we try to give the kids, free time. Weekends it's usually family time. 

Then we enter the stress stretch...

6:30 - Kit's second OT session focusing on deep pressure and relaxing. During this the big kids have a couple evening chores each.

7:00 - Family Bible reading

7:30 - Kit's bath. Big kids snack, pjs, brush teeth, collect all their bedtime stuff (water bottles, sharpen pencils, notebooks, the cat)

8:00 - Bedtime!!! Daddy settles Kit in. The big kids give hugs and kisses, and then have an hour to read or draw. Then it's lights out! (And coming out for potty again, and other forgotten things.)

9:00 - Time for Mommy and Daddy to decompress and reconnect. Sometimes we play cards or watch a movie, but sometimes we just sit in the quiet and revel in nobody needing anything.


This routine is our ideal. Our days often deviate, get derailed, take the scenic route. As, I type this, I'm sitting on the floor of the bathroom while the kids watch a movie. We go with it. Try to regroup, and smile. We laugh a lot. There's plenty of tears too. When you live in the spectrum, you learn to expect the unexpected, and stay alert to the amazing.

And, amazing, is something we see a lot of around here!

Thanks for dropping by!  Come visit regularly!

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oh the Places We'll Go...Bathroom Edition

So Victor and I actually got to go on a date night a couple weeks ago. Not a we're-going-grocery-shopping-without-the-kids kind of date night, but actual dinner in an actual restaurant! 

Then after dinner we stopped in at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, another place we do not go with our kids. Mostly, I was looking for the occasional kitchen helper that makes things a little simpler, and tidier. I found one of those in the way of a cookie sheet organizer, yay!

But then as we were perusing on our way to the register, a few bright colors caught my eye in the bath area. I raced over and pulled it all the way out, excitedly calling Victor over. 

"Look at this! This is so cool!!"

He only needed one look.

"That's awesome! We're getting that."

My hubby is a major geography and history nerd lover. He looks at maps for fun. He actually knows where everything is on a map. Even the tiny countries. Especially if they ever had anything to do with Egyptian history, Roman history, Greek history, World War I, World War II, Napoleon...you get the picture. He LOVES maps!

I love maps because maps represent places. And I love going places. Maps represent potential adventures. And I love a good adventure, as long as I have a good map!

We have a drawer full of maps. A big one on our living room wall that Victor and Zak take down from time to time and make their own civilizations on with wet erase markers. We have a world map place mat. A world map Scentsy warmer. An old, slightly out of date world atlas that we simply can't get rid of because they are too hard to find at a reasonable price, and so we just point out the updates. And we just finally updated our Atlas of North America after most of the pages in our old one finally fell out.

How oddly appropriate that we should also have a shower curtain that sports a Countries of the World map. There was even a surprisingly long conversation about whether it should go inside so we can see it while showering or facing out. 

Don't fight your family's weirdness. I say, just go with it. Sometimes weird ends up awesome!!



Yes, Kit is closing the lid of the toilet while Grace points out Antarctica.

I have a little thought bubble in my head of my kids someday, mostly grown, and stating with great amusement that they learned geography in the bathroom! 

"Whenever we didn't know where a country was, my parents would always tell us, 'Go look in the bathroom!"

Hahaha!

And as for Victor, well...we may never get him out of there ever again!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Conversation Vacation

Me: Ewww! What is that white thing on the plant?

Zak: It's a tissue.

Victor: (sarcastically teasing) Yeah, Mommy, of course it's a tissue!

What I said: Well then, get another tissue and throw it (the one on the plant) away.

What they heard: Well then, get another tissue and throw it (the new tissue) away. (As in instead of the one on the plant)

Zak: Uh...okay?? You want me to get another tissue and throw it away?

Victor: (knowing what I meant, but only after first thinking exactly what Zak was still thinking, and still in a sassy mood) Well, of course! Because it makes perfect sense to get another tissue and throw it away, because nobody wants to throw away the mystery tissue on the plant!

Me: Right, sorry,  I forgot I live in literal land. Please use another tissue to pick up the tissue already on the plant, so that you don't have to touch it with your fingers, and then throw them both away. Right? Right. Good.  Thank you...This is why I'm insane.

I'm sure you noticed that there was no why and how about a tissue on the plant. Yeah. We don't even ask anymore. We really don't even want to know. Life here is...strange. But, never boring!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blossoming

I have many moments when I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. That I am not helping my family to progress or work toward our goals well enough.

Like many mom's, I become overwhelmed with guilt and doubt. And all the things I'm doing wrong seem to stare at me and follow me around nagging at me. And after a while you do begin to believe it. Even just a little. And then you question yourself, a lot.

But every now and then you also get a glimpse of what you're doing right. You suddenly realize that all the work is beginning to show and that your seedlings are bursting up toward the sun.

We like watching plants grow in time lapse because the actual real time practice is arduous, painful and often boring.

Sometimes waiting for our work as parents to sprout can be just as little fun. Until...that moment when you see it!

That breakthrough, no matter how small! And you almost forget the back ache and mud on your pants, because... Look! It's here! It's growing! Reaching! Helping itself toward the sun.

I had one of those moments this weekend. I shared it on an Autism support site that I'm part of, and then I wanted to share it here too.

It's both a little thing and a huge deal all at once. Kind of like those picture's in Reader's Digest where they show you a small zoomed in part of a photograph,  and it is amazing, but then you turn the page and it shows the whole thing, and it is a whole, huge, different amazing.

That is Kit lately.

And here is what I wrote:

I gave my daughter a bath tonight. She handed me a dinosaur and we played that my dino was trying to save the Lemon Meringue toy from my daughter. She was laughing and giggling and playing along and if I stopped for a second to wipe my face or change my position she would say "play with me!". Then when I was done playing she kept going with the game herself only she was the dino saving the girl.

She could not do this six months ago. Her bath time back then consisted of lining up poker chips along the back wall and putting plastic hangers on and off of her legs. She never asked us to "play with me!" And though we tried every bath to engage her in play, she would look at us like that was stupidest thing any human had ever attempted and then ignored or got mad at any further attempts.

Six months ago, my baby didn't know how to play. Nobody understood this, until our OT came along. All she did was dump and scatter, or line things up. Her eyes were anxious or at the very least distant.

Now she plays! She will engage and participate in back and forth games, and she goes along with imaginary scenarios and is starting to explore some of her own.

All the professionals thought I was paranoid and over concerned by seeking her diagnosis so early. THEY WERE WRONG!!

My daughter was diagnosed in Aug 2013 at the age of 23 months. She has been in OT and ABA since Oct and Nov, respectively. Today, she is 29 months old and is a completely different child!! Everyone says so, even those who doubted her dx to begin with. In Feb last year she had lost her vocabulary of over 20 words to only 1 functional word. By Aug, she had a vocabulary of about 20 words, but knew well over 200 signs and used ASL to communicate. She still uses signs, especially on bad days when her words get stuck, but now on average days her language and vocabulary exceed that of an average four year old!

Do not give up on your kids! And do not let the "professionals" make you feel like the "crazy lady/man". We have instincts for a reason!

♥♥♥

A few weeks ago in one of her emails to me, a friend said this about Kit...

"And is it just me, or has she really blossomed in the last few months?! I'm so glad."

But because that guilty mom in me still knows all of the weak areas, the things that we've let slide, and her still daily struggles, I didn't reply right away because I wasn't sure how or what to say. But now I do, because I was reminded not to miss the little big things!

Yes! She has blossomed! Like an entire azalea bush just blazing with flowers!! A hot pink mess of gorgeous!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Helping Little Hearts

This post may contain triggers for some individuals. The stories we share here though may help other families find the resources and help they need. Thank you so much for visiting here today.





Most of us with children heard our babies heartbeats before we ever saw them on an ultrasound screen.

We eagerly anticipated each appointment because we would get to hear that swooshy, steady gallop.

We speculated about whether it would be a girl because it was 169 beats per minute one week, and then the next we were just sure it was a boy at 135.

There is hardly a more precious sound to expectant parents than that steady evidence of a vibrant life, exceeded in elation perhaps only by baby's first cry.


***

"In the US, about 7,200 (or 18 per 10,000) babies born each year have one of seven critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs)" 

The above statistic is a direct quote from an article on the CDC website in regard to Pulse Oximetry Screening of newborns.

7,200 babies born EACH YEAR!!

According to the National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities, approximately 12,000 babies are born every year with hearing loss. With little exception, every baby born in the United States is given a hearing screening before it is 48 hours old.

This practice is admirable. Many families have been able to intervene almost immediately for reversible conditions, or begin learning how to communicate with their child if their condition is permanent or if they choose to wait for further medical intervention.

Hearing loss, however, is not potentially fatal.

Many congenital heart defects can be, if they are not detected early enough to be reversed or repaired or at the very least, monitored.

So why aren't more hospitals screening for these?!!

I'm going to tell you a story.

I had the fun experience of being pregnant at the same time as one of my best friends. Since my doctor was in her town, we would often have a chance to visit after my doctors appointments. Her son was born seven weeks before my daughter. I went to see them, and snuggle him. They came to see us, and snuggle her. It was wonderful!

At two months old, my daughter I accompanied my mom to Texas to visit with my grandfather for a few days. While I was there, I recieved a heartbreaking call from my friend's mom. Her baby was in the hospital and very sick, there was a problem with his heart.

That night after leaving a voice mail full of "I love yous" and "we are praying so hard for yous", I sat down on a stone wall and cried. I felt so powerless. Waiting was agony, and it wasn't even my child.

I didn't know at the time that this family I treasure were preparing for the worst and even saying their goodbyes to their precious baby boy. A boy who had been alert, smiling, cooing, nursing just that very morning.

A day went by. Then another. The doctors couldn't find the problem. Then when they finally had a theory, they couldn't confirm it with the equipment they had. After what felt like forever, he was taken by helicopter to the Cardiac Unit at the Children's Hospital in New Orleans. Within hours, the doctors there had identified the problem, and at the tender age of three months old, he underwent open heart surgery.

I was back home when I got a late night call from his mom in which she informed me that after the surgery a transparent protective sheath is placed over the surgery site, which is monitored closely for a period of time before they close up the incision site, "Judy! I saw my baby's heart! I saw my baby's heart beating away! The surgery went good and he's going to be ok!!" 

She and her husband lived at the hospital for six weeks, and when they brought him home he had to stay at home for another two months to continue to heal and avoid infection. But, he was home.

Today he's a busy two and a half year year old. He's as sweet as can be, has the bluest eyes, and loves to snuggle, especially with his Mama!

The only evidence of his ordeal is the two medications he still takes daily, and a matching "zipper" on his chest as his Grandpa and namesake. Plus an annual visit to a cardiologist.

Every year 7,200 babies in the U.S. alone are born with a critical congenital heart defect. It is approximated that up to 33,000 more have congenital defects that are not critical or life threatening. That is approximately 40,000 babies with heart defects!

My best friend didn't know that. I did not know that. My husband, mother, sisters, and most of our friends, do not know this! 

There are babies in hospitals all over the world fighting for their lives just like her's did. He won, but other families don't always have the gift of bringing their babies home. And some of those families might have had a better chance of doing that if they knew their baby was at higher risk to begin with.

Would an early screening have meant that doctors might have found her son's defect sooner?

His defect affects only 1 in 400,000 babies.

We don't know for sure. His defect was very rare. It didn't seem to cause symptoms until it suddenly stopped his heart from working properly. A screening in the hospital may not have detected it. But it might have, and it can for many others.

If hospitals screen for hearing loss, which is not fatal, how many lives could be saved if they also screened for critical congenital heart defects, which sadly, can be?

We should not live in fear. But we can be informed. And we can share and help spread awareness so that others can be better prepared as well.

Please, visit the sites I have linked in this post. And then share what you learn with your family, friends, co-workers. Share these links with as many as you can. I would be honored for you to share this post, or a link to it on your social media sites, blogs, or emails. Share your stories in the comments and with each other.

The CHIN website,  has many more links to very helpful information.




The ALCAPA diagram and the information banner below are just a few items my friend shared with me via Pinterest. There is abundant information available online for those interested in learning more. 


congenital-heart-defect

Source: Top Nursing Programs

I have not recieved any compensation whatsoever for this post. The links and information I have included is to help spread awareness and provide educational resources. It is a cause very special to my own heart, so I hope it touches others.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Being Best Friends



What is a best friend?

It's the one who wakes up thinking about you, and then let's you know that by sitting on the other side of the baby gate meowing for you to get up so you can snuggle and play together.

It's the one that greets you with happiness so loud it sounds like a motor humming away. 

The one that wants to spend all his free time hanging out with you...





The one that knows all your inside jokes.


Likes to visit and hang out on cold mornings.


Is always game for hide and seek.




Or building a clubhouse.


Or dumpster diving.


Or doing a little shopping!

It's the one, when you dump blueberry yogurt on his back...


...is like, "it's ok Boo, it's my favorite flavor."



It's the one who'll watch the same movies with you over and over.

It's the one that you fight with, but always comes back, no hard feelings.

It's the one that's with you when you make most of your mischief.

It's the one who makes you giggle.

It's the one that makes you cry, and then shares a hug, and then makes you giggle again.

And the one who's in almost every story with you cuz you have all your adventures together.

The one that loves you for who you are, and misses you when you're gone.


Yup.

That is what a best friend is!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

3 for 30 Challenge Wrap Up

Well, I didn't actually get rid of 90 things in 30 days.

It took me 40!

I have continued adding to the piles and can now say that, though it took me longer than I had hoped, I DID FINISH!

Here is a run down of the twelve last challenge items/groups (I only had nine left to collect, but i gave myself a penalty of adding three more things!):

1.) 3 porcelain dolls that have been sleeping in a drawer for nearly a year for their own protection (two of which were already broken which is all the proof I need that we are not a porcelain doll family)

2.) My nursing pump.

3.) Broken and unused outside toys.

4.) Two old pillows that just lump up terribly when washed.

5.) Several school items that we had borrowed from my sister were returned.

6.) Old coloring books, full spiral notebooks, dried up markers, broken crayons, and pencils were thrown away.

7.) One baby gate.

8.) Cleaned out old and expired pantry items.

9.) Broken plasticware, lids with no containers, a few containters without lids.

10.) Broken, widowed, or otherwise unsuitable for wear earings and necklaces.

11.) Our old and outgrown or otherwise un-ridable bicycles.

12.) Several games that have too many missing parts to play anymore.

All totaled, we as a family have gotten rid of either by way of throwing away, giving away, or pawning away...HUNDREDS of individual items.

While some of these have been replaced with better functioning items, most were simply stored stuff that has been taking up space, both in our home and in my head!

I still have a long way to go to getting and keeping our home organized to our needs. But this challenge has given us a great jump start and helped clear the way for progress!

Now if you'll excuse me, I still have a few more drop-offs to make!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cheer me up

Throughout the days and weeks I tend to snap screenshots or pictures of the things that make me smile or contemplate. I think the great majority of us often need daily reminders to take a second and smile, breathe, pray, or hug. These are just a few of the things that have recently made me smile, lightened my mood, or made me meditate and more determined to keep pressing ever onward. Hope they make you smile too.














My sister sent me the next one and said it sounded like my son...I read it and was like, 'Ahhhhh! I thought I tipped that waitress enough not to say anything!' Just kidding, but it does sound like something my son would totally do! 




And, for a few good laughs about the fun of homeschooling check out this post!

Stay warm everybody!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Inspiration

Zak decided to spend his quiet time making a mural. A brilliantly illustrated mural with uplifting and charming words of wisdom and jeweled with smiles. He hung it on the wall to make us all smile, but I love that he made it just because he felt inspired.

He liked it so much that he made another one the next day with just faces. All kinds of faces. But the one it brings up on mine is a warm happy smile.


Hope it gives you something to smile about also!