Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Teal Pumpkin Project

 
Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project?


It was started in order to raise awareness about food allergies and provide non-food treats to hand out to kids trick-or-treating. You can get more information at foodallergy.org as well as find some good resources to help spread the word and advocate about the teal pumpkin project.

We are participating this year. Nobody at our house has food allergies, but I have a sister with some pretty extreme food allergies and know several children who do as well. It isn't that hard to pick up some extra tinkets to hand out and it can make a huge difference to kids who just want to have a fun, safe night. We will have our normal candy in one bowl and our second bowl will contain our non-food items: stickers, pencils, tattoos, bracelets, glow bracelets, and mini rubber ducks. You kind find things at the Dollar Store, Wal-mart, Target, Amazon... or if you get your act together early enough check out Oriental Trading Company.


I had talked to the kids about it and of course they were happy to do any fun project and even helped pick out the items to hand out. When it came to the painting I really had to keep myself in check about having the pumpkin look perfect... this was for them. We picked up a cheap, fake pumpkin at the store to color and after mixing the paint I let Will and Lana go at it with little interference from me.

I think it turned out alright. You have no idea how hard it was for me to NOT get spray paint and just paint over the whole thing over myself. Self-control... nailed it!

 Would you consider joining in?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When the siblings come to therapy


You have a diagnosis. You have the referral. It's time for you child to start therapy... but you've got to bring along another child (or 2 or 3) and aren't sure how this is going to work.

No fear! This can be done. I've been doing it almost from the beginning of our journey with Apraxia.

When William was first evaluated I was VERY pregnant with Alanna. Shortly after she was born, Will started his therapies in earnest. Lana has been attending her brother's therapy her whole life, she knows nothing else. I have people ask how I do it and I shrug and say, "you do what you have to do."

Here are some tips with what to do with the sibling(s) when your child has therapy.

Find a sitter. I have known many families who will leave the other child or children at home with dad, or grandma, or auntie, or friend. There were a few times I have been able to do it... and loved it! It relieves a lot of stress. You can be more involved in therapy or you can take a time out to spend on yourself. This is an awesome solution, but not always practical. We don't have family nearby to help and spending more money for a sitter wasn't worth it for us, so Alanna is pretty much always in accompaniment.

If you can leave the facility: DO IT! William had 90-120 minute block therapies at one point. During that time I would leave and go to the YMCA for a workout while Lana played in child watch. It. Was. Awesome! I've also taken a long therapy session for a time to run errands - grocery shopping, post office, take dog for grooming, etc. The other kid would just tag along, like usual. It was very helpful to be productive with our time. If the scheduling works out, you might even have the sibling signed up for a special class like ballet, karate, or swim lessons so they are doing something when it is time for therapy.

If you can't leave the facility: Not all places allow parents to leave the property while the child is receiving services. We are facing that now. I have an almost 3-hour chunk of time to fill while sitting at an office with Alanna. So what do you do?
  • Small Baby
    • If at all possible, schedule to have therapy during naptime. When we had in-home services it was great for me to have the baby put down so that I could be involved and interacting with the therapists. We also had office therapies. It was wonderful when she would nap, but that wasn't always the case. I think it was easier when Alanna was so little because it wasn't too much work to hold a baby or let her have tummy time while big brother was doing therapy.
  • Mobile Baby 
    • This is when things began to get harder. Baby wants to go, go, go! I wanted to participate in the therapy sessions so at times we would include Lana in them (like at feeding therapy) or just let her move about the rooms doing her own investigating and checking out sensory toys. Most places of therapy for children are very accommodating of siblings. Alanna was always nearby, but it can be distracting. If the baby was too much of a disturbance we would leave the session and hang out in the lobby. Make sure you bring your own toys and food* to keep the little one occupied.
Playing outside with the flowers while waiting for brother at Hippotherapy. Yes she's dirty, but she was having fun!
  • Toddler
    • Have any concerns about the sibling's development at your child's therapy? A lot of places will give a free or informal evaluation, especially if they are familiar with you. Just by observing, some of the physical therapists commented on Alanna's "W" sit she would always do, so they brought it to our attention and even physically evaluated her joints. No worries though, she's fine. It is a relief to be around professionals who can give you a heads up if something is wrong or ease your concerns - if one child has issues you fear the other might as well.
    • A toddler can also be difficult at therapy. Around this time we slowly had to transition from participating in all of Will's therapies to sitting more in the lobby. This, thankfully, was also the time when we would go to the gym. BUT, if we did stay I would bring small activities to fill up our time. Basic coloring, playdough*, favorite toys, a new or rarely played with toy, books... we were even allowed to go play in a therapy room by ourselves that wasn't in use. And if behavior disintegrated too much, we would just wait in the car outside so as not to disturb everyone.
Yes, my daughter is in pajamas and rubber boots with un-brushed hair. It's those early morning therapy sessions... you do what you have to do.

  • PreSchooler
    • At this point, I think things begin to get easier. PreSchoolers are inquisitive and active. We would bring simple activities like sticker books, coloring, a special toys to play with, and books to read. By this age most children will watch movies or programs (some even in the toddler years), so we would bring the LeapPad or the iPad with fun apps and movies to help fill our time. If you're lucky, the facility might also provide a television or play area in the lobby to entertain the sibling.
  • School Age
    • We are finally reaching this stage. Hallelujah! A lot of things you do with a preschooler can be used in the school age category. The plus is that by this time the sibling probably has homework. Being at therapy allows a time to actually get it done. They will act bored anyway, you might as well get something useful done. And you can give the incentive that if they can get their homework done, then they can do the other "fun" activities until therapy is over.
I have heard other parents make comments that those who sit in the lobby aren't involved or just don't care as much about the work their child in therapy is doing. I kind of want to slap them. I'm being honest. We work hard with our son on a daily basis and if I could I would probably sit in on almost all of his services. That just doesn't work for us. Something you might miss if you never sit in the lobby is the support and friendships you can make with other parents of special needs kids. I have met some very interesting people and learned about some amazing services or doctors or testing that can be done just by talking with the other parents in the waiting room.

Best of luck on your own therapy adventures.

* Be conscious of the rules at your place of therapy. Some places will not allow food or playdough because of allergens.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just what I needed: Coffee with a Friend


I had the wonderful pleasure of joining a friend and her beautiful baby boy for coffee this morning. Because I head out right after dropping off the kids at school, I'm there first. My handy Kindle keeps me company (best gift ever!).

Here's the thing about me meeting people for coffee: I'm only a social coffee drinker. I know... I'm from the Seattle area and I'm not addicted to caffeine! Say what?! But I will happily meet up with people and get a drink. And it is usually decaf. Especially like today where I hadn't eaten anything. I get jittery anyway if I drink normal coffee, but if I have nothing in my stomach beforehand I turn into this crazy, frenzied woman who won't stop talking (and notably shaking).

Usually Jessica and I do our running together several times a week, but she's still waiting for results from her x-ray and currently has her foot stuck in a boot from a possible stress fracture so we have not been meeting.

I miss it.

Although I don't enjoy running, I love spending that time with Jessica. We talk about life, share stories, grumble about the typical marriage/family issues, and give encouragement. This friend is special since we are the same age, made it through AFIT together, and as she is a school psychologist she understands the stuff we go through with William.

So, after not meeting for about a week I texted her and basically said that we needed to meet up for coffee since I have been missing our time together. She felt the same.

I'm thankful for her. This is the first place we've been stationed where I already had a true friend from before and it has made things easier. I am making new friends here, but it takes awhile to get to know people well. It makes me wonder what a long term friendship with somebody since childhood would be like since I don't have that... I guess you can say it is a by product of growing up a military child. As it stands, my best friend is a 10.5-hour drive away and my closest "real" family member nearly a 12-hour drive in the opposite direction.

This makes me want to give advice: wherever you are, no matter how long you have lived there or how many friends you already have -- there is always room in your life to make new ones. You never will know what you're missing or how much your life can grow if you keep your personal walls up!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Filler

I've fallen behind in blogging! There are new posts to read, posts to write, and some I've already gotten started but need to actually finish. Problem comes in that I usually use the main desktop computer for blogging and doing photos... but the hubby has it all tied up working on a project. That leaves me to chill with the laptop.

So here's what's going on Currently:

  • I'm despising laundry. It is never ending. I probably folded 4 loads today and there are more waiting to be washed.
  • Watching Netflix. Yet again. Trying to catch up on Bones so I can start the new season!
  • Finished preparing the kids' stuff for tomorrow only to realize Alanna will probably not attend school tomorrow after throwing up a couple times tonight. No fever. Not sure what's going on there.
  • Feeling lazy after skipping another run this morning. My running buddy may have a stress fracture in her foot so she's laid up. And since I completely slack off without accountability... yeah... my run didn't happen.
Nothing too exciting. We are preparing for Halloween. The kids keep doing a countdown. This year I purchased costumes instead of making them, but honestly it was worth it. I look forward to the fun ahead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

1-Minute Cookie in a Mug


After the clock passes 8pm and the children are in bed... I occassionally get struck with a hankering for chocolate chip cookies.

Here's a secret: I don't actually like "baking" cookies. Mix up the dough? SURE! Eat the dough? BONUS! But the part of repeatedly sticking the cookie dough on the pan and putting it in the oven and then taking those cookies out to cool before eating kind of annoys me. I know, I sound lazy. (But this does not take away from the enjoyment of eating cookies!)

Oh, and between the hubby and my kids, if I have made cookies they only last a couple days. Bummer.

So I recently discovered something to give me my cookie fix when I'm in need.

Cookie in a Mug! Chhh-yeah!

I had heard of cake in a mug and brownie in a mug. A quick online search turned up a few different cookie in a mug recipes and I was hooked.

Such a wonderful treat that hits those sweet cravings. And in the off chance you don't have an egg (like I did the first time I made this recipe) add in a spash of milk instead, microwave and enjoy basically eating your personalized fixing of warm, delicious cookie dough.

What are you waiting for?! Grab a glass of milk, ready a spoonful of ice cream to dollop on top, and savor the special treat of Cookie in a Mug for yourself or to share with a friend.

1-Minute Chocolate Chip Cookie In A Mug Recipe (found HERE).

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon butter (it calls for unsalted, but I use salted)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar, firmly packed (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt (pinch)
1 egg yolk
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 Tablespoons chocolate chips - DO NOT overdo the chocolate chips or you'll end up with chocolatly mush in a mug.

DIRECTIONS
Microwave butter in mug for about 20-30 seconds until melted. With a spoon stir in sugars, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add in egg yolk, mixing until no sign of yolk is visible. Add in flour until well-combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Microwave on high for 40-50 seconds. Though it may not look fully cooked on top, it is fully cooked below. Allow to cool a little and enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

In the Breeze


From what I've discovered, many bloggers who try to keep up a regular schedule have difficulty coming up with topics. I mostly write about things going on in our lives... which isn't always fascinating. Other times there are minor things that occur which I barely mention.

Several bloggers that I follow have created a sort of bullet list update to let readers know of different things going on. (Jessica, I'm thinking of you and Casey foremost!)

With this week being what it was... this works for me. If I were to chat with you, say shoot the breeze, this is what I would likely talk about.

What I've Been Up To
Being boring! While the kids are at school I either go running or volunteer at the school (last time I was in the library shelving books). When Lana is home I do some chores, read, watch something, and play with her. I have made a new friend so occasionally we hang out and try to do something fun (usually with Lana in tow). I feel like a lame-o! Nothing very exciting has been going on. I feel bogged down by the kids' school, therapies, housework, and taking care of everybody else that when I don't have something pressing I really just want to kick back and chill.

Watching
I'm so happy the fall season of shows is FINALLY back on! Survivor, Amazing Race, Grey's Anatomy, Doctor Who, DWTS! Ahh! It fills up the lonely time in the evening when the kids are in bed and Ryan is doing his own thing. Besides cable, I've got my Netflix. After finishing Grand Hotel (amazing - if you don't mind subtitles or if you speak Spanish) and the final season of HIMYM I have moved on to catching up on Bones and recently discovered Gilmore Girls (which I have never seen).

Reading
Everything I can get my hands on! With our Amazon Prime account I was able to sign up for a free month subscription of Kindle Unlimited. I can't stop finding good things to read... but I'm still uncertain if it is worth $10 a month. Last week I read Brave New World among other books. A few days ago I finished an interesting biography on Prince Leopold (the son of Queen Victoria who suffered from hemophilia). Currently I'm reading an abridged copy of The Princess Bride. Today I borrowed Gone Girl from my friend so I may have to give P.B. a break to finish the new book so I can see the movie soon.

Something to mention
I don't think I shared yet, but we have fish. The kids each picked out a Beta and every morning they are thrilled to feed them. It's my responsibility to clean out the tank though. Will has a blue fish he named Joey. Lana got a purple-ish fish she named Twilight Sparkle. I don't care if people think fish are boring, I love having them and the kids feel responsible for them.

Thinking about...
A long road trip. Tegan and I are still discussing our road trip to Washington with the kiddos next summer. I really hope it works out because besides seeing family sometimes I really just want to be back in the Pacific Northwest for a spell. Also, I've been seeing the Balloon Fiesta pics blowing up my FB wall so I'm kind of missing Albuquerque too. I really did think about running away for a long weekend by myself to spend some time in ABQ which would just happen to coincide with Balloon Fiesta, but figured I needed to stick around and take care of life here.

The Boy
Will's therapies truly picked up this week. Poor kid is getting worn out... and we haven't added one final therapy yet. His days are long and with nightly homework from both school and therapy I think he gets pretty angry at me. But last night I turned on one of the DIY or HGTV channels for a bit before bedtime and he curled right up with me and chatted with me about the work being done on the houses. He loves watching construction and demolition work. I'm glad we can do it together.

The Girl
Alanna is blossoming in school. She absolutely loves it. Everyday she comes home singing songs or telling me about what one of her friends did in class. Her quick ability to learn is evident and her teacher always comments on how bright she is. I am aware of this, especially when working with Will on his homework. Lana wants to please me by trying to answer questions before her brother and I just need her to go back to her Wild Kratts show (which she loves) so Will can do his own homework! The kid has been dragged around to all her brother's therapies since she was born. Sometimes I feel bad that neither of them have much time to just go play outside at home, but this is the hand we've been dealt.

Found this:
The other day I came across a blog article and the writer is the mother of a son with Apraxia. She posted 5 Truths Apraxia Will Teach You and I cried when I read it. She gets it. I get it. I looked around her site and found other posts she'd written about being a mom of a special needs kid... I swear, I found a kindred spirit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

(More) Teacher Gifts



I have started to keep track of our teacher and therapist gifts.

When school started in August we were in a new place with all new people. And because I wasn't completely on top of back-to-school shopping I had to just keep things simple with teacher gifts... almost completely repeating what we did last year. But, as I said, all new people... so it didn't matter.

This is what was we gave to Will & Lana's teachers at the start of the 2014/2015 school year:


  • Tissues
  • Fun Band-Aids
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Advil
  • Cough Drops
  • Chapstick
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Personal Note/Card (our cards said something like: 'Looking forward to a fun year in your class' or 'I'm so happy to be in your class' and they signed their names to it.)
  • Small gift bag

I'm all about trying to keep our teachers healthy! I know that when school starts up the sharing of germs goes CRAZY! I want to make things simple so teachers can keep the items with them in their purses or desks in case they need them. This year, Lana's teacher told me after a few weeks that because of the weather she had been using the chapstick all the time and it was her favorite student gift so far. Will's teacher said she was definitely going to get some use out of those cough drops.

It makes me happy to give a little something to these people who spend so much time with my kiddos.

Do you do anything special for your teachers?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Encouraging Therapy Developments


As of right now I'm hoping we are looking on a brighter side to our therapy issues. Perhaps there was a reason the other place didn't work out... maybe we needed to go to this other one.

We finally got in for evaluations at the new place. I have to admit, I was leery of going since the location is not known for being a good part of the city. But after getting into the building and meeting some of the people I was put at ease.

On our first visit, Will was evaluated for Speech and Physical Therapy. I was called into the office to discuss his case with the owner of the practice. Everything she shared with me on Will's speech and language was nothing new. He is an obvious Apraxic diagnosis - apparently. The difference was that in the past nearly every therapist has told us it was unlikely William would ever speak normally and he would have significant, obvious speech issues for his entire life. This therapist said that with increased therapy and a specialized program to work on at home my son could likely have almost completely normal speech before high school, maybe even before junior high. According to her, it is all about neural re-mapping.

Tears flowed.

As a parent, you always want so much for your kids. You want them to be normal. You want them to be accepted. When dealing with special needs you can get bogged down in the fog of therapies and small, slow improvements so it can be difficult to see the big picture or even look up from the battle you are waging. Once you are given the hope... a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak... it can be overwhelming.

We still have a long, hard road but we will persevere.

Then I talked with the physical therapist. Again, she didn't share anything new and agreed that William is getting close to graduating out of physical therapy. He still needs to address overall strength and balance and flexibility and coordination but he is doing well.

A week later we had the Occupational Therapy evaluation. Again, nothing new to share. It seemed everybody was getting a pretty accurate and fair assessment of my son.

We are now on the schedule for this week and hope to have regular, permanent appointments very soon. It looks like Will could be increased in speech from two 30-minute sessions a week to three 45-minute sessions a week in addition to his one-hour a week each of physical therapy and occupational therapy. At this point, I'm just happy to be receiving anything at all!

Once our schedule settles and I finally know what to expect each week I think we *might* be able to add something fun the kids and I have been talking about: dance and/or karate lessons.

Friday, October 3, 2014

What I've Been Eying V

Welcome October! I usually enjoy this month, but it's my first October in Texas so we shall see how it goes. The weather is cooling off a bit so I'm finding myself more comfortable. Pretty soon I will be able to wear my favorite fall boots!

Just as I think I've figured out what my day-to-day will look like, something comes up. I either volunteer for something, make a new friend, find a new show to binge watch on Netflix, start a business... whatever. I feel a bit scattered lately but I hope I find a balance soon.

Anyway, on to what I've Been Eying. For this month I think it kind of mixes with my bouncy ball interests... a little bit of everything.



1. A Bread Machine. Yes, I know I can make it without a machine, in fact I did so just this weekend. But I want to do make fresh bread more often and making a disaster of my kitchen every other day just bugs me. I want to be lazy and get a bread machine... though I'm not sure which one. I'm currently looking at this Cuisinart one but I really need to check out more reviews.

2. I recently opened my etsy shop. Everything is just starting up but I've already had orders. Apparently my magnetic visual schedule is something of interest. Anyway, in order to help speed up production I've been looking at paper trimmers. I am sort of infatuated with the X-ACTO big laser trimmer, but having that large blade in our house with the kids makes me a little nervous. So perhaps a more simpler, safer, and cheaper option like the Fiskars one might be a smarter choice. I'm not too sure how well the blades would hold up to magnetic sheets but it's pretty inexpensive so I might be willing to give it a shot.

3. School started. I need a solution to organize the forest worth of papers my children bring home everyday. Sometimes, I swear, it feels like I'm swimming in paper! Right now I just lay things out on the entryway table... which isn't exactly the best sight to welcome people with. I've been scanning Pinterest for ideas to help with the problem. Currently I'm taken in by the magazine holder that Sunny Side Up posted about. Maybe I can create my own working version for our home.

4. While the kids are at school I am training for a 10K. My first 10K. I have a friend I knew from Ohio who is also stationed with me in Texas now and we are running together. Thing is... I'm in need of new sports bras. As it is I have to double up, and I hate to admit it, but I'm even using some sports bras that I bought before I was pregnant with William. (*gasp!*) Since I've been *ahem* blessed in that region, I need some good support. I found the Glamorise Women's Double-Layer Custom-Control Sports Bra and I'm thinking I may have found a winner.

5. This month's book choice: The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie. Let's get yet another fix of YA dystopian genre! I heard it was good, fascinating, and an interesting read... and since I've sort of been in a ravenous reading mood I am crossing books off my to-read list pretty quick (uhh... 6 books in 13 days). I think it might be cheaper to get each book separate for the kindle rather than the collection as one, so I should look into that.


So... what have YOU got your eye on?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Look Back: Hiking Mt. Takao with the Vaders

After being able to find and download all my old Myspace blogs I am doing some look backs on the adventures we experienced while living in Japan. These have been left exactly how I wrote them in my early 20's -- in all my immature, na├»ve, and ineloquent glory. Pictures have been added.

We had been living in Japan for about 8 months... I was homesick and lonely when some family friends were in Japan to see their old exchange student (with her family) and stopped by to visit. Then they took me on an adventure to Hike Mt. Takao.


========================
 
May 4, 2006
 
I am beat. It was a great day... and now I am exhausted!
 
Norm & Shirley Vader came into Japan and took the time to visit with us which was totally awesome of them. They are a wonderful couple and I can only hope my marriage is as good as theirs someday. Along with them came a Japanese family of four they were staying with.

Anyway, after much confusion with cars (mine was too small) we had American food for lunch and just caught up on things. We did some base shopping and all that, they came over, we watched the planes, pet the rabbit, drove around the base... la de da de da.
we had a little bunny named Max.
this picture is more for posterity sake: what our old apartment looked like
Ryan had to work, so we high jacked him before leaving and he got to spend about 10 minutes in all visiting with us. He then returned to work.
oh wow! Flashback: Old school BDUs!
I was invited to hike Mt. Takao with everyone, which I happily accepted. OMG!!! I am so tired! I'd say it's probably a moderate hike... it's not a climb, but it's no walk in the park. We rode the cable car up to a certain point, which was a cool ride. I swear, it felt just like Disneyland only the conductor spoke in Japanese and I had no idea what he was saying. As we went along the trails there were gorgeous views to see, uneven and rocky stairs, gravel, temples, shrines, trees and plants. There were also dogs and people. At the top you could see Mt. Fuji, but unfortunately it wasn't completely clear so we could just make out the outline of the volcano.
Me with Shirley and her former exchange student's family. Norm was taking all the photos.
From the cable car stop to the top it probably took about an hour to an hour and a half. Getting down took like a third.
We were all hungry so we went to Tachikawa for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I probably had the best fried rice in my life there. After that I came home... to an already sleeping husband.
Of course, I was a genius and did not bring my camera to all of this. The batteries were dead anyway. So once the Vaders get home and make a disc or something, they'll send me the pictures.

Peace ya'll! I'm going to bed now.