Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Right There All Along!

Kids really are sponges sometimes.  You never know what they pick up on and most of the time you only find out in the most embarrassing moments when they regurgitate it out in public at a not so appropriate forum.  Personal experience, trust me!

If we underestimate neurotypical children, we are more guilty of doing so for disabled children.  I'm totally at fault for this despite the wonder that Bubby has been in my life.   Bubby is still considered non-verbal even though he has a few single words.  Many times these words need to be prompted for him to say it but he surprised me the other night and taught me a good lesson.

At church the kids learn songs each year related to the theme.  Because he has no voice of his own, I worked hard to find videos, learn and help him sign these songs.  He definitely has his favorites and Choose the Right is the one most often requested.  We've prompted him so that at the right time he is able to say 'choose' or 'right' (albeit a little delayed) which makes him happy.  We'd recently been learning a new song which talks about obedience to God.  The chorus is, "I will go,  I will do the things the Lord commands".  Pumpkin loves the song, it's got a catchy rhythms and melody so I was singing and signing it the other night when I decided to pause at 'go' and see Bubby's response.  Clear as can be he yelled, "Go!!"  Admittedly I was pretty proud, but it was a familiar word in his small repertoire so I moved on and paused at 'do'.  Lo and behold, he changed the shape of his lips and gave a breathy "do".  I was a little shocked.

There is something called receptive language and expressive language.  For example a stroke victim can understand everything they hear but their expressive language may no longer be there due to their injuries.  The word 'do' is not as concrete as 'go' and nothing Bubby has ever used before let alone been coached to use.  He has heard me sing the song plenty of times, but I have never paused to have him fill it it.  He was mentally singing along with me in order for him to know what was next.  Yes there was a delay before he said the word, but the delay was not any longer than typical (the time it takes for his brain to get his lips and tongue to move as he wants let along the breath to push out so the word can be heard) He was right there with me all along!

I had Bud film it the second time.  I wondered if it was a fluke, the words are rather similar, but sure enough he did again and has done it many times since.

It has made me wonder what I say about him in his hearing.  How often do I lower expectations, when is it reasonable to raise them and when do they become too high.  On the other hand, if I don't raise these expectations I'm doing him a disservice.  Frankly I know that when I don't raise expectations it's because it's harder - more work for me, more struggles but then there's the other side of the coin, there will be more triumphs and more joy.

I've always need to re-examine myself as a parent, my limited viewpoint and readjust to see more.  We all do for all our children but especially those with special needs.  As so many say, "Don't limit me!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Surviving and Thriving in June

June is insane for me.  Between two birthdays, father's day, swim meets and practices and cub scout day camp - feel like I come out of June smoking and frazzled as if I'd been electrically shocked.  We're only half way through but despite all the demands, it is a wonderful time for growth and memories.

Swim team is in full swing and this year, unlike the past, Bud has decided he really wants to work to qualify for the finals.  This means going to his 7am practice and also an additional stroke class at 11:45.  (in between I drive Bug to her hour practice as well.)  Home meets are typically once a week but competing in more meets means more chances of doing a qualifying time.  The summers here are dreadful and sitting in 100 degree weather with only a spray bottle to cool really drips of blood and sweat and my tears!  I truly hate how much it sucks up our schedule for the six weeks but this year, THIS year I'm willing to make the sacrifice to a greater degree because I have never seen so much drive in my boy.

We've known some of these boys for the last three years but many have matured into wonderful athelets with great sportsmanship.  Bud is the slowest in the pack and the usually the least serious, but these boys have planted in him the seed to truly strive for more.  They always tell him he's doing a good job, they point out when his times are getting shorter and he's closer to being in the finals with them, one always shakes hands with his opponents after completing the race, they warmly welcome him in all their side games.  It's so heartwarming to see and I know these are things I can't teach him on my own.  So I've committed to get him to as many meets as possible, to pay for the extra swim classes and really encourage him in his practices.  It's paid off, he's seen his times improve and he sees that while great efforts produce hundredths of seconds of improvement, it is still improvement and there's joy in it.

With attending more meets, Bug-love has joined in too.  She really doesn't care for it much but when the reward is an ice cream treat for each meet, she has found motivation to attend.  She herself has improved her times as well and the sisters of these boys have slowly drawn her out a little more each time.  Her introvert heart longs for a quiet intimate chat which is impossible with the boisterious game these boys play but secretly I think she's having fun too.  Her friend Alex put an arm around her and lovingly dragged her into the picture!

We also had our first homeschool bookclub on "The One and Only Ivan".  So much came in the way of four families meeting together, but we finally managed to get two to meet to eat yogurt covered raisins, mangos, fingerpaint a favorite part of the book as well as watch a short video on the real gorilla.  It was really fun and a good way to get us use to the idea of opening our home to a larger homeschool group since this fall we will be hosting the youngest set of kiddos in the coop which will be well over 15 kids.

It doesn't matter how little Pumpkin is, she is 2 going on 18 and ready to join in no matter what!

Our home has also hosted various other creatures recently.  Bug's milkweed she got from bug camp was 'chosen' to be home to 4 monarch caterpillar eggs.  Initally we thought it was only one but the eggs are so tiny and hard to see on the underside that it was only after several days that we saw it was four rather hungry fat fellows.   Bug was determine they would not fall prey to a hungry bird so she and Kent created a netting sewn from broken window screens to keep them safe.   Two developed chrysalis' at the same time on the screen.  We then moved the other two inside our butterfly cage so we could more closely observe their progress in the comfort of an aircontrolled home.
Yes, the tiny glowing speck right about Bug's forehead is a caterpillar egg.
You'll have to excuse Pumpkin's whining in the initial part of the film.  She was desperate to touch the little guy and we wanted to protect it from her not so gentle hands.  She does make me laugh though when her voice changes to the 'awww' signifying she finds it incredibly cute!

Getting ready to pupate, they must have hung like that for nearly 18hrs.

How it looks immediately after it splits and sheds its final skin, you can still see the segments of it's body at the top.

This is a shot of the first two after only an hour or two , you can see the segments noted above are not absent, it's elongated and smoother.  I love the ridge of black that has specks of bright gold color that looks like jewels ornamenting the 'lid' to their home.  Flecks of gold can be seen lower as well.

The green darkens suddenly which is really the black of the butterfly wings you are seeing underneath the skin thin chrysalis.   Within hours they came out.

Really the process is such a miracle.  Each cell in the body broken down to recreate a new creature is still something that fascinates me, no matter how often I've seen it or read about it.  These shots were of us with one of the first two to come out..  It's wings were not quite ready for complete flight so we were able to hold it and take some good shots.  The other two have since made their metemorphasis and we have set out our milkweed plant and hope it will be so blessed to be made a home again to this amazing process.

It was such a thing of beauty, we were all rather captivated by it.  This one didn't have it's wings totally dry so it contently allowed us to hold it and take pictures.  Even Bud who is terrified of butterflies and other insects was so captivated he had it on his finger for a few seconds before it took it's long maiden flight.

The red liquid you see is meconium and not 'blood' which naturally freaked the children out a little.

We also found a tiny baby bird who had fallen from her nest in the eaves of our second story home.  If I had any idea where exactly it was I would have tried to find a way to put it up there again but it was the middle of the night and the cold was enough to kill it so we took it in and through the help of an animal friendly lady in our church, I kept it alive and warm through the night (which was honestly a surprise to all of us, it must have only been a day or two old).  I even made a mixture of food to feed it.  Bug named her Tulip and loved that tiny thing so much.  There wasn't any feathers of any kind, it was barely the size of a quarter and it's metabolic needs were such that it was impossible to keep up feeding the poor thing.  It died the following day and Bug wept bitterly over it.  She lovingly collected a soft bed of weeds to lay her little friend and we buried her with a prayer under our blooming sunflowers.

The little thing can be heard chirping if you turn up your sound.  It's amazing much it strived to live despite it's terribly small chances.

In a rather condensed span of time we experience birth, life and death in nature which made the wonder of it all more impressionable.

Cub scout day camp always has me annoyed and so I was glad this was Bud's last year.  In years past there wasn't as much educational activities and I hated losing at least one towel annually, let alone the ruin of many pairs of socks and shoes to the red mud that never washes out.  It also kills our schedule with the boys returning so late at night so I'm left with less sleep and a grouchy tired boy.  With Kent being a Webelos leader, he attended two of the 3 days with Bud.  The Webelos is made up of only two boys so it was actually more pleasurable to Kent then it was in the two years past.  They really did have a good time together and their lesson on circuts coincided with some of our homeschooling work that it was helped Bud remember what he has learned.

In between all this a friend and I managed to get most of the food ready for a dear friend's daughter's bridal shower.  I'm rather proud of the accomplishments since I'm not great a details but I did manage to make it look quite nice.  Savory dip, hummus and a yogurt bar with cookies as dessert.  

Its nice to do something that's not related to my kids and have some adult conversaton!

Kiddos love cake and so for Father's day we got one for Kent too.  Between just having celebrated Isaac's birthday, with mine coming up on a calender, our little Pumpkin girl thinks all cakes must have a candle and we must sing a song. And when a 2.5 year old (going on 18) thinks that you just have to comply!

The Tuscon temple open house was something we didnt' want to miss so I contacted our old friends, the Laws and went up on a Father's Day sunday, visited on the Monday and came straight home. From the days in ABQ on residency, this family has been a rock for ours in many ways.  We always just talk and talk and talk and I never remember to take much in the way of pictures.  We also managed to call up one of our old friends there, Emily Roberts who  moved to Houston when we went for residency.  It was so fun to hear her voice and realize that physical distance is nothing when hearts are still close. In looking through old blog posts it was 8 years ago when the three families were all together.  I managed to find this picture of our youngest kiddos together.  Now the Roberts and I have 3 more kids each and the Law's youngest in this picture is a beautiful young lady.  Time flies by!

  Kent caught a few pictues of us at the temple though so it's not all in memory!!!

Halfway through the month and while it's all crazy in terms of schedule it's been great fun!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ten Years!!

A decade is a lifetime for this boy and yet it is nothing but sleeping and a waking for me.  Nearly 10 years ago I began this blog in an effort to give those who loved us an opportunity to keep up on the development of our firstborn.  Now he's a busy, bright boy, our intiate into parenthood and a joy to have around.

 He was once so little!!

I had my dates all mixed up for our crazy June activities and scheduled an early joint birthday celebration with a friend from our first homeschool coop.  It was awesome though and having an entire day be about Pokémon with his friends was the best thing ever!
The cake was a bit of a flop this year, I had filled the center with Pokémon figurines and with the rush of everything didn't cut the layers right for the strawberry filling so as it defrosted it slowly 'melted' in shape.  Kid like it anyhow but shortcuts don't pay!

On his actual birthday he came home from his swim practice for his annual mango sticky rice breakfast.  After a meeting for a future homeschool coop he had an impromptu playdate with a friend and dinner later that night with just Kent and I.  It was so nice to chat with him without the distractions of all the other children.

As a parent it's rewarding to see them learn and grow, especially as they learn to make good choices for themselves.  When we initially began homeschooling Bud was super excited about the amount of time he had for electronics.  Getting him out to exercise or do other creative activities was such a chore and a daily battlefield.  We reached a point where we decided to teach and model for him what a happy, healthy balanced life should look like and then gently nudge him to make similar choices rather then enforce it.  It took patience and faith but he began to see how much more creative, happy and engaged he was when he limited his own game time.  Whenever he kept his word and only watched one episode we could see him grow in his confidence and pleasure in life.  We will discuss it with him on and off and it makes us smile as he honestly discusses the struggles he has with it and seeks our advice.  It's a different relationship, more mature, than what we have with the others but it helps me catch a glimpse of him as an adult in the future and gives me joy in his growing independence. 
He's taking swim team much more seriously this year, asking to do the extra lesson, working harder rather than just playing with friends at practices, asking to go to more meets, not just the home ones. The other boys have been great at encouraging him and his confidence in hard work is showing.

We also had some struggles with not taking shortcuts and being lazy in our work.  This happened with his online math course, typing lessons, in our cooking lessons as well as in general chores around the house.  With being in school, he got away with his own devised shortcuts and no one pushed him to do his best.  It affected his confidence (without him knowing it) and there were many times thing had to be, "done right, or do it again".  I love that now he really knows the difference and has a real pride in himself as he works at it.  You can see it as he presents his cooked potatoes (all cut the right size and cooked through) or as he achieves a faster speed in typing.  He likes our acknowledgement of his achievement but he doesn't need it as much as before because his work speaks for itself.  It's a mark of a growing child into basic skills he needs in adulthood.

His joy and figuring out something on the electronic playground and being able to teach me about it.

He has really grown to love and engage with his younger siblings which brings me so much happiness.  He developed his own game with Bubby that always has the little man in giggles.  Pumpkin adores him and mimics him in so many things, from Lego building, to puzzles and is willing to play any game Bud develops for her.

While we were out to dinner Kent and I were surprised to hear that his favorite sibling was Bug-love, especially since he is the least affectionate with her.  We play a game called "Other Shoes" which simply means you put yourself into another person's position and seek to understand their feelings.  We did this and without lecturing or saying anything more the following day found him giving the affection to Bug that she craves and seeks.  There's a willingness to change gives me pride and hope for the wonderful young man I know he can be.
Fun with friends in cub scouts and a three legged race.

I love this boy, I love his enthusiasm and his creativity.  He is so affectionate and when he feels that love reciprocated he is willing to do so much more.  I'm grateful to be his mother.  We are so different from each other but he has taught me another perspective on life that has made me more playful and creative.  Happy birthday my firstborn!  May you continue to grow, learn and find joy as you become the remarkable young man I see!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Carlsbad 2

There are times you get a glimpse of your child's personality and no matter how much they grow, that glimpse reoccurs again and again in different ways.  For example, for as long as I can remember, Bud loves to build and to dig.  With all the wonders of Legoland around him, he could have spent the entire day here unearthing their dinosaur bones.  He had a willing, albeit clumsy helper in the form of Pumpkin.

Meanwhile, Bug is a ride junkie!  She loves the thrill of it, she may say,"I left my stomach behind" with stoicism but she giggles with delight as she recalls the sense of falling and the rush of the tilting rollercoaster.  On this day Kent and I took turns riding every thrill seeking ride as much as possible. You can catch her and Kent in the very last cart.

Pumpkin roaring like a newly born dinosaur!

The other big hit was the driving test - at least for the oldest two.  They got on over 6 times and actually got better at it as they went.  A few moms and I on the side laughed at their driving on the wrong side of the road, making jokes as to what the real thing will look like not too long from now.
Driving boats was not anymore successful, at least from Bug's expression!

Bubby tried it too.  He did figure out the gas but I think he was too startled with it and approaching the limit of his ablity to cope with the unfamiliar.  Pumpkin had a better time of it but once was enough for her.

Bubby needed tons of his calming activities so he did lots of stacking and sorting and enjoyed his climbing of stairs and inclines.

The aquarium was nice, much quieter than the small one they have here in phoenix.  It was calming for everyone who was feeling the fatigue of play.  The obtaining of stamps along the way kept Pumpkin busy as she was determined to do it herself! Of course Bug HAD to pet everything over and over!  She kept looking for ways to spend her money she had earned.  She's not into Legos much, the candy was too expensive (especially when we went to a grocery store later and she bought a ton to share with her siblings) and the jewelry didn't appeal.  She discovered  that donated money to the aquarium goes to helping rescue injured sea life and it hit home to her animal loving soul.  She promptly put in $2 and said she would have no regret, that somewhere, some 'cutie' living being needed it more than she!

Bug remarked that this pair of cuttle fish looked like dancers with their rippling skirts.

Another farmer's market where we purchase loquats, a Japanese plum.  They were really good and Bud got a kick out of what he saw when he bit into it.  (bathroom humor appeals to all boys!) Lucious greens, still 'living' with their roots attached, unique mushrooms which we bought and fried in butter to go with our eggs in the morning.

The following day we found an area where you could build your own cars and race them against others.  Pumpkin is like a miniature version of Bud and started with a minimalist edition of her car that became more 'girly' as she sought out some pink and purple blocks.  Bud raced a few times and was please his car won some of the races.  Bubby and Bug were with me on the other side, he was upt to his usual sorting and she attempted an artistic building that didn't survive a major earthquake.

The years go by entirely too fast so I decided to re-enact some pictures I remember years ago.  These are of Bug 6 years ago and now.

She's grown up so much and turned into such a beautiful young lady!
Pumpkin thought that if BBF is doing it, it must be cool!  "Pitcher, Mama, pitcher!!!"
Living things make Bug happy.  She's gotten over her fascination with pill bugs but Pumpkin hasn't.  She moved on to slugs and thankfully California has plenty of those.

There's a great playground there that all of us happily played in for over an hour and a half.  Pumpkin had made a friend with a little boy by bringing him Legos as he was building.  They wouldn't leave each other but Pumpkin was nearly a year younger and had a hard time keeping up with him.  Bubby ran up and down the ramps, Bud found a group of boys his age to play tag with and Bug collected snails and snail shells.  The following video has got to be one of my favorites.  I love how Pumpkin engages Bubby, how he is fully present and running to catch me. 
THESE, these are the moments that fill me with joy!

On our final day we went into San Diego to the Mormon Battalion Museum.  I had been before with a friend of mine which worked out well since Bubby wasn't going to sit through anything.  We wandered the Victorian park across the street while the kids had fun panning for gold and learning more about our history. 

While there we stopped in Balbo park in the Spanish Village - the art center of the area.  Bud found a museum devoted to gems that actually has a club with weekly activities.  For only $10 a year kids can come and learn and use their machines to cut, polish rocks for jewelry.  The homeschooler in me wished we were closer because something like this would feed his soul!  They have some amazing art classes and pottery classes for adults and kids so perhaps in the future we will find a way to make it a part of our schedule.

  A last minute stop at the beach was a must. 

It was a such a fun way to spend a week as a family.  I know everyone says life is made of little moments, but sometimes these big ones are pretty awesome too!  Love my family, love these kiddos and I'm so grateful we are blessed to make such fun memories!