Aug 022017
 


This post contains affiliate links.

A day with fun mail, not a bill or notice or advertisement for a new furniture store, is a somewhat rare day lately.  It is even rarer for the fun mail to be for the kids.

This particular day was one of those extremely rare days.  The kids were vibrating with excitement to see what was in the box, and even more so once it was opened.

I am always in search of sensory items, things which may make our day a bit easier or fulfill a need one of the kids seems to crave.  I have found that sometimes the best items are not marketed as such.  When I was given the opportunity to review a Tiny Headed Kingdom stuffed animal, from Calendars.com, I hoped it would become one of those items.

 

The stuffed animal arrived quickly, and thrilled its new owner – Jack.  However, an custody battle quickly ensued with joint custody being negotiated between Jack and George.  It was cute … until it wasn’t.

Apparently both were drawn to the large stuffed animal, “Twist”, thinking they could provide the best care to the newest member of our household.

Twist even came with information about his origin, his birth date, and a bit about his personality.  Jack loved the silliness of one of the stories involving Twist, mentioning it again that night at bedtime.

When I mentioned the Tiny Headed Kingdom animals being large, I am not talking about baby doll big.  When the kids were sitting down, Twist easily covered Jack’s face.  When I held him, I was able to see over his head, but could have rested my chin on it.

While Twist is large in size, he seems to have worked hard to keep the weight off, as he does not weigh much. (I tried weighing him on our scale but he would not register.  My guess is a pound or less.)  If you are looking for weight as a sensory input, this stuffed animal is not for you.  However, if you are looking for something to cuddle, to be able to add pressure to your chest or arms while squeezing (Proprioceptive), these animals would be perfect.

George, our lover of all things stuffed, was quickly found with his arms wrapped fully around Twist, watching t.v.  After an argument, again over ownership of Twist was settled, all was right with the world … and Twist was back in Jack’s bubble of ownership.

Even I was able to cuddle with Twist while watching t.v., after both kids were asleep, feeling fully like I was hugging something, not a limp rag and air.  His stuffing, while not heavy, is dense enough to push back when given a hug or carried around.

 

At night, Twist can now be found in Jack’s room, next to his pillow.  One of my hopes for Twist, and the reason I “gave” him to Jack, was to help Jack gain a sense of something being near him while he is sleeping.  He often seeks out a wall, bed, table, etc. when asleep, only resting fully once he finds an object which will not move.

In the end, Twist did not quite fulfill the need I was looking for in regards to Jack.  I think his weight needs to be more.  Jack did like the soft texture of his fur, though, as well as his size.

As for custody of said Tiny Headed Kingdom animal, for now he resides with Jack.  I do not foresee George taking over care, as Jack has fallen in love, in his own way.

In the photo above, Tiny’s belly is actually pure white.  My camera was having trouble with it and the red curtains behind it.  So, while it looks to have a grey spot, in reality it is pure white. Next time I will know not to sit him next to red curtains. 😉

For the price of the Tiny Headed Kingdom stuffed animals, if you are solely looking for a new stuffed animal for a lover of plush, you might do better looking elsewhere.  If you are looking for something which feels denser than air, is great to cuddle with, is unusual, will withstand daily use, and ships quickly, then this would meet your needs.

To make it even better, through August 31, 2017 use this coupon code to receive 20% off any purchase at Calendars.com

If you happen upon a 2018 calendar you really love, now would be a great time to pick it up. Through August 13, 2017 Calendars.com is offering $1 Shipping on ALL 2018 calendars.  How great is that?!  You do not even need to leave home and you will be able to have this end-of-the year chore taken care of well ahead of time.

 

Shop Toys on Calendars.com

Feb 222017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

yoga ball get paid

Swagbucks has been a great source of extra money over the past few years.  If you have read my blog for any length of time, I am sure you have picked up on how much I like them.

The flexibility in ways to earn has been the biggest draw for me.  There have been times when I am frankly short on time, and others when I have a lot of time to spend looking around and trying out new things.

Watching video clips is one of the easiest ways for me to earn gift cards by redeeming points, called SB.  Not only can I find clips on subjects that interest me, but I can also learn about new things.  The videos can run while I type up a blog post, fold laundry, do the dishes, or help a child with homework/school work.

Watching videos on my phone makes it even easier and portable. When I find a video I like, it can be saved to my favorites for me to watch again. (This is the easiest and fastest way to find certain videos at some point in the future.)

Modification of several yoga and  Pilates moves are also used in our home for sensory activities and exercise with the kids.  Each kid reacts differently to the movements, which takes trial and error to find the ones that might work best for you.

There are several ways for you to watch video clips to earn SB – via the Swagbucks website and via several apps on your phone. (Even if you are an international user!)  The apps are free to download. 

Below is a list of video I have come across on one app – Sportly.tv. (They were current as of the writing of this post)  You can earn 18 SB per day using this Swagbucks app.

Jack had a blast going through these with me.  Several were stopped so we could both try them.  Again. And Again. And Again.

Sportly.tv

  • Common Meditation Mistakes 2:20
  • How To Do Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 0:51
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Spiderman Move 0:52
  • Weights on Trampoline 1:14
  • Kundalini Yoga – Dyamic Cobra Pose 1:25
  • Olympic Buses Transporting Athletes Gets Lost For Hours 1:04
  • How To Do Crab Walks 0:30
  • Man With Cerebral Palsy Competes in Races With Brother’s Help 1:09
  • How To Do Pilates Neck Pull Exercise 1:50
  • How To Do Standing Shoulder Press 0:50
  • Belly Dancing: Snake Arms 3:22
  • How To Do Lunges 0:54
  • How To Do Yoga Knees to Chest Pose 1:09
  • Circus Exercise: V Ups Exercise 0:45
  • How To Perform Wellness Bridge  0:42
  • How To Perform Egyptian Stretch 0:30
  • Riot Erupts at Wheelchair Basketball Game 1:03
  • How To Do Yoga Standing Forward Fold Pose 0:54
  • Plank To Downward Dog 0:44
  • 70-Year-Old Qualifies for Olympics 1:23
  • Sumo Wrestlers – 10 Amazing Facts 1:24
  • Pilates Swan On The Roller 2:05
  • What is Doga? 1:34
  • Goal of Meditation 1:06
  • Pilates: Thera Band Arms 4:28
  • Pilates Footwork on the Roller 2:20
  • Squats on a Smith Machine with Medicine Ball 0:51
  • How To Do Kettlebell Swing 0:45
  • Pilates: Lower Lift with Magic Circle 4:40
  • Yoga – Revolved Side Angle Pose 1:07
  • Circus Exercises: Tuck on the Trapeze 1:13
  • Overhead Exercise with Dumbbells 0:43
  • Airport Security Confiscates Kids’ Tennis Rackets 1:13
  • Eating Tips Before Running 0:39
  • Belly Dancing: Chest Isolations 2:56
  • How To Do Pilates Open Leg Rocker Exercise 2:12
  • Food Art: Sports Themed Strawberries 2:00
  • Early Swimming For Kids Leads to Better Academic Performance 1:02
  • Strict Diet Guidelines for Chinese 1:04
  • Side to Side Obliques with Medicine Ball 1:05
  • Wheelchair Bodybuilders Inspire Others 1:11
  • How To Do Yoga Fish Pose 1:19
  • How To Do Pilates Teaser Exercise 1:14
  • How To Do Knee Plank Curls 0:42
  • 30 Minute Beach Workout 6:21
  • Yoga – Dancer Pose Easy Variation 0:57
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Thigh High Move 0:51
  • Beach Workout Tips 1:59
  • Russian Olympic Volleyball Coach Commits Suicide 1:03
  • Yoga – Side Plank Intermediate 0:56
  • Advanced Contortion Moves: Lever 0:59
  • Self-Defense Workout: Push Kick 1:30
  • Kundalini Yoga – Dynamic Bow Pose 1:35
  • Pilates Scissors on the Roller 1:48
  • Hula Hoop Upper Body Workout 1:05
  • French Open – 10 Uncommon Facts 1:19
  • Designer Proposes Trampoline Walkway 1:05
  • Pilates Single Leg Stretch on the Roller 1:57
  • How To Do Yoga Triange Pose 0:53
  • Kundalini Yoga – Spinal Rotation 1:34
  • 15 Minute Beach Workout 4:39
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Lotion Motion 1:05
  • How To Perform Bicep Stretch 0:33
  • How To Do Explosive Jump Squat 0:30
  • Circus Exercises: Frog Sequence On The Rope 1:33
  • How To Do Yoga Eagle Pose 1:07
  • How To Perform Neck Rotation Exercise 0:37
  • Yoga – Cow Face Pose Easy Variation 1:40
  • Tai Chi: Strike Ears with Fist 0:59
  • Seated Dumbbell Knee Raise 0:45
  • How To Perform Front Leg Kicks 0:30
  • Pilates Open Leg Rocker on the Roller 2:00
  • How To Do Pilates Spine Twist Exercise 1:40
  • Yoga Side Plank 0:52
  • How To Do Pilates Swimming Exercise 2:15
  • Plank on Bosu 1:16
  • A New Hot Sport Due To Booming Skyscrapers 1:14
  • Tricep Dips with Yoga Ball 0:53
  • How To Do Standing Shoulder Press 0:50
  • 5 Types of Sports in German 0:47
  • How Can Mediation Reduce Stress? 2:27
  • Self-Defense Workout: Bump Escape From A Bear Hug 1:51
  • Yoga – Shoulder Stand 1:11
  • Belly Dancing: Figure 8 2:55
  • Pole Dancing For Fitness 1:27

 

Feb 102017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

date night nice

One of my anxieties with moving, a fear of mine actually, was knowing friends and support systems are not a given and often take a long time to form.

We had lived in 3 different communities before landing in Small Town.  In none of those first 3 communities did we form what felt were solid friendships; we were in the community but not a part of the community.  Perhaps if we had stayed longer, those budding friendships would have solidified into something more.

Once we moved to Small Town, it took over a year to solidify a friendship with my neighbor, even longer to get to the point of canning together or starting the roadside stand.  This friendship ended up growing so much, we now refer to them as “aunt” and “uncle”.  It took my kids several more years before they asked, “how exactly are we related to Aunt and Uncle?”  🙂  Blood does not always make a family.

It took 4 years, after joining the rural community, before I joined the local MOPS group and began to make a few close friends, which also resulted in participating in my first Farm Market Swap.

Farm Market Swap collage

During the years of having small kids, my husband and I were not always blessed with the ability to take time for ourselves, to get away as a couple for a few hours a week, or even once a month. At times it was possible, but at others it seemed like we came back to a situation that was harder than if we had just stayed home. (The idea of a weekend away was out of our realm of reality at that point.)

Often, we had to settle for coffee and a movie at home, hoping to not wake up the kids and not to fall asleep before the end of the movie.  Those first months were filled with kids scared to go to sleep, scared that you would not be there when they woke up, scared of … night time was not a good time, which was a shame as the days were filled with hyper-vigilant, hyperactive, inquisitive, take-life-by-the-horns, I-know-best kids.

As they grew a bit older, things calmed down some, but the anxiety is always there in the background.  Now we were dealing with official  diagnoses of ADHD, and unofficial sensory and trauma related issues, as well as lesser known issues that come with ADHD beyond the attention and hyperactivity issues. (here,too, but there is a bit of language.) (This was a great read for me recently, helping to connect some of the dots to other issues I otherwise could not find the cause of.)

The mere idea of moving brought me anxiety.  Not only was I going to have to meet a lot of new people, but my kids were going to be reminded (subconsciously) of times in their early lives, when things were not consistent, when there was a lot of loss, when they had no control.  I was anxious about how they would react. However, a move was happening and we would have to deal with the outcome.

My husband was excited to find out the local YMCA had a monthly Kid’s Night Out, where parents could drop their kids off for a few hours of games, fun, and pizza.  I was less than excited. Way less. The mere idea made my stomach start to knot up. My husband could not understand why, though he found out after the first night we tried.

See, the time to drop them off, it began about an hour before the kid’s bedtime and lasted for up to 3 hours.  Night time is the worst time of day for our kids.  Their ADHD behaviors, their sensory/trauma issues, and developmental issues have been a struggle all day, making their brains tired.  Their bodies, however, act as if they are full of energy.

Jack gets so overloaded with things (noise, activity, expected social behaviors) that his brain goes too fast for his body.  He then runs and hides in a quiet place, or turns in circles (vestibular sensory seeking), or hits, or … he does not handle it well, especially when tired … an hour before bedtime. (Yes, our kids go to bed early, but they also sleep 11-12 hours still.)

We tried it once, was well as a three day Holiday Day Camp where I had to clarify a few things with the director on the second day or risk one of my kids being kicked out, before agreeing this was not working for us.  We mentally set ourselves up for a year+ of home date nights and switching off if one of us needed to be gone in the evenings.

Been there, done that, we have the cappuccino mix at home.

(The picture below shows a ‘date lunch’ where we took the kids with us.  They sat at the corner side of the table watching a movie, while we were on the other side having cake and coffee; they got some goodies too.  They were not allowed to talk with us until the movie was over. Sometimes, you do what you need to do.)

cake children coffee shop date afternoon line

Then … then, we continued to visit a particular new church.  George loved the kids’ activities and new people.  Jack, well, it was hit or miss at first.

Being a new place, we did not share the unique aspects of our family.  For starters, we did not know these people well.  Secondly, not everyone reacts the same way when I share things.  Sometimes they judge our kids (or us) before taking the opportunity to get to know us.  Thirdly, I was hoping our kids would handle the change calmly at first.

In the past, unfortunately, it has often been the case that in these situations, that the adults in charge say, “Sorry.  If your child is not willing to act in these socially acceptable, calm ways, s/he can not be here.  You will need to come with them or keep them with you.  It is too distracting and hard for us.” I have missed quite a bit of church these past few years due to kids not being able to handle/exhibit the expected behaviors.

Much to my surprise that is not what happened at this church.  After one obviously trying Sunday morning for the kids’ teacher, I determined to go early the next week and talk to the preacher’s wife.  She was one of the few I had met whom I felt would hear me out and could then direct me with whom I should talk.

Keeping things to ourselves was obviously not working.

This talk turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined.  As we were talking, she stopped me and said, “I think you should tell all of this ____.”  The person she said?  The only other lady in the church I knew, the one who had told me the week before that their household is never quiet because she and her husband were such extroverted people.  That comment alone made me want to become her friend immediately.

These ladies and I missed all the beginning of church that week as I shared everything – how we became a family, struggles of ADHD, some other learning/developmental struggles they may face.  I also stated the fact that if my kids were not adjusting well to the kids’ classes, they were welcome to sit with us.

What I got was – “Well we were just discussing this in our morning meeting and how to handle it … do you think having an older teen with them would help?  … I will let the teacher know not to call on them to read out loud the harder passages … we could move them to a younger class, but that might cause more issues (and explained why) … how about we try these out and see how it goes?”  They offered a few other options as well.  I came away feeling more encouraged than defeated.  It was an unexpected change for one.

A few weeks later, I got an email from the teacher asking, “How can I help him/them while in class?  What can I do to not make things worse?”  WHAT?!?!  Not only was this person still willing to have them/him in class, but also asking what to do to make things easier for my child!

I cried.

Then I put together a response, explaining a few struggles that were probably appearing, how they might manifest themselves, and list of basic things that seem to help me in that situation.

valentines cupcake decorating children collage

Last week, my husband had mentioned the youth of this church were hosting a Kid’s Night Out this coming weekend, so the parents could have a night to themselves (for Valentines Day).  If you had said this a month ago, I would have dismissed it.  By now, however, I told him I thought the kids would do well and we should take advantage of it.

Why?

  • The kids knew the adults.
  • One of the teens has watched the kids during mid-week gatherings and did fabulous (actually will try her as a babysitter this month).
  • The setting was familiar.
  • The group was small.

Though there might be a bounce house (shhh) and other activities, I doubt it will be as loud or chaotic as the ‘Y’ was. (Please do not think we do not like the local ‘Y’; we are actually going there weekly for a kids exercise class and it is going fabulously.  Of course, it is a small group and does not last for 3 hours.)

This year, for one of the few times in our marriage, my husband and I will get a chance to “celebrate Valentine’s Day”.  Though it is more like – “having a date near Valentine’s Day” as we don’t really celebrate this day any different than other date nights.  The first year of our marriage we did our taxes and didn’t even realize the date until we had to sign and date our forms. Yup, we are such romantics.

If your significant other or someone important in your life is as oblivious to the day as my husband and I are, you are in luck.  Bring them some coffee (bought with a gift card?) and a cookie and they will thank you for your spontaneous gift.

If they are not so oblivious, you need to get a move on with something beyond a card signed with your name.  How about a gift card to their favorite store?  Or one to use to take them out for a special evening, while earning points back?

Do your Valentine’s Day shopping through Swagbucks and get cash back for all your purchases!

The best part? Through Valentine’s Day, select retailers are offering double cash back or more! Just click here to sign up for Swagbucks and learn more.

If you don’t know about Swagbucks, it’s a site where you earn points (called SB) for doing things like shopping, watching videos, discovering deals, searching the web, and taking surveys! You redeem your SB for gift cards or PayPal cash.

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me and spend at least $25 in shop, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus!

Nov 142016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

reading book dress-up costume

Whenever I need some encouragement, reminders to keep moving forward, I seek out those who have been or still are dealing with the same struggles.  It helps keep my perspective, gives me ideas of things to try, and shows me that I am not alone.

Here are a couple of articles and thoughts about parenting kids from hard places.  I have talked about this before, so it is nothing new for this blog.  However, I keep finding people who know more than I do, reading what they are open to sharing, and growing in my understanding.  I could not keep it to myself if I tried.

If you read nothing else, I suggest reading the first article from Stevie Wilson, a licensed professional counselor.  I could have benefited from such knowledge during younger years, helping out in children’s programs.  Not all of this information is for parents alone.  It is good information for everyone to have and understand.

-Teaching a room full of kids can be a challenge on any given day.  Some days it is a fun challenge.  Other days … not so much.  Having that one kid in the class who does not act like the others, can test anyone’s patience, especially if viewed as defiance or being oppositional..  However, knowledge is power and a few small changes can help the day go much smoother.

Last week I had to literally stop where we were and wait for one of my kids to gain control of themselves before we moved on.  At the time, we were headed out to eat supper after the kids received a surprise visit from my parents and one of their cousins.  It was exciting and different.  While both of my kids responded with heightened activity, this particular kid seemed to be having trouble slowing himself back down.  The biggest hint – lack of eye contact.  While everyone else continued on into the restaurant for supper, I stood on the sidewalk and …..

  • watched birds fly overhead
  • watched trucks pull in and out of a gas station
  • took deep relaxing breaths (amazingly enough, I was not really fazed by all this. I was just enjoying the autumn air.)
  • watched more birds fly overhead

… basically I did anything I could do to look as relaxed and bored as possible, to slow down my energy (almost to a stop) and thereby slow down my kid’s anxiety levels.  It worked.  Once this kid could both face my direction with his body and look at me, I gave praises and very clear expectations – “we were going to walk into the restaurant and walk to our table while keeping our hands to ourselves; walking does not mean skipping, jumping, or running, it means walking.” We had a brief pause inside the restaurant as it was difficult to walk while keeping hands to oneself, but a redo resulted in appropriate behaviors.  That was the goal.

In the end, this kid behaved very well and this whole situation was a forgotten thing of the past.  Having other adults with me made it possible at that moment to react with these behaviors in this fashion.  If it had been me parenting solo with both kids, trying to keep one kid calm while brother was having trouble handling the changes, I would have had to reverse everyone back to the car for some music time or headed home for pb&j.

our school week collage 2

-What about if you are not in a public/private school setting?  What about home schooling?  Changing the location from a larger classroom to your dinning room table does not suddenly erase the potential for challenging behaviors.  What it does do is give you more options on how to address these issues.

Peek-a-boo is not just a game.

The emotional side of life is one aspect I appreciate much more now, after home schooling Jack, than I did before.  It took a short intense time during his early public school stint for us to accept that something more was going on than the normal adjustments to a full day of Kindergarten.  So far, we have not regretted this decision.  I will admit, there are times where I have the “oh, how life would be different if he were able to tolerate being in public school and I was working outside of the home” thoughts.  Thankfully, we do not need me to work outside the home and I enjoy staying home, but the grass is always greener…

Then I realized how well he has been handling the past hour of being bored, how well regulated he is acting.  For him, being bored often is what gets him into trouble, a feeling he begins to sense about 5 minutes or less into an activity which he deems unnecessary.  Learning to find ways to entertain himself without causing trouble has been one of the biggest lessons he has had to learn, and is still working on.  I attribute this learning to why we can actually sit through a church service now and why he was able to take a 3 hour car ride sans movies with me last week.

When we began schooling at home, I had visions of how things would turn out.  It did not happen that way.  As I had already been reading a fair amount of home schooling blogs when the kids were preschool age, to gain ideas of activities to do with them and help them catch up, I was not completely overwhelmed at the idea.  However, I know how it was ‘supposed’ to go.  Yet, instead of needing a few weeks to adjust, it ended up taking us almost 6 months before Jack could handle some sort of structure to his day.

2 years later I feel like we are finally at the point I wanted to be at 1.5 years ago.  Learning to step back and not take things personally, usually, has helped.  Reaching out to others has also helped.  Also finding ways that work for him, rather than keeping doing it the way everyone else seems to be, has helped.

I have come to find that, apparently, I was a bit too agressive about learning to read and it was backfiring.  So I took a break, trying again at various times till we landed upon something that worked.  Using a program like Reading Eggs, has helped take a majority of the arguments out of the struggle to read. Apparently, learning to read is boring, so why try?  Sort of like going to sleep. However, ‘playing’ online is fun and so is earning new characters.

The “But, mom, I can’t read” excuse no longer flies.  He at least can try to sound it out, with a bit of prompting, of course.  Why prompting? Because it is also easier and faster to have mom tell you the word you do not know, rather than try to figure it out yourself.  The same goes for opening doors. And putting up your clothes.  And …. it has become apparent one of the habits we will need to be working on in the near future.

sidewalk-hockey-boys-running-collage

-I need to do more of these sort of activities throughout our day. Vestibular stimulation is something we often see in Jack.  Whether it is due to a history of ear infections or hyperactivity, his need to move is often an indicator of what is going in in his head and greatly affects his ability to focus.

-Letting the little things build up till I explode is an area I need to work on.  This was a great, quick reminder and encouraging read.

Oct 272016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

me-a-compendium

When looking something to add to our school day, Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal For Kids caught my attention.  It looked fun, the picture on the cover intrigued me, and the idea seemed silly enough to hold the attention of my kids.

George has several variations of books such as this one, he tends towards the artistic thinking.  Jack, however, does not have any such books.  He is usually a black and white thinker, taking to artistic things only if it suits his fancy.  I was not sure how he would react to this book, though was hoping for something unexpected that he could do during the day when he was bored.  It would also act as a journal of his life at this point in time.

Me: A Compendium was picked with Jack in mind.

When the book came, I called him into the living room, handing him the book without saying anything.  The look in his eye was one of excitement, “Is this for me?!”  Seems it was going to be a hit with my practical child.  (George was a bit jealous, till I reminded him that he already had two books like this.  He still wanted to ‘help’ fill in some of the pages.)

As with any new book, I encouraged Jack to get to know the book before doing anything with it.  Starting at the most obvious place, the cover, he asked why it was blank.  “That is for you to fill in.  You write your name in the blank rectangle, either only your first or any combination of your names you choose. This is your book.”

Turning it over to the back cover, the questions continue.  The child is asked for favorites, descriptions of various body parts, and other information about likes/dislikes.

me-compendium-book-2-collage

The biggest surprise, though, was the inside of the cover.   “Super Secret Stuff” was a hit with this 7 year old.  He did not even want me to tell George or Dad about it.  “Mom, it is secret!  That is what secret means; others do not know about it.”  We had not even cracked the cover yet and he was already smitten with the book and the notion of filling it in as he saw fit.

me-compendium-book-inside-cover

Several pages were filled in the first day.  One of them surprised me, “This is what I’ll be doing when I grow up…”  Up till this point, he has always wanted to be a construction worker, or a constructions worker who works part time as a policeman.  This was the first time he said he wanted to, solely, be a policeman, “to help keep people safe”.  Being safe is a common thing he worries about, so this was not so surprising.

“As long as you do not want to be the person the police are chasing, I think it is a great idea”, a comment of mine that resulted in the oh so cute, “Mooooommmm” with the accompanying eye roll.

me-compendium-book-collageThe second picture took a bit of interpretation on his part before I understood what was going on – playing Frisbee with Dad.  Again, not a surprise, as this was drawn at a time where my husband was busy and not able to play with them as much as he, and they, would have liked.

Knowing Jack is not a huge drawer, I was very surprised and pleased to see how quickly he wanted to pick up drawing utensil and get to work filling in the paper pages.  If this is what it takes for my fine-motor activity adverse kid to draw, I will buy these books all day long.

I have no doubt Me: A Compendium will last us quite a while.  The cover is hard back and the pages are a heavy paper.  The drawing and fill-in-the-blank prompts are diverse, helping keep it interesting through the whole book.

Since drawing in it the first time, Jack has asked several times where this book was, as he wanted to work on it more.  This fact alone makes it a five-star book in my opinion, especially as it is not a particular cartoon construction worker and his builders, nor an alien race that can morph into various vehicle forms to fight other bad mechanical alien here on Earth.  This is a book that makes him stop or slow down, think, and transfer those thoughts to something outside of himself.  There are no right or wrong answers, and no grades.  So, if your police car looks more like a lump of coal, that is okay. 😉

I thought I would give Jack a chance to share his thoughts, in his own words.  Here is what I got:

Me: Jack, what did you think of this book?

Jack: (glancing over, sees the book on the screen, and gives a sly, shy smile, goes back to building his Lego creation.)

Me: Well, what did you think?

Jack: I don’t know.  I haven’t finished it yet.  I can’t tell you what I think of it till I finish it.

Me: Well, up till now, what have been your thoughts?

Jack: (silence, but smiling.)

And there you have it.  He liked it but was unwilling to put it into words, the normally accepted form of communication for creatures of our species, yet a form that Jack often does not like to use.  Hey, at least he did not spell it out in the air, as he is inclined to do at times.  That would have been harder to transcribe.

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As I was writing this review, I had another thought, “This would be great for a kid in Foster Care.”

Why? It would help create a scrap book of sorts, a place to write things down and store memories at a time where other forms may not be available.  At times there are gaps in a child’s photographic history or “This is Me in Grade ___” papers from school are lost.  Giving them a sturdy place to record various facts from their life at this moment, a way to possibly even share them with the adults in their lives, is a great way to encourage emotional connects, a connection with their personal story, and a record of this time in their life.

Me: A Compendium does not require batteries, is gender neutral, and easy to transport.  As the holiday season approaches, if you are considering being a part of a gift-giving effort, even if not for Foster Care specifically, this would be a great gift option to keep in mind.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sep 022016
 

I am so excited for this sale.  At lunch today I was putting together a list of items I will be needing to purchase in the very near future.  Most of them are either easier to find and shop for online.

In the end, this is a win-win-win situation.  I will win by taking advantage of the Double Cash Back, my kids will win by not having to go shopping, and my husband will win as I will be making his life easier in the upcoming weeks. (It will save him the trouble of having to shop for some of these items.)

boy feet on bench

Happy Labor Day! This weekend Swagbucks, an online rewards program that gives you cash back for completing online activities such a shopping online, is running a great Labor Day Sale on their site. You work hard all year, its time to treat yourself and put some cash back in your wallet while you’re at it.

Earn Double Cash Back or more when you shop this Labor Day Weekend at your favorite stores including:

Walmart

eBay

Target

Old Navy

Macy’s

Gap

JCPenney

The Home Depot

Lowe’s

Bed Bath & Beyond

Groupon

Living Social

And many, many more!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Jul 242016
 

grocery shopping cart produce milk

Instead of braving the high temperatures to do needed yard work one day this past week, we went grocery shopping, also a needed activity.  I wanted to include an incentive for the kids to behave during the trips into the store, something to help them work towards controlling their own behaviors.  As an adult we might stop and pick up a coffee, or listen to a certain radio station, etc. to reward ourselves for doing a job.  Why not give the kids something similar?

The night before I had printed off a shopping list and planned to stick to it.  It was not excessively long – one store had 4 school supply items, while the second store had under 10 grocery related items, though these were on spread out across the whole store. Having a list would help by keeping the trips quick-ish and on track.  But what to use for an incentive?

Then I remembered the local cinema’s children’s summer movies.  Each week has a different choice of movie for $1 each morning.  Perfect! I even liked this week’s movie; there are several I refused to take the kids to see.

To make the incentive even greater, I added in the option of (1/2 price) cheeseburgers from Sonic to augment our picnic lunch and time at a local park or indoor playground.  Yes, I was putting together quite an incentive package here.  Jack is on a cheeseburger kick and both love going to parks.  They have also been asking to visit the indoor playground all summer. (A local church opens their playground to the public for certain hours during the week. It even includes an area with tables, family and gender specific bathrooms, and a walking track if I choose to take advantage of it.)

While at the second (and last) store, I had to remind the kids of what was at stake several times.  We had two items left to pick up and things were quickly going down hill.  Jack had already been delegated to ride in the cart, but was doing his best to try and open things.  George could not seem to get more than 3 feet away from his brother, but instead felt the need to do little things to pester Jack into deregulation. My attention was on the shopping, in hopes of getting it finished quickly, yet I was being stopped every few feet to correct behaviors.  With my attention being not focused on the kids, I could feel control being lost and it was not going to end well if things did not change.

By the time we got up to check-out, I finally stopped making excuses to myself about how impatient I was being and said, “That’s it.  You both knew what was expected of you, yet you have chosen not to do those things.  Since you could not control yourselves here, in an easy setting, I can not take you to somewhere where more control is needed.  We have to go home.  No movie.”  Oh, the horror.  The pleading and whining began.  Never a good idea.  My motto is “If you whine, it is an automatic NO.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I remembered an important piece of what was happening … due to our change in breakfast routine, I had forgotten to give them their medicine.  Instead I had put them into a car and taken them to two stores with bright lights and lots of colors and ‘stuff’ around them.  Um, yeah, no wonder George was feeling uncomfortable and looking for ways to control the situation, while Jack was feeling overwhelmed and wanted to let me know that he wanted out of this place.  So, I compromised.

Taking a few breaths I said, “Look, stop the whining, right now.  You know what that leads to.” pause to hear the quiet, “I will give you one last chance.  You will need to convince me however, with good arguments and proper voices, as to why exactly I should still take you to see a movie.”

Have you ever heard logical arguments from 7 and 8 year olds?  Yeah, me neither.  But it was interesting to hear what they thought were good ones.  I even had them clarify a few.

child on playground

20 minutes later, sitting in the movie theater, I realized I had made the right call.  The kids had calmed down and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.  There was laughter and giggles, bright eyes and squeals.  I, too, had calmed down and was having fun.

After the movie and a picnic lunch at an indoor playground, we made a trip to Goodwill. While Jack really did not want to shop, George was up for it.  I told them what I was looking for – swim shirts and movies.  In the end we found a shirt for George, ‘new’ swim shirts for both kids, and the movies were 12 for $0.99 (we picked up 24).  We also found THIS for only $7! I was so surprised and excited.  While I took a look at it in store, I did not stop to completely examine all the contents.  While it was missing some of the readers, there were enough of the components there for me to decide to buy it.

Once I got home and looked at everything more thoroughly, I realized it had parts of the Kindergarten kit with it and it the flashcards for 1st are missing as well.  As we are not fans of flashcards, especially for reading, this last bit did not worry me. I will add this to this year’s curriculum as review and extra practice.  It may be labeled for first grade, but that does not mean we can not use it for second and third graders.  Even more so when this is an area of difficulty for both kids.

So, what are my plans for this upcoming week?  Shopping at Aldi, which I did not get to last week, and some more school supply shopping. We may even make a stop in to GFS for a few treats. As an incentive, since I do not like the movie option this week, we will be going roller skating.  George has been asking to go for a while to practice his roller blades more (they were a Christmas gift).  My hesitancy stems from the fact that roller skating actually makes the kids more hyped up, rather than calming them down as one might assume would be the result of physical exercise. I think I will have to add in a time limit followed by outside time. (If skating is not your thing, how about bowling.)

This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 062016
 

What a week this has been! Yes, an exclamation mark is needed.  A rough week emotionally.  So much so, that even though I have a list of blog posts outlined to share with you on gardening, I can’t get them written out.  Instead this is what is going through my head, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus“.

This is a hymn I grew up singing, though one I am not sure I have heard our current church use.  It was playing at Cracker Barrel, of all places, on Sunday as we were headed back home.  My husband said he did not know it.  As soon as it started, I knew this was the exact prayer I should have been praying for the 4 days following.  Yes, it was that rough of a weekend and this week as continued along that path.

I may at some point get to where I can share all the details, for now I am still too emotionally raw about it.  I will share  a small sampling, so you can get a feel for what I am meaning.

A part of my week involved a lady following us out of a grocery store, yelling accusations at me across the parking lot.  I am still shaken up by it, doubting myself yet knowing I did nothing wrong.  I am also grateful for the other patrons who went out of their way, stopping their car and getting out to stand up for me.  Less than christian words were exchanged by those other two parties, but no fight ensued, thankfully. I really thought there would be one.

By the time I was done dealing with what I needed to deal with, all other parties involved were gone. I have no idea who the people who stopped to help me were, and no way to thank them.  But I am thankful.

Take it to the Lord in prayer ….

Pray without ceasing.”  The singing of hymns is one way I have found to do this. Because of this habit I am very much in favor of teaching our kids hymns, as many as possible.

I plan to be at home for the next week, leaving to go to church, a quick trip to Small Town grocery, and maybe the library in Big Town.  Time at home, though, is what I am craving. That and a large dose of calm.  No more crazy welcome, thank you very much.

Jan 162016
 

bird seed snowflake children craft

Cardinal Cottage has some great photos if, what else, cardinals.  There are a few craft ideas and paintings as well.

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Penny spinners look like a great craft for any time you need a fairly quick idea. I am going to file this away for an upcoming holiday shindig with a few other families.

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I love how Two Peas And Their Pod took a simple tomato soup and with the help of a few simple additions too it to a more adult level. I found this right before making tomato soup for supper. I tried the addition of Greek yogurt, but forgot to measure.  While it had to be thinned with some whole milk, this is one addition I am up for keeping up my sleeve.

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In an effort to find information to support a point of mine involving siblings and arguing, I came across the following 3 links. While they all belong to the same website, the first really hitting home. I have been feeling that this is an underlying issue in our home, but have not been able to put it into words. While our kids deal with childhood trauma, developmental delays, speech issues, attention issues (due to trauma?), and other labels, there has been something as of late (building in the last 12 months or so) that has been holding us all back.  I have started seeing it in how the kids treat and talk to each other, especially when they are mad.  I was having trouble pinpointing it. After reading this it felt like someone went into my brain and decoded my feelings.

Out Of Control Child, Stopping The Family Anxiety

Learn To Love Your Difficult Child

Outbursts And Temper Tantrums

Update: I was able to talk with a professional about the first article, and the one from last week.  This is a person who knows our family history and dynamics.  It is always good to get an outside perspective on how things are playing out, especially if you tend to be like me – over analyzing and internalizing everything.  This person said while part of the issues in our home are from Family Anxiety, which honestly is a part of every family and something we all have to learn to live with, that is not the main reason.  Yes, the idea of it had been causing me anxiety.  🙂  

I did use the reminders in the second two articles as encouragement.  When it feels as if we are surrounded by neural-typical kids and trauma-free families, I need the encouragement to keep doing what I am doing.  This is especially true when it feels like what I am doing looks like I am babying my kids or not being stern enough.  This is why I held the hand of my 6 year old all through the second half of our field trip yesterday and let him stand on my feet while I swayed him back and forth and he hung his head and watched reflections in the puddles on the walkways.  It was an action I would have done with a toddler, but it is what he needed (vestibular sensory activity, help with boundaries, staying on track, etc.).  Yes, he wanted to run around with the older boys, exploring the edge of a pond 100’s of yards away from us, opening doors to see what was behind them, touching everything in sight, kicking poles to see what would happen, playing follow the leader through the group of people listening to the presenter … not exactly what you should be doing while visiting a maple syrup business and a commercial green house.  So, as the parent I gave him what he really needed, even if he thought it would be more fun to “see what this does.”  Boy, he does keep you on your toes.

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Here are a few pdf’s and links talking about starting transplants at home.  Just like listening to Christmas Carols all through December gets you in the mood for Christmas, reviewing information on growing transplants gets me excited to get started on my own.

Iowa State University Extension “Starting Garden Transplants At Home

Utah State University “Grow Your Own Transplants At Home

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension “Timely Tips on Starting Seedlings At Home

tomato seedlings 2013

Oct 062015
 

produce auction mums flowers

Why, Hello there. How are you?  I’m swell, thanks for asking.  Just thought I would pop in and let you know that I have not completely forgotten about what I said I was going to do.  Rest assured, I am not sitting around watching the weeds grow, though grow they do.

What I have been up to is forgetting to look at the calendar for the week ahead before committing to something that would require me to blog every day.  Seems I am something going on every day, which makes the days so much fuller and energy draining.

That is right, I too am human and sometimes forget something as simple as looking at a calendar.

What this does not mean is that I have not started on my Mega Project, which actually is a smaller part of the large home project we have been working on for more than a year.  We are at a point where the new drywall needs to be painted.  Painting I can do.  It just takes a bit of time. Time is one thing we do not want it to take, as winter will be here soon and we are wanting the electrical and HVAC to be in soon.

In my head, I would spend a few hours at night painting and have it all done in … a week.  Our garage is about 24′ x 24′, the room above it the same size, plus the ceilings in both rooms.  And the two stair ways.  And the (old) upstair’s ceiling and calls.

Yes, you may laugh.  I can take it.

Sunday I cleaned out the garage, and wiped down the ceiling and 90% of the walls.  I came away looking much grayer than I really am, but it was a preview of where my hair color will be heading soon if we keep having days like today.

I had planned to finish the garage today and start on the stairway, but we had a day of attachment and sensory issues that manifested themselves as, or triggered, very strong ADHD behavior.

Need an example?  Think, not being able to handle the mixed emotions of saying Goodbye to a friend you do not see very often, while at the same time being tired but not able to slow your brain down enough to rest.  So you decide to climb on the hood of the car instead of getting in to leave to come home.  Then, when your mom gets out to make it clear it is time to go, you run in circles around said car while your Mom starts to get really frustrated at you. Once home, you throw your eraser down the air register because you do not want to do school work, then demand your mom get it back out. This all makes perfect sense to do if you have trouble handling your emotions and self control.

I would never have considered doing this when I was a kid, I would cry if someone raised their voice to me even a bit.  It has taken me a long time to even begin to understand this behavior in my kids.  Now that I am beginning to understand it, I can see it in their lives from the day they came to live with us.  And it is not me just going crazy, though that seems to be happening over time. 🙂

This was my day today. All day.  By 6:30 p.m. my husband called it bedtime.  Wise person that he is, he knew this was a better decision than sitting on the couch with Jack and George to finish Jack’s read alouds (for school) before going to bed at 7 p.m.

Jack was asleep almost immediately and George asked to go to his bed (he was laying down in our room) at 7.  I am not sure he lasted 5 minutes before going to the Land of Nod.

I started to write a post, then opted to sit by my husband and watch a movie.  When that was finished I looked up some books on Amazon, then felt calm and collected enough to start writing a post again.  Being kind to yourself is important at times like this, but often something I forget to do.

cart of produce auction hay tomato apples

I met up with a friend at the produce auction today; it was only the second or third time I have gone this year.  I was hoping for some time visiting while Jack played in a neighboring field with a new toy he had.  Instead, he could not seem to accept the fact that I needed/wanted to pay attention to anyone/anything else besides him, and actually would not go that far away from me.  He tried several tactics to make sure I knew that he really did not like what I was doing.  It could have been worse, I guess.  At least he was not playing behind cars?  He is getting better at listening, slowly.  Once, when I told him not to run, it only took him about 4 steps to stop running and 3 more to stop skipping … but then … well, let’s focus on the positive, shall we?  He helped two people load things into their cars and received tips.  He was so excited by the few dollars he earned.  I can see him becoming the local lawn mowing and snow shoveling kid in a few years.  rotary phone with pinstrip border

Something I did get accomplished today, I hope, was finding an oral surgeon that takes George’s insurance card.  Up till now I have heard stories about how hard it is to find doctor’s that take the state’s Medicaid insurance, but I had never really run into it.  At least, not to this extent.  With an OT we use for one of the kids, it took us calling a second OT office before finding one that took their insurance.  Same for the new optometrist, though they stopped taking it a few months ago.

Seems the oral surgeon at George’s dentist office retired.  The one in the neighboring county is only open to residents in that county.  The 5 others in our area whom I called do not take his insurance.  One office did give me a head’s up about an office in our neighboring state with whom they have worked before.  I gave them a call too.  Seems the nearest one in our neighboring state, who does take our state’s Medicaid insurance, does not have an oral surgeon or anesthesiologist in their office.  However, this particular dentists office does have another branch in another town a few hours away which may have an oral surgeon.  I am waiting for a call back tomorrow to see if we can set up a time.  In order to avoid having to pay $1200 out of pocket, I am willing to drive a few hours to find someone who takes George’s insurance. Besides, we have some friends who live there so we can make it a dual-purpose trip.

garage and basement collage

So, where does that leave me with the 21 Day Challenge? I am still working toward it, even if I have not posted the first post.  It seems the cup of regular (caffeinated) coffee that I have been working on all day has finally kicked in, as have the pain meds.  I have some muscle pain that was only made worse by sitting down at the computer.  It is amazing how much more you can accomplish when you are no longer in pain nor having a kid (seemingly) do everything in their power to annoy you so you will give them attention.

The 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life will start a few days later than I had planned.  What a great reminder as to why I really feel the need for this challenge again.

Even knowing that I will be working through the book has motivated me in a few areas to stop slacking off.  I have been using the chaos created by our home renovation as an excuse to slack off in several areas of life.  While some of these were justified or due to a change in how we carried out the actions of a routine, others were due to my lack of discipline to keep up with some of the habits I had in place.

Tomorrow Jack has a class in the morning, then home to do some of the multitude of minor things requiring my attention.  By Thursday I think I will be ready to jump into Crystal’s book and actually focus on changing some bad habits and tackling the Mega Project with gusto.