Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Pics and a Life Sandwich Revelation

I'm finally getting a chance to sit down at hub's computer and upload some Christmas pictures. A quiet lazy day at home...brought on by my husband's blood spewing case of bronchitis and the mandate that both NYE bowling and worship band rehearsal should be skipped for today. Before anyone worries, he is doing fine. Apparently narcotic drugs turn him into some kind of genius Lego master builder, though.

I do sometimes feel like a severe illness or injury is the only thing that can stop this family from constantly moving, going, doing. And honestly, I think we're all happy that way. We are social busy bodies, just the way God made us.

So our Christmas season was busy. 14hrs in the car spent visiting all the great people we love. Much food and wine consumed, lots of great memories and laughs. And we even performed in a Christmas play along the way. 

Mamaw turned 89. We missed her party due to vision therapy but surprised her the next day with delivery of a chicken dinner, and the kids helped finish the trimming of her tree.

Christmas Eve day at Mom's house included presents, lots of noisy boys and my favorite appetizer- Ro-tel it on the Mountain. Our kindness elf even 'showed up' and gave Tessa her first real bible as his parting gift. (Although he may be planning a return New Year's Day visit and surprise)

Christmas Eve night at the farm. Chaos, food and laughter all wrapped up with a big shiny red bow on top.
Christmas morning at home with the annual 'let's see if we can make Jeremy cry' gift. I always always succeed. 

Post Christmas we traveled up to Elkhart to visit Gramaw, check on the lake and enjoy the swimming pools and mashed potatoes that only an Amish country hotel can offer.

(Mommy forgot waterproof mascara, eh?)

So I had a small realization about 2015 earlier today. We're right in the middle of a life sandwich. We bought our house in Indiana in 2005. Tessa graduates high school in 2025. This is smack in the middle of real adult life.  I'm not sure what that means other interesting observation. It doesn't change anything and I have no pearls of wisdom about it. Other than that we are making an effort to enjoy every minute. 

Including today, a sickly New Year's Eve which for us is mostly focused around movies, snacks, Vernor's ginger ale and drugs for Daddy. And that's just perfect. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Egg Carton Mini Muffins

Being home all day with nowhere to go...such a shock to my system nowadays. It wasn't all that long ago that I was home most days with my preschoolers or babies, and domesticity ruled my life. But now, such a rare treat. I am still continuing not to work (you know, by the Uncle Sam definition of 'work' not that every-Mom-knows-it's-a-real-job definition of 'work').

This year since the kids are now both in school, I'm finding myself busier than ever. Volunteering at school, running the kids to vision therapy, karate and dance classes, overseeing the coffee ministry and singing on the worship band at our church, hostessing a weekly small group, and attempting to get to regular exercise classes. Oh and packing cute lunch boxes.  Whew.

But today Charley had a cough, so I cleared my calendar and stayed home with him and did domestic things. Like finally washed our stinky comforter.

I also had a stroke of genius about mini-muffins and egg cartons, which led me to our little project.

First we painted some paper egg cartons to be all holiday pretty.

Then I made some mini muffins (don't ask for a recipe, it was just Jiffy mix with dried cherries added)

Then we put a dozen mini-muffins in each egg carton and will later delivery them to our neighbors. Ta-da!!!

*Disclaimer- my coughing kid did not touch any part of the food process and washed his hands well before painting the cartons. Plus he's not really that sick, so I feel confident in sharing these muffins. I'm not a horrible virus spreading neighbor...I don't think.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Looking at the World Through Red-Blue Glasses

I have written briefly on this blog before about how Tessa has struggled with reading in the past. How first grade was tough for her, and she ended up seeing a reading tutor after school 3 days a week. There have been many updates on that issue and I realize that as I try to re-invigorate the blog, I should probably write about it.

By the end of first grade and after much tutoring, Tessa was *almost* caught up to the reading level of her class. We worked hard on it all summer and she continued to improve. We also chose to move from our private Christian school to our local public school, where she could receive more resources and remediation to help her.

But after the first month or so of school, it was obvious that her reading had plateaued and other subjects were starting to suffer as well. I had that Mommy gut instinct that told me something else was wrong. She's not ADD...could she be dyslexic? Does she have a learning disability?

The awesome thing is that we are SURROUNDED by teachers in our life. We had her tutor as a resource, her grandfather the school superintendent, her grandmother the 40 year teacher, her great aunt the 1st grade teacher, my best friend from middle school the 4th grade teacher, and our small group friends who are amazing home-schoolers. Many conversations, many opinions gathered.

Finally we decided to take her in for extensive vision testing to check on issues like tracking. She had had a normal eye chart test and the Target optical center, but nothing like this. It was 90 minutes of testing her tracking, depth perception, double vision, eye muscle movements. It was intense.

The conclusion was what I had suspected. The reason she hadn't been reading well was because she has two eye disorders, both of which affect the muscle movements of her eyes. The interesting part being that her vision is actually good and doesn't require glasses. But her ability to MOVE her eyes, and move them well together to read across a line of text....was crap.

For the researchers out there that might be interested, the technical words for what she has are binocular dysfunction and oculomotor dysfunction.

These things were causing her not only trouble with reading...but with any kind of crowded paperwork like math sheets, or basic classroom activities like copying from the board. Everything made sense to us. Like finding the missing puzzle piece.

As is often the case with medical things, we quite quickly became immersed in information and facts on her condition. The week after the testing she began and pretty intense 'vision therapy' program that uses both at home computer games and weekly in-office visits with an optometry specialist.

Things have also changed for in the classroom, as we have met with her teacher and the school resource teacher about having accommodations made for her, meaning some things are read out loud to her as well as small changes like bigger computer screens and less homework.

So far she is clicking right along with it. She has been doing the therapy for 9 weeks and is really starting to show some improvement. They tested her again at 8 weeks and while her eye teaming has a ways to go, her depth perception has already improved by 10 TIMES from where it started.

She will continue this for at least 4-6 more months, which means every Wednesday I will pick her up at her school lunch time and truck her over to the optomotrist. Of course once she is seeing better, there will be some ground to make up from the stuff that didn't 'stick' in her earlier grades.

But the great thing is that Tessa has the most amazing team around her. Great teacher, great vision therapist, great tutor, great friends who are encouraging and praying for her, and a Mom who is willing to do whatever it takes.

By the grace of God, we'll get there!  (maybe that should become our new motto?)

Didn't I Used to be a Story Teller?

Just recently someone that I know mostly as an aquaintance asked me if I was ever a writer. The question took me a bit by surprise. Uh no, why do you ask? She said that my facebook statuses were funny and well written and had a writer-esque feel.

That's just those semesters at Purdue studying PR showing themselves. The same kind of engrained stuff that makes me question people based on their apostrophe usage.

But yes, I used to write a blog. This blog. I used to record the silly stories of life at home with two kids. Otherwise forgotten stories like that time that baby Tessa lost her favorite monkey in a California mall, and the time that Charley's post-beet diaper made me think he had internal bleeding.

Looking back lately, you'll see that I've taken a bit of a blog hiatus. Basically all last summer and all fall. I didn't even blog any stories from our trip to Disney. My hiatus started unintentionally as a break, and extended by busyness. Then also became circumstancial. For instance...I don't currently own a working computer. But my husband does and when I can get him away from our in-home office (mostly by means of his almost weekly business trip) I often forget that this is my one chance to type type type.

Fun fact,  did you know that I can type 65 words per minute? And one my phone...I can type 3 words per minute. 

The break was nice, and certainly didn't mean that I didn't flood the internet with pictures and anecdotes about my kids.  But if writing and, in particular, storytelling is what I like to do...well then I should more often! When I can commandeer the computer, that is.

So I've got my cup of coffee and Ben Folds is playing (that's my tried and true thinking music). And here's a little recently story about Charley.

Charley is a worrier. I wouldn't say that he has an overly anxious personality, as he can be a pretty light and bubbly guy most of the times. He's not going to require medication or give himself a stomach ulcer. But he thinks about things carefully before he does them. He is not impulsive or spontaneous like you might expect a 5 year old boy to be.

At conferences this October, his kindergarten teacher said that in her 30 years of teaching, she has very rarely run across a boy like Charley....worried about doing things right, perfectionist about his work, and paranoid that someday he will break a rule in get in trouble. She said he spent a lot of time at her desk reviewing what the rules are, making sure he was in the right. She noted that often little girls can be this way about their first year of school, but not usually the 5 year old boys. 

After that we had a lot of talks with him about not worrying. Once he figured out what the rule of the classroom WERE, he seemed to relax some. I think he just wanted to understand the expectations, being that he's never done this before. He would occasionally report to me that so-and-so had lost recess or been sent to the if he was taking mental notes on how not to act at school. I told him to chill out about it and just listen to his teacher.

Well two weeks ago he got off the bus and greeted me with "Mom you're going to be mad at me. I got in trouble and there will probably be a note and you will probably be mad."

There was no note from school, but from his stuttery fast paced recounting of the story I finally figured out that he had gotten in trouble in P.E. class. His school is currently under construction so they are walking over the middle school for P.E., where Charley apparently went behind a curtain to get a ball. Behind a curtain he had been told not to go behind, because there was a wrestling team practicing on the other side. 

Charley told me that because of this infraction, the next week when he had P.E., he had to sit in the office. Since I had received no note on the incident, I took him at his word. I assumed that this acted as a sort of 'time out' where he would sit while his class played ball. Works for me.

Charley was emotional and anxious at this thought. The word OFFICE struck fear and confusion. Every morning he would ask me if this was P.E. day. The day he had to go to the OFFICE. Then he would berate me with questions....What will happen there? Where will I sit? Will they send a note? If they send a note, is that really bad? And my favorite....Where is the office again? The answer is, 15 feet from his classroom. 

He stewed over it. 

And since this happened right before Thanksgiving break, he had to stew over it extra. Not just a week but like 11 days. 

Mostly I told him to calm down. If he deserved the punishment, he would serve it as told. And really, sitting in the office isn't that big of a deal. Stop worrying. Put on your shoes, let's go. 

When P.E. day finally came he had succumbed to full acceptance. Putting on his tennis shoes he sighed loudly....Well. I guess I won't need these since I have to sit in the office. *Sigh*

When he got off the bus that day he was all smiles. "Mom you won't believe it. I didn't have to sit in the office at all!". I was confused for a bit then we sorted it out. On the day of the incident where Charley went behind the forbidden wrestling curtain of death, the P.E. teacher had warned him- If you do that again, next time you will be sent the office.  But what Charley heard was- You're in trouble, next time (we have P.E.) you have to go to the office. 

All along. All the 11 days of questioning and stewing. What had been said by the P.E. teacher was a WARNING.

And honestly, I think the 11 days of stewing about it was the perfect punishment for not listening to his P.E. teacher. Rather than worrying about what the rules are, he finally figure it out very clearly. Listen to your teacher. Refuse to listen to your teacher and you might be sent to the OFFICE.  Dun dun dun!

Psychological warfare. Well played, school. Well played. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 Pumpkin Pictures

Every October we go down and see our pumpkin man in Morgan County. Not a pumpkin patch or anything fancy, just a farmer with an honor box and a beautiful yard full of pumpkins.

It's the only time we ever do a 'photo shoot' and pose the kids. Then the awesome part is look at all their pumpkin pictures through the years and watching them grow.

I have to say, I think that this year's crop of pics are the best we've ever gotten. We hit the lighting just at the perfect time.

Happy Autumn everyone! 

Pumpkin Retrospective '14, bigger and more orangey

 Age 18 months

 Age 2

 Age 3

 Age 4 
(couldn't find a solo shot from her that year but it was a weird year. I was still unable to walk)

 Age 5

 Age 6

 Age 7

 Age 9 months

 Age 21 months

 Age 2

 Age 3

Age 4

 Age 5

Group Shots


 (I was still non-weight bearing on my boot at this point so how I got over into the picture was a big feat indeed)