Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My 30 in 90 List: An Intentional Home Project

One day folks will enter this door and not be unpleasantly surprised by the clutter inside.

Quite some time ago, I bumped into the 101 in 1001 idea. Since I love making lists, I began making one, but between interruptions from my children and then subsequent computer failures, that list never got finished  Such was not the best start for completing 101 specific tasks in 2.75 years, I must say.

Then, at the beginning of August, something jogged my memory about the 101 in 1001 project and I was this close to beginning to list away again.  Thankfully, I realized that doing so would be a time waster.  Life-as-Mom these past six-plus years has proven that life as Super-Task-Checker-Martianne is on standstill, at least when it comes to grand plans. 

So it was that I caught myself about to list instead of to live.  Promptly, I determined that taking time to list 101 ideas would be wasteful.  It would also set me up for defeat.

Truly, my current season of life requires me to simplify – to think (and live!) 10-15 minutes at a time.  Any longer than that and the kids tend to wreak havoc somewhere in the house or yard, requiring me to invest double to triple the amount of time I spent doing whatever I was doing in order to face the consequence of having done it.  Too many times, I have learned the same lesson:  when I shift focus away from my children for a twenty minute or more chunk of a day, there is a frustrating price to pay.

Another thing I have learned:  Be yourself!  Living without authenticity is not living at all and, if I am to be 100% honest, lists seem strongly woven into the fabric of my being.  Even as a young child, I made lists.  (Here, I smile nostalgically as I recall the pages and pages of class lists of imaginary students that I would check off when playing school.)  Making lists; looking them over; and checking them off  may not always be the most productive thing to do, but it is something I do.

My 30 in 90 List Project

One success of my 30 in 90 List Project:  On a recent morning, the "big kids" actually woke before Jack.  What a joy it was to see them run to the door to wave bye-bye to Daddy as Daddy went off to work. 

So it was that I decided to create a 30 in 90 list.  That is 30 specific things to accomplish within 90 days with the children alongside me or in a nearby room
.  Now, I know that “30 in 90” doesn’t have the same visual appeal as “101 in 1001”, but the lower digits offered me hope of success!  Plus, it sounded better than “30 in 90, minus weekends, when I have another goal system in progress”, which, in actuality, is what my plan should have been called.

But, I digress...

As I laid out my 30 in 90, I wanted a clear framework that was more specific than just “30 things” – something that would help move me forward with specific intentions.

Since I had promised myself and my husband that I would organize the upper portion of our home before Advent 2012, I knew part of that framework had to based on that goal. 
Since the new school year was already upon us, I decided to include an academic focus within the framework.  

Finally, since I have been focused on the better living the motto of “people before things”, I decided to round out my self-created framework with that concept. 

Thus, the parameters for my 30 in 90 list became:

  • one relational goal
  • one practical cleaning/de-cluttering/organizing goal
  • and one homeschool-related goal

related to each of the upper areas of our home.

Perfect. 

Or maybe not.

Accountability Time! 

Mike is not killing clutter (though he'd like to).  He is trying to play Jedi Warrior around the boxes that are, thankfully, no longer crowding our hallway.

It appears my goal was still too large.  (Or was my focus and motivation too lacking?)  As my the 90 days come to a close, I realize that my 30 in 90 was less successful than I had hoped it would be.

As things in my life too often do, my 30 in 90 List proved easier to create than to complete.  In black-and-white, my project was a big failure.  I do not yet have 30 items checked off.  But I am not always a black-and-white sort of girl.  I like color.  So, I am counting the project as a success despite the lack of checkmarks on my list. 

Why?

My 30 in 90 project focused helped me make progress on some things that were hitherto just thoughts and ideas.  And, something is better than nothing.  In fact, it’s enough to motivate me for my next project:  One Main Thing in Seven – a joint effort to be made by my husband and I that I may write about later.

Just What Were My 30 in 90?

Doesn't everyone have a pet slug in the entry to their home?  It wasn't part of my 30 in 90 plan, but it was a reality that made for three very happy children for a while.

For the record, just because “30 in 90” did not fully work for me over the past few months does not mean it will not be an effective approach at future point when focus, time and motivation coincide better  Nor does it mean that the idea could not work for someone else.  So, I am sharing the nitty gritty of my list below as fodder for my own later progress as well as inspiration for others:

Stoop
  • Increasingly stop what I am doing when Mike leaves in the morning to see him off and, then, say a prayer for him and his day.  (Hopefully, the kids will model after me.) – Check!  Going well!  Not 100%, but nothing beats Jack (and sometimes Nina and Luke) standing on the stoop with me, all of us waving to Daddy and blowing him kisses as he drives away.  What a simple, but joyful way to start the day with love and relationships!  I highly recommend it!
  • Clear the clutter off the stoop and scrub its “floor” down. – Check! The stoop is clear and Clean.  Getting it that way was a Practical Life activity for the kids and me that taught me a thing or two.  Hoorah.
  • Create and implement the use of a Practical Life Skills Tidy Time card. – Partial check.  The card is designed, printed, but not yet in use.

Entry
  • Increasingly stop what I am doing when Mike comes home each day to offer him a proper welcome.  – Hmmm.  Stopping a thing in motion (particularly this Mommy in motion) can be so difficult!  Gotta work on that.
  • De-clutter:  Pair down our shoe explosion; “weed” entry shelf;  attack and organize front closet. – Well, we “edited” out all the kids’ outsized shoes, but still have a long way to go with this checkpoint.
  • Create Hand Cleaning and Nature Nook.  Housing for our pet slug took over the space where I was going to put our Hand Cleaning and Nature Nook, so. I aborted this goal.  Our slug “Flash” didn’t make it, so we’ve just removed his home and now the space is again ready for work.

Living Room
  • Enjoy focused floortime or face-to-face outdoor play with each child individually on a daily basis. – Partial check.  You’d think it would be easy when you’re with your children almost 24/7 to do this, but getting true 1-to-1 time can be challenging.  It’s high on my priority list for my 42nd year to schedule such time in more regularly until it becomes a regular habit.
  • Create Space“Edit” out some furniture; remove some toys and books. – Check! I removed some of the furniture, toys and books, so there is more space.  However, the room still feels crowded.  It is somehow overflowing.  I need to keep at it.
  • Make a plan for better utilizing the kid’s kitchen in living room until it finds a home in to-be-created downstairs family room.  Then begin implementing the plan. – Ideas are simmering on the back burner of my brain, but implementation... No check.

Kitchen
  • Celebrate together through monthly Liturgical Teas. – Check!  We even had a second impromptu one in August.  This is a habit we are all enjoying the formation of!
  • Spend at least the equivalent of five minutes daily de-cluttering an re-organizing for better family food culture. – Okay, so I needed to revise this checkpoint early on because I did not spent five minutes a day each day we were home and also ended up not being home for a week when we went to see the in-laws.  I thought I could catch up by spending about fifteen minutes a day on the days when we are actually home for the remainder of the 90 days when I initially revised my plan, but, um...  failed!  Oh, to have little mice to help make my dream of kitchen organization a reality.
  • Revive and maintain Produce Power campaign. – Check!  I revamped what we are doing and we are making strides in getting more produce power into the kiddoes!  Whoo hoo!

Deck
  • Enjoy breakfast and Circle Time on deck whenever weather is fair and we are not in a rush to get somewhere.  – Adapted Check.  We started doing this on days when the kids didn’t request the front yard, which is their preferred spot these days on many mornings.  However, as the EEE risk (deadly mosquito disease) got high in our area, we began staying inside in the early a.m. and at dusk.
  • Organize space better for learning, playing and dining. –  No check, for the reason above.  When we are outside, we tend to stay in the front yard, further from the mosquito-breeding wetlands out back.
  • Create and implement the use of a Practical Life Skills Tidy Time card. – No check yet.

Hall
  • Stop when passing one another in the hall to acknowledge one another with smiles and love. – Sad to say, not a full check yet.  I can be so narrowly focused when getting from literal Point A to Point B and the kids tend to follow my lead on this.
  • Get the boxes back out and the “art space” up.  – Check! A quickie art space is up thanks to our Piet Mondrian study, and I finally kept my promise to Mike and cleared the boxes back out. 
  • Create and implement the use of a Practical Life Skills Tidy Time card. – The card is designed, printed, but not yet in use.

Bathroom
  • Get back to Tubby Fun Focus. – Um, a water issue between the bathroom floor and the basement nixed this checkpoint.  We have not allowed tubbies for over a month, just quick showers.
  • De-clutter and label closet, cupboard and drawers (again).—No check.  I found that trying to do anything in the bathroom when the kids are around just begs for disaster as they entertain themselves in the small space of the bathroom with me – or worse – get into things elsewhere.
  • Begin better oral health focus.—A weak check and no excuses for it not being stronger.  We really need to get on this, especially since Luke has turned into Mr. Shark with grown up teeth growing behind baby teeth.  Dentist appointment, here we come.

Bedroom
  • Increasingly go to bed at the same time as Mike in our room, not the kids’ room.—Big fail thus far.
  • Reduce clutter; label anything remaining “on hold” in the room.—I have made slight progress with this, but only slight.  The paper monsters that leered from so many other areas of the house found their way into our room and are taking soooo long to get through.
  • Reorganize homeschool resource shelf.—Reorganized, but disorganized again.  Obviously, the plan needs revamping.

Boys’ Room
  • Spend five or more minutes of Mommy and me time a day.—Jack and I are doing this consistently on the days when we are home at his nap time.  Luke and I are not nearly as consistent and sorely need to be.  That boy needs his mom-and-me room time.
  • Revamp “storage areas” (closet, desk and shelves).—Partial check.  Luke and I started this, but never finished.
  • Ask children to spend time at least three times a week with me maintaining the room.—Partial check.  Not up to three times a week and need to be.

Girl’s Room
  • Spend five or more minutes of Mommy and me time a day.—Failing, but not always.  On the days I spend time with Nina in her room with “just us”, she beams.
  • Revamp “storage areas” (closet, shelves, etc.).—Failing and facing explosions.
  • Ask children to spend time at least three times a week with me maintaining the room. Partial check.  When do attack tidies and maintenance in Nina’s room, it always seems to come with a fight.  Not good.

The Most Important Check:  Reality Check

We want to freely experience more of this.  Thus, my determination to get to more of my 30-in-90 goals must remain steadfast, even if attacked through a different approach.  A decluttered home, where learning and relationships thrive daily will afford the freedom for LOTS of days off elsewhere.

As reality evidences, my list was too ambitious and my discipline too lacking to get all 30 things done in 90 days.  It also shows that some rooms had little to no progress, tasks related to learning goals could use some focus and relationships are strong, but habits that help keep them that way could be better attended to.

Perhaps if I reduce the clutter in my brain and on my list by narrowing things down from a 30 in 90 approach to a One Main Thing in Seven Days focus, I will experience greater success with everything.  As I mentioned before, that is exactly what Mike and I are planning to do.

SPD Connection

When I am smart, I set the kids up with sensory diet activities before attempting to attack any to-do's.

 I thought that yesterday would be the last time I posted this month, but when I realized my 90 days were up, I began assessing my progress and felt inspired to log it here.  Thus, another October post and another word on SPD:

All moms know that it can be difficult to advance with clearing, cleaning and organization (as well as to attend to other projects) with little ones underfoot.  Moms of children with SPD know it can be even more challenging to do so when a “sensory kid” demands extra time and focus.  Although I can hardly blame the condition of our home on Luke’s neurology, I will say that all the time and energy that we spent with therapies and behavior issues prior to changing Luke’s (and our entire family’s) diet certainly did nothing to help things.   

Further, even since changing Luke's food diet, it can still be difficult to get things accomplished on the occasions that I neglect to pay close attention to his sensory diet. When I get into go-mode and forget to ensure that Luke gets enough vestibular and proprioceptive activities in, or when I leave him to make his own activity choices for too long, things get ugly.  I usually end up having to come to a screeching halt to deal with fall out.

Likewise, as my husband periodically reminds me:  just as Luke’s neurology has affected my efforts to declutter and to make headway on other projects, my failure to effectively reduce mental, physical and schedule clutter affects Luke’s neurology.  Mike and I both truly believe that having a less-cluttered, tidier home (and schedule) would benefit Luke.  My mental clutter overflows into Luke's over-active brain, it seems. Physical clutter adds yet another dimension of input that Luke's system has to process.  A busy schedule creates too many transitions, which are tough for Luke, just as they are for many kids with sensory issues.

There is always work to be done.

Resetting in the sunshine makes the task list less daunting.

Thankfully, we know the value of play and time for resetting, too.  It keeps the smiles on our faces and the light shining at the end of the task-tunnel.  For intentional living is more than task lists; it is breathing in the goodness of life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Happy" Birthday to Me

Over a week ago, I celebrated my birthday (and several other fall family birthdays) early with my parents, siblings, children, nieces and nephew.


Today, I won't get a chance to celebrate with my husband and the kids much since when Mike comes home from work, I have to go to work.  I am okay with that, though, because, truth be told, I don't feel much like celebrating.


For yes, I have much to be grateful for.  I can say I am 42 years young.  I am healthy, usually happy and still quite able to do things, including things I love, such as hiking with my family and holding two special treasures and one surprise gift that I received slightly before hitting this "advanced" decade of life.

However, I also feel weighed down.  For despite being 42 years young, I am also 42 years "old".  My "advanced age", in combination with a BRCA2 gene mutation, places upon me a burden of some decisions that I do not want to make.

The burden is one that I cannot shake and one that distracts me.
  • It elicits negativity in me, causing me to neglect the lessons that my two year old teaches me.  It made it take longer for the joy of his "play with me" to sink in this morning.  My baby, who for so long did not speak, is now speaking and asking to be with me.  What more could a mom want?  (Not to make a hard choice, that's what!)
  • It makes me an inconsistent model of joy and peace for the girl who is long overdue for another spotlight here; the one who lights up my world and tests my patience all within minutes.  Like her, I vacillate lately between being upbeat and being ugly.  (Thankfully, this morning, Nina has been all brightness so far.  Her attitude has been helping to lift some of the darkness that  I awoke feeling.)
  • It shades my vision, so I cannot consistently recognize and celebrate the boy who has made such strides lately, coming more and more into his own.  I almost did not notice how fantastic his wake up time was today or how creatively and cooperatively he is playing with his siblings now.
  • It makes me a wife I that is less than pleasant for my husband to come home from work to.  By early evening, lately, I feel "done".  Tired.  Sad.  Frustrated.  Grumpy.  My husband does his best to be understanding and not to fuel fires or add to the burden.  He deserves better though.
  • It keeps me from progressing on the albatross that is our home de-clutter project.  I begin tasks, but get distracted and do not follow through.
The burden presses down on me with an unexpected force that is infiltrating almost every role that I play in life.   The decisions I need to make, oddly, center on how best to prolong my healthy life, yet, at the same time, they hamper the quality of life I am experiencing right now.

I know I need not feel this burden.  God offers to take it for me.  I am just not that great at handing it over right now.

I also know that I could count the burden as a blessing instead.  Today's technology gives me information and choices that many decades of moms never had the opportunity to know and that a part of me wishes I did not know either.

Most importantly, I know that living with a long face and a weight on my shoulders is not the way to live.  I am enormously blessed and I should be living like I am.  I should be counting what is, not dreading what may be...  But, for some reason, "should" and "am" don't quite equate yet.

So, for my birthday, might I ask that you lift me in prayer today?  I seek clarity, peace and a smile this morning that truly emanates from my insides.  A happy face and a happy heart.  I wouldn't mind a huge blinking directional from God either, but that may be too much to ask for...

An SPD Connection
Today is the last day I will be posting in October.  Therefore, it is also the last day that I will add a special SPD connection my post.

This month, I have been sharing thoughts about our family's experience with SPD in every post in honor of Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month.  Through my sharing, I hope it is clear that SPD is as much a challenge as it is a gift.  We continue to face challenges with our oldest son, yet we have made great strides, too.  As he has grown in his ability to stay regulated, we have grown in our sense of acceptance and appreciation of who he is and how to strategize to best help him meet success in whatever his call may be.

Hopefully, the same will be said, in the end, about my struggle with BRCA2-related decisions.  That I come to a place of acceptance and appreciation of a choice that will help me best live what God truly calls me to.  

I thank all readers for bearing with this "unloading" today and am grateful for a moment prayer and positive energy sent my way.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Impromptu Sensory-Aware Mini-Unit on Wind

Today, we were supposed to be enjoying another homeschool co-op session, followed by a special All Saints Day party.  However, Sandy blew in and changed our plans.

The storm also inspired a sensory-aware mini-unit and lapbook-in-the-works on wind.


We started the day off with some handwriting by practicing the letters w-i-n-d on a chalkboard Handwriting Without Tears style.  I wrote the word "wind", then Nina erased each letter, using the correct order for each erasure "stroke".  Then, she re-wrote the word before Luke erased and re-wrote it.


Then, each child practiced some basic spelling, including the word "wind" with magnetic letters on a cookie sheet.


After this, we took some calming deep breaths as we explored what wind does (move things) and got in some math practice.


We predicted how many breaths it would take each of us to blow a tissue ball from one end of our hallway to another, counted as we blew and, then, recorded the results.


Then, we made some equations based on how many breaths it actually took us.


We extended the proprioceptive input we were getting from our blowing activity by collecting various items from around the house into small baskets and predicting if wind could blow them.


We took turns testing out our predictions by trying to blow various objects down the hallway.


Then, we looked at what we actually could and could not blow down the hallway and talked about why.



We theorized that a stronger wind could blow any of our objects forward, so we tried to create stronger wind by blowing through plastic tubes.


In doing so, we realized we could make music.  Thus, a break for auditory input and musical exploration ensued.


This led into a discussion about wind and the senses.  We talked about how we could see the wind moving things, even if we could not see the wind itself, that we could feel wind on our skin and that we could even hear wind when it was strong or when it made music. 


Then, we decided it was time to really feel the wind.  So, we took a break to go let ourselves blow about the yard.


Back inside, we tried to explore how wind is created, by combining hot colored water with cold-as-ice water, watching how the cold water displaces the hot water, much like cold and hot air fronts cause movement and wind. 


The experiment did not work perfectly despite several trials, but the kids understood the point despite the lack of a perfect visual in the jar.

Successful or not, they sure enjoyed trying the experiment and also got some great tactile input through feeling the temperature of each jar.


By this time in our morning, bellies were grumbling.  So, I asked the kids if they wanted a "hot air" snack or a cold one.  They chose a cold snack for hot air, so I spoiled them with popsicles, which they enjoyed while watching some wind-theme youtube. (Sucking can be calming and regulating!)


After this, it was time to get some physical movement in again, so we went outside and tried to catch the wind in grocery bags. 


Nina and Luke decided they needed to catch more wind, so they traded their grocery bags for trash bags.  What exhilaration it was  to run in the roar of the wind and rain!


When we are all back inside, we talked about the power of wind, and I challenged the kids to lift a book with a straw and a sandwich bag. 


They thought that was really cool and demonstrated their new-found skill for Daddy laeer in the day when he was sent home from work.


Even Jack was excited to try it!


By the time we had finished our power of wind exploration, it was nearly time for lunch, so after beginning a quickie lapbook on wind, we paused our impromptu wind mini-unit.

Now, before pushing our luck too far, I am going to pause writing and hit "post".  (So far, we have our power still, but that is not to say we will continue to all night.)

I pray all remain safe and happy, as well as sensory-regulated, for the remainder of this storm.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In Good Company...

This week was week filled with lesson time, appointments, classes and commitments. It was also one replete with fellowship.

On Sunday, after Mass, we enjoyed our weekly family Sabbath time by going hiking and visiting the otter at the Blue Hills. While there, we bumped into someone we know from Mass.

Along the Trails at the Blue Hills
On Monday, we learned alongside other Catholic families at a homeschool co-op and then played with many of them at a local playground.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed a picturesque autumn morning while hiking and picnicking with two other faith-filled families we know.

A Picture Taken By a Friend on the Way into Our Pratt Farm Hike

On Wednesday, we started the day with a phone call from one of our co-op friends.

On Thursday, the kids did their lessons at Grammy and Grampy’s while Mommy went to an appointment. While at Grammy and Grampy’s, ever helpful Grammy rustled up some costume pieces for an upcoming All Saints Day party the kids and I will enjoy with their friends.

On Friday, we participated in a gym class attended by many fellow homeschoolers and then went on a field trip to a nature preserve with Our Lady Queen of Saints families, before attending Mass at a local Shrine.

At Oak Knoll Preserve

Today, on Saturday, as I write this, I smile. I recognize that we have truly been living parts of our family mission this week:

  • Spending time together often. 
  • Making choices that allow us to focus on family, faith, fitness and friends. 
  • Loving God, others and ourselves. 
  • Exercising our minds bodies and spirits, often outdoors. 

In doing so, we are continuing to do something that I think is vital in training up young children to have happy faith-filled hearts: We are surrounding ourselves with good people who also know and love God through scheduling our lives to foster friendships with such folks. For, while I definitely do not feel every friendship needs to be based upon similar religious views, I do think it benefits children to grow in faith alongside a significant portion of their friends.

At the Blue Hills
 How do you promote friendships among your young children and folks of similar faith?

An SPD Connection

Continuing to honor my commitment to making a connection to Sensory processing Disorder in every post I write this month in honor of Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month,  One of the reason we chose to homeschool in the first place, I would like to touch on three things:

  • When our oldest child was less than two years old, my husband turned to me and suggested that he was going to be "one of those kids", a child who my teaching colleagues would not understand and, therefore, a child who might struggle in traditional school settings.  At the time, we did not know our son had sensory issues.  We just recognized that he might not be a good fit for our school systems.  Thus began our foray into homeschooling, which has turned out to be a life-changing decision, which we are so grateful to have been led to.  Truly, if our oldest had not always been "different", our family's life as we know it would not be as rewarding and blessed as it is.  I am not saying all homeschoolers have "different" kids, and I am not saying all "different" kids should be homeschooled.  What I am saying is that our oldest child's SPD was the catalyst for a family decision to homeschool and I cannot imagine a better choice for us.
  • As I have mentioned in previous posts, getting regular sustained doses of "heavy work" helps regulate our son's sensory system.  Hiking is fantastic for this!  The climbing, jumping, navigating over, under and around things...  It all works into providing sensory diet experiences for our son that our entire family can enjoy.  That said, there was a time when long stretches of outdoor time were almost over-stimulating for our son.  Or perhaps the transition from outside to inside was difficult.  Whatever the case was, our son would enjoy hikes, but then have challenging periods after we got back home.  I am so glad this is not the case anymore.
  • Although we have always chosen to participate in family, community and homeschool group activities, we have not always done so with smiles on everyone's faces.  Until quite recently, our oldest's struggles with sensory issues, social skills and impulsiveness often resulted in combinations of unease, meltdowns, embarrassment or danger for him, us and those around us.  These days, participation is far more pleasant.   Through consistent use of strategies, large doses of love and learned patience, our ability to enjoy (and be!) good company has vastly improved.  
The disorder of our oldest's sensory system has brought challenges and required accommodations, yet it has also proven that hope is not unfounded.  Through God's infinite grace, and intentional choices that our family makes, we have come to a much better place than we were several years ago.  Good company, I think, only strengthens our efforts.  It is with great thanksgiving that I reflect on the friendship we were able to share this week.
 

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)
 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How My Two-Year-Old Taught Me to Make Breakfast

Quite some time ago, we committed to cereal-free breakfasts.  More recently, I realized we were falling into an unhealthy and expensive habit – consuming too many quick and convenient processed breakfast foods (a.k.a. GFCF frozen waffles, GFCF toast with nut butter, etc.). 

Taking a first step to break this detrimental habit was easy.  I simply stopped purchasing the convenience foods.

Progressing through a second step has not been as easy.  I have yet to get into a groove of once-a-week or once-a-month preparation in order to ensure a surplus of healthy, relatively low cost eats to start our days with each morning.  So it is that all too often I find myself waking less than enthusiastically, realizing that I need to start breakfast from scratch – again.  A homemade breakfast, no less, that can be prepared and eaten, sometimes, in less than 20 minutes, as early morning commitments loom.

Thankfully, my early riser recently gave me an attitude adjustment. 

A Lesson from My Two Year Old in How to Prepare Breakfast

As I begrudgingly begin my breakfast-making duties Jack makes his way to the kitchen, drags a step stool over and says, “I help.” 

I say good morning and hand him a cup full of flour to put in the mixing bowl, secretly wishing he’d stayed asleep so I could get breakfast made without “help”.

Jack claps and declares, “I did it” after dumping the flour in. I pause.  He is so cheerful while I am grumbly.  Witnessing his heart of service and joy reminds me that I, too, should wake and do all thing with great love, not just with committed duty.  His beaming pride chastens me, too.  Celebrate even the smallest successes in life, Mom!  I rejoice over putting flour in a bowl.  Can’t you find something to smile about this morning? It seems to say.


The corners of my lips begin to turn upward.  I certainly can, Son.  You.  I notice a camera sitting on the shelf and grab it to snap a photo of the moment to remind me later of this moment.  Then, it is back to breakfast preparation...

After all the ingredients for our GFCF, produce-injected muffins are in the bowl, Jack says, “I do it.  It is his way of letting me know that he wants to stir the muffin batter himself. 


I step back to honor Jack’s request, giving him enough space so that he can feel fully  independent as he stirs our muffin batter together, yet remaining close enough to catch him or the bowl should either of them topple.  It is then that I realize that Jack pulled over the “wrong” kitchen stool.  He is standing on the one that is a bit too low for him and thus the entire time he has been helping to prepare our family’s breakfast he has been standing on his tip toes.  Incredible! 

While I shuffled out to the kitchen and huddled over the counter to make our meal, he sidled up beside me, joyfully maintaining balance, zealous in his industry and independence.  Moreover, he persisted with absolute intent joy and presence. 

For the first time all morning, my teeth break through my lips into a full blown smile.  Jack turns to share my pleasure.  I grab the camera again and snap a picture:


My little muffin maker.  My two year old teacher.  My mornings lesson.

Do all things with love.
Celebrate tiny accomplishments.
Maintain balance.
Do so with joy.
Delight in duties.
Serve with a smile.
Reach your best potential.

An SPD Connection

I committed to making an SPD connection in every post this month in honor of Sensory Processing Disorder Month.  Today's is a brief one:  Making breakfast from scratch every day is much easier than dealing with many meltdowns and challenging behaviors throughout the day.  

In seeking strategies to minimize difficult behaviors in our son with SPD, we landed upon dietary intervention as a potential tool.  Thus we committed fully to our family food goals and refuse to turn back. Fixing what average Americans eat for breakfast might seem easier, but it not an option for us.  For while there are days when our food goals are difficult to maintain, our motivation to do so remains strong.  We have seen a dramatic increase in positive minutes and hours throughout our day since committing to an additive-, preservative-, artificial dye-, artificial flavor-, white sugar-, gluten- and casein-free diet.

We are thankful for this change.  And, now, I am thankful for the special morning I shared with my other son as an indirect result.

So gifted!
This post is being shared at Thankful Thursday

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Field Trip to the Firehouse – Confirmation of Progress with SPD

During Fire Safety Week, our local fire department hosts a wonderful free family day that we thoroughly enjoy.  Or, I should say, that we thoroughly enjoy when our oldest son is able to stay regulated.

For Sensory Processing Disorder and fire house visits are not always a good mix.  The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile input involved with a fire department open house can prove over-stimulating.  In years past, such sensory experiences put our son into overload at times, resulting in a hodge podge of bolting, melt downs and similar dampers on an otherwise delightful day.

Not this year! 

This year, more times than one, I was the one taken aback, not by over-stimulation, but by the satisfying realization of how far our son has come.


He never used to be able to tolerate getting his picture taken or his fingers printed for safety I.D.’s.  This year, he got into it.


Demonstrations, such as cooking safety ones, used to over-stimulate him.  Now, they just provide an opportunity for him to ask a zillion questions!


Tearing him away from safety videos used to bring on meltdowns.  Now, he comes and goes from the video peacefully, using the video, to some degree, as a regulation tool.


Police dog demonstrations sometimes caused a form of stimming (which, at the time, I did not even know was stimming).  Now, he can take a front row with his sister to watch and learn.


Face painting used to be a tactile nightmare.  Now he is an old hat at it and, where he used to take forever to say what he wanted on his face – sitting almost like a deer in headlights even before the painting began, even after asking for his face to be painted – he now walks right up and challenges volunteers to paint some of his favorite things, like Star Wars blasters and light sabers. And – bonus – he'll actually look directly at the camera for a picture afterward.  (Eye contact with peopel and camera was a huge challenge in the past.)


He used to need Daddy to hold him during fire demonstrations, now he volunteers Daddy to go put the fires out.


And, he used to come home so in need of huge amounts of sensory regulation activities that directly involved us that the other children were unfortunately ignored for a few moments by at least one parent.  Now, he joins Sister, Brother and us in saving our house from pretend fires.


Due to his sensory needs, our son used to get the lion’s share of our attention at family days like the fire house open house if Mike and I failed to make a concentrated effort to ensure his siblings got their fair share of Mommy and Daddy time.  Now, without so much orchestrating, everyone has their special moments, both one-on-one and together, and we all enjoy the day that much more for it.


Oh, what gratitude is in my heart today, not just for our local fire department’s generous open house, but also for the opportunity it provided for me this year to see that my son has made great progress and continues to do so.  A free family day of fun and a hope-filled perspective.  It doesn’t get much better than that!  Thank you, Lord, for an ideal Sabbath family day.

 This post is being shared at Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Watching Videos as a Sunday Morning Tradition?

Preparing for Mass with a Holy Heroes Adventure Guides Video

{NOTE:  Affiliate links are included in this post .}

It might seem odd that we, a family that consciously limits screen time for our children, have been making a habit of watching videos each Sunday morning.  Yet it is true. 

For weeks now, some time between breakfast and Mass on Sunday mornings, we bring our laptop to the table and let the kids glue their eyes to the screen.

Why?

Because we have found Holy Heroes Mass Prep Videos like this one:



Each Sunday, the Holy Heroes Adventure Guides offer a free, short video.  These help center our children's attention on the Gospel and, on good weeks, encourages them to pay more attention in church as they listen for the readings shared in the videos to be repeated during the celebration of Mass.

SPD Connection

In keeping with my promise to honor National Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month this month, I wanted to make three notes about videos and Mass with our son.

1.  Videos.  Our son LOVES them and would gladly watch them for hours on end.  However, he is also often over-stimulated by them.  As you can glean from the photo at the top of this post, where our son is standing with his hands behind his head, our son tends to watch videos with his whole body.  He often stands, jumps up and down, wiggles and bounces.  Plus, since he was quite young, during particularly stimulating segments of videos, he often reaches his arms forward and open and closes his fingers almost as if he is trying to repeatedly and quickly manipulate a puppet's mouth.  (This, as we learned in the past year, is actually a stimming behavior.)

2.  Heavy Work.  Regardless of whether a video causes our son to stim or not, we have learned that if our son is to remain regulated and if we are all to remain more peaceful, we have to bracket his video viewing time with active time.  When we fail to ensure heavy work (running, jumping, lifting, pushing and other activities that work the proprioceptive system) before and/or after screen time, our son's dysregulation quickly becomes apparent.

3.  Pre-Mass Strategy.  Mass always goes better when we take the time to encourage our son to have more than just a quick with a good dose of heavy work.  When we budget 15 minutes or more for heavy work activities before Mass, we usually discover his behavior at church benefits. If only we would remember to do this more often...

What special treats or favorite traditions have become a part of your family's Sunday mornings?


 

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