Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Phonics fixes and why I love the library

Every parent has the desire to help their child learn, but when your kid is a little quirky that desire is kicked up a notch to obsessive (or, in my not-so-humble opinion, it should be).  The clock is ticking.  No, not the biological clock.  If it is, I'm choosing to ignore it, because the KINDERGARTEN clock is ticking.  This is our year to tattoo Isaac's pre-school learnin' into his brain with the tap, tap, tap of repetition.  Right now you are probably picturing my poor child glued to a wooden school desk in our kitchen reciting the alphabet, it's sounds, and writing his name for hours while I stir gluten free gruel over the stove- sweat on my brow and apron stained.  Fortunately, I'm a little more fun than that.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I've noticed a few holes in Isaac's understanding of basic phonics.  Like that he thinks most letters make the k-sound, and doesn't always recognize the lower case version of letters.  And here we were, working on spelling simple words.  I don't know if you can sense it where you are, but I'm rolling my eyes at myself right now. Anyway, the resource fairy, God, the stars, or whatever you want to call it has, as usual, sent help to this mom to find some fun ways to work on these things.  First, I would like to thank Moose and Zee for coming out with a new game on right when we needed some lower case learning. The game is called Little Letter Playground, and specifically works on matching the upper case to the lower case letters.  Isaac loved it, and I could tell that it was helping him grasp things better.  Every time you press "play again" a new set of letters is brought out.  Try it, you'll love it.

Next, I would like to thank the other spectrum moms out there who leave reviews on products on to help guide the rest of us wandering sheep to quick yet informed decisions about purchasing things that "just might work" for our kids.  I was looking for a dvd that would help Isaac with letter sounds since videos draw him in.  Thanks to a spectrum mom's review we found the Leap Fog Letter Factory dvd.  Not wanting to spend any more money during an already indulgent birthday month, I checked the library and sure enough they had this and several other educational dvds I've been tempted to buy lately.  Two fun phonics fixes in one week that cost nothing?  Yes, please.

I will never cheat on you again, Okemos Public Library.  I am officially committed to you now that I've finally paid my overdue fines from last year.  Love, Libby Loucks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For the name's sake

It occurred to me tonight that this blog is titled Grateful for the Good Days, and that I should probably share some of my good days instead of just my unsolicited advice and thinly veiled complaints about life.  Today was a good day- though it did not start that way.  Isaac and I were supposed to go to a children's museum with play group friends, but that didn't happen.  I had to wake him up to get ready with my fingers crossed that yesterday's under-the-weatherness had passed.  He was in the bath when the melting down started.  Nope, not happening.  I was not risking a meltdown an hour and a half from home without my own vehicle to escape with.  The fact is, the past couple of weeks have been super busy and I think we Loucks are a bit run down.  We've made it the WHOLE summer with no more than allergies, so we were due for a little post nasal malaise.  So Isaac and I had a lazy snuggle day.  We even managed to work on lower case letters and letter sounds, etc.  But the whole day was filled with rest and fluids with the hope of this passing before grandma and grandpa Chambers get here on Thursday.  I think it worked.

By far the best part of the day was bed time- when Isaac decided to show that clever and very cute side of himself that makes me happy and hopeful.  This is the story I shared to my facebook friends, but thought I'd post here lest I start sounding like the troll that guards the bridge to the land of happiness.  I truly am grateful for this little boy and this very four year old moment:
Tonight while putting Isaac to bed Andrew came in and gave him a kiss. To me, "Daddy gave me a kiss. It had spikes." "Oh, yeah he probably needs to shave, huh?"  "Yes, then he'll be a BEAUTIFUL daddy! (insert hand flourish)" 
A few minutes later I asked Isaac what kind of dinosaur he would be if he could be any dinosaur in the world. "A T-Rex. Rawwrrrr!"  "Oh. Would you eat meat, then?"  "Yes."  I ask him what kind of meat he would eat. The answer: "Triceratops meat.  And mommy, you could be a spinosaurus and then you would eat triceratops meat too." I love bed time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Mantras

I will never understand the kind of pride that prolongs struggle in any form.  Yet we all take part in it.  The longer it takes to admit to a problem, the longer it takes to arrive at a solution.  As I've been setting aside some time each day to work on pre-k stuff with Isaac, I've noticed more than a few holes in his understanding of phonics.  There is always a temptation as a parent to believe your child is perfect.  And to me Isaac is perfect.  He just needs a little, or may I say, a lot of help with grasping certain things.  Like letter sounds.  How did we skip to working on spelling simple words without him understanding letter sounds or recognizing all lower case letters?  I'm guessing a little pride on the parenting side.  "We're fine! We're catching up!  Nothing to see here..." 

So I'm thinking I need to add another mantra to my growing list of ones that work for us, which already includes "You're four now...(insert expected behavior here)." And the soon to start again, "Remember, no matter who opens the number 9 door (at school), you still have to go in."  There is the always-helpful, "Remember, no matter how much fun you have, when I pick you up it's time to go home." The classic, "Use your words."  I need to add this one for myself,  "He's four.  He doesn't get X. We will now work on X before moving onto Y.  We will not get discouraged.  We will not feel guilty.  We will not compare.  But we WILL work on it.  Consistently."

End of story.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shoe team

The race to re-solidify our routines, social, and self care skills is on as school starts up in a few weeks.  It has been a baptism by fire of underwear untwisting, shoe putting on, button snapping, pre-k curriculum, and brushing up on our manners.  This year's campaign shall be built on the platform "you're four years old now".  I plan on milking that phrase from now until next August.  It under-girds every task we're working on with Isaac.  As in,  "You're four years old.  You can untwist your own underwear and put on your pants."  Or  "Four year olds use their words."  Or  "Four year olds put on their shoes or they don't get to go to the park." It's not that I haven't been working on these things with him all summer, but the urgency for consistency on my part has officially set in.  We have just under three weeks to take as much time as needed during the day to get him to get his shoes on by himself.  Preparing to leave for the library today meant three shoe tries before he got it right- only because he thought putting them on opposite feet was funny.  Twice.

At some moments, I think the words "I can't" might send me to my mosquito infested back yard to voluntarily sign up for the West Nile Virus.  But then the humbling words of my dad come back to me.  Those words are "shoe team".  I was a developmentally typical child and yet I had a "shoe team" every morning well into high school. The shoe team was made up of my parents tying my shoes while I sat on the stairs lethargically brushing my teeth.  I knew how to tie my shoes, but I was ALWAYS a sprint away from missing the bus in the morning.  The shoe team let me really spoiled.  Either way, memories of shoe team make me simultaneously less worried and more consistent in honing Isaac's self-care habits.

For the sake of consistency, the egg timer is back in our routine.  The egg timer has an authority that I somehow lack with my son.  I can tell him literally 12 times to do something and he'll still be dancing in his own little world- pretending lego men are bumble bees.  But if the EGG TIMER OF DOOM is set along with a not-empty threat about the consequences (no TV) of not being dressed by time it rings, he focuses as if he's dismantling a bomb.  Every tick-tock makes him less likely to say "I can't" and more likely to try to squeeze on his almost too small socks.  Which reminds me...       OK socks are now on my shopping list.

Social and pre-school prep are also on the menu over the next few weeks.  We are hitting up play group like it's our job, cruising the train table at the library for peer conversation, and flexing our educational muscles.  I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE the pre-school prep games on .  Among our favorites are:

I have to admit that these are a lot more fun and somewhat more effective than sitting down with a pre-school workbook for Isaac.  I secretly hope you all are scurrying to get ready for school, too.  I just don't want to show up with a lack of a sippy cup as our only summer accomplishment.  It might be pride, but even members of the shoe team can have a little pride, can't they?  Happy end of summer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Almost Four

I keep thinking that I want Isaac to be three forever.  He's at a point now where he is developmentally on par with his peers, but he is so innocent.  So sweet.  He's also just a couple weeks from turning four.  I know that as more time passes he will be less innocent.  He'll learn to be mean on purpose- like the rest of us did.  He won't be as fascinated by nature or the comfort of his teddy and turtle.  He'll experience ugly things and remember them.  He'll know that people die and that mommy isn't perfect and that our family is every bit as dysfunctional as the next.  He'll be disappointed with his birthday.  God willing, he'll watch us age and feel time move too fast.  And that is life.  Maybe he'll grow up and think that he is a little different and what that means.  Maybe he won't be so different after all.  Who knows?

In the meantime,  I'm going to stop watching Mad Men on Netflix because it's not so different from facebook.  And that's depressing.  If you've seen it, then you know what I'm talking about.  You're basically watching people's lives fall apart.  I'm going to FINISH Jane Austen's Emma and be very happy about the gfcf dinosaur cupcakes I'll be making soon and the four candles that will sit on top.  I'm going to relish the smile it brings to his face, and the knowledge that he will be excited for whatever we give him as a gift.  I'm going to be grateful for every innocent moment and the fact that my son isn't growing up nearly as fast as I did- even if part of it is due to his pdd-nos.  And I'm sure I'll be referring to this post as a reminder to myself of all my intentions of gratefulness and goodwill when he wakes me up much too early tomorrow morning, before coffee, and before facebook ruins any hope for humanity and happy endings.  Here's to another year of my little boy waking me up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reflections of vacation

Does this look like a picture of a kid with sensory processing issues?  Two years ago, Isaac freaked out on play ground equipment, looking very unbalanced.  While kids younger than him zoomed across the rickety bridge he stood in place frozen with fear and holding on as if experiencing an earthquake.  Last week Isaac went tubing behind his grandpa's boat.  This is a picture of him after he pushed his dad and uncle off the tube because he wanted to do it all by himself.  The water, noise of the boat, speed, wind, and rocking of the tube did not bother him in the least.  He loved every minute of his Lake Wallenpaupack experience, and so did this mom as I reflected on how different Isaac is today from the boy he was two years ago.

Also, every night before bed Isaac would go around my in-law's house and give everyone a hug good night.  This is the boy who would barely make eye contact, never mind initiate affection to a house full with relatives he hasn't seen in a very long time.  This almost four year old boy is everything I could have hoped for.  I'm proud of how far he has come.