Saturday, October 29, 2011

A few of our favorite things: Holiday Edition

I can't believe it's almost November.  Wasn't it just July?  What do you mean some states have snow?  We haven't even finished picking up our leaves yet.  Our supply of firewood has a good dent in it already, though.  What can I say?  I'm a fan of a crackling fire on cold, windy nights.  You know what else I'm a fan of?  Free super saver shipping on  As a single-income, constantly budgeting family, I've already begun, or may I say, half finished with Christmas shopping.  We've found it to be less painful when we spread it out over a few months, and I can't resist an afternoon of sipping coffee, sitting in sweatpants, and shopping from the comfort of my couch.  Anyway, in the spirit of my fondness of spending other people's money, I thought I'd put together a list of our favorite sensory and development gifts of the past and present for those of you looking for some ideas.  Enjoy!

Big gifts:
Nest Swing:  This is $30 cheaper than what I paid for one of these last year from Magic Cabin, and it comes in more color choices.  Isaac loves to hide, spin, and sometimes fall asleep in this swing.  It's calming for him when he's feeling out of sorts, and my skinny husband claims that it's comfortable to read in.  Bonus: It's machine washable.

Mini folding trampoline.  You can find these almost anywhere.  We scored ours at a mom to mom sale for $40.  Amazon puts them on sale occasionally.  Totally worth it for energy burning, vestibular sensory stimulation, and gross motor skills.

Educational Gifts:

The Learning Journey Match It! spelling and math puzzle cards have really helped things click for Isaac in these departments.  There is something about the physical act of putting a puzzle together while saying the letters/numbers that works in his brain.  They also make sequencing, sight reading, rhyming, and upper case/lower case matching puzzles.

The Meet the Sight Words DVDs 1-3 will be under the tree at our house this year, along with the first pack of easy-reader books made by this company.  There is nothing particularly special about these DVDs other than that they work for my visual learner.  Now he'll get to watch them on the 9 hour car trip to grandpa and grandma's house so that he'll be good and indoctrinated in sight words by the time we get there.  If I wasn't so sick of it, I'd also suggest buying the LeapFrog letter sounds dvd, but I just can't do that to you people.  I love you too much and the dvd works too well with it's catchy songs and memorable animations.  Good Lord, yes the B says BUH!

We have the Imaginarium Deluxe Marble Maze pictured to your left, but any marble maze will do.  We've found it to be not only fun, but a good toy to work on problem solving, fine motor skills, and challenging our not always flexible little boy when it comes to mixing colors, taking turns, etc.

Stocking Stuffers:
For aid in writing I'm really thinking I'm going to order the following for Isaac.

Pencil grips

The HandiWriter helps fix grasp issues.

And because we can't get enough of it:

Playing "Blink" the card game correctly would probably be over Isaac's head, but Andrew used this deck of cards to work on sorting colors, shapes, and numbers with Isaac tonight.  There are endless games to be made up with this deck.  Bonus: it's a great two player game when played the right way too.

Happy shopping!

Halloween update

So far our candy-free Halloween has been going according to plan.  Isaac had his party at school yesterday and I sent in gfcf pumpkin shaped sugar cookies, gfcf frosting, and gfcf chocolate chips to decorate them with.  In all honestly I thought it was going to be a huge pain in the butt to do this, but it ended up being fine.  I used the Cherrybrook Kitchen sugar cookie mix and vanilla frosting.  I dyed the frosting orange with organic carrot juice (as suggested by a friend.  Thanks, Tiffany!), and discovered that Isaac likes to drink carrot juice and does well with it since it is not fruit juice.  Win!  The second to best part?  They were a hit.  The BEST part?  It made Isaac's day and sparked a really long conversation with him before bed about school.  Sometimes the extra effort makes more of a ripple than I expect.  I knew he'd love the cookies, but I didn't know it was going to get him to tell me about his day in more detail than ever before.  He was very proud to get to share his cookies with his friends and it showed.  Side note:  Isaac has shared two stories with me this week about trying to play with and share with two different classmates.  One hit him and one pushed him.  Gee, I wonder why he has a hard time playing reciprocally at school?  I am making my snotty, eyebrows in the air, always-right face right now- in case you were wondering.

Last night we carved a pumpkin.  By "we" I mean Isaac drew a face on the pumpkin, Andrew carved it, and I took pictures.  Here is my favorite:

 His face clearly says, "There is no way I'm touching pumpkin guts.  Give me the knife!"

Last week Isaac made a gfcf caramel pear at our friend, Michelle's house during play group since we don't do apples. She was awesome enough to make caramel he could eat.

Today we trick or treated at the fire station and Isaac got to climb in the trucks.  Super fun!  We'll be doing this next year.  Best part?  They gave us a bag with a glow stick in it, not candy.

We're having a lot of fun and Halloween isn't even over yet.  More to come!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Any parent who's ever had to do an IEP for their child or sit through a parent/teacher conference can tell you that it's humbling, frustrating, and encouraging all at once.  I left today's IEP unsure if I felt good about how it went.  Can I just start by being less than discrete, mature, and Jesus-following and say who the heck put some gray haired good 'ol boy in charge of special education?  Looks like I just did.  I don't know what his role was in that meeting other than making "cute" comments about Isaac's sunglasses, but he might as well have been a pair of glasses on a rock with a southern drawl sitting in that chair for all he offered.  I might be biased based on seeing him in action while the kids were getting ready to leave, and from hearing some stories of him via a friend who tried to get her son into Isaac's class, but HOLY COW please retire.  Tomorrow.  OK, rant over?  Maybe not.

I guess if I had the chance I would want all teachers and staff- especially those in special ed field to know that it's just as difficult for us to trust you as it is for you to work with our kid.  I'm putting my precious little boy  (into whom I've put so much love and work) into your care and trusting that you will do your best by him.  I hope that you're using your words more than you are escorting him from A to B in a frustrated rush.  I hope that you are thinking about and researching creative ways to help him learn different things.  Secretly, I hope that you really do care as much as I do.  The reality is that no program is perfect just as no parents are perfect.  It's a balance between having realistic expectations for a program and knowing when to say, "OK, let me tell you something about my kid..."  Luckily Isaac's program at school seems to be working well enough for him- minus the out of touch guy that oversees his teacher.  But I can't help but feel a little conflicted after an IEP.  I think it is because I'm getting the story but not seeing it and because there's some pride wrapped up in raising a kid and making sure they succeed to the best of their abilities.

My conclusion is that I think it's time for us to finally schedule a day to observe Isaac's class from behind the mirror.  I think I've been putting this off for over a year because I'm afraid that seeing all that goes on during the school will burst my picturesque idea of it.  I know how that sounds, but when you don't have a lot of options you generally want to try to see the good in the options you do have.  Does that make sense?  All in all, Isaac is doing way better than last year.  So why does the IEP make me feel so depressed?  Maybe it's the fresh reminder that my kid is in a special education classroom for a reason.  Either way, the goal is still mainstreaming him for kindergarten next year.  Wish us luck.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold weather daydreams

I am one of many adults that cannot decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I bounce between a few ideas from time to time; writer (my grammar just isn't up to speed), hairdresser (more school loans? eh.), and someone who spends your money for you.  Let me explain!  Every year for the past couple of years when it gets cold out my inner occupational therapist starts brainstorming, well, at least on days that I'm not hibernating.  I start shopping around and gathering ideas for the perfect indoor play space or sensory room.  The problem is that we already have a pretty kick butt sensory room that doesn't get enough use as it is now that Isaac has mellowed out a lot.  So sometimes I daydream about creating a business that designs sensory rooms for people based on their child's needs and how much they want to spend.  Today is one of those days as I was drooling over the indoor active toys on  I might have a problem, but let me know if you'd like me to search for an inexpensive indoor swing or used mini trampoline for you!  I've got the bug.  In the meantime, I think I'll be ushering my child to the basement for part of today.  Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doctor Dilemma Part 2

If you are one of those unfortunate enough to be my facebook friend, then you may or may not know the drama we've had with Isaac's pediatrician office.  In fact, I was about to switch many months ago after a disheartening visit.  See  For the sake of trying to be a mature adult, I will not relay the somewhat snide apology I received in the mail from Isaac's former pediatrician today in full detail and drag his name through the mud any more than I already have.  However, if you are a close friend I have no scruples about reading it to you in person. Ha!  Let's just say it was the nail on the coffin after our failed attempt at a check up earlier this week.

I switched Isaac to our family doctor immediately afterward, and I'm happy to say that we had a great experience at Dr. Marinas' office today (only two days later).  She did not roll her eyes at Isaac's special diet, rather she asked if we worked with a nutritionist (which earned her bonus points in my book).  She did not drill me with condescending questions when I said that we don't do the influenza or flu vaccines.  She did not PUSH when I said I'd like to only get two shots done today, and wait on the ones that aren't recommended for when a child is already not feeling well (Isaac has a cough)- rather she agreed with me.  She asked intelligent questions about where he is developmentally, and was warm and understanding at Isaac's nervous behaviors and ticklishness.  She thought to give him a tongue depressor and Dixie cup so that he had something in each hand and could repetitively "stir" his pretend cake mix while she examined him.  You can tell this woman is a mother, and I like that.  Also, it is worth noting that there were the same amount of patients present in this office as in our previous one, less nurses and less doctors, and we still only waited for 5 minutes to get into the room and then 5 more after the nurse left before the doctor came in.  Just sayin'...  I wish I switched back in February, but glad we're in the right place now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'll take it

This morning started off a little rough.  Isaac was melting down at play group, flinching from friends when they got too close, not listening, and demanding help with things that he's perfectly capable of doing himself.  At home I had a moment of Exorcist mommy.  My head spun around, my voice changed and said, "sit on those steps and take your shoes off right now!"  Spit might have flown from between my teeth.  Might have.  What does he mean "MOMMY help me with my shoes" with the whiny voice!?  Since when does this kid not know how to take his shoes off?  He's always taking them off- at church, in the car, and basically anywhere I don't want him to.  Is it time for school yet? 

A few moments later...

Oh, he likes my new musical obsession, The Civil Wars, and actually wants me to play another song?  Maybe we can forget the shoe incident.  What's that?  You got into your craft drawer and pulled out a pre-school work book and would like to cuddle with me in the reading chair and show me how smart you are?  OK!

Isaac ran into school without any coaxing and came bouncing out of school when I picked him up- excited about his day and with a good daily report in tow.  "We worked on shapes today.  Isaac even knows what an octagon is," said the note from his teacher.  Yep, I know.  I was just enjoying my swelling pride when I heard a burst of sobs from the backseat.  Seriously?  Again?  "What happened?"  He's holding his eye.  "Did you poke your eye with your sunglasses?"'s not even CLOSE to sunny today.  I poke my head around to check.  "No!  Don't look at me!  Look at daddy!"  Do little boys get p.m.s.?

We spent most of the evening decompressing- which is a fancy way of saying we didn't do much of anything.  Then Isaac demonstrated his undeniable lack of skill at hide and seek, his impressive skill at making robots out of wooden shapes, and his usual infectious charm.  We read our new library books, and Isaac decided to tell us about the boy from one of the books that wanted a dragon for a pet.  "I can't like a dragon for a pet.  I like a dog for a pet.  I like Shiloh."  "Why DON'T (emphasis on don't instead of can't) you want a dragon for a pet?"  "Because a dragon would burn my house down."  "When did you get so smart?"  No, seriously.  I have a four year old- like a real, live four year old.  
During bedtime routine we sang our usual  "You are my sunshine" and "Twinkle, Twinkle".  Then Isaac started singing the months of the year.  "Where did you learn the months of the year?"  "At school."  Then he requested that I sing the Abc song and he pretended to play a trombone- even making the sound with his mouth.  Who is this kid?  He might not be the suavest in social settings, he might try my patience, he might insist on wearing sunglasses on rainy days, he might use 'can't' when he should use 'don't', but Isaac Loucks surprises me every day with what he does well.  I'll take it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ode to play group

It's that time of year again; the time of year when I become a zombie.  Not because it's almost Halloween, but because it's fall.  For some reason I have the biological clock of a black bear.  If I could hibernate from October to February you better believe I would.  All the berries I can eat before hand?  I'm in.  I can already feel the laziness creeping in- a little too much TV here and an extra hour of computer games there for Isaac.  I develop an unhealthy dependence on carbs, coffee,, and leave whole words out of sentences.  It goes without saying that I am less than June Cleaver in the mothering department during hibernation, but we survive it with a little help from our friends.  Cue youtube video: 
See what I mean?

I honestly think belonging to a good play group is the key to sanity when you're a stay at home parent.  Emphasis on good.  I'm not talking about a group of moms (or dads) eager to show off their Martha Stewart skills or Desperate Housewives wardrobe.  I'm talking about a group of women who parent similarly enough to you that you don't want to slap them, who silently encourage you to wear something other than sweatpants, but secretly love you all the more when you do wear them.  I'm talking about women who make the terrible twos bearable on the worst of weeks, and getting out for some exercise contagious.  Women who can keep a secret when you need them to, and who take joy in your accomplishments.  They are women that buy snacks your crazy diet kid can eat.  They are women that watch craigstlist for a used version of whatever expensive whim you have that week.  They will babysit in a pinch, and make you a meal when you magically acquire more children.  And for me, play group and pre-school are sometimes the only two things that get this black bear to leave her den and do something beneficial for her child in winter.  And for that, I'm grateful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re-working tradition

It strikes me how every major holiday in the United States is centered around food.  This just doesn't fly with a gfcf/feingold/low sugar kid, and I'm kind of glad it doesn't.  We've had to find creative ways to celebrate holidays like Halloween, because let's face it, sugar and Isaac Loucks don't really mix.  So far he seems appeased with his Halloween party at school, doing a corn maze, going to a friend's hay ride party, and carving pumpkins.  I tend to be the meaner parent, so you won't catch me feeling guilty over the obvious lack of candy in my child's diet when I know kids that lack food altogether.  However, my suburban born and raised husband has what we'll call "twinges" of guilt.  Can I just say that you might be an over-privileged-first-world country person when you have guilt that a child can't eat the same proteins (gluten and casein) or copious amounts of sugar as other kids?  Rant over.

Still, I want holidays to be special for him and just as memorable.  We made our own decorations this year out of construction paper.  He has voiced that he would like to hand out candy on Halloween and I think we'll let him trick or treat to our two immediate neighbors houses.  Last year our sweet neighbors handed him a book instead of candy.  I love that!  This year I picked up some gfcf graham crackers and marshmallows and might start a Halloween s'mores without chocolate tradition.  Hey, I'm not completely heartless.  In the meantime,  I've loved Isaac's excitement over his bumblebee costume and that he told me what his friends at school planned on dressing up as for Halloween.  I've loved that he ANSWERS questions like that now.  I've loved that life is feeling a bit more normal, gfcf diet and all.  And I love knowing that Isaac will appreciate those s'mores just as much as a whole pile of candy.  Happy Fall!  I hope you are savoring your traditions, too.