I Don’t Know What I’m Doing, But I Know I’m Doing It Really Well

Homeschooling came with so many worried friends and family. Socialization, speech regression…so many people worried about something none of them had done. Homeschooling for us has been the best decision. Bug gets socialization on our terms and with her supports, not forced. Her speech and language has grown so much that even her SLPs are shocked!

As a mom and a homeschooler, I can honestly say that I really have no idea what I am doing. Do any of us really? We turn daily occurrences into learning opportunities and we can teach her in ways she truly understands…like with her favorite subjects or toys. I try really hard to research and read as many homeschooling and autism related articles and blogs as I can, hoping it will make a difference.

I have a great support system, including Bug’s teachers and ABA team, who I feel comfortable coming to with questions that seem crazy to me but they have heard numerous times. I think once people saw how much Bug was progressing, the criticisms kind of melted away. I still have people in my life who have an opinion about what I am doing, but I try not to let their judgments and ideas cloud my perception of what we are doing.

With feeding issues, I really have no clue what I am doing. We try everything that is suggested, and a LOT of those things haven’t worked for us and some have. I have many posts about our feeding issues if you wanted to check those out here, and here, and here, and if you want a review on a book that HAS really helped us, you can find that here.

Feeding, homeschool, autism…That’s a lot to not know about. We do our best to be informed and educated parents, but in a world where there are SO many different opinions and ideas to choose from, it is very easy to get so overwhelmed with information that you stop informing yourself because you don’t want to wade through all the junk to get to the jewel. But you need to keep reading, you need to keep talking to people. Every single one of us knows something that someone else doesn’t. We need to spread that knowledge and make people interested in learning!

I know I only got interested in learning a few years ago, and now I love listening to history podcasts and watching science videos. There are so many interesting things in this world that are waiting for you! Find your interest and go with it!

I am so fortunate to have two little girls who LOVE watching things blow up and ask me questions about why it happened or why was he doing it in the first place. The King Of Random on Youtube is our go-to science channel. Bill Nye, Steve Spangler, and Mythbusters are all our favorites! Science!

I am still blown away that the hospital sent us home with Bug. We were so young and knew nothing about dealing with babies. So I guess we started out faking it till we made it. But I have a feeling that is how most of us start.

 

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Summer, Sunscreen, and S’mores.

Our summer started at the end of May, we are not waiting for Extended School Year (ESY), we don’t have any trips planned, and we are finally getting some nicer weather in our neck of the woods.

I have shared about our highly anticipated summer fun bucket list here, and we have checked of a grand total of three things. Go us! But we have been outside 90% of our day and having so much fun making memories and silly videos and singing. We have had lunch picnics on a quilt made by Bug and Six’s great-great grandma in the 1920’s, we have had “uncle” C come to visit and make s’mores with us, and we have used three containers of sunscreen.

1920s quilt picnic
Picnic on a 1920s quilt in the sun. Messy back yard.

Also I consider them playing in the dirt (really hard-packed dusty dirt) a dust bath like elephants, and I have hosed them off once or twice. That counts right?

We have had one day nice enough that we were able to break out the kiddy pool and splash a bit, but Six was shivering after about 30 minutes and they both wanted hot cocoa. Bug decided it was best to just lounge in the pool, that was brown from so much dirt, and drink her cocoa. Check out my Facebook for that picture!

We even did math problems with the marshmallows in their hot cocoas, and estimation about how long it would take them to drink them all up then timed them with our visual timer. Math is everywhere!

S’mores were made after lunch on one of the coldest June days our area has had in years. But that made it better right? Sure…if you like smoke and embers blown in your face because of the stinkin’ wind. Thanks June weather! But they were deliciously sticky and silly and lots of giggles were had and that’s the point!

smores
Chilly June day, best plan of attack? S’mores! With JUMBO marshmallows!

I forgot just how messy hot marshmallows were. I only realized when Six came to me with a huge chunk in her long hair. Not as bad as gum in hair, but close!

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We also attempted a little photo shoot since someone was kind enough to send the girls brand new party dresses. They were so excited about them! But, they were so wiggly and giggly that I didn’t get many great ones, but the few that did turn out will be put on our wall of pictures!

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Party dress!
We were able to go to a local fair as well. We rarely go to these events because of Bug’s past elopements and safety concerns, but this year we even went on some rides! No one cried, whined, bolted, or got scared. We saw a pirate and some sharks, a mad scientist, ate some cotton candy (which I regret eating! I’m not five anymore!), and rode three rides! It was fun and not nearly as stressful as outings usually are.

I do think my favorite thing we have done has to be our little impromptu picnic. The simple things are what make us happy, and this is simple and yet so much fun! We talked about the colors on the quilt and how old it is, and counted the squares. Learning is everywhere if you want to look for it.

What have you been doing on your summer break? Are you taking a break from school work completely or partially? Let me know! Head over to my Facebook page and leave a comment on the picture from today!

 

 

Understanding.

Recently I took the girls to the park to get some wiggles out. It was the wrong day to do that! There were five school buses worth of kids plus their parents there. Neither Bug nor I do well in a huge volume of people, but I gave it a shot. Bug immediately got too overstimulated and started scripting and parallel playing with kids who gave painfully disgusted glances at her, while Six ran in the opposite direction of us.

We were there for ten minutes, I kept my eye on Six but stuck near Bug. She has trouble talking to others when she gets excited and thinks she is engaging when she is actually  not. So I felt this was the safest position for me. In that ten minutes I saw so many looks shot at Bug, by kids her age, they looked creeped out, disgusted and shocked by her happy giggly behavior. Bug so wanted to be a part of their play and honestly thought she was playing with them.

One encounter in particular made me upset. Bug was running next to a girl, probably about 6 years old, scripting from some show about sisters, when bug was distracted by something and ran off this girl came up and started yelling at me. “Why is she calling me her sister, I’m not her sister! I have a little brother. Why would she call me her sister?! That isn’t nice.”

Wow. Now that interaction makes me laugh, but wow. I didn’t have a response to that and had lost my eye on both girls. I told this girl, who was visibly demanding an answer from me, that she plays differently than you do and I ran off to find my girls and go to our next activity.

I have met many adults that didn’t understand Bug, and some who didn’t want to understand. I try so hard to explain to people why Bug is doing the things she does, why she is responding how she does, etc. Some people still don’t get it, but they are trying. But, what made me upset on this particular day is that this young girl didn’t laugh, play along, or ask nicely. No, she got upset at me that my daughter wasn’t what? Playing right?

Our children are the next generation of future adults who will need the skills to interact with others, others who may have differences, or severe differences, act differently or believe different things. It is our jobs as parents to explain and example how we treat others.

So I would like to challenge all who read this to teach your child about differences. Bug wanted to play with that girl, she was trying in her own way. Autism isn’t gross, it isn’t scary, it’s not bad. It is different. And we need to create understanding about differences. So talk to your kid about other kids who might act differently, tell them it is okay to ask questions, it is okay to say “I need my space” instead of “go away”. We are doing our best to show her how to interact in an appropriate way, but it isn’t helpful when her peers think she is some monster. You have no idea how much that sideways glance from adults or children hurt my momma bear heart.

Bug wants to play. teach your kids to include, not exclude.

 

PS. Also teach your kids to use sunscreen!

Mom Time And A Bit About Me

I am a wife, a mom, a homeschooler, a vegan baker, a writer, a crocheter, amateur photographer, and I am always tired. No joke. There are SO many things I want to accomplish and so little time for me to work on them without interruptions.

I love my girls, I love my husband; but, I need time for just me as does every other person I have ever met. I feel my hubby and I are an awesome team, he is always willing to do breakfast so I can stay in bed an extra 20 minutes or do dishes when I forgot, or take the girls to the store or the park so I can actually clean. I let him lay in bed and read his comics, or go in the garage and work on his armor (yup we are total geeky nerds in this house). We each have time for us when we need it so we are both the best parents, and spouses, we need to be.

So on the days I need to write a blog post, or I have a project for homeschool I need to finish, my hubby is playing with the girls and keeping them distracted for me so I can do my thing. It does help he has a very unusual work schedule so he is around at times where regular 9-5 jobs aren’t. He has done lunch for me when I was too wrapped up in writing a lesson plan, and given the girls a bath after they come in covered in mud and I am writing. We are a good team.

So for my me time that doesn’t include homeschool prep or blog posts, what do I do to decompress and regain my sanity that may or may not have been lost from arguing with an almost 4 year old? A lot actually. I have a very eclectic range of interests.

I crochet. I make hats, stuffies, weighted animals, kid’s hoods, scarves and have ventured into rugs with writing in the pattern called graphgans.

I love nature, so I go on a hike or to the beach or on a drive and take pictures for my photography Instagram page. I love to capture pictures of things my girls love. I take bug, snail and slug pictures for Bug and flowers and landscapes for Six.

I love baking and taste testing of course. I have plans to start up a dessert of the month business so I need to practice my signature swirl on those cupcakes. We have a very diverse dietary schedule for each member of our family, but we can all eat my vegan treats so no one is left out!

I am also collaborating with my artist sister on a children’s book I am writing, we are working together long distance so Skype calls with her have been part of my me time and it is so nice to laugh and talk to someone who isn’t bugging me for a snack 20 minutes after we eat lunch.

I tinker with my hubby’s motorcycle, I have rebuilt his carburetor and worked on the brakes and gas line. I have gone to a pool room and shot a game or two, I have wandered around shops to get ideas for a project or present ideas, I have gone to coffee with my favorite aunt, I have gone to get take out just for me and ate it in the car, I make bath bombs, I organize our garage, I go swimming, I do something that I like, that’s just for me that will rejuvenate me and push the restart button.

I have also been forced into me time by my hubby, when he sees I am stressed he sends me to the bedroom to watch Netflix (The Great British Bake Off is my guilty pleasure), or read (slowly working my way through Quiet by Susan Cain), or to crochet or write.

I told you I have an eclectic range of interests.

I am a mom to an almost 4 year old and an almost 6 year old. We deal with autism related issues daily, we deal with homeschooling struggles daily, we schedule so many appointments and therapies and classes that some days there is no time for me time unless I want to wake up at 4am…and even then it isn’t guaranteed. I make food every hour it seems, defuse arguments all day, clean constantly, calm a very sensitive child, and try to have fun and learn throughout the day. And don’t even get me started on laundry.

Our girls are amazing sleepers so when they are asleep by 7:30pm, I can work on my projects or watch a movie with my hubby. But some days I need to make time for me, because I know that it will make me a better mom and wife.

We as moms are judged if we take time for ourselves, like we are being selfish. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, it is not selfish to relax, take a shower by ourselves or eat a pint of ice cream or a sleeve of Oreos in the bedroom without sharing. We need that time so we are not as crazy as an over tired 3 year old whose banana just broke in half. Take time for you, do something that makes you happy…even if it is deep cleaning the refrigerator….is that just me??

It is not a bad thing to take time for yourself. You need it.

 

 

 

 

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Our Feeding Conundrums

Bug will be turning six next month, we have an ice cream party planned with her favorite soy-based, non-dairy ice creams. Ice cream is a big preferred food item. So are gummies, candy canes and cookies. We limit those highly preferred foods and use them as bribes because we have started to run out of options for getting her to eat.

Bug eats eight different meals, a bunch of snack foods and has a few styles of drinks she likes. Six will eat any foods except mashed potatoes (I have wondered if she was switched at birth because this is one of our favorites here), and the skin on apples. She eats fruit like candy and prefers fruit over candy for rewards, she eats Brussels sprouts and beets and quinoa. Bug eats none of that, but, she no longer has a meltdown because those foods are near her.

Our feeding journey has been a long and bumpy road with no end in sight. She will only eat certain foods, all of which I have documented, and certain brands or from particular places. The best meal she will eat is literally a can of beans with vegan cheese and dairy-free sour cream. She will eat the entire can and ask for more. What she does eat, she eats a lot of.

Oh what I wouldn’t give to understand why she dislikes so. many. foods.

Shortly before Bug turned one, her food preferences started changing, and changing drastically. She went from eating green beans, rice, peaches, raspberries and my homemade raviolis, although they had to be arranged in a line on her plate or tray, to only wanting graham crackers and applesauce from a certain brand. In just a few months her diet went from good to we-are-very-concerned.

At this point we didn’t know she was on the spectrum. It would be close to 9 more months before we were told that she might be and we would get her tested. I had no idea why my daughter was starting to not eat. People tried to give me advice such as “she will eat when she is hungry” and “she won’t starve herself” Unfortunately that is not how Bug rolls, and not how many other children with eating issues respond. So friendly PSA: stop saying these things to parents, please!

Five years later we are still battling with eating and getting nowhere fast. I mean, progress is progress, but I am still concerned she is missing some vital nutrients her body needs. But then we measure her and she is four feet tall before her sixth birthday so we are doing something right.

I still have no idea why she dislikes so many foods, she isn’t very verbal when it comes to describing things (that is a work in progress), so when I ask her questions about the food we introduce, she responds with crying or “it icky” or refusal to eat her preferred foods. We have gotten nowhere in that direction.

However we have eliminated her tongue tie as a factor, established where her gag is and how she shews and what textures she likes best. We have used the crumb method, we have done a food sensory diet, we have hidden foods in other foods*, we have had her kiss/lick/smell etc, she helps prepare foods she doesn’t like but still refuses to try them. We are at a loss. So if you think there is a happy ending to this post, you’d be wrong.

We have tried everything we could. Between two and a half years old to five and a half years old, we have been almost on our own. Our ABA has given me tips and ideas which I have adapted, we had just started a feeding program when our wonderful Consultant moved away, and we were finally put in contact with one of two feeding therapists in our area. She has been there for support and ideas and has been great! But I want to know why!!

Why does she hate so many foods?!

Why won’t she eat?!

Why, why why.

Slowly but surely she did start to eat more foods though. We somehow got her comfortable with other foods, waffles and breads, muffins, and mac n cheese, but any foods with color have never been invited back in with her. The only colored good-for-her-foods that she will willingly put in her are smoothies. We have a color chart and she gets to choose the color of smoothie I make. Her favorites are orange: sweet potato smoothie (roasted and cooled sweet potato, banana, oranges and orange juice), pink: raspberry and beet (roasted beet and frozen raspberries), and purple: frozen blueberries, blackberries, figs, and marionberries.

Unfortunately the smoothies, although good for her and help get rid of her raccoon eyes, does not build a relationship with that food. I feed her those smoothies to get some sort of nutrients in her, and she does help me make two of the three sometimes, but it is still hiding foods that she will then not know she likes and then will not try in other situations.

We have a very long way to go in Bug’s feeding journey. We are looking into moving in the next few years and one of our top criteria for the new place is that there needs to be a feeding program nearby. It is very important to us to find a team of people willing to help us with her, because we can’t do it alone. There is only so much you can google and read before you need a professional to explain things to you.

We have touched on this topic before, you can read about some of the methods we have tried in this post and also in this post. I will continue to share our feeding journey because I feel it is so important to share so others can be inspired by what we have tried, because it may work for others!

Check out this post for a review and some resources I have found particularly helpful in this stressful journey we call eating.

A Review. Happy Face.

For five years we have struggles with eating issues. Five long years of eating very little variety and not trying new foods. Bug is a headstrong, picky eater just like her daddy…but worse. I wish I knew why she had such a problem with so many foods. We eat an already restricted (mostly) plant-based diet, for a variety of reasons, so Bug’s even smaller variety of foods she will eat is just plain stressful. Meals with her are very difficult, mainly because we try to make a meal everyone will eat and since we apparently have to eat every single night, we repeat a LOT. I mean a LOT.

Bug is a lacto-vegetarian, my husband is also a very picky eater, Six and I are plant based and love eating a variety of foods and no one can agree on one meal. See our problem? So lunches turn into an everybody gets foods they want meal and dinners are we all eat variations of the same thing. It has take a long time to get to where we are today, even with my husband! (Who, if you remember from this blog post, refuses to let me keep peas near his food in the freezer).

In my solo research about feeding issues, I came across an awesome resource: the ezpz happy mat. I have unfortunately never had the chance to buy one, but in my viewing of their website, I found the link to a Dawn Winkelmann on Facebook. I immediately liked her page and scrolled through a lot of old posts and even took notes! More recently I discovered that she and Jamie the Baby Guy do monthly Facebook lives about feeding disorders. This month’s was about swallowing and I took a lot of notes, as usual. I learn so much from their videos, I highly recommend you check them out (links below).

So when I started to talk to Ms Dawn a bit more and discovered she had a book that she had written for and with the ezpz brand, I asked her about it and she was kind enough to send me a copy for a review. I am not sponsored by Ms Dawn or ezpz, I just really love what they do and the products they have available and want to share that with you!

When I received this book I was so happy, of course I noticed the cover first, but I do think the cover is the cutest part of this book! The front cover is of many Happy Mats filled with food, and the back cover is the same mats..just what is left after the eating of them! What a cute idea!

So what is the ezpz mat? It is a mat that doubles as the placemat and the plate as well as suctions to the table so there cannot be bowls thrown or dropped! I have seen it in use and highly recommend this if you have a messy kiddo! And from the description from the ezpz website: “The Happy Mat is made from 100% food-grade silicone that is BPA, BPS, PVC, latex and phthalate free.” (links below).

ezpz-webprodshot-Nordic-Happy-Mat-Pewter-1__61261.1490899022.900.600
Taken from the ezpz website:  http://www.ezpzfun.com/happy-mat-in-pewter/

I do believe that my not having a mat will make this review helpful for many more people though, because as I have been unable to buy certain things at times, I have learned to adapt and as much as I suggest you get one of these mats, because they are extremely useful and fun, if you are unable to, I have alternate ideas for you: like the not as awesome $0.75 divided plated from Target…that is what I use in the coming pictures.

Again, I love the cover of this book Making Mealtime ezpz: Fun Ways To Fill The Happy Mat.

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Credit to the ezpz website for this picture: http://www.ezpzfun.com/making-mealtime-ezpz-fun-ways-to-fill-the-happy-mat/

When I opened the book, the second page had a large visual of the Happy Mat and how much each indent holds. I loved this because I could measure out the foods I put in small cups or on our plates if I needed to. And also, for those of you with the Happy Mat, you know how much your kiddo has had!

The shopping list for every Happy Mat meal in the book is in the front of the book! Take it shopping with you! I loved this, so you don’t have to go through every page and write down what you need to go buy. Front of the book! There are some recipes included, but there are so many Happy Mats that don’t require a full-blown recipe, which can be so useful for those of us with other food restrictions or just no time to make ten recipes for one meal, ya know?

There are tips and ideas on almost every single page! Whys and hows are also in there for if you are wondering how to make that princess wand, or why playing with food can be a good thing.

Other incredibly helpful information in this book includes: feeding and swallowing skills for a two year old, clean 15/dirty dozen list, superstar foods, and protein foods. I love the page of examples of encouraging expressions. Sometimes it can be hard in the moment to think of things to say other than good job, so it is a very valuable cheat sheet that I have had open to when we do mealtimes. There is also a list of tips for picky eaters. My first thought when I saw the heading of that page was “I will have read all these before” because I have had about five years of googling this type of stuff, but I was wrong! There was a lot of awesome info on this page!

I also loved the tips to have your kid(s) help out in the kitchen! I am very much a control addict and it has been hard for me to come up with things I feel comfortable with my girls doing in the kitchen, especially since Bug is just starting to understand what danger is. So when I turned to this page I was so happy! Things I had never tried before, or thought of that didn’t seem too overwhelming or messy!

In the back of the book are the tools you will need to complete the Happy Mats from the book. Most of which I bet you already have, how easy!

The pages of this book are thick and durable, probably because they know books in the kitchen get messy and needed to be durable! I love it. I haven’t been afraid to keep it open at dinner (to the encouraging expressions page) in fear that food would be splattered onto it.

I decided to try out three of the Happy Mat meals for Miss Bug. I did change them up a bit because we are going at a snail’s pace with introducing foods to her and the three mats I chose had many things we hadn’t introduced yet so I altered them, and used our divided plates. I introduced these over a few days, not in the same day to overwhelm her. I do intend to get through all the mats in this book! I may need to look into getting a Happy Mat though, I think that we would get a LOT of use out of it!

We chose to do the Fiesta Fiesta Mat, chips and dips! The Mat they have looks awesome with three dips and chips as well as lime and carrots around the edges. I chose to introduce salsa to this plate. She has tried carrots before, but we have found she gets a bit overwhelmed when too many new items are introduced, so I chose one. She ended up having daddy share most of the salsa by feeding him chips with the salsa and tried a tiny touch to the tongue amount and she said it was too spicy. She loved her some sour cream though. She would drink sour cream and ketchup (not together….although maybe together…) if we let her!

 

Fiesta Fiesta adaptation
Fiesta Fiesta adaptation. Tofutti sour cream, locally made tortilla chips and my husband’s favorite salsa, also locally made (he would drink this stuff!)

My favorite Happy mat in the book had to be the Bugs and Butterflies Mat. Six would love everything on this mat! Sadly, Bug would not. And Six had eaten one of the foods that I had been saving for this mat. So I decided to recreate the caterpillar sammy and a fruity butterfly. Again, I didn’t want her to stress out if I introduced too  many items. She has a tendency to think that if I put 4-5 pieces of a food in front of her that she has to eat it all when I am just trying to get her to lick it at the most right now. So I had to resist making all the adorable foods from this mat and made the caterpillar, which is comfortable to her and added the butterfly which is two foods she doesn’t normally eat and one she hasn’t been introduced to in many weeks. She ate every piece of the caterpillar except the head, she said it was icky even after I removed the raisins. But she licked the apple and said it tasted like juice so I asked if she would nibble it, she said no. I asked if I could have a taste and she fed me a piece of the apple. I asked again if she would like to try a nibble and she said no. I asked if she would lick it again and she did. So that is progress. Words, no meltdowns, two licks. Go Bug!

Bugs and Butterflies Happy Mat
A very messy caterpillar with raisin eyes and cheerio antenna, with an apple and carrot butterfly

The third Mat I tried Was the Queen Bean Mat. We have been introducing rice to Bug for months and I thought this would be perfectly fun. It was, she was giggling and said “look! mom. It smiley happy!” and indeed it was, however it was not enough to get her to try rice….again. We have been asking her to try rice when we have it for dinner, which is often, and each time she has only gotten as far as to smell it and then says “bleh” or “icky” or “that so gross” and even “that’s disgusting!” (scripting from a show). Six and I both had Queen Bean plates for lunch and it wasn’t enough to get Bug to want to try it. She almost didn’t eat the rest of the food, that I knows she loves, because there was rice on the plate, but I was able to talk her through it. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get her to tell me any inkling of why she thinks rice is gross. But we will keep trying. One day she may just start eating it by the handful! Wishful thinking. But, this plate was adorable…it’s even cuter in the book!

Queen Bean
Queen Bean Happy Mat meal.

There were many resources throughout the book as well. Websites to check out for more feeding tips as well as info on nutritional guidelines.

I really enjoyed going through this book! I loved the details and the simplicity of the Mats as well as the variety. I so wish my Bug would be willing to try even a tenth of what was in this wonderful book, but we will hopefully get there one day. We will keep chugging along. I would be extremely interested in a book that was solely about tips to try with your picky eater as well as ways to introduce foods as they do in feeding therapies and programs.

I do highly recommend getting a Happy Mat for your picky or messy eater, I have seen them in action and love them and what the company is doing. They are a great tool in your kitchen!

Coming away from this, I think that the most useful ezpz product we could use is their micromat. It is a bit smaller than a crayon, but looks just like the happy mat. It is the size that you can introduce new foods with, and I find this both adorable and very useful! Right now we introduce new foods on her plate and she has to kiss or lick it goodbye, but I think if it was on a tiny smiley face she would be more inclined to try it. But their Flower Mat, Happy Mat and Micromat will for sure be on our wishlist!

Thank you Dawn for the opportunity to share your book! I do believe it is extremely useful and important to share knowledge so that others can benefit and that is what this book does! It lays everything out sweet and simple. This will be a staple in my kitchen!

 

If you want to check out Ms Dawn on social media here are those links, she does Facebook Lives with other Facebook pages on feeding issues so be sure to keep her on your notifications and see first!:

http://www.facebook.com/Ms.DawnSLP/

https://www.facebook.com/SpectrumSpeech/

On Instagram @spectrumspeech

And her website www.spectrumspeech.com/

For Dawn’s book, her wonderful and informative blog, and ezpz products:

ezpzfun.com

A wonderful resource I found previously, and is also in to book, is  www.feedingmatters.org/ It is a wonderful resource to find feeding services near you as well as continuing education courses for professionals. As a side note, my sister is a certified plant based dietitian who I have sent this link to and she will be doing a few of the courses near her. This site also has a questionnaire to determine if your child has a feeding disorder.

For Jamie and Dawn’s monthly live chat, follow Dawn and Jamie and they will have updates as to when that will be each month and what topic they will be discussing. Dawn always brings an awesome arsenal of feeding tools and toys, and Jamie is the perfect co host because he is an actual picky eater so seeing things happen in real life helps, and they make things fun and interesting! So check him out as well if you haven’t already: www.facebook.com/TheBabyGuyNYC/

I know feeding issues can be trying and stressful, but progress is progress no matter how slow. And if we can find something or someone that helps us on that journey, then we need to share that so others can have a chance to succeed! You have to keep thinking it will get better or it never will, keep trying! Don’t give up.

 

Check back on Thursday to learn more about our feeding issues and progress!

 

13 Things We Love About Homeschool

I have already told you all why we decided on homeschool in this blog post, but we as a family and me as a mom and the main teacher never really knew what to expect as homeschoolers. So to wrap up our first year of homeschool, I thought I would share our favorite things we have come to love about the homeschooling life.

No. 1     We get to start our morning off relaxed and unrushed-most mornings. Yes our girls have decided that 4:30am was a great time to get up, but some mornings they will sleep in till 7:30 or even 8! We can make a huge breakfast, go out to breakfast, or just snuggle in bed for a while. There are a few days we need to get out the door by 9 but we can still usually take our time and not stress out about getting dressed, lunches, homework or anything like that. We had class at 8am for Bug when we were in the SDC classes so I do know what the morning rush is like.

No. 2     We can go on field trips whenever we want. One morning I can decide while eating my breakfast that I want to take the girls on a hike while daddy is at work, or to the zoo, or to the beach. I don’t have to wait for a weekend or after school, we can get up and go whenever we like.

No. 3     We can watch our girls actually learn and comprehend what we are teaching because we teach in a way they understand. We do not push worksheets for Bug because she learns with manipulatives and hands-on activities, but Six loves worksheets as well as the hands-on games we play with Bug. But they are both learning as fast as we can teach them because we understand that not everyone learns in the same way. My husband is an auditory learner. He retains information if he hears or reads it. I am a very hard core kinesthetic learner, much like Bug. So we understand we can’t just tell Bug something and have her understand, she has to touch it.

No. 4     We can take breaks any time we need. We need to get outside? Go! We need some quiet time separately? Bedroom and couch, go! We need snack 20 minutes after we just ate lunch? If it makes you less crabby, go! Do we need to read and calm our bodies because we are being too rough and hyper, maybe a little overstimulated? Let’s make a fort and read for a while! Need to play in a sensory bin or another sensory activity? Do it! Breaks are so important here.

No. 5     Our schedule. Similar to No. 1, we can decide if we skip table time on a Wednesday and do it on a Saturday, we decide when we do our school work and where. We have gone and done our learning outside in the rain, in a tent, under our table, in the field, in the bathtub, or in the car. If one day is just too full of appointments and scheduled activities, we can do more relaxed learning activities the next day. It is very flexible. Our time is used well, and completely. No wasted time.

No. 6     Our dress code. We rock pajamas and yoga pants most days. My girls have gone days where they had to wear their swimsuit all day, or their princess costumes, or Christmas dress. Unless we are leaving the house, I don’t worry about what they are wearing, as long as it’s something!

No. 7     Mental health. I don’t know if it has happened for everyone, but my husband and I both were picked on quite a bit through our school years. Something we could have both lived without. Kids can be mean. Bug has autism, even going to the park to play with strange kids has ended badly. Most recently a young girl came and started chewing me out because Bug was scripting from a movie and called this girl her sister. I din’t realize this would be such a negative thing, Bug thought she was playing and this girl sought me out to complain about it. Eccentricities are what make us US, but they are also what kids pick on. I want to be able to help Bug, and Six, navigate these negative people but first I want to be able to build their self esteem so they know in their hearts 100% that they are amazing and fantastic humans and that other people can be mean, but it doesn’t change that fact.

No. 8     Curriculum choices. We go through a charter, but we are able to choose what curriculums we use. This past year we chose one that didn’t really fit, so we got a different one and I used it as a guide. I didn’t follow it to a T. I was able to alter lessons that Bug wasn’t ready for, I was able to introduce concepts and themes in a way that she enjoyed and understood. We can learn at her pace, learn more about topics that she really enjoys, and maybe learn about things that schools don’t cover very often. I will continue to do what works for her, and Six, as long as I can.

No. 9     We build life skills. I’m sure you have all heard jokes around April 15th, that people wish Pythagorean theorem helped do taxes? Yea, I wish so too. I wish I had learned to do taxes, budget, balance a checkbook, even sew a button, honestly (I had to Google this when my hubby’s shirt button came off his uniform the night before an inspection). Our girls love to cook with me, help me mend clothes, I plan on teaching them to budget, and so many other real life skills that I didn’t have when I moved out.

No. 10     More time to play, and use their imaginations and be creative. When 8 hours of your day is planned for you, when are you supposed to play in the mud and pretend pirates are throwing oranges at you and you need to get to the spaceship to get away? Not very much time for that at all. (And yes that was an actual situation my girls created).

No. 11     We eat better. As a mom to a kiddo with feeding issues, it is very important to her attitude and health that she is able to snack and eat when she feels she needs to. So yes, I complain about having to make a snack 20 minutes after lunch, but she is eating and therefore less hungry, less crabby, and more willing to try a new food. I am not rushing around getting them to/from school or practices so I have time to make a healthy dinner for all of us to enjoy together.

No. 12     The environment. This is so important for Bug, she gets so distracted so a busy classroom with lots of kids and distractions is just not a good environment for her. We have an area with no distractions for her to be more relaxed in, we use fidgets for her wiggly body, we have a calm down basket she can utilize at any time during our day. we know that a lot of things on the walls are distracting for doing table time, so we face her towards a blank wall. Or go under the table when she needs it to be darker.

No. 13     My very favorite reason I love homeschooling: we are together as a family. I/we had children because we liked them and wanted to spend time and be with them. I love spending time with these two goofballs and their daddy when he is home. Yes I need me time (which will be a post in itself), but I wouldn’t trade this for anything. They are my responsibility, my job, my happiness. I want them to have the best life possible, so I am making sure they know they are loved and that being weird is a good things, building on their strengths and helping them work through their weaknesses. My goal is to create confident, successful humans who will be productive members of our world. Who will know how to fix a problem when confronted with one. There are 940 Saturdays between your child’s birth and them leaving for college, but we chose 365 days of family.

My First (Bananagrams) Review

Bananagrams was kind enough to send me a My First Bananagrams to play with and there is so much to say! But first: for a homeschooler of young kids….these are SO much better than regular Bananagrams. Let me explain.

They were dropped off to me by a very distracted UPS driver on a Wednesday afternoon, I opened them immediately and my girls almost tackled me to get this super fun new game! But before they got to play with it, I wanted to check it out. So that night I opened it up, read the little tag and opened it up to find a little booklet. I was so excited to play with Bug and Six after reading through this booklet, but I had to wait till after breakfast.

Impatient mommy right here.

But I kept looking through the little booklet to find lots of interesting and fun ideas, I will get to them later, but they had a website on one of the pages saying to check it out for more ideas on how to play with the My First Bananagrams. I am always looking for new and fun ideas on how to play with the things we use often so I checked it out. much to my delight and surprise, there was a PDF download of worksheets to use with the My First. I downloaded the bundle immediately and loved what I saw.

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The stack of worksheets before they were laminated
There were ten pages in all,  including word searches and learn the alphabet, a vowel maze, fill in the blank and more! The next morning I printed out two copies of all ten pages, one for each of my kiddos. I hadn’t even had my breakfast yet and I was already warming up my laminator.

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It’s so sllllooooooowwwwwww!!!!!!
After I had the pages laminated, they were still warm, we sat down on the rug and got to exploring.

First, we dumped them all out and flipped them all over so we could see all the letters.

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Flip them over!
Then, we had to practice our names! Bug helped Six with some letter recognition, we said the letter sounds to see if they were the right letter for our name, and we counted the number of tiles in our names.

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Yea, I had them spell their nicknames 😉
After names, we pulled out one of the laminated sheets. We played the Learn The Alphabet page, but I did it differently than they suggest. I placed letter tiles on some but not all of the letters on the page and the girls, which turned into just Six towards the end, had to fill in the missing letters. I plan to use a similar “fill in the blank” with words when we get more into spelling.

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Fill in the blanks
When Bug was finished with her little break, I had her play the Counting and Color page, which counts as math if you are keeping track. She had to line up the tiles just so on each piece of fruit and I had her tell me the letter sound for each tile she placed on the page. Math and Language Arts.

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I am retiring the Original Bananagrams to the grown-up game box because the My First Bananagrams are so much better for little ones. The tiles are slightly bigger and ticker than the Original Bananagrams, making them a bit easier for little fingers to grab as well!

All the letters on the tiles are lowercase, which is a very good for beginner writers to learn because only 5% of letters are in uppercase, as well as uppercase letters being harder to write for some kiddos because they have many breaks in the process of writing them.

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The vowels are easy to identify because they are yellow. There are two letter Y tiles, one is yellow for the “sometimes”. There is also a Fill In The Vowel worksheet and a vowel maze. Vowel sounds can be tricky because of the two sounds they can make. The vowel colors reminded me very ,much of how our PECS core board was created, each type of word was a separate color; prepositions were purple, verbs were yellow etc. which made finding certain words quickly much easier.

Another awesome perk of the My First Bananagrams is that there are double letter tiles, or digraphs. Two letters that make one sound; ee, oo, wh, qu, etc. This makes it easier for younger kiddos to make a word and work on blending sounds.

There were mini game examples in the booklet as well, perfectly divided by Preschooler, Early Reader and Reader. Any of these games can be played in a group by adding “race to the finish”, but I do not have hurry-up-children, so races would end in tears. I plan to stick to the relaxed version.

The My First Bananagrams, as well as the original Bananagrams, are great for letter and word recognition, blending sounds and simply practicing sounds of the letters, using thinking skills, taking turns and sharing, and vowel identification along with many more I’m sure.

Along with the games and activities in the booklet and the download, I plan to continue using the My First Bananagrams to do our ‘regular’ activities that I have used the original Bananagrams with up till now. The read it/build it/write it page we use so often, spelling words from books, and practicing spelling words from flashcards are all very useful and fun, but I have more ideas!

I don’t know when we will be ready for some of my ideas, but they are there when I want to break them out:

Scrambled Words: make a few words with the tiles and scramble each word up individually, or for a challenge for older kiddos scramble up a few words into one pile of tiles and tell them how many words are there, or maybe what they start with to help them out if that is too challenging.

Word Sleuth: make a long word like caterpillar or centipede or because etc and have your kiddo find small words in the big word! This was my favorite warm up in 5th grade, but they didn’t use Bananagrams.

Fill In The Blanks: write a few words on a sheet of paper but leave out a few letters to have your kiddo fill them in! Pretty easy for readers I think, but we aren’t quite there yet.

Spell The Picture: have a picture or flashcard of something like a frog or a barn and have them spell out the word with the tiles.

Word Match Up: spell a word or five using tiles and have matching notecards or flashcards with the word on it, and they have to put the flash card with the correct word.

We received these Wednesday and the past four days have had this green bag somewhere strewn throughout our day. I feel this game would be a very worthy investment in a homeschool, or even a Speech therapy setting. I know we will be getting a lot of use out of them! And when they are ready you can always play the actual Bananagram game! I know my husband, a friend and I have played the Bananagram game with the My First as well as the original and had a blast. It is a great way to learn and have fun!

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@bananagrams

I have my eye on a few more games on their website: http://www.bananagrams.com/

For the printables: www.myfirstbananagrams.com

To see how we play with our Bananagrams, head over to my Facebook. The video was made before we got the My First Bananagrams, but it is transferable.

Homeschooling a Kinder

Imagine a classroom, visuals on the walls, the alphabet and a number line hang above the white board. One teacher, 20-30 kiddos. Stations 45 minutes long. Two or three stations before there is a recess or break.

That is not what it looks like at my house. Our homeschool day is very relaxed and flexible. So we do a lot of games (shhh….don’t let them know they are learning!) in between a LOT of movement and play.

table time 1
Farm themed books to go with the farm busy bag, yes/no board for answering questions, mathlink cubes, Rory’s story cubes, and an iSpy book

On this particular day, Bug picked three activities to do: reading, the iSpy book and the yes/no. She told me the others were not available after she got mad at them being on the table. We took a break, took deep breaths, I explained it was okay to be mad but she needed to use her words before she started getting upset because I would’ve moved them if she had asked. She calmed down and asked me to move them away from us and I did. She wanted to do the yes/no first because she liked the monster cards I have that can go with this that have monsters on them (not pictured). She did eight questions getting all but one right: can bees jump? That is a tricky one. Then we took a two minute break, she ran around the room a few times then sat on the floor to read her books. We started with the iSpy because I wanted to have her write a few of the words we sounded out and she wrote three, two by herself and one with my support. Then we read the other books, no break needed. Successful and productive!

table time 2
Paul and Babe to reinact the story, Fruitominoes, Pattern blocks, PlusPlus builders, Rory’s story cubes, and a number puzzle.

It was just me and Bug on this day, Daddy took Six to the store so there were no distractions. Table time, which turned into rug time, took almost one hour, but we got through everything. We started with Paul Bunyan. We watch the old Paul Bunyan movie all the time so I knew she would be excited to act it out. This took 20 minutes but it was so fun! She sounded out a few words that I just didn’t know how to say! She’s such a great helper! She corrected me when I forgot Babe’s name and called him Ferdinand, oh darn it! And she also corrected me when I started at the back of the book and just couldn’t figure out how to read a book…oh! we read this way!

She wanted to save the plusplus for last, so we moved on to the pattern blocks. And I forgot what butterfly started with! It doesn’t start with a P or a Z! Who knew…oh Bug did! We talked about the colors of the blocks and what letters they started with, and counted the yellows then blues, and then she was done with the puzzle and ready to play with the dominoes. She chose to do two and wanted me to do two, so we got our paper and I went first. I wrote 3 + 3 = 6 and she read it back to me. Then she wrote  3 + 1 = 4 and we recounted the fruit on the domino to make sure it was right! I did the next one and she did the last.

She wanted to take a break so I set the timer for 2 minutes and she stretched, got a drink of water and ran around the room for a minute before stopping the timer 30 seconds before it was going to ding and wanted to do the number puzzle. This is a fun little puzzle, we also have one for letters. when you line up all the sticks it makes a picture. She sped through this one in less than two minutes!

We finished with one round of Rory’s story cubes. She rolled each dice individually and put them in an order she wanted, then told me a story with the prompt “once upon a time” while I wrote her story. She then drew a picture of her story and we put it in her art book.

Table Time 3
Dice for dice math, an ocean ispy bag, nesting blocks, BOB books, and Lincoln logs

Bug was having a grumpy day, I wanted to channel that into something at least a little educational. So she started with the Lincoln logs, building a tall tower and punching it down. Thinking this was so funny, she kept doing it, and I made sound effects as well as found one of her little Sophia the First dolls that needed to escape the falling tower. By the end of ten minutes she was in a much better mood and Sophia had to join us for the rest of table time. Next she wanted to do the ispy bag. We talked about the ocean and some animals that lived there. I forgot that chickens don’t live underwater, silly mommy, and that sharks don’t fly. Her favorite ocean animal are the snakes! We watch a lot of Steve Irwin.

She asked me to put the dice away and wanted a break, so I asked her to do one dice play and then she could have a three minute break. She agreed and rolled the dice and asked for help writing the numbers but answered the math problem correctly without needing to count the dots.

She took her three minute break under the table in her fort she made earlier and looked through her highlights magazine.

While she stacked her blocks, I read her a BOB book, then she took the book and I stacked blocks and helped her sound out the words.

We are getting somewhere!

table time 4
Matching game, word puzzle, ispy Book, and connecting blocks

On this day, we were having a lazy day but both girls kept asking to play games. So I set these out for them to play independently while I finished laundry. These four games occupied them for over an hour with very minimal participation from me other than “mommy look” 500 times, telling them to put one game away before the started another, and reminding them to share.

 

Table time 5
Rice tray and words, story stones, and lima bean math

This was a quick table time day. She wanted to play games but we had to leave in 30 minutes. So She picked the lima bean math and story stones and we ended up doing the rice tray when we got home.

Her story stone story was actually about a previous experience which was so exciting since we have been working on recalling/retelling for a long while now…slowly but surely! And she did three of the lima bean problems with only one mistake that she caught herself! I think we are going to have a math wizz on our hands.

table time 6
Appletters, mathlinks, a fruit board game, Rory’s story cubes, and a book

We tried out a new worksheet at this table time: a read it, build it, write it page. I wrote a word at the top, Bug built it with the appletters, then wrote it.

I saved the game for last because it is Bug and Six’s favorite game ever (right now), and she didn’t want to do the story cubes.

I asked her how many of the mathlinks she wanted to do and she said two, so we did two mathlink problems (3+2 and 2+1), then she helped me read the book because I forgot what sound Sh and P made!

 

No matter what I have planned and set out for table time, I am always flexible to what she wants to do as well. And sometimes, I don’t let her call the shots and have her do one of the things she asked to put away, but I am building confidence at table time and comfort for her that I will not force her to do anything. We want her to WANT to learn, and want to do table time activities.

We will put more pressure on her as we continue, but for now progress is progress no matter how slow!