Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Snowy Ice

Woke this morning to finally see some snow on the ground.

The kids were excited, but it was covered with an icy coat.

Pretty to look at, but not ideal for snowballs or snowmen.

Just right for crunching around in winter boots.

And tasting with warm tongues.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Read These!

If you haven't yet, these are wonderful posts that sum up how I feel about this whole Sarah Palin, R-Word issue.

Sarah Palin is not my Spokesperson.

The R-Word is not Comedy.

And if you believe in fighting this slur, sign the petition here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cutting a Rug: The Dancing Duo

All three kids have been fighting a cold at home this week. Yesterday, the youngest two felt well enough to work on their SYTYCD routine. :)

It includes pajamma infused costumes, red nose make up, and lots of twirling!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Preparing for Kindergarten Transition, Phase 1: The ABAS

I thought it might be helpful to other parents if I could try to write about some of our stages in this process. I hope to have a series of these posts before school starts in the Fall.

Last week, I got a call from the school district psychologist, informing me that he would be sending a form home in Sean's backpack for me to fill out. The ABAS, Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, arrived on Thursday and I was surprised to see that it was a nine page form asking me about different behaviors, skills and abilities that Sean exhibits at home. The psychologist informed me that this would be used as part of his evaluation for Sean's cognitive abilities and help him determine what academic placement options he will suggest at our upcoming IEP meeting. This link offers a good overview of the survey and why it is used.

Of course, I procrastinated filling out the form until this morning.

When reading through the form, I was asked to choose from these options:

0= Does not have this ability
1= Never or Almost Never does this
2= Sometimes does this
3= Always or Almost Always does this

I was also given the option to check a box indicating that I am guessing at my answer because it is something we haven't actually experienced with Sean, but I think he might be capable at some level of completing the given task. Yeah, I checked that a couple times. :)

Overall, I was happy that I got to check more boxes stating that he Always or Almost Always is able to do different tasks or behaviors than I did the Never or Almost Never boxes. There were a lot of food/eating related questions that ended up in the Never column. Like ordering his own meals, cutting his own food, assisting in food preparations. Though, if you look at things from Sean's POV, he does do that to an extent. He often requests we stop for a cone when we are out driving around, and should we stop for one, he yells "Cone! Cone!" from his seat. Does that count as ordering his own food? When eating his purees, he carries them to his chair, removes the plastic lid and uses his teeth to peel back the foil top. Is that assisting in food preparations?

There were several questions about communication skills and obviously I marked low on those, as well as things like saying his ABC's, stating his phone number, first & last name, counting to 20, drawing recognizable figures or letters. I know those are his areas of major delay and not surprised to see how many of those skills he needs to reach.

Some things, I realized that like we did with Aidan, I really haven't given Sean a chance to complete. For example, "does he select his own clothing every day?" "Does he make his bed?" No and no. Neither does Aidan. If I asked Sean to get pants and a shirt he would. He knows which drawers they are in. Would they match? Would he pick ones that fit right? Not likely, in all fairness Doug doesn't even know which things fit and which don't. I pick out clothes for all three kids every day. I guess I should let them, but honestly it's just faster and easier this way. And bed making, um, yeah, I do that sometimes. It's not really a priority in our rushed morning routines. I think if I took the time to show the boys how to make a bed they could.

The school hasn't scheduled our IEP meeting yet, so I have that took look forward to. I've already told Doug that we need to make sure we get a sitter for the kids so that we can both attend. It feels like such a big step, that I am just ready for it so I can hear what they have to say.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We've waited YEARS for this...

Sean took BITES.


Not paper, or cardboard, or a book. Actual food. And he loved it. He ate probably 20 french fries all on his own. Hours later, when I went to the grocery store with Aidan, he asked Doug if I would get more fries for him.

Hot damn! I've never loved McDonald's as much as I do today.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eleanor Ruby, 18 Months Old Today

It's so hard to believe our baby girl is already a year and a half old! Her babyhood has gone by so incredibly fast. I am just constantly amazed by all she is doing, it just seems too early for her to be such a big girl.

She is such a talker! She tries to repeat words and adds new words all the time. I've graduated from "mama" to "Mommyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" She's decided that nursing (which we've always called "milkies" since Aidan named it) is called "nene". She calls apples "appadah" and likes adding "ies" to words (like uppies! shoesies!) "No" has already entered her vocabulary. Ella signs some words still, while saying them. I had thought we'd do more sign with her, but she's been adding words faster than signs.

Ella loves dancing with her brothers and making music. She's quite the spinner!

There is no limit to the amount of go-go-go this girl has. She's a climber and will work her way to the top of any table she sees. She can pull herself on to beds for jumping and dancing. She insists on walking up and down stairs. Very independent, when it comes to mobility.

Sean enjoys having her shadow him around. She just loves doing whatever her brother is doing. They are such a little team! Sean cracks us up with his big-brother-ness. He opens the fridge to get her snacks and drinks. He climbs up onto the counter to get her goldfish crackers. This morning he undressed himself and her (including taking off her cloth diaper!) so that they could take a shower. He assigns toys to her, brushes her hair, entertains her when she's sad, and covers her with kisses.

Aidan adores having Ella become more active in their play. He taught her to how to respond when he says "Teen Titans!" (the reply is "GO!") She constantly tackles Aidan for piggy back rides. He is willing to read her favorite books several times more after I've tired of them. He always says she's the cutest little girl ever.

Without much prompting on my part, Eleanor has started figuring out things like putting shape sorters together, naming body parts (she says & points to ears, eyes, nose, hair, mouth, toes, and belly button), and is starting to take an interest in puzzles. She loves finger play songs and claps at the end, then asks for more.

She loves to putter about with her dolls or little toys in her hands. I'm finding Little People in hiding spots all the time.

For a few months now, she has been telling us when she wets or dirties her diaper. She has recently starting going to the toilet and trying to take her diaper off. I'm beginning to think that it might be true that girls potty learn faster than boys, because she certainly is more interested in it than her brothers were at this age. I can't imagine starting that with her yet, but like the idea of our diaper days ending sooner than later.

Ella is just about transitioned to one nap a day. I'm still working on getting it at a time that works with our day and getting her bedtime earlier. Most of the time she is sleeping better at night, usually lasting until 4 or 5 am before her first waking. I'm happy that she doesn't seem to have the sleep apnea issues that the boys had. Maybe one of our kids will keep their tonsils and adenoids!

What fun it is to see her grow!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our Winter Escape to the Bahamas! Part 3

We woke up Monday morning, still sailing rapidly towards Florida. It must of been rather windy, because the ship was very choppy. We met the family for breakfast a saw nothing but a foggy sea. Docking and unloading the ship was a looooooong process. Not that we were in any hurry to get to the airport, as our flight didn't leave till 3. We got there on time for lunch and had to waste several hours before boarding the plane. The Atlanta-to-Miami flights were so booked both ways. I was in a separate row from Doug and the boys and stuck next to the window. I was very grateful that Ella napped that leg each time! No way could I have kept her content in such a cramped space.

After a tiring four hour layover in Atlanta we caught our plane home. When we touched down, it was dark, cold and snowy. There was so much fog out that we didn't even see the ground until the plane touched it! Our three kids slept the last flight, so we had to carry them and our backpacks to baggage claim. Um. Yeah. Not a pack mule. I woke them up to potty and change Ella's diaper, then wrapped them in blankets to get to the van. They slept the drive back and woke up tucked in bed at home.

So, all these details aside, do I think it's a good idea to go on a cruise with three young children? No. Probably not. At least not for my kids. I'm not the type of parent to go on a vacation with my kids only to send them to a daycare while we are there. I guess I think the point of a family vacation is to spend time together as a family- not off doing different things. My kids are not in daycare at home, so why should they be on a vacation?

Is a cruise ship a suitable place for kids this age? Not really. It's crowded, busy, full of people that are not on the lookout for little kids darting under their feet. Ella wasn't allowed to get in the main pool because she isn't potty trained. Only Aidan was big enough to go on the slides. The sprinkler area lost it's appeal in a short matter of time. The performances didn't start until 10 pm so we couldn't go to those since the kids are asleep by then. Obviously, we also didn't hit the casino or dance clubs.

They had fun with what we did do. They loved the time on the beach. They loved the all you can eat food, whenever you want aspect. They like riding in elevators and had fun playing in the cabin. They liked spending time with the relatives.

For Doug and I, it was extremely stressful. It was hard keeping track of everyone and we would of liked to have time to just relax in the sun, sipping a drink and talking to family. But, yeah, that's not so much what kids this age do. So we struggled with turning our frame of mind around to see the enjoyment of what we could do. The moments of pure excitement on their faces were wonderful. We'll just try to focus on those parts and let time erase the parts that were tense.

*Note about this series of posts and Facebook. I posted several photos of the extended family on Facebook since they are active there. I did not post them here also, since I wasn't sure they wanted me to post those photos on my blog. If you are a blog reader and related on that side, let me know if you'd like the link to the Facebook photos!*

Our Winter Escape to the Bahamas! Part 2

Unfortunately, I woke up feeling terrible. We were a few hours away from our port in Nassau and I was suffering from motion sickness. Ugh! Doug made trips to the dining room to eat and bring food back for the kids, while I curled up in bed. I took some ibuprofen for my headache and Dramamine for my nausea, but I really didn't feel too great until after the shipped stopped. Luckily it cleared up enough for me to gather up a bag and head out to the island with Doug and the kids.

We didn't book a shore excursion and didn't have any concrete plans. We just wanted to head to a beach and let the kids have fun in the sand & surf. We were fortunate to get in a cab with a woman who works on a cruise ship that was docked there and she was heading to her favorite beach, so we just followed along. Cabbage Beach is a public beach, yet wasn't too crowed and was very close to other features on the island.

We rented a beach chair when Ella made it clear that she was NOT going to put her feet in THAT weird stuff. Doug and I took turns playing in the sand with the boys, walking in the waves, and shooting photos until Ella decided she need a little Nene and Nappy.

Sean is such a sensory seeker- he is so texture driven to sand! It was so fun to watch him just immerse himself in it. Both boys were caked from head to toe in sand!

Aidan busied himself searching for sea shells, there weren't many to be found. Wonder why? He also befriended a 4 year old German girl who spoke wonderful English and had fun digging around with him.

Eventually my tummy demanded food, so we attempted to leave some sand on the beach and wondered off in search of lunch. A taxi stopped us and offered a ride up towards the Atlantis Resort where he said we'd find a good place to feed the kids in our rather messy state. Quizno's! LOL Oh well, worked for us. After a meal on the patio, we caught a cab back to the docks and briefly looked at the market wares before re-boarding the ship.

It took a lot of scrubbing in the shower to get the rest of the sand off and then the boys went up to hit the water slides, pool and hot tub with Doug. Around 5 pm, I started getting ready for the formal dinner night. Dressing up, doing hair and make up, while Ella entertained herself in the room. One second she was playing with our room key and the stainless steel ice bucket and the next second she was screaming because she'd put it on her head like a hat and got it wedged on there! Of course, that was right when my niece stopped by the room and I panicked! I asked her to go get Grandma to help me, I couldn't get the bucket off Ella's head.

Grandma came in and I am still trying to figure out how to ease it off without breaking her nose. Ella is screaming, I'm crying, some how we managed to wiggle her head out. I seriously thought they were going to have to call for a fire department! Ella and I hugged each other in tears. Her nose was red and bled for a few seconds, but otherwise she was okay. Phew!

I put the bucket out of her reach and went back to getting ready. By the time Doug and the boys returned from the pool, I was ready to go and Grandma was ready to take the kids for the evening while Doug and I went to dinner. We had a fun time at dinner and enjoyed copious amounts of lobster tail. Grandma brought the kids to see us at the end of our meal because Aidan had jumped off the bunk bed and landed on a remote, so his ankle hurt. Ahh, little daredevils!

That night I put a motion sickness prevention patch on and hoped for better sea legs the next day when we set sail for the day at sea before returning to Miami. Once again, the kids slept well in their bunk beds.

On our day at sea, we spent time by the pool and slides. Sean was so determined to go on the water slides! Every day, he'd walk himself up the stairs to the top of the slide and ask to get on with his brother. Every day, the attendant would measure him and tell him he wasn't tall enough. Poor little guy was 2" too short for the small slide and would have to climb back down the stairs. It was heartbreaking for him to get to see his brother having all that fun without him. I had hoped that the two littles could peacefully play in the sprinkler/splash area while I lounged in a chair, but that just wasn't possible. They both felt the need to go in opposite directions, so it was just more chasing around kiddos. In between meals and naps, Doug and I took turns doing things with the kids.

At one point, Aidan decided he was hungry, so he and got in line for a snack. Doug had Ella elsewhere and I had Sean and Aidan with me. I was holding both plates, loading them up, when I turned to see Sean standing COMPLETELY NAKED in front of at least 100 people around the pool. He wasn't hungry, he wanted to hot tub! O. M. G!

I dropped my plates on the counter and rushed over to him and dressed him faster than I ever have in my life, turning red while tables full of people laughed. Impossible! That boy has zero impulse control.


Aidan did go to one activity at the children's activity room- a Build a Bear workshop. He had a lot of fun making a special friend to bring home. He choose a snowman, with a Spiderman costume. He said his secret weapon was throwing snowballs.

For our last dinner on board, we decided to bring all three kids to eat in the formal dinning room with us. The service had been very quick and we thought the kids would do okay there. Dinner had it's ups and downs, but one highlight was when a server came to our table and told me he used to work as a nurses aid before joining the ship. He asked if he could take Sean for a walk around the restaurant while I ate. He wanted to show Sean the kitchen and say hi to the other waiters. Sean took to him immediately and gladly took his hand to go exploring. It was easy to see how smitten this man was with Sean. Ella also got restless during dinner, so she and I took several little walkabouts between courses. She was very charming to the lady hostesses. My kids can be so adorable and friendly, but meek and patient are not traits they carry!

Our Winter Escape to the Bahamas! Part 1

Warning! Long and detailed for our family record keeping purposes!! What an experience! This short family vacation was so eventful that we need a vacation at home to recover from it. It was an incredibly exhausting trip, but worth the amazing experience of exploring new things with our kids. The purpose of the trip was to spend time reconnecting with Doug's dad's cousins. Hence it was dubbed the Cousin Cruise. We were joined on board with his cousin Debbie from NY and his cousin Lynette from FL. They both brought their families along.

Our trip began bright and early Thursday morning (1/28) at 3:30 am. Doug and I woke up, dressed, finished loading the car, then carried three sleeping children wrapped in blankets to our van. We had an hour drive to the airport, checked in the ridiculous amount of luggage needed for the five of us, and eventually caught our flight at 5:45 am. Doug's parents, brother, brother's girlfriend, and our niece traveled with us. We had a layover in Atlanta that was a painful four hours long. All of us were running on so little sleep, yet the kids were fired up and impossible to sit still. We all took turns trying to keep them busy yet safe.

We arrived in Miami and got to our hotel around 3 pm. We stayed a a gorgeous hotel, with amazing rooms and a wonderful pool. We decided a soak in the hot tub was in order immediately. Eventually, we hopped out for a light dinner and drinks. I was so, so, so ready to go to bed by 7 pm, but the kids kept us going a little longer. We were awoken at 10:30 pm by a call on our cell phone- Aidan's school has an automatic system and it said that school was canceled for Friday due to snow! After that, we got a pretty good night's sleep and woke up ready to go.

Friday, we boarded our ship, the Carnival Imagination, around 1:00 pm. The check in process to board a cruise ship is lengthy, even if you do get your papers printed in advance. The kids were excited to get on board and just in awe of the huge ships. We found our way to the cafeteria style dining room and had lunch immediately. By then, we were able to check out our cabin and drop off our bags before exploring the ship.

It was really windy in Miami when we set sail, so the kids didn't hit the pool right away. They require everyone to attend a presentation on ship safety and we learned that the kids had to wear a wristband at all times. Sean, unfortunately, HATES wristbands, largely due to the fact that he's had to wear them in medical settings so many times in the past. Usually hospitals let me put it on his ankle and he handles that better, but the ship said no way. Even Ella had to wear one tightly fitted. Sean fussed with his wristband pretty much non-stop until we finally got it off at the airport on the way home.

After getting settled in a bit, the kids found the putt-putt course on the highest deck and enjoyed running around there. Unfortunately, Sean made a putt putt in his pants, so I had to take him to our room for a clean up. Nice way to start the weekend, scrubbing poo out of pants. After that accident, Doug and I were on high alert with him and made him attempt potty breaks as often as we could to avoid another accident.

That evening, Doug offered to stay in the cabin with a napping Ella and Sean while I went to dinner with Aidan and the rest of the family. When Ella woke up, Doug took her to have sushi with him while I hung out with the boys. We quickly seemed to get the layout of the ship figured out. Sean had issues handling the crowded or noisy areas which made it hard for either of us to go out of our room with all three alone or just the younger two alone. We needed one of us to mind Ella (who greatly enjoys choosing her own paths to take) and the other to mind Sean (who went into lock down mode when he didn't want to go in a certain area.) It's a lot of walking on a ship to get from place to place and Sean was determined not to be the one doing the walking.

When we returned to our cabin at bedtime, the boys were delighted to see the bunk beds set up for them to sleep in and the towel animal the cabin steward made for them. We were very unsure of how the bunk beds would work for us, since they've always been reluctant to sleep apart from us. Well, the sea air and steady motion seemed to work wonders on them! Both boys eagerly climbed into their bunks and put themselves to sleep! Sean lasted about half the night, then climbed down into the big bed with Doug, Ella and I. Aidan slept like a log all night long without a peep!