Thursday, April 17, 2014

SJ's Latest Evaluation

This week was parent teacher conferences at SJ's school. I wanted to do something special for her teacher's because SJ goes to the best school ever with the greatest staff in the world.

Exaggerate much?

Well, to me it is all of that, and it's been a God send for SJ. The least I could do is look up a simple thank you on Pinterest. I liked this printable from Tammy Mitchell Designs.

Instead of having SJ (Sedona) sign them I scanned her name and added it to the printable. That was her teachers favorite part, getting to have a keepsake of her name which she had JUST learned to spell.

In fact, out of nowhere she has been blowing me away with her handwriting. She can't read, or sound things out. She doesn't know ANY of the alphabet. So, considering all that, it is amazing that she can not only spell her name by heart (which is a long one), but she also knows several letters from her friends and family's names. Just one example is when she saw the word Happy and thought it said "Hailey" which is a classmate. Then she had written some names on a piece of paper to which she pointed from bottom to top saying "Sedona, Zion, Ezra, Mommy"

 Some of the letters she did get right, and I don't think it was just a coincidence. She is starting to make the connection. She also very suddenly went from scribbling blobs to drawing houses, rainbows, buildings and people.

And here is one of daddy playing guitar.

There are other areas she is falling a little behind in. I don't want to focus on that because her team assured me and reassured me that she is doing wonderfully and it's nothing to be alarmed about. I am going to work on making sure she keeps her implants on ALL the time at home and the school is going to pull her out of nap next year, since she doesn't nap anyway, so that she can have more tutoring. I'm sure she will be fine and we can all pray and believe that she catches up in the area of sentences and can continue to move forward in order to really reach her fullest potential!


Lastly, here is a video I put together for her teachers to see the progression she has made since coming to the school a year ago. If you've watched any of the videos on my blog you've probably seen most of these and can skip this, but it's still interesting to see 18 months unfold in 6 minutes. The first clip is with hearing aids and she can't speak at all, she is mostly just looking at the therapist and trying to mimicking through the visuals. Nearly 6 months later she is implanted and activated, and she started to hear words and repeat them. This potato head video was an enormous breakthrough for Sedona. The third clip is summer school and she is still mostly repeating words with prompting, but she recognizes several vocabulary words. Then fast forward to this year where she can understand a TON more and is saying a few simple sentences and communicating by answering questions. The last clip is one I took at home of her practices some of her vocab. She knows 300 words now (give or take) and is has even started to sing for the first time.

That's what's happening with SJ. I want to do a blog post about Z's school next. I was a part of a Common Core webinar yesterday and it's been confusing and a little scary, but nevertheless I love his school. I will elaborate on all that later. I hope everyone has a really GOOD Friday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

So Apparently We Are Loud

I had a friend call once and hesitantly asked if it was a good time to talk. I told her it was, and she responded with "Are you sure? because it's sounds like you are out and I don't want to interrupt." I said "No I'm at home with the kids". She thought I was at Chuck E. Cheese. I'm not too surprised. That's just what it sounds like on any given day, except if we really were like a Chuck E. Cheese then my children wouldn't always be begging me to go to Chuck E. Cheese. I don't even think that we are that loud, we are probably a very moderate volume. We just happen to have 3 children ages 6 and under in a relatively small space, so the sound has nowhere to go.

Last week we had a visit from apartment management to change a filter and some routine stuff, but on their way out the land lord informed us that there had been a complaint. My mind immediately went to all of the items that the baby had been throwing over the balcony, but no, it was the noise level. We defended ourselves by saying the kids go to bed at 8:30 so it's not like late night partying, and we were told when we moved in that children were welcome. They understood, but apparently one tenant has been pretty persistent that there has been running, stomping, and jumping happening at night and on weekends. For the record the woman that said this works during the weekdays (from what we can tell by her car) so in other words when she is home, that is when she hears it. Welcome to my world. 

The odd thing about this complaint was that the renter that lives directly under us is a young woman that plays loud music and has always been very kind and understanding about our circumstances. So I found it hard to believe that she would relentlessly place calls with management in such a way. After J and I went through every possible option of who would make this call, all we could think was that it was the woman that lives two floors below us. But how could that be? Could she possibly hear us from that far away?

Turns out she can, and here is how we know. Shortly after this all took place she left a note right out in the open taped to the front of the young woman's door that lives below us. It actually had my name on it so I truly thought it was intended for me although, I guess we just happen to have the same name? It basically said 

 Sorry I didn't take my complaint to you first, I just wasn't sure how I would be received. I don't think the noise I am hearing is a TV. It's more like stomping, running, and jumping. Maybe it's the people above you. It bothers my dog and makes him very nervous and scared. Then he gets sick. That is why I informed management. Thank you for your note. 

Now I am no detective, but I have enough clues to fill in the missing pieces here. The lady with the dog had a note taped to her door the week before. I saw it when I went to do laundry, but it didn't mean anything to me and so I thought nothing of it. I'm guessing it said something to the effect of

I was informed by the landlord that there was a complaint about the noise level of my apartment. The only thing I can imagine this could be caused by is my TV and if it is too loud then I wish you would just come to me so that I can turn it down….  

It sounds like all parties involved are being pretty considerate, so I appreciate that. And I do feel sorry for anyone that lives below my family or Jim Gaffigan's (that was a plug for the book Dad Is Fat. If you  haven't read it then you should and then you'll get it). But what it comes down to is a dog that gets nervous vs. my three energetic children. Now I hate to be an obnoxious neighbor, but I refuse to raise my kids in a prison cell and they will continue to be allowed to be children during daylight hours. I do the best I can to get them out of the apartment to get their exercise at McDonald's, the nature center, a local park etc. It's not easy, but it's for my sake and theirs that I do this. Even with all of that there are days that weather, illness, or money does not permit recreational activity or days where despite my best efforts they still manage to be silly and hyper at home.

In conclusion, I make sure the kids take off their shoes when they come inside (something they are supposed to be doing anyway) and I have let them know at 8:00 it's quiet time. That's really the best I can do. Unless maybe someone knows where I can find some doggy ear plugs.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Healthy Outlets -

We all have different ways of letting off steam. Some people de-stress by knitting, others like to take it to the gym. I personally have always found writing to be therapeutic (surprise), for J it's playing guitar. Not that it's limited to one activity, but I think it's important that we find ways to connect with our emotions and clear our minds every once in a while.

Z has been at an interesting stage lately. He still has meltdowns, but he's the only one I don't have to worry about throwing an uncontrollable fit when it's time to leave the park. It's a beautiful thing to watch this level of control develop. Some days are better than others, but it won't be long before he catches up to J in terms of temper tantrums (okay, I'm kidding). Besides just managing emotions, I have noticed something else. He is finding his own unique way of self expression.

Several months ago (Just before Z turned 6) he began to secretly write some of his frustrations out on paper when he was mad or upset. I know a lot of children do this, but as far as my observation among my friends it's especially common for girls. The one that made me cry was when his grandparents were in town. It was time for them to head back to Texas so we walked down to their mini van and said our goodbyes. Z seemed totally fine, but after a while of not hearing a peep out of him I peeked in his room. I noticed he was drawing and I asked him about it.

He showed me a picture of the family crying in-between the van and the apartment building. I said, you miss grandma don't you? That's when the big tears that had been forming became too heavy to hold back anymore, and he just broke down. We called grandma and she suggested he count down the days until our Christmas trip to Texas and mark them off daily.

November-February were taped together like a calendar on his wall.

Z responded well to that idea. Later we printed December off the computer and he drew a car on the day that we were leaving and returning and put happy faces on the days we would be there.

 This wasn't the only time he used drawing/writing to express his emotions, but it's not always this sweet. Sometimes when Z is mad at me he will disappear to his room and write something like "I wish I was never born" or "dad is bad" or one time I found the words "I don't like mom" crumpled up on the floor after we had a big argument. I picked it up, flattened it out and read it, but he very defensively said he was joking. I told him that I didn't believe that and I was sad that he felt that way, but if he was ready we could talk about it. Then he said "Well, I didn't mean it. That's why it's trash." We talked about it and everything was fine. Even when it is hurtful I encourage this type of outlet because we all have to vent, and he is finding a healthy way to decompress at a very young age. How awesome is that?

I get it, because it is JUST LIKE ME. I received my first journal when I was in 2nd grade. It was a Secret Garden journal from my aunt in California. I got it for Christmas and it even had a lock and key! Then when I was in high school I started writing poetry. I have a little notebook full of pages of poetry. Poem after poem of all of my hopes, fears, and pain. Some of them were really dark. Thank goodness I used journals to cope instead of drugs right? Actually, I was never offered drugs. Still, I like to believe I chose to stay away from them (wink wink).

Yesterday after being told he was done playing the wii for the day, and then throwing a monstrous baby fit about it, he was sent his room. Moments later a paper airplane crashed just short of me with a message on it.

With broken spelling it said "If you treat me that way then I guess you don't care about me and I see you don't love me either" on the back it said "read and then sign here _________". So I signed it and wrote "I will always care about you and love you no matter what, in good times and bad". Then he signed it and wrote "thanks for the note" We had a talk about whether his behavior was respectful or disrespectful and he recognized his poor choices and that was our big melt down for the day. It was dramatic for sure, but a lot of maturity has happened in the past two years.

Z showing off the first time he tied his shoes.

I mention this because Z, as the first born, has been quite the pioneer in teaching me when to expect what as far as age appropriate development. When babies are too young to talk we understand that they are frustrated because they cannot communicate with us. Then around two, three, four (you know that blissful  stage of cooperation) they can talk and so all should be well, right? First of all we are always a work in progress so there is never a certain point that you arrive and no one ever has to deal with your crap anymore, but beyond that let's go back to the first paragraph. How do three year olds de-stress? How do they cope? They can't blog, they can't go shopping, or go for a hike. They can jump around and scribble. I am sure that helps, but my point is, what if the the thing that they were inherently born with that allows them to feel a sense of relief and self gratification is not developed or discovered yet. It makes it a little easier to sympathize with them instead of just getting frustrated that they are so frustrated so often. I know there is a lot more to it than that, and I am no psychiatrist, but in the mean time I can have some grace and patience for these little bitties (and bigger kids too). In the same way that I don't demand that a 10 month old "use their words", a can't expect my two year old to have a mature sense of self expression.

I would encourage you as your child gets to be around the age of 5 (according to The 5 Love Languages of Children) to see if you can recognize what activity, hobby, or interest is their healthy outlet. What can you do to nurture that God given desire in them? Or maybe you are still in search for that thing yourself. Either way we all get cranky, we are all progressing, and we all need grace.

One of Z's first stories- The dog is red. The sky is blue. The sky is cool blue. The dog is red. I love the dog. He is my pet. The end.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Photography Take Over

It's been over a week since I have blogged. That has almost never happened. I have a really good excuse though. The reason I have been so busy lately is because I have decided to start up my photography business again. It's Facebook official. Actually, I did start a Facebook page, but there is nothing on it yet, and there are still a ton of details that I have to figure out. For example, the fact that my camera recently broke. Not just a little broke, but it's dead. It's toast. Done. Finito. My brother has been helping me out by allowing me to borrow his equipment, but obviously I need to replace my camera if I plan to operate a photography business. So we'll see what happens. Anyway here are some of the projects I have been working on. 

A masquerade themed sweet 16 party.

Daddy daughter dance (he gave the best speech ever by the way).

 And the guests of honor's nieces rocking the photo booth.

A few days later I did the superlative photos for my church's private school (which is where I attended until 6th grade). It was definitely a small class, but what they lack in size

 They make up for in personality. So that ended up being a super fun assignment.

Lastly, I photographed the latest fundraiser for SJ's school. It was a hip hop fitness/ Zumbathon. I participated a little tiny bit, but I mostly stuck to snapping pictures in awe of the mad skills these ladies (and a few men) had.

Other than a brief intermission they danced for two hours and it was an amazing turnout. It definitely made me interested in taking up Zumba. 

Even my brother was involved in that he made this thank you video from a couple of the kids at the school.

It's been two years since I have considered myself actively practicing photography and I don't think that I need to explain why. It feels like the Lord is bringing me back to it though, which is both exciting and scary. Still, I know if He is with me I have nothing to be afraid of. This new (old) venture will all fall into place if that is what is supposed to happen. So far it's been effortless and it's reminded me what I loved about the art of capturing people's precious memories and weaving them together to cherish forever (and that would be my shameless blog for "Memory Weaver Photography"). Full Facebook page coming soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Our Newest Addition

I am waaaaay behind on this announcement, but I wanted to get some pictures together to show you guys and so I am ready now. Drumroll please…. I have a new baby niece.

Photo Credit: Brandon Weaver 

She is actually about to turn two months old. She is a precious little bundle and we are so blessed to have her as a part of the family. This makes 6 grandchildren in six years for my parents.  

1. 2007

2. 2010

3. 2010

4. 2012

5. 2012

6. 2014

So, both of the "Jeremy and Natalies" have 3 kids now. The baby tag team system has been great, and I know people are used to having at least one of the two Natalies pregnant,  but I just want to put the rumors to rest and let everyone know that I am not expecting. It sure is nice having a teeny tiny around again though. These cousins are barrels of fun. It just keeps getting better. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Throw Up Thursday

I am sure you are all familiar with the increasingly popular "Throwback Thursday" where you post an old picture online on Thursdays. But have you heard of lesser known "throw UP Thursday"?


Yeah, I don't see it catching on quite as well,  but that is what my kids did all day yesterday.

Let's rewind to Tuesday because I want to disclose all details of this as if it were an official investigation. I am open to any and all theories about what the cause of the outbreak may be or if you have ever experienced anything like it.

Tuesday evening I met a couple friends at Chic-Fil-A (one of them was my sister in law) in Northern Kentucky. There are 10 kids between the 3 of us. It did get a little crazy, but what' new? Afterwards we went home and got ready for bed because Z had to be at the airport at 6:00 am the next morning to fly to Washington D.C. with my parents.


Wednesday morning, everything was great. Z flew off and got to see the capital and had a grand ol' time. Back in Ohio my two youngest kids were fine and dandy until Ezie woke from his sleep at 10:30 pm and started to vomit. He has never thrown up before. And it just kept on coming for the poor little guy. I'd clean him up in the bathtub change him and changed the sheets and then it would happen again, although after two times I wanted to make sure he was done so I went ahead and let him relax in the tub for a looooong time and it appeared he was finally done puking. Then when I got him out and wrapped him in a towel he threw up again.


 We were up until 4:00 am and then I slept in his bed with him. I awoke to the news that SJ threw up. Then I got a text that Z had been throwing up in D.C. all night too! What in the world?! I texted my friends that had been at Chic Fil A and one of them hadn't experienced any illness other than some diarrhea from a  toddler. My sister in law on the other hand said that my niece, nephew, and brother were all puking!

I know that story was probably hard to follow, but here are the clues

1. 10 kids were playing at Chic-Fil-A Tuesday night (more than 10, but those are the ones I was with).
2. Approximately 36 hours later 5 out of the 10 kids were vomiting, plus one dad who wasn't even at Chic-Fil-A.
3. Side note: When the illness manifested the kids were scattered amongst three different states (Ohio, Kentucky, and D.C.).

I just find it interesting. It's like this "bug" jumped on all the kids at one point and simultaneously manifested way later. I would say food poisoning, because it reminds of the time everyone from our church got montezuma's revenge on a mission trip, but there are some problems with that theory, like not everyone that had it ate at the restaurant, and I don't think food poising takes that long. I do understand how illness works and it's common for groups to get sick together, but I have never seen all of my kids suddenly come down with something at the exact same time. They usually pass it along in more of a domino type fashion. I also didn't think it would take a full day and half to show symptoms.  If you are a germ expert this is your chance to educate me on the life cycle of a virus.

The good news is the sickness only lasted about 18 hours and everyone is better now. Time to finish another round of laundry and disinfecting the house. Yippee!

*SJ always stands really funny when she is assuming the puke position. It's funny, one time her legs were so far apart she was almost doing the splits, but I am always by her side comforting her. In this case it was a false alarm and she was fine, so that is why I snapped the pic. *

**Z signing I love you as headed off to the airport**

***Pajamas snuggles with my sick boy. At least I had an excuse to be alone with him and stroke his silky little baby curls.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I feel like SJ's been tattling on Z since birth. One time, before she could ever talk at all, she came running into my room crying. Z came following right behind her yelling "she's lying". Hmmm. That sounds suspicious. However, she has come a long way in the past 6 months and the progression is evident in the way she and Z bicker. In October she went from just pointing at Z to actually being able to say his name.

It really was a major milestone. Then in December she started piecing two words together and saying "Z hit!" (or Z push, Z hurt, Z boo boo, etc.) Her latest achievement is the 3 word combination such as "Z hit me". I hate to be so enthusiastic about sibling rivalry, but it really is exciting to watch her build her communication skills!

There are other things I am sure would annoy most parents, but I am just thrilled to hear her talk. For example the other night we had cut off juice for the day and told her she could have water. She didn't like that and she just kept whining JUUUUUUICE. Then when she was given a cup of water she said "No. I want apple juice." Perfectly clear. How am I supposed to respond to that? I didn't give in, but I did smile and maybe clap a little.

She has said several other sentences recently like

"Mom, I hear phone"
"I hear it"
"I want pudding"
"I will do it"
"Daddy sit down."
"Baby Ezie's turn"

She can also count to 5 and knows several colors.

She sang 5 little monkeys along with her class for a school presentation. Here is a video of Z and SJ practicing.


Last week she was in The Very Hungry Caterpillar play and said her line perfectly, which was "I eat hotdog", without any cue.

 Way to go SJ!

She is making great strides. Even her bedtime routine has made a complete 180 degree turn since I last complained mentioned it. It's hard for me to capture her talking on video. I always have my hands full, and you know how kids are, they stop the moment the camera  is ready. However, the webcam helps some because she seems to respond well to the computer. That's how the video above was recorded (Z changed the background to fish), and this one is her showing some of her vocabulary word pictures. In it she says over 20 words. I know she is very difficult to understand. There are a lot of sounds she can't make yet, like the "C" sound which is why car sounds like "har". She understands so much though and she is able to articulate more and more each day.


That's just a small portion of a ten minute video! That girl is on fire. It was this time a year ago that she said her first word and now she knows a couple hundred words. For 6 years Z was the only one talking and it won't be long now that I will have three chatter boxes on my hands. Bring it on.

Captions for the video:
Bird, cow, dog, rabbit, hand, ear, feet, eye, horse (twice in a row), bug, strawberry, hamburger, kitty cat, bike, cow (which she calls horse at first), sink, hotdog, crackers, pizza, chair, cup, bed, spoon knife, fork, boat, phone."