Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Big Girl Bed

It seems like I've had a lot of 'Wow-look-at-how-amazing-Ella-is-doing' posts lately. The excitement of being able to dress her different kinds of shoes, wear hats, laugh and giggle and play with her in the tub (well.. until it's time to wash her hair at least) watch her walk outside by herself, and see her amazing personality emerge and blossom is so overwhelming. I hope with all my heart that I never make anyone feel bad whose child might not be doing any particular one of these things. It's absolutely true that our kids each develop along their own set of rules, in their own time, and surprise us at every turn. I share Ella's triumphs to offer hope to others who might need it at that time. However.. in an effort to even things out a little I'm now going to share about Ella and her bed. 

Scenario: Ella still sleeps in her crib. 

Problem: Not so little brother Hudson needs the crib. 

Solution: Move Ella to a big girl bed. 

Easy, right? Well, we thought so. We got out the toddler bed and at first Ella seemed to LOVE it. 

There was lots of giggling,

and clapping,

and happy faces. 

Until it was time to actually go to sleep on the bed.

Then there was lots of tears,
and flailing,
and hysterical crying for an hour.
(No I don't have pictures of that. Geez, I'm not a monster, people..)

Needless to say we haven't even tried it again. An hour battle at naptime (or *gasp* bedtime for that matter) is not something I have time or energy to endure every day right now.

However, the toddler bed remains in her room. One could argue that I'm just being lazy and not willing to put forth the hard work necessary to guide Ella with this transition. Or one could more efficiently argue that I am testing the very important scientific theory of selective exposure and therefore slowly over time training Ella's mind to adapt her attitude to accept the favorable evidence while ignoring the unfavorable and helping her overcome the predetermined prejudice she seems to have against the toddler bed.

I'll let you decide.

For now, the bed serves as a cozy tablet-playing nook

just right for watching baby faces.

It is also a perfect step stool for turning the lights off.

And on. And off. And on.

After discovering her in her crib one day when no one had put her there, we even realized the toddler bed is a great ladder for getting into the crib!

Now that Ella knows how to climb in to her bed, it raises the concern of when she will try to climb out of her bed.
Good thing she's far too cautious for that.

Or not..

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weighted Blankets

Last fall while discussing some of Ella's sensory issues with our OT, she mentioned something to me about weighted blankets and I've been toying with the idea ever since. If you've never heard of a weighted blanket before, basically it's exactly what it sounds like. A blanket with weight in it. Most are made with small plastic beads called poly-pellets that are sewn inside and completely machine washable (think: a bunch of bean bags sewn together). The blankets can be any size, fabric, texture or weight (although they recommend not more than 10-15% of the person's body weight) and are used a lot with kids who have autism. I've heard the blankets can help calm anxiety and provide much need sensory input for kids who need it. 

Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making my own weighted blanket and was originally going to just make one for Ella. However, after thinking about it for awhile I realized a certain older child of mine who has a little more difficulty sitting still and focusing might benefit from one as well. Since I didn't want to single him out and make him feel different, I decided the other boy needed one as well (and since he always complains of being cold I used that as a cop-out as to why he needed one). And naturally since Hudson has decided to claim the title of "World's Worst Sleeper," with much wishful thinking I decided that perhaps if he had a weighted blanket as well maybe it would feel more like I was holding him (the only way he'll sleep good).

Visions of a full night's sleep, restful nap times, reduced temper tantrums, and a calm supper table danced through my head as I sewed these blankets. I finally finished them and I will say.. the kids really like them. Whether its because they feel special that I sewed them their very own blanket or because they are benefitting from the weight-the jury's still out. If you don't look too close they turned out pretty good. Here is what the older boys' look like. 

I made all the blankets about 18"x21" so they would be lap pads (but mostly because I was being cheap and could get away with using 1/4 yard of material for each the front and back that way). The front I used a cotton print and the back is minky-for a little extra touch of sensory texture. They weigh around 2-3 pounds each. I probably should have sewed some sort of strap on them because they seem to amazingly always fall off their laps at suppertime, leading to much squirreling around under the table..

I wish I could say this guy was sleeping through the night and taking longer naps with his blanket, but not so much yet.
Good thing he's cute.

And today at lunch while I was thinking about what to write in this post about these blankets Ella got down from the table, ran to the couch and grabbed her blanket, drug it all the way back to the table, and insisted on sitting with it on her lap.

So apparently she likes it. 

If you like these and think your child would benefit from a weighted blanket, send me a message or let me know.
 A fellow CdLS mom has been making awesome custom ones as a fundraiser to go to Conference. 
I can hook you up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Walk a mile in Ella's.. boots?


For a long time Ella has refused to wear anything but soft soled shoes. 

It's not for lack of wanting.
Ella's closet
Or opportunity.
basket of shoes by the door
Or choices.
and boots
(Thankfully we have some awesome fashionista friends who like to hand shoes down to us!)

It was entirely from lack of cooperation. The soft soled shoes only thing was okay in the beginning.. They do make some cute ones. But I mean seriously.. have you taken a stroll down the little girl's aisle of shoes lately?? OH the cuteness.. The past 2 years I've tried to avoid that aisle at all costs. Turned the cart around if it was headed that direction, closed my eyes if I saw it approaching. Once in a weak moment I stood and gazed at an end display of Spring Easter shoes. I almost cried. Maybe I did. Ella would NEVER wear any of those shoes and I had no reason to hope she ever would. I was actually looking into patterns to make my own soft soled shoes for when she got older and didn't fit into the kids ones. 

And then one day she started bringing me shoes out of the maybe-someday-she'll-wear-these-but-I-doubt-it basket and wanting me to put them on. 

And she tried them on. And liked them. And wore them around the house. 

And I thought things couldn't possibly get better.

And then she discovered her mud-boots-that-I-thought-would-be-too-small-and-she-would-never-approve-of-because-the-one-day-I-tried-to-put-her-in-tall-boots-for-church-she-spent-the-entire-mass-barefoot. And she was in love with them. And obsessed about them. And wore them everywhere.

And I thought nothing could possibly be as cute as seeing this all day..

And then when I was taking the picture of Ella's closet to write this post we rediscovered Ella's pink cowboy boots. The ones she wore 2 years ago before her shoe relationship fizzled. I thought there was no way they would fit since.. you know.. she wore them 2 years ago. But apparently this girl's feet have barely grown since then. (They're about the same size as Hudson's..)

And then I discovered this jacket. And this dress. 

And you guys.. if Ella actually wears this I think I might die. Really I do.

If you don't hear from me for a few days, someone might want to check on me. 
I'll probably be in cuteness coma.


After I had written this I went upstairs to put Hudson down for a nap and what did I walk back to see? While I was gone Daddy had seen the outfit I had out and assumed that was what I wanted her to wear (Well.. yeah.. I did. Buuut...) put it on her, AND painted her nails to match.

Lord, take me now. 

Yes, she has pigtail braids here. Yes, I can die a happy woman.

Dad of the year??

I decided I would be totally fine if we lived in Laura Ingalls time when people wore one dress for an entire week and this was it for Ella. Every single day. I could handle that.

This recent shoe/boot obsession/development is incredibly/obviously exciting to me. But I'm still a little skeptical that Ella will go totally wild and do something crazy like wear flip flops this summer. Don't worry though.. we've got 3 pairs just in case. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

California Update

I know many of you saw it on Facebook, but a few weeks months ago our boys' school did a fundraiser for our family to help get Ella to California to the CdLS National Conference. The school had approached me asking if they could do a change drive where kids would hit up their unsuspecting parents for spare coins to bring to school to put together in a jar. This type of sabotage by innocent wide eyes would be properly fueled by a competition between the classes and the promise of a pizza party to the class with the highest amount (and of course all in the good natured spirit of giving as well..). I thought it was a great idea- a good way to introduce Ella to the kids she will soon call her peers and help teach them about differences and kindness and giving and helping others. A way to take the first proverbial step into our school system and lay the foundation alongside the people who will all too soon be entrusted to care for her. So Ella and I took a deep breath, strapped on our boots, and stood in front of the entire school one day and talked to all the kids about CdLS. If you would have told me a few years ago I would be doing that I would have laughed (and cried) in your face. We talked about how having CdLS affects Ella and how it makes some things about Ella a little different, but also how she's just a kid like them, a sometimes pesky little sister, who often will just need a little extra help learning and doing things. (No I did not practice my speech in my head nonstop for an entire week. I was totally cool..)

Anyways.. we live in a very small, very rural community. I expected people to send pennies. Maybe a few nickels. I'm not proud of this, but honestly? That's probably what I would have sent. It's a change drive. I tend to take things literally. I would have sent change. The kids could have dug a few tarnished coins out of the bottom of my purse, proudly packed them in their backpacks, and we would have all went about our day. At the very very most I thought maybe the school would have raised a few hundred dollars. Five hundred tops.

Apparently that's not how everyone else took it.

I went in to the assembly the last day of school before Christmas break so I could be given the check. Ella and I stood in front of the entire school again and the principal announced, to the eruption of many cheers, that the 2nd grade had won the contest and raised over $400! (My poor recovering-from-a-tonsillectomy 2nd grader couldn't even be there for the excitement) I'm not sure what I looked like standing up there in front of the entire Elementary School. I hope I looked thankful. And appreciative. But I'm pretty sure I just looked confused. I was certain she made a mistake. The whole school raised over $400, right? (which would have been awesome in itself..) but she went on to say that 2nd place was Kindergarten who raised over $300. *still confused. and then 1st grade who raised over $200.. *huh? The total raised by our very small, very rural school? over $1500.00.


And completely overwhelmed. I couldn't even speak, I had tears in my eyes the entire day (and right now as I type this.. and months later again as I read over this again), and I was just so grateful. I am absolutely certain we live in the best community EVER. We might not have the nicest weather (oh so many days this winter with -20 to -30, sometimes -50 degree windchill), or the most beautiful scenery (I hear about these things called mountains. And oceans. What are beaches?). We may not live in the wealthiest part of the country (not too many million dollar high rises around here) and definitely not the most populated (our town has... wait for it... 234 people). But I am certain that what we lack in those areas we more than make up for in heart in our small little community.

Over Christmas we continued to be surrounded with love from our amazing family wanting to help-many sacrificing their own Christmas presents and money to put towards our trip. I don't even have words.. Our church and local newspaper wrote up a little article about us and we have had so many donations given and mailed to us from people we either hardly know, or know not at all who just have heard about our trip and want to help us go. Almost weekly we are reminded of our blessings just by opening our mailbox. Thank you THANK YOU everyone!  We are so humbled and reminded that we are here on this earth to help each other. We feel like we have been the receivers of so much love and support-we find ourselves constantly looking around to see where we can be the givers to others in need. This position we're in--this asking for help thing.. I'm not gonna lie- it's definitely not our favorite place to be. But the blog Momastery recently put things in perspective for me. She said:

We Americans are folks who value independence. We really do feel like independence = strong and dependence = weak. Yesterday reminded me that this is some serious bullshit.
Strength is participating fully in life’s rhythms – like being needed and needing. It is being available to help and then being available to be helped. It is taking your turn being the steady shoulder and leaning on another steady shoulder. It is sometimes saying: We Need Help. Because our people need and want to help. That is how we make connections. It’s how we make friendships. We ask people to share their gifts. We allow ourselves to be weak sometimes so that others can be strong.

We might be in a position right now of needing help, but I pray every day that we will be poised and ready when it's our turn to give it away.

Anyways, we are getting super close to our Conference goal. (Would have been there already if it wasn't for that pesky almost $2000 extra dollars for registration fees I somehow miscalculated. Oye..) On our list of things to do:
Reserve hotel rooms: Check
Register for Conference: On my list of things to do today.
Book flight tickets: Ehhhh.. still in the works.
Plan/Organize/Coordinate 5K/Spaghetti Supper/Raffle: Ummmm... any volunteers??

I've been agonizing over dates for the 5K-trying to pick the 'perfect' one. And coming to the obvious conclusion that there is no 'perfect' date. It's looking like the best 2 options are April 12 and May 17. And I keep ping-ponging back and forth between the two. Just as I decide on the April date because it appears as if there's nothing else going on locally that weekend, I remember that the threat of having a foot of snow on the ground that early in the year is a very real possibility. (I was assured that runners don't mind running in the cold. Unfortunately the coordinator of this race most definitely does mind standing in the cold all afternoon.) So then I flip back to May and just as that is sounding great because knee deep snow is less likely (yet still entirely possible I suppose) I remember that although our school's graduation is the week before, there are probably a lot of other area schools with graduations that day. So I go back to April. And look at the calendar and notice that the surrounding weekends are full of other little things requiring substantial planning like Easter, coordinating town Easter egg hunt and stuffing 1000+ Easter eggs, eldest son's 1st Communion, and so on. And the thought of adding a 5K to the mix sends me into a panic. And did anyone else notice how quickly April is coming up?? So I decide.. that's IT! May it is. Until I hear about a local wedding many people will be gone to (see? small town..)... HELP!!

I've already bombarded my crazy-people-I-call-friends-who-do-weird-things-like-run-races-for-fun group with questions the past few weeks so if anyone else wants to chime in (or volunteer to help..) please do! I sort of have this annoying character flaw of being unable to make major decisions without the input of others advice-whether I take it or not, I just like help weighing all the options.

*update since I wrote this. The other day I was talking to someone about the race and describing my predicament with picking a date and she volunteered the idea that I could have it May 18, on Sunday, so it didn't interfere with graduation or the wedding. Oh. Duh! Perfect! (See why I like talking ideas over with people? I can be clueless..) SO unless anyone has any major objections as to why this would be a horrible time to have it, speak now or forever hold your peace. I mean it. FOREVER.

May 18th for a 5K/spaghetti supper sounds great to me! Now who wants to help?? :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

One Hat at a Time

This isn't what I planned on posting today (*snort.. like I actually plan...) 
but I have SUPER big amazing exciting earth-shattering breaking news.

Are you ready for it??

Ella.. wore.. a hat.... for the first time today. 

Well... okay. I guess she wore one when she was a teeny tiny baby, but that doesn't really count..

Those of you who have seen Ella out and about in the past.. oh 2 1/2 years or so may or may not have noticed that this girl is NEVER wearing a hat. It's not for lack of choices (we have a entire box of different styles) or lack of opportunities (-30 degree windchill, anyone??). It's because this girl freaks (corrected: freaked, as in past tense) out whenever I tried to put one on her. I vividly remember the day this happened for the first time. Since Ella was born in January and had no problem wearing hats the first few months of her life, I had no reason to believe the next winter would be any different. Boy was I wrong.. I was bundling her up to go outside one day and casually threw a hat on her head. Insert crying, screaming, tearing the hat off and trying to rip it to shreds and an ensuing 30 minutes of gassy tummy reflux pains. I remember running to the computer, typing on the CdLS Discussion Board, "Is this normal??" And by the responses yes, YES this is very normal. Aversion of hats, gloves, socks, shoes (another blog on this to come!), hair accessories, all tend to go along with the syndrome, probably due to sensory issues. I remember thinking what a cruel, cruel trick to play on me. Finally I have a daughter to do girly things with, but am forced to suffer without the ability to dress her in cute hats, frilly dresses, adorable shoes and hair accessories galore. I mean, what's even the point of having a girl without those things? Kidding of course, but it was just another one of those 'things' on the seemingly never ending list of ways Ella was different from other kids, of missed opportunities and things we would never get to experience. 

Every year when the air turns chilly I pull out the boxes of winter clothes. And because I'm a glutton for punishment, I try again. And it's the same every time. Crying, screaming, tearing the hat off and trying to rip it to shreds. Darn you sensory processing disorder!!!  And so this entire frigid winter Ella has not wore a hat. She will tolerate her hood up, so that saves us on the cold run to the car when we go out, and thankfully she has a full head of hair to keep her a little warmer, but I had resigned to the fact that Ella just might never wear a hat. 

Until the other day. We were playing in her room and I happened to notice a hat laying on her dresser. Because I was bored and obviously thought a little 30 minute screaming session would be just the thing to liven up our day I said, "Hey Ella! A hat! Wanna try it on?" I don't know what I was expected, but it was NOT this.
she looks like a little thug with her beanie and cross necklace.. lol
She kept it on! She walked around with it! She went downstairs and came back up and smiled! She didn't cry, scream, rip it off or tear it to shreds! I was in shock. I don't know if it's from watching this guy wear a hat (without freaking out) all winter or what?

But whatever it is, we (and by 'we' I mostly mean 'I') are/am SO excited. Naturally I pulled the box of hats out of storage (read: the box I mindlessly threw on the porch last fall and haven't gotten around to actually putting away yet) and tried some one. 

Watch out world! She's got a hat and she knows how to wear it..

Sorry everyone who is hoping spring weather comes soon.. 
This girl's got some lost hat wearing time to make up! 
Polar Vortex? Bring it on.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Photo Update

 Oye.. I've had such a hard time finding my way to the computer to blog lately. We've been busy. And tired. And oh so full of excuses. At any given moment I have at least 6 different blog posts circling around in my head that are screaming to be typed out, yet the time and energy to do so escape me. Every day. I've been falling behind on so many house projects and basic upkeep but the past week or so I've recommitted to finishing and keeping up. Proof? On today's to-do list.. Take down remaining Christmas decorations and finish Valentine's Day sign I started making. Preferably before Easter.. Okay sad.

Anyways.. here's a little of what we've been up to lately.
Learning to sit up (and be cheesy..)
Playing doctor (Hmmm.. wherever could Hudson have learned to be cheesy??)
Enjoying a few days of our 50 degree heat wave (before today's snowstorm).

Swinging outside for the first time.
A little goat riding

And finishing up some projects around the house.
Maybe.. uh... maybe it wasn't such a good idea to paint on the ladder while the kids were awake.
In my defense.. not my fault they've been waking up early from their naps nearly every day. 

More posts to come soon!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Proven Wrong

Before Ella was born, I liked to be right a lot (who doesn't??). 

Since then, there is nothing I love more than being proven wrong.

I used to worry that having a syndrome with developmental delays meant Ella would never play creatively

or that she wouldn't take any initiative to get things she wants.
This girl carried a heavy wooden stool all by herself across the house just so she could watch the popcorn pop.
I thought having CdLS meant she wouldn't be silly

or have a strong bond with us.

I never thought Ella would sit still to let me make her hair 'pretty'--much less put it in braids.. 
TWO of them!
I didn't know if we would ever be able to have a 'nice' family meal again 
She is SO proud to be in a 'big girl' booster seat.
and after at least a full year of I'm-being-tortured-scream-filled bath time, I had little hope things would improve.
These two LOVE taking baths together!
Most of all I worried she wouldn't be happy.

Yup.. I really love being proven wrong.