Friday, January 25, 2013

CEU Challenge: Week 1 - Counseling Theories and Skills for SLPs

As promised, I took the Counseling Theories and Skills for SLPs course at LinguiSystems and received 0.2 CEUs or 2 hours of Continuing Education Credit.

It was a nice course. The presentation was easy to read and the 20 question multiple-choice quiz was straightforward. It was a good reminder of how counseling skills fit into our scope of practice as Speech-Language Pathologists in a variety of settings. It explained several counseling theories and reviewed specific skills and techniques that can be applied in key moments like conveying a diagnosis, first therapy sessions, and discharge. It also discussed when to refer a client to another appropriate professional.

I enjoyed the reminder that our clients and their families experience a spectrum of emotions in response to the problems they are experiencing and that helping them navigate those emotions is an essential part of effective speech therapy that is easily forgotten.

As a parent of a child with a speech disorder I vividly remember the intense emotions I experienced when Ava was diagnosed and how helpless and paralyzed I felt at first. Even as an SLP, I needed time to handle emotions before I could work productively towards helping her.

Did anyone else take this course? What did you think?

Don't forget to complete Week 2: Evidence Based Practice - 0.2 CEUs for next Friday!

See the complete 7-Week Free CEU Challenge here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Final G Printable Speech Game: Finish First Game Board

Practice /g/ in Final Position

Click on the image to open it to full size and then right click to save it to your computer.

Print the game board and gather a die and a small game piece for each player. Put the game pieces on the start box, decide who will go first, and let that person begin by rolling the die and moving that number of squares on the game board.

You can have the players practice the words in isolation, in pairs, in phrases, or in sentences. You can provide models and cues if necessary. Adapt the stimuli to the level your student needs to work at.

When you're done, review the words for additional simple drill practice. Then send the game board home or to the classroom for extra practice.

If you are a parent practicing at home, save the game board in a binder to play again another time. You could also have your child play with a younger or older sibling or send it to an aunt or grandparent's house for extra practice.

This worksheet was adapted from the medial /f/ version of the game board included in the /f/ Speech Kit that will be available soon in the Testy Shop.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Never Ever Brag - It Doesn't End Well

Late last week, my 5 year old son apparently got sick in the middle of the night. He took care of things all by himself, managed to throw-up in the potty, and put himself back to sleep. I didn't learn about it until the morning when he was mostly back to normal. We kept him home from school that morning, just to be safe, but other than fatigue and a lack of appetite it was the easiest 12 hour stomach bug ever weathered by a parent.

Now, instead of silently worshiping my good luck in the privacy of my own mind I may have mentioned to several people over the weekend how amazingly lucky we had been and how proud I was of Michael's ability to take care of himself. We also had the most social weekend we've had in the past 12 months with a playdate Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Oh, and the children spent one full morning at my parents' house where my mother is recovering from major surgery.

On Sunday, as I sat in the living room with Michael, Ava, and our guests, Ava threw up right into the center of all the fun. In waves. I'll spare you any additional details, but let's just say our guests left as quickly as possible as we were simultaneously trying to comfort Ava and clean up the impressive mess.

She laid pitifully on layers of blankets on the living room floor not even wanting to watch television for 45 minutes or so before begging me to put her to bed at 5pm. So I did. An hour and a half and one destroyed bed later we were right back where we started - on the living room floor on layers of blankets with a bowl and a container of hand sanitizing wipes nearby.

I spent the evening periodically rubbing her back, holding a bowl, and wiping her mouth before she fell asleep exhausted on the floor and I fell asleep exhausted on the couch. In the morning as I crawled out from under the covers on the sofa, instead of, "Thanks, mom - you were awesome!" I got, "Hey mom, your bottom is bare." For the record - I did have undies on.

Now I'm just hoping that somehow, miraculously, we will escape further fallout. I'd love to avoid the bug myself, but I super want my mom to manage to miss it this time. A stomach bug is terrible enough without dealing with post-surgical incisions at the same time. Wish us luck.

Friday, January 18, 2013

CEU Challenge: 15 Free CEU's in 7 Weeks


Let's look back in time to December 29-30, 2012. That was the weekend after Christmas. You were all having quality time with your families right? You'd think I would have been doing the same, but no. Instead, I was sitting at my computer while my husband had quality time with the children. I had left my ASHA and state licence renewals to the last minute and still needed 5 more CEUs before I could ethically renew my licences. I logged on to the Linguisystems Free CEU page and dug in. I did get it all done. All CEU requirements are met and licences are current. However, I really do need a plan that doesn't involve frantic, last minute sacrifices of quality family time during the holidays.

The CEU Challenge

I'm going to sit down and earn CEUs every week (all of the LinguiSystems CEU courses are worth more than one) until I get the 15 I need this calendar year. You are welcome to join me. Here's my syllabus:

What You Need to Do

  1. Get a free account with Linguisystems. If you're a member of the ASHA CEU Registry, have your ASHA account number handy. If you give them your account number when you register they will automatically report your CEU credits to ASHA each time you complete a course.
  2. Enroll in the course of the week. I'll be doing Week 1: Counseling Theories and Skills for SLPs this week and reporting back next Friday (January 25). If you don't like that course, pick an alternate. I was somewhat limited in the courses I could put on the syllabus because I took several of their courses last year.
  3. Read the course materials and take the quiz. Come back each Friday to hear what I thought about the course and give your own opinions.
That's it. In two months we'll all be done with our annual CEU requirements.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just Released and Coming Soon at the Testy Shop

As you probably noticed, I just released a new /ɑ/ speech therapy kit in the Testy Shop. I wanted to specifically mention that this is not new content. Everything included in the new kit is included in the larger Simple Vowels speech therapy kit. So if you already own the Vowels kit you have no reason to buy this new one.

I had a request from a reader who needed just the /ɑ/ materials from the Vowels kit for her student and couldn't afford to buy the entire vowels kit right now. I'm offering the mini-kit for only $4.95 so if you've been thinking about trying a premium kit, but wanted to check one out at a lower price point, here is your opportunity.

I have started working on the next kit. It will be an /f/ Speech Therapy Kit and will include materials designed to let you teach /f/ in Initial, Medial, Final, and Mixed positions from a motor-speech articulation approach. I'm hoping to get it done in the next couple of weeks and make it available in the shop in early February.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Speech Therapy Kit: /ɑ/ Card Sets and Resources

Add to Cart
/ɑ/ $4.95
  • Check out additional speech kits in the store!
  • Automatic discounts of 20-30% apply when buying 2 or more sets.
View Cart

Need to teach a child to make an /ɑ/?

  • Tired of buying card sets and resource books that don't work for your students?
  • Need the convenience of printing resources from your own computer?
  • Want to find a wide variety of therapy resources in a single, instantly downloadable, source?

Motor-Speech Articulation Method:
/ɑ/ Card Sets and Resources

Note: All of the contents in this therapy kit are included in the larger Simple Vowels kit. If you already own the Simple Vowels kit you do not need to purchase this item.

This comprehensive therapy kit and manual has been designed from the ground up to take a motor-speech approach to speech therapy. Target words are simple in syllable shape and avoid consonant blends and vocalic /r/ sounds. They are sortable by increasing difficulty of phonemic complexity. Begin with the easiest cards and work your way up to harder ones. Every set includes phonemic variety in order to practice with different coarticulation effects and maximize carryover and generalization.

All therapy cards are illustrated in color. The resource is written to be accessible to both speech therapists and parents working with children at home. This therapy kit is ideal for targeting productions of the /ɑ/ sound when working with children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Phonological Disorders, Simple Articulation Disorders, Hearing-Impairment, and any other population that needs work to remediate speech.

Printable /ɑ/ Resources Included:

  • CV and VC Syllable Worksheets
  • 44 One-Syllable Picture Cards sortable by vowel, difficulty, syllable shape, and phonological process
  • 8 sets of Minimal Pairs
  • Homework Sheets (Levels 1-3)
  • Story Booklet
  • Race to the Top Speech Game

Additional Resources Included:

  • 13 Games and Activity Suggestions
  • Sample Therapy Sequence from Isolation to Generalization
  • Overview of Speech Disorders
  • Guides to Understanding Simple Vowels and Consonants
  • Gestural Prompt for /ɑ/
  • Word Lists
  • Modifiable Therapy Variables Chart
  • Multisensory Cues Chart
  • Glossary of Terms

Sample Pages

Add to Cart
/ɑ/ $4.95
  • Check out additional speech kits in the store!
  • Automatic discounts of 20-30% apply when buying 2 or more sets.
View Cart

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ava Speech Update - Winter 2013

Birthdays, holidays, trips, surgeries, and reduced childcare have been conspiring to decimate my previously immaculate record of regular posting. Bear with me please, I'm working on it.

We just had Ava's second IEP meeting. She's come such a long way.

(Brief review for those who aren't caught up.

We began almost exactly two years ago with her early intervention evaluation. At that time she was barely talking at all even though she was almost two years old. Even more concerning was that she only had a few speech sounds she could make and she couldn't imitate. She was also giving up - beginning to turn to rudimentary gestures instead of even trying to talk.

Over the next several months we started using communication boards and sign language which gave her some tools to communicate and made her much happier. She began receiving services and working with me intensively at home. We all worked hard, and we saw a great deal of progress. She learned new sounds and started using words along with her signs. She made the jump to two-word utterances. Steadily we saw progress.

Six months after her initial IFSP meeting the second one was held and the team identified an additional area of need. Ava had sensory issues that were affecting basic life skills like dressing, bathing, feeding, and socializing. She began to receive occupational therapy in addition to her speech therapy. She continued to make progress in both areas.

Another six months crept by as she approached the age of three where children transition from early intervention to services provided by the schools. We needed to have her reevaluated to see if she would continue to qualify for services. Fortunately, she did and so her first IEP meeting was held. On her third birthday she joined a speech group using the cycles approach. It has served her well and over the next year we have seen so much progress.)

At this point Ava is speaking in full sentences using age-appropriate vocabulary and morphology. She is not at all hesitant to communicate and is usually intelligible. She continues to exhibit many speech errors but the only ones that are age-inappropriate at this point are /k/ and /g/. If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that we've been working on /k/ and /g/ for something like 18 months. I am happy to report that they are finally starting to come in. She can produce velar sounds now. She can do it almost all the time when imitating words in medial and final position and at least 85-90% of the time when imitating initial position. I even hear it pop in occasionally in spontaneous speech. (Okay, very occasionally, but that is huge!) So, finally we are on our way with the velars. Now it is just a matter of time.

At her IEP meeting we decided that the speech group using the cycles approach was no longer the most appropriate setting for her given that she's only working on velars. We are reducing her minutes to 30 minutes a week and she will receive those services via a traditional pull-out method. Her therapist will pull her out of her preschool room for 15 minutes twice a week to work with her on her velars.

I know there is more to work on than the velars, but I am so much more relaxed about it. The other sounds come in later anyway (/th/, /r/, etc.). She's mostly intelligible. I'm going to start homeschooling in the summer, and I think I'll sneak speech work into pre-reading phonics lessons rather than addressing it completely separately during "speech time". She's really have a phonemic awareness explosion enjoying playing with syllables, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming, and alliteration and so working on the speech covertly through a related area of strength makes more sense to me.

In summary, things are good. Progress over the past two years has been phenomenal and I anticipate that she will continue to improve. As I look back and remember how devastated and worried I was two years ago I wish I could travel back in time and provide a glimpse of the future. We are fine. Ava is fine. It has been a lot of work, and a huge commitment. However, even the work has often been fun. Ava enjoys her speech therapy and the friends she makes there. She’s been doing it so long, it is just a part of her life – no different than preschool or gymnastics. It is just an activity for her. I’d say the turning point is when the speech improves just enough that you can understand her most of the time. When everyone is frustrated and in tears because you just can’t understand what they are trying to say on a daily or hourly basis, things are awful. After that, it is so much easier.

Friday, January 11, 2013

20 Brain Breaks for Small Groups

Free Download: 20 Brain Break Activities for Use with Small Groups

Homeschooling - Small Therapy Groups - Scouts - Extra-Curricular Activities

Brain Breaks are short 2-5 minute activities used to help children get the wiggles out during a transition from one activity to another. You might even choose to use one in the middle of a lesson or activity if you feel like the children need a brief break in order to refocus. Set a 2-5 minute timer when beginning a brain break to keep them consistently short and encourage quick active participation.

The other great thing about brain breaks is that while serving their primary purpose of "getting the wiggles out" and helping transition from one activity to the next, they also work on other skills. You'll find brain breaks that use music, balance, gross-motor and physical coordination, teamwork, following directions, imagination and creativity, and self-control. It is a way to build working on important non-academic skills into your schedule without devoting huge amounts of time to them. It is always nice when an activity serves multiple purposes.

These brain breaks have been chosen because they can easily be used with small groups of children in a variety of settings. Many of these will also work with an entire class as well. You need to download the front page and the back page and print them two-sided. The back of the page will give you instructions for each activity.

On the front, there is a symbol on each card. If you see musical notes you will need a music player, or prepare to sing. If you see a box, you will need an item (see list). If you see a hand, you don't need anything at all to do the activity - just willing participants.

Props List:
Keep these supplies handy in a box and you'll have everything you need to do the activities with the box symbol.
  • Bean Bags - One per child. (Bean Bag Balance, Penguin Shuffle)
  • Paper from a recycling bin. (Snowball Fight)
  • Small pillows, or some alternative. (Icebergs!)
  • Balloons. (Balloon Sandwich)
  • Balls suitable for catching. (Play Catch)
  • Straws, Pom-poms, Paper cups or Small boxes (Pom-Pom Race)

Music List:
Grab copies of these songs to use with the musical Brain Breaks. You might buy the mp3, bookmark them on YouTube, burn a Brain Break CD in ITunes, or find another solution that works for you for keeping these songs handy. (Singing will even work in a pinch for a couple of these.)
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Parade March. Some suggestions include: 76 Trombones, Marines' Hymn, King Cotton March, US Navy March, etc.
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Freeze Dance
  • Macarena
  • Finale from William Tell's Overture
  • Hi, My Name Is Joe

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

FYI: Scholastic Dollar Deals Are Back

Scholastic has almost 2000 instantly downloadable teacher resource books and children's ebooks on sale for $1 each. The dollar deals expire 1/9/13. Teacher resource books and children's ebooks that work on word families work well for targeting sounds in final position. Phonics readers that address initial consonants work well for targeting sounds in initial position. And now I'm off to build a shopping cart for myself... Enjoy!

Edited to add: Scholastic has apparently changed their Teacher Express store since the last time I visited in an extremely annoying way. Now, instead of being able to preview pages from the books, clicking on the "See More" button simply brings up a bigger picture of the cover. This would be tolerable if their descriptions were more than 1-2 sentences each, but as it is, now I feel like I have hardly enough information to justify even a $1 purchase. I'm having to manually go to Amazon's website, search for the item, and hope there is a preview or comments there before deciding to purchase an item. I am very disappointed in the change and will be buying significantly fewer books as a result. (Thanks for listening to my rant. I feel marginally better.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Decision Made: Homeschooling Next Year

We finally decided. We are going to do it. Next year, I'm going to homeschool the children. No Kindergarten registration for us.

Why homeschool?

Do you know that feeling you get when you find the perfect gift and you just know it is the right one? How about when you're five minutes into a conversation with a person you just met and you know they're going to become a good friend? Think about redecorating a room and finding just the right color for the walls - a color you know will make you happy every time you enter the room. My husband and I have a shorthand phrase we use for that feeling of finding a perfect fit. We say, "It speaks to us."

That is how I feel about the idea of homeschooling. It speaks to me. It calls to me. It just feels right. At a fundamental level, I just know I want to do it. I need to do it. I would regret it if I didn't at least try it.

I have two inquisitive, enthusiastic, bright, cheerful, interactive preschool-aged children. They are only a little over a year apart in age, get along extremely well, and genuinely enjoy each other's company. I am certified to teach Pre-K through 8th grade and I am a certified Speech-Language Pathologist. Because we knew I wanted to stay home with the children when they were babies, we bought our house and structured our budget with a single income in mind. I have also fallen into personally rewarding and professionally stimulating side work managing and writing this blog and creating therapy materials here from home. It is as if the stars are aligning in favor of homeschooling.

I can be more analytical about it. There are many specific, concrete reasons I like the idea of teaching my children at home: (in no particular order)
  1. Flexibility: I get to set our daily, weekly, monthly, and annual schedule. If it isn't working, we can try something new. As the children grow and their rhythms and needs change, our schedule can change with them. We can visit family as we desire within seasons and to take advantage of special events (like weddings) without worrying about missing school.
  2. Customization: I can teach to the skills and learning styles of my children. If Michael is ready to do math at a two lesson per day pace, but needs to take handwriting slowly we can do that. If he's getting frustrated and self-critical about a certain skill we can take a break altogether and revisit it in 6-8 weeks when a little more maturity, fine-motor, and cognitive skills have kicked in. We can easily take a topic and do a curriculum lesson with it, an art project, watch a related television program, look up related resources online, take a "field trip" to observe it in "real-life", etc. If they particularly like a topic, we can linger on it and study it in-depth spending a couple of extra weeks on it.
  3. Efficiency: Working in small groups eliminates the time necessary in large group management. We don't have to wait for lines to form. We don't have to walk to another room and wait for 25 children to get settled to begin a new lesson. We are only dealing with behavior management for two children (and hopefully not too much of that). Behavior and large-group management can eat up a lot of instruction time in schools. Inattention and distraction during instructional time eat up more. At home, we don't lose the get ready for school time, the travel to and from school time, the communicate effectively with the teacher time, or the school administration tasks(filling out forms, records, etc.) time necessary in traditional schooling. We don't have to do homework that is too hard or too easy for the children (which is inevitable in schools because typically assignments are assigned to a whole class). I can cover content in four hours here at home that would take twice that in a school setting.
  4. Avoiding the Testing: The current climate in schools involves a heavy emphasis on accountability and testing. Without going into this rather controversial topic, let's just say that I look forward to not having days and days of their instructional time taken up with learning how to take standardized tests and then taking those tests.
  5. Maintaining and Strengthening Family Bonds: Family is lifelong. Parents and siblings are with you as children, adolescents, young adults, when you become parents yourselves, and beyond. You lean on family, laugh with family, learn with family, and give love and companionship to family through your entire lifespan. Strong bonds with family are a gift to be treasured. I feel like keeping my children at home will provide a unique opportunity to maintain and strengthen the strong bonds we've already formed through the transition from early-childhood to childhood.
  6. Breadth: Homeschooling can encompass the traditional subjects taught in school. I am looking forward to reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and history (core subjects) as well as the enrichment areas such as art, music, and physical education (extra-curriculars) typically offered in the schools. However, teaching at home allows me to also focus on non-traditional subjects as part of our homeschooling. I want to teach the children age-appropriate information about nutrition, meal-planning, and cooking. I want to teach them about all of the tasks necessary to keeping a household running. I want to teach fundamental personal finance skills, again, age-appropriately. I want to think of ways to fold development of some core character traits into our homeschooling. Things like persistence and tenacity, kindness and generosity, conflict resolution, attention to detail, and pride in a job well done are so important.
  7. School/Life Balance: Even now, when the children have a school day that is only 2.5 hours long, we are prevented from doing other things from when we wake up all the way through 11:30 am when I get home from picking them up from school. Once they are in school for a full day, they would not be home until more like 3-4pm. Then we would need to do dinner, homework, and a bath. Where, in that schedule, is there substantive, uninterrupted time for play, spending time with family, music or dance lessons, or just quiet moments to read or snuggle with a family pet?
  8. Individualism/Avoiding Peer Pressure: Right from the beginning, children are such unique individuals - each so different from the other. I observed it in early childhood classrooms, while doing speech therapy, and in my own two, very different from each other, children. As they get older, both from my own experience growing up and from my observations of children as they reach upper-grade school and middle school, there is such pressure to conform and not stand out as different or noticeable in any way. In my opinion, children in large-group settings offer opportunities for both positive and negative socialization experiences. I believe homeschooling offers the opportunity to avoid the negative experiences so common in traditional schooling (peer-pressure to conform, teasing, learning negative behaviors, etc.) while still offering the opportunity through networking with other families in our neighborhood and in the homeschooling community to have positive and meaningful social relationships.
  9. Protecting Childhood: Just as I was not worried that my children would still be waking me up 4 times a night when they are in high school, and I was not worried that they will still be potty-training in high school, I am also not worried that they will be socially immature in high school. I think children naturally, and due to environmental factors (like the television programs they watch, or language they hear at home), mature at different rates. In a classroom setting, children often gravitate towards the children that are doing something slightly taboo - using words that are "grown-up" words, or mimicking "grown-up behavior. It is natural that in a large-group setting the entire group will move along the scale from innocent childhood to "experienced" teenager more quickly than children who aren't. I feel like keeping my children at home will allow them to be children a little longer and I believe that is a good thing. They'll grow up soon enough. I want to let them enjoy the simplicity and innocence of just being their age as long as possible.

These are just my own, deeply personal reasons for homeschooling. My feelings on these issues are just that - my feelings. They are right for my life and my family. I do not believe that what is right, and possible, for my family should necessarily be right for anyone else's family. I feel like it is important to say that explicitly because my decision to homeschool in no way implies that I believe people who send their children to school are making a lesser decision in any way.

There are two main disadvantages for me. First, I am wholly, completely, and fundamentally an introvert. I have great interpersonal skills, love my children wholeheartedly, and thoroughly enjoy teaching; however, I need a not-insignificant amount of quiet recharge time during the day to stay happy and fully functional. I will have to find a way to build that quiet recharge time into our daily and weekly routines in order to make this work.

Second, I am choosing a course, that if it goes well, will last many wonderful years - years that I will be unable to return to working at my chosen profession outside of the home. I love doing therapy with children. While I also love working on the blog and helping parents and therapists with my words and materials, it isn't the same as working directly with children who need me. I will miss that. However, I hope that once we get into the swing of homeschooling and the children get a little older and more independent, that I may be able to pick up some private clients. Doing even a little therapy would satisfy my desire to work directly with children (other than my own) in a professional capacity and keep my skills fresh at the same time.

Wow. Somehow this has turned into a huge post. If you're still reading down here at the bottom, I'll assume it is because you found following along with my thoughts at least somewhat interesting. I find writing things out to be helpful in organizing and clarifying my own thoughts. I also wanted to share it with all of you because you'll probably be reading more posts on homeschooling over the coming days and months and at least now you'll know why.

Optional supplementary reading: A dad explains one reason his family decided to homeschool their daughter. It is beautifully and eloquently written.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mixed V Printable Speech Worksheet: Color a Position

Practice /v/ in Initial, Medial, and Final Position

Click on the image to open it to full size and then right click to save it to your computer. Print the sheet in color or black and white.

If the child you are working with doesn't have the fine motor control to color in the entire balloon you could color it for them. Another option is to have them put an "X" or check in the balloon in the appropriate color. (An X or checkmark also has the side benefit of speeding up the rate of practice and the consequential number of repetitions.)

You can practice the words in isolation, in pairs, in phrases, or in sentences. You can use the words with or without cues. Adapt the stimuli to the level your student needs to work at.

When you're done, review the words sorted by position for additional simple drill practice. Or, review the words in the order they appear in the balloons (the word positions mixed up) for harder drill practice. Then send the worksheet home for practice.

If you are a parent practicing at home, save the worksheet in a binder to review again another time. You could also hang it on the wall, pin it on the refrigerator, have your child "read" it to a younger or older sibling, or send it to an aunt or grandparent's house for extra practice.

This worksheet was inspired by this free sight word coloring worksheet.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Unprecedented Silence and Snapshots

As you may have intuited by my unprecedented blogging silence, things have been busy around here. Holidays, the lack of preschool, and a three week long illness (requiring two courses of different antibiotics to conquer) pretty much eliminated all time and energy for blogging.

We had a lovely holiday. Although, to be honest, somehow it just all went by in a blur. The insanity began with planning for Michael's birthday in November and continued through Thanksgiving, packing for and going on a cruise with extended family, last minute Christmas preparation, and then Christmas. At least three weeks of that time I spent pitifully ill. (Now, to shine an accurate light on the situation, I pretty much only do "pitifully" ill. Either I'm slightly under the weather and muddle through ignoring minor symptoms, or things are serious enough that I get whiny. My husband tends to power through even major illnesses gracefully with some over the counter meds. I, on the other hand, figure that if I'm going to be miserable, I want some well-deserved sympathy. I do admire that man.)

Now that things are settling a bit, I'm glad to be back. Due to the aforementioned "blur" quality of the holidays, I'm left with memories that take the quality of photo snapshots rather than full-featured movies. _____

Ava's godfather got the children one of those cardboard playhouses for the holidays. One morning (while I slept in) my husband assembled the castle and let the children at it with paint. In the proper spirit of things, Ava put on her halloween costume. I came downstairs to this:


Ava, nearing her fourth birthday, is amazing. She's snuggly, generous, kind and sweet, curious, verbal, and helpful. She also is reluctant to move much further away from me than a 2-3 foot radius. As much as I adore her, as much as she's actually acting like a little angel, she's driving me bonkers. We've all been together nonstop now for days and days and at least 80% of all her waking hours she's glued to my side.

I'll admit it. It was not my shining moment. Ava has a history of sensory issues. We benefited greatly from six months of OT to address those issues. She doesn't like noisy environments. Historically, every time I pull out the vacuum cleaner she disappears until the cleaning is finished. Although cleaning is not my first (second, third, tenth, fiftieth...) activity of choice I made a strategic decision. Vacuuming would get me 20 minutes to myself. Terrible, I know, but I was desperate.

Because karma wasn't in my favor, it didn't work this time. Ava gave me that pitiful "How could you mama?" look and sidled up to my side. I paused and looked down at her. She tentatively reached out her hand and grabbed the vacuum's handle - her hand next to mine. Then she mirrored every single step I took and "helped" me vacuum for the next 30 minutes. It took me twice as long to vacuum that room. And every second of it was spent with Ava glued to my side.

When we were done I let her try it by herself. I took a picture to commemorate the moment.


We had snow. The children rushed into coats and ran outside as quickly as possible. After approximately 60 seconds of catching snowflakes on their tongues they were back inside stripping off coats and boots complaining of the cold.


Michael has a significant Minecraft addiction. He's beginning to get a bit surly when asked to leave his computer and we've instituted a screen time limit. (Such a sad day for two geeky parents who -totally- get it.) Not five minutes after I had told Michael he had to stop playing for the day we got a delivery with a belated gift from his godfather. It was little tiled Minecraft magnets. Too funny. He instantly jumped at the opportunity to play minecraft with no screens involved.


Here's one last good one... I was joking that I should just wear the pajamas I was still wearing at 11am to McDonalds for lunch. Ava helpfully agreed with me. At that point I began to explain that we didn't really wear our jammies out. Besides, I told her, I was missing certain parts of my wardrobe all together (socks, shoes, decently-brushed hair...) Michael was paying at least a little attention to our conversation. He chimed in with, "Mama, why don't you have your breast-holder-upper on?" --Lovely.

(No picture to accompany this one - for reasons, I hope, that are obvious.)

I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are having just the right amount of family time yourselves.
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