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Blog Parenting

Surviving Parenting During the Pandemic

This whole parenting during a pandemic thing is getting pretty old. It’s been about four months of us not really going out in public or seeing our friends besides an occasional outdoor visit. The kids haven’t seen their friends in person in months. We are all feeling the stress of life not being normal. As a mom, I often feel that I am failing. I get irritated and impatient with the kids at times. The house is a mess. I have guilt for when I have to work. I worry that I’m not spending enough time with the kids when at the same time just wishing I had 5 minutes to myself. Any of this feel familiar? Well I’m here to tell you that you are not failing. We are all trying our best to do what is best for our families and it’s not always a pretty picture.

I’ve heard the saying “we are all in the same boat” when it comes to this whole pandemic situation, but recently someone pointed out the flaw in this phrase. We are not in fact all in the same “boat.” We are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat. Some of us are sailing along more or less perfectly fine in a yacht while others are trying desperately to keep their canoe from sinking because it has a hole in it and somewhere along the way we have lost the paddles. Each of us are in different situations and no two situations are exactly the same.

We are all trying. Trying to make it through this odd and stressful situation while trying to maintain an ounce of sanity. The thought of homeschooling/ virtual learning with 3 children all in 3 different grade levels is exhausting just to think about. I’ve been trying to do some “school time” each day with my kids just so when we start the process in August it’s not a complete and utter shock to them. Just the other day while trying to simultaneously work with all 3 kids on different activities I absolutely lost it with the dog. I was already under a lot of stress that day and trying to homeschool was not going well. The dogs have been inside a lot more lately since it’s super hot outside here in Texas. They generally aren’t allowed upstairs but our dog Homer doesn’t really abide by those rules. It was too quiet and I hadn’t seen him in a while. I peeked my head outside of our homeschool room and there before my eyes, the children’s beloved Olaf stuffed life size doll was being violated by my dog. Not only had he humped the poor stuffed animal, he had also peed ALL Over it! I was livid. Now I had to not only stop what I was doing with homeschooling, but had to go do yet another load of laundry. I yelled at Homer so bad that he took off down the stairs and hid from me for the next hour. I definitely lost my temper and was pretty loud as I chased him away from Olaf. Moments later I got a horrifying text from my husband who works from home. “I’m on a call and we can all hear you yelling.”

He had left his office door open to better circulate the air in the room. Not only was he on a zoom call, he was in a zoom call presenting in front of a bunch of other directors. I felt so embarrassed. I blame the dog.

So, just incase you were feeling like a terrible parent, we are all in this together. We all make mistakes and fail from time to time, but that does not make us failures. Remember, you are trying and that’s what counts. And also remember, that people who are not in your house may be able to hear you, so don’t embarrass yourself like me.

Our beloved Olaf after his journey through the washing machine and dryer.

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Blog Parenting

Speech Delay and Early Intervention

Back in February of this year when our youngest was two years old, we came to the realization that he was experiencing some hearing loss and was in need of ear tubes.  He had the procedure done in early March and has since passed his hearing test. We’ve seen quite an improvement in his speech, but still felt like he was behind where he should be.  

We started looking into  our options as far as speech services were concerned.  Having been in public schools as a teacher, I vaguely remember some 3 year old children coming to our campus for speech services.  I contacted our local school district to see if they offered speech services for 3 year olds. I was delighted when finding out that they do service 3 and 4 year olds as long as they qualify.  I was told beforehand that the process would probably take a few months, so one month before Charlie turned 3 we had him tested for a speech delay with the school district. We were told that he would most likely be qualified to receive services based on their assessments but it would be a few months before the admission process was complete.  

We started the process at the end of last school year in May.  He was evaluated for about an hour (mostly through play) by the school speech therapist .  They determined that he had a speech delay. He was very difficult to understand and his communication skills were lacking.  We were told that we would be contacted at the beginning of the next school year to set up his ARD (which is the official meeting to determine what services he will be receiving.) Since we knew the process of getting him serviced through the school district would be a long one, we went ahead and enrolled him in private speech therapy over the summer until he was able to start with the school.  From the time we started the process until he was actually enrolled was a 5 month span.  

Insurance will sometimes cover speech services, but some may not.  Even with insurance, services were about $40 a session twice a week.  As you can imagine, that can add up pretty quickly. Over the summer we received about a 10 page report going over the results of the initial evaluation with the school district.  We were finally scheduled an ARD at the end of September and he was able to start receiving services the very next day.  

At first I just assumed that Charlie would be receiving walk on services.  That is where depending on his needs he would go to the school for one or two thirty minute sessions each week.  I was unaware that there was another option for him which the specialists recommended. It’s called PALS which stands for Preschoolers Acquiring Language skills.  This program is 5 days a week for two hours each day. The best part of this program is that it’s absolutely free. Not only are we saving close to $400 a month by not paying for private speech services, he’s receiving not just one hour total a week, but 10.  I was told the walk on program is more for not being able to produce certain sounds or for omitting certain sounds in words. The program Charlie qualified for is the one that focuses on language and building vocabulary.  

He’s been in the program for a whole two weeks now.  It was a tough transition at first because he’s not used to being in school everyday but he’s adjusting well.  I’ve already seen improvements with his communication skills and he is attempting to speak more.  

Charlie doesn’t start kindergarten for another couple of years, but we are trying really hard to get him all caught up with his speech so it’s not a bigger problem later.  He’s a very bright, and funny little guy, but we just knew he needed a little extra help. If you have a child that you think might be struggling with speech, I highly encourage you to check out what resources are available through your local school district.  You might be surprised what services they have available to those who qualify. Early intervention is so important in these crucial years of development. You are your child’s biggest advocate so don’t be afraid to seek out professional help for your child. It will help them be successful in the long run. 

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Blog Parenting

Speech Delay and Ear Tubes

This past week I feel like I have gone from knowing virtually nothing about ear tubes, to gettinga crash course, and now we are scheduled for Charlie to get them this coming Friday.  For the last several months, we have been concerned that Charlie is speech delayed.  Compared to our other children at his age, we know there is a pretty significant difference in vocabulary and clarity of speech.  He is the third child, so I have always attributed the slight delay to the fact that maybe he hasn’t had as much one on one attention as the other two.

At two and a half years most of his speech is not well understood by other adults.  He is starting to put together a few words every now and then.  He likes to yell at the dogs “No, Homer, get down!” Most of what he says wouldn’t be understood by most, but I can still tell what he’s attempting to say.

Recently at his last well check, we discussed the speech concerns with his pediatrician.  After looking back at his charts, it came to our realization that he has had 3 ear infections in the last 6 months and had fluid in his ears at several other visits.  After a follow up appointment with an ENT, we decided that ear tubes would be the best solution to help relieve the fluid that is still present in his ears.

While at the ENT, the doctor suggested doing a hearing test on Charlie.  This means that we had to sit in a very small room with two speakers while they played different sounds out of the different speakers and watched to see if he would react to the sounds by looking at the appropriate speaker. Charlie was not having it and ended up screaming for most of the process but they were able to get enough results to determine that he has “temporary hearing loss.”

As a parent, I try to look back and see what I may have missed. How long has he had fluid in his ears? Has he really not been able to hear well his entire life? While feeling a bit anxious about the whole tubes thing, I am feeling pretty hopeful and excited to see how the tubes might improve his hearing and his speech.

As a kindergarten teacher, I often had to screen kids to see if they would be candidates for speech therapy at the school and as far as I am aware, Charlie could be eligible for speech therapy at public school as early as three.  If so, I am a total supporter of early intervention but I’m curious to see the potential improvements after tubes and then we can evaluate the need for speech therapy.

As we approach the upcoming procedure, I’m hopeful for a positive outcome.  I admit I will miss the cute way he says certain words and phrases, but excited for him to be able to hear more clearly.

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Blog Parenting

Lunchbox Surprise

I remember as a kid I would often take my lunchbox to school. Pretty frequently I would receive a handwritten note from my parents on the napkin they put in my lunchbox. I was always really surprised and excited when they did.  Looking back, it was just a simple, sweet gesture that really didn’t take a whole lot of effort to do, but as a kid it would really make my day.

Now that Owen has been in school an entire two days, I have carried on the tradition and have included a note in his lunchbox everyday that he has chosen to take a lunch which has been both days.  He’s in kindergarten but can read pretty well on his own.  The first day of school when I picked him up he was sitting outside holding his note.  He was so tickled that I had written a little note.  The next day when I picked him up, he asked me why I had put another note in his lunchbox.  I asked him if he wanted me to stop and he said no.  The notes have just been short, one to two sentences that are quick and easy for him to read.  I have now set an expectation that there will be a note included in his lunchbox everyday so I was trying to think of ways to get creative.

I decided to ask each of his grandparents to write a handful of notes that I can rotate in his lunchbox the next couple of months.  I know that he is going to be so excited and tickled when he opens his lunchbox in the morning to find a letter from his Grandma.  I’ve included some of the cute notes that my mom came up with.

This is such a quick and easy thing to do and I have loved seeing the reaction of my little one coming home each day clutching his handwritten letter.  Consider trying it and seeing the excitement on your little one’s face! Get your family and friends involved too!

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Blog Parenting

Kindergarten Blues

So it’s finally happening.  It’s been five years in the making but my little baby boy is going to kindergarten.  He is so incredibly excited for Thursday while I am planning on pretty much boohooing and moping around the house until I go pick him up at 2:45.

I used to be a kindergarten teacher before having children and never really understood why parents would be crying as they left their little ones with me on the first day of school. I always thought they should be excited to get a little free time to themselves.  I would always have a few parents that seemed even more upset about leaving than their children were to see them go.  But now… I’m that parent.  I’m that parent that is going to be sadly walking away from my son’s classroom after I drop him off, trying to keep myself composed until I can at least make it back to my car before completely losing it.

As the days have flown by before the big day, I reflect back on the past five years and wonder if he’s adequately prepared for such a big step.  Will he make friends? Will he like school? Will he listen to the teacher?  What if he gets lost? What if he can’t button his pants back after he uses the potty?  The mommy stress really does start to set in.  For all the questioning I do with myself, I am confident that he is academically prepared for kindergarten.  That’s one thing that I know I’ve done right.  He’s been reading since he was about 3 and has really developed a love for it.  I can rest easy the first few months of school knowing that he won’t struggle academically, but hopefully can put some of his focus on building friendships and gaining confidence socially.  School can be tough and I want it to be the best experience possible for him.

Tonight was Meet the Teacher and I’m pretty sure I signed up to volunteer for pretty much everything they had requested.  I even volunteered to be home room mom.  I’m not really sure how I’m going to pull that off running two businesses, doing volunteer work for Drive a Senior, being the teacher appreciation coordinator at my other two children’s school, oh yes… and still parenting the other two children I will have home with me most of the week, but a girl can dream.

To all the other parents sending off their babies to kindergarten or preschool this week for the first time… I feel for you.  I will be crying and sad all day Thursday so feel free to join in.  But come 2:45 when I see my sweet boy and get to hear all about how exciting his first day of school was, my heart will be smiling and I will wipe up my tears and join in his excitement about going back again the next day.

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Blog Parenting

The “F” word Dilemma

So it happened.  I couldn’t believe it when it did.  My four year old said the “f” word.  In fact, he called me the “f” word.  That’s right… fat.  He told me my belly was fat.  And I cried.

Now, he is a very sweet boy and I know he didn’t do it with mean intentions.  In fact, he was smiling when he did it almost like he was teasing me and trying to be funny.  When he saw the reaction on my face, I knew he immediately felt bad although I don’t think he completely understood why.

My first reaction was “why would you say that?”  He of course didn’t know.   My next thought was “Where would he have even heard that being said to someone?” And that’s when I realized it.  He had heard it from ME.  Me, talking about Myself and the imperfections that I have been struggling with.  I try not to say it in front of my kids, but I know I have slipped up.

Let’s be honest here… After having 3 children within a 4 year time period, things don’t just pop back how they used to be.  At least not for me.  My weight has been up and down and my body has carried 3 human beings in 4 years.  Let’s just say I’m not anywhere near feeling comfortable putting on a bikini anytime in my near future.

But this whole being called fat thing really made me reflect on myself… not about my not so flat belly, but the words that I am speaking over myself and also the same words that I have allowed my children to hear me say about myself.

I never want my children to question their self worth based on their appearance, or to judge somebody else based on theirs.  I know we can be our own biggest critics, but we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.  I realize that I need to make a change in my own self- ridicule.  So here goes…  I am making it a goal to not say anything negative about my appearance in 2018- especially in front of my children.  If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to do the same thing.  I want my kids to grow up being confident individuals, knowing that they are loved, and valuable regardless of their appearance.  I never want them to say the things about themselves that I often catch myself saying about me so I will do my part and lead by example.  Let’s make 2018 the year we focus on true beauty that comes from within ourselves!

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Blog Parenting

My Three Year Old Plays Videogames and I think I’m ok with it

I like to teach my son Owen lots of things.  At the age of two I taught him all the letters and sounds of the alphabet.  We’ve worked on numbers, counting, sight words, digraphs, and all sorts of other math and reading skills.  He’s currently 3 and we continue to extend his learning in many different areas.  I’m very proud of how smart my little guy is.  I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself for teaching him all these things at such an early age.  But, there is one thing I’ve struggled to be proud of, and that is this.  My three year old plays videogames.  And he does it well.

Before children, my husband Tim enjoyed playing various videogames in his downtime.  He still enjoys videogames, but now with three children, this whole “down time” doesn’t really exist in our family.  One way that he has bonded with Owen is that he has taught him how to play videogames, not just on one console, but on 3… the Xbox One, the Nintendo 64, and the Game Cube.  Thankfully, since Owen knows his letters, he is able to follow simple directions such as “Press Y to do this” or “Press B to jump.”  (You’re welcome for that by the way Tim).  Slowly but surely Owen was able to make his characters in the games actually do stuff and go places.

Lately Owen has been able to do a lot on the games.  So much in fact, that I don’t know how he knows how to do certain things on his own.  He will often ask me for help with a level that he is doing, and quite frankly I have no clue how to help him.  He has really impressed me with his critical thinking skills when figuring out different puzzles and activities in these games.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think videogames have been an ok thing in our house.  It is definitely something that has to be utilized in moderation, because let’s be honest here, he would be on it all day everyday if I let him. I am totally guilty of using it as a crutch this summer after welcoming baby number three.  We were stuck in the house for about two months to keep germs at bay as much as possible.  Since then, we have created a schedule for days and times that he is allowed to play.  So far, this has worked nicely.  In my opinion, videogames has been slightly better than just allowing him to watch Tom and Jerry all day on the television.  He at least has to use some problem solving skills and is practicing his fine motor skills using the controller.

All in all, there could be much worse things than letting my kid play videogames.

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Blog Parenting

The Broken Toe Catastrophe

I always imagined that I would be a super great helicopter mom, monitoring my small children’s every moves.  My children would understand what it meant to be careful.  The last thing my children would ever have on my watch is a broken bone or any kind of severe injury.  Well, here I am with my 18 month old daughter who now has a humongous cast on her foot because she broke her toe.

I was a very cautious child, and I’m still a pretty cautious adult.  Never in my life have I broken a bone or required any kind of serious medical attention for any other kind of injury.  I would have hoped that gene would have been passed down to my children, but that’s not the case when it comes to my middle child Harper.  My oldest child Owen who is 3 years old has always been extremely careful.  Still to this day, he is too terrified to go up inside the playscape at McDonalds or go up any kind of tall slide.  I guess you can say I had it pretty easy when it came to making sure he was physically safe.

Harper has definitely proven to be my wild child.  From the day she started walking (which pretty much went immediately to running), I knew that she would be the one who would one day end up in the emergency room or urgent care for some self-inflicted injury.  It only took a few months after she was really mobile, but here we are!

I recently had my 3rd baby a little less than two months ago.  As we started bringing out all his baby contraptions and swings and such, Harper quickly learned how to climb up in them all by herself.  If the tray is off the high chair, she’s climbing up in it.  If something is on the dining table that she can’t reach, she’s on the dining table.  Well just a few days ago as Harper was sitting at the table eating her snack (which she has been able to do for quite some time now), the chair somehow flips backwards with her in it.  As soon as I heard the crash, I went rushing in to pick her up and check for any injuries.  She was screaming and her pinky toe was purple and covered in blood.  It seemed pretty obvious that it was most likely broken.

After rushing her to the urgent care clinic, they did x-rays, washed the blood off, and did some other torturous things to my child for a span of 2 hours.  After the radiologist viewed the x-rays, they determined that the toe was broken.  We were then referred to a pediatric orthopedic doctor.  There, they put a huge cast on her foot and a special shoe to help her walk in.  One would think this would slow a child down a bit, but not little Harper.  It took her about a day to get pretty steady on it and now she is running around the house and climbing on things, just as crazy and dangerously as ever.  She has even mastered using her giant foot cast as a stomping mechanism if there are crumbs of any sort on the kitchen floor.  We are all pretty much terrified of her stepping on one of our toes or fingers with the giant monster of a foot.  Also, having a 6 week old around Harper is pretty scary as well and I am constantly having to keep him out of her path.  Tummy time has pretty much become non-existent for poor Charlie for the time being because I’m terrified Harper might trip and fall on him or knock him in the head with her foot.

Bath time has been really fun lately as well.  She has to wear the cast on her foot for about four weeks and the stupid thing can’t get wet.  Every time we bathe her (which is quickly decreasing in frequency due to the task being such an event) we have to wrap her cast in a plastic bag, put her in a baby bath tub, hold that leg out of the water and have one parent bathe her while the other wrestles her leg to keep it elevated out of the water.  Apologies to anyone who may smell my kid in the next 4 weeks.  Bath time is horrible.

All in all Harper has learned nothing from this experience and has if anything become even more dangerous than ever.  I look forward to 4 weeks from now, but until then I at least get to enjoy what is the cuteness of an 18 month old Harper in a big purple cast running around the house just as happy as ever.