accomplishments

 My Title-Writing Weaknesses

For the past few years I’ve started slicing on the final day of February. I’m always a day ahead since I don’t want to miss a day. Therefore, I don’t have to write today. After all, I won’t even be linking this “slice” to the challenge since I’ll be linking yesterday’s blog post on today’s call for slice of life stories.

BUT, here I am. 

“I’m not a title person!” It’s something I regularly declare to the TWT co-author team (and anyone else who comes to me in search of clever wordsmithing). But somehow, I managed to craft titles for my blog posts for the past 31 days. Looking back at them helps me remember the month that was. Here’s a peek at every title I wrote for the 10th Annual SOLSC. 

Can I Play Too?

Pink Tails

Read Across America Day

The BIG Cut

The Human Body in Art

Sunday Mornings

Bloodwork

When the End Isn’t in Sight

We have an eater!

Things I’m Pretty Sure of Today

Parental Visit

Nine Months to Take It Off

Oh Today We’ll Merry-Merry Be

I Wish You More

Picture Books to Weather the Storm

Big Sister Saves the Day

Me: By the Numbers

The Vulnerable Among Us

When the Ride Stops

In Praise of the Snotsucker

Questioning Myself (as the Parent of an Emerging Reader)

Magical Morning Moments

I Think I Need a Mommy Bracelet

Mutual Admiration Society

Ice Cream Friday Fund

Let Me Count the Reasons

Baking by Myself

At least someone appreciates my food!

Toy Day

My face is my child’s favorite toy.

Just a few more minutes…
Not too shabby, eh?

However, I’m still not a title person. Titles matter. Therefore, I still defer to the people in my life who are more capable at title-writing than I am! (It’s good to know and admit to your weaknesses, right?!!?)

accomplishments · routines · slice of life · speech

These are our mornings.

Isabelle has been enjoying day camp. Like most kids, she comes home exhausted. There’s no way I could get her to sit with me to do her speech work at 4:00 p.m. after a day in the sun and heat. (And it’s been hot and humid this summer!) Therefore, we’ve been doing her speech work after breakfast, before we leave for camp, every weekday morning.

After breakfast, she asked to sit on my lap (what’s left of it now that I’m on the cusp of my eighth month of pregnancy.) We sat together and sang songs, like “Trot Old Joe,” for a few minutes. Then, it was time to practice. And you know what? This morning, I decided it’s not fair. While she rarely complains about sitting down with me and the iPad at 8:00 a.m., I felt angry.  I wished we could sit together and sing songs, but I knew we had to start practicing.

It’s been a little over three years since her Apraxia diagnosis and we still work on her talking EVERY SINGLE DAY. And while she’s made enormous strides and can communicate with others, it struck me this morning that she’s worked harder at the age of five-and-a-half than most kids her age! I know this will serve her well in life. She’s got grit, determination, and a better work ethic than many adults. But it’s still not fair.

This morning, just before we fired up Articulation Station on the iPad, I said to her, “I want to take a picture of you sitting here and working beside me.”

“Why, Mommy?”

“Because I want you to know, when you get older, how hard you worked for every word you have. I’m so proud of you and how you never quit.”

I took this selfie right before our practice session began. Afterwards, I morphed this photo into a watercolor of the two of us sitting side-by-side using Waterlogue.
I took this selfie right before our practice session began. Afterwards, I morphed this photo into a watercolor of the two of us sitting side-by-side using Waterlogue.

We’re worked on /s/ blends and initial /th/ sounds this morning. Here’s a listen into part of our practice session.

 

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accomplishments · preschool · slice of life · writing

Last Day of Preschool Writing

Today was my final day volunteering in Isabelle’s preschool class’s writing center. While she still has another four weeks left of preschool, her class is studying pets. Parents are encouraged to bring their dogs, cats, birds, etc. into school. (NOTE: I have pet allergies and asthma. Not a good combo!) Therefore, I had to declare today as my last day, which disappointed my daughter. Isabelle knows how bad my allergies are so she understood as best as a five-year-old can understand that kind of thing.

I’m glad I have kept records (on this blog and in Evernote) about the times I volunteered in Isabelle’s classroom this year. Fortunately, I wrote about the first time I volunteered there in September so I’m able to see growth. Here are some things I noticed about Isabelle’s growth as a writer in the past eight months:

  • Her stamina has increased. In September, it was challenging for Isabelle to sit for more than five minutes without whining to produce a page. Today, she spent over a half-hour at the writing center working on her book.
  • Her drawings of people are more representational. In September, her people didn’t have bodies. Now, they all have bodies as well as other features!
  • Her volume has swelled. In September, she drew one page and told a simple story about it. Now, she’s “writing” six pages! (NOTE: She’s not writing strings of letters to represent her words. She’s still dictating to me and I’m writing. However, she’s drawing across pages.)
  • Her drawings contain details. Sometimes she needs help thinking about what kinds of things she should draw on a page to communicate the meaning of the scene, but she’s gotten stronger at embedding relevant details in her pictures. (For instance, in the dance studio picture, top right below, she wanted to draw tap shoes on the girls. She also felt it was important to draw their dance bags since they change out of their tap shoes into ballet shoes at the midpoint of each class.)

She has grown as a writer one Monday at a time. I’m sure she would’ve grown more had I not taken off time for my surgery, work-related commitments, and prenatal appointments. Despite me missing several Mondays, she has progressed this year. Here’s what she wrote today:

On the car ride to school, I asked Isabelle what kind of story she wanted to tell today. Nothing came to mind. (She didn’t want to write about anything that happened over the weekend.) Therefore, I suggested that she could write about her interests. I asked her, “What do you like to do when you’re not at school?” She had a LOT of responses. Therefore, I suggested she could write a book about things she does outside of school. Thankfully, she went with it!

 

While some of Isabelle’s drawings are a little sparse (e.g., the Hershey Story one), some include lots of detail. Truth be told, she was losing stamina, but still willing to work, by page six (Hersheypark). I encouraged her to add green dinosaurs to show her reader what kind of ride she was on since I told her writers add details to help their readers understand where their stories take place. Fortunately, she added the setting details to her picture without pushback.

Do we have more work to do at home this summer to make sure she feels more confident with writing as she approaches Kindergarten? Absolutely! For now, I’m enjoying the gains Isabelle made this year. As you’ll see (if you look at where she was in September or even where she was in January), she has grown by leaps and bounds!

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.
accomplishments · OBSERVATIONS · reading

Recognizing Letters

Isabelle has 41 songs on her playlist.
Isabelle has 41 songs on her playlist.

I presented Isabelle with her playlist on my iPhone as she prepared to brush her teeth.

“Pick a song,” I said, as I do every morning.

Instead of scrolling up and down through the playlist with her finger in search of a picture she liked (which matches a song she wants to hear), she settled her finger towards the center of the screen.

“A…,” she began.

“A, what?” I asked.

“A.” She pointed towards the Jackson 5’s song. Then she continued. “A. B. C.” She looked up and smiled.

“ABC, what?” I asked. (I had a feeling about what she was doing, but I wanted to follow her lead.)

“ABC, da song! Dat’s ‘ABC’,” she said as she touched the screen with her index finger.

IMG_2949Next thing we knew, a new screen popped up and we heard the Jackson 5 singing and playing “ABC.”

“Wow! You read that. Instead of looking at the picture, you read the letters a-b-c and picked the song. You should be so proud of yourself.”

Isabelle beamed.

I continued, “That’s reading, Isabelle.  The letters mean something.  This song is called “ABC” and you read the title of the song.  You can learn how to read the titles of all of your songs.”  But then I stopped.  She’s only four.  Why push?  And besides, we had to brush those teeth!

accomplishments · RESEARCH · slice of life

Save the Purple Ones!

Have you ever heard of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? It was a research study about delayed gratification, self-control, and willpower.  Here’s more about it:

It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow (Retrieved from http://theatln.tc/1GNkWB6 on 3/13/15.)

So what does this have to do with my kid?  Well, I’ll tell you.  While she can be impulsive (She’s four!), I think she’d wait the 20 minutes for the two marshmallows.  Here’s why:

Isabelle’s favorite color is purple.  Last summer, she wore purple nearly ever day.  (The only days she didn’t wear it was when I needed to do laundry.)  She has a purple winter coat, purple backpack, and purple quilt.  Even her lunchbox carrier is purple!  Purple, purple, purple!

IMG_1764Every day, Isabelle selects a Flintstone’s Vitamin to take. They come in three colors: orange, pink, and purple.  When she started taking Flintstone’s vitamins, she would select the purple ones.  Then the pink.  Finally, her bottle was filled with orange ones.  She didn’t like the color of them, but she ate them anyway.  (Little does she know my mother allowed me not to eat the orange ones when I was a kid because I claimed I didn’t like them.)  She didn’t like getting to the end of the bottle with just orange vitamins left. On her own, she developed a mantra in late December in an effort to make sure she had purple vitamins by the end of the bottle.  I’d present her with the several vitamins in the cap and I’d let her choose one.  Suddenly, she began saying “Save the purple ones!”  And wouldn’t you know it?  The last bottle of vitamins she finished ended with a purple one.  Her favorite.

The “save the purple” mentality continues.  It’s interesting to shake out a few vitamins into the cap every day to see which one she’ll pick.  Inevitably, she always selects a pink or orange one since she wants to save the purple ones.  But this morning, her hands had food in them when I came over with her vitamins.  I said, “tell me with your voice.”  She tried to put her banana and napkin down, but she looked like she couldn’t move fast enough.  So instead she blurted out, “purple.”  I was shocked.  I’m wondering if having she choose purple since I told her to pick with her voice, not with her fingers today.  Or maybe she felt she had picked enough pink and orange ones this week so she could treat herself to a purple one.  Whatever the reason is, I am still confident she’d pass that marshmallow test.

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accomplishments · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

4 year-old antics

Nearly ever one I know has told me four years-old is easier than three.  I’d like to hope they’re right since three was a downright challenging year. However, Isabelle’s been four for a little over a week and, so far, she still seems like my feisty three year-old.

Case in Point: Preschool Pickup. Unless I’m working in a school, I pick Isabelle up from preschool a little earlier than her peers since she still naps. Today was one of those days where I arrived before the class’s rest time.  As soon as her teacher saw me, she began recounting a story about Isabelle finding the courage to speak in front of her peers (to tell the story of why she’s nicknamed herself the “Cheese Machine”). It was a delightful tale that made my heart happy since she was able to hold her friends’ attention and was able to be understood by her teacher.

As her teacher and I chatted, I noticed a curly-haired girl run out of the room.  Yep, you know who it was: my child!  She likes to do this to me (i.e., run out of the room for my benefit since she knows it agitates me). I didn’t give chase. But after a minute, she didn’t come back, so I went in search of her. I found her driving towards me in a Little Tykes Cozy Coupes, which operates like the cars on “The Flintstones.” Apparently she decided it would not only be okay to leave her classroom, but she’d join another class who were using indoor bikes and cars in the preschool hallway.  Um, no, that was NOT okay.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Driving!” she grinned.

“You’re not supposed to leave the classroom. You don’t run out of the classroom. You didn’t ask your teacher permission.”

No response.

“Get up,” I commanded.

“No, I’m driving,” she replied.

I didn’t mince words. “I need you to get up and get out of the car.”

She started to whine. And cry. And yell.

I swiveled the car around and pointed it in the direction where the cars and bikes are stored.

“Go and park your car now.”

“No!”

“Yes. Drive back, park your car, and come back to your classroom or I will have to pick you up out of your car and carry you out of school.”

“Fine Mommy!” she said with disdain in her voice.

I turned on my heel and walked back to her classroom.  30 seconds later she returned.  Good, I thought.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

You’d think it’d end there.  You’d think she’d be compliant and stay by my side.  You’d think these things if you were raising one of those compliant four year-olds my friends talk about all of the time.  But, no, right after she put on her coat and hugged her friends good-bye she bolted from the room again.  But before I could exit the room, one of her little friends took off after her. “Isabelle! You can’t leave the room!”

But then he left the room.  Ugh!

And then, to make matters worse, one of other little girls follows both of them out of the room in an effort to lay down the law. At this point, her teacher and I are out the classroom door, ready to collect all three of them.  When we arrive in the hallway, the boy who ran after her says, “Isabelle took my truck.”

“Give it back to him,” I said. And she did.

Her teacher retrieved Isabelle’s friends and brought them back to the classroom. I admonished Isabelle for leaving the classroom and told her that she could get her friends into trouble by leaving since they followed her.  I told her she had to ask permission before departing the classroom.  While she nodded, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that she’d be doing this to me again sometime soon since she knew it didn’t bother me.  I sighed.  Enough. Let it be for today, I told myself.

Just as I was about to take her hand to lead her out of school, a girl from one of the other classes pedaled by on a tricycle with a passenger seat (or what reminds me of a preschool rickshaw).  Isabelle attempted to jump into the passenger seat.

“Oh no!” I cried. “You are not going for a bike ride! We’re going home.”

“But I want to!” she whined.

“It’s not happening. Not now. Put on your mittens. We’re going home.”

* * * * *

I recently polled my Facebook friends asking:

I have a question for anyone who’s ever told me parenting a four year-old is much easier than a three year-old. (And there are quite a few of you out there!) We’re a week and a half into age four and no one has flipped the proverbial switch. I’m wondering… when did your three year-old morph into a more compliant, more mellow person?
NOTE: If you don’t have a happy tale to tell (i.e., four was just as hard, if not harder than three), then please don’t tell me that today. I need some uplifting four year-old stories… please!

I got a variety of answers, links to articles, and promises of hope. Most people reassured me that the change came later-on in the fours.  So for now, I’m going to try to stay calm and firm like I did today.  And when something ridiculous happens, I will write the stories down so my daughter will know exactly what she was like at this point in her life as she grows up into the amazing, strong-willed adult I know she will be.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
accomplishments · OBSERVATIONS · OT

The Demands on a Toddler

Isabelle colored with a purple crayon today. Afterwards, she cut out a purple frame with her OT's help.
Isabelle colored with a purple crayon today. Afterwards, she cut out a purple frame with her OT’s help.

Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to go out of their comfort zone and try something new.  Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to take a risk.  Every day — every single day — we ask toddlers to do things for which they may not be developmentally ready.

For the past seven months, my daughter’s occupational therapists have asked her to use scissors.  At first I felt sad watching her try grip the scissors.  She often held them upside down.  It took her months to cut along a thick, straight line using self-opening scissors.  While her cutting isn’t perfect, she’s able to do it with some adult assistance.

Today, when she was at OT, I asked her occupational therapist why cutting was being stressed right now, while she’s still three and a half.

The answer I got in response was one I didn’t expect, but should’ve.

She told me scissor use isn’t developmentally appropriate until age five.  However, she teaches kids as young as three to cut since there’s an expectation they’ll know how to it independently by the time they reach Kindergarten. That’s right.  SCISSORS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE USED INDEPENDENTLY BY AGE FIVE! However, she knows if she doesn’t teach kids how to do it now, they’ll be behind.  Same thing goes with pre-writing skills and so many of the other things she has to work on in OT. Of course, this led to a conversation about the time spent teaching to the test in public school. By the end of the session, the two of us were tired of thinking of all of the time kids aren’t spending PLAYING because they’re working in school!

I trust my daughter’s OT, but still came home to do some research of my own. Could scissor-use really be an expectation at three years-old?  Well, it depends on the source.  I found one source that says a two year-old should be snipping with scissors, while another says five years-old is when a child should be able to consistently cut on a line. (NOTE: There’s no way I would’ve handed Isabelle scissors prior to her third birthday, regardless of who told me to do so!) And, of course, I found something that had a variety of scissor milestones starting at age four.

I haven’t been pushing the scissors at home for the past few months since they tend to make Isabelle miserable. Of all of the things we have to work on, using a scissor isn’t at the top of my list.  However, I don’t want her to be behind either. While I’m not about to start printing out oodles of things for her to practice cutting from Pinterest (Yes! There are tons of scissor skills pins out there.), I am going to reinforce the things the OT is working on during her weekly session.  It’s all about balance, what’s good for your kid, and remembering what is developmentally appropriate.

accomplishments · slice of life · speech

The Magic of Music

On this day last year, things were not going well with regard to Isabelle’s speech. We were a day away from receiving her CAS diagnosis. She had been doing speech therapy for 10 months and had barely made any progress. To say I didn’t see the light at the end of the speech tunnel is beyond an understatement.

Isabelle has to follow rules when she uses the "white piano" at the music studio. Here she's pictured playing with her pointer fingers.
Isabelle has to follow rules when she uses the “white piano” at the music studio. Here she’s pictured playing with her pointer fingers.

Two weeks after she was diagnosed with CAS, we began working with a music therapist. Slowly, through music, we were able to increase Isabelle’s consonant and vowel productions. Soon we heard approximations of words.  Over time we understood real words. We have begun to hear short sentences too. As the parent of a child with CAS, this is a dream come true. While she has a long way to go, I can now see the light at the end of the speech tunnel!

We’ve been working with Isabelle’s music therapist for almost a year now. While she used to come to our house, we now go to her office. Her office is actually a music studio complete with guitars, drums, pianos, a xylophone, and more. Isabelle LOVES going to her office for sessions since she loves to play, listen to, and create music.

This morning we had a HUGE breakthrough. We were singing “Old MacDonald” with Isabelle. She picked out pictures of several animals on the farm and then needed to say the animal name and the sound it made. Plus, we were pausing so she could fill in other words. We’ve been singing this song with her in music therapy for almost a year. (Last April she couldn’t even move her mouth to move to say the “o” in E-I-E-I-O.) I knew she could fill in some of the animal names and sounds, but wasn’t sure she’d be able to fill in the words we were leaving out.

But then she surprised me and her music therapist! Take a listen:

She’s come a long way in 11 months! Whenever I question if I’m doing the right thing by taking her to five therapy appointments/week and doing lots of home practice, I have a moment like this and I know we’re traveling on the correct course. We have a ways to go since the multi-syllabic words are still tricky for her. Often the medial parts of the sentences are undecodable. However, she’s made tremendous progress and so much of it is thanks to music therapy.

Crossing off items as they're completed.
Crossing off items as they’re completed.

But music therapy isn’t just great for speech. It’s been wonderful for getting Isabelle to follow directions and rules. Starting today, her music therapist created a schedule for our day that included pictures and words to help keep her on-task during our session. There were two free choice times (marked as “Isabelle” in the photo on the left) during the session, which allowed her to pick an instrument and do what she wanted. That’s really necessary when there’s articulation work and structured activities happening.

Today I’m thankful for the magic of music. I don’t know if we’d be where we are today without it.

Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.
Check out the other slice of life stories at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

accomplishments · Jewish · OBSERVATIONS

The Mitzvah Wall

Last month I read Ariel Chesler’s “Mitzvah Notes for Mommy” and was inspired to write mitzvah notes for Isabelle. You see, ever since Isabelle turned three I’ve understood why people have said three is worse than two. It was as if someone flipped a switch the day she turned three. Isabelle has been asserting her independence and advocating for what she wants much, much more than she did when she was two.

I want to focus on the positive, not the negative things, Isabelle does.  Last Wednesday I grabbed a pad of sticky notes and a Sharpie and called asked her to sit down on the couch next to me since I wanted to talk about some of the helpful things she’s been doing.  Once we got settled on the couch, I began creating Mitzvah Notes alongside Isabelle.  With each one, I told her what she did that was helpful or caring. Then, I drew a picture with my pathetic stick figure art since she cannot read.  Next, I summarized what I told her (and what the picture showed) into a sentence. Finally, I stuck it on the wall (just out of her reach) in her play room.

The first day I created Mitzvah Notes for Isabelle, I wrote four of them.  Each time I finished one she said, “Talk more, Mommy.”  Her face was positively glowing every time I told her something she did that was a mitzvah.  (I explained a mitzvah to her not as a commandment, but as an act of kindness, so she can get a better understanding of the concept. Remember, she’s only three!)

DSC_9937
My husband crafted his first Mitzvah Note to Isabelle today.

I’ve added 1 – 2 things nearly every day since I started the Mitzvah Wall. Therefore, when my husband returned home from the grocery store with Isabelle today, I asked him if he’d like to add some items to the wall.  He agreed it is important for Isabelle to get praise from both of us for her actions.

I went down to the basement and retrieved another pad of sticky notes in yellow. I gave him a Sharpie and encouraged him to bring her into the play room to talk through her mitzvot alongside him.  Just as she did with me, she said, “talk more,” after he finished writing each one.  (He wrote two for their time together today.)  I reminded her the more good deeds she does, the more often she’ll see notes on the wall.

Right before lunchtime we FaceTimed with my in-laws. Isabelle approximated the word mitzvah when we were on the call since she wanted to show them her Mitzvah Wall. Once my husband explained it to them, she went over to the wall and, with great pride, pointed out some of the items. She used one or two words to label the good deeds she had done.  For instance, she said, “tracks,” as a way of telling them she helped clean up her train tracks (bottom left).  She also said, “mommy sleeping — shhh,” when she informed them she didn’t wake me when I slept in on the last ice day we had (middle).

I never thought I’d be lining one of the walls of my daughter’s play room with sticky notes. Right now this is a wonderful way to keep track of the good deeds she does.  And when you’re three years-old and being redirected for a lot of the things you do, I think having a place to go to see all of the things you’re doing right is a wonderful thing.

accomplishments · bedtime stories · OBSERVATIONS · read aloud

The Benefit of Reading the Author and Illustrator Names at the Start of Each Read Aloud Book

We’ve been reading the name of the title, author, and illustrator every time we’ve read a book with Isabelle for the past few months. Yesterday, for the first time, I understood that it’s been having an impact on her since she knows who writes some of her favorite books.

We were eating lunch with my parents and we were talking about bedtime stories (since they were going to be watching Isabelle while my husband and I went out to dinner and a movie). My dad said something like “On the day you were born” for one of the books they might read at night.

“It’s actually On the Night You Were Born, Dad,” I said.

“By Nancy Tillman!” Isabelle said.

“What?” I asked.

“Nancy TIllman!” she declared.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my parents and Marc. “She said ‘Nancy Tillman’! Wow!” Then I turned my attention back towards Isabelle. “You know who writes On the Night You Were Born! Is that one of your favorite books?”

“Yes!”

Tonight when we were about to read bedtime stories I asked Isabelle to “hand me a book by Nancy Tillman.”

“No, pigeon!” she said.

“Huh?” I asked.

“I want pigeon!” she said.

“Is that book by Nancy Tillman?” I asked.

“No!” she said.

“Do you want to read Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Okay. We’ll read that one. Hand it to me.” She did.

“Now, would you hand me a book by Nancy Tillman?”

She searched through the stack carefully. After a moment she picked up Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. “This book Nancy Tillman!”

“You’re right,” I said. “It is by Nancy Tillman.”

{Proud Mama Moment}

UPDATED on 1/20/14: An impromptu podcast of Izzy “reading” Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late last night. (Because I couldn’t resist.)