Our co-op’s got talent!

Standard

Wednesday marked the last day of co-op for the year. It is hard to believe our co-op year is over. It feels like just yesterday we were beginning another school year.

The end of co-op always brings a mix of emotions. There is that end of the year excitement that precedes the start of summer break, mixed with a bit of melancholy over the passing of another year. I find that (as a Momma) there is a sense of relief that the school season burdens are beginning to lighten and that another co-op year can be marked down as a success.

Every year we have a co-op talent show in which the kids have the opportunity to share with their peers their talents and interests. Typically this happens at our co-op Christmas party. This year we decided to put off our co-op talent show until the final day of co-op.

Talent show day had finally arrived!

5967298df0b6f8582f8aa095dd8f2bc4

After lunch we gathered everyone in the lunchroom to enjoy the vast amount of talent that exists in this little group.:)

Here is a peek at the talents we enjoyed!

Caleigh played “Till there was you” from The Music Man on piano.

IMG_1251 (3)

Tatum played “Rordino” by Jean Rameau and “Prelude #7 in B Minor” by Robert  Vandall on the piano.

IMG_1266 (3)

Tiernan played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “O Come Little Children” on the violin.

IMG_1237 (3)

Annaliese played (and sang) “First Day” by Bright Eyes on her guitar.

IMG_1273 (2)

Olivia played “River Flows in You” on piano.

IMG_1280 (3)

Ozzie played “Russian Folk Song” and “Planetarium” on the piano.

IMG_1274 (3)

Joanna played “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music on piano.

IMG_1278 (3)

Elizabeth performed rabbit showmanship with her bunny, KitKat.

IMG_1283 (3)

Saga made us laugh with the jokes she prepared.

IMG_1242 (3)

Emily danced to “Let the Fire Fall.”

IMG_1256 (3)

Our favorite twins, Alec and Micah, entertained us with their annual comedy show.

And Grace performed “We’re Going to be Friends” in American Sign Language. Molly and Grace have been working hard the last month to learn the ASL signs to this charming little song. They recently had a new friend move into their young women’s group at church who communicates with sign language and they have been participating in a sign language class at church taught by her mother. The girls decided they wanted to learn a song in sign language to share with their new friend, Rachel.

They decided that after the time they put into learning it  they would also use it for their talent at the talent show. Unfortunately on the last day of co-op Molly woke with the flu so Grace had to perform it alone.

She did well even with the last minute loss of Molly.

IMG_1294 (3)

(When Molly felt better they recorded it to send to their friend, Rachel.)

To see the full version, as performed by Grace and Molly, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tv23nbtITQ&feature=share

It was a perfect way to end a wonderful co-op year! We will get together again next week when many of us will go together on our annual trek to Kalahari Indoor Water Park. Then again the following week for our co-op’s end of the year picnic.

The school year countdown begins in full force as co-op comes to a close. Only five more weeks until we will all be chanting:

“No more pencils!

No more Books!

No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

IMG_1299 (2)

Last day of co-op group hug.

IMG_1303 (2)

 

A Time to Play

Standard

Our family has been feeling the affects of the upheaval and added emotions of being so involved with our three little friends who we have been helping since the loss of their mom and grandmother. They have spent a lot of time with our family recently. All three are sweet children, but all three are dealing with incredibly hard baggage. We have tried to offer a place of respite and rest in the midst of a hard season of life for them.

As much of a blessing as it is helping and having the three little ones over, it also results in a lot of mixed emotions, in particular for our two adoption treasures that are experiencing a lot of triggers and memories as they remember a similar season of loss in their own lives.

With those hard memories comes hard behaviors as both boys struggle to voice the worries, fears, and sadness that have been engulfing them. And when they can’t speak those feelings, they act on those feelings in unhealthy ways. For each boy their way of handling these hard emotions are different. With Tyler the need to release the build up of hard emotions tends to be explosive, destructive, and outward. As a result I have been seeking opportunities to help him release these emotions in a heathy way. I have spent much of my free time out in the yard kicking soccer balls or throwing a football in an attempt to give Tyler the chance to blow off steam and get the one on one attention he is craving, so that he doesn’t turn to destructive and hurtful attention seeking behavior.

For Ozzie those hard emotions cause him to turn within and self-punish. Ozzie has fallen back into the old coping behavior of self injury. At night he berates himself and hits himself. The sound of flesh smacking flesh pulls me back to his room after he has been tucked in and I find him slapping his own face. I know he is trying to “self sooth” with what is familiar, and for a little boy that was verbally and physically abused, the familiar and comfortable is punishment. For Ozzie the physical pain of self punishment helps dull the emotional pain that he can’t reach within his heart.

In an attempt to give him a healthier “punching bag” for the build up of those emotions, so that he doesn’t use his own body, I ordered a Bozo punching clown. I set it up in his room and he has to punch it 20 times before climbing into bed. I step out of the room while he punches it so that he feels more comfortable verbalizing his angry feelings as he throws punches, without having to feel like a “bad kid” for having those angry emotions.

As a mom I am trying desperately to find the balance between helping these three children that are in need of an advocate and caretaker, while not allowing their hurts to affect our family (in particular our two adopted treasures) in a negative way. It is not the care of 8 children that leaves me tired, but rather the worry I have for each of them. I worry about each one of them as they navigate their own worries and struggles, all while feeling like I am failing each of them. In my effort to try to meet everyone’s needs I feel as though I’m meeting no one’s.

I find myself on my knees, surrendering these little ones and their situation to a loving Heavenly Father, only to grab it back from Him in the middle of the night when the worries wake me from a dead sleep.

I say I trust His plan but then question the timing of His plan.

I know God’s hand is in this situation and He is calling for me to be faithful and trusting. He is calling me to set aside my worries, my limited human knowledge of the situation, and my fear driven need to control an uncontrollable situation, and rest in His promise that all will be well.

I am trying. I am really trying…

On Monday we had two of our little friends over for family night. I was worn out from a hard weekend but determined to tap deep and focus the last of my energy for the day on connecting with my children. So instead of crawling into bed (which is what I REALLY wanted to do) Toby and I headed to the park with our 5 kiddos and 2 spares.:)

Toby lovingly drove through a drive-thru to buy dinner, so that I didn’t have to cook, and we enjoyed an evening picnic and some playground time. It was just what I needed, and just what our kids needed…to step away from the house, and responsibilities, and just go play and be kids for an evening.

I left the park feeling uplifted and strengthened and renewed. I realized that what I needed was simply a break from the worry, and a reminder of how good God is…

How good life is.

It is going to be OK.

IMG_1089 (2)IMG_1084 (2)IMG_1117 (2)IMG_1124 (2)IMG_1120 (2)IMG_1102IMG_1099 (2)IMG_1123 (3)IMG_1153 (2)IMG_1130 (2)IMG_1214IMG_1177 (2)

IMG_1169 (2).JPG

And there in the middle of the noise and the play I found the rest my soul was searching for.

db42e42da9aeed4186042f4075cfa94c

The kitchen is in!

Standard

 

Progress continues on our school bus!

IMG_0997 (2)

On Sunday evening we began the family discussion of what to name the bus. The name of our rolling home will help determine the paint job that will be added this summer. After much debate we have narrowed down our long list of possibilities to a couple finalist.

(If anyone has any bus name suggestions, please share! We are open to other possibilities!)

 The winning name will be announced soon.

This past week Toby finished the electric work on the bus, installing the last of the light fixtures. He also added the microwave and the fridge, which truly transforms the kitchen space into a true kitchen. The fridge is 3/4 size…a perfect solution to a little space while still allowing ample food storage for a family of seven.

IMG_1008 (2)

The kitchen countertop is installed. We decided to go with a Corian product that Toby found on sale. With the counter installed Toby was then able to add and hook up our kitchen sink as well as the two burner range top.

IMG_1002 (2)

The remaining cabinets for the bus have been built, stained, and hung. Toby custom built hanging cabinets for every available square inch of the bus, knowing the great need for storage we are facing for our cross country trek.

IMG_1000 (2)

IMG_1023

The bathroom vanity has been built and we found a perfect tiny sink for our teeny tiny bathroom. Thank you, Ikea!

IMG_1014 (2)

The light fixture in the bathroom was a clearance find at Keim Lumber. This charming sunflower light with its connected bouncing bumble bee was marked down to $10.00 and adds a perfect touch of whimsy to our mini bathroom.

IMG_1015 (2)

The master bedroom is beginning to take shape as Toby builds in our queen size bed frame that will fill in most of the master “suite.”:) He designed it so the frame will lift on hinges, allowing us to use the under bed space for large item storage.

IMG_1011 (2)

That is the bedroom door resting on the bed frame and our possible curtains choice hanging in the window…

 

Everyone is starting to get more and more excited as the school bus continues to evolve, and the date for our cross country adventure approaches.

Let the countdown begin!

There she glows!

Standard

cc21ad8a2f7970c3360fab6e2109a8da

This month Molly turned 16 years old, and with this monumental birthday she asked if she could have a sweet 16 party. She decided that she wanted a laid back/ “hang out” sort of night with all her high school-aged friends from co-op and church. She told me that what she really wanted was just to have everyone over for a bonfire and night games.

IMG_0988 (2)

The planning for her requested party was easy, for which I am eternally grateful since it came on the heels of a very hard week. Her birthday party was scheduled for Saturday night but the days leading up to that birthday were filled with PSSA testing, therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, lessons, a Relief Society un-birthday party, babysitting our three little friends that lost their grandmother this week, and helping plan a memorial service. It was a long, hard week, but through the struggle I felt myself lifted, sustained, and strengthened by a power beyond my own. I am grateful for the strengthening power that came from the prayers of many and a loving Heavenly Father…

Because the fact I was still upright and functioning when Saturday arrived was nothing short of a miracle!

Even on Saturday (in the hours before the party) we were still running in a hundred directions as we cared for three extra kids, had a soccer game to attend, and a bio sibling visit for Ozzie in Cranberry with his little sister. In between running hither and yon,  our time was spent getting the house and yard ready for the party. I was VERY grateful we scheduled Molly’s party for 7:00- 10:00 pm and not earlier in the day!

IMG_0956 (2)

At 6:30 the first friends began to arrive and through God’s good grace we were ready for their arrival. We pulled it off. I felt such joy that we were able to give Miss Molly, who does so much to love and serve others, this special evening in which we could celebrate her.

IMG_0937 (2)

The party began around the bonfire where the kids roasted hot dogs to enjoy with their chips, fruits and veggies.

IMG_0905 (2)IMG_0909 (2)IMG_0935 (2)IMG_0922 (2)IMG_0931 (2)

For dessert Molly opted to not have a traditional birthday cake, but rather a S’mores bar instead. She picked a creative mix of cookies and chocolate bars to experiment with in addition to the traditional graham crackers and Hershey bars that were available.

IMG_0921 (2)IMG_0950 (2)IMG_0926 (2)

She had such a great mix of kids there and I was pleased to see how well the kids from church and co-op intermingled. I know Molly was concerned that with the mixing of church friends and co-op friends that someone might feel left out, but everyone seemed to have fun.

IMG_0964 (2)IMG_0911 (2)IMG_0908 (2)IMG_0907 (2)

When the sun began to set Molly handed out glow stick bracelets and necklaces for the glow in the dark night games she had centered her party planning around.

IMG_0969 (2)

We even managed to find this cute $5.00 t-shirt to go with her party’s theme.

IMG_0939 (2)

The remainder of the evening was spend playing night games, like capture the flag, in the darkness of the front yard. As I sat by the fire with Toby, watching the streaks of neon pink, yellow and green race through the yard, accompanied by the sound of shouts and laughter, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible measure of gratitude and happiness.

The night concluded with Molly opening gifts around the fire before everyone’s rides arrived. It was touching to see the level of  care that went into the gifts for Molly. They were all so thoughtful and personal.

IMG_0984 (2)

One of her guy friends even baked her a loaf of homemade bread!

IMG_0985 (2)

Molly’s 16th birthday party was a “glowing” success.

73c92f6750abe1280ba9c992aa92807c

How grateful I am for Miss Molly and the way she lights up our lives!

 

…And now I think we will  go to bed and sleep for the next 16 years…

What a week!

Glad/Sad Days

Standard

Have you ever experienced a Glad/ Sad Day?

One of those days that is an emotionally overwhelming mix of happy moments and heartbreaking grief.

While most days are neither completely glad or completely sad, rather a mix of many emotions, there are days are whiplash inducing Glad/Sad days…those days when a perfectly perfect day gets turned on its head by unexpected, devastating news.

Yes, Saturday was one of those days.

The weekend began with a bang. Friday night was filled with running, as the big boys headed in one direction and the big girls headed in another.

Toby, Rusty, and Ozzie had a Boy Scout campout at the Bernard’s house. Ozzie was thrilled, with this being his first official scout campout away from home. On Friday Rusty and Ozzie gathered items on the packing list in preparation for their night away.

IMG_0666

When Toby arrived home they headed out and enjoyed a day and a half of scouting fun, including, but not limited to: foil dinners, hikes, playing capture the flag, sleeping in tents, and performing a service project of cutting and stacking firewood.

IMG_20160415_201708952IMG_20160415_192942259IMG_20160415_201632636IMG_20160416_095018054_HDR

When the boys left for their fun night the girls and I left with Tyler for a camp meeting in Cranberry. Every summer the girls and I go to girls’camp about two hours away. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year and we are now in the  planning phase for this summer’s camp week. Molly is now a 5th year camper which means she is a youth leader, and Grace is with my group of 7th years as a Junior Camp Director. Because we are all in leadership roles we had a planning meeting to attend. Tyler was stuck tagging along since we were out of big people to babysit.:)

I promised him that we would have fun after the meeting though!

Following the camp planning meeting the girls stayed for “Pajamarama,” a fun event for all the 12-18 year old girls in the stake. The leaders had an amazing evening planned for the young women including cupcake decorating, a life size Hungry, Hungry Hippo game, and a spiritual devotional.

IMG_0669

The girls all came  their PJs and enjoyed a evening of bonding, friendship and sisterhood.

While the girls were at “Pajamarama” Tyler and I went on a date to the movies. I find those moments of focused one on one attention with a child to be a great gift and a powerful parenting tool. In those moments of undivided attention my children connect and open up to me in a way that rarely happens when we are all together.

For our date night we went to see the new Jungle Book movie.

IMG_0670

We had so much fun.

Date night continued (after picking up the girls) with the rare privilege of Tyler being allowed to sleep in Momma and Daddy’s big bed. He was a regular chatterbox as we lay in the dark and he absentmindedly combed my hair that lay across my pillow, with his little boy fingers. In the safety of Momma’s bed and the cover of darkness Tyler poured out his heart and shared in a way that his lack of stillness/quitness rarely allows.

It was 3:00am before his wiggles and chatting stopped but I wouldn’t trade that sharing time for all the lost sleep in the world.

IMG_20160416_075243183

The next morning we rose early for Tyler’s first soccer game of the season. Soccer season has arrived! Unlike football season which brings with it a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions for this Momma, soccer season is simply a delight. I think the limited commitment (only 2 hours a week), with limited competitiveness (they don’t keep score at Tyler’s age) as well as a different parental dynamic…well it is just delightful. I love the beautiful spring weather, sitting on the sidelines as a family cheering for the kids (wearing both colors of jersey!) and watching Tyler really shine doing what he loves. It does this Momma’s heart good!

IMG_0712IMG_0679IMG_0704

Saturday it was just the girls and I cheering Tyler on since the boys were still camping. This year Tyler moved up to the U10 level which means the team is now co-ed. I wasn’t sure how Tyler would do with that. I was concerned he would either be too rough with the girls or be overly cautious playing with girls, but he rolled with the new team dynamic like nothing had changed.

IMG_0715IMG_0713IMG_0697IMG_0696IMG_0695

His team had a good game. He was thrilled to see that two of his friends were back on the team and he seems to like his new coach.

It was a happy 12 hours…

then we arrived home and our day turned from glad to sad with the tragic news of a dear friend’s passing.

Wendy, a friend who God brought into my life six years ago and intertwined us through a plethora of large life moments, died in her sleep early Saturday morning. This is the friend who so tragically lost her 24 year old daughter, Amanda, last November…

wendy 1

whose three little children we have been so involved with.

IMG_1116

The situation is heartbreaking, not for Wendy who is enjoying a blessed reunion with her daughter, but for the loved ones who are grieving such unexpected news so soon after Amanda’s tragic death…

In particular we grieve for those three babies who have seen more heartbreak, devastating heartbreak, in their short lives than most will see in their lifetime. Please lift those sweet innocents up in prayer.

*sigh*

My heart is heavy… my eyes have been cried dry… and I find myself unable to fully articulate the weight and mix of emotions that have kept me awake late into the night for days.

When I find myself on the brink of being swept under the waves of guilt, grief and worry I grab hold of the only buoy keeping me afloat:

The knowledge that God’s hand is in this situation and that He works all things for good and for a greater purpose…His purpose.

b31d7e3610d221a12af7da1898be63a8

Yes, it was a Glad/Sad weekend.

It was a “chili” evening

Standard

Last night was the annual “chili cook off.”  This is a fundraising event at Church for the youth ages 12-18 to help fund their summer camps. Everyone looks forward to this social event and the friendly competition that comes with it.

IMG_0649 (4)

Families volunteer to bake cornbread or make chili which everyone then enjoys for dinner…

after the judges walk through and sample all the donated dishes so that they can choose the winners.

My kids enjoy sampling the vast variety of chili recipes from the sweet and mild to the flaming hot.

IMG_0634 (2)

We made our family’s favorite chili recipe…pumpkin chili!

IMG_0646 (2)

This year the youth covered the tables with paper and provided crayons which kept the kids busy and happy while waiting for the “dinner bell to ring.”

IMG_0614 (2)

Grace, Molly and Rusty all worked the event with the other youth for whom this dinner benefits.

IMG_0628 (2)

Following dinner the awards were handed out for top chili and corn bread dishes and then it was time for the dessert auction. While families make donations at the door the bulk of the funds raised come from the dessert auction. Dessert is not provided with the chili dinner. Instead people donate homemade desserts that are auctioned off at ridiculously high prices for the sake of the youth program.

Diners can bid on and win desserts for their family to enjoy.

IMG_0630 (2)IMG_0629 (2)IMG_0637 (2)

My big kids all baked for the dessert auction. Molly made marshmallow bars. Gracie decided to switch things up and make chocolate dipped strawberries, and Rusty really switched things up with maple bacon cookies. He found the recipe online and after reading all the positive reviews wanted to give them a try.

IMG_0598 (2)IMG_0602 (2)IMG_0611 (2)

The dessert auction was a success with some dishes going for close to $100.00 each. It is fun to watch the banter and competitiveness of our church family as they battle it out over pies and cakes,

and I know the youth are grateful for all those who come out to support them by buying their homemade treats for ridiculously high prices simply out of love.

IMG_0663 (2)

At the boys’ request Toby bid on a pot of dirt…dessert dirt, that is. This yummy treat made from pudding and crushed Oreos was served in a  flowerpot, complete with silk flowers and gummy worms. I had to get a picture of it before they dug in. Everyone said it was delicious.

IMG_0659 (2)

It was a fun evening and a successful fundraiser for our youth!

IMG_0656 (3)

School Bus Conversion Update!

Standard

Sunshine and warmer weather have finally made an appearance in Western PA,

the result of which is a sudden surge in bus conversion activity.

Last summer we purchased a used school bus at a school bus auction with the intention of converting it into a RV for our family of seven.

This family project came as a result of us trying to price out the most economic way for our family to do a once in a lifetime, one month trip around the United States to visit some of our nation’s National Parks. After pricing out the varying costs of renting an RV or renting two hotel rooms per night for 30 days we discovered that if we could find a used school bus cheap enough we could convert it into a family RV and use it to see the country for less than the other two options…

With the added perk of having a custom designed RV to show for it at the end for future family trips.

The renovation process began with Toby removing all the school bus seats and adding a hardwood floor.

I am blessed to be married to a man who is handy and renovates/builds homes for a living, so this project was right up his alley. In addition to being a capable handyman he also has been blessed with the talents of creativity and being able to think outside the box. He is a great problem solver and good at executing an abstract vision. He is also a master of taking other people’s “trash” and repurposing it into treasure, a skill which has served us well over the course of our marriage, not just with this school bus conversion!

When we began the renovation we spent hours online looking at other peoples blogs, websites, and YouTube videos for blueprint ideas. The problem we ran into, however, was that most school bus conversion blueprints we found were meant for an RV that slept 2 or 4 people, not 7. So ultimately we had to start from scratch and come up with our own design, custom to our family’s needs.

We knew there were some non-negotiables with the design that we simply had to have. First and foremost we needed it to sleep at least 7 with a little wiggle room in case our family grows in the future.

We wanted belted seats for traveling. Rather than reinstall school bus seats (which wouldn’t be the safest or most comfortable for long distance travel) Toby instead found mini van captain’s chairs from a local junk yard that will be installed at the front of the bus.

I knew I needed a full kitchen for feeding my family three meals a day. With that I knew we would need a larger fridge and ample food storage. Adding a full kitchen (with a fridge, cook top and sink) will cut down on our vacation food expenses dramatically.

This need for extra storage is also what led to our decision to not install a shower. When drawing up the blueprints for the bus we knew that we had the option of a pantry/closet or a shower in the same spot. I opted for more storage space since we will be staying at KOA campgrounds most nights with showers we can use there.

We did choose to add a bathroom with a flushing toilet and sink. With this addition Toby had to install a white, grey, and black water tank beneath the bus.

Once we decided on the bus design Toby went to work. Much of his work over the winter months was necessary, but not photo worthy, behind the walls work like plumbing and electric, jobs that were time consuming, and taxing, but necessary. Now that that work is all done the fun, more visible and creative part of the project begins. Toby has now built all the walls, built all our cabinets (he is still cutting out all the cabinet doors) and has added the generator, finished all the lighting, and added the roof top air conditioner.

IMG_0543 (2)

The electric panel that will sit below/behind the shelving in our closet.

 

On Monday night, for family night, we spent the evening cleaning the bus, removing all the old bus stickers, and preparing the wood for staining. Everyone worked hard and the cleaning was done in about two hours. Cleaning the bus together allowed for a lot of trip discussion and got everyone excited for the completion of the bus and our big, cross country trip.

IMG_0519 (2)

Step one: Empty the bus out so we can clean it.

IMG_0529 (2)

Let the scrubbing begin!

IMG_0525 (2)

Grace removing all the old seating stickers.

IMG_0532 (2)

Tyler and Ozzie cleaned all the lower panels.

IMG_0534 (2)

Rusty helping Grace out by lifting her from cabinet to cabinet to clean window rims.

IMG_0536 (2)

Molly cleaning the top bunk (Rusty’s bed.) The wire and clips will be used to hang the privacy curtains that the girls are sewing for the bus.

IMG_0555 (2)

Toby’s seat. We manages to clean 10 years of grime from his dashboard. He is installing a co-captain seat next to his for me to sit in. The children’s seats will be in two rows behind us.

IMG_0538 (2)

The wood: sanded, cleaned, and ready for staining. I love the barn door design Toby came up with to build the bathroom, bedroom and closet doors. I think they are charming. 

 

Toby spent the remainder of the week  staining all the wood in the bus,

IMG_0565 (2)

IMG_0577 (2)The view from the back of the bus where our master bedroom is located.

IMG_0570 (2)

All stained! Isn’t it pretty:)

 

Welding a platform on the back of the bus to hold the generator,

IMG_0609 (2)

Installing the last overhead light and the air conditioner that will keep us cool as we explore the hotter southern states,

IMG_0604 (2)

The air conditioner being installed…

IMG_0607 (2)

The air conditioner (which he installed in the old school bus emergency exit hatch) and our new overhead light.

 

 

Storage containers were added to the outside of the bus,

IMG_0584 (2)

And our kitchen countertop has been installed.

IMG_0588 (2)

The progress is exciting and our school bus is looking more and more like a home.

Stay tuned as the school bus conversion continues!

Chew on This

Standard

Both my littles are chewers.

I’m not talking gum chewers or open mouth at the dinner table chewers.

What we are dealing with is not a manners issue, but rather a sensory issue. Although these are many theories as to the cause of Sensory Processing Disorders…some say genetics, some say environment, while some seem to feel the cause is unknown, it can be a  common issue in children like my adopted boys who have experienced things like exposure to drugs in utero, early childhood neglect, and abuse.

There are two types of oral sensitivities when talking about children with sensory processing disorders: hypersensitive and hyposensitive. Boy my boys are hyposensitive, which means they crave oral stimulation.

Both my boys tend to use their mouths to assess and process the world around them.

For Ozzie it means licking things that he shouldn’t lick like toys and furniture. He uses his tongue as another means of gathering information about the world much like a baby will put things in their mouths. He chews on anything he can get ahold of, shredding clothes to chew on the strings, plastic wrappers, hard plastic, his own arms, and balloons. He doesn’t swallow or eat these items just merely chews on them. It was when I found him sneaking and chewing on balloons that I became concerned for fear he would accidently swallow a piece of balloon and it would block his airway resulting in death.

Tyler is also a chewer but his chewing is focused solely on his clothing. He chews through every shirt he puts on, which drives me crazy because I am constantly having to buy new shirts to replace the ones that have big holes all along the collars. He also is constantly stimulating his mouth by buzzing his lips and making noises with his mouth. When the big kids are driven to the point of insanity by the clicking and buzzing, and finally ask him to stop, he always seems surprised, not realizing he was even making noises.

IMG_0510

Another “holy” shirt.

 

Both boys like to fill their mouths with food seeking the sensation of a stuffed mouth, suck on vibrating electric toothbrushes,  and  stimulate their mouths with sour flavors and foods that crunch.

This need to self stimulate led me to start researching Oral SPD and therapeutic ways to address it. Here is some of what I found out:

“Children With Hyposensitivities Will Exhibit Many, Or All, Of The Following Characteristics:

  • they love and crave intense flavors, i.e., sweet, sour, salty, spicy and usually become “condiment kids”

  • may actually avoid mixed textures as well since it is difficult to chew and swallow properly when you can’t “feel” the food in your mouth correctly

  • they are the messy eaters; getting food all over their face and/or leaving bits of food in their mouths at the end of a meal

  • they often take large bites and stuff their mouths, or even “pocket” food in their cheeks

  • are inclined to not chew their food thoroughly before swallowing (at risk for choking)

  • drool excessively beyond the teething stage
  • and , they always seem to have something in their mouths; toys, pens, pencil tips, gum, candy, or inedible objects (i.e., paper clips, rubber bands, shirt sleeves and collars, strings…anything!)

When working with these hyposensitive children, you need to:

Give them MORE oral stimulation activities and “appropriate” things to chew on; they will need to chew to feel calm and organize-

  • Chewy Tubes – Chewy tubes help children to keep from chewing on their hands and crayons and and help them focus and for practicing biting and chewing skills.
  • give them sensory stimulation activities prior to meals to “wake up” their mouths
  • use oral massagers, vibration, and textured materials/objects for stimulation
  • use a combination of relaxing input (deep pressure, firm touch) and stimulating input (light, quick strokes)
  • choose foods with increased texture, flavor, and temperatures to provide more stimulation
  • encourage the child to take different sized bites and have them “feel” the food in their mouth (if old enough have them close their eyes and play guessing games with the food)
  • wash and wipe the child’s face often during eating with different textured materials (i.e., baby washcloth, napkin, regular washcloth, paper towel with texture to it)
  • use the following order for stimulation; start on face with cheeks, jaw, lips, then teeth/gums, inside cheeks, then tip, middle, and sides of tongue, then the roof of the mouth”

I was looking for a safe, less destructive outlet for their need to chew (because I truly believe it is a needed outlet and not a bad habit that needs to be untrained.) I found chew stick necklaces on Amazon. These therapeutic tools are made of tough rubber (think indestructible Kong toys for dogs) are made for children much like my boys. They are designed for SPD kids, autistic children and even kids with ADHD (like fidget toys for your mouth.)

IMG_0511

I bought each boy one in a different color so that we could keep them straight. They are cute to look at with their brightly colored Lego brick shape. We bought ARK’s Brick Stick™ Textured Chew Necklace brand. Both boys put them on in the morning when they get dressed and use them all day long. It has been an AWESOME tool for both of them and has served the purpose I was hoping for.

If you have a chewer at home I highly recommend these life savers!

A Myasthenia Gravis Update

Standard

I have had a lot of friends and relatives express concern since the posting when I wrote about the flare up of my Myasthenia Gravis. I appreciate all the concern and the prayers lifted Heavenward on my behalf. I have also had many inquire as to where I am with my heath now…a month later, so it seems the best way to update everyone is through another blog post.

Here it goes…

My neurologist appointment is still scheduled for May 17th. I am on a list to receive a call if any patients cancel between now and the 17th.

I am still having the same symptoms: weakness in my arms, legs, hands, face and eyes. Double vision continues to be an issue when I am overly tired. Although the symptoms of the disease continue, they have improved dramatically in the last few weeks.

After much prayer and a lot of hours spent online researching natural/holistic treatments  for Myasthenia Gravis I have decided to make the most of this waiting time. While there is little information online about treating the symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis naturally I have found a lot of useful information about healthy lifestyle changes for those living with an autoimmune disorder. The general health suggestions offered seem to share the common thread of stress reduction, plenty of sleep, and healthier, more natural, (non inflammatory) food choices.

I began by cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from my diet.

Then a few weeks later I was referred by a friend to a naturopathic doctor who was able to assess what nutritional deficiencies my body was burdened with and helped me set up a vitamin/supplement regimen (using Nature’s Sunshine brand) to help address those deficiencies. She has also encouraged me to increase my fruit and vegetable consumption while still eliminating dairy, gluten and sugar.

IMG_0514 (2)

My vitamin regimen…pills, pills and more pills:)

 

I addition to holistically and nutritionally caring for my body I have made a conscious effort to pull back from extra commitments outside my home and those social interactions that are physically and emotionally draining, and selfishly focus my energy on self care for a season.

I have seen positive results.

No, I am not symptom free, but I feel more well. I find my strength is lasting later into the day and I don’t tire quite as quickly. I am using my eye patch less often and have been able to do a bit more. My good days are a bit better and my bad days aren’t quite as bad. I see my naturopathic doctor in a week to have my  numbers reassessed and she will adjust my healing plan accordingly. The prayer is that my body will continue to strengthen and heal  as I wait for my neurologist appointment in May.

Thank you for the continued prayers, understanding, and support. They mean the world to me!

Spirit Week and other happenings…

Standard

This past week was Spirit Week for 21st Century Cyber Charter School. My three big kids had fun participating in this school-wide event. Each day had a different theme and the cyber students could take a picture of themselves dressed for that theme. They then had to email their photos in before lunch so that they could be posted in the afternoon for student voting. The students were able to vote for their favorite picture in each grade with winners to be announced later this week. The kids had fun participating in Spirit Week and getting creative with their photos.

The themes for the week included:

Future Career Day:

IMG_8522

Molly’s future will include working with animals.

 

P1050935

Gracie as a future teacher.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.55.48 AM 01 (1)

Rusty as a Disney World employee. A shout out to Miss Grace for her photo shopping skills which transported Rusty to Magic Kingdom!

 

Twin Day:

IMG_0326

Bring Your Pet to School Day:

img_7296

Gracie’s submission.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.59.19 AM

Rusty’s submission

 

Throwback Thursday:

P1050950

Gracie circa 2005.

 

IMG_8863

Molly circa 2003

 

21CCCS Spirit Day:

attachment;jsessionid=abcLksy9cyo22aVnvIbqv

This week Tyler started occupational therapy at Bright Beginnings, the same place Ozzie goes for OT. About a month ago we had Tyler assessed to see if there was an underlying reason for his handwriting struggles. While very adept at large motor functions he struggles with small motor function, namely cutting, writing legibly, and drawing simple, basic figures. After the occupational therapist ran a series of assessment tests she concluded that he would benefit from occupational therapy. This Wednesday was his first session. He will be seeing the OT during the half hour slot before Ozzie’s weekly appointment. Ozzie has made a lot of progress with Mandy so we are eager to see what help she can offer Tyler.

IMG_0381 (2)

This week was taekwondo testing for Rusty, Grace and Ozzie. All three were testing to see if they were ready to advance to the next belt rank. Part of taekwondo testing involves having to break a board. Gracie had to beak her board with a hammer fist. Ozzie had to break his board using a palm heel strike. Rusty had to break his board using a turning jumping roundhouse into a palm heel strike.

IMG_0328

All three were successful and all three passed their testing and will advance to the next belt. Grace is now a yellow strip belt, Ozzie is an orange belt, and Rusty is a brown belt.

Spring has fled Western Pennsylvania. Gone are the 68 degree temperatures and instead we have been waking to this view out the window:

IMG_0508.JPG

I love snow. I love to spend January snowed in and hibernating, but snow in April…not so much. Come on Spring, we are ready for your arrival!!

On Saturday both girls were running in separate directions. Molly was asked to babysit through her MOPS babysitting connections and Grace was asked to teach at a special 11/12 year old girls activity at church. Her class was one of four that the girls were rotating through. She built her lesson around a princess theme as she taught the girls about their Heavenly worth as  daughters of a Heavenly King.

As part of the lesson she had prepared she wanted to make crowns for each of the 52 girls that were planning to attend. On Friday night we all pitched in to help her cut out 50 crowns.

IMG_0504IMG_0505

On Saturday Grace drove herself to the event but I was able to get a picture of her before she left the house,

IMG_0506

luckily I was able to snag a few pictures of this fun activity from a friend’s post. Gracie said it was a delightful group of girls and a fun event!

12931007_1157769994247342_6508964710533818726_n12963947_1157769887580686_5437767561622793815_n12998643_1157770284247313_8349415933826515774_n

And now I will conclude with three random pictures from this past week…

IMG_0452

Tyler asked Grace if he could paint her toe nails. She gamely agreed. I think he has a future in spa services. What do you think?!

IMG_0502

Winnie…aka Clark Kent.😉

12938319_1700256000256737_3425085951202499682_n

Co-op friends. I love this picture!

 

Today we begin PSSAs (state testing)…oh, joy!!

*insert sarcasm*

Wish us luck…