How Tall Am I? // Family Game Night [And A Giveaway!]

My husband and I put board games on our wedding registry. We took Boggle on our honeymoon [nerd alert :)]. We are big, big fans of board games. When we had kids, I just sort of assumed that as soon as they hit preschool age we’d be elbow-deep in Candy Land and Don’t Break The Ice. But wouldn’t you know it, my kids don’t like Candy Land. I figured we would just need to wait for them to get a little older and try again, but Landon’s occupational therapist said she thought board games would be a great way to get him used to having longer social interactions. So I went on the lookout for a board game that everyone in the family would like AND would hold the attention of my three-year-old autistic son. No big deal. ;)

Family Game Night

[She's celebrating a Sequence Letters victory a bit prematurely. Hehe.]

We already owned a game called Sequence Letters that we played during our “school” time with Lucy and she really enjoyed it. It’s a little much for Landon since he doesn’t know any letters yet, so I started looking at other games the company made to see if any looked appealing.

“How Tall Am I?” stood out because our kids [most kids] love to measure things. Any sort of thing. All the time.

How Tall Am I? // Pre-school Aged Family Game Night

The premise of the game is super easy and the included pieces are super cute. There’s a die to roll and it tells you which part of the body you get to pick that turn. You can mix and match the cardboard pieces to make some pretty silly characters.

How Tall Am I? // Pre-school Aged Family Game Night

We played this after dinner one night [don't mind the piles of real life in the background]. Landon made a police clown ballerina. Recently diagnosed with autism, it’s hard to keep him engaged during group play. He’d much rather play trains in his room. To help him not get frustrated and fixated on the pieces lining up and staying perfectly together, I put down a little piece of drawer liner.

How Tall Am I? // Pre-school Aged Family Game Night

Once everyone gets all the pieces needed and their characters assembled, you can measure to see who made the tallest form. When it’s just me and Lucy we also mix up the rules to try to get the shortest, or even a specific height.

How Tall Am I? // Pre-school Aged Family Game Night

We did some guessing on how tall our characters would measure in her science notebook and she drew out the figure and the ruler. We even got to talk about different standards of measure since the ruler has inches on one side and centimeters on the other.

How Tall Am I? // Pre-school Aged Family Game Night

I can’t recommend this game enough. Anything that can engage two preschoolers without any fighting is a winner. Each round takes somewhere around five minutes for the four of us to play so it’s quick enough that no one feels like they’re waiting “forever” for their turn to come around again. I bought ours off amazon, but liked the game [and the company] so much I decided to ask them to sponsor a giveaway so that one of you could have your own “How Tall Am I?”! And they said yes!

To enter the giveaway, share this post via your favorite social media outlet . Then come back here and leave a comment telling me where you shared it and your email. If you share it two places, leave two comments. I’ll leave the giveaway open for a week and then use a random number generator to pick a winner!

How Tall Am I? // Preschool-Aged Family Game Night

Disclaimer: I purchased this game on my own and loved it so much I decided to ask the company, JAX games, if they’d like to give one away. The opinions on the game are all mine.

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Family Pictures 2014

When you have three kids ages four and under, some times family pictures means running out into a field before the sun sets and taking a hundred or so pictures in 13 minutes until your son poops his pants, thus concluding the photo shoot.

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Some times there’s not one picture of everyone looking and your sweet husband photoshops them together for you.

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With her prince.

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Just before he squeezed his brother’s hurt finger. You can guess how that went. #thirdkidproblems

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Her sweet smile.

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How she wanted to smile.

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My love.

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Who needed convincing that our pose did not look like a prom picture.

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Hubba hubba.

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Stud baby.

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For real.

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Blue eyes.

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Heart explosion.

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Double heart explosion.

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And just for good measure, how about some outtakes?

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[should have known. ;)]

Thanks Mimi, for the pictures. For capturing beautiful moments in our crazy, messy, beautiful lives.

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For comparisons, sake: 2012 family photos.

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Autistic Days

Landon just wrapped up his first month of school. It’s been interesting, to say the least. We wrestled so much with the idea of sending him to school. We wrestled so much with the autism diagnosis. We even wrestled with the idea of having a kid in special ed. But he’s in school. And in class with two other autistic kids. And I think he’s doing great. Funny how that works.

Today was a very “autistic” day for him. I think that’s one of the reasons we really dragged our heels on believing the doctors’ diagnoses: we said he’s not autistic, he just has autistic days.

On an autistic day he might wake up scared and disoriented. He might try to order himself by piecing together intricate train lines circling around his room. I’ll try to get him to eat breakfast but he won’t. Sometimes it feels like he can’t hear well because he’s so good at tuning me out. I ask him a few times to get dressed before I have to dress him like you would a baby. He has low muscle tone and his joints are so loose. He’s also double-jointed all over and it all just makes him a bit floppy. Limb by limb, we will prevail.

I talk to him about what we’re doing. He really likes pre-warnings. That’s therapy speak for telling him what we’re going to do next. We even have to do it for which side of his mouth we’re going to brush first or he’ll bite down on the toothbrush and not let go. We’re almost finished getting dressed when I see that he’s already brought the shoes he wants to wear today over. He is very particular about his shoes. And apparently a ninja because I never saw him grab them.

Sometimes I wonder what he thinks of me rushing him. He can get so caught up in his own little world. In his world it doesn’t matter if you’re late to school or have food all over your face. Some days it doesn’t even matter if you have an accident in your pants. But it does matter if someone else touches a piece of train track. Or changes the order of the cars you lined up.

When we leave for school it’s very upsetting that Chuck left some shoes on the stoop! And they got rain in them!! After we work through that, it’s time to walk to the van. To do that we have to walk down the sidewalk to the street. He’ll start a few times and go back and start over until he gets the cracks lined up with his steps just right. At the end of the sidewalk, it’s important that no one try to hold his hand in the street. Just this street, he’ll hold your hand anywhere else. Then it’s time to walk along the crack where old asphalt meets new. He’ll stop to say, “OoooOooh.” And point at the crack to which you must reply [any reply will do]. Then he’ll keep walking. He walks into the driveway and rubs along the side of the van with the right side of his body. Just a bit of proprioceptive input before we get in the car. And a bit of road dust.

One morning the walk to the car didn’t go as planned. I didn’t realize about the asphalt crack and when I tried to put him in the car he went into panic mode and kicked me in the face. My neighbor looked rather distraught and said, “Now, you need to be a good boy for your mama.” We had to get out of the van and do the walk to the car again. But it didn’t help. The walk was already messed up. So I wrestled him into the car. I’m positive it looked the same as if you attempted to put skinny jeans on a wet pig. But we got it. There was wailing. Huge crocodile tears swam down his cheeks. And off we drove to school.

School is three-quarters of a mile from our house. A left turn, a right turn, a left turn, and another right. It’s close. I got to school and tried to brush the dirt from the wrestling match off my jeans/arms/face. Literal dirt, Jay-Z. I open the door on Landon’s side and… he smiles at me. I unbuckle him and he hops down and grabs my hand. We walk to class and he greets his classmates with a “HiiiiIIIIIiiiii.” Whatever it was is forgotten.

I hold on to his backpack, not sure if I should warn his teacher about the rough start to his morning. I watch as he walks over to a table in the middle of the classroom and uses a chair to climb and stand on top of it. His teacher patiently walks over and says, “Landon. Tables are not for standing. We need to be safe friends. Safe friends sit at the table.”

Leaving the classroom, I feel a wave of relief followed by a wave of guilt. I have three hours to do the tasks that are harder to do when Landon is around. I can let my patience guard down a little. And then I feel the guilt.

They say parents of autistic children show three types of guilt: First, most parents pick themselves apart to see which autistic behaviors came from them. “Oh, I am a bit OCD at times.” “I have to force myself to look people in the eyes; it’s not a natural thing to do.” We think back to our pregnancies and deliveries and try to flesh out anything that might have been unusual. We scour our family trees to see if there’s a genetic lineage. Second, there’s the guilt that we’re not doing enough. 25-40 hours of therapy a week is recommended. We are doing 12 hours at school and about 2 at home. We’re working on getting on a couple of waiting lists for some private therapies. By some standards, we’re failing. How much of our monthly budget should we commit to co-pays? Should we start saving for an iPad for him to use for an augmentative and alternative communication device? Did I spend enough time with the other kids? The third guilt is the guilt I feel when I leave Landon at school and head home for three hours. The relief to know that the baby won’t be screamed at. Relief of not having someone follow me around hugging my leg and leaning against me with all of their weight. Oh my gosh, the guilt of complaining about my sweet precious boy hugging me. It could choke me. But it doesn’t.

When we go to pick Landon up we watch while he sits on a tricycle in the gym, away from all the other kids. Away from the kid who’s rolling a grape between his fingers mere inches from his face. He’s trying to follow the lines of the floor tiles while he pushes it along. He doesn’t like the pedals. He can’t figure them out just yet. Sometimes when he sees us he gets a worried look on his face because he hasn’t finished following the line yet and the teacher’s aide is walking over with his backpack. On the good days when he sees us he smiles. He has the best smile.

When we walk outside a plane flies overhead and even though it’s high in the air, the noise startles him and he covers his ears. But he loves planes and after the initial shock we can point at it and say “aiiiih-yah.” It took a long time for him to point at things. I try not to take that simple gesture for granted. When you go through a long and hard journey to get something simple, sometimes it’s easy to downplay just how much work it was. I’ve been labeling everything in my life for the last two years. Lately we’ve been labeling it and then trying to translate it to sounds Landon can say. “Van. vAh. Door! Doh. Landon up. Up! Arms. Ah! Time to buckle! Buh-oh. Bye bye school. Buh buh OOooo.”

When we get home if I don’t engage him, he will go to his room and shut his door to play trains. It’s almost scary to me how comfortable he is alone in his room with the door closed, but I wonder if that’s only because it’s been approximately four years since I used the potty by myself.

On bad days he doesn’t want to make the right sounds. He chooses an “easy” sound and repeats it. All day. Sometimes he only repeats it to me: “Do you want a sandwich for lunch? Bah.” Sometimes he stands in the middle of the kitchen turning in circles repeating the sound, “Bahbahbahbahbahbahbahbahbahbahbahbah.” I never know how many repetitive things I should let him do. That seems like a pretty safe one so I let him go for a couple minutes and then ask him if he wants to wear his vest.

The vest is amazing. It’s a weighted proprioceptive vest. He loves it. I think, to him, it feels like a tight hug the whole time he’s wearing it. And the weight makes his joints feel less wobbly. It doesn’t hurt that it makes him look like he’s a member of an elite S.W.A.T. team. We all love the vest. Recently we added a weighted blanket for nap-time and a weighted lap pad to try to help him sit at the table to eat. Sitting still is really hard! He has a hard time finishing meals because sitting still is so hard.

Autistic days are hard. But I’m thankful for them. And I’m thankful for days that are less autistic. I’m thankful that I get to spend so much of my time figuring out what makes Landon tick. Helping him cope with things that stress him out. Figuring out where the cracks in the asphalt are so that we can see new things together. I’m thankful that I get to be his mom. It’s a big responsibility to be in charge of someone so great. Someone with so much potential for greatness, primed to press positive change on the world.

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How To Gain Friends & Live Richly

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Two years ago today I started this blog. At the time I was looking for a place to keep up with the egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, and peanut-free recipes I was figuring out for Lucy. And let me tell you, I am humbly my blog’s most frequent visitor. It’s nice to be able to take the iPad into the kitchen and pull up a recipe I know we like [because gluten-free, vegan baking is hard, y'all].

 But some time in the last couple years, I began to share fewer recipes and more “stuff”. Our life is definitely messy beautiful. Last week I opened up about Landon’s autism diagnosis. Which even for me, the over-sharer, felt hard to do. Laying things out there certainly puts you in a place of vulnerability, but it also opens you up to richness. Which is why I can honestly talk about gaining friends and living richly.

Seven years ago God lead us to a new church. We’d been shuffling around quite a bit. We didn’t know what we were looking for but we knew we were searching. When we eventually landed at Citylights Church we were stunned by the seemingly immediate friendships we formed. These people, it seemed, were just completely interested in getting to know us. They expected nothing in return. Our first few months at the church, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a weekend night free with all of the dinner invitations. It was a widespread hospitality we’d never experienced. And it was intoxicating… in a good way.

Through the community of believers we’ve met at our church, we’ve gained so many friends who enrich our lives. They have been with us through the births of three babies [and fed us during the sleep-deprived months that followed]. They’ve continued to share their lives with us. To seek out relationships that go beyond the “what’s going on in your life?’ questions and moved to “what’s going on in your heart?”.

So instead of sharing my heart and being worried about what others might think, I shared something hard and immediately felt a sense of relief. When we’re honest with our struggles, others can sense that realness. They’re drawn to it. Friendships are formed. Deep and rich friendships.

And tonight, when I heard a message from 2 Corinthians 13:11 [ESV]:

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

I couldn’t help but feel a rush of gratitude. It’s not our specific church that gave us this life we appreciate so much, it’s being a part of a community that’s intentionally pursuing real, honest relationships that are grounded in the love of Christ. It’s calling upon the strength of God rather than depending on ourselves. A glory-strength:

“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul- not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. [Colossians 1: 9-14 MSG]“

So instead of the last few weeks feeling like a haze of autism books, google searches, medical questionaires, and appointment bookings- there’s been a peace [don't get me wrong: there was also a lot of googling]. And this crazy joy that comes from being known and knowing prayers are being prayed over you. And goodness, I felt it.

 

Do You Have Autism? Yes or No?

Lucy knows Landon is different. She knows he doesn’t speak yet. So she sweetly asks him hundreds of questions each day in the same format:

“Landon do you want orange juice? Yes or no?”
“Landon do you want your grey shoes? Yes or no?”
“Landon are you taking Monkey to school today? Yes or no?”
“Landon will you play with me? Yes or no?”

All day.

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At the beginning of June, Landon had a pretty intense evaluation by the school district to see which services he would qualify for when he graduated out of the early intervention program and came under their care. We were shocked by the results, and most shocked by the analysis that he was in the “clinically significant” range for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism wasn’t even on my radar. I’m ashamed to admit that when I thought of autism, I thought of the most severe and extreme cases of kids totally absent-looking, banging their heads on the walls. That’s not my kid. He loves people. Sometimes he loves them so much it hurts…

So I started this list. And I thought, ‘I’m going to make a list of Landon’s quirky behaviors and it will prove that all the things he does are just normal three-year-old things.’ And then I filled up the front and back of a piece of paper. Seriously? I started questioning every thing I was feeling. What was causing me to press so hard against this?

Armed with the school district’s assessment and my list, I took Landon to his three-year well check. The poor, sweet nurse practitioner who asked, “So how is everything going with Landon?”

“Well, sometimes he does things that are sort of weird. And maybe some of the weird things that he does are getting a little more weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, last week I was outside grilling. I knew the grill was hot so I made sure to talk to Landon about it and why he shouldn’t touch it. I made him say hot ["ho, ho"]. I went in to get the food I was grilling and left him outside with my husband. When I came back, both hands full of food, he gingerly walked over to the grill and pressed his hands against it. He never screamed or cried, he only tried to rub the heat off when his skin began to blister.”

“That’s pretty alarming. Anything else?”

“Well, he likes to scream at his baby brother to watch him cry. It does not feel like menacing behavior, just exploratory. He builds elaborate train tracks in his room and gets mad if anyone tries to put actual trains on them. Actually, I made a whole list of unusual behaviors. Do you want to see it?”

“I think I’ve heard enough to know we need to consult someone with a little more expertise.”

And with that I left the appointment with a list of neurologists to consult 

If you’ve never thought of autism in the United States as an epidemic, you’ve never tried to get an appointment with a doctor specializing in diagnosing it. Wow. Three months. Six months. Every time we made a call, the waiting lists grew longer. We heard the importance of early intervention and we heard the hold music. Both lingering ominously.

When we finally did get Landon tested, he did quite well. Autism tests were made for him: they’re play-based with only adults in the room. No other kids to fend off. There are snacks! And bubbles! He did well yet the doctor still said he had autism! How dare her! And then she began to talk “intensive therapy sessions”.

I left feeling like the only thing the doctor had proved was that he doesn’t have autism. He is a little puzzling. His receptive language is excellent. He’s funny. He LOVES hanging out with adults. Food is the way to his heart. He did great. Let’s get a second opinion.

We found another doctor. Very fancy titles. Professor at a very fancy university. If you leave a message with his office, he will call you back on Monday. He only makes calls on Monday. If you miss his call, you have to hope to catch him the next Monday. We missed his call. When we finally talked, he had the audacity to say it sounded like a severe spectrum disorder. It’s not severe. You haven’t met him. Everyone loves him. Severe?

During this time Landon started school. By God’s grace and divine intervention, his sweet teacher is amazing. VERY qualified. VERY educated. So I gave her a couple weeks to get to know Landon and then called.

“The neurologist said Landon has autism. Have you felt that to be accurate?”

“Well, I’m not one for labeling kids but I’m thankful to know you’ve been pursuing that for him because I’ve seen quite a few red flags during the first two weeks of school.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I actually have a son and grandson with autism so I feel very comfortable to judge it’s characteristics.”

” Oh really?”

“I would agree with your doctor’s diagnosis.”

“…Oh.”

Five professional opinions later [but seriously...] I’m the only one questioning whether or not my son has autism.

And then came that moment. Wondering why I was still shocked to hear it. What does it really change? It only means we’ll commit more time to his therapy.

It’s not the end of the world. And it actually explains a lot. And calms some of my anxiety to know we could be on a path towards healing. Autism can be overcome. We love him so much. It’s an honor to fight this with him.

I think I’m the one who needs to do the most changing right now. I need to stop asking over and over if they’re sure that they’re sure that they’re sure he has autism. I need to change the question. How do I help my son be the best version of himself?

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K4: First Week

I wanted to start out the week like I’d imagine most classroom teachers do: setting the schedule and expectations.

The general schedule for our week will be to fit in an hour of dedicated school time the four mornings a week Landon has school.

The first couple days were spent introducing Lucy to the workbooks we’re going to start out using. She shows such an aversion to all things written [as opposed to drawn] that I bought a couple of books below her skill level to boost her confidence.

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I also bought one of those packs of blank books at Target and we spent a couple days creating an “About Me” book for her. Here’s her family page where she intentionally left off her brothers. She told me later she’s okay having two little brothers, even if it means she has to keep her stuff picked up.

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The star of the week was this science kit I snagged on Amazon for $8. We did the first experiment where you mix citric acid and baking soda.

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She loved the measuring and quick reaction. We tried it with hot and cold water as well.

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We played a few games and lined the alphabet magnets up in order to clear out the summer fog.

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If you want to get my daughter to sit still for extended periods of time, this fashion drawing pad I got her seems to be magic.

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doll fashion girl had *quite* a few updates this week.

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For anyone with a creative kid who makes you more treasures than you could ever hope to keep, I highly recommend going to blog route. We tried out the artkive app and liked it okay but I had to email the creations when I uploaded them. This way Lucy can go back and check out her work and I don’t feel bad about sending out 15 emails on a particularly creative day.

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Lucy Lately

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Me: “Lucy, you need to get your attitude in check.”
Lu: “Okay, Mama, my attitude is on crack.”

[filling up ice trays]
Lu: “Why are you making icebergs?”

“You know that yesterday a long time ago?”

“Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree. Oh how you make me royalty.”

[She has a hard time with cliche-type phrases.]
Let the show be on. 
Let’s put this party on the road. 
That ice cream really hit the day. 
Did you grow up on a farm!? [Were you raised in a barn?]
Okay, people, I want all your eyeballs on me. 

Oh no my arms are stuck. You have to stay in my bed all night. Okay you can go. If you turn on my nighttime song and don’t make too much noise, I’ll let it slip. 

Landon presses the button and the Siri double beep sounds. 
“He’s talking to that robot that you guys talk to sometimes.”

Siri: “I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a little while.”

Knock, knock. 
Who’s there?
Candy Crush!
Candy Crush who?
Candy Crush Baker!

Lu: “I am a magic wish-granting fairy; what do you wish?”
Me: “I wish for a house that always stays clean.”
Lu: “Can you wish a fun wish? Like, ‘I wish Lucy never had to play alone?’ You know, like a kid wish I can give with the dip of my wand.”

Lu: “Mom. Do you want to play destiny unicorn princess? It’s only for superhero girls but you’re on the guest list.”

Lu: “This is the sword of destiny!! [Holds up Dora the Explorer hockey stick.] … Ooooh. A rainbow.”

Lu: “You’re a mom, so that means you can do anything. Right?”

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1st Day of School 2014

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Lucy’s first day included a trip to the dentist. Whoops.

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All business.

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LJB blooper reel.

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So sweet.

Talking To My Four-Year-Old About Ferguson

I live 5.5 miles from the QT that burned down this week. “My” Target became the staging area for the armored tactical units used throughout the week. When I turn on the news and see places so near my home in what looks like a war zone, my heart sinks.

It’s hard to describe what St. Louis is all about to someone who doesn’t live here. There aren’t words to describe the beautiful diversity that spreads across this city. But, like most cities across our country, it’s broken. There’s heartache and mistrust. There are undertones that have been highlighted this week, magnified even. And it’s close. It’s so close. Close to my home. Close to my heart.

I’ve spent this week trying to figure out how to talk to Lucy about it. I think it’s important that she understand it as much as a four-year-old can. I want to open a dialogue so that if she has a question, she can ask me. It’s our job to raise our children as citizens who understand words like equality, justice, and racism. I don’t want to wait for her to hear them from someone else.

So we talked.

Me: “Hey Lucy. Do you think there’s anything different about our family and Ms. Tracie (Landon’s OT) or Amani (her favorite babysitter)?”
Lucy: “No.”
Me: “Hm. Well have you ever noticed that their skin looks different from ours?”
Lucy: “I guess it is a little different.”
Me: “But that doesn’t change who they are as people you love, does it?”
Lucy: “No!”
Me: “Do you think they’re beautiful?”
Lucy: “Oh yes. I loooooooove Amani’s hair.”
Me: “Their skin is different because people whose grandparents come from different parts of the world have different colored skin, hair, and eyes. We wouldn’t want everyone to look exactly the same, would we?”
Lucy: “No, Mom. I like it.”
Me: “People in our city are upset right now because there are people who treat others different because of the color of their skin, and that’s not something we like. There’s this thing called equality that we believe in, because everyone should be treated fairly. Jesus wants us to love everyone. Understand?”
Lucy: “Yes, Mudder.” [Which is what she calls me when she wants me to leave her alone.]

I have a business degree. I have no background in counseling. Honestly, I don’t know if I did it exactly right. But I did go into the conversation with a few goals.

We can’t tell our kids that race doesn’t matter. To me, that’s like saying Catholicism doesn’t matter because we aren’t Catholic. I wanted her to understand that people are different, but diversity is beautiful. Roots and heritage are amazing, and something to take pride in.

I wanted her to realize there were people in her life already with different colored skin. I honestly don’t think she’d thought much about it. And then I prayed for all of the children who notice that much sooner. Because it does impact their daily lives. And it does impact the way others treat them.

But I love that it wasn’t an issue for her, so I tried to keep the conversation short enough that I didn’t make it into an issue. I love that we live in such a diverse area that she doesn’t find it strange to be around others who are different from her- and that she even finds herself in the minority often.

There are so many facets to this story. There are facts we don’t now and may never know. But I think it’s a great opportunity to talk about the bigger issues it raised. There’s a lot to pray for, but I pray most that we become a community bonded stronger rather than torn apart.

I want her to understand beauty and love. Those are the things I want her to spread. There’s so much beauty here. And we have so much love to share.

Our School “Plans” 2014-2015

If there’s one thing almost five years of parenting has taught me, it’s the need for flexibility. Flexibility is definitely the name of the game this fall.

If you’ll remember, last year we expressed a desire to be a homeschooling family. We still have that desire, but we also have some other factors to consider. I think we’ve talked about Landon’s challenges before so I won’t rehash them here, but I will say that his third birthday has been extremely bittersweet. Turning three means he graduates out of his early intervention program that has been supplying speech and occupational therapies to him for the last 14 months. His services will now be supplied by our county’s special education program. In order to make that transition, we had to first have an evaluation. I talked about that evaluation a bit here, but I’ll summarize that the results were a bit surprising for us. We had assumed we would be taking him to our school district’s early childhood center for speech therapy to supplement the tot school we are doing at home. We went to Landon’s first IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting with that in mind, where it was instead recommended that he go to the early ed center for three hours a day, four days a week exclusively in a special ed classroom. We left that meeting feeling rather shocked. We’d been told his therapists didn’t think he would qualify for much, but instead he qualified for the most intensive, maximum amount of therapy available. We asked the opinion of the therapists who have come to know and care for Landon over the last 14 months and they said they thought he would benefit from going to the early childhood special education (ECSE) preschool. After an incredible amount of prayerful consideration, we signed him up. We don’t want our desire to homeschool to impede upon what’s best for our children.

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So here’s Landon when we walked over to his new school to register him this week. I’m really not sure how he’s going to do, honestly. I’m really not sure how I’m going to do, honestly. It’s hard having a child with extra needs. It’s hard when he fights me on everything [going potty, eating breakfast, wiping his face, getting dressed, going potty, sharing toys, not running into the street, not wanting to walk in the grass, wanting to eat leaves, riding in his car seat, not rubbing against the car, holding my hand in parking lots... You get the idea]. It’s hard to think of him needing something and being unable to express himself to someone trying to take care of other special needs children at the same time. And I know these are just mom worries. I know he’ll be fine. But it makes my heart hurt a little. And I might have started balling last week when a school bus drove down our street.

So that changed our “plans” for this year. We’ll continue to do Parents as Teachers with Cohen. We’ll have a pretty set schedule of taking Landon to school Monday through Thursday. And I’ve got big plans for Lucy.

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And she deserves it. The thing all of the wonderful support and intervention programs we’ve been a part of fail to help with is the sibling support. I asked her if she was jealous that Landon will go to a “real” school and she said, “No! I’m glad he’s going so that you and I can do big kid school and he won’t mess it up!” Ugh…

Last year we started the year doing a themed letter of the week concept for tot school. We got to ‘N’ and she said, “Mom, I know my letters, I like it better when we play games.” Well, okay then.

We had a few decisions to make regarding what level we wanted to start her at. Every kid is so different and learns so differently. So I’d say we’re starting out on a K4 level. She’s crazy smart but sometimes things look backwards to her and she’d rather spend her time playing  and imagining things. So I’m trying to pull something together that’s catered just to her. I have hopes that it will be heavy on the play-based learning, gentle on the standards-based skills, and light on the worksheets– you know all while being relatively inexpensive and not requiring too much of my time to plan or put together. No big deal…

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