Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

Taking Time

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When I was in Texas, I attended a workshop led by Dr. Keri Riggs on the importance of creativity, play, and fun and it was pretty mind-blowing. Life today is so fast-paced – there are always errands to run, things to clean, chores to do, calls to make, emails to answer, appointments to go to – that it feels like we are on a never-ending conveyor belt of things to do. Billy and I have been trying to reshape our lifestyle into one that does allow more time for fun and play and creativity, but sometimes we are not successful. We can get mired in all the minutiae of the life just as quickly as not. Finding the balance is hard!

Dr. Riggs asked us all to think of a time that we had fun, just really let go and had fun. And to think about what play meant to us. For me, that means many different things, as I am sure it does to most of you as well. Reading and writing, being out in nature, being with my friends at book club, laughing with my family about something or other, practicing yoga. Then Dr. Riggs asked about what gets in the way – and I am sure my list is again, the same as many of you all, all of the things I mentioned above. I also realized that for me too, that I can “Chevy Chase” a moment, that I have really high expectations of how I want and expect something to be, that I have a hard time being in the moment 100%, as I try to manage it so that my family has a perfect outing or moment. And I need to realize it doesn’t need to be that way sometimes. I need to step outside of that idea, and just be.

We also talked about what we can do to try to help us make the time for ourselves – we all know and have heard how important “self-care” is for us by now. And self-care can be just a small little thing too – a piece of that special candy you love and don’t treat yourself to, for example.  For we also learned, a treat is self-care – if it is something you do all the time, it doesn’t count, because it doesn’t actually affect your brain the same way as treating yourself. So it is important to switch it up! If you buy a big box of Godiva and eat a piece of everyday, it is no longer special right? It is there and you can have it whenever you want. And it loses that magic. So we have to make sure we switch it up sometimes.

A few suggestions I took from the workshop that I feel I can actually use are very simple – make a list and put things on the calendar. My very organized brain loves these ideas. Have you ever had time to yourself where you were completely overwhelmed by the fact you had some time, and then didn’t know what to do? (This also sort of happens to me in a book store – too many options and I can’t choose!) Dr. Riggs suggested making a list of fun or self-care type things that you would enjoy, then when you get 30 minutes, etc look at your list and choose one! And the calendar thing – so important I think. It feels sort of like you shouldn’t need to schedule free time, but sometimes you do, at least until it becomes habit I think. I have to schedule in blogging or I wouldn’t get a chance. And when I don’t keep to my schedule, I never get to it! This is something I am urging my husband to do too – text his friends and set stuff up, put it on the calendar! I never miss a book club, and it is because it is scheduled. But this is just how things work for me, it might not be the thing for you, and if that is the case, find the way that works for you. Remember the things that make you smile, and restore your spirit and soul. Find the things that feel like play and fun, and do them.

Right before I left on my trip, I texted my husband that when he got home from work, we were going to go on a picnic, even though rain was in the forecast. We kept it extremely simple – we picked up pizza rolls and cookies from the bakery and headed to a local metropark. Due to the weather, we had the place to ourselves, and it was a wonderful way to spend an hour or two. We opened up the hatch of our SUV and piled into the back together, watching the rain roll in, as the wind blew our hair around. Wyatt absolutely loved it, I loved it, Billy loved it. We were safe and warm and cozy, eating our cookies while the weather was a little wild, just out of reach. We got to see deer and have a priceless moment together, really. It was after work and we had dishes in the sink and laundry to do and I needed to pack and it was probably later than Wyatt needed to be out by the time we got home, but..it was worth it. And Wyatt was fine and everything got done eventually.

What about you? What kinds of things restore you? What do you do to make time for them?

Spring Break Staycation

Last week was my son’s spring break from preschool, and for the first time in a very long time, Wyatt and I found ourselves looking at a week that didn’t have any doctor’s appointments, therapy (usually three times a week), school, or even work for me, as my boss (and cousin lol) was on a family trip for their spring break. I had planned at first to work on some potty training for my little CP warrior since we had all week to do it, uninterrupted. But, this kid works so hard, you guys. So hard all the time. So, I changed my mind. I was taking advantage of this wonderful gift of time, and letting Wyatt just be a kid.

We spent a lot of time outside – the weather was amazing, spring making its way to the Mitten state, finally! We took lots of walks, had picnics in the yard, ate lots of ice cream, practiced pedaling on the tricycle, and just lots of “play momma, play”.

We also went on a “zoofari” together. We picked three animals to go find at the zoo and then went and found them! He picked the zebra and giraffe, I picked the otters, one of my favorites – although Wyatt picked my other favorite, the zebras! He loves the giraffes, and I found out last night that his cousin does too!

We planted a few seeds for our garden – moon and star watermelon, cinnamon basil, and lettuce. We were also really excited to find a new friend, a neighborhood groundhog that we have named Stan. He lives under these steps of a church, and is always just hanging out on his porch. We would go check on him everyday, of course hanging back to not disturb him or interfere with him.

I even managed to get some adult time in! I had book club with my buddies, and then Billy and I reconnected with a friend who we were so close with for years and years, and then kind of fell out of touch for a bit. We met for dinner and it was like time had never passed since our last visit together.

It was a very full and wonderful week, full of lots of good times, laughter, friends, and just all those moments that make up life, everyday.

 

A Flight to the North Pole

Last Friday, Wyatt was given an opportunity to “fly to the North Pole.” It was definitely an amazing experience, one that we will never forget. 

All week I had been telling him about how we were going to fly to the north pole and see Santa, so he was pretty excited when we arrived. And just like any other flight, we had to check in for our boarding pass. I loved that even the monitors said that we were checking in for the North Pole! And Wyatt looks cute and tiny sitting there waiting for his ticket. Lol. 

There was an orchestra playing, decorations everywhere, and Wyatt was grinning from ear to ear as we moved to the next phase of our day. We had to check in with the event, where they gave him a sweatshirt, and a name tag, which reminded me of Paddington Bear, that hung around his neck. There was more music being played here, with people in costumes greeting the kids and entertaining everyone until we moved to the security line. We did have to go through security, as we were getting on a real plane and would be in the terminal. This was the only part that gave me some anxiety – because Wyatt was in a wheelchair they moved him to the other side of the gate – without me! I was very nervous about my kiddo being left there without me, and I asked the TSA agent to please make sure he didn’t wheel away. Wyatt didn’t take off but he did try, that little monkey! 

Once we were through and I could breathe again, we were zoomed off by an elf to the terminal to wait for our plane. This area had clowns handing out balloons and playing games, and the flight crew was on hand to greet all the children. This, I think, was Wyatt’s favorite. He was in awe of the pilot and co-pilot. They gave him some little wings, which was pretty cool too. Finally, our plane arrived taxied up and we were ready to board our flight!

It is all very choreographed and efficient, so things are kept moving, partly because small children are not usually super patient. So I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but I did capture a few moments. Wyatt was also obsessed with the seat belt. I ended up keeping him on my lap, seat belted in. And then, we “took off”! The plane in reality taxied around for about an hour, and even gathered some serious speed to mimic take off. We had to leave the window shades down though, to maintain the illusion for the kids- which was a battle between me and my son, who kept wanting to open it. Lol. On our flight we were served lunch, and the elves sang carols. It was a great time, and Wyatt loved the music, and the actual plane itself. Once we landed, we were whisked away through the North Pole’s airport to “Santa’s castle”, or the hotel. Everything was decked out in Christmas decorations, cookies and candy and most importantly, coffee, lined the tables for us to snack on. Here they also had a show for the kids, of characters dressed up like superheroes who put on a mock battle, and Anna and Elsa were there singing all their songs. The kids were called up one by one to see the big man himself, and then – we went home! But not before we were given, literally, a sack of presents for the kiddo. 

The generosity of the donors and volunteers that put this day on was immeasurable. The time, the planning, the gifts, the people from the hotel to the Silverliners who organized it, to Delta Airlines who flew the plane – it was an absolutely perfect, amazing, one of a kind day.

Here is a link to a local news story about it! See if you can spot us!

Dino-Might!

I love dinosaurs. I always have. I used to dream about being a paleontologist when I was a kid, but then realized I was better at words than math. I have a love for the sciences even though I am not great at them, and I want to pass this along early to my son. I started collecting dinosaur crafts and projects and coloring books and all sorts of fun things to do with him in July, which I deemed would now be known as Dino-month.

So I was super excited when I saw that a nearby indoor playscape/preschool/wellness center was having a drop in class for preschoolers and toddlers all about dinosaurs!! There would be songs and stories and sensory bins and a craft – all for $12! I was so excited to take Wyatt. I knew he would love it. Then I realized…I would have to socialize too! My biggest nightmare as an introvert super shy momma, is interacting with other parents. But, like we push our kids to move past their fears, so must we as parents push past ours. And it is good for us to get out of our comfort zones too – I need to grow and move forward as well. So, this was it for me. Wyatt needs to do this sort of thing, it is so good for all kids to interact with their peers and all that, and especially for Wyatt. As a kid with some developmental disabilities due to his CP, he picks up a lot of language and movement by being around other kids. So, it was time for this momma to toughen up and go talk to some strangers! Lol.

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I had this super cute outfit laid out for him to wear – but then it got breakfast on it and had to be changed. Note to self: put cute outfit on preschooler after he eats..

We finally rolled up to the place, which was in the middle of an adorable neighborhood. I was feeling nervous, made worse when I walked right in to the end of the baby and mom yoga class that was before the Jurassic Wonders class. But the yogi (whom I actually knew, I met her when our husbands worked together years ago) is a sweet welcoming soul who made me feel less awkward and less like bolting back out the door. Wyatt and I took a seat and waited for the class to clear out then I put him down to explore. The place, Nature’s Playhouse, was super accessible and I totally loved its vibe. Natural materials, solid and sturdy wooden toys everywhere, tables scattered about, puzzles, a rocking board. I felt like I was in a kid’s secret fort. Wyatt dug it, and enjoyed that shoes weren’t supposed to be worn in that room, since he hates wearing shoes. He had a big grin on his face the whole time we were there.

As the rest of the parents and kids trooped in, we circled up with our kids for story time  and songs. Afterwards, there were two sensory areas, an area with dinosaur books to flip through, including a cool one with different textures to touch, and the craft, which was painting a dinosaur with sponges and paint. Wyatt and I started with the painting, getting the messiest out of the way first.

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I think he did a great job! After that we headed over to the sifting through the sand bin, where the kids used paintbrushes to brush away the sand to find the dinosaur stickers hidden under the sand. Wyatt seriously loved this the best. Most of the other kids liked the area where you dug through beans and did some pouring and jazz, but Wyatt liked the sand area. We happily played over there, I made awkward (on my end) conversation with another mother, then, it was time to go! The class passed by super quickly.

I am so glad that I went – Wyatt had a blast! I will have to watch for other classes that fit into our crazy life schedules, even if it is just to drop in and play. It is worth it for the big grin I saw on my son’s face the whole time we were there.

Walking back to the car, I noticed the sidewalk full of acorn hats, something I had missed on the way in. I stopped and picked one up. Acorns are special to our family, almost a talisman. My Wyatt is my acorn, my tiny boy – and like my grandma said, “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.”  Stumbling on these acorns was a reminder, I think, of how we all need to grow, to be strong and to be mighty..

I am looking forward to our next visit!

What Wyatt’s Reading/Book Haul : March

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I think this is really March part II, but oh well. Lol. Wyatt had a big book month! We are working on the 1000 books before Kindergarten challenge, which is fun for both of us! He absolutely loves books (like his mom!) This is what we read together this month, including books that he received for his birthday! (His own little book haul!)

 

Library List: Booboo by Olivier Dunrea, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. (not pictured Punk Farm)

Birthday Book Haul: Happy, Colorful World: Farm and Forest, Five Stinky Socks, Peep and Ducky Rainy Day, The Little Artists Collection, Seasons, Lift the Flap What Are Stars, and Big Fish Little Fish.

Wyatt’s Favorites: While he pretty much enjoyed them all, he absolutely loved Booboo, The Little Artists Collection (which we have to take with us everywhere), and of course, Five Stinky Socks. To Wyatt, there is nothing funnier on the planet than stinky feet and socks. So that book is one we read over and over. And over. As long as he is listening and loving it though, I will read it as many times as he wants. And Booboo – Wyatt is working on developing language skills, and he immediately said Booboo after reading this book. And would ask for it to be  read again, by name! This was huge for us. Words and sounds are coming faster these days – reading is so good for developing speech, so we make sure to read at least a few books together everyday. We will meet that 1000 book goal sooner than we think!

And if anyone wants to know my favorites from here, I loved Happy by Emma Dodd, The First Sticker Book Nature, and Paul Bunyan. My husband and I love the tall tale of Paul Bunyan, his ox, and those giant pancakes. Happy just makes me happy! Such a sweet book, great for cuddling and reading before bedtime. And the sticker book is amazing! I was so impressed by how cool the stickers look honestly. It is very well done. And seriously, who doesn’t love stickers?

We are already hard at work (hardly work, more like) on our April reading!

A Rainy Day Remembering

It has been raining here all week. Combine that with my husband working 15 hour days everyday, and  I have had lots of time for reflection. Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional plea also got my mind to wandering, remembering the time when my own little guy was in the NICU.

The day W. was transferred to Children’s Hospital from the NICU at the hospital where he was born, another baby went too. Another little boy, born much earlier in his gestation, only 25 weeks, and who was even smaller than my small fry, who only weighed 2lbs 15 oz. Baby A was so tiny, just across the room from my boy, a few short steps.

He left for Children’s first, his father’s tired face, full of worry, fear, sadness, yet resolute, strong, for his child, his boy. The same things I saw reflected in the face of my husband, as he made his own walk down the hall next to the large life sustaining machine our doll size son occupied. Both fathers accompanied their boys. The moms, me, and Baby A’s mom, were left behind, to stay another night, alone on a floor filled with happy mothers and fathers and babies. My own father ended up staying the night with me that night, sleeping in a chair next to my bed. The next morning my mom arrived, and I cried in her arms for the first time since they took my son away.

At Children’s, this little boy was still just a few steps from W., right across the aisle, their issoletes facing one another while their small occupants dozed and fought on.  Life in this particular NICU was like being in a fishbowl. 6 babies, 6 beds, 6 families. Most of the time, it was mostly Baby A’s mother and me sitting bedside. Despite so many babies in such a small space, communication is discouraged, for privacy reasons. Even these smallest patients are covered by HIPAA, and while it is isolating, it is still better than finding people circle around your baby’s bed. In reality though, we still all knew what was going on- when doctors do rounds 6 inches from you, it is hard not to overhear things. We knew Baby A had heart problems, just like they knew W. had brain bleeds and obstructive hydrocephalus.

We often ran into each other in the halls or on the way up or down, in the elevator, coming and going. We would exchange greetings, ask how each other sons were doing, cordial, friendly. We shared the fishbowl with them for two weeks, then W. was moved to another room, a step down room as his condition became less scary. We still saw Baby A’s parents in the halls, and would exchange greetings, but no longer were in such close proximity.

Then, one Saturday, alarm bells kept sounding, in the next room over. All day long, over and over, sending the NICU nurses running. Billy and I knew, somehow, that it was Baby A. We held our son and thought of the little boy fighting so hard in the next room, a battle so much bigger than himself. And by some sad twist of fate, his parents were not there that day. Not at all that day, after so many days and nights at his side. I desperately wished I could go and hold him, comfort him, but obviously, that couldn’t be.

After a few hours, there were no more alarms going off. No more mad scrambles to the room next door. And when Billy and I left for the night, we saw his mom and dad in the hall for the final time, talking with the doctors.

I think of them, and Baby A, often. Especially this time of year, around W.’s birthday, as the two would have been the same age. I think of his mother, his father. And I will never forget their little boy’s name.