talk to me, baby.

brothers

porch playing

thing 2

tunnel play

Milo’s speech and attention skills are still mystifying me.  We’re working with therapists and reading and researching, but I still haven’t unlocked the puzzle of what gives him a great day.  Going to daycare is a great help to me and I know he likes playing with his friends, but I’m starting to think that he needs even more structure than a daycare can provide.  I’m looking forward to the summer and really diving in to his rhythms.

It’s funny, when I first suspected that his speech was delayed, it was almost like I was humoring myself.  I didn’t truly believe in my core that there was THAT BIG a problem.  Then his evaluation highlighted sensory issues and attention problems and I thought “Oh no, you don’t really know my child.”  Now I feel like I’m the one who doesn’t know him.  All the tips and tricks from the therapists have changed a lot about how I view my day with Milo.  I’ve always loved that he is a huge ball of energy, but I now recognize that his bouts of silliness can spiral into a lack of control that he dislikes.  He can be screaming and kicking and I’ll hold him tight, strap him into his stroller, and I’ll watch him literally sigh in relief.  I’m recognizing where he wants me to reign him in.

I’m reading a lot about speech delays and “typical” development for kids his age.  Pinterest has pointed me to a few blogs written by speech therapists with young kids, and I checked a scary book out of the library called First Words: A Parent’s Step-by-Step Guide to Helping A Child with Speech and Language Delays.  I know that I need to honor all his ways of communicating, and give him more.  We use about three signs in the house right now, and I think Milo can’t get his point across with just those, so I plan on ramping up with new signs majorly over the next few months.  Our awesome therapist also suggested giving Milo more picture cues to help him communicate, focusing on rooms of the house, favorite snacks/toys, and even places we go.  Milo keep falling into the “more” trap- he can sign and say more, but more can mean literally ANYTHING to him (start eating, get picked up, watch TV, move to the playroom, get his Monka) and it’s lost meaning as a good way to communicate.  I had felt that using pictures was a good idea, but I also felt silly, like I was playing school with my little babies.  I need to trust my gut.

I’m going to “homeschool” this summer.  Milo is on a list for a twice-a-week playgroup for speech delayed toddlers, all run through my amazing state’s Early Intervention program, and if he gets in, he can stay in, with transportation included, even into the school year.  But I’m not going to sit waiting for that.  We have a great start of a playroom on the back porch, and I’m going to beef it up (we need fake food, a small table working at, a “comfy spot,” etc.) and make indoor/outdoor specific play part of every day.  We also plan on taking advantage of the Free Fridays this summer, and I’m going to plan out our weeks with a loose theme that leads up to the Friday field trip- animal games, animal books, animal sensory play, and animal puzzles all before we go to the zoo on Friday, for example.  We’re going to practice nursery rhyme songs and fingerplays.  We’re going to have snack and nap at a set time.  And I’m going to keep track of what Milo does in his binder where I store his therapy notes.

This feels kind of over the top (I dwell on the word “silly”) but I know in my heart that this structure and plan will help me a) keep my sanity and b) help Milo learn topics in a categorized manner, which is what all my reading has pointed to as a key to success.  The book reminded me that typically developing kids will get most of this stuff naturally, as a byproduct of living.  And some kids need more deliberate experiences.  I can give him that.

So that’s where I am right now.  I don’t have even a fraction of the answers, but I have a few tricks to try, and we’re going to make it really fun.  I can’t wait to see what clicks and mostly, I can’t wait to hang out with my favorite little friends all summer long.

Here are my Pinterest boards that are helping me plan: talk to me, baby and homeschool summer

June Bucket List // Countdown to REAL Summer

make it happen

For a lot of people, anything after Memorial Day is summer time.  Everyone starts talking about the beach and school finally being finished.  Those people don’t live in Massachusetts, where snow days pile up and the last day of school is somewhere in the June 27th range.  For all my teacher loves who aren’t on leave, I feel you.  I need to come and bestow spray bottles, freeze pops, and iced coffees upon your hardworking heads.  For my maternity-rocking self, this means I have one more month of childcare before I need to be ready with a solid summer routine.  This is a wishlist of things I want to do while I can still send Milo to his air conditioned funworld across the street.

1. Finish the boys’ nursery.

All the big pieces of furniture are in place, but there are a few more things I want to do to cozy up their little space.  I need to hang artwork and a shelf I painted, find some valences that are colorful, and I’d love to repaint the windowsills.

2. Set up a work space for myself.

I need a better place to organize my papers, hang a large calendar, and keep my laptop.  I have some projects that I’d really like to buckle down on, and I have no idea if a dedicated work area would be helpful, but I’d like to try.  This should be a one day project, tops.

3.  Buy a domain name, build up the aesthetics of my new project, and generate some material.

I’ve been thinking really hard about a project that I want to roll out for the beginning of July.  It’s something that I think I have the talent for, but I need to prove to myself that I have the drive and follow through.  Setting up a work space and possibly work hours might help me towards achieve this.  This is my greatest hope for the month of June.

4.  Take Milo and Elliott to cool places before the school k ids take over.

There are a few museums and play places I want to spend time in before the summer crowds ramp up.  In the early weeks of June, I hope to keep Milo home at least once a week and head out on a little adventure.

5. Summer Routine!

I’m really excited about this summer.  It’s the winding down of my long stretch as a stay-at-home mama, and my first experience being home with both boys completely full time.  With Milo’s speech therapy work and Elliott getting old enough have tiny windows of focus, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing out plans for our day, highlighting the skills we need to practice.  I’m always happier with a plan, but it seemed too insane to do just for my own little family, until I found this amazing article that gave me permission to run my home like a daycare this summer.  There is always a piece of me that says “we deserve a day to kick back, watch TV, eat snacks, be chill,” and those plan-less days are the days where we are all crying and desperate by 3pm.  So I’m going to have a planning template for days when Ben is at work, and we are going to rock this summer.

June also brings Father’s Day and our 6th wedding anniversary, and I’d like to organize myself to give some end-of-year gifts to the teachers who have supported our family this year.  It’s going to be busy and wonderful and hopefully, super productive.  Do you have any big plans for this summer?  Tips for carving out a work space for yourself?  Ideas that will occupy tiny babies during the hottest days?  Happy June, lovelies.

*The above image was found on Pinterest, but it’s from Tattly, distributors of kick ass temporary tattoos.  I will buy.  Summer arm candy, here I come!

April 2013

superherosHappy April Fools day!  I was tempted to tell Ben I was pregnant again as a fun prank, but I thought I might push him over the edge and cause some permanent emotional damage, so I passed.  My mama is here for an entire week, which is a huge treat, and we’re planning to visiting some family, having dinner in the city with Laurel, and taking Milo out so she can see him action on playdates.  Here are some other plans we have for this true beginning of spring:

Nightly movie theme: This is superhero month.  Plans include the Spiderman franchise, the Xmen franchise, Avengers, Superman, Ironman, the Hulk…anything we’re missing?  I’m definitely going to pull for Keaton Batman on the nights it is my pick.

Holiday plans: This month we have Earth Day AND April Vacation!  When I was teaching, April Vacation always felt like the kick off to the countdown to summer.  This year, I want to do some fun trips with the boys- maybe even a beach day with Ben.  The Boston Marathon is also sometime this month, and I’d love to go watch a little of it with Laurel.  She’ll be running it one day, and I can’t wait to be cheering her, so getting some practice is probably a good idea.

Routine: As I get more used to Elliott, he’s gaining weight and his health is solid, and I have more emotional strength to handle the ups and downs of being out and about with a toddler and an infant, I’ve been keeping Milo home from school.  It’s getting nicer and there are fun things to do around town that I’d like to experience with my son while I have the chance to be home during the week.  I’m hoping to spend Monday volunteering at my school, Tuesday/Thursday doing things with Milo and Elliott (Mom’s groups, library, museums), and Wednesday/Friday running errands and having one-on-one time with Elliott.

Health: I just rejoined Weight Watchers, and I’m pretty excited to having even MORE structure in my life.  I like rules.  The first week on plan, I hadn’t done any special grocery shopping and already had a meal plan written, so I just did my best to track and lost 2 pounds.  I went a little wild at Easter brunch (I’m not skipping lobster mac and cheese, thank you), but it’s a new week and a new month and I’m ready.  Ben and I are also planning to start walking in the mornings before he goes to work.  I have a couple of motivators- bopping around in my bathing suit all summer, my mama’s 50th birthday cruise in November, and being a healthy example for my two little mirrors who will do what I do, eat what I eat, and act like I act for most of their lives.

Goals: This month I will read 2 new books from the library (I’m thinking The Secrets of Happy Families and something fictional and escapist), I will lose at least 5 pounds, I will paint my fingers/toes, and I will write a meal plan/shopping list before every weekly shop.  These things will make me infinitely happy, healthy, and help my family.  All four of them.

I hope your outlook for April is sunny and fortified with love.  Spring is coming, good things are on their way!

(The image above was found on Pinterest, and this site is the closest credit I could find.)

 

“Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” -Epictetus

our year(image credit: etsy)

I’ve been thinking so hard about what I want this year to look like.  In my addled mind, 2013 was in the distant future, and it stayed that way until last night at 2:45 am, when all of the sudden my brain kicked into overdrive and I started having the gentlest of panic attacks about needing to organize my maternity binder at school, find some newborn-sized baby bottles. dig out the teeny clothes from the basement…PREPARE.  Before that hit my radar, most of my plans for the year were about forcing myself to get dressed everyday.  I wish I was kidding.

I want to find a word that encapsulates my intention for the year.  In 2013 our family will become four, and I’ll be a stay-at-home mama for 3/4 of the year.  We will need a ROUTINE.  Money will be tight and I will be under the gun to get my health in control.  We have big decisions to make about where we will make our home and raise our kids; do we take advantage of low mortgage rates or hunker down and stay put?  It’s going to be hectic.  And I want to be put together.  I want to be showered and dressed.  I want the baby bag packed in advance, and have a list made before we’re headed out the door.  So what is the word that sums that up?  Pulling together a family, planning ahead, making big decisions about our future, doing it all wearing a real bra and real closed-toe shoes?  Um, I think the word is adult.

Not old, or stodgy, or boring.  But I think I’m ready to be adult.  Italicized adult.  Planning, paying out for worthy services, dressing for the weather, cleaning up after myself.  Getting my nails done and getting haircuts in some sort of regular pattern.  What Would An Adult Do?  Rock the year.  It is SO doable.

I have other, more organized action steps that I want to tackle: my 27 While I’m 27 list has 27 bullet points that I have until October to take care of, and I shared on Facebook yesterday that I seriously want to take more pictures of things that aren’t my kids and read more “fun” books that I pick based on the covers.  I’ve spent a solid year getting used to being a mother and balancing work and family care; now I want to thrive in it.

I’m obsessed with making plans and goals; here are my New Year’s plans or recaps from December 2009, January 2010, January 2011, and December 2011.  What are your plans?  What are you most proud of this year?  What will 2013 be like for you?  We’re onto bigger and better things.

 

Planning for a New Month

 

It’s really refreshing to flip the page on the calendar.  By the end of the month, my desk calendar at school is speckled with ink blots and crumbs from my lunches,  careful handwriting giving way to crossed out dates and hasty scribble.  October was so weird in our house that our kitchen calendar was slashed to bits, rescheduling doctors appointments and family events almost weekly. And I’ve barely opened my book-style planner.  Things have just been moving too fast.  I’m relieved for a new month, for clean-ish calendars.  I’m ready to get organized.

Family Events in November:

  1. Mom’s birthday
  2. Thanksgiving at our house

Friendship Events in November:

  1. Jen’s Birthday
  2. Meeting Jen (and hopefully Adrienne?) over Thanksgiving break
  3. Meeting Cait and Vedder over Thanksgiving break
  4. Memorial for a dear high school friend

Work Events in November:

  1. Parent Teacher Conferences (almost want to list it twice- huge undertaking)
  2. Epson Projector training
  3. Data meetings with administration
  4. Celebrate Thanksgiving with the kiddos
  5. Start new Writer’s Workshop unit

Must Dos in Early November:

  1. Thank you notes for my birthday gifts
  2. Thank you notes for Milo’s birthday gifts
  3. Begin reading log for graduate class (due Dec. 12th)
  4. 2 papers for graduate class (due Nov. 14th and Nov. 28th)
  5. Order contacts for me
  6. Make an eyebrow appointment for me
  7. Buy a winter coat for Milo
  8. Make a Thanksgiving menu

Must Dos in Late November:

  1. Firm up Christmas present list and make a date for a wrapping party
  2. Order Christmas cards and have Ben help me address them
  3. Put up Christmas decorations
  4. Make Milo a felt Christmas Tree that he can decorate and play with

I know there are more things that I want on this list, but I’ve literally been letting these bullet points bounce around in my head for so long that writing everything out has been enormously calming.  It’s a busy time- the conferences themselves will take up at least a solid week of preparation and stretch late into the night before they’re over.  I love Thanksgiving break because so many people are around and I get to do a lot of friendship visiting, so that will be a pleasant breather after crazy conferences.  School work and thank you notes are my two main goals to knock out in the evenings, as opposed to passing out on the couch around 8.  I’ll be happier when I’m productive.

Halloween was postponed in our town, so we ended up jumping a few towns over to trick or treat on the holiday.  Tonight I’ll just take Milo by our neighbors to show him off, then come home to pass out candy.  I loved hectic, insane October, with it’s family visits, it’s highs and lows, it’s apple orchards and dress-up events.  I drank apple cider and took lots of pictures of Milo in cute hats.  Now I’m ready to slip into the transitional season of November.  I’m looking forward to turkey talk, food drives, winter clothes, turning on the heat, Christmas lights, shopping, wrapping, and getting cozy beyond belief.   I’m looking forward to mindful thankfulness.  It’s going to be great.

*While I’m a list-sharing mood, I’ve updated my 27 While I’m 27 list– 27 things I hope to do before I turn 28.  Check it and my past lists out, then tell me what’s on your yearly bucket list!

On the other hand…

It’s just the sweetest morning.  I know mid-week I wasn’t into it, but I’ve had a (completely uncharacteristic, of course) 180 mood swing.  I don’t know if it’s because a hectic few days are behind me,  because I cleaned the whole house in about two hours last night (thank you, hobbit home), or if  my soul simply realizes today is the first day of fall.  Ben is away with friends and I woke up to a picture of him smiling next to one of his oldest and dearest that almost brought me to tears.  Milo slept until 7:30, waking only once for a quick meal in the middle of the night.  I woke up in a communicative mood, talking with Milo and technologically reaching out to friends.  Laurel is coming for the weekend and we’re going to kick off my season by going to an orchard giving Mishy an entire apple all to himself.

Last fall was a whirlwind of tiny baby and sore body.  This fall I want to do the things I was dreaming about: corn maze, bake with apples, long drive, throw small children into big piles of leaves, cut open a pumpkin and let Milo squeeze the gooey insides, throw a simple fireside first birthday party, go to Amherst, rock scarves, eat candy, and whip out that Gloworm costume for one last picture before it gets put away (until a small man named Elliott needs it…)

I’m going to get Milo down for a nap and get us packed up for our first day of fall fun.  What are you looking forward to this season?

body & soul no. 1

I did take my own advice yesterday.  Once Milo was up from his nap, I loaded our water bottles into the stroller and hit the pavement.  (This is after Milo sat through the last 15 minutes of my prenatal yoga DVD, making some of the most confused and hilarious faces I’ve seen yet.  His head would swivel from me to the new-agey music on the TV, and back, with his eyebrows up around his hairline.  He’s going to be SO sarcastic once he starts speaking English.)  Anyway, I walked, listened to some of my favorite girls podcasting, and thought about my family’s health.

We’re tired.  Ben and I have been working really hard to support each other and find time for each other to steal some sleep ever since Milo was born, but I’m starting to get frustrated that our constant theme is survival.  We still laugh hysterically on the couch at night (we unwind on a media diet suited to college-aged boys- raunchy humor, internet videos, etc.), and we never let our exhaustion stand in the way of family trips on the weekend, but we’re tired.  To our bones.  It’s  starting to get to Ben in the form of serious back pain.  I’m starting to fall back on being snippy…er, mean.  I have so many excuses (I’m finishing my first trimester, mostly speaking to a baby all day, going nuts trying to fill his days with stimulating activities,  wah wah wah) but I’m tired of excuses.  We are sapped of energy, and it’s a shitty way to live.  I have such a will to  thrive.

I have a sinking feeling that our diet has a lot to do with our exhaustion. We’re not strangers to fruits and veggies (thought Ben is pickier than I) and we don’t really use white sugar, bread, pizza dough, rice.  We rarely eat red meat, and have chicken around once a week.  We do like snacks, and one of our favorite ways to connect is over treats on the couch.  This summer, we’ve majorly scaled back on takeout, mostly for monetary purposes, but we don’t order steamed veggies when we do have something delivered.  I think our problem has a lot of do with the right nutritional balance.  I doubt either of us is getting enough lean protein or calcium.  The solution lies in better meal planning.  Which no one wants to do when they’re tired.

This post is called body & soul because I’m just about finished with this sluggish, excuse-filled life.  I want a healthy body to reflect my singing, proud, happy mama soul.  With two young children and two parents working to make ends meet, tiredness and hard times will be on our plate for several years, but I don’t want to phone it in, or let our circumstances be an excuse for poor health.  What I eat creates the baby inside of me.  What both of us eat directly effects the way Milo will feel about food as he grows into a little human in his own right.  So I’m making some changes.  Small ones, and there will be missteps, and I will be relying on a ton of different sources for my info, so a lot of it is going to come down to what feels good in my heart.  More than a scientific plan for the healthiest life, I’m mapping out a series of shortcuts and actions that will boost my family’s energy and make us more able to be our best selves during our busy, lovely lives.

Here are a few resources that have encouraged me to give this a try:

Lesley Graham’s Healthy Pregnancy Series– Lesley is hardcore.  I’m not switching to Tom’s toothpaste quite yet, but my favorite post was the one that explained the science behind cravings, and gave some ideas for healthier swaps.

Forks Over Knives– I watched this one Netflix a few months ago and Tweeted that it fell under the category of “things I don’t want to hear but know I probably should listen to.”  Hard truths about the best diet for healthy living.  Lalalalalalalalala (my fingers are in my ears.  I don’t want to give up meat quite yet).

BabyFit– This is an amazing website that would actually get to the bottom of the nutrients question.  You customize your goals and the information you want to get, then track what you eat.  The tracker lets you know how much of each  nutrient you are getting, whether you are falling into the range that you should be, and even offers meal plans.  For some reason, I cannot commit to tracking more than one meal, no matter how much I try to convince myself that this is good for me and my baby.  It’s hard to admit that.  There are no excuses beyond a mental block.  Thus the body & soul series.

myFitnesspal– This is another calorie/nutrient tracker that comes with a really useful app (I know it exists for iPhones but am not positive if it’s available in the Android market)(EDIT: Android has it!).  I used this with a little more consistency for a few months before I found out I was pregnant again.  This was the first time I checked about the nutrient information, so knowing that I can get that info with the convenience of the app might make this my choice for an action point.  By far the best feature is a scanner that allows you to use the barcode on food packaging to get the nutritional facts put directly into your tracker.  It’s also a social network that allows you to link up with friends for accountability and encouragement.  My username is ashlieelizabeth, if you’d like to be friends!

If you made it this far, I commend you.  I had no idea I had so much to say on the introduction to this topic.  All I know is that I’ve overcome these issues before, I’m smart and strong enough to tackle this problem, and I’m looking forward to getting to a lifestyle that will let me enjoy my time with my family even more than I already can.  I’m going to wrap up with an action goal for the next week, and try to check in every Saturday to let you know how I am doing.

Action Goal: I’m going to use myFitnesspal to track my food and exercise for a least 6 out of the next 7 days.  I will be honest about what I eat and especially check out the nutrient stats, to try and see where I might be able to make some tweaks for a more complete nutritional value in my diet.

It’s a starting point!  Please let me know if you’d like to follow along; I’d love some company and encouragement.  I’ll be back with updates!