Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Reflection

The Holy Spirit has really been working on me this Christmas season as I've been trying to navigate the holiday with two small children and a world that's focused on the trappings of Christmas instead of Christ Himself.  I've been worrying over if our Christmas is "Christ" enough and how we celebrate this or that.   And right in the middle of that the Holy Spirit quietly nudged me and said:

Christmas is every day - not just December 25th.  Christmas is how I live my life each and every day.  Am I living it looking toward our Savior and relying on Him for all of my needs?  Or am I seeking the fulfillment of those needs elsewhere?

This past year has been a slow, but steady transformation of looking to Christ each and every day.  My life is Christ and there is no difference between December 25th and December 26th - my thoughts, actions, and faith are still the same.

It doesn't matter how many nativity scenes I put up, or if I booted Santa from the house, or if I went to church 7 times that week, or made a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.  Doing is not living.  Living is every moment of every day - and I must live Christ each day.

I hope you all had a very blessed Christmas and pray for God's blessings for you for 2011.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Oh hello bloggy world!  I've missed you.  Can we go random today?  Cause it's been too long.

1. This weekend we took our Christmas pictures for our card.  I've already been handing them out!  I still need to mail them to out of town folks...this may happen sometime before February if previous years trends hold true. Buying stamps is some how an obstacle for me...  I mean it shouldn't be.  It's as easy as going to HEB (where I go once a week ANYWAY) and saying (when they ASK me without prompting - Do you want ice or stamps?) "Yes, yes I would like stamps".  Why is this so hard??  My automatic reaction is always "NO, no ice or stamps, no!!!!"....

Here is our family shot:

Happy Holidays

2. I employed my own photography skills for our Christmas shots.  I have no money to pay a professional both to do the pictures AND print them.  And everyone's first question is: How did you get everyone to look at the camera??!!

Answer: During this "shoot" I took 140 shots of 4 poses and had 5 good quality, usable shots.  If you'd like to see the outtakes, just go to my flickr page.


3. Last week I successfully transitioned Corbin out of the high chair!  He now eats at the table like a big boy.  We are officially done with high chairs and boosters.  Woohoo!  They are also both drinking out of regular cups at mealtimes, although we keep the sippy cups for carrying around the house.  I'm a big believer in offering mostly water for our boys and I want to make sure they have access to it whenever they want so they get enough in each day.

4. I turned 30 a couple weeks ago.  Yes, the big 3-0.  I'm liking 30 so far.  I think the 30s will be my best decade yet.  Although, everyone still thinks I'm like 24 or younger, so I guess I can pretend I'm younger whenever I'm in the mood too.  This has proved interesting now that I'm moving into the children ministry director role at church and people look at me're kidding me?  You're the team lead?  You probably don't even have kids.  How old are you?  Like 21?

NO PEOPLE, I'M THIRTY!!  I have two kids.  I've been married for 10 years!  I'm a college graduate.  I got skillz people, I swear.  I should get a t-shirt to advertise...

5. I've discovered my blogging time is in direct proportion to my camera time.  In other words, if I'm not taking pictures, I'm not blogging.  Lately, most photos have been from my phone which generally head straight to facebook and aren't blogged.  So I need to get my "big" camera out a bit more apparently.

6. I've made progress on Advent celebrations from previous years.  So there was 3 years ago, where I didn't celebrate Advent at all.  Then there was last year, where I bought a book with ideas for celebrating Advent, but did nothing.  And now we move into this year.  This year, I made an advent wreath with candles and we've (so far) done ONE advent devotional as a family...which went, well, as you might expect with a 2 and 4 year old.

In my mind, it should have looked something like this:

In the holy glow of candlelight - Children listening intently as Daddy reads advent passages from the Bible.  Hayden talking about the nights "discussion" (which was about babies - in reference to Jesus birth) and enjoying looking at his old baby pictures.  And then a family communion with the bread I had made, etc.

The reality:

The ominous glow of candlelight as Hayden "eyes" it like a pyro needing a fire fix.  Corbin banging on his tray for MORE BREAD and throwing his sippy cup.  Hayden offended that he was EVER a baby and NOT wanting to look at baby pictures - not even getting to the point about Jesus being a baby, etc.  "Hayden is a big boy, not a baby!!!" - Hayden.  Hayden fidgeting in his seat and interrupting every two words while Mark tries to make it through the readings in one piece.  As we talk about Jesus birth and the meaning of Christmas, Hayden screaming out - "CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT SANTA!! JESUS IS IN THE BIBLE".   Me yelling - "SIT DOWN!! DON'T TOUCH THE CANDLE.  CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT JESUS!!!".

Yeah, so that pretty much exceeded expectations right?  Merry Christmas.

7. For those that want to enjoy something truly beautiful - come hang out with us at The Oasis (5pm I think) for a Christmas Eve service our church does every year.  A great meal with some of my favorite people and then a wonderful service to celebrate Christ!  We'll be the ones in the back with the wiggly kids screaming "Jesus is in the Bible!"

Monday, November 22, 2010


It's been interesting to see my selections in toys evolve as I change as a parent and continue learning through the developmental challenges we are currently working through with Corbin.

No longer do I look for the "flashy" or latest toy, but really evaluate it's potential as both an object of play and therapy.

I've found some really great ones that we love and since Christmas is coming up I thought I might share a few with you!  I'd also love to hear any of your recommendations as well.  I'm always on the lookout for quality toys to add to our play!

These are in no particular order, by the way.  Mommy fog prevents me from doing any real prioritizing in that regard, haha - they are ordered in the manner they popped up in my brain while writing this post.

Corbin uses these a lot in therapy play and just playing in general.  The stack and nest so you get two activities in one, plus they store well.  They all nest so they stay compact.  The outside also have animals and letters on them, so it's also a great starting point for learning letters and animals.  We have several nesting/stacking toys and this is by far our favorite.

2. Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey

I have spent a LONG time looking for a toy to teach self-help and fine motor skills that is NOT a pink baby doll.  Also, many baby dolls don't come with the various zippers, velcro, buttons, and snaps all on one outfit.  This monkey has snaps, zippers, shoelaces, socks, buttons (with two styles of closures), overalls, and a velcro shirt!  If you are looking for a dressing toy, this is definitely it.

3. Melissa & Doug Grill Set

Lacing cards and activities are definitely fine motor skills that are on our list to achieve.  However, for a 2 year old, and especially one who is delayed in motor ability, lacing with string can be a very difficult activity.  As a precursor to lacing with string, I have found this grill set to be awesome!  Instead of "lacing", he is placing the meat and vegetables on the skewers - which incorporates the same skills as lacing, but in a more controlled and easier to manipulate form.  The skewers are easy to hold on to and don't flop over like lacing string does.  There are also tongs (a precursor to scissor skills) and a knife for cutting.  The vegetables form together with velcro for easy cutting.  We love this toy and it's a hit with both Hayden and Corbin.  It's also a great pretend play activity.

4. 50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups

Oh the counting bears...I don't think I can really express how much we play with these.  Corbin can color sort very well, and I think these bears really helped with that.  Also, you can buy pattern matching games that go with the bears that are fun to add to.  Corbin loves pouring the bears from one cup to another (another great motor therapy) and also plays with the bears in all sorts of other ways.  Hayden loves to line them up like army men and Corbin likes catapulting them or having them go down his Little People slides.  Besides colors and matching, they are also great for counting and working on numbers.  This is the kind of toy that develops and changes as they get older.  It starts with simple pouring, works into sorting, then pattern matching, and finally simple math.  It's one of my favorites.

5. Shure - Chunky World - Magnetic Fishing

This game is played with almost every day - by both boys.  Again, another great therapy toy, but also has endless possibilities for pretend play.  My boys have made a boat out of a cardboard box to go fishing.  They've used the fishing pole to "catch" other metal things around the house.  They've pretend to "eat" the fish.  You name it, they've played it.

Okay, so there are five of our favorites.  As we get closer to Christmas, maybe I'll post some more if you're interested.  Some of these toys are a bit pricier than others.  We didn't get them all at once, but gradually added them to our household over the past few years.  But, I will say that each one has been worth it's money!  They have held up really well and I haven't had a single complaint with any of them.

So what are your "must have" toys?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Getting Away


There are some days you just need to get away.  Away from laundry and dishes and two boys fighting over the last goldfish and cleaning up the cracker crumbs AGAIN and well...just everything related to your house.

And no, a walk around the neighborhood just won't do.


You need a heavy dose of something beautiful.  And my something beautiful is about 90 minutes away at Bastrop State Park.  They have trees - real ones.  Not the bushes that dot our Austin landscape.  

So at 10am this morning I decided to pack everyone into the car for a day at the park.  


There is nothing better for two rambunctious boys than to run around the forest throwing rocks and collecting pine cones (for throwing too of course).

And because my son is Hayden, we had to have a picnic.  This boy is a picnic LOVER.  I think he would prefer all our meals served outdoor on a blanket.



And of course, no trip to the park would be complete without a long hike on the trails. The boys did great - Hayden walked the whole way and Corbin about half.

Overall the trip was just what I needed.  I got to soak in some "green" and let the boys run wild.  Hayden even got to practice his big brother responsibilities by corralling Corbin and bringing him back to the picnic area when he strayed too far.  Definitely a skill I'm going to be enjoying more of in the future!  

I just might have to add this outing to our schedule every week, as we all came home quite happy!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Rethinking the "Norm"

At Hayden's Birthday Party

This year we've been changing up a lot of how we "usually" do things.  There are a lot of values and character traits that I think are important to develop in our kids, and I am seeing more and more little ways we can contribute to that.  I also remember the aftermath of how we've done things in previous years and how I was left with an unsettling feeling of what I might be teaching our children!

The first was "The Birthday".  It has traditionally been a time where Hayden is lavished with gifts from both friends and family.  And, of course, there is nothing wrong with that.  However, he received so many gifts that he had very little appreciation for them!!  And that really saddened me.

I don't want Hayden or Corbin growing up without true thankfulness and appreciation for what they receive.  Having an overabundance of possessions can contribute to mistreating his toys and taking these things for granted.  Why be thankful for a new toy truck when you already have 10?  The truck would just land in the pile of seldom played with toys.

And how could they truly play with their toys if their selection was so great they could move from one toy to another all day without every running out of new toys to play with!

Hayden and Jake
Hayden sharing his birthday hat with his friend Jake
I didn't like what I saw - and I also didn't like admitting that I was one of the primary causes of it.  The children don't buy the toys, I do.

So this year, we tried something new.  Hayden received one gift from us this year - a tricycle.  We also asked a few of our close friends to donate can goods in place of a gift for a food drive our church was participating in.  This opened the door for us to talk to Hayden about other boys and girls who went to bed hungry at night and didn't have all the toys and food that he did.  

We also shared a birthday party with two other four year olds who had birthdays in November.  It was a great way to show him that it was "not all about him" and for him to think of others - even on his birthday!

Hayden jumping off the slide
And what a wonderful day it was with those few changes!  Hayden got 3 presents from his friends that he has truly loved and enjoyed.  He also was excited about all the food we got to feed the hungry kids - "Wow!" (his words, hehe).  And he had no problem sharing the "spotlight" with his friends that day.

Mark and Corbin going down the big slide!
His birthday went so well, we're going to try and make similar changes to Christmas well.  Focusing more on Christ and the meaning of Christmas than the free-for-all gift extravaganza of years past.  I'll be posting more on that later!

I still can't believe our little boy is four!!

Hayden blowing out his candles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cold and Flu Season is Here...

Seriously, does someone release millions of viruses each year around this time or what?  I think we get like one week in between illnesses and then we're down again.  Needless to say, blogging isn't at the top of the list these days.

Mostly my day looks like this:


Yeah...runny noses, TV watching, attack of the booger covered children.

The last cold we had for TWO WEEKS.  You read that right, two weeks.  This week the kiddos are healthy, but I got a lovely stomach virus - Yippee!  That disaster has receded, but now I am hacking up a lung as I write this...cough drops are overrated.

Besides surviving living in a petri dish, we've had other stuff going on.  Hayden's last day of his speech program was last Friday.  Woohoo!  He graduated out of his program and is no longer labeled as having a disability!  My chatterbox is officially normal - as if I didn't know that.  Kid will talk your ears off.

Poor Corbin was too sick to get his tests done last month so they've been rescheduled for November 19th.  I'm keeping him in a bubble for two weeks before these next tests because if he misses this one, the next available appointment is in February!!  Argh.  But I dragged myself this morning to his followup with is neuro and she says he's looking great!  She's thinks the MRI should come back normal and she's really interesting in seeing what the hearing test says - but we'll see.

His therapies are going well, but heaven help us when he gets sick.  Basically, once he's well we have to cram in all the appointments he missed and it turns into a gigantic "therapy" week.  It's crazy.

For the first time, Hayden knew exactly what he wanted to be for Halloween - a bee!  Unfortunately, bee costumes are mostly made for babies and toddlers, but we managed to cram his 4T-5T body into a 3/4T.  It's hilarious - but he loves it.



Corbin will be a fireman...I think.   We've yet to get him to keep it on for longer than 3 seconds.  He might be an "off duty" fireman.

Mark's new job has a Halloween event on Friday and Sunday we'll hit up a few neighbors as well as some of our church's block parties.

Hopefully we'll all be well enough to enjoy this weekend.

What are your Halloween plans? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm an outdoor mom

I've come to realize that I'm an outdoor mom. I much prefer to spend my days outside with my boys than stay cooped up inside all day with two crazy monkeys.

Maybe it's because I have two BOYS... I don't know, but dealing with them all day within the confines of our house is maddening.

The fighting, whining, crying, etc is just too much to take some days.

But nice long days spent outside getting dirty, sweaty, rough and tumble boys is just what they need.

They play hard, have lots of fun, nature adventures and go to bed happy...and so do I.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Taking off our Goggles


Haha. So I got a lot of different reactions to my Unplugging post (most specifically about FB) and it left me thinking. Which is good - that's why I love your comments. We all live such different lives and come through different experiences to get us where we are right now. I love that.

We each have our own unique perspective on the world and until someone pulls off our "goggles" and let's us try on theirs - we sometimes miss that not everything works or is "good" for someone else. I think that's one of the things that can bother me the most about blogs and FB - negativity and judgments.

Here's a small example of what I'm talking about:

A while back, I came across a post on a blog I read regularly that was pretty critical and judgmental, and even a bit proud and boastful. The content of the post was about taking your kids to the dentist and and how well her child behaved - so much so that the dentist complemented her on it. She then contrasted that with another child she saw throwing a fit in another room. From that she went on to bullet points on why she was a good parent and inferring probably why this other child was having difficulties.

The "abridged" version of the points:

1. It starts with good parenting.
2. We don't project our feelings onto our kids.
3. We prepare them in advance for what will happen, and I tell them what is expected of them.
4. We don't ever mention needles, or fear, or drills.
5. We really praise them for doing a good job after.

(Another point was that her kids don't watch a lot of TV - a hot topic among moms - and that they liked watching the shows at the dentist more than other kids because of that).

These, of course, are all wonderful points for preparing your child for the dentist.

However, is the comparing and judging of other children really necessary? In our day, we see a "snapshot" of some else's life...not the full picture - we have no idea what's truly going on in the next office over and patting ourselves on the back for being "better" than another parent is a bad habit to get into (believe me, I'm guilty of it too!!).

And so, I needed to give her my "goggles" to adjust her perspective, so I sent her this:

I think experiences are also a factor. My son has had a lot of doctor visits, surgeries, tests, hospital stays and poking and prodding for all three years of his life. All of this has added up to him having a general fear of all doctor related visits, because despite any confidence building - most of his visits DO hurt or are uncomfortable (i.e. shots, drawing blood, ear drum vibration tests, people holding him down against his will).

At this point, even bribery has no effect, let alone talking about what will happen. I'm afraid it will take him longer to get over this.

Also, if they have language and hearing disabilities, sometimes there is no way to prepare them for what to expect - which was our case for 2 1/2 of those years.

We try to measure it in small improvements. At this point he is now able to have a conversation about seeing doctors without fear and even sit in the office waiting without getting upset beforehand.

I can't wait for the day he'd sit in a dentist chair! That would be a huge milestone.

Perspective adjusted! And once she read this comment, the light bulb came on and she was very gracious and seemed to understand this "new" perspective.

But, this is often the case over and over again on FB and blogs. Having two special needs children is a different experience and gives you different "goggles". You often read statements that leave your jaw hanging open and saying "But...but...what about...that's not a fair judgment...etc".

You understand that the "crazy, out of control, tantruming" child may not just be "a brat" or product of crappy parenting, but might be coping with massive frustration combined with the inability to speak or communicate on top of being a two year old (which is frustrating enough, HA!). The child who literally RUNS out of the ER crying might not just be disobedient, but may have memories of his last hospital stay where he had to stay in a crib for 2 days with wires attached to his foot and a tube taped to his face.

And, of course, this is not limited to children. We all have different experiences and reasons for what we do and it's so important that we remember that! What works for us, may not work for all.

And yet, FB and blogs are not all bad! I've been able to connect and stay in touch with friends across the planet! I'm able get a glimpse into the lives of my friends even if we can't just drive over for dinner. I get to see my friend's kids grow up before my eyes in pictures and blogs and feel like I got to be a small part of it. Those are all wonderful things and I shouldn't forget that, or exclude my friends from being apart of our lives as well!

So, while there are obviously some things that I don't like (and this post only mentions one), I also feel there are enough positive aspects to continue using FB in a limited way! Just enough to keep up with my far-away friends and to post some updates now and again to keep in touch! Mark got me a new phone this month that should help me use FB in a balanced way, so I'm able to still update but without it taking up too much time!

So there. My perspective has been adjusted.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Whoa! It's been a month almost since I posted - must be some kind of record. I've been a bit reflective and internal lately - which curtails my blabbering on here.

Contemplating a lot of what's important and what's not. What's good for me and what drags me down. What I need and what's just excess. Good questions to ask yourself every now and then - and to surprise yourself with the answers you come up with!

It's amazing how distracted we can let ourselves become. Or maybe that's just me?

I've eliminated a lot of online aspects of my life that just weren't working for me. Facebook and a large number of the blogs I read for starters. The incessant status updating and reading was getting old. Is every thought in my head worthy of announcement? Heck no. Is it better to actually communicate with my friends personally and directly than to stay informed through mass updates? Of course.

So I've resisted the temptation to jump on FB and find out the "news" on all my friends or to let everyone know I'm checking the mail, or washing the dishes or any of the hundred other mundane and utterly un-newsworthy tasks I do each day. If anyone wants to know, they can come over and watch. Or better yet - help.

I've stopped seeking advice and affirmation from the bazillion blogs I was reading on every topic from saving money to special needs to mommy blogs. I'm straightening my heart and head out by turning to the only place I should be going for those things - God's Word.

And wow. Let me tell you - if you're depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, feeling unworthy or incapable of the tasks in front of you - that's the place to turn.

2Co 12:9-10
Each time He said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So go be strong.

So what can I say?
What can I do?
But offer this heart, oh God, completely to You.
So I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned.
In awe of the one Who gave it all.
I'll stand my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nature Week!


So I decided I needed to keep all our theme materials in some kind of order (and not all over the house), so I grabbed this old basket, that's missing one of it's handles, haha, and used it to store all of our materials for the week. So far it's working perfectly. The size is perfect - I can't put a TON of stuff in there, which means I can't set my goals for the week too high. Whatever I can fit into the basket, is what we'll do!

I'm slowly getting into a routine about these weeks and figuring out what works for us. I picked the last theme based on our visit to the museum, but we had no such adventure to pull from for last week. So instead, I took Monday to watch and listen to my children and take note of their interests that day. They spent the morning outside and after an hour or so it was obvious that they had taken an interest in nature! Bugs, flowers, plants, rocks - you name it, they were playing with it. So with that, I let them continue playing and rounded up our materials for the week - all nature themed of course. (Corbin, at this point, was still doing Farm Animals)

Here is what I collected from around the house (one of my "goals" is not to buy stuff each week, but to use what we have):


I chose two books for the week: Rocks & Minerals - which is an old book from my childhood - I can't even find this version online to link it for you, although it's similar to Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals (Smithsonian Handbooks) .


And The Bug Book, which I found at a used books store a few months back.

Hayden showed some interest in the Rock & Minerals book - especially if we were looking at things he was already familiar with like gold or the pages about sand, fossils, and other recognizable items. We were able to practice colors with the section that talked about using rocks for pigments. Although, really this was just a review - he knows his colors very well. I also had some toy magnifying glasses we used for various activities in the week, and he liked looking at the book with his magnifying glass. But overall, I wouldn't say it was a huge success.

The Bug Book was more on his level and it had some interesting new concepts in there that I think he is still taking in (like how ants talk to each other, etc) and he still seems interested in it.


I gathered a collection of shells, rocks, and coral from around the house (I like to save interesting items like these whenever we have the chance -a lot of these are from our recent trip to the beach), and let Hayden explore them with his magnifying glass. If you've never let them play with a magnifying glass before, it will take some time of "playing" before they are ready to listen to how they use it properly. Mostly Hayden just held it up to his eye and looked around for the first day or two, haha. He's slowly understanding how to use it.

We also did some outside activities as well. We hunted for rocks, then flowers, and Hayden made his own "garden" with a small basket, rocks, dirt, and a flower he had picked. It was really cute until Corbin ran off with it and dumped it all out on my porch - mess, mess, mess. Nothing a quick sweep couldn't fix, but Hayden was pretty sad about that.

I had a lot of activities we didn't get to this week because Hayden spends a good portion of the morning in school, so I am continuing this into a second week. We still have yet to play with the binoculars, or do the activities I picked out from the The Toddlers Busy Book.


The Toddlers Busy Book is a wonderful resource if you need ideas for games or activities. I chose two for the week, but we didn't get to them:

Nature Bracelet - You make a "bracelet" out of tape with the sticky side out and let them find things to stick to the tape to decorate their bracelet.

Picture Box - I cut out pictures of flowers, plants, and other nature items and glued them to 3x5 index cards and put them in a card box. I still haven't shown this to Hayden, but I think it will be a hit when I do. At the very least, Corbin will LOVE this once Hayden is through.


There are also some cute rhymes and songs (nature themed) I wanted to do with Corbin and maybe Hayden if he's interested.

I have a small stack of coloring pages and worksheets we never got to, so I'm thinking we'll finish up these activities this week in our continuation of the nature theme.

So that was our first week, and our plans for this week! I'll update in another 2 weeks on how things went and what we chose next.

If you do preschool-type stuff at home, do you pick themes for your activities or just whatever they're interested in? Or a curriculum? I'm always interested to hear what others are doing!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A few weeks back I posted on the kids themes each week, and I thought it might be fun to blog regularly about what we've tried. I'm always on the lookout for fun, new activities - as well as any "war stories" about what I may want to avoid, haha!

To keep it "real", I am posting after the week is over instead of before. I think this keeps me honest as a blogger. I may have lofty plans for the week, but lets be real - we never accomplish all we set out to and nothing ever goes perfectly.

So you will be getting an honest version of the week - what worked, what didn't, and what was left.

To recap Dinosaur/Farm Animal week:

This week was a hit and it led in perfectly for the first week of school, when - what do ya know, they chose their first class book to be How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? I must be psychic or just plain lucky. We had already read How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? all week, and Hayden love trying to learn the names of the dinosaurs. Although he learned three dinosaur names, he still couldn't differentiate between all the different types by the end of the week. Which is ok! I'm sure we'll be doing more dinosaurs in the future. The only one he could pick out was the Pteranodon - but that was because of repeated exposure to Dinosaur Train.

There are LOTS of great (and free!) resources online for dino-exposure. The PBS site had fun printouts from Dinosaur Train that I will be using next time. Hayden also loved the interactive games they had on the show site (which also teach letter recognition and pattern matching).

We ended up watching The Land Before Time twice, but only by fast-forwarding through scary and sad parts. Unfortunately for Hayden, Dinosaur Train comes on right before we leave for school, so he won't be able to watch that one again if we do another Dino week. There are a few episodes online at PBS though, so that's one option.

I decided to extend Corbin's Farm Animal week into 2 weeks because he needs longer exposure to things to really get into them. He really loved F is for Farm (Baby Touch and Feel) and we read it every nap time and bedtime for 2 weeks. He is just now getting tired of it and we are starting to move on.

We also added Farm Friends (Guess Who?), which is a great "peek-a-boo" style book. It's a bit wordy for Corbin's level, so instead of their text, I just said " Peek-a-boo, guess who? It's a cow! Mooo." for each animal. And voila! He loved it.

I put his barn and farm animals out on the coffee table all week to encourage animal play. I also added ducks to the bathtub toys as well. And we watched Word World and Wonder Pets (which is on Netflix right now) for more animal exposure.

In the second week we got Corbin quacking like a duck in the bathtub and clucking like a chicken (including arm flapping) while watching a show - which was our goal - animal sounds. We're hoping that it wasn't a "fluke" and he will continue imitating noises.

I like the laid back pace we're doing - if I think we need more time on something, we'll take another week - or we may move on. Spending two weeks on animals was definitely the right choice and Hayden was pretty much done with Dinos after only one week.

I'll post tomorrow about Hayden's second theme: Nature!

What activities are you doing with your little ones? I'd love to hear them!


Monday, August 30, 2010

My New Love

There's Love Here

I have a new love. Well, perhaps it is really an old love, because I have always loved it.

I love doing dishes by hand.

There. I said it.

And yes, that is a shiny new dishwasher right next to me in the photo.

But there is something so comforting about a sink full of hot, soapy water.

Scrubbing and rinsing, scrubbing and rinsing.

Slowly drying each dish by hand and then putting them away.

It's soothing. There is time to think there.

And it reminds me of doing dishes with my grandmother - who always did at least some dishes by hand each meal.

Dishwashers, in my mind, equate to rush, hustle, busyness, and chaos.

The clanking of the dishes as you stack them in, the whir of the motor and swish of the water as they wash...chaotic noise filling up my quiet house.

I am rebelling against quick, efficient, and busy.

By hand, is just peaceful.

And I enjoy that.

What are you rebelling against?

Friday, August 27, 2010


This Wednesday I signed Hayden up for AWANA. I'm pretty excited about it - especially since it almost didn't happen! The first church we looked at that offered AWANA on Wednesday nights relied heavily on parent volunteers. Which is wonderful, besides the fact that my ministry commitments are very heavy right now. Between our own church's children's ministry and The Lord's Table, I'm maxed out. Adding another commitment was not something I could do.

There are a lot of great AWANA programs in town, but most of them are offered on Sundays. For a three year old, it seems like that was asking too much. Spending half the day at church, then coming home for a lunch/nap/dinner, and then getting shuttled back to AWANA sounds ridiculous. I also like the idea of spreading out his learning throughout the week. I want to be sure to teach him that God is NOT just for Sundays!

His first day is next Wednesday! We've already got verses to work on memorizing for the week so he can earn his vest and book. (They wear a cute little vest to their meetings). The 3/4 year old class is called Cubbies and the church it's held at seems great. They have a whole floor that is decorated with cool kid themes and the classroom looks really fun too. I think Hayden will really enjoy it.

Each week is a different "theme" (bring a friend, wear favorite sports team shirt, etc) and I can't wait to see how Hayden likes it. I'm so glad he seems to be improving with his separation issues, or this would be really hard.

Anyone had experiences with AWANA (as a kid or your own kids)?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Dear Parents:

This is a WARNING.

If your child suddenly takes up a 2 carrot-a-day habit after a lifetime aversion to said vegetable, you will experience an explosive diaper that may alter the course of your afternoon.

Thank you.

What's up Doc?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back to School!

Tuesday marked the official "back to school" day for Hayden. He is still attending two hours in the PEAR (Preschool Expressive And Receptive) Language program at the elementary school.

This year I got smart and asked for the 10am class instead of the 7:45am - what a difference that has made! Last year was very difficult to get everyone (ok, me) going so early in the morning. And honestly, if I still have 2 years of sleeping in - I should enjoy every second of them!

Getting up early is one thing, but getting everyone fed, dressed, and in the car is another! I also think that contributed to a lot of Hayden's issues with not wanting to go to school. As soon as he got up, he was being rush, rush, rushed off to school. Add in morning breathing treatments during cold/flu season and it was miserable!

First Day of School

Hayden and I on the first day of school...I would much prefer to sleep in! Haha.

In preparation for school, I did the obligatory school supply shopping. You'd think I wouldn't need to yet, as he's only 3 - but no, there was a long list of supplies needed to stock their classroom. While I was loading up on supplies, I found these great shirts for Hayden's "new school clothes" this year. They were $2 a piece!


He chose the blue bicycle shirt for his first day.

I had really been dreading school starting because of last year's unbearable separation issues we dealt with (think yelling, screaming, tantruming, clinging to me for life as I try to get out the door) - and honestly, I hadn't seen much improvement in this area over the summer. I almost pulled him out of the program because I thought it was getting to be overwhelming for both of us.

I worked hard last week to prepare Hayden for school. We stopped by the classroom last Wednesday to drop off our supplies and he got to talk to his teachers again. We also read The Kissing Hand -which is a great book, if your kiddo is dealing with separation anxiety -I highly recommend this one. And finally, I prayed and left it in God's hands.

Thankfully, this year, he's a much different kid! He still whines and calls for me as he heads into his classroom, but he holds onto his ring and stays in line with the rest of the kids. His teachers said he did great the first day and still remembered the routine of the class. He was even a "big helper" with the new kids!

What a relief! I was not up for another year of what we went through last semester. Eventually, he's even going to ride the bus! This year he started asking about getting to ride the bus with his friends, so I think he's old enough to handle it. It should also help a bit with the transition and be easier on Corbin and I. Right now, our morning feels rushed because we have about 90 minutes to do something and then it's right back to pick up Hayden.

I'm not sure how much longer Hayden will be in PEAR (once he meets his goals he "graduates") - but for now, this is our life!

Once Hayden starts Kindergarten, I'd love to establish some more "back to school" traditions. I read about Stephanie's annual back to school feast and just loved the idea! I kind of missed the boat this year, but who knows - maybe I can do my own twist and try for an "End of Week" feast to celebrate his first week! I do think it's a wonderful idea to mark each occasion with a special tradition - something for everyone to look forward to! I definitely need to start brainstorming for our own back to school tradition.

How is your "back to school" week going? Do you have an annual traditions for back to school?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Routines, Routines

Ah, another restart of life here at the Zavalas. With Mark at home over the last month our daily routines have diminished to extinction! We are anything goes these days and it really shows.

I'm hoping with Mark's first week at work that we can slowly fall into a new set of routines. Hayden also begins school next Tuesday which will change things as well. It's amazing how "school", even 2 hours of preschool, can bring order and routine to your life. Having set times to drop off and pick up really limit the craziness you can insert into your day. We really do fall into a predictable routine after a few weeks in school.

Of course, I use the term "routine" loosely. I don't really have the personality that expects perfection in my day. In all honesty, I'm not that organized of a person or a mother to achieve anything close to it! I like to take advantage of opportunities or moods when they come up and for our family it works. If the kids are having a wonderful time in the backyard, I'll extend their play until they get ready to come in. If we get invited out for a play date or activity, if we're up for it it - we'll go! If a friend comes over who really needs to talk, I don't stress about having the kids watch an extra hour of TV that day even if that was technically their "outdoor" time. I control the routine - it doesn't control me.

With Corbin, therapy can rarely be planned. Most days I look for opportunities to interject therapy into his play. Very often, he is his own best therapist! He just needs a little direction. But, if I try to "schedule" therapy into his day, it's often a bust! He's not interested in whatever the activity was because he was already busy playing something else! This usually ends in whining and fighting him to "play" which is a waste of both our times.

One of the most important things I can do is "set up" his environment that day. If I want him to learn about farm animals than I need to have out farm toys. If all of his cars and trucks are out, then chances are he will be playing cars and trucks today.

Mostly, we work in themes each week based on the kids interest. If they express interest in a certain topic, then I try to work with that. This also works really well once Hayden starts school because they use the same concept of themes. Each week they send out a worksheet of what they will be working on so we can reinforce the vocabulary at home. Usually, the theme/vocab is based on a particular book.

This week is dinosaurs (Hayden) and farm animals (Corbin). This weekend we went to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History and the kids were most interested in their dinosaur exhibit. So at the gift shop we picked up some dino crafts/toys for later in the week. And for Corbin, one of his speech goals is imitating animal sounds, hence the farm theme.

I pick morning PBS shows for them to watch (Dinosaur Train and Word World) based on their themes. And a movie for the week - The Land Before Time - this is on Watch Instantly on Netflix right now. **Warning: You may need to fast forward through a few "tense" scenes if you have a sensitive child, but it is rated G.

Their naptime/nighttime books for the week also include a few from the theme: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and F is for Farm (Baby Touch and Feel). The front and back page of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight lists the names of about 10 dinosaurs, so Hayden is learning what each dinosaur looks like - and the story is really cute too. F is for Farm is a great sensory book with moving tabs and lots to touch, feel, and flaps to open. Corbin loves this book.

This year I was also hoping to do morning devotionals with Hayden out of My Utmost for His Highest: Jesus Wants All of Me, but unfortunately he is still to young to really understand most of these. Anyone have a good book for 2-3 year olds they recommend? I'm looking for something that teaches virtues and concepts from the bible, not just simplified stories (which is what most of our toddler bibles are - very often the meaning of the story is left out!!).

But this is a family routine, not a daycare! So often, I think we get caught up as mothers in what the kids are doing and forget about what we need to do. One of the most important things I can do is to make sure there is balance in our day. Yes, a lot of our day is focused on them - but there are also large chunks of "free play" where I can take care of our home and other responsibilities as well.

If they are interested, I encourage them to "help" me with dishes, laundry, pick up, etc. and they very often do. And there are also days where they just enjoying playing while I get things done quickly.

For myself, I generally like to write out a few "big goals" for the week and then work on them each day. This week is restore order after Mark being home last month and our trip which includes laundry, unpacking, deeper house cleaning, and getting ready for school. I'm also working on our office - we are planning on getting a new desk and reorganizing the office so I want to have things ready and cleaned when we finally start that. I hope to have posts on that as we create our new "workspace".

The challenge of having a household with kids is that they are always changing. The routines you have today will most certainly be gone in a few months - especially at this young age. Nap times shift or disappear (gasp!), abilities change, and new phases of craziness begin! And constantly, I must adjust to it.

**This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge

Volcano of Chaos

Why is it after we get back from a trip it seems like our luggage exploded all over our house???

We went for a short, but very enjoyable, trip to Corpus Christi this past weekend and now my house is covered in toys, beach balls, sunscreen bottles, and clothes.

Monday afternoon is being spent in recovery mode to restore order.

Laundry. Storing beach toys, bags and luggage. Putting away clothes, toiletries, and toys. Assimilating new toys from the trip. And managing two little boys who have grown accustomed to both spending hours at the beach and having Daddy all day. (Today was Daddy's first day at his new job! Yay!)

We are also all tired from staying up too late, getting little or no naps, eating LOTS of fast food, and being on the go for three days. So this week I am taking it easy and slowly getting back into the groove. I will be taking a nap today, that's for sure!

I'm also looking forward to making a nice dinner for the family. Of course, that means I need to clear the dining room table of all our trip items. Haha.

We took a waterproof disposable camera to the beach, so I'll need to get those pictures developed before I can post on our vacation - but let's just say...It was awesome!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Only Thing I Can Do

One of the hardest times a wife endures is when she is unable to help her husband.

I can't help him interview, answer questions, prepare or do anything really.

I can't make them give us the offer - although they'd be crazy not to. My husband is probably one of the best assets an employer could ever have. Not even taking his wonderful skills into account, he's extremely loyal and lifts up his entire team wherever he works. And that's a fact - not my own biased opinion.

But I can't show them that or tell them that.

I'm helpless on the sidelines.

All I can do is love my husband.

And tonight, that means ironing his shirt for his interview tomorrow.

So, I put every last ounce of effort into removing each wrinkle.

It's the least and the most I can do.

Because I love him.


Monday, August 9, 2010

A New Kind of Togetherness


A rare shot of the boys together - they are too quick for my camera!

I've been enjoying the extra family time we've had with Mark at home.
Eating dinner each night together and having the morning to relax and chat is awesome.
Being able to stay up later and have Mark help with the boys is really nice.
But, of course, you can't have it all.
More time with Mark means no money!
Money means less time with Mark, haha.
So, although we have more time together, we can't really go out and do a lot of things that require spending a ton of money!
It's a different kind of togetherness.
Learning how to have fun and enjoy each other without purchased entertainment.

We are quick learners though.
Movie nights at home with homemade popcorn.
Tonight we enjoyed some anime but were too stuffed from dinner for the popcorn.
(Did you know they show anime at the Alamo Drafthouse for $5 on Tuesdays - and they give you the $5 back when you order food. Of course you need a babysitter for this, so we haven't made it in awhile)

We are spoiled to be within walking distances of some great local parks.
Today we (er, Mark) played Legos all day. We built great masterpieces for Corbinzilla to destroy.

I've had fun playing with the many ways I can cook Turkey sausage! I squeezed 3 meals out of the last link I bought. Yum!
Finding new and cheap recipes has been a game of mine.

I've been pulling out books I've been wanting to read - just finished another good one.

I joined a Flickr group (52 Weeks of BAM!) and have enjoyed taking ridiculous pictures of myself!

And, of course, I'm keeping up on all the blogs I read. ;)

Mark wishes I would spend that time on WoW (World of Warcraft).

Instead, I watch reruns of Bones. In case you were wondering what I did between the hours of 10pm and 2 am.

I also spend an unbelievable amount of time cleaning up a particular little boys pee and washing underwear. Occasionally I wash a dish or two - like when I'm hungry and need something to put my food on. Today I did A LOT of laundry.

It's actually pretty easy to fill up your whole day without going anywhere or spending a dime.

**This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Therapy Play!

These days my time is spent mostly in making sure Corbin gets the most therapy opportunities possible. We chose to go with the ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) model of therapy - which is in-home therapy. They teach me strategies and therapies and I work with him every day.

For those that don't know, you can't do ECI and a medical model therapy at the same time. You must pick one. For our family, ECI has been the best choice. We love that they come into our home and teach us so that he can get therapy every day from us! With two boys in therapy programs, I'm glad that at least one of them is at home. I do enough running around with Hayden, now that he's in the school system.

Life has become a series of therapy opportunities and most of our day is very well thought out to make sure those opportunities happen. Luckily, our family is pretty used to this after doing speech therapy with Hayden over the last 2 years.

We've been doing lots of playing this month!


Playing is great therapy for Corbin. Kids learn by playing!


So we've made it a point to head to the park at least 3-4 times a week. The uneven surfaces, steps, and slides are great physical therapy for him. The different textures - wood, mulch, metal, etc - are great sensory play.


At home, you can use everyday items to get therapy time in your day. A plastic wipes container and some magnetic letters from the fridge become fine and gross motor, sensory, and even speech therapy:

1. Sit on the floor with your legs spread in a V
2. Put them sitting similarly in front of you.
3. Place the wipes container in front of them (they will be putting the letters in this).
4. Put all the letters behind your back where they can't see them.
5. One by one, pull out a letter and hold it in different positions: Make them reach up high, left and right, put the letter on the floor next to your thigh and make them reach to the side to get it (your leg acts as a support for their weak muscles), make them use alternate hands to grab the letters, make them cross their hand to grab the letter (left to right).

All the activity is great for gross motor development. Having them grasp the letters and put them in the wipes container is fine motor and sensory therapy. If they have overflow issues (i.e. both hands doing the same thing) you can have them grab letters with both hands one after the other which helps them open and close their hands separately. Crossing the body with their hands is great for bilateral communication in the brain. You can also say the letter and the sound of the letter as you hand them off for extra speech therapy.


We're also enjoying some sensory books. Right now we're loving B is for Bear. Each page has a something to touch and it goes through the alphabet which is awesome for speech.

The Letter Factory DVD has been a good find as well. Corbin was even making the "E" sound at one point while watching it.

Hiding little items in play-doh is also a great activity for sensory and fine motor therapy. We are working hard at this one right now as Corbin has an aversion to the texture of play-doh.

Yesterday, we had a blast at the lake - but again, great therapy for Corbin. He played on the shore in the water (uneven surfaces, water play, etc) and had a great time!!

Regardless of where we are or what we are doing - any time can turn into "therapy time" for Corbin!