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!