Archive for June, 2011

Vacation

I haven’t posted in a while because we’ve been on vacation! Woo hoo!

We went to Branson, MO.  We had a great time vacationing with my parents and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  My parents have a time share in Branson and have been wanting my family and my brother’s family to meet up there and spend a week together. We finally managed to make it work, and this vacation was our gift to my parents.

We swam everyday, saw several shows, went “go karting” for the first, second, and third times, and slept in.  We used the jacuzzi tubs in the condo and really really enjoyed that for the first time we didn’t have to pack our own gfcf food! (Ice cream and bbq, anyone?)  My hubby and I were able to “spoil” our 3 year old nephew (who later complained that Aunt Elizabeth got him in trouble too many times– I’m an equal opportunity time-out-giver). 

I used to consider time shares to be too extravagant and a waste of money.  However, now I, along with my hubby, am reconsidering.  We enjoyed have free activities at the resort for the whole family to do.  Having unrestricted access to  a washer / dryer and full kitchen actually saved time and money for us.  The extra space– much more than one motel / hotel room– was great for the quiet time that the boys needed. 

The road trip itself went really well.  I was very proud of my kiddos.  We drove about 6 hours each day, and stopped to do fun things along the way– a children’s museum, the St. Louis Arch, and picnics. 

The guys have gone home now, and my daughter and I are taking an extra week of “girls only” vacation time.  We’re visiting my grandmother and my aunts.  I’m looking forward to this time with her, and hope it will ease those “sibling woes.”

I plan to reflect and process our experience in order to pass along to all you parents out there what worked for us.  Three days on the road was easier than expected.  I can’t wait to hear about my husband’s drive home with the boys.  Should be interesting.   More later!

When I grow up….

I am still deciding what I want to be when I grow up.  I never thought I would grow up to be a stay at home mom.  I never thought I’d like it.

Wrong!  I do like it!  However, I’m beginning to feel antsy.

I love music.  So, when I was a teenager,  I thought I’d be a band director.

Nope, felt more “called” to the church.  So I thought I’d be a church music director.

Nope, liked speaking more than conducting.  So I became a pastor.  Turns out that pastors work a lot more than 2 hours on Sundays.  Some weeks I did 50+ hours.  It was fine until…

Family came along,  autism entered in, and I took a leave of absence, called “Family leave.”

During family leave, I’ve pondered many times about what may come next.  Teaching in the public school?  With those politics?  No way!

How about a special needs consultant for churches and non profits?  Well… sounds fun but hard to be taken seriously when I don’t have a credential in that field.

I began teaching clarinet lessons, which I love!  I love my students!  I may even get more this summer.

I found Wildtree and love the products and the company.  That’s going well.  There’s still something missing for me, though…

So I applied for a teaching position at a local college and am still waiting to hear if I got the job or not.  It would be very part time– I’d only be out one evening each week.

After I applied and went through the “faculty assessment” I learned about a local company that goes into elementary schools and holds music classes.  At our local elementary school, the kids and leaders wrote a school song and made a cool “Growing Grads” video for the outgoing 5th graders.  They happen to be looking for people to join their team.  So, I inquired online.

I have no idea where any of this will lead.  What I do know is that…

1–I don’t want a full time job, just one that will get me out of my house and give me something to do once in a while and give me some extra pocket cash.

2– I don’t want a job that is crazy busy and filled with drama. I’ve already got enough drama and craziness here, thank you very much.

3. I have so many varied interests that it’s hard to narrow down what I’d like to do.

So, there we have it.  What are other parents out there doing?

Sibling woes

We insisted that my daughter go to my son’s 5th grad graduation. After all, her brother went to her Girl Scout ceremony.  That’s what we do.  We support each other by going to each other’s events and celebrating milestones.

She was not happy to be at the school after being there all day and all week.  She was done with a capital D.  She sat on the floor and sucked her thumb.  (Wish she’d give that up!)  She said loudly that the singers were stupid and that the music was lousy.  She didn’t care that her brother got an award, and even ripped his name out of our program.  She asked for a piece of paper and a pen to draw.  She wrote me a note that said, “I hate you.”

I don’t know if she was hot and tired (the school has no ac in the record heat!), or jealous of her brother’s attention, or dealing with the busy-ness that the end of the school year was bringing, or all of the above.  In any case, she was miserable and we were, too.

Finally we let her go hang out in the lobby but she got a consequence of missing her favorite Saturday morning cartoons for not being respectful and polite.

The next day she had to clean up her room and skip tv.  I had a job interview, so Dad was in charge.  When I got home after lunch, she was still in her room.

At least she listened.

She asked if she could come out of her room, and I told her that Dad and I would have to discuss it and decide.  In order for her  punishment to end, she had to apologize to us and to her brother.

To us: “I was wrong to be mean to you and say I hate you and not listen.  Next time I will listen.  I’m sorry.”

To her brother: “I was wrong to disrupt your graduation and I’m sorry.”

We forgave her.

But on the lighter side, she did draw some awesome pictures saying that the loved her family and on good days she claims that her brother is her best friend. I guess we must be doing something right.I wonder sometimes if we do the right thing in making our kids attend each others’ stuff, or if we do pay too much attention to the boys and our girl gets left out. Balancing is difficult!

How do you know when you are doing the right thing?

Prepping for a road trip

The first few days after school let  out have been surprisingly relaxing.

I “babysat” for two days.  My daughter and her friend played and played and played so much that I didn’t have to do much “babysitting” at all.   It was more like supervised play and some refereeing here and there.

My oldest went to work.  Yippee!

And my younger son and I made brownies, played games, and enjoyed our own “alone time.”  Sometimes the girls joined in the games, too.

So far so good.

I think it gives me time to prepare for our first ever road trip vacation later this summer.  This should be interesting.

In the back of my mind I’m stressed out about this trip.  Not the actual destination, mind you, but just the road travel.  We’ve flown many times and the kids are great in the airport and on the plane.  However, 3 days of driving may just try my patience a tiny bit.

I’ve researched road trips online. I’ve printed out free travel games, a list of rest stop locations, and maps for the kids so they will know the answer to their questions “Are we there yet?” and “How much farther?”

I plan to bake brownies, have healthy and not-so-healthy snacks and drinks, and make travel trays out of small cookie sheets.

Yet I know that not all of this is going to  guarantee a fun road trip.

So, parents, how do you plan for a road trip?  Any secrets or tips to share?

Challenger day

My sons play Challenger baseball.  Challenger is part of the Little League International, and is all about giving kids with special needs a chance to play baseball.

Our games are a little different:

  • The kids get to swing the bat until they hit the ball… it can take 12 times or more! They don’t give up, and keep trying until they hit the ball (with our without help).  It’s a great life lesson.
  • The teams don’t keep score, they just play.
  • Everyone cheers for both teams.

We had “Challenger Day” recently.  That’s the day when the Little League players come to cheer for the Challengers, and get autographs afterward.  And cheer they did… loudly and proudly!  I was impressed that they even found out each Challenger’s name so that they could cheer them on individually when they are at bat.

I enjoyed seeing so many kids asking my son and his teammates, “May I please have your autograph?”  Of course they were happy to sign! One girl was shy and didn’t ask.  She simply gave her paper and pen to Philip.  He said, “Do you mean to say, “May you have my autograph?'”  She smiled and nodded.  Philip smiled and signed.  Hooray for politeness and using words!

This year there were cheerleaders from a local high school who volunteered to cheer on the kids. They too asked for autographs.  Philip was really happy about that! Sadly, my oldest son missed the day due to work.  He’ll be bummed when he sees pictures of his brother with cheerleaders.

As we left the field, Little League parents were making sure that all the kids knew they played well.  “Good job!”

It was a great self-esteem booster for the Challengers, and a wonderful way for the Little League players to  practice acceptance.  Kids showing compassion and feeling valued gives me hope!

Name that note!

One of the best end of the year rituals at our elementary school is the talent show.

The first time Philip was in the talent show, I was nervous.  I thought he’d have stage fright– but not my boy!  He recited Green Eggs and Ham from memory and gave a great big bow at the end!

The next year, we PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) moms gave a surprise performance for the kids.  We did a dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  (This year, one of the moms taught the dance to the Chorus and they did it at the spring concert!)

I didn’t stick around after our performance, which was first on the schedule, because I didn’t think that Philip was going to be in it, and Meg, being a kindergartener, wasn’t in it either.

That night I found out that he was indeed in the talent show– volunteered an hour before the show to dance to a song that his friend sang.  I was one mad mommy for missing it, and also kind of proud that he volunteered.

This year, he was in the talent show again.  He did two things.

For his first performance, he had help. His friend held up a piece of paper with a big letter written on it for all to see such as  “A”.  Then his friend went to the piano and played an “A.”  Philip would name the note, even though he could not see the keyboard.  Yes, my boy has perfect pitch! He did this 5-6 times, and wowed the audience! Then he went down to the piano to play “Creeping Crawling Spider,” which is his piano recital piece.

It is really neat for my son to have a unique ability that has a “wow” factor.  His friend will sing notes to him and ask him to name them. He’s glad to do it, unless his friend is off key.  Then he’ll say, “Sorry, that is not a note!”  I’m thinking it might be a good thing that he wasn’t in band this year.  The beginners’ being out of tune would have driven him absolutely nuts!

Parents, do your kids have any abilities with a “wow” factor?  Tell me all about it!  And if you have found a way to use it to their advantage, do tell!

Things that make my life easier: Ice Cube Trays

I while back I wrote about hooksVelcro, my coffee press, and my electric water kettle.

These things continue to make my life easier, as far as time management, including the family in clean up, and overall messes.

Now I’m going to share how something else makes my life easier, and dare I say, cushier!

Ready?  Dum dada dum!  It’s the lowly ice cube tray!!!

The humble ice cube tray. Photo by E. Givler

Freezing coffee– I get my frozen latte whenever I want and I don’t have to drive anywhere!  I make up some strong coffee, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then use the coffee cubes to make frappes and other frozen coffee drinks.  Of course, this works only when we remember to buy milk.

Freezing lemon juice– Same deal as the coffee, only I use the lemon juice in recipes, as ice cubes in tea / water, or to make slushies.  Just another way to take time for my

Uh oh, running out of coffee cubes! Photo by E. Givler

self during the day.

Freezing fresh herbs– I read somewhere that I could use my herbs year round by snipping them, putting them in ice cube trays, and  pouring water over the herbs to make an “herb cube”. When I want to make a sauce or soup with the herbs, I just drop the cube in the boiling mixture!  It works great.

By the way, I measured, and each cube= 2 Tablespoons. Makes measuring a little easier.

Organizing– Recently we got a fridge with an ice maker.  I had these nifty ice cube  trays with lids that I didn’t need to use anymore.  I repurposed them to organize this boxful of fabulous 80’s earrings my sweet cousin gave to me and my daughter!  They are all organized and stacked in the closet.

Painting– I used an old ice cube tray for painting.  I put a different color in each cube, and then painted my heart out.  At the end I just rinsed the tray.  A lot less messy.

Enjoying my frozen latte on a hot day. Aaah! Photo by E. Givler

Might not seem like much, but these ice cube trays make it easier to  “indulge” my self with my lattes, frozen lemonades, playing dressup with my daughter, and embracing my crafty side.  🙂

So what little tips do you have to share?