Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Toy-less Holiday

After the move this year, seeing all the stuff we had, and the way the girls' interests are developing, we have decided to make this holiday a toy-less one. So what to give to three kids aged 6, 4, and 4 months that are not toys?

Here are a few options:
- gift cards.
- puzzles or board games.
- vouchers, for example for picking up your kids' rooms, cooking their favorite meal, ice cream for dinner, etc.
- taking your kiddo on a lunch date.
- a movie or audio book.
- movie theater tickets.
- clothes they've wanted in forever.
- tickets to a theme park.
- keepsakes.

We've already bought most of the gifts for the girls; the family is also supporting us in our endeavor to make this holiday toy-less (even though the aunties have a special exempt status in this project). The girls somewhat seem to be in on it as well, discussing the letter to Santa, contemplating whether certain toys were necessary or whether they already had them. So proud of the girls, whose wish lists mostly contain books and puzzles!

What are you planning on giving the kids in your life as a holiday gift?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Violet's Favorite Homework

After each of her occupational therapy session, Violet gets a "homework" to focus on for the week until the next session. This week's homework: finding out whether Violet is left-handed, right-handed, or truly ambidextrous. Right now, her therapist would almost tend to her being ambidextrous, as initially, she performed her tests better with her right hand, which made us believe that she was a "confused righty" (right-handed people who prefer using their left hand due to mostly left-handed role models; usually the other way round!). Today, she approached me with a worksheet, informing me that surprisingly, she had performed a lot better with her LEFT hand that day, and that we really need to observe her in her daily life to establish her "handedness" for good.

So Violet's "homework" for this week is, among others (daily tasks like eating with utensils, brushing her teeth, etc.):

- eating ice cream in cones (in which hand does she hold the cone).
- water the flowers.
- hammer nails into a board (most likely hubby's favorite).
- color with water colors.

Guess who was very excited to be allowed to pick a maxi-box of ice cream cones at the grocery store today??

What would happen if Violet was determined to be truely ambidextrous?  We, together with her kindergarten teachers and therapists, will have to decide for her whether she will be raised mostly left- or right-handed. By the time she starts school, she has to be established as being left- or right-handed, and depending on how we decide, her occupational therapist will focus on training her dominant hand.

Our Violet is truly a very special girl!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (78)

Ten Things of Thankful
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The year is slowly drawing to a close. I remember a lot about this time last year, when I started having the first feelings about our little baby growing inside me. The excitement of the knowledge being all my own for a little while longer until I was sure enough to share the news with hubby. And now, we have our little son with us, completing our happy chaos. It is stressful, and with all the sleep deprivation, it feels as if Richard and I barely have half a brain in between the two of us. But we are happy. And tired. Right now, I am so thankful for getting to spend so much time with the entire family, with hubby studying online from home. This is a chance not many families get, and I thoroughly enjoy it.

More thankfuls of this week:

1. A great visit with our friends on Sunday. We usually meet on a Sunday and have a big lunch together. The kids play, the adults share good conversation, and we usually get home way too late, but happy. The friendship is still fairly new, but we've been growing close so quickly.

2. Participating in a food-drive at Violet's kindergarten. The class is preparing food packages to be sent to the Ukraine to support the victims of the war there. It is wonderful that the teachers are teaching the kids about the situations and to share what we have with those less fortunate.

3. Lily being healthy again. She missed three days of school in the last 2 weeks due to a stomach bug; I had several 3am summonings to change sheets full of puke and clean a terrified Lily, poor girl. Luckily, she was able to make up the schoolwork she missed without a problem, and is already halfway through a book she got from the school library on Thursday. So proud of our little reader!!

4. Baking yummie honey cakes. I've been planning on baking some in forever, but never actually fit it in. So glad Calvin and I got to it this week, they are delicious!

5. Violet's allergy test results being all negative. So she's just dealing with a very stubborn cough and mild bronchitis, but thankfully not a chronic allergic bronchitis!

6. Getting the call that our new dryer will be delivered on Monday. So excited! We're taking a break from doing laundry this weekend and simply wait for Monday and our new dryer  :-)

7. Our sweet little Violet. She is the absolutely most amazing little girl in this world. Today, while shopping, we went to the bathroom, and as we were leaving, an elderly lady was about to come in. And what did my little girl do?  She held the door open and stepped aside to let her in. The door was heavy, but she was so proud to be able to help out. I couldn't have been a prouder mommy  :-)

8. Hubby taking better care of me than I do. He frequently sends me to bed, gets up in the morning to give me an extra hour of sleep, makes me coffee, etc. I don't deserve him, but am so thankful for him!

9. Getting to watch the kids. Calvin was teething like a littke madman on Lily's finger, Lily's sqeaking and cussing him out while Violet is rolling on the floor laughing.  They are so hilarious!!

10.  Not falling asleep at the D&D table again and having a fun time playing. This was probably the last game of the year, but I'm looking forward to playing with this awesome group next year again!

What are you thankful for this week?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Calvin's Third Month

The careful reader will wonder: why Calvin's THIRD month? Shouldn't he be closer to 4 months old now??  Indeed, today is his 4-month birthday, but in between my grandfather's death, the funeral, the ensuing bout of depression on my end, and our daily chaos, I obviously missed to post his 3-month update.

Therefore, here are his stats and favorites during his third month of life:

Height: not sure, ever growing I'd say. He's outgrown his 3-month clothes and is now proudly wearing size 6 month.
Weight: the same here. He's probably gained another pound or so within the last month. I swear, I don't need a gym; carrying this boy around all day is all the arm-workout I need!!
Clothes size: Firmly lodged in 6-months clothes.
Number of teeth: none, but he's teething like a champ. Drool, drool, everywhere I look...
Biggest Milestone: Rolling from his tummy to his back (he still doesn't like tummy-time very much!)

Favorite food: mommy's milk
Favorite toy: Still his activity gym. He's figured out to kick the arc to make a sound, so cute! He also likes the Muppets Animal doll he received as a gift from his aunt and uncle; fuzzy hair tickles!
Favorite book: Since Lily has learned reading, she's been reading children's books to him; I'd say he loves the book with the polar bear finger puppet that Lily's been reading to him.
Favorite outfit / piece of clothing: Calvin still doesn't really care. He loves the freedom of just wearing jammies, but hardly ever complains if I dress him in the morning. But he still hates putting on his jacket, no idea why..

Likes: cuddling, drooling, chewing on mommy's hand or a toy, smiling at his sisters, being carried (and oftentimes sleeping) in his Moby wrap.
Dislikes: bathing, mommy not paying attention to him for a minute, tummy-time, loud noises

Calvin at 3 months


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (77)

Ten Things of Thankful

I feel as if things are slowly going back to normal again. I managed to get out of bed this week, I managed to keep track of the various appointments, I managed to do some holiday shopping and ran some necessary errands, and all despite the various illnesses having their firm grasp on our family. I've been at the pediatrician on 3 out of 5 days this week, once for Calvin's shots that he couldn't get at his 3-4 month appointment due to - right - being sick, once with Lily for a stomach bug, and finally with Violet for her lasting cough, which may be related to an allergy. Yes, this poor girl seems to not be getting a break. Still, this week has been a great one, for many things. My top ten this week:

1. Violet's occupational therapist. She is such a wonderful person, with a heart of gold. the way she works with the children, how she knows how to deal with every individual personality, calm the over-stimulated kids and encourages the shy ones. She always takes a lot of time to talk to the parents after the sessions and gave me a bunch of material to better understand Violet's world and show me ways to work with her.

2. Candles.  Instead of a traditional advent wreath with four candles that mark the four Sundays before Christmas, I made an arrangement with five candles, symbolizing the five of us. As Atheists, we're not celebrating Christmas but rather, as the winter solstice and with it the longest night of the years draws closer, focus on all of good things our family got to experience, the people in our lives, and our thankfulness of getting to celebrate this time of the year without worries, in safety, and with everyone of us more or less healthy.

3. The smell of sugar cookies charring baking in the oven.

4. Our wonderful neighbors. Our dryer somewhat died on us today (definite burning smell when I came home; I unscrewed the back and cleaned quite some stuff out of there, but we're still not trusting it), and our new dryer won't be delivered for another couple of weeks, so they offered to use theirs until we have our new one. With a family of 5 with a new house that doesn't do well with the added humidity of clothes drying on a rack, being dryer-less could develop into quite a problem.

5. The first flurries of snow!!!! Yes, we've had some snow!! Lily was so excited seeing the little bit of white on the roofs, and Violet couldn't help herself and ate some snow she scratched off a stone wall (yes, I know, it's gross, but it's her way of experiencing). This morning walk definitely made me happy.

6. Hubby being absolutely sweet and buying me a poppy-seed danish for breakfast. Yum!

7. Paper tissues, butt paste, and nose spray. Yes, the sickness caught up to me, too, but I get to live in a world where all the things mentioned above are readily available to get rid off the gross stuff, keep my nose from getting red and raw, and helping me to be able to breath enough to sleep at night.

8. Sharing cinnamon hot chocolate with the girls in the afternoon.

9. Getting to dress up (somewhat) and attend our friends' holiday party with all the kids. It was a lot of fun for all of us, meeting new people and people we didn't know our friends knew as well  :-)  We did lose the bottle of hard cider towards the end of the white elephant game (yes, I know, who would be heartless enough to steal the booze from a mother of three??), but enjoyed ourselves so much, ate good food, drank some great mulled wine and fruit punch. Perfect evening!

10. My cousin getting to celebrate another birthday. Yes, his birthday is St. Nicholas Day, which always meant a certain visit during his birthday when we were children. Oh dear memories!

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and some time for yourself to reflect on the many thankfuls in your lives!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Experiencing The World - In Two Dimensions

Most frequent readers may know that Violet has a serious vision impairment. Her vision was so bad that her brain shut off one eye to be able to form a picture at all, which left her without 3-D vision.

But how does a little girl experience the world, which for her only has two dimensions? Talking to her occupational therapist a lot, I was able to get an idea, even though I could never ever even imagine it. Since she cannot experience the space around her with her eyes, the other senses, especially feeling, has taken over. For now, both in her sessions with her occupational therapist as well as in her daily routine, her therapy is divided in two blocks: experiencing her surroundings and herself in her environment.

Violet's world has no depth, she cannot perceive speed with her eyes, or distance, or a difference in height. Therefore, creating tangible boundaries for her help her to experience space. Building a pillow fort or a blanket tent for her, or wrapping her in a blanket are ways to create a small, safe world to experience this.

Since she cannot perceive speed as we do, letting her alternate between running, walking, and skipping lets her experience how the wind and the air feel at different speed. Letting her push Calvin's stroller, pull a sled or a little cart, jumping on a trampoline or play tug o' war also helps her to perceive the space around her.

Walking on stilts, balancing, walking on slopes or stairs or playing on uneven ground also supports her grounding and confidence in the world around her.

Experiencing herself in this world, massages and other sensoric stimuli are an essential tool. She touches most things she gets in contact with or even puts them in her mouth to experience 3-dimensional bodies. Playing in the sandbox in summer or in the snow in winter, kneating playdough or actual cookie or pizza dough, or recognizing objects while blindfolded helps her with this.

At the moment, her little world is still so full of dangers. Most of the times she cannot tell how fast a car is driving on the street, so she never crosses the street if she sees any cars that are not parked; she cannot see how high a sidewalk is; she touches hot plates or gets splinters when walking with her hand along wooden fences. But step by step, her confidence grows. We are so thankful that despite her challenges, she is still such a happy, little girl who doesn't let her situation keep her from having fun. Her kindergarten teachers love her; the other day, they told me how they love her being the perfect princess inside but as soon as she puts on her mud pants and rubber boots, she starts rolling in the dirt.

Even though her world is not like yours and mine - and maybe never will - she enjoys her life, and enjoys experience it every day. Her joy spreads to everyone around her, and I consider myself so very lucky to be her mommy and to be able to walk this way beside and with her, even though we're separated by one dimension.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Today, the Carnival of Atheist Parenting (CAP) went live again featuring one of my posts. If you are interested in learning more about parenting as an Atheist or homeschooling (there are quite a few homeschooling Atheist parents as well), head over to Karen's blog and show her some love. I'd greatly appreciate it!!!