Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's the 70's all over again

Samantha has a ton of night lights.  Many more than the average person.  It's not that she needs multiple night lights plugged in, she only needs one to the do the job; it's just that she seems to collect them.  Even with all the night lights available for her to use, she asked Jeff to get her another one.  It must've been when I was away somewhere because I know the purchase of another night light was not necessary. 

So this night light enters our house and gets plugged into Sam's outlet.  It's like nothing you've ever seen before.  Sure, it lights up and gives a glow to the room.  It also changes to all the colors of the rainbow. You can pick one of the colors to be stationary and illuminate only that color or you can have it on the setting to run through all the colors. And these colors are BRIGHT!!  Very, very bright.  Bright red, bright green, bright blue, bright yellow, bright orange, bright purple, etc.  It is by far the most obnoxious night light you've ever experienced. 
Two of the many colors in the spectrum.
These pictures don't do it justice.  This night light lights up Samantha's entire bedroom.  It is as bright as day.  Of course she wants the setting where the light changes colors.  From the outside of her room (either the light coming through the bottom of the door) or from the outside of her window, it looks like she is having one heckuva party in her bedroom.  ALL NIGHT LONG!  Seriously, it is like a disco ball twirling around from her ceiling giving off all the colorful lights.

In addition to the night light, Sam falls asleep to music.  Usually it is set on a timer of 60 minutes and will shut off automatically.  At least once a week or so, the timer button does not get set and the music plays all night light long. And the music is on the loud side because she has turned up the volume after we've said good-night.  Between the music and the night light show, it is a wonder Sam is getting any sleep at all.  For a girl that has (in my opinion) many sensory issues, it is so bizarre that anyone can sleep, let alone Sam, during this display of light and music.

Samantha does a great job of keeping it interesting and fresh around here.

Sam, snug as a bug in a rug.
This is how she arranged herself and slept, surrounded by pillows.
The Halloween hat in the background is a nice touch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Heard and Observed #50

Ian and Sam have Chinese as a mandatory language in their school. 

One recent Sunday evening:

Ian:  Ugh. I don't want Chinese tomorrow.

Sam:  Me either.

Ian:  Sam, you have Chinese too on Mondays?

Sam:  I don't know.  Just ask me each day and I will let you know if I had Chinese that day.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Observing a national holiday.

I read somewhere that October 15th was National Eat Ice Cream For Dinner Day.  When I told Jeff this and my crazy idea to let the kids have only ice cream for dinner, he was quick to jump onboard.  We did discuss adding French fries to accompany the ice cream.  Why not go all out and really have some fun with dinner?  Believe me, I put a well-rounded, pretty healthy dinner on the table almost every night for the family.  Having only ice cream and French fries for dinner is very much out of our norm.  But with all Sam has been through with her doctors appointments and Ian's overwhelming amount of homework, I figured we could use a little fun.
The day before I went back online and looked for more information on this awesome sounding holiday.  However, it turns out that October 15th is really National Chicken Cacciatore Day.  WHAT?!?!?  Who knew that Chicken Cacciatore even needed their own day.  After some more digging, I finally found where I read that it was Eat Ice Cream For Dinner Day. It turns out that 10 years ago a woman decided to honor her deceased father by starting a movement to make every October 15th, eat ice cream for dinner day. Apparently her dad would've really liked this.  I think this is great and I was still all for it. When I told Jeff how it came about, he said, "So this woman made it up?"  Um, aren't all these crazy sounding days made up?  I mean, really, chicken cacciatore day is not made up?

We kept our dinner plans a surprise.  When Jeff got home from work, we sat both kids down and told them what we were doing.  Their eyes could not have been bigger. I think Sam's mouth even dropped open.  It was pretty neat.  They both thought we were kidding.  It was awesome.  The look on their faces was priceless.

It all went down at Friendly's.  We told the waitress we only wanted plates of French fries and lots of ice cream.  However, one by one we each ordered something else to go with our "main entrees".   Sam ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  Ian ordered the kid's mozzarella sticks dinner.  Jeff got salad and soup. And I got a salad. And there was plenty of French fries and ice cream to go around.

I guess no one in the family could handle only having French fries and ice cream for dinner.  How funny.  Sam was the last holdout and then finally decided she wanted something else too.  I am sure the waitress thought we were bonkers as every time she stopped to check in on us, we ordered yet something else to eat. 

Normally our Friendly's has the worst service ever!  But we got lucky and the service was quick and efficient.  We were actually out of there within an hour.  Good thing too with how much we were making our waitress work. 

What was left of the kids' Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Festival Fun!

I LOVE Cox Farms!  I love it when we go and there is a slight chill in the air.  I love it when we get there right before they open and beat the inevitable big crowds.  I love it when there are no lines on all our favorite things to do.  I love that the kids are old enough to go on everything, either with or without Jeff/me joining them.  I love that we have a plan on what we want to do as soon we get in. I love how we love to eat kettle corn.  I LOVE Cox Farms!

It is a wonderful way spend the day together as a family.  And this year we coordinated going with another family.  The kids had friends to hang out with, and Jeff and I each had another mom/dad to chat with.  It was a picture perfect day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My love affair with Johns Hopkins

It is a 1 hour, 15 minute drive from our house to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  I would drive 3 times that amount based on our recent experiences.  Within the past few weeks we've gone up and back to meet with their Pediatric Urology doctor, their Pediatric Gastroenterology doctor, had an x-ray taken, blood taken, and an MRI (complete with anesthesia). 

I can not say enough good things about how we were treated, how amazing their doctors and staff are, and their incredible responsiveness.  You can EASILY get a live person on the phone!  All the departments are integrated enough to keep you moving in the process seamlessly. 

We are so fortunate to have one of THE top medical facilities in our backyard. I realize that our medical issues are nothing compared to what other kids are going thru.  I sleep easier at night knowing that these families are having the best of the best help them.  Johns Hopkins is truly phenomenal.

One of the most wonderful aspects is that you don't feel like you are one of a gazillion patients they see in a day.  With something as scary as scheduling your daughter's MRI, I had multiple people call me in the days leading up to the procedure and walk me thru it.  And when the big day came, I was well looked after while Sam went under.  The whole thing ran so smoothly that I felt like we were waiting for Sam to wake-up within the hour of us first walking in.  When I asked the nurse who was hanging by Sam's side how many kids they see in a day, she said the area we were in was only for kids waking up from anesthesia; whether it was surgery, an MRI, whatever.  This area was ONLY for kids waking up.  On any given day, they could see up to 70 kids pass through.  Yowzer!!  You'd think we were the only ones there with how much attention Sam and I were given.  We had a whole team of people meet with us right after check-in.  The anesthesiologist was so calming and had so many tricks up his sleeve that Sam was out cold before she even knew what happened.  Upon waking up, Sam had a smile on her face and asked what just happened.  I had been forewarned that Sam will probably wake-up angry and emotional.  Because she was calm going under, it carried over to how her temperament was waking up from the anesthesia. 

It's hard to not be in awe of Johns Hopkins use of technology either.  From their individual green light/red light above each parking space to let you know at a faraway glance that it is available, to the automated check-in at the kiosks, to a coded number system on the monitor to let you know where your daughter is in the MRI process, it is high-tech all the way.  And with access to "My Chart", I can quickly see all of Sam's test results and easily communicate with her doctors.  I LOVE THIS!!

All of these appointments were for Samantha.  I have to say she was a rockstar.  You never know which side of Sam you are going to get.  I've gotten really good at holding my breath just waiting for the 'other shoe to drop' and I was pleasantly surprised we both survived the many doctors appointments, radiology department, blood being drawn and the long car rides up and back to Baltimore.

It appears that (so far!) everything has come back looking good.  Sam may never be rid of her constipation issues and will most likely be on Miralax for many, many years to come.  But as for something medically wrong with her?  We can officially check-off everything that could be causing this physically.   It's just the way it is.  Fortunately I think we've got a good handle on it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My kind of reading

My love of reading started with Judy Blume, when my mom gave me as a little girl a boxed set of her books.  It opened a new world to me and I've been a voracious reader ever since.  It dawned on me that while I've been counting down the years to introduce Sam to Judy Blume, there is no reason I can't share it with Ian too.  Don't worry, I am not going to traumatize him with "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret".  But Judy Blume has so many other wonderful books that I think he would like. 

Since I read all her books in the late 70's/early 80's, she has turned the Fudge books into an official series.  The first one is "Tales of a fourth grade nothing."  I downloaded this on Ian's iPad kindle app and told him it was there waiting for him.  He started it right away and read it within 5 days.  He told me he liked it very much and was ready for the next book, "Otherwise known as Sheila the great".  Again, back in the day, this was just another book, now there is an order to reading them. 

It makes my heart swell that Ian is enjoying these books.  There is something about Judy Blume that is magical and for Ian to recognize this too, makes me a proud mama.  Judy Blume gets adolescence.  She gets it.  It's that simple.

So here is the really, really cool ending to this story.  Ian's teacher reads to the class at the end of every day.  They just finished one book and then started another the next day.  The next book she picked to read to the class?  "Tales of a fourth grade nothing."  No way!  Way!  Ian had just finished reading it the day before.  How's that for timing!?!?  I could not believe it when he came home and told me.   I've never felt more hip with the 4th grade mentality until that moment.

There is nothing greater than introducing a new generation to one of my most favorite authors.  And Sam's personal signed copy of "Are you there God?  It's me, Margaret" is on her bookshelves waiting for her to discover in a few years.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Homework absurdity

Sam walks around daily saying, "Boy, am I glad I'm not in 4th grade."  Isn't that the truth?  I have to agree with her.  I try very hard not to project my feelings and let Ian know how bad he has it, but believe me, 4th grade isn't what it used to be. 

Ian had the following math problem on his homework worksheet.  This came home during the first month of school this year:

x -5 + x -8+ x+ x + 3+ 12+ 10+ x+ x = 72

Find the value for X.

I kid you not.  He had an entire page of problems like this.  This is ALGEBRA!!  OMG! 

So in addition to a math worksheet each night, he also has 20 minutes of reading and a reading response question to do each day.  Weekly, Ian has a research question for him to look up on the Internet, usually having to do with science or social studies, a R-U-H-O-S-S problem (which is a math word problem), and a sheet of cursive letters/words for him to practice writing out.  In addition, Ian has a weekly word study test (15 words) that he needs to practice spelling and be able to write out the words in cursive.  Oh, and I can't forget his 20 minutes each night practicing the violin and another 15 minutes nightly required practicing the recorder. 

If that isn't enough, Ian is also expected to do 15 minutes of Hebrew each night.  I find the amount of homework Ian has to be overwhelming.  We haven't even gotten into projects or papers he will be given throughout the year.

I feel bad for kids today.  There is too much 'work' and not enough time to be a kid.  Even the activities we have our kids signed up for take it a whole new level of crazy.  Why can't they do a sport just to have fun and enjoy the game?  Noooo, it's all about getting private coaching lessons,  getting on the travel team and making it to the playoffs.  I'm talking about 8 and 9 year olds!  I know a first grader who has two practices for soccer each week, plus a game on the weekend.  This is in addition to being in Brownies and getting tutored so she doesn't fall behind.   Stick a fork in me, because I am done.  I refuse to get caught up in this craziness. 

I can't even imagine Ian doing team on gymnastics and practicing 9 hours a week, plus competitions on weekends.  I love our family having dinner together each night too much to give that up.

This Fall Ian is doing Flag Football and has religious school twice a week.  Sam is doing gymnastics (1 hour a week), religious school once a week, and her therapy appt.  I believe we are at the max for what we can handle and still keep on top of the homework situation.

I can't imagine how much more homework Ian will get in middle school and high school if this is what he has now in 4th grade.  Yowzer!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Are you ready for some football?

Ian is not doing gymnastics this year.  He decided that if he can't be on team, then he doesn't want to do a 3rd year of pre-team.  Technically you only do one year of pre-team.  Given the time commitment (9+ hours each week, plus travel on the weekends to competitions) and the financial commitment ($5,000+) it would require this year, Jeff and I told him we can't make that big next step.  Ian was disappointed, but understood.  He found a new sport he'd like to try...Flag Football.

Ian loves this game.  He is truly enjoying himself out there on the field.  I feel good about it because I know other boys aren't going to intentionally ram into him and try to take him down.  Hip, hip, hooray for the flag part of flag football.

When we watched Ian catch a pass during the first game that helped make a touchdown, it was very exciting and a proud moment for Jeff.  Way to go #19!

The game went by surprisingly fast.  When the game was over, Ian thought they still had another half to play.  Ian is a very good sport and his enthusiasm for his teammates, for the game and as a player  is contagious. He is too cute.

We get home after that first game, including Ian having had an hour practice before the game, and we tell Ian to go take a shower.  Ian comes downstairs showered, wearing the same exact clothes he was playing in.  OMG!  Just when you think your child couldn't possibly surprise you, you realize your work is still far from done raising them.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Now you see them, now you don't

I am done with our lawn looking like crap.  There are patches where grass won't grow.  When you have a large lawn, some patches may not be a big deal.  But when your front lawn is tiny, it becomes even more apparent.  After 9 years, I am finally doing something BIG about it.  I've got a plan.

The first thing we've done is get rid of the trees that block a huge amount of sun from hitting the lawn. 

Before with the trees.

It was very cool watching them take the tree down.
After, without the trees.

My next task is to get an automatic sprinkler installed.  Jeff and I do a bad job of watering the lawn regularly.  And when we finally do get on a watering kick, the hose/sprinkler sits there across the driveway, walkway and lawn.  This definitely does not add to our curb appeal.  I'm in the process of getting estimates to see if it is realistic for our budget to have one installed.

Finally, once I've taken care of our lack of sunlight and watering situation, we will address getting the yard reseeded.  I am hoping that by Spring all of our ducks are in a row and our lawn is looking good.

Now that I've managed to demonstrate I can keep Ian and Samantha going strong, I am ready to branch out and tackle keeping the grass alive.