Evaluations, Preschool, and an IEP…

A couple weeks ago we took Astoria in to Child Find at Boulder Valley School District(BVSD) to be evaluated for possible preschool services and an Individualized Educational Program(IEP). I was initially very hesitant to put her through this testing since her initial evaluation at Adams 12 school district, when she was 3 months old, was really frustrating for me. The major determining factor in our decision to proceed with this evaluation was our desire for Astoria to have the best opportunity for a normal public education and to succeed in the different difficult listening environments that school will certainly provide.

So this is what I tried to think about as I hauled my 4 year old into the Child Find office for two full hours of testing for a variety of skills including receptive language, expressive communication, classification and sorting, pretend play, and memorization. Stori immediately charmed everyone when we walked into the office and they all gushed about her pretty dress, matching accessories, and long princess hair. My pixie girl, true to her nature, gave them a shy smile and clung tight to the Princess Aurora/Ariel flip doll she got on our recent trip to Disneyland. She quietly told them stories about meeting princesses, getting a Rapunzel makeover, and how scary it was riding Space Mountain on vacation. She also eagerly explained how excited she was to be done with the evaluation so she could have a salon day with one of her best friends. When it came time for the testing to start, Astoria was taken into a little classroom and I sat in the adjoining “spy room” with a one way mirror/window to watch my intelligent girlie pie answer question after question correctly in her shy little pixie voice and amaze the therapists with her vast vocabulary and knowledge that was well beyond what they expected of a 4 year old who had never attended preschool, much less one with hearing loss. With as impressed as they all were I figured it was unlikely that she would be eligible for placement in preschool which was fine with me because I was not a bit thrilled with even entertaining the idea of losing 4 hours or more with her each day. I mean isn’t it enough on this mama’s heart that Z is heading off to Kindergarten in the mornings come fall?

Once the evaluation was finally over we did go out and have an amazing afternoon at the salon and got lunch and ice cream with some dear friends. Astoria was no worse for wear and I was super proud of her.

Now fast forward to last Friday which was our meeting with the BVSD Child Find people to follow up on Astoria’s evaluation. I took her with me because I assumed it would be pretty quick as they were surely just going to tell me she wasn’t eligible for services…. But it didn’t go like that. It went like this…

1. Astoria is very smart for her age and has incredibly excellent receptive and expressive communication skills. She has some articulation issues in her speech, all of which are age appropriate and likely will be outgrown with continued development and practice so no further speech therapy is required but we are going to keep an eye on her progression with specific “trouble” sounds.

2. Being a child with mild to moderately severe bilateral Sensorineural hearing loss she is entitled to receive preschool services through BVSD under the following criteria:

-Inability to demonstrate self advocacy skills or utilize specialized technology/resources to access instruction.

Essentially, they believe Astoria will benefit from preschool services so she can learn to use her hearing aids and assistive devices effectively and so that she can learn how to advocate for herself in difficult listening environments. They have offered her a place at the Aspen Creek preschool in the afternoon class which will likely be the same school that Zoren is attending morning Kindergarten starting in fall. BVSD will have someone with her in the classroom for a certain number of hours each week and will be providing special bus transportation to and from our house for her as the school is pretty far away.

What this means for us:

Astoria will be attending afternoon preschool at Aspen Creek. Aside from general preschool education she will receive one on one time in the classroom with a BVSD Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) early childhood education instructor who will help her learn to utilize her integrated Roger system which is built into her hearing aids and allows her teachers to wear a small microphone which streams their voice directly into her hearing aids. Her understanding of how to use this system is really important, especially in school where there are a lot of environmental distractions that can make listening difficult for a kid with hearing loss. She will also be taught self advocacy skills so when she moves onto Kindergarten she will feel confident asking for a different seat in class or reminding a teacher to wear or turn on their microphone. These are skills that Steve and I feel are imperative for Astoria to have in order to succeed in school. Our hope is that once she learns these skills and practices them throughout the next year in preschool, she can enter Kindergarten with a 504 plan (allowing for preferential seating and assistive devices) instead of an IEP (categorizing her as a special education student and possibly placing an aide with her in the classroom).

So as I spend the next gazillion hours mentally and emotionally coming to terms with sending both my older kidlets off on buses to Preschool and Kindergarten respectively, and on opposite schedules, I am throwing all my energy into preparing for an EPIC summer…. Between school and Zoren’s recent acceptance into Artistic Fusion Dance Academy’s Company Competition Team which practices 4 nights a week and some weekends, along with Astoria’s two weekly dance classes, this next year is going to be insanely busy and I can already envision the full weeks just flying by without the luxury of daily down time and family time that we are definitely accustomed to and spoiled by. So this summer we have a big list of all the awesome things we want to do together which I will post next time!!

Look for more frequent updates and posts now that my schedule is a little less crazy!! Thanks for reading :)





Autumn Highlights

Things have finally settled down and we have found our new niche in “normal”. There are still occasionally a few kinks in our schedule and some sleepless nights, but generally things are in place. I have a little more time to myself again now that all three kidlets are on the same nap/quiet time and bedtime schedules. It’s great having an hour or two each day to spend sewing, baking, or writing.

There have been some ups and downs over the last few months but things are calming down and I am focusing on all of the good things that are on the horizon. Amidst the chaos of adding a new baby to the family, an emergency surgery, and other unplanned stressors, we had a lot of fun times and made some great memories this summer and fall. Here are a few highlights:

- Vox grew! Our roo is already four months old and most definitely qualifies as a big, healthy boy! He is a tummy time guru, constantly rolling across the blanket when I lay him down and giggles incessantly while he flops on the floor like a fish out of water. He is getting better at sitting without support and is a master at grabbing at or pounding on toys to make as much noise as possible.

Weight: 17lbs (80th percentile)
Height: 25.5 inches (75th percentile)
Head size: gigantic (99th percentile)
Likes: giggling with big brother and sister, good conversation, standing up, taking baths, rolling over, listening to music, stealing mommy’s iPhone out of her hands
Dislikes: being in a car seat, getting shots, being hungry for even a second.
4 months

3 months

8 weeks


- Astoria started a hip hop class at Artistic Fusion Dance Academy (the same studio where Z takes dance classes). Pixie is totally thriving there and loves hip hop.
stori hip hop

- Our three kids have bonded, big time! Zoren and Stori seem to be just as infatuated with baby Vox as he is with them. Whenever our little roo is awake, big brother and sister always appear with stories of the adventures they had while he slept. They haul toys and books over to wherever he is and happily play with him, read to him, and talk with him. Astoria even has her own pet name, “Little Gum-Gum”, that she lovingly calls baby V. These kidlets truly know how to melt a mama’s heart!





-We took a much needed family vacation to California with stops in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Two days at Legoland, an impromptu day at the San Diego Zoo, and an evening at Mission Beach were some of our favorite memories. Our kids are amazing travelers and we all had such a phenomenal time together.
















-We are enjoying the autumn with walks to the park, playing in any and all leaves we encounter, frequenting the pumpkin patch and harvest festivals, and doing lots of holiday crafts, activities, and baking.








- We had a terrifically haunted Halloween. Vox wore a homemade spooky owlet costume I sewed for him, Zoren was on the forefront of finding the perfect pieces for his Doctor Who costume, and Astoria insisted on being a pink princess in the new dress she sweet talked her daddy into buying at Legoland (for a small fortune). We went to Boo at the Zoo After Dark, Trick or Treat Street at the Denver Children’s museum, and a big Halloween party/trick or treating event with lots of friends.


Now, as we wade into November and transition to cooler weather, there is so much to look forward to. I really love the last few months of the year. From the beginning of October until the end of December we seem to celebrate nonstop, rewarding ourselves for a year well spent or another year survived. We focus more on staying in the moment, spending meaningful time with loved ones, and less time dwelling on the stresses that life brings and the pressing clock which we can never keep up with. We appreciate more of the small things each day has to offer, show more patience when situations get difficult, and smile endlessly when the kids make declarations of the things big and small that they are thankful for.

I can tell that Zoren and Astoria are really anticipating the first twinkles of the holiday season. The two of them are already whispering to each other about what they want from Santa when they think no one is listening and all of the bedtime song requests have been Christmas carols for over a month now. We are officially kicking off this holiday season in less than a week with our annual road trip to Wisconsin. Spending time with family and friends we don’t see very often seems like the perfect catalyst for a great ending to what has certainly been a rollercoaster of a year and we can’t wait to be on our way!

A Spectacular Saturday

So it’s been awhile. Almost two months since I have found time to sit and write more than a daily Facebook update. I have a lot of catching up to do which will definitely happen in an upcoming post but right now I feel like I should write about our Saturday before it becomes a fleeting memory.

Somehow my husband, the baby, and I slept until 9am which in itself is a miraculously epic way to begin a Saturday in our house. Normally our two preschoolers are up before the crack of dawn relentlessly issuing demands for milk, food, a TV show, or iPad time. But somehow we thwarted their requests this morning and slept in, mostly uninterrupted. Vox finally woke up around 9am to nurse and his adorable smiles convinced me that it was probably time to start the day. A couple of hours later, tummies were filled with whole wheat French toast and maple sausages then we made our way to the library.

We really love our local library and go at least once a week to borrow copious amounts of books, a few Signing Time or Scholastic Book DVD’s, and let the kids play in the awesome Science and Education area which is filled with toys that are both scientific and educational in nature. Its really a great place for learning and I love that I can borrow all the books we need for our preschool lessons each week instead of spending a ton of money to purchase them.

Anyway, by the time we made our way back home it was noon, unbearably hot outside, and I had about a million things that needed to be done around the house ranging from laundry to cleaning to finishing up my preschool lesson plans for next week. But I didn’t do any of that stuff. My kitchen is still a mess, there are baby clothes, kids clothes, and cloth diapers that need washing. I have hours of preschool curriculum to write and a whole slew of 3 month baby clothes to pack away that Vox has outgrown (insert sad nostalgic sentiment here). But, as it turns out, sometimes we need to put these type of things aside for a bit so….

The rest of our Saturday, instead, went something like this:

Swimming and Jumping in the pool

Baby conversations, smiles, and naps in the shade

Wet afternoon picnic and popsicle bliss.

Outdoor blanket cave mayhem

Running through sprinklers and chattering teeth

Bike rides and a chalk covered driveway

Ergo cuddles and sweaty baby naps

It was a spontaneously wonderful day and we are settling in for the evening with Fantastic Mr. Fox and a few heavy eyed kidlets who needed a day like this more than anyone could ever need a clean house.

Two Weeks And Thriving


Our Vox-a-roo is officially two weeks old today. These weeks have been a big mix of ups and downs but we are trying to keep our grip and enjoy the ride. Having grandma Joy and grandpa John here was great because they kept the kids occupied with trips to the park, Saturday morning breakfast at Great Scott’s Eatery, and lots of games both inside and out in the backyard. There were also tea parties, projects, swimming, walks, farmers market with face paintings and airbrush tattoos, and lots of reading time. Both Zoren and Astoria were in their element, thoroughly enjoying all the time with their grandparents, which certainly doesn’t happen often enough due to the thousand mile gap between us.

teatime smaller

We spent the Fourth of July eating lots of great food, making paper lanterns and tri-corner hats with the kidlets. We followed that up with our own backyard parade complete with recorders, songs, and “happy 4th” signs. After dinner the whole gang, aside from me and little Vox, headed out to enjoy the fireworks.

4th of july

Zoren has spent his mornings this week at Zoo Safari Camp at the Denver Zoo. His theme for the week is Planet Patrol and he is loving every aspect of it. Z has come home every day with tons of new animal and habitat facts, talking a mile a minute about everything he is learning and can’t wait for us to come see his class sing a song to the parents tomorrow for his last day. His camp experience was awesome and we will surely be signing him up again next year (and Stori, too as she wasn’t quite old enough to go this summer). While Zbot was zoo camping it up, Astoria, Vox, and I had a lot of playtime. Stori and I ran around the house hiding and seeking, played round after round of “what creature am I” and “captain may I”, and wrote a letter to her summer pen pal. We also spent copious amounts of time coloring, changing diapers, and taking care of baby Vox.



Now these past weeks were not without some difficult times and although I want to be sure to remember all the good things we did, it doesn’t meant there weren’t some notable bumps along the way. At first, it seemed like Vox was doing pretty well with the whole breast feeding venture but at each consecutive weigh-in for over a week, little V just wasn’t gaining weight. He held steady at his mere 6lbs 7oz at each visit and continued to eat every two hours but just wasn’t packing on the ounces like he should. After our tireless efforts to breast feed, then pump, then feed via syringe, we had to change things up a bit. It just wasn’t feasible or fair to the other two kidlets for me to continue spending 90% of my day feeding, pumping, and supplementing without any results. So we threw the rule book in the garbage and started a new regiment of pumping and bottle feeding every two hours to be sure the little guy was eating enough, along with supplementing twice a day with a couple ounces of newborn formula. We began noticing changes in Vox almost immediately. He started to be alert for longer periods and sleeping a little less. He also became much less fussy and seemed to have a satisfied and full belly for the first time since he was born. After only four days of this new feeding routine, he gained a full 9 ounces and was back up to weighing 7lbs at his weight check this Tuesday. Vox-a-roo is quickly getting back the sweet pudgy cheeks he was born with, looking much less gaunt and more healthy, and the giant swollen bruise on his head is almost totally gone.

I adore having a newborn in the house and these two weeks have been a reminder of just how quickly time is going to fly by, especially now that I am vastly outnumbered by children on a daily basis which lends itself to fun filled but very fast and busy days. I am trying to hold onto as many moments with this sweet baby as I can because he may very well be the last newborn entering our family.

This week I have gotten to know this little ninja even better since he is awake for longer and more frequent periods. I love how his eyes intently study everything around him, the skeptical looks and sideways glances he occasionally and unknowingly shoots in my direction, and the newborn dreamy sleep faces he makes which never get old. There are brief instances where I find little pieces of the other two kids in him, a crooked smile that mimics our newborn Stori and the raised brow and wrinkly forehead that a two week old Zoren also sported. Vox is my baby with an old soul that seems so very familiar to me in some ways and yet looks so different then either of my other two kidlets did at that age. My heart melts every time his bottom lip begins to quiver which happens just before he lets loose a mighty cry of protest. He hates having his diaper changed, probably because the outside world is so cold and he prefers his bottom tucked safely inside his warm cloth diapers. I adore his tiny hands that are constantly searching for something to grasp and the moments when he gets a firm grip on my finger and holds on tight. I love that it only takes mere seconds of sitting with Vox in my rocking chair to calm him down when he’s crying, that he fits so perfectly in my arms, and that he already knows who I am just by smell and sound. I spend ample time breathing this baby in every day and I can’t wait to see what the next couple weeks have in store, how much he will change, and how much more of him I will get to know.

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Our Little Vox

I have been trying for almost two weeks now to find a good chunk of time to sit and write. As you can imagine, that isn’t the easiest thing to do with two preschoolers and a newborn, especially while trying to recover from my third c-section. Luckily, my mom was here for awhile helping out with the kidlets and housekeeping duties. My husband has also been instrumental in assisting with anything I need but sleep is still minimal with a very hungry newborn who needs to eat every couple hours. So in turn, this post may be a little incoherent and rambling because, lets face it, my thought process and ability to form proper sentences directly reflects the amount of rest I have been getting, which as I said, isn’t a whole lot. Without further adieu, here is my story of the birth of our sweet little Vox…

Steve was over at the old house on Wednesday evening (June 26th) finishing up some last minute cleaning before we had to turn over the keys to our less then stellar previous landlords. He didn’t get home until about midnight and I was promptly awakened by some vicious back pain around 12:30am, Thursday morning. I figured out pretty quickly that they were back contractions and assumed that it would pass since similar contractions had been plaguing me for weeks. But as they got much worse and closer together within less then half an hour, I decided it was time to call the doc and head to the hospital. Of course, this little ninja boy wasn’t going to wait the 30 hours until his scheduled eviction, he clearly had plans of his own. It was a good thing we set out on the 45 minute trek to the hospital when we did because by the time we got to the labor and delivery floor, my back contractions were right on top of each other which had me a little concerned. They got me into a room very quickly, hooked me up to bunch of monitors, checked me out and discovered that I was already 7cm dilated. The nurses started rushing around to get my IV in and asked me dozens of questions that I hurriedly answered in the 30-45 seconds between each horrid contraction. I also had to endure a consult with both my doctor and the anesthesiologist, then sign a bunch of consent forms before they finally wheeled me back into the OR to have my spinal block put in.

Thankfully the spinal block took effect really fast and all the intense pain from those contractions went away in mere moments. Then they strapped me to the table and finished prepping me for our little ninja’s evacuation. After my doc started the surgery, there was another little kink in the plans as our sweet boy had wedged himself so far down into my pelvis/birth canal that he was good and stuck. So stuck, in fact, that the doctor had to lower the table and get a stool to stand on to get enough leverage to pull him out. Our ninja made his grand entrance shortly after, screaming at the top of his lungs to let it be known exactly how unhappy he was about it. Vox Alan Zurik Stodola was born on June 27th at 2:48am, weighed 7 lbs. 3oz, and was 19.5 inches long. He has this super blonde fuzz on his head, perfectly tiny yet well defined features, and is just as cute and sweet as can be. Our little guy has super minute ears that fold over a bit at the top edges and skinny legs that refuse to straighten because he very much prefers his fetal frog leg posture. He has that sweet newborn smell that only lingers for a month or so and I find myself pressing my nose up to his fuzzy head as often as I can, just to breathe him in. Our Vox is a whole heap of perfection and it has been so easy to fall in love with him.

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In the days that followed his grand entrance, we found out that Vox’s traumatic birth left a big hematoma on his poor little head which greatly contributed to his bilirubin levels climbing for five days before starting to go down (you can see how orange the little guy was looking in a lot of the pictures). Luckily, his levels began to drop before they got too high and we avoided having to put him on a photo therapy bed which was a total relief. We are pretty well versed in jaundice as Zoren underwent phototherapy for a full week when we came home from the hospital and that whole ordeal sucked…. A lot. Needless to say, it was a total relief when Vox’s levels dropped and his jaundice began to clear up.

The four days we were in the hospital were a little stressful, especially when I was told on the third day that they could discharge me but needed to keep Vox to watch his weight and jaundice.. So we all ended up sticking around another day and took that extra time to love on our newborn boy, which ended up being just fine with me in the end. During our extended stay, my mom was taking care of Zoren and Astoria and keeping them occupied with lots of fun activities. They loved the time with their grandma and although I know they were antsy for Steve, Vox, and me to get home, they were in good hands and having fun while we were away. They came to the hospital to visit us a couple times but the first visit was absolutely priceless. They walked into the room with a bouquet of colorful daisies to brighten the dull hospital atmosphere and wore their “Big Bro” and “Big Sis” shirts proudly as they met and held their baby brother for the first time. Both kids were just beaming at the sight of little Vox and were so happy that he was finally here. We had a couple presents for them to open in honor of the occasion. Zoren got his own sonic screwdriver (the tenth doctor’s) and Astoria got a unicorn Dream Lite for her bedroom. They were both ecstatic about their big sibling gifts and couldn’t wait to try them out.

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When Vox was cleared by the pediatrician’s to come home that Sunday, we were all more then ready to be discharged. We buckled our tiny V into his carrier, which he loudly protested, and headed for home. Once there we were greeted with happy faces, hugs and kisses galore, and lots of love.

Heading Home

All Systems Go

Our server which hosts my blog is finally back up and running after the move to our new house and some technical difficulties in the initial set-up. I still don’t have my actual computer in working order yet so all of my high quality photos are trapped in my camera until we can make time for that little piece of the puzzle. Luckily, I have been pretty much on top of this unpacking and organizing business so the kids rooms, playroom, kitchen, dining area, bathrooms, living room, and nursery are pretty well put together at this point. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a garage full of boxes that have yet to be touched and I have grandiose ideas about what I want to decorate our living room and bedroom with, although I know that is something that is on the back burner until sometime later this summer. But I feel good about saying that we are well on our way to making this our home.

For me, the most fulfilling part of this process is finally have all of Little Ninja’s things out of totes and into an actual nursery where they are much more tangible. Little summer rompers and tiny organic tee’s are sorted and hanging in the closet. An assembled crib is taking up residency in the corner with a perfectly adorable ninja blanket that a friend made for us, draped over the side and a gray chevron sheet occupying the mattress. My stash of cloth diapers are all prepped and in their delegated fabric bins next to the changing depot, waiting for a sweet little bum to cover. I have even started packing my hospital bag which makes this impending birth seem like its just around the corner, which I suppose it is.

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These last two weeks are going to fly by so quickly and although we still have a ton to unpack from this move, it is more important right now that we take a little family time with the kidlets before this next transition starts. We have also been occupying them with as many play dates as we can manage each week because they are constantly craving time with friends and love having them over to play in their new backyard. This weekend is Zoren’s big dance showcase where he will be performing three different numbers with his tap, ballet, and hip hop classmates and he is beyond thrilled. I can’t wait to see him up on the big stage doing what he loves and soaking up the attention and applause from the audience. This kid was made to dance and although he would prefer to be improvising to Dubstep most of the time, he is also great at learning new moves and routines from his awesome dance instructors.

I am hoping to get the rest of the technology in this house up and running over the weekend so I can share some better pictures of the house, Zoren’s dance showcase, and any other fun tidbits we have had locked up in the camera for the last month. Until then, here are some from my phone to start things off…









While we are quite occupied with the new house, baby prepping, and dance rehearsals, our thoughts and hearts are very much with two of our best friends back in Wisconsin who have recently and unexpectedly lost someone incredibly special and dear to them. Also, right now in Colorado there are some pretty bad wildfires destroying forests and homes and forcing many residents to evacuate. We are all left just waiting and watching as these fires burn out of control. Unfortunately, this is something our state deals with every year and there is little that can be done to stop these fires once they start. The brave men and women of our fire departments work tirelessly to get them contained but with the hot temps, high winds, and little to no precipitation, there isn’t much that can be done. We will raid our stockpile of canned and boxed goods and donate them to food banks that help the evacuees, continue to do rain dances, and hope for containment.

Three Changes for Baby #3

With a third child on the way, I seem to be in a constant state of mental preparation, trying to improve upon my baby rearing skills this time around and focusing on keeping things as natural as possible. Now that we have successfully raised two little cubs through infancy, with a lot of fumbles and missteps along the way, I feel like there are a few specific areas that can be improved upon.

3 things we are doing differently with our third child…

1. Eco-baby needs a cloth covered bum…. I know cloth diapering seems like something that only really crunchy moms do, but after using disposable diapers with our first two kids (one of which has very sensitive skin), I really think this is going to be a great thing for us. We can keep all those nasty chemicals away from our baby’s little behind, save a ton of money on diapering (like about $1500-$2000 from birth to potty trained), and be environmentally friendly (disposable diapers take 500 years to decompose in a landfill). So, crunchy? Yeah, maybe a little, or a lot. But the important thing is that we are ready and excited to take the plunge. Besides, modern cloth diapers are super easy to use and clean, most can be adjusted to fit bum sizes from infant to toddler, and they come in the cutest colors and patterns. Needless to say, they are a vast improvement over the bulky dishcloths my mom was pinning on my naked baby bum in the early 80′s.

2. Taking a ride on the breast feeding train…. Need I say more? I had nothing but problems with breast feeding Zoren. Between his 24 hour stay in the NICU where they promptly started him on formula, a week on a light bed due to jaundice, latching problems, and both dairy and soy allergies, his breast feeding days were stressful and short lived. When Astoria came along 14 months later, I didn’t even want to attempt to breast feed because I didn’t think I could handle the pressure of that on top of caring for two little ones without any family or friends nearby to help, so that was a no go. This time around it is going to be different. Sure, I am going to have two other kids who need my time and attention, but at least my mama will be here for a couple weeks to help with them so I get some bonding time with the new babe and we can ease into this whole breast feeding business. I am not going to claim it will be easy or go smoothly because, frankly, I have no idea how it will turn out. But I am going to give it my all this time around and am even cutting all dairy out of my diet at the end of this month since Z and Stori both had dairy sensitivities and I want to cover all my bases with our little ninja.

3. It takes a village, or a small army… One thing I did not have when I entered babyland with my first two kids, and probably desperately needed, was friends. We had moved to Colorado from Wisconsin barely a month before Z came into this world, three weeks earlier then expected. Although we had some family and friends visit from Wisconsin for a few days at a time, we were lacking any real tangible support network in our new home. It was only about 5 months after we brought Z home, that I found out I was pregnant again, with Astoria. We were so excited because we very much wanted to have our cubs close in age but, in retrospect, I didn’t consider how difficult it would be to even take steps toward making friends while being a stay at home mom to an infant and battling morning sickness and migraines during a subsequent pregnancy. Needless to say, by the time our pixie was born, I had still not made any friends and still had no family in the area (despite my best efforts in trying to convince them all to relocate from WI).

And then a funny thing happened… A few months after Stori’s birth, after we found out she has hearing loss and started working with the early intervention program, our pixie started seeing a speech therapist. And a few months after that, this complete blessing of a speech therapist (in more ways then I can ever explain) introduced me to another mama whose girlie has hearing loss, just like Pixie. And this wasn’t just any mama, this was someone I could actually relate to and talk to, who listened to kick ass music, loved to go to the same concerts as me, was down with tattoos and piercings, had no problem dressing her sweet girl in anything with skulls…. could this be more freaking perfect?!? Well, lets just say that almost three years have passed since I met this rockin’ mama and was introduced to her great group of friends and although I still very much miss the friends and family I love back in Wisconsin, I feel like have finally found my place out here. After getting to know these new friends through tons of playdates, group outings, concerts, girls nights, and parties celebrating birthdays and achievements, I can definitely say that this little ninja, along with his older brother and sister, get to grow up with a little village looking out for them, led by a small army of totally rockin’ moms.

Farmer’s Market, Packing, and an Ultrasound

The last couple weeks have been a bit chaotic and a lot stressful with planning for this move and doing massive amounts of packing and clutter busting. With almost all of the kids toys already in storage, they have had to mostly occupy themselves with boxes, packing paper, and their imaginations when they aren’t running amuck outside. I have been incredibly impressed with the patience and resilience the kids have shown so far but it’s becoming clear that the long days without activities or fun games to play are starting to take their toll. Zoren and Astoria’s temperaments this week have definitely been reflective of the stress that we all are under with this big transition and its clear they need some kind of normality back in their lives. Soon, sweet kidlets, soon.

I had what will likely be my final ultrasound this week and little ninja is looking great. He is not measuring as large as the doctor I saw two weeks ago seemed to think so that’s a big relief on my part. He has, however, already made his way deep into my pelvis with his head resting on my cervix and delivers karate chops to my bladder pretty constantly throughout the day. The ultrasound tech couldn’t even get a good look at his face because it was so buried and had trouble getting abdominal and femur measurements because he is all sorts of scrunched up in there. I sure hope this little guy plans on staying put until the end of next month because there is so much still to do before he arrives!!

Here is me and my 33 week belly enjoying some of Penn Jillette’s awesome ice cream.


We have found a house to rent and signed the lease last week. Our new digs are everything that we were looking for and more so I am beyond excited to get moved and settled. The backyard has a huge deck, is surrounded on all sides by a nice privacy fence, and has plenty of space for the kids to run around and play. As an added bonus, the lawn care and trash service are all included with our monthly rent and there is a compost bin next to a couple raised garden beds which totally appeals to my crunchy tendencies. Also, since we won’t be in an HOA controlled neighborhood, I can totally put up a clothesline when we move in which will be perfect for drying cloth diapers and other laundry on all summer long.

Today we took the morning off of packing and went to the farmer’s market in Boulder for the first time this year. We try to frequent the market as many Saturday mornings as possible during the spring and summer months because the produce, local products, food, and atmosphere are great. Today the kids immediately saw a balloonist who made Zoren a couple swords and a mask while Astoria opted for a dainty pink flower. We went to my favorite bakery stall for breakfast and shared a white chocolate raspberry scone, pumpkin muffin, and some fresh squeezed lemonade, all of which were absolutely delicious.

We made quite a haul (as you can see below) with some local creamed honey, kale pesto sauce, red and orange grape tomatoes, garlic chives, garlic scallions, turnips, arugula, and asparagus. I also stopped at my favorite pasta stall for some lemon chive angel hair, Italian pesto mix, and fruit blend pasta. The kids really loved my fruity pasta salad last summer so I am excited to try another variation of that next week. I was also really happy to find the one stall that had some early turnips this year as they are one of Zoren’s and my favorite things to snack on throughout the day and actually seem to be sitting pretty well in my topsy turvy stomach so that is a big bonus.


The farmer’s market was a great way to start our weekend and the rest of the day was pretty low key and yet quite productive. Stori and I took a walk to one of the parks nearby while Z and Steve did some reorganizing in the garage making room for a bunch of our packed boxes which they piled up quite efficiently by the time we got back. I even made a bit more headway on our packing venture despite the couple hours of random contractions I was having which forced me to take it a little easy this afternoon. All in all it was a good day and I am looking forward to a chill evening watching movies and eating ice cream with the kidlets while Steve is out celebrating a birthday with some friends.






Milestones Ahead

Zoren started walking when he was only eight months old. For the first couple weeks it was a wobbly, bobble headed baby walk which generally ended in a nose dive and minor head trauma after about 12 steps if he didn’t make it to the nearest piece of furniture. It’s a good thing his oversized noggin is also pretty tough, allowing him to just shake it off, crawl to something he could use to pull his chunky self upright, and try again. It didn’t take long before those 12 steps turned to 20 or 30 and he mastered the tricky business of moving from a sitting to standing position independently. By 9 months old he was proficient at walking and already starting to pick up the pace so he could chase our cats thorough the apartment we lived in back then. Coincidentally, Astoria was an early walker too, taking her first steps at eight and a half months old, and chasing her brother around the house soon after.

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When Zoren was about 18 months old, he still wasn’t talking much. He said a handful of words consistently, could say his ABC’s, and had started to learn a fair amount of sign language but certainly wasn’t speaking in sentences or even verbally articulating his wants and needs to us like Astoria was by that age. Although he was slow to talk, it was very clear to us that it wasn’t for lack of language comprehension. By 20 months old he could recognize each letter of the alphabet (upper and lowercase), the numbers 1-10, and all basic colors. His spoken language developed soon after that, which I attribute, in part, to incorporating sign language into our daily lives. It was around that time, when he was maybe 22 months old or something, that we discovered Z has a knack for retaining information, especially from books. I have video of him reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to us when he was about 2 and am still amazed at how accurately and effortlessly he was able to recite the story from memory, using the visuals on each page as a trigger for that particular part of the story.

He became fascinated with insects the summer before he turned three and devoured book after book on the subject, quickly depleting the library’s extensive collection of bug and insect reference materials. He would spout out facts about insects to anyone who would listen, knowing the makeup of their body structure, the habitats they live in, and the important roles each plays in our eco-system. Very cool stuff and an early indicator that we have one smart boy.

Now, not even two years later, we are watching our boy exceed expectations even further. I have already written about some of Zoren’s articulation issues that have led us to where we are today with starting speech therapy services through the therapist that has worked with Astoria for the past three years. As a jumping off point for these services, our speech therapist gave him an evaluation that is used for children ages 3-10 and gives us a good idea of where Z is at with language comprehension, expressive language, articulation, and also indicates his approximate IQ. The results of this assessment pretty much blew me away. Although it is clear that Zoren has some articulation issues, his language expression and comprehension was assessed at an 8-10 year old level and he has an approximate IQ of 143. That, folks, is only two points away from a genius level IQ!! Now, I have known for a long time now that this boy is incredibly intelligent and as it happens, I recently found out my husband took an IQ test as a child with the exact same results. So it’s definitely clear that Z’s superior brain function comes from his daddy, not me.

I am, of course, very excited that our son is considered exceptionally smart but as our therapist pointed out, there are unique challenges that we will face with him due to his level of intelligence. We are already seeing glimpses of these challenges and are told they will likely intensify once Zoren starts school. In my opinion though, every child has unique challenges that they will face in school and in life, no matter where they fall on an intelligence spectrum. That said, I am confident that if and when any conflicts arise, we will have the perspective and knowledge, as his parents, to decide on the best resolution and follow through appropriately.

Zoren’s weekly speech therapy sessions have been going great and we have already seen vast improvements in his articulation over the last couple months. One of the tools that our speech therapist recently introduced is a sort of phonics system which she has been pairing with a new phonics book each week. I think it’s amazing just how quickly this system not only helps him with figuring out the correct pronunciation of certain letters in specific words but it has also built the proper connections within his brain that allow him to have a great understanding of the English language and our word structure.

We do a lot of reading in our house. We have shelves and shelves of children’s books which we add to pretty frequently because after reading about 10-20 books to the kids each day (per their request), this momma gets a little bored with the repetitiveness so we seek out new reading materials from the thrift store whenever we get the chance. For the last six months or so, Zoren has been especially interested in learning how to sound words out and is constantly asking us what specific words are in books and on signs, particularly focusing on how each word is structured and what sounds each vowel or consonant cluster make.

A month ago or so, Steve and I started noticing that Z was reading along with us instead of us just reading to him. We figured that since he has a great capacity for retention, that he had just memorized most of these books and was reciting them while we read. We also started to notice that he was recognizing most smaller words (an, and, are, the, it, on etc.) independently and decided it is time to really provide him with some tools to begin reading on his own. I started with making a set of flash cards with sight words that children are expected to know by the end of Kindergarden, figuring this would be a good jumping off point for us. To my surprise, out of the 35 or so words, Z already knew well over half of them by sight and sounded out a bunch more with no assistance from me whatsoever. Again, he blew me away.

Three weeks ago, at a speech therapy session, Zoren was given his first phonics reader as practice material for the next week. He and I read through the book together once using his phonics practice tools that the speech therapist provided. And then, to my complete shock, he read almost the whole book by himself, only stumbling over a few words (like “grins” and “lazy”), which he sounded out with little assistance. I was a bit skeptical that he was actually “reading” the whole book himself instead of just reciting the words from memory because, again, I know he has a knack for retaining information.

At the following week’s speech session I decided to consult our therapist on the matter and let Zoren read the book to her so she could weigh in. He read her the book, again stumbling over a couple words, but doing an excellent job. When he was finished, our speech therapist looks at me and says, “Yeah, he is reading. He read almost that whole book and although he clearly has some of the words memorized, which is part of the reading process, he is also sounding out and reading the other words independently.” She then pulled out the phonics reader that she brought to practice with him over the next week, and again, he was able to read most of the book without assistance. And it really dawned on me then, my four year old can read!! How cool is that?


-reading to his sister :)

Now comes the burning questions… My brain is flooded with them lately. What are we going to do with him once he is school age? He doesn’t start school for a year and a half and already knows enough to graduate from any Kindergarten program in the area! (Did I mention he is already able to perform mental addition with any of the numbers 1-10?) Are the gifted and talented programs at public schools going to be enough to keep him challenged? Should we send him to a gifted and talented school? Should I home school him to ensure he stays academically challenged? Am I even smart enough to do that? There are about a million more questions I have that we just don’t have the answers to now. But one thing I know for sure is that this kid is going to do great things. I am so proud of how far he has come in his four short years of life and, daunting as it may be sometimes, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!

My Grandma Chicago

It was with deep sadness that I learned yesterday evening that my Grandma, Patricia Essick, passed away. She is a woman I can hardly say I knew in any practical sense. I don’t know where she was born, who her parents were, or what kind of childhood she had. I didn’t grow up making frequent visits to her house, getting together at the holidays, or having much contact at all from the time I was a small child until a few years ago when we were able to reunite online. Divorce can be brutal in that way, stealing relationships before they have even had time to truly develop.

When I was a really little girl my grandma lived in Chicago and for some reason, that is what I called her. My Grandma Chicago. Although I don’t remember much else about the times I spent with her, or have any pictures of her and I together that could even attempt to jostle my memories, I know there was an endless and unconditional supply of love in each moment we did get to share together. I know that she lived and breathed copious amounts of love for me and my sister, even though we couldn’t be present to experience it.

I have some vague memories of a camping trip with my Grandma Chicago, playing cards, and when I was older, going with her to a family members graveside service. Most vividly though, I remember my grandma’s warmth, her caring smile, and the way her eyes would shine and sparkle when I ran up to give her a hug. She’s always been someone that I have felt incredibly connected to despite circumstances that kept us at a distance throughout most of my life. I think we share the same loving, compassionate, and nurturing spirit and I am ever so grateful I will get to carry that piece of her with me to share with my children and family.

Shortly after we moved to Colorado and had Zoren, my grandma and I got back in touch through the wonderful world of social media. I am so thankful for that. So glad to have had that connection with her again and to get the opportunity to know her a little better. To help her know me and my children, her great grandchildren. Even though she never got to meet Zoren and Astoria, the wonders of Facebook intertwined their childhood with her life and I know she got a glimpse of how happy they are and how much I love them. And I, in turn got to have a piece of my grandma back for a few years. I got to smile at each of her posts and comments telling me how great of a mother I am, how proud she is of me, and how much love she has for me and for her great grandchildren. It’s amazing how much encouragement, positivity, and unconditional love can be spread through just a few small words and shared photographs.

I love you Grandma Chicago and you will surely be missed but never far from our hearts.