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.

image image

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!

Family Day Trippin’- Earth Week Finale

I think we had quite a successful first Earth Week and was beyond pleased with how quickly the weather turned from snowy to sunny allowing us to spend the last part of the week and most of the weekend outside, enjoying the springtime. As an added bonus and grand finale of sorts, we took the kidlets to Colorado Springs on Sunday to do some exploring at Garden of the Gods and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Garden of the Gods is one of those places in our country that can take your breath away by just existing. Huge red boulders jut out of the earth at all angles, towering over spectators and tempting climbers of all calibers to reach their peaks. Once a stomping ground for dinosaurs, these incredible formations have also housed an ancient sea, long departed beaches, and expansive fields of sand dunes. These rock beds, despite being geologically young, have a deep and rich history which is still being written. Fossils of plants and animals from the Jurassic time period are intermingled with lovers initials that have been carved into the rock faces over the past 100 years. Swallows take up residence in small cavelike indents on the sides these towering rock giants that have eroded over time to provide a perfect nesting and hunting ground. Garden of the Gods is beautiful, there is just no denying that. But more so, it really has a way of making me feel incredibly connected to the past and provides a sense of wonderment about the future. That interconnectedness is soothing and subtle but very empowering and despite my exhaustion, I walked out of there feeling strong and at peace.

Zoren and Astoria had a great time climbing among smaller rock formations and watching the pros gracefully ascend to the peaks a hundred feet or more above our heads. Z was in his element at Garden of the Gods and already asking for a return trip before we had even left, although his priorities quickly shifted at the mention of our next adventure for the day.

IMG_2601 IMG_2604 IMG_2631 IMG_2642 IMG_2638 IMG_2646 IMG_2660 IMG_2671 IMG_2680

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a charming zoo that boasts a huge giraffe herd which roams around an area near the entrance and is definitely their biggest attraction. Visitors can buy handfuls of romaine lettuce and get up close and personal with towering giraffe heads. It is a cool experience for the kids and adults alike. Astoria was so excited to feed the giraffes and giggled profusely when one wrapped it’s long purple tongue around her hand to retrieve the romaine, then promptly announced that she was done. Zoren gladly took over her pile of romaine after he’d exhausted his own supply and fed giraffe after giraffe, laughing hysterically and loving every moment.

I am not going to lie, walking around that zoo was killer on my body. Everything is uphill and I was usually pushing a child in the stroller because one set of child sized legs was tired at every given moment that afternoon. Luckily, the abundance of adorable baby mammals made up for my aching hips and back. I got to watch the kidlets fawn over the two day old newborn giraffe and a sweet infant gorilla that rarely left is mama’s back. Astoria squealed with delight at a baby orangutan as it hung upside down, swinging wildly back and forth on some ropes, before climbing next to it’s mama for a cuddle session.

IMG_2686 IMG_2690 IMG_2723 IMG_2728 IMG_2751 IMG_2770 IMG_2768


Zoren1 goat1

We stayed at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo until closing time and made a brief stop at the gift shop so the kidlets could each pick out a small souvenir which was really a highlight for them. Zoren, true to his character, bypassed all of the cheap zoo themed toys and excitedly chose to purchase a new compass. He made it a point to explain to me that he was getting the compass so he wouldn’t get lost on all of his adventures and bug hunting expeditions in the coming summer months. Astoria, who spent the entire day carrying around her stuffed baby white tiger that was coincidentally purchased on our only other trip to that zoo when she was just a few months old, decided to purchase a baby giraffe to keep her and baby tiger company. She spent most of the drive home creating hilarious and incredibly imaginative conversations between her two furry friends, mostly involving the eating habits of each animal and her adamant disapproval of the baby tiger’s carnivorous tenancies.

All in all, we had a great family day trip and I am so glad we decided to go. Especially since that was probably the last spontaneous family adventure we will have before our little ninja arrives. The month of May is going to be a busy mess of house hunting, endless packing, and luckily some breaks in between to spend time with friends. Right now I am equally looking forward to, and absolutely dreading the next two months of our lives. There is so much that has to happen before this baby arrives and at this point we just have to hope and trust that things will fall into place. We will find a house to rent. We will get this house packed up. We will move. We will get the new house unpacked and set up. We will get through Zoren’s dance showcase in the middle of June. And we will somehow be ready for this baby to arrive in eight weeks, yikes!

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.

Earth Week Part 1

Normally I have an endless supply of topics I am pondering over, wanting to write about, or actively writing about. Lately though, I have had a hard time willing myself to sit down and actually write much of anything. I think the exhaustion and constant discomfort that this third trimester is bringing with it has totally zapped my creative energy. It has at least hindered my ability to choose writing over laying in bed at 4am, staring at the ceiling and hoping I will magically get comfortable until I need to get up and pee again. Obviously the bouts of cold and snow that have plagued us this April haven’t been helpful, especially when combined with two weeks of sick kids and a serious lack of nutrition on my part since eating more then a piece of peanut butter toast or handful of grapes still sends me running to the bathroom from this nausea.

As usual, when things get a little too intense in life, my reaction is to just scale back on projects, activities, and all house cleaning that needs more energy then I have (you know, anything that requires forcibly removing my body from the couch) and spend more time relaxing, reading, singing, playing phonics and math games, and anything else that demands little more then my presence.

This week, however, has been deemed Earth Week in our house and with much determination I have put together and executed at least a few fun activities and projects with the kidlets each day. I am doing this, in part, for fear of feeling even more useless by the end of the week but also because it is very important to me that Z and Stori get a good idea of just how vital the earth is to our existence, why we need to advocate to protect its resources, and what each of us can do on a small scale to make a difference in the future of this planet and our lives on it.

Luckily, these activities have not only made this week much more bearable for me, but also provided some really fun opportunities for teaching new ideas and concepts and having lots of interesting, meaningful conversations with my sweet preschoolers. I am amazed with how quickly they seem to understand the positive and negative impacts we can have on the environment, especially when we started talking about conserving energy and reducing our waste. I have never seen two little kids so excited to be given this knowledge and fully embrace the small parts they can play in making a difference and helping our earth.

Astoria has become our light conservationist and is constantly on the lookout for a light left on unnecessarily and directs me to open the blinds and shut off the lights in a room if there is daylight to be had. Zoren is taking the waste reduction and recycling in our house to a whole new level and with the smallest amount of guidance, has come up with some great ways to reuse certain things we would normally throw away. He also seems to pop into the kitchen out of no where every time a food or beverage container is emptied, making sure it is being reused for a project or rinsed and taken to the recycling bin in the garage. It’s pretty awesome.

Since Monday and Tuesday were pretty cold and snow covered the ground, we kept our projects indoors and focused on some recycling crafts, of which their favorite was definitely crayon making. We made big chunky heart shaped crayons out of broken pieces of old ones I have been saving since the kids first started coloring so we had plenty of material to work with. Once I removed all the paper, cut the crayon stubs into little pieces, and sorted them out into similar hues, the kids went to town filling up the molds. We had a total blast choosing which color combinations to use for the new crayons and they each had a unique hypothesis about how the colors would combine once they were melted in the oven. The final product turned out great and I had two very proud preschoolers.

1cf19bb6-0265-45cd-ab6d-77180c4273f4_zpsbbe04d95 (1) IMG_2317

Now that we had some fun new crayons, we decided to use them for texture rubbings which is quickly becoming a favorite past time around here. Since everything in Zoren and Astoria’s world right now revolves around some kind of “hunt” or grand expedition, I made them a little indoor photo texture scavenger hunt. It took nearly no time at all to prep and kept us all entertained for quite awhile. I went around the house while the crayons were cooling and snapped a bunch of photos of items that I thought could be used for crayon rubbings and was surprised with just how many interesting textures I found that I had never even given a moments notice to before. My favorite is the textured pattern on the back of Zoren’s rocking chair that was mine as a child. I remember sitting in that chair and running my fingers through the smooth carved out areas over and over. The pattern is etched forever in my memory so that, even still, the moment that my fingertips touch it they know exactly where each groove leads. And I digress…

Once I was done taking pictures (and spending an additional 5 minutes sitting in Zoren’s room, reminiscing about that rocking chair), I loaded all of the pictures onto the iPad and used that to display the photos so the kids could start hunting for each item.

Texture hunt IMG_2291

Some of the other fun activities we have done this week include making bird feeders and suet holders out of recycled materials and mixing up some home made bird suet using my moms awesome recipe. Our resident blue jay was especially appreciative! We also did some earth paper crafts and made picture charts describing a lot of the important things we get from our planet and, in return, things we can give to our planet.

IMG_2328 IMG_2332

… And A Foot Of Snow!

The past five days have been all kinds of exhausting and filled with sick kids and a sick mommy. Zoren’s chest cold got much worse and was accompanied by a terrible sore throat and stuffy nose. I took one look in his mouth on Saturday morning, after he had spent the previous night tossing, turning, and crying in bed next to me, and was pretty sure he had Strep throat. We were luckily able to get him into his pediatrician’s office right away that morning and the doctor took a look and came to the same conclusion that I did, probably Strep. They swabbed him and the test came back positive within minutes so we were sent on our not so merry way with a prescription for an antibiotic and instructed to rest, hydrate, and quarantine Z as much as possible for the next 24 hours to ensure pixie had minimal exposure.

While my sick boy and I spent the day watching movies and listening to music, Steve and Astoria got to have a daddy/daughter day at the zoo. It was a beautiful spring day and I was so glad they were able to get out and enjoy the warm weather and get a chance to have some one on one time which happens far too infrequently around here. When they returned from their zoo visit, Stori immediately gave me the rundown of the days highlights which went something like this…. “We had a fun time and I got to ride on the dinosaur train with daddy and we saw the monkeys eating and we saw the baby lions but they weren’t babies because they were big and I got juice in a pink T-Rex and we got popcorn for you mommy, aren’t you happy!?!” So happy :)

ZooReflections2 d1d9127e-b97c-4175-b07c-a498692eec6b_zps2e2e520a


6f204cfd-d5f1-4667-a77f-f96816e7c959_zps83cf840e IMG_2032 IMG_2088

The rest of the weekend was a blur of sleeplessness. I washed and disinfected every surface, blanket, and item that Z touched after the 24 hour contagious period was over and spent copious amounts of time trying to convince my little patient to take his meds and hydrate. It is pretty clear to me that Zoren will never be the poster child for smiles and optimism while being sick. Quite the contrary. He spent a good three days and nights whining and crying for hours on end, constantly telling me how much he hates being sick, and fiercely lamenting his stuffy nose and sore throat. It was a truly pathetic sight and made me wish all the more that I could take his place on the couch in our living room turned sick bay. The worst was when he started in with the “Mommy, I just want you to cuddle with me and take care of me, I am so so sick and I don’t like feeling sick” every hour. So heartbreaking.


By Monday morning, things were looking up and even though Zoren’s cough and stuffy nose were still problematic, he was able to get a fair amount of sleep the night before which, along with the antibiotics, helped his sore throat feel better and toned down the dramatics.

And then came the snow…

This storm system was predicted to start Monday evening and bring a max of 6 inches of accumulation by Tuesday morning. Imagine my surprise when it started snowing before Steve went to work Monday morning and continued throughout the day and night for a total of about 15 inches by Tuesday morning. Now the state of Colorado definitely needed the precipitation since we have been quite a bit below average for the season but I was hoping it would come in the form of rain, not so much a blizzard. By late Tuesday morning the creek by our house was rushing with the neighborhood run off since the sun was melting the snow almost as quickly as it had fallen the previous day.

The wet, easily packed mess made for great snowman building and snowball fights. Steve and the kids built a huge silly snow creature in the backyard complete with spinning rainbow pinwheel arms and a bowtie to match. I think the kids were really happy to get out and play in the snow, especially since they had been cooped up in the house for far too long, which isn’t something they are used to.

IMG_2145 IMG_2155 IMG_2176 IMG_2174 64f5fbb7-81dc-4e21-92c7-461f7a2e35dc_zpsb31678f0IMG_2183

We’ve had a steady but light snowfall today but are looking forward to a bit of warmer weather by the weekend. The kids and I are making slow recoveries and it has been a generally pleasant atmosphere of cuddling, reading, movie watching, and game playing. I think we are all anticipating a return to our normal schedules sooner then later though because the days are starting to get a little long and monotonous. In good time, I suppose.

I found out that I don’t have gestational diabetes which is a very happy thing and will allow me to focus my energies on other important tasks like finding a house to rent, packing up all of our things, and trying to prep as much as possible for the little guy that will be here in about two and a half months. We have so much still to do before the end of June and I know we will be cutting it quite close to baby’s arrival before we are able to get all of the gear and things we will need for him. I know we will make it all happen though. We always do!

Turn Around the Day

Zoren had quite the dramatic day filled with complex breakdowns of yelling and screaming prompted by the most minuscule of things. I am sure this behavior is partially prompted by this chesty cough he’s had the last few days which seems to be zapping his energy and corrupting his usually pleasant attitude. But I think he was also just having a bad day, which happens to all of us and is something I can sympathize with since I had my own dramatic meltdown yesterday, just in time for his first speech therapy session.

I have discovered that parenting two preschoolers while going through a difficult pregnancy is much more exhausting and complicated then I ever thought it was going to be. Well, everything about this pregnancy seems complicated. From stress over conceiving to worries about viability due to spotting from low progesterone. Unending hyperemesis gravidarum that is still haunting me like the plague. And top that off with excessive migraines, constantly aching hips, and the lovely three hour glucose tolerance test I took today since I failed the one hour test, you will get one miserable, pregnant mama. And that’s me.

I lamented having to take that three hour test and was more then aggravated when I spent over an hour yesterday trying to schedule an appointment through LabCorp’s automated phone system. The fem-bot voice informed me that the next available appointment wasn’t until the end of the month which certainly wasn’t going to work since my OB wanted the test done before the end of week 28 (which is tomorrow). In the process of prying that information from the automated system I was disconnected four times because Zoren and Stori were providing fem-bot voice with more background noise then it could handle. It tried to make sense of the chaos my kids were supplying coupled with my desperate pleas for the “next available appointment” and decided after a few tries that there must be some malfunction and shut itself down. I wish I had that ability some days, to give myself three attempts at organizing the chaos in this house, then allowing myself some time to shut down for awhile and reboot.

Instead of scheduling an appointment, I did the early morning walk-in patient thing per the nurse on call’s advice. I think that after my eighth time through the automated system and the fourth call to the nurse, she could tell I’d had enough and gave me the easiest out. They got me in right away this morning and I drank 10 oz. of the nastiest sugary fruit punch concoction, hoping that my stomach could tolerate it after fasting for the previous 12 hours. It was rough and for the first two hours I wavered between massive nausea and unrelenting dizziness which eventually got bad enough that I had to lay down in the back room of the lab after the first hour. I was feeling much better by hour three and was beyond relieved when the fourth blood draw was done and I could go home and eat some lunch.

It was an incredibly draining way to spend the morning and coming home to an emotionally unstable Zoren was not exactly what I was hoping for. But as exhausted as I was and wanted nothing more then to collapse into bed for a nap after lunch, I could tell he needed me around. So while Steve tried to get some work done on his laptop, the kids and I played silly games and put together puzzles which turned out to be a fun, cathartic couple hours and reminded me that sometimes all it takes to turn a bad day upside down is a little laughter and quality time spent bonding with the people we love. My day certainly improved, Zoren’s attitude and dramatic mood swings improved, and we all ended the afternoon in a good place.

We celebrated the turnaround of our day by ordering pizza and breadsticks for an early dinner, which Stori was all about since she is the breadstick queen of our house. Then Z got to take a shower in the basement bathroom which he sees as a super exciting privilege since it doesn’t get offered up very often. In reality, I just wanted to steam the room up to clear his chest which helped immensely and he informed me upon his shower completion that I saved his day and he was ready for bed (an hour before his actual bedtime). Best thing I have heard all day :)




-Behold our grumpy day faces above, followed by much happier faces below :)

IMG_1973 eda6de10-ea15-4d01-84db-07d171edcb46_zpsd42e1782


Spring Sensory Observation Walk

One of the new Spring activities that I introduced to the kidlets yesterday is a sensory observation walk/scavenger hunt. I aimed the focus of this walk toward using multiple senses together to find particular items on our observation list. I chose a bunch of things that we were most likely to see outside and we came up with some more ideas along the way so we will probably be doing this activity again soon! Here are the items that were on yesterday’s list:

-birds chirping
-water rushing over rocks
-barking dog
-a sparkly rock
-children playing
-airplane or helicopter in the sky
-a bridge to cross
-swimming ducks
-big birds hunting/circling

We used both pictures and words on our lists because Z is just learning to read and Astoria can’t read by herself yet. I think it is great for them to make the connection between pictures and written language and we found that having the visual really helped them remember what we were looking for along the way without needing any reminders.

The observation walk was a huge hit with the kidlets and they stayed intently focused on listening and watching for things on their list while chatting with each other about what they were hearing and seeing almost the whole time. They also decided the next time we did this activity, they would need to make their own additions to our lists. Zoren wants to add “zooming cars” and “the far away snowy mountains”, while Astoria came up with “people not hitting us on bicycles” and “dog poop” to include. All of which we certainly see plenty of on our walks.

image image image

I think this is an especially great activity for a child with hearing loss because it helps prompt them to marry their sense of hearing with their sense of sight to figure out exactly where a particular sound is coming from. This is a skill that Astoria is quite proficient at but something we still work on to continue building a good listening foundation for her once she reaches school and is put into different types of hearing and listening situations. Being able to reliably determine the origin of a specific sound is also something that appears on all of the assessments Stori has been taking every six months for the last three years, so it must be important! Let me go off on a little tangent for a minute to help explain why this is such a fundamental skill for children with hearing loss to master…

Although hearing aids are a great benefit to most people with hearing loss, especially for individuals who test in the mild/moderate range like Astoria, they are essentially just miniature microphones which are positioned behind the ears. This positioning makes it easier to pick up sounds coming from your aft but make it a little more tricky to decipher sounds coming from in front of you when there is a lot of background noise, especially if its coming from multiple directions. I can only imagine now hard it would be in a crowded situation, like a gymnasium full of kids for instance with someone speaking into a microphone, and having to compensate for the echoing room, disrupting children, applause, and other various distractions coming from all sides while trying to pay attention to what the speaker is actually saying.

It is also worth noting that certain hearing aid settings/programs actually take loud noises over a certain decibel range and cut the sound off completely so as not to cause unpleasant feedback and to protect the wearer’s hearing. A perfect example of this is when we were taking Astoria to ballet and tap dance classes. While she loved the ballet part, once the echoey studio was full of little girls and boys running around in tap shoes, she couldn’t hear much of anything. It was especially difficult for her to comprehend any instruction from her teacher because her hearing aids were either cutting out the noise completely, or it was too loud for her to decipher what was being said. I don’t know exactly what she was experiencing because she is so young still and not always able to explain exactly what the problem is. But I do know that she will inevitably be put into a countless number of similarly difficult listening situations throughout school and beyond. Situations that I won’t be present for, have no control over, and can’t guide her through. I will have to trust that the skills we have worked on since she was so small and her feisty, honest nature will allow her to prevail and thrive in those types of environments.

And I digress… We finished up our observation walk with a nice picnic in the park and plenty of time at the playground. Astoria is getting to be quite a proficient climber but is still my little swinging girl and will sit on the swings as long as someone is willing to push her once her legs get tired from pumping. Zoren is my playground conqueror and has mastered pretty much every obstacle aside from the monkey bars, which I am sure he will have down by the end of summer.

image image image image

We stayed at the park most of the afternoon, soaking up the last rays of sunshine and watching sinister storms form over the mountains then slowly meander in our direction. Once we saw the ominous clouds start to fill our pretty blue skies and the sun tucked itself away behind them, we made our way back home, quite pleased with the day.

A Birthday Away

My 30th birthday was last Friday and I decided that since I am all sorts of pregnant right now and can’t celebrate with a few too many vodka tonics, the next best thing would definitely be a weekend in the mountains. We chose to go to Glenwood Springs because of their hot springs pool which was absolutely divine on my endlessly aching back. We did most of our swimming on Friday when the air was a little crisp and cool, making the 93 degree water feel extra warm and cozy. Zoren spent most of his pool time jumping off the steps into the water and plunging his head under so he could see everyone’s lower halves with his new goggles on. Astoria and I cruised around the giant pool on her little boogie board, stopping at the edges every few minutes so she could hang off the side without help and kick her little legs ferociously.


IMG_1619 IMG_1620 IMG_1646 IMG_1666

We did some exploring downtown in Glenwood Springs, admired their public art and watched the Amtrack depart from the train station which the kidlets thought was great. They got super excited whenever the conductor would sound the whistle, letting out squeals of delight and throwing their little arms in the air to wave in response. Once the train was out of sight we walked around the downtown area to do some shopping. The kids both brought some birthday money with them and couldn’t wait to pay for things themselves so we found a cute bookstore which Astoria was ecstatic about. This pixie girl adores books and before I could even ask her to pick something out, little Miss was already seated on a stool reading a book from the pile she had pulled from a shelf in the kids section. Zoren chose to buy a Lego Ninjago graphic novel style book and Astoria bought a whole mess of princess, fairy, and Amelia Bedelia books. She probably would have cleaned out half of the kids section had we stayed much longer. We went into some other cool stores and boutiques where we found a cute owl muslin swaddling blanket for the new baby and Astoria bought a stuffed mermaid which she immediately connected with. So Mermaid Bella went everywhere with us for the rest of the weekend and I imagine won’t be leaving Stori’s side for quite some time.

1983285e-a0be-4aa3-afa2-3baac400c128_zps2cb4e390 f6bf9b97-2452-4ddd-a560-8fd0441ef44c_zps7b9df981 IMG_1566 IMG_1582

On Saturday morning we decided to go disc golf at this really cool mountain course outside of the Colorado Mountain College. It was an awesomely wooded course with amazing views of Mt. Sopris, a crater hole with the tee and basket elevated at either end of the giant dip in the earth, and a lot of random structures (like a zip line and sky ladder course about a hundred feet up in the air) throughout. Zoren loves disc golfing with Steve and that little man actually has quite a great drive and putt for being only four years old. I am sure Z will be giving daddy a run for his money once he is big enough to get a little more momentum behind his drives.

hole2.0 IMG_1712 IMG_1717 IMG_1738 IMG_1755 IMG_1763 IMG_1772 IMG_1794 IMG_1830


mt sopris

We also had some great food while we were in Glenwood Springs. My birthday dinner was at a place called The Pullman which serves up great contemporary American cuisine, although Steve wasn’t a huge fan of his food, he did enjoy some good scotch and I thought my dinner was pretty rockin’, especially the carrot cake beignets I had for dessert. Those beignets were absolute perfection and, aside from the kids awesome sauce behavior at dinner, were also the best birthday present I could ask for. My other favorite meal on this trip was the home made perogies and potato leek soup at a little Polish restaurant called Polanka. It was absolute comfort food and reminded me of days long ago when I spent a ton of time with friends who moved here from Poland. Their mom would make the best food and I was lucky enough to sample some of it at special occasions and celebrations with their family. Polanka was exactly what I needed on this trip: cozy food and reminders of childhood days that I haven’t thought about in ages.

Even the drive home yesterday offered endless entertainment as Zoren and Astoria were cracking us up nonstop. Every time we would approach and drive through a mountain tunnel they would yell “Time tunnel, time tunnel approaching, hold onto your hats folks” over and over until we were through the tunnel, then burst into fits of giggles together. It was priceless. They love the show Dinosaur Train on PBS which is where this “time tunnel” business comes from and they love to pretend to be different characters from the show and carry on hilarious dino-themed conversations with one another.

It was a really nice and relaxing little getaway and exactly what I needed to recharge.


And now back to the real world. Our Monday plans? Taking a Spring Sensory Walk and enjoying some sun on this warm spring day before temps plummet tonight and winter decides to make a comeback, likely dumping a foot of snow on our finally green grass.

Astoria’s Third Birthday

Last Tuesday, our not so little pixie pie turned three years old. We had a lovely and low key day which started out with some early morning present opening. It was fun watching Stori open her gifts because she was so careful about dissecting each one, making sure every piece of paper and tape was removed before she could begin rejoicing over the gift in hand. She also made it a point to line all of her opened gifts up before we could remove any of the packaging. It was absolutely hilarious and so indicative of little pixie’s personality. Her favorite gifts were definitely her new doll stroller and tricycle, both of which she played with for most of the afternoon.

To make her birthday extra fun we played some of Astoria’s favorite games, dressed up as fairies, decorated birthday cupcakes, and had a dinner tea party, letting her pick the menu (grilled cheese, pretzels and hummus, popcorn, carrots, and little cutie oranges). We also took some time that evening to Skpe with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins which was really cool for Astoria and made the day that much more special.

89fbf739-5da7-4454-b86c-7f0645d75b40_zpsd05816b0 3ef4cfed-3c4d-4f54-b014-4dcab166f04e_zps8557361a 64945129-b21e-4d45-b3d5-cb0304bc9a9f_zps5bbd50f5 c5679f0a-9c1b-4896-9350-12d4bbbae06c_zps56044225 d46804c5-d19f-40b5-bfb6-e58af83a28f5_zps085e1bdc a1295296-5f01-4768-b35e-a50a6bebf34d_zpsb09f580a

We spent much of the rest of last week making decorations, fairy tutu’s, flower hair clips, and loads of other fun things for Stori’s Pixie and Pirate party, which was on Saturday. She helped plan the whole thing and was very into choosing colors, designs, and making party favors for her friends. I thought it was great how involved she wanted to be and how crafty my little girl is already. It reminded me of just how quickly she is growing up and becoming more and more capable and thoughtful every day. Very cool!

The party went off without a hitch, aside from a slowly sinking fairy cake, but it held up long enough for a happy birthday song and the blowing out of candles so I was pleased. Stori had such a blast playing with all of girls, blowing bubbles, digging for treasure, and hunting Easter eggs. She spent all of bedtime telling me how much she loves her friends and how fun her party was which absolutely made my day. It’s great to have a group of girls that are pretty close in age (3-6 years old) and get to grow up together. Even though they won’t necessarily be going to the same schools or attending extracurricular activities together, they sure know how to have an awesome time when they do get to see each other.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from the party.

ca282c87-ef55-447d-9519-4115789d3399_zps9879b38e 6ac6a6de-07db-4f9e-b28b-794556098f7a_zps65028d27 IMG_1319_zpsba41467c

Last but not least I wanted to share one of our birthday traditions with you, which is the annual birthday letter I write to each of the kids for their special day. It seems the older they get, the harder it is for me to put into words just how proud I am of their accomplishments and how much I cherish each day, week, and month with them throughout each year.


To Astoria Joy on your 3rd Birthday

For three years now I have watched you spread your pixie wings, find your footing in this world, and leave the ground behind for open skies and endless possibilities. Your charismatic and compassionate nature not only enriches
the lives of our family but seems to enchant everyone that you have encountered in your few short years, making an impact in ways I could have never imagined.

Independent from the start, you have always been anxious to test your boundaries and discover new, exciting things. Whether you are racing with your brother on bikes, jumping off of rocks at the playground, or exploring magical lands of ice cream and dinosaurs in the backyard, there always seems to be a new adventure waiting just around the corner. Your imagination is limitless right now and I just love watching you play dress-up and make believe, constantly coming up with complex stories about each character you embody. Sometimes you are a strong and courageous viking princess, riding your pink unicorn though mystical forests and slaying any dragon or troll that crosses your path. Other days you are Rody wrangling, Easter hat wearing cowgirl, swinging your jump rope over your head and declaring our living room as your turf for the wild west showdown that is about to ensue between you and Zoren. My favorite are your fairy days which are spent flying and twirling through the house like a little tornado in your tutu and fairy wings, carrying your pixie dolls around and stashing them away to save them all from the imminent dangers of large stuffed panda bears and Pteranodons that are threatening their livelihood in Pixie Hollow. Such a creative spirit you have in such a tiny form. It blows me away sometimes.

Along with your expansive imagination comes a flare for the dramatic. It is not unusual to witness you throwing yourself on the floor in exasperation or frustration when things you don’t go your way. Or flinging toys across the room at the mention of serving you a naval orange instead of one of the cuties that you love so much. Some days it is just endless drama! But you manage to make even that absolutely adorable and lovable because the facial expressions that accompany these moments are just perfection. I have never met a girl who has such a telling and expressive face, so much so, that all it takes is the tiniest brow furrow or lip curl for me to see what is coming next. From the time you were only days and weeks old I have watched how your expressions perfectly reflect your feelings at any given moment, always genuine, meaningful, and perfectly calculated to pull at my heart strings.

I am incredibly impressed with how far you have come with your speech and communication in the past year and listening to your constant narrations and commentary throughout each day makes my mama heart so happy. We are all so proud of all the hard work you have put into your speech and your constant positivity toward all of the assessments, audiology appointments, and therapies that go along with having hearing loss. Now that you are three years old, you have officially graduated from early intervention services which means no more evaluations every six months, no more IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) meetings and planning, and no more speech therapy. In fact, the last evaluations you took, three months ago (at age 2 years, 9 months), assessed your expressive vocabulary at a 4 year, 8 month level which puts you in the 96th percentile for kids your age. What an amazing little pixie you are, not that we ever had any doubt of that. You have always been our girl on fire, determined and confident, two (or ten) steps ahead of the pack and constantly proving to everyone that you can and will do great things.

The past year has been full of family adventures. You got to see your first Disney on Ice show and absolutely loved every second of it, so excited when the show was over and you got to meet the princesses up close. We took a road trip to Wisconsin and had a great time visiting with family and friends. We went hiking at Pewit’s Nest, swimming at water parks and local pools, out for ice cream and amazing string cheese at Sassy Cow Creamery, a day at the Madison Children’s Museum, and even got to spend a lovely weekend in Door County before heading back home. We have also enjoyed visits from from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins throughout the year and it was really fulfilling to watch you interact and continue to form bonds with all of these amazing and important people in our lives who we don’t get to see often enough.

We recently found out that you are going to have a little brother and I am so excited to watch you take on the role of Big Sister. You are such a nurturing little mama already with all of your baby dolls and stuffed animals so I can’t wait to see you love on and bond with your baby brother. This next year is going to be filled with lots of new adventures for all of us. I am sure there will be some bumps along the way but you know you hold a piece of my heart, sweet pixie, and we will get through the tough times and celebrate the great times together. I know I wouldn’t want to be on this adventure with anyone else and I can’t wait to walk through the next year by your side.

Happy 3rd Birthday Astoria Joy!!

Love and so much more,

Your Mama

You Stuck WHAT Up Your Nose!?!

The past week has been pretty intense for me. My hormones are crazy, I have been as nauseous as ever, and spent two days partially incapacitated by a migraine. So you can imagine my relief when Friday finally came and I woke up feeling mostly human again. The kids and I spent the morning doing some Easter crafts and spring activities before I let them loose in the backyard to play for an hour before their mandated “Quiet Time” was to begin. One of their favorite outdoor past times is “planting Truffula seeds” in a section of loose rocks that stretches from the back door to the edge of the house (worst landscaping idea ever, silly landlord.). It seems that on Friday, not only were the kids planting Truffula seeds, but the holes they dug in the rocks yielded some new treasures, one of which made its way into our house via the pocket of our 4 year old.

After I got the kids situated for Quiet Time with the special treat of watching a movie together on one of our tablets, I got busy working on some birthday projects for little Pixie’s birthday party. Since we cancelled our cable a couple months back, I have instead been listening to various Ted talks and podcasts on my iPad while crafting. One of my favorite podcasts is Penn’s Sunday School (I love myself some Penn Jillette) and since my husband has been recommending I find an hour and a half to listen to the episode where George Takai talks with Penn about growing up in a Japanese American internment camp, I decided to turn that on while I worked.

About 45 minutes into this amazing interview with George Takai, I hear a blood curdling, death scream, followed by Zoren running out of his sister’s room, finger up his nose, blood covering his hand and dripping down his sleeve. Flipping awesome….

For a split second I was sure it was just a bloody nose until Z says to me, absolutely hysterical, “It’s stuck, it’s stuck. My battery is stuck in my nose and I can’t get it out!” WHAT!?! You stuck WHAT up your freaking nose!?! And then panic started to set in a little and a partition of my brain wandered off to an operating room somewhere imagining the worst case scenario, while I sat on the floor of our living room trying comfort my boy, grabbing handfuls of Kleenex for him to bleed into, and calling my husband repeatedly at work (while he was in the bathroom trying to pee, poor guy) because I was sure this would require an ER visit and our car was parked across town at the Park and Ride.

After I got ahold of my husband and knew he was on his way home, I took a deep breath, flipped off the panic button in my head, and assessed the situation logically, i.e. “zombie apocalypse stye”… I immediately decided that if I ever had a chance of surviving said apocalypse, I should, at a bare minimum, have the skills to remove a foreign object from someones nose or I should at least be trying to do so until Steve got back because, well, what else was I going to do for the next 20 minutes.

So I helped Z calm down and we worked on cleaning all the excess blood out of his nose and once I got a good look in there, I knew I had a decent chance of getting this thing out, hopefully without lodging it even further into his nasal cavity. Risky, yes. But I had to at least try, right? I found and cleaned my “battery” removal tools, a set of long handled tweezers that had rounded ends and a set of short handled tweezers that came to a point, both of which I found in the bottom of my purse. Then I propped Zoren up on the couch with his head tipped back a bit, held the flashlight my mouth to see what I was doing since my hands were otherwise occupied with tweezers and a flailing noggin, and after a couple tries (made more difficult by a screaming and head jerking boy) I was able to dislodge this thing from its perch near the bridge of his nose, just enough for him to blow it out into a piece of paper towel. Phew! Crisis averted.

And it wasn’t even a battery. It was a piece of cable (like for installing cable TV), a black rubber cylinder covering a chunk of metal, not more then a centimeter in height and just about as big around as one of Stori’s hearing aid batteries. He apparently had found it outside while planting Truffula seeds by the house, right below where the cable TV was initially installed back when other renters lived here, and he was pretending it was his battery. And why did he stick it up his nose you ask? Because he wanted to smell it of course.

I must admit, I was pretty proud of myself for getting that thing out and saving us a visit to the ER. So much so that I keep fantasizing about asking our insurance company to float us a couple hundred dollars for saving them from the thousand dollar bill that would have surely been heading their way, if it weren’t for my mad surgical skills. I have also concluded that things are definitely looking up for my chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse and that this is perhaps the best mindset for me to jump into in cases of crisis, because apparently I work pretty well under the imaginary threat of life and limb (or braaaiiins… ). Jeez, I am such a nerd.

Anyway, Zoren is fine and spent the rest of the afternoon alternately telling me how awesome I am for saving him and how scary the situation was. I am hopeful that it taught him an important lesson about why we don’t go shoving small objects up our nose, but he’s a boy, so you never know.

Luckily, the rest of our weekend was uneventful, aside from the foot of snow that we got on Saturday. But I was at least able to get a bunch of birthday projects completed for Pixie’s big day. I can’t believe she is going to be three years old tomorrow!!