Friday, May 30, 2014

Last Day of Kindergarten

Today I put Z on the bus for last time, at least for Kindergarten. I remember putting him on the bus for the first time 9 months ago. I watched him square his shoulders, march to the back, and sit next to the window with the seriousness of a soldier reporting for duty. You could tell he felt like a grown up. All I saw was my little 5 year old who was changing right before my very eyes. 

And change he did. Today he brought home some final assignments, one of which he had been working on since the beginning of the year. 

The first page chronicled how he wrote his name and drew a self portrait the first week of school. 

One of the final pages was the same thing except from the last week of kindergarten. 

It's amazing how much his hair and ears grew this year. Just kidding, it's a lovely drawing. 

At the beginning of the year he could write very short words and made attempts with sentences that he was already familiar with. He was reading books that were specifically designed for the earliest of readers. You know the kind, where the content is limited to three word sentences with three letter words like "Sam can sit". 

A year later and he is writing sentences like the ones from this worksheet. 

Obviously he has some spelling to work on, but this is Kindergarten. He's doing SUPERB if I do say so myself. 

He loves to read and write stories. The other day he wrote an elaborate story which he labeled "non fiction" (in his own spelling) and it was all about his trip to New York City from over a year ago. As I was flipping through the pages I looked at my mom and I said "does this make you think of anyone one" hinting that it reminded me of myself at a young age and she agreed. He isn't reading chapter books or anything, but when he is reading a story he doesn't want to put it down and sometimes this calls for reading on the go. 

I pray that this thirst for literature stays with him. Maybe it will, or maybe he will mellow out with age and that's fine. I am glad though to see him start off on the right foot. Here is part of what I shared with Z's teacher today in a thank you card I gave her. 

"I couldn't have asked for a better teacher for Z's first year of school. He learned so much from you, but most importantly he learned to love school. What better way to kick off the next 12 years!" 

I have had so many emotions going on this past week from this latest milestone after the struggle that we have been through to get to this place. I am grateful that we made it, and that God, as always, has been so faithful. It has been a great year for Z.

Boys begin boys after their graduation.

 I know that his school and his teacher were perfect for him during this season and I feel incredibly blessed. I am proud of my son. 

I can't wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We're Not Moving

Over the past 2 and a half years we have moved from Texas to my parents home in Kentucky, then in with my brother who is an hour away from them, and then another hour away to our apartment in Ohio, which is where we live now. That's  a lot of moving and I can't say that I particularly loved every bit of it. However, we just signed a one year renewal on our lease which means we are here for a record breaking amount of time (since leaving Texas).

This latest commitment was a bittersweet decision. Decision is the wrong word. That makes it sounds like we had a lot of options, which isn't true. We pretty much need to be here until we are at a different place financially. Regardless of that, there are some things that I love about being here, some of which I've blogged about in my series Lots of Hope in a Little Home. I enjoy having a small amount of space to be responsible for. We are close to the kid's schools which are both excellent. There is also a lot of natural beauty nearby and we appreciate every last drop of that. As strange as it may sound exposure to life below poverty level has given me insight that I would have never experienced otherwise and it's been enlightening.***

However, as far as the bitter end of the deal I have plenty that I could gripe about. My numero uno, hands down, biggest complaint is the volume control. My kids are allowed (or should I say "a loud") to be kids and the sound isn't a constant issue, so I don't want to make it out to be worse than it is. But I shutter at the thought of the woman THREE stories down complaining about how loud we are. Even if she hadn't said anything to management, knowing that other tenants can hear us has always been in the back of my mind since we moved in. Sometimes this doesn't even have to do with the kids. Sometimes it's just playing my music or singing at the top of my lungs that I feel self conscious about, or the fact that I get to hear other people too (it goes both ways you know).

My other issue is that there is no playground. Not only is there no play area on the property, but there isn't even a park down the street. There are tons of AMAZING parks, forests, trails etc. People come from far and wide to partake of the outdoor recreation that abounds in this area, but these hotspots are all about 10 minutes away or more. Which isn't terrible, but it's not like I can easily step out for some quick fresh air and exercise before bedtime.

Besides the sound levels and absence of a yard, I wouldn't mind having a washer and dryer in my house. I spent my first 3 1/2 years of marriage going to the laundry mat so it's not that foreign to me. And at least the coin laundry is in the building so I don't have to load up the car with basketfuls of overflowing clothes. That's good news. Still, I have to be sure I have plenty of quarters on hand and sharing a washer and dryer means I also have to schedule my laundry time when I know that I can rotate loads the moment my personal timer goes off. Then I have to sneak out without the kids seeing me or they will follow me. Sometimes this isn't convenient. Nor is putting on shoes… or pants for that matter.

All that to say, it's not the ideal situation and we certainly aren't putting down any permanent roots, but I love having a place of our own. This is our home for now and it feels good to not be packing up and relocating again. Someday I won't have to worry about how loud we are, and the kids can run around outside while I do laundry barefoot in my pajamas. I dream about that day. But like Paul says in Philippians chapter 4;

 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.

 This is not say that I am right up there with Paul, because first of all we are not going hungry. We are not living in the ghetto (see footnote), and we are blessed with so many unnecessary pleasures and amenities. On the other hand when I question what we are doing or why we are here I am reminded through this verse of where my strength comes from. I couldn't live through the rain or shine without Him.

*** I don't want to give the idea that we are living in government housing or a crack house. I've seen the movie Precious and we are a FAR cry from that environment, thank you Jesus. But, we're not in Kansas anymore either Toto. It's not the picket fence, pool/tennis community that we grew up with. The bus stop here is full of second hand smoke and broken homes. The tenants are mostly older people, and younger couples that I assume would fall in the all American working class society, but for the most part families don't live here. Most families live in houses, or duplexes, or bigger apartments with pools, even if they are section 8. The children that I've met that do live here have some sad stories. So that puts us in a different situation. One of which I have been grateful and asked  God to open my heart and allow me to be a light, but in all honesty, I more often feel like a spy than a missionary. Lord help me to see the way you do. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spontaneous New Look

Yesterday wasn't horrible, but it was rough. One of those days where I feel like I know why people smoke, or at least fantasize about being able to breathe in some form of stress reduction. At the end of the day the kids were all asleep and I thought of this meme.

Then I had the urge to do something crazy, like dye my hair! That wasn't appealing to me though. I used to dye my hair when I was a teenager, but it's been about 15 years since I decided I would rather save all that hassle for when I go grey. So, what to do? How about change my blog layout.

I have been dreaming up a new blog for over a year. You guys, I have a whole welcome video script and directors notes ready to go. I have screen shot after screen shot of inspiration. In my dreams my blog is awesome and I would recruit the tech geniuses of my family to turn the mental designs into a virtual reality. Alas, time has never permitted any of this to happen and the longer I wait the further the down on the priority list it goes.

I don't really want to give up all the ideas that I've been shaping and chasing for so long, but there are many aspects of my blog I am just sick of. I've been needing a change.  So I went for it. I wasn't planning any of this at all and I just decided to scrap what I had and do something different spontaneously. Although then there is always the next day where you think "why did I paint my living room blue?" or "turns out I look horrible with bangs." or "Oh crap, I quit my job?" Luckily the blog thing isn't really that big of a deal, but now that I am in knee deep I am a little unsure of which direction I want to take things. With that said, please be patient with me. Depending on when you see this, Messy Mom will look different next time you stop by. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. It might look really crazy and crooked from time to time, but the plan is to switch to Word Press and get it all sorted out within the next two weeks. Which probably means two months or something like that.

Stay tuned, and as always, don't mind the mess! 

Ezie working on his invitation craft 6 months ago. Not sure why he is upset :( 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is Gluten Free Right For Me?

When I was desperately seeking ways to relieve Ezie from his eczema irritation I talked to some moms whose children had food allergies and once removing the edible culprit they were cured. Since wheat is one of the more common offenders I decided to give it go and see what would happen if he stopped eating gluten altogether.

Since I still breast feed him this meant that I would stop eating gluten too.
This for the most part just meant eating healthy foods for two weeks. He could still have grains and was getting all the nutrients he needs. I would love to say that after all the effort his eczema was no where to be found. Unfortunately the two weeks came and went and we didn't see any lasting results. So I gave up on the whole thing about 2 months ago.

Since then I have kind of missed the regimen. I noticed that in that time we were cutting back on a lot of processed foods, but still enjoying so many of the foods that we loved.

These are some of the meals and snacks I served up during that time. That's GF pasta by the way. 

There were inconveniences for sure, but towards the end I was finally getting the hang of it. There is an app called Shop Well where you can scan food and it will warn you if it needs to be avoided. It also gives really high ratings the healthier the item is, or sometimes it just suggest an alternative. Sometimes I wanted to tell it to mind it's own business and keep the "added sugar" comments to itself. Still, it's a great app that's free and you can customize it to any dietary needs.

Gluten free pancakes with OJ and maple syrup

After a while I learned how I could still sneak in some special splurges like certain types of naturally gluten free frozen yogurt, tapioca pudding, fritos, Dove's dark chocolate, and my favorite various Ben & Jerrry's flavors. Almost any food or restaurant website will tell you what they offer that is gluten free. It turns out Ezie and I could still go to Chic Fil A and eat chicken, fruit, lemonade, ice cream and OF COURSE the one of a kind waffle fries. The only modification is that you have to get the grilled chicken instead of breaded, but it's still delicious. I found myself calling up my favorite gelato place or researching vitamins. Gluten is a sneaky little protein, but there a lot of alternative options, especially since it's the latest craze.

I don't understand all the controversial pros and cons of gluten. Sometimes I think it gets a bad wrap because it sounds too close to glutton and that makes people uncomfortable. This Jimmy Kimmel video sums it up well.

 I do have a couple of friend with Celiac disease so understand it is harmful for many people, and there are millions more that have a less serious intolerance, but all I know is that I want my family to eat healthier. I would like to see less carbs, less sugar, more vegetables and clean eating. This is what the gluten free lifestyle looked like for me. So J and I discussed it and I think we are ready to give it another try.

A gluten free kids lunch. Hebrew National hotdogs, grapes, strawberries, and rice

 Low gluten is probably a more fair description if I must label it, because I am not going to panic about the kids eating a corn dogs or easter candy. Nor will I get picky when we are eating at social gatherings. I just don't plan on stocking up the pantry with prepackaged junk. Anyway, who knows where this journey will take us. I've had health kicks in the past, but J and I agree that we've let convenience get the best of us and we're ready for a change. I want to get back to the place where we open up the fridge and have greens spilling out.

It's worth a shot.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Accidental 5K and Other Recent Randoms

There are several recent happenings that you may be aware of if you follow "messymom" on instagram, but even then there is more to the story then one little square photo with a short caption. Let's start with the 5K. SJ's school participates in the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati every year. Many runners raise funds in support of the school and I volunteered to work a booth the day the races began. Traffic was terrible. All the roads were shut down for the run. This Flying Pig thing is a BIG deal. Think Boston Marathon, only Cincinnati. So J dropped me off as close as he could and I called to figure out how SJ and I could make it to the booth on foot. It sounded like we weren't far and I was told that they were set up near the finish line. Easy enough. I started following the hundreds of people that were running because I knew they certainly couldn't be headed anywhere other than the finish line.

 The further we went the more I wondered how far into this run I had begun. A half an hour of walking alongside the masses, much of the time carrying my 4 year old, I started to get fatigued and was almost ready to give up. I saw a police officer across the street so I did my best to cut through the thick crowd of runners to get to the other side. I arrived panting and asked the officer if he knew where the finish line was. He unfolded his little map and asked for the fastest route. He looked up at me and I quickly explained myself. I am not in the race. I said defensively. I wasn't supposed to be! I am just looking for one of the booths and well… He laughed and pointed to where I needed to go and eventually we found it. I don't know how far we walked, I even stopped to sit down for a bit at one point. As someone who hasn't trained for this kind of event I can tell you I was sore the next day. It was a successful day nonetheless.

The next weekend was Mother's Day.

Z brought home the customary fill in the blank book about mom. It was really sweet. He literally had me tearing up, but one part did catch me off guard. For the "things that mom likes to do" question he wrote watch TV.

I am not try to be all defensive about it, it's just that I watch TV less than anyone I know. I am all about down time, believe me, but I tend to veg out with my smart phone or computer, not television or movies. At the end of the book it said "My mom and I like to _________ together" and again the answer was watch TV.  So I asked him why he said that when it's not what I like to do and he said it is what he dreams that we would do. Apparently his dream mom is ALL about TV. I get that, but I make no apologies. He also said my favorite food was hot dog. Another thing his dream mom is probably into. Anyway, it was a lovely book, I will try not over analyze it. So when picking out clothes for Sunday morning I came across a "Team Mommy" shirt that Ezie has and then I realized SJ has an "Awesome Like Mommy" tee. Both shirts were birthday gifts by the way. I thought they would be cute for mother's day, but I didn't want Z to feel left out. That's when we came up with the idea to modify his I love Paris shirt.

It was a collaborate effort and it made this mother's day extra special.

Then last week Z had his first ever field trip.

I got to chaperon and we had a lot of fun. We went to a farm and our 79 year old farmer guide was a hoot! She had more spunk then probably the whole group of overly anxious 30 something chaperons that I was a part of. At one point she was demonstrating how to milk a goat and squirted some of the creamy goodness right into her mouth.

No disclaimer about don't try this at home/pasteurization safety speech! I know some of you are supremely grossed out right now, but that's my kind of granny! The whole trip was informative and very interactive.

Not only did we get to milk an animal, but we also fed them, brushed them, and collected some eggs.

Oh yeah, and at one point I had a chick on my head. I miss farming and it is my dream to have a small farm one day. In due time friends.

Lastly we went to a park as we often do to get the kids some fresh air and room to run.

One particular park tends to have a lot of Hispanics, which is cool. Z and I are trying to learn Spanish. That night I noticed two little girls mixed in with the bunch who were not speaking English, but it wasn't Spanish either. Their mom had a head covering so that was a clue right there. I decided I would just walk straight up to the parents and ask what language they spoke (hoping they could understand me enough to respond). Because the funny thing is when I am talking to someone who doesn't speak much english I tend to sign out of habit. I forget that although gestures maybe universal most signs look like complete gibberish to a person that doesn't know them. Anyway, the figured out what I was asking and it turns out they spoke Arabic. They were a really friendly family and they even asked to take a picture of Ezie and I with their daughter. I obliged and thought I'd get some pics of my own.

What made this evening so memorable, besides how gorgeous the sunset was,

is that out of the small group of families that were there the children were speaking Arabic, Spanish, English, and Sign Language.

 And they all played together as if there was no language barrier at all. Another beautiful example of how our differences do not have to keep us from reaching out. It was very cool.

I've rambled enough, but I just wanted to catch up on some of the past months highlights. Because sometimes even the memorable memories can fade.

I will stop now though before I break into the 1980's contemporary Christian hit Love In Any Language by Sandi Patti. "Once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear. Love in any language, fluently spoken here..." Ahhh!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Black & White Baby

A quick update about the littlest member of our familia who is now 19 months old. Ezie is 24 pounds and in 18 months clothes, which puts him right about average. He talks a lot more. He says all of our names now and does a lot of two word combinations like "oh no" "go bye-bye" "fall down" "apple juice". He likes to sing "Let It Go". My favorite story to tell is how SJ frequently tattles on her brother. She cries, screams, and yells "Z HIT ME!". Ezie heard this so often that he started to assume it was what you say when you are hurt or upset. He says it every time he cries. Z could be at school and Ezie would walk into a chair and say "Z hit me!" and it's with the exact same inflection that SJ says it. Cracks me up. 

The biggest thing we've been facing at this stage is skin problems. Ezie has had the WORST case of eczema and I won't go into detail on this post because it's a long story, a 4 month story actually, but suffice it to say that he got a prescription cream and it finally cleared up. The best part is no more scratching and flaking, but it was also nice that I could do photos of him without the massive rash covering his face and arms. I'll probably share more later, but for now here are the black and whites from Ezie's 18 month photo shoot. I did a few brief photos with the trapper hat...

But the majority of the session was Newsies inspired. 

Maybe I've been watching too much call the midwife, but I absolutely love the vintage look of these! He's such a cutie!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Turns Out My Mom Was Right

I was going to write a Facebook status about my mom. I wanted to share just one thing about the kind of mother she was and what it has taught me. But then I thought of another thing, and another, and I could probably keep going. So instead of writing a ridiculously long Facebook status, I decided to take it to the blog. Here are three things that I may not have necessarily appreciated when I was growing up, but now that I am an adult I see how much it made me the person I am today, and I am grateful for it.

1. She loved my dad.

She not only loved my dad, but she respected him, honored him, and stuck by him through thick and thin. They didn't start out in the ideal situation. They were very young when they became parents. I don't think she will mind me sharing, but they didn't even mean to become parents…when they were dating… as teenagers. But it did happen and they got married, had four kids, and now they are going on 37 years of marriage. I would always roll my eyes and become nauseous at the slightest bit of PDA from my parents and my mom would always say "you should be happy that we love each other". Well, you were right mom. I am happy that you love each other and that you showed it in many ways.

2. She was crazy!

My mom was not the type to sit beside the pool getting a suntan. She is a mountain girl always ready to jump in with both feet, and as a  mother it showed. One time she picked up a huge turtle shell that was on the side of the road and put in the back of our VW van. While were out for soccer practice (or whatever it was) this giant snapping turtle emerged from it's shell and climbed up to the front of the van to where it was peaking over the dash board! After the  turtle started hissing at us, my mom returned it to a lake near our house and fortunately no humans or animals were harmed in the process. I also remember when the Nintendo Power Pad came out in the 80's and mom was right there with us joining in the fun. So much so that she actually sprained her ankle on the thing! Lastly, I will never forget the time my oldest brother was explaining a science experiment where you set a piece of paper on fire put in a glass and attach it to your skin and the glass should stick to you when you let go. My brother was sticking it to his arm and stomach, but it wouldn't work. So my mom volunteered to demonstrate the experiment on her face and it worked. The problem was it wouldn't come off. Her entire cheek was sucked into the glass like a balloon full of air and once the glass did come off she had a hickey that belonged in the book of world records. There are many other stories like that. Although sometimes I may have been embarrassed by some of her antics, I wouldn't trade my spontaneous mom for a tan one any day!

3. She was nosey.

I will never forget being in the sixth grade and planning a double date on the phone with my friend. We had it all figured out. My mom would drop me off at my friends house, we would go to the theater, and the boys would meet us there. When I got off the phone my mom asked what was going on and I simply told her that I was wanting to go to the movies with my friend. The more she prodded the more intricate my web of deception became until she finally admitted to listening in on my conversation (good ol' land lines) and told me that I was welcome to meet the boys at that movie theater, but she would be having a seat in the row behind me. UGHHHH, gag me with a spoon! I ended up not going to the movies. Looking back now I am so thankful I didn't start dating that young. Who knows what kind of trouble I could have found myself in. Then there was the time she tore into my brother's best friend when she overheard him drop the F bomb, or she found out that one of us had littered, and the list goes on. I felt like she did allow us freedom and privacy, but she wasn't afraid to pry, eaves drop, or butt in. She said the Holy Spirit would let her know when she needed to and I am sure she was right. So thanks mom for being so nosey.

Those are just a few of the things that I can now say that I am so grateful for. There are lots and lots of other reasons I love and appreciate my mom. I hope I can gross my kids out and embarrass them just as much as she did for me.
Happy Mother's Day. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Summer VS Me

I feel like this particular topic would be best expressed through pictures. I call this series of selfies "Messy Mom Faces the End of the School Year"

This is when it occurred to me that out of nowhere the school year happened and it's about to be over.

This is when I got all excited about the idea of no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks. HEY HEY! Just kidding. Both of my kids have awesome teachers. It's more like no more deadlines, no more worry, no more everything done in a hurry.

This is after the excitement wore off and I started to think about how many days I would have with all three children. all day long. in our teensy weensy apartment. with no. back. yard. 

And this probably doesn't need a caption. 

There are pros and cons to summer and I probably don't even know half of them since I am a newbie to all of this.  I will say that some relief comes knowing that school is almost out. In fact I feel like I am dragging myself across the finish line. I brought SJ to school an hour late today because I overslept. Not only has SJ been late, but I have missed the bus twice this week with Z! They've gone to school without back packs or lunch boxes. I feel like the "worst end of school year mom ever". I can't wait for school to be over! Or can I?

Maybe I am like Olaf the snowman from Frozen.

I am singing and dreaming about summer without having a full understanding of what I am up against. I love my family. I like having my kids around, but our current situation with the lack of space and noise complaints and all that makes things a little tricky. I've got a plan though, and that is to make a plan. I have 23 days to prepare. This summer is going to run like a well oiled machine I tell you.

I am not going to sit back and let the carefree warm days of summer run me over. NO! I will face it head on with military force AND IT WILL BE FUN. So there.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More Than Words Can Say

*This was originally written over a year ago. Sometimes I just need to write even if I keep it to myself, but today, on the 2nd anniversary of her diagnosis, I am ready to share.*

In the world of hearing loss I feel like the label "Late Identified" is a big red stamp across my daughter's forehead. These days most deaf children are diagnosed through a brief newborn hearing screening before they even leave the hospital. Since SJ wasn't born at the hospital we never had any testing done until she was over two years old. 

SJ at two years old, a month after she was diagnosed.

SJ's birth was perfect. It was hands down one of the most amazing, beautiful, and spiritual moments of my life, but if I could change the past then I would have had a screening test done after the home birth.

The first seconds of SJ's life!

 As with any treatment plan, like with cancer or autism, the earlier you can diagnose and intervene, the better. There are so many benefits to getting started at a young age when it comes to language, and we lost two years of valuable time. However, having those years of not knowing did have some benefits. 

When I blogged for the first time about SJ's hearing, Amanda (from Oh Amanda) left me a link to a woman she called her hero. That woman was Rachel Coleman of Signing Time. I read her story, got several of her videos, and she soon became my hero as well. Her daughter Leah was also late identified because the hospital had taken a break from newborn screenings for a brief time before they became mandatory and that was when Leah was born. Here is what Rachel said about her daughter being late identified.

 "Was it meant to be? I don’t know. I wonder how over-protective and lame I would have been if they had handed me my newborn baby and said, by the way she’s profoundly deaf. Looking back I can see the blessing it was that we got to know Leah for her first year with the complete expectation that she could do anything, she was limitless. When we did hear her diagnosis “severe to profound hearing impairment” when she was 14 months old, we mourned. We cried. We felt silly. We couldn’t believe it. We thought there was a mistake. We hoped it would go away. We felt all of that and more at once! Finally we looked at Leah and she was still her happy beautiful self. And we recognized that for Leah nothing had changed. Nothing was wrong."

Boy do I relate to that! When we first came to SJ's school, one of the advisers had commended me on how well I’ve done at communicating with SJ despite her hearing loss. She told me that many parents have a hard time just talking with their deaf children and unknowingly tend to turn their conversation toward someone that is listening to them. I'd like to take credit for being so loving, but I didn't know she was deaf.

 Another therapist was astounded by SJ's cognitive abilities and said she had never worked with a deaf child potty trained at such a young age. I'd like to take credit for that too, but once again I didn't realize I was potty training a deaf child (and besides that she initiated it). For over two years I treated her like any other baby/toddler. We didn't fret. We weren't trying to protect her. We weren't taking action. We just loved her as she was, and in the mean time she loved us back and proved to be a very capable, thriving, joyous little lady. 

I know now more than ever how vital communication and language is. However, in those years we "lost" by not starting therapy or using hearing devices we also gained a lot and I learned a valuable lesson. She understood me. She may not have understood my words, but our love transcended all of that. Our hearts spoke to one another. I have always told my kids that I love them more than words can say and for SJ I've lived that truth.