Saturday, July 25, 2015

Week of Eli

Maddux was at Winshape for five nights, so it gave me a lot of time for one-on-one that I wouldn't normally have with Eli. The week started with a really fun night: Eli joined me for my weekly photography group.

So. Much. Fun.
Eli and I grabbed a quick dinner right before at a restaurant that we rarely get to, but he loves. Then Eli, armed with my back-up camera, joined me and two other women as we perused the Marietta Square and took photos along the way. Eli really got into it and it was a great opportunity for me to work with him on some things that I never get to normally. At the same time, it was a great 'sticky faith' moment for Eli and one of the other women. We finished off the night with a quick ice cream cone.
Eli, Ruby and I spent much time at the pool also. We only had friends with us a few times, so it provided more family time. So cool. It was great to see him spend time with Ruby without Maddux in the mix too. She makes the BEST big sister, but that definitely doesn't allow for much chance for Eli to get in there.
Finally, the two kids and I went to Ruby's therapy group on Thursday. Eli has been to Gigi's before, but this may have been the first time he went with just me and Ruby. He did a great job, playing with Ruby and also interacting with a few of the other kids.

Overall, this week was a nice calm week. Maddux, in no way, is the reason for the chaos that often is our daily life with three kids, but Eli definitely responds in a great way when there are less people vying for my attention. It was nice to slow down for a week and notice the other side of him.

Winshape

Maddux was so disappointed when we realized she was not old enough to go to sleep away camp last year, so this week at Winshape has been a loooong time coming.

Before she went, we got to choose some activities for her to focus on while she was there. Of course there would be swimming and outdoor games and dance parties and bunk shenanigans, but in addition, Maddux chose to learn more about rock climbing, wet'n'wild fun and arts and crafts.
To say she had a good time is an understatement. We all drove up to Young Harris college campus to drop her off: Eli was all eyes, comparing the girls' camp to his camp. Before we left her, he and Ruby dressed up in some props with Maddux to take some pictures.
We brought Maddux up to her dorm room, which she shared with three other girls. We met her main leader, who stayed in the room adjoining Maddux's and another room with three or four girls. They shooed us out rather quickly so they could get the bonding started.
Each night she was gone, I checked the site for photos including Maddux. Every one told a story of fun and smiles. Her leader sent us a postcard raving about Maddux and her ability to be a caregiver to every girl in their group.
When we picked Maddux up at the end of the week, she and a few of the other girls were absolutely inseparable. Moms' numbers were exchanged, as some live in the Atlanta area, and hugs were given freely. I think Maddux has caught the camp bug!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Therapy Update

Ruby has NOT taken the summer off. Some weeks have even found this girl with four seperate therapy appointments (plus her work at home). She is a rockstar!
Physical Therapy:
We don't need this therapy as critically now that she's walking, but we are still working to strengthen Ruby's core with rotation exercises. (She will sit between my legs on the floor and I'll have toys on either side of her that she needs to transfer across her body, sometimes leaning, sometimes not.) We also strengthen her trunk and arms with monkey bar-like grabs and holds (using a broom stick). For the same reason, we have some soft weights that Ruby moves around the downstairs: from couch to couch, from floor to table. She really loves this! Finally, we are still working on her walking over obstacles (small ones like bumps or sidewalk cracks, She usually doesn't want to slow down to step over these things, but the good news about that is that she is learning how to deal with the uneven surface(s) without falling.

Speech:
Rock and roll. Some days she gives us oh-so many word approximations. Some are recognizable just to me, but many are recognized by others even without my presence. Ruby is working on and can mostly say: eat, more, I did it, mama, dada, eggs, book, yes, i love you (you'd have to really pay attention for that one), I want, please. She makes animal sounds for a cow, dog, pig, monkey.....and Daddy snoring.
video

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Inclusion

Since having Ruby we've become much more aware of the importance of inclusion. The concept is not a new one, nor should it come as a surprise to anyone who thinks about it that kids - ALL kids - benefit from inclusion. When the word came up in our home recently, I tried to explain it to the older kids by using their milestones as an example. Eli walked a little later and he spoke on a somewhat typical timeline. But Maddux walked early, spoke more sooner, developed her motor skills faster, potty trained earlier...mostly because she had Eli, someone her size already walking and talking and climbing and feeding themselves.

And how does it benefit 'typical' kids to have Ruby in their class? I can only site the ways I've seen it affect my kids and others that are around Ruby:
  • Ability to love - she lights up the room with smiles and hugs for everyone.
  • Patience - seeing Ruby work so hard to accomplish something helps others around her slow down and give her (and themselves) time to succeed.
  • Acceptance - once you connect with and see the world through someone else's eyes, you can't help but look at everyone differently.
  • Celebration - working with Ruby on a task or milestone makes you root for her. Seeing her hard work, and then seeing it pay off makes you want to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments. It has made my kids stop and take note of their own 'small' accomplishments at times when they otherwise would not have.
We have been hoping and praying for opportunities to have Ruby participate in full inclusion as long as it's still a mutually beneficial situation. While she's not always in her age-appropriate class at the YMCA, I take her to the childcare there when I go to the gym. And we found a preschool that is including her this fall in a class not tailored to her, but to the typical young 2-year old. Best of all, our church has always welcomed her with open arms into a class on Sunday mornings. The volunteers are always so happy to see her and they assure me that she fits right in with the rest of the kids. We could not be more grateful for our community...especially since they recognize that Ruby being in the class benefits the other kids and teachers at least as much as she receives benefits from them. They celebrate that she is part of creating Moments of Awesome.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lemonade Sale

Maddux and our friend, Virginia, had the idea last year to have a neighborhood lemonade sale to raise funds for Team Ruby for the Buddy Walk. We supported their efforts, but never expected the success they had. This year we planned a little more, prepared a little more, and had a great turnout.
For months, the kids and I (emphasis on "I") have been making loom bracelets for the sale, trying to focus on more red and white ones (the kids say those are official Team Ruby colors). We made some cookies, mixed up a bunch of lemonade, and the girls made new signs for down the street and at our stand. I put out the info on Facebook for the week leading up to the sale, in an effort to bring in some extra traffic.
We only held the sale for two hours, but we brought in double the profit from last year! We were humbled by the amount of friends and family that traveled from all over Atlanta to come and support Ruby and the Buddy Walk. It was amazing to see the cars pull in and park....every time someone else showed up it was like a party. We wore our shirts, and some of our patrons wore theirs also. In addition to our far away supporters, we had a few people from the neighborhood stop by and ask about our cause. Very cool.

At the end of the day, we brought in $350 AND had a $200 donation to add to our efforts; over $500!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Overnight Weekend

Maddux is attending a 5-night overnight camp at Winshape this year which she is very excited about. As much as our family has enjoyed Winshape day and overnight camps though, they do come with a big price tag. We have been able to allow both kids to go for the last two years because each year we got a 50% discount for first timers. Next year, however, we are exploring other options for them. One of the camps we are interested in is North Georgia Christian Camp. Some of the girls that our kids have gotten to know well through church are on staff there, so it was a no-brainer to have Maddux test-drive it last weekend.
The camp is very bare-bones and affordable. Love. That. Maddux got to go swimming, kayaking, have a camp fire, sleep in a cabin...this camp has all of the things summer camp should contain. She said the counselor that slept in her cabin even had a guitar and played it until they fell asleep each night. And while she didn't use her own Bible much, she came back with some new worship songs and a new verse memorized.
Oh yeah, and of course Maddux had a great time, loved every second, and had no problems being away from us. (If you know her, you understand the 'of course'.) She started out on the top bunk, but moved to the bottom to help comfort a friend who was struggling a little each night. That's another bit of unshocking news to me. This girl loves large.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Away From Home

Eli went to Winshape overnight camp again this year. Last year he did the one-week (5 nights) camp, and he opted to not extend this year, which made me very happy. He and Drew both went the same week, just like last year. They were not in the same bunk, which wasn't a surprise, but they also were not in any of their track choices together. I think this may have made Eli nervous last year, but he was fine with it this time around.
When we dropped Eli off, he settled right in. What a difference a year makes! This year's camp was at a different location, so the boys stayed in dorms instead of cabins. Eli and three other boys shared a small room with bunkbeds, and they shared a bathroom space with four more boys. Their entire squad, Hydro, was on the same floor. This made for cool decorating in their squad colors. Their was also a carpet ball table on each floor for the boys to play in their downtime.
Throughout the five days he was away from us, Eli learned how to make a teepee fire, worshiped at sunset on a hill, learned a handful of new games involving a ball, met new friends, and had an overall awesome time again. He and his bunkmates won the Honor award for their squad because they kept their room the cleanest each day (What?!?!), and Eli was recognized for his squad in his sports track.
My favorite part about the day we went to pick Eli up was when we entered his hall and called his name, he turned around and he and Maddux ran to each other and hugged.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Week of Maddux

Here we are with Eli gone at overnight camp; just me and the girls all day everyday. I intentionally signed Eli and Maddux up for their overnight camps to not overlap so that I could get some one-on-one with each over the summer. It already feels like it flies by so fast, and when they are here, whether bickering or getting along, it can be hard to slow down and have those intentional moments.

So we did a lot of not-so-memorable stuff together that was fun: made bracelets, ran errands and got lunch, went to Gigi's. Those things were still full of good conversation and the such, but they were more run of the mill activities. The bigger events for us included going to see sunflowers, the girls going for a play date when I was at the dentist, only to be followed up by a long pool play date, meeting Daddy for a lunch date and King of Pops, and going to one of Maddux's favorite parks.
Last year I took Eli and Ruby to see the sunflowers while Maddux was at Art camp. It was awesome and Maddux definitely wanted to go, but the season was so short that we never made it back. I planned for us to go while Eli was at camp because it should have lined up with the beginning of the blooms. Unfortunately, we drove all of the way out there only to see no blooms. The good news was, there was a nice walking trail about a mile before the sunflowers, so I unloaded the girls there to walk around a bit before getting back in the car for the lengthy ride home. Maddux and Ruby walked along the bridge and I got some great pictures of my girls; a great day indeed.
The park and the pool had some great moments too, but no pictures. Mostly I tried my best to talk about what Maddux enjoys talking about (which is not easy for me as we are opposites in many ways). Lots of family game nights with her and Lehr after Ruby went to bed, and at least we snuggled on the couch and watched Nature shows.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Therapy Update

The days and weeks pass so quickly now that I forget to keep everyone in the loop. This girl is still tackling everything head-on, though she is definitely 'two', and will remind you of that (loudly) when she sees fit.

Physical Therapy:
Ruby is still walking everywhere. She can now walk up and down our sloped driveway without assistance. She doesn't always fall, but balance on an uneven terrain is still a challenge. She is building up her endurance too; I challenge her to walk up the hill on our street at least once/week. We use a push-toy, even though it doesn't offer much stability, just to help her feel like she has a purpose in the walk. She's getting higher and higher up the hill every time before she runs out of steam.
Ruby is walking backwards all of the time too. I remember that was one of the things to keep looking ahead to, but Ruby decided to teach herself how to do it. She's also dancing. This mostly consists of her waving her hands and 'stomping' her feet, but it's cute as can be. She'll hear the music and immediately make eye contact with you and start shimmying.

Finally, Ruby is fearless and a climber. She will climb into or over anything she can. I have to imagine this is good for her, so I try to give her opportunities for it as much as possible.


Speech:
Ruby is making some real progress in this area. A while ago she mastered her "ooooh" sound, and then her "oooo" sound. Then she started giving us different faces, specifically mouth shapes. She will give me five faces: funny, sad, happy, scared and mad. These little exercises are great for speech!
Ruby is currently 'moo'ing like a cow and 'woo-woo'ing like a dog and 'oo-ooo'ing like a monkey. Her current words are:
  • yes (ess or yesh)
  • Hi
  • Bye-bye (bah bah)
  • mama
  • dada
  • Maddux ('icksss')
  • eat
  • more (still a little bit 'mohh', but there is more 'r' most of the time)
  • I love you (work in progress: 'eyeee lah oooo')
  • want ('oo-waah' - this only comes when I prompt her)
Ruby still sees three different speech therapists (in addition to PT every other week and Gigi's a few times each month): one weekly, one every other week and one every 4-6 weeks. She is a busy busy girl! It is paying off though… She now will repeat most things when I ask her to, to the best of her ability.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

ER x 2

So Ruby decided to visit the ER twice in less than two weeks. Not really bragging rights, if you ask me!

The first visit was due to a small fall in the house. Ruby has always tried to be faster on her feet than her balance with allow for which means she needs to put her hands down to steady herself from time to time. (read: she falls, but catches herself with her hands instead of going all of the way down.) That's what happened while I was at a photo shoot one Saturday morning, but on the way down, her mouth hit the safety gate and her tooth sliced a deep gash in her upper lip. I walked in to Maddux hysterical on the floor, cleaning up a pool of blood and Eli trying to explain to Lehr exactly what happened.
Ruby stopped crying after a little mouth clean, but we still took her to the ER. Even though we knew that mouth injuries heal very fast, we didn't want to take the chance of something healing incorrectly and interfering with all of the hard work she's putting in at speech.

Lehr took both girls while Eli and I stayed home; since Ruby was not in need of comforting, we figured the less commotion at the hospital the better. In the end, Lehr paid for a very expensive Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Popsicle and got sent home.
Ruby's second visit happened just before the fireworks on Independence Day. We were loading up for an errand and Ruby got her pinky shut in the car door. It wasn't slammed and she recovered quickly, but the finger looked bent and swollen, so away we went again. They did an x-ray and examined her; clean bill of health again. The doctor was confident everything would return to normal quickly.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Maddux's Slumber Party

Each kid loves to think about and plan their birthday party. Even the day after their birthday(s), you will often find Eli and Maddux talking about what they want to do next year. Since Maddux turned 7, she's been talking about having a slumber party for #8.
I was not up to having a house full of girls overnight (no basement makes for a loud party house), but we discussed Maddux having two friends over to do pretty much whatever she wanted. (This could have included the pool, the movies, dinner out, etc.) Maddux chose to stay at home for the entirety of it though. She was very specific in what she wanted: Papa John's pizza, nail painting, a craft, and a movie. Maddux also asked about party bags; this is not something we've done for parties in the past, which Maddux and I discussed. So she decided to make her own goodie bags for them including a bracelet, a ring, some stickers, a shrinkadink animal and lego first initials, plus she decorated the bag. Love her DIY-self!
The girls arrived just after 4PM and all three were playing up in Maddux's room for about an hour. Then we did one of the crafts Maddux chose (ceramic piggy banks that they got to paint and decorate). The pizzas arrived and Eli was a waiter to the girls with pizza and fruit. Maddux offered sparkling water to her friends (she and Eli love love love it), but no one else seemed to share her affinity (which shocked Maddux).
After the pizza, we turned on a few Just Dance youtube videos and it turned into an all-out dance party for about an hour. We followed that with cake and ice cream and the girls changing into their PJ's while I put Ruby to bed. Maddux chose to watch Rio, which all of the girls seemed to like (and Eli...he watched too).
We put the girls to bed on Maddux's floor in a giant sleeping bag, group pile of pillows and blankets. We told the girls they could stay up making bracelets (another craft), talking and playing as long as they stayed quiet. It was just before 10PM at this point. About a dozen trips into Maddux's room to remind them to keep the volume down later, it was 12:45PM and I shut the lights out. That seemed to do the trick :)
The next morning we had pancakes and eggs and bacon (Maddux's choice, of course), and the girls danced some more. We finished up with manicures...each of the girls picked different colored patterns and got all gussied up.
 Maddux and Lehr drove her friends home at noon, because that's another thing Maddux loves to do (ride in the car with friends). 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Individual Medley

The IM. It is both older kids' favorite event. The madness that is 25yds (or meters) each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Most kids we know kind of dread it, but my two crazies love it. Lehr got a short video of each of their last swim meet IM swims.
Notice that Maddux is not wearing goggles...it should come as no surprise to everyone that she has misplaced them yet again. She crushed most of her events that night; imagine if she'd had her gear with her!