Posted in family life

rondel and the wearable chewies

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you probably remember than Rondel has some sensory sensitivities – nothing extreme, but he does tend to want something to lick/chew when he gets anxious, tired, or overwhelmed, and for some time he had just been licking his hands. We were trying to help him get over that habit, for sanitary and social reasons, when I realized that it might be more helpful to give him something to fidget with instead of¬†simply trying to make him stop fidgeting in general. I had noticed that he liked to fidget orally with wooden toys (like unfinished wood blocks) much more than with plastic toys, so I set out to find a wearable wooden fidget for a reasonable price.

This was much harder than I had anticipated.

While there is a large market for wearable chewies/fidgets, the majority are made of food-grade silicone, which I already knew Rondel wouldn’t like enough to use instead of his hands. I looked through site after site until I finally stumbled upon BiteMeBeads, an Etsy store where I could purchase unfinished wood pendants in various shapes, as well as strings and clasps to make my own necklaces out of them. I got two of the silicone pendants just in case (at the very least they’ll be good teethers for the new baby) and two of the wood, and waited anxiously for their arrival.

Well, it has been over a month now and I’m happy to report that the wearable chewies (as Rondel calls them) have been a huge success! Unlike a toy, Rondel can keep this with him while still having both hands free, and it’s less likely to be set down and lost; unlike his hands, they won’t get chapped in the winter, garner him negative attention, or be as likely to spread germs. And for the most part, he has stopped licking his hands and chews on the pendant instead (the fish-shaped one is his favorite). He even told me a couple Sundays ago that one of the girls in his class had told him she liked his fishy chewy – he was pretty happy about thatūüôā

So Рif anyone has a similar situation with their preschooler, that is my whole-hearted recommendation! Obviously the oral fidgeting was helping him cope with his sensory input or emotional state, and this was a way to adjust that coping strategy to fit a wider range of situations.

Posted in family life

christmas apples and brotherly love

It all began when Rondel hung an apple ornament on my parents’ Christmas tree (we don’t have space for one, so we are vicariously enjoying theirs and stopped by to help decorate it!).

Limerick noticed this apple, hanging alone on its branch, and found an apple of his own. Diligently, despite the slippery nature of pine branches (especially ones that are already supporting ornaments), he attempted¬†to hook his apple right next to his brother’s, and finally succeeded. He was so proud of himself!

It’s those little things that show me how much Limerick loves and looks up to his big brother. He wants to be like him, to do the things he does, to be with him – even to the point of hanging his little apple on the same branch as Rondel’s big apple. This is the spirit that causes him to greet Rondel with a hug the moment we pick him up from his Sunday School class, or look to Rondel for a reaction whenever he says something silly, hoping to elicit a laugh from his big brother.

When they hit each other, take each other’s toys, and knock down each other’s towers, and the screams and cries fill the air, I don’t despair of their love and future relationship, because I can remember these other things, the moments of appreciation for and enjoyment of each other, that are woven in the very fabric of their lives. With that backdrop, the conflict itself can become a source of greater strength and depth in their relationship, a thread essential to the tapestry of their growing characters.

Posted in family life

on the first day of Advent…

Thanksgiving pictures will be up a little late because I forgot my camera at my in-laws’ house and will have to wait a few days for it to be returned (my FIL fortunately works fairly close to our house, despite living rather far away – I don’t envy his daily commute).

However, life in our house has moved on from Thanksgiving to Advent with what feels like incredible speed. The downtown area where we live is fully decked out for Christmas, with a whole street blocked off for a three-story Christmas tree, photo ops, and continuously-playing holiday music. Even our church this morning (to my disappointment) was fully decorated and singing Christmas carols all service long, and I honestly felt overwhelmed by it all. I love Christmas – don’t get me wrong! – but I love Advent even more, and the abrupt switch from ordinary time to Christmas, without the slow build-up and growing anticipation of Advent in between, made me feel like Christmas was just being dumped on me at the expense of the specialness and wonder of it all. I can’t remember feeling like this in the past; for some reason I am just not ready for Christmas this year, and I’m hardly even ready for Advent. I need time to live the lamentation and longing of Advent, to prepare my heart for the unbelievable joy and promise of Christmas… maybe I just need to spend time alone in the daily readings for these next few weeks, immersing myself in the pattern and calling of the Church.

For now, though, I did bring out a few decorations and the Advent wreath (and discovered that I only had two whole candles, one purple and one rose, along with five or six candle stumps… ah well, our Advent may be interrupted by the baby anyway!). I had hoped to do the Jesse Tree this year with the boys, but I didn’t find/make a set of ornaments I liked in time, so we’ll just be reading the stories without the visible accompaniment. I did find a great children’s Bible with beautiful, well-written stories that are still short enough to easily add to dinner and the Advent candles, so we’ll be using that for our Advent readings as a family and keeping¬†the Jesus Storybook Bible in regular circulation with our picture books – Rondel has been choosing it for his bedtime story for a few weeks now, and I don’t want that to stop! Anyway, this is our new one:

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The illustrations are done by different artists from around the world, and represent different artistic styles as well as different ethnicities and cultures – and they are all absolutely beautiful. I’ve read quite a few of the short (two to three page) stories on my own, and read the first one tonight at dinner; I’m looking forward to the rest! I’m especially excited that Ruth and Esther are both included here, as they are not in the Jesus Storybook Bible.

One thing that gave me hope for the season in the face of my own lackluster feelings so far was Rondel’s reaction to helping me pull out some preliminary Christmas decorations, and finding our nativity set amongst them. My plan was to introduce the characters slowly throughout Advent, like I did last year… but Rondel spent the whole afternoon playing with the people (pretending they were random Bible characters like King Darius and Daniel because we haven’t read the Christmas story for a while!) and chose the baby Jesus for his bedtime snuggle toy tonight. So that was significantly sweeter than my well-laid plans would have likely been, and a gift for me to see his delight in the season even if it isn’t rolling out perfectly and liturgically correctly. My goal is to meet him in that joy, and make the most of the Advent time we have before our baby comes, instead of morphing into my inner curmudgeon…

I hope your Thanksgiving went well and that you are entering Advent with a more Christ-centered and joyful heart than I have had so far!

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

oobleck!

After discovering¬†Bartholomew and the Oobleck, by Dr. Seuss, by sheer random luck at the library last week, and enjoying it on the basis of its story alone for several days, I told Rondel that oobleck was actually something we could make at home. I wasn’t sure if he would want to, but he spent the whole next day (while I was at work) telling my husband how he was going to get to make oobleck with Mommy, so at that point it was going to have to happen!

And happen it did:

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Oobleck is, in its simplest form, a mixture of cornstarch and water. We added some food coloring to try to make it green like it is in the Dr. Seuss book, but we obviously should have added more! The proportions of the two ingredients have to be just right (approximately a 1:2 water:cornstarch ratio), but when they are, the mixture stops behaving like a liquid or a solid and becomes a non-Newtonian fluid. In other words, the way it responds is based on the force you apply. Let your hand sink down slowly into the bowl and it feels like water; try to pull your hand back out quickly and the substance instantly hardens around you. (For a good overview of the science, check out this article from Cornell).

I spent a lot of time just playing around with it on my own before I could convince the boys to touch it, but after they got over the initial weirdness of it they¬†didn’t want to stop. Rondel in particular enjoyed the odd sensation of it and kept immersing his hands in and pulling them out again over and over and over. In fact, because our air is so dry, I had to keep adding water to the oobleck so he could keep playing with it as long as his interest held – which ended up being about an hour and a half, and would have been longer if we hadn’t desperately needed to put Limerick down for a nap.

Oobleck is definitely a messy activity. Because of the way it sticks to your skin, it’s not going to stay nicely contained in a mixing bowl! However, since it’s just cornstarch, it does hose off of everything fairly easily (much to my neighbors’ relief… the newly returned snowbirds aren’t used to the kids playing in the common area and were worried about the mess). It will also dry out your skin, so it might be good to have lotion on hand for after the clean-up. This was my first time playing with it as well, although I’ve read about it before, and I highly recommend it (and the book!) for both you and your kids!

Posted in family life

happy birthday, limerick!

Dear Limerick,

Today, you are two years old.

You are very proud of this fact. You have been telling me for weeks that you are only one now, but that you will be two soon! The prospect of having a number “2” on your birthday cake is also quite tantalizing for you, ever since you found your old number “1” candle in the pantry. I won’t be surprised if you start asking about a number “3” candle in short order, though – you like keeping those numbers together!

It’s hard to remember sometimes that you are just now barely two years old. You speak in long, fluent, clearly understandable sentences; you can write all the letters of the alphabet in both lower and upper case; you can count up to 10 and write most of the numbers; and you have several books memorized to the point where you will sit and “read” them to me instead of the other way around. On top of that, you run, jump, hop, and wrestle right along with your older brother, and climb with¬†incredible balance, coordination, and lack of caution (you’ve almost given me a heart attack several times, up on ladders and bridges higher than my head, but you’ve also made me proud of the way you focus on your goal and keep trying until you accomplish it).

Most of the time you seem like a fairly laid-back little guy – you take the yelling and pushing and bouncing dished out by your three-year-old big brother in good grace (and often provoke it with a big grin on your face!). You try whatever crazy new food I come up with, and usually eat a decent amount of it even if you don’t really like it all that much. If another kid takes the toy you’re playing with, you typically just find another and keep playing and exploring the world around you happily. You banter and laugh and do ridiculous things with me and Rondel and Daddy that make us all fall over laughing together!

However,¬†you can be extremely intense when you’re concentrating on something that you want to be able to do! When you’ve decided that you’re going to open a door or pick up an object (no matter how high the handle or how heavy the item), you won’t give up until you’ve figured out some way to do it all by yourself. “You want to do it! You want to do it!” is the cry we hear all day long, since you’ve picked up Rondel’s habit of referring to yourself as “you” – and while it can lead you to great frustration, your perseverance and desire for independence also empower and strengthen you. “You did it!” I tell you: and the joy on your face at doing it, whatever “it” was, is deep and authentic and beautiful. In the same way, when you play independently, you are often serious and unsmiling, intent on the task at hand, focused on discovering or accomplishing something to which you’ve set your mind.

The physical world around you is your easel and paint, the¬†clay in your hands, tools and raw material for you to work with and shape. You inhabit that world with an ease I still don’t have, absorbing its power and potential with uncanny natural ability, creating, building, making with talent beyond your years. It amazes me to watch you practice and develop those abilities even more, with no more motivation than your own internal joy in the process of it.

You are two years old today, little man with the deep blue eyes and charming smile, two years old, and I can hardly believe how much we’ve already gotten to do together! I can’t wait to see what all the years ahead of you will bring.

I love you,

Mommy

Posted in family life

learning character from Dr. Seuss on a hard day

When your morning is characterized by yelling (from everyone), tears (from everyone), apologies (from everyone), toddler aggression (from both boys), strict boundary enforcement (from me), and overwhelming fatigue (probably from everyone but definitely from me), a blissful three hours at the library is a gift and an answer to prayer. Surely it wasn’t coincidence that we stumbled upon a Dr. Seuss book I’d never seen before, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, in which crisis is only averted by the remorse and sincere apology of the culpable character…

I am forever grateful for the forgiving love of my little children, even as they drive me up the wall, and I will forever try to pick up the pieces, start over, and love them as best I can in each moment. And when I lose it and they lose it and we’re all a wreck and the day feels ruined before it’s scarcely begun, we can remember King Derwin of Didd and admit our fault, say we’re sorry, and begin to rebuild together.