Life with Coco and Gigi... and Jack-Jack too!

Life as a Mom, A Homesteader, A Blogger and A Wife.

We're getting close!

We decided about eight months ago that our little family needs to take a break. So we decided to make some smart money choices and save enough for a trip to Disney World. It didn't leave us much time to save for this big trip but we did it! We went for some of the big upgrades and I am so glad we did.

Forty days and counting!!!!!

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Our Favorite Sensory Diet Ingredients

Around age 2 both girls were diagnosed with Sensory Processing Dysfunction. Abby has always been a sensory seeker of the highest proportion. We always thought that as time went on it might be reduced, but that has not been the case. On the other hand, Grace tended to be more of a sensory avoider. As she has gotten older she does MUCH better with texture and even crazes it to some degree. 

What has always astonished me is how much better both girls function when we pay attention to their sensory diet needs. I thought I would put together a list of some of the items that are must haves on our sensory diet list. 

The Gymnic Movin' Sit Inflatable Seat: This little powerhouse has been sat upon by almost every hynie in the house. I must admit on particularly hyper days even I can be found swaying to and from to keep my attention level up. Abby get a lot of input from the dimples, but Grace and I enjoy the ability to move while you sit. Costs just over $30 so a great buy. 

 

Z-Vibe: Although the Z vibe finally died in our house after 6 years of use, it is a great tool for kids whose sensory needs involve the mouth. For us, that was both girls. Abby used to stuff her mouth and her OT suggested that we use this to give her input before she ate. It did a great job at minimizing stuffing and creating feeding awareness. Grace avoided certain textures so we tried this before she ate things she usually avoided. It helped us get her to eat yogurt and smoothies, but she still won't eat anything with lumps like oatmeal. 


 
Chewy Necklaces: At nine years old I still often find Abby wearing one of her many chewy necklaces. They beat the heck out of fingernails or sleeves for kids who look for input by chewing.  


Chewy Tubes: In that same vain we have an entire bin (I kid you not, a bin) of various chewy tubes that have been collected over the years. Abby's absolute favorite are the P's and Q's, probably because I can attach them to a necklace.  They are inexperience and can be thrown in the dishwasher to keep clean. 


Raising A Sensory Smart Child: This book was just about heaven-sent to a Mom who had never heard of SPD before the day both of her kids were diagnosed with it. There is a book and a cool guide to activities, both of which I loved and used frequently. I highly recommend you invest in both!


Weighted Blankets: Abby has always been a terrible sleeper. When her OT suggested a weighted blanket it almost sounded like a form of child abuse. Little did I know this well known sensory secret is a must for sensory kids who struggle to sleep. Both girls used them from about 3 until 6. Abby continued to use hers until she outgrew it last year. That being said I am considering buying a larger one for her to use now. 


Please excuse the shameless Amazon plug here, but that is truly where we ordered all of our sensory products. There are some great companies out there selling awesome products but when buying for two kids with two different kinds of needs Amazon fit our budget. 

Grace the Athlete Versus Grace the Girl

Grace is athletic. To people who follow me on Instagram or Facebook you probably are well aware of that. You are also probably very aware that I am a very proud sports Mom. In our town sports are everything. I don't think this is something unique to us, but I don't really know. There are a lot of politics and it often impacts our young athletes. While sports can be a huge asset and character builder in kids, in a town like ours there is an underside.

Grace made the travel basketball squad this year. It is a team of just ten girls who are deemed good enough to compete at this level. It was a HUGE honor for her. She started off the season strong and earned a spot as a starter. Another HUGE honor. She has not had good coaching in basketball so her inexperience showed to some degree on the court. This led to her being unfairly benched. It was ugly and unfair. It killed her self-esteem for a few weeks. After a tricky round of conversations with her coach things are on the upswing.

What all of this brought about for me was the power that sports can have in the lives of kids who view themselves as athletes. I coach more than one sport in our town and I see my job as a coach to first build the kids up and second to teach them a sport. Unfortunately not all of our coaches see it this way. Too often I am watching the goals look more like first, win and second, make sure the status quo of politics is in order. It's sometimes tough to watch.

I am partly writing this as a catharsis opportunity for myself, but also because I am sure there are a million Grace's out there who see themselves as athletes. A large part of their identity, and therefore self-esteem is tied into her sports. It's nothing something we taught or even encouraged, it's just her. So, now we as parents are tasked to give her the opportunity she needs to succeed in sports so she can develop a positive self-view. Those of us who were given athletically gifted kids to foster this in them. It's part of their development. And even more importantly, those of us who coach must remember that we are training not just athletes, but developing children.



Change in the wind

Throughout the summer I have had the opportunity to do a little introspective searching. I have worked less which has led me to think more. I've had time to think about what I want out of life, what is my next step, there do I see my forties taking me. Most importantly, what path do I want to forge down next?

I'm not really sure if it's something like an early mid-life crisis or just restlessness but I don't think I have ever craved change the way I do right now. I have gone through most of my adult life applying the motto "change is overrated." If things stay the same then they really can't be all that bad. Change equated to me as something I had to overcome and deal with. I saw even the slightest adjustments to my routine as a tiny bit of terror.  

Life the shift of winds I couldn't feel more different. Out of nowhere, like being hit by a truck, the same old, same old suddenly seems stifling. Going about the daily routine, which has always been something that sustained me, feels like suffocation. The most odd part of this new feeling is that it doesn't feel like a bad thing. It isn't the case of being sick of my kids or my marriage or my life. It's quite the opposite. This new feeling strikes me more like growth and revolution. It feels like a new outlook that allows for adventure and new things.

I'm not really sure how and why this strange shift is occuring but it feels like progress I didn't know I needed. I just hope that positive change is on the horizon waiting for me to grab it. New opportunities, new scenery, newness. I guess it's never too late to change the way you see your life.

My Shiny New Website


For anyone interested in hiring a very talented web developer, you can see the latest work of my very talented husband on my new website. There are some definiely perks to marrying someone so web savvy. 




Parenting in a world of tragedy


One of the biggest challenges I face as a mother in 2016 is the level of chaos and terror that I cannot protect my children from. When the kids see a news story of a devastating earthquake, tornado or hurricane I can say with a fair amount of confidence, "don't worry kids, we live in New Jersey and these things just don't happen here."It's possible but when I tell them this it is the reality. What do I tell them when people blow up buildings full of innocent people are shoot entire night clubs full of people doing absolutely nothing wrong. 


It is a challenge we all face collectively. We can't shield them from it because they are going to hear on the bus or the playground. In a class full of 20 kids you better believe that half have already heard it. So, how do you explain these atrocities to an eight year old? I don't have a solid answer to this question so I have a few guiding principles. 1. Only answer what they ask. 2. Be honest and direct, shielding them from the truth will bite you in the end. 3. Allow them to be scared and upset and help them understand that although the world is scary it is our job to live our lives every single day. 

I'd like to think it was easier to parent 50 years ago when war was something a million miles away. I'd like to think that in the past kids were better off not being bombarded with stories of death and hate. Unfortunately that doesn't help the moms and dads of today. It's our jobs to ban together and help make our own part of the world a little safer. 

They're listening

Jack has always been a big fan of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, in fact I am fairly certain he is considered an honorary member. Part of the reason I am a fan of the Disney Channel is not the constant bombardment of the Disney brand (which I do love) is that they try to use the old fashioned PSA to encourage kids to do good.

One of their promotions is something called "The Power of Doing Good." It is a segment where they highlight a child who is doing something proactive in their community to help people, the environment, animals, or another cause. A nice idea, right?

Last week we finally had some nice, warm weather and sadly Jack and I were cooped up in the house, me working and him watching the tube and playing. I took out the dog to soak up five minutes of sunshine and when I came back in I found Jack rummaging through his toy bin. I asked what he was doing, to which he responded simply, "looking for my grabber for the power of doing good." I was a little puzzled what he meant when it hit me that one of the segments was of a little boy collecting garbage on the beach with his grabber and throwing it away. I smiled, helped him find his grabber and off we went.



So for ten minutes, in the middle of the day, my four-year-old helped in the power of doing good. Such an amazing reminder that although they're listening every time a curse passes our lips, we glance at our phones while driving or gossip about a neighbor... they're also listening to the good in the world. Sometimes I am frightened by what is blaring from the television, what comes out of the mouths of my children's friends and what messages are bombarding my kids. I can't control it, I can't stop it, I'm not even sure that I can balance it out. Then something like a simple PSA reaching a four year old in the middle of the day reminds me that there is *some* good and kind things influencing my kids. That might be enough to help me win the balancing act and raise kids who are kind and caring. Amen to that!









Spring Sports Lament

The end of winter and beginning of Spring proved to be a wet, chilly and downright depressing couple of months. March and April surprised us with days in the 80's and we all thought the groundhog finally had it right. But alas, definitely not the case. Our Spring track season began, and this year with a notable difference. Brian is now the person in charge of the program.



One hundred and eighty six kids, a boat load of parents and siblings and a wide range of opinions and egos to match. There were definite growing pains and many sleepless nights. There have been battles and differences of opinions, but thankfully cool heads have prevailed. The thing we were not able to overcome was out tete a tete with Mother Nature. She cancelled practices, got us wet, forced us to move meets (which is a big undertaking at the last minute). I think she got a great deal of satisfaction out of creating a "baptism by fire" experience for us.

So now it's 90 degrees, after sweatshirt weather last week. We should be used to this in New Jersey but every year we all cry out the same tune of "where did our spring go?" The program as a whole has swung from "track is hard in the rain" to "track is harder in the heat." Personally I'll take heat over rain but then again clapping and cheering is largely unaffected by weather.

So our regular season winds down and the girls have started training for AAU qualifiers. Abby jumped 9'7" last night. Grace is stuck around a 7 minute mile but she'll get her time down. She is throwing the turbo javelin about 34 feet. Not too shabby.

I'll be glad, just as long as it's not raining.

Volunteering

Over the course of my adult life I have almost always been involved in volunteer work. My parents had us begin volunteering in middle school as helpers for the Special Olympics. Early on I discovered the immense benefits of helping others. Since middle school I have been a school volunteer, room parent, teacher at my church and most recently helping fulfill the responsibility of running our local track program (with Brian). There are weeks that it feels like too much; my job, being a mom and wife, a catechist and the track responsibilities.

What has occurred to me lately is that there is a small group of people in the world who are the doers. The ones who put in those extra time to help fill a need or run a program or teach a room full of eager children. It is the same faces I see over and over and over again when you ask for extra help. They’re quiet about it. They don’t brag about all the time they spend helping where no one says thank you and no one even notices. They just fill the need because they know someone has to and they feel like it is their responsibility.


I am lucky that my parents taught be the value of helping. I don’t need thanks or notice, I simply love putting my time and effort to good work. But remember that when you see the person who volunteers to teach, coach, organize or help, a thank you might just fill their spirit.


Faith

I am a former lapsed catholic.

For a long time I found my inner voice constantly telling me that I did not need any formal church or building or affiliation to be a believer. I have always felt that in the wind or a sunset is where I truly saw God. It felt like being required to have my butt in a pew every single Sunday was an imposition on my life. Now don't worry, you are NOT about to read a preachy post about going to church. Where you spend your Sundays is your business. This is just about my own journey.


In my teen years I bounced from church to church. I tried the baptist church (which was fun) and evangelical. I tried several non-denominational Christian churches and they only ever felt like home for a short time. When we got married we chose a highly educated reverend who would marry us in a general Christian ceremony.

When we had the girls the idea of baptism struck me from time to time but why baptize them in a church that wasn't "our church." This is when the search began again. We looked around but nothing seemed to suit us as a family. The thought occurred to me to try on my old religion and see if it still fit. Slowly, over a matter of months it started to sink in. My non-catholic husband even started to feel at home in the tradition of the catholic church.

As an aside I will say that being a catholic in this day isn't always easy. There were horrific actions by member of my faith that should have been punished to the furthest extend of the law, rather than ignored. There are parts of my faith that I quietly disagree with. Then there are the looks you get when you say you can't attend a get together until after 6 on a Saturday because you have to go to mass. That's the moment when you get the "can't you just skip it look."

So it became obvious we needed to move on this whole "becoming a catholic family thing." Brian began to attend religious formation (RCIA) classes and I initiated the process of having a catholic wedding ceremony to make us official and a baptism for the girls. Within just a year we were married by the church (no we do not celebrate two anniversaries) and had our daughters baptized on the same day!


My catholic faith is something that I need to stay grounded in this crazy world. I teach, volunteer and organize at my church because when I am there I don't feel the crunch of regular life. Time moves slower when I working directly for God. The light shines brighter there. So if we can't make it to a party or a get together until 6:15 on a Saturday night just know that it is for a good reason.





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About this blog

Over 8 years we have struggled through 3 IUI's, 6 rounds of IVF, several RE's, hundreds of appointments and the loss of three little angels. Now we find ourselves the proud parents of two perfect little girls and a wonderful little boy!!

Both of our girls struggle with some disabilities but that won't keep us down. Each day has it's own brand of insanity but we love it. Most days I am more monkey wrangler than mother but I do the best I can. Todays goal - getting to tomorrow.

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