Friday, July 7, 2017

Spork, age 6

Dear Spork,

Happy 6th birthday!  It's been quite a year for us, hasn't it?!  We've located all the pieces that we were missing to your puzzle, and it's been a game changer.  You're getting to be more relaxed and confident in your own skin, and we are enjoying spending time with the real you.

You can tie your shoes, button your shirt, follow Lego directions mostly on your own, go on "big kid rides" at the fair, and you are starting to learn the fine art of sibling negotiation.  You had your first drop off playdate this month, and it went wonderfully!  You are strong enough to carry the clean laundry upstairs and love to set the table.  "What can I do?"

Your teacher told me last week, "I love all your kids so much!  That middle one - he's a character!"  Yes, you are!  Comedy, both intentional and unintentional, is your gift.  From spontaneous dances celebrating the joy of an unlimited buffet to very intense dramatic play scenarios typically involving lassos, your creativity is in overdrive.  You joyfully create very intricate drawings with fine tip markers, and you love to practice writing.  If I feed you the correct spellings, you can whip out a whole paragraph in a single sitting.

We worried that the introduction of a new dog would be hardest on you, but you sure surprised us!  You are calm and even-tempered with the puppy, are a big helper with his training and exercise, and truly enjoy your new little canine companion.  The animals in your life are definitely helping inspire the seeds of empathy in your heart lately.

We're both a little nervous and a lot excited about kindergarten this fall!  You're all signed up for choir and are continuing with horseback riding therapy.  We will try to get a little soccer in there too if my head can wrap around the chauffeuring nightmare.  A busy Beaver is a happy Beavs, after all!

We love you so much, thanks for being you!


Awesome Pronunciations by Spork:
Skaneeto bread....zucchini bread
Old MacDonald's....McDonald's
Dolt burger....Adult sized (not kids' menu) burger

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Spork's Banana Split Birthday Party

Around Christmas time, Spork gawked at a picture of a banana split.  He asked reverently, "When can I have one of those?"  I decided then and there that we would ring in his 6th year with a banana split party.  Since banana splits are a vintage dessert, I added in a sub theme of classic summer.

Thank You Cards
T-shirt - if you don't immediately think of Gwen Stefani and giggle when you see his shirt, I'm not sure we can be friends.

I cut a cardboard box into a 6 shape and decorated it with Neapolitan colored tissue.  Spork watched me carefully and noted his satisfaction several times.  We used it to decorate our front door for the occasion!

I found this adorable cone shaped vase at Target, and filled it and some ice cream dishes with carnations.  I popped sprinkle paper straws (also from Target) into the dishes to make them look like little ice cream sodas.  I reused the tropical leaves from the baby shower.  The banner, "6" balloon, and chalkboard are from Target too.  I don't get paid to blog, but I would love for Target to pick me up and sponsor all our parties!  I feel like the Target fairy reads my mind, because like Kelly's store on Handy Manny, they "always have just what I need."

Activities: Summer & Ice Cream Fun!

Our first party activity was just an open-ended play prompt.  Each child got a paper cone and a balloon.  I challenged the kids to throw and catch the balloon just using the cone.  This one turned out a bit too challenging for our 6yos, and I realized that the friends were way more interested in our zip line and dome climber.

We made ice cream play dough!  I set out all our little cones, dishes, and spoons.

Spork's big gift from us was this ice cream truck.  We set it out for the party with our pizza and ice cream sets.

We played Cone Crunch (a modified version of Silly Smash, in which each cone hides a little prize).  Under our cones, we hid non-fragile chocolates, adhesive mustaches, and cute erasers.  Then my party assistant invited each guest to smash 3 cones and keep the prizes!  (My early intervention work brain is insisting that I mention that this makes for fabulously fun proprioceptive input as well.). 

Water balloons are de rigueur for my summer birthday boys.  Here are some party tips for water balloons:
1.  Fill them up the night before and store in a cooler UNLESS you are using the bunch-o-balloons.  The bunch balloons close with a plastic ring, and they will leak if they sit for more than a few minutes.  I found this out the hard way when I opened my prepped cooler to see tiny sad deflated balloons floating on gallons of water last year, and those things aren't cheap!
2.  Make sure parents know to prep your little party guests with swimsuits and towels.  It can be more than a little inconvenient to send sopping wet kids home or to their next destination.  And even if you have easygoing party parents, some children have sensory issues that make damp clothes an absolute misery for them.
3.  With said sensory issues, some children are not down for the intensity of water balloons, so I always announce it first so they can evacuate the area if they so choose.  I set up an alternative activity inside for any kids who are sitting it out.
4.  Dollar Tree water balloons work just as well or possibly better than more expensive brands.

Menu - classic kid summer favorites:
Pizza - Daddy usually picks it up, but since he was freshly home from a work trip, we had it delivered and felt extra relaxed about life.
Banana Splits

I did take the Pinterest tip to prescoop the ice cream into a muffin tin, which made banana split assembly a breeze.

For favors, I used ice cream cone stamps on little Kraft bags and stuffed them with water balloons, punching balloons, bubbles in a popsicle shape, and beach balls (all from Dollar Tree).  I topped each bag with pink, white, or brown paper shred to use the Neapolitan color theme again.  Finally, I made some Shrinky Dink banana key rings to clip on the handles.  I used the bright white blanks with Sharpies.  If you feel less than confident about your free hand art, you can also run blank Shrinky Dink paper through a printer.  A regular size hole punch shrinks down to the perfect size for a ball chain.  These little banana guys turned out super cute, and I might just keep an extra for my purse!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Where The Wild Things Are Baby Shower

I had the great pleasure of throwing my friend and boss a baby shower!  I tossed several themes to her for feedback and was delighted that she landed on Where the Wild Things Are.

The entry got some 3D paper leaves and fringed crepe paper vines.  The venue happened to have plentiful faux plants, so I dragged a couple pots to the doorway to give guest a nice jungle welcome.

Invitation, What's In Your Purse game, and Wild Rumpus print. - these were all gorgeous printables, and the Etsy seller was a delight.  I had them printed on matte white card stock at Staples and framed the print to double as a gift.

I picked up some wooden letters for the baby's name and hot glued moss on them.  This may have been my favorite element to the shower, and now I want to hot glue moss on everything.

We had a copy of the book and encouraged guests to write a note to baby Landon inside.  The tropical leaves from Amazon are washable!  They'll do double duty at Spork's banana split party.

I planned the menu based off our mama's pregnancy cravings.  Lucky for us, it was nachos and ice cream.  I put beans, taco meat, queso, and seasoned rice in crockpots.  The cold toppings included fresh and pickled jalapeƱos, red and green salsas, guacamole, sour cream, black olive slices, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and chopped green onions.  I added in a fruit platter and veggie tray.  My friend owns the cutest canvas that reads, "I'll eat you up, I love you so," and she let me borrow it for the food table.  It matched the gold plates and white napkins from Target.  Target also put out felt leaf banners and these adorable gold embellished dessert plates just in time for the shower.  We did a ginger ale/limeade/mango sherbet punch as well as LaCroix and Pellegrino.  I set out these adorable straws. (And I'm sure I'll talk somebody into a woodland tea party so I can use up the rest at some point!). No photos of dessert, but I used one of my many large oval metal buckets from Target and filled it up with mango Johnny Pops and Haagen Dazs ice cream bars (on special at Costco) and walked around to each table.  A friend walked with me to pass the dessert plates and napkins.

We were expecting a handful of children, so I grabbed glittery gold crowns and had my face paints as well as green nail polish for impromptu manicures.

I forgot to snap a photo of the little centerpieces, but they were simple little plants with glossy green leaves from Home Depot.  I repotted them in inexpensive terra cotta pots and gave them away at the end of the shower.  I paired them with some of these moss rocks for texture.

 We played the What's in Your Purse game and a friend set several timers for me during the gift opening.  When the timer buzzed, the gift giver whose gift was currently being opened won a prize!  Prizes included wine, coffee, some Italian candies, a luxe hand soap (with tropical leaves on the label), and the perfect little tropical leaf wallet from Charming Charlie.

I made my aunt's butter cookies with this crown cookie cutter, yellow icing, and edible glitter.  I put them in cello bags sealed with gold glitter tape.  Fresh Thyme carries these amazing soaps in Forest and Mint scents, and I had already pinned labels saying, "From my shower to yours", so it was a perfect match.  The little green battery lights and the white cake stand were shockingly in the Target dollar section in May.  The stumps and chalkboards belong to the school, and I love borrowing them for parties, as they're so neutral and versatile.

I love planning parties, and this was was especially satisfying since it was for mostly adults who noticed the little details.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Two 5 Year Olds and a Funeral

So my dear sweet Grandma passed away last week.  She was my "storybook grandma" as I described her to others:  kind, caring, doting, apron-clad, often-baking, always smiling in her home chock-full of doilies and family.  That's how I'll choose to remember her instead of in the cloud of sadness and confusion that stole her final golden years.

Ever tried to get a family of 5 packed up for a road trip and round-the-clock puppy care scheduled on short notice while working?  We did, and it was so worth it.  The 5yos are pretty new to the concept of death, and that made for some amazing comic relief.

Spork asked repeatedly, "Is that REAL?!" while pointing to my grandma's open casket during calling hours.

Tater asked if Grandma had died in that casket or did we put her there after?

Upon entering the cemetery, Tater exclaimed, "Is there a dead person under every stone?  That's a lot of dead people!!!  How many do you think?"

After hearing this, Spork chose to stay in the car within eyeshot for the brief ceremony at the cemetery.  Grammy distributed pink roses and carnations to the great-grandchildren, and when Spork spied the Nugget and Tater's flowers, he asked where they got them.  Tater replied, "From Great-Grandma," and Spork's eyes grew as big as saucers as he asked, "She sat up?!!"

We went out to dinner later that day, and when Spork dropped his knife under the table, he solemnly stated to Grandpa, "I dropped metal."  Hubby thinks that should be slang for something.

The cousins did their part too.  When Uncle J tried to explain death and heaven to Cabbage, he said you leave your body behind and go to heaven.  She asked what would be in heaven, and he thought heaven should include golf and Diet Coke.  Cabbage logically said, "That's silly, Daddy.  How are you going to drink Diet Coke without your head?"

The cousins

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The missing piece...found

Despite not getting a diagnosis, we've followed the rabbit hole as far as it goes and have been trying a new approach with Spork called Therapeutic Parenting.  It's really been a miracle, and we're so grateful for the positive changes we've seen in our relationship with him as well as his own personal growth since we've started.  Guys, dare I say it, I think we just snapped in his missing puzzle piece.  Just like some of the OT tools didn't feel natural nor instinctive when we first started, Therapeutic Parenting has been challenging and stretching.  I'm definitely a better mother and a better teacher for the experience.  We've also been working with a play therapist, and it's been a lovely supportive environment.  I wanted to share this video on Nonsense Chatter, which was our #1 issue and has basically been eliminated by this playful, gentle technique!  Hallelujah!

Spork now asks me to kiss and hug him, and not just at bedtime.  He is starting to trust that I'm not a complete idiot and that maybe, just maybe, I want the best for him.  He is giggly and cooperative most of the time (unless I pull a fast one and change the routine on him, like we did at Easter - oy!).  He's starting to complain about things that happened at school, which sounds annoying but is so welcome over the emotional shutdown we've been getting for years.  Empathy is beginning to sprout.

Our therapist also recommended this book, which is so helpful for understanding children, both special needs and neurotypical.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Baskets 2017

In case anyone else loves hearing about basket stuffers as much as I do!  This year the bunny seems to have hit United Art & Education first.

9yo Nugget
-Cat Paw - annoying but if you know the Nugget, this toy was made for him.
-Tinker Crate
-Mini cowboy hat for his many stuffed animals
-Water balloons
-Travel Mancala
-Mentos gum
-Pop Rocks

5yo Spork (he's so unimpressed in this photo because I'm making him wait to dive into the basket until Daddy can walk around the corner)
-Lego travel case with plate top (like this but much smaller)
-Toy Beaver
-Shrink Art Robot set from Target Dollar Spot
-Baseball Guy - not a hit because he expected there to be a whole team in the box
-Lego Mini Fig - for whatever reason, this single guy was acceptable
-Gear building set
-Conductor's hat and pin from our local train museum
-Imagine Ink Paw Patrol book (done before Mass started, so I guess it was a hit)

5yo Tater
-Toy Panda
-Stick on earrings, rings, and bracelets from Carter's clearance
-Animal stamper
-Do-a-Dot Book
-Dance leotard, tights, and umbrella for her doll
-Baby bottle pop (also annoying, but the stuff of Tater dreams)
-Imagine Ink Shopkins book

Everyone got an egg putty from the Dollar Spot, ring pop, Reese's pieces carrot, Reese's egg, Cadbury egg, and Annie's bunny fruit snacks.

The Nugget left this letter for the Easter Bunny along with 4 of the biggest carrots I've ever seen:
"Dear Easter Bunny,
I was hoping IF you do have magic to put 400 dollars in my basket.  If you don't have magic, it's fine.  Sincerely,
the Nugget"
P.S.  Sorry about the dog.  Please leave him something.

The Easter Bunny left him a note stating that it was against EB Code to leave large quantities of cash for children but that he was very proud of the Nugget for growing in kindness and responsibility this year, set out a squeak toy for the dog, and gnawed up most of the carrots.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet Boomer

The day Shamrock passed away, my good friend C messaged me that her parents' Blue Heeler had Border Collie puppies and that we could have one if we wanted.  Thankfully, we had a few weeks to grieve before the pups were old enough to leave their mother, and by the time they hit 8 weeks, we felt ready.  I had originally mused that an older dog might be easier, but realized that the kids would bond better and help more with a puppy.  Also, as a herding breed addict, I was really drawn to the ACD - would its work hard/crash hard demeanor temper the non-stop action of a BC?

C and her kids helped us pick out the perfect puppy.  Active but not hyper, cuddly but not overly needy.  Her sister generously drove him from IA to IL for us, and Hubby went to go get him from Chicago.

The kids and I tossed around a billion names before his arrival, and we finally all agreed on Boomer.  He's a drop-dead gorgeous puppy (people literally squeal when they see him) and a quick learner.  He loves a good romp with the Nugget but he is chill enough to lie at my feet when I'm working in the office.  If I sit on the floor, he's immediately snuggling in my lap asking for a belly rub.  My blood pressure is lower already.  I'm off to inhale the delightful aroma of his puppy Frito paws.