Motor skills. Successes. GRATITUDE.

I have been in tears twice in the last two days.  And they were tears of happiness, not of frustration.

Let me explain.

We deal with lots and lots of things connected to Little Guy’s SPD and various delays.  To describe them all would take me many hours and many blog posts.  Suffice it to say that, unless you have a child with this or a similar diagnosis, it is hard to imagine the sheer multiplicity of ways in which these issues invade every corner of a child’s life, making everything just a little bit harder for him than for other kids.

With many SPD kids, Little Guy included, delayed motor skills are one of the most obvious problems.  We have issues with fine motor skills, motor planning, gross motor skills, proprioception, etc.  Anything physical is hard for Little Guy.  He can’t catch a ball.  He can’t write all those amazing words he can spell.  He certainly can’t dance.   I watch Baby V rocking back and forth happily in rhythm with whatever music she hears, and I am filled with wonder because Little Guy has never done that.  Never.  Not once.

We spend hours each week working on these things.  We listen to music and try to move to it.  We play physical imitation games.  We work with scarves, tossing them in the air and trying to catch them.  We work with every art and sensory medium available.  We string beads.  We practice carrying things level.  We do hand-over-hand writing.  We work, and work, and work.

Sometimes, I see no progress for weeks.  That is discouraging, but I doggedly keep going.  Sometimes, we seem to take a step backward, and that is heartbreaking.  Sometimes, there is minimal ongoing progress, and that gives me hope.  We keep going.

And sometimes there is a week like this one.  A week in which everything suddenly goes right.

I don’t know what happened this week.  But after all the hundreds of times we have worked with writing letters hand-over-hand, suddenly this week he started writing some on his own.  He wrote D’s and I’s and a couple more.  He wrote them several times, on three consecutive days.  I was in shock.

Then last night, Hubby and I took him to the playground.  We sat watching him as he carefully moved across the equipment.  After a while, we got distracted talking for a moment; and when we turned back to him, we both gasped.  You know those arched  ladder-like things with far-apart rungs that often connect separate pieces of playground equipment?  I’m not sure what they’re called…but anyway.  Little Guy had never dared try one on his own before, and the two times I had coaxed him into trying, he couldn’t balance on the initial rung to  lean forward and steady himself, and ended up falling through the bars (with me there to catch him.)  But last night was different.  We looked over, and there he was already half-way across the arch, moving confidently forward.  No trouble at all.  He reached the end of the arch, climbed off, and just kept going as if it were no big deal.  But I was already tearing up.  I called him over and asked him to do it again.  Sure enough, he climbed up, put one foot on the first rung, leaned carefully forward to balance himself, and quickly climbed over….confidently, steady, and with perfect balance.  I immediately started sobbing.

I just couldn’t handle the hope.  Sometimes it is the littlest things that make it most real.  It sneaks up on you by surprise.

Oh, and then today, this.

Little Guy has played with play-doh for a long time, but has never actually made anything.  The motor planning and fine motor skills involved have just been beyond him.  He loves playing with the dough, though….pinching it into pieces, squishing it, rolling it.  It has been great sensory play for him, and I have been  happy to let it be just that, and to keep gently showing him how to make things.   Then today, when I set him at the table, I had to walk away and take care of Baby V.  I came back to find this.

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Now, for all of you parents of neurotypical five-year-olds who make amazing play-doh creations every day, that may not look like much.  But that is a HUGE achievement in our book…huge.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a train…complete with a freight-car, rooftop claw, eyes, buffers, and whistle.  I am not kidding.  Can’t you see it??? And it was completely his idea and his work.  These pictures were NOT staged in any way.  I promise.

That was my second time crying tears of joy this week.

Oh, and did I mention that several months ago (pre-GAPS), he was still stringing giant wooden blocks, with help?  And that now he strings small beads in rhythm, all by himself?  Here’s proof.  He’s been making beaded candy cane ornaments for family and friends.  The only thing I did was tie off the ends of the pipe cleaners.

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So yes, I am swimming in gratitude this week.  My children are all the Christmas I could ever ask for…and this is just the icing on the cake.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

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Published in: on December 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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Grain-free Almond and Coconut Flour Biscuits

These are from a night last week when we really wanted biscuits to go with our turkey soup.  I didn’t want to do either the all-almond-flour or all-coconut-flour recipes I’d tried in the past (although both are actually delicious in their own way.)  So I made these.  Hubby declared them the best GAPS biscuits yet; they had a nice crumb, didn’t fall apart, were not too dry, and were good either crumbled over soup (Hubby and me) or with butter and no-sugar preserves (Little Guy.)

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Almond and Coconut Flour Biscuits

4 eggs

1/3 c. yogurt (or cultured buttermilk)

2 tbsp. honey

3/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1 c. almond flour

1/4 c. coconut flour (sifted)

Blend all ingredients well, in order given.  Drop by 1/4 measures onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until very lightly browned. 

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Published in: on December 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Grain-free “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookies (GAPS-friendly)

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In my plans for Advent, I have been determined on one point: at least once a week (at least being the key words there), I will make a lovely, delicious, GAPS-friendly treat for the family to enjoy.  The Christmas season just isn’t the same without all the old favorite cookies and candies, and while some are impossible to replicate on GAPS, I’m determined to find or create recipes for as many as I can.

Good, chewy, old-fashioned oatmeal cookies are one of my favorite holiday-time treats.  But they are hard to replicate.  It’s a bit difficult to make a grain-free version of an–ahem–oatmeal cookie.  Today, though, I found myself craving cookies…and wanted to make a version I could share with everybody.  I researched some other recipes online and couldn’t find one that worked for me (pumpkin and sunflower seeds in an oatmeal raisin cookie just didn’t sound yummy to me, although I’m sure they work for some.)  So I created one.

This recipe really worked, for our family at least.  Everybody enjoyed them and immediately went for more.  The primary flour is almond flour, and I added some shredded coconut to help with the texture I love so much in real oatmeal cookies.  If you are dairy-free, you could easily substitute coconut oil for the butter.

Enjoy!

Grain-Free “Oatmeal” Raisin Cookies

3 farm-fresh eggs (mine were pretty big, probably extra-large)

1 stick salted butter, melted (I really like salted butter in oatmeal cookies.  You can use unsalted if you prefer.)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/3 c. raw, local honey

Cinnamon to taste

2 c. almond flour

1/4 c. coconut flour

3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut

3/4 c. raisins

1. Combine first six ingredients and blend well.

2. Add almond flour and shredded coconut and mix.

3. Sift coconut flour and add to other ingredients.  Mix well to ensure that there are no lumps.  (Coconut flour lumps are YUCKY.  Trust me.)

4. Fold in raisins.

5. Grease a cookie sheet with a healthy oil.  Drop dough by generously rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet.

6.  Flatten dough balls with a fork.  (Don’t forget this step! Cookies will not flatten on their own as they bake!)

7.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown around the edges.

8. Allow to cool on pan for 1-2 minutes, then loosen with spatula.  Enjoy!

Cookie dough before flattening

Cookie dough before flattening

Published in: on December 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm  Comments (6)  

Our GAPS Thanksgiving menu

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  I love eating Thanksgiving food.  I really, really love making Thanksgiving food.  I look forward to it all year every year.

But as mentioned in a previous blog post, we are not making any diet exceptions for the  holidays this year.  GAPS is obviously too crucial for Little Guy for us to take any time off.

(That is not to say that Hubby and I *might* not have an after-bedtime holiday goodie or two…shhh…don’t tell!)

But GAPS doesn’t mean we can’t have a fabulous Thanksgiving…just as fabulous as anybody else’s.

Our turkey is taken care of.  My wonderful local farmer made sure months ago that I was on the list.  The turkey sitting in my refrigerator was cared for by a young Amish girl in our community…she would get up every morning, run the turkeys out to a far field, keep an eye on them throughout the day, and herd them back home to their little house in the evening.  We ended up with a fifteen-pounder, and as the farmer said as he presented it to me, “This is ONE COOL BIRD.”

I have also been brainstorming and surfing the Web for days, trying to put together a perfect, GAPS-friendly Thanksgiving dinner that would also satisfy everybody’s key holiday cravings.  Here is what I’ve come up with….and thanks in advance to all of the wonderful bloggers who provide recipes to those of us on this journey!  I am so grateful to have access to your creativity!

Our GAPS Thanksgiving

Appetizer

Assorted hard cheeses

Olives

Dry white wine (grown-ups only!)

Main Course

Local turkey

Homestyle Stuffing from The Mommypotamus

Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond-Pecan Parmesan from On She Glows

Honey and Orange-sweetened Cranberry Sauce

Sauteed Green Beans

Mashed White Beans and Cauliflower with Leeks from Aide Mollenkamp

Paleo Pumpkin Bread from Elana’s Pantry

Dessert

Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Coffee

Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oak Meadow Week 13

Week 13 was a good one.

Our letter was “J”.  We read Beatrix Potter’s “Jemima Puddleduck,” and did lots of “J” activities.  We wrote J’s…colored J’s….made pipe cleaner J’s….learned the nursery rhyme “Jack, be Nimble,” and practiced saying it while actually jumping over a candlestick….it was all lots of fun.

Here he is working on his pipe-cleaner J.

We read tons of books, as always, including some Clifford books, Thomas Docherty’s Little Boat (my favorite of the week), Eric Carle’s Rooster’s Off to See the World, Shape Capers, and several others.  We also read Planting the Wild Garden, an absolutely beautiful picture book about seeds and their dissemination.  This one tied in nicely with our science lesson for the week, which was about seeds and trees.

We talked about how all different kinds of tiny nuts and seeds can grow into big, beautiful seeds.  We read “The Little Acorn,”  an excellent book we had from our library program back in Missouri.  It tells the story of the relationship between water and every stage of the growth of a tree.  We suspended an avocado seed in water and are waiting eagerly for it to sprout.

We placed it in a sunny spot and will keep checking it eagerly….(please ignore the obvious dust in this photo!!)

For math, we continued work with the number six.  We did different math activities, including our usual baking, but Little Guy’s favorite seemed to be this one.  We made construction paper numbers and careful counted out matching piles of marbles to place by the correct number.

One of our crafts this week was fork weaving.  Little Guy gave it a good try, but ultimate his fingers proved too clumsy for his peace of mind and he got pretty frustrated.  That’s okay.  We can try again in a couple of months.

We did lots of music and movement this week.  We sang more than usual (he is getting SO much better at singing…both in participation mode with me, and on his own…so he actually wants to sing at times other than circle time!), and we played games.  We played a catch-the-scarf game (which went much better than last time we tried it), we played ball, and we continued to add new instructions to our following directions game (in which he has to listen and respond with the correct physical motions.)

We did plenty of chalk drawing on outside days and painting on inside days….

And of course we continued with our speech therapy activities (we are hovering between levels 7 and 8 in his therapy program).  I am seeing so much progress in him in the past few weeks.   He speaks more clearly, speaks up when I ask him to, is getting better about taking turns speaking instead of constantly having to dominate the room, is doing better about responding appropriately (some of the time), and is adapting more to social cues.  YAY!

So, all in all, a nice, pleasant, productive week.  Hope yours was the same!

Published in: on November 14, 2012 at 3:16 am  Comments (2)  

The great outdoors

Today was a fun day.

It was the first day since Baby V started sitting up on her own that it was neither very cold nor wet and rainy.

While Little Guy was taking a most unusual nap, we went outside to spend some time together and explore the texture of the grass.

Oh, those blue eyes.  They keep breaking my heart and fixing it again.

The dry grass was very prickly…she was not at all sure how much she liked it!

Really, Mommy?  You said this was going to be fun and exciting….I’m trying, but I just don’t get it….

 

She notices every little thing.  Every change, every movement, every sound.  She is amazing.

I am not a photographer.  I look at other people’s photos (especially of their children) with envy.  But this is my favorite picture of her hands.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  That chubby, delicate, sensitive I’m-out-to-learn-the-world-ness of them.  It really tears at me.

I’m a bit scared of her getting older.

I’m REALLY scared of her getting older.  And I’m not sure if I’m more scared for her or for me.

She saw our dog Merlin walking the tree line.  She would have run after him if she could.

She would run anywhere if she could.

And she will be, soon.

Happy Friday!

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

A breakthrough!

Take a look at this picture.

It looks like just a row of coins, right?
WRONG.

This photo is proof that my five year old just had a major breakthrough on something we have been working with for a very long time.

Here is the background: Little Guy knows his numbers.  He can repeat them all correctly, no problem.  He can recognize them, no problem, in order or out of order.  That part’s easy.

Where he has struggled is in associating the concept of the numbers with tangible objects.  He could count out loud, but not in association with an actual number of items, if that makes sense.

As I was telling a good friend last night, I was a little surprised initially by Oak Meadow’s slow approach to the numbers.  The curriculum insists that it is vital for the student to understand the intrinsic essence, or quality, of each number, even if they already “know” them.  In order to make this possible, the curriculum only introduces one number every two weeks.  Each two weeks is filled with activities pertaining to the current number….object groups, beeswax modelling, collages, and so on.  It is lovely, but when I first was reading over the curriculum, I honestly thought it moved way too slow.  I mean, after all, Little Guy already knew all his numbers.

But there was that sticky not-able-to-make-them-concrete problem.  So instead of following the voice in my head that said, “Speed up! He doesn’t need two weeks for each number! Are you kidding??”, I decided to follow the curriculum and do ALL the activities for each number.

That’s what we’ve done.

And this is what happened Saturday.  I was sitting in the living room nursing Baby V, and Little Guy was sitting at the kitchen table playing with his art supplies and a pile of coins that we had used the day before for a math project.  He was being very quiet and focused.  Suddenly, I heard his voice pipe up…”Eight…nine….”

I looked over, and he was laying down coins as he said the numbers.  I ran over (Baby V may not have appreciated being suddenly jerked off my breast, but hey…) just in time to hear him say “Ten!” and see him lay down the coordinating coin.

I counted, and sure enough, there were ten coins, in a neat row.  He had just counted out ten objects on his own…correctly…and associated the spoken numbers with the correct objects.

I asked him, “How many pennies do you have?”

And he confidently answered,  “Ten pennies!!”

I started jumping up and down.  Literally.  And then I grabbed the camera and captured the proof.

So…this may not sound like a big deal to you if this comes naturally to your child.  But this was a HUGE deal for us.  Add that to the fact that he would not stop learning new words to spell all week last week…and I have to say my son is doing just fine.

More than fine.  He is doing wonderful.

 

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Oak Meadow Week 12 and Fall Break

So the last two weeks have been a little different.  OM’s week 12 is the last week of the fall term, and I wanted to time it so that we didn’t start the winter term till after Halloween.  This meant that we came to week 12 a week early, which was okay because I wanted to take a fall break.  However, Little Guy does not do well without structure and predictability, so we decided to just do half days of school for two week instead of finishing week 12 and then taking a week off for break.  Week 12 was a review week anyway, so the plan worked out perfectly.

Instead of trying to remember everything we did for the past two weeks (impossible!), I’m just going to give you pictures of a few of our highlights.  We had a lovely two weeks…we are finally just losing our fall leaves here, but they were beautiful while they lasted.  We got to get out in the leaves as a family a  couple of times…so nice!

Here are our high points from the past two weeks.  What were yours?

Pumpkin carving.  YES, this is Little Guy handling messy pulp and seeds! Amazing!

Couldn’t help giving you another one.  I just couldn’t believe the okay-ness with messy!

He loved our finished pumpkin.  We made a little ritual out of the evening…I made almond flour brownies, and we sat on the front porch, lit the candle in the pumpkin, learned a jack o’ lantern poem, cuddled, and ate our brownies.

Little Guy reading The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC.  That is one gorgeous book.

Library storytime.

Just finished working on his six-sided star.

Halloween at the library!  Notice the leaves…I loved the yellow leaves and the shadows that day!

Baby V was a bumblebee.

Penny rubbings.  Learning how to do a rubbing was a bit of a challenge, but he enjoyed it.

Still working on the rubbing.  If you look closely, you can see the pennies, but he couldn’t quite figure out how to use the side of the block crayon.  There’s always next time!  Hey, he was trying!

So that’s bits and pieces of us.  I have lots more to write about, but no time at the moment. Hopefully soon I will get around to recording all of the things we have been doing, and all the thoughts floating around in my head.  I’m super excited about starting our winter term…we’re going to be starting to grow indoor plants from seed next week.  Should be fun.

In the meantime, I’m off for dinner with the family. Till next time!

Published in: on November 2, 2012 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Craziness, Oak Meadow Week 11, and Pumpkin Patch Photos

Well, we are still adjusting to Hubby’s new schedule.  The adjustment period is turning out to be harder than I thought it would.  It is hard because he ends up often being gone on weekends, when we are used to having him home, and home during the week, when we are used to having him gone and moving quietly through our regular school rhythm.  Add into the mix our now-weekly trips to Nashville on Tuesdays and our continued work with the GAPS diet, and things are just. plain. crazy.

I am usually pretty good with crazy. Most of our life for the past five years has been lived in uber-crazy mode.  But for some reason, I am having a hard time with it at the moment.  Maybe it is because I am so happy with how Little Guy has been learning, and I know that a lot of the reason for that (up until now) has been the predictability and rhythm I have been able to give his days. I worry that the changes in schedule are going to affect his learning.  I worry about the balance between fun time with Daddy and productive time doing school.  I worry mostly that I am not doing enough.

And then I try to take a breath.  We really are doing SO much.  Every week.  He is getting good social exposure, he is spelling non-stop and impressing even strangers with the length of words he is able to spell.  He is counting, and finally connecting the abstract to the concrete.  He gets many books read to him…daily.  He goes to library storytime and picks out books and movies…weekly.  He does his version of art every day.  He plays outside.  He is beginning to read.  He wants to know what everything says.  He doesn’t melt down any more.  He doesn’t hit.  He doesn’t scream.  He spaces out in public when he is overwhelmed, but that is okay…we can all deal with spaciness better than meltdowns.

And he is only five. 

So yes; I guess I need to calm down.

Baby V has woken up early from her nap, so my brief window of time to write is over almost before it began.  This is how our days go, lately.

Here is a very fast rundown of our week.

OM’s Week 11 focuses on the letter “I” and continued work with the number 5.  This week, we wrote I’s every day with block crayons; Little Guy got quite good at them, and was almost able to do them on his own at the end of the week.  He worked on a giant chalk “I” outside with Daddy.  We read OM’s “The White Snake,” which is a beautiful story.
We continued sight word work, including the word “is” and the construction of three-word “is”sentences.  He LOVED reading sentences that he could help put together.  We read poetry; we did speech work; we learned “Get on Board, Little Children” at circle time.  We read lots and lots of books.

For math, we arranged rocks in groups from 1 to 5, counted them, and compared the sizes of the groupings (smallest/largest.)

We did bead-stringing for fine  motor work, counting the beads as they went on the string.  We read Count Down to Fall, which I highly recommend.

We attended storytime at the library on Wednesday.  There were more kids there than usual, and while Little Guy was a bit spazzy, he was still infinitely better than he used to be when overwhelmed.  On Tuesday, he went to childcare all day while I was in Catechesis training, and (amazingly) turned out to be the easiest, best-behaved child there!  His socialization was apparently great…he shared all his favorite things, played with the other children, and held one clingy little boy in his lap.  WOW!!

On Friday, we went to playgroup.  Our original plan had been a trip to the pumpkin patch, but when we got there, it was so cold and windy that we checked off to something else after selecting our pumpkins.  We did have time to snap a few pictures though!

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oak Meadow Week 10

Wow, what a week.  It didn’t get off to a particularly good start.  After having been on full GAPS for an entire two and a half months with no cheating (no cheating for Little Guy, that is), we thought it might be nice to–just once–eat out as a family.

What a mistake.

After going out for Mexican (and still avoiding anything containing gluten!), Little Guy completely spazzed out.  For forty-eight hours straight.  You don’t need all the details of said spaz-out, believe me; suffice it to say that Baby V and I had a very rough two days.

We won’t be eating out again any time soon.

However, as I said on the phone to a friend last night, there was one good thing that came out of it.  I realized yet again just how closely connected Little Guy’s neurological issues are to the foods he consumes; and I am more motivated than ever to make GAPS work (not that I wasn’t before).  No compromises, no exceptions, no ifs-and-or-buts.  In fact, I have already started my research on our GAPS-friendly holiday meals for this year.  (Before last Sunday night and its aftermath, we had planned to make some exceptions around the holidays.)

Sooooo….the first two days of school this week were a little bit rocky.  They weren’t completely terrible, just not great.  Little Guy had a really hard time focusing.  But we got through them, and through the week, and it actually ended up being a pretty good week.

Our letter for the week was “H”.  We worked every day on writing it, and he actually got pretty good at it.  We drew a house in the shape of an H, with a  haystack next to it (that was his idea!)  On Tuesday, he went out with Daddy and made a huge chalk H on the driveway, then walked it.

Our Oak Meadow story for the week was “The Tale of Two Bad Mice.”  I was surprised–Little Guy really liked this one.  We also read quite a few other books, including these.

I just have to say quickly–I love, love, love The Magic Gourd!  Wow!  The artwork is amazing, utilizing a highly stylized painted-tile technique with lots of references to African nature symbols–and the story is a wonderful one of smarts, kindness, and forgiveness.  I can’t wait to read more by this author.  Both kids loved it, too.

A Trip to the Firehouse was our nod to Fire Prevention Month.  We checked it out on Wednesday, after attending the firefighter’s storytime at the library.  Little Guy had a blast…they listened to a story, practiced how to escape, in the event of a fire, colored firemen, and got hats and goody bags.

Backing up–Monday, we went for a wonderful nature walk, and got to observe some of our local autumn plants and mini-wildlife.  We saw caterpillars, a grasshopper (who performed beautifully for us), lots of purple  flowers, orange butterflies, black butterflies…and the list goes on.  Little Guy really enjoyed it and was able to remember and relate the list of things we had seen later in the day.

For poetry this week, we continued with nursery rhymes.  We also worked with our Hands Up game, this time starting to incorporate the concept of right and left.  This is a bit hard for him, but I think he’ll get it.  We did lots of chalk on the nice days, and worked with our word boards every day.  He is learning how to spell more new words every day…it’s really amazing.   We did speech–continuing work with picture statements and speed reading (which he has made GREAT progress on. His eye moves quickly and fluidly across the page, and his voice is right in sync with his reading…no stumbling or hesitating.  It’s wonderful.)

For math, we focused on the number “5”.  We talked about our five fingers, five toes, and five points of the body (which make our bodies resemble stars.)  We counted the points on stars.  Little Guy and Daddy traced their hands (five fingers) and put stars (five points) at the end of each finger.  We made a star collage. We used the “Sink the Boat” game from Early Intervention Games, and counted the number of pebbles it took to sink the boat.  We baked brownies, and he counted the ingredients.

We had a good week.  And, as always, Baby V was learning right alongside us….

So that’s it.  As Little Guy is so fond of saying these days….all done! See ya next time!

Published in: on October 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm  Comments (1)