Monday, December 29, 2014

Rainy Day/ SNAP Kit Review

It's raining. AGAIN. I think I'm going stir-crazy from not seeing the sun in so long...I'd really never make it in a place like Oregon where it rains all of the time. I think Eli and Patrick are following suit. It's to the point where I'm hearing myself say things like "Son, please don't drink the BBQ sauce".  We are making a new list of rainy day activities to keep us occupied tomorrow, since our forecast is still looking icky.  We've been doing a ton of Lego building, cartoon watching, art projects, and school work - I think we need to do something at least a little different! I even promised Eli that he could get on Pinterest to look for some ideas of rainy-day crafts! I need to work on cleaning out/organizing our back bedroom (that we used to use as an office), but the rainy weather has all of us moving much slower than usual.  On the bright side though, I'm finally re-conquering "Mount Wash-More"...otherwise known as "the giant stack of dirty laundry that happens every time I get sick"!

In the meantime, Eli's really learning to use his junior SNAP kit, and is loving it.  We have been so impressed with it, that I have really wanted to write about it. We've not been paid by the company and are not affiliated with it in any way....we're just having a lot of fun and are excited to share! The SNAP kit is basically a set of electrical components that literally snap together (like the buttons on blue jeans) and runs on 2 AA batteries.  It has really simple directions (with clearly labeled diagrams) and explanations of how things work. Eli does require help/supervision, of course, but he has gotten to where he can actually build a couple of the projects independently. The kit is recommended for ages 8+, but younger kids who are interested in electricity can still do a lot with it.  Eli's had a really unusual interest in electricity and how it works, so we took the opportunity to try to learn with him. This really has been a great tool...even I've learned a lot! Eli has learned how to complete a simple electrical circuit to wire a tiny light bulb and a simple motor (it runs a tiny plastic fan). Yesterday, we learned how to wire a sound-activated music chip and tiny speaker....and how to use a resistor to change the volume on the speaker.  Today, we learned about series and parallel circuits. In addition to reading the diagrams, Eli is also learning to read/follow coordinates (the grid is labeled like the grids in the game BattleShip). Tomorrow, we will probably do the activities on series and parallel circuits. The projects are sequenced in order of difficulty and in such a way that we learn techniques and vocabulary as we go.  Eli LOVES using it so far, and so do I!

Here's a video of our second time using the kit (yesterday). Eli snapped in everything except the battery pack; he has trouble orienting it, and is still learning how to use the coordinates.

Today, he wanted to repeat some of the projects we did yesterday, and needed very little help - even when it came to reading the diagram!

The great part is that Eli can repeat the activities over and his heart's content. And with more than 100 activities...he should be busy for a while!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas!

We have had a very interesting holiday here (as always), and have enjoyed the time together. We did miss out on a couple of traditions that we normally wouldn't...but I was still tired and weak from fighting flu, so I wasn't on top of my game this year. Still, Eli was very excited about Christmas and LOVED going to light candles at the Christmas Eve service at church. He ended up having 3 days of gifts, thanks to some wonderful family members in North Carolina and Japan. We decided to let Eli open Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ray's gifts on the 23rd, so that we could F@cetime together while he did.  I wouldn't normally post what he received...except that I was definitely not expecting to receive a gorgeous, hand-made, Eli-sized, TMNT-upholstered, rocking chair in the mail.  In the mail, people.  The box nearly didn't fit through the front door!  They sent other gifts, too...which were very  much appreciated by our TMNT and Lego obsessed child...but chair mail was exceptional.  On the 24th, we visited Patrick's side of the family, and on the 25th, my side of the family. Truthfully, Eli was very appreciative and genuinely excited about each gift that was given.  Even the dried anchovy/almond snacks from Uncle Lee.  Which he proceeded to use to completely freak out my father's side of the family. For the record...I've found many of his gifts (except the anchovies) snuggled in his bed with him throughout the last few days...and by the end of it all, he was a very happy, tired, and overwhelmed little boy.

On Christmas morning, he was excited to help light all 5 of our candles on the Advent wreath before opening presents. Hysterically enough, he initially walked past Santa's unwrapped gifts and was mesmerized by the ones Patrick and I had put (wrapped) under the tree. I took pictures...but our tree was embarrassingly (and sadly) very dead by Christmas day. Combined with the fact that the cats took down part of the garland overnight...and knocked our tree-topper sideways...I'd prefer not to share what it looked like!  Normally, our trees last until Christmas with no problem, but we didn't water this one as much as it apparently needed us to.   I'm very thankful that the Advent wreath was not as thirsty as the tree! Now it's time for the anti-climatic undecorating...and I'm definitely pouting about that.

 We are definitely thankful that we have a second week of vacation before the next semester starts. We are getting ready to change a few things up a little bit in 2015....and it's so nice to have some time to relax and plan!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When the Flu Bites...

In my feverish state yesterday, I managed to pen a short little poem. Thankfully, the fever seems to be gone, and hopefully, the coughing, sniffling, and sneezing will leave soon too. Eli's definitely feeling MUCH better, has had NO fever today and will be ready for school tomorrow. I think I will finally be well enough to go, too...I hope so, anyway. I know a lot of people are anti-Tamiflu, but he had zero side effects, and is getting well so much faster than I am!  Did I mention that all of the pharmacies in our area have had major runs on Tamiflu, and it took hours to find one that had some for Eli?  And even then, we got the next-to-last bottle at that pharmacy. I ended up skipping the Tamiflu because it was so hard to find...and I figured that there were people who might need it more than I. Patrick, with his immune system of steel, remains unaffected by Eli's and my doctor-confirmed Influenza A.

In the meantime, this is how I've amused myself.  I'm positive my 4th grade teacher would be pleased that I remembered the format for a limerick!

A  poem to Flu:

Mucus, mucus everywhere
Sneezing, fever, cough
Oh, Mr. Flu,
Why don't you
Find a cliff and jump off?

We're hoping that Patrick stays well, so that we can be healthy for the holidays. I also made sure to keep Eli out of school long enough to make sure he's no longer contagious...I don't want his friends (or their families!) to be sick either!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Eli's Number Kick

So, I have really wanted to blog a LOT these last few days, but I'm having to hold back quite a bit of family information for the time being. I can say that we are currently working on another adoption!  The rest is not blog-able right now, for privacy reasons. 

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a little more of my sweet guy, Eli. He's learning at an incredibly fast rate (STILL) and we are trying to follow his lead at home. He was on a numbers kick over Thanksgiving break, and asked to do some subtraction. When he has Montessori manipulatives in front of him, he can actually subtract quite large numbers, but he wanted to work these "in his head."

Earlier, I'd heard him mumbling numbers, and asked him what he was saying. He replied, "2, 4, 6, 8....10". I asked him who taught him to count by twos, and he said, "I just figured it out....but it took me a looong time!"

He definitely can count well past 200.  Occasionally, he'll just start counting and keep going. Last time, he stopped at 152, and exclaimed "These numbers just keep going.  They never stop."

The number kick didn't last long. He's kinda bouncing around with his interests a little bit right now, looking for something that suits him, I think. He's been working on a little bit of everything this week.

Still, it continues to surprised people when he speaks. He has conversations with everyone around him who will listen...and it IS funny to hear his tiny voice start a sentence with "Well, actually, I was thinking..." And trust's awesome to have my 3 year old say "I'm gonna call Grandpa and Grandma," then actually dial the number from memory and have a 10-15 minute conversation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Boy and His...CAT?!?

We've all heard about the deep connection between a boy and his dog...or a girl and her horse...but a boy and his cat?  Some people may chuckle...but Patrick and Eli definitely have this in common. Patrick had  a very special connection with his cat, Spike, who was reasonably sure he was her overgrown kitten. They shared a bed from the time he was 7 until a few days before her death about 3 years ago. That's 23 years, y'all. She was faithful, loyal, loving, kind, and a wonderful friend. Words that people usually do reserve for dogs...but were not strong enough to describe her loving devotion. She was also an amazing alarm clock, and we never worried about sleeping late (or sleeping in!) when Spike was there...she would gently (and persistently) paw Patrick's face to wake him up if he was more than a few minutes late in the morning.  I was a definite "dog" person...and even a "horse" person...but it was witnessing Spike's undying, unconditional love for Patrick that turned me into a "cat" person, too.

It's no secret in this house that Eli absolutely bonded with our cats LONG before he was ready to accept Patrick and I as his parents.  Sadie followed (and still follows) him everywhere he goes in the house. Woody was Eli's first playmate...Eli used to try desperately to get Woody to play with him, and used to go so far as to stack toys on the poor kitty.  Woody now sleeps with Eli most of the time, and looks to Eli as a protector when he's scared (in other words, he hides behind Eli when we have company!).

But the most amazing bond has begun between Eli and Z. Z is a big boy...a large gray tabby cat. He was a scrawny "free kitten" at a horse show nearly 7 years ago. Spike wasn't overly thrilled when we brought him home, but she tolerated him enough to let him stay. He's had his share of health concerns, and although extremely gentle and loving at home, does a fantastic imitation of a feral cat whenever ANY vet comes near him.

Z seems to see his role as to protect and amuse Eli, and is almost always nearby. When Eli is outside, Z can be found right near him at all times...either observing him or trying to play with him.  Every outside picture or video I make of Eli either has Z next to Eli, rubbing on Eli, or yowling to be let out of the house to join Eli!  If you look at his "Pledge of Allegiance" video, you can see Z winding his body around Eli. Whatever Eli's interested in, Z seems to show interest in. They've played games of "chase/catch the stick" that go on for 45 minutes or more. Even bathtime isn't left alone...Z often wanders into the bathroom and jumps into the bath tub with Eli (Z also jumps into the shower with me on most mornings!).  Earlier tonight, Z discovered a new trick...splashing Eli with water while Eli tries to brush his teeth. I ran to the bathroom to hear what Patrick and Eli were hollering about...and apparently, Z was very deliberately (and effectively) slinging water across the bathroom...and of course, being a cat, he stopped when he realized I was recording him!

Getting a paw full of water to sling at unsuspecting boy.

Innocently pretending to groom so no one would suspect it was a water-slinging scam.
I love watching these two enjoying each other's company...and hope and pray that they have a long loving friendship.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Yay! I love Thanksgiving. A time to rest before the end of the semester, to start decorating the house for Christmas, and to relax together. I enjoy teaching, but this is the time of year, when I appreciate that life slows down a bit and I have more time to spend with Patrick and Eli. While we nearly missed the Thanksgiving day parade AND the lighting of the Great Tree on TV yesterday, we did have very, very good food. For the first time in years of trying, I finally mastered a gluten free green bean casserole...and it was amazing! Patrick made some actual fried onions for topping, since the ones in the grocery store are off limits for me. Eli was thrilled to participate in cooking the dinner. Last year, he made a small apple pie (in a large ramekin) with leftover pie crust dough. This year, I made sure to save him some pie crust dough so that he could make his own again. He decided to make a small strawberry pie with some strawberries we'd frozen back in June. His pie was delicious! Eli also helped make the dressing by crumbling G/F biscuits and cornbread, cracking eggs, ladling in home made chicken stock, and peeling hard boiled eggs. He really wanted to make his own dish, too, so I let him make the mashed potatoes. Although I usually make mashed potatoes from, well, potatoes, it is something of a tradition now for us to have boxed potatoes on Thanksgiving. This was right up Eli's alley. I read the directions to him, and stood beside him to supervise, but he did it by himself. He was so funny, asking repeatedly if everyone had tried his potatoes, liked his potatoes, etc. It was adorable. He really wanted Uncle Lee, Aunt Miyu, and Emma to have his potatoes too...but we were happy to be able to Skype with Uncle Lee after dinner. It was also nice to have a chance to celebrate Patrick's mother's birthday : ). Everyone got the giggles when I suggested she make her birthday wish for more grandchildren.

We all ate much more than we should, but it was delicious!  I made a GIGANTIC dish of my great-grandmother's dressing, so we will be in leftovers for a while...though the pies have all but disappeared (a third of one pie is left) and the turkey was so amazing, it is almost gone, too. Patrick did a fantastic job on it this year...and has earned rave reviews. Later, we made time to watch the first Christmas movie of the season (Elf). I really can't believe that Thanksgiving is behind us and the first Sunday of Advent is almost here...I'm not ready yet! I can't wait to get a tree, make an Advent wreath, make our yearly photo books, and enjoy the season.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Learning Cycle Update

As he usually does, after a couple of really focused weeks working on reading,  Eli lost interest in learning to read and focused on his current life goal: becoming a "ninja turtle." He did dress as one for Halloween, and shocked me by winning a costume contest. Truthfully, his costume itself was a little half-hearted...I don't really get into Halloween, so I didn't put much effort into it. I bought him a TMNT shirt from the store... a shirt with the shell printed on it. Then, I gave let him use one of our old Kung Fu belts and, on impulse, bought him plastic ninja turtle weapons (sai and nun chuks). I made him a mask (of sorts) out of green felt with a red felt strip. That's it. So, when he won, I asked why...and was told it was because he BELIEVED he was a ninja turtle....and put on quite a performance pretending to be one!

He is still, by the way, talking constantly...and I mean CONSTANTLY. It's definitely a problem...but a good one to have, since he is just curious about anything (and everything).

Reading has become Eli's focus again. The moment I noticed that he was slowing down on his last learning streak, I put his reading materials away without saying anything. For a couple weeks, we encouraged him to play and color and do other activities. But, in the last couple of days, he has been begging me to get the reading stuff back out. So today, when we had a few minutes, I did. I have been shocked at how much he has remembered....and even how much he learned during our time off. He currently has at least 60 to 65 sight words, and knows all of his Montessori "pink" words (3 letter words that are phonetic). He can absolutely sound out words with short vowel sounds, and is learning about vowel combinations and long vowel sounds (with silent e). Most of what we do is a combination of activities on and Montessori activities, with Dolch sight words thrown in when Eli feels like it. He did specifically ask me to only work on reading at home....he does not want to ask his teacher at school to do his words with him. Tonight, he kinda rehashed how much he misses Ms. J (he misses the way she taught reading and let him progress at his own pace).  Obviously, I will respect what he has asked and  keep any reading lessons at home.

It is still unnerving to see my three year old, out of the blue, notice the word "book" and say, "this is 'book' because it looks like the word 'look' but it has a 'b' not an 'l'."

I think it is time to print the Momtessori "blue" word series for him to look at.  He is also asking about addition and subtraction we'll see. When we left off in math (again, because Eli lost interest temporarily), he was confidently counting by ones, twos, and tens, (though he can only count by twos to ten). It was quite hysterical the first time we heard him count by twos....because he taught himself to do it, and was very proud. We were surprised and asked him who taught him to count by twos, and his response was, "I taught it to myself. But it took me a LONG TIME!"

He is definitely at the point where people will stop and ask questions (such as Eli's age) because of what he's doing. While in doctor's office last week (Eli begged to go with me to a routine appointment, because he loves to watch people get blood drawn), he was sitting and doing a simple word search. He would read the word, spell it aloud, then find it in the puzzle. Pretty uncommon for a tiny guy...most people who ask questions are friendly, but there are occasional jerks (similar to when we get adoption comments, too).

It's not all unicorns and rainbows...Eli's also extremely active and emotionally intense for his age.  He is what I have heard described as a "sensory seeker." He loves to push his physical limits. Patrick and I were watching a commercial recently where a little boy climbed a doorway, then somersaulted down to his feet. We simultaneously said, "Hey! That looks like Eli!". He doesn't literally climb home, anyway. At least, he hasn't tried...yet...! We're just grateful that he seems to have quit jumping off of his bicycle backwards and is now using his brakes to stop : ).

In other news, we were able to participate in a multi-church volunteer day.  We all took time to cut tags off of cloth bags to hand out to families who needed to visit the canned food pantry. Eli and I also helped stock rice and beans on the shelves for families who needed them. Other than hurling one bag of rice at someone, (at which point, I did remind him to put away the rice gently), Eli did an amazing job. He was very proud to be big enough to help, and really participate in a meaningful way. I think he must have cut the tags off of at least 50 bags before helping with the rice! When I complimented him on his effort, he said, "Working feels good. I like it." That's enough to humble me for a while.

It also explains some of his Halloween confusion. When we explained trick or treating (in our case, trunk or treating), Eli assumed we were getting candy "for people who don't have any." We explained that the candy would be for him, but his only response was to look at us quizzically and say, "But WHY?". He was confused, but after about 30 seconds at trunk or treat, he was beside himself with

Then, at church today, someone mentioned Advent....I can't believe it's coming SO SOON!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some General Updates

I really wanted to post tonight, but have so many things on my mind, that I thought it might be nice to have a "snapshot" style post.

  • This previous week was much improved for Eli.  He's starting to adjust to his new teacher and is feeling calmer at school. He had a fantastic week last week, though he informed me on Thursday that "it is SO HARD to be good for Mrs. E...!" His teacher was surprised to see a very differently-behaved (calm!) child, now that he's finally starting to settle down.  Hopefully, we weathered the worst of that storm for now.

  • We had a difficult day last week when one of our horses was sick (colic). Unfortunately, we had to have the emergency vet out to help treat her, and were up quite late that night. We are glad that she is back to normal and seems to be feeling just fine now.  Eli spent most of the time following the vet around and asking TONS of questions (and trying to be a "good helper"). Both our horse vet and our small animal vet are longtime family friends and adore kids. For this, we are very thankful!
  • Our dog, Rocky, who was started back on aspirin, is somewhat improved, but we are considering a medication that will be easier on his stomach. 

  • My long-term project in the garage, to create a large, safe, play area for Eli, is definitely coming along. I am now going through some old books in our storage area (we call it the "little room"). Most of them belonged to my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents.  It's painful and difficult to get rid of so many beautiful old books, but they've barely been looked at in the 10 years that they have been boxed up in storage.  It would be nice if they could be a blessing to someone else. It has been lovely to see all of the warm, heart-felt inscriptions in so many of them. I am going to miss having them all...which I know is probably very silly and overly-sentimental to most people.  I am not getting rid of all of them...but I am trying to decrease the collection by 75% or so - so that I have room to store some of Eli's baby stuff. And besides...I really only want to keep the ones that are extra-special to me.  
  •  I am also (finally) thinking about donating the writings of my great-great-grandfather to the Atlanta History Center or to the GA Archives, though I am going to keep digital copies of what he's written. He was a poet who dabbled in writing sermons and short essays...and beautiful, sweet, love letters.  The paper that they are typed on is disintegrating, and I really don't want these to be lost forever.

  • We are getting busier and busier as we move into fall. Eli has decided that he wants to sing in the children's choir at church and to participate in Wednesday night fellowship. We'd gone to the church last Wednesday, so that I could attend a children's ministry meeting. He was so happy to be able to play on the church playground with his church friends during fellowship time. He was a little disappointed today that there was no children's church (because the children's leaders were on vacation). I also think it would be great for him to have friends that aren't leaving him for Kindergarten next year! 

  • Eli's also still begging to start back at gymnastics....and Patrick and I are considering it.  I asked him if he'd like to play t-ball or soccer in the spring...and he replied "Both...but I really would rather do gymnastics."  He's absolutely set his mind on going back to gymnastics. He's not been in the gym for more than a year and a half...but still remembers it and can describe the things they used to do.  We're thinking about letting him for a little while, to see if he still enjoys it or not. He may very well enjoy it for a few months or so, then want to switch to something else. If anything, the strength and agility he'd be exposed to there should serve him well in any activity that he wants to enjoy. He loves to do so many things...and at different times, he's asked for swimming, piano, horse-back riding, ice skating/hockey, and martial arts lessons, too.  I'm hoping to keep him in no more than 1 activity at a time (plus church), so that he can explore different things and figure out what he really enjoys - but without sacrificing our family time.
  • Eli is also really enjoying playing his version of "tennis." As a reward for good behavior this week, I'd tried to take him to a nearby park to play tennis (his choice!), but all of the courts at the 3 parks we checked were full. We were finally able to find a time to play at a local school's court - and it was hilarious. Eli's learning to make contact with the ball, though he can't hit the ball over the net. He can, however, hit it directly BACKWARDS quite well. Eli spent a LOT of time chasing the ball with a huge grin on his face...and we both had a lot of fun.
  • Eli's been riding his bike a great deal, now, too. It's actually getting to be pretty difficult to keep up with him when he rides. He's fast! He loves to ride, and we took him to a new park to ride on a path this weekend.  He's definitely learning how to stop better, and surprised us by not only using the brakes, but putting his feet down when he stops (as opposed to jumping off the back of his bike to stop, which is what he was doing last week).   He also did a surprising maneuver where he coasted up to a bike rack, slowed down, parked his front tire in the rack,  and sat on his bike - waiting for Grandpa and I to catch up. He does still need someone to help him get onto his bike...but once he's on, he's good to go!
  • Eli's currently in a "period of consolidation."  Maria Montessori noted that kids, like adults, go through periods where a lot of learning takes place, then a normal "slow down" time to consolidate knowledge. I noticed that this particular slow-down coincided with the arrival of his new teacher, but I do think that it was coincidental that the two events happened at the same time. Eli's started to pick back up on a learning streak again. I've watched Eli, and have noticed his learning rhythms...a week or two of relaxation and imaginative playing...a  week or two of incessant, unceasing talking and asking every imaginable question...2-3 weeks of intense learning about anything that strikes his fancy, and a week or two of slowing down before repeating the process. Right now, we are definitely in the talking/questioning part of his learning cycle, and about to enter the intense learning phase.  As always, Patrick and I follow Eli's interests, and try to encourage him (but not push him). We are still using (primarily) Montessori methods at home...but I can't bring myself to resist correcting his work sometimes...and I really don't think we do enough science or geography at home.  However, Eli is constantly reminding us whether the sun is rising or setting in Japan (he knows it is the opposite of the US).
  • He started really, really wanting to read today, for the first time in a couple of weeks.   When Eli doesn't appear interested in something (even reading), we respect his wishes and let him be. In other words, we've not really read stories together in a couple weeks - though he has listened to a few books on CD in the car (usually, he likes to listen to an eclectic mix of the Frozen soundtrack, old DC Talk/Toby Mac songs, the VeggieTales, and classical/acapella music). Today, however, we read together while Patrick was completing an errand. When Patrick came home, Eli happened to be reading a story (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) aloud.  Although we have a couple of the author's other books, this one was new to Eli. As Eli read aloud, he didn't miss a beat as Patrick walked through the door....and Patrick was floored to hear him reading so well and fluently.  I knew this day was coming soon...when Eli would begin to read more complex stories by himself...but even I was surprised by how well Eli read.  He only had trouble on two or three pages. At this point, Eli's using phonics, whole-word recognition, and context clues to figure out the words on the page.  There's nothing quite like hearing my 3-year-old explain that "th" is a digraph, and that it means they form a special sound when they are together in a word. He is also able to legibly write the words he knows (though he sometimes asks how to spell words), and can write whole words an sentences.  He is definitely into word games (like word searches and simple "fill-in" crossword puzzles). 
  • Last night, Eli counted to 150+ in the car...and remarked "these numbers just keep going!"  He is definitely recognizing 2 digit numbers and is becoming pretty fluid with addition/subtraction that can be accomplished on his fingers : ).
  • On a final note for tonight, someone wants to simultaneously be Yoda, a Ninja Turtle (Donatello OR Raphael), and Dr. Who for Halloween. Decisions, decisions : ). My feelings about Halloween are pretty ambiguous (I am also fairly ambiguous about Valentine's Day), but Eli has such an imagination and loves to pretend to be various characters, that I certainly don't mind him enjoying that aspect of it. And, while I don't particularly care for messy pumpkin-carving, I do love to roast pumpkin seeds! Hopefully, he'll be able to make a decision before next week!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week in Review

As you can tell from my last post, that even though we truly love each other, things are not always rosy and fun in our household. However, Eli has been so much better since Friday, and I think he's really settling down a bit overall - though he did have a brand-new record of SEVEN time outs AND two lost privileges (no cartoons and early bedtime ) on Saturday.  This is really unusual for my happy-go-lucky son, but after Friday's massive meltdown, I do believe that he's just struggling with current and upcoming changes in his life. Eli definitely still has difficulty with occasional anxiety.

The rest of the week, however, was fabulous! It was lovely to have a week off from school. I love, love, love having a little fall break in October; I just wish Patrick, Eli and I had our breaks all at the same time!! This year, my break fell last week (the 6th through the 10th) and Patrick's and Eli's breaks are in two weeks. Still, it didn't stop Eli from playing hookey from school this week to hang out with me and to get some time off to better adjust to the changes in his life.

I always claim that I am going to "get so much done" over these school breaks...and I rarely do. However, this week was an exception...I really did get a lot done!  I got caught up on my grades; though I am proud that I was only behind on one class. I was able to clean out a good bit of the garage, making several trips to the transfer/recycling station and to Goodwill. I spent a ton of quality time with Eli, hanging out and running errands. We did miss seeing Eli's great-grandpa and Aunt Jeanette, but we spent several hours visiting with my grandmother (Eli's G-g) while sharing pictures and doing puzzles. We got his school pictures made (too cute - his school hired an amazing photographer), and he was thrilled to get to see heavy machinery in action at the recycling center. On one of the days, Eli and I went to Furkids to drop off some donations, pick up an allergy shot for one of our cats (Woody, our FIV+ cat, gets a shot twice a year for allergies), and to hang out with friends.  It was WONDERFUL to see my friends...I haven't made it to Furkids in quite a while, and I miss the camaraderie (it's about an hour drive each way, so we don't often go anymore).  My sweet friend Carol gave Eli his first (two!) rescue volunteer shirts, which he LOVES. He was able to see and enjoy time with a former foster-cat (Susie), whom I know he misses dearly. I was able to reassess Rocky's arthritis (he's one of our elderly dogs), and he was restarted on aspirin therapy. I was also able to (finally) finish a couple projects that were undone (one of which I started last FEBRUARY), and give my kitchen a nice floor-to-ceiling scrub (okay, I still need to scrub the floor!). I also started making my raisin-applesauce (using GA grown apples!) and my all-time greatest homemade chili, like we do every fall. It was fun to hear Patrick say that our house "smells like fall" because of the cinnamon and cloves in the kitchen : ).  I will start making "pumpkin cookie chunks" soon...another of our favorite fall treats that makes the house smell amazing.  I only have two (okay, three!) projects that are still in the works...but at least they are small, recently begun, and should be finish-able in the next couple of weeks. 

I also did send Eli to school for half of a day Monday (I had an important meeting), and an entire day on Wednesday (it was Tumble-bus day). His new teacher is coming up with all kinds of great things to teach him. Here is an example of what he learned on Wednesday:

I know he definitely doesn't know what "indivisible" means (or how to pronounce it!), but he was so proud of what he'd learned. We will, of course, work with him on not saying "Bonk!" at the end!

Eli also spent some time riding his bike this week. The time he spent on the balance bike, though short, was so worth it.  The funny part is that, even though we had a local bike store modify his balance bike, he was too small to really enjoy it until very recently. And then, he went from barely riding his balance bike to riding a two wheeler with no training wheels very quickly. He actually got onto a bicycle at a local consignment sale and took off across the store....this was my first clue that he was ready to really ride!

After a few practices, he became a lot steadier and more confident very quickly on the two-wheeler. He loves to ride it, though he's still using the balance bike for more daring rides (like coasting down the big hill in our neighborhood). We have only one problem. Okay, two problems. The first is that he does need help holding his bike when he wants to get on it. This is not a major issue, and I certainly don't mind helping him : ). The big issue is that he technically doesn't know how to stop.  Right now, he's just slowing waaaayyyy down, aiming for grass, and jumping off the back of his bike when he wants to stop.  NOT a great plan...though it's admittedly kinda funny to watch...especially when he cheers for himself after a great landing. I've been trying to show him what to do, but he's not yet ready to listen!  Today, he was at least putting his feet down and standing up to stop (while still letting go of his bike). At least I don't have to worry as much about crashes when he stands to stop...but he definitely needs to be a little taller to make this stopping strategy work for him!

In the meantime:

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Difficult Day

"Stormy" is the only way I have been able to describe Eli's behavior in the last day and a half or so.  He has been struggling with the transition from his previous teacher, whom he really liked, to his new teacher. I knew that he was definitely having issues with the transition. Eli has been asking whether he is the reason his previous teacher left (she and I have both been reassuring him); he has also asked if he is naughty if he can bring his previous teacher back. In the meantime, Patrick and I had a conference with his new teacher to explain the difficulties he is having, along with some ideas to help him along. Eli loves to have hoodies, and wearing one seems to help him stay calmer; we also often bandage his hands because when he is anxious, he scratches the skin off of his fingers. I also kept him out of school for the majority of the week...making his world a little smaller and calmer, as he processes the changes that are occurring.

Until yesterday, Eli had been calming down. Yesterday, he had a near panic attack when he thought an ant had bitten him (last time he had an ant bite, it resulted in a massive case of hives and a visit to the doctor for a shot). I was able to calm him after a while, but he was exhausted later. This morning, he really slept in, but woke up teary.

The plan was to have a very quiet, restful day, but it didn't last. We went to the store briefly, and on the way, Eli said something about turning 5 on his birthday. I had to remind Eli that he would be turning 4, not 5. He said, "but my friend T is 5 and he is going to Kindergarten next year, and I want to go to Kindergarten with him. So, I will be 5 on my birthday."

I had to gently break the news that he is NOT going to Kindergarten next year, and that he is definitely not turning 5 in time to go to Kindergarten with his friends T and K. I tried to explain that he would not be going to Kindergarten in the same school as T and K anyway (we are in different districts), even if he was five. I tried to explain that T and K would still come to play with him after school, and that they could see each other outside of school.

For TWO HOURS, Eli was inconsolable. He cried because his misses L, a friend from his previous school (whom we STILL SEE on occasion...though not often). He cried because he feels left out. He cried because he's not old enough for Kindergarten. He cried and asked to give them his toys so that they wouldn't forget about him. He cried because he doesn't think they like him since they are leaving his school at the end of the year.

He cried. And cried. And cried. And screamed. And yelled. And sobbed. And cried some more.

Two hours later, he had settled a little bit and was able to eat lunch. He cried intermittently through lunch and for another half hour or so afterward. Patrick called toward the end, and Eli refused to talk to him because he was still too upset (at that point, he had settled into intermittent crying).

Thankfully, mercifully, three hours later, Eli stopped crying and I was able to put him down for a nap. Exhaustion does not begin to cover how I felt. He slept very peacefully for a couple hours...and which was a long, beautiful break for me. After waking, he still had a couple of small crying jags, and he did get into trouble for disobedience several times, but he was a lot calmer.

Hopefully, as he adjusts to a new routine at school, he will return to being his normal, happy, sunny self. Things have never been as emotionally difficult as the first few months Eli came home, when days like this were common - and nights were spent dealing with night mares and might terrors. I am concerned about the level of anxiety he has been showing lately, though, and I am definitely worried about how personally responsible he feels for changes that are way beyond his control.  We may have to go back to using some of the strategies we used to use when he was tiny (well, tinier than now, anyway).

Of course, for today anyway, an early bed time was in order...and I think I need an early bed time, too : )!

Monday, September 22, 2014

PreK (a few weeks in)

Eli is having another transition in preschool...but this time it's a new teacher!  Another teacher was needed at his school, and she was placed in Eli's classroom.  Previously, she taught Kindergarten at a local school, and has a ton of experience in the classroom. Today was her first day with Eli's class.

This morning when I dropped him off, I left his reading packet (that comes home on weekends) in his folder. When she asked what it was, I told her that it contained the sight words that the other teacher had left for Eli to learn.  Her eyebrow went up. I was pretty sure she didn't quite believe me...or that she thought I was a crazed helicopter mom. I stopped talking.  Then, Eli chose that moment to gently pour his own milk over his cereal (he eats breakfast at home and at school).  I suppose I am used to Eli pouring liquids at home (hooray for the Montessori methods!)...but the new teacher was very surprised that he did not spill any.  I was a little disappointed with morning 'table time'...she had the children doing 4 and 6 piece peg puzzles. Eli's been working on 100 to 150 piece jigsaw puzzles since this summer.  That wouldn't work for a 15 minutes table time...but 4-6 pieces is waaayyy too small to keep his interest. From the initial impression that I got of the new teacher, she seemed very sweet...but my gut says Eli is about to either truly surprise her...or drive her nuts.  Later, I thought that I should have told her that he's also a little more than a year younger than the other kids...but decided to keep that information to myself for a while longer.  Her impression of him today is that he is a 'pistol'...which he definitely is...but when he's engaged and/or challenged at an activity he gets very focused and quiet.  He definitely does have trouble following directions in a group setting, but it's often because his imagination is running completely wild.  All things considered, Eli seemed to enjoy his new teacher, and was excited about one of the activities that his class did today.  He played so hard at school today that he fell asleep in the car on the way home!

I do have some happy reviews of the first few weeks of PreK. First, some of his academic skills have started to take off. It began with his first list of 10 sight words. He quickly learned all of his words (7 of which he knew before being given the list). On Friday, his previous teacher tested him, and rewarded him - with a toy - for knowing all of his words.  MOTIVATED does not even begin to describe what happened the following week. He learned the next set of words quickly, too...even though he struggled with the difference between "they" and "that."  In the meantime, I decided that it was time for him to be working on phonics, since his previous teacher wasn't teaching phonics.  In the last week or so, he's mastered the first 5 of the mini-books on and more than 50 sight words...and he's learning words so fast it is difficult to keep up with him. Sadly, his previous teacher didn't test him over the second set of words before she was transferred to another room - but this hasn't slowed Eli down one bit.  When he picked up a favorite book at home and realized (for the first time) that he could read it....and I mean REALLY read it...he was hysterical. A very happy, but stunned Eli just repeatedly said "These are my words.  I know all of these words.  I can read it."  He looked at me with big eyes and read a certain passage over and over just for the joy of being able to do it. Now he wants to read everything : ) and has an insatiable need to be read to (thank heavens for books on CD and recordable books). This is a far cry from the child who threw massive (legendary) tantrums at the mere attempt of reading him anything at all. He is falling head-over-heels in love with Flat Stanley, Splat the Cat, Skippyjon Jones, Pete the Cat, etc.

In other (related) news, we stumbled across a Star Wars set of math workbooks at a local department store. As a math teacher, I was thrilled with how thorough the workbooks were. I bought one of them....and after watching Eli enjoy it so much, I ordered the next one in the series!  I also started him on the Life of Fred series of math books...this series goes from very basic addition through calculus and beyond. At this point, Eli can add/subtract using his fingers, count to 120 (although he still skips 15), and is learning place value and skip counting (he can now skip count by tens and hundreds - which is extremely easy with Montessori methods).

I know it sounds like he's being kept busy...but we spend roughly10 minutes on reading (phonics and sight words together) and 10 minutes on math each night.  We don't normally do the lessons back-to-back, either. We generally tackle one subject right after school and the other sometime after dinner.  Eli also seems to regularly go through fast periods of learning, then he has slow periods of consolidation.  This recent learning spurt has been so rapid that I think he will slow down for a while soon.  We know that spending any time on academic "stuff" at all is optional...but while Eli is motivated and excited, we have decided to let him learn at his own pace.

In the meantime, Eli's also been doing a lot of riding on his bike. He alternates between the balance bike and his two-wheeler. The two-wheeler is still a tad big for him (it's a 12 inch), but he can still manage it pretty well. His biggest issues are starting and stopping without falling over....but in the meantime, he has discovered how much fun it is to coast down the hill in our yard : ).  Next time, pictures!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mrs. M

One of the teacher's at Eli's school was in a terrible car accident recently....and she was 32 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, although she was severely injured, she has been released from the hospital and is healing. Unfortunately, because of the severity of her injuries and the care she needed, the doctors were forced to perform an emergency c-section. Her baby is currently in the NICU at a local hospital.

Eli knows that Mrs. M won't be back to school anytime soon. She was not his regular teacher, though he does know who she is. His school is running a fundraiser to help her with medical expenses. Eli was both sad and hopeful the day that he got his fundraiser packet.

He said, "Mrs M. had a baby in her tummy, Oma. But she was in a crash and got hurt and went to the doctor. The doctor took the baby out of her tummy and he's sick.  I prayed for Mrs. M today at nap time because I want her to get better. You think God will make her better?"

I nearly fell out crying. He was so genuine, and has such a loving soul. If he thought there was a way for him, personally, to make Mrs. M and her baby well, he would do it.  We are praying for Mrs. M and her family, and hope anyone who reads this will, too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pre K (so far)...

I can't believe Eli has been in pre-k for a month now.  For the most part, he's really learning a lot and enjoying it. He's learning more about how to tell what today's date is, he has a new best buddy, and his letter-writing skills have improved dramatically. Eli had a hilarious light-bulb moment tonight when I explained to him what the lines on notebook and tablet paper were for. For a few seconds, he thought lines on paper were the greatest invention ever!  He's also developed an almost rabid interest in writing, which caught me off guard.  He was really interested in it several months ago...then his interest waned...and now he's REALLY interested again!

But there are some downsides to pre-k, too. One, in particular, is eating at me tonight. The teacher promised my son's class that they would have a "movie/popcorn party" when all of the kids learned their letters. This is a great idea to motivate kids to learn, and, as a fellow teacher I understand why she did it (and, generally, that is a really nice thing to do).  It's having some unexpected consequences for my son, though. Each time she's reminded the class about the party, my son has come home upset. He doesn't understand that even though HE knows his letters, many of the other kids in the class really do not know theirs. He definitely doesn't understand why he must wait for a reward that he's technically already earned...and now the teacher has said it enough times to the class that Eli feels it is aimed at him (even though it is clearly NOT aimed at him)...and he is genuinely frustrated.  I've explained to him that she's really talking to only the kids who DON'T know their letters, but he's still so sad : (.  I know that this is truly minor in the grand scheme of things, but it is still so hard to see him feeling so hurt.

While I am somewhat concerned about what this means for next year, when Eli's still too young for Kindergarten and has to stay back in pre-k, there are many, MANY bright spots.  There is a second teacher in the classroom who is definitely working with Eli on his reading.  She sent home a note with the sentences and words he was working on today, which I truly appreciated. One of the words today was "big," which is one I hadn't started him on, and she did a great job helping him - with promise of helping him learn more as he was ready (which he is excited about).  Hallelujah!  What a sweet lady for taking time out with my son feel special and to make sure that he was learning something new : )... for this, we are very grateful. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy 4th of July!!

 {Fireworks from Gwinnett's community party}

First, we hope everyone had a nice of a 4th of July as we did!  It has been a very nice, quiet summer around here. Aside from a few chores that needed to be taken care of, we have managed to be very low key for most of the summer. I think that, after the more difficult school year that Patrick and I each experienced this year (for various reasons), we really needed this chance to decompress. We've had long enough now to rest and to begin looking forward to the next school year. BUT, by the time the 4th of July rolled around, we were rested enough to seek out some fun. Patrick was asked to play trumpet with the Gwinnett Community Band for a public party/fireworks celebration. We decided to all go, and there was plenty of fun to be had : ).

{Patrick looking spiffy in his band uniform}
At the party, there were tons vendors selling snacks/desserts; they also had tons of rides and inflatables...they even a had Chick Fil A cow : ). Did I mention Eli LOVES cows...??  He has asked me repeatedly if he could have a real cow...including promising to keep it in his room. He shrieked and ran for the poor cow as soon as he saw it!
Upon meeting said cow, Eli became completely star struck and just stared.  Later, of course, I heard all about the cow (repeatedly!).

Eli also managed to have a great time on the inflatables. He waited his turn each time, oh-so-patiently.

And yes, he was barefoot. Since they don't allow shoes on inflatables, I let Eli go shoeless while he played. In hindsight, I am VERY, VERY grateful that he had on a bug band (the yellow thing on his ankle). The grass we were in had an unfortunate infestation of chiggers. While they avoided my bug-band-clad son, they decided I was an all-you-can-eat buffet (even though I had shoes on).  Yikes!

The inflatable guy asked me if Eli was going to go by himself or not. Of course Eli wanted to go by himself ("like a big boy"), and he expressed that he understood the safety rules.  He did a great job, and had a ton of fun : )!

 {Stopping to say, "HEY, OMA!!}

{And seriously, he climbed this slide unbelievably quickly!}

{I didn't let him do the bungee jump}

While we did have to wait a long time to ride this Thomas look-alike train, the smile was definitely worth it. And quite fun...I think the driver had dreams of NASCAR.

And, although Eli was not able to do the water slide (they had it closed by the time we found it), it did not stop him from having fun with the water still on the ground!

And of course, we got great seats to hear the band !!

{ Patrick's dad, Jack, conducted the band}

 {Eli dancing to the music}
{Eli...being Eli! }

Did I mention the fireworks?  I don't know who put together the show...but they were beautiful. Again, happy belated 4th!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Someone's in the Kitchen...

I LOVE to cook. It's actually an activity that all 3 of us enjoy, often together.  Eli LOVES to be in the kitchen, helping to cook. It goes well with another of his hobbies (eating everything in sight). We've tried to really let him do as much as he's ready to do, and we seem to be reaping huge benefits. I thought I would share what we've seen Eli learning (as well as some lessons we hope he's learning).

First, Eli is at an age where he would rather be with us than play by himself. We enjoy his company, and it's nice to have quality time together while also taking care of everyday stuff.

Eli will eat ANYTHING that he's helped to prepare...and he's excited about it. He's always been a good eater, but it's nice to see such enthusiasm for his own creations.

Eli learns a lot about ingredients, too. He loves to smell spices and to be told what they are. He knows several spice combinations that we use frequently. We often taste a bit of a spice or ingredient as we add it to a mixture so that he learns individual tastes.

Eli has an appreciation for where his food comes from.  There's nothing like seeing the pride on my son's face as he trims some parsley that he grew from seed so that we can add it to our lunch or dinner.

He's also learning that we reap what we sow on a less literal level. If we put great ingredients together and cook them well, we'll get a great meal. If we skip steps or skimp on ingredients, we don't get a great meal. In other words, he's experiencing cause and effect.

Eli is learning a lot about kitchen safety. He understands to be careful around hot dishes and sharp objects. He knows that the oven and knife block are completely off limits (we sometimes let him stir ingredients on the stove). We let him use a small electric skillet on occasion (with supervision) and this has gone a long way toward teaching him how to safely work with heat.

Did I mention that basic math begins in the kitchen? From measurement to estimation to proportions, math is embedded in all of our cooking. Eli likes to cut food into shapes and to experiment with how to create certain shapes. Eli is currently learning the difference between units (cup vs tablespoons vs teaspoons) and how to measure with measuring cups. He is also learning the value of a timer!

Reading recipes together reinforces the importance of reading and following directions in a logical manner.

Sometimes new recipes flop. Eli's learning that it's okay to take risks and try new things....and sometimes our best efforts don't work out. He's learning that having a backup plan is often a great idea!  He's also learning that trying things can be absolutely delicious, and that improvising and creativity can go a long way to creating something amazing.

He is learning how to use kitchen tools and is refining his motor skills. He uses a tiny pair of scissors to cut some ingredients, like green onions, chives, and parsley. He uses a butter knife to slice melon, bananas, zucchini squash, etc. He has become great at cracking eggs, peeling hard boiled eggs, washing produce, and peeling carrots and cucumbers. He loves to use measuring cups, stirring spoons and his spatula.

He is learning a lot of science. From obvious science, such as how heat or cooling changes food and how ingredients interact with one another to less obvious (but still important) scientific ideas such as experimentation and hypothesizing. We often ask questions: for example, what would happen to the taste of a dish if we add a new ingredient, or what ingredient might make this dish better?

The other things Patrick and I notice is that Eli seems to feel very confident and capable in the kitchen. He started with such small tasks like washing carrots or tomatoes, which is why it is amazing to see how sure of himself that he is now...even with more difficult tasks, like scrambling an egg in his skillet while we watch.

Patrick and I are preparing to expand the ways we encourage Eli in the kitchen. At this point, for many tasks, Eli is very independent. We are going to put in a small work station that is his size, complete with small utensils (whisk, tongs, fondant roller, etc). To date, Eli's been using a step stool to reach the countertops. We will still do this (probably a lot), but there's something to be said for Eli having his own tools and workspace for certain tasks. We found an inexpensive ($30) child's table with a folding chair that we plan on placing in our kitchen for him.  We had a couple child size utensils already...but recently found a few more at our local dollar store...and they are adorable and functional.

It is lovely to see our son take such an interest and pride in the kitchen, and I hope he continues!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Family Dictionary

Eli has some cute, often funny ways of expressing himself. I thought I would take the time to write down some of his new phrases that seem to have become some of our family's vocabulary....and to give some insight as to what he's talking about these days.

Strawberry Masher: to most people, this is a potato masher. We use ours for making strawberry jam in the summer, so Eli calls it as he sees it.

A: most people say "hey." Not Eli. He also frequently uses "A you guys...!" The word 'guys' is pronounced with 2 or 3 syllables, depending on desire for attention.

Cool: Eli, but only if he's wearing sunglasses and/or a hat.

Hot: Might mean hot OR cold. Sometimes means uncomfortable. This one keeps us confused. We're trying to figure this out.

Hot Mess: Another (affectionate) name for Eli, when he is in a very silly (or contrary) mood. Also synonymous with Tater.

Kitten claws: Eli's fingernails. There's not a sharper, harder substance in the universe....and they grow so fast!

Tooke: Eli's imaginary friend, of course. He lives at Wal Mart and changes color everyday. He also confuses the dentist.

Rabies Shot: Having blood drawn. The only other time Eli'd seen a needle was when the cats and dogs got rabies shots, so he assumed that's what he was getting. He had to have a small amount drawn for his doctor's visit recently. Thankfully, he asked about his "rabies shot" in the car and NOT at top volume in the middle of the public library.

Driver: A steering wheel.

Bad Guys: Anybody at ALL when Eli is in "Yoda" mode. Sometimes they are imaginary.

Airplane fart: Exhaust from an airplane that leaves white trails in the sky.

Worm poop: Dirt or soil from the garden.

Quarrel: A squirrel. More exciting than birds, not as exciting as snakes.

I Don't Like (insert name of food): I love it, and will devour every last bite when I think no one is looking.

Kentucky: the homeland of "Turtleman."  Eli still has hero love for Turtleman. He also loves Guy Fieri, who is from "the grocery store".

Will n Zoey: The TV Show "The Little Couple." Eli loves watching this family on TV, and seriously looks forward to it every week.

Eat at the Table: Eat in a restaurant.

Ka Mee Ya: Come here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Imaginary Friend

We have seen the appearance of an imaginary friend!  I'm kinda tickled, because I went through an imaginary friend stage when I was 3 or 4, and even though I don't really remember it, my family members do... and it's funny to hear them talk about it.  Eli's imaginary friend is an "alien" named "Tooke" (I though it was spelled "Tuke", which is how it's pronounced, but Eli corrected me...). Tooke changes color everyday, and defeats fire monsters with a water hose (which, incidentally, is exactly how Eli says that he defeats fire monsters...though he says a water gun is okay if he doesn't have a hose). Eli has been pretending to call "Tooke" on the phone to ask him questions or have conversations.

Earlier today, Eli pretended to call "Tooke" on an imaginary phone.  According to Eli, "Tooke" was at Wal-Mart (I am not sure if "Tooke" lives there, or was just hanging out).

Eli: Hey, wanna mochi ice cream?  It's chocolate.  No?  You sure?  OKay, I'll eat it for you.  Hey...Oma...Tooke says I can have his, so I get two of them, okay?

Nice, bargaining attempt, but no dice...Eli only got one mochi..."Tooke's" is still in the freezer.

And if you haven't had chocolate mochi ice cream, it's the BEST THING EVER.  Seriously.  Find some.  It's a dollop of rich chocolate ice cream wrapped in a sweet  rice-flour concotion that is delicious. We get ours from a local Asian market, but most international-type grocery stores should have it....and it's even gluten-free.  It you can't tell, it is a serious family favorite....right up there with my husband's awesome hot wings.

Even though "Tooke" is the only "family member" to pass up mochi ice cream and hot wings, he did, apparently, "tell" Eli to save him some broccoli from dinner....from Eli's plate, if you see where this is headed!

At least "Tooke" has been a great distraction. Poor Eli has had two allergic reactions this week to bug bites.  We are trying out some different types of bug bands to try to prevent bites - hopefully one or more types will work. We're trying to avoid having to use a DEET spray, but will if nothing else works.  One of the bites happened at school, and somehow, neither Eli nor his teacher realized that he had a golf-ball sized swelling on his tiny leg.  Our doctor did take a look at it, but advised antihistamines and prevention. Then he got bitten AGAIN, this time at home.  The crazy part is that he got bitten several times...while neither Patrick nor I was affected...and at least one of us was with him all day!  We want to find something that works (and quickly) because he loves to play outside.

Oh - and according to Eli, "Tooke" was sad that he missed going to the dentist today. Eli got to go and have all of the fun.  Yes, fun.  Eli loves his dentist. So much that I told him that I would take him for Christmas (as one of his gifts) - and he was thrilled : ).  I would very much like to know where the sticker-giving, "racecar toothbrush" wielding, cool movies-projected-onto-the-ceiling dentists were when I was a kid...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Say What?

Eli has surprised me (and others) with some of the things he says and does.

Yesterday, he proceeded to tell someone our address when they needed it. Complete address, except for zip code. It didn't surprise me (after all, I'd taught it to him), but the other person was shocked.

Today, he exclaimed how excited when he noticed an app I had downloaded for him "Oma, Oma, did you out this on here?  The Mahjong that I played with Grandma yesterday? Yay! Thank you! I love Mahjong!"  He actually does love mahjong solitaire...which is, of course, why I downloaded it!

He called his grandparents to announce to them that he knows their phone number (and proceeded to recite it). He also knows part of my cell number and part of Patrick's cell phone number.

He begged for a jigsaw puzzle that he saw at a local thrift store for $1. It has 550 pieces. He's been working on it a little bit at a time for almost a week. He's finished about a fourth of it...and won't let either Patrick or I help him. He's done 100 piece puzzles before, but this is certainly more challenging!

While cooking a few days ago, Eli asked if he could have a bite of "cookie salt." It took me a while to figure out that he meant table sugar. Since it looks like salt and had a cookie on the front of the bag, you can see how he got the name.

While waiting our turn in a long line, he proceeded to tell me that he was "Tuke, a blue alien. With lots of alien powers, and a water hose." The reason for the water hose? So he can defeat fire monsters like Dr. Who did on TV (except Dr. Who used a squirt/water gun).  Apparently, I also have a super power...the "power of veto."

We've had a lot of talks lately about another child, A, in Eli's class. He does not get along with this child AT ALL. He got angry last week and had a meltdown in class. Later, when he talked to me about it, he quietly said, "Oma, I didn't mean to upset Mrs. M. I was really upset and angry about what A did. A is not nice to me at all. Oma, what do you do when you're angry?"

Of course, now, when he's naughty, I tell him he's acting like A. He hates it when I say that, but it often will make him act a little better. Between that, and pointing out A's positive days, things are improving (but rocky).

Eli's definitely still in a very trying stage...tantrum/attitude diffusing without giving in to him has become an almost daily event. And I do mean attitude...complete with grumpy voice, arms crossed across his chest, pouty lip, and eye rolling. And a LOT of attempts at manipulation and negotiation.

However, he is still very, very sweet...and normally has a very sweet, loving disposition. At the store, when I pretended to let go of the shopping cart while it was rolling, Eli exclaimed, "No, don't let me go, I LOVE you!!" Best. Moment. Ever.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Preschool "Graduation"

Eli's preschool had an end of the year celebration; and it was very cute/sweet.  But - is it really "graduating" if he's repeating the class? Ha!

Eli will repeat the same class next year, since he's too young for our state's pre-k.  The ceremony it self was really cute and quirky...which, I'm sure you can imagine is generally the case for a three year old class. Academically, he's ready for much more than pre-k; we probably could get a waiver for early entry. BUT we really don't want to rush him. Whether Eli would benefit academically or not, I want him to truly enjoy being a kid. A kid who paints, listens to stories, and plays outside. His version of playing is a little different than most kids his age, but the freedom of childhood, IMHO is nothing to be rushed. There will be plenty of time for Eli to feel the pressure/stress of studying and school. While Patrick and I DO let him explore academics as part of his normal playtime, we're letting him lead the way into what he wants to know. We have been using several Montessori activities with him, though he often chooses to do other "stuff." Right now, we are also encouraging him to explore, play in the dirt, and to use his imagination. Mostly, at least this week, he's been interested in caring for his plants, cooking, visiting the hardware store (he likes to look at and learn about tools), and learning to read directions/recipes.

So, it will be fun to see him"graduate" again next year.  I can't believe how much he is thriving in the new school, and this change was definitely a great one. His teachers are very supportive and accommodating. Still, it's funny to see his work coming home. One day, the children were learning about shapes and gluing foam shapes to a piece of construction paper. Eli's work came home, and I of course, remarked how wonderful it was ( as all parents do with preschool art). Eli looked at me, puzzled, and said " but you have it upside down!". I turned it  over, only to realize that he had glued his shapes in such a way as to make the number  50.  This definitely cracked me up...and might very well go on my classroom wall next year!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do Cows Like Bananas?

Eli asks questions without ceasing...I find myself answering his questions even in my dreams.  Most of his questions start with "why" or "how". He wants to know what everything is, how it works, how to put it together, why it has a certain name, etc. Some of his questions make sense...and some of them I've had to google to the answers to (what kind of bug is that?).

Some of his questions are really difficult....when his great grandmother passed away recently, Eli asked me if he was going to die one day, too.  He's also asking why Jesus was nailed a cross and how people could be so mean to Jesus....or to each other.

On the other hand, some of his questions are hysterically funny.  Why don't cats like vegetables?  (Because they are carnivores...too many veggies make them puke). Why don't horses use the bathrooms inside? (Because they don't have thumbs to flush the potty). Why is Jabba the Hut so weird looking? Ok....the Jabba the Hut one is a valid question....but only from people who think a lot of Star Wars characters look weird.

I was really tired today, so I turned the tables on our young questioner....and I asked him (out of the clear blue) "Do cows like to eat bananas?"  I thought he would giggle, laugh, say "I don't know" or something like that.

However, there was a brief moment of quiet as Eli thought very carefully about his answer. And then I realized how carefully he truly listens to our responses.

He replied, "Well, what we need to do is to get a banana. Then, we need to drive to a farm-one that has cows. We can ask the farmer if we can talk to his cows, and we will give them a banana. If they eat it, then we can say that cows eat bananas! If they don't eat it, the cows don't like bananas!"

I guess I can safely say that Eli is a (little) man with a plan.

Eli and TV

Eli is definitely at an age where he really enjoys certain TV shows...from Dr. Who to Dr. Oz to the Little Couple (which he calls "Zoey and Will") and a few cartoons (mostly on Saturday). Until yesterday, he loved all cooking shows, too. I never, never expected him to be frightened/upset by a cooking show - especially since he's apparently unfazed by the "bad guys" on Dr. Who (and trust me, some of those bad guys are pretty intense).

It all boils down to this: Eli pretty much knows when actors are "pretending" versus when someone on TV is doing something real (like cooking).

And when chefs begin to prepare (live) crab, it gets pretty upsetting for him.

We were quietly relaxing while Eli was alternately playing and watching a cooking competition on TV with us. Live crab was announced as an ingredient in the competition. Eli looked at the TV, and said, "Aww....crabs...look, they're cute!  and cool!.  What's he doing?'t put him in the OVEN....NO!!!  Don't take his legs off....NONONO..."

We quickly changed the channel, but he's still very, very upset about the crabs. He says he will never eat crabs again (even though he enjoyed them previously), and I believe him. Poor guy...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Faith of a Child

Eli's Great-Grandma (Nita) passed away this week - she was almost 92, and very, very sweet.  I was really worried about how Eli would handle her death, as it is the first one he's experienced. I wondered how much he would understand, if anything. The day before her funeral, Patrick and I explained to him that she had died and what that means to us; then, we braced ourselves for questions. While he has had a few questions (some of which surprised even me), they seem to come up occasionally rather than all at once. He has been surprisingly quiet about the subject, which is very out-of-character. However, this morning, we were riding along to Eli's school, listening to a CD quietly play an a capella version of "Just a Little Talk with Jesus." 

Suddenly, Eli sat bolt upright and said, "Hey!! That's just like Great-Grandma!!"
I was confused, "What?"
Eli happily replied, "Great-Grandma gets to talk to Jesus now, just like in the song. She lives with Jesus in Heaven now, 'member?"

I have heard the Bible verses and preachers that talk about the "faith of a child," but when he said this, with the unwavering conviction that only a very innocent child possesses, it brought tears to my eyes. I know that he doesn't truly understand all of what has happened, but as long as what he does know brings him peace, then it's enough.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Runaway Imagination and More...

Conversations with Eli have gotten to be very....interesting.  His imagination has been running away with him a little bit lately. Yesterday, he told Patrick that he wanted to kidnap all of Santa's reindeer and eat them for dinner. Then, he wanted to replace them with cows (that Eli would teach how to fly).  THEN he would eat the cows....and build Santa a flying car.  This was out of the clear blue...and has become very typical.  Last week, he wanted to cook and eat the Tumblebus...and he said that he would cut the tires up really small, so they wouldn't be too chewy.

Notice a theme?  Most of his imaginary play is with cooking/eating food; the rest is generally about building or making objects.  As each day passes, his play gets more creative and complicated. He went from only making "pancakes" with his play dough to make different types of meatballs, pancakes, okonomiyaki, eggs, etc.  He also loves to pretend to play baseball.  Not so much running the bases, but throwing the ball with great aim and trying to hit the ball when it's pitched to him (we use a small foam bat and foam ball). He was in hysterics last night when he connected with the ball for the first (and second) times ever.

I tried to interview him for a new post to see what kind of crazy answers he would come up with to my questions...but mostly he got very silly and answered all except one of my questions with "peanuts."  The question he answered was "what do you want to do later?"  He wanted to watch a movie (right now he is loving The Jungle Book).

He's also into working on his reading words. I supplemented his Montessori pink words with two phonics books that feature Elmo and Cookie Monster....he is LOVING those....and is currently teaching himself beginning/ending word sounds from the books.  I thought about starting him on the Dolch sight words, but generally, when I interfere with his independent learning (especially in reading) he gets irritated with me : ).  He is also loving to write letters and words. For about a week now, his favorite new letters to write have been "H" and "F".  We recently made a birthday card for his grandpa.  I had Eli write "Happy birthday Grandpa" by himself. I wrote it first, in large print, on a piece of paper. Then Eli took a stack of index cards, wrote one letter on each card (using different colors of notecards and markers), and we used metal brads to connect the cards. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Counting with Eli

Eli has been interested in counting again lately. I knew that he was making progress with his counting, but didn't quite realize how high he could count. That is, until last night, when Eli was practicing. He was bored because adults were talking and he started counting to himself and being silly. I kinda tuned him out for a moment, but when I realized that I was hearing "41, 42, 43..." I paused. When Eli got to 49, he continued "21, 22, 23...". I kinda broke him out of his counting by explaining that FIFTY comes after 49, not twenty, and helped him continue for a few numbers. He laughed and said I was silly, then started over again at 1. I listened to him carefully (while pretending not to listen at all). He got stuck at 17. I tried to help him, but he growled playfully and said, "I can do it myself!". He started the sequence again at 1. After saying "12", he began saying "one-three, one-four, one-five, one-six, one-seven, one-eight, one-nine, twenty."  He continued to 49 again.  I was still in surprised silence from hearing him describe the teen numbers (in terms of how they are written) instead of using their names. I did explain the names for the numbers in the teens, and then started talking to Eli about skip counting by tens (so that he can learn the names for numbers in the 50s, 60s, etc). He really wasn't interested, so I decided to wait for another day. He then asked me if I could count to 100 : ). I told him that I could, and that one day I would teach him. He likes to put his number cards in order (usually smallest to biggest), and I've started working with him with Montessori bead materials (mine set is a mixture of decimal mods and homemade materials). 

On the literary side of things, Eli has been very proud of himself for really getting good at writing his letters. He has a hard time with letters that have a lot of curves (like capital "B"), but letters that are formed with vertical and horizontal lines (like E, F, H, L) are easy for him. He is learning to manage letters with diagonal lines (like X and A). He is truly learning how to put together words, but mostly with letter tiles (he's not hand writing words other than his name).  He is still learning that letter order matters (and that they should be placed left to right). This will come as his reading improves, though....and already has dramatically improved over the course of the last year. He likes to work on sounding out simple words. We often ask him what he thinks words start with or end with by their sound, and he's usually right : ). Spelling words (slowly) for him often improves his pronunciation since Eli really knows his letter sounds. Montessori materials really seem to appeal to him and allowing him to use them when he wants has dramatically increased the rate at which he's learning.

It's alarming how quickly he picks up information.  If you cannot tell, we've been using a lot of Montessori materials and techniques lately. I'd actually started with this last summer, with sensory activities I found on Pinterest, but we've snowballed into using a lot of "academic" activities, too.  I like that (educationally) everything is decided by Eli...what he wants to work on/learn when he's ready/interested in working on it. We have materials set up across the room from his toys, so he can always choose a learning activity or free play time with his toys. I've also been reading a lot about Montessori's methods, and they are very, very effective for Eli. We plan on continuing using these methods for as long as possible, and I will try to start posting some of the activities that we use often.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Oh My, Oh Me, Look Who's 3!!!

Oh me, oh my, how time flies by!

What a delay in posting about Eli's birthday!  I'm very sad that this post took so long, but here it is at last : ). 

Eli at 3:

He is 26.5 pounds and almost 3 feet tall (he needs another quarter inch or so). He's actually gaining on the growth curve; when he came home he was well below 3rd percentile for height/weight.  By his 2 year old check up, he'd reached 3rd percentile. Now we are around 5th percentile for height and weight.  Yay!

He is very, very independent and confident. He likes to do things by himself as much as possible, and we encourage him (within reason).  This includes dressing himself, making some choices about his clothing (including choosing many of the clothes I buy for him to wear), and making choices about his lunch (occasionally helping make his lunch).

He has a strong, innate sense of responsibility. No joke. Eli is very careful and listens to/follows directions very well. Usually.  Recent exception: at his 3 year old check up, where he followed directions until about 10 minutes into his physical. Then he decided to get goofy....really HYPER and in, the doctor won't be forgetting us any time soon.  But usually, I have a child who doesn't mind cleaning up toys (and even places his clothes in the dirty laundry at the end of the day), treats breakables with respect, and who remembers his lunchbox and backpack every day. 

He adores routine and order...and freaks out (just a little) when we don't follow our routines.  Eli loves his routines. I've posted (and pouted) about this before. Nothing in this arena has changed. Sometimes Eli melts down when our routines change, and sometimes he accepts our explanations.  It often depends on how tired he is, as to how he reacts.  To date, breaks in routine and NOT allowing him to do certain activities independently have been the only true tantrum triggers.

He has a lot of respect for plants and animals.  He is very gentle and sweet with our pets and with other animals. He has become proud of his "bossy" voice that he uses with the horses and dogs...and is thrilled when they immediately obey him. He loves to play with the cats (and has been known to play 45 minute long games of "chase the stick" with our cat, Z). He loves being near the horses, and is learning to ride. He enjoys being around our dogs outside, and especially likes walking Rocky. He is also very gentle and caring toward his garden plants. Eli is very consistent with reminding me to help him tend the garden, and it was truly adorable to watch him plant spinach. He carefully took each of the 9 plants from its tiny plastic starter pot, dug a hole, placed the plant in and "tucked its roots in", all the while telling the plants to get some good rest so that they could grow good tomorrow. He has also celebrated each day that our azaleas have a few more flowers : ). He has become able to tell some plants apart by their leaves/flowers, and usually uses the correct names for the plants he knows. When he was picking out plants for the garden, I told him we had room for 3 types of plants (1  pack of each). We got what he asked for, then he asked for more plants (he really seemed to want dusty miller and begonias). I explained that we didn't have room for more which point Eli found his inner Tetris-master, rearranged the plants in our cart and said (rather exasperatedly), "There, now there's room for more." I got the giggles, but managed to explain that we didn't have room at home for more planting. Eli's still a little peeved that I didn't plant any cucumber.  BUT he's very proud of the plants he picked: spinach, chives, parsley, and Impatiens.  And yes, he picked out what he wanted...and in true 3 year old fashion declined all of my suggestions.  And yes, somehow we came out with 4 plants instead of the 3 I'd planned...I do love Impatiens, though....I don't think it was a hard sell for him.

He is experimenting with new, not-so-cute behaviors (thankfully, none of this has lasted very long).  This has included biting, pushing, kicking, hitting, and/or body slamming other kids his age...and he has experimented with not telling the truth a few times, too. Eli seems to be learning what honesty is. I don't think he truly understands the concept yet...but we are definitely making progress.  For the most part, he was telling us that he didn't hit (or kick, or...) when he actually did.

He is very sweet....and very stubborn. 'Nuf said.

He loves logic and when things "make sense." He also loves puns/word play, and is a bit of a 'smart aleck'.  Seriously...and sometimes he gets frustrated when he really thinks he's right about something and he isn't.  He often wants explanations for how things work and we often here the question "Why?"  Sometimes, Eli's just trying to make conversation, but oftentimes he really wants an answer to his "Why?" Last week, my husband got tired of Eli asking how straws worked and explained the physics of creating a vacuum. Eli enjoyed this!  I don't think he truly understood the explanation - but he likes to have a genuine answer.

He talks....a LOT.  As in, he talks all the time...sometimes in his sleep. Sometimes, it's cute. Sometimes I need a break.  The funniest part is that Eli was initially referred for speech therapy when we came home from Korea...because he really wasn't speaking (even in Korea, he was saying only 2 words).  Patrick and I decided to wait a few months to let Eli adjust before jumping into anything, and for us, it was the right decision. A couple months later, Eli began speaking a few simple words, then jumped into putting together sentences almost overnight. The wildest part is the amazing clarity and diction he has for his age....and his ability to repeat himself or explain his meaning in other words when his listener doesn't understand.  The biggest issue here is that Eli often interrupts or talks over people; we are working with him to understand how to take turns in a conversation.  I think this is going to be a challenge for him...

He has a wonderful singing voice.  I love hearing Eli sing. He sings songs from school (which are okay), but he brought tears to my eyes today when he was singing the chorus of "Place in This World" (Michael W Smith, but also sung by the VeggieTales) with the CD player. Such a clear singing voice combined with Eli's innocence...and such a powerful message in the song...I am actually starting to cry again thinking about it.

He has a fantastic memory.  No kidding.  Better than mine. Eli can remember events from 6 months to a year ago. He can tell you about an episode of Batman that he saw on TV a year ago without any trouble. The game "Memory" is no challenge at all...this has come in very handy for shopping lists : ). It's the true reason Eli learns so quickly.

He likes to use tools, put things together, and figure out how things work.  Eli could spend the day in a hardware store, browsing and playing with tools and learning how to use them. He loves to put things together, use a hammer, screwdriver, paintbrush, a name it.  My grandmother got him a pull-a-part plane for Christmas. He has pulled it apart and put it back together numerous times. His favorite part is that it has a plastic "drill" to put in the large plastic screws and bolts : ).

He is a beginning reader/writer. Eli began reading almost at the same time he began speaking. He started only with sight words that he specifically asked for. He then began reading the alphabet (lower case first), and developing new sight words from memorizing their spellings. Then he started to learn high-frequency words in his favorite books (such as green, eggs, and, ham) and learning beginning phonics (letter sounds). Lately, Eli has progressed into sounding out words, recognizing two or three word families (like words that end in "at": cat, rat, bat, hat).  He enjoys occasionally trying to write letters or words, but often likes to use magnetic letters or letter tiles to make words that he sees in his books. He can write most letters of the alphabet fairly clearly, but lately he's not been interested enough in writing for me to see what he can do. Like many things, he goes through phases where he's really interested and wants to do nothing else...then he is not interested at all for a time.  We are generally careful to wait until he wants to work on reading/writing. There are a few apps that we have gotten, though, for long car rides or for long waits, that he LOVES...and they are reading based.

He has great number sense.  Seriously. I love it. Currently, he's using it to learn to dial phone numbers, tell time, and figure out counting patterns. While Eli often still gets stuck between 15 and 19 while counting, he can occasionally make it to 30. I started showing him how place value works with Montessori-style decimal mods, but he was only interested for a few minutes, and hasn't looked at it since. Hopefully, he'll get interested again soon. Like everything else, he kinda cycles through times when he's interested and times when he's not.

He adores his family....and dearly misses Lee, Miyu and Emma (in Japan).  His respect for his Grandpa and Grandma borders on hero-worship.  Seriously. And his current favorite afternoon activity is practicing dialing everyone's phone number just so he can talk to them.

He truly loves movies - and going to the movies.  Any movie.  He can repeat parts of movies, summarize them, and remember them months after he's seen them.  We recently rented "Frozen" on our DVR (LOVE, LOVE that movie).  Patrick and I hadn't seen it, but Eli had. He realized a few minutes into the film that he'd seen it before with his grandparents at the theater. He still thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, but he knew what was going to happen before it did!

He really, really wants to go fishing.  He keeps asking. We're not sure why he has such a sudden interest - it's been nearly a year since he went last time (we didn't catch anything). Someone might be getting a fishing pole from a certain Easter Bunny...

He loves being a part of the 'big boy' Sunday school class at our church.  He had been in the 2/3 year old nursery until recently. We decided to let him move into the 3/4 year old group at church. He loves, loves, loves it. And while our 2/3 year old children's church teachers are awesome, he is learning even more from the "big boys' class".

Oh, and last - but not least, as the cliche goes, - Eli has boundless energy, eats like a grown man, loves to go places and explore EVERYTHING...