Category Archives: Technology
The last third of the year can become unenjoyably busy for our family very easily, with ten family birthdays and our anniversary sprinkled in among the bustle of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So in 2016 Greg and I resolved to designate one day from each weekend in October, November and December as an “at home only” day: no outings, no plans, no chores and no to-do list. We called it a family Sabbath, although we first instituted this for practical reasons and our own comfort rather than as an effort to obey the religious guidelines of Sabbath keeping.
When we first decided to implement this in October, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that we would benefit so much from the rest this boundary around our schedule would afford us. There was one problem though. The only date that worked well for Rowan and June’s joint birthday party fell on the same weekend that the huge Lego tour would be in town. The Lego event that Rowan has been asking to return to since he saw it the last time it came to town two years ago. The one I had been excited to take the kids to for months.
We looked at three different scenarios: attending an abbreviated weeknight Lego session, packing the Lego fest in on the same day as our at-home birthday party, or breaking our Sabbath guidelines and attending the beloved Lego event on the second day of that weekend. We decided to break our new rule and go to the event on the second day of the weekend. After all, we made the rule so that we could enjoy the holiday season more fully, and we knew we would all enjoy the Lego fun. This never sat right with me though. In seasons past when our busy-ness sapped our strength and joy, our schedule was (over) filled with fun, enjoyable things- no drudgery; yet the pace still wore on us. So I sensed that breaking our Sabbath boundary to avoid missing out on something fun and enjoyable was not going to work at all. I knew that every single weekend during this festival-and-party season, the prospect of something fun, memorable, important or educational would beckon to us, asking to be dropped into that emptied Sabbath calendar square. Still, I persisted. I told myself, “We’ll go to the Lego fest this one time, then that’s it- we’ll protect a Sabbath day each week through the end of the year.”
Two days before the big weekend, I went online to secure tickets. I had delayed, at first, because we were throwing around our scheduling options, and next due to reluctance mixed with a delusional belief that the less popular time slots wouldn’t sell out. In reality, all of the time slots for this hugely popular, once-every-two-years event sold out long before I got around to checking on tickets. So we didn’t go. After the excitement of their birthday party, the kids never even asked about the Lego event that weekend. They still haven’t- it just hasn’t come to mind. While I’m sure the event would have been a blast, I was surprised that there really was no sting in missing it. And we had a very restorative day at home instead.
That first experience illustrated to us the immense value of rest, and it revealed that the one obstacle that most often robs us of rest- the fear of missing out- is actually not a very formidable foe; it turns out that the thing we feared- the phantom prospect of missing out on something- never materialized at all. True, we did not attend the Lego event. But during our peaceful unplanned day spent at home, we did not miss it either.
This is how we started to implement the principles of Sabbath as a family. We continued this practice of keeping one weekend day clear for the rest of the year. We have enjoyed it so much that we are going to continue it indefinitely.
A quick look back:
Unbeknownst to me, this Sabbath idea was percolating at the beginning of 2016. Last year began with a post about The Big Rocks: Self-Care for Care Givers, which describes prioritizing items in your schedule which are of the most value to you, then fitting in less important or unimportant tasks around those big rocks. It seems as though the rest of last year was a slow, progressive implementation of that post as our family pared down our schedules and our possessions. That was providential because 2016 was indescribably stressful for me, with so many people, opinions and mistakes thrown into our well-established routine via the Medicaid hoops, nursing SNAFUs, invasion of our introvert sanctuary, the start and shuffling of twice-a-week therapies, the transition from ECI to the school system and ongoing nursing and Medicaid difficulties. This “Big Rocks” process of purposefully stewarding our time and energy protected my sanity last year. At the same time, I was completing an intensive spiritual discipleship program through our church which introduced me to the works of CS Lewis and other gifted Christian and Jewish theologians. As I studied, the themes of prioritizing my time and resources and seeking rest stood out to me, given my stress. Naturally this led to the study of the Sabbath, with is prominent in the Jewish theology I ventured into, and which is the subject of the Bible study I ultimately finished the year on (Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe).
A look ahead:
As I mentioned in the last post, however, this attention to rest and Sabbath results in less blogging. Or no blogging. So, while I have many topics and resources I would love to share, posts in 2017 may be sporatic. If you ever wish to check-in with us or ask a question, feel free to use the Contact button on the blog. We don’t expect any big medical changes for June this year, since she recently got her g-button out (WOOHOO), and her doctors want her trachea to grow for another year before re-evaluating options for another attempt at removing the trach. However, Greg is hoping to transition into a new professional field this year, so we are waiting to see what new adventure his school and career opportunities will bring to us as a family, in terms of our routine and location.
We are quite excited about the year ahead.
One week ago, the kids and I ventured out to the polls for early voting. The “big kids” (my 5-year-old, Rowan and my 3-year-old, June) had decided who they would vote for, hypothetically, by watching snippets of the debates. This was our pre-voting conversation- June contributing in ASL.
Me: OK, guys, let’s go vote!
June: I’m scared of boats.
Me: Not boat. Vote. V-O-T-E. [I showed her the ASL sign VOTE see here.]
June: Vote, not boat, V-O-T-E. What’s vote?
Me: It’s where I pick who I want to be in our government.
June: Who you vote for?
Me: I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.
Rowan: I’m voting for the same person, the girl in the red shirt [in the first debate].
June: I vote for the moon and stars.
Me: That sounds good, June. The election is very important because the people who we elect make decisions about our whole country.
Rowan: Maybe our president will help Ms. Clinton.
Me: Probably, because our president and Ms. Clinton are in the same political party.
June: OOh! I go vote. See the party.
Me: It’s a different kind of party. Ok, let’s go vote!
June: I vote. Not boat. With talker in my backpack. [Her new AAC device to communicate with people verbally.]
The kids and I excitedly made our way to the early voting location, which was conveniently located at a church that we frequent for Deaf ministry events.
Me: Ok now, we gotta be quiet while we choose.
Me: So other people can make their choices too. What’s happening here is very important.
Me: Well, whoever wins will be president until you are nine years old. And we want to pick the people who will make the choices that we want them to.
June: I pick the stars and moon and water.
While explaining our voting experience to Greg, later–
Rowan: We picked Ms. Clinton! She’s our president now.
Me: No, actually, we don’t know who won yet. Everyone in the country gets to vote, then only one person wins.
Rowan: Why is that?
Me: Because our country only has one president, and everyone gets to vote for which person they want to win. On election day we’ll keep track of it on a big map and find out who the next president is.
Tomorrow is the big day!
There has been a flurry of activity here in the Safari Household recently as we transition from our dino-mite summer back into our typical routine. Several posts are vying for very scarce editorial attention, and which one will triumph first is anyone’s guess. So in the meantime, I thought I’d share the topics of these posts which I hope to cover soon:
- Leaving Facebook- I left FB “for real,” as in deleted my personal account. I deactivated the FB page for this blog in the process, but you can still follow Yes This I Know on Twitter, Pinterest, RSS and by email.
- Continuation of the Nursing Saga- I reached my limit with dreading the nursing visits, and we “let one of our nurses go.” ***Joyously singing the Frozen song now*** Meaning I now only deal with one nurse visit per week.
- Crazy Heart Block Quilt– I am both thrilled and surprised that I finished this recently, just over a year after starting it while June was in the PICU recovering from her LTR (The project does not require anywhere near a year to complete; I say I’m surprised because I usually have to caplitalize on momentum to finish a big sewing project, and there’s just no momentum to be had on personal projects while parenting 3 kids under 5.)
- Special Needs Family Outings series- several posts about our travels and special needs travel decisions in general
- Reading- I’ve been in reading hyperdrive this year as a lot of varied topics have been important or intriguing to me, and unexpected connections seem to arise often between subjects or to ideas I’m mulling over at the time
- Homeschool Curriculum 2016-2017- homeschool planning posts are always exciting!
….and a couple of stragglers that might escape the drafts box onto the blog eventually. Maybe even a Quotes of the Day.
At the very beginning of this year, I shared why I am so excited to “homeschool” this fall. I use the quotes because most of the time, “homeschool” with my almost-4-year-old son and almost-2-year-old daughter is woven into everyday playing and errand running rather than appearing more “school-like,” such as doing worksheets at a table. But sometimes we do worksheets and crafts at the table, too. And sometimes our sole goal is to make it through the day. But ideally, these are the skills and activities we are aiming for in a given week.
Our “curriculum” is a hodgepodge of different things. I started my planning with the Letter of the Week Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler, which I’ll refer to as LOTW. It’s a great curriculum at an awesome price. It features one letter a week with accompanying blending ladders, a Bible verse, and optional Spanish language vocabulary, plus one shape and one color per month. However, the LOTW falls squarely in the middle of my kids’ current academic levels, as my son knows the content already but my daughter is not quite ready to tackle letters. But the crafts and activities are so cute, I decided to plug in and/or modify any LOTW activities I could into the content areas that are important to us. This is the list of categories we are working on this fall and what we are using for these subjects:
June does parts of the LOTW curriculum including an introduction to the letter in written, spoken, and ASL form and some large letter or coloring pages which don’t require advanced fine motor control. I don’t think she’s quite ready to learn the alphabet, but I think she’ll enjoy being introduced to the ASL alphabet concurrently since many of the ASL signs she knows already utilize the letter handshapes.
Rowan occasionally uses some of the letter crafts from LOTW which require more fine motor control, like lacing. Additionally, he has sight words on the felt board and letter discs to match to interesting words (both very cool activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler). At this point, we just want Rowan to have access to things he’s interested in, rather than dragging him down any specific path or timeline. And with access to our local BBBS resale sites and a big homeschool resale store, we can try out different things without investing a ton in each rescoure. Rowan is quite interested in letters and reading, but he *really* wants to do everything himself. He has maintained interest in the sight word felt board and letter discs, with game-like pieces that can be used independently. But engagement with the more directed, school-like activities have fizzled out very fast with him, including Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Bad fit for now! Maybe when he’s older), Bob books (I think he’ll like them once he can read them himself without prompting and supervision from us) and Explode the Code (The uncertainty of what word the drawing is representing greatly frustrated *me,* so we set that one aside for now). He can also complete lessons on ABC Mouse, but even in the guided lessons mode, the difficulty of the work seems to vary widely, and his engagement with it is hit and miss.
I separated actual reading from the “language arts” category above, which contains skills needed to read like letter recognition, letter sounds, phonics and blending. For “actual reading,” I strive to read to the kids each day, signing along with the book in June’s case and having Rowan read frequently occurring words or sound some out from the story. Thankfully, both kids love snuggling up with a book- with or without someone reading it to them!
Both kids can participate in these activities, which involve moving, balancing, and generally jumping around. The LOTW curriculum has a few activities and we also find fun ones on Toddler Approved like Alphabet Pillow Jumping and via Pinterest like Toddler Color Hop from Learn~Play~Imagine. But mostly the kids take care of this category all by themselves. They are forever climbing on furniture and building obstacle courses with the couch cushions.
*A few notes on this:
1. This is how the kids get their exercise when we’re cooped up for RSV season. Or when it’s too hot to go outside. Ok, anytime they’re bouncing off the walls but we can’t go out, really.
2. Yes, this is the usual state of my house currently. Unless it’s Monday. That’s pick-up-and-vacuum day.
3. That formless mass of energy is in fact Rowan. I think it captured him quite nicely.
4. June’s looking on like, “I got next.”
This is an area we emphasize with June because her history of prematurity, frequent hospital stays and her mild hypotonia all impede her natural process of learning these skills, somewhat. Even with all of these factors, she does very well in this area. So mainly we try to offer a variety of activities to keep her practicing. LOTW includes tracing, cutting, and prewriting practice sheets which I sometimes provide to June, but they are a little advanced for her. Mostly, we provide dry erase surfaces or regular coloring activities for her to practice holding markers and crayons, and we get the felt board out with felt shapes of different sizes for June to play with. Much of the fine motor practice occurs naturally with household objects like picking up small toys, coins, and stickers, using latches and buttons on educational toys, and building with blocks. Signing is also a huge fine motor work out. We always model the correct execution of signs, and occasionally we focus on correcting June’s handshape or placement when we feel that she might be ready to perform a certain sign more correctly. I anticipate that her interest in the ASL alphabet will propel both her signing accuracy and fine motor skills forward this fall.
For Rowan we replaced the LOTW letter writing activities with a dry erase handwriting pack (Lets Get Ready for School Activity Pack: Letters) and making our own word tracing worksheets which Rowan chooses the content for (translation: he’s tracing dinosaur names). Rowan also gets much more than his daily quota of fine motor practice in by playing with Legos.
Both of the kids are naturally interested in these activities, so we make various options available around the house including puzzles (toddler for June and preschool for Rowan), blocks and Legos. We try to point out or make patterns in every day play. Occasionally I also try to get the kids interested in the mazes and object hunt activities in their kid magazines- without much success; here again, self-directed activities are WAY more fruitful than mom-directed ones.
Because she cannot vocalize with the trach currently, American Sign Language is June’s only mode for expressive communication. We play at least one Signing Time episode in the background during playtime every day. Usually several. The kids love it , and they know more than half of the signs in the series already. As part of our morning routine when we update the board with the day of the week, we sign the days of the week, numbers up to the current day, and review the signs for colors with the Rainbow Song from Signing Time. Greg and I are really striving to sign concurrently when we talk throughout the day, but that is challenging because true ASL is not a word-for-word translation of spoken English; even the basic sentence structure differs between the two. But we always sign when communicating in basic sentences with June and when reading to her.
Art and Music
Art activities occur naturally around our house as well, and as part of the other learning categories. Rowan likes to excavate dinosaur toys from playdough. June likes to write with anything, on anything right now. My written objective is to do letter, shape, and color crafts along with our current LOTW curriculum, but those are good intentions that just don’t happen, especially since the kids are self-directed in this area anyway.
For music, we listen primarily to Dinosaur Train and Jurassic Park (Rowan’s picks), Signing Time songs (June’s picks) and pop music (my picks) on my iPhone, YouTube or the radio. Listening naturally develops into recognizing the rhythm, notes, and new vocabulary (English and ASL). I’m always on the lookout for NON-ANNOYING educational songs on YouTube that the kids like. Current favorites are StoryBots, Signing Time/Rachel and the Treeschoolers, and Coilbook.
We opted not to use the LOTW curriculum for counting activities because I felt we had ample opportunities to count during the day without printing many-paged activities out specifically for that purpose. For June, we often count up to 5, like counting the medicine syringes she’s receiving (#medicallycomplexlife) and for Rowan, we often count up to 20 by counting up to the date, estimating the number of crackers etc we pour, and talking through simple addition and subtraction word problems that come up during the day. We also have a Let’s Get Ready for School Activity Pack for numbers, but I don’t plan to use that until a later date when we venture into written math problems.
This is everyone’s favorite. I try to do one simple science experiment a week that we improvise, like vinegar and baking soda variations, freezing stuff, or our weight capacity of boxes experiment, or experiments that stumble upon online, like Magic Milk from Lemon and Lime Adventures, DIY Dino Excavation Kits from Live, Craft, Love, or the Solar System Scale Model with toilet paper from Adventures in Learning. Baking and cooking fall under this category, too, because any homeschool activity that results in chocolate for me is a winner.
We have to stay away from crowds and close contact with kids during the winter time due to June’s susceptibility to respiratory viruses, particularly RSV. We also remain sheltered when June has a critical procedure coming up. But whenever possible, we make up for lost time and jump on [economical] opportunities to learn “in the field” whether it’s nature observations at the park, community/holiday events, free museum days and discounted family memberships to a favorite spot (“the dinosaur museum” and the zoo). So much learning occurs naturally as we encounter the unexpected on these outings, like when we happened upon a giant iguana (with its baby sitter) sunbathing on the steps outside the Natural Science museum. The kids are so curious and observant at this age, even trips to the grocery store are educational, as they ask about people they see, our food choices and how money works.
Those are our goals this fall! We think of this list more like a flexible guide to our intentions rather than a to-do checklist. Life gets very busy at the Safari House, but thankfully, many of these objectives are accomplished through natural play. In fact, with a newborn on the way in early September, I’m certain that in upcoming weeks those “naturally occurring” objectives are the only ones which will get done. That’s totally okay. Forecasts predict a season of Legos and couch slides in the future.
Here it is, the Hospital Playlist Top 10 that I mentioned when complaining about the insufficiency of Christian music several posts back. I’ll post another list exclusively of “Christian” songs that deserve recognition since not many can edge out the ‘not-specifically-Christian’ competitors below. This isn’t a collection of my favorite songs; typically I listen to lighter songs with guitar and thoughtful lyrics. But this doesn’t do for hospital stays. Something about the mood, beat or lyrics of this assorted list meshes well with the hospital life:
In no particular order:
The Show Goes On- Lupe Fiasco
What I like about it: Determination, overcoming hardship. The hospital stay inspires reflection on your life as a whole, so I identify with these themes not just in light of June’s health but in light of the rocky parts of my history as well.
Lyrics Highlight: Anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
Just remember when you come up
The show goes on
Along These Same Lines: Lighters- Bad Meets Evil feat Bruno Mars
Little Talks- Of Monsters and Men
What I Like About It: I like the folksy trend seeping into the pop music scene in this band and ones like Mumford and Sons. I love to hear the variety of instruments used to create a multilayered sound and rhythm.
Lyrics Highlight: Although the truth may vary,
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Along These Same Lines: All Right- Fun
Remind Me Who I Am- Jason Gray
What I Like About It: I love Jason Gray. My favorite song of his is actually “Without Running Away,” and it will be featured on the upcoming Christian list. But that song doesn’t speak specifically to my hospital stay self. This one is a good, simple refocusing song for when my focus is all over the place during the hospital chaos.
Lyrics Highlight:In the loneliest places,
When I can’t remember what grace is.
Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You.
Along These Same Lines: 10,0000 Reasons- Matt Redmon
21 Guns- Green Day
What I Like About It: Emotion on a grand scale; something about how it’s composed makes it sound epic, like listening to a weighty piece of literature in a 3 minute song format. A few songs I’ve highlighted here, including this one, have been called “rock ballads;” maybe that’s the name for what I’m trying to describe.
Lyrics Highlight: One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
Along These Same Lines: Sail- AWOLNATION
Thrift Shop- Macklemore
What I Like About It: I love Macklemore. He’s talented musically, he takes on daring topics counter to his own genre’s culture, and he openly shares his journey toward sobriety. And often his songs are equal parts juvenile, unique and entertaining.
Lyrics Highlight: They be like, “Oh, that Gucci – that’s hella tight.”
I’m like, “Yo – that’s fifty dollars for a T-shirt.”
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition
Fifty dollars for a T-shirt – that’s just some ignorant shit
I call that getting swindled and pimped
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt’s hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t
Along These Same Lines: Can’t Hold Us- Macklemore
Southern Hospitality (“Cadillac Grills”)- Ludacris
What I Like About It: Unapologetic grandiosity, aggression. This is one of my favorite songs for hospital stays, and I do realize that blasting these misogynistic lyrics and explicit sex and drug references from my oversized mommy-Prius with a Citizen’s Police Academy license plate frame on the back creates quite a spectacle. But having a child in the ICU turns you into a walking adrenaline gland. Your senses stay heightened, whether you’re at the bedside or in line at McDonalds. You are in protection mode and can deftly handle any crisis, anytime. You’re also aware of often being underestimated, and you’re quick to sense others’ attempts to dismiss, overlook, or neglect you or your child. Your “JUST TRY ME” stare is always close at hand. You’ll throw some ‘bows if need be.
Lyrics Highlight: Throw them ‘bows
Liquor Store Blues- Bruno Mars
What I Like About It: The bluesy feel contrasted with the faster-than-blues pace and rhythym of the lyrics.
Lyrics Highlight: Standing at this liquor store
Whiskey comin through my pores
Feelin like I run this whole block
Along These Same Lines (marginally?): One Song Glory- Rent Soundtrack
Let Her Go- Passenger
What I Like About It: This is the only slow song that makes the cut here, but the lyrics are beautiful and reflective without being sappy or sad. It goes with a certain emotionally charged, pensive mood that the hospital brings about. See their other song linked below for the polar opposite- a light hearted, somewhat crude pub song.
Lyrics Highlight:You only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Along These Same Lines: I Hate- Passenger
Shake It Off- Taylor Swift
What I Like About It: I know this is overplayed, but I haven’t gotten tired of it. I like the message, and I’m impressed with her seeming authenticity as an artist. This is also one of my favorite songs to watch as a sign language interpretation.
Lyrics Highlight: It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind
Sayin it’s gonna be alright
Along These Same Lines: All About That Bass- Meghan Trainor
Cruise- Florida Georgia Line
What I Like About It: It’s a “country crossover” song so it has a unique sound. It’s mostly about driving, something I love and I’m usually doing when I listen to music so it’s an enjoyable commute soundtrack.
Lyrics Highlight: In this brand new Chevy with a lift kit
Would look a helluva lot better with you up in it
[I had to ask a true country person- an Aggie 😉 – what this lyric was because it sounded like lift kick to me, so I always laugh at myself here]
Along These Same Lines: California 37- Train