Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mixed Signal Communication and Dream Lites

It is the end of Signing Time.  The blocks crash to the floor and the utensils held in Ellie's tiny hands are frozen in mid-air.  Ellie, my hyperactive, cannot-sit-still Ellie is staring, mesmerized by the TV.  An "Eee  Yay!" excitedly escapes from her lips.

It can only mean one thing.

That ridiculous commercial for Pillow Pets Dream Lites is on.

It happens every. single. time. that blasted advertisement comes on.  And I want to puke, pull my hair out, scream, click off the TV.

While many children are purusing the toy catalogs and making wishlists for Santa, my daughter has no idea that in just a few weeks there will be a slew of presents just for her underneath the Christmas tree.  Of course, it might help if we were to put the tree up.  Ellie's cannot exactly tell us in words what she wants for Christmas and if I show her a toy ad from the paper, she just tears it or shouts "BALL!" so instead I have been analyzing various toys and learning resources in hopes of finding educational toys.

Yet, a girl needs to have some fluff!  A toy that has no hidden agenda.  A frivolous toy.

Ellie's persistent excitement over the Dream Lite commercial has led me to believe one of two things:
1. She really likes the music in the commercial "dream lite. sleep tight. starry night."
2. She actually wants a Dream Lite

This Mama Bear was not going to ignore this communication from her daughter!  First, I had to consult Facebook.  Can she actually sleep with the blasted thing?  Yes. Where can I find this?  CVS, Target, Walgreens, Ross, Amazon.  Who has it the cheapest?  Ross, at $20 vs. $29.99.

My baby toddler girl was going to a get a Dream Lite from Santa.  Although in the back of my mind, I was still wondering if she truly wanted the toy, but rather just really liked the commercial.  I pulled up the Dream Lites website on the iPad and figured she would most likely want the Penguin of the Puppy. I showed her the pics.

She pointed at the Penguin.

Then she said "gah" and signed dog.  [gah =  dog]


I repeated this process a few times over the next few days.  Same result.  Talk about mixed signals. So does she want the penguin and is signing the dog only because she see the dog or does she actually want the dog?   I was so confused.

At this point, I was starting to become concerned about the Dream Lite supply at Ross and I did the only thing a mother could do.  I took Ellie with me.  To buy a present from Santa.

There was only ONE Dream Lite left.

It was the penguin.

Oh good!  Oh crud!  What if she really wanted the dog?

The Princess sees the Dream Lite in my hands and screams "GAH" and signs Dog.

I suppose that answers that.  The penguin IS a dog in her eyes.  I supposed she wasn't sending mixed messages after all.

As for if she really wanted the Dream Lite.  That would be a resounding YES!  For she yanked it out of the cart and held it the entire time we were in the store.  She then cried when I had to give it to the cashier.  The penguin Dream Lite is now safely hidden away for Santa to deliver.

For other gift ideas (fun, but also educational), visit Ellie's Holiday Gift Ideas.

*I actually have nothing against the Dream Lite toy itself (just the annoying commercial), unless they make noise.  They don't make noise, do they?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Ellie's Holiday Gift Ideas

Ellie Bellie is one spoiled Bearity Bear.  She has several toys that are both exciting to her as well as therapeutic.  What that means is that while these toys may help develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, elicit communication and social interaction they are also a great deal of fun for all children.  Additionally, you can sneak in teaching your child shapes, colors, letters, and counting.  I have also included some toys that help with sensory issues as well.

Chunky Chicken has many of these toys already and a few are on my her wishlist.  I would like to thank Sandra over at We Can Do All Things for giving me the idea to write this post.  More gift ideas can be found over on her blog.

B Sugar Chute Gumball Machine

This toy is excellent for developing fine motor skills for there are three ways to get the balls out of the machine-twisting a knob, pushing down on a lever, and moving a knob forward.  Of course there is also just turning the toy upside down sending the balls ricocheting everywhere and setting your cats on a wild, ball-frenzied rampage.  If your child is like my daughter, this toys is great for communication.  "Ball.  BALL BALL BALL BALL!!!!!!"
The B Gumball Machine is what I like to call the "payback gift".  It is for all of you parents out there whose children have received loud, lights flashing, annoying music gifts in the past.  You know what I am talking about.  The ones where the batteries mysteriously disappear and you tell your child that the toy is "sleeping".  Yeah.  Those toys. Well, this seemingly innocuous toy is the perfect "payback gift".   Recall what I mentioned about the balls ricocheting?  Those balls will end up all over your house.  Just prime for tripping over them.

Fisher Price Learning Piggy Bank

Ellie has been playing with this bad boy for over 2 years now.  This piggy is great for teaching colors and counting.  Of course, it also helps with fine motor skills.  Now, the Bear just likes to carry the coins around in her purse (along with her kitchen utensils) and as thus, I am counting that as pretend play.  She is going shopping.  Maybe she will start to pay for dinner once in a while.  Even more exciting is that the toy works without batteries.  As in, you can turn off the songs!  Although, the songs are actually not that annoying "Oh I'm a piggy bank.  I have a piggy snout. . . "  For children who enjoy putting objects "in" and then taking them "out", this piggy bank is a winner.

Mr. Potato Head

"It's Mr. Potato Head and his bucket of parts.  Buckets of fun for everyone!"  You don't remember that little jungle?  Really?  Come on! I am not that old!

The obvious is that your child will gnaw on his delectable shoes, ears, hat,  and glasses.  Oh wait, that is Ellie.  Body parts.  This is a great way to teach body parts.  Hold out two options and have your child request by pointing to the body part on herself.  Or have her sign shoes, hat, glasses.  These pieces can be rather tricky to insert so again on developing fine motor skills.  There is also a big sensory input on this one.  Ever try to remove the pieces?  It is as though you need the strength of ten oxen.  Just me?  Yes, I am a wimp.  Anyway, the act of pulling out those stubborn pieces provides good sensory feedback.

Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Stack and Roll Cups

This seemingly simple (and cheap!) toy works on counting, colors, stacking, and nesting.  If you notice, you can also make balls out of placing two corresponding cups together.  Ellie loves to do this.  She also loves to then throw the ball on the floor to separate the pieces.  I do not recommend this although I completely understand why she does this.  For starters, it can be rather difficult to separate the balls and heaven forbid I have her work some more on her fine motor skills, but she also receives great satisfaction in watching the pieces go in two separate directions.  Cause and Effect.

Melissa & Doug Farm Animals Puzzle or any Peg Puzzle

Do not, I repeat, do not put the batteries into any of the M&D sound puzzles. . . unless you enjoy listening to the sounds of dying animals.  Or you take great pleasure in being startled by a painful sound emitting from the puzzle at random times even when not playing with it.  Clearly I am fixated on fine motor skills here, but these types of puzzles have the picture behind the pieces thus making it a wonderful tool for matching.  Puzzles are also great for communication.  I hold up one piece at a time and the Bear doesn't get the piece until she either signs or tries to say the animal.  That's right, I make Ellie work for her puzzle pieces.

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board

This toy is clearly to teach your child how to get past those pesky child-proof locks or well, any lock for that matter.  Have a keepsake trunk that you keep latched with your antiques?  Bam!  Babycakes can now open that trunk.  Window latches?  Bingo!

Learning Resources 1-2-3 Puzzle Blocks

I am not going to state the obvious here.  This one is on Bear's wishlist so I am not able to give you an accurate review of this.
Same with the one below.

Learning Resources A-B-C Puzzle Blocks

Shopping cart.  Any shopping cart.

Clearly this toy is so that you can have a successful shopping experience at Target.  All kidding aside.  This toy is not only great for pretend play, but it can also help with those gross motor skills.  Pushing a toy is helpful for an early walker.  Have a child with sensory issues?  Weigh down the shopping cart and your child can do heavy work to self-regulate herself.  (toy food included, baby dolls not)

Fisher Price-Bath and Training Set

Given Ellie's propensity to toss her baby into the bath with her, my friend thought it would be appropriate to give the baby her own bath and potty. Be forewarned, the toilet makes noise--"ta da ta ta da!"  There is an off switch which you might want to utilize if your child is like mine.  Ellie just liked to sit there and repeatedly open-close the play toilet seat so she could hear the exciting sound.  (baby in picture not included)

Signing Time!

You have to trust me on this.  Yes, I know it seems a little wonky that your child would plaster herself to the TV to watch a lady in an orange sweater with multi-colored band-aids on her fingers, but it is true.  Kids. Love. Signing. Time.   We started Ellie off on the Baby Signing Time series since it is more cartoonish and there is more signing (I recommend Disc 1 & 2 for beginners).  These DVDs  equal toddler crack.  Now, she watches the regular Signing Time videos ( I recommend Zoo Train, Leah's Farm, Family Feelings and Fun, My Favorite Things; Ellie recommends My School, My Favorite Sport [BALL BALL BALL!], Playtime Signs).  My daughter can communicate using sign language thanks to this series.  She also learned to sight-read a few words.  If it wasn't for this show and Ellie's ability to sign, there would be a lot more tantrums in this house.  These shows also entertain her on long car rides.  I also wouldn't get the chance to sit down and blog.   Oh wait. . . no no, I do not use Signing Time as a baby sitter. (fyi, occasionally these DVDs are cheaper on Amazon).

The Hopper

You can get any hopper really, but I prefer the Ball Bounce Sport Fun Hopper because it is really sturdy and similar to a mini yoga ball with a handle.  Ellie is still a bit small for this and still needs our help, but this ball is great for that excess energy or if she is craving motor sensory input.  Bounce!  Bounce! Bounce!  For those of you with younger children trying to develop core strength for kneeling, sitting, crawling, and walking, this is a good, cheap (only $10) alternative to those large yoga balls in the PT's clinic.

I hope that this list gives many of you gift ideas when you are out shopping.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us Turkeys!

May your stuffing be tasty
 May your turkey (or ribs if you are Texan) be plump (deep-fried),
May your potatoes and gravy (creamed corn & BBQ sauce)
 Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious 
 And your pies (4-way pie that is) take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner 
 Stay off your THIGHS!
~Author Unknown

Just another typical mother-daughter photo.
One of these days we will get it right!

That's better!

Look at Ellie's stink eye in the right-hand picture.

Why yes, my husband is indeed wearing shorts.  It was 80 degrees today.  Yes, I over-dressed my daughter because this mama bear is in complete denial about having Thanksgiving outside in warm weather.  I expect snow.  Or at least a coat.  Or at the very least long-sleeves and socks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. I am thankful for my husband's awesome smoked ribs and Rico's deep-fried turkey.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just a Little Muchier Muchness

Ellie Bear and I are hanging out over on Just a Little Muchier Muchness where I am a guest blogger:

Thanksgiving Project: Anna & Ellie Bear

Be sure to check out the rest of Tiffany's blog.  She is a fabulous writer and her blog offers a lot of insight into parenting a school-aged child (Elise!!!) with Ds.


Monday, November 19, 2012

No explanation

Jillian told me when she snapped this picture of The Princess wedged in the IKEA shelf "I have no explanation for this".  Yeah, me neither.  Sometimes Ellie does things that make no sense to me, but I am certain they make perfect sense to her.  Nonetheless, this girl keeps me laughing and keeps me on my toes!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Bear of Destruction

Is under the weather. . . Even sick bears can find ways to create chaos and trash the house.

Climbing.  Check.  The Bear has to stay hydrated.  Apparently, it requires standing on top of her baby's head to accomplish this.

. . . and sitting on top of the island.

Throwing blocks, nesting cups, play food, and baby all throughout the house. Check.  She gets bonus points for caring out her destruction into 3+ rooms.

Acting as though the TV is a really large iPad.  Check.

Eating 2.5 donuts.  Check.  Sick Bear needs to keep up her strength.

I am adamant that this adorable little girl goes to school tomorrow.  The house (and mommy) may not survive otherwise.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Texas Neighbors

Andrew and I are ever so fortunate to have some of the greatest, caring neighbors.  We help each other out in a time of need.  Emergency babysitting?  Check.  Emergency check-in the puppy/kitty/birds?  Check.   An urgent need for pinking sheers?  Check.

King of the Hill: Sort of like this, but not quite. . . 

I can pop on by next door for a cup of sugar.  If I were to cook.  Or for a shot gun.

Oh wait, I didn't exactly borrow the shot gun.  Or the hunting rifle or whatever type of fire arm it was.

This here is my driveway.

This here is the small smattering off trees behind my house.  Behind that a highway.  It is noisy.  I would like new sound proof windows, but that doesn't really fit into this post.  Moving on.

Saturday afternoon.  Ellie is napping.  Andrew is in Spain.  Yes, the country in Europe.  I am left to fend for myself so I lie down for a little siesta and hear:


My thoughts were "what on earth are Amelie and Tama (the possessed cats) doing again?" and "Thank you, Sophie for not barking and waking The Bear up."

I roll over.


At this point, I believe that a large bird or some small animal like an armadillo flew/was tossed into my window.  Nope, just a few friendly Texans with cell phone cameras and a gun in my driveway.

Me when I looks out my kitchen window.
Yes, my hair looks like that all the time.

Ah Hah!  Those were gun shots. Why on Earth didn't Sophie-dog alert the motherland?

A poor buck got hit on the highway.  His back legs were in tatters with flies circling all around.  He dragged himself through the woods onto my driveway.  Right by my car.   My kitty, Amelie, was trying to get in on the action.

Fortunately, my neighbor and his son (who was visiting) noticed the suffering little deer and put him out of his misery.  I gasped.  Cried.  And took a picture, of course.  No, I am not posting on here.   Then, I pleaded with my neighbors to help me properly dispose of him.  Thankfully, they know what a wuss I am when it comes to injured animals and took care of the poor deer for me.  Did I mention that I have great neighbors?

What I was visualizing--those big eyes, the antlers, sweet innocence.

My neighbor had called and left a message to say he would be using a gun on my property.  Unfortunately, I believe he called a different Anna.  Also, unfortunately, my other not-so-nice neighbor who I never go to for anything didn't get a phone call either.  He isn't social so no one has his number.  He does own a phone though because he used it to call 911.

So we all got a friendly visit from the Sheriff.  I really like that my "not-so-nice" neighbor was looking out for all of us.  Even being in Texas and all where nearly everyone (except for me apparently) totes a gun around and gunshots can go unnoticed, he did the right thing by calling the police.  Luckily, in this case, it was a deer that was put out of his misery, but sadly, there are too many instances where gunshots cause deadly harm to humans.

Lessons learned:
1. If you ever need a gun, visit your Texan neighbor.
2. If you plan on shooting wildlife in a semi-populated area like say a subdivision, notify the police first because your other neighbors will call alarmed.
3. Things always happen when Andrew is inaccessible.
4. I clearly did not know what a shot gun sounded like before this.
5. I need a new guard dog but Miss Sophie was clearly slacking.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I will never forget

Lately, I have been joking about Ellie's recent weight gain, thus happily reinstating the "Chunky Chicken" nickname that she earned when she was a wee, chubby baby with rolls.

My little girl has never needed to worry about food.  She always knows that she will get to eat and mostly likely will have a few choices of what to eat.  She never had boiling hot, watered-down gruel shoved down her throat via a bottle with the nipple cut off.  She never had spilling out of her mouth, soiling her clothing because she couldn't swallow fast enough or because she was not receiving reflux medications.

Ellie is 3 years-old and weighs 28 lbs.

Many children in Eastern Europe, residing in orphanages or institutions are severely malnourished and underweight.  Many children who are adopted from these regions are brought home weighing half of what Ellie weighs.  Some of these children are so malnourished that they are immediately admitted to the hospital as soon as their plane touches U.S. soil.

Throughout this blog, I have shared adorable photographs of the Princess Ellie demonstrating her rocking climbing skills and playing with her blocks, baby doll, stuffed puppy, books, or plastic utensils.  She has been given ample opportunities to explore her environment all while knowing that her mommy is near by to shower her with love and praise.  Myself and various therapists have worked with Ellie to help her develop her gross and fine motor skills.  Thus enabling her to navigate her world.

How can a child learn to sit up, crawl or even walk if he is left in a crib or tethered to a chair?  How can she learn to feed herself, turn the pages or a book, or even build a block tower if she does not have access to toys?

Many children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Apert's syndrome, or other "defects" are deemed unworthy of life and are placed in institutions throughout Eastern Europe.  Their parents are advised that this is "what's best for them".  Yes, it does sound a bit like us 30 years ago.  Sadly, these orphanages and institutions are not healthy environments.  Their may be overcrowding.  The staff uncaring or overworked.  Supplies are scarce.  Diapers may be reused.  As in the disposable kind.  The children are often left for hours on end in their cribs.  They do not have much human interaction.  No love.  No one to read to them.  No one to hold them.  No one to cheer them.

These children are not forgotten.  Not by me and not by many of my dear friends.

Jane, my fellow UK blogging buddy, is very adamant that my hair will be a glorious color of the rainbow by Christmas.  Our goal of $3,000 for Bobby is nearly halfway met.  In fact, Jane was just in Kalinovka--the remote institution where our Bobby lives.  The location where the Happy Child Fund is constructing the 2nd House That Love Built.  FORGET ME NOT!

Bobby 50

The Forget Me Not has its own Blogger Platform now.  Jane has spearheaded it and would like the word to get out as she is having a rather difficult time gaining followers and thus spreading awareness about these children.  Please head on over to the Forget Me Nots and click that little "share" button.

Even if it is not possible to donate (believe me funds are tight!) or you are loathe to see me with an unnatural hair color, share share share.  Perhaps one person will see Bobby and KNOW that he is her/his son.  Perhaps another person, perhaps with a rather large checkbook, would be moved.  Or, even if you have just $1.00.  If every follower on this blog were to donate $1.00, our Bobby's fund would grow by nearly $200.  Jane has huge giveaway going on right now over of the Forget Me Not so be sure to check it out.

Of course, I am not just stopping with Bobby.

Maggie.  Darling Maggie is a little girl who is just one month younger than my Ellie.  That's right, she just turned 3 years-old and has spent 3 years without a family.  She has cerebral palsy and desperately needs a home.  Early intervention and love would help little Maggie thrive.  This little girl has been so heavy on Christie's heart.  So very heavy that doesn't know what to do to help her.  Christie has been selling Scentsy product like there is no tomorrow with a pledge to donate all of her earnings to Maggie's fun.  If you want more information on her Scentsy sale, please contact me.

Finally, I cannot end this post without showing you my Tabitha and Elden.

ANNOUNCING:  Tabitha has a family!!!!!  I do not know any details yet, but it just recently happened.  Her photographed has been moved to the My Family Found Me Page!!!!!!

This young boy has a HUGE fund.  Where is his family?

For more information about why I am passionate about these chidden, vies this video with a large box of Kleenex.

I heart Quiznos: friends, communication, and behavior

Oh my goodness, Anna!  Where have you been?  K and I were just talking about how we haven't seen you and Ellie in a while.  You okay?  How does she like school?    D genuinely asks as I inhale the smell of toasted cheese and fresh bread.  Ellie is making a beeline to the high chair while signing "eat".  She is excited and was shouting "Yay.  Oh yeah. Oh yeah." and clapping just moments before.

We are at one of our favorite places.  Quizno's. The Q.

You might think it is odd just how often we go to Quizno's or perhaps strange that I am dedicating an entire post to our favorite eatery.  Yet, I am here to tell you Quizno's is not just an restaurant.  It is a place filled with friends and a place that has helped my daughter blossom in so many ways.

Reason #1 for Ellie's 2 lb weight gain in the past month.

Friendship and Social Interaction

Quizno's is my Cheers.  Ellie and I frequent the delectable sandwich shop every single week.  This means that I know every single person who works at our local Quiznos and that I now consider them my friends.  I know their spouses and the ages of their children.  They all know all about Ellie and me (and about Andrew).  Did you know that if business is slow, D or A sit down and chat with us?  Did you know that every single worker knows our order by heart?  Even the new workers?  That is what happens when you are consistent like that.

They have patience as they watch Ellie order her meal.  Every worker there is now fluent in signing for sandwichcookie, and water.  They also know The Bear's little idiosyncrasies --i.e. Ellie will not eat the flatbread if it is cut in half or in triangles.  It must be whole.  A dash or oregano is acceptable.  Cheese or turkey are not.  Eating the flatbread outside of Quiznos such as getting the order to-go is absolutely not okay.  She will not consume it unless it is served to her on the premises.

The customers who frequent the Q are also wonderful.  They wave at Ellie and smile.  We have never once received an inappropriate stare or glare, even when Ellie screamed "DIE" [Bye] to the entire restaurant.  It is also were I met my emailing buddy Karen.

Left: Blowing kisses at some young man.  She is starting young with the whole flirting thing.
Right: Signing "cookie".  She seems to think a stranger will let her eat the cookie before the flatbread.
She was wrong.

Communication and Behavior

Since we have started eating at Quizno's, I have witnessed my daughter expanding her vocabulary--"sandwich please", "more cookie please"-- signs with vocalizations.  We have also worked on several behavior therapy goals.  For instance, she has learned to wait for her food without screaming.  She must wait for me to order, for the sandwich to be made, and for me to check out.  It was tough at first, but she is making great strides.  The Q is also a great place for her to practice sitting like a big girl and not throwing food/cup/napkins.  She still occasionally gives into that temptation of tossing that sippy cup, but the frequency has dramatically decreased.  My girl also knows the routine of signing "all done", wiping her face, and then wiping the table.  We joke that she needs a job wiping down the tables at the Q.

Ellie is under the mistaken impression that she works at Quizno's.

Motor Skills

Quiznos was where my daughter first walked all the way from the car and up the curb to the restaurant without being carried or falling or pulling a boneless toddler routine.  (Yes, the Bear will walk the distance for flatbread).  They have a few steps up to the side walk and we have worked on Ellie mastering the stairs while holding onto one of my fingers.

Bribery and Rewards

I always say "Find what motivates your child".  The Bear's motivator: double chocolate cookie from Quizno's.  Oh yes.  The Chunky Chicken cooperated at Target last week just to obtain this yummy, chocolaty treat.  The haircut.  She was completely distracted by the fact that I had rather large scissors snipping away at her locks of love on her sensory-sensitive head all because she was chowing down on that cookie.  After The Bear gets her blood drawn, you guessed it, Quiznos.

As you can see Quizno's is not just an eatery and hence why it was deserving of its own post.  Quiznos is a place to get the ever so yummy chicken carbonara on wheat bread.  Yet, it is also a place for friendship.  It is a place where I can have an adult conversation when this mama bear is so desperate for interaction beyond alternating signing, silence, and screaming.  It is a place where I know that my picky eater will actually eat.  It is where my Ellie can practice communicating her needs via signs as well as practice good eating behaviors.  Where Ellie can work on various behavior goals and demonstrate her social skills.  Our local Quizno's is where my 3 year-old little girl is a valued customer.  They are our "village".

*Thank you to D, A, K, J, and A.
**Yes, I really do love Quizno's.  I have not received anything for writing this post. I have made friends at Quizno's and witnessed many developmental milestones in my little girl eating/socializing at the Mmm mmm toasty sandwich shop.*


A mask for kids with Down syndrome

Do you hear crickets?  Yes, we are here!  We are alive!  We are safe and healthy!  We haven't been inside a restaurant or store since m...