Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – school, summer, splash pads, and schedules

I’m joining This Ain’t the Lyceum today for the Seven Quick Takes link up! Head over and read some other interesting, humorous, and uplifting thoughts from the past week 🙂 The topic this week is supposed to be book-related but I didn’t know until too late – still, I’m looking forward to reading about other people’s recent reads!

  1. Almost every school in our area is back in session (some have been for several weeks already), but the highs are still over 100 most days, we’re still in the middle of monsoon season, and it just generally feels like summer. Kids are walking past our house every morning towards the elementary school in their put-together outfits with their backpacks full and my three are hanging out in their underwear eating popsicles and asking to watch a movie…
  2. The quite enjoyable side effect of school having started again is that all the fun places to cool off in the heat are mostly empty! The splash pads, for example, are no longer crowded! And we have some epic splash pads near us. This week we’ve been exploring the Cloud at Kiwanis since we’re in the area for swim lessons anyway:

    How cool is it to have a splash pad that thunders and pours like a rain storm at the end of each cycle? Rondel would get so excited every time the thunder started, just running around waving his hands, and Limerick would tell me, “the rain is starting, the rain is starting!”

  3. The other nice thing about this splash pad is the large non-sandy playground adjacent to it, ideal for my skinny kid who gets cold after five minutes in the water. Being a climber by nature as well, Limerick tends to spend most of his time on the playground, returning to the splash pad periodically to cool down again. He doesn’t always like me to take pictures of him (which is why I often have more of the other two), but he was quite proud of himself for climbing up to the top and hanging in all kinds of crazy positions!

    4. I’ve noticed that all my kids will try to copy each other if they notice one of them doing something new or different. They do so, however, in wildly different ways. When Rondel saw Limerick swinging off the metal pole, he wanted to do exactly that same thing, and tried to climb up the swirly metal ladder – but his anxiety and fear of heights kept him from going quite as high, and I had to coach him back down (which is actually something I’m super proud of him for – not too long ago he would have panicked so much I would have had to lift him down). Aubade, on the other hand, picked a nearby ladder so she wouldn’t have to wait for the boys to clear off theirs and headed up, making it to the top repeatedly and trying again even after falling from the top rung.

  4. Rondel and Aubade’s primary differences (sweet vs. fierce, cautious vs. fearless) show up in their pretend play at the park too (Rondel here is a baby inside an egg about to hatch. I am not sure what is going on inside Aubade’s mind!)
  5. Swim lessons (the reason we’ve been at Kiwanis) are also a lot less crowded once school starts. The boys are in a class together with only three other kids, and they love it! Aubade hangs out with me on the sidelines and we get some silly mommy-daughter time, and the boys learn new skills, play fun games, and get to be in the water. I think they would swim every day if they could, and they’re getting better all the time. I’ve been impressed also with how well the instructor is able to help five bouncy 3-5 year olds focus and practice during the lesson!

  6. As Rondel’s scheduled activities increased, and as the summer tended to be less predictable overall, I noticed that he was asking me very frequently when certain things would take place, and how many days away they were, and so on. So we made a visual schedule for him so he can see when things are going to happen each day of the week! We have regular events like church, speech therapy, and swim lessons, as well as more flexible events like grocery shopping, going to the library, and playing at the park. I still need to print out the names of the days of the week (I still can’t believe I forgot to do so in the first place), and then I’ll share the whole thing here. It has been so helpful for him, and he loves checking it to establish his place in the week and figure out when different things are going to happen.
  7. Speech therapy, which I so casually mentioned in point 6, could be a whole post of its own! For now I’ll just say that we’ve done three weeks of it, so there isn’t much noticeable improvement, but Rondel loves it and has acquired a passionate interest in board games as a result of it 😛 In lieu of any actual kid-friendly board games in the house he’s been racing animals across the couches by rolling dice – we should probably make a decent board of our own out of cardboard or buy a commercial game somewhere…

I hope you all had a great week! I’d love to hear anything that stood out or made you smile 🙂

Posted in sqt

{sqt} – reclaiming joy

I noticed this week that my children never want to go to bed, because they are just having so much fun and don’t want the day to end, and they wake up each morning full of excitement about the day ahead.

My husband and I, on the other hand, have entered that exhausted parent state where we spend all day waiting for night to come so we can have some quiet space and rest. It makes sense that we end up there, but constantly looking forward to the evening has a tendency to rob the day of its joy.

How can I reclaim some of that joy I had as a child about the new day ahead of me, full of potential for discovery and adventure, for beauty and love?

I’m not entirely sure, but today’s seven quick takes are going to be some ideas I want to implement in my own life this upcoming week. Head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for the rest of the {sqt} link-up!

  1. Reframe the moment: when something is irritating or inconveniencing me, is there a way to look at the situation through different eyes? For example, when one of my children is whining and flopping around about something, I tend to be instantly triggered into frustration. I want to yell at them to pick themselves up and show some independence! At the very least I want to ignore them until they stop whining. But though that is my automatic response, a change in perspective can help me build a more compassionate and helpful response. If I can hear the whining and think, “here is an opportunity for me to love and serve this child like God loves and serves me,” then I can help them with their needs and wants with more gentleness and joy (although I will still ask them to try using a different tone of voice!)
  2. Pause: this goes along with the first point, since a pause can be a good time to try to reframe a situation. But it is good and useful all on its own, also. Instead of coasting through my day on autopilot, pausing for all sorts of reasons can help me see the beauty and feel the joy of everyday life. I can pause to watch with pride as my children take turns with their favorite water bottle; I can pause and count to ten when I hear angry voices coming from the play room to prepare my heart before they come running out to me; I can pause; I can pause when the baby has made yet another awful mess and make the cleanup something we can do together rather than something to make her feel ashamed about. I can pause to breathe out a prayer and breathe in grace when life is overwhelming.
  3. Put the phone away: except for when I’m reading a good book or listening to a good podcast (things I can mostly only do when I’m alone anyways), phone time tends to be an escape from reality and as such hinders any attempt to find joy in my current reality. It distracts me from the good and happy moments of the day especially, since those are the times when the kids are least demanding of my attention – and so it blinds me to the everyday beauty of their growing relationships and maturing character.
  4. Have a plan: if I know at the start of the day something fun that we’re going to do later, the anticipation and enjoyment of that event can easily spread throughout the rest of the day. And if we don’t follow through with the plan because we’re having too much fun doing other things, that is also a source of joy 🙂 It also eliminates some of the tension of looking forward through 12 empty hours not knowing what to expect and thus how to mentally prepare, and it breaks up the cabin fever the kids sometimes get when we’ve been in the house hiding from the heat all day. This could be some sort of outing (like the park or the library or even the grocery store), but it could also just be an activity or craft that we don’t do as often because it requires more set-up (like water balloons or finger-painting).
  5. Go to bed on time: because if I’m tired, it’s going to be a lot harder to feel happy. It’s going to be a lot harder to make the mental effort to reframe each moment. It’s going to be a lot harder to pause instead of reacting emotionally. And it’s going to be a lot harder to be present and engaged instead of sinking away into the virtual reality of my phone.
  6. Play with the kids: play is where they are finding their happiness, joy, and intellectual fulfillment right now, at this age. And they still want me to play with them a lot of the time! Essentially, they are inviting me into their happiness. All too often, being a boring (and tired) adult, I turn them down and find other “more important” tasks I need to do. But if I could let myself go – relax my body, forget the to-do list, ignore the “should’s”, suspend my disbelief – and play with them, even for a little while, I could in those moments have the presence and the joy that they have, and connect with them through it.
  7. Sing!: and dance! Move my body, stretch out of my comfortable shell, and make music! Music is so good for all emotional states – it expresses sorrow and anger, passion and despair, joy and silliness, peace and contentment, and in the expression elicits and draws out those same feelings in us, helping us experience them more deeply and process them more fully. So going back to point 4, I’m planning on having a dance party to silly kids’ songs at least one day this week, and I’m not going to care if my kids think I’m crazy!

What about you? How do you find joy when life is monotonous or stressful?

Posted in sqt

{sqt} – emotional self-regulation

In our house, we have big emotions.

It’s not too surprising, all things considered. Paul likes to attribute my temper to my “Cuban spice” (which is always highly embarrassing), and I tend to believe it is related to my autism (see an amazing article here which could have been written by me if only I were that insightful and eloquent), but wherever it originates from it comes on quickly and lasts indefinitely (forever really, unless I put in a lot of mental and emotional effort). Rondel is similar – flaring up like a match at an unexpected change or a trivial argument or finding out he was wrong about something he thought was a fact – although I’m not yet sure if he will be a grudge-holder like I was as a child. Limerick is constantly pushing himself, and will break down in frustration if he can’t accomplish something he feels he should be able to do. Aubade still uses shrieks and screams to communicate most of her (very strong) opinions and feelings, since she’s only just starting to take off verbally.

So right now, while academics are important and interesting and fun, I feel that emotional intelligence and self-regulation are also a very important area of emphasis for us. It may not come naturally for most of us in this household, but as I have learned over the years it is very helpful in life overall, so it’s something we’re consciously working on together: and these are some of the ways we’re doing that.

  1. Affectionate Physical Touch (e.g., hugs, snuggles, and read-alouds): Little kids are very physical creatures, and so making sure we have lots of time snuggled up together reading books, or letting them lounge on top of me while we’re playing with toys, or making a comforting hug the priority in a meltdown situation, is helpful in a number of ways. It acts as a preventative, helping keep emotional systems running smoothly so that crises are less likely to occur; and it acts as a balm, soothing and quieting the overwhelmed nervous system so that the rational brain can regain control and come up with a solution to the triggering problem. All three kids will come to me throughout the day for a hug when they are feeling sad, overwhelmed, or disconnected.
  2. Physical Play (e.g., running, wrestling, jumping on the trampoline): Going back to the physicality of children – but also appealing to research on the value of exercise for emotional health – wild, active physical play is also very helpful for learning to handle big emotions. Especially on days when everyone is struggling with irritability, and small triggers are escalating into large events, running and wrestling together seems to help us all shake off the mood fog and reconnect with each other in a positive way. So far this has been something I’ve had to initiate, as the kids seem to forget how good it feels to be active when they are grumpy and quarrelsome, but I’m hoping that as they grow they’ll be able to choose it on their own more often, as their bodies let them know they need it.
  3. Bodily Needs (sleep, food, water, sensory peace): This is kind of a broad one, but basically it is hard for a brain, especially a young developing one, to focus on managing emotional responses when a more urgent physical need is unmet. So meltdowns tend to happen more frequently when people are tired or hungry, or in overstimulating environments (crowds, loud noises, unpredictability, flashing lights, information overload, uncomfortable clothes, etc.). There are some easy physical ways to reduce the burden on your brain in these situations, such as never leaving home without snacks and water bottles, and never forcing yourself or your children to stay in an environment that is stressful and uncomfortable. For example, I let Rondel wear T-shirts and athletic shorts to church and take off his shoes in class, and the church has noise-reducing headphones that he can wear if the noise is bothering him. These accommodations reduce the amount of negative input his brain is dealing with, which in turn enables him to use more energy on social and emotional functions.
  4. Mindfulness: Ok, but sometimes you can’t prevent the emotions or avoid the triggering situation, and you still have to learn how to control your own reaction to the event. This can be so hard when your emotional reactions tend to hit you like a punch in the stomach with no prior warning… but what I have found to be very helpful for me is simple mindfulness practice. When I am present in the current moment and aware of my body, I can begin to detect clues that my negative emotions are building up, and try to take steps to defuse them before they explode. I can choose to close my eyes, breath deeply, and focus on the breathing for a few seconds, letting my diaphragm trigger my vagus nerve to calm my body, mentally stepping away from the situation I can’t truly leave in the moment, giving myself a space to think and decide how I want to react before the words leave my mouth. I don’t think my kids have quite figured out how to take deep breaths yet, but we’ve worked on taking that space before reacting (in real time with conflict situations) and it was helpful for them as well.
  5. Mediation and Modeling: Since my kids are still so young, I find myself stepping in when arguments begin to escalate into more emotional conflicts. My goal in these moments is not to solve their conflict but to walk them through the process of resolving it themselves. I hug them, I listen to each one of them tell me what is going on from their perspective, and I attempt to rephrase the situation so that they can both agree that I understand (my initial understanding is often incomplete, and they will correct my phrasing until they are satisfied I understand). Then I will ask each of them in turn what idea they might have for moving on from the conflict, and help them come up with ideas if necessary until they can both agree on one. Sometimes they are able to go through this process independently, and I am so, so proud of them when they do!
  6. Peacemakers Cards/Time-in Toolkit from Generation Mindful: This tool for emotional development has been more than worth the cost for us. Currently, we primarily use the peacemakers cards and the accompanying poster and stickers. I will hold out the deck of cards and let the boys take turns choosing ones, and we’ll spend time talking together about what the cards say: phrases such as “I am kind,” or “I stick with things and get things done,” or “I am adaptable – let’s move and dance!”
    peacemakers_dolphin_cards_amazon_photo_2017_1024x1024
    The “Peace Dolphin” overview card, with the five individual cards from the poster. We recently did Peacemakers after a big fight and randomly pulled three dolphin cards in a row… they were extremely helpful in processing the event, handling the emotions, and planning for the future.

    We talk about ways the boys have recently lived out those phrases, or times when we saw examples of it in a book we love, or situations where it might be challenging to embody them. For card with an action, like the last one in the list above, we’ll get up and act it out (it’s always fun to start silly dancing around the bedroom, after all!). I realize this may sound dull but the boys ask me if we can do Peacemakers cards on a regular basis, and it has led to some great conversations. he other poster in the toolkit has a lot of suggested strategies for calming down in emotional crisis, as well as a few charts representing different feelings in comparison to each other, and those have been helpful as well. Sometimes it’s hard to think of a coping strategy in the moment, so having the visualization on hand can be useful.

  7. Prayer: Of course prayer. Always prayer. Prayer for the fruits of the Spirit in my life each day. Prayers for peace, almost as a mantra, over and over again in the worst times. I remember when Limerick was little and I’d be hit by a wave of anxiety or stress that I would pray “Father, give me peace. Jesus, give me peace. Holy Spirit, give me peace.” Simple enough to repeat when I had no head space for words or complex thoughts, powerful in its reminder to me of the Trinity in all His love and presence. Prayer for connection with my Father, just as important for me emotionally and spiritually as is my young children’s connection to me and Paul is for them. Prayer to the saints,to have their community and support with me when things are too overwhelming for me on my own. Prayer to Mary, the mother of the church, who loves me and my children and helps me to be a better mother to them. Scripted prayers when I’m feeling disconnected and my own words won’t flow; spontaneous prayers when my heart is crying or rejoicing. Emotional regulation is hard for me, and probably always will be – I can never seem to find the middle ground between keeping everything in and letting everything out! But as in every other area of life, God in His grace is sufficient in my weakness: loving me as I am and helping me to grow.

This doesn’t even go into things like self-care and quiet time and community, which are all so helpful for lowering one’s negative emotional baseline and raising one’s trigger threshold – there are so many ways to help develop these skills and create a protective buffer around areas of weakness to keep them from causing damage and regrets. But these seven are some that I found particularly valuable for our family in this season of life, and I hope that they are helpful for you as well!

I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today, so head over and read some of the other Quick Takes!

What are some strategies you use for keeping your emotions from getting out of control? What helps you the most in moments of overload or anger?

Posted in sqt

{sqt} – seven quick thoughts from a quick week

I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today – head over and read some more!

  1. I’ve been tapering off my antidepressants over the past month and a half (my doctor recommended trying it after a year, and I waited until warm sunny weather would give me some help), and I think it’s going well! I have noticed some old thought patterns re-emerging, but they aren’t strong and all-consuming, and I’m equipped to process them effectively thanks to therapy. I should be completely off by the end of August, and probably due to my long and slow journey away from them I’ve avoided the unpleasant symptoms one can experience when abruptly messing with one’s serotonin pathways 😉
  2. Aubade had yet another dermatology appointment this week and we finally had good news: it appears that her mysterious rash is gone for now (or at least controlled without continued daily use of heavy steroids), and her skin is healthy. We’ll keep an eye on it in case it was triggered by some allergen or environmental factor that might be an issue again next spring, but at least for now she should be comfortable and unmedicated except for moisturizing cream.
  3. In case anyone else needs allergen-free lotion, we’ve been using Vanicream and I like it a lot. It doesn’t have lanolin in it, which can apparently irritate or trigger some people, and it’s probably all completely artificial, but it has a good feel and has definitely helped Aubade’s rash of mysterious origin.
  4. In non-medical news, I got a new camera!! My old DSLR was 8.5 years old and still working great, but there have been some advances since then 🙂 and it is nice to have the added pixels in the sensor especially in low-light settings. The boys have even posed for a me a few times (or at least, smiled at the camera and then asked to see themselves).IMG_0174
  5. It has been hot here, and humid since we’re in between waves of the monsoon, but we have to get out of the house so we’ve been playing a lot out back with the hose. We’ve rigged things so the hose will spray on the slides and the large wading pool will tuck underneath the slides, so the boys can go up and down the slides endlessly to much splashing underneath the mist.
  6. I’m attempting to babysit two little girls from church a few days a week, Limerick and Aubade’s ages; we had our first afternoon together this week and it went so well (despite my bone-crushing anxiety the night before)! All five kids played together well, in kind of a parallel play sort of way, and there was only one instance of quarreling the entire time. I’m sure it won’t always be that smooth and easy, but it was a good start, and left the boys anticipating the next playdate rather than dreading it. From the other mom’s perspective, it’s a chance for her to work and pay off debt; from my perspective, it’s a chance for my boys to make friends and practice social skills in a low-stress environment, and an opportunity for me to contribute monetarily a bit more to the household. Maybe I wouldn’t care about that so much if I were an excellent homemaker… but I’m really not 😛 In fact it’s tempting to use some of the extra income to pay someone to clean the house every other week or so…
  7. We qualified for ESA funds for Rondel for the year! In Arizona, if a “special needs” student (one who would have an IEP) isn’t enrolled in a public school, they are eligible for a certain amount of money to use for curriculum and therapeutic services. Since we’re homeschooling, we can use some of it for some good books and manipulatives, and since health insurance can be finicky about approving therapy, we can also use it for his speech therapy. It’s not a huge sum of money, but it’s enough to be very helpful with things. The eligibility criteria are very specific, but if you meet them the application process is very simple and straightforward, so I would encourage any homeschooler in Arizona with a developmentally delayed child to look into it.

How has your week been? What do you do to cope with the summer heat? What resources have you found in your state/country to support the needs of differently wired students, especially outside the public education system?

Posted in family life, information, sqt

{sqt} – here comes the monsoon!

People who don’t know Arizona well speak of our weather dismissively (particularly the summer weather). It’s hot enough that significant numbers of people head north for the summer, while compensating for their insecurities by arguing that their northern humid summers are actually worse. Even people who live here but have never had a chance to really get to know the seasons tend to treat the summer as a penance to be endured, a payment for the gorgeous winters, spent holed up inside thankful for air conditioning and swimming pools.

I will not debate the wonders of air conditioning and swimming pools 🙂

But I do think that Arizona summers are inherently beautiful and wonderful – they are just a lot more difficult to understand and fall in love with than most seasons in most other places. Maybe I identify with them a bit…

And now, we are fully entered into the most glorious part of summer: the monsoon season, the summer rains, the desert’s wet season. So to celebrate, here are seven quick takes about this season that I feel is so sadly neglected, forgotten, and dismissed.

  1. April, May, and June are without a doubt the official “dry season” here. The average monthly rainfall drops to 0.25 inches for April and plummets to 0.04 inches for June (which is another way of saying that every few years there will be rain in June, but don’t count on it). While daytime temperatures steadily climb throughout these three months, reaching 110 easily by mid-June, the lows stay in the 60s and 70s so mornings and evenings are still cool and comfortable. And as long as you stay hydrated, the highs are tolerable also. I have commuted by bike through the summer (coming home around 3-4 in the afternoon) and never felt more alive.
  2. Right when you start to feel that the heat has been going for too long – when the ground is cracking and the plants look thirsty even with irrigation – clouds start to blow in over the horizon. The dates are variable, but it is typically in early July. You step outside one morning and your glasses fog up like you’ve somehow teleported to Miami in your sleep. That afternoon you get an emergency alert on your phone for dust and poor visibility, and 30 minutes later when you look out the window all the trees are bowing low, the sky is slate gray, and the air is slanted lines of water. There may even be hail. This is when every child who isn’t chained down dashes outside to run and dance until they are soaked to the skin and shivering with the unexpected cold.

    FullSizeRender
    This was Monday, at the library. I glanced up and saw the rain and threw all the books in a bag and told the kids to run outside because IT’S RAINING GUYS IT’S RAINING! Don’t judge – we hadn’t seen rain since February!
  3. Remember the dust alert I mentioned above? They are triggered by impending dust storms (also called haboobs), and here’s what they look like from an aerial perspective:
    Massive Haboob hits Arizona
    This was the storm that hit us Monday. Photo credit Mike Olbinski, from this article.

    When I was a kid I used to go out in every dust storm I could just to feel the thrill of the wind and dust flying into me. Granted, it’s not the best if you’re asthmatic, and it spreads Valley Fever, but it can make you feel the power of wild nature even in a suburban backyard so it’s pretty awesome. There are also some funny side effects of having so much dust in the air – this week my coworkers all had to leave the lab in the middle of the storm because a fire alarm thought the dust from the haboob was smoke from a fire and went off!

  4. The ground, not having been rained on for five months, is understandably unprepared for such a torrential downpour. Roads flood (although they drain quickly once the rain stops), and any narrow places in the desert will also flood. Canyons or washes (essentially the drainage channels of the desert) are the worst places to be when it rains, and people have been killed in the sudden flooding. So if it starts to get cloudy and a cool wind blows, climb to high ground as fast as possible. In more developed places, you end up with lakes instead of yards 🙂
  5. Monsoons come in systems, so you’ll be hit with a huge storm like the one above from Monday and then have smaller rainstorms for the next few afternoons. It’s sort of like earthquakes and aftershocks. This week, we had the major storm on Monday and we’ve had at least a small shower every day since. Four consecutive rainy days after five months of nothing! It’s a change in pace, to say the least. It’s also necessitated a lot more cleaning up as mud gets everywhere. If I lived somewhere with wetter weather, I think I would need a mudroom!

    IMG_3601
    Considering she voluntarily became this muddy with only splash-over from the kiddie pool to help her, you can imagine what happens every time it rains…
  6. The wet monsoon season typically lasts through early September, although the actual storms only come every couple weeks. In between, it is just hot and humid. The humidity right now is 44% and even though it is 9:30pm and the sun has been down for over an hour it is still 91 degrees. So while June fits the Arizona stereotype of “dry heat”, we definitely see more of a humid heat in July – slightly lower highs because of the clouds, but significantly higher humidity.
  7. I have discovered that while there are many, many good picture books about the changing seasons in other parts of the world – books about leaves changing and falling off, books about animals preparing for hibernation, books about the first snowfall of winter, books about flowers blooming in the spring, etc. – there are very few picture books of any sort about the desert seasons or even the desert animals inhabiting those seasons. It is to the point that I am seriously contemplating writing my own to try to fill the gap! It’s like me as a woman reading a book with a strong female lead, or an African American child reading a book where the people in the pictures look like her. This is the place, the environment, the habitat that my children know, where their roots run deep, and while all the other places are fascinating and the books about them are wonderful, a book that resonates with their lived experience – with their home – would be special in a different and treasured way.

I’m joining the SQT link-up at This Ain’t The Lyceum today so head over and read the other blogs! Also, if you live in a place with under-appreciated or non-standard seasons, please share! I’d love to hear other people’s experiences 🙂

Posted in giveaway, sqt

{sqt} – differently wired

As we’ve navigated Rondel’s diagnostic process, one of the most helpful resources has been Deborah Reber’s podcast Tilt Parenting – and as a dedicated bibliophile, I have found her book Differently Wired to be equally if not more encouraging and challenging. It is currently the bestselling book in Amazon’s Disability Parenting category, and #18 in their overall Parenting list, and in my opinion (having read an early release copy) it deserves that top spot.

In fact, I think this book is important enough that I purchased an extra copy to giveaway, and that giveaway is live now! Head over to the official post to comment for an entry… I think my publicizing of it hasn’t been very effective so you have a good chance of winning 😛

Continue reading “{sqt} – differently wired”

Posted in family life, sqt

starting our summer strong

Because Rondel was in zoo camp every morning this week (which, by the way, was a major success – he absolutely loved it), I got to spend some more focused time with Limerick and Aubade, and they got to spend more time playing together. Normally, Rondel does most of the talking and directing when the kids are playing, so I was curious what would happen in his absence; what happened was that Limerick filled in the gaps quite easily and just about talked non-stop, especially towards the beginning of the week. And it was nice to have the chance to listen to him without having to simultaneously try to listen to Rondel… it can be a bit much when they are both talking to me (and demanding a response!) at the same time.

  1. On the first day, we stayed at the zoo and watched the Andean bears for a long time. Limerick decided he would be an imaginary creature called a buck bear, and spent at least thirty minutes describing this animal and its habitat to me while Aubade slept. (It is very much an atypical bear, as it has sticky feet like geckos and gills like a fish! Rondel never lets him get away with such aberrations from reality 😛 ). He also was brave enough to sit right against the glass next to the baboon! He’d been watching Aubade interact with her for a while, and had clearly wanted to see the baboon up close himself, but had been too scared to do so. I was proud of him for getting closer even though he was nervous.IMG_3386
  2. On the second day, we came home and just hung out together. We cleaned, we read books, we played with stuffed animals – it was relaxed and fun. (Also, that night we received Rondel’s official diagnosis of autism, after several weeks of waiting.)
  3. On the third day we did more of the same, but stopped in Downtown Mesa on the way home to explore the musical instruments in front of the IDEA Museum. We used to visit there all the time when we lived within walking distance, when Rondel and Limerick were Aubade’s age, but she hasn’t gotten to experience it very much, and judging from her reactions she was very glad we went!

    Yes, I let her choose her own clothes and accessories… apparently oversized T-shirts pilfered from her brothers and metal chain VeggieTales necklaces are in fashion in the 18 month old set these day 🙂 She is so opinionated about what she wears – and always ridiculously cute in it, no matter how off-the-wall it may seem at first.

  4. On the fourth day of camp we rested in the morning but took Rondel with us down to IKEA in the afternoon! IKEA may be a store, but my children seem to think it is a giant playground. Every couch needs to be sat upon, every pillow smushed, every stuffed animal hugged, and every bed snuggled in. We were just there for some curtains, but we lingered everywhere (and let Aubade take a nice long nap in her carseat in the shopping cart en route!). Then I kept my momentum going long enough to hang and hem the curtains, and make a curtain and valance for the kitchen sink window with some fabric I found in my stash.IMG_3475Here they are all pulled back! Those are south-facing windows… and it’s summer in Arizona… so the curtains haven’t been spending too much time open like this. Even just the white fabric over the sink made a noticeable difference when I first hung it up. And I impressed myself (and probably my husband too) by managing to actually complete a project!
  5. The last day of zoo camp I missed out on drop off, pick up, and sweet time with the littles because it was my husband’s day off and my day to go in and work. Not quite as fun, or not fun in the same way, but I did get to consult with a colleague from a different core facility and develop a project and sample tracker for their instruments and workflows, which was both interesting and satisfying. Since I’ve started working such limited hours, and partly from home, my position has shifted a bit away from the biology lab work to the information systems behind the lab work, and I’m finding it really engaging.
  6. It feels like we began the summer at a sprint, and I think it is just going to keep on this way as we have swim lessons and a visit from my sister in June, and my parents are funding a second session of zoo camp for Rondel as a birthday present in July. But honestly the heat is so intense that having planned activities helps prevent me from doing nothing but lounging around the house eating ice cream! Not that ice cream is a bad thing, necessarily… I finally jumped on the nice cream train this summer, one night when Rondel was emotionally collapsing over the absence of ice cream in our house and I knew there were tons of frozen bananas just calling to me. The plain vanilla flavor isn’t my favorite, but the chocolate peanut butter version tastes like decadent chocolate ice cream, with the added bonus of being healthy enough that I can serve it to the kids for lunch and become the coolest mom ever. I don’t really have a recipe, but in essence I just blend up frozen banana chunks in the food processor, with a bit of milk if necessary, and then add in a huge scoop of peanut butter and a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder. We’ve made at least three batches in the past two weeks, and would have made more if we hadn’t run out of bananas and had to buy more, wait for them to get nice and overripe, and then wait for them to freeze! My skepticism regarding this whole concept has been removed by the goodness of nice cream.
  7. And zoo camp itself? Well, every morning Rondel cooperated with me to get dressed and eat his food, he ran ahead into the group to participate, and he greeted me back at the end with endless excitement, ready to tell me about everything he did. He got to pet, hold, and feed a huge variety of animals (from bunnies and boa constrictors to sting rays and giraffes); he drew pictures; he played games with other kids; he got to bring home a sting ray tooth that he sifted out of the sand in a pool; and he got to see so many animals that he loves. In short, he got to practice social skills and adaptability while also being in one of his favorite places in the world, getting to spend time focused on animals without any distractions. I just wish I had pictures!

What are your favorite ways to deal with the heat, especially with little kids? They don’t approve of me just lying in the sun soaking it up, but running around when it’s 100 degrees outside gets tiring fast! And do you have any awesome plans for the summer?

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum today!