Friday, March 20, 2015

Mid-Year K5 Report

Well, it's officially Spring and my kids are already looking forward to the summer and warmer weather (not that it's been all that cold in South Carolina).  We headed to Rita's for our free Italian ices today and my kids were asking if we could swim and when we would go the beach... not yet, guys, not yet. :)

Ok so here is how our year has shaped up, where we are and where I hope to be by next Fall (2015):

Math:  We really find Saxon to work well for us-- we abbreviate & combine lessons, use our own manipulatives, as described here.  No stress, no mess, no need for me to prepare a lot ahead of time.  I didn't buy the Saxon 1 workbook 1 (though I did find book 2 for a good price), so we've used various workbooks to reinforce concepts each day, and plenty of play with our pattern block sets, manipulative and chalkboard.  I often do mini "worksheets" on the chalkboard for her, sometimes copying the Saxon workbook problems exactly.  Saves paper and the extra tactile input from writing with chalk seems good for her.  She still enjoys our Lentil Math set and is more and more able to work completely independently on it.  (Lil bro LOVES getting into the bean box which is an excellent sensory activity for him.  I am thrilled to say his last vestiges of sensory integration disorder have GONE!!!)

Language Arts:  We finished TYCTR around Christmas time and since then have done tons of reading from books on her level.  I personally have found the Step Into Reading graded readers to be the most accurately leveled, with a wide variety of topics.  Seems like TYCTR puts kids at a solid Level 2, able to stretch and read some of the Level 3s with a bit of help.  We also enjoy the Bob Books (Levels 4 & 5) and Elephant & Piggy books.  First Language Lessons 1 has been great for grammar.  I visited a homeschooling curriculum fair and was intrigued by All About Spelling so we bought it and have started it Level 1.  So far so good!  It's well-designed, not stressful and so far we are flying through it.  I'm hoping to start off with Level 2 in the fall.  (See Cathy Duffy's review of the curriculum here.)  E's discovered the joy of audiobooks and we get many from the library.  So far she's enjoyed multiple Magic Tree house stories, Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Redwall and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  She listens to them as she falls asleep and often when she first wakes up too!

History:  Our progress has been slow, and we've chosen to stay in the Revolutionary/Colonial era until now, and are just starting to get into the War of 1812 (Caroline books in the American Girls series).  However I'm confident that she does have a pretty good grasp on the Colonial Era-- the Felicity books & movie have been hits, and the PBS series Liberty Kids has been good too (our library has them all on DVD).  One thing I've noticed in the American Girls books is that the older versions of the books-- the 6-book series rather than the 2-volume series they sell now-- are much better for younger children.  They are illustrated, more manageable as shorter volumes, and have such helpful endnotes on the time period, complete with photos of actual places and artifacts.  So go for the older books if you can find them!  At her age I'm happy to linger in one "era" a while and just do rote memory of the History Sentences.  (Side note:  I've been amazed at how much WILLIAM loves the AG books, be they Kaya, Felicity or Caroline!  He begs to read them and sits fairly riveted while I read them.  I'm not sure if there's a comparable series with a male protagonist, but we may just use the AG books when he comes along too!  Moms of boys, any suggestions?)

Geography:  we've made less progress in this area than I expected, though I don't worry about it too much.  We are still working on the states and their capitals as well as US geography.
Science:  Eowyn LOVES the Magic Schoolbus experiment kit and asks to use it regularly.  Alas I haven't been able to get to it as much as I'd like.

Foreign Languages:  our friends MOVED unexpectedly in January and we miss them AND our Spanish classes!!!!!  We are learning John 1 in Latin in CC.

Fine Arts:  we enjoy what we do at CC (studying masters of painting last semester and orchestra this one), and do our share of painting, chalk art, and table time at Creating Artists for Tomorrow (thank you livingsocial again).  I also picked up this little drawing workbook last week: Things Girls Love and it's been quite the hit.  I will snag some more in the Watch Me Draw Series if I see them!

Bible:  BSF has been great to keep us moving through the Pentateuch and having really good discussions on sin, complaining, pride and faith.  I recently acquired the "Go to the Ant" chart from Doorposts and am so eager to use it in addressing current difficulties in both kiddos.  I love that the chart helps them ask themselves heart-probing questions which take the focus off of me, and make it clear that I'm NOT "getting onto them" for "something I don't like about them," but rather am helping them identify and correct an attitude that their Heavenly Father warns against.  I am so impressed with the Doorposts material and as soon as they come out with an ESV version of their charts (it's in the works!!) I hope to buy their "Parenting Essentials Package" to use in character training in my own home.  I love that their materials don't focus on the negatives of God's commands but help them read about examples of those in Scripture who both ignored and obeyed God's word, allowing them to see both the consequences of disobedience and the blessings of obedience.  It's far from moralistic, is Scripture-rich and very practically laid out.  Each time my kids see how far they fall from obeying (or even wanting to obey) God's word, it's a chance to remind them of the Gospel, their need for a Savior and of the One who is Able to strengthen and change them!

Last week we had a few days of very warm, very pleasant weather (high 70s!) and I had the pleasure of taking my kids to play in my parents' creek... not only did I have flash backs to happy memories of my own childhood-- largely spent in that creek with my sisters and cousins (when I wasn't reading a book)-- but I got to witness childhood unplugged.  For HOURS my 5 year old and 2.5 year old played completely contentedly with leaves, sand, rocks, water and a few toys-- a Lego pirate boat set and a cup.  They watched ducks paddle by, they dug and imagined and yes there was a short-lived episode of mud-slinging that ended with one of them crying and the other very apologetic.  I can't wait to have more days like this.  We brought our schoolwork outside and did "games" on the back porch, splashed and played, and only came in when it was time for a quick lunch and naps.

My little crafty Christmas elf, hard at work
It's been a great year for our family; I've loved watching Eowyn really "get" reading and start to pursue it on her own.  Recently her little bro was upset (of course during dinner prep so I was not very available) and all on her own, she consoled him and convinced him to sit and let her read to him.  Five books later his tears were forgotten and they were playing together happily.  I was amazed and so thankful for her initiative and compassionate heart!  I keep remembering Susan Wise Bauer's advice to new homeschooling parents to just start with math & grammar and then add one subject in at a time.  That has been so helpful!  I do feel like our math and grammar are solid, and so we've added in spelling as another area to emphasize.  Next year I'm not sure which subject I'll pick to make solid-- probably music or science-- and will continue to just memorize the CC sentences for Latin, science & history and take them slow.  I'm also determined to continue to pursue Scripture study & memory with my kids!! All the academic knowledge in the world is useless without a sturdy character underneath it... and how will they know of Whom they have not heard, and how will they hear without a preacher (me) and the Word itself, dividing soul and spirit?

PS- I've started a book club with some friends and I LOVE IT!!!!!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Dr. Sears, I Don't Buy the "High-Needs Baby" Theory...

Babies are all high-needs at first.  But they are simple creatures.  They don't send subtle messages.  They don't have complex emotions.  They don't get offended at your word choice; they get hungry.  They aren't passive-aggressive; they're just helpless.  But they WANT to be quiet, to be happy-- because they WANT to be clean, dry, comfortable, safe, warm and fed.  If they cry, it's for a simple reason: something is wrong.  Most parents learn to run down the list of what could be wrong very quickly:  dirty diaper, too hot, too cold, lonely, hungry, needs to burp, frightening noise, tired... But there are babies for whom nothing "works"-- clean, dry, held tight and loved, they cry and cry and cry.

This is where the estimable Dr. Sears and I must part ways.  He would have us believe that some babies come out of the womb "high-needs;" naturally a bit more demanding; having a narrower spectrum of "comfort" or perhaps just a little ticked off that the world is so bright & cold... and that this is a normal personality variation.

Those of you who've worked nursery or held many children are probably holding up your hands right now, wanting to tell me-- just wait a minute, Christina, there ARE some kids like that!  And I agree.  Yes, there ARE babies who are more "difficult," more "demanding," who cry more and sleep less easily.  Where I differ with Dr. Sears is the assumption that these children are healthy.  These children don't have "high needs personalities;" they are in pain.  While "attachment parenting" can do these babies a tremendous service of ensuring that their needs are met in babyhood, it can also do them a tremendous DISservice of encouraging their parents to stop there-- to meet their needs and no more-- instead of working to correct whatever underlying issue is causing the crying, the fussing, the sleeplessness.

It seems to be common sense that babies would be designed to want "happiness."  Who doesn't want to have their needs met and be pain-free?  Babies are designed to cry until they get what they need from their parents.  If a baby keeps crying, it's because he still doesn't have what he needs.  If he keeps crying, he's in pain.  If he doesn't nap except in snatches, if he doesn't smile, if he seems tense, if he has reflux, if he doesn't want to be put down ever, then your mommy intuition is probably right:  something is off.   (I would extend this to children, too.  If a child is consistently whiny, fussy, defiant, unreasonable, angry, and unpleasant, my first question would be whether they feel well-- physically, then emotionally.  I am snappy and harder to live with when I have a headache!  This could be an entirely different post, but, barring turmoil and inconsistency in the home life, I would be suspect food allergies, vitamin deficiencies, subluxations and other neurological stress.)

But back to "high needs babies."  Having had two who seemed to fit that bill but who actually had underlying medical conditions I've been mentally compiling a list of possible reasons for "colic," "causeless crying" or "high-needs babyhood" over the past 4 years.  They are:

1. torticollis/ subluxation
2. tongue tie
3. other pain/discomfort- digestive, headache or earache- all related to food intolerances
4. neurological damage 
5. overtiredness
6. hunger
7. parenting style

Taking each of these in turn:

1. Torticollis/subluxation- either in the womb or during birth, some babies' spines are "kinked," especially their necks.  Some get into an odd, asymmetrical position during their last few months of development (especially twins), some have a strange presentation during birth or even birth trauma due to caesarean delivery, forceps or vacuum usage or pitocin-induced contractions (often far stronger than natural contractions).  Go back mentally to the last time you had a neck-ache... often it hurts to look or bend to one side, and at times nerves are actually pinched.  In babies with torticollis muscles on one side of the neck are shorter than the other, causing tension and pain of many kinds, or discomfort when a baby tries to turn its head one way.  As a speech pathologist friend once told me-- "We are designed to be pretty symmetrical.  Whenever a baby isn't, that's a sign of a problem."  One of the major nerves that goes through the neck and is easily affected by even slight tension is the vagus nerve, which affects digestion and heart rate (and mood).  In a baby, vagus nerve compression can cause sucking and digesting issues.

Hints that torticollis or subluxation is an underlying problem:

- baby holds its head always tilted the same way
- baby prefers to nurse only on one side
- baby prefers to lay on same side
- known birth trauma


- chiropractic care- you can find a certified pediatric chiropractor in your area here. Many chiropractors will come to your home days after delivery and adjust baby and mama.  A few testimonies of children helped by chiropractic care here and here.  The pressure used to adjust babies is the same amount you use to check a fruit for ripeness-- nothing scary or potentially damaging! Find a pediatric chiropractor here.
- craniosacral therapy - this therapy focuses on making sure the fluid that surrounds the spine and brain can flow correctly, without any pressure or difficulty.  Practitioners use a light touch-- some are licensed massage therapists, some are chiropractors, and some are occupational therapists.  Some success stories here.
- stretching as directed by a health care provider, and in some cases, physical therapy

2. Tongue/lip tie-  As you may know, this played a huge part in my son's disposition.  There are the obvious ways a tongue tie can cause issues-- baby gets too fatigued eating so he stops before he is full, then wakes up crying, or baby can't coordinate sucking and swallowing so he chokes-- again, leading to crying-- and with a lip tie, he can't get a good seal, so he often swallows air, leading to painful gas, and/or reflux again leading to crying. But tongue and lip ties also cause a fair amount of tension due to the restriction they impose on the lips, tongue and whole mouth.  This tension can lead to tension in the whole body.  I am on the Tongue Tie Babies Support Forum on Face Book and have seen some truly remarkable before & after pictures, of babies whose whole bodies were tense all the time, and after revision became the relaxed, happy infants they were meant to be.  Often, tongue-tie release (frenulectomy) goes hand in hand with bodywork (chiropractic care, CST, as described above).  It is the recommended follow-up to laser or scissor revision according to most care providers (including our son's doctor, Dr. Larry Kotlow).  Many children with tongue ties struggle with sensory integration and anxiety-- especially if they haven't had bodywork following their revision, or have not had a revision. One mom's testimony here.  Another here.

Hints that a tie is an underlying cause:

any of these symptoms
- a visible or felt tie.  Check for one yourself here.  Many of the preferred care providers on the TTSG list will also allow you to email in pics of your child's mouth and will give a preliminary evaluation based on that and a description of symptoms.
- baby being called "a lazy eater" 
- baby nursing frequently yet never seeming full- this also usually interferes with sleep


- complete tie revision by a knowledgable practitioner (usually dentists, a few ENTs) - usually done by laser but some providers use scissors
- "bodywork"- CST and/or chiropractic care
- suck training (sometimes occupational therapy, other times speech therapy)
stretches, massages and other strategies

3. Other pain-  This includes tummy pain due to indigestion, often due to imbalanced gut flora (too much "bad bacteria or yeast" and too few "good guys"), or could be migraines due to food allergies (yes, even babies can get them), or it could be pain from food sensitivities-- my son reacted to onion, echinacea, nutmeg and potatoes in my milk.

Hints that pain is an underlying problem:

Liam's bright red allergy-cheeks, 3 mos
- baby seems averse to nursing (and a tie has been addressed or been ruled out by a knowledgable practitioner)- he could be reacting to something in your milk and know it instinctively
- eczema or bright red cheeks following nursing (keep a food log to track these)
- gas, burping, drawing up of legs when crying, noisy belly, constipation followed by blow-outs
- baby popping on & off the breast, never fully draining a feeding
- visible signs of thrush in baby or yeast in mom; pain while nursing 


- have baby's ears checked.  Some babies (especially those with dairy intolerance) have constant low-level ear infections, which are painful but don't always manifest with a fever.  Natural treatments (such as garlic oil or onion; we use an ear oil similar to this one) of ear infections are often very effective in children, as are dietary reduction of sugar, salt and pasteurized cow's milk (all these tend to create mucus).  In cases where diet doesn't help, tubes may be recommended.  See below on probiotics & ear infections.
more allergy break-outs at 10 months old
- chiropractic adjustment- this specifically can help recurrent ear infections.  I've personally felt my ears drain following an adjustment as an adult!
- probiotics.  If baby's gut flora is off, she can't digest her food properly, causing gas and constipation and this hurts. In one study, L. reuteri was very successful at reducing crying time in "colicky' breast-fed & partially breast-fed babies. BioGaia drops have specifically been studied and found helpful (you can buy on Amazon).  Probiotics are also helpful at preventing and treating ear infections.  In another recent study, l. rhamnosus was used to treat anaphalactic peanut allergies, with promising results.
- be checked and treated for yeast.  Helpful resources here.  One friend's baby never nursed for longer than a few minutes at a time, popping off the breast and nursing around the clock, even at night.  She was also very very hard to soothe to sleep. These behaviors all greatly improved when her mom was treated for yeast.  Remember that mom AND baby should both be treated simultaneously, even if one seems to be asymptomatic.
- essential oils or herbs- many blends are helpful in digestion, often including chamomile, ginger, peppermint and fennel.  Oils would be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to feet or on belly.  Herbs would be made into a tincture or strong tea and fed in very small amounts (1/8 -1/4 tsp of tinctures, teaspoons of tea) to baby via dropper or in a bottle.
- elimination diet for nursing mom or solid-eating toddler - read Doris Rapp (MD)'s "Is This Your Child?" on diagnosing and treating food allergies.  As a child gets older, the GAPS diet may be useful in healing the gut and curing many pervasive chronic conditions, including food allergies and sensitivities.

4. neurological damage- this is the most controversial category, and potentially the most broad. Signs of neurological damage include an inability to sleep long stretches, difficulty regulating breathing, and sensory integration issues.  Several factors that could cause neurological damage include EMFsmetals in the environment (including mercury-contaminated fish in pregnancy), or other known toxins such as pesticides, both before and after birth.  Exposure to plastics- even pre-birth- like BPA can also cause a healthy person's DNA to have impaired methylation, as if they have a MTFHR mutation (more on this mutation later).  Highly recommended reading:  Gut and Psychology Syndrome (Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride) and Healing the New Childhood Epidemics (Dr. Kenneth Bock).

One big potential for neurological damage is vaccinations.   One vaccine is routinely given at 12 hours old:  the Hepatitis B vaccine.  This vaccine aims to protect against a disease that is mainly sexually transmitted, and includes yeast and .25 mg of aluminum. Read the vaccine inserts for all possible reactions-- they include encephalitis & encephalopathy (brain swelling), migraine, multiple sclerosis, neuritis, neuropathy, paresthesia, Guillain-Barré syndrome and Bell’s palsy, optic neuritis, paralysis, paresis, seizures, syncope, and transverse myelitis.  (source) One such reaction to the vaccine is here, another here. In these cases the result was death, but there can be a whole spectrum of adverse reactions due to neurological damage, including the following.

My friend Megan M. has allowed me to share a bit of her son J's story:
J was a sweet healthy newborn who nursed well, slept well, and had a lusty cry the few times he let us hear it (such as his heel prick).  However, just before discharge at 2 days old he was vaccinated with the Hep B vaccine.  Immediately he screamed a high-pitched strange scream... and didn't stop screaming.  For the next day he screamed and nursed, sleeping in snatches of 5-15 minutes instead of the peaceful several-hour chunks he'd slept before.  When he finally fell asleep after 24 hours, I was so relieved.  He seemed to sleep deeply, finally.  However my relief turned to terror as after 4 hours I could not awaken him.  He remained limp and non-responsive, even as we undressed him and had ice on his feet.  As I tried to wake him up, he suddenly convulsed, his eyes flew open, and he stopped breathing.  I will never forget his face as long as I live.  I screamed to my mom, a nurse, to help.  She started CPR while I called 911.  By the time EMS arrived we had managed to get him breathing again.  We were rushed to the hospital where every imaginable test was run; blood tests, x-rays, even a spinal tap.  Every test was the same-- inconclusive.  No one could tell us why our perfectly healthy little boy had suddenly stopped breathing.  In the hospital he again had episodes of apnea (not breathing) but each time we were able to "get him started" again.  We mentioned the vaccine repeatedly but each time were told "the Hep B vaccine is safe."  After two days of testing, we were sent home with the diagnosis "unexplained life-threatening event," and given the rather empty assurance that "it probably won't happen again."  However, J stopped breathing multiple times for the next few months.  We slept with him on our chests so we could wake up and pat him until he would start breathing again.  He also never again slept long stretches-- he'd sleep half an hour and be awake the next 1.5 hours around the clock.   He did not sleep through the night until 17 months old.  As a concerned mom, I began to research the Hep B vaccine J had received and found that all but one of his symptoms were listed as potential effects on the vaccine insert.  Why, then, had his doctors been so adamant that it could not have been responsible?  

J was a very "high-needs" baby, and became a high-needs toddler;  sweet and happy, very smart, yet very intense, clingy and anxious when faced with change like separation from mama, with repetitive behaviors and odd fixations.  This past year we received an autism spectrum diagnosis.  Thanks to many strategies and therapies he is thriving in our homeschool; at age 6 he has nearly completed 3rd grade and is learning so well.  J's story is far from over, however, we will never know what his beginning would have been like without the Hep B vaccine."

It is a fact that at least some children will have an adverse reaction to vaccines; they are legally classified as "unavoidably unsafe"-- thence the establishment of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to provide for & make reparations to families of children injured or killed by CDC-suggested vaccines.  Unfortunately, very little effort has been made to ascertain what risk factors could predict which children are most likely to have an adverse reaction. (you'd think with massive vaccine campaigns this would be important!) "...research suggests that most individuals who experience an adverse reaction to vaccines have a pre-existing susceptibility. These predispositions can exist for a number of reasons – genetic variants (in human or microbiome DNA), environmental exposures, behaviors, intervening illness or developmental stage, to name just a few, all of which can interact. Some of these adverse reactions are specific to the particular vaccine, while others may not be. Some of these predispositions may be detectable prior to the administration of vaccine; others, at least with current technology and practice, are not.” – Institute of Medicine, 2012 (source)

However, there are a few factors that might raise risk:  a tongue-tie or other midline defect (sacral dimple for ex), because it can be a symptom of a MTFHR mutation, which impairs remethylation, crucial for detoxification (this blogger sums it up well and has done her research well); personal history of overactive Th2 branch of the immune systemeczema, food allergies, seasonal allergies; family history of same; family history of vaccine reactions; anything GAPS related; personal history of mild to moderate vaccine reactions (high fever, high-pitched scream, lethargy, catatonia).  Many children who end up with a serious adverse reaction to vaccines had one or several "mild" but increasingly serious reactions to prior vaccines, especially vaccines in the same series.  This is an area where there are glaring gaps in research:  "The committee found that evidence assessing outcomes in subpopulations of children, who may be potentially susceptible to adverse reactions to vaccines (such as children with a family history of autoimmune disease or allergies or children born prematurely), was limited and is characterized by uncertainty about the definition of populations of interest and definitions of exposures or outcomes.” – Institute of Medicine, 2013"  (some research is being done but it is very limited)

Vaccinations during pregnancy are another factor to consider.  While the CDC currently recommends several vaccines to all pregnant women, the vaccine inserts themselves caution that there is no safety data regarding use in pregnancy (and breastfeeding, in some cases) and caution that the drug should only be administered "in cases of real need."  (See all inserts here.)  The flu shot is particularly controversial, firstly because in its injected multi-dose form it does contain mercury (thimerisol), but secondly because viral antibodies & fever during pregnancy increase the risk of autism and other neurological damage in the baby.  The point of vaccines it to trigger antibody production. If antibodies are a factor in autism, why risk anything that intentionally creates more?

Hints that neurological damage is a root cause:

 - change in disposition or sleeping habits soon after vaccination
- family history of vaccine reactions
- known MTFHR mutation in family or child (very helpful summary of MTFHR)
- family history of autoimmune or chronic disease (for ex. type 1 diabetes, eczema, serious food allergies, asthma, ADHD, ASD, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, childhood cancer, celiac disease)
- mother vaccinated during pregnancy
- family home near cell towers or high-voltage power lines
- high degree of EMFs in room where child sleeps
- known interaction with pesticide or other environmental toxins


- avoiding further vaccination at least until child's neurological condition has resolved
detox baths to aid in detoxification
GAPS diet in children, best done under the supervision of a certified GAPS practitioner
- switching from vitamins and foods fortified with folic acid to the natural form, folate
- glutithione supplementation and eating foods high in glutithione (ex. avocados)
- coming under the care of a DAN! doctor, who look at chronic conditions in children from a multi-faceted biomedical model

Well, that sums up the first 4 medical reasons why a baby might be labeled "high-needs." That was pretty long; kudos to you if you're still reading! :) Tomorrow I will attempt to tackle the last 3 contributing causes which sound so much more ordinary. :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Thanksgiving Books We Love

One of the easiest traditions we have is also one of my kids' favorites:  seasonal books.  I have a box for the major seasons (well, more than one for Christmas!), with the decorations, books & special toys I've collected for that season.  Our "Fall" box has our beautiful autumn placemats, silk flower arrangements, halloween trick-or-treat bags, a pretty "thankfulness leaf" glass jar, my "Harvest Blessings" wooden pumpkin centerpiece... you get the idea.  But the best part (according to the kids) is the books.  Starting small and adding a book or two each year has gotten us a great collection in just 7 years of marriage's time.  Here are some of the books in our Thanksgiving/Fall collection now, along with a few I hope to buy this year.  I keep my eyes open at thrift stores, consignment sales and Amazon Marketplace (used & new) and the most I pay is $4 for a really nice copy.

-- The First Thanksgiving, by Linda Hayward, illustrated by James Watling-- this simple reader is well-illustrated and gives a wonderful brief overview of who the Pilgrims were, why they left England, their voyage aboard the Mayflower, their first winter in Massachusets, their friendship with Samoset, Squanto & Massassoit, and the first "Thanksgiving" (harvest feast).  I appreciate that the text doesn't try to revise history or make any political point:  the story is simply told, both groups (I feel) fairly and positively represented.

-- Squanto & the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas, illustrated by Shannon Stirnweis-- I can't read this book without choking up a bit.  The tragic events that God used to allow the first Plymouth colony to survive are not widely known:  that Squanto (Tisquantum) had been kidnapped as a young man and sold as a slave in Spain, that he was bought, set free & discipled by Spanish monks, that he lived & worked in London for 5 years, that he finally came back to his home village after 10 long years to find it completely emptied by plague, himself the sole survivor, that it was this very village, with its abandoned huts, graveyard & stores of corn which offered enough shelter for the shivering Pilgrims to survive that first winter, that Squanto's understanding of English ways & language prevented misunderstanding & allowed the Pilgrim survivors to have a bountiful harvest that summer, that their coming gave a broken man renewed faith in the God who made use of his misery... all these weave together to make a beautiful backdrop for that first feast of Thanks.  Beautiful illustrations.  Together they lead you to praise the sovereign goodness of God.

-- Cranberry Thanksgiving, Wende & Harry Devlin-- This tale about a famous cranberry-bread recipe and its would-be thief is Eowyn's favorite book right now.  She remembered making the cranberry bread (recipe included! We just de-glutenized it =D) from last year and can't wait to make it again.  The story & illustrations are just perfect.  A fun story set at the time of Thanksgiving with the message that not all are what they seem; friendship is found in the most unlikely places.

-- Over the River & Through the Wood,  poem by Lydia Maria Child, woodcut illustrations by Christopher Manson-- This is my personal favorite.  The woodcut illustrations perfectly evoke a 19th century New England Thanksgiving.  I love giving my children a glimpse into what life was like at that time.  Note:  there are many different illustrations for this one classic poem.  Manson's are my favorite of them all. :)

-- Over the River & Through the Wood, illustrated by David Catrow-- this book was actually mailed to me by mistake when I ordered the above version, and it is definitely not one I would have bought.  The cartoonish illustrations are set in modern times (so there is the value of comparing travel then & now), with a baby floating out the window into a Macy's Day Parade and being caught in Grandma's baseball cap.  Ehhh maybe it will grow on me... I just really don't like the style of illustration.

-- If You Were At... The First Thanksgiving, by Anne Kamma, illustrated by Bert Dodson-- one of the excellent Scholastic books in the question & answer style.  It does a great job answering all the questions children want to know about life in Plymouth & that first Thanksgiving.

-- ...If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Anna DiVito-- overlaps a bit with the above volume but focuses more on the voyage, presented in ways a child unfamiliar with month-long trips in small spaces with NO DVD players, can grasp.

Books I hope to snag & add soon:

-- Bear Says Thanks, by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
-- A Strawbeater's Thanksgiving, by Irene Smalls
-- Thanksgiving Graces, by Mark Moulton, illustrated by David Wenzel
-- An Old- Fashioned Thanksgiving, abridged & illustrated version by James Bernadin-  I had this vibrantly illustrated children's version given to me by a student's parent when I taught preschool... and alas I think I must have left it in my classroom when I moved to SC because I can't find it anywhere!  I also would like to eventually buy the unabridged version when my kids are a little older.
-- The Berenstein Bears Give Thanks, by Jan & Mike Berenstein-- (and/or any of the other BB Thanksgiving-themed stories)-- only because my kids are both absolutely enthralled with these books (I remember being the same way as a kid).  I don't know what it is about these books that so fascinate kids (I kind of groan now when they ask me to read them... which they do... every day), but whatever it is, this series hones in on it!
-- The Great Thanksgiving Escape, by Mark Fearing
-- A Pioneer Thanksgiving, byBarbara Greenwood, illustrated by Heather Collins

There are quite a few books out there that look great-- see my ongoing "wish list" here!

What books do you remember reading about Thanksgiving?  Most of our favorites have been recommended by friends like you! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Resources for You if You Think Your Baby MIGHT Be Tongue or Lip-Tied

normal latch (what we're aiming for)
This is one issue I get emailed about fairly regularly, so I thought I'd make it into a blog post so more people can see it (and I can easily direct questions there instead of retyping everything every time, usually from my phone no less!).  This is by no means comprehensive and I'm not an expert, and each baby & mom is different.  However here's what I have gathered as helpful data through our own two-year-tongue-tie journey.  Ideally you will be able to surround yourself with a team of people to support and help you-- starting with you- the educated parent/advocate-- and including other adult family members (spouse, SO, grandma etc) who will be able to help out, also knowledgable care providers and specialists.  You'll have a winning team around your baby-- Team Baby!

I would start there; you could read through the dozen or so articles Dr. Ghaheri has written in an evening or so, and would be fairly educated on what ties are & aren't, why they matter, what can be done about them (hint:  it should not require full anesthesia or a hospitalization) and what you can do as a parent.  If even that seems too big an assignment, this one article provides an excellent overview, addressing many tie myths.

- Good cautionary word on over-diagnosing lip ties:

How to diagnose tongue ties:
Unfortunately, most care providers (pediatricians, midwives, nurses, dentists, IBCLCs and ENTs) will not know how to recognize all types of ties. So you most likely will need to first diagnose it yourself, then track down someone knowledgable to confirm it.

Reasons to revise
cheek support during bottle feeding
Breastfeeding moms-- Tricks for latching in the mean time- **Note: these links will take you to videos and images of women BREASTfeeding. **  Try one at a time until you feel comfortable, then try another-- you may use two or more tricks at a time, like latching with the "breastwich" technique, then supporting your baby's cheeks during feeding, then using manual compressions at the end of a feeding. 

- cheek support- often called the "Dancer Hand" position- during both nursing & bottle feeding; the fat in baby cheeks is there to help their milk go down their throat properly.  This webpage is aimed at helping babies with Down syndrome, and much of its recommendations are completely appropriate for babies with ties (revised or not). 
- manual compressions during feeding
- make a "breastwich" with your hand in the shape of a C behind the areola to help baby get a good mouthful, roll it in the way you eat a sandwich:  rolled in from the bottom lip first.
- if baby is tucking top lip:  two "tricks" to help
- "flipple" technique (where baby latches over your finger) or have them latch over thumb so you can roll out the upper lip (it must flange)
- "biological nurturing" position where baby is sitting up against you & you are leaning back.
- U-shaped fingers supporting under breast (see here under "cradle position")
- on augmenting supply (usually by 6 weeks a woman's supply changes from hormone-driven to demand-driven, and if baby isn't effectively draining the breast, you may see a dip in supply)- herbal/food measures, pharmaceutical (domperidone).
- on supplementing at the breast: explanation & video

You may need an Occupational Therapist or a Speech Therapist (we had both!) on your Team Baby but these may help in the meantime or in addition or if you can't get to one:
Oral Training 
- oral motor training stretches- do 3-5 times each day, usually before or after a feeding.  We would make these a game, Mommy making funny noises and faces, and talking through them to baby "Top Lip in, out, whee!" etc
- training baby to make a groove in tongue:  use a Nuk toothbrush, your finger or a bottle nipple to draw a "line" gently down the center of baby's tongue
goal of Beckman Oral Motor Training: puckered lips
- with a Nuk toothbrush, finger or soft washcloth, trace the gums with light pressure-- this helps baby feel whole mouth
- after release:  play games touching all around baby's lips, usually accompanied by silly phrases or noises; baby will naturally try to follow with their tongue, which is great for mobility
Example of finger feeding for suck training
-great explanation of suck training:

Good to Remember:
- Diagnoses depends both on symptoms AND appearance.  A baby with visible frenum may not need revision if there are no problems- but a baby with seemingly less frenulums may be a lot more restricted, as seen by symptoms in mom & child.  Also, a lip tie is almost ALWAYS accompanied by a "twin" tongue tie.

- A child can often bottle feed without being able to properly latch:  the mechanisms are TOTALLY different.  In breastfeeding, the tongue does a wave-like motion; this begins peristalsis that continues all the way down the digestive tract.  If it's impeded it will affect all digestion.  (So don't believe anyone who tells you that "you must be the problem because your baby can drink fine from a bottle."  That MAY be true in your case, but it may not be!)

- Many tied kiddos have a need for "body work:" either & both cranio-sacral therapy (CST) and chiropractic to correct tension from being overly restricted for the first months of life (even in utero).  Just think-- if your arm was tied across your body so you couldn't fully move it for 9 months, and then it was let free, you would feel all "off" and all sorts of tendons, ligaments and muscles would ache as they now had to stretch and totally adjust to the new freedom. It would be great freedom, far better than staying tied up and tense... but still requiring an adjustment.

- Also, most ENTs (and many other care providers) know diddly squat about tongue ties (nothing against them, it's just the way it is right now).  Go to a provider known for understanding ties if at ALL possible (or it's probably a waste of time).  

- Our story is here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

K5 in Casa Szrama (2014/2015 School Year)

Math- Saxon 1 (also TOPScience "Get a Grip!" workstation, also drawing from Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction).  I am still using my old wall pocket calendar (still haven't seen one I like more!  We use it instead of making our own every month with Saxon).  I haven't been able to track down a stand-alone copy of Saxon 1's Student Workbook Part 1, so until we get to Part 2 (which I do have), I'm filling in with plenty of workbooks I've grabbed from the dollar store and goodwill, our usual pattern block set, clock set, mini-white board, a printed-out hundred chart & numbers to trace (both in a plastic sleeve) and various manipulatives.

Language Arts- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (last few lessons), then will use real books & readers for reading practice (Bob books sets 3 & 4, Dick & Jane (these are soooo funny to Eowyn, and I find the illustrations to be very attractive! Way nicer looking than the Bob books, IMO)
books, and level 1 & 2 readers from the library), and will start...

First Language Lessons Level 1 for English grammar.  She has started LOVING read-aloud chapter books now.  I have a bunch I hope to read, some tying in to history, others just fun.  Among them are The Little House Books (we're mid-way through Little House in the Big Woods), The Never Girls series (we're on Book 2), Captive Treasure, The House at Pooh Corner, Now We Are Six, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.  We might start The Chronicles of Narnia or Prydain, we'll see.  We also are going through all the nursery rhymes along with Liam & Levi.

Ready for her first day of K5
Handwriting- we are still using Cursive First as well as the Kumon Cutting, Cursive Writing Letters and Cursive Words workbooks (she LOVES the Kumon workbooks, and they are the only workbooks I've found that always put cursive letters in the context of words, which makes sense since cursive letters all connect).  I have some PreScripts workbooks for her but they are a bit beyond her at this point.  (ps i have found Kumon workbooks on ebay for better prices than anywhere else)

Spanish - we're doing a weekly little co-op with a friend who has littles the same ages as Eowyn & Liam.  So fun!  This will tie in especially with our geography & culture when we get to our Argentina  units (see below).

Classical Conversations-- we attend this co-op for 3 hours once a week (for us it's Mondays which is perfect!).  Each week we have "grammar" (basically the building block-nuts-and-bolts of any subject) to memorize:  Latin words, the next chunk of the history timeline (same as last year), a history sentence, set of geography facts, a science question, and a portion of John 1 in Latin.  We also do an art project together.  Liam gets in on the school action and goes to his "cyass" with his beloved Mrs. Tina and a new teacher, Ms. Jasmine.  She came up today when I read the word "jasmine" aloud to Eowyn... he is always listening!!  Anyway I love CC because they are so chill despite being thorough and well thought-out, and have so many songs to help the facts "stick"!  And the fact that it's a three-year cycle so the kids will get all the material a second time by 4th grade, and we can build on it. (spiraling is a great teaching technique!)

Geography-- (with our friend) following CC Cycle 3 loosely, so learning states & capitals.  Each week we read about a state (library books) and/or cities in it.  We use a magnetic puzzle (from Costco!!) as well as one I made out of cardboard, a states coloring book I copy out of, maps and our globe.  We are first learning all the states & capitals, then will "zoom in" on South Carolina for a while, going (more) in depth into our own state geography as well as our history-- I forsee field trips to Columbia!  We also will study New York, Georgia, Oregon & North Carolina more in-depth since we have relatives there, and then expand to US features like rivers, mountains, lakes & deserts.  (We use a lot of songs from CCHappy Mom's youtube channel to help remember capitals.)  Finally we'll skip across the hemisphere to study the geography and culture of Argentina, which is where our fellow co-oppers lived and still have roots.

History-- (with our friend) following CC Cycle 3 loosely, so covering US History starting before Columbus.  We are using the American Girls books (as read-alouds) especially "Felicity" and "Kirsten" a LOT as these tie in perfectly with E's interests, listening level and all the fun extras (paper dolls, crafts, recipes, movies etc.).  My sister & I racked up finding the books for about $2 apiece at consignment sales, and the library also has them all.  We have historical paper dolls-- this series, from the Pilgrims through the Civil War, (thank you, Tia Nicole)-- and I'm excited about how studying the Native Americans, Pilgrims & Colonists will coincide well with Thanksgiving. :)  Of course my childhood favorite Little House on the Prairie series ties in excellently.

Science-- following CC Cycle 3 loosely, so learning about the human body first, then basic physics (parts of atoms etc).  We are using The Magic Schoolbus: A Journey into the Human Body Experiment Kit (which she loves!  Seriously, the look on her face when she "gets it" has been worth the "price" of homeschooling already.  I am so glad I got to be the one to see that!!), and various books on each topic from the library.  I have Reader's Digest's The ABCs of the Human Body as a resource for all the topics too. [Any ideas & resources for the physics aspect would be great; I haven't planned that far ahead!]

PE- she's taking gymnastics for 2 months (thanks to Livingsocial) and if she likes that can continue, otherwise she can go back to ballet/tap (I think she'll go for that).

Bible- we are going through the life of Moses (so Exodus- Deuteronomy) in BSF and I'm doing the Home Study sheets with her (and the boys, who are mostly oblivious, though Liam did have a great retelling of Moses' escape down "da deep wata" from wicked Pharaoh as a baby... on a surf board.) during breakfast or lunch.  I HOPE to get back to catechism somehow, someday this year, maybe using these books as an aid.  We also read Wisdom & the Millers periodically and this is a hit.

about to go in to CC on our first day
(Lil Bro is trying to show "5" like sis)
Music- we've been doing musical theater (right now My Fair Lady is big, with BOTH kids!  I snagged a CD on a whim for $1 at the thrift store), I envision more Broadway musicals & Patch the Pirate stories.  I also grabbed some organ recital CDs and hope to cover Peter & the Wolf, a Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and The Nutcracker.  I pull out my old music lesson standbys to teach rhythm, pitch and notation as well as my xylophone & their instruments.  My goals in music for her this year are: ability to keep a steady beat, to copy rhythms, to match pitch, to understand "hi"- "low" and "soft-loud" and "slow-fast," know basics of solfege, to know the instrument families of the orchestra, to experience & "get" on some level how musical theater works, and to gain familiarity with the works I've mentioned.

General- I have found the "What Your __ Needs to Know" series to be VERY helpful.  You could really use this as a curriculum base and just supplement a writing/how-to-read and math curriculum.  I am finding it very helpful to just have in the car for whenever we have down time & need to read something (there are so many interesting things in there, stories, poems, history, science, etc.).  I'm especially using What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know for Geography & History this year.

How it Works... (-ish =D)
We spend about 1 hour each morning on "school," total, and on Mondays and Fridays don't do anything beyond our co-ops.  Afternoons are taken up by lunch, outside play and nap time (every day for boys, every other day for E) or rest time (she picks a type of toy and plays with it quietly while L naps.  Options include reading, books on tape, drawing/coloring, playing with blocks, figurines, Barbies, doll or any bin of toys from our "toy library.")

oh wait, this isn't actually school
We try to read every day, both her and me to her, read the Bible (usually over lunch), and focus on one other subject a day, be it math, music, science, geography or history.  My main sources for materials are thrift stores, the library, ebay and pinterest-found-printables offline. School is fun, not stressful, and if we don't cover it one day, I figure we'll cover it another day. Since we only work for 1 hour a day, she is able to focus and stay on-target and I can expect her best out of her.  Also, since the bulk of her learning is hands-on and story-oriented (seriously, try reading a list of words... nope.  Each word gets put into an entire paragraph of a very random story if I let her!)-- she finds workbooks to be fun and loves them! We go outside every day, the kids get lots of imaginative play (dress up, castles & figurines, Barbies, baby dolls, tool sets, kitchen pretend), puzzles, drawing, painting/art, playdough, blocks... basically anything without batteries) and I try to pull out some sensory experiences every now and then (water table, bean box, etc.).  She helps me with chores and is learning to garden, cook & clean.  For us at this point, a laid-back approach year-round with shorter breaks as we need them works just dandy.

Well, that's what I've mapped out for the year and we'll see how it goes!  Any suggestions or comments are welcome!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Letter to Eowyn at 5 Years Old

Dear Eowyn-

I can’t believe you are five years old.  It seems that you’ve been in my heart so much longer, yet also that I’ve been a mother so much shorter than the span of five times around the sun.  You are the first child I felt stir in my womb, the first baby I nourished with my own body, the first being whose cry quieted at the mere sound of my voice or touch of my arms.  I will never forget the glorious moment where I watched your first breath blush through your purple-white body.  As you love to hear, you looked into my eyes, that first precious howl on your lips, and your deep-blue eyes said “I know you.  Mommy.”  I cried because I knew in all my life I’d never done anything to deserve this squirming, breathing gift.

You are still a gift.  Your loyalty, your ability to laugh at yourself, your willingness to help, your honesty, your concern for fairness, your empathy, your inquisitive mind, your memory – all these brighten up my every day.  This year we’ve worked together to coax meaning from those blurs on a page; I’ve done lots of good things in my life, but teaching you to read ranks as one of the ones I’ve most proud of.  It is so fun to me to have you at an age where you are interested in so many things that have fascinated me since I was five:  American Indians, fairies, pioneers, homemaking, the human body, magic, babies, and musical theater.  You are a reliable, trustworthy little soul, a natural caregiver, a problem solver and a story-teller.  You do everything with enthusiasm, and once you know how, you do it well.  I have a feeling you will be able to do most things better than I can in a very short amount of time.

As we’ve been reading the Bible story of Moses together, so many things have come to my mind that I want you to know deep down.  I think Exodus 2 might be the most ironic chapter in all the Bible (excepting Esther, perhaps).  First of all, notice that Pharoah’s name is never mentioned—but the humble midwives’ are.  Pharaoh wanted to be great; he wanted his name to always be remembered… yet he was afraid of losing his power (all oppressors are); he was so afraid he did something unbelievably cruel:  commanded the murder of innocent babies.  The midwives, Shiprah & Puah, however, feared something else: God.  And it’s their names who are remembered thousands of years later.  Their fear of God led them to bravely risk their own safety to save those same innocents fearful Pharaoh tried to kill.  If you go about trying to make a name for yourself, for your own glory, God will topple you.  If, however, you pursue Him, you will find that you don’t need a name to be happy—far happier than you could even dream.

Pharaoh did not value girls very much:  they were less threatening than the boys, who might grow up to fight against him in an army.  Girls?  What could they do?  Well, God is about to show us!  First the midwives, then Moses’ mother, then a servant girl, then Pharaoh’s own daughter, and finally a little slave girl all take their stand quietly against Pharaoh; not by taking up arms, but by doing exactly what God has created women to do:  nurture.  One by one they choose to nurture a helpless baby, to care for him as he grows, to humbly yet persistently, steadily, fearlessly embrace their feminity.  And God uses them to topple the tyrant of an empire.  I pray you grow up to be that kind of woman—that you are that kind of brave, self-less, giving girl now.  God uses the weak things of the world to shame –and often to save—the strong.  Because that gives Him the most glory.

I love you, dear Eowyn Grace.  I pray you, like your namesake, learn to be content as a nurturer instead of being unhappy so long as you are not queen.  For someone with so many ideas about how the world SHOULD work, this will not come easy.  Especially since your ideas usually are quite good. :)  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding-- in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."  "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil."  "Come my children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord:  whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil, and do good, seek peace and pursue it."  You are precious to us and we long to see you become more (and more, and more!) like Jesus.

All my love, and then some more,

PS. You just came up to me and informed me that I've been working long enough-- that this is too much screen time.  Well then. I love you, spunky thing.