Monday, February 27, 2012

Team Ashley Auction Starts TODAY!!!

Woo HOO! Today is the day! All the items have been listed and the site is live, so you can browse through these beautiful items (almost all of which are handmade!). Auction starts at 5pm PST/8pm EST. So, hop on over to Evy's Tree Blog for a link to the auction site. Happy Bidding!

Take Time to Stop and Smell the Flowers

Taylor didn't go to school today because she's had a bad cold all weekend. She's much better today, but I decided to go ahead and keep her home since she's still coughing a fair bit and low on energy. I had an appointment for myself and I brought her along. As we headed out the door, I grabbed my camera and stuffed it in my purse. On the way there, we discovered a surprise field of wildflowers! As I pointed out the flowers to Taylor, I was instantly happy I had my camera. When I asked if we could stop on the way back so we could take some pictures and pick some flowers, she squealed with delicious 5 yr old delight and said "Yes!".

I'm so glad I had my camera because I love the shots I got! Of course, I like to keep it real and these pictures don't capture some of the other details of this spontaneous sidetrack in our day, so I'll fill you in on some details. Taylor was scared of the ants on the ground, she didn't like the feel of the weeds on her feet because she was wearing sandals, and she was whining about a few bees we saw while wandering in the field. I was worried as we picked the flowers that a cop would drive by and fine us because I believe picking wild flowers in the state of California is a crime. Oh, and the "field" it wasn't much of a "field". It was actually an empty corner lot at a very busy intersection. But a field of wildflowers sounds much more magical than an empty corner lot, doesn't it?

I edited these photos using free actions from The Pioneer Woman. On the first photo I used Lovely and Ethereal. On the second one I used Sunshine. And on the third photo I used Soft and Faded. I think that last one is one of my new favorite photos.

Thanks for reading. I hope you're having a good day, and remember to take time to create a little magic and stop and smell the flowers. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Qwirkle! Super Fun Game for Family Game Night!

Thank you to my best friend, Jen, who told me about this super fun game! Qwirkle is a family game for ages 6 and up. Even younger players can play with a little help. To start, each player gets 6 tiles, then the person with the most tiles sharing a common shape or color, lays those tiles in a row on the table. The next player adds at least 1 tile to the tiles that already there. So, in this game, John played the three flower like shapes, I added the 3 circles, and Taylor added the purple star-like shape.

As you play tiles, you replace your tiles so that you always have 6 tiles. Taylor is a very smart kid and loves to create patterns so we knew she would love this game. We've played twice now, and I have to admit, the first time we played it was a little confusing for all of us, but definitely fun! We played again last night and Taylor needed a little less help in choosing where to play her tiles. The scoring is similar to scrabble. When you add tiles to a row, you get 1 point for each tile you've paid, and you get points for the tiles that were already in the row. Creating a row of 6 tiles either the same shape or color, gives you a "Qwirkle" earning you 6 bonus points!

As the game progresses, your table will look like this...

I definitely like this game a whole lot more than Chutes and Ladders or Candyland!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Team Ashley - Choose Joy Auction and Benefit {Let the Countdown begin!}

The big auction benefiting Ashley is just a few days away! I can hardly wait to see what the amazing blogging community and Team Ashley has put together! Of course my canvas will be one of over 200 items up for grabs, with 100% of the funds raised going toward Ashley's medical bills.

There was a sneak peek today of some other items listed in the auction over at Evy's Tree. Head on over and check them out. Stephanie Corfee and Ashley formed a partnership long ago and she continues to capture me with her free flowing doodles. I adore the super cute stuff she designed for the auction. Being a big doodler myself, I recently bought Stephanie's book. I absolutely LOVE it!

So, take a look at the auction sneak peek and be sure to check back on Monday for a link to the auction site!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Starting Kindergarten with Sensory Processing Disorder

This is part 2 of a series I'm writing about our SPD journey. You can read part 1 here.

In June of 2011, Taylor moved from her pre-K class at the preschool she'd been attending for 3 yrs, into the preschool's kindergarten class. While this class was just across the hall from her pre-K class, in many ways, it was a whole different world. First, her 2 best friends that she'd been with for the last 3 yrs were no longer at her school. They took the summer off and then moved into another kindergarten program. In the pre-k class, the students spent a fair amount of time standing at tables while doing their "academic" work. There was a lot of time for free play and art projects. Kids were also allowed to have a doll or stuffed animal to sleep with at nap-time.

In the kindergarten classroom, students sit in chairs at desks that are in groups of 4 to do their academic work. Their work time is generally 3 hrs long, with a short recess in the middle. There are 15 students in her class (remember, she's in a private kinder program). After lunch, the students have naptime for 2hrs and then snack, then recess and then free play time.

The transition to kindergarten was challenging for a few reasons:

1) Taylor was expected to sit, confined to a chair, for longer amounts of time

2) There was less opportunity for messy art projects (gluing, painting, etc)

3) She was no longer able to sleep with her beloved Sally at naptime, because the kinder class has a "no dolls" rule.

4) She was expected to focus on academics for a longer period of time.

5) She had to adjust to a new teacher's style and a new classroom routine.

To make matters worse, the transition occurred in the Summer in the desert. Summer temps where we live regularly get well over 100* which obviously limits outdoor playtime, which limits Taylor's ability to get the vestibular and proprioceptive input that she needs. In other words, she wasn't able to run, climb and swing outside every day. The vestibular sense is related to movement. Taylor is a sensory seeker, so she needs to move much more than other kids. Proprioception is related to body awareness and input to one's muscles and joints. So, deep touch, pushing, lifting and climbing are examples of activities that give Taylor the proprioceptive input she needs.

So, when Taylor would come home at the end of the day from kindergarten, she would literally be bouncing off the walls. She would be running, climbing on furniture, doing flips off the chairs in the living room, kicking me, pushing me (oh, how happy I am that she's ditched that behavior!), pinching me, mouthing any object she could get her hands on, talking and yelling and singing excessively. It was exhausting just watching her!

Fortunately, I have an amazing friend who has a son with Autism. One evening in September, this friend came over to hang out and observed many of the behaviors that were driving me batty. We began talking about strategies to help manage Taylor's sensory issues. I read The Out of Sync Child again. I read The Out of Sync Child Has Fun, again. And, most importantly, I put things in place at home to help Taylor get the sensory input she desperately needs to help her manage her behaviors.

While I've done a LOT of research on SPD, I'm still feeling very overwhelmed and confused about how to best implement strategies and sensory activities with Taylor. Occupational therapy is the recommended treatment for SPD. Unfortunately, we've hit some roadblocks in trying to access occupational therapy for Taylor. In my next post, I'll share the challenges we're experiencing, how we're navigating this bumpy road, what we're doing in the meantime to help Taylor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sensory Processing Disorder...My amazing girl has it!

I've struggled with blogging about my daughter's newly diagnosed sensory processing disorder (there's controversary in whether it's even a "diagnosis" because it's not in the DSM, but I'll discuss that another day). I've wondered if it's exploitation. I've wondered what she'll think about what I've shared when she grows older and she reads my blog. I've wondered if I would be doing more harm than good by blogging about SPD and how it affects our family. But, ultimately, helping people is who I am and what I'm all about. I'm a social worker. Not only is it what I do, it's who I am. When faced with blended family issues and divorce and depression as a teenager, I began volunteering and helping others in similar circumstances. That was what first got me hooked on social work. When Taylor was diagnosed with food allergies, I quickly joined Kids With Food Allergies to get support and before long, I regularly shared our experience as a way to help others through their journey with food allergies. So, it just seems logical to me that I would blog about SPD as a way to not only process and record what we experience, but also to help other parents and families trying to manage SPD.

So, What is SPD?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.


Looking back, I see several SPD symptoms that were present with Taylor as an infant and toddler. She had horrible sleeping patterns as an infant. I could talk for ages about how she never slept more than 20 minutes in the first 3 wks of her life. When she *did* sleep, she was either in our arms, or in her swing. She absolutely adored being carried in a sling. She lived in her sling. I think I would have gone insane if I didn't know about babywearing. She finally started sleeping for an hr to 2 hrs at a time after we watched The Happiest Baby on the Block. And we swaddled her and put her in her swing to sleep. By 3 months, Taylor was diagnosed with reflux, so we chalked all of this up to reflux. Now, I think it was a combination of SPD and reflux. She nursed for comfort and everytime she nursed, she played with my hair, often getting her fingers caught in my hair.

Once Taylor started solids, she stuffed herself with food. When she began drinking from a cup, she "chugged" her drinks. It was as though she didn't know how to drink slowly (she still does this). As a toddler, she was much more active than her playmates. When I introduced her to messy art, she could never get enough. I remember telling people that she never watched TV, even if I put on Sesame Street, she'd never be engaged enough to focus on it. Her favorite past-time was jumping on the couch. When we went to the playground, I could never push her high enough on the swing.

While developing appropriately, at age 2, she was still not sleeping through the night. She was still nursing and still using a pacifier for comfort. We often had to tell her "gentle" when playing with us, our animals and other children. These reminders to be gentle had little impact, even with us modelling appropriate touch. She could destroy a tidy and well-organized room within minutes of being in it. Remember, she got the nick-name Tornado Taylor. By this age, she had also worn a bald spot on the right side of her head from twirling her hair constantly.

Picking her up from preschool was a nightmare (still is a lot of days). She would fight and argue and throw tantrums and run from me. I used to think the teachers must have wondered if I abuse her and that's why she hated going home. She loved being at school and all the teachers adored her (still do!).

At about 2 1/2, she was able to tell me that her jeans were "bad" and they should go in "time out" because they "hurt" her. I've only been able to get her to wear denim a handful of times since then. It was also around this age that I would notice she chewed and sucked on the bottom of her shirt or the cuffs of her sleeves. When she was 3 I was concerned about her tantrums. She would get sooo incredibly upset, she'd often become physically aggressive toward me, and she'd kick walls and doors. I'd have to physically restrain her to keep her safe. I've had some training in how to do this safely, since I've worked with children who become violent.

It was also around this time that I really had to engage her in structured activities at home on the weekends in order to keep her "well behaved". I started doing more messy art activities with her. At the time I had no idea these were sensory activities. I thought we might be on the road to a diagnosis of ADHD because she was so active and continued to run circles around her peers.

When she was almost 4 I remember thinking "Are kids still teething at four because, man this kid sucks and chews on everything!". We found ourselves saying "If it's not food it doesn't go in your mouth!" several times a day.

And then...someone suggested I read Raising Your Spirited Child. WOW! That was a game changer for me. In reading that book, I found a new understanding of my daughter. I realized not only is she spirited, she also displayed a lot of sensory seeking behaviors.

In the midst of all this, we were still dealing with reflux, a new diagnosis of asthma and a few bouts of pneumonia. Taylor was also coughing while eating (and still "chugging" her drinks) which can be an indicator of swallowing issues. So, after our GI ordered several tests and procedures, we landed ourselves in an Occupational therapist's office for a feeding evaluation. I will feel forever indebted to the OT, Stacy who finally saw the same child that I saw. Stacy determined that Taylor's feeding issues were related to sensory issues.

Stacy commented on how cute and playful and smart Taylor is (she is all of those things!). But, within minutes, Stacy had turned the discussion from feeding issues to the behaviors she was seeing Taylor display in her office. Taylor was crawling on the floor on her hands and knees and spinning herself. She was bouncing on the therapy ball and climbing to reach a bin full of dried beans. Stacy started asking if I was seeing any sensory seeking behaviors at home. I immediately felt relieved and validated. I left with a greater understanding of my daughter, a list of heavy work activities, and a recommendation to read The Out of Sync Child.

Taylor's "sensory issues" had been confirmed. But, as I wrote about in this post, I wasn't considering a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder at that point. It wasn't until she entered kindergarten that I became more concerned about her sensory issues.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our SPD journey later this week.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

She Chooses Joy - {A Mixed Media Canvas for the Choose Joy Auction and Benefit for Ashley Hackshaw}

It's done!!! This is my finished canvas, created in honor of Ashley. This item will be up for auction on 2/27/2012. Can you see all the detail here? It's a colorful and whimsical 9x12" canvas layered with papers and ink and paint! There's a piece of a vintage sewing pattern, sheet music, book text, and tissue tape. There's oodles of artsy goodness on here! Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

The paint is high quality fluid acrylic paint in hues of turquoise and yellow. There are various stamped images including a camera, a dress form and lots of numbers! The piece is also loaded with rub ons and several phrases:

Start your day with a smile and end your day with joy.

Great things are possible!

Life is filled with great treasures.

A little of what you fancy does you good.

And of course, the main phrase is "She chooses joy".

The girl who's the star of the canvas is casual with an an artsy flare, just like Ashley. This girl wears a whimsical heart patch on her knee, a measuring tape belt and a flower in her hair. Finally, the canvas was finished off with 3 dimensional embellishments like a miniature vintage sewing machine, a spool of thread, a pair of scissors and plenty of colorful buttons!

This happy canvas is perfect for anyone who loves to sew, needs a little reminder to choose joy, or simply perfect for anyone who's a fan of Ashley's. sure to visit the auction between 2/27 and 2/29 and bid on this canvas to help alleviate a little of the financial burden of her cancer treatment.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Choose Joy Auction and Benefit - Supporting Ashley Hackshaw

I'm SOOOOO thrilled and proud to be participating in this incredible auction benefiting my dear bloggy friend, Ashley Hackshaw of Lil' Blue Boo. I'm finishing up my donation item; a mixed media canvas in honor of Ashley. The team has stopped accepting items at this time, due to an overwhelming response and hundreds of items being donated! YAY! I'll show some pics of my canvas when it's completed, but in the meantime, I wanted to spread the news about this incredible on-line event.

I was honored to be one of Ashley's first pattern testers when she was starting her Lil' Blue Boo business. I've learned so much about sewing from Ashley. That's a little hint at the theme of my canvas ;). You can read about that first pattern and the crazy backstory of how we got connected, here. I can't believe I've still never met her in real life! Of course, I feel like I already know her through our mutual friends and through reading her blog. Her creativity and her attitude to "Choose Joy" is contagious. If you're part of the crafting world, sewing world, a DIYer, or blogger of any kind, you've probably heard of Ashley, and more recently, of her battle with a very aggressive cancer. Through all of the tragedy of the last year, Ashley remains determined to live her mantra to "Choose Joy".

The auction is being organized by several of Ashley's friends and as I said, hundreds of people have come together and donated items toward the auction. The proceeds will go toward Ashley's medical bills as cancer treatment is VERY expensive.

So, while you're sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for pics of my completed canvas (heee, hee!), head on over to Amy's blog and read more about the Choose Joy Auction and Benefit, which will support Ashley.

I don't know many details of the auction, but as I get more info, I'll be sure to share!