Wednesday, September 10, 2014

for Millie...

Millie never wants things. 

She has always been content to simply browse in a toy shop, perhaps giggle at something interesting, maybe even hold it for a while, but she is content to just put it back and move on with her life.

It makes birthdays and holidays interesting because what she wants isn't something wrapped up in a box. She really would be just as happy -- probably more so -- if you'd let her sit on your lap for some one-on-one time.

But if there is one thing I've always wanted to get her it is a sandbox.

When at daycare, she is happiest when they go outside to the playground, established in a giant ground-covered playground. She will sit there and cover rocks, her legs, anything she can reach. I pick her up from daycare, take her home, and dump out extraordinary amounts of sand from her shoes and pockets.

Yet, we've never gotten a sandbox of our own, at the house. She has a water table, which keeps her busy for long stretches of time, and she enjoys playing in the pea rocks at the base of our playset.

But no sandbox.

I considered it, briefly, for her birthday this summer. But they're so large, and they can be kind of messy. And it would really be just another thing for Ray to mow around, to put away, to keep covered.

This past weekend, we were just bumming around downtown, visiting a few antique shops and a little chocolates store that has a huge selection of Melissa and Doug toys, which I love. And there, on sale, was something I'd never seen before: a miniature sandbox. An itty bitty little ladybug-inspired sandbox. Millie didn't know what it was of course, all wrapped in shrinkwrap, but I knew she'd love it.

Once home, I opened it and was extremely impressed. All these miniature toys -- from a figurine that easily transforms from human to mermaid to tiny shells to a rake and shovel -- were perfect. And the sand isn't that icky kind that gets stuck to everything. It was easily brushed up and shaken off of skin and clothing.

There as one little hiccup as Lola, who isn't used to not getting the new toy for herself, realized that it was Millie's turn to take the lead with something.

But, together, the girls learned to share and take turns. It really was quite lovely.

 "Blue," Millie signed. Blue sand. Like water.

A perfect afternoon.
- Bethany

Monday, September 8, 2014

Life. (aka random updates)

We've had a lot of great changes in the last week, as we've gotten introduced to "our new normal."

Lola, after a little bit of a panic attack before starting school, is happily navigating her bus situations and fully adjusting to being back at school. Her school, if I haven't mentioned it, is out in the woods, about 10-15 miles from town. There is one main building and then there are single-room cabins that host individual classrooms.

Last year, as the youngest class, the kindergartners were housed in the main building. Now, as a first-grader, Lola is in a cabin. And she loves it.


Lola had "Merida" hair today, thanks to my last-minute decision last night to try the spiral curlers again.
 She's such a cutie.

They're such cuties.
While Lola is thriving at school again, Millie adjusting to being a school kid herself.

She still asks every day, in her own little Millie way, if she can ride the bus -- and she's still crushed every time the answer is no.

But she seems to be doing well at preschool, which she attends three hours a day twice a week. She's making some friends and broadening her world, a little more every day. 

She even earned her first-ever certificate last week!

I'm so proud of her. She perseveres. She pushes herself. She tries. She knows now that she's a little different. She has learned in the last month or so that not everyone knows sign language, so she's reluctant to use it when she meets someone new. But you should see her face, in that moment, when someone for the first time signs with her and Millie knows, she knows that she's with someone who "speaks" her language, who is at least willing to try. She beams. And she knows she's met a friend. And she has met so many new friends at school. including her teacher. She loves her teacher, we love her teacher.
Last week, I did something I swore I'd do all summer long, but never got around to it: I took Lola to the tennis courts.

She has played many times throughout her life, but always in the backyard, on the driveway, against the garage.

Friday night, after three months of thinking it would be so fun to do so, we went to the courts. 

(This all started in mid-summer when Lola was being difficult one day and said she wanted to quit gymnastics. She knows she can do that at any point, at the conclusion of a current session, but that means, in our house at least, that she'd have to pick another sport. Either soccer, swimming, or perhaps tennis. Lola is still a bit timid [that's a polite way of saying she's scared sh!tless] of new people and faces so, to date, she's stuck with gymnastics. But I can tell she's growing more and more interested with the idea of tennis. Of course, that just might be my own wishful thinking...)

Anyhow, we went to the courts last week.

And Lola did great. Sure, she was swinging too hard from time to time and she got impatient listening to my too-many instructions. But her swing was good, with both the forehand and backhand, though the latter was a bit tougher to master.

I couldn't help but smile. Tennis courts were like a second home to me growing up. Still today, I could rattle off which courts near my house had backboards, which ones had the best surfaces, were most often the least busy.

And here was Lola, running around and laughing on the court, hitting each shot more cleanly than the last. Loving every minute of it, dancing after each one went in.

Ray and Millie came too, so we were all just out there, running around and playing together.

I had the cutest ballgirl ever.

Though, really, all she wanted to do was chase people around with the racket.

We had a great time -- and many laughs, the bulk of which came from conversations with my 6-year-old.

Lola: "Hey! Mom! Look at this! There's an 'M' on the bottom of my racket (at the butt of the handle)!"

Me: "That's actually a 'W.'"

Lola: "No, Mom, it's an M, look!"

Me: "No, Lola, it's a 'W' like for Wilson."

Lola: "No, like look at this, Mom, it's a red 'M'!"

Me, taking the racket from her hand and flipping it around: "Lola, it's a 'W,' like for Wilson."

I'm sounding it out now for her: "W- W- Wilson. Wilson, the company that makes the racket, it starts with 'W.'"

Lola, as the light finally goes on: "Oooooh OK. I see. I get it. That's cool. It's a red 'W.'"

Me: "Yes, very cool."

We go back to playing. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we start picking up balls again.

Lola comes running over to me, even more excited, "MOM! You have to look at this!" 

She waves the racket, just inches from my face: "LOOK! The squares in the strings, they're white and red! And the red ones, they make a giant 'M'!"

I think her next racket will be a Head.
- Bethany :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Listen with your heart

In the last few weeks, Millie has become much more vocal, which is fantastic to hear and witness. She grows more confident every day and it shows, as she will spontaneously utter a few sounds as well as sign for whatever it is she is trying to communicate.

But it's often not understandable. Just as babies babble, Millie's voice is coming out in a string of utterances, some which land fairly close to the words they are supposed to be approximating (perhaps "ba" for ball or "myah" for mine), but more common are seemingly random sounds.

The other day, Lola stole a toy from Millie's play area.

Millie looked sternly at her sister, waved her finger in discipline, and said something along the lines of, "Dud pa buh woo myah da!" She was obviously upset, half-yelling and crying out in protest.

Lola, not meaning to make fun (I don't think?) looked at me and giggled, "Millie made funny noises." She then proceeded to try to mimic the noises that Millie had made, all while laughing a bit to herself.

I  told Lola to return the toy to her sister and to apologize, which she did.

Then, Lola and I had a conversation, off to side, as Millie happily continued in her play, the whole incident apparently forgotten, or at least forgiven.

It wasn't a stern conversation, it wasn't me lecturing. This was a true conversation, asking a 6-year-old to put aside what she was at that moment finding laughable to instead consider those same events from another perspective.

We talked about listening in different ways, such as listening to the exact sounds and words that Millie was saying. We called that "listening with our ears," like when Millie says "mama" or "dada" -- real, understandable words.

But beyond that, I encouraged Lola to "listen with her heart," to think about what Millie might be trying to say.

Lola, for example, knew from Millie's tone that she was mad. And Lola admitted that she, herself, would have been sad if someone took the toy she was playing with. It wasn't a long leap to get Lola to figure out on her own that Millie was maybe trying to say, "Hey! Give that back!"

After a bit, Lola was feeling kind of bad. And she asked if she could be done talking about this, which was fine. But instead of running back to play big-kid games, she went directly to her sister's side, asking if she could play. Millie beamed and welcomed her back into her world.


I'm still here. I can't believe it has been one month since I posted here. Life has been busy and I was feeling quite overwhelmed for a while. I actually had the last two weeks off of work to visit family and friends and just ... recharge. It was heavenly. But I have to say it was also nice to go back to work today, I was feeling a bit more energized again.  I like my job. I love what I do. But it helps to have a degree of passion for it, and I think I was losing a smidgen of that by mid-summer. 

Today also marked an important day for us.


It was Lola's first day of first grade!

And Millie's first day of preschool! 

They both were amazing. They did fantastic and I could not be prouder.  
- Bethany