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Archive for June, 2008

baby signing, anyone?

When Owen was first born, I was not too sure how I felt about baby signing.  I thought he might use it as a crutch, rather than actually learning the words to communicate.  Well, I’ve been convinced that baby signing can be very helpful as a means of communicating with your child before your child can talk.

Let me tell you how I got to this point…

Owen started throwing temper tantrums about a month ago.  You might think, “He’s only 13 months old!  They can’t be real temper tantrums.  Surely Emily doesn’t really know what she’s talking about.”  And really, I didn’t think that my 13 month old son could throw a “real” temper tantrum.  Well, here’s the description and you tell me whether they are “real” or not…

…laying flat on the floor on his belly, flailing his arms, kicking his legs, SCREAMING (no tears, just very, very angry screams), flinging anything within reach.

Does this sound like your classic temper tantrum, or what?  So, the first time this happened, I had removed a Sharpie from Owen’s hands (I know, I’m no fun…but the idea of trying to removed permanent marker stains off my walls was not my idea of a good time.)  Once the object was removed from his hands, the temper tantrum followed.  It lasted for about 3 minutes.  And, to be quite honest with you, I had to turn my head away because it made me laugh!  I was incredulous!  I mean, my cute, sweet little baby was throwing a fit!  I noticed that he kept looking up at me and finally, when he realized that I wasn’t going to give him the Sharpie back, he stopped his show, crawled over to the window, and started pointing at Max.  Well, over the next few days, this scene was repeated numerous times.  I was a little frustrated.  I could ignore these tantrums, but I wasn’t sure how to best handle them.  So, I went to the library to see if I could find some kind of literature that might help me with my plight.

I found this:

I didn’t read the whole thing, and it hasn’t changed me into a die hard baby signing enthusiast, but it did give me some insight into what could be going on with Owen.  I know that he’s been frustrated lately because he wants to communicate with me, but he doesn’t know how.  We particularly have a hard time when it’s time to eat.  After reading part of this book, I was convinced that baby signing wasn’t going to stunt Owen’s verbal development; rather, it actually encourages it!  The book encourages the teaching of as many signs as possible, but I’m not really going to go that far.  I want to teach him some basic signs to communicate his needs with me until he is able to express them verbally.  For example, I want him to know the signs for more, eat, drink, all done, please, thank you (and if he masters all of those, then we’ll see).  The book said that it takes each child a different amount of time to independently express his need through a sign.  I started teaching him how to sign by modeling the sign in many different situations.  (More was the sign I wanted to teach Owen first.)  After only a week of modeling the sign for more, Owen actually signed more to me ON HIS OWN when he wanted more yogurt!  Here’s a picture of him signing more (the sign is tapping the finger tips together):

When Owen did his first independent sign, I was SO EXCITED!!!!  He signs more all the time…when he wants more drink, more of a certain food, sometimes he’ll be sitting in  his crib signing more when I go get him up in the morning (haven’t figured out what he wants more of there, but it sure is cute that he’s using the sign so much!).  The other day he signed more as we were walking through Target.  The only thing I could assume is that he wanted more of my attention because I was definitely not giving him my undivided attention!

The next sign we’re working on is drink.  I’m only introducing one sign at a time.  I know some people probably do more than one at a time, but I want him to master one before I move on to another.  Since we’ve started signing, the temper tantrums have decreased, and Owen seems so proud of the fact that he’s able to communicate his needs with me.  It’s been a fun thing for us to work on together.

Now, I know some of the people who read this blog are mothers.  Have any of you tried baby signing with your children?  If so, how has it worked?  (Bad or good…I’m curious to hear what other people think of it!)

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My latest quest…

Some of you may know that being a stay-at-home mom hasn’t been my only job over the last few months. In January, our children’s ministries director asked me to consider being the co-director of vacation bible school at our church. My understanding of the position was that I would be attending planning meetings twice a month and taking care of other administrative needs. Well, at the time I was feeling like I wanted to get involved in something at church, and was going through a phase when I missed the busyness of teaching. So I thought, why not be the co-director of VBS?

Obviously, I didn’t really understand what I’d gotten myself into. Co-director of VBS means you pretty much run the show, along with the director and the children’s ministries director. Now, I’m making this sound like this was a bad experience. I actually thoroughly enjoyed it and made lots of new friends through it. I learned some things about myself through the experience. First, I learned that I like to be in charge (Travis probably could have told you that after we said “I do”, and I’m a teacher…pretty much goes with the territory.) Second, I am anally organized. To the point that I am already in the process of creating a reference binder containing vital VBS information for next year (because, as of right now, I’m planning on being the director of VBS next year…yikes, did I just say that??).

Because I’ve pretty much lived and breathed VBS since February, I decided it was probably worthy of its own post. I’ll start off by giving you a little run down on what went on. For those of you who don’t know, Travis and I go to Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church. For the last 3 years, we’ve been holding VBS at the church. Each year the number of kids involved grows. Last year, roughly 110 kids attended. This year, we had 124 kids and 70 volunteers! Pretty big stuff! My job leading up to VBS was to recruit the volunteers to fill every necessary area that makes VBS run smoothly…from teachers, to registration helpers, to snack helpers, to publicity chairmen, to a worship leader (and that’s just naming a few!!). A pretty wide variety of positions were needed, which allowed us to think of people who are gifted in these areas and ask them if they were willing to serve. One of the hardest parts was getting the volunteers. God provided us with exactly the number of volunteers we needed, which was such an answer to prayer considering how stressful it got at times. It was great to see people being able to use their God-given gifts and talents to minister to children.

So, besides recruiting, my job (along with the director) was to organize all the details that make VBS run smoothly. Easier said than done. I was blessed with a WONDERFUL director who has become a good friend, and we complemented each other very well. By the time VBS week rolled around, it went so smoothly and everyone had a great time.

Some of you have probably given up reading this. If you’re still with me, I’ll get to some stuff you’re maybe a little more interested in. Some of you might be wondering what I did with Owen while I was at VBS every day last week from 8am to 12ish pm? Well, our church provided nursery care for the kids of volunteers. Here’s a picture of him riding around in a wagon watching the big kids do the fun activities:

Besides recruiting and organizing the week of VBS, we also worked a lot to prepare the decorations. I guess someone along the way got smart and decided that it would be a whole lot easier if a few churches did the same VBS and worked together to create decorations that could be shared. WAY SMART! This made life SO much easier. Volunteers from five different St. Louis churches got together several times over the last few months to create this set:

In case you were wondering after looking at that set, our theme was “Power Lab” and the kids learned all about the miracles of Jesus through a science theme. I wasn’t sure how this theme would work at first, but it was so cool and the kids got to do lots of fun science stuff that related to their bible stories. For example, in the room where the bible story was taught, the kids actually got to walk on water! Check it out:

Okay, so maybe they aren’t actually walking on water, but it lets them experience what it would feel like. I’m not sure what that mixture is that they used, but I know they used a TON of cornstarch (or corn syrup, not sure…obviously I didn’t get into those details!). Besides walking on water, what kid doesn’t think that exploding Diet Coke is awesome??

To stick with the science theme, we recruited a “mad scientist” to challenge the kids daily to remember their bible verses. If they could say it, they got a piece of candy. The kids thought this was great! Here’s Professor Jason in action:

Another great aspect of the week was a mission project that the kids took part in. We partnered with a ministry here in St. Louis called Refuge of Nations. Briefly, Refuge of Nations helps to meet the needs of refugee and immigrant families in the St. Louis area. We learned that some of their needs were diapers, baby wipes, peanut butter, and cereal. Each day during VBS week, the kids were challenged to bring in an item for Refuge of Nations. Here’s a picture of some of the donations that were collected:

I mentioned earlier that we had 124 kids. To make the day run smoothly, we separated the kids into crews of 5 or 6 led by a crew leader. I relied on the creative mind of my husband to come up with some wacky science names for the crews. He came up with such names as the Nuclear Ninjas and the Chemical Crazies. My mom took a week off of work to be a part of the VBS experience. Here is a picture of her with her crew, the “Molecular Maniacs”!

From my observations and from the comments made by parents, the kids had a blast! They loved the skits and singing. Here’s a picture of the kids getting into the music:

Overall, the whole experience was great. Exhausting, but great. I got a chance to meet a lot of new people at the church and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see such a massive project through to completion. I’m enjoying having my life back, but I’m already starting to think about changes I will make to VBS next year!

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I thought I’d do a little update on some of the books Emily and I have been reading the past few months…and as you can tell by the post headline, they’ve been filled with feel-good family fun!! Note: most of these are books I’ve been reading. I can’t really speak for most of Emily’s recent reads, so look for a post from her in the near future.

First off, the Mormons. Emily just finished reading Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. If you’re not familiar with Krakauer, his investigative journalist approach to writing (Into The Wild and Into Thin Air) is really fascinating, and here he tackles fundamentalist mormans, a.k.a polygamists. It’s disturbing to say the least (I’ve also read the book), but really interesting. He also delves deep into the differences between fundamentalists and Latter Day Saint Mormans, and how although each is rooted in the same history (Joseph Smith), they’re quite different. And as the title suggests, violence is a key theme.

Not by coincidence, Emily and I have been watching HBO’s Big Love on DVD, which is about a polygamist family (the father of which is none other than uber-cheesy actor Bill Paxton!) in suburban Utah who still practices “the principle” (polygamy), while trying to disassociate themselves from the polygamist compound they came from. Everything we’ve seen is right in line with Krakauer’s book.

Up next we’ve got A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini wrote the wildly popular and acclaimed The Kite Runner, which Emily and I both really loved. “Suns” is the story of two different women who go from strangers to friends against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s war-torn history (from Soviet invasion to Taliban civil war). As with The Kite Runner, in Suns, Hosseini crafts two characters who you become emotionally attached to almost instantly. I can see how some might argue that he manipulates his readers into feeling for the characters (putting them in situations where the reader would be heartless not to feel for the character), but nonetheless, he’s a powerful storyteller. It’s familiar territory if you’ve read The Kite Runner. But I still highly recommend it.

A few months ago I finished The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It was one of Oprah’s Book Club choices (don’t hold that against the book, though) and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, amongst other honors. After reading it, I understand why. It’s beautifully written, whereas the subject matter is very harsh. A father and his young son are alive in a post-apocalyptic world. They’re traveling old highways to find their way to the coast…which they equate with potential of civilization/life/hope. Their encounters with starvation, violence, and death are heartbreaking to say the least, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. It was especially tough reading this one with a 1-year-old baby boy in the house. I couldn’t help but imagine if this was “us.” Look for the film version coming out in the next year or so, starring Viggo Mortenson.

Now…if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter, I recommend Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. It’s been out for a while, but I just read it. Hilarious and irreverent pop culture analysis of everything from why When Harry Met Sally ruined his love life to The Celtics/Lakers rivalry and how it determines what kind of person you are. Funny stuff.

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Our friend, Sarah, tagged me with this fun little questionnaire. If you check this blog for the sole purpose of learning about the little tyke, you may not be interested in reading on. Here are some things that you never knew you wanted to know about me:

What were you doing 10 years ago?

1. I had just finished my junior year of high school at Westminster Christian Academy.

2. I was in the process of applying to and visiting colleges (including Baylor, Samford, Auburn, Covenant, and Mizzou).

3. I had just finished taking the ACT 4 times in a row, only to get the same score 3 times in a row (the last time it went up only 1 point and I decided to call it quits).

What is on your to-do list today?

1. Clean house  (it has been neglected far too long…)

2. Go to grocery store and Target  (I always do this on Monday…just part of the routine.)

3. Make dinner.

4. Lay on the couch and watch really mindless television with Travis.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

1. Diet Coke (my sad addiction to diet coke sees me through days when Owen decides to wake up at the crack of dawn)

2. Peanut Butter Pretzels from Trader Joe’s (yum yum…if you have a love for peanut butter, you’ve got to try these little pleasures!)

3. Watermelon…my newest fruit obsession.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

First, I would pay off everything I owe. I’d love to have no house payment and no car payment…wow, that would be great!! Then, I’d love to take some pretty fabulous vacations. Travis would be thrilled with our new billionaire status because we could now afford my obsession with decorating our house!

Your bad habits:

1. I’m a bit of a back-seat driver. If any of you have seen me behind the wheel and Travis in the passenger seat…this is how we make our marriage work.

2. I’m really very obsessed with celebrity gossip. Sad, but true.

5 Jobs You’ve Had:

1. Babysitter (from the time I was 13 until now, actually)

2. Server at a nursing home (I had to wear a white button-down shirt, black pants, and a black bow tie and serve soup to all of the residents. I was terrible at this job…I ended up with vegetable soup on my shirt every night. Just ask my mom; it was her full-time job keeping my white shirts clean.)

3. Worked at GapKids. Loved this job. Loved the discount. Loved picking out cute baby clothes. Maybe I should go back part-time now and get the discount again…

4. Provided therapy for a child with autism while I was in college. I loved this job, and it prepared me well for some of the kids I worked with in my next job.

5. 1st grade teacher, then 2nd grade teacher.

What is currently playing on your iPod?

Okay, call me a loser, but I don’t have an iPod. Travis does, but not me. So let’s change it to my CD player…this may make me even more of a loser than you thought before when you realized that I don’t have an iPod…Sesame Street Silly Songs. Owen’s favorite, but I actually find myself singing along. Oh how life changes.

What are the last 5 books you’ve read or have been reading?

1. The Bible (Luke)

2. Baby Signs

3. Under the Banner of Heaven

4. Run by Ann Patchett (a book I picked up from the library…going to the library with Owen is NOT FUN. I have no time to peruse the books on the shelves. Instead, I have to quickly skim the synopsis, check out the cover, and go. Even though it was a quick pick, it’s providing me some quality entertainment.)

5. My VBS director’s manual (look for a post explaining more about this latest venture)

Now it’s my turn to tag some other bloggers. I’m thinking hard about who would actually do this… Okay, I’m tagging Ashley, Sarah, and Lara.

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i am your father

What can I say? Without getting overly sappy here, it’s been a better year than I ever could’ve imagined. And last Saturday was a great reminder of that (we celebrated my father’s day on Saturday and had lunch with Em’s dad on Sunday – a quick shout out to my dad, who we greatly missed Sunday!).

As Em teased in her last post, we went to the Saint Louis Science Center’s Monster Machines parking lot exhibit. It was perfect for little boys between the ages of 1-27.

First off, there was Bigfoot. What dude doesn’t marvel at the site of this vehicular beast?

There was a monster grocery store shopping cart:

Firetrucks…

And of course, the John Deere tractor (which we had to get a picture of in honor of my uncle, Keith, who now works for big green).

After our time with the machines, Emily had a picnic planned for us in Forest Park. The weather was beautiful, and the food was great.

Emily and Owen gave me a new shirt and book to commemorate the occasion. For those who are wondering, the book is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I recently read The Road by McCarthy, which is fantastic (and is currently being made into a movie starring Viggo Mortenson). McCarthy also wrote No Country For Old Men, and I loved the movie adaptation. Blood Meridian is a western, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I’ll get you all a review once I’m finished with it.

So thanks to Em and Owen for a great day. I felt loved. And I really appreciate you not getting me a tie.

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13 months old!

Owen just gets more fun every day. He’s developing quite a sense of humor! He loves to laugh, and he talks constantly! He calls everything a “boggy”, but he has also started saying “up” and “car”. I’m loving the fact that he says “mama” ALL the time…it’s pretty cute!

I’ve got braggin’ rights on “mama”, but Travis gets to brag that Owen took his first five independent steps on Father’s Day! Big stuff! We were screaming and laughing…the poor kid didn’t know what was going on! I’m really trying to get him to practice this, but he seems to think that he can get places faster when he crawls (which he can) so there’s no need to try that walking stuff!

Owen’s other big thing this month is pointing. At everything. All the time. When I go to get him up in the morning, the first thing he does is stand at the corner of his crib, look out the door, point at whatever he thinks is in the hall, and then he says “boggy”. He thinks about Max every moment of every day. It’s pretty sweet. He also likes to point at people when he sees them. Not necessarily people he knows. Just people. Any people.

This month has been lots of fun. We’re looking forward to a fun trip to Mena to visit Travis’ parents and then a trip to the beach with my family in the next few weeks. Look for lots of fun pictures in the near future!!

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Last year we spent Father’s Day doing a lot of this:

This year, we spent Father’s Day doing more of this:

Yep, you got it.  We spent Father’s Day looking at lots of monster trucks.  What more could a boy want?  More on that to come…

Happy Father’s Day, Travis!  Owen couldn’t have a better Daddy!

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