Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bedtime Breakthroughs - Baby to Big Boy Overnight!

If you would have asked me two weeks ago when we were going to break the "bobo" habit or ditch the crib for a toddler bed with my youngest, I probably would have laughed.  My answer would've been something like "I'm not sure about the crib, but the "bobo" will probably go to college with him, and I might have to go with him so he can hold my hair while he sleeps"

That was two weeks ago.  It's amazing how quickly and unexpectedly things can change!

Bedtime Breakthrough - Baby to Big Boy Overnight overlayed on big brother holding new baby

Big brother sucking thumb and new baby sitting in Daddy's lap skyping
Mr. L. has always been a "bobo kid."  As an infant, they were a near-constant companion.  His big brother rarely used a pacifier; he preferred his thumb as soon as he had the muscle control to put it into his mouth reliably.  It was cute at the time, and it was a great self-soothing method.  It's been a constant struggle to keep the thumb out of his mouth, since, though!  When baby #2 preferred a pacifier, I was thrilled.  I could take it away when the time comes (I thought) and breaking the habit would be a million times easier (I thought).

How wrong I was!  For the first year of his life the "bobo" was always within reach, and a back-up wasn't far away.  They seemed to help quell Mr. L.'s absolute hatred for car rides which made them worth their weight in gold.  The fact that they also frequently calmed my seemingly un-cheerable little one was a bonus.

At daycare, they were used sparingly outside of nap time, which I was more than fine with - all the easier to drop the habit later.  When he moved up to the next room at a year old, they were a strictly "crib only" soother.  When he moved up again at 18 months, we were told they would be slowly and gently weaning all toddlers from their pacifiers.  I panicked thinking my baby would never nap without it, but the awesome women at his daycare made it happen almost seamlessly!

One year old sitting in toddler sized chair with pacifier in mouth

Still the "bobo" was a must as we prepared for bed at home and whenever we rode in the car. Even after the pediatric dentist chided me for the damage they were causing and warned me about the need for braces, I wasn't ready to just force him to quit cold turkey. I read all kind of articles about toddlers and even preschoolers who still used a pacifier at bed time.  I read about how to break the pacifier habit.  I read anything I found on the topic, and still felt strongly that the time just wasn't right for us.

Then I had a giant mommy fail.

All of the pacifiers in the house ended up in the dishwasher at the same time.  The dishwasher was in the middle of running.  It was bedtime and I had ZERO "bobos"!  *GULP*

You know what?  Mr. L. handled it like a PRO!  He asked several times for his "bobo", and each time we explained that they were all being washed, and we didn't have one to give him.  He checked the usual storage places a couple of times, and made a trip to his room to confirm our situation.  That was it.  He tossed and turned a little bit more as he fell asleep that night, and he twirled my hair like there was no tomorrow, but he did it!  He fell asleep without a pacifier!

The next morning, I knew we couldn't go back.  My husband and I quickly made sure all stragglers left in the cars were out of sight, and resigned ourselves to a long car ride to school.  Mr. L. surprised us once again!  He again asked several times, but was receptive to our explanation that there was no "bobo" to give him.

Over the next several days, he asked less and less frequently.  The transition was so much easier than I ever pictured in my mind.  

pile of no longer needed pacifiers

Feeling like a big boy with no pacifier, must have taken over Mr. L.'s brain - only a few days later her figured out how to climb out of his crib.  Luckily, I happened to be sitting on the floor when it happened, or he'd have fallen right on his head!

32 month old "helps" transition crib to toddler bed


That afternoon, Mr. L. helped daddy convert the crib to a toddler bed.  My baby is really growing up! (Now if only it would spill over into potty training!)


32 month old lying on stomach in new bed signs BED






toddler bed with pillow, blanket, and stuffed animals ready to go






The moral of the story?

If you're struggling with something, hang in there.  It might seem like the necessary factors you need are impossible right now. But, tomorrow, they might be waiting for you on the door step.  Never give up the hope that life you dream of can be yours - be that sleeping through the night, starting your own business, fitness, or anything thing else your heart desires.

Change happens so quickly and unexpectedly.  You never know what tomorrow holds.  Keep doing the things you know you need to do, but don't stress about the parts you can't control.

Monday, October 19, 2015

9 Reasons You Need to Visit Cafe O'Play

As the mornings have gotten colder, and the days have gotten gray and rainy, I've been having flashes of what our winter will look like.  Two active boys cooped up in the house all day is not a pretty sight!  Kids need to use their large muscles - run, jump, climb, and explore like we do at the playground.

*I received free admission to Cafe O'Play and lunch for my family to facilitate writing this post.  All opinions are my own.*

That's why I'm so grateful to have an awesome indoor play place near by where we can go safely burn some energy regardless of what the weather outside looks like! Cafe O'Play is a large indoor playground with space to run, a two-story padded climbing structure, slides, and so much more.

9 Reason You need to Visit Cafe O'Play overlayed on picture of play area

There are always lots of chances to sign as well - TAKE-TURNS, BALL, WAIT, and DANCE are probably our most frequently used signs while we're playing.

Here are 9 reasons we love Café O'Play and think you will to:

1. Visit any Time of Year

With daily admission rates as well as monthly or 10-visit packages, Cafe O'Play is perfect for any time of year.  During the summer, we pop in for the day when it's super hot and we want an air-conditioned place to play or to get out of the rain.  In the winter, we opt for the monthly pass and stop in for a half-hour or so after school to burn some extra energy before heading home or visit for a few hours to get out of the house on a snowy Saturday morning.

2. It's Fun - and Always Different

The boys (and seemingly all the other kids there too) love to run, climb, slide, and play to their hearts' content.  It's not uncommon to see a game of tag or some other creative game start up between a group of children then continue to morph into a dozen different things as each adds an imaginative touch.  It is totally common to see the staff join in on the fun!

Child running on bridge in 2-story play structure with triple wide slide

Just like the outside playgrounds we visit, the play structure doesn't change. The play, though, is never the same twice.  It's amazing what a new day and a different mix of imaginations can dream up!

3. Time Out for Me - Or Not

I love that I can sit back and relax for a few minutes while the staff run run run with the kids.  I also love that I am more than welcome to slip off my shoes and climb my own socked feet up the play structure to help my child myself.


Cafe O'Play staff member helps child climb steps of two story play structure


4. The Staff is Super Involved

During busy times, the staff will often facilitate various organized activities like parachute games, sharks and minnows, and other childhood favorites in the sport court. When it's less busy, there are a hand full of spongy balls, foam discs, and stuffed rubber octopuses and pigs (I know - it sounds crazy, but they're always a hit!) to use imaginatively.

Sports court floor covered with discs, balls, and rubber animals

5. Interactive Play

3 year old boy plays a game using an eye-click floor
Two other constant hits for my family are the perpetual dance party complete with fun lighting and the "EyePlay Floor" which projects video games onto the floor to be played with the whole body by stepping, swiping, dancing, etc. to play games like pop the balloon, rotating puzzles, coloring pictures, and more!  I think I have as much fun playing along as the kids do!

There is also a gaga court which looks super fun.  My boys are a bit small to stay engaged for long, but I've seem some quite spirited games get started.


6. Options for the Smallest Guests

three year old uses toddler sized foam climber with slidethree year old builds with giant foam blocksFor those with younger children, the toddler area (for those under 4) allows climbing, sliding, and lots more fun - all at a toddler's level.


No one gets left out of the fun at Cafe O'Play!


7. The Chance to Grab a Bite to Eat

The café part in Café O'Play comes from their menu of goodies to eat and drink.  There are great options for adults like cappuccino, chai, and a variety of infused waters in addition to the typical water, milk, juice options.  Lunch and dinner choices include a variety of tasty sandwiches, soups, and salads like our favorites - broccoli cheese soup, balsamic marinated portabella sandwich, and red pepper Caesar salad. 
cup of broccoli cheddar soup with half ham and cheese sandwich

plate with half balsamic portabella sandwich and red pepper caesar salad

8. Kid Tins

The kids menu is my one of my favorites of anywhere we visit.  There are traditional options like PBJ sandwiches, and mac and cheese, but we never pass up the kid tins. These six-section muffin tins come filled with five child-approved foods like turkey, cheese, apple sauce, carrots, pretzels, etc. they can choose from a list of 16 options.  They are a hit for the boys every time which makes them a hit for Mom and Dad too! 


kid tin with carrots, cheese, ranch, applesauce, ham, and tortilla chips


The portions are plentiful, and I definitely feel you get your money's worth! Rarely does my 2 year old finish the entire amount of food (that's nothing new - he rarely finishes food), but my 4 year old never walk away hungry.  In a perfect world, I would love to see more fresh fruit and veggie options, but as a once-in-a-while lunch or dinner while we're playing, I can't complain.


9. The Aftermath

As you exit Café O'Play, you can't help but notice their warning:

Sign above the door reading "children leaving Cafe O'Play may need an early bedtime!


It's true!

three year old asleep in a car seat after playing at cafe o play

One of the best parts of visiting Café O'Play - be it crammed to capacity with children or we have the whole place to ourselves - is that the kids leave satisfied and tired, which means Mom and Dad leave satisfied too!

If you find yourself in Stow, Ohio definitely take the time to stop by for a visit, you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autumn Adventures: Exploring at the Apple Orchard

Boys standing under apple tree with title Autumn Adventures: Exploring the Apple Orchard

Fall is my favorite time of the year!  I love the crisp air, the changing colors, and wearing warm cozy hooded sweatshirts. I love cooking with winter squashes, apples, and pumpkin (to some extent...you won't find me keeping a list of all the pumpkin spiced late items I can find).  I love the smells of fall that fill the outside air, and the smells of cooking and baking found inside. The best part is more and more chances for family time, as we have several holidays close together.


apple background with text: Fall is my favorite time of year

Any chance we get to set aside the hustle and bustle of a typical busy week to spend time together making memories is a win in my book, and fall presents lots of opportunities. It doesn't always have to be something big and costly.  Sometimes, it doesn't have to cost anything at all - playing games, watching movies, jumping in puddles, or a walk in the woods are just a few great ways to do some family bonding.

Recently, we had the chance to go apple picking with one of the boys' grandmothers and an aunt.  It was a perfect fall activity for us that day.  We were able to get out of the house and enjoy a beautiful afternoon without having to spend all day planning, prepping, and packing to be gone all day.  In fact, the decision to go was pretty spur-of-the-moment.

My in-laws live just a mile or so from 2 different apple orchards, so we decided to hop in the car and visit one.  When we got there, we spent a few minutes talking to one of the owners about which trees held which variety of apple, which apples were ripe and ready, and getting a general lay of the land.  From there we were free to explore and pick our apples right from the trees. 

32 month old signs TREE33 month old signs APPLEBoth boys were super excited for this new adventure.  At first, they were grabbing any apple they could reach.  We paused for a minute to talk about which APPLES we wanted to pick, and which we needed to leave on the TREES to keep growing.  We also talked about the apples we needed to leave on the ground because the were rotten, and covered in BUGS.  From there, they both did a pretty good job of picking great apples, and not tasting any apples they found on the ground.

ants cover the inside half of an apple on the ground

As we moved from one variety of apple tree to the next, Grammie shared her apple picking knowledge and experience.  When we got to the trees growing golden delicious apples, she told us to make sure not to pick the green ones that weren't ready yet, but to find the golden yellow ones.  Some of the them had been "kissed by the sun" and had spots of red, too.  These were, essentially, sunburned and area always found on the very outside of the tree, but they're safe to eat and don't taste any different than their un-spotted friends.

32 month old pulls apple from a low tree branch


32 month old peeks out under tree branches
Naturally, both boys tired of JUST picking apples before the job was done.  They were more than happy to use the giant open spaces near the trunk of each tree to stretch their imaginations while we finished picking though!  I heard snippets of conversation about magic wands, visiting each other's 'homes', and what creatures might be living in giant knot holes.   It was a fun moment for all of us adults to watch Mr. I. and Mr. L. play with out their realizing it.  A chance to witness their personality and inner thoughts unchecked always brings a smile to my face.

Of course, there was plenty of tasting (EAT) apples during our visit as well.

4 year old tastes an apple held out to him32 month old tastes an apple he holds

They played happily while we finished filling our bags and chatting about the yummy things we'd make with our pickings.  Then we walked back to the office to pay for our apples.  When we got there, they were using a conveyor to sort apples by size, it was pretty intriguing, so we stopped to watch for a bit.

two boys watch a conveyor belt sorts apple by size

Plenty of apples in hand, we climbed back into our car to head home for dinner.  A definite highlight of the meal was eating some slices of the apples we had a hand in bringing to the table!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate fall?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Autumn Adventures: Stomping and Splashing in the Rain

It rained recently, after not raining much for the past month or more. It was a gentle, steady rain, and exactly what we needed. I was thrilled that our brown patches of straw grass might have a chance at revival. Mr. I. and Mr. L. were equally excited about the rain.  No, they don't have an early interest in gardening....they were thrilled to be able to wear their raincoats and rain boots to school!


Title pic: Boys splashing in a puddle in rain coat and rain boots.  Text: Autumn Adventures: Stomping and Splashing in the Rain

Anything that makes the morning routine smoother is a huge bonus, so not having to argue over putting on socks and shoes was great.  However, as the day wore on and our scattered showers turned into all day showers, my enthusiasm waned.  We visit the playground almost daily to get the wiggles out before dinner and wind down time.  With everything soaked, we were going to need a really good backup plan to avoid the witching hour!

After talking with my husband, it was decided that dinner at a local fast food restaurant would be a good choice.  With some healthier-ish options on the menu, and an indoor playground to run off the wiggles it was a good treat for our rainy day.

Dinner was nothing eventful, but definitely enjoyed.  However, as soon as Mr. L. got out of the car at home, I knew we weren't finished with our wiggles just yet.

"Jump puddle" he insisted sweetly.  Looking at his hopeful face, and realizing that we were probably in our last day of warmth for quite some time, I nodded. He excitedly jumped in a tiny spot of water on the garage floor before heading down the driveway to a more appropriate splashing puddle.  Mr. I. followed without an ounce of hesitation.

Boys splashing in puddles wearing rain coats and rain boots

They played happily for quite some time....until Mr. L.  jumped a little too big and totally missed landing on his feet.  Wet but unhurt, he sat in the puddle unwilling to get up and refusing help from his big brother.  Mommy to the rescue!  This was the end of our time enjoying the puddles, as we all needed to dry off, and it was definitely time for bed.  Reluctantly, both boys followed me into the house to start our nighttime routine.

Boy wearing a rain coat and rain boots lands in puddle with a big splah

My lesson from all of this?  It's OK to have spontaneous activities. It's OK to veer away from the schedule set in my head.  It's OK to get a little wet and messy.  It's OK!  The smiles and the memories from that 10 minutes of change are more than worth anything that would have happened in that time had I forced them inside where it was warm and dry.


What is your favorite way to enjoy a warm, rainy day?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Can Signing Smart Benefit My Child on the Autism Spectrum?

In a word, YES!

I've already shared 7 reasons why everyone needs Signing Smart.  Over the past two years, many have asked about using the Signing Smart programs with children on the autism spectrum.  My answer has always been that I didn't have the research to back me up, but what I knew about each of those subjects would lead me to believe that using American Sign Language with children on the autism spectrum who are struggling with communication would provide a great benefit.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to do a bit of research on this topic, and I'm happy to say that, not only were our gut reactions correct, I now have some research to support that!

In may ways, though, the findings I will share with you apply not only to children on the autism spectrum.  Children with a delay in language for any reason can absolutely benefit from using American Sign Language and the tools and strategies offered by Signing Smart - even after the age of 2. 

Many children who fall into this group may be labeled "non-verbal," however, they are far from silent!  While unable to communicate successfully, a child may still be able to produce consonant and vowel sounds or even syllables consisting of multiple letter sounds. (Kauffman, N., Shaping Verbal Language for Children on the Spectrum of Autism Who Also Exhibit Apraxia of Speech)  Using American Sign Language via Signing Smart's techniques as a means of early communication and language exposure while simultaneously working on other speech development activities could lead to astounding results!

Just like with hearing infants and toddlers, research has found that American Sign Language can actually speed the acquisition of spoken language. Also, just like hearing infants and toddlers, the successful communication afforded by ASL can help to reduce frustration and can "serve the purpose of functionally replacing other disruptive behaviors such as aggression, self-injurious behavior, and tantrumming" (Helwig, C. Autism and ASL) 

Other researchers have found that using American Sign Language  also provides additional benefits to children on the autism spectrum. One such area might be improved attentiveness to social gestures both those being used by the child as well as interpreting those seen from others. (Edleson, S., Signed Speech or Simultaneous Communication) Other benefits relate to the manual nature of ASL and the idea that parents/caregivers/teachers can physically help the child form a sign as part of the learning process, unlike spoken language.  Because of this, children with a wide variety of functional abilities can successfully use sign language as part of their communication.

Whether your goals are focused on developing spoken language or an alternative means of communication, American Sign Language and the Signing Smart tools and strategies can help you get there!


Ready to get started?  Contact me to arrange your private, small or large group class! SigningWithMissSteph@Gmail.com



Here are the resources that helped me write this post:
Edelson, S. (n.d.). Signed Speech or Simultaneous Communication. from http://www.autism.org/sign.html

Helwig, C. (2008) Autism and ASL from http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/topics/autism.htm

Kauffman, N. (n.d.) Shaping Verbal Language for Children on the Spectrum of Autism Who Also Exhibit Apraxia of Speech  from http://www.apraxia-kids.org/library/shaping-verbal-language-for-children-on-the-spectrum-of-autism-who-also-exhibit-apraxia-of-speech/