Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Noodles....One More Reason I'm Glad Signing Smart is Part of Our Lives

Perhaps you read the title of today's blog post and thought...noodles?! How are noodles even remotely connected to signing and language development?

Trust me, until recently, I would've had the same reaction.  After multiple mornings experiencing the same scenario, though, noodles are one more reason to add to long list of things that make me so grateful for this approach to early communication and long-term learning.

Here's the scenario 

 I wake up far too early for my preference.  Either the alarm has gone off, or someone is calling from his crib.  Depending on what caused the wakening, the next few events happen in a variety of orders, but I go through the typical morning routine, trip over a few cats demanding breakfast, and get Mr. L. up and ready for the day. 

I don't know about you, but at this point in the day, my brain is not quite working at full capacity. This is all the more true when Mr. L. is calling from his crib and getting him up and dressed is first on my list.  So, when I hear a smiley but emphatic "noose" come out of that little mouth, it throws me for a loop!

"Hey, it's not nice to request a noose to use on you mom!  Wait a minute, how does he even know that word?"

"What's that bud?"


 My brow is deeply furrowed from confusion.

This time he signs NOODLE and shows me a huge grin. Then saying and signing at the same time noose (NOODLE) eat (EAT).

"Noodles?  You want noodles for breakfast?"

That big grin doesn't even fade while he nods enthusiastically.

"We don't eat noodles for breakfast.  Would you like some...."

From there, our conversation goes back to something fairly normal.  At least as normal as any conversation with a two year old can be. 

Once I've had some coffee, and my foggy brain starts to clear I can finally take a minute to giggle at this conversation.  In the same instant, I'm so grateful for the gift of early communication American Sign Language has afforded us.  At that early hour, noodles would have been no where near the top of the list when I was trying to figure out what my little man was asking for. I can easily envision the tantrum that would have ensued if I hadn't understood his request.  I'm also grateful that he had the tools to help me understand him when I didn't right away.  Without missing a beat, he was able to repeat his request calmly, add signs to help me understand him, and extend his request to help clarify it.  No doubt, this was made possible by our use of the 4 Keys to Signing Smart Success and the other tools and strategies we learned.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Teachers are human too!

When I take any kind of class I always see the teacher as magical creature who has all the answers both in and out of the classroom.

I watch the owner of the dance studio we attend teaching her youngest students with such accomplishment- a whole class of toddlers are excited to see her, they mostly cooperate with anything she asks of them, and the exit class smiling and excited. Surly she must have the same success with her own small child.  Or, take for example, the teacher in an online workshop in which I'm studying about deaf childhood development.  As a school employee, she must certainly have incredible victories with every child on her caseload.  Even my own fitness quest can provide examples as each instructor undoubtedly maintains a perfect fitness and nutrition regimen every day.

Now, in my head, I know this isn't the case.  Each of these teachers is human.  They have a some great information to share, but they have good days and bad days.  There are days when what they know *should* work  - doesn't.  There are days when they don't follow their own great advice.  There are days where it just seems that everything goes wrong no matter what you try.  Still there tends to be a mystical perfection I apply to people in such positions in my life.

If for no other reason, I should know this because I'm a teacher, and mystical, magical perfection is far from a part of my life!  I hope that the families I work with see me as someone a lot like them - a mom who's very much human and just trying to do the best I can for my family.  The fact that I get to share my passion for language and children and early communication with them, and that it helps them too, is just a bonus.

Here's a story to prove it  - in case you need a reminder like I often do:

I was having a heck of a day - one of those where it seems like the universe is just against you no matter how many nice things you try to do.  After dealing with teething-induced tantrums, running late to teach my class, ruining the birthday cake I tried to bake for my husband, and not having a birthday present to give him, I let myself have a good cry before going to pick up said teething 2-year-old from daycare. 

My plan was to pick him up early, go shopping together for birthday presents, then go to his weekly dance class.

3:45: Get in the car, give Mr. L. a snack and a sippy cup - he's thrilled!

3:47: Start "Elsa" in the CD player - life is grand!

4:00: Arrive at department store. "Doctor" is the exclamation from my back seat.  "You think this looks like the doctor's office?"  (The brick store looks nothing like our doctor's office with a white exterior.)  "This is a store.  We're going to buy some birthday presents for Daddy."

4:01: My phone rings as we're about to get out of the car.  We talk to Daddy for a few minutes about our game plan for the evening.

4:05: We enter the store, and I try to sit Mr. L. in a buggy.  He refuses, and he insists on walking. I'm learning to work with his newly demanded discovered independence, so I take a deep breath and make a mental list of all the tools I have to keep him in sight, buy birthday presents for Daddy, and still get to dance class on time.

4:15: My mental list is exhausted.  I am totally unable to keep him in my sight and do more than randomly grab things off of the shelf.

4:16: I take a deep breath and try to re-group while I retrieve Mr. L. from the little girl's shoe aisle. I kneel down to his level: "Mommy needs to be able to SEE (I sign see.) you.  If you want to walk, you need to stay where I can SEE you.  If you keep running off where I can't SEE you, you're going to have to ride (SIT) in the buggy.

4:20: We've made it through kitchen supplies.  Mr. L. let me hold him as we made our way down the aisles, so we avoided breaking any of the display items!  We're headed down the main aisle to men's clothing.  I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that we'll get what we need.

4:21: I bend down to look at golf shirts on a low self.  I look up, and can't see Mr. L.  Luckily, his winter boots are anything but quiet, so I know right where he is. 

4:22:  I pick him up and try to sit him in the buggy with the reminder "Mommy needs to be able to see you.  You keep running off, so you're going to have to sit in the cart for now."  Can you guess how this disappointment went?

4:25: I remind myself that I'm doing fine.  I expected the resistance, the kicking, and some verbal protests. "Keep him engaged, let him help.  It will be short lived."  (Am I the only one who gives myself mental pep talks?)

4:26:  Mr. L. is still screaming and trying to climb out of his seat.  I'm trying to follow my own advise.  "Which one of these should we get for Daddy?"  "What color shirt do you like?" If anything, these questions only irritate him further.  Now instead of protesting, his screams sound as though I'm torturing him.  I'm certain everyone is staring at me even though it's mid-afternoon and the store is nearly empty.  Are the security cameras turning in my direction too?

4:27: With tears springing to my eyes, I pick Mr. L. up out of the cart and hug him to me for a chat. I feel the weight of the day sitting on my shoulder.  "Mommy feels the same way, bud. We need to find a birthday present for Daddy, though.  Can you help me?"  Momentarily, I contemplate leaving and buying nothing. Mr. L.'s tantrum intensifies.  Now he's screaming even louder (how is that even possible?!) and trying to throw himself out of my arms.  I sit him back in the buggy seat as carefully as I can and try to ignore his screams, talking to him as though it were any normal shopping trip.  I'm thinking of all the stories I've read about moms who've been applauded or criticized in similar situations.  "Just get what you need as quickly as you can.  Stay calm.  You're doing fine.  If anyone says something negative to you, just ignore them."

4:32: Realizing I've just walked the same path through men's clothing for probably the 50th time, I give up.  Nothing I'm trying is working. I can't focus.  I'm so distracted, I don't even remember there are bubbles in my purse!  I decide to purchase the couple of things I've already picked out and move on.

4:37: We're back in the car.  I'm trying to figure out how to kill time until dance class.  I'm disappointed with the results of our trip. but I'm proud that I kept my cool and dealt with the situation.  We end up driving around for a while.  Mr. L. calmly looks out the window and takes in everything going by. 

6:15: Dance class lets out.  Mr. L. participate and behaved like any other toddler - mostly doing what he was asked and needing a few reminders.  We head home for dinner and bed.

I'm very much human!  My tools and strategies aren't always successful.  In many ways, we are probably a lot alike.  We love young children, and we want to offer them the valuable gift of early communication.  No one has all the answers all the time, but we are invested in learning as many of them as possible! 

You're doing a great job.  Stop for a minute today.  Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.  Not every situation will go off without a hitch - but you're doing great work!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Baby, it's cold outside!

Much of the country is experiencing cold temperatures right now. I saw -16 degrees one recent morning!

Here are some common signs in my home lately: SNOW, COLD, BOOT, HAT, COAT

With temperatures so dangerously frigid, it can be hard to help our little ones use up their energy in ways that are safe and satisfying.  If the little ones in your life are anything like my two little boys, they need a great outlet for their creativity that involves lots of large muscle play - running, jumping, climbing, etc.   

We've been very lucky this winter to have some local INSIDE play spaces to test out.  They have been a blessing with all of the days that have been too cold to even bundle up and walk around outside safely!  The one we've frequented most, is a new indoor play space and cafe called Cafe O'Play

Their large space for running, climbing, sliding, and more has given us a safe place to burn some energy and given us a reason to leave the house on some of our recent cold days.One of the things I love about the staff there is how engaging they are.  When only a few kids are present, the staff is much more than just a safety monitor.  He or she is always running around with the kids playing whatever game they dream up.  On busier days, the staff members are often introducing more organized activities - parachute games, sharks and minnows, and all kinds of other ways to help a large number of kids get along in the same space.  The controlled chaos is magnificent!  With very few exceptions, every child I've encountered there has been behaved and pleasant.

When temperatures are a bit warmer, snow can be a lot of fun.  The fresh air and outside play time does wonders for everyone.  It almost doesn't matter what the activity is.  Just being outside is refreshing.  We've enjoyed building snowmen, making snow angels, sledding, shoveling the driveway, and even just flopping in a snow piles.

Even with all the winter fun that's been going on, I can' wait for green grass, warm breezes, and lots of outside fun!