Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Detective Eyes #8a

Back in January, I posted about how signs change and develop over time. I showed you the same child signing HELP 10 months apart, and mentioned that in time the sign would continue along the path to looking just like the pictures in the dictionary.

Well, here it is - OH SO CLOSE!

It happened quite unexpectedly, too. 

Just before nap time, we were all starting to settle down by snuggling on the couch.  Mr. L. requested his "bobo," but none were to be found.  We let him go upstairs to retrieve one from his crib, where quite a collection had amassed.  (We're currently treading the fine line between safety and independence, so I stayed quite a bit behind as he climbed the stairs.)  The next thing I knew, he was walking out of his room quite calmly and clearly requesting "hep" and signing HELP clear as day!
I know it won't be long until he's got that thumb up and his sign is picture perfect.

I was more than happy to reward his successful communication by helping him retrieve just the right pacifier from his crib.  You can see for yourself how proud we both are!

After showing off for Daddy, we snuggled down for some wind-down time, and Mr. L. fell soundly asleep in my arms.  Success!

I know it won't be long until his sign is picture-perfect.  In the meantime, though, it really doesn't matter.  I absolutely understand his requests, and he knows that he can ask for help without screaming, grunting or pointing. 

Happy toddler, happy mama!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day Reflection: May They Know Only Peace

I've never been the mom who tears up at each milestone.  Gender-revealing ultrasounds, first view of my sons' faces, first steps, first day at daycare, etc.  Each came with a mix of emotions, but no tears. Sometimes, I would wonder if I didn't have a strong enough connection with my boys...certainly I should be at least misty-eyed at these momentous times...right?

On Memorial Day, though, something really touched me.

As I stood behind a booming marching band playing our national anthem as the American flag was raised just across the street, I got tears in my eyes.  As I held my youngest son at shoulder height - letting him see over the sea of blue-capped marchers, it hit me.  My eyes brimmed with tears, and I didn't dare look at anyone, lest they spill over.

My family has been abundantly blessed.  I had to dig through generations of photos to find a tribute for Memorial Day.  Not since World War Two, has my family had to endure a loved one not return from their military service.  So many other family can't say that.  So many -  husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, children - bear the raw wounds of learning to live each day without a loved one by their side.

As I listened to the building volume of the Star Spangled Banner, I hugged my two year old a little closer.  I said a prayer that as he grows, he, his friends, and all the others of his generation will not need to know the fear and uncertainty of terrorism, that they will have no need for war or violence.  I prayed that there comes a time that Memorial Day is for remembering those who served long ago, and no new names are added to the lists of those who didn't return home from their military service.

It's been proven that signing with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers gives them enhanced language abilities once they reach school.  May they use their jump-start on communication and their enhanced language skills to peacefully catapult our world into the future.  We tell them now "use your words."  May that sentiment remain with them as adults who use words rather than fists and guns to solve problems large and small!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Mommy Marathon

I have lots of friends who are runners - a few of them are featured in this post with their permission.  They each seem to truly enjoy their hobby even though they do it for lots of different reasons: running in groups as social time, running alone as "me time,"  running for health reasons, running to raise money for great causes, and probably a million more reasons I know nothing about.

They get up early or make time after work to train. They run races from 1 mile to full marathons.  No matter what happens - rain, heat, injuries - they keep at it.  They might have to made adjustments, but they don't give up.  On race day, when they get really stuck, the people on the sidelines cheering lift them help and help them finish.  The strangers they pass help, but their biggest fans provide the biggest lift - their families.  At the absolute hardest moment, their family is there to cheer, and hug, and help them to the finish line.

I am not a runner.  In fact, if you see me running, please find out what or who is chasing me!  I know what they experience during those races, though.  My job as a mommy, has given me a taste of the running a race experience.

I train for my "race"

I read books and blogs about parenting.  There are more parenting styles out there than I ever imagined!  I can't say that I follow any one of them fully, but I do find aspects of each that fit well for my family.  I also talk with lots of different parents and early childhood educators about their experiences.  There is something to be learned around every corner if you're willing to look.

As a teacher, I am honored to help other families in their training by sharing the tools and strategies offered by the Signing Smart programs.  By supporting their communication journey, I hope they find lightened footsteps in all areas of their day.

Some days require more work than others

There are days where it seems nothing goes right, no matter what I try.  There are days where I have to remind myself over and over that what I am doing will be worth it in the long-run.  There are times when I'd rather take a nap, or have cupcake, or just take a break.  But I can't, and I don't because what I'm doing is bigger an more important than the nap or the snack.  I'm not raising money - I'm raising two awesome little boys!

As a teacher, I hope the families I work with see the benefit of using American Sign Language when the tough times come. When remembering to use new signs, learning new signs, or even when signs don't seem to be coming back quickly enough, I hope they recognize all of the wonderful things they are doing, and keep at it.

I make adjustments

As I learn new things though my training, I often find ideas that seem to better fit my family than what I'm currently doing.  When this happens, I make a change.  As those bad days and struggles arise, it's obvious something needs to change, so I seek out options. 

Change is not always easy, but it's necessary in order for my family to be the best it can be!

As a teacher, I try to make to make the changes I ask of my students as painless as possible.  Signing Smart offers a variety of tools and strategies to help families and caregivers find success in any situation.  By providing them with multiple tools and strategies to choose from, as well as anecdotes about how I or other families have used each one, I hope they will understand the importance of the change I'm asking them to make and find it doable.

I have a cheering section

No one lines the street holding clever signs to tell me I'm doing a great job, but there are plenty of things that cheer me on and lift me during the hard times.  When an acquaintance comments on my boys' sweet hearts, I am lifted.  When friends go out of their way to ask about how the boys are doing, I know I (and they) are loved.  When my husband holds my hand during a tough moment or shares an exciting milestone, I know I'm never alone in my marathon.  When extended family members make a special trip to share special events with the boys or to babysit, I am reminded of the generations of love that make my family so special.  I definitely have a cheering section!

As a teacher, I try to be a virtual cheering section to all of my students.  By providing encouraging messages, opportunities to share their journey with others, and access to support long after class has ended, I hope each family I have had the privilege of serving feels the net of support they have around them at all times.

Whether you are a parent, a grand parent, another extended family member or a caregiver, you are not alone in caring for and about the youngsters in your life.  How can I help you along the way?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Family Time Saturday

On Saturdays, when I'm not teaching, we like to get out and explore as a family.  One thing my boys love is a trip to one of the local zoos.  I like that we get out in the beautiful weather, get lots of moving our bodies in, and learn something in the process.  I also love that we get to enhance the learning with our signs!

If you're new to signing with your family, a planned trip to the museum or the zoo can allow you to prepare a bit ahead of time. Look up some of the signs for animals or exhibits you think your child will enjoy.  Remind yourself of the variety of general signs you know - you always have A sign available, even if it's not THE sign you'd really prefer to use.

Once you're more experienced and feeling a bit more confident, be creative. You might be surprised at the variety of signs you can use.  On our trip to the zoo, we didn't just use signs for animal names (though we did use lots of those!).  We saw SNAKES, FROGS, FISH, BEARS, LIONS, TIGERS, BUGS, PENGUINS, GOATS, SHEEP, and so much more! We also talked about what we saw EATING, and SLEEPING, a variety of WATER (puddles, drinking fountains, animals drinking, touch tank, etc.), PLAY time (for us and for the animals),WAITING, BABIES, MAMAS, DIGGING.

After a great morning, and lots and lots of walking, both boys fell asleep in their car seats - almost before we'd left the parking lot.  We took a round-about way home through part of a local park.  Just as we turned back onto the main road, everyone woke up.  Being that it was a beautiful afternoon - one of the first this spring - so we decided on a spontaneous extra stop.

We all enjoyed skipping rocks.   seeing how big of a splash we could make with some rocks, searching for WORMS, and just enjoying the sun.  As the mama, I used the sign DRY lots of times - as in keep your shoes DRY, don't walk in the stream! (Even still, one boy had to go to day care the next day with damp sneakers.  Luckily they change into "inside shoes" as soon as they get there!)

After all that fun, we needed a snack, so we stopped at a custard stand on the way home for a special treat.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Trip to the Car Wash

We'd been out and about for most of the day, but still had one more stop before heading home - the car wash!

It takes a few washings to get all the winter salt and grime off the cars around here.  When we saw there was very little line, we decided a stop was in order.

 I was super nervous about this trip because I remember Mr. I. at around 2 being absolutely terrified of the car wash when we'd gone through one time. I could still vividly remember how helpless I felt as he was strapped in his car seat and I was in the front seat.  I tried so hard to comfort him verbally, but I don't think he could even hear me over his fear and cries.  I thought he'd find the trip fun, as I had when I was a little girl.  Apparently,  I'd been a good bit older at the time, because he was not having it!

It needed to be done, though.  I took some deep breaths and swallowed my own fears.  I reminded myself that I could use signs that they knew to help them cope with a new and potentially frightening situation, and pulled to the end of the short line of cars.

Before we ever pulled into the line, I started talking up the RAIN we'd be experiencing and how silly it would be. Once the car was being pulled along by the rollers in the car wash, I unbuckled my seat belt to turn around and look at my two sweet boys in the back seat.  When the water started to hit the car, it was loud, and Mr. L. looked pretty concerned.  Mr. I. was having a lot of fun with this trip, he thought the whole thing was pretty great this time!  We kept talking about the RAIN and how our car was getting a BATH. By about half way through the wash, Mr. L. was even smiling an pointing at the brushes rolling by the windows.

 Soon enough, our trip through the car was was over, and no one was worse for the wear - including MAMA.

Friday, May 1, 2015

I Love You!

The hand shape that creates the sign I LOVE YOU is rather complex - it combines the signs for the letters I, L, and Y. My family didn't let that stop us from incorporating it early on into each of our sons' signing repertoires, though!

It was important to us that they be able to participate in the exchange of this sentiment that is used in our family.  We knew that they would show us their own versions of the sign, based on the research done by the Signing Smart founders, so we didn't hold back.  We tell our boys multiple times a day that we love them, so we just added the sign.  For us, this was a sign we both knew long before we had kids, so combing the two wasn't a big deal.

I tend to add a little hand wave when I sign I LOVE YOU.  My husband picked up on this somewhere along the line as well, so this is the way our boys saw this sign.  Sure enough, after some time, we started to see that hand wave come back to us!

At first we saw the wave of a loosely closed fist. 

Then it turned into a pointer finger.  Around the same time, we started to hear verbal attempts as well.  Seeing little hands wave and hearing "a-you-you" during drop off time at day care definitely made the moment a little bit sweeter and easier to survive!

After much "practice" (I say practice with quotations, because there was never a time where we drilled our boys or forced them to show us a sign - we always used the 4 Keys to Signing Smart Success.  Their practice was done in choosing to repeat the sign.) and some muscle development we now see our older son sign I LOVE YOU clear as day!  This is no short process.  We started to see his hands work toward the correct handshape around age 3.  At first he had to help his fingers get into the correct positions as the muscles learned to do something new.  Now, at 4 he can sign this without even thinking twice about it!

At 2, our younger son is just starting to help his fingers try to make the correct handshape.  It's even more exciting to go through this process the second time around, because I know the awesome thing waiting at the end isn't all that far away!