Montessori... ish

When we decided to homeschool our children I spent some time looking into various methods.  Considering I have a degree in education, you would think I already would have known this, but I didn't.  I stumbled across a blog post about different styles and thought that Montessori sounded the closest to my natural philosophy and basically what we were already doing. 



The core parts we picked up were "Only do for me what I can't do for myself" and "Help me do it myself".  So what does that mean and what does that look like?  
-"Only do for me what I can't do for myself" means if your 2yo can put on her own shirt, stop "helping". Sometimes it can mean getting dressed takes longer... but in a short while it will be faster since you know have one less person to put a shirt on!  Plus, the 2yo is excited and proud of herself for putting on her own shirt!   
You would be suprised the things that a small child can do.  I remember being fairly shocked at other moms who were wondering if their pre-teen COULD do chores (not should, that is a family decision).  I was shocked because of how much Lil'K can do, I didn't realize how far off the norm we are.  When it comes to her I basically try and stay out of her way.  She was reading by 2.5, and at 5 she can wash dishes, sort laundry, start laundry, do basic addition and subtraction (partially self-taught), and fold her laundry.  She really confused us by how much she just DID.  
Once Lil'C started to learn things (although Lil'K usually does them first) we do the same.  He can now dress himself, excluding his shoes and right sock.  He can sort laundry, put away his clean clothes and is AMAZING at math and spelling (seriously spells better than me)


-"Help me do it myself"
This was really HUGE for Lil'C since he has the deck stacked against him with Cerebral Palsy/Right Hemiplega.  For Lil'K this was basically stools around the house, so she could reach things and low shelves for kid dishes. 
For Lil'C I basically have to break any skill down and teach him how to do it one handed.  I usually put my dominant hand inside my back waist band and learn the skill, then teach him that skill.  I also teach each sub-skill one at a time until he can do them all Independantly.  
Putting on his shirt for example.  First we worked on putting an arm through the sleeve.  Once he could do that part independently we figured out he could pull the shirt over his head if he had the right arm over his elbow.  Once that part was down, I found he could get his left arm in his shirt once the right arm was in, followed by putting the shirt on his right arm.  Finally I got him to put his shirt on if it is laying flat face-up on a surface (table/couch).  He spins it mid-dressings so if it is face down it will end up backwards. The step we are currently working on is getting it onto that surface himself and how to turn it right-side-out if it is inside out.   This process has taken MONTHS and has required help from occupational therapy.   


Because we have done this with almost every skill, I can now dress myself, tie my shoes, put on my socks, open a jar, cut food and fold clothes.. all one-handed.
The other part is tools.  We have a one-button battery-operated can opener, but we will likely get another. 
We also have a button-puller but haven't used it much yet.  We searched for a power wheel that could be driven one-handed, which Lil'C loved until Lil'K and Baby K filled it with mud...  electronics are not fond of mud. 

Montessori is also big on emotional regulation, which means to respond calmly (Positive Parenting works well with this but I'm still learning..) which when I manage to do certainly helps.  With Daddy C and I both having ADHD (meaning all the kids will/do as well) then this can be important, yet difficult, to do.
Lil'C has become much better at calming, although his frustration (usually at Lil'K) can get the best of him.  

Montessori also pushes for lessons/trays/items to be self-corrective.  A puzzle would be a familiar example.  A puzzle can only go together one way, so if you put a piece wrong either the piece will not fit or you will he unable to finish.  


What philosophy do you use?  And why? 

Don't always cook alone.

Did you know that you don't have to cook EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL.  At your home? 

 Even though my husband has spent the past 7 years working in a professional kitchen, I have still been doing nearly all of the cooking.  If someone else was cooking it was to give me a "break".  Does this mean my husband has started taking over some of the meals?  No, he drives me crazy in my kitchen and my kitchen drives him crazy!  Nope I got some new help!  Over a year ago we won a contest that gave us a cooking course. We completed the beginner course and accepted the challenge to do a regular meal for each student.  Most seem to do a dinner but being homeschoolers we did a lunch.  Each kid now has one lunch that they are in charge of each week.  We have developed into a pattern.  Lil'C makes spaghetti on Monday, Lil'K makes Sandwiches, and Baby K makes Tuna!  

Lil'C uses pre-cooked hamburger and canned spaghetti sauce using ramen noodles,
  Lil'K needs coraling so she doesn't get TOO creative, and Baby K requires a MUCH larger mixing bowl to compensate for her 3 year old motor skills.  






They have all been very proud of their cooking days and take them very seriously.  If for some reason we have to miss their day, we have to make it up another meal.  

We have had to add a few tools to our arsenal of kitchen tools (affiliates):
We also added 2 Y-peelers, a one-handed chopper and a handful of kid sized kitchen tools. 



We enjoyed the course and results so much that we are now redoing it with some homeschool friends.  Baby K is taking it seriously for the first time and I expect after we finish the beginner, the big kids will go on to intermediate.  The class works for multiple ages.  I suggest checking out all the details here:

Kid's Cook Real Food

In full disclosure I am an affiliate (because I love it!) so I can let you in on a little secret...  don't buy it today!   Seriously!   Wait for Cyber Monday!  You will thank me.  
It would be a great gift FOR a grandparent or FROM a grandparent.  If you get the forever version then you can re-do the class as kiddos get older, like we are doing.  It is also more fun in a group, but messy.  That is part of the fun though isn't it?  
I would love to know if you get it, and don't let disabilities get in the way, check out #kidscookrealfood and #kidscookrealfoodmodified on Instagram!

See ya in the Kitchen!  

New Hurtles on our Journey

The past few months Baby C and I have been battling a new hurdle for me... Tongue Tie... 
Seriously! What's next?   Thankfully I have a very supportive partner and that has made all the difference with all of the hurdles that have come my way.
A few months ago I was getting a little worried about Baby C's weight gain.  I kept looking for the fat rolls that weren't coming.  I looked at pictures of his siblings at his age and noticed Baby K didn't have any rolls then either, which should have been more of a warning since she has a lip tie.  Around this time I also noticed a groin hernia and he seemed to be a bit fussy. We went into the Ped to discover that at 2 months he had only gained 1 lb since birth.  




This sent us both into a panic, so much so that her first suggestion was to put him on formula.  She knows me, and knows how I feel about formula.  I also knew that my milk was not the issue.  I called the IBCLC that day and set up an appointment.  Until we could meet I "Triple Fed", this meant feeding one side while pumping the other, swapping sides and then bottle feeding whatever was pumped.   This was a long exhausting process.  Especially with the older 3 running around and attempting to get school work done.  At one point I actually broke my hand pump, and once I had my old electric double pump.. I was attached to the wall for at 15-30minutes every 3-4 hours.  
I met the IBCLC at the Pediatric Dentist's office where both confirmed the tie. Baby C was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Posterior Tounge Tie.  He wasn't getting much milk transfer from latching and would spit up much of what he did get.  
The Dentist suggested we go see a Speech Therapist for evaluation and therapies for the tie, which was made easier since Lil C already has weekly therapies.  Baby C was also getting weekly weight checks and his weight had been slowly increasing thanks to the triple feeds, but the stress and exhaustion of the feeds did make me consider formula a few times. 


Meanwhile we had the appointment about his hernia.  The Surgon didn't really see a tie but assured me that he could do that too when he did the repair.  Good news right? Instead of being awake he could be asleep and we could deal with all the painful stuff at once.
After he came out of the hernia repair the surgon informed me that he had had 2 hernia (both now repaired) and that he couldn't get a Pediatric ENT to come look, but the plastic surgeon looked at it and he didn't think it looked like a tie either, so he didn't clip it.  I almost broke down in tears.  I informed him that his problem wasn't length but that it was to thick.  "Besides he doesn't have any weight gain issue."  I managed not to smack him. But I all but yelled at him that he was only gaining weight due to the triple feeds.   He suggested we see a pediatric ENT or a Speech Therapist.  When I told him we had seen a Pediatric dentist and a Speech Therapist he asked what she said.. and when I curtly replied that she confirmed it... well the look on his face can only be described as "Cat got your tounge" 
After Baby C healed from the repair I was hoping he had gotten big enough and strong enough (like Baby K did) that he didn't need all the triple feeds, I started slacking.. and at his weight check, his weight had slowed way down.   So I scheduled the clip with the Pediatric Dentist.  
He didn't fuss to much and for the first time he fully drained me and barely spit up.  Plus the spit up was mostly clear.  Since the repair a week ago he has gained 1 lb and gotten back on the growth curve.  His spit-ups aren't every feeding and most of the feeding anymore.  And best of all, he finally has fat rolls.  


Happy World Breastfeeding Week Ya'll! 

And baby makes 6

Those who have been following on Instagram have been aware of my pregnancy and birth, but there is much more to the story.  
My pregnancy went fairly well with the complications of my history with 1  2  and 3 plus I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and later got a positive strep B test. 
This time I had a new doctor and a new hospital.  Both were "VBAC friendly" which is more difficult to find due to my history.  I did get one key bit of information that I had never been told before.  My new OB told me to get a Doula.  "Hospitals don't take VBACs seriously without a Doula".  It was like a key clicking into place, although my husband did not understand it.   My Doula requires her clients to take Bradley birth classes, which my husband wasn't to happy about either.  It became our weekly night-off from the kids and allowed the kids to get used to my parents putting them to bed.  I learned a ton that I didn't realize I didn't know going into the class, with the exclusion of the breastfeeding class.. there I just tried to keep my answers short to be polite to the IBCLC guest speaker. 😉
Around 3am on a Thursday morning the contractions started.  When they talk about how you can't sleep through them... they aren't kidding.  I got no sleep once they started.  They would wake me up and then by the time I would get my brain calmed to try and get back to sleep.. the next one would start.  
At around 5am, I gave up and just got up.  I tried to wait a bit but spent most of the morning clutching the couch through contractions.   Then I texted my sister, who had herself done 40 hours completely natural.  Laboring was a first for me.  
I wasn't able to wait until 8:30 to call my Dad though.. only until 7:30 shortly after one of the kids sat on my head during a contraction...  that was.. unpleasant. Unfortunately this did also set off my mom's worry.  Around this same time I texted my Doula and one of the ladies from church to start the prayer chain, since I am high risk after all. 
Soon after my father came and picked up the kids, followed by my sister's arrival. This allowed me to snack a little and get a shower.  My contractions did calm down and space out a bit at this time.   It was very nice to have her there as psychological support and she knew just what to say to keep me from worrying about everyone else.  
I was able to get dressed before my doula got there.  I kept hugging the couch during contractions until she suggested trying to sit upright on the ball, which did seem to intensify the contractions but they still hadn't got into a regular pattern.  Our goal was to get me into a regular pattern and late stage labor before I went in to the hospital.  Due to my history we knew that we would want to be at the hospital as soon as possible after my labor broke and for transition.  
 After laboring that way for a bit we went in my room and tried the peanut ball for over an hour, but because I  had been awake so early, I kept yawning.  The doula said that I should try and get a nap since I was obviously tired to be yawning during labor. 😝
After a short nap I joined everyone back in the living room and the contractions became much more regular. It was very obvious that the nap was needed.  I did most of my contracting on the ball.  We did try a bit of leaning on the ball and my doula did a bit of hip squeeze and hot rice pack, which was nice.  Shortly around this time I went to the bathroom and saw a little blood which actually made us a bit excited (once I got over the shock and my doula assured me it was my "bloody show") 
At one point I laid down on our loveseat to try to labor in that position for a bit.. and then my water broke.  This one was very different from when my water broke with Lil'K which felt like a popping balloon and someone else peeing in my pants.   This felt more like a snapping and spiking pain. The flow from it was much faster as well.  At this point everyone went into hurried mode... except me.  The pain greatly increased and I could only move at a snail pace.  My doula worried about the couch, but thankfully when my mom re-upholstered it for me she had added a waterproof layer.  Which is why I picked that couch to try and side-lay on.  Once we were in the car my husband and I had to try and figure out where I had put the OB's number so we could call her and let her know we were on our way so she could meet us.  I really didn't want any other OB to deliver me since I have had such poor experiences with OBs.  
During the drive my pain steadily increased and never fully went away.  Every contraction the pain level increased.  I told my husband that this must be transition since it was so intense.  I was clinging to my Boppy and trying to find the least painful position while staying in the seatbelt.  It is also the first time I have tried to get my husband to drive faster.  The pain was so intense that I told him I finally understood why someone would choose a c-section.  Humming was the only thing I could do to temper the pain.  This is when I started suspecting something wasn't right. 
When we finally arrived at the hospital parking lot my Doula and sister both came to my door but I was in the middle of a contraction and could not move.  I just clung to my sister for a minute until the contraction subsided and I could shuffle my way to the door.  
I was asked if I needed a wheelchair and quickly accepted. Shortly before or after that I had another contraction and clung onto my sister, which is where my Doula suspected I was rupturing.  After I got in the chair I clutched my Boppy in front of me and was pushed into the L&D department, I think my husband was pushing me but I am not sure.  I vaguely remember my Doula explaining my case to the nurses. I do remember seeing my OB's face and being very releaved to see her there.  I was taken in the room but could not move much.  I could only stand to be on all fours.   The nurses had to put my monitors on with me in this position.  At this point I was clinging to the hope that all the pain was my cervix opening since I had never experienced it before.  
My OB did have me turn over to check my cervix, all of us hoping that I was just having intense transition but all of us suspecting that I wasn't.  At this point I was thinking clearly but unable to speak due to the intense pain.  When she checked I was only 4cm and at  every contraction his heart rate would dip to 50.  The three of us all knew that I needed the c-section but being unable to speak I consented to the section via sign language.  Which ended up simplifying to a thumbs up because everyone else's sign language needs work. 😜
Signing the consent form was probably the worst signiture I have ever written.  
Shortly after my bed was pushed down the hall leaving my Doula, sister and husband behind, this was the first time in our 10 years together that he was afraid for my life.  All I was thinking was for them to hurry and knock me out, just knock me out. 
When in the OR I had to transfer to the operating table.  The anisesheologust at my head putting the mask on me telling me to breathe slowly.  I am trying to breathe deeply because I want to be out quickly.  My OB was at my side and there was a fury of movement around the OR.  
When I woke back in the room 3 hours later I asked my sister if I still had my overies, because I was worried about going into menopause.  Baby C was on my chest trying to snuggle and nurse. 
 
But there were some complications and it took a few days to piece together what had happened.  
Apparently after Baby K's scheduled section my bladder had adheared to my uterus.  During the pregnancy it had slowly stretched along with my uterus to the point that it was underneath my belly button.  I suspect the rupture began when my water broke and continued to expand with each contraction.  In the OR I had the classic "double bump" of a rupture.  Once she opened me up she had to pause for a second to try and figure out what she was seeing.  My uterus and bladder had split so much that Baby C was in my bladder up to his shoulders.   She cut the other side of my bladder and pulled Baby C all the way through.   He was checked and brought to my husband.  Which was the second time he has ever been afraid for my life.  The nurses said Baby C was the most vigorous section baby they had ever seen.  
Around this time they called the urology surgeon from surgery at another local hospital.  They had to pause that surgery and he came over to put me back together.   He said he had never seen anything like it.  
I had to use a cath bag for 2 weeks to allow my bladder to heal.  Unfortunately the clots from the healing clogged it up a few times and had to be irrigated.  The spasms that accompanied the clots were almost as painful as the rupture.  This did require an extra speeding run to the hospital where we left Baby C behind and my mom followed with him.  I ended up "walking" into the ER crying for help when the clot suddenly broke loose and I just broke down crying. They had to flush out the clots and sent me home.  The clots and accompanying spasms were as painful as the rupture.  I am very glad to be rid of it.
Although I went through all of that, I would do it again.  This has been the first time I have not required PPD meds.  I only had a slight "baby blues" and had the meds "just in case" in my medicine cabinet.  I think the laboring truly made the difference.  We do know that the laboring did save our lives.  The contractions woke him up and put him near the surface.  Either way my bladder would have been cut open but I likely would have bled more, had a full bladder and they would have had to find/get to my womb beneath/around my bladder.  Surprisingly I didn't really hemorage and only lost the same amount of blood as a normal section.  They did expect me to lose more so had the fluids wide open, which made my feet really swollen and that took a few weeks to go down to normal.  Of all of my deliveries, it was the least psychologically traumatic, which should say something about the previous two.  This time I was the decision maker, not someone to be "handled" or talked down to.  I was treated as an intelligent respected  adult by my OB.  The way she treated me has made all the difference in my emotional state post delivery.  Shouldn't that be how it is? 

Watch for more pics of Baby C and all the toadlets on Instagram

Surviving the NICU: with your marriage

NICU parents face so many struggles.  Fear, hurt, understanding, knowledge, patience and so much more.

One area that is frequently forgotten.. Is marrage.  So much time and energy is placed on dealing with the medical and the sick baby that the relationship between mom and dad can get forgotten or placed on the back burner for far to long.  NICU parents have a very high divorce rate, most places state 97% (some say as low as 90, but I can't find any studies).  Also aparently the longer you are in the NICU.. The higher the risk, we were in 175 days. 
So what can you do about it?  The first thing is to be aware.  You have to know a struggle is there to be able to battle it. 
We have watched many of our NICU friends separate after spending time in the NICU. We are currently 5 years out from our NICU time but still have the "special needs child" risk which is also high (although it may be a myth!)
Our marrage and ourselves are far from perfect, and we both admit that. 
A few things you can do-
Avoid blame!:
This is very important.  Daddy C could blame me for the heart condition (since I was on clomid and heart conditions run in my family).  We could blame each other for the Pre-Eclampsia since that is in both our families.  We could nit-pick back and forth about what we could have done diffrently to change the outcome, but none of this is helpful. It mearly creates strife and division.  This also includes trying not to blame yourself, if there is nothing you can do about it now, then it is not helpful.  Use your time and energy to focus on what you CAN do, such as googling what you can do to improve long term outcomes and/or pumping. 
Teamwork:
Just like in every marrage you should develop a team mentality.  The tasks you divide up will be NICU specific issues, but need to be geared toward each of your strengths.   I like to have information so I did (and still do!) most of the communicating with the doctors and nurses.  I keep track of meds, history and goals.  My husband is better at dealing with emotionally charged situations or where our son has to do something that will be painful.  For example I would step out of the NICU during eye exams and my husband would stay with him.  He is also the one who usually holds him during IVs.  We even worked as a team when it came to pumping, in the early days he would deliver the tiny syringes of milk.  Later he would take the night pumpings to the fridge and carry the frozen milk to the NICU when they needed a fresh supply.   He also took on the job of cleaning and sanitizing the pump.
Take turns:
When you are having baby time, take turns. We would swap turns at each care time, I would get the first turn of the day and he usually got the last (I need more sleep). When it came time to do kangaroo care, we swapped then too. When we had only one per day, I got it because I needed it to help me keep/build my supply (except for Father's Day, which was my gift), but when we went up to two, he got the second.  Then I the third and so on.
Date night: 
About once a month or so, we would miss one care (so hard!) to go on a date night.  Sometimes it was just a meal, but Daddy C is a movie geek, so going to a movie meant a lot for him.  Whatever works for ya'll.  Our first date night was a few weeks in when our church youth group went to a concert in the city that our NICU was in and took us along.  It was their way of getting us out of the NICU for a few hours. Lil'C was having a good day, so we went. I still remember it fondly and am glad we went. 
Strengthen the foundation: 
A weak foundation is hard on any marriage, but being in a highly stressful situation such as the NICU can really exasperate any weak areas.  We have done a few "marriage courses" over the years, even before we were pregnant.   We both hold firmly to the idea that there is always room for improvement any ANY marriage and that NO marriage is perfect.   No "happily ever after" princess here., "I Do" is a starting gun not a finish line. 
A few we have liked: 
Captivating and Wild at Heart (not marriage per say but helps you understand your own weaknesses, highly suggest it first)
Prepare to last (We did this in a church group)
Fireproof (in process) 
I have also read blogs (Pinterest!) and  books when we run into an issue.
I like the book The Surrendered Wife,  even though I hate the title and don't agree completely but I think she makes some valid points.  
I love finding free kindle books (even if I don't fully agree with the author, I usually find a new perspective.) They change frequently, so search.
Fix the finances:
The #1 cause of divorce is money trouble.. Or fighting about finances.  And NICU time is EXPENSIVE, and with therapies, Doctor appointments and being medically fragile.. It doesn't get much better.  So I highly suggest Dave Ramesy.  We had already read some of his books and we also were gifted his financial peace class, and that seriously brought some peace.  We have WAY less arguments in our home now and we are on Baby Step 2, we have a way to go but we are getting there! 

I hope these tips help strengthen your marriage and your marriage defies the odds just like your little one!

Do you have any tips for me?