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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

More Words!

"Once he starts talking, you'll want him to stop!"  I used to politely chuckle and give a fake smile, when someone would say that. To be honest, inside, I'm always screaming, "No, I won't. I won't want him to stop!"  

I know that they're just trying to make me feel better, but when you have a child with a speech delay, the most magical thing you could hear would be words from your child. Any words. Even sounds that could be the start of something are pretty special.

It really hasn't been that long since he finally started using his first word. "Go." I still love that word. It took him almost two and a half years to start using one word, so those two letters were like magic.

A major breakthrough for C was the use of signs. We introduced a few different signs to help with his frustration, and he formed his own versions of them. The signs he uses most often are more, help, open, and done.

Little C signing his version of, "Help," while on vacation.

Now he is starting to match words or the initial sound in the word with these signs, and is putting signs and words together. For example, he started using his index finger for the number 1 and his sign for more, and then started using the word, "more," instead of the sign. Progress! Since we get so excited and reward any actual word he uses, it pretty much means we always have to read "1 more" book, stay at the playground for "1 more" minute, or give him "1 more" Timbit. I'm not complaining though.

He's been picking up so much lately. In addition to a lot of  new words, he is making a lot of new sounds, can say most of the letters in the alphabet in order and in isolation, and can count to 10. It's been a lot of hard work for him and us, with the support of an awesome Speech-Language Therapist, and we're so proud and excited about his progress.

I love hearing him say anything and everything. Of course, he learned the word no, so in typical 2-year old fashion, "no" is now a constant in our house. When we're out for a walk, he will point out all the "T"s (trucks), point to our house and say "home," and sometimes say "Bu-bye" to anything we pass on our walks. I was pretty excited when he started to sometimes call me "Ma" and my husband "D." He doesn't say his own name, but refers to himself as, "Me" or sometimes "C." Since we call him "C" a lot, I consider it a win. With toilet training this week, we also learned "Uh-oh!"

Little C has made a lot of progress over the past six months, especially the past month, so I can't wait to see (and hear) what's next. I need to focus on the growth he's had, so instead of being annoyed when people say, "Once he starts talking, you'll want him to stop!" I will smile and say, "I can't wait until that day!"

Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: Roll & Play Game

Our house has a new favourite thing! It's a game called, "Roll & Play Game: Your Child's First Game." It is a simple game that is both educational and fun - for the whole family!

It's a great way to work on taking turns, playing together, focusing, reading pictures and words, following directions, and all of the skills associated with the game - colours, counting, emotions, body parts, actions, animal sounds.  This game has everything! 

In the instruction packet, it explains how the game was created. The inventor had been talking to a toy store owner and asked what their customers ask for that isn't already on the market. The response? Games for 2 year olds. The rest is history! I have been looking for games for my almost 3 year old, and I agree. It's very hard to find games that are suitable, so I was so excited to find this game.



The instructions are simple:

1. Roll the giant stuffed cube. It's soft, so it can really be thrown, which is half the fun!
2. Pick the card that matches the colour that's rolled.
3. Act out the card. 

Each card colour corresponds with a skill. Yellow for emotions, orange for counting, blue for colours, purple for body parts, red for actions and green for animal sounds. They're all really fun. 

Little C loves it! He loves giving everyone a turn to roll the dice, loves picking up the correct card, and seems to have a different favourite category each time we play. 

For us, what's great about this game is that it works on all of the goals we have set for Little C for his speech language therapy. He says some words, repeats motions and sounds, matches, takes turns, and works together. His focus is incredible during this game!

I think I have found a new go-to shower or 2nd birthday present!

*Note: This is a totally non-biased review. I don't get anything for free! :) This is where I purchased the game, in case you want to get it for yourself and support a small business: Owl's Hollow: Toys & Games for Curious Minds, in Charlottown, PEI.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Real or Fake? Picture Perfect Posts

I have always loved taking pictures. When I was a child, I was always flipping through photo albums of birthday parties, vacations, and school pictures. To me, photographs help bring me back to a moment. They're like little time machines.

I remember taking pictures with my little turquoise camera that used those strange looking 110 film cartridges. The old disposable 35mm cameras were also a must have for vacations. It was always so fun to take them to the store to get developed. Of course, they were horrible pictures, but in each one of those fuzzy, foggy, off-centered pictures, there is a snapshot of my life.

In my early 20s, I started making scrapbooks. Well, I like to call them "Fancy Photo Albums" - basically photo albums with pretty paper and stickers, not the elaborate ones I see on Pinterest. I still enjoy putting pictures in albums, but I really don't have time. I'm about 3 years behind.  The other downside is that you don't get to share them with friends and family easily.

Social media has allowed me to create digital photo albums that I can share. I use Facebook to share more personal photos of my family and our adventures. On Instagram, I post more general, small moment pictures. This blog has allowed me to add some journalling, which I was always really bad at, when making actual scrapbooks.  Instagram and "Adventures of a Scatterbrain" are public, so I try to keep the pictures focused more on places and activities, not faces, to keep life a little more private.

I just returned from a short vacation with my son. It wasn't the ideal vacation. It was just the two of us, travelling to Prince Edward Island for an extended weekend trip. Little C was not in the best mood. I think he was going through a bit of a growth spurt, so he was having a bad week. For the most part, he was his usual happy, giggly, huggy self, but some times he was a screechy, tempery, grumpus. I always have a hard time with that, so I'm sure it seemed a lot worse than it was. Of course, when I got back home, I posted 25 or so pictures from the trip on Facebook and a few to Instagram.

A video posted by Tiffany S (@tiffs2012) on

I was looking through the album the next day and realized that no one would know that it wasn't all picture perfect. This got me thinking, My Facebook and Instagram feed is always filled with happy pictures. I only post happy, positive pictures.  Is this an accurate snapshot of my life? Am I being fake?

Sure, you could say that it's fake, but I don't look at it like that. Honestly, unless it led to a good laugh or smile, I don't want to remember it in detail. I wouldn't devote a page in my photo album to it, so why would I post the picture online, where it could potentially life forever? I try to live in the positive and focus on the good.

I think it's easy to become envious of others when you see their perfect pictures posted online. Just remember that we are all creating our own digital footprint, editing and polishing before hitting that share or publish button. Things may not be quite as good as they seem, at least not all the time.

You won't see me posting pictures of tantrums, screaming, tears, or moments of failure. It's not because I don't want people to know that they happen, I just don't want to focus on them. Every parent knows that there are plenty of not-so-picture-perfect times, so why focus on the negative? Call me fake if you want, but I just want to remember the good times.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Terrible & Terrific Twos (6 Ways to Survive a Tantrum)

Little C is now two and a half, and I'm sad to report that the terrible twos have arrived. I heard they would come. We saw glimpses, but from what I've experienced in the past couple of weeks, they are definitely here.  All I can say is yikes.

Honestly, most of our time is terrific. Little C is hilarious. He is very affectionate. He laughs a lot; loves to tease; dances up a storm when music comes on; loves nature, animals and art; is adventurous; and is still all about the cuddles.  

Unfortunately, we have entered tantrum town. They seem to start anytime he isn't getting what he wants, which is a lot, because he doesn't like that he can't run around the grocery store like a wild child or eat cookies and ice cream for breakfast. He also likes to push the limits all the time, and can be more irritable when tired or hungry. Tantrums are tough, and involve ear-piercing screams. They really don't last long, usually just a minute or two, and he seems to recover quickly, but I don't feel like I recover well.

I think the fact that Little C isn't talking much makes it even more difficult. Some sign language and the few words that he has certainly help, but we still have some points of frustration. He can't express why he is upset. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for him.  I try to be understanding, but it's tough when you have the little person, the most important person in your life, screaming at the top of his lungs and looking at you with such frustration, and you don't have any idea about how to fix it. 

I'm still new at this, but I have learned a few things that seem to work for us. 

1) Stay Calm: In the middle of a tantrum, whether it be at home or in public, stay calm. Calm voice, calm facial expressions, calm body language. It's really difficult, because tantrums are emotional for everyone, but I think it's important. I try to get his full attention and eye contact, and calmly ask what is wrong or what he needs or to give him a choice. I'm finding that it's also important for one person to take the lead, when handling the situation. Instead of multiple voices and faces trying to diffuse the tantrum, there is one. I think it helps the situation seem calmer and less overwhelming. 

2) Get to Know The Good Times & The Bad Times - This is a good way to avoid a tantrum before it even starts. In my son's case, I've discovered that he is definitely an outdoor kid. He needs to be outside. It really hit home one day when he was in a particularly foul mood. It had been raining for three days and he hadn't been outside enough, and probably had a little too much screen time. He had thrown about three fits before 9am, so I said, let's get our boots and jackets on and go outside! It was still cloudy and rainy, but we went for a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood, running and jumping in puddles, and it really turned his mood around. He was happy and much more relaxed for the rest of the day. We get out for a walk or playtime everyday, regardless of the weather. Sometimes it's all about the time of day. In the past couple of weeks, afternoons have also been a bit of a tantrum hot zone, especially if we go out in public. I think he is very sensitive to being tired, and even though he doesn't always think he needs a nap, he does, and shows signs of being tired soon after lunch is over. To avoid this, we stay at home, either inside or in the yard, after lunch until nap time. By avoiding his grumpy times and making sure he gets what he needs, I feel like I set him up for success, which is critical when trying to fend off the dreaded tantrum.

3) Give Options - C likes to be in control, which I think may be a toddler thing. By giving choices, he feels like he's in control. He may want ice cream for breakfast, but if he gets to choose between cereal and a waffle, he is a bit happier. He may not want to wear what I want him to, but if I give him a choice between two outfits, he'll pick one. Sometimes, it's a choice between continuing to scream and go home, or calming down and staying where we are. I know sometimes he's not in control, but I think knowing that there are consequences are important. Putting him in control of the choice seems to help. They seem to make him feel like he has a little control.  

4) Explain the Plan - I have been using a lot of "First - Then" language lately. First, we're going to pick up our toys, then we're going to have snack. First we are going to get dressed, then we're going to go to Sobeys, then we're going to the playground. There are no surprises. He knows what he has to do to get to what he wants. He also knows that if he gets through the not-so-fun stuff, he'll be rewarded with something fun. Most of the time, I have been doing this verbally, because C's receptive language is very good, but sometimes I use pictures. 

5) Distract (But Don't Reward) - Distraction works really well. When C's ice cream fell off the cone when we were away this weekend, he looked like he was going to get upset, but then I just said, "Hey look! Now you get to eat the cone!" He was happy. When he wanted to get a movie at the corner store, I said, "On the next rainy day, we'll come to the store to rent this. Now, let's go get some milk!" He was happy. When he didn't want to leave the playground, I pointed out some flowers for him to smell on the way out. Again, he was happy. I think it's important to note that distraction does not mean giving in and rewarding the behaviour. I'm not going to say, "Want a Timbit?" to stop him from tantruming. That would probably just lead to more tantrums. Distract, but don't reward! 

6) Breathe. Seriously, Just Breathe.  - This one has nothing to do with C. It has to do with me. When a tantrum hits, I need to remember to breathe. C's tantrums don't last, but even if they only last a minute, it feels like hours when in the moment. It's even more difficult when in public, feeling the looks of others on us, while I try to wrangle a squirming, screaming toddler. Sometimes, I may feel like crying, but instead I try to just breathe. And breathe again. And again. After it's over, I remind myself that it's never as bad as it seems in the moment. My grandmother used to say, "This too shall pass." She had 13 children, so I feel like this is good advice. We'll survive. 

I'm still new at this parenting thing, and I usually don't feel like I know what I'm doing, so I'm always searching for "real" advice.  I can't guarantee that these ideas will work for anyone else. If they don't, just try to be a supportive villager. I think it's important to be understanding and supportive of other parents who are going through the same thing. It takes a village, people. And sometimes the village needs to simply ignore the tantrum or give the mum or dad a supportive comment or understanding smile. We've all been there or are currently living it. Also, remember that the toddler years are also terrific! Focus on the good parts and try your best to deal with the not so good parts. 

Do you have any other ideas? I'd love to hear them. I could use a boost to my mom skills so I can better deal with the next tantrum!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Summer Fun

Adventures don't have to take you far from home. Honestly, with a toddler, adventure can be found pretty much anywhere - basement, backyard, or flying through the air from the coffee table to the couch. I always have to remind myself that usually the best times are the times that are spent on simple activities. That's what we've been doing lately. Last week, we explored some of our local parks. It was free, fun, and outdoors!

Harbour Passage is a sweet walking/biking/strolling trail along the harbourfront that links the uptown with the west side. In addition to the beautiful sights, there are panels along the route to explain some of the history and wildlife of the area - shipbuilding, seals, the port, Fort LaTour. Of course, I didn't get to spend too much time reading them, but there seem to be more popping up all the time. Over the years, they've added more highlights, including public art, learning stations, and a children's section. Last week, C and I went for an evening walk, looking at the water, flowers, wildlife, and stopping at the children's play area.



I don't know why, but I never think about going to Rockwood Park. It's a shame, because it's a beautiful park. We're lucky to have such a great green space in the middle of our city. It's like our own Central Park. Actually, Rockwood Park was designed by a member of the same team who designed Central Park, in New York City, so it really is Saint John's version!  We spent the morning, one hot Saturday, exploring the trails, checking out the ducks, and eventually popping into Lily's Cafe for lunch on the patio overlooking Lily Lake.

Our other large green space in the city is the Irving Nature Park.  This park seems to be growing all the time. When I was a kid, it was Taylor's Island and Saints Rest. I used to go to the beach to beach-comb and fly kites. I think it opened as the Irving Nature Park in the 90s, and since then has grown to include the Sheldon Point Trail and the Children's Forest. On foggy mornings, we like to stop at Saints Rest, to walk the beach before breakfast. This typically includes throwing rocks into the water and trying to miss getting his by the waves. We always leave covered in sand and soaking wet. Sometimes, we are lucky to spot some wildlife, like deer.

Of course, close to our house is Seaside Park. It will be changing a lot next year, so we're trying to take advantage of it now. There is a little playground and a road that leads to the most beautiful views of Partridge Island and the Bay of Fundy. There are big pieces of granite to sit on and watch the ships come into the harbour. It's peaceful. If you continue down a pathway, you can walk along a path that can take you to Bayshore beach in one direction and Duck Cove beach in the other. Of course, the rocks also make the best jump-off rocks with is a bonus!

Last week helped me remember how lucky we are to live in Saint John. We have so many parks to go to within a short walk or drive. It's something to be proud of and support.