Happy 8th Birthday, Lovebug!

Last week, our baby girl turned 8 years old. 

DSC04747

It just doesn’t seem like 8 years have gone by since we brought her home from the hospital.  While I definitely miss some of those early stages from time to time, I am also really enjoying this age.  She is SO FUN to be around!  She is developing quite the sense of humor and loves to make people laugh.  She’s old enough to hold real conversations, to play fun games, to help around the house, and is starting to develop her own sense of independence.  She has her own goals and dreams for her life, and it’s so fun to see who she is becoming and to truly appreciate the unique person that God created her to be.    

Looking back over the years, it’s fun to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. 

Her favorite color is still RED.

Her favorite animal is still an elephant – with her all time favorite stuffed animal, Peanut!

IMG_5626

She’s still just as kind-hearted, generous, and loving – with a special heart for little kids and animals.

She still adores nature, playing in the mud, and is more at home in the water than anywhere else in the world.

 

One big change is an amazing sense of COURAGE that has blossomed over the past year.

 

She has always loved motion like jumping on the trampoline, running, & riding her scooter, but she’s also had quite a bit of fear about heights and falling. 

Just last year, she was nervous about jumping off this diving board:

THIS YEAR was a different story!  She wanted to go to a local water park called Fantasy Lake for her birthday.  They have a beach area and shallow water to play in, but also water slides & rope swings – both kid-sized and for the adults.  What a great way to spend a hot summer day, right?

We already had a hint this courage was growing when we recently went to an amusement park and she was less-than-amused with the “kid rides”, and much more excited about the rides with a minimum height requirement. 

 

This year on her birthday, our little girl went on this:

 

Did you just say “WOW!”?  I know I sure did when I saw her.  Honestly, I was completely prepared for her to climb UP the stairs, and back DOWN the stairs – but she just marched up there and went down that slide like she’d done it a million times. 

She did end up doing it 3 times.

Mommy and Daddy each did it ONCE.  At first I thought, “If she can do it, I can do it!”.  Then I got to the top of the stairs and realized that thing was a little more scary from the top, but I still couldn’t let an 8 year old beat me!

We are so incredibly proud of Emily! She has overcome some tough challenges and she is facing new ones head-on.  She has the most amazing trust and faith in God that many adults spend a lifetime growing and it carries her through each and every day.  I am so thankful that God chose to bless us with the miracle of Emily and that He continues to use this precious child to teach us more and more about Him & His love each day.

Cleaning up after the meltdown

After Lovebug’s sensory meltdown a couple days ago, I decided what we really needed was some more time together.  Yes, as a homeschooling parent, I spend all day every day with her already.  However, we have been so busy lately that we haven’t had a lot of just one-on-one time.  We have been spending countless hours playing outside with friends, traveling to see friends in other states, going to meetings, the park, museums, camp, etc.  The last several months have been a whirlwind.  We’ve been having a lot of fun, but I can tell it’s catching up to her.  It really does make a difference.  Ever since she was really little she would need a day of downtime at home after being on the go a few days in a row.  As much as she loves people, she takes after her Mommy & Daddy and needs a break from the crowds after a while to re-charge her batteries.

I hadn’t been able to put a finger on what was bothering my daughter, but something obviously was.  Whether she was missing Daddy, or missing our routine (so important to her!), or missing doing crafts with me – I decided the best way to figure it out (or cure it) was to spend dedicated time with her away from other people.  So, we declared it “Mommy-Daughter weekend” and our only plan was that we would spend time together.  Not like some days where we say we will spend the day together but then end up surrounded by friends or out running lots of errands.  This would be JUST US.

We started yesterday and will continue through tomorrow.  It has been awesome!

We’ve watched movies, read lots of books, colored, painted, ate snacks outside on the patio table, crazy danced to music, and had a lot of fun!  We even had a sleepover on the sofas in the living room last night.  Tonight we’re in our own beds because I prefer to sleep without feet in my ribs, but it was so worth not sleeping well last night to have her beside me!  We’ve laughed & talked, and I think this is all she needed. 

Tomorrow we’ll read another stack of books, do some baking, take a walk, do some art, watch a movie, and be silly together.  Good times!

In just a couple days, we officially start “First Grade”! That also makes her happy because she thrives on routines & plans.  In fact, I think she’s more looking forward to getting a routine back than she is anything else about school at this point.  Crazy summer days can only go on for so long!

 

A little look at the last couple of days….

2011-09-03_10-57-32_947

(Ignore my bandaids…I just had a couple moles removed)

 

2011-09-03_17-10-36_118

De-stemming a million grapes!

 

2011-09-03_20-15-37_502

Ready for our sleepover!

 

2011-09-04_10-27-37_837

Watching a movie while squished in the sofa pillows

2011-09-04_10-27-51_938

Looks comfy to me!

 

2011-09-04_12-02-14_678

Playing with chalk

2011-09-04_12-03-00_495

Lovebug’s really great bunny drawing!

 

2014

Enjoying some grape flavored water – isn’t she cute?

 

2018

Bike riding

2031

Love that smile!

I’ll share more pictures after tomorrow too!

Horse Riding in Delaware

This past week Lovebug and I spent some time in Delaware.  We stayed at my friend’s house, and another friend came in from another state to join us.  It was a great time!  Lots of girlfriend time for us grownups, and lots of fun play time for the kiddos.  There were 2 girls (both 7 years old) and 2 boys (5 & 11).

I’ll post about the entire trip tomorrow, but first I have to get these pictures & videos posted (for the grandparents mostly!).

On our last day there, Lovebug got to go horseback riding!  Our friends that we were staying with have a place they take their daughter for horseback riding lessons, and Lovebug was allowed to not only go along, but to join in!  She has ridden before, and took lessons as part of her occupational therapy for about a year.  She LOVES horses, and is so comfortable around them.

She was on cloud 9!! She got to meet Suade the horse and was instantly in love!  She even got to meet a real barrel racer!! One of the horse owners is a teenager that has been barrel racing since she was 8 years old.  Lovebug was star struck!  “Miss Brittany” did a barrel racing demo for us, and WOW is she fast!

See for yourself…here is the demo:

 

 

Now, here is our Lovebug…

Getting on the horse (without a ramp like she’s used to) 

 

Walking the horse in the barrel pattern (Mute your speakers – we were talking a lot while waiting for her!)

 

 

This one is REALLY long, but she was doing “Pole Bending” weaving in and out of the poles – great steering!!

 

 

She got to “jump” the horse, which is really funny because the horse just had to step over the pole – gotta start somewhere!

 

 

Here they let her trot (and they thought this would be fast for her – so cute!)

 

 

Later, Lovebug went back and asked if they would let her canter (faster than trotting, slower than a gallop).  They said if it was ok with me (which it was!), so back on the horse she went, and here she goes!

On the way down…

 

 

On the way back…FAST!

 

 

Here is a slideshow of pictures from our time at the “ranch”.

Take THAT, Murphy!

When Hubby was in AIT one of our vehicles had a flat tire, and I tried to change it myself.  I failed miserably. 

When he was at JRTC, Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) tried messing with our truck, but HE failed.  I can only chalk that one up to a true miracle.

Now that Hubby is deployed, Murphy tried messing with my truck AGAIN.  He almost slowed me down.  I thought I was going to miss a trip I had planned to see a friend.  I thought I was going to have to spend lots of money to get it fixed. 

But I was wrong!  I beat Murphy this time! With a lot of divine intervention and help from Hubby & a good friend, that is.

Our truck has been acting funny for a while, but this last week it started getting MUCH worse.  I’ll spare you the details, but driving a truck should NOT feel like you are riding a bucking horse.  I ended up getting the error code from the truck which told me that the problem was with the Throttle Position Sensor. 

What? You don’t know what that is?  Neither did I, but I do now.  Here, I’ll show you.

TPS

I consulted our trusty Haynes manual which gave me instructions on how to test and replace this faulty TPS.  They made it sound a lot more complicated than they needed to, so when I read it to Hubby we both decided that I should just take it in and let the Firestone people fix it for me.  Stuff about electrical currents and all.

Thankfully, I mentioned it on Facebook where one of our good friends saw it.  He has years of experience fixing his trucks, so when he found out what the problem was he was sure it was something I could do and gave me some pointers.

This morning, I dropped Lovebug off at camp and then headed to Autozone for the $30 part I needed.  I came home and got to work! 

First, I needed a screwdriver because I was going to need to remove 2 screws to get the part out.  Hmmmm, only these weren’t phillips or flat-head.  They were a star tip.  I’ve never seen that before, but I do remember Hubby asking for a set of star tips for his birthday, so I looked in his well-organized toolbox and found them. 

Great! It had a hole in the bottom, so I assumed I needed to attach it to something with which I would actually turn this thing.   Yep, laying close by I found the ratchet.  Cool, I can do this!

The next step was to use these tools and get the old part out of the truck.

FIRST – disconnect the negative terminal from the battery.  No electrocuting myself!

SECOND – I was supposed to disconnect the electrical connection of the TPS.  I pulled.  I tugged.  I wiggled.  I looked for a secret latch. It was NOT coming off. 

At this point I was doubting myself and giving myself a pep talk all at once.  I was NOT going to let this little thing beat me, but I also wasn’t sure how hard I could pull.  I have NO experience working on a car (other than removing a battery and putting it back in once), and I was a little concerned about messing with the electrical wires.   I was already thinking ahead that I might have to call a friend to take me to pick up Lovebug from camp.

Then I got an idea!  God bless Al Gore for inventing the internet (HA!) because I Googled my problem and found someone suggest prying it a bit with a flat tip screwdriver.  Well, I had considered that, but like I said I was concerned about breaking something.  However, now that some perfect stranger on the internet suggested it too, I figured it was a good idea. 

It worked!

Great, now all I have to do is get the 2 screws off and take the old part out.

Here is the old part, and all the tools I needed to do the job!

2011-08-11_09-04-06_49

 

Well, almost all the tools. 

As I was in the middle of removing the screws, I dropped the star tip down inside the hood somewhere.  OOPS!

Thankfully, one of the other tools Hubby had requested for his birthday was a Magnetic Tool Retriever

2011-08-11_09-04-13_221

It’s like he knew I would need these! 

Using the retriever and a flashlight I quickly recovered my dropped tip, and held on tighter the remainder of the time.

 

Next, I put the new o-ring and TPS on, tightened 2 screws, and reconnected the battery.

ALL DONE! In just 20 minutes, without paying $100 in labor charges, and I only got a little dirty.

2011-08-11_09-05-55_461    2011-08-11_09-05-46_526

Maybe I should be a mechanic when I grow up.  They make some good money for knowing how to fix things and getting dirty. 

 

It was actually quite fun and made me feel good to be able to fix this.  If Hubby had been here, he would have fixed it himself and I would have made him an iced coffee.  But, when you get thrown into the fire, sometimes you find out how strong you can be.  It felt good.   I’m so so thankful to God that this was a simple, inexpensive repair!  Sometimes God uses these challenges in our life to show us that we can, in fact, do all things through Him who gives us strength.

Note to Parents:  Teach your kids about tools and how to perform minor repairs on the car.  My dad always came to my rescue and fixed my flat tires and while that was awesome, I never learned anything about tools or taking things apart as a kid.  As a result, I now get a little timid around things like this because I’m worried I’ll break something.  Hubby was the kid taking apart the toasters in his free time, and is awesome about encouraging me to try.  That’s what I want for Lovebug – to know her way around tools and to experiment like that.  Maybe not with MY toaster, but I’ll gladly buy her one at Goodwill to play with. 

Swimming lessons

Lovebug has been taking swimming lessons this summer and is doing amazing!! Last month when she did the first round, I put her in Level 1 because I wasn’t sure how intense the levels here would be.  Almost right away, the teacher said that she really needed to be in Level 3 based on how much she was already swimming.  Thankfully, the classes were small and he was able to teach her at a higher level anyway, so I didn’t bother trying to switch in the middle of a session. 

Bug has always loved the water! She has a great time playing in it, and can’t wait until she can SCUBA dive with Mommy & Daddy!  In the past years, our dear Aunt Chelle has taught her swimming lessons, and taught her to do her “big scoops”, but this is the first time she’s really had to do real swimming with any real amount of distance or endurance. 

When I signed her up for this round, I put her in Level 3.  During this class, they worked on improving the technique of their freestyle stoke, taught elementary backstroke, started learning breaststroke, and touched briefly on the scissor kick.  She had her last class today. 

So, how did it go?  Well, going into the class, she did have a few things working against her. 

* Motor skills and coordination do not come easily for Lovebug.  She’s super smart, but physically coordinating her body gives her a bit of stress.

* She’s a perfectionist which can lead to extreme frustration when she doesn’t get something right the first time. 

* She is very literal.  She takes what you say quite literally, which means she doesn’t always get sarcasm or humor and that can lead to misunderstandings. 

However, in the end, she has ROCKED this class, and I am so incredibly proud of her!  

She overcame some huge obstacles during the past 2 weeks.  We dealt with goggle-fitting issues, not understanding WHY she had to do certain strokes, not being able to coordinate her top half with her bottom half in some strokes, and even a sudden change of a pool rule in the middle of the class (no goggles on the diving board).  Not only did she have to obey the “new” rule – she had to do it without understanding why because no one seemed to know.  That is very hard for her Aspergerian side!  She handled it all with EXCELLENCE! 

Each day, we prayed that God would give her courage, strength, endurance, and let her enjoy swimming.  He is so GOOD and did just that! I also reminded her each day that she didn’t have to be perfect – she just had to do better than she did the previous day.

I also have to give credit to her awesome teacher!  For someone that isn’t Mommy, Daddy, or Aunt Chelle – this was the perfect teacher for her!  Patient, kind, and understanding!  On one of the days that Lovebug was in tears because she didn’t know how to do something perfectly, the teacher pulled her aside and told her “I’m here to teach you.  You don’t have to know how to do this already.  You will get this!”.

Today, that teacher helped encourage my daughter to go down the water slide!! I know that lots of kids go down water slides, but this is a HUGE deal for my daughter!

See, Lovebug loves slides, but she does NOT like going down them fast, so she tends to stick to the smaller slides.  She also can’t stand closed-in slides.  It seriously disturbs her vestibular sense, and it’s just a part of her Sensory Processing Disorder that we deal with.  She avoids things like this because she’s terrified of how she will feel going down it.  Most of the time it’s much worse in her mind that it really is.  So, she has not wanted to go down these slides before – here, or at other water parks we’ve been to.

When we got there today, I saw that the water slide was turned on. I told Lovebug that if she had a chance to do it, she should try it at least once and see if she liked it.  We talk often about this and say “Don’t let your fears keep you from having fun” and “Try everything at least once”.  When the time came, and the teachers said they could go down the slide, she had a look on her face that was a combination of fear and desire.  She wanted to do it, but she was scared.  I gave her hugs and encouraged her, and then her teacher went the extra mile.  She offered to wait at the end of the slide in the water for Lovebug.  That sealed the deal and she started toward the stairs.  As she stopped and turned around in hesitation, her teacher said “Don’t let your fears stop you from doing this!”.  Bug had heard that before, but it was nice to hear it from someone else. 

Her teacher positioned herself at the end of the slide, and hollered up to Lovebug telling her “I’m right here!” as she came down the slide. As she landed, she didn’t even need the teacher’s help and was able to get out all by herself! 

She even went back and did it again! 

Since I know you want to see it for yourself, here you go!

 

FIRST TIME:

 

 

SECOND TIME:

 

 

She was SO SO PROUD of herself!! She can’t wait to tell one of her friends that went down the slide last time we went swimming together.  She wants to go back with him and do it together!

That’s my girl!!

She went off the diving board!

144

Yesterday Lovebug started swimming lessons here on post.  She was a little nervous, and I couldn’t figure out why.  She LOVES the water.  L-O-V-E-S it.  She couldn’t even stay out of the ocean when we were there once in December.  So I asked her why she was nervous, and she said, “This is the first time someone other than Aunt Chelle will be teaching me”.  She actually took one set of lessons at our gym a couple years ago, but obviously they weren’t as impressive as her favorite swim teacher.  All she knows is that our dear family friend, Aunt Chelle, has been teaching her swim lessons every year since she was born.  We miss you, Chelle!

I assured her this teacher would be plenty capable, and off we went, her excitement growing!

128

She lucked out on the first day and no other kids showed up for her level, so she ended up with a private lesson.  I had enrolled her in Level 1, because it has been a while (since last summer) since she’s had lessons, and I wanted to make sure she was able to review and boost her confidence before overdoing it.  Also because you never really know what their Level 1 is compared to others.  I’m glad I did because the kids in Level 2 are much bigger/better swimmers, but by the end of these 2 weeks, she’ll be ready for Level 2 next time!

In fact, the teacher said she could already do everything that they normally teach in Level 1.  However, I know that 2 weeks of reviewing that will do wonders for her ability, confidence and endurance.

Since they had finished up for the day, her teacher said she could go off the diving board – in the DEEP water!  Normally at this pool, in order to do off the board, or down the water slides, they have to pass a swim test.  Last week when we were there she didn’t want to do the swim test yet (swim across the pool and back), even though I knew she could do it.  I told her she’d be ready by the end of swimming lessons.

I underestimated her! She was ready the first day!  She didn’t have to do the swim test yet, but she got to go off the diving board! 

Into 11 feet of water!

She’s gone off a diving board at one of our friend’s houses recently, but she either 1) wore a lifevest, or 2) jumped into a float.

This time, it was all her!!  The teacher was in the deep end “just in case”, but she didn’t need him! She just walked up there, jumped in, and swam to the side like a champ! 

Then she did it 4 more times!

That’s my girl!!

I know you want to see it too, so here you go!

 

Then the teacher told her to try it with a running start.  She did, but I don’t think she was prepared for how wobbly the board would get.  I could almost hear her thinking “Whoa, that bounces!”.

 

In 3 more years we can teach her to SCUBA dive!

Summer Reading

Our local library has a summer reading program that Lovebug is participating in.  She’s already earned her first prize! The kids get a chart to keep track of their progress in 20 minute increments, and then they get a prize at 4 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours & 24 hours. 

It took her no time at all to hit that 4 hour prize.  She reads every morning when she wakes up for 30-60 minutes, and she reads for another 30 minutes before falling asleep on most nights.  She takes a book (or 2 or 3) with her everywhere she goes and loves to read in the car while we’re running errands.

She was beyond excited to find out the 4 hour prize was a Yo-Yo!  For WEEKS now, she’s been talking about how much she wants a Yo-Yo, and she’s been reminding me of it constantly since I had told her to wait till her birthday, or spend her own money.  Even though this Yo-Yo is not fancy, it doesn’t glow in the dark or play music – it is priceless to her because it’s her first, and she earned it!!

110

112 

Here are some other summer reading programs.  Check it out and see which ones are near you!

I cried over her misspelled words

Lovebug and I had a great day! We started the day with breakfast, and then some game time.  I wanted some one-on-one time with her because I knew I would be spending a lot of time unpacking today and she wouldn’t get as much of my focused attention.

First we played “I Can Do That!”. It’s a Dr. Seuss game and one of our family favorites. 

Then, we got out a new game that we had been given, but never opened – Cranium’s Big Book of Outrageous Fun!  We played the board game inside, and then I left her to play by herself with the rest.  It’s not really a single person game, but she just wanted to “play with” the game, not actually play the game.

Inside the box is a book.  On each page of the book is a question and a mostly blank page.  The idea is for each person playing to write their answer to the question along with a symbol that person has chosen for themselves so that once there are several answers on the page you can tell which answer belongs to which person.

While I went upstairs to rid our home of some more cardboard boxes, she went to work on the book.  I honestly figured that would last about 2 minutes before she moved on to something else since I wasn’t there to help her.

I WAS WRONG.

Much later she came up to me and handed me the book, asking me to read what she had done.  As I read through the book, I was fighting back my tears.  Many of the pages were short answers with correctly written words, but there were also several pages with longer answers and many, many misspelled words.

As I handed the book back to her, and she walked out of the room, I was in tears!

Not because she didn’t spell the words right.  Quite the opposite.  I was SO SO PROUD of her!!

You see, Lovebug is quite the perfectionist.  She often won’t even attempt something if she doesn’t know with all certainty that she can do it right.  Handwriting is one of those areas.  She struggles in this area as it is, but when it comes to writing words, notes, birthday cards or anything of the sort, I have to tell her how to spell EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.  Telling her to “just try” or to “guess” gets us nowhere.  She gets so frustrated, and her self esteem just plummets because she feels bad about making mistakes – no matter how much we try to build her up.  She’s afraid to try.  I’ve told her countless times that she has to make mistakes to learn, that everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and that you only really fail if you don’t try.  It never seems to sink in.

I’ve been working with her for a long time on her writing & spelling.  When she wants to write a letter to a friend, or a card to a grandparent, then instead of telling her how to spell the words, I make her sound it out a sound or syllable at a time and we work through it.  It’s a compromise.  She gets my affirmation before she puts the pencil to paper so she knows she’s spelling it right, but I am satisfied because she’s learning how to do it. 

This time, she did it all by herself!!  She tried.  She didn’t ask me even once how to spell a word.  She just guessed, did her best, and went for it!  This is so huge for her. I wish I could make you understand just how big this is. 

Some of the words are close, but others are really really wrong.  So wrong that if I didn’t know better I’d think she didn’t know what sounds the letters make.  But I DO know that she knows.  I also know that she has auditory issues that make it hard for her to HEAR the sounds in her head as she’s trying to spell words.  Thankfully as I read the questions aloud to her, she said the answers so I didn’t have to ask her what she wrote.  Whew!  I was able to just praise her over and over for the great job and hard work that she did. 

Hubby and I used to talk about how we’ll never have those cute notes from our child with words spelled wrong like most parents.   Well, now we do and I could not be more excited about it!

IMAG1465

Translation: “Headphones”

IMAG1466

Translation: “Woods in the Middle Ages”

 

IMAG1467

Translation: “Jesus Loves Me”

 

IMAG1468

Translation: “What city does Sammy live in?”