This was our second annual Christmas tree farm trip. I wrote about our first trip last year here. Toogoodoo Christmas Tree Farm was just as fun this year, although definitely a bit colder and wetter. We ended up with another Carolina Sapphire “blue” tree since we loved how unique our tree looked and how good it smelled last year. We managed to choose and chop our tree, give a brief “hello” to Toogie, play with a few of the outdoor toys, and get the tree tied to the top of the van just in time to miss the rain. We’re ready for another Carolina Christmas!
A few weeks back we took a trip to Jacksonville, FL to meet with our RDI consultant for a re-evaluation and program update for Ben. We usually stay for a few days at the Navy Lodge at US Naval Station Mayport. It’s a perfect setup for us with a kitchenette and a beachfront view. Although it was mostly rainy and overcast while we were there, we couldn’t skip an afternoon digging in the sand and dipping our toes in the cold cold ocean. How cool is it that we can enjoy the beach in the middle of December? I tell you, it never gets old for this Midwestern grown girl, nor her South Dakotan husband. Oh. And the kids appear to love it, too.
We planted a Winter garden this year. It would have been a Fall garden if I’d gotten my act together earlier than October, but ah well. Next year. We started with seeds, no plants this time and crossed our fingers. The kids picked out pumpkins, beans, peas, beets, carrots and chard. Yes, chard. To be honest, I didn’t expect much, but they all eventually sprouted and grew. The plants got bigger much more slowly than in the summer and I was sure the few cold nights we have would kill off anything before we could harvest it. We didn’t spend much time weeding or tending to the plants as I hated to build up hopes of veggies that were never to be. And then last week, out of the corner of my eye while getting errant buckets and shovels back into the sand(less) box, I spotted it. A pea pod! Upon closer inspection, rounding of the troops, excited squeals, and thorough searching, we found LOTS of peapods. Very very exciting!! They were gone before ever even leaving the beds, and were consumed so quickly that I’m lucky I got the photos I did. There really isn’t anything quite like eating something you’ve grown yourself. The carrots and beets look small but promising. The chard is small, but tasty. The pumpkins and beans don’t look quite like they’re going to make it, but I won’t write them off just yet. As for my three small gardeners? Hope springs eternal, of course.
We went to Legare Farms to pick pumpkins. First we played with the toys. Then we checked out the farm animals. Then we picked pumpkins. We brought them home in the car. Daddy got a BIG pumpkin. I got a little pumpkin. Mommy got a medium pumpkin. We went in the hay bale maze. We went around like little mice. We saw dead ends. But then, we had to try again. I did make the maze. I found the end. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!
Ella Rose is 2. I am 5. Ella Rose has a train. She got it for her birthday. We had a party for Ella Rose’s birthday. She had a monkeymonkey cake. That is what she calls Curious George. We sang “Happy Birthday” and we ate some cake. The cake was sticky. Our friends came over–Wendy, Becca and Olivia, Ann, Rich, Maya and Talia, Rachael, Ellis and Lily, Baby Liam and Emma, Brandy and Kalena. It got dark. We went to sleep. The End.
For the last few months we’ve had a second cowboy in the house.
Will began taking riding lessons during Ben’s lesson at Enchanted Acres with Ms. Trish back in August. He really really enjoys it and loves his lesson horse, Splatter.
The cool part of it all is that that both Ben’s and Will’s teachers work together for part of the lesson. Both horses are in the ring and the boys get to play games while in the saddle. Many of the games are “hide and seek” sorts of activities where they have to maneuver their horses to different parts of the ring to look inside different containers for objects (puzzle pieces, different colored balls, play fruit/veggies…). There is turn-taking, information exchange, and social interaction involved all while learning how to ‘steer’ with the reins, communicate with the horse, and stay in the saddle!
We love that Kelly and Trish offer up this combined experience for siblings. It’s great for Will who loves to do anything Ben does, and it’s also great for Ben to have a partner to interact with. I love that the combined lesson doesn’t require me to be in two places at once, and that the relationship piece we work so hard for in Ben’s remediation can be supported in this, one of their favorite activities.
There are parts of the lesson that are not combined and it’s so amazing to see your children interact with other adults, apart from you. Will listens intently to instructions from Trish and seems eager to please. He is much more reserved and almost shy during his lesson, using a voice so soft and low that he needs encouragement to ‘use a big voice’ so the horse can hear him. Trish has Will change positions in the saddle in order to strengthen muscles and encourage proper technique. This jumping pose, however, sort of freaked me out.
I’ve been assured there will be no jumping for many years, yet–that three-year-olds only practice position. Phew.
Ella Rose enjoys having me all to herself while we observe the lessons, and even felt brave one afternoon and requested to ride Star–Ben’s really tall lesson horse. Thank God she’s too young for lessons. I don’t think I could handle three of them in the saddle. At least, not yet. She is pretty darn cute in her boots, though.
Okay, technically, there are no actual muppets in this scene. We love it anyway. yakka yakka yakka yakka
I have been terrible about updating this blog. You can blame Facebook, if you’d like. It’s a pretty good scapegoat for most of my inadequacies lately. This isn’t really even a “real” blog entry. It’s an excerpt from an email I wrote to our RDI/HANDLE consultant about how Ben is doing. We’ve been on a hiatus from RDI, not working on specific goals, but keeping general principles of living RDI in mind. During this period, we’re doing a full-on HANDLE program with Ben, instead. HANDLE uses gentle, simple activities that strengthen underlying, weaker body systems that ultimately support Ben’s neurological functions, physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Strengthening and regulating those systems (vestibular, visual, tactility, visual-motor, auditory processing, etc. ) are what drives Ben’s progress. Here’s what we’ve been observing lately:
Ben is doing really well with lots of things, not as well with others.
We’re seeing definite improvement in overall stability and ease in using his body. Things that really showcase this for us are
1. watching him bowl (no longer just plunking the ball down, but actually swinging the ball, twisting his torso, bending his legs, etc.),
2. swinging on the swing (not just moving legs in and out, but leaning back and into the swing to propel his body forward),
3. running (much faster than before, definitely having ‘air time’ with both feet off the ground at the same time during his stride),
4. riding his horse (he adjusts his body–not all the time–when he slips sideways in the saddle and will be learning to use the reins soon to guide his horse. He also loves to trot, which is a fairly quick, bouncy walk.)
5. writing and drawing (can write all the alphabet letters with visual/verbal scaffolding, has a new love for drawing CARS. He always has a story about the car he is drawing, even if it usually has the same components–name of car, the car’s features, and of course the SMOKE he draws while making car noises. If I suggest something else, he’ll agree if he can incorporate it into his car drawing. He’s much more confident at attempting different things and uses a more mature pencil grip–not fisting, but using fingers)
and 6. boogie boarding! This is the newest thing for Ben. He’s always loved watching other kids “surf” while we’re at the beach and actually asked me if he could do it the last time I took him by myself with his siblings. So, this past Saturday when Mark was with us, we bought a board and Ben jumped right in and LOVED it. He figured out how to do it just by watching others, and with some verbal/visual help from Mark realized where on the board to hold on for maximum lift and speed. Crazy!
The things that we’re not seeing changes in (and are driving me crazy) are
1. eating with his fingers
2. dawdling and getting sidetracked when he is expected to get his shoes, get dressed, pick something up, put something away, etc.
3. freaking out about nail cutting (fingers and toes) and not as intensely, but haircuts are still a challenge
4. getting out of bed every night to get in bed with Mark and I
5. pronation is still pronounced, not sure how to judge improvement there other than increased mobility as mentioned above
6. just recently, I noticed that holding hands with other children is something Ben is very tactilely averse to. Holding an arm was an okay alternative and holding an adult’s hand is okay, too.
7. not sure if HANDLE would address this or not, but Ben definitely does not distinguish between a purposeful and accidental action, in terms of being hurt by the action. He has this need for “revenge”. If his toe is accidentally stepped on, he will not rest until he steps on the offender’s toe. He used to avoid touching or being touched by the baby, but now she is free game for pushing, hitting, kicking, etc. He doesn’t seem to understand the concept of intent.
8. anger is also his “go to” emotion when he disagrees with something. He’ll yell “NO” at kids who ask him to play and really holler at Will when he is not interested in interacting with him. To be fair, Will is often an instigator of conflict between the two, but just as often he is not, but gets yelled at, or physically hurt anyway.
Ben is using language more than physical violence, though, to deal with the anger lately. He can actually be quite creative. “I’M AN ANGRY MONSTER AND I’M GOING TO BITE YOUR TOES OFF!” “I’M GOING TO LOCK THIS DOOR AND RUN AWAY AND YOU WILL BE LONELY!”
One of the best things we’re seeing emerge with Ben the past few months is a social sense of humor. He’s always laughed at things that privately make him laugh or are amusing to him auditorally, but recently he’s enjoyed watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and laughs when people or pets do unexpected things. Such a great sound to hear him laugh along with everyone else, knowing he ‘got’ it. There is a lot more giggling with his brother and occasionally his sister, too, over ‘private’ jokes and shared experiences. He’s also been “making jokes”, although I’m sure they’re not exactly intentional. I’ve got three examples:
1. While cleaning with me the other day (he sprays, I wipe), Ben starts to sing a la ‘Bob the Builder’ “Bob the Cleaner! Can he clean it? Yes he can!”
2. While talking over dinner about how pilots have to go to flying school to get their license, Ben comments that he has a “horse riding license”.
3. After asking him to stop touching things in the grocery store for the millionth time while shopping, he looks at me and says, “but touching is in my blood” This is from a movie where the actual line is “racing is in my blood”. Cracked me up.
So, there you go. A Ben Update. With stories and photos to boot.
Ben’s a winner!
We participated with the exceptional rider’s group at a local horse show today. Tall Pines Horse Show in not-too-far-away Reevesville, SC provides a slot for Enchanted Acres’ group to show their stuff. Ben on Spot, along with the rest of the group, rode around the ring a couple times, then lined up in the middle of the arena for the ribbon presentation. Each exceptional rider received a “champion” ribbon for participating. You can see how much Ben loved this. The next show won’t be until the Fall. We can’t wait to see how much more Ben can do by then. Yaaahoooo!
I have no photos from this therapuetic horseback riding lesson lesson, but it needs to be documented. It has been just 3 hours in as many weeks since Ben’s first initial freak-out over getting up on a horse. He has progressed much faster than any of us ever anticipated. After riding around the ring several times. Ben decided he’d like to try going a little bit faster. The next fastest gait after walking is called the trot. It’s like a fast walk or jog that can be pretty bouncy for a brand new rider during his THIRD time up on a horse. Ben LOVED trotting. The bouncing one-two pattern of the gait made him giggle uncontrollably. It was infectious and we were all laughing together chanting “trot trot trot trot…”. How amazing is that??