Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tot School--Our Return, I Think

[This was written the end of August, but thought I'd post it now anyway.  I didn't take the time to go find any pictures, though, sorry.  I have some updated things to post soon, but this is what we were up to in St. Petersburg just before we headed back to the good ol' US of A.]

Well, believe it or not, we've actually been doing our "Tot School" activities for several weeks now.  I however haven't had much computer time, and the blogs were the first thing to slide.  Face to face time with my little man and his little sister have been much more important.

And on a rather random note, it's been too hot to turn on our computers!  Crazy, huh?  So when I did have some time without the kiddos (I love that that's plural), I didn't want to turn on the laptop.  You wouldn't believe how much hotter it makes the room, not to mention my lap.

All that to say, here's what we've been up to the last few weeks:

We've been sitting still and reading lots and lots during the heat wave--no central air meant hanging out in one room and not moving around a whole lot.  Isaiah has to take a medication that prevents him from sweating, so we have to be extra careful when it gets this hot.  My husband made us a Redneck Air Conditioner to help us survive, and no we didn't make up the name.  You can see videos about it on YouTube, though ours had a distinctly Russian flair because Thomas had to "rig" a good bit of it.  It made the one room at least bearable to stay in.  Thank you, Honey!

So what did we read?  Lots and lots, but a few favorites were Moonpowder; Dr. Seuss' ABC's and Old Hat, New Hat.  Isaiah also continues to love "reading" his Russian Bible and flipping through his magazines.

We keep working on developing those fine motor skills.  My mom brought him a peg board when she came over.  I had been wanting one for quite a while, but I couldn't find one here.  We use it for all kinds of things!  We sort, work on colors, strengthen hands by pulling apart, develop fine motor skills by stacking, the list goes on and on.  But I can't neglect Isaiah's favorite activity:  moving them from their bag to a box or bucket and then back again.

Mom also brought over a puzzle that we had purchased in the States to use at OT, but it didn't make it back with us in January.  Isaiah actually likes this puzzle,  it seems, something of a small miracle.

He takes out all the pieces very well and hands them to me.  Then we put in all but one piece together.  The last piece he does by himself.  This seems to cut way down on frustration and gives him a definite opportunity for success!  As he gets better at this, then I'll have him do 2 pieces on his own.  The 6 pieces all at once was just overwhelming to him, I think.  Mama had to do some learning in order to cut down on frustration for both of us!

We also discovered a great website with flashcards for all kinds of words.  Kindersay.com is a free site that has words in different categories for learning all kinds of things.  If you register with them, you can also upload family pictures to have in an album.  I haven't had time to do that yet, but I definitely plan on it.  Isaiah loves looking at pictures, so this site is a hit!  If you want to visit it, it seems to work best for us in Safari, so you might want to try that browser if you are having problems.

Isaiah has always enjoyed looking at the pictures on my iPhone.  He loves being able to scroll through the pictures himself.  Well, we were given an iPad, and we are so excited about the educational possibilities that we see with this piece of technology!  We had tried downloading some games on the iPhone for Isaiah, but the screen is just too small for him and his developing fine motor skills.  Also, all the programs have way to many options to start with, and he would get frustrated with the overload of choices.

My husband has been able to develop a few flashcards for Isaiah on the iPad to review colors and shapes.  Isaiah LOVES it!  Thomas is hoping to develop some applications for Isaiah and other kids with special needs because, as I mentioned, the apps that we've found are a little overwhelming for our little man.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to let us know!  Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

While my mom was here, I had a great talk with her about how Isaiah learns best.  I'm composing a post about it in my head, but we'll see when it actually makes it to the computer. :)

So for now, we're getting a new routine for our family that involves feedings and diaper changes and continues with the old stuff, too.  Of course, it will all change as we head back to the States on August 30.  Then we'll add in physical, occupational and perhaps speech therapy for about 4 months.  Never a dull moment around here!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So, we've been doing our "school" activities, but in a much more playful way lately.  I just have no time to post about them.  We'll get back to it eventually, I suppose.  Right now we have 3 extra people in our apartment, which means we have 3 little people in our apartment--lots of fun!

Thomas and our guests will be gone for 11 days, which might give me more time for posting things.  Then they'll all be back for 3 days before our guests leave.  Four days after that we head for the States.  So maybe in the 11 days that it's just me and the kids, I'll post about some of the ideas and activities that we've had for Isaiah.  I've discovered that things have to be very different for him than what I was trying to do.  The switch has resulted in a much happier little man and, therefore, a happier mama.  So we'll see what the next few weeks holds.  And maybe I'll even blog about it. :)

But until then, here's a cute picture of Isaiah in action with some pegs that Gran brought him:

These have been great for all kinds of games that we play together, and about which I have started a post.  Eventually it will get published.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SEW: Fun on the Fourth

Yes, I'm really late posting our July 4th pics, but there are a couple that are special, so better late than never!

I'm sure Mrs. O won't love this pic, but I do!  She took the time to play with Isaiah before the cooking started and Mr. S was kind enough to share some of his chips with Isaiah--one of his favorite things!

Isaiah participated with everyone reciting the pledge of allegiance, sounded kind of strange to hear that in park in Russia!

To the races!  We had fun participating in some relays.

And then my favorite:
My mom captured this look of pure joy as Isaiah watched the kids run around.

Check out the other Special Exposure posts at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.  Oh, and here's another one of ours that I forgot to link up in the busyness of life: A Boy's Hands.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Where We've Been

In case you don't read our other blog and you missed the big news, we do have a good reason for not posting lately:

Isaiah's been learning how to be a fantastic big brother.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tot School

Isaiah is 51 months old

Thanks to Daddy, Isaiah still got some Tot School learning in this week.  I am basically on bed rest, not to lift or move Isaiah and supposed to lay around as much as possible.

Isaiah's daddy searched YouTube for some great number, letter or color videos.  He did a great job finding short clips that Isaiah really enjoyed watching.  He did a great job repeating the numbers or letters or colors!

And one really fun thing--he was sitting on the couch one day playing with his toys, when I heard him randomly and completely unprompted say, One, Two, Three, Four in the cutest little singing voice!

No pictures from official learning times, but here's a couple of Isaiah with his fabulous substitute teacher:

Gotta love the perks of lovin' in the middle of the day!

I'm guessing that we won't be posting about Tot School for a couple of weeks as I continue on my bed rest and as, Lord willing, Nadia will be with us soon!  But don't forget to check out the other Tot School posts linked up at 1+1+1=1.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SEW: The Help of Friends

A friend's helpful hands...

...made this sweet smile possible.

Thank you, God for thoughtful friends.

See other Special Exposure Wednesday memorable moments at 5M4SN.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tot School--G Week II

Isaiah is 51 months

This week we finally got back into the speech therapy list for our alphabet school.  Since it's been a while, I'll just say that the use of the alphabet is more for me to have a spring board for activities to try with Isaiah.  I'm doing my best to make them interesting for him but also productive as far as the therapy goals that his therapists in the States gave me before we left.

We picked up with the next letter on our speech therapy list, which was G.  And G is for...


I drew the big and little G on his drawing board in green crayon.  We found all his shades of green crayons and markers and he actually colored and did his horizontal lines very well!  I think it's more difficult for him to do his other lines and circles while standing as he has to work hard just on balancing at the same time, but he did great with his balance!  He was able to let go of his walker with both hands several times for several minutes.

Oh, and it was all his idea for his friends to sit with him while he worked on his drawing board.  I LOVE how he is getting better at telling me what he would like.

He also found his play doh several times this week and asked to play with it.  He would bring me the container and say All mine, which I thought was a creative way to let me know what he wanted.


I tried to get him in his braces even more this week.  He did really well walking around our little space.
We were also able to go outside a lot more near the end of the week!  I had to take more sitting breaks than in the past, but as long as he could watch the cars go by, Isaiah didn't seem to mind one bit!

Things that Go

When Isaiah had occupational therapy, he HATED working his puzzles.  I hadn't pulled this one of some trucks out in a long time.  I just nonchalantly put it on the table to see what would happen.  He immediately started taking out the pieces and even tried to put 3 of them back!  One piece was almost in the right spot!  I was thrilled, so I told him to smile for a picture with the puzzle, and this is what he did...


Ok, this is a stretch, and I don't think I ever said this word with him, but when he asked for his "colors", he did well moving them from one place to another, or gathering them. :)

But I did some gathering of my own.  I've been wanting to organize Isaiah's toys for a while now, and I finally had the energy and time (all at once!) to do a deep clean of his room and organize things a little better.  My preference would have been to get flat containers with lids to slide under his bed, but that would mean spending money, so I just used the crates that we had, and it works all right.  We have one for "Cars, Trucks, and Things that Go", one for "Legos" and one for everything else.

I was also able to finally get the posters up that our cousin sent us!  Unfortunately I can't get the glossy ones to stay up, but the alphabet one is doing well.  We look at it together, and I've found him looking at it when I get him up from his "nap".  Just some passive learning with it right now, but I'm sure it will be even more helpful later!


And what would G week be without some serious guitar time?  Isaiah's little guitar finally met its end, so he had the special treat of getting to strum Daddy's guitar a few times this week.


We continue to work with Isaiah on his children's catechism questions.  We are having a bit of a dilemma however, and I would appreciate any advice.  For the past 3 years, Isaiah has been able to do the first 2 questions without any problems at all.  We added the 3rd question about a year ago, and all was going well.  Suddenly, however he wants to answer the first 2 questions with the answer for the 3rd question.  It's like it's stuck in his head or something.  We're having a hard time discerning if this is behavioral/needs discipline issue or a genuine part of some of the learning difficulties that Isaiah might have.  He does tend to get stuck on certain words or answers in other situations as well.

We are trying to develop some more interesting ways to review his catechism with him to see if maybe he's bored with the process.  I have to give my husband kudos in this area as he has been the main one to try new things.

But any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.


And just in time a wonderful package arrived with some fun goodies for Isaiah (Thanks, ST!).  He seems to really like glasses, and I was thrilled to have some pipe cleaners, which I thought would be perfect for making him some play glasses.  My husband whipped some up in no time!

(my husband is less than thrilled with this picture, but it was the only one I had with Isaiah's cute play glasses, so sorry, honey)

Lord willing, we'll continue our alphabet school this week.  We're pretty much taking things one day at a time here as we wait for our Little Lady to join us in the outside world.

But be sure to check out the other Tot Schools at 1+1+1=1.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SEW: Big Brother

Check out the other Special Exposure Wednesday posts linked up at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

(And to my 5M4SN friends, I have been having trouble leaving comments on wordpress based blogs.  I don't know why, and I feel quite frustrated by this!  I so enjoy seeing your posts and learning from each of you, please know that I do come and visit!  I can't even leave a comment on the 5M4SN site for some reason, it never shows up.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!)

Check This Out!

A friend of ours posted about this amusement park on Facebook recently.  Some of you might have already heard about it as I  am often late in finding things out from the States, but I thought I'd share anyway.

Check out Morgan's Wonderland--what looks like an amazing amusement park designed specifically for people with disabilities and even has an amazing price!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Chair Challenge

Since Isaiah can't feel his bottom, sitting is something of a challenge.  Most chairs pose different difficulties from slanted backs that don't support his back well, to slanted seat areas that promote sliding.  We're always on the lookout for something that will work better for him.

He likes to sit at the little table that we got him and play with his play-doh or read his books, but the chair that we had bought to go with the table just wasn't working for him.

Enter my brilliant husband...

He found this little wooden chair at IKEA and added the shelf braces, also from IKEA, to provide the perfect little chair for Isaiah.  The straight back helps him sit straighter and not slide.  The horizontal slats on the seat seem to provide some resistance to sliding as well.

wooden Ekby Valter bracket, $4 in the States, but turned differently on our chair

Unfortunately, the chair isn't pictured online without the brackets, and I forgot to get a picture of the chair before my husband's improvements.  The chair cost about $11 with our current exchange rate, so it's probably cheaper in the States.  Altogether, with screws and everything, we were able to have this for under $16.  (My husband wanted me to say that he already owned the drill.)  :)
Yard sales aren't that common over here, but you might be able to find something similar for even cheaper if you're able to shop thrift stores or yard sales.

Isaiah sat in his chair for an hour today without sliding or having to be adjusted--great for both of us!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tot School--Special Guest

Isaiah is 51 months old

Isaiah has been a big help in the kitchen this week as we celebrated Daddy's birthday and enjoyed having a very special guest from the States!

Isaiah decided that whenever I'm mixing something up in bowls, he has to have the same things, too.  This is great as it increases his hand strength and actually does some pre-writing work without having to "force" him to color. :)

He helped me make Daddy's birthday breakfast pancakes, and did a great job, of course!

He was the teacher this week, as he taught my pastor several words in Russian while we enjoyed his time with us.

Another great part of Pastor being with us was watching Isaiah form another attachment.  Isaiah loves it when we have people over.  For a while it seemed like he didn't remember people from one visit to another, but now he will ask about the people who have been here long after they're gone.  He remembers their names (or the names that he's given them) and follows them around or goes and looks for them while they're here.  When they leave he is really sad, which of course I don't like for him to be sad, but I'm really excited for the mental development that this implies!

I have been told to limit my activities for the next few weeks as Nadia's arrival draws near, so Tot School will probably continue to be fairly low key, focusing on life skills and physical therapy more than school room type activities.

What are some ways that you try to incorporate learning into daily activities that don't "look like" school?

Check out the other Tot School posts at 1+1+1=1.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tot School--Keeping Busy!

Isaiah is 50 months old

This past week (actually almost 3 weeks ago now!) Isaiah and I did our best to keep busy and pass the time until Daddy got home!

We enjoyed some great weather in the beginning of the week, which meant lots of fun time outside!  This was definitely a good idea, according to Isaiah.

Monday we had friends over!  I got a taste of what it will be like to care for a littler person with my Little Man, which means that my hands were way too busy to get any pictures of how sweet Isaiah was with our little friend.  He also enjoyed playing with her big sister--thanks, Lydia!

Tuesday we had some math lessons. :)  Yes, we talked about the wonderful exchange rate that enables us to buy an ice cream cone for $0.35!

Actually we had an amazingly fun breakthrough in communication this week while shopping at IKEA!  Isaiah often shows interest in something for about, oh 30 seconds, and then moves on to the next thing.  Well, this time he saw something that he liked, and he told me so...several times!  I was so excited, so I have to share it with you, too.

He would wear the hat for a long time, give it to me, then ask for it again a few minutes later.  He has never done this before.  He communicated with words very clearly exactly what he wanted!  Celebration!

Wednesday we went and visited some newer friends, which thrilled Isaiah--time outside traveling and playing with other little people!  What could be better!

Thursday was cold and rainy, which altered our plans, but gave us some much needed rest and time to prepare for the best day of the week....

Daddy coming home!

So while "school" might have looked different this week, we actually had so much progress in Isaiah's verbal skills and communication that I could not be more thrilled.

Check out the other kids and their fun at 1+1+1=1.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SEW: All's Right Now

Daddy's home again.

The Perfect Ending

Despite a long break from walking due to Mama's broken arm and inability to put Isaiah in his braces, Little Man is doing really well lately with his walker.  So well in fact, that we are able to release the front wheels and let them swivel.

The beginning of the first video shows him turning out of his room with the new swivel action.  Sorry it's so dark, but hopefully you can see it.

The second video doesn't show the swiveling so much, but the ending is the best!

We are so thankful for this progress for Isaiah!  As the weather gets prettier and drier, we hope to take him to the park not too far away and let him have further to go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

SEW: Special Plans

playing Daddy's guitar with Daddy!

I have to brag on my husband for this week (though he deserves it every week, of course!).  He has been gone on what will be a 9-day trip, but he planned ahead for us!  Every day we read the Bible together as a family, after breakfast and again after supper.  We review Isaiah's catechism with him both times, teach him how to pray in the morning, and sing together at night.

I would do this anyway during Thomas' absence, but he took the time to record himself reading the short passages to us!  He also played the guitar for us for our singing time in the evenings.  It has been great!  Of course, we'd rather have the original, but being able to see and hear him and "interact" with him has been grand.  And Isaiah has LOVED it.  He gets very excited every time and asks to watch the videos several times.  He blows Daddy kisses and says night, night and love you, too.  And makes my heart melt...

Tot School

Isaiah is 50 months old

Last week Isaiah was my big helper!  I actually had energy, and we were able to get some much-needed cleaning done together.  He would lead me around the house saying, This way, Mommy!  Beep! Beep! and make sure that I got to the right places.

We enjoyed a family day before Daddy left on a 9-day trip.  Thankfully the rain held off and we were able to take a nice walk and enjoy a special lunch out together.  Since Daddy left, Isaiah has enjoyed looking at these pictures from that day and telling all the things that Daddy is "wearing" in the pictures.

sorry, honey, but Isaiah thinks they're great, so I just had to share!

We also had a special treat of a package from the States thanks to my husband's cousin, Linda and her sweet children!  Thank you so much!  Isaiah lunged for the box as I began to open it in front of him with the cry of Toys!  He looked through all the books as he told me, I read.  I read it, Mommy.

And his favorite activity last week was definitely play doh!  He's enjoyed this before, but he's never dug through his toy box and brought me the container to me to open for him to play with!  It was a learning moment for me because at first I put him off because I knew it meant I would have to vacuum when he got done, and I just didn't want to vacuum.  But then he got so disappointed, though not fussy about it, and I thought, you know what, I can vacuum; I need to celebrate the fact that Isaiah communicated to me what he wanted to play with.  

He doesn't play with it in the conventional manner, mind you, but rather just tearing it apart and moving it from one container to another; but he loves it!

This was also a perfect activity for him to do while standing up.  I'm so thankful that my arm is strong enough again at last to get him in his big braces!

We've enjoyed some exceptionally beautiful weather lately, which means LONG walks outside!  Not many pics, but tons of fun and sunshine!

This week we're keeping busy to distract us from Daddy's absence, though it's really only somewhat effective.  We're so ready for him to come home!

Enjoy checking out the other Tot Schools at 1+1+1=1.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tot School--Catching Up

Isaiah is 50 months

Well, my blogging has been rather sporadic as of late due to the fact that we've been enjoying some amazing weather and some extra time with friends since we can all get around the city a little easier with our little ones now.  Public transportation is not easy with lots of snow and strollers or wheelchairs (in our case) and moms with broken arms.

Hooray for spring at last!

But, my lack of posting doesn't mean a lack of learning!  Isaiah has been making some great progress in some areas of life skills, things that he can do for himself.  My pictures (though few) represent the past couple of weeks--better late than never!

enjoying some time with Slava--they actually play together really well!

Dressing Himself:

Pants work well as a scarf, too, right?

Isaiah has actually made some great improvements in taking off and putting on his shirt by himself.  We help him with his balance, and he does just about everything with his shirt on his own.  He still requires some verbal and physical cues, but he's doing great!  Another fun part of this is that he will tell me what he wants to wear:
What shirt would you like today, Isaiah?

Truck! (or) McQueen!

He has also started undressing himself when we come in from our walks.  He'll take off his gloves (which we really don't need very often any more now!) and his hat on his own.  Oh, and he has to wear his truck hat, too when we go out.

Communicating Needs:

Isaiah has made a jump lately in his communication skills!  Naturally, it's hard to take pictures of him talking, so you'll have to take my word for it.  Whenever I try to take a video, he of course clams up!

We've been told that children with spina bifida often communicate in a manner that's called "cocktail chatter".  This simply means, I think, that they understand certain responses to certain questions, but they don't always completely understand what is going on in such a way that they can volunteer information or creatively participate in a more "advanced" conversation.  They can be good at "small talk", but perhaps don't always understand beyond that point.  As Isaiah's communication improves, we sometimes see signs of this, but most often we are pleased with his comprehension of what is going on around him. His responses to our questions are improving, and we just keep consistently working with him on conversation skills.

So, all that to say, here are some of Isaiah's new phrases (usually ending with Mommy or Daddy):

I'm ready!

I wait, Mommy.
I read. (as he turns the pages to his book, magazine, or most often requested Bible)

In response to "did you" questions he will answer, I did.

He will also try to sing along with us by repeating words.  I LOVE THIS!

And he still says Honey, all the time, which is absolutely adorable, especially since he says it with the cutest little southern accent!

His Russian vocabulary is increasing a little bit, too, as we are able to spend more time with our Russian friends.

He's also seeming to communicate physical needs a little bit, as I wrote about here.  And the other day he even seemed to know when he was pooping on his own (other than his normal pooping time).  This may seem strange, but I've never been so thankful to clean up a mess as I was that day when he was trying to tell me that something was wrong!


Isaiah had several weeks without using his walker due to my not being able to put him in his big braces. :(  Thankfully, this is changing!  He had several long walking sessions.  At first he seemed to forget a little bit, but the skills are quickly returning, along with his communication of where he wants to go or not go and when he wants to move or not move!

and yes!  he's balancing on his own here while using both hands to play with his little frog that then had to ride permanently on the walker


Isaiah now consistently counts to 3, and he has on several occasions gone to 4!  M&M's are a great incentive!

So we've been busy, even if it doesn't look that way.  I get my cast off Saturday, and we're looking forward to some more activities to do together!  I love hanging out with my Little Man!

Check out the other Tot School fun at 1+1+1=1.