Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Disney and Beach Trip

So, this post is going to be long because it is our full trip report from E's first trip to Disney and the trip to Madeira Beach, FL. Don't worry, there will be tons of super cute pics as well...

We started by giving E a paper chain to count down the days until he could go see Mickey and an invitation from Mickey telling him he could not wait to see him. This was part of E's birthday gift in June. We were not going until August though so that chain was looooong! We hung it above the living room entry way and E patiently took off one ring every day. He would take off a ring and say, "One day closer go see Mickey!"

This trip was also E's first time on a plane. We prepared chocolates and little slips of paper to hand out to those seated around us warning them that E was on a plane for the first time and headed to Disney for the first time and thanking them in advance for understanding if he was loud. There was no need for any concern because he was a gem! He was thrilled to fly. He was excited to carry his own luggage and look out the window with his besties.

We landed at SFB and rented a car. We then drove to our Disney resort, Port Orleans Riverside. After checking in and having dinner, we took E to play in the large pool with a water slide. His typical bedtime was totally out the window for this vacation, but he did not seem at all affected. He was still going strong every night long after the adults had hit their limit!

The next morning, we began our day with a character breakfast at Ohana. When he saw the first character come around the corner, he was about to crawl right out of his skin with excitement. His reaction was more than we could have ever hoped for! When he finally got to see Mickey "in real life," he was absolutely thrilled! The breakfast was good, but the interaction with the characters was priceless :-)

Next, we entered Magic Kingdom. The first stop in Magic Kingdom was to go see Mickey again at town hall. Once again, E was just fascinated! His first sight of the castle really was magic. We walked up to see a show on the castle stage and E was mesmerized and hanging on every word. When it came time to shout with the characters, he shouted with all his little heart. We were grinning from ear to ear watching his excitement.
We had fastpass+ bracelets and had made our selections online. I was worried that the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was going to be one of our first rides, so we tried to ease our way into it with the teacups, Dumbo, and the carousel. I should never have worried because E was up for ANYTHING! He loved the mine train and from that moment on, he wanted to ride more roller coasters. He really loved Mickey's Philharmagic and insisted we do it twice. At the very end of the night, he requested to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. We were hesitant, but again, he loved them! At the end of Enchanted Tales with Belle, he was the last child to go through the line to meet her. He was rewarded for his patience with a kiss (which he promptly wiped off lol).

Around three, we took a break to go back to the room and rest a bit. E took a short nap, we ate dinner at the resort, then we headed back into the park about 7:30 in time to see the parades and fireworks. We bought a light up wand for E for the parade and he proceeded to cast spells on everyone. The ladies and princesses in the parade must have thought he was super cute with his ears because he got tons of winks, blown kisses, and individual attention. The fireworks were fantastic and left everyone watching with dropped jaws. By the way, right after the fireworks seems to be the perfect time to hit a few rides. We walked right onto Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with less than a five minute wait!

We returned to our hotel room around midnight. Just for kicks, we decided to see how long E would last before falling asleep without prompting from us. He made it until 1am before he could pretend no longer that he was not tired.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and went to our second character breakfast at Cape May Cafe. The characters present were Goofy, Minnie, and Donald. This breakfast was good and was a self-serve buffet, but not nearly as fun and interactive as Ohana. E enjoyed himself though and the beach theme of the Grand Floridian resort was a nice transition to the remainder of our vacation at Madeira Beach, FL.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Reading, Apps, and Other Stuff

My blog doesn't see much activity lately, but that's a good thing. We are too busy having fun to remember to post the details! Four is such a fun age and my little boy is not so little anymore! At his 4 year checkup today, we learned that he is in the 92nd percentile for height. It is so hard for me to believe that one day in the not long distant future, my baby will be bigger than me :-) I love this little monkey so much and he keeps us laughing all the time. He is, as we say in the south, "smart as a whip!" He also happens to be a little on the lazy and manipulative side. He is already perfecting the art of convincing others to do things for him. He is a sweetheart though, so it is pretty hard to say no.
E is great at encouraging. I get tickled when he watches me do something, anything and then tells me, "Great job Mommy! Good work." I still melt and put everything on hold when he tells me, "Mommy, I wanna cuddle you." 

A few of you are aware that E has been reading since he was three. What you may not know is that he picked this up on his own. He has always loved the alphabet (kind of obsessed actually) and reading. As part of his language and listening therapy, we try to read 10 books to him a day. It can be the same book ten times even, but the point is to read and read a lot. Along with reading, we sign the stories too. We were as surprised as anyone the day that he picked up a book that was brand new to him and we knew for certain he had not read before and started reading aloud to us. One thing we realized may have contributed to his early start in reading is that, from the moment we learned he was deaf, we have always kept the captions on our TV on. When he is watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, he gets to see the written words on the screen that correspond to what he hears. I really think this has been a key player and it makes sense when you consider how schools approach reading with recognition of sight words. If you have a preschooler or new reader, give it a try and see what happens. Be warned though...it can take a little while to get used to watching TV with captioning. We have had it on ours for more than three years now, so I actually find it disturbing when I watch without it at this point. I hope I can continue to foster a great love of learning and reading in E. I have always loved books and I hope he will still love them as he gets older.

Another thing that I feel has really helped with E's learning is his iPad apps. I know some people have strong opinions against young children using an iPad, but we have always used one in his therapy and
it is a lifesaver for long doctor's office waits. We have several reading apps, signing apps, and puzzle apps that E really loves. A few favorites:

Elmo Loves ABCs - This app has videos, coloring, and letter writing for each letter of the alphabet. E especially loves dancing to the hammer song for letter H

Signed Stories - These are classic books that feature the read along in both voice and with an interpreter. The interpreters are very animated and fun and E really loves these. The latest we downloaded was "Stone Soup."

Where's My Water - This is a Disney game app that I like because it is all about problem solving and figuring out how to get the water to the Alligator for his shower. The upper levels can get advanced, but the easy ones were fun for E. My husband likes playing this too.

Interactive Alphabet - This one is pretty cute. Each letter of the alphabet features a coordinating photo and each photo does something when you tap it. For I, you build an igloo and then a penguin pops out. E is not that interested in this one anymore, but it was a definite favorite when he was younger.

Tozzle - Interactive puzzles that animate once they are assembled

Pettson's Inventions - This is a new one that we just downloaded yesterday, but I already love it. I was worried that it would be too much for him, but he has surprised me. It is a puzzle type game where you put together pieces to create Rube Goldberg type contraptions to solve the problem presented. It is really great for teaching cause and effect and problem solving. He loves it! I love watching him work out how to accomplish the task using gears, pulleys, etc.

And last, but not least...some picture cuteness :-)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

E turns Four

My sweet E, you are now four years old! The time has certainly flown by and it seems you wake up taller almost every day. In looking back at your likes and dislikes from last year, some things have stayed the same while others have changed entirely. Most importantly, what has not changed is that you are still such a love bug. You are still the sweetest, most cuddly little boy and I cherish the giggles and fun. I know that all too soon you will not be interested in being my little "little boy," but I am hoping to convince you that you can always cuddle up and watch a movie with me no matter how big you are.

Favorite activities: playing outside and reading/telling stories
Favorite foods: french toast and chocolate milk are still the clear winners
Favorite book: you do not seem to have a favorite right now, but you are reading well already and enjoy all books
Favorite TV show(s): Jake and the Neverland Pirates, TNMNT, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Favorite toys/items: the iPad still reigns supreme, but Legos and Matchbox cars are on the rise
Favorite color: still purple

You still love playing outside more than anything. Every night, we must sign a story and sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "With Jesus on the Boat." You are doing great in preschool and were given the "Best Storyteller" superlative at the end of 3K this year. You are too smart for your own good sometimes and are very skilled at finding the loop hole in the directions. I can already see that you have inherited our skill for sarcasm. You are such a sweetheart though and you make me laugh all of the time. I love you, my amazing little boy!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013: The Year of Mickey

It has been quite a while since I have written a new blog, so I decided today was a good day for looking back at 2013 to see how far we have come. One of the first entries from 2013 on my facebook page comes from January 4th when E had to get stitches after falling off a sofa and clipping the coffee table. That same night, my husband brought home E's fist stuffed Mickey. Flash forward a year and we now have four stuffed Mickey's in varying sizes, half a dozen pairs of Mickey pajamas, playsets, books, movies, and puzzles all featuring the beloved mouse. I dub 2013 the Year of Mickey at our house.

I also noticed that we started our potty training journey an entire year ago. E started off as a potty training rock star. For about three weeks, he did great. After that, he seemed to decide the game was no fun anymore and has refused all attempts to fully train since. We have had the first half down, but we have still never fully completed #2 training. We have tried every trick and tip we could find. Each time, we have a couple of successes and then he is over it. I even hit a point where I offered my sister-in-law a large sum of money if she could convince him to do what I could not. As many of you know, E is reading now. He reads everything from books to the subtitles on our TV. As proud as I am that he is so advanced with his reading and education skills, it also made me even more frustrated with his refusal to use the potty. Whether we want to admit it or not, as moms, we all measure our success as a mom by this important milestone. I can feel the shame of defeat as another mom asks, "is he still not potty trained?," and then goes on to brag about how her little one virtually potty trained on his/her own self shortly after learning to walk. Then comes the long list of advice on how I can try this or do that since I clearly do not know what I am doing. You name it, we've tried it. We've played games, read books, watched videos, had sticker charts, floated cheerios, used big boy undies, went commando, pretended to have stuffed animals go potty...I'm serious. For over a year now, we have worked and failed. I have even been reduced to tears when I face yet another failure. People tell me he will just do it when he is ready, but the time is growing short when he must be fully trained to start 4 yr preK and I can hear that clock ticking. He knows exactly what to do and how. He will tell you where he is supposed to do his business, then reply with a firm refusal if you ask if he would like to actually do that. It is a battle of wills around here and my three-year-old has delivered to me a sound beating.

The battle of wills applies to eating as well. Fortunately, I am definitely not alone in this one. Many of my friends tell me they have the same infuriating battle with their child. E lives off of milk and various forms of bread or cereal. We can occasionally get a chicken nugget in there. He takes vitamins and we supplement his milk with Pediasure. His juice is the kind with the sneaky veggies in it. On Thanksgiving, my mother offered him a doughnut and the chance to play outside (two of his very favorite things) if he would take one tiny bite of macaroni. He refused. He refused even as he watched others go outside. He refused even when the doughnut was set out beside his plate. This child has iron clad resolve the likes of which I have never seen. Here's hoping 2014 is the year I learn the secret to motivating my strong willed child!

On the positive side, as I mentioned before, E is reading like a champ and is excelling in his preschool class. His imagination has blossomed and it is such a joy to watch him play with his action figures and create various voices for each one. At his latest cochlear evaluation, his receptive language has reached an average level for hearing children his age and his expressive language is coming along. He still loves to cuddle and snuggle and give spontaneous hugs and kisses :-) He has a wonderful ability for discerning the feelings of those around him and enjoys joining in the celebration when people are happy or kissing boo boos and soothing hurt feelings of those who are sad. He is as sweet and loving as they come and we are so blessed with our extraordinary little boy!