Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kids Asking Existential Questions

Some of the best conversations with my children happen at bedtime. A couple of nights ago, I was putting the boys to bed and they were both sleeping together on the top bunk. My older son, Lil' Expert who tends to be a little morose started asking me questions about death and dying.

Last year, our beagle puppy drowned in our pool. My son asked, "Why didn't Scout (our other dog) jump in the pool and try to save Bandit? Why did he just bark?" My son then asked if I remembered my friend that was hit by a car? Around the same time as the accident with the dog, my friend Brenda from high school was hit and killed by a car. She had four children like me, and I was really saddened by her death. My son wanted to know why did she have to die?

In the past, Lil' Expert has worried about dying himself, or having one of his parents die. I have noticed that long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of life, and children, at some level, are aware of it.

If we let children talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing interest in and respect for what they have to say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and comfortable with our own feelings. Not easy.

I tried to keep it brief, simple and explain in terms that he could understand. We talked a little about the life cycle, our faith, and making the most of life. The next day, I saw a book on the internet that looked like it might be helpful.  It tells the story of the life cycle of a dragonfly and explains death and dying in terms young children can understand. I am thinking about ordering a copy.

Anyway, after the kids were sleeping I thought about my old friend. I realized it has been almost a year exactly since Brenda died. Another friend wrote a post about  Brenda a few weeks back. 

We had not kept in touch in recent years, but I still really miss her. She was an amazing mother and an encouraging, outgoing person.  I think about her husband and four children. It makes me want to live in a present way and be grateful for each minute with my family and friends. I have the same questions as my son. Why did she have to die? I try to trust God that her family will be taken care of and come through this tragedy.

Here is a memorial video about Brenda: 

The loss of Brenda reminds me to keep being grateful and thankful!

Friday, May 30, 2008

On the Rocks

Out here in the Wild West, grass backyards are scarce. It is too hot and takes too much water to keep a yard green and growing. The typical landscape for front and backyards is a "rockscape" yard. Colored rocks are used in desert tones to make paths around the plants and trees. This is true of our home, and unlike grass, rocks are easily transported inside. Rocks in the dryer, rocks in the baby's crib, rocks in the bathtub, and lots of rocks in the carpet.  

Yesterday, my three year old, Brown-eyed Gal came in from playing in the backyard. This was our conversation:  

"Mommy, I got a wok." 

"You got a walk, you want to go on a walk?"   

"No, I got a wok in my node." 

"You have a rock in your nose?" 

"Yes, mommy. It hurts, the wok in my node." 

My darling daughter had stuck a pebble from the play structure up her nose. We tried blowing. We tried tweezers. I looked up my daughter's nose  with a flashlight, and there was the rock wedged in tight. I took a bulb syringe and filled it with water and flushed out my daughter's nose. The rock still didn't come out. I left her to her own devices for a few minutes while I looked up "rocks stuck up nose" on the internet.

"Mommy, Mommy I got out the wok from my node," she said. 

Happily, we avoided a trip to the doctor's office.  

We weren't so lucky a couple of years ago when Lil' Expert stuck two rocks in his ear. It happened during kindergarten and he waited a whole week to tell us. He was sitting on the carpet with his class, and he picked up two little rocks and put them in his ear. By the time he told us they were really bothering him. We tried the flashlight and tweezers, but no luck. Finally, we took him to the emergency room where they floated them out of his ear canal with some little device they have for just such occasions. 

Desert living has it's hazards. Cactus, scorpions, tarantulas, and many shapes and sizes of rocks. Watch out for the rocks!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sonoran Desert Living

We are lucky to live in the Sonoran Desert with it's rich wildlife and many diverse plants.  Here are some recent shots of our local desert beauty. 

Photos courtesy of Big Expert.

It's Wordless Wednesday and 5MinutesforMom has lots of great pictures!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Revisiting the Boxcar Children

We are reading aloud The Boxcar Children.

The first book tells the story of four children (Henry, Jesse,Violet and Benny) and their dog Watch.  Upon the death of their mother and father they are supposed to go live with their grandfather, but they believe him to be cruel. They run away and find an abandoned boxcar where they start a new life of independence.  Henry the oldest does odd jobs, they find dishes at the dump, they bathe in the stream, and have many adventures. Ultimately, their grandfather is reunited with them and they find out he's not such a bad guy. They move in with him and he moves their boxcar into his backyard. 

The books were written in 1942. There are 19 books in the original series. They were written by American writer and first grade school teacher Gertrude Chandler Warner. It is amazing how these stories have stood the test of time even today.  

We have finished the first book and now we are on to the second book Surprise Island. My kids really like that there are four boxcar children (two boys and two girls) just like in our family.  I loved these books when I was a little girl.  It makes me so happy to share something with my children that I cherished as a child.  It has been fun reading to them out loud and reliving the stories once again. 

My kids have been pretending to live in a boxcar.  They have been taking play dishes out into the yard to set up their car and pretending to make beds out of pine needles.  

Storytellin' Boy has had all kinds of questions about pine needle beds.  Are they soft?  Can we plant a pine tree in our yard?  Can we put some needles in his real bed, so he can see what it's like? 

Lil' Expert has also been enjoying the boxcar stories. He has been practicing his reading aloud by alternating  pages with me. His reading is improving every day.  

I would recommend these books for any school age children getting interested in chapter books. They are simple, wholesome, and promote families working together. They are exciting and engaging for young readers.  

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrate and Remember...

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."
-Joseph Campbell

Today we remember all loved ones lost and those that have sacrificed for all of us. 

Here's a 2008 Memorial Day tribute:

Have a great holiday!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

No More Training Wheels and Other Summer Challenges

School's out and we are all excited to have a break from the hectic pace and early morning schedule.  We have a short summer due to year round school. The kids will start again July 14th.  Lil' Expert will start 2nd grade, Storytellin' Boy will start kindergarten and Brown-eyed Gal will start her speech preschool three days a week. Three kids in some sort of school, amazing!

I talked about Lil' Expert's challenges with Asperger's Syndrome in Life on the Spectrum. One of the continuing issues that he struggles with is his fine motor skill development.  This has made it tough for him to do things that come easy for many kids. We are going to face a few of these tasks head on over summer break. Learning to ride a bike, learning to tie shoes, and practicing writing will be our three areas of focus.

Lil' Expert has been slow to learn to pedal and has had trouble with coordination and balance. I ordered a Wallaby Vest which is supposed to help speed up the process and make it less strenuous on the parents. Lil' Expert really wants to learn to ride his bike. I think determination is half the battle.

In this day in age, we have been able to avoid shoe tying because velcro shoes have been so readily available. Again, this is a skill that takes dexterity and small movements with your hands. Lil' Expert is getting older and most shoes now require tying. He has had to ask the teacher, or one of his friends at school to help him. We have ordered a book with big laces and will start practicing with the book and then hopefully move on to shoes.  

The third thing we will continue to practice is writing. This has been an ongoing struggle and I am so proud of the strides Lil' Expert has made. In Kindergarten, because of his hypotonicity (low tone in muscles) Lil' Expert had trouble grasping his pencil and applying enough pressure to write. Now, he is writing so much better, but he tires easily and it is difficult to read his writing. The occupational therapist from school has sent me a kid's typing program and we will also follow a program called handwriting without tears. If handwriting continues to be a problem, Lil Expert will be eligible to have a computer supplied by the school to type some of his assignments as handwriting becomes more of an emphasis.

I always want to find the balance between being to pushy and helping Lil' Expert live up to his full potential. Storytellin' boy is also ready for some of these challenges. Hopefully, it will be a joint effort and we can make these activities fun to fill our summer days. We will also have plenty of swimming, movies, and computer games to balance out the hard work.    

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Grocery Store Blues

Trips to the grocery store, Target, or Walmart with all four kids can be challenging. My goal is to get in and out of the store without losing my sanity. If you have a lot of kids, you know what I'm talking about!

Last year my daughter, two at the time, was obsessed with swim diapers. These are the diapers that don't get all swollen up with water and keep the pool pollution free. Brown-eyed gal did not get the concept that these diapers were for swimming only. They were colorful and came in cute designs. She loved them. If she saw one, she was very insistent about putting it on her body immediately. She wore them around the house most of the time, all summer long.  

We had been shopping at Target for a while without incident, and I was feeling quite pleased with my full basket and my well-behaved gang.  All of a sudden, I saw a giant summer display of Dora Swim diapers.  Now, my daughter loves swim diapers, but she is absolutely over the moon about Dora the Explorer. Right there, in the store all of her clothing came off. Her diaper, her clothes, everything.  The screaming for a swim diaper and Dora began. There was no persuading her to get dressed. No reasoning, cajoling, bribing, or punishing worked. Her rationality was gone in only the way a two year olds can be.  She was buck naked in the store for all to see.  I opened a swim diaper box, put one on her, and finished shopping with my half-dressed swim diaper clad girl. 

My twin sister  told me about a trip to the grocery store that might top the stripping incident. She was in the produce section, happily buying fruits and vegetables with her son and daughter trailing behind.  She was in her own world, planning recipes, thinking about the menu for the week.  She looked back at her children and she saw a sea of green on the floor of the produce section.  They had taken all of the little bendy green ties and scattered hundreds of these produce ties everywhere. All eyes were on her as she scooted over the floor picking up the offending ties. Not a happy shopper.  

I always wonder about the check out lanes. The gum, the candy, the small toys and the other appealing items that are just the right height for little shoppers. I inevitably get in a slow line and it is a referee act to keep these offending items out of the basket and out of my children's mouths.  

I also often get behind someone, could be a man or woman, who is tall, tan, fit, and alone without children. They have pomegranite juice and lettuce and lean meat in their cart. I see the raised eyes at my unruly children and the once over of my cart full of juice and crackers and popsicles. I want to point out that I have bananas and apples in there too. They are just at the bottom of the cart, underneath the giant bag of frozen chicken nuggets. 

I always feel a wave of relief and happiness on the way out of the store and back to my van. I can't wait to get the children strapped into their car seats and take a few deep yoga breaths before unloading the groceries into the back.  

Happy Shopping!          

Friday, May 23, 2008

Summer Swim Days are Here!

School's out for summer
You will find me at the pool
Swimming, water, fun!

The water is warm
Mommy says I am a fish
I'll stay in all day

Desert heat on me
But I know how to stay cool
Big splash, cannon ball 

I'm ready to jump
Daddy says I am so fast
Summer is a blast!
It's Haiku Friday!  Check out more poems at Playgroups are No Place for Children

Thursday, May 22, 2008

All about the Mom...

The most unique and special thing about myself is that I have an identical twin sister. She is an education policy analyst and writer. She works for the Reason Foundation.  She lives in another state and I miss her a lot. I talk to her almost every day.

In school, we tried to trick our teachers sometimes and once in a while, I can still trick her husband on the phone. We are very similar and I have been known to walk into a room after her and say the very same thing she just said. Sometimes when I hear a message she's left over the phone it takes me a minute to figure out if it is her or me. We were so alike that sometimes on a test of 100 questions at school we would get the same two or three questions wrong. She has always been an ally, friend, playmate and sister.

The Twins!

I have a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in English. I went to graduate school in San Francisco and I have a master's degree in marriage, child, and family counseling. I specialize in child treatment. I worked for an agency for several years doing child treatment, we saw about 1000 kids a year. I also worked in a private practice seeing adults, couples and children.  My specialties are sand tray therapy, theraplay an attachment based therapy, 0-3 infant mental health, and play therapy for children of all ages. 

I love reading. I have always been a book worm. My dream day is to stay in bed all day and read a book from front to cover. I have many favorite books some of them are listed in my profile. Right now, I am reading the Kite Runner.  So far, it is a beautiful lyrical story. I am interested in fiction writing. I am taking classes through the Writer's Studio working on short stories and poems.    

I also love running.  Before the four crazy rug rats and before marriage to Big Expert, I ran a few marathons.  I find running meditative and relaxing.  We recently bought a treadmill so I can run in the house and stay out of the desert heat.  I also love to run early in the morning.  The desert is beautiful and quiet, perfect for running.  I don't run as much as I would like and it's one of my goals to do it more often.  I always feel better when I do!  

Another favorite thing I like to do is to go out to restaurants.  I try to have a dinner out with friends about every six weeks and with Big Expert now and then too!  I do not love fine dining with all four of my children.  I know as they get older the eating out will get a little easier, but for now it's mostly cooking at home or the golden arches. 

I am blessed with four amazing children and a fantastic husband. We have a supportive and loving extended family. I have great close friends that keep me laughing with their lives and stories. Sometimes parenting can be chaotic and the days a little crazy, but I wouldn't change a thing. I know I've posted this photo before, but it really sums up the essence of my life right now!

"The family.  We are a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that binds us all together"
-Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big Expert, Spiders, and Cheers Reruns

Big Expert and I began our love story years ago at the trash dumpster behind our apartments. I had just moved in and was taking a big load of trash outside from unpacking. Big Expert arrived home from work and parked in the space next to the dumpster. We only exchanged a few words, but I always felt we had nowhere to go but up from our "trashy" beginning.

A few days later, I was outside sweeping my stairs and Big Expert came walking by. I commented that there were a lot of spiders in my apartment. This is when I got my first taste of Big Expert's expertise. He told me every possible fact and statistic about spiders that I could possibly hope to learn. I said,  "You're full of information" and then my phone rang and I went inside to answer it. Big Expert says he waited a few minutes to see if I would come back outside. And that was the beginning of true love!

I had no idea that the spiders would be a foreshadow to our future life together here in the Sonoran Desert. We share our home with Black Widows, Desert Browns, Wolf Spiders, Tarantulas, and Scorpions to name a few.  It is a constant battle to keep our home spider free. In fact, I had two giant wolf spiders in the house yesterday. One went on a ride down the toilet and I believe our beagle ate the other one!

Big expert is full of information and he is also full of energy. He is a morning person and bounds out of bed at full speed. He is usually up early and into work early.  At one time, his nickname at work was "the flea" because he hopped all around. He's a designer in the mechanical engineering department and most of those folks are very detail oriented. Lucky for me, I can use all the organizational influences I can get! 

He also gets home by 4:30 every afternoon which gives us a lot of family time. He can be involved with the kids sports and activities which I really appreciate. His energy also serves me because he is energetic about doing chores like dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, laundry, and chasing down spiders. He does them speedily and with zest.         

Big Expert's great love is photography. He is an amazing artist. He has documented every family event, milestone and many hilarious moments along the way. He has started his own business doing weddings and portraits Cockrell Photography. He is also working on his nature photography and building a portfolio of fine art photos.

Big Expert has been compared to Cliff Clavin from the 80's T.V. show Cheers. Happily, for me things tend to work out a little better for Big Expert than for Cliff. Like Cliff, Big Expert is a talker.  He comes by that trait naturally from his dear mother. Here is a little Cliff Claven from Cheers:  

Cliff Clavin or not, I am truly blessed to have such a loving, giving and generous husband. I am thankful every day. I love you Big Expert!

"Love is the thing that enables a woman to sing while she mops up the floor after her husband has walked across it in his barn boots."
-Hoosier Farmer Quote

Today is WFMW  at Rocks in my  Dryer and what works for me is having a husband that is a fabulous provider, dedicated to our family, and willing to be flexible and laugh with me during these crazy times of raising four children seven and under.  

Attitude of Gratitude 
Mama-Om is posting about gratitude today.  Click button to read more.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Little Scholar

Storytellin' Boy's preschool graduation was last night.  It's hard to believe he is such a big boy and ready for Kindergarten.  We are on a year round schedule here, so it's a short break and then off to big boy school after the Fourth of July.  

I never was really a fan of preschool or kindergarten graduations. Kids are pushed to be little adults in so many ways, but  I must admit when Storytellin' Boy donned his cap and gown and sang a rousing rendition of "Kindergarten Here I Come", I felt my eyes well up and some true emotion for the rather silly event!

*Tomorrow I will continue my posts of getting to know Mama's Gang. The final two installments will be about Big Expert (Daddy) and Storytellin' Mama herself.  

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where Did She Get those Blue Eyes?

Lil' Red is our fourth and last child. Beautiful, easy-going, the best sleeper we've ever had. Daddy often says that if we had Lil' Red first he would have had ten children. Mommy says Lil' Red was born at exactly the right time! You are our fair-skinned lily in a family of brown berries. Friends often comment, "She looks a little different than the rest of you." It's true. Lil' Red has strawberry blond hair and those blue, blue eyes.

Where did you get those beautiful eyes?  

All children are born with blue eyes. At least, this was true for all my four children. The reason is because of melanin, the brown pigment molecule that colors your skin, hair, and eyes. It hasn't been fully deposited in the irises, or darkened by exposure to ultraviolet light at the time of birth.

Melanin is a protein. Like other proteins, the amount and type you get is coded in your genes. Irises containing a large amount of melanin appear black or brown. If eyes contain a very small amount of melanin, they will appear blue or light grey. It takes about six months for eye color to become stable.

I have brown eyes. My husband has brown eyes. Each of our first three children's eyes quickly turned from blue to brown shortly after birth.  

Lil' Red was born and her eyes were blue. Naturally, I thought it was only a matter of time before her eyes would turn from blue to brown and she would be a bonafide member of this brown-eyed family. I was wrong.


How can two brown-eyed parents have a blue-eyed baby?

For  two parents with brown eyes to have a blue-eyed child, both parents must genetically be Bb. Meaning they inherited a (B) brown-eyed gene from one parent and (b)blue-eyed gene from the other parent.  In our family, we have Grandpa Bill to thank for his (b) and Grandma Carrie to thank for her (b).  When this happens, there is a 1 in 4 chance that these parents will have a bb child with blue eyes.

We nailed this statistic on the head. 3/4 of our children have brown eyes and 1/4 of our children have blue. Understanding Genetics has an interesting diagram and more details about two brown-eyed parents having a blue-eyed baby.

Our great little sleeper! 

For more about finding Lil' Red sleeping click to Where's the baby?

Baby girl, we love you!

Lil' Red we look forward to watching you grow and your unique personality shining through.

"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on"
-Carl Sandburg

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Purple Princess

Brown-eyed Gal is our first sweet baby girl. She loves to dress up. She is very independent and chooses her own outfits. Sometimes it can be quite an ensemble!

She loves to play with her stuffed animals. She makes them houses and beds and is a good little mother.  Brown-eyed Gal especially loves kitties, doggies, and monkeys. If one of her little "stuffie" animals is lost in the house, she will make meowing sounds or barking noises until she finds them. "Meow, Meow," she'll say. "Mommy listen I hear my kitty crying. We have to find her. " 

Brown-eyed Gal's favorite color is purple. Last December, around her birthday she would say, "I want a purple birthday." Both Grandma's came through with lots of purple clothes, a purple jacket, a purple purse, and a purple teddy bear.

She is traditional girl, but having two older brothers has certainly made an impact. She loves to play rough and tumble, play in the mud, and make a mess with anything she can get her hands on. Baby powder, shampoo, lotion, and paint are some of her favorites. She can make a mess out of cake and cupcakes too! 

Brown-eyed Gal similar to her brother Lil' Expert in Life on the Spectrum has had her share of medical concerns. She has had chronic ear infections as a baby and now is having difficulty with her language. She will start a speech therapy preschool in July which will work on her intelligibility. She also has some issues with her muscles and coordination.  She walks on her toes and holds her arms close to her body. She will receive occupational therapy to help her muscles and her gross and fine motor skills. Hopefully, this will make her feel more comfortable in her body. 

Brown-eyed Gal loves animals. We have two dogs, two snakes, fish, and a box turtle. Here she is with Grandpa Buck's dog named Annie. 

It is a joyful journey to raise a daughter. We love you precious little girl.

"A mother's treasure is her daughter" 
-Catherine Pulsifer

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Imagination Land

Storytellin' Boy is our day dreamer, inventor, artist, storyteller and spokesperson for fairness within our home.  One phrase sums up the central essence of Storytellin' Boy that is "active imagination." He talks, he pontificates, he tells tall tales.  He keeps us laughing and inspired on a daily basis. Click to Hopagator Eggs for a great example of his incredible storytelling abilities.

Storytellin' Boy has an imaginary friend named Hovan.  He doesn't talk about Hovan as much these days, but there was a time when this pretend friend was a central character in his life. Here are some of the things Storytellin' Boy has told us about Hovan:

Hovan lives in a log cabin in the woods that we often pass when hiking in Madera Canyon.  I witnessed Hovan's birth on "A baby Story" when Storytellin' Boy informed me the mother on the show was Hovan's mother and the baby was Hovan being born.  This imaginary friend is also an accomplished snowboarder. We saw his stunning athletic skill and sportsmanship at the Extreme Sports Finals last year.

Lil' Expert is all about facts and has little tolerance for the stories about Hovan.  He tries to set Storytellin' Boy straight as to the make believe nature of Hovan.  Storytellin' Boy calmly assures him that Hovan is real.  On a recent trip home from Southern California we made a designated stop to the "In and Out" drive thru to get some food.  All of a sudden, I noticed the car in front of us had a giant sticker on the back window that said HOVAN.  (Where's a camera when you need it?)  We all got so excited.  I was yelling, "Look, look it's Hovan's car."  Lil' Expert couldn't believe his eyes, and I think I detected a smug smile of satisfaction on Storytellin' Boy's face. 

Storytellin' Boy's new favorite pastime is Ding Dong Ditch.  No, he does not run around the neighborhood ringing the doorbells of unsuspecting neighbors.  He only does it to me.  He runs out the sliding glass door in the kitchen, and runs to the front door and rings the bell.  I see his maniacal laughter as he runs away from the door, and back into the house via the kitchen again.  I hate to admit how many times, I have hurried from various parts of the house to see his little figure scurrying away.  Now, I am conditioned like Pavlov's dogs, the bell rings and I don't even respond.  I hope the UPS man does not come ringing anytime soon.  I'm probably not answering the door. 

Storytellin' Boy also fits the profile of the classic middle child. He is always thinking of his older brother and of his younger sisters. If there are cookies, or ice cream, or any treat, he is checking to make sure everyone gets their fair share.  He makes cards and drawings for his brother while Lil' Expert is away at school.  He includes his sisters in his games of make believe and plays with them for hours every day.   

Every night before bed he wants to hear a "secret story."  This usually means a story that is made up by Dad, that has lots of Ninjas and Pirates.  Sometimes, Storytellin' Boy likes to take a turn and make up the "secret story" himself.

Storytellin' Boy will graduate from preschool next week.  He has loved the music, singing, and dancing at preschool.  He will start Kindergarten in July.  I worry a little about his day dreaming... I 'm sure he will give his new teacher a run for the money!

Storytellin' Boy dancing and playing instruments!

I will sign off with a few quotes from the Storytellin' Boy himself:

One night after dinner...  "My meat and vegetable tank is full, but my chocolate cake tank is empty."

Storytellin' Boy accidently elbowed his sister.  He gave her a kiss on the boo boo and she gave him a big wet kiss back. I overheard him say to her... "I don't like slober very much. Do you?"

On one of his nights to tell the secret story..."Mom, there is a giant banana peel throwing platypus after us.  Don't worry, it won't survive for long in the desert."

Storytellin' Boy your creativity and imagination are tremendous.  
We love you Son!  

We hope all your dreams come true!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Life on the Spectrum

Asperger's Syndrome
Does not define my living
I'm a unique boy

Lil' Expert is our chess pro, math wizard, information gatherer, computer genius, dog loving, first born son. 

Lil' Expert has all of these terrific qualities and he also has Asperger's Syndrome, which is part of the Autism Spectrum. He is in good company.  It's likely Albert Einstein had Asperger's, and so did Thomas Jefferson. Bill Gates is also said to have it.

Lil' Expert was diagnosed when he was four years old, but he has always been a special boy. At age one he collected balls of every shape and size and spent most of his time lining them up, ordering them, and organizing them. Later, he moved on to hangers and then toothbrushes. As he has grown his collections have become more typical like Star Wars toys and Pokemon cards.

Lil' Expert is known to tell it like it is! On a recent shuttle ride to the county fair the driver was smoking and Lil' Expert immediately told him the hard facts and consequences of smoking. Last year, on his T- ball baseball team, he played catcher and his coach had to get after him for "trash talking"  the kindergartners on the other team during batting. A couple of previous posts "Don't Ask"  and "Collections" reflect Lil' Expert at his finest! We are continually working on his social skills.     

Asperger's is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects early brain development. Often causing communication difficulties and problems with social interactions. In preschool, Lil' Expert preferred to do his own thing and it was challenging for him to interact with others 

Characteristics include:
  • Deficiencies in social skills
  • Difficulties with transitions or changes, preference for sameness
  • Obsessive routines
  • Repetitive motions
  • Restricted interests
  • Difficulty reading nonverbal cues
  • Sensory issues
  • Difficulty with space and boundaries    
Lil' Expert has made tremendous gains. He is at the top of his class in first grade. He has an awesome memory and excels in math. He amazes me with the words he uses and his ability to hold onto facts. He continues to get speech therapy and occupational therapy, but he has made great improvement in social development and has many friends.
This last month, Lil' Expert qualified and attended the Arizona State Chess Championships. Here is what his coach had to say about him in a flier to the school:
"Congratulations to Lil' Expert, 1st grader, as he represented the school in the K-1st grade section at the Arizona State chess championships. He was able to win two games plus a drawn (tie) game out of seven games he played against the best players throughout the state. Super Job!"  

Lil' Expert we are so proud of you. You are a unique gift to us. We love you!

"You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes even if it's just in your own eyes."  - Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

CNN recently featured a day of stories all related to Autism and recent developments about Spectrum Disorders. They also have links listed to Autism information websites. Check it out here:

It's Haiku friday!  Check out other Haiku poems at Playgroups Are No Place For Children and 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Introducing Storytellin' Mama and the Gang

From left to right:  Lil' Red, Storytellin' Mama, Lil' Expert, Storytellin' boy, Big Expert, and Brown-eyed Gal

Welcome to my new blog design.  The fun, the whimsy... I love it!

I want to officially introduce you to myself and the gang, so starting tomorrow I will feature the life and times of one family member each day to include:

Lil' Expert
  Storytellin' Boy
  Brown-eyed Gal
  Lil' Red the Baby 
Big Expert
Storytellin' Mama.  

Tune in tomorrow to begin a week of stories and adventure!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mama's Overhaul

Stay tuned folks...

I'm giving Storytellin' Mama a new look! The fabulous and talented designers over at BeDesign are giving my blog a complete makeover.

They are having their Grand Opening Special this week and all designs are 50% off until May 15! Go check them out. Again it's BeDesign.

Keep your eyes peeled for my new diggs. Hopefully, it will be up and running in the next few days.

I can't wait to bring you more stories and musings from my crazy life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chicken Anyone?

My kids have a loose association that the chicken, turkey, or beef we eat for dinner is in any way related to the animals they sing about in "Old McDonald's Farm" or read about in "The Big Red Barn." It is difficult to explain to kids where meat originates. We have taken a laid back approach and try to answer their questions honestly as they come up.

The other night, we were having a rotisserie chicken for dinner and my five year old was helping in the kitchen. We had the following conversation:

Storytellin' five year old: "Mom, where's the head?"

Mom: "They take the head off, it would be kind of sad and gross if they left it on"

Storytellin' five year old: "Is this the wing? Where are all the feathers? Oh, they must have taken the feathers off before they cooked it. Right, Mom?"

Mom: "Yes, they take the feathers off before they cook it."

Storytellin' five year old: "They must have made a coat with the feathers. Mom, did they make a coat with the feathers?"

Mom: "Maybe, I'm not sure about that."

Storytellin' five year old: "This is an old chicken. They don't need this chicken anymore. Right, Mom. It's one of their old ones."

These are the conversations! It makes a mom want to serve up vegetarian meals.

Comment and let me know how you explain eating meat to your children in a way that does not traumatize them about the farm animals they love?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Musings

Stars of the show:

Last night, we had our teenage babysitter over and my husband and I went out to dinner, an early Mother's Day treat.  After we got home and the babysitter had gone, I noticed there was a Gerbera daisy on the kitchen counter and notes from all the children with Mother's Day wishes.  I felt grateful and pleased to have a thoughtful teenager in the neighborhood that I can rely on and kids excited to make cards for their mommy!

Mother's day or not, mothering goes on...  

This morning my five year old woke up with the "throw ups" at five in the morning and has not stopped since.  After a call to the pediatrician, we are canceling the Mother's Day breakfast and hike and taking care of this sick little one.  My husband, who is NOT a cook rallied and made bacon and eggs and toast for us all.  Way to go!        

I read a post the other day about a mother's day dream and it is my dream also:

"What I want for Mother's Day: the sweet sound of silence. For a whole day.

I want to get up on Sunday and walk the streets, without keeping an eye on someone else. I want to drink coffee sitting down. With a book. I want to poke around in vintage stores for hours, something I haven't done in at least three years. I want to explore my new city for a whole Sunday, with no aim, no schedule, no competing agendas. A day with no conversations, except those in my own head."

I can relate to this. 

I wish for "a little time" for all my mother friends and myself...

A day, a few hours, or even a trip to the bathroom alone to regroup and regenerate in order to be refreshed enough to keep caring for the one's who make us the mothers we are.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spring in the Sonoran Desert II

Rattlesnake on road
Photographer in danger
Camera strikes first

Sonoran Desert
Waterless, barren, and brown
But now Spring is here

The desert continues to be teaming with wildlife and cactus blooms.  These photos my husband took in Saguaro National Park East last week.  Visit him at William Cockrell Photography. 

To celebrate Spring's continued brilliance I'm posting for Haiku Friday.  Check out all the fabulous poems hosted by Playgroups Are No Place For Children and A Mommy Story. 

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Super Mom traveling by Car

I have always believed in the philosophy of "the good enough mother." 

Maybe that's not entirely true.  When I had my first son I certainly wanted to be the "perfect" mother.  I had high expectations and little experience.  Now I am the mother of four and some days I am just barely sliding into the "good enough" category.

A perfect example of my digression from "perfect" to "good enough" has played out in the car.  

Child #1:  Baby cries.  Stop the car no matter where you are, even if you are on a mountainous  highway surrounded by trucks going 8o miles an hour.  Nurse the baby.  Change the baby.  Settle the baby and begin driving again.  Five minutes later the baby is still crying.  Stop the car and repeat the process all over again.  Make little progress on the road trip until the baby finally falls asleep.

Child #2:  Baby cries.  Assess whether now is a good time to stop.  Talk to the baby calmly until the ideal stopping place is near.  Nurse the baby.  Change the baby.  Settle the baby and begin driving again.  If the baby continues to cry, first try to soothe the baby without stopping.  Stop only if the baby does not stop crying within a reasonable amount of time.  

Child #3:  Baby cries.  Only stop at designated places along the road when gas is needed, or to feed the other children.  Encourage the baby, "We're almost there.  Twenty more minutes and we'll stop.  Hold on baby."  Nurse the baby.  Change the baby.  Continue on the trip.  If the baby cries, soothe the baby until the baby falls asleep.  Do not stop again until next designated stop. 

Child #4:  After driving for about six hours realize that the baby has not been nursed, or changed.  Pat the baby and say, "Just about there.  We'll get you all fixed up as soon as we get home."  Baby does not cry or complain.  Being number four baby knows how to go with the flow.

Finding the balance between being a "Super Mom"and being a "Slacker Mom"  can be tough.   Jen Singer  has a new book and it addresses this very issue.  Her video promoting her book has a great message about modern day mothering and the challenges we face.  Hope you enjoy it.  As Mother's day approaches, I hope to continue to be a "good enough" mother!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Green Paint

After four kids, we gave up baby proofing long ago...

 We should be experts, but we have had an inverse reaction and with each new child the quality and quantity of baby proofing has deteriorated.

This brings me to: 

What not to leave out on the counters available to small children.

Perfume, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, make up, nail polish, baby powder and the winner is Green Paint.

My children, especially my five year old son and three year old daughter love to mix and stir and dump any viable substance they can get their hands on.

I wrote a little poem that explains it better:

Green Paint

Michael poured the green paint
and Madeline rubbed it on her arms
and rubbed it on the dog
and rubbed it on the walls
and they laughed and laughed together
at the green world. 

  By Laura

Don't follow my example!  I would hate to have to admit how many messes I have cleaned up due to being lazy on the baby proofing front.

Today is WFMW and Rocks in My Dryer has some great tips for what doesn't work in raising kids and families!


Monday, May 5, 2008


This morning, I have found a pocketful of items in my son's jeans. It is amazing how he collects these little treasures.  A couple of smooth colored rocks from a neighborhood friend, a mini skateboard with a wheel missing, a plastic cap, and a stretchy soldier he found on the bus.  He has always been a collector.  One of his first statements about his baby brother was "He's messing up my collections."  He loves these odds and ends and takes more pride in them than the most expensive toys.

Another friend, watching her son play with a shoelace said, "I don't know why we buy toys."  I am not suggesting boycotting  toys, we have a whole playroom full.  My kids certainly have their favorites and they love video games and computer time, too! 

I think I know my children and can anticipate what will fascinate them, but they are unique and sometimes hold dear strange and mysterious things.  

The twin dolls I bought for my three year old daughter are loved and played with by my one year old.  

My seven year old loves his free Neopet stuffed animals that came in McDonald's happy meals.  He has played with these "stuffies" for four years now.  They are worn and frayed and they have travelled on many car trips with us.  

My five year old spends hours pouring over the I Spy books.  "I spy a marble, a clothespin, three keys, and a red checker."

It all just reminds me to forget about the media blitz of best toys of the year, and to stop and reflect on the simple tastes of a child.  

The simplicity of a child... 

     See more collections at Mariposa's Fun Monday

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Mornings

Kids hanging out!

On Sundays, I often feel a little blue...  

A day with so many possibilities.  I want to play with the kids and be lazy.  Sometimes we go to church, or we go hiking in a beautiful place, or we go out to breakfast.  I know I should catch up on the laundry and do housework.  I'm always aware that tomorrow is the start of a busy week and that can cast a shadow over enjoying the day.  

The following poem sums up the nostalgia I feel and helps me fight the Sunday Blues:

It's Sunday Morning in Early November

and there are a lot of leaves already
I could rake and get a head start.
The boys' summer toys need to be put
in the basement.  I could clean it out 
or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing.  I don't fish 
but I could learn to.  I could show him 
how much fun it is.  We don't do as much
as we used to do.  And my wife, there's
so much I haven't told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging, 
how it feels like a basement I keep filling
with everything I'm tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try
to explain the ghosts I can't stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up
about the beginning of the end of understanding...
Meanwhile, it's such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall
from one moment to the next.  Or I could lose
everything and have to begin over again.
  Philip Schultz

*Philip Schultz won the Pulitzer Prize a few weeks ago for his new book Failure.  

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Future Polygamist, I hope not...

I was putting the boys to bed last night and we ended the day with the following conversation:

Storytellin' boy:  "When I grow up I am going to 
marry seven girls."
Little Expert:  "That's against the law."
Storytellin' Mama:  "Why do you want to marry seven girls?"
Little Expert:  "Don't answer that, I don't even want to know."
Little Expert again:  Well, Drake has gone out with about two hundred girls and he doesn't want to marry any of them."

*Little Expert gets a lot of his knowledge and advice from the Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh.  It's about two brothers, one cool and one geeky.

These are the stunning and uplifting bedtime talks that end our day. I swear, the boys have not been following the recent "polygamy events."

Out of the mouth of babes...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spring in the Sonoran Desert

Palo Verde trees
Children play beneath splendor
Yellow blossoms  fall

By Laura

We live in the Sonoran desert among the coyotes, javelinas, roadrunners and jackrabbits.  My kids love to run and play in the backyard.  Their play structure is nestled under two beautiful Palo Verde trees. 

It is Spring in Tucson!  I'm celebrating by posting a poem for Haiku Friday hosted by Playgroups Are No Place For Children and A Mommy Story