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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Raising Patriots

It has taken me a few days to write this post because, to be honest, it’s kind of embarrassing. But because of what happened, Mr. Sunshine and I have decided to change some things around the hut and turn our surprising revelation into a positive outcome. Here’s what happened:

A few days ago we went out for our daughter’s birthday dinner (albiet, 2 weeks late because of our crazy busy schedules, but that’s probably fodder for another blogpost). We just went to Chili’s and then walked across the parking lot to Dairy Queen for dessert. While we were in Chili’s, some of us finished eating before others. I saw my teenage children break out their phones and iPods and start to disengage with “the family unit”. (No, electronic devices at the dinner table are not the topic of this post either. Again, fodder for another post.) Instead of demanding that they put away their electronics and interact with “the family unit” in a pleasant and fun manner, I decided to fight fire with fire. So I got my phone out and started texting them. (Mr. Sunshine wasn’t too happy until I showed him who and what I was texting.)

Here’s where you’ll need a little background. When my kids were very small and always curious, we used to play a game we named “The Guessing Game”. We played it everywhere. It basically consists of a parent/adult asking the children one at a time a question that they have to answer. The questions were based on their developmental level and, when applicable, what they were learning in school. So the questions might go something like this, “What is our phone number?” “What is your mother’s/father’s full name?” “What does 5+7 equal?” “How do you spell ‘squirrel’?” There are no points awarded. There’s no prize at the end. The reward is the knowledge that you know something. And my kids begged to play this game all the time!

Gradually, we played the game less and less until it faded from our consciousness. Now, back to the present-day Chili’s scene. I started to play The Guessing Game, but by text. I sent them a question by text. They answered by text. The kids were smiling. It was fun! The game migrated with us to Dairy Queen where we ate our desserts outside with other families and while an antique car show was going on.

Once we were at Dairy Queen, I got onto the topic of American Trivia. Mr. Sunshine and I would collaborate and would text each child a question that we believe every American should know the correct answer to. If they got it wrong, I texted, “No, try again.” If they got it wrong a 2nd time, I texted, “No, ask a friend.” (Our son actually called his friend! lol) If they got it wrong a 3rd time, I texted, “No, ask a stranger.” It was a fun and funny experience for the kids, with the exception of the first time they realized we were serious about them asking a stranger for the correct answer to these questions.

Here’s the sad and embarrassing part. They got several of them wrong. Several times. After 10 years of education (both public school and homeschool. I hold us more accountable at home than at public school.) And with a father who served 20+ years in the Armed Forces. To say we were surprised was an understatement.

And strangers got them wrong. Several times. And our hearts were breaking for the country that many of its citizens don’t seem to know intimately. And don’t seem to care that they don’t know intimately.

I won’t share with you which questions my kids (and the general public) got wrong, but I will share with you the questions we asked. See if you know the correct answers (we double checked when we got home to make sure we were correct). Ask your family if they know. I hope and pray that you know more than our kids and our community did a few nights ago. And I can tell you this, by the end of this summer, my kids will know, respect, love, and cherish more about their country than they did a few nights ago.


1. How many states are in the United States?

2. Name one person who signed the Declaration of Independence.

3. How many Senators are in Congress?

4. What is the name of the current Governor of the State of Florida?

5. Who is the Vice President of the United States?

6. Who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives?

7. Who wrote the National Anthem?

8. How many stripes are on the American Flag?

9. Who made the first flag of the United States?

10. How many Congressmembers are there in the House of Representatives?

11. In case of a tie vote, who is the tie breaker in the Senate?

12. How many Justices on the Supreme Court?

13. When was the Declaration of Independence signed?

14. Where was the Star Spangled Banner written?

15. Name the probable candidates for US President for this upcoming election.

I’m not giving you the answers. That’s too easy. Good luck, and if you can think of other questions that every American should know (and that we should teach our kids this sumer), please send them to me!


Justifiable Absence

I picked up my son from his High School church service last night.  He hopped into the passenger seat and started talking before the door had closed.

“Mom, do you remember that big brown man who came and preached to us in Middle school?  I think his name was RJ.”

“No, but go on.”  (Because if I don’t guide him to continue his story, I will have to suffer through 45 minutes of him trying to describe a man I will probably never remember.)

“Well, he came and preached to us one time.  And he was really good.  And he was supposed to come back and finish something with us.  But I forgot until tonight.  And tonight I found out that he died and that’s why he didn’t come back.  I think that’s a justifiable excuse.”

And he was serious.



Sensory Processing and the Inflated Cushion

As a pediatric OT, I have access to some pretty neat and unique equipment to help my little clients.  In addition, I can often take everyday items and use them in unique ways to help children (and adults) improve their ability to function.  Here’s a recent example of something working out just the way it’s supposed to:

I have been working with the most adorable little blue-eyed girl for several months now.  I see her once a week after school at her house.  She has two older sisters who are also present while I’m there.  It became apparent in a short period of time, that my little client’s middle sister was having a great deal of difficulty sitting still to have a snack and get her homework completed.  Did I say completed?  This girl couldn’t even get it started much of the time!  She did cartwheels in the dining room and jumped up and down between spelling words.  Her mother’s frustration was evident.

I asked mom if the teacher ever mentioned this type of behavior in school.  No.  I then asked mom if she would be interested in trying something to help her middle child be able to calm and focus after school.  Duh.

Mom was very familiar with Sensory Processing Disorders and some of the techniques to address them due to the diagnosis of her youngest daughter.  What mom wasn’t familiar with, was how to recognize and address similar deficits in her middle daughter because that daughter’s reaction was much different.  I explained that the middle daughter had been keeping it all together through the school day to be able to function in the classroom.  That’s why the teacher had no complaints.  But the minute that girl got home from school, her body screamed “FREEDOM” and she needed to move!

I gave mom an inflated cushion for the middle daughter to sit on to eat her snack and do her homework.  (Remember, this girl was not my client and I have not done an evaluation on her.  So I didn’t go any further with treatment recommendations since I was not fully informed about her sensory processing abilities.)  An inflated cushion is a fairly benign way for anyone to get movement while sitting.  It’s vestibular input in a small space.  You can buy expensive ones from therapy catalogs or you can keep an eye out for them at discount stores, athletic stores, and office furniture stores (they are often used for balance exercises and are advertised as office chair workouts).

They tried the inflated cushion after school for several weeks.  Focus and attention improved, and the middle daughter loved it!  Mom went so far as to ask the teacher if it was OK to send the cushion in to school and see if it helped her there.  The teacher agreed despite the fact that she wasn’t having any problems with the girl.

When I went to see my client this week, mom informed me that the middle daughter has been sitting on the cushion in class all day for a week, and that mom has noticed a BIG difference in her activity level when she gets home!  This only makes sense since that girl’s sensory system tells her all day long to MOVE.  But her executive functioning brain overrides that command and she “behaves” in class by staying in her seat.  Now, she can get that movement while she stays in her seat, and she doesn’t feel starved of this movement causing her to seek it as soon as she gets home.  And she is able to get her homework completed in less time with less frustration (for her and mom).  Middle daughter’s happier.  Mom’s happier.  I’m happy.

Flip Floppin’

Ahhhhhhhh, summertime.  Or as I call it, flip flop season.

I love to wear flip flops.  They are my go-to shoe.  When I’m not barefoot, I almost always have on a pair of flip flops.  It’s a thin-soled step away from total tootsie freedom!

In my book, flip flops are any open-toed shoe that goes between the big toe and 2nd toe, and does NOT have an ankle strap.  It doesn’t matter if they’re flat or have heels.  And it doesn’t matter if they are made of leather, rubber, wood, cork, or whatever.  The key ingredients are the between-the-toe strap and nothing in back.

I must have over 20 pair of flip flops.  Most are the “shower shoe” kind (or as my friend in Hawaii calls them, “rubbah slippaz”), but I also have my dressy ones.  I wear them shopping.  I wear them to church.  I wear them riding my bike.  I wear them to parties.  I wear them everywhere!  The only times I won’t wear flip flops is when it’s cold outside, when I have to go to work, or when I’m working out.  But even under those circumstances, I have been known to push the limits and wear my flip flops on occasion.

The picture above is the pile of flip flops just outside my kitchen door in the garage.  (Maybe I should have hidden the dirty ones??)  I spend most of my day barefoot, but when I need to go somewhere I just slip on a pair as I’m leaving my house, and hit the road.  On a few occasions, I have actually forgotten to put shoes on and have left the house barefoot!  I have since learned to keep at least one pair under the seat of my little truck at all times now.  Another reason to love these shoes….they’re compact and portable!

In addition to the flip flops in the garage and in my little truck, I have about 8 more pair in my closet (those are my “dressy” ones), two more pair on the back patio, and one more pair just outside the patio.  The ones just outside the patio are my yard shoes.  I use them when I’m doing any kind of yard work from mowing, to weeding, to digging holes, to climbing trees.  They have a few holes in the bottom, but I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.  I actually have old-ish sneakers in the garage for more appropriate yard work footwear, but I like the feel of the breeze and sun and dirt and water on my feet.  You can’t get that with sneakers.  To top it off, I have had lizards have crawl across the top of my foot!  I would never have felt the little critters if I hadn’t had my flip flops on.

I’ve heard that there are podiatrists out there that warn against wearing flip flops too much.  I’ve heard that they’re not good for your feet.  But I don’t care.  If I didn’t have such strong negative reactions to being cold, and if it were socially acceptable, I’d wear them all year long.

So, while it’s flip flop season, I’m gonna slide my tootsies in and let them breathe!

An A in Art

As you probably know by now, I have two amazing children.  My son is 15, and my daughter just turned 14.  And they are complete opposites in every way.

My son is the Math and Science over-achiever.  And in school and society, there are a myriad of ways to gauge that kind of intelligence:  classroom tests, GPA, PSAT, etc.

My daughter, on the other hand, is gifted with creativity, artistic talent, humor, a free-spirit, and a non-conformist attitude (aka: hippie).  Unfortunately, creativity is not so easy to grade.  There are no standardized tests for painting or sculpting.  Classroom grades in Art are fickle, depending on the teacher and the material they are grading.  One teacher may grade a piece of artwork based on ability to shade a still life.  Another teacher may grade based on knowledge of famous artists.  As a result, often my daughter doesn’t get the praise and recognition she rightly deserves for her gifts and talents.  And it’s hard to live in the shadow of her brother’s public accolades.

I have many pieces of my daughter’s artwork decorating my house.  Not just the crayon-colored-Sesame-Street-coloring-book-pages-on-the-refrigerator kind of artwork.  I have her sculpture of a fish from 3rd grade sitting on top of my grandparents’ bible on the fireplace mantel.  I have a painting of a flying eyeball from 4th grade sitting on my bookshelf in the office.  I have a clay face from 6th grade sitting on another bookshelf in the office.  And there are many more pieces of her artwork in her room.  In fact, there are so many that we installed a 1×4 wood border around the room to display her artwork.  And her walls have nails and holes all over them from her hanging various masterpieces.  She is currently writing chapter 8 of a story she has been working on for the past several weeks which has gotten positive feedback from her friends.

All of this because she has a talent and a gift.  But it’s a talent that is not highly regarded or appreciated in public school, or our society as a whole.  You can’t look at her PSAT scores and see that she excels in creativity.  You can’t look at her GPA and see that she can coordinate colors and patterns into something pleasing to the eye.

But I have recently been informed that her Art teacher has an online blog (which you can only access with a password so I can’t link it here).  And in that blog, she showcases her students’ artwork about once a month.  And guess whose artwork has been showcased 5 out of 6 months?  That’s right!  MY GIRL!!!  She’s finally getting recognized for her talents and gifts.  And while I don’t cater to self-esteem, my daughter’s has gone up recently as well.  And for a short period of time, her Math and Science grades went up.  Is it all because someone finally recognized what she’s good at?  Who knows?  But as her mom, I’m so happy that someone finally did.

Oh, and she’s getting an A in Art.