Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Year in Desserts

 It's been a long time since I have done a post dedicated mainly to the stuff that comes out of the kitchen.  I can't think of a better time to do it than during the holiday season.  My Facebook feed has a ton of what we call "food porn" pictures, but my blogging has been shoddy at best lately.  I have a TON of things to talk about- I just have not been able to find the time to get it all out.

Where does the time go?

It seems like only yesterday I had a toddler and a newborn. Suddenly I have an *almost* 8 year old and an *almost* 6 year old.  They are growing well, and learning lots, and not a single day passes that I don't marvel at just how wonderful they are.

So without further adieu, some of the best food porn of the year-

I'm not going to lie. There was an obscene amount of chocolate. It sort of edged it's way into everything. Sometimes, like in the case of these Triple Chocolate Espresso Brownies with Chocolate Sauce and Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream, it was present in copious amounts, as well as many different types.

You may notice another trend- peanut butter.  I am not usually much of a fan. I will happily blame it on this divine indulgence. Pretzel base, peanut butter buttercream, homemade caramel topped with melted chocolate.  I'll admit- there were more than a few kcals in them but an extra lap of the track evened it all out.  It sort of naturally led to the next recipe. Oy.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. Not too shabby. Even if I do say so myself.

Of course there were cookies.  And I mean A LOT of cookies. I think I counted 50 batches of plain old chocolate chip.  If you're counting, that is almost one batch per week.  Then throw in the various other cookies I made over the year and well.... Um. Let's NOT count. Let's just say that while I made a whole bunch, they weren't always made just for us.  

There were chewy brownie cookies.

And Milk Chocolate Chunk with Salted Cashews. Oh boy.  Totally worth it. Totally.

There were an awful lot of chocolate stuffed things after I discovered Chocolate Butter.  Think of Nutella, minus the nuts.  And then let your imagination take you away- chocolate filled croissants, chocolate stuffed french toast.

I know I just said Chocolate Filled French Toast, but I feel the need to say it again. And again. And again!

Ditto for the homemade Caramel.  It took a number of tries to get it right.  Thankfully it is versatile and my family choked it back not matter how much I complained that it just wasn't to my liking and that I'd have to make it again. It goes with lots and lots (and lots) of things. Like brownies.
And ice cream.
And chocolate.
And apple crisp.
And puddings.
And cheesecake.

Heck. Who am I kidding. It goes with everything.
Like oatmeal.

And Apple Grenades.
An apple, hollowed out and filled with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel.

Did I mention just how much I hate Pinterest?


There were buttertarts.  And pies.  And lots and lots of crumbles and crisps.

And that brings us back to Christmas again doesn't it?  I haven't even touched on the fruit filled delights of the summer.  I've left out a lot actually. And suddenly I feel the need to do another post based on all of the healthy eating we've done.  Tomorrow is another day- and I have a ton of pictures left to talk about!

Did you like this post?  Don't be shy!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Banana Berry Pancakes

The Best Pancakes in the WORLD.

Well, ok, the best pancakes in Owen's world- and I figure that since he doesn't eat much, he must have a very delicate palate.  Or something like that.

Perfect for a Sunday morning- or in our case, every morning of the week and sometimes twice on Sundays.

The thing that I like best about them is that they aren't just flour. Eggs, buttermilk, bananas and blueberries, cleverly disguised.

Because in this house, every bite has to count.

Best advice we've been given so far by the dietitian- if your child only eats a few solid foods, vary your ingredients as much as you can. So switch up fat source, use different oils. The flour can be switched on a rotating basis- sometimes I use half white, half whole wheat, sometimes I use whole grain spelt, or I may use buckwheat.  Looking for a protein and kcal boost?  Replace some of the flour with ground pecans (pecan flour) or almond (almond flour)-  I change flours like some people change hair colour.

Banana Blueberry Pancakes

  • 3 large bananas, mashed (they don't have to be over ripe- anything will do!)
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or your favourite- mix it up!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (again, variety is the spice of life- 1/2 white 1/2 ww, or whole grain spelt, or buckwheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • a handful of fresh (or frozen) blueberries **I spread the berries on top after they go on the griddle to make sure the batter doesn't turn all funky purple**

So if you know me well, you know I like to save time.  Toss three large bananas in a bowl- grab your electric mixer and whack the heck out of them.  Add the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Beat it well.  

In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients.  Dump on top of banana mixture. Mix with electric mixer on low speed, and slowly pour in the buttermilk.  My mom always said that it was best for your pancake batter to be a bit lumpy- but these seem nice and tender and fluffy even though I use the mixer.

Heat up your griddle- 350 degrees seems to be the magic number.  Using 1/4 cup measure for small pancakes, 1/3 cup measure for larger, scoop batter out of bowl. From about 3” above griddle, pour batter in solid stream onto griddle. If it is a little thick you can add a bit more buttermilk.  Top each pancake with some blueberries. When bubbles appear, flip.

Serve with butter and syrup.  Makes approximately 10 pancakes, depending how big you like to make them.  If you use 5 eggs, and eat 2 pancakes every morning, you end up with one egg/day, cleverly disguised as pancakes.   Batter keeps in fridge for 3-4 days.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Happy Birthday!

Today is the day!  Happy Birthday to my husband, Mr Cleverly Disguised as Cake!

It's been a roller coaster year.  We've had long separations in the form of unpredictable work travel. Tons of extra activities on everyone's part.  We've had politics, academia, full schedules and times so busy that we haven't been able to connect.

Health concerns that knocked the wind out of us.

Children growing and changing, challenging our parenting skills and at times, our sanity.

We've had doubts- though not of each other's ability to rise to the challenges, but of our own ability to overcome.

But all of these things were tempered with more JOY than I can possibly put into words.

I never thought that it was possible to fall in love. I'm far to logical for that.

And I truly never thought it possible to love someone MORE with every passing day.

You delight in proving my theories incorrect, don't you?

May this year bring you everything and more.

With this cake (OF COURSE THERE IS CAKE!) we wish you the best and the brightest things the world has to offer... xoxoxo

Brownie base, Chocolate Ganache, Milk Chocolate Mousse, MORE Ganache, Crumbled Espresso Meringues, Brownie Chunks, and Salted Caramel Drizzle

Happy Birthday to the Man We Love!

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Accessible Ex

It's not easy being green..... 

Local fall fairs, festivals and exhibitions bring back some pretty wicked childhood memories for most of us.  We live in a region where most of these activities signal the end of summer, the return to school for the little ones, and the beginning of the busy day to day schedule.  The rides! The food! The games! The smash up derby!  The music! The midway lights, sights and sounds!

The Pilot

Stop! Stop! STOP!

For some of us, and some of our children, the fair is a completely overwhelming experience that is not fun. The noise is too noisy, the rides are too fast, the lights are too bright and the crowds are confusing.  The rides are not easy to get on if you are in a wheelchair or have movement difficulties, and the crowds of people waiting behind you are often not very kind. I am not angry when I say this, I truly understand that waiting really stinks sometimes. But I also understand the other side of that- because we often wait longer, or go at times when there will be fewer crowds, just so that nobody has to wait for us. Sometimes, we don't go at all.

It isn't always easy to ask for special consideration.  In fact, it never is. And as a special needs parent it never really ends.

I was a bit surprised when we received an invitation to an event called "Terrific Thursday".  Families with special needs kids were invited to attend the Quinte Exhibition event, held before the official opening of the fair. This was a sensory sensitive event!  No music, no crowds, no bright lights.  The event was held in partnership with the Quinte Ex, World Famous Rides, the YMCA and the Belleville Fire Department.  Lunch was provided by Boston Pizza.  WOW!
First time ever! 

It felt almost too good to be true.  The volunteers from the YMCA registered us at the gate.  The Firefighters were stationed at every ride.  I got all teary watching them gently carrying participants out of wheelchairs and into rides. Because I'm a big sap, I cried even more when they took the time to make sure that my kids were safe and strapped into each ride.  As I said before, it's hard to ask for special consideration. But there, in that space, I didn't have to ask for anything. I didn't have to explain anything. We could just be. I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of volunteers that took time out of their day to make our day so perfect.  It was an amazing experience for us as a family, and one that we will never forget.  To the organizers and volunteers we offer our humble thanks.
The ride won't move until everyone is strapped in!

This is community.  This is accessibility. This is something that we so desperately need! 

So what I am asking from you, Quinte Region, is this type of event something that you would like to see more of?  And if so, what works for you?  We have very very few things locally that are geared toward kids with special needs.  I want ideas!  I want plans!  Leave me a message below and let's chat!

Thank you so much!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

In the Blink of an Eye

We spend many of our summer days at the beach, and it is always an adventure. But remember the time we went to Florida?

Something frightening happened.  Something that I hate to talk about. Something that strikes so much fear in me that I have horrible nightmares.

I was watching.  I mean really watching- standing beside the pool, not more than six feet away from my little boy.

He was not wearing a life jacket. He wasn't particularly brave about the water.  He spent most of his time clinging to the side of the pool.

But suddenly, on the second day, he found his comfort zone and decided to let go of the side and wander toward the middle. Just to see how far he could get.

He (nor I) never anticipated how difficult a slightly sloped bottom would prove to be.

In less than a blink of an eye he was over his head. 

And under the water.

It's true what they say.

Drowning is almost silent.

No screaming, no calling for help. No splashing.

He lost his footing, his mouth opened in surprise.

Eyes full of terror.

I watched the water being sucked into his lungs.

His little body slipped under the water, arms stretched out to me.

I dropped to my knees and reached out in vain-

I wasn't close enough to reach him from the edge of the pool.

I must have cried out. Jon was in the pool in seconds (that felt like hours) and as if by magic, connected our hands. I pulled him up onto the deck.

Those terrible moments while we waited to see the water come out and the air go in.

I almost LOST you.  

And I was faced with the truth- I did not make him wear his life jacket, I was not close enough to reach him, and I was not strong enough to pull him out by myself.

Time has passed, but the fear has not.

We knew that we couldn't keep him out of the water, that we must regularly face it again and again, calmly, and safely.

Never forget that in less than a blink of an eye, our kids can be over their heads.

And drowning really is almost silent.

It has been over a year. And here we are.

I have nervously sat tub side, pool side and lake side hoping that he cannot read my thoughts or see the fear on my face.

He has been very brave, but just a few weeks ago I realized that he is only beginning to process what could have happened that day. He said:

"Mommy, I can't breathe water.  It will kill me."

Somewhere along the line his therapy has become my therapy.  And we've come a long way.  There is definitely less fear, but this was a terribly difficult lesson to learn.

Do you make your children wear life jackets when they are near water?  Have you learned how to perform CPR, and what you are supposed to do in a near drowning situation?

Caring For Kids has some great information on water safety- be sure to check it out!

Friday, 31 May 2013

A Bicycle Built for... Owen!

You may remember this post from last summer, where I had to eat my words.

Last year, I said that "Balance is such a challenge that Owen may never graduate from a tricycle."

And true to form, he was on training wheels in a matter of weeks.

He's getting so much bigger.  And much more aware that he has some special needs, and that his body doesn't always cooperate and allow him to develop as quickly as his peers.

And he looks at his big brother whizzing up and down the street on his two wheeler with longing in his eyes.

That's kind of tough to see.  I know how badly he wants to be like everybody else, but also understand that it may take a bit longer to coordinate all the things required to ride without training wheels.

My untrained eye tells me that he needs better trunk control- I think I mean *stability.  But he doesn't really develop it with the training wheels on the bike- they do that for him. And he definitely needs help with coordinating holding the bike up while pedaling, as well as coordinating looking up, pedaling and remaining aware of everything all at the same time.  If you think about all of the things that need to happen to ride a bike it can be overwhelming to any child, but especially to those that have developmental difficulties.

I'm not one to sit on my butt and wait for everything to fall together magically.  Oh, sure, it does happen now and again, but my job is to help my kids learn to fly.  I take it quite seriously.

Enter the DIY Balance Bike.

Oh how I've wanted to buy a balance bike for him!  But they are kind of pricey.  And they are all pretty little- he's 7 now, and while he is very skinny he is also pretty tall.  Most of the balance bikes that I've seen have been for the 3 to 5 age range, which are way to short for him.  

So we decided to sacrifice his current bike with training wheels.  We removed the pedals, chain and all of the other, um, parts that you would normally find in that area of bike. And we lowered the seat slightly so that his  feet would be flat on the ground while seated.

I am officially kicking myself for not doing this at least a year ago. 

You have no idea WHAT A BIG DEAL it has been for him to have a TWO WHEELER.  Last night as HE whizzed up and down and around the driveway, he could be heard shouting to the UPS man:

Is it working?  Heck YA!  So much more challenging that training wheels, a boost of confidence at having a bike that looks much more age appropriate and he has to WORK way more skills to get it moving!  Daisy can't wait until I make her one!

My suggestion for anyone not sure about the benefits of a balance bike- just do it.  Scout out a second hand bike at a charity store or yard sale.  Remove that pedals. Throw away the training wheels. 

And watch them fly! Just make sure they wear a helmet :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Pink Shirt Day

 We missed Pink Shirt Day because of freezing rain, so we're wearing them today instead!  It is a very important day for our family.  It is all about acceptance, peace and standing up against bullying.  Our two little ones have had a bit of a rough go at school this year- which Jonathan talks about here .

Props to any photographer that can get all of us looking in the same direction at the same time.  Jon did an awesome job, it only took about 40 or so frames to get it right.  Sigh.

The kids had a great time making their shirts.  We started with plain white t-shirts and dyed them pink.  Then we convinced Daddy that he should draw on them with permanent marker.  Because my drawing doesn't exactly extend beyond stick figures.  My stepson's shirt is the original one purchased from the school- I didn't quite get the colour right with the little guys but it's pretty close.

We have been doing a lot of talking about what "bullying" means, how and why it happens, and how to help make it stop.  We have been reading a lot of stories about it, and asking the kids how they think and feel about the characters and their situations.  We also ask them what they would do if they saw someone being mistreated.  I love the answers that I am hearing, and I hope that it translates into their every day lives away from home.  When we watch movies or television programs (not often) we continue the dialogue as well.


Because we believe there is  need to recognize bullying behaviours in order to stop them. We have the power to make a difference in someone's life EVERY SINGLE DAY by standing up and speaking out.

The best thing about the Pink Shirts? They haven't taken them off since Friday. As a matter of fact, I have NO IDEA when they will finally surrender them to the laundry! But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Changing the Face of Healthcare

Sometimes being a patient is easier when you know that people are listening

Kingston General Hospital has been the place for many firsts for our family.

It was the first time in our health care journey that I felt comfortable enough to express my honest opinion. I spoke of our frustration with the process, the feeling of having no control and of not understanding what, when and who we should turn to. I remember the candid conversation vividly- as well as the feeling that I was leaving a great puddle of emotion heaped on the floor of the exam room.

But I also remember feeling like it was the first time that someone listened. And we're thankful for that.  Sometimes it strikes me as not my finest moment, but it was a very important step for me on the road to becoming an e-patient/caregiver. This was the first physician who provided us with his email address just in case we had any questions or concerns while we waited for our procedure date. He spoke candidly, and didn't bat an eyelash when I asked him about the drugs he would use for Owen.  During the exam he kept up an ongoing dialogue with both Jon and myself, and even though Owen had no words at that point, he easily brought him into the conversation as well.  We fully understood that in that room, in that hospital, we weren't just patients, we were part of a care team.  For that we're thankful, too.

Kingston General Hospital was the first place that we paced the halls nervously while Owen was under anaesthetic. It was the first time that I had to entrust his care to a medical team and wait outside the room.  It was handled perfectly, from beginning to end, and though we were nervous, we knew he was in good hands. It was also our first experience with a Child Life Specialist -a Paediatric Health Care Specialist that works with children and families to help them cope with hospitalization, medical procedures and illness using age/developmentally appropriate strategies to help them understand what is going on. Again, I cannot express how much this meant to us as nervous parents.  You see, Owen is a pretty stubborn little guy when it comes to staying asleep when there is stuff going on.  We were a little shocked when we saw the gurney come back from the procedure room, empty. But just seconds later, we saw a very sleepy little boy cuddled up in the arms of the Child Life Specialist.  He woke just enough to see her standing by the bed after the MRI and decided to climb up.  We feel truly blessed that a healthcare professional simply rolled with the punches and made sure that he was safe. I am not sure if there are enough words to ever thank them for that.

Jonathan's first experience with Kingston General Hospital is a difficult one to talk about.  It was the setting for the birth of his first child, a beautiful little girl named Seila.  It was the first place that he got to hold her, but sadly, also the last. Seila's story, in her Daddy's words, can be found here.

KGH was also the birth place of Jonathan's first son, Cole- born happy and healthy a year after the loss of Seila.  Words escape me, as "thankful" does not seem right here, nor even close to big enough.

I can see the wheels turning, dear readers.  I know you are wondering why I am writing this narrative, and singing the praises of a hospital other than the one in The Friendly City.  The answer is simple.  Kingston General Hospital has dedicated itself to transforming the patient and family experience through innovative and collaborative approaches to care, knowledge and leadership.  They not only maintain a highly approachable presence both online and off, but they WILLINGLY interact with patients, caregivers and the public on a daily basis. I couldn't  tell you what the CEO of my local hospital looks like.  But I could pick the CEO of Kingston General out of a crowded room.  What I find most interesting about this approach, is that I get to watch it happen.  Let's not forget that KGH is a University hospital- this means that many of healthcare professionals that are currently enrolled at Queen's are getting first hand experience in what it takes to change the current system.  With my family's health and wellness at the forefront of my mind, I fully support this effort!

I want to know, as a patient and caregiver, that my hospital is willing to listen to me.  I want access to treatment options, care plans, and help navigating an intricate and often times overwhelming system.  Open doors, open ears, and open hearts.  I want a  strong SUPPORT NETWORK.  Not just a doctor- I want a TEAM, and you know what?  I'm going to be the captain.

View from the top of Jon's crane during the KGH expansion in 2009

To learn more about the initiatives at Kingston General Hospital I highly recommend checking out the KGH Connect Blog.  They have done an excellent job of sharing their culture through this blog, as well as keeping up to date with the day to day challenges and changes taking place.  For an excellent in-depth discussion of patient involvement within the hospital you should watch Leslee Thompson - Changing the Face of Health Care which can be found here: TedX QueensU

What changes would you like to see within the healthcare system?  Do you believe that change is possible?  I would love to hear from you- please, drop me a line in the comment section below!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Tea Party

I'm not sure if it's the same in all houses that have small children.  I have a large amount of pretty dishes.  They fill the small china cabinet, the cupboard above my fridge, there are a few more stashed up above the stove, and I'm pretty sure that I have a bin or two in the basement, still packed away from the last few times we've moved.

These dishes stay in their cosy little cupboards.  The only time that they come out is if we are expecting some really special company.  To be honest, we don't have company often.  Not because we wouldn't welcome it- more because we have a bit of a crazy life, and many of our friends haven't had children (yet), and of course, there is the whole special needs parenting that seems to frighten people away.

About a year ago, I found a tiny china tea set at Value Village.  I snatched it up, thinking I would put it away for Daisy.  I spent a whole five dollars, and as it turns out, it was probably the best five dollars I have spent in a very long time.  She uses it daily, spilling water all over the floor, and frequently forcing her brothers to have tea parties. They are usually good sports about it, which makes me very happy.

I did not teach her the pinky thing!
The other day, while Jon and Owen were on the way to Sick Kids for a dental check up, Daisy was a little bit under the weather.  She was also a little bit grumpy, because usually, we all go up for the appointments together.  But since we just had a stomach bug go through the house I decided that it would be better to keep her home.

In an attempt to lift her spirits, I suggested that we have a tea party.  And I am so glad that I did!  I went to get the little tea set and it suddenly dawned on me- why play pretend when we can have an actual tea party? You see, my china set was given to me by my Grandmother, who received it as a wedding gift.  My Grandmother gave it to me when I was married.  She passed away a few years ago, and while the china was always very special to me, it means even more now.  I keep it tucked away in the cupboard because I am afraid that it will get broken.  But when I think about my Grandmother, and just how much she LOVED my kids (and me) that little voice in my head that says "Be careful with this!" is suddenly quiet, and replaced with the sound of my Grandmother laughing as she watched my kids toddle around the backyard.  She would have never suggested that I keep things like that up in the cupboard.

Getting bigger every day
So I made a big decision that day, as I sat down with Daisy, adorned in her fanciest dress.  I told her the story of Great Grandma, and how the china came to be mine.  I told her about who she was, how much she loved us all, and how much we loved her back.  I told her about her red hair, and how Great Grandma Lily was a living, breathing example of red haired fire power.  I may have also mentioned that Daisy herself is very much like Great Grandma, minus the colouring. And I am proud of that.

We sat at the dining room table for well over an hour, sipping tea and nibbling on some fancy party leftovers.  We told each other stories, and laughed at silly jokes.  It was, in short, one of the best mornings ever.

So now, on Sunday mornings, I will not hesitate.  We will dress in our best.  And we will come to the table for tea- served with Great Grandma Lily's china.  We will tell stories. We will learn about each other- and about those who came before us.

Why?  Because Nana would be pleased to see her china put to such a good use.

Thanks for stopping by!  Do you have china packed away in your cupboard?  I can't be the only one, can I? What do you like to use it for?  Don't be afraid to leave me a note down below in the comments section!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Winter Vacation 2013

This Ride Requires Tylenol and a Sense of Humour

We have had a busy week!  Last year, we had sun, sand, and ocean surf- but this year we took a different approach to our semi-annual get away adventure.  So we made our arrangements, packed up the kids, and headed East (and slightly North!) into the strikingly beautiful and rugged Laurentides region of la belle province!  This location was perfect for a number of reasons-

  • It is approximately 5 hours away from home, which means that we can drive it in less than a day, and not have to add the cost of hotels to our vacation bill.  That means I can shop more.  
  • Since the kids end up missing a week of school, I want the vacation to serve as a learning experience.  I mean, technically they can learn something anywhere they go, but this was a lesson in cultural diversity and language, not to mention geography, science and physics (more on this later!)
  • We were almost completely "unplugged" from technology and tuned into each other.  Though it pains me to say it, we (including myself) rely way too much on TV, the Internet, DVD players, computers, gaming consoles and tablets.  While the cabin had enough cell service to connect our tablets (one at a time!) to check email and send an occasional Tweet, we spent the entire week with only a radio for DJ O-man's dance music.
We spent the most wonderful week near St Adolphe d'Howard, Quebec, in a beautiful 1940's log cabin.  It turned out even better than I had hoped!  Imagine waking up to this every morning-

Sunshine and Happiness
Spending your day time hours watching three active kiddos skating (first time ever for the littles!) on the gorgeous lake in the back yard, toboganning down the slopes beside the cabin, and discovering the joy of tunnelling in the snow!

And then, finishing off the day cuddled up with the ones we love, warming feet at the fieldstone fireplace.

I miss it already!
Of course there were a few side trips, like the trek to Montreal during a snowstorm in search of the best latte in the world.  So I'm told anyway, its hard to know if it is the best when you don't drink coffee.  Daisy accompanied Daddy on this visit to the big city, because Daddy-Daughter time is incredibly important.

There was food- lots of it!  And all really yummy!  What would a fire (or my day) be without s'mores?  Not very exciting!  As an extra special treat I added some peanut butter- and as an extra EXTRA special treat Jon and I snuck downstairs after the kids were asleep and ate them all ourselves.  I know.  Life with kids really changes your perspective on what constitutes special!

Epic Peanut Butter S'mores

There was time spent on homework, and time spent playing games.  We watched our children's imaginations bloom.  We read from "big books" to all three for the first time ever.  Amazing!

I ended up with a little bit of time to snap some photo's of things around the cabin.  I will be the first to admit that I take odd pictures- I like snapshots that show colour and texture, and I love pictures that capture the detail of the things I will remember forever.  So often the shots end up looking at a smaller part of a larger item.  I don't often take pictures of an entire room.  It's odd, but so am I! :)  Check out the video below, and if you have taken the time to drop by, please don't be afraid to say hi!  I look forward to seeing your comments!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

My Oral Motor Needs a Tune Up!

Have you ever really thought about what it takes to speak?  Or how many different skills are required to eat?    Before I had kids, I never really thought about it.  It's all just supposed to happen, right? Well, generally speaking, it does.  Most children tend to follow similar stages of development in similar timelines, but every once and while you encounter....

An Owie.  Cue cricket noises.

It helps if you open your mouth Honey.  Just sayin'

I'll be the first one to say that his developmental timeline is officially upside down, backwards and turned around.  It is disordered, delayed and disorganized.  And because of this, we never know what skill he needs to work on so that the next milestone will work out for him.

It has been challenging, and has taken a very long time to get to where we are now with oral motor.  There is still a very long road ahead too.  Since we are on our own for therapy now we build lots of things into our day that help him with oral motor strength, awareness, coordination, movement, and endurance of the jaw, tongue, lips and cheeks.  We say funny words over and over.  We use vibrating toothbrushes for sensory awareness, as well as helping desensitize his gag reflex.  We practice sticking our tongues out in every different direction, which we all find terribly amusing!  We are now attempting to move things around in the mouth using the tongue.  I'll be honest with you all here.  I find this activity nerve racking- because Owen chokes A LOT.  And late last year we lost a very close relative.  To choking.  I know, things happen beyond our control- and I'm trying my level best to remain calm and continue with all things feeding related.

The Sucker Dance
I felt most comfortable using a lollipop or toothbrush for this activity, since I was asking him to move it from cheek to cheek without using his hands, I knew that I could grab it if I needed to.  Oral motor excercises are always done while sitting at the table.  To help with awareness I asked him to touch his cheek as he moved it from side to side.  Sometimes I let him use a mirror, just so that he can see where it is and where it needs to go.  I found it kind of interesting that he drooled excessively during this activity.

Bubble Gum Gumption
Like most kids, he really relishes the idea of Bubble Gum.  Those appealing little colourful packages of sugar and artificial flavour...  Not my favourite thing in the world for the kids to be chomping on, but since he really only keeps it in there for a few minutes before he says he's done, I caved.  Again, we do this at the table, so that he stays in one place, and is less likely to get side tracked and choke on it.  It goes in, he moves it side to side in his mouth once chewed.  I'm still trying to get him to put it under his tongue.  He desperately wants to blow bubbles with it, but so far, his tongue and lips are not only not strong enough to do it, but they just won't cooperate.  We end both activities with a thorough tooth brushing - as soon as we're finished!

Do you have any ideas for Oral Motor Activities that you do with your own little ones?  I'm always looking for more ideas!  If you've stopped by to take a peek inside our lives, please feel free to leave a little hello down in the comments!

From the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

"Occupational therapy is the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life (Townsend& Polatajko, 2007, p. 372)."