Pagan scouting type stuff

May 13, 2017 by  
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It will cost a small fortune for us to start a SpiralScouts hearth, and it will cost even more by the 2nd year to join a local Pagan group's scouting program.... we're for real on our own.

This is my plan: every weekend (because weekdays are school and weeknights are therapy), we will plan to do 4 things:  

One life skills type thing
One craft project or other creative thing
One physical activity
One Pagan "lesson" of some sort

I'm pretty sure that some weekends are not going to work. And that some weekends we're not going to get it all done. That's ok....the plan is what's important.

This weekend's list:

Cooking lessons are starting tomorrow morning.
We have a paint-a-horse kit waiting for tomorrow too.
This afternoon was swimming
This morning we did some drumming.

Tell me what you're doing - scouting? Something else?

Review: Reliefband #LifeChangingTech #sponsored

February 24, 2017 by  
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When I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid of motion. Spinning, twirling, rolling – I could do it all. The only times I can remember having an issue with motion sickness were when I attempted to read in the backseat of a moving car, so I learned pretty early on to avoid combining books and vehicles. But I loved amusement park rides, doing underwater cartwheels, and never thought twice about any kind of motion.

In my early twenties, things changed. Suddenly I began feeling nauseous when exposed to sudden motion. Not only was I ill when reading in a car, but even just riding in a backseat caused issues. Amusement park rides were out for good, unless it was a rollercoaster moving steadily ahead with no loops or backwards motion. I couldn’t even take my kids on a carousel when they were too small to go on by themselves, or I would feel dizzy and sick for hours afterward. My husband was, by necessity, our ‘go to’ carousel rider.


Over the years I’ve learned to avoid motion where I can. I sit out on rides at amusement parks and instead take pictures of my kids having a blast. I do my best to sit at the front of buses on field trips or ride shotgun whenever I can during carpools. Sometimes I’m still taken by surprise as during a holiday party last month when I realized about 30 seconds into the planetarium show that I would have to keep my eyes closed the whole time. Virtual reality rides or games are an absolute no for me. I know there are options that could help, but I hate the idea of taking medication, plus I don’t always have time to wait for it to take effect.

For the most part, my kids do ok when it comes to motion sickness, although my 14-year-old has always struggled on long car trips, especially ones full of hills and/or curves. She doesn’t throw up, but her stomach hurts (sometimes greatly) and we end up having to make a lot of stops for her stomach to settle. She can’t read in the car at all either. We’ve tried over-the-counter medication for her, but it doesn’t seem to help, at least not enough.

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What is Reliefband

Recently I was sent a sample of a wearable product that helps with nausea from motion, morning sickness or VR gaming. The Reliefband is FDA-cleared and easy to use. According to the website, it takes effect in just minutes, without the side effects or delays from medications.

The Reliefband is worn on the inner portion of the wrist and works by, “Neuromodulation: Reliefband Neurowave proprietary technology uses the body’s natural neural pathways to regulate the mechanisms causing nausea & vomiting”. When you turn on the Reliefband, it emits gentle pulses to the body’s P6 pressure point. “These intermittent signals modulate the body’s natural neural pathways and block the sensation of nausea”. There are five settings so you can adjust the Reliefband to work for what your body needs at any particular time.

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Here’s my take on Reliefband

It’s strange – I’m so used to avoiding motion, that it was difficult to figure out a way to test the Reliefband. I should have taken it with me to the Detroit Auto Show – I watched another blogger try hers out on a virtual reality ride put on by the Ford Motor Company in their booth. I skipped the ride as usual, but sympathized with friends who had tried it out (with no motion sickness remedy) and felt ill for hours afterward. The Reliefband did seem to help the other blogger, but I absolutely still wanted to try it out for myself.

The first time I put on the Reliefband was at home, so that I could make sure I was using it correctly. It is very easy to use, but one important step to remember is to apply the included conductivity gel to the wrist before putting on the Reliefband. This is to both hydrate the skin with electrolytes and to make sure the Reliefband is in the correct position and stimulates the median nerve correctly. The gel feels similar to what’s used during an ultrasound – it’s very easy to apply and to wipe off afterward.

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The Reliefband comes with instructions to make sure that the device is positioned correctly on your wrist and those were easy to follow. The strap has plenty of room and fit on my wrist easily. I made sure it was tight enough to not slip, especially while moving around. And then I turned on the Reliefband to both test the location and see how it felt.

There are five settings, that increase the level of relief as you go up. On the first two settings I couldn’t really feel much in my wrist or hand, but as I moved up into the higher settings I definitely felt a stronger pulsating tingle that went through my wrist where the Reliefband was positioned and through the center of my palm into my middle finger. The tingle was stronger when my hand was relaxed or in a fist and less when I stretched my hand out straight. It wasn’t painful – just a strange feeling.

The next step was to test out whether the Reliefband helped with motion sickness. Although we were headed out on a road trip, my daughter was not willing to try reading in the car, even with the Reliefband, because she didn’t want to take the chance that it wouldn’t help and that she would feel ill for the rest of our journey. She wanted me to be the first one to try it. So, I did – not having any amusement park or virtual motion rides handy, I tried a few things at home that usually would have me feeling dizzy and ill. I twirled in a circle, sat in our recliner and spun, and then also wore the Reliefband while riding as a passenger and looking at my phone as my husband drove our van. For each of these, I began with the Reliefband on a low setting and turned it up if/as necessary.

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Does the Reliefband help?

I felt a definite difference on the first two tests, while twirling and spinning. Admittedly, I did each of these actions for only a minute or two, so I wasn’t really feeling very ill before turning on the Reliefband, but where I would normally feel sick for a while afterward, I felt fine almost immediately and had no ill effects after stopping.

The bigger test was using the Reliefband in the car, especially while looking at my phone. This is generally a big no-no for me, which can be frustrating for my husband, especially if he needs me to look something up or help navigate while we’re out and about. The Reliefband definitely helped a lot – my stomach was fine.

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I’ve also used the Reliefband at the carousel in our local mall, and was able to ride along with my youngest daughter with no ill effects at all. She may be old enough now that I’m not required to ride with her anymore, but I’m definitely thrilled to have the option! I can’t wait to try out the Reliefband on more rides this summer.

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Tips for Using Reliefband

Here are a few quick tips that I’ve figured out while using my Reliefband:

  1. I’ve used the Reliefband with a small amount of gel and also after using a much more generous amount. There was a definite difference in the amount of tingling I felt in my hand – when I used more gel, I couldn’t even feel anything at the two lowest levels, whereas when I used less gel, I could feel the tingling even at the lowest level and it got very uncomfortable above level three.
  2. After you’ve stopped moving (or watching VR or whatever else you’re doing that caused the motion sickess), you turn off the Reliefband.
  3. Keep the Reliefband strap as tight as you can manage so that it doesn’t shift around while you’re in motion. You want to make sure that it stays at the correct location on your wrist to ensure that it’s working for you.

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A few things to know about Reliefband

I have a contact skin allergy to most metals – basically if I wear anything other than real gold or sterling silver against my skin, it breaks out in a green, itchy rash. Even the tiny metal clasp pin on a leather watchband will be uncomfortable if worn too tightly. Given that the back side of the Reliefband is metal and it has a metal clasp, I’m not sure how long I could wear it before having to worry about my allergy. Although the conductivity gel does sit between the metal back and my skin, the clasp may be an issue if I need to wear the Reliefband for an extended period of time, especially since I need to wear it fairly tightly. For most (quick) uses I don’t see this being a problem.

The Reliefband comes with a small tube (.25 fl. oz.) of the conductivity gel, but you need to buy extra if you’re going to use the Reliefband a lot. You can purchase a larger tube of the gel for $14.99 (as of January 2017) on their website at

I received a Reliefband for the purposes of review. As always, all opinions stated here are either solely my own or those of my family.

The post Review: Reliefband #LifeChangingTech #sponsored appeared first on Mom Of 3 Girls.

Exploring the 2017 Detroit Auto Show–Hyundai and Hope

January 13, 2017 by  
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As a lifelong Michigander who grew up in the Detroit suburbs, I’m certainly well aware that #DetroitLovesAutos. My grandfather and uncle both worked (and retired from) one of the ‘Big Three’ car companies. The state’s economy has always been tied to how well (or poorly) the auto industry is doing. But until this year, I’d never had the opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show (aka the Detroit Auto Show). And wow, what an experience…

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As a guest of SheBuysCars, I spent three days over the past week being wowed and impressed with all the shiny, new vehicles and concept cars on display for media preview week at the year’s biggest auto show. Car companies certainly spare no expense when it comes to showing off their latest and greatest. The excitement as a new vehicle or model is revealed under a swish of silk is palpable as journalists and photographers swarm the dais to explore and capture images of every inch.

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The overwhelming themes at the Detroit Auto Show this year are mobility, autonomy and alternative energy. Hybrid and electric vehicles are everywhere, as are multiple different versions of the ‘self-driving’ automobile. No longer are conversations about pistons and carburetors – now you hear terms like GPS, lidar and connectivity everywhere you turn on the show floor.

Companies show off their enhanced safety features such as emergency breaking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control. And technology is everywhere, from apps that keep you connected to your vehicle from miles (or even states) away to advanced navigation and entertainment systems.

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One of the brands that stood out to me the most on the show floor was Hyundai. Not because they have an amazing lineup of cars and SUVs with the latest technology and gadgets (although they do), or because they were showing off their latest and greatest in electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles (which they were). Out of every vehicle brand at the Detroit Auto Show – Hyundai stood out to me because of their dedication to giving back and social responsibility.

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Along with displaying their vehicles, awards and showing off their NFL sponsorship, one whole section of Hyundai’s Detroit Auto Show booth focuses on their Hyundai Hope On Wheels organization. The mission is simple and important, “committed to finding a cure for childhood cancer one handprint at a time.”

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Honestly… This completely floored me. I truly never expected my worlds to collide the way that they did on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show. My own daughter is a childhood cancer survivor, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of every kid we’ve met who’s still fighting and the families we know who have lost their children to this horrible disease. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for kids in the US. One in five children doesn’t survive. And for those who do, two-third of them will suffer from long-term effects for the rest of their lives. These statistics are grim – and real (source:

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Although my daughter currently remains cancer-free, she’s endured five surgeries, fifteen rounds of chemotherapy over ten long months, weeks spent in the hospital rather than at school, over a dozen blood transfusions, multiple MRI and CT scans, the loss of her beautiful long hair, and years of worry and stress that never go away. Every time we take her in for another set of scans, we are well aware that our lives could change in an instant, as they did in December 2014 when we heard the word ‘recurrence’ for the first time.

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Over the past eighteen years, Hyundai Hope on Wheels has donated over $115 million to help find a cure for pediatric cancer. Every time someone purchases an eligible Hyundai vehicle at a participating dealership, Hyundai and the dealer make a donation to Hope on Wheels. Only 4% of all National Cancer Institute funding goes toward childhood cancer research, so every dollar raised to help fill in that gap makes a huge difference in the lives of kids and families touched by pediatric cancers.

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Along with being blown away by the personal connection to Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels program, I was also quite impressed with their vehicle lineup. With three kids, we’re a solid minivan family – but the 7-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe SE and Limited are definitely tempting. As our kids get older and head toward vehicular independence (otherwise known as the all-important obtaining of the drivers license), we’ll be starting to rethink our options when we start looking at our next vehicle purchases. I love the height, storage and seating capacity of a large SUV, but balanced with the gas mileage and style of something slightly smaller.

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The Santa Fe provides nothing but options – for 5, 6 or 7 passenger seating in several different configurations. Not to mention the Santa Fe’s smaller brother – the Tucson. Both vehicles are perfect for families on the go. And their rugged designs are also just plain pretty too.

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Along with their SUV options, Hyundai offers a full line up of coupes and sedans as well – the Elantra, Sonata, Azera, Veloster, and Accent. The Sonata now comes in a hybrid version and the Tucson FCEV is a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. The new Hyundai Ioniq comes in both hybrid and electric versions and Hyundai revealed their autonomous version last year.

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The future of the automobile is going to be an interesting one – but it’s safe to say that the eyes of the world will be on what happens every year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit!

I attended the NAIAS 2017 as a guest of SheBuysCars. Although this is a sponsored post on behalf of SheBuysCars and their sponsors, all opinions stated her are solely my own.

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From U5 to U14–a look at Hannah’s AYSO soccer days.

October 11, 2016 by  
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In the fall of 2006, I escorted the most excited four-year-old ever to the soccer field for the first time. Well, not the first time she’d ever been at a soccer field – I’d been chasing her off her older sister’s practice and game fields since she was a toddler. This was the first time, however, that Hannah was at her very own soccer practice. And she absolutely loved playing.


Hannah’s first season of AYSO soccer was in the Jamboree (U5) program, where the kids gather as one large group, learn a new skill each week (dribbling, passing, etc.) and then break down into small groups to practice the skill and then do a 3v3 scrimmage with no goalies. Basically the kids run up and down the field and score a lot of goals. It’s all very exciting for four-year-olds and a great introduction to the game.


The next season, Hannah eagerly took the field as a U6 player, on her first official soccer ‘team’. They’re still learning the basics at this point, but Hannah loved playing goalie for the first time and she eagerly ran up and down the field in her purple AYSO uniform.


2008 was Hannah’s first year of U8 soccer. The kids are refining what they already know and learning to play positions. This was the season of the ‘highlighter yellow’ uniform – the girls were definitely hard to miss on the field. Hannah still loved playing goalie, but she was a great player on the field as well.


After Hannah’s second season of AYSO U8 soccer, we considered moving her to travel soccer after her current coach as well as a previous coach suggested it. In the end, we stayed with AYSO in part because we couldn’t afford the cost of everything travel soccer entails, but also because Hannah enjoyed playing with (and against) her friends.

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Hannah’s first U10 soccer team was called the ‘Pink Jigglypuffs’ because one of her teammates had a Jigglypuff costume (it’s a Pokemon) and offered to wear it at their games. Several siblings ended up taking turns as mascot, including Abbi a few times. Hannah wasn’t thrilled with the bright pink uniform but still loved every moment on the soccer field. This was the last year that she played goalie on a regular basis, after deciding that she “wasn’t any good at it”.


Hannah only played the fall season for her second year on U10. In the spring of 2013, she underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her right knee and was forced to sit out from the spring season as a Lavender Lightning Bolt. Finding out that she would miss soccer that spring was devastating to Hannah – it was the only time she cried about anything that she underwent that year.


By fall, Hannah had finished physical therapy and was happily back on the soccer field for her first U12 AYSO season.


The two halves of Hannah’s second U12 season were extremely different. The fall season was typical in all ways, but over the winter we discovered that Hannah’s tumor had recurred in her left lung and she began chemotherapy treatments in January 2015. She played soccer that spring, even though she didn’t have the strength or stamina that she was used to.

It’s hard to look at the difference in how she looked between just the fall 2014 (above) and spring 2015 (below) soccer seasons. She’d lost about 10 pounds over the winter, along with her hair.


In our AYSO region, the U14 division plays only half a season. This is because the kids are generally of middle school age, so it allows them to be eligible to play for their school teams as well. Girls play school soccer in the spring, so our U14 girls season for AYSO is fall-only. During Hannah’s first U14 season last fall, she was still undergoing chemo treatments. She played as much soccer as she physically was able, as long as her blood counts were high enough.


Hannah finished chemo last November and played for her middle school’s 7th grade team this past spring. She’d gained back the weight she lost but still was lacking in stamina and strength. By the end of the season, she looked more like the player she’d been before chemo.

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This fall, Hannah has played her second and last U14 AYSO season. The photo above is from her game this past Saturday, and this coming Saturday is her very last AYSO game.


After 10 seasons over 9 years, Hannah’s AYSO career will be finished – as our region doesn’t have teams above the U14 division. She’ll continue to try out for the school teams, so we’ll hopefully still see her out on the soccer field for a while yet.  And we’re not done being an AYSO family yet either – my youngest has a few years left before we’ll say goodbye to her AYSO days. It will be strange to only have one game on Saturdays from now on though!

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Review: 3D Coin Art American Flag #3DCoinArt #spnsrd

September 21, 2016 by  
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This is a sponsored post – I received this product at no cost for the purposes of review. As always, all opinions stated here are solely my own or those of my family.

My oldest daughter loves change. Not the ‘things are going to be different’ kind of change, but rather the spare kind that jingles in your pocket or purse. For several years now, Abbi has collected various types of coins. She’s not into rare or historical coins – but rather specific types or years of coins.

For example, there’s her 1984 penny collection. Why 1984 pennies? I have no idea. Even she doesn’t really know why she picked that year to collect. But any time she spies a penny or sees that I’ve gotten one as change, she has to check to see if she can add it in to her collection.

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Abbi’s other coin collection is a more common one – she’s been collecting the different state quarters that were minted from 1999 until 2008. She’s not worried about the quality of the coin at all. Doesn’t matter if they’re in ‘mint’ condition or not. She just wants to have them all. And again, any time she spies a quarter, or someone she knows has one – she has to check to see if she already owns that state. She keeps a list on her phone of which ones she already has and which she still needs.

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Last week, I got a huge hug from Abbi when she got home from school. That’s not totally uncommon, although now in her teenager years hugs do tend to be fewer and farther between. However, it was also the enthusiastic ‘I love you, Mom!!’ that made my day. She had spied the box that had arrived that day for me to review – a 3D Coin Art™ model by New York City-based NSI International Inc. They make two different 3D Coin Art models – an American flag, and the Empire State Building. Our model is the American flag version and Abbi was thrilled.

3D Coin Art American Flag review

The plastic model snaps apart for easy access to insert dimes, nickels and pennies to create the flag design. When filled, the flag contains $25 worth of coins. The set comes with two coin counters to help determine exactly how much change you have. There’s also a plastic stand so that you can display your filled (or partially-filled) flag.

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Abbi immediately pulled out her 1984 penny collection to fill in some of the red stripes. The white stripes are made up of nickels, while the stars are made from dimes. Although you can wait until you collect the entire $25 to fill in the flag, Abbi chose to fill in as much as she could to start and is already starting to collect the rest of the change that she’ll need to fill in the rest. Since she’s almost done with her state quarter collection now, this will give her another outlet for her spare change collecting energy for quite some time, I think!

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The model is easy to pull apart and put back together but Abbi noted that you have to take the two halves of the flag apart first. The model fits into the black plastic base and then is held up by two brackets that snap into the back. It took only a moment to figure out how it all goes together and it seems very stable when standing, although ours isn’t very heavy yet since it’s not very full. It will be easy for Abbi to quickly snap it back apart to continue adding change as she collects enough pennies, dimes and nickels.

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I love that this not only gives Abbi an outlet for her spare change obsession, but it’s a wonderful family activity as well. For younger kids, it’s an opportunity to help reinforce math lessons on which coins are which and how much each type is worth. Kids can use the coin counters to help determine how much each stripe is worth and how many dimes are necessary to fill in all of the stars. And then when the flag is complete, it’s not only a unique display piece, but a coin bank as well. Instead of hiding everything away in a plastic pig or other figurine, kids can easily see exactly how much change they have.

3D Coin Art American Flag review

You can find the 3D Coin Art models online at

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And on and on and on and on and…

August 15, 2016 by  
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So far this year, although cardiology discharged us, we've had the saga of Acorn randomly passing out (apparently it's not epilepsy, the reigning theory is vaso-vagal weirdness), Leaf's hives from hell that lasted a month the first time, and then came back 3 or 4 more times for a few days at a time, Hand Foot and Mouth disease (resulting in a febrile seizure for Leaf), and Leaf falling down the stairs and cutting open her cheek bone.

That last one is killing me - it's not healing nicely, even after 6 hours in the ER to get it stitched up (they wanted to be sure her skull and brain were intact, and there were 3 pediatric trauma calls after we got there, and at least 1 just 20 minutes before us). In fact, the cut is still wide and gappy a week later, after it took us 2 days to get the scabs melted enough to get the stitches out. The pediatrician suggested taking her back to the ER so they could drug her (again) to get the sutures out, but we were not real keen on yet another visit.

As if 2 ER visits in one weekend wasn't enough trauma for all of us. That's actually a new record.....shortest time between ER visits.  Even RSV with 2 complex kids couldn't manage that.

People keep saying it's not a big deal, but the truth is, it's a huge deal. Of all her scars, this is one she can't easily cover. This is one that will be in every photograph for the foreseeable future. "If it bothers her" seems like a senseless thing to say, because of all the scars, this is the one people are going to ask about.

People comment on how beautiful she is. And I can see that coming to a screeching halt when she turns and they see this gash. Being cute has gotten my kids a lot further than they would otherwise get, because people respond to cute, and want to be near and help cute.

And even if we did take her to a plastic surgeon.....that's a whole nother round of trauma. More doctors, more surgery, more hospitals....

This never-ending cycle is exhausting.

Ending the School Year 2016

June 14, 2016 by  
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I know I say this every year – as does every other parent of a school-aged child, but really? Where did this school year go?

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It seems both like yesterday and also so far away that we sent the girls off to three separate schools for the first time. Juggling kids in high, middle and elementary school while having a child undergoing intensive chemotherapy treatments, trying to keep up with work and other commitments… Somewhere in there I lost a few months, but coming out of the other end of the school year – so much has changed.

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Most importantly, Hannah is finished with chemo, and you’d never know by looking at her now what she went through just six months ago. When I look back at her school photo from September, she was so thin and tired (and bald, of course). She’s gained back both weight and color, and has the cutest hair style (although plans to grow it back out). She maintained her grades throughout seventh grade – the child has never gotten anything below an A in her life. And she made a few new friends, but has also kept the strong friendships that have helped support her through everything she’s endured.

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Abbi not only survived her freshman year of high school, but she finished the year with her very first straight-A report card, ever. She’s always had at least a B or two in there, and at the beginning of the year we really worried about her ability to study effectively and keep her grades up. Over the months, she found her stride and her place – she absolutely loved marching band last fall and can’t wait for the upcoming season as a sophomore.

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With Hannah finishing treatment, we turned our focus to Becca during the second half of the school year and began some testing to figure out how to help her get along with others better, hopefully make (and keep) some friends, and help her learn ways to cope with her emotions. She is very bright, but doesn’t always slow down and work to her ability, but she also ended her fourth grade school year with straight A’s, so we know that she’s got the academic part down. We just need to help her with some strategies to put the rest in place so that she can have a happier fifth grade experience.

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We managed to keep up with all of the activities that the girls wanted to participate in, although logistics were often a challenge and we are so thankful that we are a two-vehicle family now. Abbi participated in both varsity marching band as well as varsity robotics – both of which are very time-consuming and challenging. Hannah took on not only soccer, but also Science Olympiad, Art Club, and church youth group. Both girls continued in Job’s Daughters, and Becca was initiated this year as well, once she turned ten. Becca also played soccer and participated in Lego League and Girls on the Run again.

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I’m not sure that we’ll take on quite so many activities next year – both Abbi and Hannah have already said that they want to back off a bit. But seeing what they can accomplish even when they are extremely busy makes me know that these girls can do anything they set their minds to. I just need to be able to keep up with them, which isn’t always easy. As Hannah finished treatment and grew stronger, I started losing myself, and really haven’t come completely back yet. Spending almost an entire year in ‘survival mode’ took a lot out of me, and I’ve just been finally learning how to live our new normal again over the past few months. There’s a level of fear and worry that I never really lived with before – knowing that her cancer came back once just makes it that much easier to imagine it coming back again. We hope and pray that it won’t, but there are no absolute guarantees, so the worry will never truly go away.

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But for now, we’ll just enjoy the first days of summer vacation and look forward to having a sophomore, eighth grader and fifth grader in the fall. The summer will zoom by quickly enough too – as they always do.

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A Tale of Two Resorts: Disney’s Grand Floridian & Wyndham Lake Buena Vista

May 30, 2016 by  
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Last month, my girls and I had the opportunity to take a road trip down to Orlando, FL for my annual TravelingMom retreat. We really enjoyed the time together both on the road and at the parks – especially since the girls are older now and much more self-sufficient.

Entrance to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

Entrance into Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

For three nights, we had the opportunity to stay onsite at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, located next to the Polynesian Resort, right on the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Magic Kingdom. Afterward, we moved off property to the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort (Wyndham LBV), located adjacent to Disney Springs. The Wyndham LBV is technically not a Disney resort – they are an independent Disney partner hotel operating on Disney property, so they are able to offer many amenities. They are also the closest hotel to Disney Springs.

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Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Entrance

The two experiences were very different in many ways – but we definitely enjoyed both properties. Here’s a quick look at what we enjoyed about each one and what we felt were challenges about each property. Note: Yes, we were hosted and/or given a media rate by each property, but be assured that these are our honest thoughts and opinions.

There are a slew of reasons why a Disney resort is a good idea – and just as many dollar signs why it may not be the best fit. There are budget resorts at Disney as well, but offsite hotels can still cost even less, depending on when you’re traveling. Do your research and determine what your budget is, which features and amenities are the most important to you, and see what will be the best fit for your situation and your family.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – Main Building

Putting the ‘Grand’ in the Grand Floridian…

The Grand Floridian resort (designated as a Deluxe Disney resort) is designed around the Victorian style, reminiscent of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. The property does feel like an extension of the Magic Kingdom in many ways – it’s only one monorail stop away and you can view the Wishes fireworks directly from Grand Floridian without having to navigate the crowds. They offer a large Disney store on-site, live entertainment in the lobby, two separate pool areas, a small beach area, spa and health club and multiple dining options.

Disney's Grand Floridian Beach Pool

Walking to Beach Pool area at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

We stayed in the Sago Cay building, facing the monorail. Although technically our room was listed as ‘Outer Bldg – Garden View’, we could see the lagoon as well. The room was a good size and offered a balcony with table and chairs. I worried that the monorail might be noisy, but it didn’t bother us at all, even at night. This building was a bit of a hike to the Beach Pool area – it’s the farthest building from that pool. My girls found that they actually preferred the closer Courtyard pool though, as it was less crowded, had a hot tub, and was deeper than the Beach Pool. They actually never made it over to the Beach Pool at all during our stay, even though they did swim quite a bit. There are daily activities for kids as well as movies every evening over in the beach area, but the activities seemed a bit young for my teens and tween so they didn’t check them out at all during our stay. They pretty much preferred to just be in the pool as much as they could anyway.

View from Grand Floridian Sago Cay room

View from our room in Sago Cay Building at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

The room itself was plenty large enough for the four of us – and the rooms do sleep five, so if my husband had come along we would have still fit and slept everyone comfortably. There were two queen beds plus a day bed and everything was extremely plush and comfortable. The room also had a mini fridge, which was very helpful since we brought food with us so the girls could eat breakfast and lunch right there while they were on their own, to help save on costs. We had space enough to spread out and we definitely enjoyed all the little ‘Disney’ touches in the room as well. I appreciated that the bath/shower and toilet were separated from the sink/vanity area so that we could easily have someone in the shower while someone else was brushing their teeth.

Grand Floridian Sago Cay Room

Our room in Sago Cay Building at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Grand Floridian Sago Cay Room

Grand Floridian Sago Cay Bathroom

Our stay here was during my retreat, so the girls were on their own for much of their time at the Grand Floridian. I was glad that there was a monorail station right on site so that they could easily get to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot (with one monorail transfer) on their own – there’s also direct boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom, but we didn’t use that at all on this trip. The girls spent time in the parks and back at the resort, both hanging out in the room and at the pool. They also watched the Wishes fireworks from the small courtyard between the Sago Cay and Sugarloaf buildings – the view here is perfectly lined up with the Cinderella Castle. We did not eat at any of the on-site restaurants, but took a walk through the Gasparilla Island Grill casual restaurant and there were definitely options that even my pickiest eater would have enjoyed there.

Grand Floridian Courtyard Pool

Courtyard Pool at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Grand Floridian Disney Store

Foam sword-fighting at Disney Store on-site at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Self-parking is free at all Disney resorts. Valet parking is available at the Grand Floridian for $20/day. I used the self-parking, which was a slight walk but not too bad. There were plenty of spots available. The girls and I arrived around 2:30pm and our room was ready for us, although other TravelingMoms did have to wait for their rooms.

Disney's Grand Floridian Lobby

Checking out the live music in the lobby at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

Some of our favorite things about the Grand Floridian:

  • Not only did Concierge bring our bags to the room for us from our vehicle, but they gave us a golf cart ride to our building along with a guided tour of the resort. This really helped us get our bearings as well as give us tips like where to watch the fireworks for the best view. The cast members in general were all extremely helpful and polite.
  • The ease of access to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot on the monorail, plus free bus transportation to the other parks or Disney Springs.
  • Multiple pools for the kids – if mine were younger, they would have loved the offerings at the Beach Pool. As it was, they really enjoyed the Courtyard Pool.
  • Being able to avoid the crowds at the Magic Kingdom while still viewing the fireworks and the electrical boat parade in the lagoon.
  • This resort sleeps up to five – not all Disney resorts do, which can sometimes make things difficult for our family if we’re all traveling together.
  • Because it’s a Disney resort, everything is tied to your Magic Band – it’s your room key, plus you can use it to charge items to your room, so there’s no need to keep track of a separate key or bring cash or credit card into the parks with you. You can also have packages delivered straight to your room.
Disney's Grand Floridian Lagoon

View of Cinderella Castle from lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This is a perfect spot to view the Wishes fireworks each night.

Some of our ‘not-so-favorite’ things about the Grand Floridian:

  • The resort is very spread out, so there’s a decent walk to get wherever you want to go. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but when you have your hands full of heavy grocery bags late at night, or have tired kids who’ve already been walking through the parks all day, it can be somewhat annoying.
  • The more kid-friendly Beach Pool was crowded and noisy during the days, so my kids avoided it altogether.
  • Although there are a variety of dining options, it’s still all rather on the pricey side, at least for the very budget-conscious.
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Pools

Pool area at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

Easy Access to Disney Springs at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista

When we moved over to the Wyndham LBV, I was curious how it would compare to the Disney properties that I’ve stayed at both on this trip and in the past. As part of my TravelingMom retreat, I did tour the property and have the opportunity to see both sections – the Wyndham Tower Lake Buena Vista and the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. This is essentially two hotels in one – the Tower offering a more deluxe room style and experience at a higher cost, while the Garden rooms are less expensive and outside-facing, with more of a ‘motel’ design. Both share the same lobby, pool area, dining options and amenities.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Garden Courtyard

View of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort courtyard area and tennis courts from Tower room.

Our room was in the Tower, on the side facing Disney Springs. The view was gorgeous – and we were told that we could even see the Epcot fireworks directly from our room, although we were out late both nights so weren’t able to experience that for ourselves. We could see the signature Epcot Spaceship Earth sphere from our room at a distance, which was pretty cool in itself. The room was comparable in size to the Grand Floridian and also offered a mini fridge. This room only slept up to four however (with 2 queen beds), so if we’d had my husband along, we would have needed a second room to fit us all there. The sink/vanity, tub/shower and toilet were all together in one room instead of separated like at the Grand Floridian. There was no balcony or outdoor space.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower Room

Our Tower room at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower Room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower Bathroom

The pool area had my kids excited from the very moment they saw it – there are two pools adjacent to each other, plus a hot tub. My girls actually preferred the pools here to the ones at the Grand Floridian – the pools were deeper and more spacious, and not nearly as crowded. I spoke to the Wyndham’s Director of Fun – they offer daily crafts and other activities as well as Disney pin trading. Since this hotel is technically on Disney property, it does have an official Disney store on-site, as well as a fitness center and tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Pool

Enjoying the pool at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

The Wyndham offers complimentary shuttle service to the parks every 30 minutes via bus. We took the shuttle to Epcot in the morning and then returned from Hollywood Studios that night. The shuttle service was very quick and easy to use – it picks up and drops off right in front of the hotel so there’s minimal walking required. You can also easily walk over just a short distance (about a quarter mile) to the Disney Springs transportation area and take the free Disney Transportation shuttles to the parks if you prefer.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Breakfast

Breakfast at Lakeview Restaurant at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

We ate breakfast on-site at the Lakeview Restaurant – this is a full buffet that offers large Mickey waffles as well as a character breakfast (on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays). The breakfast buffet was pricey but we enjoyed all of the options, especially the waffles. The girls spent some time hanging out in the lobby and were thrilled to enjoy pastries from Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Co. at the Sundial 24-7 café, which also offers self-serve snacks and beverages at a very reasonable price. We ate breakfast there on our last morning before heading out – it was quick and easy, and the girls thought the giant-sized pastries were a lot of fun to eat.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Joffrey's Pastries

Breakfast pastries from Joffrey’s coffee shop at Sundial 24-7 Cafe at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Sundial Cafe

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is truly within easy walking distance to Disney Springs. There’s a pedestrian bridge over the busy roads that lets you down right at the edge of the Disney Springs shopping and dining area. I walked over there twice during our stay – first with the other TravelingMoms to enjoy lunch at Splitsville Luxury Lanes and then again with my 13-year-old to quickly grab a ‘must-have’ gift only available at the Marvel store for one of her best friends. Both of these destinations were at the far end of Disney Springs from the Wyndham, but not only was it an easy walk with plenty to see and do along with way – it’s very possible, if you’re in a very big hurry, to walk to the Marvel store and back in about 35 minutes flat. And yes, I speak from experience on that one (and Hannah owes me big-time!).

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs

Making our hurried walk over to Disney Springs’ Marvel store from the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort. Walked there and back in 35 minutes!

There is a charge for both self and valet parking at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista – however, they cost exactly the same ($8/day), so I happily utilized the valet parking. The valets were also wonderful about bringing the vehicle back up for me when I needed to grab something that I hadn’t realized we would need during our stay and then re-parking it afterward. Our room wasn’t ready for us until around 5:00pm, so we did have a bit of a wait – but we grabbed our swimsuits from our luggage that was being stored for us and spent the afternoon at the pool.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Tower View

View of Disney Springs from our Tower room at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

Some of our favorite things about the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs:

  • The view of Disney Springs and Epcot from our tower room, both during the day and at night. Waking up and being able to see the Epcot Spaceship Earth sphere out the window from my bed was an unparalleled experience for sure.
  • The quick and easy Sundial 24-7 café made grabbing snacks and drinks a breeze without breaking the bank.
  • The inexpensive valet parking. Enough said.
  • Multiple pools for the kids – they swam in and enjoyed both during our stay and I had to drag my youngest out so that we could get on the road at a reasonable hour when we had to check out.
  • Easy walking distance to Disney Springs – the girls walked over there on their own while I was busy with retreat activities. Disney Springs is free to wander around – they spent time at the LEGO store as well as the Marvel store, plus enjoyed exploring the rest of Disney Springs.
  • Having a Director of Fun on-site to plan activities and pin trade with kids.
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower View Epcot

View of the Epcot Spaceship Earth sphere from my bed in our Tower room at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

Some of our ‘not-so-favorite’ things about the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs:

  • The rooms don’t accommodate a family of five, so we would need two separate rooms if the whole family came together. The Tower does offer adjoining rooms – the Garden section does not.
  • This isn’t a Disney resort, so Magic Bands don’t work. You have plastic card keys for room access and can’t charge items to your room by using your Magic Band.
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort – Tower

The ‘big’ question – how do they compare in cost?

Regular room rates for the Outer Building – Garden View room type that we had at the Grand Floridian start at $569/night. This is the least expensive room option at this resort. Disney does offer specials and deals on their resorts, so it’s worth watching to see if a lower rate is available during your travel times.

The regular room rate for the Tower Room – Disney Springs View room that we had at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista varies depending on when you’re staying. I found a rate as low as $89/night for this room by searching the Wyndham website for an upcoming weeknight. They also offered a ‘Kids Eat Free’ rate of $94/night for the same room on the same night, which gives you the breakfast buffet free for 2 children 11 & under with 1 regular price paying adult. This does include the Disney Character Breakfast on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings.

I would definitely recommend watching the rates and checking for deals, whether you plan to stay at a Disney resort or an off-site one. There are so many options for just about every budget, so determine what you’re looking for and see what is the best fit for your family and situation.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

View of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Disney Transportation boat taken from Magic Kingdom Monorail Station

Where would we stay next time?

To be completely honest, I would absolutely stay at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista again the next time we head down to Disney World. You get plenty of the ‘Disney’ experience, there’s easy transportation to and from the parks, and even though parking isn’t free, you get valet parking at such a reasonable cost that I don’t mind spending $8/day at all. My kids liked the pools there better, plus everything is closer together without requiring a long walk between buildings or amenities. There were quick snack food options much more reasonably priced and I loved the personal feel of having the Director of Fun right there onsite to help kids have the most enjoyable time possible. I’m not sure we would make the effort to take Disney transportation over to Disney Springs otherwise, so having it in easy walking distance is great and gives us a free option to enjoy some Disney magic without the park crowds when we need some down time.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower Hallway

Excited to get to our room at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

There is something to be said for the ‘luxury’ feel and grandeur of the Grand Floridian though, so I’m very glad that we had the chance to experience that. If costs were equal, I would definitely consider staying at a Disney resort again for the easy park transportation, magic bands and extra perks that Disney resort guests get (such as the extra ‘magic hours’ in the parks) – but for me, the experience and perks don’t always offset the higher room cost. Two adjoining rooms at the Wyndham would give us more space and accommodate our whole family and still probably cost less than one room at the Grand Floridian.

Note: There are plenty of budget Disney resorts available – I haven’t personally stayed at any of them, so can’t speak to how they could compare to either of the properties discussed here. Check out for more reviews of available properties to stay at while visiting Disney World, both on and off-site, as well as plenty of other helpful Disney World tips and information.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort

The post A Tale of Two Resorts: Disney’s Grand Floridian & Wyndham Lake Buena Vista appeared first on Mom Of 3 Girls.

Mom in the Middle

May 2, 2016 by  
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I know I said I was going to write more. Follow-through has not been my strong point lately.

There's a post over on The Mighty about being the mom in the middle - about not quite fitting into various parenting categories.

I find, these days, that there are so many middles to be in the middle of. 

I'm no longer a 'medically fragile' mom...but we're still more complicated, medically, than most kids. 

I'm now officially an 'autism' mom....but actually don't identify with the perspectives of many vocal autism parents. 

I'm a cerebral palsy mom....but my kids walk and eat and run and climb. 

I've been a heart mom...but everyone was discharged from cardiology in February, for good, with totally normal hearts.

I sometimes think that we're too busy drawing lines....and forgetting to treat each other as moms, each of whom has challenges - some big, some little, but all important....

And I wish that we'd all think about that more often. Every mom is important. Every child is important. One's challenges may be bigger than another....but a small challenge can need just as much support from our communities as a big one, depending on the circumstances.

NonVerbal Learning Disorder

March 29, 2016 by  
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Now that we’re through the mess of a year that was 2015 and Hannah is through with her intensive chemotherapy treatment, we’ve had the chance to focus on some other areas that had gotten largely ignored for a while. One of these is my youngest daughter, Becca.

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When Becca was younger, she was a pretty typical toddler and preschooler. She got along well with everyone and we were relieved that she didn’t seem to have the social issues that Abbi had struggled with at that age. However, as Becca has gotten older, we’ve begun to notice some things that she either hasn’t outgrown the way we thought she would, or that are more glaringly obvious when you compare her to other kids her age.

I’d always felt that Becca had some tendencies toward ADD – she finds it almost impossible to sit still unless she’s intensely focused on something, and even when sitting on our laps has always squirmed and wiggled. She is very unorganized and doesn’t pay attention to where she puts things down, so she is constantly losing items and has no idea where. When she was younger, we compensated for this with lots of reminders, labeling items, attaching her mittens to her coat – and I found out when she was in first grade that the bus driver would routinely run her lunch in to the office after Becca had left it on the bus in the mornings.

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I also wondered if some of the social issues we noticed with Becca had to do with the fact that she spends a lot of time around Abbi, who we know is somewhere on the Asperger’s/Autism scale, albeit very high-functioning. I figured that Becca was simply picking up social cues from Abbi, but over the past year, we’ve noticed things that go too far beyond what that simple explanation would account for. Now that Becca’s in fourth grade, the gap between where she is at socially compared to the other kids her age is widening.

Last fall, as I was tucking Becca in to bed one night, she began to cry and began telling me that she has no friends, the other kids tease her, and she doesn’t know why. We knew that she doesn’t really have any close friends, but her third grade teacher last year said that she seemed to get along well with all of the kids. This year, that hasn’t been the case. With Hannah and Abbi already in therapy for chemo-related stress and issues (Hannah) and anxiety/panic attacks (Abbi), it wasn’t difficult to add Becca in, and she’s been seeing the therapist every 2 weeks since. She loves the therapist, and especially loves the hour of uninterrupted one-on-one time with an adult where she is the focus of attention. She craves attention, so this is right up her alley. The therapist has been working with her on role playing and trying to work through why she doesn’t seem to fit in with the other kids.

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At Becca’s well-child checkup, we also began doing some of the initial screenings for ADD and other things. They referred us to a child psychologist and he had us complete additional screenings. After three visits with me and Becca, plus going through the screenings that Ron and I completed, along with Becca’s teacher, the psychologist feels that there are two things at play, either one or both.

First, she scores high on the autism screening for what used to be called Asperger’s and is now referred to as ‘Mild Autism’. This didn’t surprise me at all – although she does fit some aspects of Asperger’s, others don’t’ seem as close of a fit, especially when you compare her to Abbi. The second thing that the psychologist mentioned is something I’d never heard of before – it’s called NonVerbal Learning Disorder (or NonVerbal Learning Disability), other wise known as NLD.

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I was confused at first – NonVerbal? She doesn’t have any trouble talking at all – in fact, sometimes it’s hard to get her to stop talking. But when it was explained to me, it made perfect sense. Kids with this disorder have difficulty in picking up on the nonverbal social cues that most of us take for granted. We can easily tell when someone is joking or being sarcastic or being silly, because we read their nonverbal cues without even realizing it. But a kid with NLD doesn’t know how to interpret those cues. This is why Becca takes everything we say very literally. She also isn’t able to easily take her experiences in one situation and generalize them to know how to behave in a different, but similar situation. This is why new situations make her nervous and why she can’t handle stressful or emotional situations in books and movies easily.

Now that Becca is older, she can see that she’s different – that other kids easily joke and laugh together, while she doesn’t. She knows there are these social cues and rules that she doesn’t understand, but she doesn’t know why she doesn’t understand them, and that makes her anxious and frustrated. At school this year, her teacher has tried putting her in seat groups with just about every combination of other kids but it wasn’t until she let Becca be a ‘loner’ and sit in a desk that’s not grouped with others that Becca has had an easier time at school with no meltdowns. She works better in groups when it’s only part of the time instead of being forced to socialize with other kids all day long.

Academically, she’s doing well, which is a great thing, but we are starting to see her grades fall slightly. Our school doesn’t start using letter grades until fourth grade, so we don’t have previous years to compare her grades to. For the first trimester this year, she got all A’s and A-‘s. The second trimester just ended and she brought home an even mix of A’s and B’s. Still good grades, but we don’t want to see that downward pattern continue. Becca is one of those kids that rushes through her work to get it down and considers ‘done’ good enough, rather than done well. She doesn’t seem to understand what the point is – it’s either ‘done’ or it isn’t. Her thinking is very concrete and black-and-white, with no greys, which is also typical of NLD, I’m discovering.

The traits of a person with NLD are (I’m quoting directly from this page, except for my comments in bold):

  • Has trouble recognizing nonverbal cues such as facial expression or body language Yes, this fits Becca very well.
  • Shows poor psycho-motor coordination; clumsy; seems to be constantly “getting in the way,” bumping into people and objects I don’t trust her to drink from an uncovered cup at a restaurant still at age 10 – she doesn’t seem to understand where her body is in space or pay attention to what’s around her.
  • Using fine motor skills a challenge: tying shoes, writing, using scissors She doesn’t have much of a problem with these, other than that it took her longer than ‘normal’ to master them.
  • Needs to verbally label everything that happens to comprehend circumstances, spatial orientation, directional concepts and coordination; often lost or tardy I see some of this in her, but not to a high degree. She does label or ‘correct’ things that she hears someone say that’s incorrect or she wants to make sure they understand what the ‘correct’ thing is. This comes across as being disrespectful to adults or those in authority but it’s more a matter of her need to make sure her world is in order.
  • Has difficulty coping with changes in routing and transitions Yes, but not to a high degree
  • Has difficulty generalizing previously learned information Yes, very much so
  • Has difficulty following multi-step instructions Yes, this has been a struggle since she was small. We have to break everything down into small tasks and be extremely specific. The example that I always give is that I can’t just tell her to ‘go wash your hands’ – I have to not only specify that she needs to use soap, but I have to also tell her to use water too, or she’ll just wipe her hands on the towel and think that’s good enough.
  • Make very literal translations Yes. Very specific and literal.
  • Asks too many questions, may be repetitive and inappropriately interrupt the flow of a lesson Yes, she doesn’t understand the ‘ebb and flow’ of conversation and interrupts a lot. If she’s thinking or feeling something, she can’t let it go and will ask incessantly or complain over and over, even if there’s nothing we can do right then to fix the situation.
  • Imparts the “illusion of competence” because of the student’s strong verbal skills I wouldn’t call her verbal skills ‘strong’ – she does have speech issues as well. And she tends to speak quickly and slur her words together so that she’s difficult to understand. If you’re defining ‘strong’ verbal skills by quantity rather than quality, this fits her to a T.

Essentially, she does well enough to get along ‘well enough’ in most cases, other than socially. I see her with kids her own age at school and at Girls on the Run practice, and she does stand out to me there. She wants to fit in so badly, but just has no idea how.

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I see a lot of reading and research in my future – the psychologist gave us a book to get started, and I’ve been looking up information online too. We have one more appointment with the psychologist next week, and he’ll give us his recommendations then. That may include a referral to the hospital’s ASD (autism) program too, for further screening and possible diagnosis there. Many times NLD and autism (of varying degrees) co-exist in the same kid – there are so many similarities between a high-functioning person with autism and one with NLD, which is probably one reason that we see Becca having a lot in common with Abbi, but not fitting exactly quite into that description.

Becca’s 10th birthday was in January. After 2 months of delaying, we finally held her birthday party last weekend. We delayed in part for financial reasons, but more so for the fact that there weren’t any clear cut ideas of who to invite – she really doesn’t have any close friends. We finally ended up inviting one little girl from down the street along with two girls from school (who are in the other fourth grade class, not Becca’s class) and took them to an indoor trampoline park. They jumped and ran and ate pizza and it seemed to go really well, which was awesome to see. Becca had a blast.

Hopefully with all of this testing and determining, we can come up with some strategies and solutions, so that next January there won’t be any question of who to invite to her 11th birthday party.


The post NonVerbal Learning Disorder appeared first on Mom Of 3 Girls.

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