Nora just finished up her speech therapy last week. She didn’t graduate out of the need for it, but given her age (preschooler), her therapy is through the school district and therefore is only provided during the school year. It’s kind of a bummer, but her speech pathologist said that she didn’t think it would be a big deal for her to take a break over the summer (as opposed to us paying out of pocket for private therapy sessions). The plan will be for her to start back up in the fall in kindergarten.

In the meantime, our focus has shifted to Vivienne.

Back at the beginning of May, I actually had a conversation with Nora’s speech therapist about Vivienne. I asked if I should consider getting her evaluated, talked to her about her lack of words. But Nora was in much the same position at the same age, and when we had her evaluated by early intervention, she did not qualify for services at that time. So I was less worried with Vivienne—figured late speech is just “normal” for our babies for whatever reason, and that she would catch up just as Nora did. Nora’s speech therapist was on the fence about it, but told me that it was probably fine to give her some more time.

Fast-forward a week, and Vivienne was being particularly challenging while Nora was receiving her speech services. Nora and her speech pathologist were in the living room and Vivienne and I were in the kitchen and playroom. She was repeatedly using her “most annoying sound in the world” to try to communicate with me and I was repeatedly guessing what it was that she wanted. Unbeknownst to me, the speech path was apparently listening because before she left that day, she said to me, “I couldn’t help but overhear; it’s clear Vivienne is very frustrated with her lack of ability to communicate. And you, too. You should probably call for that evaluation.”

A few weeks later, Vivienne was evaluated and I’ll admit that I was a little surprised when, at the end, they told me that she was found to have a severe delay and qualified for speech services. I mean, I was surprised but not surprised. Although I obviously suspected she may need help—that’s the reason we called to have her evaluated, after all—there was still part of me that assumed she was probably fine. That assumed it would turn out like Nora. So it felt kind of like a punch in the gut when they said it. I found myself holding back tears while they explained her deficiencies, and then actually cried a little once I was alone again and on my way back to work.

I know it’s not that big of a deal. But for some reason, it just felt really overwhelming, having Nora already in speech therapy and then getting the news that Vivienne needed it as well. For a brief period, I started questioning what it is that I did (or didn’t do) to cause these challenges for both of our girls.

Perhaps even more alarming was that the evaluators expressed concern over Vivienne’s hearing. During the evaluation, our mail lady came up on our porch and dropped a package by the door. I had the front door open, so it was only the storm door. I noticed, but didn’t think much of it at the time. We continued on with the evaluation. At the end, however, the evaluator pointed out these moments. She said that as the package was dropped off, everyone in the room (including Nora) lifted their heads to look to see what the noise was—except Vivienne. She had a few other examples of how Vivienne seemed to need visual cues instead of verbal ones during the evaluation. They suggested that we take Vivienne to an audiologist to get a hearing test done, and to also revisit the ENT about her recurrent ear infections/fluid in the ears.

Back before her speech even became a real concern, we went to the ENT in late March or early April to talk about Vivienne’s ear infections. She’d had them consecutively in January, February, and March, so our pediatrician recommended an ENT visit. At that appointment, the doctor’s suggestion was to wait it out. He said we were going into spring/summer, might as well see if she could make it through without tubes. But now, given the concern over her hearing, we needed to visit again.

So I made a dual appointment for her on June 9th. We saw the audiologist first for the hearing test, and then saw the ENT to discuss the results and have her (it was a different ENT this time) check out Vivienne’s ears. The hearing test went pretty smoothly, but afterward the audiologist told us that it appeared that Vivienne definitely had some hearing loss. She said that the results were indicative of an issue with the middle ear—which is the part affected when there is fluid in there, which is associated with ear infections. This was hard for me, too, finding out that our poor baby cannot hear as well as she should.

We saw the ENT and she checked Vivienne’s ears. We were surprised to learn that Vivienne was sporting an ear infection, but not surprised about the presence of fluid in both ears. Given that this was now yet ANOTHER ear infection—and in June, no less—and that the hearing test results were not awesome, the ENT recommended the insertion of tubes in Vivienne’s ears. At that point, it was a no-brainer for Michael and me as well.

After an excessive amount of stubborn ear infections, Nora had tubes put in at 17 months, and has never had another ear infection since. The progression and circumstances were kind of different between the two girls, but the end result was to be the same—tubes.

The ENT got us on her schedule for June 22 (fast! so nice), so last week, Michael and I woke up early and took Vivienne to the surgery center for the tubes. We had been through this before, so it was slightly less unnerving this time, simply because we knew what to expect. Just as it did with Nora, the procedure went really smoothly, and “recovery” was a piece of cake. When they called us back to see her in recovery, she was still sleeping soundly. Sweet muffin. She awoke after 10 minutes or so, she was a little fussy, but then she took her Cheerios and we were home by 9:00 a.m. A few hours later, I had both Nora and Vivienne out on a playground with my dad. It was like nothing had even happened to Vivienne… just like Nora had handled it as well.

Now, Viv will start her speech therapy tomorrow. I’m interested to see how it helps her, to see how she progresses in her speech/language development after both the tubes and the therapy. The pathologist who evaluated her told us of children she worked with who qualified for services, got ear tubes inserted, and then graduated out of the speech therapy after only a few months. I’m hoping for a similar result for our girl.

Vivienne is wicked smart and funny and sweet. I don’t often like to rush milestones. I believe in everything happening at their own paces. But I can’t wait to hear more of Vivi’s voice.

I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.

 

Next month, we will be spending a week with this view:

We’re heading to Ocean City, Maryland!

A few months ago, I posted about our struggle with this year’s summer vacation planning. We didn’t have any friends or family lined up to go with us, we couldn’t decide on where to go. We spent weeks “shopping” rentals in various places and it was overwhelming. Yet… limited. A lot of the nicer rentals in our price range were already booked since we were looking so late.

We were thisclose to booking a rental in Northern Michigan, but something kept stopping me. I kept hesitating, procrastinating… and then Michael and I talked and things just completely changed course. Next thing I knew, we were booking a condo in Ocean City instead.

Ocean City is a completely different vibe than Michigan, I know. Ocean City will be more of the “typical” beach vacation while Michigan probably would’ve provided a more unique experience. But in Michigan, the rentals were more houses and cottages—and as I mentioned before, many of the better ones were already gone. In Ocean City, condos seemed to be aplenty, and some really nice ones still remained. It seemed a better fit for our family this year.

Plus the ocean was calling to me.

We are definitely keeping Michigan on the list for an upcoming summer. Definitely. But we are excited for Ocean City!

For anyone familiar with Ocean City (I’m not, I’ve never been), we are staying pretty far north, away from a lot of the hustle and bustle. In fact, we’re almost in Delaware! Perhaps we’ll take a day trip up to Bethany Beach to check it out for another future beach destination. Anyway, we debated between two condos—one that was very close to the boardwalk, and the one we ended up renting up north. With the help of some experienced Ocean City traveler friends, we decided to go with the quieter of the options as it is likely to be the more family friendly of the two options. Plus, this one is directly on the beach, and you really can’t beat that!

We’re looking forward to a relaxing (as “relaxing” as kids allow vacation to be), low-key week at the beach. Fingers crossed for a lot of sun while we’re there!

Any Ocean City tips or recommendations? We’d love to hear.

 

I took my 4-year-old daughter to get her ears pierced for her birthday in September. She had been asking about earrings for a little while and I always figured I would take her when she asked, so… her 4th birthday seemed like just the occasion to do it.

I left the piercing earrings in her ears for months. I didn’t have much desire to deal with changing them out, to be honest. And her little flower earrings were perfectly cute for every day of the week.

Then my mom took Nora on a day date to see the new Cinderella movie, followed by a trip to the mall. They came back with a pair of pink dolphin earrings, and so it began. The first few times I changed them out, she complained about me hurting her so we went a few months without her asking to change them very often. But last weekend, Nora and I went to the mall together—a very, VERY rare occurrence—to shop for me. I needed some new clothing items and it was a cold, rainy Sunday. Plus, just her and Mommy? She was happy to tag along. She was really quite good for the three hours we were gone, although I did deal with an expected amount of exasperated sighs and looks of boredom. And even a teeny bit of whining. But hell, I’m 32 years old and I still remember the torture of shopping with my mom—FOR my mom—as a kid, so I had some extra patience with her just due to my sympathy.

Anyway, since these trips are rare, it was more than just an afternoon at the mall. It was an “activity” for Nora and I to do together. I figured to cap it off at the end, I would take her to Claire’s and let her pick out a pair of earrings for good behavior. So we did just that, except they were having a buy 2, get 1 free sale and I fell for it and let her walk out with three pairs instead. :)

All this to say that we now have 10 total little earrings to keep track of, and I’m sure the collection will keep growing. Up until now, she had random earrings lying out on her dresser just begging to get lost. So I wanted to buy her a little box or something to keep them in. I had my ears pierced when I was 3 years old and I quickly built up a collection of probably 100 pairs of earrings. I had them all in a little box and I vividly remember digging through them each morning to decide which ones to wear. So fun. But also time consuming.

When I said something to my mom about finding a box, she mentioned one of these display doohickeys instead. I was thinking about buying one until I realized how easy it would be to make.

A couple of Pinterest photos, a few minutes foraging in the basement, and a quick stop into JoAnn Fabrics and I had a plan of action and supplies.

Are you ready for this? It’s pretty complicated. :)

Either buy a cheap picture frame, or find an old one in your house to upcycle. I was planning to spray paint an old wooden one I found in my basement until I found this one in a box from college. Depending on how many earrings you have to store, you can use any size frame you’d like. This one is a 5×7″. Remove the glass and backing. You won’t need them at all for this, so if you have an old frame with the glass broken out of it—even more perfect!

You’ll also need a sheet of “plastic canvas” (that’s what the craft stores call it). It’s plastic mesh, really, and you can find it in the children’s craft aisle. At least that’s where I found it in my local JoAnn Fabrics. It was only $0.79 for a decent sized sheet. Using everyday scissors, cut it down to size for your frame.

Lay your sheet of mesh inside your frame. Using a hot glue gun, go around the edges with glue. If necessary (depending on the style of your frame), smoosh glue into the mesh with a plastic knife or other MacGyver tool. Work only a little bit at a time and go quickly, as the glue dries very fast. Make sure the mesh is flat and secured by the glue. Do another layer of glue if needed.

Flip it over and you’re DONE! It’s really that simple. This took me like 10 minutes, and that included the time I spent running for extra glue sticks upstairs, and searching my kitchen for a tool to use to smoosh the glue into the crevices.

If you’d like to hang the earring holder from the wall, you can add a ribbon to the top. I wanted my daughter to be able to grab it herself, and bring it downstairs or whatever for easy earring changing. She has room on her dresser for it to lean against the wall, so we didn’t need a hanger.

Load it up with your earrings and you are good to go. As you can see, Nora has pretty eclectic taste so far. :) And we have plenty of room for more earrings before we’ll need to upgrade to an 8×10″ some day.

Total cost of this project was the whopping $0.79 I spent on the plastic canvas. You can’t get much more affordable than that!

 

I have so many posts lined up in my brain that I actually had a little difficulty deciding which one to post tonight. I can’t remember the last time I had this problem, so woohoo! ::::dances a little blogging jig::::  I guess this is what happens when you go more than a month without writing anything at all.

It’s June, and summer is officially upon us. I know I’ve posted about essential oils several times here, and some of you find it interesting and others couldn’t care less. For those of you in the latter group, many apologies. But I think that for summer in particular, there are a few essential essential oils (see what I did there?) that everyone—and I really mean every household—should have on hand.

LAVENDER: My poor daughter got EATEN by mosquitoes on Friday afternoon. She came home from daycare with no fewer than 10 bites on her left arm, shoulder, neck, and face. Typically, mosquitoes are only a real nuisance in the evening hours so I don’t even bother to send bug spray to daycare, but this year they are terrible. It was the middle of the day! Nora seems to attract mosquitoes anyway (I tell her it’s because she is so sweet) and she has pretty significant reactions to the bites, too. The poor thing gets big red welts at the spot of every bite, and they itch her so bad that she can scratch them until they bleed. Thankfully, we discovered the power of Lavender essential oil last summer. When bug bites do occur, Lavender helps soothe the skin and relieve the itch.

We all know we should be wearing sunscreen at all times, but unfortunately, sunburns still happen on occasion. Lavender is good at helping to soothe all skin irritations, including sunburn (as well as any other burns you may get—campfire, sparklers, grill, etc.). Mix a few drops of Lavender with some aloe vera gel and apply to burned areas.

Bonus points for the fact that it smells good and is really calming to the mind and body!

TERRASHIELD: To prevent those pesky bug bites in the first place, this is our second summer using TerraShield, doTERRA’s Repellent/Outdoor Blend. You guessed it—it’s an insect repellent. This all-natural formula of citronella, cedarwood, and 11 other essential oils can be used on all members of the family. DEET (the active ingredient in many commercial repellents) is a pretty dangerous chemical, and cannot be used on young children. Last summer, I felt completely comfortable spraying my homemade spray (using TerraShield) all over both of my kids, including their heads and faces. I routinely used it on myself as well and it seemed effective every time. It’s also super affordable—at wholesale pricing (which I am happy to extend to you if you contact me), TerraShield is only $9.50 per bottle. You can make several bottles of the homemade bug spray (about 5-10 bottles depending on the ratio that’s effective for you) with just one bottle of the oil blend. Great deal, if you ask me.

PEPPERMINT: Whether sitting at the beach, mowing the lawn, watching a soccer game, or sweating your way through a family barbecue, have you ever wished for a quick and refreshing way to cool down? Peppermint essential oil can be used to make a cooling face and body spray to do just that. Peppermint oil naturally contains menthol, which provides a cooling sensation. Simply add a few drops of Peppermint to a spray bottle of distilled water. Store in the refrigerator when not in use. When needed, shake well and then mist the solution on your skin (make sure to close and/or completely avoid your eyes!).

LEMON: If you follow this blog regularly or follow me on Instagram, you likely know that I am a HUGE fan of Lemon essential oil. It can be used countless times in life. For summer, one useful tip is to use Lemon essential oil as a fruit and veggie wash. It’s best for fruits and veggies with skin (like grapes, apples, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, etc.). You can do the washing a few different ways—by soaking, or with a spray. There are also numerous recipes out there for it, utilizing distilled water, white or apple cider vinegar, salt, baking soda, etc. All “normal,” natural ingredients that are cheap and can be purchased in any grocery store.

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These are just a few of my favorites for summertime. If you happen to be interested in trying any of them for yourself, I’m placing my monthly order within the next few days. As a wholesale account member, I get 25% off of retail prices, and I am happy to extend that discount to you to try the essential oils I’ve come to love so much. Contact me at heatherdriveblog at yahoo dot com ASAP to get in on the order. HAPPY SUMMER!

 

Life is hectic.

Michael and I both work full time. We both CrossFit. Our kids are in daycare. Nora has speech therapy twice a week at home. I’ve been in physical therapy for my hamstring injury. We’ve had pre-kindergarten stuff going on, early intervention evaluations for Vivienne. We are gearing up for Nora’s dance recital so we’ve had photos, extra rehearsals, and more. I’ve traveled twice for work in the past two weeks—one was a quick overnight to Toronto, but the other was a Tuesday-Friday haul to San Francisco. And I’m turning right back around and heading to Seattle for another trip in a couple of weeks. Add in plans with family, friends, birthdays, graduations, and the regular hustle and bustle of this time of year to everyday responsibilities and life can be downright overwhelming.

But also really fun.

My state of mind is so much healthier and happier in these warm weather months that I can’t even complain about any of the above, except for maybe a teensy bit about the work travel. I don’t even really mind except for the fact that it’s just a lot of time away from home in a short period. Thankfully, it’s not the norm so I am looking forward to July when things should calm the heck down for a bit.

Anyway, menu planning has been hard for me lately. Ever since Nora was born, we’ve done a week’s worth of meal planning at a time so that we can (usually) limit the trips to the grocery store to just once a week. We make a big trip on Saturdays and then Michael might run to grab a couple of things on his lunch break on maybe Tuesday or Wednesday—perishable stuff that we’ve already gone through (like bananas, or berries these days!), or a random thing we may have forgotten. It’s a system that has worked really well for us the past ~5 years. But lately, the combination of a lot of stuff on my mind and our busy schedule (therefore necessitating a lot of quick, easy meals) has been rough. I HATE the meal planning task right now.

For a while, I’ve been meaning to formalize the system somehow. Currently, I sit down with a piece of paper on Friday night or early Saturday morning and start jotting down a list of running items we need. Then I turn it over and write down the days of the week, and start slotting meals into those days. I turn the paper over, front and back, figuring out meals on the back and then adding all of the ingredients for those meals onto the front. I use the recipe index on this blog to help me come up with ideas, and of course, we have favorites. We don’t try as many new recipes these days, but I’d like to get more into that habit again. And I want a more organized system.

I’ve taken to Pinterest to solve my problems. And I have gathered inspiration.

Most simply, I’m at the very least going to do something like this:

(Source: Coupon Closet)

It’s obviously just a menu board to help keep things clear for the week. I like these and have been meaning to make one for a while. However, this doesn’t really help with the menu planning aspect. It doesn’t help us come up with the different meals we want to make.

So, I’ve also come across systems like this:

(Source: Our Home Sweet Home)
(Source: Sarah Potter Photography)

So in these versions, you’ve got pre-printed or written cards with recipe names on them and then you just sift through them each week to pick your meals. That would definitely help matters when we’re drawing a blank about what to have, right?

And then I came across this one, which is like the mac daddy of menu planning boards:

(Source: RobbyGurl’s Creations)

This person menu plans FOR THE MONTH, y’all. First of all—I can’t even. Sometimes, I just have a hankering for Mexican. Or I eat like crap on a weekend and feel horrendous and need to eat relatively cleanly through the week to make myself feel better. How am I supposed to know weeks in advance if those things are going to hit? I guess this system would still be highly adaptable—no one is saying that you need to stick to it in stone. Which is maybe why I kind of love it, despite its flaws.

And it would be kind of interesting to see “a month at a glance,” although I would definitely need multiple magnets for some recipes because there are things that are in our rotation once every 2-3 weeks and I actually like it that way. I can’t imagine going a whole month and not eating the same thing twice!

Anyway, the Type-A organizational geek that lives inside of me is THRILLED by this last concept, or at least a version of it. Those cards hanging off of the bottom are THE RECIPES, you guys! No more checking my phone a zillion times to look at each ingredient and the instructions as I cook. But how practical is this, really? And how much time would it actually take to pull this all together? And how likely would I be to actually make new cards/magnets for new recipes we find? Hmm. I suppose my fear is that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with this.

So, in all my spare time, I’m trying to come up with a plan.

Does anyone have a system resembling any of these that you use successfully? Or that you’ve tried and has failed? Any other suggestions? Menu/meal ideas or recommendations for me to add to our rotation?