Friday, October 16, 2015

Musings From Natalie #117

Natalie: "Mom, what do you think humans will evolve into?"
Me: "Hmmm...what do you mean?"
Natalie: "Well, I've seen pictures that show a chimpanzee becoming a human and wondered -- what's next."
Me: ?
Natalie: "I think we'll become pegususes."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Deep Thoughts From Noah #69

"Mom, if you could have a super power what would it be?"...

Me: "I've always wanted to fly."

Natalie: "I'd like to have the Midas touch...only instead of gold I'd be able to turn anything into candy.  I'd just have the power with my left hand though."

Noah: "I wish every time I ate a piece of bacon I could make a new piece appear!"

"My Miriam Story"

Recently I was asked to share our family's "Miriam Story". Miriam School is a private school located in Webster Groves, MO that serves children with learning disabilities.

AndreaFNow that back-to-school season is upon us, it isn’t unusual to hear an audible, collective sigh of relief among parents as they drop their kids off each morning. Carefree summer days are great, but after a few weeks juggling work while keeping kids entertained in things other than screens is anything but relaxing. However, I remember when I’d give anything for the school year to be over for my child.

I vividly recall the morning of my son Noah’s first day of kindergarten. He and I entered into a sort of wrestling match to get him dressed for school. When he refused to walk to the car I carried him while he kicked and screamed in protest. He unbelted himself as quickly as I belted him back in. By the time we reached school, we were both exhausted, but getting him into the car proved to be much easier than getting him out. He held onto the back of the driver’s headrest with a death grip. This tearful battle continued for weeks yet when it subsided other troubles cropped up at school.
Noah is on the autism spectrum and struggles with a host of learning challenges including expressive language, sensory processing, hand-writing, reading comprehension, and social skills. But, the big hairy challenge which covers every inch of his being is anxiety – the cornerstone that links kids on the spectrum together. It’s part of their fabric and not something one can simply medicate away.

After Noah’s first year of school, we were introduced to Miriam and began enrolling him in social skills classes through the Learning Center. For years, we continued to supplement his education in this way, but it wasn’t enough. Despite monthly “team meetings” with his teachers and therapists, the gap between him and his peers continued to grow. By the time he hit fourth grade, social circles had completely inched him out. He felt defeated and was becoming more withdrawn each day.
“Mom, it’s not like kids are mean to me…it’s just that they completely ignore me,” he said.
Fast forward to today, Noah is in his second year at Miriam School. He looks forward to going to school every day. He has a solid, circle of friends and he’s thriving. In the evenings he now asks for extra reading time before bed.

Extra reading time!

When I asked Noah what he liked most about Miriam School his answer took me by surprise. He didn’t mention the school’s gigantic OT room complete with a ball pit, obstacle course and a variety of swings. He didn’t say it was because he now has a bunch of friends who appreciate and share his unique sense of humor. He didn’t refer to Miriam’s dynamic team of teachers and therapists who never tire of unlocking his potential. Instead, Noah said, “Miriam School makes me feel safe.”

Me too, buddy.

As a parent, Miriam School gives me the assurance I am giving my child the best chance at life. I trust the teachers and therapists will do all they humanly can – to ensure my son is successful. And, it reminds me of a quote by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I’m so grateful to Miriam School for helping kids and their families feel safe and good and enough.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

National Alpaca Farm Days 2015

Last weekend our family participated in National Alpaca Farm Days. An opportunity to enjoy a leisurely drive to the country while soaking in the sunshine and fresh air. Northern Prairie Alpaca is located about an hour from St. Louis in Sullivan, MO. The moment we pulled up we were warmly greeted by owners, Les & Deb Wellinghoff. who kindly directed us to a nearby pen and let the kids hand feed the animals.

The Wellinghoff's have been raising alpacas for six years.  Though Les is quick to interject Deb is in charge of the farm - he just works for her. Deb's love for her herd is evident as she shared her passion and knowledge for these curious, docile creatures. She is committed to the health and well-being of her herd and loves to educate others about the unique qualities of alpacas.

While she has 20 alpacas, one thing worth noting is her farm does not smell -- at ALL.  That's because alpacas are considerate beasts.  They mainly eat just grass or hay (and not much of it) A 60 lb. bale of hay can feed a group of about 20 alpacas for a day.  In addition, herds establish communal dung piles which Deb and her husband clean up twice a day. They are also fairly quiet and generally make only a pleasant humming sound as a means of communication.  Occasionally you will hear a shrill alarm call if they are frightened.  Male alpacas make a guttural, throaty sound called orgling to attract females during breeding.

It was a relaxing and fun visit.  We look forward to their next event.  In addition to making and selling alpaca products, Deb hosts a variety of classes including weaving and animal listening by listening expert, Cindy Meyers. To learn more about alpacas or to register for a class, visit Northern Prairie's FB page.

Fun facts:
*baby alpacas are called cria

*alpacas do not have hooves -- instead they have two toes with hard toenails on top and a soft pad on the bottoms of their feet which minimizes their effect on pastures and makes them an "environmentally friendly" animal

*alpaca fiber is stronger, lighter, 30% warmer and four times less abrasive than merino wool of the same weight. It's also considered "hypo-allergenic" because unlike sheep wool, it contains no lanolin  which can cause skin irritations.

*there are two types of alpaca: Huacaya (which produce a dense, soft, crimpy sheep-like fiber), and the Suri (with silky pencil-like locks, resembling dreadlocks but without matted fibers).

White Lightning is their newest addition - just 9 days old at the time of our visit.
Deb shows us Sunkissed's lips (similar to a camel's). Alpacas only have front teeth on the bottom and a hard gum on top for crushing grain. Unlike goats and sheep that have long tongues and can rip plants and grass from the root, alpacas have short tongues and nibble only the tops of grasses and other plants. Making them better for the environment.

Glamorous Grace kept an eye on our Natalie Grace.

Deb makes and sells yarn and lots of beautiful products made from alpaca fiber.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Deep Thoughts From Noah #68

Noah: "Mom, I wish we had cable.  That way I'd get to watch all the commercials and they would tell me what I want for Christmas."