Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Let the Countdown Begin!

Finn, like most 5 year old kids, can't wait for Christmas. For weeks now he has been asking me over and over again "how many more days until Christmas?". Thankfully, tomorrow is December 1st, and we can begin the official countdown to Christmas...
Last year I made a family-time owl advent calender. The owls above have been hung on our fireplace, and each day holds a piece of paper with something special that we get to do as a family that day. They help remind Finn how many more days until Christmas, and they help remind me how important it is to spend time together as a family.
Here is my December family to-do list, although I still have not figured out what order they will go in. Last year, Todd and I decided each day the night before, leaving some flexibility in our busy schedules!:

1. Decorate the tree
2. Write a letter to Santa
3. Make (and drink) homemade hot cocoa
4. Go ice skating
5. Make holiday cookies to share with friends
6. Donate toys or food to families in need
7. Make a gingerbread house
8. See Christmas carolers
9. Take Finn to the Nutcracker ballet
10. See the infamous Peacock Lane Christmas lights
11. Watch It's a Charlie Brown Christmas
12. Go see the Zoolights display at the Oregon Zoo
13. Make upcycled ornaments
14. Dance to a Christmas album
15. Go out to a family dinner
16. Make a holiday craft
17. Make a Buche de Noel (French Christmas log cake)
18. See the light display at The Grotto
19. Watch a Christmas movie
20. See the decorations downtown
21. Take a holiday hike
22. Go on a spontaneous family adventure
23. Make holiday lanterns
24. Read The Night Before Christmas

Do you have exciting December plans? I would love to know what special plans you have for you and your family! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yarn Along

Happily joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. Now that Christmas is less than a month away (yikes!) I have been making time to knit almost every night. I have temporarily set aside Phoebe's tea leaves sweater in order to work on holiday gifts that need to be mailed. I figure that I can save the kids gifts for last, as I can be working on them until the very last minute. Right now I am in the midst of some bowls (that I will felt) and some mittens and I have 4 other projects that I am just itching to cast on. 
After a couple of weeks of finishing up a lot of books that I was in the middle of, I am now happily back to reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I am happy that I am only reading one book right now, and I am also very happy that it is fiction! Right now my mind needs a break!
What are you reading? What are you knitting?

P.S.- it's so windy here that my book and yarn was blowing in the wind in this photo! Can you tell?!? Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sensory Rice Table

I posted on Sunday about Finn's recent diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). One of his big problem areas is touch. He is extremely sensitive to touch, often is defensive about being touch unexpectedly, and he is not good at deciphering touch (what he is touching or where exactly he was touched). So, to work on some of these touch sensations, I made Finn a rice table.
I bought a whole bunch of white rice and dyed it using food coloring to provide some visual stimulation. We decided to keep in in a shallow plastic storage container that has a snapping lid. We keep it stashed under our bed, and set it on the table when Finn wants to use it. It is fun for Finn to dig around in and to let the rice run through his fingers. I also will bury objects in the rice and he has to find them without looking, or try to figure out what the object is before he pulls it out.
The table can be a bit messy (especially when Miss Phoebe comes to play) but it has been a success so far!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finn, Sensory Processing Disorder, and the Road Ahead

This post has been a long time coming, but, for many weeks now, I just wasn't ready to write it. As some of you know, we have been struggling with Finn for awhile now, realizing that he wasn't quite like other kids, but not sure why he was different. From meltdowns at swimming class to kicking to screaming at the dentist, he was just different. However, we managed to arrange our days to accommodate him and his needs, and so just how different he was from other kids his age was not completely apparent. But, when he started at the pre-k program at our local elementary school in September, his differences became very noticeable. Not only because he was with 25 other same-age children each day, but also because this new (and huge) transition to school was, well, let's just say it brought out his problems in full force.
So, we had Finn evaluated by an early intervention team (through the public school system) as well as an evaluation by a private psychologist and then subsequently by an occupational therapist. We were told that he has a lot of anxiety and also has fairly severe symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD was something I had never heard of until Finn was diagnosed with it, but as soon as I started reading about it, it fit Finn to a tee and explained all of these weird, seemingly unconnected issues that we had been struggling with for the past few years. SPD is hard to explain, especially as it varies from person to person, but essentially, Finn's brain doesn't process many sensations the same way that a 'normal' person's brain would. His brain has trouble organizing the sensations from his body and this disorganization can lead to emotional outbursts, whining, hyperactivity, and many other symptoms that Finn has been dealing with. He has significant issues with touch sensations and has severe tactile defensiveness, which means that touch can (and often does) feel very threatening to him. So things like going to the dentist, getting his hair cut, taking a shower..... things which he has always refused..... are notoriously difficult for children struggling with tactile defensiveness. Now that I know this, I feel terrible for having been so frustrated with him for putting up a fight during these activities in the past.
Although I was sad to discover that my son had a disorder.. and one that can't be cured (but hopefully better managed!)... I was also happy to figure out what was causing his differences, to be able to explain (albeit very generally) why he acts the way he does, and to be on the road to helping him through this.
Over these past couple of months, I have been reading lots and trying to learn as much as I can about Sensory Processing Disorder. For me, I need to understand why something is happening in order to process it all. And  considering that I had never even heard of SPD before September, I feel like I am slowly becoming an expert. In a lot of ways, we are lucky. Most kids who have SPD also have some learning disabilities that come with it, particularly delays in speech and then later in math and reading. Finn's speech is above average, and at 5 years old he is starting to learn to read and already does simple addition, subtraction and multiplication in his head.  This isn't to say that he won't have problems in school later on, because his learning style likely won't exactly 'mesh' with the public system, but at least we know that he is capable of learning easily... we just need to make sure that he is in the right place where he can do that. A lot of kids with SPD also have deficiencies in fine motor abilities, and again, Finn is way beyond his age level there.  Where he does have problems is mostly with his self-regulation... controlling his emotions, regulating different touch sensations.. and with his motor planning.... what to do with himself and how to do it. This is why the smallest change in plans can trigger a huge meltdown or why getting dressed every morning is a huge hour-long affair.
So where are we at now? Finn is going to therapy every other week to help him build confidence in himself and to help him be more flexible with the unexpectedness of life. He is also going to occupational therapy each week to help regulate and organize his sensory inputs. And, we are doing a whole lot of exercises at home to help his brain re-organize sensations. Let's just say it is keeping us pretty busy.
And, things have been getting better... slowly. School is so much better for Finn. Morning drop off is so much less stressful, he has been peeing at school (albeit inconsistently), and he is participating in many more of the activities than he was 2 months ago. And these changes have helped his out of school interactions as well. If we are at the park or around other children, I often find Finn making new friends and interacting with his peers. This is great progress considering that he used to turn away and run to me if a strange child approached him at the park or museum. His social skills are so much better and he becomes comfortable in new situations so much faster than he used to.
However, we still do have struggles. Days at home, especially afternoons after school, can be an emotional roller coaster. Many mornings he simply wakes up mad and crying... and those are the days that never seem to get back on track. Getting dressed is still a struggle, transitions are still hard, and there is still no way that I could ever get him in a dentist's chair without sedation. But, things are improving! We are learning how to help Finn moderate his emotions and he is learning that he can make decisions to empower himself.
We are on a long journey, with a lot left to learn and a long way to go. I know that Finn will never experience sensations like most kids do, but I think that, with our help, he can succeed in both school and life. Now it's just about staying focused and making good decisions.
Do any of you have children diagnosed with SPD? If so, I would love to know how it has affected your child and what has worked for you! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 23, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

November is a month of gratitude. A month of appreciating others in our lives and giving thanks for what we have. Each day for the past couple of weeks, Finn and I have been writing down what we are thankful for and hanging it from our seasonal tree. While I have been thankful for things like my family and friends, food to eat, and a warm home, Finn has been more appreciative of the things that make him happy in the moment, like puzzles and ice cream. And, I must say, those things are pretty good too.
We also made our yearly hand-print turkeys and Phoebe was ecstatic to be participating. I can't believe that Thanksgiving is only a few days away and that we are nearing the end of 2012!
Have you done any fun Thanksgiving crafts?

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Friday, November 16, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Phoebe at the Farm (and some cute turkeys too!)

This morning I had the chance to take my environmental science students to Zenger Farm, which is a non-profit educational farm just a few miles away from my house. At the last minute, childcare plans fell through and Phoebe ended up 'getting' to tag along. And... she had a blast. She thought the turkeys were basically the coolest thing in the world and when we sampled the raw veggies (chard, collard greens and green garlic shoots) she loved them all. So much so that at the store on the way home, she pointed to the collards ("mama, that one") and asked for them. And, asked to eat some in the car on the way home! Who would have known? She doesn't like them cooked, but maybe it is a texture thing for her. It made me realize that I should be trying out a lot more raw veggies with my kids and seeing what happens.
Anyways, it was a perfect day for a farm trip... sunny skies, crisp air, and a little bit of nature, Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yarn Along

Happily joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. The pressure of Christmas gifting has set in and I have been getting back into the rhythm of nightly knitting. I am still working on Phoebe's tea leaves sweater and I am almost done with the body. I am loving the way it is turning out so far. I just need to decide if I am going to do the 3/4 length sleeves, as written in the pattern, or if I am going to make them longer for cool winter days. I also started a mystery holiday gift yesterday. My knitting list is long, so I need to stay motivated!
As for reading, I am reading snippets of books here and there. Not having time to read much at once, I seem to read a chapter of one book one day and then a chapter of a different book the next. I actually hate when I do this... start reading way too many books at once and then I am not sure where to focus my energy. I guess for now I will keep chugging along and eventually I will finish something, right? Maybe my new years resolution should be to stay focused!
What are you knitting? What are you reading? Pin It Now!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finn's Lego Star Wars Birthday Party

Each year, Finn enjoys deciding on his birthday theme and helping me to plan the details. This year the theme was Lego Star Wars. If you have seen my posts about our Halloween pumpkins or our Halloween costumes, you will know that Star Wars is a hot topic in our home these days. But, when Finn told me he wanted a Lego Star Wars birthday party, I was a little nervous because it seemed really specific.
Well, let me tell you, I had no need to worry. Apparently, Lego Star Wars birthday parties are so common that not only was I able to find (and splurge for) Lego Star Wars cake plates, but there are also about a million ideas on pinterest for a Lego Star Wars party. Who knew? So, needless to say, I "borrowed" many of these awesome ideas created by Lego Star Wars party planners before me, and got to work.

First off, for a countdown to the party, I created a Yoda (with some help from Finn) that would live on our coat closet door. Each day, Finn got to remove a star.

Now, for the details of the party.

As always, I made Finn a birthday bunting. I figured this may be my last year of making him one before he decides they are too babyish. But, I found a ton of Star Wars fabric, so I think this one was a winner.

After seeing this cute cake, I wanted to make Finn's cake look like a Lego also. Except that I didn't use fondant (because it tastes terrible) so mine is not nearly as cute. But, considering that it just gets demolished anyways, no biggie. All I did was make a rectangular cake and then put 6 upside down cupcakes on top before I frosted it. Added a few of Finn's Lego Star Wars figures and a few lightsaber cupcakes toppers that I ordered and we were all set. I also made a few maple cupcakes (with and without bacon) for the older crew.

To keep the kids busy, we thought of a few fun activities. First I printed out some Star Wars coloring sheets and put them out with a bunch of markers. Everyone likes to color, right? Next, I found some print-your-own Star Wars masks here. I printed them out on card stock, cut out eye holes and attached elastic. We then had glitter glue available for decorating them. The kids loved it, but since they had to wait for the glue to dry, they didn't actually get to wear them. I probably just should have used markers instead. Oh well. The last activity was spin-art and it was a HUGE hit. I bought 2 spin art machines for Finn for his birthday for $10 each, and there was a line of kids the entire time. These were a great value for the money and I am definitely going to use them out for Phoebe's birthday in March.

Finn also requested a Death Star pinata. I thought, hmmmm... how will I ever make that. On a whim, I decided to google "how to make a death star pinata" and there are about 20 entries specifically on how to do that. Clearly, Star Wars parties are pretty hip these days! Well, I didn't have any circular balloons, so my Death Star looked more like a Death Blimp. But, I made that crater part and decorated it with silver glitter and it looked halfway decent (the lighting is terrible in my husband's office, where we had the party, so these pictures are pretty awful). Anyways, I decided to do a ribbon pinata, where there are a bunch of ribbons to pull, instead of bashing the pinata with a stick. Safer, you know? Problem was, Finn pulled the correct ribbon on the first try, and it opened, but not all the way and nothing fell out. So, Todd had to rip it open more and pull the stuff out. Totally anti-climactic. But, there were bouncy balls and stickers and wall crawlers and everyone was happy anyways.

I wanted to give out goodie bags, but I didn't want to give out a bunch of candy or junk that would become quick trash. But, with 20 kids coming, I also had to try and budget. So, the contents of the gift bags were simple. A store bought Lego mystery pack (with a mystery figure) and a home-made lightsaber. To make the lightsabers, I just ordered some glowsticks and covered the base with duct tape and electrical tape. I found my inspiration for those here. They were a huge hit. We handed the goodie bags out about 30 minutes before the party was over and there was a giant lightsaber war. The kids thought it was awesome!

And, when I saw these Lego-inspired gift bags, I just knew I had to make some for Finn's party.. way too cute, right? They were a little time consuming, but not too hard. I just bought card stock the same color as the bags and borrowed a friend's circular punch to cut out circles. I used a piece of foam that was sticky on one side, cut out small squares, and adhered them to the bag where I wanted the circles to go. Then I used a hot glue gun to glue the circles to the foam pieces. This made the circles raised up, just like a real Lego. To make the gift tags, I had to download Lego font (which I didn't even know existed prior to this), but I thought they came out super cute.

So, the party was a success. We had about 60 people. Everyone had fun, there were no major injuries or meltdowns, and the birthday boy was happy. Planning these parties and watching Finn have so much fun with his friends is such a joy, but man, I will say that I breathed a huge sigh of relief as soon as it was over. Birthday mission accomplished, so now I can move on to Christmas preparations!

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Joining in with the other Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday.

Today I am feeling very grateful that we are in the midst of a four day weekend. Finn's birthday party was on Saturday morning and was a huge success (more on that in a future post). Last night we spent the night in a the mountains with some friends, eating and enjoying each others' company. And today I am feeling very lazy. I am so thankful that I have today to rest and tomorrow to rejuvenate and re-motivate before the start of another busy week! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday Finn!

5 years ago today I became a mother for the first time and my life was forever changed. I now share my life with an amazing little boy who teaches me so much every day, who reminds me how innocent and vulnerable young children are, and who, despite our ups and downs, I will love unconditionally for all of my days. We have been on quite a journey these past 5 years, and even though these years have gone by in the blink of an eye, so much has happened. I am such a different person than I was 5 years ago, in ways both good and bad, but I am so thankful to have Finn in my life to teach me what life truly is and what is truly important.
Finn, my favorite little guy, my world of wonder and inspiration- I love you so VERY much. Happy birthday to you and I hope your 6th year of life brings you much happiness!

3 weeks old
3 weeks old
1 year
2 years
3 years
4 years
Isn't he just so darn cute!?!

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day.....

Please make sure to vote!
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Monday, November 5, 2012


Happily joining in with Amanda at Habit of Being for another weekending post.

This weekend was just the gals. Todd took Finn to Nashville for a very special family outing, and I stayed behind with little Phoebe. This weekend made me realize a couple of things. First off, Phoebe is so sweet and silly (which I of course already knew), but when she gets 100% of the attention, she is extra-specially fantastic. I'm not sure if it is because she was actually getting to nap and not get woken up, or because she wasn't having to compete with Finn for attention, but she was a complete joy. No meltdowns, less furniture climbing, lots of silliness. The second thing I realized is that I really miss my boys when they are not around. Yes, it is quieter. Yes, it is cleaner. But, honestly, it is also pretty boring. Don't get me wrong,  I have accomplished many things this weekend that I wouldn't have if Todd and Finn were here, but I was feeling a wee-bit lonely all weekend missing the noises and activities that are part of their routine. So, I feel very lucky to have had some alone time with my little one, but I am also anxiously awaiting the return of my guys.

This weekend was....

dropping off the boys at the airport

running some errands with only one kid in tow

bringing Phoebe to storytime at the library

doing A LOT of prep work for Finn's party next weekend

finding time to grade and prep for class next week

a morning visit to the Children's Museum where Phoebe could roam where ever she pleased.

doing some deep cleaning that really needed to get done, and choosing to not do some other deep cleaning that should have been done

making some lip balms for holiday gifts

Saturday night dinner at the local tacqueria with my date Phoebe. While we waited for our food, I had a margarita and she had a cup of ice

lots of walks

lots of children's books

lots of netflix

and a little bit of knitting.

How was your weekend?

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Joining in with the other Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday.

This weekend I have been blessed to spend some mama-daughter time with my younger child, Phoebe, while my husband took my son on a special trip. With your first child, the world revolves around them. You can let them lead the days, nap when they are tired, and watch their every accomplishment. As the second child, however, Phoebe is often woken from her slumber, carried off in the middle of an activity so that I can accommodate Finn, and doesn't get nearly the amount of attention that he did at this age.
I am feeling very grateful to have this special time with my daughter. To have her be the center of my attention, just for a wee bit, is such a wonderful feeling.
Additionally, having a couple of days without my husband and my son makes me realize how integral they are to my days and how lacking life is without them. Living life without them, for however brief a time, makes me realize how grateful I am for them both. Pin It Now!

Friday, November 2, 2012

This Moment

This week, I would like to send my thoughts out to all of those who have been affected by Huricane Sandy. Living on the West Coast, so far away, it seems almost like a surreal dream.....while I am here in my life-as-usual routine, so many are suffering huge losses. My heart goes out to all of those who have been affected by Sandy, and I hope that life returns back to normal as quickly as possible.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.
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