Using Visuals to Organize our Art Closet

We've got art ladies and gentlemen. LOTS of art going on in this Swift Abode. So much so that sometimes it can wreak havoc on said Swift Abode in its overflowing corners and closets of our home.

Ah! That's embarrassing.

Growing up I saved everything with hopes of using it for a future art project. Scraps of paper? Art project. Bits of yarn? Art project. Leftover pieces of fabric? Art project. That yucky aluminum can that held our corn last night and my mom tried to throw away? An art project. Everything was saved for the sake of art. I even remember one time accidentally breaking a bracelet of mine only to grab a Ziploc baggie to save the beads for another future piece of jewelry. Oh, Lordy.

As I've gotten older (and have gotten better at purging) I haven't saved quite as much. That being said, we still have a lot of art and art supplies going on in this home and with all the art that Miss Rosie loves to do it sometimes can get a bit crazy up in here.

With that in mind, I've been wanting to give our art closet a makeover. My goal originally was just to get it organized. Then last weekend Chris and I attended the Annual National Down Syndrome Congress Convention in Dallas, Texas. We learned so much information while we were there. Like so much that our minds were kind of exploding a bit when we left. (Seriously, between the two of us we went to ten separate workshops ranging in topics from speech and physical therapy to new, advanced research in the field). 

But one of the key things that stood out to me was about how VISUAL individuals with Down syndrome are. I remember reading about it in the early days of Lindie's life while I sat beside her clear incubator in the NICU.  From what we've heard and read it seems that providing a visual example with most things can help with learning.

This week, with the closet on my mind and wanting to incorporate more visuals in our home for Lindie, and honestly knowing that visuals would only help Miss Rosie too, I organized our art closet with pictures alongside their labels.
This project was super simple. I used nine square boxes we had lying around (although totes would work great too) and images I found online. I just printed and taped them on each box.

My hope is that it would provide an easier way to keep things organized AND that Lindie would be able to find things too when it's time for for her to start making her own art projects. (Because if I'm going to expect her future schools to adapt and modify things there, then I need to start adapting and modifying at home, right)? 
I'm also anxious to see how the visuals help Eliza in learning the words on the labels.

What are you doing, would like to do or have done to adapt your home for your little one? I'd love to hear your ideas!


And don't you just love these sweet sisters. They're the best.

Educational Apps for Summer Traveling

our family at Pikes Peak earlier this month

Before we left for vacation last month we downloaded a few apps on our iPad for Eliza. Two of the apps we downloaded were the Kidlo English App and the Kidlo Math Games. We love having educational games on our iPad or phones when the need arrives and, although Eliza doesn't enjoy playing games as much as she used to on the iPad, I personally love having something available as backup.
 The Kidlo English App divides up the content into PreK, K, and Grade 1, which I appreciate since she is younger. It has bright colors and fun songs. Eliza thinks some of the videos are hilarious, and although it didn't keep her attention for too long (again, lately she's been uninterested in the iPad), it was a great resource to have around. The Kidlo English App has everything from basic letters (uppercase and lowercase), to learning phonics, learning to write and spell, identifying common words and colors and shapes. It has an option to download certain letters, categories or everything (if you have enough space!), which is a great option if you don't have constant access to internet. (Like when you're driving in the car 12 hours on a road trip)!
The Kidlo Math Games divides the content into PreK and K and has many of the same features: bright colors, playful songs and an easy downloading option. It has everything from basic numbers, geometry, sorting and organizing, counting, comparison and patterns.

If you are in need of an educational app this summer for your traveling, or really for any reason at all, Eliza and I recommend the Kidlo English App and the Kidlo Math Games!

(The above links are for the Apple app links. If you're looking for the Android links check out the Android Kidlo English App and the Android Kidlo Math Games)!

five mickey button G-tube tips & tricks

Tomorrow will be one year since Lindie girl got her gastrostomy tube (G-tube). Initially, we were terrified of the idea of it, not wanting anything "extra" or "invasive." At the same time, we were exhausted of the daily NICU routine. Lindie struggled with eating during her entire 35 day stay in the NICU, not to mention the days before we arrived at the NICU. We syringe fed. We tried breastfeeding. We tried bottle feeding- bottle after bottle, nipple after nipple- all with no improvement. Finally, at the beginning of April we were ready for the "G-tube conversation" with her doctors.

We chose the G-tube for a couple reasons. One, our local children's hospital won't send babies home on an NG-tube (Nasogastric tube). So even though she did have an NG-tube for a few weeks in the NICU, it was not an option for us to go home with one. And two, we had been going back and forth to the hospital for a month with our two year old daughter. We were exhausted. She was exhausted. Chris was back at work. We were depending on our parents, who had been using their own sick days and personal days to help us get through. Life was crazy. We were ready to be home and begin our lives as a family of four and get some normalcy under our belts. The G-tube allowed that. It allowed us the ability to continue to try to breastfeed and bottle feed, while having the G-tube as a safety net.
I remember struggling with the fear of "just giving in" getting the G-tube and that if we could "just figure something out" we could make Lindie want to eat and then she wouldn't need it.

It makes sense if you know me. I'm a pretty non-invasive gal. I opted for two medicine-free, all natural child births. When I have a headache, I drink more water instead of take Tylenol. And when my kids are sick, I am hesitant to go straight to the meds. So the idea of getting a G-tube felt like a failure.
But Lindie needed it. She needed nourishment and it wasn't best for her to continue hanging in the NICU when she could be at home. It wasn't the best for her and it wasn't the best for our family. So we chose the mickey button G-tube.
On April 4, 2017 Lindie had surgery to put it in. It was pretty typical. She healed and we learned how to feed her with the mickey button G-tube. One week later we went home!
At first the G-tube felt like alien territory. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. I wouldn't leave the house for fear of having to (gasp!) tube feed her in public. I didn't know if a little redness was too much redness or a little moisture was too much moisture. I had no clue!

It got a lot easier with time. I grew more confident and learned how to tube Lindie in a variety of places: doctor's offices, coffee shops, parks and ballet studios- wherever babies eat, I G-tubed Lindie there! (And still do).
Now that's it been a year I feel a lot more confident as a Mama of a tubie. I've grown really thankful for Lindie's G-tube and am so happy we got it when we did. I also feel like I've learned a few tricks here and there when it comes to taking care of a babe with a mickey button G-tube, so I wanted to share some of those.
ONE, don't be afraid to call your pediatric surgeon. Seriously. I called them like five times in the first month home and about four of those times went into the office to get her G-tube checked. Lindie had a good amount of granulation tissue early on while her G-tube site was still healing. I was so thankful for our Pediatric Surgeon and his PAs who were always so helpful and kind. They would usually use some silver nitrate to help get rid of the granulation tissue. And eventually her G-tube site healed enough that the granulation tissue went away for good.
TWO, get yourself some Calmoseptine Ointment. (Also known as butt cream. Seriously! When Chris went to Walgreens to buy it he asked the pharmacy tech where to find Calmoseptine and she said, "Like the butt cream?" Poor guy!)

Early on when we first brought Lindie home her G-tube was still fresh. It took a good month or two to fully heal. In that time we dealt with a lot of redness and granulation tissue. I wish I had known about Calmoseptine then (and maybe I did but was too overwhelmed to remember at the time) but Calmoseptine is so great if you notice any redness. It clears it up quick! I just used some on Lindie tonight!
THREE, use a Boppy while G-tubing. When Lindie was little she had a lot of reflux. She needed to be G-tubed at an incline. We loved using the Boppy for this reason. As she got older, we began to tube her while sitting in a high chair, but the Boppy was so handy before she could sit up on her own.
FOUR, buy some G-tube covers. I was hesitant to buy these at first. Chris and I are pretty frugal, so I didn't want to buy anything "extra" if it wasn't necessary. I thought they were just for looks, but I quickly learned that they're not. For Lindie, the G-tube covers, or G-tube pads, help absorb extra moisture (leaking milk or stomach juices, maybe?) that comes out of her G-tube site from time to time. It's not a lot, but enough that if she doesn't have anything around her mickey button the extra moisture causes redness. However, if we use a G-tube cover then she's good to go! We usually use one all day and switch it out at night before she goes to bed. You can find them on Etsy or Amazon. Our favorite shop is Fashion Tubies.
FIVE, be strategic with clothing. One of my biggest fears is that Lindie will accidentally pull out her G-tube. (Ouch)! We've had a few close calls- once in the bathtub and a few times while feeding her, but typically Lindie is in a onesie or romper so that she doesn't have access to her mickey button. Very seldom will we dress her in anything else just for this reason.

Also, When Lindie wears onesies I dress her with the onesie on top of her pants (like the picture above). This allows easy access to her mickey button without having to take off their pants, which really is no fun in the winter time. I didn't discover this until Lindie was 10 months old, and I wish I had discovered it sooner!

And finally, in the summer I dress Lindie in snap-up rompers because they're so easy for tube feeding. Our favorites snap-up rompers are from Carters. I just bought her five for the summer because they are so easy!
Lindie has had the mickey button G-tube for the majority of her life. If you would have told me a year ago she would still have it and be using it today, I would have been really disappointed. And there is part of me that is bummed that she still has it and uses it daily.

That being said, I am so happy we got it when we did! Because of the G-tube, we are able to work with Lindie at her pace with eating. We are able to do therapy and try new strategies and allow her to have a voice in what she likes and doesn't like and do all this without the stress of worrying about nutrition- all because of the G-tube. For that I am so grateful!

If you're interested in our feeding routine, check out my Feeding Therapy Instastory over at @aimeeswift. I explain all of that there!

T H I R T Y - T W O

We love our man.
And on Monday he turns 32.
We met when we were 18 or 19. In college. We can't really remember the exact moment we met.
He became my best friend when we were 21. We got engaged at 22 and married at 23. And now he's about to be 32! Cray. Cray.
(That also means I'm soon to be 32 as well).

So thankful for him everyday!
Wish him a H A P P Y birthday if you see him!

Also, don't forget to enter the G I V E A W A Y with JORD! Click HERE to enter.

A Wooden Watch for Him This Valentine's Day

Every year for Valentine's Day, Mr. Christopher and I make the same plan- to not get each other gifts and to instead plan a date night out and call it good. And yet every year Mr. Christopher brings home flowers on Valentine's Day and usually something sweet and every year I give him a date night out and call it good.

I used to be better about these sorts of things, back when we had more free time and less children. I love celebrating any special occasion and do a pretty darn good job for most things, but Valentine's Day (for Chris at least) always seems to skirt by without much thought for him. Poor guy.

This year I changed my tune by gifting him a beautiful wood watch from JORD. The girls happily helped.

We've grown up a bit in the last few years, so I was happy to gift him something to match and celebrate that- something unique, special and manly all wrapped up in one.
JORD has so many wood watches to choose from. For him, I chose the Dark Sandalwood & Smoke wood watch from the Frankie Series. I loved it's simplicity and color and knew it would easily match his work attire as well as his casual home and weekend attire. They have lots of great wood watches for men.

Not only that, they also have women's wood watches too. I've kinda had my eye on the Zebra & Ivory wood watch because it's dreeeeeamy. (Hint, hint. Mother's Day Mr. Christopher).
And because we love you and we love a good giveaway too, we've collaborated with JORD to offer you a chance to win $100 gift code to use on the JORD site! To enter, click HERE or the link below. The giveaway ends February 25th at 11:59 PM, so be sure to enter before it does!


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PreK & not being in control

Recently we began the process of enrolling Eliza in public school PreK. In Tulsa there are a few different options. There are the traditional neighborhood public schools. Ours is less than a mile from our home. Then there's the magnet schools. Three to be exact. Only one is free for PreK, however. And then there's always the option of transferring to a different neighborhood school. Not to mention the other options: private school (which is out of the question regardless because of money) or homeschooling (a definite option and pretty common in the Tulsa area).

Thinking about everything back in the fall so easily overwhelmed me. I didn't even know where to begin, not to mention having to decide what option was "best" for Eliza.

Knowing the enrollment date was in early February, I began doing some research back before Christmas. Part of me wanted to just go the easy way out and not research anything or attempt to put her in any of the magnet schools (or "lottery" schools), for fear of being rejected anyway and having all that time and effort wasted.

But then I remembered how many appointments I attend for Lindie each week and how Eliza faithfully and cheerfully attends alongside. And I remembered how much time and energy I put into Lindie's needs and that Eliza only has one event in a given week that requires my attention and scheduling: dance. With that in mind, I reached out to our neighborhood association for input and started putting the pieces together. After a few hours combined of perusing school websites and talking with Chris, I decided to visit Mayo Demonstration School- a magnet school in the heart of Tulsa that is actually free for PreK. I set up my tour date (a requirement to even be able to apply) and made a plan.

It was slightly surreal walking into an elementary school thinking of my little Rosie walking down the hallways. She still seems so small and young and fragile and not ready. But she's 3 going on 4, even though I still think of her as my tiny baby I'm realizing she's not. Sadly.

After the tour I came home encouraged but also still very unsure of what is "best" for Eliza. Going to a magnet school would definitely be a great option for her, but it would also require me to drive her across town everyday versus going to school right in our neighborhood, a mere two minute drive. It would also mean we wouldn't be eligible to apply to the other magnet schools, one of which is right next to the Little Light House, an amazing, gospel-centered and free school for children with disabilities of which Lindie is on the wait list for.

And of course theres always the concerns in the back of my mind for Lindie. Whatever school Eliza goes to I would, of course, consider for Lindie and yet I'm still so new and fresh with everything that I have barely even begun thinking about IEPs and special education programs and the millions and bajillions of future meetings I'm sure I will sit in with teachers and faculty to talk about and advocate for what is best for Lindie.

How am I to know Eliza's best or Lindie's best for all these things now? How am I to know any of that?

And then I remembered that I don't.

An old friend recently contacted me and told me that she was reminded of how God orchestrated our move to Tulsa from Missouri a little over two yersas ago and how incredible it is to think on it. There was so much that had to fall in place for that to even happen. Just thinking about Tulsa itself- I had never stepped foot in Tulsa (except maybe for a pee break once on the way to my sister's house) before the weekend we traveled to Tulsa for Chris's job offer. And yet here I am living and breathing in Tulsa with friends and a church body and, even better, there is an amazing, gospel-centered, free school for children with disabilities and I live less than a mile from it with a baby with Down syndrome!

God knew! He knew it all and orchestrated our move knowing it would allow sweet Lindie to attend the Little Light House and here I am worrying about sending Eliza to this school or that. Obviously he can and will put Eliza exactly where he wants her to be, whether that is Mayo or our neighborhood school or homeschooling or whatever he decides. He knows and he's in charge and I don't have to be.

And what a relief that I don't have to be.

So last week when I submitted the application for the magnet school I breathed a breath of relief. Not because I figured it all out or know the answers or can hope for one thing or another, but that I know that whatever happens happens. The Lord's hand is over it all. He cares about Eliza. He cares about her future. And he knows exactly what will happen and where she will be next year, even if I don't.

For that I am so grateful.

WHOLE30 update

Today is officially day 9 of my first go at the WHOLE30. I decided to try out the WHOLE30 as an attempt to eat healthier. And surprisingly it has felt easier than I thought it would be, albeit it is only day 9 of 30.

So far the hardest part has been guarding myself so I don't accidentally snack on something that is non-compliant while making Miss Rosie's meals. (Today I *literally* licked my finger-o-jam after making her a PB&J and immediately spit it out in the sink. I think she was very confused).

That's not to say that it hasn't been a cake-walk. I miss my chocolate and ice cream and chips and salsa. I even miss the occasional cream in my coffee, or at least having the option. But overall, it hasn't been that bad.

And already 9 days in theres a few things I've begun to notice:

  • No headaches. For a long time I've woken up to headaches in the morning. Not every morning, but more mornings than not. I've always attributed it to a lack of water, so I usually start the day by drinking a glass of water. Yet, since beginning the WHOLE30 I haven't woken up with a headache once. That's awesome!
  • WAAAAY more energy! Like for reals. Remember when I used to have a blog and I was really crafty and blogged like a million times a week? That was because I had a lot of ENERGY. That was pre-children, obviously. Since beginning the WHOLE30 I have had much more energy. I am not super tired at night when I go to bed, and I wake up pretty lively in the morning earlier than I had been waking up. Score!
  • Those crazy cravings. I also have realized a little more about my cravings. My cravings for something sweet peaks in the afternoon (around the girls' rest times) and after dinner. And now that I know this I have realized that on most days pre-WHOLE30 I allowed myself to eat sweets at least twice a day, during those craving times. Something to change going forward.

I've also learned a few things (and bought a few things). I learned how to make Spaghetti Squash and Shepherd's Pie. I've perfected the "perfect seared chicken breast" and I've already finished one bottle of extra-virgin olive oil. I had to buy a zester (how did I get by on 8.5 years of marriage without a zester?) and a second potato peeler (where, oh where, did the first one go?). And I finally tried coconut milk! (It's just okay).

It's been a good experience so far. I love that I am doing something that requires discipline in the area of eating. I love that I'm learning more about food in general. And I'm eager to see how my body will feel in 12 days. I'm especially eager to see how my body will react when reintroducing foods. 

So, wish me luck! I can't wait to update when I finish. If you interested in learning more about the WHOLE30 you can find the book HERE or in your public library!
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