Snow is Magical

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Snowfall is magical. It’s especially enchanting when it occurs overnight and you wake to the wonder of white. I can say the only thing I like about waking up at 4am with our dog  is moments like this. I actually walked her around the entire block. Our normal “black as night” walk was bright and lit up with the power of nature. The snowflakes glistened off the occasional street light and more so off the Christmas lights. It was probably one of the best moments in the past month. The silent of the night, the glistening snow and the feeling that something magical is in the air.

It’s interesting how something as simple as snow can change one’s perspective. Our dog, Snickers, got diagnosed with a mass on her spleen and it causes her to have extra pressure on her bladder. She’s been doing great- making it about 6 hrs. That means when you go to bed at 10pm she wakes you up at 4am and after a month or so of this I’ve gotten used to my newfound morning.

The coffee is brewing and I can start editing my book some more. It’s not a loss of time but a huge gain of it. I am lucky and I should hopefully continue to feel this way. Makes me think of the time change. Before the time change, Snickers would wake up at 5am. I partially wonder if part of her early wake-ups is that she doesn’t read a clock and knows that this is when she wakes up! Whatever the reason she’s given me a gift. The nudge I needed to write and finish this book and the clarity of moments like this when I get to see the world in a whole new light.

I hope the snow sticks around for a few days and I wish for another dusting, if not more, for Christmas. It really does change things. It makes things much more exciting. We will be getting our tree this morning so the snow can melt off in the garage before we bring it in and decorate it. Decorating is a lot like snow. You transform a green tree to a magical brightly lit amazing masterpiece. We have ornaments from years gone by and they bring back so many memories that is magic all by itself.

So enjoy the magic wherever you can find it. Be it snow, or holiday decorations or somewhere else, look for the magic. It changes your perspective and makes life special.

Friday- a day to prepare for amazing

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Fridays are amazing. At least they are for me. It’s the day I can prepare for the weekend and for Friday nights. Friday night is family night- games, popcorn, cookies, pizza, movies. It’s time to rejoice at the end of the workweek and to not to have to do any homework and to just have fun after a long week of work and school.

I am a stay-at-home mom so I am never off-duty but I am able to enjoy myself throughout the week and it brings me joy to prepare for Friday evenings when my husband and my kids can toss off the worries of the week and just enjoy themselves.

Today is going to be great. Cole, who has had some medical issues lately, is back to school and it’s a band field trip to play Christmas Carols at an Old Folks Home. Meghan and Quinn have regular school days and John gets to work from home today (maybe a lunch date is in our future?). No matter what we can have a great evening together.

We started the weekend early last night when we all stopped everything we were doing to watch “Psych- the Movie” complete with Pineapple dump cake. It was a homage to the pineapple in every single episode and something silly to make it fun. We had a great time and enjoyed sitting together on a Thursday evening. Normally it’s a rush of homework and reading and bedtimes but we took 2 hours and just sat together and laughed.

We may luck out and get some snow tonight too. I’m excited because tomorrow we will get our Tree. Tonight we should probably make room in the living room for it. There is really no good place to put it so we have to figure out how to reconfigure the room so we can still sit and watch TV but also sit and look at a beautiful Christmas tree. Hopefully we figure it out.

Life is good and Friday is a great way to start the weekend and begin to reboot for another long week ahead. So go and enjoy your Friday. I know we will.

The Beauty of the Night…

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I am getting used to my newfound 3-4am wake up. Our dog, Snickers, has a mass on her spleen and this causes pressure on her bladder and we need to take her out every 5 hours. So if you go to bed at 10pm she needs to go out at 3am or 11pm 4am. So no matter what Mon-Fri it’s my job to wake up and take her out. At first it was awful. I felt so tired every single day. Now I look forward to the beauty of the night.

Tonight for example or rather early this morning, I saw snow! A beautiful sparkly display that I got to enjoy in the peace and quiet of the night. Pitch black with the glow of Christmas lights on the neighborhood houses. A field mouse scattered by drawing Snickers interest. A bit of snow hit my cheek and I turned to see the beauty that was before me. The crisp wintery air took my breath away and I just enjoyed every single minute.

I came inside, gave Snickers her medicine and a bone and she quickly settled in on the couch (her dog bed) and fell fast asleep. I, however, remained awake as I do every night when I wake up. Even when the kids were little, if my feet hit the floor, I was awake. It’s ok. I’ve gotten used to it now and just increased to 2 cups of coffee a day to survive. One at 5am and one at around 11am and I’m good to go.

Beauty reveals itself to us day or night. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be awake when no-one else is. It gives  me time to write, time to read and time to contemplate our lives and this holiday season plenty of time to online shop (which may NOT be a good thing- probably the only downside of this whole situation).

We are lucky to have Snickers with us still. It was pretty grave a few weeks ago, but now she’s stable and it’ll be ok. John takes over on weekends so I can get a full night sleep and it is amazing how much I appreciate that extra few hours. Sleeping til 6am feels amazing now. I used to complain- NO MORE.

Sometimes life gives you lemons. I am not making lemonade at 4am but I am enjoying the Beauty and the ability to be awake. My life isn’t that hard or that extraordinary. I am up taking care of a member of our family. I would do it for any of my kids, my husband, so why not our dog. I am also lucky because I think I will meet my self-imposed deadline to finish my book by the end of December and release it in January.

So go- wake up – most of you are probably still asleep – at least my Midwest located folks- and enjoy the Beauty of the day!

Christmas Gifts that we just love

Christmas is that time of year when we get a week off in between Christmas and New Year’s to have some quality family time. No traveling, no running around, just quiet, fun days and nights doing a “stay-cation.” We are a family who love Board Games and books and doing fun things together. Here are some of our favorite gifts we have given the kids over the years which were a huge success.

One of our best finds is Animal Logic. It’s a game that you can play together or alone. It’s a logic puzzle game where you have to get the Safari animals out of desert in a pattern without breaking any of the rules. It’s great fun!

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We have found that games are a great gift for our kids. It’s a way for us to connect. A bowl of popcorn and a good game and we are talking and laughing for hours. Coup is another great game. It’s a fast, quick paced, card game that is really fun. It’s all about strategy and keeping a poker face. We all love this game and the best part is each round is only 10 -15 min long! One of my all-time favorite new games is No Stress Chess. I never understood how to play chess so when my oldest was going for his Chess Merit badge and he wanted his brother to learn we purchased this game. One side of the game- you use cards and play each card which teaches you a move and a type of playing piece. Each card explains what your piece can do. You play the card you are dealt and you move. Once you have mastered that, you turn the board over and play Chess! It’s fun and engaging and a great time had by all!

                                                                  

Old school is what we do when we play Clue, Monopoly Deal andRACKO. Clue is a classic mystery game full of fun and excitement. It’s fun for all ages and a fast paced game with a twist! Monopoly Deal is a 20 minute or less version of Monopoly and it’s great for kids who can’t sit for too long or just for a night when you don’t have a lot of time to play a game or you want to play several games in one night. RACKO is one of my all time favorite games. You have to get your cards in order from lowest to highest despite being dealt anything but. My good friend, Lisa, introduced me to this game and it’s been a quick hit!

                                                              

This Christmas we hope that these gifts arrive under the tree. We are looking forward to playing Oregon Trail and surviving! It’s supposed to be a fun game. Chameleon is a card game where one person (the Chameleon) is the only one who knows the answer. I’m excited to see how our kids enjoy this game. Timeline has a variety of card games which all form a timeline when you are done. Timeline Diversity is one of the series and we hope to enjoy it just as much as we enjoy Timeline American History which is a very popular game currently!

What I love about Board Games is how it connects us. We get pizza or make popcorn, drink some hot cocoa and share stories, laughs and music. It’s a great way to connect with your 11, 13 and 14 year olds. It’s even fun to invite their friends over who are somewhat shocked that we like to play games together but once they get into it they can’t wait to come back and do it again. Check out the games and see what you think? (affiliate links included- which keep Advice from Allie in coffee)

Another Teenager in the house

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So today marks our middle’s entrance to Teenage-hood. Meghan is 13 today! That means we have a fourTEEN year old and a thirTEEN year old. In two short years we will have 3 teenagers in the house. What were we thinking? John always said “babies don’t scare me, teenagers do!” I’m not afraid. If anything I am in awe of this amazing girl. She has some really cool friends.

Last night for the first time since she was 5 or 6 she had a Birthday party. December is a rotten time to have a Birthday as hardly anyone can come to your party if you have one and the last real party Meghan had when she invited her entire class in elementary school only 2 girls came. Everyone else was at holiday parties etc. So this year we opted to offer her a party again. She chose Orbit Skate Center and we went there last night. Six girls, her 2 brothers and 2 of their friends and we were all set. It was so fun.

She was unsure if she wanted to open presents but she decided to and it was such a great idea. Gillian got her a Hamilton inspired game and a book about 2 of the female characters in Hamilton (the musical) and Meghan literally squeeled when she opened them. The grin on Gillian’s face when she opened her Llama card was even better. These girls get Meghan. From a Gravity Falls Journal to gift cards to her favorite stores, she scored on the “perfect gifts” and nothing she received was purchased by our family for her to open today. Today she’ll get a clock radio/CD player so she can listen to Christmas CD’s in her room for Christmas. Quinn got her “Herd your Horses” , a game we used to own but we passed on when we moved and they really missed it. Cole got her a Hamilton inspired tee shirt but that won’t arrive til Wednesday or Thursday.

After today we move on toward Christmas but for this moment we relish in Meghan’s Birthday. It was sad last night or rather bittersweet because Meghan doesn’t want to be 13, she doesn’t want to grow up and she’s mad about it. Hormones, life changes, going off to High School- it’s all closer than we think and she is fighting it with every breath. Her solace is in the fact that Grace, Emma, and Gillian will be on the path with her to High School. Sadly- the twins, Emmie and Ally will be moving to Indiana but with modern technology – they can video chat and we can visit- only an hour or so away.

Meghan sat in my lap last night (well creatively as she doesn’t officially fit) and hugged me tight. She’s my baby girl no matter how old she is and she is happy that no matter how old she is that fact will always be true.

Life is good even though it’s often hard

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So I thought it’d be easy to write a book. Ha! Well not really- it was sort of easy to get my first book published. I am working on a rewrite at the moment and I’ll post a link soon but it was fairly easy but it was also just a compilation of my blog posts because I write each post as if it’s a chapter in a book anyway. So for me – that worked. What is harder is to share my real struggles from my first blog, Continue to Live and Flourish. That is where I bare my soul and not even all of it.

I have decided to share that story in a book which is far harder than I realized. See I have survived childhood sexual abuse, domestic abuse at the hands of my first 2 boyfriends which lasted 4 years for one and 5 years for the other. It involves complicated relationships and hardships and one of the most amazing come-back stories of all time (wait yeah – that was me in 1998) and the most amazing love story (that was 1999 and meeting my husband and most amazing supportive force, John). I have survived a lot in my life which prepared me for all that we have survived as a couple and all the medical issues and stressors that have been thrown our way.

This is actually my fourth blog. My original and first one was “Talk Sister” which was intended to share my very personal story but I chickened out and only got to 12 blog posts and closed it. Then I wrote “Allie Knows” which does sound egotistical but it was a medical advice, life advice type question and answer blog. I have 3 kids with a genetic seizure disorder and I did a lot of research and fought doctors til I found the treatment that worked for us and it was not in the ‘norm’ of medical treatment (bananas – we used bananas and other potassium rich foods to help ‘cure’ a potassium channel blocker seizure disorder). Once my friends heard about the success of the treatment with my kids they began to ask my questions too. First one was about food allergies and it went from there. I’d get a call or an email at least once a week with someone in crisis mode and I’d happily go search online and find them the answers I was looking for and it helped a lot of people and I felt good doing it. But alas, it didn’t take off and I closed that one down too.

Four years ago I started Continue to Live and Flourish and I had spits and spurts where I was able to blog often and other times I let it slide. I was still worried what people would think and I did not share it often on Facebook and I kept it really for myself and the few people that read it. Then after 5 years of homeschooling (oh I forgot I did do another blog involving homeschooling but that’s another story for another day) I had some free time and decided it was time to start anew and that is how Advice From Allie got started. It was a combination of all of the blogs. It was original content- all new stuff- but it was the real me. It was the survivor, the parent of medical kids, the former homeschooling mom, the wife, the mother, the friend. It was all of me and I wasn’t going to hide any part of me any more. I was going to share my life as I lived it with the advice that I lived by and I hoped it would inspire people.

You do not have to have experienced what I have experienced to benefit from this blog. You can have one blip on your radar of life and feel better by reading. You can walk away from here with the knowledge that you too can overcome any adversity and be better off for it. That is my mission. Yeah- my childhood wasn’t the greatest. Yeah my first experiences at relationships were horrible. Yes- I was almost murdered by my second boyfriend but I survived and I am here to say that I wouldn’t change a thing.

What if those things had never happened? Who would I be today? How would I be different? I almost don’t want to know. I do know that because of my experiences I am more empathetic. I get why women do not leave abusive relationships and I have counseled many a teenager about this issue so they can leave their boyfriends that are not so nice to them. I have advised my boys on how to behave with conflict and their anger so that they never abuse anyone in their life. I have spoken very openly in any situation that warrants it to help others in this situation. I wouldn’t be able to do any of that had I not lived it.

All of my past life before I met John prepared me for the wild roller coaster ride he’d take me one. He’s the love of my life and the sweetest man I’ve ever met. He encouraged me to get help to process my past and get therapy for my PTSD.  He let me quit my job and supported me for 2 years while I got my stuff together. It was the best gift anyone had ever given to me and it was not easy for him or for me. Thankfully we made it through that rough patch and got married and had 3 amazing kids.

The stress of my past helped me when our first born had seizures on day 2 of life and was whisked away by ambulance to the big Boston hospital. I had experienced horrible stress previously to this so I knew I would be ok and that Quinn would too. With John by my side we could survive anything and we did and Quinn and Meghan and Cole would be fine. (yes they all 3 had seizures).

When we experienced job loss- I knew we’d be ok. When we were relocated from Massachusetts to Seattle and then back to Massachusetts and then off to Chicago I knew it was just one more hurdle to overcome. I feel like finally here in Chicagoland we have found our home. Our safe place, our new beginning. I love New England and I will always miss it and of course we will go back and visit but I love the new life we have made for ourselves here. We are in a place in our lives where the stress is manageable. The kids are all back in school and doing well. We just had our first real break over Thanksgiving (why I’ve been quiet on here) and we are ready for whatever comes next.

Life is good and I’m happy now (have been for a long time) and I feel confident enough in myself to share my innermost thoughts and struggles. I will release Continue to Live and Flourish- unless I come up with a better title sometime in December or perhaps early January. It just depends on how long it takes me to put it all together. I have a lot of the writing done already- I’ve been working on it for a while but I need to tweak it and continue to add more. I also have to dig in the basement to see if I can find the real nitty gritty chapters which describe the night my boyfriend strangled me and left me for dead. That was supposed to be the first chapter but I am going to keep it lighter and leave a section at the end to explain what I survived so as not to trigger those that can’t handle it.

Anyway- so that’s what I’m up to. Writing a book and surviving and thriving. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and that you are ready to embrace the Holiday Season with joy.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. It’s a time of year I love and today being a chilly high of 34 in Chicagoland will make for a lovely day to bake goodies for the big feast. I am thankful to all of those who sacrifice for us, especially to the military personnel who will not be at their Thanksgiving tables as they are instead stationed away from family and friends.

I am thankful for my mom who taught me how to cook so I can help make a fabulous feast for the family. I am thankful to my husband, John, who will make a delicious turkey and stuffing. I am thankful to my daughter, Meghan, who will challenge me to provide her a scrumptious vegetarian meal and will assist me in the traditional home-made danish preparations. I am thankful to Cole and Quinn who will assist in making the pumpkin and apple pies. I am also thankful for any and all time we have left with our dear dog, Snickers, who has a mass on her spleen. And lastly I am thankful for all our family and friends who make each day a joy.

Thanksgiving is a tradition celebrated in America and I do believe there is an alternative date where it’s celebrated in Canada but I do believe those are the only places. I a grateful to be able to cook, and feast with our family and enjoy some family time. I am hopeful that we will get to Skype the relatives as we are the only ones in Chicagoland. The benefit of making as much food as if you were having company means that you won’t have to cook for days after. So it all works out in the end.

So have a very Happy Thanksgiving and take a moment to share what you are thankful for. There are so many things.

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Learning Disabilities make us even cooler

I am reposting this because I am in awe of my oldest son, Quinn. He entered public school in August 2017 after a 5 year homeschooling hiatus. He is nearing the end of the first Semester of school and he has a straight A average and is in all honors classes. This Dyslexic and dysgraphic child met with his advisor this week to discuss finals. He will be allowed to simply circle the answer on the main test and someone else will fill in the bubble score sheet after he is done. He will take his English final in a different room so he can type and if needed use voice to text. He is excelling and it’s awesome to watch. He even got asked to advance in French moving from French I to French II in January when the new semester starts. So read about kids with learning disabilities- because they might just go off into the world one day and surprise you!

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Being unique is cool right? Well having Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, or other learning disabilities make us cooler. I choose to think so. Overcoming them takes some adjusting and some creativity. Here is what we did to help our son overcome these disabilities. In just 3 years he went from a 2nd grade level at age 11 to an honors level high school level at age 14. Here is what we did.

We opted to get Quinn tested for dyslexia at age 11- it was the summer and he was about to be 12. He went to Alexian Brother’s Hospital- Center for Pediatric Brain and saw Dr. Nicole Cruz. He was very low on reading, and writing was even lower. He was in 6th grade and yet he was at a much lower grade level for all the testing. He was discouraged and it was hard on him that he was so low. His IQ was 139 however and proved he was intelligent but was unable to articulate that intelligence on paper. What to do?

We were homeschooling at the time and the doctor recommended we wait until high school to send him back. I could continue 7th and 8th grade at home and even high school if we had success at home. He had been homeschooling since 4th grade so we just made subtle changes at home. He began typing exclusively and then using voice to text software. He began to “write” at older levels and after getting Quinn a writing tutor we went from writing at a 3/4th grade level to a 9th/10th grade level in just 3 months. It was simple changes like using a writing template (think visual outline) and allowing Dragon Voice to Text Software on longer assignments combined with rewrites using typing. This worked out really well for him.

Over the years we had discovered audio books. Dr. Cruz recommended Learning Ally and we opted to use that for text books to be read to him. It’s free in the state of Illinois if you get a diagnosis so he can use that for high school as well but so far he hasn’t had to utilize it. Quinn also uses large print text or he uses the enlarging feature of his i-pad to make things easier to read. Audio books utilize the same areas of the brain that traditional reading does. It’s a great way to keep your child engaged and wanting to read.

We worked together every day. We downloaded the dyslexia font and used Firefox (that’s the only browser that it works on) and that allowed for each letter and number to be weighted differently. It helped all the websites we used especially Khan Academy for math. It changed our lives. Soon Quinn was working thru 4th through 7th grade math all during his 7th grade year while homeschooling. He was able to by 8th grade work 100% independently in math. This was a huge success. It’s ironic because math is how we figured it out. Word problems were Quinn’s nemesis. He would stumble through the problem but when we’d check his math it would be spot on and then we realized that the math was right but the order in which he did it was wrong due to the fact he’d misread the word problem. The dyslexia font changed all of that for him. Success in math brought on better self esteem and great pride.

So don’t be afraid to be unique, don’t be afraid to change things up until they work for you and your child. Advocate for them. Quinn is now a 9th grader and in all honors classes. I am in shock of how well he’s doing. He’s 1/4 thru the school year (1/2 way thru the semester) and he’s got all A’s. I could care less- all I want for him is to be happy and feel good about school and about himself. That is the only “A” I need!

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Great books to gift someone…

We have always loved to read and thankfully we passed that love onto our kids. Our eldest loves Alternative History and if you have someone who loves History in your life here are a few great books you can gift them. They are great reads and Quinn G. approved!

Meghan is our next big reader. She loves series with strong female characters. One of her favorites is the Penderwicks. She also used to love to read Ramona the Brave books. She enjoys a series of books by Rita Williams-Garcia and her English teacher has introduced so many wonderful books this year like Touching Spirit Bear. As a child I loved Trixie Belden but she wasn’t into it like I was. She reads, often for over an hour a night. It’s a great site to see. Here are her book recommendations.

Cole loves to read too. He was our reticent reader. So for him we opted for audio books until reading stuck. He loves Geronimo Stilton. They are his favorite books. He is on the 4th Penderwick series book as he will often read what Meghan is reading when she’s done with it. Another favorite book was Ginger Pye and all the books by Eleanor Estes. Here are some of his favorite books.

As adults we also love to read. Here are some of John and my favorite books. I am in a book club so it’s a great source of amazing books. I have loved all of them. My all-time favorite was Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons probably because it was the first book in my first book club I ever attended. We read books like The Help and we always had a great time. Now in IL I am also in a book club and we are currently reading Life According to Garp, so far so good. One of my most recent favorite books we read was Ordinary Grace. I hope you enjoy our selections.

Books can make great gifts- they can ship direct from Amazon to your recipient and they are a wonderful gift because they give someone the urge to take time for themselves. This is how my family reboots at night- we read before we go to bed. It’s a gift each and every day.

Simply Full of Gratitude This Saturday

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Being Thankful and having Gratitude- it’s very important. Our hearts feel better when we are full of joy and thankful for what we have. I’m a glass is half full type person. I am so thankful today that I got to sleep til 5am. My dog has suspected cancer and she has a large mass pressing on her stomach, bladder, and intestines. This has made overnights stressful as she might need to use the restroom at a moment’s notice- which on these cold Chicago nights means waking fully up as the cold hits your face at 1, 2 or 3am. So last night I am thankful for a good night’s sleep. Phew- I needed it after a week of not so good nights.

Today I am thankful for Chicago District 15’s Thanksgiving holiday week off. Cole and Meghan are back in public school after a 5 year hiatus of homeschooling and to have the entire week off is going to be amazing. Quinn is in D211 and he’s got Wednesday off but still a huge difference from the East Coast where we had school the week before Thanksgiving with a 1/2 day on Wednesday. I am thankful for long weeks and long weekends.

Quinn has a Scholastic Bowl competition today and I am thankful for that. I am thankful that he has met folks he gets along with and has found activities that he truly enjoys. I will be off to volunteer in his place at a Boy Scout wreath distribution site this morning and that is fine with me. I’m happy that we can both be doing something good today. I will then deliver the wreaths we sold and enjoy a restful afternoon. This evening John and I will attend the Time and Talent Auction at CCUU- our local Unitarian Church. It’ll be the first time we attend and I know folks really enjoy the music, raising funds for our local partners that help directly in our community of Palatine and seeing friends and making new ones.

Today is simple. It’s restful, it’s social, it’s fun. Cole and Meghan, I suspect will sleep til 10am and be so happy they can do whatever they want today. They’ll still keep up their reading logs over the break and I’m sure we will do fun things and they will watch you-tube like they did when they homeschooled (Cole loves Crash Course Science videos and of course watching other people play video-games-I do not get that). I’m hoping it’s a great week off and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving because I know that not only are we all thankful but I know that John is so incredibly grateful that he will be able to eat every single part of the meal as he is fully healed up since his July double jaw surgery. I’m hopeful that his sleep apnea is no more although we need a follow up sleep study to prove it.

Fingers and toes crossed you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving break as well. Enjoy time with family- go to a movie- eat together- play games. Most of all- enjoy time- stop all the go-go-go and just be with each other. That is our plan. Happy Thanksgiving week everyone! I hope you get some time to enjoy what you are grateful for.