Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Tridduum 2018

Yesterday was Easter.  It was a beautiful Easter day. For our family, it was a "real" day with "real" moments and where I put a "real" post on my family photo sharing.  Sometimes on blogs you see all kinds of posts with neat ideas, great tips, knowledge worth sharing and other cool stuff.  Just like on social media, we sometimes forget that online posts do not always share the real stuff that happens outside of the positive stuff we see online, but everyone has those "real" moments where things do not go perfectly.  I am sure it is not typically intended that way, but just a result of sharing the positive and fun moments of our lives with others. 

But yesterday, the Miller family had a "real" Easter morning which I shared with our family.

"Well, this morning we were still trying to get food in the crockpot 2 minutes before leaving the house for church (including the browning meat, spices, sauces and veggies. Veggies did not make the cut before church), we forgot Lincoln's shoes (because he was refusing to get dressed and only made it to the car seat with a shirt and diaper on), Lincoln made it through the greeting at Mass before Scott had to take him out (and they never returned), after Mass Lincoln grabbed Adelyn's Squeeze-It drink she had brought from her Easter basket and it spilled all over his white church shirt, and on the way home people in the car had a hard time remembering to not say things that are not kind, necessary, and helpful...but the joy today helped us to laugh and I know we are so blessed.  Happy Easter to everyone.  Jesus is risen and we have life."  

It was a morning yesterday when one thing after another was frustrating and/or going wrong, but for some reason yesterday I was able to feel the joy of Easter and just laugh at all of this with Scott as we were driving home.  In fact one child accused me of laughing at them in this moment. 

I am not always able to see the positive.  Some moments I know that I should be excited or happy because of whatever the event, you know such as Christmas Eve, but sometimes that stress just takes me over and I am grumpy central.  Yesterday I was blessed and fortunate to be able to enjoy the day anyone and find all of these irritations funny in the end.  I had been thinking a lot about the preparation for Easter and in the story of Easter, Jesus, the gifts he gave us on Holy Thursday, all he went through and suffered following the Last Supper until death, his compassion, and his immense love for us.  I was also thinking of how joy filled the disciples must have felt on Easter discovering the truth. I think the little things we do in the house together as a family help me get into the spirit and mood just as the Christmas decorations, advent candles and calendar do in the season of advent (if only the holidays were not crazy days in December). I guess these things altogether reminded me that in the end, I have an amazing gift of family in my husband, children, and each of our families on each side, we have a great place to live, we have food on the table, Jesus rose from the dead and saved us all, and we have life.  I hope that all of these things continue to impact us in this way during future Easters, but also throughout other moments of the year.  

Here's to real life, imperfect humans, forgiveness, and life! God's joy and peace fill us all this Easter season! 

Holy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper (a day early because we had events out of our control in the afternoon on Thursday). 

Sampling the bread before the Holy Thursday meal. 

Waiting, waiting, waiting for everyone to get to the table so we can start!!

Finally! Eating!

Family service and doing what Jesus has done for us. Lincoln not knowing exactly what was going on, saw his sister getting her feet washed by Dad so he hurried over to join in the fun!

Adelyn enjoying the water and Lincoln patiently waiting. As patient as a 2 yr old gets.

Egg dyeing on Friday. Lincoln's first time to try this!

This is way too much fun! Look at my colorful hands!

Palm Sunday and Good Friday decor up. Baskets are ready! Forgot to photograph our stations of the cross in the backyard with the baskets collecting from each station. Decor ideas from our church parish and Pinterest of course!

Our scripture snack.  
Got this great idea from

Happy Easter!  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring,Lent,Starting Over...Renewal

"You can't see plants growing-unless you speed up a film-but you know that they do. Each day tiny changes take place. It's the same with your life." --Author Unknown

It was a little over a week ago, that I opened our backdoor and stepped out into a lovely afternoon of spring sunshine and weather. The air was the perfect, comfortable temperature.  There was no pressure of the beating heat or bitter cold on my skin.  It felt light with the wind just barely sweeping past.  In south Texas we hope for many spring days like this one, but one never knows in this area as is the case in other parts of Texas, Louisiana, and much of the south. 

I took in the beauty of the day as I proceeded with the spring gardening and seed planting preparation. I love this time of the year when we have the opportunity to do this preparation of the coming of spring.  The sound and feel of the hoe chopping up and mixing the hard dirt making it soft,  the refreshing feel of the water being sprinkled from the hose, digging into that dirt and feeling it between your fingers especially when it's moist, taking in the smell of fresh dirt and grass, and hearing the birds and creatures of nature singing along as you work. Our orange tree this year has more blossoms on it than we have seen since living here and the sweet smell fills the air around you when standing near.  My daughter has her own garden this year (because that's what she has to do before she is allowed to get her own fish) and you can see new little sprouts of green as the new little stems have pushed their way through the dirt. The Fig, Pomegranate, and Crepe Myrtle trees have begun growing new leaves. (Of course, the Oak leaves are just now falling off leaving much of the yard covered in little bits of brown that we hire neighborhood kids to come and deal with which they rake non-stop...not that they care. Who doesn't love a hug pile of leaves)?

 Anyhow, I find it very refreshing and therapeutic.  I have several aunts who have said it is their own form of therapy in their homes. I have to agree. In moments where I feel I need to take a moment of quiet or let go of the noise and mess that life can bring, taking a moment to go work in the yard of even walk in the yard helps to put me back in a state of thinking more clearly and peace. Even if I have to make myself get out there. 

Spring is a time of starting over. New life begins. The plants and trees start over in a new cycle of growth. New chances are in store and a new day can be made. It is no coincidence that lent begins towards the end of winter usually, and leads into the beginning of spring (or at least down in South Texas that is usually the case).  

Lent is just that.  A time to start over. A time for new growth. A time to stop and reflect on how we can become a better version of ourselves. What habits do we have that are worth changing? Is there a particular weakness that I can focus on changing? Do I need to ask for forgiveness for something that has been bothering me in the back of my mind or that I have ignored? Am I growing in character, charity, and on my journey to/with God? 

"...and that is really the point of Lent, the goal of fasting, abstinence, and all our Lenten observances: to grow in charity toward God and neighbor." --Jeff Young, Catholic Digest 

"Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life." --Pope Francis

The 40 days of lent are a good time to really form habits so that when Easter comes, these new habits are set and will stick with us for the rest of the year. You may think that it sounds like a New Year's resolution and to be honest, this is the time when I think about resolutions, instead of in January, and really focus on instilling them.  I am so much more dedicated when I am in the mindset of thinking of these things as being done for our Lord Jesus and growing more in charity as someone who follows him rather than something that I just do in January. Not that I could not have that lenten mindset in January, it is just so much easier in the Lent season during that time when we are really reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Sometimes we choose to give things up for lent (except for Sundays). This is a great way to practice delayed gratification and discipline.  

This lent I have decided to learn something everyday on how to teach my children about respect, focusing a lot of chastity but also respect in every aspect.  Also, to make sure I do not pick up my phone during Lincoln's bath time and nap time.  Instead I can interact with him or take time to pray and reflect. 

I also thought this an appropriate time to "renew" or "restart" the blog here. Over time I have had this idea that I have to have a very specific "box of things" to write about here.  I started the blog to keep track of activities I do in music therapy and with the kids at home.  I wrote about topics on here to be reminders to myself. I ended up thinking of more topics I wanted to include, and moved on to "music therapy" "family life" and "kids" activities but still trying to fit it all in. I have had a hard time pinning down exactly what I "should" write. I think it has limited what I write and the way I write. I was afraid of writing about topics outside of the category because it would be too broad or not in the belief system of some people.  I also was very factual and blunt at times and may have sounded like I am a closed minded or prideful. 

So I am starting over as myself.  Trying to be real and not being afraid to just write about my own life whether it be music therapy, family life, failures, and also my spiritual life, even if it is different than other friends or family who might read. Apparently writing about my own life and experiences is okay! If I have 0 readers that is fine because this is a place I can come to rejuvenate myself in writing and in reading my past experiences.  

So here is to spring, lent, and renewal.  

Preparing the veggie garden. And Sandy's tail. 

Orange tree blossoms

Orange tree

Very important! Citronella to fight off the South Texas mosquitoes. 

Weed like grasses. The part of spring I could live with out. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rotating All of Them Toys

I am not sure that I have come across any family of children that said "We don't have enough toys in our house.  We really could use some more" or kids that say, "I think I'm good on toys, thanks though Mom." 

And clearly, would you ever find parents of young children that say, "I never step on toys that get left out...because my kids never leave them out! They love putting their stuff away. They developed a nice habit right off the bat!" If they do, they are hiding something from you.   Anyhow, we know that some are better at it than others, but kids have to be taught to manage their possessions. 

I am as guilty as the children for enjoying more toys and games coming in the house.  I love them as much as they do sometimes.  It is really not a good idea to take my kids to Toys R Us, but it is equally not a good idea to take me to Toys R Us either. I think about how that would be such an educational item and/or I could use that in a music therapy session, or I just really want that! When the kids are grown and off to college I think I still would love to have a small play area for people that come over with kids, and just because I love seeing toys set up. Yeah, don't mention that to my husband. 

In our immediate gratification world, it is challenging to keep the "outflow" of items greater than the "inflow." We acquire so much stuff. Often times kids might be very creative and find new ways to use their toys as they grow as well. I have a creative one that does not like to get rid of her toys. She gets attached to all of them and can find some way to include them in any pretend game she is playing. When I was her age, I felt like my possessions had feelings and I would hurt them if I gave them away too. As you have more kids and kids that are in different age ranges, you start to acquire new toys but still need the old ones. We are also in that category. We find ways to get rid of them periodically in our "outflow box," but we still have a lot and too many to leave out all at once. 

Kids may outgrow toys because they need more stimulation as their mind grows and matures.  Sometimes though, they may start to not notice some of their stuff that has been in the same location and would play with it if we changed it up a bit.  Maybe sometimes the answer is to get rid of stuff and get new stuff (or just get rid of stuff) and maybe sometimes we can use what we have by doing a toy rotation system.  

I know many families have a unique system that works for them. I have tried different ideas over the years.  We started with one idea and have added 3 more since! 


When I first started rotating toys, I just put some away in the closet in a plastic tub for a while. I would forget about them though and forget to pull them out later.  Or I was afraid to put things away because they would miss it or something, as if we didn't have enough already out. We still use it though. Especially when they grow and we swap out developmentally appropriate toys.

That's our put-away-for-a-while bin and shelf. 


My next rotation technique was to swap what toys were displayed on the top of the shelf and what was in the drawers, or if you have one of those colorful shelves with the bins, swap which ones are eye level or on the top.

Right now we have horses, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Bamboo Blocks, The Selenium Falcon, and the colored chicken egg matching box in sight. 


My third rotation technique I tried and still do each month (ish) was completely swapping locations of toys, as in the rooms they are in. We happen to have a few toys in the living room, a few in my youngest's room, a few in my closet so that Lincoln can play while I shower, and the rest in the playroom. Just rearranging or changing where the toys are can really draw attention to items they have not paid attention to and give it a whole new appealing look! Suddenly it looks more interesting!  

This is our downstairs toy area behind the couch and next to the kitchen. The little kitchen stays here but everything else including the stuff in the basket gets changed out. 


One of my favorite ways to rotate toys or draw attention to forgotten items is doing themes. I had a friend that got me started on these when my oldest was 2. I love it. This way obviously takes more planning, but I find it really entertaining for both myself and the kids. Even my older to like to see what I have set up when the come home from school.  Now, before proceeding, please do know, I am not perfect at remembering or planning ahead to make these themes happen every single week.  Don't give yourself a stress headache trying to do these every week if that is too much. Just start with an attainable goal. Sometimes I aim for 1x a month during the school year.  I think this school year we have done 6 themes and it's February.  It's just to change things up and make it a special week.  

For example, I gathered all of the farm themed things we have including toys, puzzles, books, etc. and put them out in the play room/game room in a particular area.  We also made a rice sensory bin with some of the plastic figurines.  And yeah, my only original idea was the hay. And finding the stuffed animals. Pinterest took over for the rest. 

Rainbow week was a total blast. Know any young kids, not obsessed with rainbows? Maybe a few, and perhaps those who might be color blind to an extent but not anyone here. We brought out the rainbow scarves to dance, jumped on colored cards to Rachel Coleman's Do You Know the Colors of the Rainbow, painted, categorized some rainbow toys, and brought out our Rainbow books.

The colored sections were mixed together in about 2 minutes. But it looked cool for a moment. 

Problems squeezing in exercise solved! We jumped for about 30 minutes on these colors during the song. 

The past 2-3 weeks we have done zoo things because Lincoln is totally in love with zoo animals right now. So the zoo toys have been hanging out. I put out our zoo books, puppets, fisher price animals, made little homes out of blocks, for the zoo stuffed animals, coloring pages, zoo animal rubbings that I have had since I was a kid, and zoo play doh. Raffi has his famouse song Goin to the Zoo also which is fun as well as the Wiggles with Do the Monkey.

Be creative with the toys you can use. During our theme weeks, toys that were not necessarily related to the theme got used also, such as the blocks that made our zoo homes and the food from the play kitchen so they could eat. You often end up using more that you initially may think! 

Well, that's what we got! Maybe you have your own rotation system down that is different and works well for you. These  are 4 things that work well for us. 

If you ever do a theme week, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! And the kids of course :) 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Check Lists for Kids

When it comes to getting yourself ready for something smoothly and at a reasonable time, such as getting out of the house each morning, or getting yourself to bed, how would you rate yourself as successful on a scale of easy to hard?  

  •  Do you have a specific order of tasks that you do before reaching your destination whether it be school or your bed? 
  • Is one task harder than others?  
  • Are there any obstacles that get in your way, like for instance, being distracted by squirrels or other shiny objects or struggles in trying to trick your mind into thinking that you are a morning person? 
  • Are you scrambling to make it or is it all smooth sailing? 
  • Do you have other people in your little community tapping on your shoulder every few minutes or is everyone in the house using a forte or fortissimo volume to communicate needs that get a bit in your way?

Me These Days
Maybe the question is too vague and answers might vary as far as what you are getting ready for.  For me, since my third child, I feel like I am often in why-do-I-feel-like-I-have-a-frenzy brain mode.  I can't figure out what happened to my beloved consistency in being able to keep track of family life aspects. Sometimes I think back to my college days where it was just me I had to worry about. I had very specific morning routines and mostly bed time as well.  Of course homework did throw that off at times. Even before my little third love was born, I had a alternating exercise/stretching routine with prayer incorporated as well in the mornings. Things have gone from "did I remember my homework assignments?" to "did I shower this morning??"  The "Did I shower this morning?" happened after each child was born, but with the first two, it went away after a couple of months. Not this time!

I remind myself though, that now I'm tracking 4 people instead of 3. Plus the dog. One of them being a toddler, one a brilliant yet distracted sweet heart, the oldest being a "we must have this done now!" boy and a dog who is constantly begging for a sleeping spot on the couch (he is so offended by the gate chain we put on at night). But really, every little bit changes things.

But here is another thought.

How do your children do at getting themselves ready? 

You might be on rolling on the floor at this point. But seriously, what's it like? Does getting them ready for something make you absolutely lose your mind? Are you amongst those who wonder why it  takes 45 minutes to eat a piece of toast? Or perhaps you have a child who does great and you are wondering why your 10 year old son is able to be ready in 20 minutes and an hour before it's time to leave the house when it takes you 15 minutes to find clothes.  Just to ponder, if your child is the first example and us as adults struggle to get ourselves ready for events, how difficult is it for children who need concrete help? 

Kids Staying on Task
My daughter Adelyn, who I have shared about many times, does wonderfully at school or in other places outside of the home in staying on task.  At home though, I think she let's down her guard and just feels free to let the creative juices flow.  She also is a wonderful little helper to our youngest, Lincoln who is two.  She's loves to help me with him, but there are times when I have to remind her that her other priorities have to come first or she will not be ready.

Check Lists
I would prefer to have 20 check lists posted on walls, but since I need them with me all the time I have succumbed to the check lists on the smart phone. General reminders to complete today, chores, music therapy, Moms Ministry, Scouts, Things to Purchase, Long-Term Family To-dos, etc. I suppose I could leave out a morning and bed time check list on the wall for myself.  Recently, I have found myself maybe needing one at bedtime to remember things like "calm down mind" before bed.  Prayers I do, but something like deep breathing, journaling, or just reminding myself that I do not need to be doing chores or other related tasks right before bed.

In the past couple of years we have created some check lists that has shown more success in staying on task. We created 3 check lists for different times of the day.

Two are the same and are printed.  Not only are the words there on the printed ones, but there are pictures too and tasks are in the order that works best.  The velcro there is to move the marking ball to the task she is currently on.

The third list for after school is a changing list and I write it on our kitchen dry erase board.

We have 3.

Morning Check List

After School Check List

Night Time Check List

This is a pic from my computer, but on my printed version, the Pokeball is velcro and she velcro's it to the space she is on. 

Helpful Routine Check List Tips for Kids

     1. Print it
                  Print it out and put it in a spot they will easily see it and in a location they spend the most                    time in for that particular time of day.

     2. Pictures
                  Use visuals/pictures!  They are processed faster than words in the brain.  When reading                        words we process what each letter sounds like, string them all together to form a word,                        and then process what that words means.
     3. Include Words
                  Do include the words also to interpret what some of the pictures mean in case there is                          anything confusing. This also helps little ones learning to read.  Make it big enough to see                    clearly.
     4. Transition Marker
                   To eliminate wasting time by going through the entire checklist again to find where they                        left off, use the transition marker.  This is a picture that is velcroed next to each step so                        that the current step is easily located. (This was a learning process for us). 

     5. Use Velcro
                   Velcro can often help children who are tactile-kinesthetic learners and satisfy sensory needs.  They get to actively pull and push something and feel different textures in doing so.

To Make your Own Printed with Velcro

  1. Pick your goal
  2. Pick your tasks
  3. Take pictures of each
  4. Make your document with pictures, words, and the spaces for the marker.
  5. Pick your marker picture and print
  6. Laminate the list and the marker separately
  7. Cut the velcro and stick to the list
  8. Velcro the back of the marker.
  9. Post on the wall!


Whiteboard check lists can be great when your routine may change from day to day such as after-school check lists.  We have different activities each day so the whiteboard in the kitchen is great. I don't include pictures as easily (my artwork may not be quite clear), but it works for us. You can definitely include simple pictures and it is great for learning to read or readers.

     1.  Use a different color for each child.

     2. Use large and visible print and clear pictures.

     3. Include time frames or specific times as needed.

Ways to Maybe Help Ourselves Minimize Any Chaos
So to help yourself get ready with minimal tears and steaming emotions, here are questions to help direct your or your kid's thoughts in completing tasks.

  • What do you currently use to help yourself be successful? 
  • How much time do you give yourself? 
  • Have you thought about how much time it take you to do each task? 
  • Are you a morning or night lover?
  • Are you visual? Do you need a check list with words/and or pictures? 
  • Do you need a timer? 
  • Do you need quiet or maybe something peppy to move you along?
  • Do you need extra time to relax your mind first?
  • If something happens out of our control what is the worst that can happen? 
Any other thoughts I missed?  

Sometimes Mission Control Isn't in Control

I am clearly not perfect at any of the above.  And clearly, if you have children, and technology there are things you just cannot control sometimes.  Baby up at 3:00 AM, toddler up at 3:00 AM, 5 year old lost every pair of shoes suitable for playing at the park when it's time to leave, teenage daughter had a crisis 10 minutes before the bus, someone is vomiting, someone decided they had to poop mid routine and it took 15 minutes longer than expected, "oh yeah, there is a spelling test tomorrow and these words on this week's list are not the only words, but the other list is missing", someone needs a 6 drinks of water before bed, iPhone updated without your permission and you can't figure out how to work the new check list, Facebook distracted you, etc.

Check lists do not make life perfect but they do help tremendously.  What helps you? 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Transportation Vowel Sounds

Transportation Vowel Sounds

Today I just want to share a song that I used quite frequently in music therapy sessions with students working towards speech goals. A large number of the students I worked with in the school district were working on goals in this area.  I often pull songs from a set of books from Prelude Music Therapy, which has a variety of songs composed by several music therapists who had specific music therapy goals in mind. I find that these songs are not only great in music therapy sessions, but also when singing with or teaching concepts to my own children.  There are songs for cognition, movement, social skills, receptive and expressive language, and more. 

This particular song here called I was Riding on a School Bus, helps to practice vowel sounds by vocalizing sounds that we use when describing the sounds of transportation.  For example, we sing "choo choo" for trains, "ee-oo" for fire trucks, and "toot toot" for boats.  These sounds are paired with consonants here however, when working with students, my main focus is to emphasize the vowels.  In my examples here, I'm singing with my 1 year old as he explores his transportation puzzle.  In a music therapy session, I would sing it slower and put more focus on the vowels.  Hopefully though, this example will suffice for learning the tune and idea.  I did change a few words here and there to fit our needs. 

If you need a break from singing, The Wheels on the Bus, you might like this one!