Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eily's Theory of Language Processing and Speech Production

Friday night, Eily and I attended a slumber party at our friend Natasha's house while Jesse and Natasha's husband, Jim, went on an overnight ice-climbing adventure (during which they discovered how greatly they dislike the cold and all things related to it).  The boys were going out to celebrate Jesse's birthday while Natasha and I - obviously the saner halves of our twosomes - stayed home with the wee ones.  You've probably seen Jesse's pics on FB, but just in case you're too shy to send him a friend request, I'll share one here.*
Jesse's getting weak in his old age.  He had to grow a beard before the trip to combat the cold.

*Don't be shy.  He's the more social of the two of us, so chances are if I talk to you, he won't think twice about it.

As we pulled into the driveway of Natasha's house Friday evening, I mentioned to Eily that we would have to wait a few minutes in the car.  Natasha was en route from picking up their daughter, Rory (2), from daycare.  The conversation went as follows:

Me:  We have to wait here until Auntie Tasha gets back.
Eily:  Is she picking up Rory from school?  I mean, daycare.  I hit the wrong button in my mouth.
Me: Yes, she's picking Rory up from daycare.  What do you mean you hit the wrong button?
Eily:  I hit the school button, but I meant to hit the daycare button in my mouth.
Me:  (Intrigued, as this is not the first time she has mentioned the "button in her mouth") Tell me more about this button.
Eily:  It's in my mouth.
Me: And you have a button in your mouth for each word you say?
Eily:  No, no, no.
Me:  Oh.  So how does this button work?
Eily:  I think of a word in my head and it goes all the way down to my toes.  Then it goes up in my mouth and I push the button.
Me:  I see.  Can you show me the button?
Eily:  Here.  (She points to her tongue.)
Me:  So you think of a word, it goes down to your toes, then it goes back up to your mouth on your tongue and that's the button you hit to talk?
Eily: Yes!  That's what happened.

And that, my friends, is how Eily makes sense of speech and language.  Strangely enough, I haven't come across this particular theory in any of my courses.  Perhaps she's onto something here.  Well, before anyone else tries to claim credit for it, I hereby decree that the hypothesis of words traveling from brain to toes to mouth and produced by the press of a button will henceforth be known as:  Eily's Theory of Language Processing and Speech Production (2013).  I'll let you know when her research is published.

Eily's first colloquium to discuss her groundbreaking research in Speech & Language will probably look something like this. (Pictured with cousins Jordan and Jenna during her autumn trip to MN.  Photo by Kiara Vollick.)

The rest of the weekend was fun and quiet while the boys were away.  And Eily learned a valuable lesson about winter driving conditions in upstate NY.  Snow tires are a good thing, but a push from a friend is sometimes the only way to make it out of your parking spot. 

Eily at the wheel with Rory providing the muscle.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Three months in 30 pictures

Howdy, all!  After that last entry, I think I owe you less of my chatter and many more pictures.  Suffice it to say, I made it through my first semester of grad school (1 down, 4 to go!) and am currently enjoying the second half of my month off before semester two begins.  In 30 quick pics, here's a look at all the things that have kept us busy over the past few months:

1 & 2 - October
Kid-wrangling.  This is how Kelsey manages to work from home and cook dinner while watching all three kids.

Halloween - Kelsey made the girls Shaun the Sheep costumes.

3 - Grampy's birthday! (11/3)

My dad got to celebrate his 60th birthday with all his grandkids.

 4 & 5 - Election Day! (11/6)

To teach the kids about voting, Kelsey prepared a ballot box and paper ballots.  Items up for vote were U.S. President (Obama/Romney), What to do the next day (Playground/Stay home), and what to do during dinner (Listen to music/Talk).*

As in real life, all campaign materials were removed from the immediate voting vicinity.  Here's Eily taking a campaign sign the requisite 10 steps away from the ballot box.

*In case you're curious, the results were Obama, Playground, and Music.  Though Eily did break my heart by voting for Romney.

6 - Rodeo Time (11/10)

The rodeo came to Glens Falls.  After this, Eily became obsessed with barrel racing.  Grandpa Rick had better come through with those riding lessons now!

7 - Commune Thanksgiving (11/17)

Rory, Rayleigh, and Eily enjoy their early Thanksgiving meal at the kids' table.

8 - Family time 

Eily's been enjoying board games lately.  Here she is beating Jesse at the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game.

 9, 10, & 11 - Riding lesson with Grandpa Rick  (11/23)

Grandpa Rick and Eily walking through the stable and checking out the horses.

Waiting for Eily's ride to show up.

Eily riding Brewster.  During her hour+ in the saddle, she learned to make him walk, turn in a circle, trot, and stop. 

12 & 13 - Cookie Day (practice round)

I wonder if chewing the paddle voids Buttercup's warranty?

Eily displays her approval of our cookie batter.

14 - First snow of the season (12/1)

Grandma Mary was lucky enough to take Eily out for her first trek through the "big" snow.

15 & 16 - Cookie Day weekend (12/8 & 12/9)

Eily and Keen destroying chilling in the playroom at Auntie Colie and Uncle Andy's house

Celebrating our Best Back-to-Basics Cookie victory (a first!) by decorating cookies with Grandmom.

17-24 - Christmas in CT (12/23-12/26)

Victoria, Eily, and James getting ready to open presents from Nana.

This little beauty turned 6 a few days later!

Nana enjoying some quality time with the grandkids.
Jesse got to see The Hobbit and couldn't pass up the chance to goose Gandalf.

Christmas morning - you'd never tell from the look on her face, but the little princess was sick and had no voice.  She's such a trooper!

Santa likes educational gifts, and Eily loves outer space.  It was a winning combination!

The three cousins decorating their "tree."  The cats were happy to reclaim their crate when the festivities were over.

25 - Snowbound
A brief respite at the Adams' house turned into a two day stay.

26-30 - New Year's in New Jersey

The kids had a noontime countdown, complete with noisemakers.

The mob of children assembled in the foyer before going outside to bang pots and pans to ring in the new year.
At the slumber party, Liam was kind enough to share his sleeping bag with Eily. 
The kids look like their night was as long as the one the adults had.

This puzzle took Nic & me the entire 6 days we were there to complete.  Nothing like ringing in the new year with a feeling of accomplishment!

As you can see, we've been busy.  There have been many other fun adventures and trips over the past few months, but writing about everything here would most likely bore you to tears.  Thanks to everyone who helped to make 2012 such a great year.  We love you and can't wait to create more memories with you in 2013!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I Found on the Way to School Today

It's been a rough few weeks,  I'm just going to put that out there right now.  I'll try to spare you from having to sit in on my pity party, but if you're only here looking for lots of cute pictures of the kiddo, you may want to skip this post.  I need a place to do some venting, and this is as good a place as any.  So what's been eating me?  Well, let's suffice it to say I have never felt so overwhelmed, worked so hard, or been so unsure of myself as I have been since starting grad school four weeks ago.  (Don't worry, it sounds worse than it is.  I just need to give you a bit of perspective for the rest of this post to make any sense.)  I'm operating on a constantly changing schedule, very little sleep, paperwork that never ends, and a sudden lack of family time - something I took very much for granted up until now.  In the words of the oh-so-wise Chris Martin, "Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard."

Last night was particularly bad.  I had a mountain of assignments and paperwork I just couldn't get caught up on.  I'd seen a client earlier in the day for a disorder I really don't know enough about, and while it hadn't gone horribly, I don't feel it was my best session to date.  I was tired, cranky, and on edge.  It didn't take much to knock me over to the full-fledged "ugly cry."  (I was nice enough to spare the rest of the clan from the sight by leaving the dinner table early.)  I woke up early this morning feeling just as terrible as I had before I'd gone to sleep, and decided today was just going to be awful.  It's funny how the universe goes and ruins my plans, though.  Here's what happened:

I found inspiration.
I left the house and hit up my favorite Dunkin' Donuts.  (Yes I was a barista at an independent coffee shop.  Yes I still love DD.  Don't judge me.) Nothing is sure to ruin an already bad day worse than driving away only to find out my medium-coffee-light-and-sweet is neither light nor sweet.  But I choked it down, determined not to be the victim of a caffeine-withdrawal headache later in the day.  As I drove south on I-87 sipping my bitterness (literally), I saw a huge bird swoop across traffic several times and land in a tree along the median.  As I passed the spot, an enormous bald eagle gazed back at me from his perch. (This is most likely not true, as I was traveling at an average of 68mph and would have been nothing more than a flash of orange zipping by.  But for the purpose of this story, HE GAZED BACK AT ME.)  My self-pity was suddenly abandoned in favor of contemplating the chances of seeing a bald eagle right there along the road.  I replayed its soaring aerials in my mind and nodded in hearty agreement at our forefather's choice of national bird. A bit of patriotism swelled in me then, and I thought about how fortunate I am to live in a country where I am free to make something of myself.  How everything I am working for right now would not be possible if it weren't for this freedom.  My day wasn't about to get any easier, but at least I had a renewed sense of purpose.  Then...

I found amusement.

Traffic quickly began to congeal into a slow-moving ooze on the Northway.  My emotions still wavered precariously, but I was suddenly overcome with a fit of giggles as I slowly rolled past a car pulled off on the shoulder.  Down a grassy embankment, the driver a man in a business suit, frantically searched for the perfect spot to "take care of business."  You could see the angst written all over his face.  Behind him, cars crawled slowly past, making him their only source of entertainment on a mundane morning commute.  In front of him, on the other side of a chain-link fence, stood a tall office building.  Surely some early birds were already sitting up on the fourth floor staring vacantly down at the highway and, subsequently, the patch of tall grass where he was hoping to relieve himself.  The funniest part of it all was when he wandered back and forth three times in search of the "perfect" blade of grass to water.  I'm not sure how he chose, considering the whole section was just tall weedy grass that came up to his waist.  He made his selection as I drove past (don't worry, he managed to keep it G-rated), and I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation.  Part of me thought he was crazy, but another part of me couldn't help but think, "Good for you!"  By the time the whole scene had played out, I was smiling enough to convince myself that my bitter coffee wasn't so bad.  When suddenly....

I found persepctive.

Traffic was trickling along when suddenly BAM!  We were all stopped for what I could only assume was the bridge construction that was still 4 miles away.  I contemplated my bad luck and the fact that I should really consider spending the night at a classmate's house when I have to be on campus early the next day.  Slowly, my neighbors and I crept along the pavement, inch by inch.  I wondered if I should risk hopping off at the next exit and dealing with the lights along Route 9.  But just as quickly as we slowed down, traffic suddenly picked up speed again.  The source of the congestion made itself known only a second later as I drove past a broken down station wagon, completely dead in the water in the center lane of morning rush hour traffic.  I couldn't help but think, "That guy is definitely having a worse day than me."  And you know what, despite how awful I felt when I woke up, he really was.  I sent out some positive vibes to the poor guy - after all, I had some to spare.  Lovely Carrot (yes, that is the name of my loyal Fit) is a great car, and even if she could stand a good cleaning, she never lets me down. 

I began to enjoy my drive now, especially as I meandered south of Albany to find my morning client's house.  It's been ages since I've had the chance to drive down that way.  Of course, the phone call at 8:56 a.m. telling my my 9 o'clock appointment was canceled could have brought me down again, but by now, I was feeling better.  And that's when the final piece of the puzzle struck me....

I found peace.

I turned my car around to head back to campus and seize these rare free minutes to get some more of that pesky work done.  Instead of shooting back up I-90, I took Route 9 from East Greenbush toward Albany.  I had made the drive many times back in the day, but I had completely forgotten what happens when the city skyline comes into view.  The Empire State Plaza suddenly looms in front of you, the four skyscrapers (okay five, but who really counts that odd solitary one?) stretch into infinity, every bend in the road causing them to dance past one another with a stoic grace.  The modern towers, post-modern Egg, and neo-classical Capitol Building create an oxymoron of architecture.  It is the most beautiful skyline, and my heart skipped a beat as I watched it in front of me.  This is what I think of when I talk about loving upstate NY.  This is the place that shouts "home" to me.  In an instant, the doubts I've had over the past few weeks vanished.  This is where our family belongs, and if it takes me working my butt off for two years to make it a reality, than so be it.  In the end, every sleepless night and early morning drive will be worth it if I can share this view* with Eily someday.

*Note:  I did NOT take this photo while driving.  I found it here.

Well, that's it for this entry.  Kudos to you if you made it this far.  As a reward, here's a picture of Eily hanging out in our bedroom with Smokey last week.  Jesse sent it to me on one of my long nights on campus.  It's always nice to get out of a late class and find her smiling face staring back at me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

School Days

Today marks the beginning of Eily's academic career!  It's a bit strange to think that we will both be "school kids" at the same time.  She's embarking on what will hopefully be a lifelong love of learning just as I am approaching the end of my time in school.  (Alright, that's a bit optimistic....but considering how quickly the past three years have gone by, I can only imagine these next two are going to be over before I know what hit me.) Here are a few pictures of our little miss standing outside the house and getting out of the car at drop off this morning. 

I can't believe how grown up she is!  Now I'm anxiously awaiting pick up time so I can hear all about her day! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wait, what?

So I started out this summer on a roll.  Got the photos organized every week, took some time to blog about the life and times of JJ&e when BLAMMO!  It's August 20 and I have exactly one week left until I am thrown into what I can only imagine will be the most frantic two years of my life, and I have about four weeks' worth of happenings to report.  Here goes nothing!

Two days after the last post one of my childhood friends passed through the Upstate area with her family.  Kelly and I were classmates throughout elementary, middle, and high school, and I love that we've kept in touch even as the years and miles have expanded.  She's been living in France for many years now with her husband Eddie.  They have the liveliest couple of French cuties ever.  Jesse, Eily, and I had the pleasure of lunching with them at Circus Cafe in Saratoga Springs during their annual trip across the pond.  As you can see, Eily, Aiden, and Mathis were greatly impressed by the enormous plate of cotton candy that arrived at the end of the meal.  (Before and after this, most of their talk centered around Angry Birds, of which they all seem to be quite fond.)

 That same week, I informed Eily that we would be going to see Enter the Haggis in concert on Friday.  You're probably all well aware from previous posts that Jesse and I define our relationship on our mutual love of Celtic influenced bands, and ETH is the cream of the crop. Along with being phenomenal musicians, they are truly good people who give their fans everything they've got.  Seeing them is never a disappointment - in fact, after eight years following them around, I would say I'm surprised by something they do almost every show.  It never gets stale, and I love that Eily has already started to appreciate them as much as we do.  I shot a video right after telling her about the concert.  Considering she knows their most recent album, Whitelake, by heart I knew she would have a few requests.

Now, being the good little SLP-wannabe I am, we always make sure to keep Eily's ears protected.  Here she is happily sporting her OSHA-grade child-sized earmuffs (the same ones she wore here at 2 months old).   Meanwhile, I'm happily sporting my cup o'Smithwicks.  Mmmmm!  (Daddy has a Guinness, of course.)

Eily had a chance to chat with each of the guys for a few minutes before the show, and Craig (aka. "Uncle" Craig) even posed for a pic with her onstage after.  Eily was over the moon by that point, and as I pushed her out of the fairgrounds in her stroller she told me, "Maybe someday I can be a singer like that."  It totally melted my heart.  I'm so glad she shares our love of music!

Some of our other fun July exploits have included:

One for the basket, two for me....
Forget it, they're all for me!

Eily and Rayleigh having a dance party before bedtime.
Kelsey and I came home from a night out to find Kevin and Jesse watching the video monitors and cracking up.  Apparently the girls were highly entertaining, albeit naughty for not going to sleep!

Oh yeah, and Eily got to go to her first race at the track in Saratoga.  We only got to see one race, but she still had a blast!  Here you can see Eily's head at the bottom of the frame and a thoroughbred whizzing by in the upper-central portion of the picture.  I wish we had placed a bet while we were there.  I was going to put my money on #8 in honor of our new address, and wouldn't you guess that's the one that won?
The last weekend in July found us back in the NJ/PA area for a very quick trip to congratulate our dearest friends the Shillidays on their new forever house.  I didn't get a chance to snap any pictures of the happy homeowners, who make a return to their hometown after years away in NY and VA.  I did, however, catch a few of Grandmom/Debbie.  She's always the life of the party, though there was an unruly frog who gave her a run for her money that night.

Jesse and Debbie - trouble is usually brewing when these two get together.

Mr. Frog is up to no good:

After the party, Eily and I rode back to NY with Kevin and Kelsey while Jesse stayed behind for work.  Here's how Eily and Rayleigh entertained themselves in the car during the trip back:

The beginning of August saw us making a long overdue trip to CT to visit my family.  Here's Eily with Noni and Nono:

 And here are Eily and her cousins Victoria and James having an impromptu playdate at Gigi and Gramps' house.

The day after returning from CT, it was back on the road to hang out with Auntie Kiki and Grandma Mary in Rochester.  Eily loved having a "slumber party" with Grandma in the living room.

While we were there, we checked out the Seneca Zoo.  They had some amazing exhibits!  Eily's favorite was the lion area, where you could walk up to the glass right next to the sleepy lions.  I loved the safari bus, where one of the female lions chose to take a snooze in the afternoon sunshine.

Yo, lion on the bus, gimme five!

Sleepy lion on the bus.

 After seeing all of the animals, Auntie Kiki bought Eily her very own elephant.  Umbrella, that is.  Eily felt the need to take it for a test walk before we left the park.

Of course, no trip to Rochester is complete without dinner at Grandma Linda's house.  Eily always loves running through the vegetable gardens and picking fresh veggies for the evening's fare.

Making homemade ice cream is always fun, too!


This past weekend was our last big bit of fun before I dive into graduate courses and clinic work.  We spent it in the company of great friends at the Hartman's shore house in Somers Point.  Here are the kids at the beach on Saturday.  If only they were this easy to manage all of the time!

And there you have it - a whole summer gone in the blink of an eye.  We've had a blast seeing everyone, and I will be looking back fondly on these pictures as the crisp autumn air begins to settle in and my days are quickly filled with assignments and deadlines.  Thanks for a wonderful time everyone!