Benefits of Baby Sign Language + a Giveaway!

Edit:  Congratulations to SARA for winning the Baby Signing Time DVD!

At 8-months-old my son made my mama dreams come true when he uttered ma-ma-ma over and over again for a period of time. Within months though, and as his first birthday and beyond came and went, no more legitimate “words” came out and I began to worry.

Many in my life, including my pediatrician, said I shouldn’t worry as surely he was just a late bloomer.  But by age two-and-a-half, I felt I was running out of time to get him help (and also a bit of pressure from what society deems “normal”) and so we delved into the world of Early Intervention.

While our experience was very good, I look back and wish I had thought of other ways to help him.  My son, hitting developmental milestones in every other category right on time, was frustrated at his inability to communicate his needs to us.  In turn, my husband and I were just as frustrated with not being able to understand him.

Enter baby sign language.  A decade ago, when my son was born, baby sign language was just beginning to boom and I saw a few articles here and there regarding it. I tried a few basic signs with him (“more”, “milk”, “thank you”, etc.) and, sure enough, he picked them up and was able to utilize them properly.  But I just didn’t pursue it the way I should have.  What I would not have given to have the classes that Nuts For Signs provides.

 Nuts For Signs offers a variety of services notably their “Parent & Me” classes that are a unique blend of signing education, music and play.  This is not a typical mommy & me class – dads are invited too! Each class has a theme, and signs are presented through fun activities such as parachute play, songs, musical instruments, story time, crafts and more!  The age appropriate toys/activities rotate each class to fit the theme and to encourage learning through play.  Each session concludes with a mini-graduation ceremony and diploma.  Their Sing, Sign & Play classes are based off of the award-winning Baby Signing Time® and Signing Time® series of videos featured on Nick Jr. and Netflix.

Founder, Jackie Ciaramella, began signing with her first daughter after reading an article about baby sign language.  After 3 months of signing with her daughter, late one night she woke up crying although Jackie had just fed her an hour earlier.  Exasperated, she picked her up and said, “What’s wrong?  Why are you crying?” obviously not expecting an answer, but then her daughter started opening and closing both of her tiny little fists – the sign for “milk!”  Soon, sentences using signs were being strung together.  As a direct result of all that signing, Jackie’s daughter began speaking before her first birthday, and although her speech was peppered with toddler babble, she picked up new words quickly, not just learning how to say them, but also cognitively aware of their meaning.

The benefits of sign language are astounding.  The early years of a child’s life are extremely important, as their brains develop at a very rapid pace.

Research has shown that signing can boost your child’s development by:

  • Allowing babies to communicate long before they can speak (as early as 5 months)
  • Reducing frustration and tantrums
  • Enhancing language and cognitive development (increases IQ scores)
  • Promoting parent/child bonding
  • Helping preschoolers build vocabulary and early literacy skills

The use of Sign Language has also been shown to benefit children with special needs including, but not limited to, those with Down syndrome, dyslexia, and those on the autism spectrum.

For more information on the benefits of ASL, check out the following resource: Benefits of Signing With Your Child.

IMG_0034At the end of 2013, I had the pleasure of attending a Nuts For Signs class taught by one of the four extremely qualified instructors.  (I even borrowed a toddler for my investigative reporting!)  My little friend has no trouble warming up as the catchy songs played and a variety of toys were brought out to help illustrate the signs that were being taught.  Our instructor for the day, Sofia, was kind and loving.  She did a great job getting these young children to listen and participate!  It was the last class of this particular session and it was AMAZING (and adorable!) to see these infants signing to their parents.  Sofia went above and beyond by purchasing smiley face balloons for each child and presenting them with a personalized graduation “diploma” at the end of the class. IMG_0044

Nuts For Signs offers a variety of locations and class times and the best news is you can attend a free trial class!  Nuts For Signs offers classes for ages ranging from 3 months to 5 years of age (Though I’m still trying to convince Jackie to have one for older children too!).  I’m confident that this company WILL grow one day to cater to elementary children, like my son, and perhaps even adults.  American Sign Language is a wonderful and useful second language to learn.


And here’s a cute little clip of what some of the class looks like:

Nuts For Signs Class in Action!

I encourage you to try a free class or even just jump right in to their Winter Session currently in progress.  You will not be disappointed.  I cannot say for sure what learning sign language ten years ago would have done for my son, but I would be willing to guess that a lot of headaches could have been saved had he had another way to communicate with his parents for even his most basic wants and needs.

On a personal note, I am so proud of what Jackie has accomplished in the short time she has founded and grown her company.  Jackie seized an opportunity to share the success her daughter was having with signing and got serious to share the benefits of Signing with more than just her family and friends.  I am proud to support a woman who balances both the desire to be home with her children while helping her family by having her own business.  It’s not easy, I’m sure, but what a worthwhile gift she is sharing by providing these classes and trainings to teachers in schools!  The other three instructors—Sofia, Jackie A., and Michelle—have also worked hard to become certified Signing instructors and bring their various skills as moms and teachers to each and every class.

And now I have a special treat for you.  I had so much fun at the class that I attended, that I just have to give away a DVD of signs I learned in the class to one of YOU!  Just follow the prompts on the Rafflecopter link below*  and you’ll be entered to win!  The winner will be contacted via email.  (Everyone is welcome to enter!)

(*Unfortunately, since I’m WordPress.COM the widget will not appear and you *have* to click on the Rafflecopter link to complete the entry options.)

So check out Nuts For Signs and see how signing can help your young one.  You can sign up for your free trial class or purchase products directly from the Nuts For Signs website.

Happy Signing!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Disclosure: I was asked to write a blog post on behalf of Nuts For Signs and took it upon myself to attend a class so I could see first-hand what one was like.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and facts have been provided from the official Nuts For Signs website.  I purchased the DVD on my own as a way to bless one of my readers.  Pictures are a bit vague because I do not want to show any child’s face (other than my own!) on my blog.  But, I promise you they were all adorable AND signing!


Grief; one year later.


I have this bad habit.  And a year later, I’m really not much better.  One of the first things I do upon waking up each morning is hop on and check Facebook.  What I think I’m missing in the 7-8 hours since I last checked while I’m sleeping, I’m not sure.

And so it was, a “normal” Sunday morning on January 27, 2013.  I hopped on Facebook and within a few moments saw a cousin of mine post a status regarding her sister.  That yes, she was at that location but she is fine and in the hospital and they just hadn’t been able to see her yet.

Now, my Portuguese isn’t the greatest, so I go to my handy-dandy translator app and confirm I am understanding what I’m reading.

I comment to my cousin that I was not understand what was going on, so to please respond.  I needed context.  She did almost immediately and wrote that there had been a fire at a nightclub that Andrielle (her sister; my second cousin) was in but they knew she was okay.

I walked out of the bedroom and after greeting the hubby, I remember telling him that “something crazy happened in Brasil” and proceeded to update him on the situation.  I began getting ready for church and upon turning on the television, we saw the story being reported on almost every major network.  You know it’s bad when that happens.

The images I saw were horrifying.  Reading and hearing the name of my precious city was surreal.  I can’t even explain it.  When people ask me what city I’m from, no one ever knows the name Santa Maria.  And on this day, it became a city that anyone listening or reading the news or perusing the internet would know.  That’s not the kind of fame you want.

In between showering and brushing of teeth and putting on clothes, I kept checking Facebook and it was quickly becoming apparent that confusion was setting in.  Mind you, during our winter months Brasil is three hours ahead of us.  So in all this time, my cousin’s mother could not get into the hospital to see Andri.  At this point, the story gets choppy at least for me.  And the details never mattered in trying to get a more accurate picture of what happened that Sunday.  I just know that my cousin, Andri’s mother, and family were sent to multiple hospitals though her name was posted on a list outside the main one.  But she wasn’t able to be located.  Family members who worked in hospitals were doing everything on their part to get information.  And that’s when the feeling in the pit of my stomach began.

It took everything in me to sit still through a church service.  I kept checking my phone and, of course, Facebook.  Once service ended at 10:30, I texted my father to see if he had heard anything more concrete.  He replied something to the effect of, “Still haven’t found her.  Not looking good.”

And it was then that I began to weep.  But for some reason I felt silly.  I remember a church member coming over to greet me and I pulled it together.  Maybe I said something about what was going on.  Those details are fuzzy.  I just didn’t know what to do or what to think.  I could only pray.

God certainly knew what He was doing that day.  Providentially, I was baby-sitting my friend’s baby as she was away for the weekend.  I went to the nursery to pick him up.  I had to keep it together.  I got him and we made our way home.  I will forever be grateful for having him that day.  He kept my mind off of things when no information was coming through and there really wasn’t much I, 3,000 miles away, could do.  He was a good distraction.  I really do not know what state I would have been in had he not been there.

The baby napped and I fiddled around online.  I don’t remember the exact hour; maybe it was in the 2:00 hour or later………but I checked in our Facebook and an uncle posted about the death of a niece that day.

And I lost it.

I left the baby sleeping in my bed and ran into my son’s room.  I frantically scrolled Facebook to confirm and within a few seconds Andri’s sister posted the truth we never thought would be at our doors that day.  She was gone.

I immediately called my parents and my dad picked up.  I screamed, “Is it true?  Is it true?  Uncle Ze is posting that she died.”  My dad stammered and I’m not sure that he knew in that moment.  But in the tiny seconds that felt like lifetimes I think someone from Brasil called them and shared the dreaded news.  My mom came on the phone and we just cried.  We hung up.

My son came into his room to see his mother huddled over sobbing.  “What’s wrong, Mommy?”  I couldn’t speak.  But I think he knew.  He came over and I literally sobbed over his little body.

My husband had went out to get gas.  I heard the door open and I walked to him and when he saw me sobbing, he knew.  I saw his face change and he tried to hold back his own tears and I fell into this arms, sobbing in a way I never had before.  It was uncontrollable.  It was gut-wrenching.  Goob came and put his arms around me, patting my back in the only way a child could.  My boys held me.  I am forever grateful.

The hours and days that followed were horrible.  I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t eat.  I just cried.  And when I had to “keep it together” to work and so forth, I promise you I was crying internally.  My mind was with my family.  I wanted nothing more than to be with them.

I shared a lot on social media that week.  And I explained that in doing that, it was my way of processing the events; it was my way of feeling like I was there with my family.  It felt like the only thing I could do.  Being so far was horrible.

I get it.  This isn’t about me.  And there are millions, billions of other people who have walked far worse roads than I can even imagine.  I’ve even seen it firsthand.

I’ve seen my best friend and her husband lose both their parents within five years.  Two were expected; two completely not.  I’ve known people who have lost children, babies born still.  Even my own mother, with sixteen siblings, has experienced loss in ways I cannot even fathom.  Including her own mother at the age of four.  My husband lost his mother at age 12.

And here I am devastated, not feeling like I had the right to be.  But I was.  There really doesn’t need to be an explanation to that.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t live there.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t know her well.  I knew her.  And I wanted her to be known.  I loved her.  She was my family.

The days and week that followed included a lot of guilt.  Guilt in not making more of an effort.  Guilt in not sharing about my faith more.  I cried over lost chances and things unsaid.  Cried over pictures not taken and opportunities lost.   I thought back to the last time I saw her.  I didn’t even have a picture with her alone.  I’m so glad that one night her and her sister took my son to hang out with him.  They took a bunch of pictures together.  I treasure them.  I knew she loved him.  She loved me.  I hope she knew I loved her.

And now a year later, a lot of the thoughts and emotions from that day flood back.  I think about her celebrating her birthday the same day as my son.  I think about her only two days later getting ready to go out with her friends.  You just never know when it will be your last moments on earth.  You just don’t.  I think about the fun they were having and how it took a horrifying turn.  I’ve seen video and images I can’t erase from my mind.  I imagine what she went through.  Did she suffer?

What I do know is that at some point she did make it to a hospital, which is why her name was on the list.  But she didn’t survive and was transported to the makeshift morgue where hours later she was identified by an uncle and cousin when they finally realized they needed to check there.  I thank God for that.  It’s selfish, and I deal with the guilt of that emotion too because none of those young adults should have perished in that situation, but it’s a prayer answered that she wasn’t trapped.

There really hasn’t been a day that I don’t think about her.  What does grief look like a year later?

Well, I look back at the year and sure enough, as with any major catastrophic event, life did move on.  I’ve made good on promises to be better at communicating with my family and to become more fluent and comfortable with the language of my heritage.  But that sadness in our family will always linger; we never lost someone in such a way.

As an American and as someone who knew a number of people who perished in 9/11, I felt the effects of what an event of that magnitude can do.  But when you don’t have someone super close to you, it’s easier to forget.

I mean, that little town stayed on the news for quite a number of days.  But within a week, there were no more news reports.  No more articles being written.  It was just another tragedy overshadowed by the next one that came along.

But the families don’t forget.  The friends don’t.  The victims and the survivors carry it with them every single day.

Even today, January 27, 2014, most in America won’t remember what happened in that little city at 2:30 in the morning 365 days before.  Those on my Facebook list are reminded because I post about it.  But if I didn’t?  It would be just another January 27 to them.  When good happens.  When bad happens.

For my family?  It’s a date that changed our lives forever.

So here’s what I want you to know about a young woman name Andri.  She was a girl full of life.  She loved the guitar; I see in photos the love she had for her smaller cousins.  She loved children.  She loved helping others.  She was vivacious.  She loved to go out and have a good time.  She loved nothing more than her best friends.  And though it’s tragic–they went out that night together to celebrate birthdays…and they were together in the end.

And I want you to know that good can always come out of bad.  Her mother and the mothers of her best friends began a non-profit organization to help children.  The amount of items they’ve been able to collect to help those less unfortunate in these few short months is astounding.  It’s not that we wouldn’t want Andri and the other 241 victims back.  But they are gone and so, how, moving forward, do we honor their lives while they were here on earth?

I know my cousin, her mother, will never be the same.  Nor will her father or sister.  But I trust they know these verses speak true.

That God is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and that He heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).

We love and miss you SO much, Andri.  We will never forget you.  My world is not the same without you in it.

Praying today for every single one of the 242 families affected by this tragedy and the survivors whose lives will forever be shaped by this event.



Saudade eterna, prima.

This post was written in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.  I just let my fingers type.  I let the emotions be felt and the memories of that day to come out; memories that I want to be documented because I know I’ll forget.  So I did not go back and re-read and edit.  If there are mistakes, my apologies.


Dear Tofer,

A few weeks ago, we were at Target enjoying a snack and your dad left to go find some cold medicine.

We continued chatting and for whatever reason I said to you, You are my heart.

And you replied, Well, if I’m your heart how are you going to survive when one day I move far away?

(It was a very Johnny-Depp-in-the-movie-Blow moment which, apparently, YouTube does not have a clip of.)

You didn’t realize why I had to turn my head in that moment to blink back the tears that surely would have trickled had I not.

Because the truth is, kid…I don’t know.

Hospital (5)

The other day your daddy gave you 30 extra minutes of staying up time because you did so well on a Math test you had studied hard for.  Your dad asked you what you wanted to do with that time.

Your response?  Uh, I don’t know.  Probably snuggle with mom.

And sure enough, right after shower time, you came right to me.  Except there was more rough-housing than snuggling as we tickled, play fought, and performed our mother-son acrobatics routine that no one else would understand.

1 to 2 months (21)Every year, I try to think of the words I know I want to write to you on this day.  Without fail, there are never enough adequate ones to convey what you mean to me. I can only hope that one day you will look back on them and know how fiercely I loved you.  Little man, I’d go to the ends of the earth for you if I needed to.  Believe that.

God used you to save my life.  Both literally and spiritually.  I am forever grateful to Him.  I am so glad I get to be your mother.

Someone I follow on Instagram wrote this about her son:

This person turns 10 tomorrow.  If I think about it for too long, breathing becomes a problem.  #changedmyworldforever

DSC02646Yes, Tofer.  Today that day has arrived.  But my breathing problems started the moment I found out about you.  Wondering if I’d be good enough to take care of another human.  Hoping I was doing a decent job and that you would be safe and protected when you finally did arrive.  Striving with everything in me to make you happy in the time that has passed since.

You have changed my world.  But my prayer is you would be that you would be a world-changer in an even greater sense.  That you would serve God and make His name known.

A whole decade.  Ten years.  It’s hard to comprehend that that much time has passed.

A child’s birthday is one of many emotional paradoxes in the life of a mother.

45383_422826742186_142110_nI’m so glad that our loving Father has given you another year.  It’s exciting to see the candles on the cake get bigger!  To watch you grow and learn new things and become your own little person with an amazing personality.  But my heart also grieves the years that have gone by too quickly.  What I wouldn’t give for you to be that chubby baby in my arms again.

So, my little Goob.  I’ll look in the mirror today and internally give myself a high-five for making it this far in the parenthood game.  And I’ll pray that I get many more decades to continue to love on you and be the mom God has called me to be.

No, little man, it’s not easy to watch you get older.  Knowing that more and more and little by little I have to let go.  Let you make your own choices; use the wisdom we’ve tried to teach you and have asked God to instill in you as you navigate decisions and decide for yourself right from wrong.  The time of you going out on your own is fast approaching; the moments of not needing mom and dad to help you every step of the way is inching upon us.  The years I now have left with you in my home are far shorter.  But this journey…as gut-wrenching as it can sometimes be?  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I love you, Christofer.  You bring your momma so much joy.

May you always know the depth of my love for you…

Hospital (10)

from the moment I found out about you to the moment I met you and now ten years later.


_MG_2472_copyTofer at {almost} ten.

Click the links below for a recap of years 1-9:
When it all began.
The Not-So-Terrible-Twos.
Four & Five.
Age 6.
And then you were nine.

Learning from your spouse.

Last night, my hubby shared something with me and I’ve been meditating on it all morning.

I don’t know if it was meant to be kept private, but honey, it’s too good not to share. 🙂  I remain so encouraged by it.

We’re getting ready for bed and hubby says he wants to have a serious talk.

Uh-oh, I thought in my head.  Can’t I just go to sleep?

Hubby mentioned a men’s group he had attended the night before and there was a lot of talk on marriage.  And coupled with doing his own thinking, he had a lot of realizations.

We, and by we I mean I, are always saying how different we are.  And by “saying” I mean, I throw it in his face when the going gets tough.  It’s my go-to defense mechanism.

So here’s what hubby shared.  Those qualities that make us so different…well, those qualities are ones that God gave us.  And the good qualities one spouse has may be (or are usually) ones the other spouse is lacking.

My husband encouraged me by stating that more and more he sees qualities in me that he wished he possessed.  He is learning from me.  And that is a great perspective to have.

So that’s the encouragement I want to pass on to you, whether you are already married or one day will be.

God knows what he is doing when he joins two people together.  So on those days when you feel like you and your spouse are worlds apart; that you’ll never meet eye-to-eye, look for qualities in your spouse that you know you should possess.

For example, my husband has been encouraging me a lot lately on how he admires how I want to serve people.  I always want to help people out; I rarely say no to requests to be there for someone.  My hubby, on the other hand, doesn’t have that natural tendency to want to do that.  But maybe he needs to exercise that trait more.

And me?  Terrible with money.  So much better than I once was, but still with a mentality of “Why do it myself if I can pay someone to do it for me?”  So when my son was vomiting all over his bedroom carpet one day, my natural inclination was to run to the computer and buy a Groupon (See!  I can be conscious with saving money!) for a carpet-cleaning service.  But not my husband.  He went to the market, spent a couple of dollars on a carpet cleaner, and did it himself.  This past week, my lovely boys stepped all over dog poop and thinking it was mud wiped it all over the car mats.  I wanted to run to the car wash.  Hubby went outside and washed them himself.

(I think he has more of a servant’s heart than he realizes.)

So I see those qualities in my spouse and I want them to.

Sure, I’d love if my husband put dirty cups in the sink, but I value that he would rather read his Bible even if it means dishes stay dirty in the sink.

I’m sure my husband would love if there was a homemade meal waiting for him at the end of every work day, but I know he values my heart more than a fresh dinner if I’ve been out of the house all day helping at our son’s school.

It’s a give and take and instead of fighting against the things that makes us different, I can see it as God putting together two wonderful–very broken–but wonderful puzzle pieces that are meant to complement one another.

It’s NOT a bad thing to be different.  It’s a bad thing to allow those differences to cause tension and discontentment within your marriage.

So, again, I encourage you to see the qualities in your spouse that are opposite to your natural tendencies and see if you can learn from them.

Marriage is a partnership.  And going at life together will always be better than being disgruntled that your spouse is not just like you.

(Because “you” is probably not all that anyway. :))

I can focus on the things I don’t like about my spouse, or rather the things he does, or I can cherish the way God created him.  The unique traits that make him the person God designed for me to share life with.

And I can be grateful that God knew exactly what I needed.

Because only God could know the perfect person to balance out my type of crazy.

Be encouraged, friends.  God knows what he’s doing.  😉

With love,