Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Special Blessings

From the Heart ~

My 38th birthday was this past Friday, but more importantly, it was also the 6th anniversary of the adoption of our children. They do not know the date of their adoption (we celebrate their "gotcha day" instead). They had already lived with us for 2 years and did not experience much difference between their time with us as foster children and then as our adopted children. However, for my husband and me, it was a very memorable day. I remember walking to the mailbox and pulling out the mail. I returned to the yard and began opening it while pushing Tom Sawyer in his swing. When I realized that the official document in my hand was my children's adoption decree and that it had been signed on my birthday, I was awestruck. We were finally FREE! We did not have to ask social workers if we could do this or that for our children anymore. The first thing I did was march up to my dd's Headstart preschool and pull her out. She had been in daycare because DSS required it. From that day forward, she would be homeschooled and home with our family where she belonged. What a relief to be able to make our own choices for our children and get them the care we felt they needed without constantly asking for permission!

On the Homefront ~

Our sweet 11 year old dog did very well in her surgery this week. It started out as a typical dental cleaning but other procedures were added. They needed to remove two teeth and biopsy a lump on her chest. It appears to be benign. What a blessing she is doing well! They kept saying she was an "old girl". That phrase brings home that the clock is ticking for our dear dog.

Another wonderful blessing this week came via a package in the mail. Do you remember a few weeks ago I told you about a giveaway for a gift card from Stephanie? I WON! How exciting! I bought a stop watch, stethoscope, scented pens for my youngest sensory integration child, and magnetic blocks with the gift card. What fun new additions to our home!

Summer Fun ~

We are really enjoying our library reading program this summer. This week we learned how to tie-dye shirts. This was a first time for my little kids. They really enjoyed it and they came out great.

We have gone on a few family walks in the evening, the time of day when the heat is becoming bearable. In the bottom photo, dh is carrying wood back from the camp store to start our campfire while we were camping.


Living Frugally ~

We have several major expenses coming along in the next few months. In an attempt to pull as much of those expenses out of our budget instead of savings, we are going to tighten the belt wherever possible. One thing we are doing is limiting our groceries to $100 a week. Thanks to the organic dent and scratch store in town, this should be possible. This is what I got this week for $93 dollars. The trick is to buy very little meat and buy the deals when you see them.

Menu Plan ~

Dinners -- The beef bones will make a nice stock for veggie soup (I have veggies on hand in the freezer); ham will be mashed with potatoes and cabbage; ground turkey will make spaghetti with meat sauce; chicken thighs will be added to a veggie stir fry with rice; cheese will make a mac and cheese; cottage cheese will be added to a pancake mix; ground turkey sausage will be mashed with white beans and rice.

Lunch -- peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, left over veggie soup, deviled eggs and tuna salad

Breakfast -- cereal, yogurt sticks, watermelon (on hand), bananas, and gluten-free pancakes, eggs.

Snacks -- yogurt sticks, fruit roll ups, apples (already have) and peanut butter on crackers

Learning Time ~

I decided that this would be the summer that the kids became swimmers or at least became safe around water. I am starting to see real progress with our concept of full immersion swimming lessons. Between their paid lessons at the YWCA and the free lessons from the Red Cross, the kids were in the pool swimming six times this week.

We also attended one night of Chautauqua this week. Chautauqua is a great event put on by the county library system that hosts actors who impersonate different famous Americans. We went on the night of Benjamin Franklin. It turned out that a severe storm developed and the event had to be moved from the tent into a nearby building, which had lost electricity. Several large trees fell down and there was a great deal of lightning (which was fitting for Benjamin Franklin). The kids remember the storm more than what the actor said. LOL!
I did not get a picture of Ben Franklin.  But I did get a picture of the Cat and the Hat advertising the Dr. Seuss performance later in the week, which my Mom and Tim attended.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Therapy Thursday ~ Clothing

The child who avoids ordinary sensations or seeks excessive stimulation, whose body is uncooperative, whose behavior is difficult, and who doesn't "fit in" is our out-of-sync child.  For instance, he may have a tantrum because the tag in his shirt scratches his skin-or he may not notice that his pants are on backward."  The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun
One thing many parents notice with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) kids is that they have a terrible time transitioning from season to season. My younger son, who has the diagnosis of severe SID, really struggles as the clothes are changed to be appropriate for each season. It can take him half of each season to figure out which of his clothes are comfortable and this process is really stressful.

We are very blessed because a friend of the family hands down all of their son's clothes to us. This is great because it can take 20 outfits to find eight comfortable ones. Each year is a bit different.  Sometimes cotton is the way to go, and other years he does well with the satin-type sports pants. The only thing that has been consistent is his dislike of denim. Because we are so blessed with clothes, and I can never figure out what he will wear, his drawers look like this part of each season (half long sleeve shirts and long pants and half short sleeve shirts and shorts).

After watching and asking "how does that feel on you?" for a few weeks, I can sort his clothes and get him down to a manageable dresser. This afternoon, he and I sorted his clothes and determined which were uncomfortable. Those were put away for another year or to put in a consignment shop. The reject pile was very large this season.

What I have not figured out is why the texture of clothing changes year to year. Why is it that sometimes he can only deal with cotton and at other times he wants only sweatpants? There is still so much to learn about this. But at least for now, everything in his dresser is comfortable, and his room is neat and manageable once again.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Day in the Life ~ June Edition

I think I missed my May edition, but we all can't be perfect, right? Well, here is a day in the life of our homeschool for June. Even though we are not formally in school right now, learning is always going on. I did not keep minute-by-minute records of our day. It is summer and we are trying to be more relaxed!

7:00 to 10:30 am --

Everyone was up by 7 this morning. Over the next 3 hours everyone ate, played, watched Curious George, did chores and had reading lessons. Tom Sawyer also had his computer time. During the last half-hour, the Littles got their bathing suits on and I packed lunch. We all headed off to swimming lessons. Timothy went along for the ride in the hopes that we would wind up at a bookstore (he is such a bibliophile, as am I).

Oh, before leaving for swimming I had to do mini-surgery on Goldilocks' braces. She decided her loose tooth itched so ripped it out, breaking her braces and leaving a wire jabbing in all the wrong places (not to mention the huge amounts of blood). Per the doctor's instructions, I had to take clean wire cutters and cut the wire inside her mouth! A mother's work is never boring ....

10:40 to 11:15 am --

Our local Red Cross offers free swimming lessons to those who get in line early enough to make the list. It is very popular and, although registration started at 11 am, all the classes were full at 12 pm. I got all the kids into classes this year. Whoo hoo! They get 10 classes each over 2 weeks time for FREE! That's 30 free lessons ~ well worth my time to stand in line for just over an hour!

11:15 am  to 12:00 pm --

We went to the park near the pool to eat lunch and play. This little monkey learned the monkey bars last week. She did them over and over again until her arms were ready to fall off. Little Red Riding Hood is my most athletic child.

12:00 to 1:30 pm --

By now the heat was too much, and we headed for the bliss of an air-conditioned Barnes and Noble. Just getting across the blistering parking lot was almost enough to make us pass out. The kids had finished their Summer Reading Program sheets and were ready to pick out their own book. Barnes and Noble has some nice choices this year.

Man, is this picture bad. I have no idea what happened to the lighting, and you wouldn't want anyone to look at the camera, would you? NO, the baby off to the side is much more interesting. Tom Sawyer is pouting because he had to go to the bathroom, and I wasn't buying him a hot chocolate. There are just so many injustices to bear when you are an 8 year old boy!

1:30 to 3:30 --

Back to home and free time. A couple of us worked on the computers, while others watched Toy Story, while still another colored and wandered around interrupting my thought process every 2 to 3 minutes with questions that often made no sense. That poor child sometimes cannot get her brain to work. I think the trust required to let me put the wire cutters in her mouth did her in for the entire day.

3:30 to 5:00 pm --

Everyone talked and tried to play with Periwinkle. They played different bird songs on YouTube for her. She really gave a big reaction to some of the parakeet songs.

We then took Timothy to his fencing class and came back home again to make dinner.

5:00 to 7:30 pm --

We had gluten-free pizza and corn-on-the-cob. The kids finished off the day with sprinkler play and bedtime stories with Daddy. Well, that is the end of another day in our life.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, June 21, 2010

We All Had Fun

Well, the camping trip went very well. What a relief! Tracy's camping list and ideas were very helpful.

We arrived at the campsite just after 1 pm.  Dh and Tim had the tents up in less than 20 minutes. We had two campsites so that Tim could have his own space and have a solo adventure with the support of his family within earshot. He spent a lot of time with us but also was able to get away and study his nature books and stay up as late as he wanted without disturbing little sleepers.

Several times the park rangers came around to warn us that a black bear kept visiting the campsite. The black bears in our area are quite aggressive and usually kill at least one person or family pet every year. So we kept a close eye out for a bear. Also, while Tim and I were on our way to the restroom, I was leading in the path. I heard a rattle and told Tim I thought there was a rattlesnake (timber rattlesnakes are in our area) on the path. Tim, in his cool man, macho manner (he works with all the reptiles at the nature center), pooh-poohed me and took the lead. Suddenly, he ran back, ran into me, and screamed, "Run, there's a rattlesnake up there!" We both kept bumping into each other as we got away and took a different path to get to the restroom. LOLOL

There was lots of fun to be had, such as:

Bubble blowing

S'more eating

Stick fighting

Rock collecting

Ghost story telling

Fire tending

Nature walking

Wood collecting

Hot dog roasting

Wildlife watching

Nature journaling

and campfire singing

Then came the part I was dreading, sleeping in the tent! Well, it wasn't too bad after all. The air mattress really did not stay very inflated and it was a noisy campsite. The campers around us did not settle down until long past 11pm. The kids woke up pretty cold at 5:40 am. I got up and with Tim's help got a fire going.

Good morning, Family, and Happy Father's Day! We had muffins and grapes for breakfast and broke camp pretty early. We were on the road to our hiking destination by 8:15 am.

Here is our little trail blazer. You can almost always find Little Red Riding Hood at the front on a hike.

We took a 2 mile round trip hike to a fire tower. As we got closer, the fog got thicker. It was neat being inside the clouds.

Things I learned ... for next time.
  • Take more padding and bedding
  • Take long sleeve clothes even if it is 90 degrees when you leave home
  • Take rope and duct tape for emergencies
  • They played so nice with the rocks and sticks ~ everything was more peaceful without toys.
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, June 18, 2010

24 Hours

I am about to spend 24 hours in the woods with my children and husband ... 24 hours of bugs, snakes, bears and who knows what else. I am going camping. Those of you who know me in real life can stop laughing now.

Last year we promised the kids we would camp one night in the backyard. All went well so we told them that this year we would camp farther away than our backyard. Since they did not accept the neighbor's backyard as being farther away, we are going one hour away to a state campground. I want to point out that the state campground is across the street from a very nice inn. My dh says I am to sleep in the tent with everyone else and not at the inn. Lucky for him, I really like my family and would rather be eaten by the bears with them than to be left behind. I did promise that I would only wake people up around me two or three times to ask them if they heard that noise or if their side of the tent is less lumpy than mine. (If it has less lumps, I'm trading sides.) There it is in writing, now I really can't torment my family. All kidding aside, I am looking forward to camping ... a little bit ... mostly, for the family memories, s'mores and picture-taking opportunities. To prepare for this maiden camping trip in the real woods, I have been stalking Tracy's blog. She did a really excellent camping 101 post, and I have followed her instructions to the letter. We are even eating the exact same food as she posted. LOL I did add in two changes of clothes and bathing suits because my children are mud magnets. Oh yeah, I added a snake bite kit and an air mattress! Tracy, what,  no air mattress?! REALLY?

Wish me luck and if you don't hear from me by Monday, send out a search party!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Therapy Thursday ~ Making a Comfortable World

"Since sensory integration disorder involves receiving and interpreting information from the senses and combining the information to form a well-rounded and accurate picture, problems with one sense can cause problems with all sensory input and output.  If your child is distracted by the way her clothing feels, it's going to affect her ability to listen and to see detail and to stay still.  If your child feels off-balance, it's going to affect the way she sees things, coordinates her movements, and hears what you are telling her."  ~The Everything Parent's Guide To Sensory Integration Disorder 
It is the little things that drive each of my boys crazy ... the way the hair on his legs gets caught in his socks with every step; the rotating fan coming back and forth across his skin instead of just being steady wind;  the feel of a hot pillow at bedtime that someone else has leaned against during story time; sticky sand that was fun when he was sitting in it playing but now hurts while he is trying to get it off; the way it is cold in the morning and hot by mid-day; how much it hurts to sit on the hard ground (it hurts his neck, not his bottom) -- all of these statements have been said by one or the other of my boys just in the last week.

Even though it is the middle of June in North Carolina and our days often end in the high 80's, my younger son is still putting on his winter sweatpants many days. Sometimes he even puts on a long sleeve shirt. My older son never wears shorts because he cannot stand the way the air feels with only part of his leg cool and the other part hot.

One way I have found to help my boys is with brushing therapy. My older son can brush himself and my younger son is brushed by me. Brushing the skin with a soft brush is an excellent way to wake up the skin and prepare to take in some sensory input. I took my youngest son to the store and had him feel many brushes and sponges. He picked a very soft one. We also have an occupational therapy brush.

Today we attempted our first children's outdoor concert. It was the library's Summer Kick-Off program. They had a local popular, positive kids hip-hop group. I must admit that, when I heard it was going to be hip-hop, I thought this was not going to work out well. But my friend insisted that this group was not to be missed. I packed snacks and gum to help Tom Sawyer be able to "chew" his way through the noise level. We also took several blankets so that he could curl up in them if necessary. I let him pick the spot where we sat and told him to tell us when it got too loud and we would move or leave. He started with us sitting outside the tent but still very close to the stage. Toward the end, we sat right next to the stage with our friends. Overall, he did very well and made it through 25 minutes of the music before he said we needed to leave. He had no meltdowns and only needed one piece of gum. He did not need to curl up in the blankets.

While he did not dance or show any signs of enjoying the concert, he did not cry or misbehave either. Hurray, a success!

When we were leaving, the kids were given free snow cones. What a special treat. I'm glad that everyone behaved and earned the right to such a nice treat.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Summer

From the Heart ~

My husband and I had a wonderful date for our anniversary. We went to a pottery place and painted ceramics. I made a plate that I have wanted for a long time. It is a "You are special" plate that we will be using to recognize different members of the family when they accomplish or do something special. I saw this on a friend's blog and really loved the idea. I'm looking forward to putting it into practice.

Learning Time ~

I am looking forward to doing some learning of my own this summer. I have pulled out a big stack of books to read and I am building in reading time for the whole family during the heat of the afternoon. I have been doing this for some time but inconsistently. I hope that I will see a stronger interest in reading develop for my Goldilocks from this modeling. Also, I will get through a stack of books that I have been wanting to read for some time.
  • The Places in Between -- This is about a man traveling through the small villages and big cities of Afghanistan. I feel we need to know so much more about this region of the world so we can understand the pain and hate that is coming out of this region.
  • Stones into Schools -- I am almost done with this book. It is another book set in Afghanistan and Pakistan about Greg Mortenson, who is building schools for all children, including girls in this region. I think this book is better than his previous book, Three Cups of Tea.
  • The Worried Child -- I have a worried child so I hope this book will give me some guidance on helping him.
  • The Well Educated Mind -- I have flipped through this one. Now I am hoping to read it in depth.
  • Last Dinner on the Titanic -- We are planning a Titanic dinner party for later this month or next. This book has great menus and recipes.
  • Sundays In America -- This a neat book that tours different Christian faiths throughout a year of Sundays. I am about halfway through. It's very interesting.
  • Heart Smart Cookbook -- My dh has dropped his cholesterol 50 points, but there is still work to do so we will be doing  a lot of menu planning around this book.
Summer Fun

This week our field trip led us to the local children's museum. We wanted to see the Wizard of Oz exhibit. The kids had a great time learning about tornadoes, playing dress up, building the yellow brick road, acting out the story and building the scarecrow.

In the Way of Parenting~

The children are growing like sunflowers as children do. It all goes by so fast and there often seems to be not enough time to impart all that we have to share with our children. I am trying to enjoy each stage! I wish I could slow it all down a bit.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Therapy Thursday ~ This Is My Box

I recently realized that I had dropped the ball when it came to doing home therapy with my SID (sensory integration dysfunction) kids. Somehow in my mind, I had decided that taking them to Tomatis every 2 to 3 months was enough. After all, both of them graduated from occupational therapy last year, so my work was done, right? Not so much! I put it out of my mind that SID is incurable and went on studying other issues my kids had.

My Tom Sawyer did very poorly on his reevaluation for OT and Tomatis a few weeks ago. I explained to his occupational therapist that he seemed to be at the end of his rope all the time and was often in distress. Tom Sawyer's meltdowns were increasing in length and he was having them five to eight times a day. His OT decided to increase his Tomatis program to every 8 weeks with 10 day intensives, and we are most likely restarting weekly occupational therapy (at my request).

This prompted me to reread The Out Of Sync Child Has Fun and work on creating a new sensory diet for my children at home. Both boys are diagnosed with severe SID and Goldilocks has some SID issues. On Thursdays, I will be sharing on this blog about what games and activities help my children. I thought I would start by sharing my indoor OT box.

I started my renewed journey with sensory integration by collecting frequently used OT/sensory items in the house and putting them all in one place. I found some things in closets that had not been touched in 6 months or more!! I then took my birthday money from my aunt and purchased this really nice trunk at Big Lots.

This is what is in the box so far: balance board, weighted 4 pound ball, thera-putty, shaving cream, popper, chewing gum, flashlights for vision therapy, pressure brushes, pressure vest, shoe with special laces, gym mat, trays and two books to help me. I will be adding a great deal more over the next few weeks, but this is a start.  I employed the sensory diet during most transitions yesterday, and I did notice an improvement.

Each week I will be posting more of what we are doing in this area. If you want to add your own ideas, leave them in the comment area or email me.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ecourgaging Composition

"Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons, and, leave the handling of such materials to themselves. If we would believe it, composition is as natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books. They should narrate in the first place, and they will compose readily enough; but they should not be taught 'composition'." ~ Charlotte Mason
Much of a Charlotte Mason education is so simple, if we just let it be. I myself forget this regularly. However, when it comes to writing and composing, I have tried to let things happen in due course. In the last few weeks, my children have gotten into the habit of following me around the house with paper and pen. They would chatter to each other and then ask me to spell a word or two for them. Before I knew it, they had a few sentences on several papers and were looking for the stapler. Realizing that I should strike while the iron was hot but not get too involved with their fun for fear of ruining it, I decided to make them some composition books. I put them in a basket with pencils, markers and stickers. I then placed the basket on the table and waited to see what would happen.

It was not long before little hands were in the basket and kiddos were asking, "What are these books and things for?" I told them they could write little stories in them and put them on their bookshelves. All three of them took a book and started composing. I look forward to seeing what they would create. Interestingly, the kids went off to get their personal spelling dictionaries and remembered periods at the end of their sentences without a single lesson! Thank you, Charlotte Mason.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Summer Fun Has Begun

From the Heart ~

I am once again thinking about balance. We had a good week around here. I think there was just enough work, fun and downtime this past week. I am hoping to keep a nice balance going as our summer builds into full swing. We are planning on spending a lot of time at the pool this summer. There are four possible weeks of free swimming lessons at our local pool, in addition to our YWCA lessons. Between both of those opportunities and a few fun pool days scattered in, I hope we will end up with all of the children being strong swimmers by the end. We also plan on going to the free mid-day movies each week and several play dates with friends.

On the Homefront ~

Our small garden is coming along nicely. We are starting to get a handful of berries several times a week. It is slow getting the bushes going, but I think they will produce bumper crops in years to come. My city slicker children are not happy weeders. However, they are good waterers and are learning to survive weeding for very short periods of time.

Learning Time ~

Since we are not currently in "school", I thought I would change this section's title to Learning Time during the summer. However, learning time seems like a silly title when you are learning all of the time. But here are some highlights. As is the case most weeks, we spent several hours in doctors' offices this week.I was thinking about it and realized that we spend on average 3 to 5 hours a week in doctors' offices/waiting rooms. That is about 250 hours a year. It really is not that bad anymore, because I've learned just to take our life with us. Once, I even folded laundry (all towels) in a waiting room (that I knew would be virtually empty when I was there). For the most part, I am able to find a small corner just for us and set up a craft, movie, story time or school for the kids. It really works well for us. The kids are happy and engaged; I feel like we are getting something done and not just wasting time; and the other folks in the waiting room are happy if not a bit curious. We do get a lot of positive comments.

Family Fun ~

When we are not at the pool, I am pretty sure we will be hanging out at our city's new fountain splash park. It is smack in the middle of downtown. The kids had a blast there this week. They cannot wait to go back.

Yep! Fun in the sun! I better get some stronger sunscreen.

The kids also enjoyed going to one of their friend's birthday party. It was held at a very nice park in our area.

Tim holding my friend's sweet foster baby. We get to take care of her for a week in July, so I thought I'd have Tim practice babysitting. He He ....

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tightwad Tuesday ~ Bulk Buying

If you are a city dweller like me, you probably do not have room for a large crop such as corn. I have found that the cheapest way to get good fresh corn is to buy it bulk from the farmers' market. Our grocery store and the farmers' market are selling 2 ears for $1. However, we have a wholesale area at our farmers' market, and the corn was 4 dozen for $20 today (our crate was just a bit over 4 dozen).  Basically, it cost us 40 cents an ear for really fresh corn.

My shuckers made real fast work of the corn.  They actually ENJOYED shucking it and were worried the corn would all get shucked before they had a chance to shuck their share! LOL Shucking corn outside means you do not have to worry about the mess. After we had all of the silk off the ears, we put six ears in each freezer bag. Just drop into boiling water when you need it and cook as always. It will be nice and fresh. I will be watching for corn as the season gets more in swing. I'm hoping for an even better deal later in the season. I also buy apples, peaches, berries and cabbage in bulk when they are in season, as our garden, fruit trees, and berry bushes don't produce enough for a family of six.

Blessings, Dawn