Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Wrap-Up

I've done this fun wrap-up for a few years.  You take the first picture and first sentence of the first blog entry from each month (the photo doesn't necessarily go with the first sentence, of course).  Here you go!

January ~
Last year I saw on another blog about picking a word to live by or concentrate on each year.

February ~
This is a fun month filled with all kinds of activities and holidays.

March ~
Every home has a unique atmosphere.

April ~
We have suspected food allergies with our Tom Sawyer for years but have been unable to figure out exactly what was wrong.

May ~
My little boy turned 9 on Friday.

June ~
Wow...It is the first day of June. Our summer is really getting underway.

July ~
Everyone has suntans and many things on our summer wish list are completed.

August ~
In My Life ~ It is so nice to see all those weeks of planning and reworking coming together.

September ~
We really enjoyed rowing through the book, They Were Strong and Good, recently. 

October ~
We are done with the first nine weeks of school!

November ~
We are learning about the Irish Potato Famine, immigration and Ellis Island this week.

December ~
We made it! All of the kids' hard work paid off and we successfully made it through three awesome performances of "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King".

I thought this was fun, too.  Here are the most popular posts that I wrote this year (according to Blogger stats):
Our classroom
Preparing for the Nutcracker
Our Lovely Books!
How I Plan Our School Year
Books and More Books!

We are looking forward to 2012!  I can't believe it is here already.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Goldilocks!

Wow!  Goldilocks turned 11 years old today.  The years just fly by!  She requested a horse themed party this year.  We had eight kids at the party, including her younger brother and sister.  We had a relay race of carrying sugar cubes on a spoon, pinning the body part on the horse (hooves, eye, tail, ears) and the Cobweb Game.
The kids had more trouble with the sugar cube relay than I thought they would.  They really struggled to keep their hands balanced, so sugar cubes kept falling. Not to worry; I had extras.

It was interesting to see how the kids figured out where the body parts went.  Some felt around and had memorized where the other parts had been pinned.  I was impressed with the child who found the right place for the saddle.  I probably should have kept them all blindfolded, so no one could see where the previous children had put the parts!  Usually, my Mother gets roped into drawing the skeleton, castle, etc., for the pin on game, but my dh volunteered to do it this time.  He did such a good job that we may just let him keep doing the drawings for future parties (or so my Mom says)!

My kids really wanted to play the Cobweb Game that was a popular Christmas game in the 1870's.  Basically, you criss-cross thread around a room, using a different color for each child who will play.  Then you place toys and candy on the strings.  To play, the kids wrap up their string as they walk along and get their toys along the way.  Since other threads cross theirs, they have to be patient about getting past the other strings.  It was my first time creating this, which took about an hour before the party started.  My Mom helped and we got a bit goofy in the process of setting this up with eight different colors of crochet thread.  Mom got stuck in the far corner and had to commando crawl underneath the web. LOL  Setting it up was harder than you might think --  especially remembering whose string you had already put toys on.  We got cross-eyed trying to follow the strings to be sure everyone had a horse figurine, noisemaker, candy cane, etc.  Below are the pictures of the room all set up.

This is the entrance to the room where each child gets a roll of thread to re-wind the string.

My youngest daughter was kind enough to give up use of her room for a few hours, as I needed a place that was out of the main entertainment area.

We used clothespins to attach the toys.

The kids had a blast doing this activity!  They worked well together and moved slowly through the room.  There were a few times that one or another got stuck, but we were able to crawl around and help them out.  I wouldn't advise this for children any younger than 6, and I wouldn't want to do it with any more than the eight kids we had.
Our parakeet (in the cage) enjoyed the activity going on around her.

Each child got a bucket to put their treasures into.

We finished up with cake and present opening.
Happy Birthday, Goldilocks!  You are making so much progress.  This year you have made a few friends, learned to read much better, and fallen in love with dance.  You can spend hours on the trampoline and still have energy to go on a long walk.  You are writing so many cute short stories.  You love your sister and brothers.  You are always dancing, running, jumping and spinning.  You love clothes and would change your clothes five times a day if I would let you.  You think Princess Kate is the luckiest woman in the world, because she has to change her clothes so many times a day.  Here is a list of 11 ways to  describe you!
  1. Curious
  2. Enthusiastic
  3. Helpful
  4. Outgoing
  5. Talkative
  6. Energetic
  7. Good cleaner
  8. Eager to please
  9. Happy
  10. Giggly
  11. Inquisitive
Update ~ This is for me to remember ... Goldilocks, who has FASD and Reactive Attachment Disorder, still suffers with impulse control issues and decision making.  Scissors have been a real challenge the last few weeks.  She almost cut the lining out of her winter coat because something was caught in it.  She has cut up all of her winter tights in an attempt to make them footless.  However, the cuts are so high and uneven that they can not be used.  My girl is always busy and always into something (usually something that needs supervision and guidance).  She still asks me often to make choices for her because making choices is too hard for her.  However, if I make the choice, then I am blamed later.  She is my best housecleaner and with careful guidance and training can make a meal, use the stove, unload the dishwasher, clean a bathroom, wash windows, and do a load of laundry through completion.  Organizing is still a real challenge and maintaining her room is impossible.  She is easily overwhelmed by her belongings and still struggles with how to entertain herself.  She is most successful in playing active games, coloring and doing very easy craft projects.  She is making strides toward obedience.  Goldilocks had vision therapy, speech therapy and neurofeedback treatments in 2011.  I have not seen any improvement in speech and may drop that for her soon.  She also took modern dance classes for the first half of the year and jazz dance for the second.  This year she performed in Beauty and the Beast and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Ice Skating!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  We had the calmest one since becoming a family of six.  It is great to see the kids growing and becoming more appreciative.  I also loved seeing them so excited when handing out the gifts they had bought for others.  I love seeing the progress!

Don't you find the last day or two before Christmas to be the hardest on kids?  The anticipation  just eats away at them.  We decided to try a brand new distraction for the day before Christmas this year.  We took the kids to an outdoor ice skating rink more than an hour away (in another state, no less).  The kids were really amazed that we were going to a different state for only a few hours.  I must say, our theory of distraction worked.  The kids forgot all about Christmas for half a day.  The Three Little's did really well for their first time on the ice.  The rest of us had been ice skating a handful of times.

Everyone started out hanging on the wall. 

I love the smile on Goldilocks' face.  Those smiles often are hard to come by.

Tom Sawyer never got the hang of it.  He was pretty much ready to leave after a half hour.

Goldilocks did make it to the center of the ice a few times.  But, she spent a lot of time going SPLAT!

Little Red Riding Hood is our sports-oriented child. 
It didn't take her long to be skating in the center and keeping up with the crowd.

Tim did well, too.  He was a great help with his younger sibs on the ice.

We parents braved the ice, too.  It was fun and exhausting.

The younger kids fell asleep on the way home in the middle of the day.  We were amazed by how tired they were!  I don't think this will become a tradition, but I am sure we will do it again.  Tom Sawyer really struggled with the sensory issues ~ cold ice, loud music and crowds.  He was also hindered by having cerebral palsy.  Goldilocks says that it was fun but a once in a lifetime experience!  I am glad we tried this new experience.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ Almost There

We are getting so close to Christmas!  It almost leaves me breathless...and not just because I love Christmas...but because I might actually be ready this year without the midnight toil.  Oh, the year I thought I could put together the Thomas the Tank toy chest after Christmas Eve midnight service -- HA HA!  Then there was that year that my husband was out looking desperately for batteries.  He followed a parade of other fathers in cars out of the closed Walmart parking lot and to a nearby gas station that was open.  The manager said he always stocked extra batteries for the poor fathers who were sent out at the last minute.  Hmmm!  Maybe, I better pick up a few extra.

I love the moments when we are just sitting, cuddling, and looking at our pretty Christmas tree.

I am happy that we were able to focus so much on charity this Advent.  I want my kids to really understand that it is better to give than receive.  They enjoyed giving for the last month and now they will enjoy receiving gifts.

Everyone has a stocking, even the pets.  No one is left out.  Perry the parakeet has visions of millet dancing in her head.  My Mom made Perry this stocking.

I know Leila says to clean your own bedroom first, but mine is the Christmas staging area.  Our bedroom is an explosion of wrapping paper, tape, boxes and gifts.  Then there is just life happening.  Can you believe that clothing still needs to be ironed for work on the week before Christmas?  I really miss having a storage room/craft room/laundry room.  But, then I remember how blessed we are here in America.  It is the many blessings we have that has made our room a disaster.  I am reading Women in the Material World to keep my perspective amongst this mess.  We are so blessed...

Still, this is the only corner of my room that I am showing right now.  LOL!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Boxes for the Elderly

My children love doing the shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, so when I saw an ad to make shoe boxes for Meals On Wheels, I knew it was a charity for us.  Sure enough, the kids were very excited to make a box.  We tried to make a unisex box for an elderly couple.
We filled it with exotic teas, a 500 piece Christmas puzzle, good smelling soap, Christmas CDs (used but in great shape), lotion and powder, a Christmas romance book (again, read first by me) and a wrapped surprise (a Santa decoration). It was a nice change making a box for an adult.  When we dropped off the box at Meals on Wheels, the room was bulging with Christmas boxes.  It was wonderful to see all of the loving hands that had made an elderly or disabled adult's day more pleasant.  We will do this charity again next year.

UPDATE ON TOM SAWYER ~ His fever broke mid-day Saturday.  Thanks for all of your prayers and advice.  He is still tired and not eating very well.  However, he is a sweeter, more creative child.  We have noticed this before and it lasts for a few days after a high fever.  His doctor thinks he has trouble  detoxing and that the high fever detoxed him.  We are looking at more ways to help him detox every day.  His doctor suggests sauna treatments, Epsom salt baths, drinking lots of water, trampoline jumping and looking into the NAET Clearing program.  Denise, I will be contacting you about homeopathic ideas for fevers.  I will be working on making a safe medication cabinet.  Surprisingly, the Infant dye-free Advil seems to have worked.  He is not reacting from it, even though we gave him an entire bottle over the three days.  I guess that batch did not have corn in the glycerine.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Christmas Is Coming!

This week:
  1. Another 9 weeks are done and the kids got their report cards.  They all improved in one area or another.  I determined their grades by scoring all of their work and also reading my notes over the last 9 weeks in regards to attitude and accomplishments/struggles.
  2. We glittered Christmas cards and wrote a message in each one for the veterans that pass through my husband's station at work.  He works at a VA hospital.
  3. We studied Christmas in England and then had a special dinner with pot roast.  The kids decorated the table with our musical carousel and crackers.  The kids love opening Christmas crackers each Christmas.  It is a tradition brought to our home from my husband's childhood home.
  4. At the mall, we donated food to the Food Tree for needy families.  I let the kids pick the food at the grocery store this year.  I was surprised that Tom Sawyer picked noodles (which he loves and cannot have).
  5. We made gingerbread for some of our neighbors.  I have a few more neighbors for which to bake.
  6. We went on a field trip to see the National Gingerbread Houses on display.
  7. My snowmen figurines are up!  I love them.  They probably will not come down until April.  LOL!
  8. The gingerbread creations at the display were amazing.  We love to go see them each year.
  9. The kids had fun playing in an antique sleigh in the great hall of this hotel.
We really enjoyed the gingerbread houses.  The pictures below are our favorites.

Can you believe that everything is completely edible?

This one was my favorite.  The picture does not do it justice.

We are almost done shopping.  One child has not bought her gifts yet.  We are done with school until the New Year.  There will be some changes.  My oldest will be resuming post school with me.  He will be working on writing essays in preparation for trying some type of college.  We are looking at a developmentally delayed program at our local college.  Not sure that is the answer.  However, I am excited that he wants to improve his writing skills with me next year.

Tom Sawyer is sick with a high fever, and I am having a time keeping his temperature at a safe level.  The latest discovery in the allergy world of corn is that corn is in every fever reducer.  I think the only "mostly safe" medication is Advil Infant.  If anyone knows of good ways to keep a fever under control without traditional meds, please let me know.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ A Very Special Christmas Party

Our local hospital puts on an amazing party for all of the special needs kids in our area each year.  It gets bigger and more spectacular each year.  This year the party was held in a huge venue that could accommodate fire engines, police cars, moon bounces and many tables with exciting activities (all inside).

Pretty ~
This is a really exciting event that the kids look forward to all year.  This year the kids all wanted to get their hair colored with temporary dye.

Our youngest daughter is pretty  in pink, her favorite color! 
She was delighted with her new hairdo.

There were several craft tables for the kids
to make pretty gifts for their friends and family.

Happy ~
It makes me so happy that there are events like this where my kids can be who they are and not worry about sensory issues or medical issues.  Everyone there knows what it is like to live with extra difficulties.  It is truly a non-judgmental environment.

A Bingo game where everyone wins if they play long enough. 
The girls won teddy bears and Tom Sawyer won a sensory ball.

Even my husband got his hair dyed! 
Tom Sawyer got a dragon painted on his face as well.

Funny ~
I think the highlights this year for the kids were the moon bounce slide and the balloon man.  The balloon man was really impressive.  He made this incredibly funny hat for Tom Sawyer.

He also made these really cool balloons with little balls that rolled back in forth inside.  My husband is holding them in the picture below.  Yes, my dh is a character in front of a camera at times.

Real ~
In March it will be one year since starting Tom Sawyer's special diet.  What a year it has been!  We have seen our grocery bill double, miraculous improvements in Tom Sawyer's behavior and health, and we have come to accept this new way of eating as a way of life.  Lunch was provided at this wonderful party, but Tom Sawyer could not eat any of it.  A few months ago, I would have resisted going to the party because of the food issues.  However, I have learned to work around it, so I called ahead and found out what was being served.  Then I bought safe organic soda, organic hot dogs, a grain-free bagel and some organic gummy bears.  Tom Sawyer was able to enjoy everything his sisters had and without getting sick. 

He did however have a reaction to the hairspray and/or face paint.  Oy!  This allergy thing is very hard.  However, I am grateful that we are on the right road to making him healthy and happy. 

Lastly, I have wanted to get my face painted by the face paint artist for years.  However, the line has always been so long, and I didn't want to take away from the kids.  The artist was hidden in a corner this year; and we found her with a very short line, so I got to get my face painted, too.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We had such a fun week.  We did all the normal lessons -- math, reading, writing and such.  But, we also did lots of charity work and Christmas crafts.
From Left to Right :

1)  We made snow flakes and decorated the French Doors.  The kids look forward to this every year.
2)  We took an origami class at the library.
3)  The nutritionist wanted us to test wheat.  We let Tom Sawyer have a big plate of noodles.  He has been reacting all week and obviously cannot handle wheat.  He sure did enjoy that plate of noodles ~ unfortunately, it will be his last for many more months.
4)  We made bath salts for all of the kids' dance teachers.  They have rose perfume in them and smell so good.
5)  I looked and looked on the angel trees at the mall for a child to provide Christmas for this year but could find no one.  There were plenty of kids, but they all wanted IPads and Wii's with games and cell phones.  I can't provide these things for my own children.  I am sure the worker at the booth thought I was a Grinch when I tried to explain that someone should direct the kids a bit in their desires.  (I do so with my children ~ they have a $40 limit on what they can ask for this year.)  Anyway, I ended up looking on other wish lists in our area and found that the AIDS Project had wish lists with reasonable requests.  When I called to check on a particular boy and asked if I could give the boy a nearly new/used once set of binoculars (his request), the man was delighted!  So the kids picked a toy each off his list, and we packed up the binoculars and donated them to a seven year old boy whose parents both have AIDS.  I hope having toys under the tree relieves some of the stress the parents must be going through.
6)  We made snowflake ornaments with character traits on them. 

7)  We took dog toys and Bleach to the animal shelter (the adoption side).  There were          cute dogs, cats and rabbits for adoption.  The nice thing about our shelter is that, once the animals make it to the adoption side, they cannot be put down.
8)  Tom Sawyer got really excited about eating the noodles and even ate some upside          down just for fun.     

9)  The kids picked a 4th grade girl off the library book tree and bought The Doll People.  I hope it is a good book.  The Barnes and Noble clerk said it was great, and the kids loved the larger print and illustrations.  It seemed like a good bet since we do not know whether or not the girl is a strong reader.
    Our Advent books this week.

Lastly, the kids loved playing with the pattern blocks this week.  I love to see their creativity.  They came up with so many lovely patterns out of their imaginations. 

Blessings, Dawn