Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hooray for Math and Science!

Yesterday we were taking a break from school and I told Gess that after the break we would be doing math and science.  She says, "Math and science!  Then I can be a meteorologist!"  She certainly remembers the words of Doug Heady the meteorologist she interviewed during her KOAM TV tour.  She wanted to know how to become a meteorologist and he said it took lots of math and science.  I think I need to explain to her that he means more than in just one day.  Bless her heart, I wish she was as good at math as she is at science.  It's not that she doesn't try, its just that her mind doesn't quite work that way.  She gets the concepts well enough, but her mind won't let her memorize random facts like she can bible verses and other things.  It's alright though, knowing my Gess she will find a way to make her dream come true!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Anatomy of the Lazy Eye

Today Gess went to the optometrist for her annual check up.  I think it's pretty cool that her appointment corresponded to our study on anatomy (hence the title of this post).  Gess is learning about the human body and while we are currently studying the skeletal system, she loved learning more about her eyes today.  Here she is waiting to see the her eye doctor.

She loved doing all the tests and they even photographed her eye (with the help of some software her daddy installed).  She got to see inside of her eyes and how all the nerves looked.  Gess thought that was pretty cool and the doctor said her eyes looked healthy.  Her right eye (the lazy one) is turning in more than ever and she basically refuses to use it at all.  However her left eye has actually improved since her last visit (apparently all that use has strengthened it).  We have ruled out surgery in the past as it would only be cosmetic and not help her vision in any way.  With the help of corrective lenses she does pretty great and we are now awaiting the new prescription with the same style of Disney frames she had before.

Afterwards I had to run out of town on an errand so I treated her to some Burger King (since that is something we don't have in our own town).  This was pretty much our first outing since getting over the bronchial stuff.  Finally, after two rounds of antibiotics my queen is feeling pretty good!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Medication Melt Down

Gesserine is generally well behaved and strives hard to use her manners.  On most any given day she is respectful, courteous, helpful, gentle, and hard working.  While not perfect, she certainly tries her best and most people would say she was a very well behaved little girl.  But occasionally she will have what I call a melt down where she gets very angry and aggressive.  It's scary because she becomes unreasonable and uncontrollable and seems almost like an entirely different person.

Parents of children with special needs have probably gone through similar situations and totally understand what I am going through.  I call these episodes "melt downs" rather than "tantrums" because they are not simply born out of disagreements and wanting to get one's way.  These "melt downs" generally do not happen during times you might think of like telling them to do their chores, stop playing a game, or go to bed.  No, they are random and over things that seem of little consequence.  For instance 99% of the time Gess follows me at the grocery store while pushing the cart.  It's what we do.  It's routine, but suddenly one day she decides she doesn't want to go down that row and goes ballistic if you don't agree.  It's not because she wants something somewhere else or is afraid of something on that row.  It's just random.  I don't even know where that comes from.

For us it generally happens when Gess has been taking medications, usually antihistamines and/or decongestants.  I have discussed Gess' Allergy Medications and Behavior Problems before.  So in our case we know what the answer is but sometimes stopping the medication is not an option, like when Gess has bronchitis or pneumonia.  You just have to work through it and deal with what comes, but boy it is embarrassing when that melt down happens in a public place.

I will have to say that the ladies on the row we were on were rather gracious.  They gently moved out of the way and continued their conversation.  I have no clue what they were talking about, but at least there were not stops, stares or criticism.  Maybe all this work towards awareness is finally getting us somewhere.  For parents who do not know what to do, ignoring it is usually best, at least to me.  Those who try to help only make it worse and showing your disgust doesn't help anyone, especially yourself. 

Whether or not Gess could control the melt down, she will suffer the consequences.  I want to try to stress to her that while the feelings she has may not be controllable the actions she takes are.  Her computer privileges have been taken away and now she has to earn her new password before she can log on.  Her hint is "hitting is bad" so that will at least remind her why she lost it to begin with.  It still freaks me out that she hit me at all as she is just not the violent type. 

I am going to look into some therapy bottles (an idea Chelsie shared with me) to help calm her down and might look for other small portable tools that will help ease aggression or divert the problem as well.  That's my next mission and I would love it if you would share with me any things that have worked for you and your child.  In the meantime I will get to making that bottle and hopefully blog about it soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On the mend

Well we have missed about a week of school.  Gess got bronchitis and after 5 days on antibiotics started getting worse rather than better.  One more trip the doctor got us more antibiotics for a sinus infection as well.  My mother has also been ill and I finally got it myself.  Here is Gess getting her breathing treatment while I was watching some TV in the school room.  How is that for cozy?

We did manage to start some school on Tuesday thought it's been a light two days.  We both tire out early.  Right now I am blessed with some great curriculum that is making it easier for me.  Two of them have audio readings of the text which saves both of our voices and one is on the computer which even saves me all the work.  I will be sharing about them soon in my Schoolhouse Reviews, so be watching for them!

In the mean time we are slowly getting better and back to full strength.  I pray that all of you are in good health as well.  I can't wait to get past this season.  Bring on the spring!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Handling Changes Life Throws Her Way

My Gess is such a trooper.  I know I don't have to tell you that but this week was truly a testament to her courage and character.  Today I was supposed to be leaving on a mission trip.  I was really excited about it and planned on sharing my experience here.  I also wanted to share how involved Gess was, even though she was staying home. 

I was to be working at homeless shelter in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  For the past 19 years our association has participated in this trip and I really thought this year was my year to go.  So last Sunday we had our orientation out of town.  It was about an hour away.  At that meeting we were to deliver the care packages our church had made for those who were homeless.  We also had an amazing woman in our church spend the year making bed mats for the homeless out of recycled plastic bags.  You can see both the care package and a bed mat in the picture below.

Gess and my husband accompanied me on this trip.  It turned out to be quite the adventure.  First we had a flat tire, but thankfully it happened right in front of a convenient store so we pulled into the parking lot.  It was miserably cold and the ground was still full of ice and snow from our recent storm.  My poor hubby began to change the tire in the cold and it took awhile because a lug nut got stuck.  We found a gentleman who had a tool that finally got it loose.  He was so nice that even let us keep it!  We were happy to finally be on our way again thinking maybe I wouldn't be too late to the meeting after all.  Then the car wouldn't start.  It took finding another good Samaritan who not only had to give us a jump but help clean our terminals to get us on the road.  Since we were now on a donut we had to drive slowly.

Gess kept asking what was wrong but ultimately handled it very well.  After all, she had her horsey with her.  You remember him, the one I just told you about that helped Gess in good times and in bad.  Well we finally made it to the meeting and broke into our groups.  Gess sat and listened intently and didn't cause any disturbance.  After that we loaded the trailer with all the clothes, care packages and bed mats that needed to be shipped.  Now our stuff was crammed in the back seat with Gess because we had to empty the trunk to get to the tire.  With the help of many of the youth we got our car, among others, unloaded and onto the trailer.  Gess was helpful too, taking her share of packages and putting them on the trailer.  She loves giving and helping.  I was so blessed to watch her.

We stopped for dinner and then decided to make the drive home on the donut.  It was a long day but we were so glad to be home.  When Gess was ready for bed she asked for Horsey.  He was no where to be found.  We gave her Clifford for the time being and she managed to rest well in spite of not having Horsey.  While I didn't tell her then I realized that Horsey probably got put on that trailer headed to the homeless shelter.  That is the only thing I could think of.  She had probably set him on top of a box that had care packages in it.  There was no where else to lay him but on the floor.  Either that or she dropped him on the ground when she got out.  Either way he was gone for good.

The next evening Gess asked for Horsey again and so we very gently told her that Horsey was probably on his way to Texas to the homeless shelter.  She looked at us for a moment and then said "Oh, he's in Texas" with this um, what do I do now tone to it. We told her how Horsey might now make some other child as happy as he made her and that seemed to help.  So what to do about sleeping tonight?  We simply had Gess pick another stuffed animal to replace him, after all she has tons.

She chose Mr. Wolfie.  He actually has a history with her too though she never took to him like she did Horsey, until now.  My husband bought Mr. Wolfie for her when she was a new born and had to stay in the NICU her first 5 1/2 weeks on this earth.  Here she is a few months later laying with him in her bed.

As she got older she didn't take to him much though played with him every now and then, especially if Horsey needed a friend.  Well here she is with Mr. Wolfie now.  She even took him to class the other day.

Now why did I end up not going on that trip?  The cold and flu season hit our family pretty hard this week.  My mom has been under the weather all week and goes to the doctor today.  My Gess now has bronchitis and I am fighting something myself.  Thankfully Gess is finding Mr. Wolfie as comforting as Horsey used to be.  I just pray that someone finds him and whoever does is as blessed by him as she was and feels the love that was a part of his life.

It has been a really eventful week with some highs and lows.  I pray for our health and for people all over who are suffering through this terrible flu season.  I also want to ask prayers for those attending the mission trip and those they will have the opportunity to share the gifts that were give and especially the message of the gospel.  May the Lord do a mighty work through that ministry.  It certainly has touched our family even though I never got to go.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Blog Awards

I want to thank Bethany at Little Homeschool Blessings for nominating me for the Leibster Award. As she explains it:

"The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have not yet hit the 200 follower mark. The award is presented by a fellow blogger as a sort of pat on the back "you've got a great thing started" type of award. "Liebster" is German for favorite."

The rules
1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

My Facts
1.I am a Christian who loves the Lord and serving Him is what I am most passionate about.
2.When I grow up I want to be writer. (OK so I am grown up, but I still have dreams!)
 3. I have been married twice and have 3 children.  (My boys are from my first marriage, Gess is from my second.)
4.I love chocolate and must have some each and every day.  (I have even managed to maintain weight loss doing so.)
5. I enjoy learning so much that when I have the opportunity to travel I usually choose a seminar, workshop or retreat to go to.  (The topics are usually related to the bible, homeschooling or Down syndrome.)
6. I love missions and hope to someday travel to India to minister to women there.
7. I am very political and follow politics like some people follow sports.
8.I enjoy reading, especially now that I can do it electronically. 
9.I hate being cold and love it when it's warm therefore my favorite season is summer.
10.My favorite passage of Scripture is Philippians 4:4-9.  Following that advice has changed my life for the better!
11. I love my husband and children and find being a stay at home, homeschooling mom completely and utterly satisfying!

My Answers

1. What makes you most happy about homeschooling?  When I see my daughter finally grasp that thing she has been struggling to learn.
2. What is the subject you like the least? Social Studies was my favorite subject to learn but it's my least favorite to teach.
3. What is your favorite season? Summer (See above)
4. Who inspires you the most? My husband
5. Where do you like to spend your time? With people I love, the place doesn't matter.
6. What is your favorite homeschooling song? 12 Days of Homeschool
7. Which chore do you like the most? I do not generally use the terms like and chore in the same sentence!
8. What is (are) your hobby(ies)? Writing and blogging
9. If given the choice between sleeping in or going to bed early, what would you pick? Sleeping in
10. What is your favorite movie? Braveheart
11. What is something you'd like to do if you had an extra hour? Read

Questions for my bloggers:
1. What type of homeschooler are you?
2. What is your favorite healthy thing to eat?
3. What is your favorite junk food?
4. What satisfies you?
5. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
6. Are a cup half empty or half full type of person?
7. If you had a day to yourself what would you spend it doing?
8. What motivates you?
9. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?
10. What movie or book would it be?
11. What do you like most about yourself?

My blog nominees:
Alicia at Joy in the Everyday
Becky at Cobwebs and Kisses
Brandi at Autumnfawn Lane
Hope at Homeschooling 3 
Jennifer at Crazy Side of Normal
Joy at Who's Learning? Who's Teaching?
Lynn at This Day Has Great Potential
Niki at Our Little Homeschool Cottage
Renata at Sunnyside Farm Fun
Sweetpeas at Broad Horizons 
The Freemans at Our Happy Homestead

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Learning to Love Learning

You can read articles all day about how to teach a subject, what worksheets to use, what hands on activities to include, etc., but what every parent really wants to know is how do we teach our kids to enjoy learning? One thing I try to do is make sure that Gess has plenty of opportunities to succeed in whatever it is she is trying to learn.

I think that idea really hit me when I went to a homeschool convention and listened to a speaker discuss it.  (I am sorry I can not remember his name.)  When talking about teaching reading he said that the problem with typical education is that it teaches children to read but fails to teach them to learn to love to read.  Teaching reading should go from learning to read to reading to learn however somewhere in between we need to teach them to learn to love reading so they will want to read to learn.  How then do we do that?

One idea that he suggested I put into practice and still utilize today.  It is our reading center.

While we no longer label it and the bean bag chair has pretty much lost its fluff, we still have that basket full of books that are below my daughter's reading level.  Why below her reading level?  Because if you want a child to enjoy something it is important that they are able to enjoy doing it successfully. You have to give them opportunities to succeed.  No person, a child or adult, is going to want to relax by reading something that is beyond or just at their ability and understanding.  No, when it's time to unwind we read a novel, magazine, or blog articles rather than a college text book.  It's the same for a child.  Do not expect them to grab a book for fun if they know they are going to struggle reading it.  Always keep easy books for them to read on hand. Of course as Gess' reading ability has grown so has the book selection in the basket but there are no books in it that are on or above her actual ability to read.  She tends to spend lots of time reading from it so there must be something to it.

Now, keeping that thought in mind we can apply it to just about any other subject.  If you want to child to enjoy learning you have to give them opportunities to do it successfully.  Gess really struggles with math and gets very discouraged if she can not do a problem correctly.  Because of this I have decided to let her use manipulatives when necessary.  We also always do some new work as well as some review.  We basically have a two sided worksheet.  On the first side she tries not to use helps but on the other side she free to use them.  Sometimes she uses manipulatives and sometimes I let her use the calculator (which is an important skill for her to learn as well).

I also make sure to have some problems that are a review of skills she has already mastered.  She is much happier doing math now and really enjoys when she gets the problems correct.  She doesn't mind struggling some, as long as it not all the time.

I think about it this concept in my own life as well.  Take cooking for example.  I get so frustrated when I mess up a difficult recipe that there is no way I would make myself try one after the other after the other.  I first allow myself to have some success with easier recipes before trying my hand at that "disaster" again!   This can apply to anything in life, to any person, at any age.

If you are finding your child hates learning a particular subject, go back all the way to where they were able to master it successfully.  Let them have fun getting everything right for awhile.  Then move forward, more slowly this time, and always find time to let them use those skills successfully throughout the day.  When they experience the success over and over again, they will soon fall in love with that feeling and before you know it, your child will love learning!

Want some more ideas on learning and other random topics? Check out the How To Blog Cruise by clicking on the banner below.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In good times and in bad

Therapists used to ask me if Gess had a favorite toy and I always had to answer no.  Every time she had a surgery she could bring a special blanket or stuffed animal and Gess would always pick one out but it was not really something she used all the time.  Then on the day she got her tonsils out our pastor brought her a stuffed horse (or so it was named, it actually looks more like a donkey) and it has become her most favorite thing.

Gess had a really rough time after her surgery, even after we got home.  She actually got an infection after the surgery and Gess was really sick.  Horsey became a great comfort to Gess and now she sleeps with him every night and takes him to every major stressful appointment and event.  He has been through many illnesses (and just as many if not more trips through the washing machine).  Here he was helping her through a rough sickness a little over a year ago.

While Horsey has been through many times of stress, be assured that Gess is sure to share to the good times with him too.  On Christmas day we got an X-Box 360. It's the first real console that we have owned since Gess has been born.  She was excited and eager to play, but she was sure to share her first experience with her very dear friend.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bible Reading

In 2010 Gess and I followed our Daily Bible Reading plan and read the entire New Testament together.  I tried other things the last few years but this year I think I want to begin it again.

If you read one chapter out of the New Testament just 5 days a week, you will have read the entire New Testament in one year.  This is something that many adults do not even do, even though it requires very little time and effort.  It's so pleasing to see a child with special needs accomplish it.

Before we used links and read it using the Readability feature that I had mentioned.  This year however we are using my new Android tablet.  (Well, it's not that new anymore, I got it over the summer.)  This allows us to get the font to a comfortable level for Gess.

The version we are using is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).  This version is actually FREE on Kindle.

The English Standard Version (ESV) is also available for FREE on Kindle but I prefer the HSCB for Gess as I feel she can understand it better.

Now for regular study and church use Gess actually uses the New King James Version (NKJV).  While I prefer modern versions for her comprehension, all modern versions use the paragraph format rather than the verse format.  While they put the numbers in the paragraphs it makes it really difficult to find a specific verse, especially if you have special needs or vision problems.  We have found the NKJV Giant Print Bible a great fit for Gess. Not only can she easily read the font, but she can find the verses too! Her Sunday School teacher says she is doing much better with it and I see that myself as I watch her using it at home.  We picked it up at our local Wal-Mart for about $13.00.

Another great activity Gess is doing is a daily devotional given to her by our pastor after she was baptized.  Unfortunately I was not as consistent in helping her develop that habit so she hasn't gotten very far in it, but we are starting it again and she is beginning to work in it more regularly. It's for kids who are new Christians.  You can pick them up at Lifeway.

It is a pleasure and joy to see Gess grow spiritually as she studies and reads God's Word.  Today she learned some interesting facts about the bible and shared them with me.  What a blessing to witness the joy of a child discovering the amazing wonders of God's love.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Understanding Authority

When you have a child with special needs teaching social etiquette can be quite the struggle.  Gess has actually done really well picking up on how to act in certain settings and certain places.  I think she does a fine job in that regard.  We have also been careful to teach her the safety issues of being cautious around strangers, where not to let anyone touch her, and so on and so forth.  What we are missing is the in-between: How to make your own decisions (while being respectful) when someone wants you to do something else. 

It's become an issue recently as Gess has become more independent.  There are times when she will be playing with kids who seem to want to control everything about her.  If Gess says no to something they try to compel her to change her mind and usually Gess gives in.  (This even got her in trouble one time as she was compelled to do something she was told not to do.) Now I am not saying that these children are taking advantage of Gess because she has Down syndrome.  There are just some kids that are that way with everyone they play with.  However, most children know how to stand their ground and not give in.  Gess hasn't gotten to that point yet, so lately we have been discussing authority with her. 

Authority is a term that Gess is very familiar with because when she would try to tell us no or give us orders daddy was quick to remind her that she had no authority over us, but we had authority over her.  So using that familiar phrase I try to remind Gess that children have no authority over her, however she also has to realize she has no authority over them either. It's difficult to explain to a child who has special needs how to use proper social skills while making decisions regarding her own personal wishes and desires. 

For now we are going to attempt some role playing and quizzing with various scenarios.  I would love to hear of any ideas that you have used to help your child.  I know there have to be games and activities about it I just have not searched them out yet.  And that is now my goal.  I can promise you this, if we find something that works well, I will be sure to share it with you all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Free Ebooks on Kindle - Joke Books

After posting yesterday about Gess' little made up riddle Why did the chicken become a meteorologist, I decided to see if I could find some free joke eBooks to help enhance her joke repertoire.   I thought I might as well share the finds with all of you.

Keep in mind these two things:

1.  I have not read these yet and do not know how appropriate or good they may be.

2. Free today does not mean they will be free tomorrow, so keep that in mind if you are reading this later.  However they may be free for a week, a month, who knows!  It certainly doesn't hurt to check and besides, some of the usual prices are as low as .99 anyway!  Just click on the book to download them from Amazon.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why did the what?

This last year Gess started enjoying riddles.  I believe it started when  we reviewed K-5 Learning because there was always a new riddle on their start page everyday.  Anyway, since she isn't really well versed in riddles she tends to focus on two very famous ones.  The knock-knock jokes and the why did the chicken cross the road ones.  Of course she tires of the same old answers, so lately she has gotten creative with them. 

This morning she had a new one which those of you who are familiar with her fascination with weather and meteorology will appreciate.  So here was our conversation in the car this morning.

Gess:  "Why did the chicken become a meteorologist?"
Me:  "I don't know, why did the chicken become a meteorologist?"

Gess:  "Because the chicken had lots and lots of school!"

Well, when Gess took the tour of  the KOAM studio for our Weather on the Move review that's what Doug Heady said you needed to be a meteorologist, lots and lots of school! It might not have a funny answer, but it sure explains where Gess' mind is most of the time. 

The other day we were dining out and the restaurant had the weather on the TV.  The gentleman came up and offered to change the channel for Gess thinking she would rather have something more entertaining to watch.  I thanked him but said no, that was one of the reasons Gess loves eating there, they always seem to have the weather on!

I can't wait until our weather warms up a little so Gess can try out one of her new Christmas presents.  Her weather lab. Hopefully she will find the weather will be pleasant enough for that chicken to get to the other side, or his classroom, or wherever the little guy (or girl) wants to go!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 A Year of Significant Events

It's that time of year where we all take one last look back before we embrace the new year before us.  As I did this myself in preparation for this Blog Cruise I could not help but notice that this was a pretty significant year for Gess.

There were actually significant events for all my children.  Last February my oldest son became a father making me a grandma and Gess an aunt!  At first Gess didn't know what to do with the baby, but she learned quickly. Here she is holding Ema for the first time.

And here is daddy learning how tiring it is to take care of a baby!

2013 will bring them another significant event as well.  We found out that mommy is pregnant again and due July 28!

Gess' other brother, as you all know from a previous post My Brother Tim, graduated from Community College with honors in both music and theatre.  Gess got to attend his graduation.

Then later we got to travel to see him on campus at his new college.  Here she is with Tim in one of the commons area and in front of the theatre building where we went to see him in his first play there.

The other family event that had an impact on Gess' life was the recent one I mentioned where Gess was a flower girl in her cousin's wedding.  She felt so important and I know that it created a special bond between Gess and the bride that will only get stronger through the years. 

Gess had a significant bit of fun as well.  She had some really great field trips and fun events that she still talks about.  Over the summer she was able to participate in football camp and meet a couple of famous football players.

For school field trips she had the time of her life visiting the KOAM TV studio for her Weather on the Move curriculum.  There she not only got to see the studio but she learned how they do the weather on TV.  She also got to meet the meteorologist and ask him some questions.  Now she is even more interested than ever in the weather.

Gess is still taking horseback riding lessons in the spring and summer and gymnastics in the fall and winter.  This year though, she started piano lessons!  While I loved Kinderbach, Gess enjoys and needs the experience of actually going to a lesson so we do private instructions as well.  Her instructor says she is doing very well and on Christmas she even played Jingle Bells and Away in a Manger for us!

The two most significant events in her life were on a more personal level of course.  I mentioned the fact that she has entered puberty already.  The other was in her spiritual life and it's something I haven't shared on my blog yet.

Gess made a profession of faith early in this year but we wanted to be sure she really understood it before having her follow in baptism.  Well after one sermon she was insistent that she wanted to be baptized so she went forward at the end of service and told the pastor.  It actually took 2 tries to baptize Gess. We had practiced in the baptismal before the event, (without any water) and everything seemed fine.  But when she got dressed up and saw the pool full of water, she freaked out and would not go in.  The pool is very dark and the lighting dim so I think she was afraid it was too deep.  We were not sure what to do about it, but we postponed for now and took her to the baptismal pool when no one was there and let her practice with water.  She actually went under with no problems so we tried again the next week.  At first we thought she was not going to do it again because she ducked in the corner just like before, but when the organ stopped playing she stood right up and went in.

You know most people (in our country) get to follow Christ in baptism without it causing fear of harm or any sacrifice on their part.  To me it really shows that Gess truly does love the Lord because it was important enough to her to keep trying, even when it was scary!  It truly was a special moment!

What was your year like? Did you have any significant events happen?   To see A Look Back from other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew click on the banner below. 



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