Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's new?

I have been longing for the day that I would be able to do things "with" my kids rather than "for" them.  Don't get me wrong I like to do things for my kids, but there is something really satisfying about doing things with them.  We are just entering that gate, and I think I am going to love it.  Tuesday night was a great example of doing something with them.

We had the opportunity to go night skiing with Josh's work.  We have been trying to get Caleb to ski since he was almost 3.  He talks about going, gets excited about it, signs up for a lesson, gets rentals, gets a pass and then refuses to get on the lift.  We have done this every year for years!  At our night ski party this year at least he skied.  He didn't get on the lift, but he did use the magic carpet.  Cara also began skiing at our party last month, but didn't get confident enough to do more than one trip down the hill.  Tuesday night Caleb convinced us to let him snow board and he loved it.  He even went on the lift multiple times.  Cara really caught on to skiing too.  She was amazing.  We could hardly keep up with her.

We just might become a skiing family after all!  I was beginning to wonder if that day would ever come.  I have learned my lesson not to push too early.

I have a hard time getting around to blogging these days.  I think the thing that has really cut into my blog time is that we get together almost every Sunday with the Kirks and play games.  The kids love to play with their cousin, and we enjoy eating and playing games all evening.  It has become a fun family tradition, but doesn't leave time for blogging on Sundays.  We are headed into birthday season though so I am sure there are some posts forthcoming.

Josh seems to be really enjoying his new job.  It is challenging enough to really keep him on his toes.  He has been preparing for convention (which he is gone to this week) and so he has been working a ton.  He loves that, but I was really hoping that with a "job" he could cut back to 8-9 hours a day. (As apposed to his crazy subcontracting hours.)  Maybe after convention he can cut back a bit.  The requirement to periodically travel is really a down side for me.  I don't know how single moms do it.  One bonus is that we get to use the ChemDry equipment to clean our carpets.  The night that Josh borrowed the stuff he was telling Caleb that he would need to help.  Josh was teasing Caleb that he needed to teach him some job skills so he could get a job when he grows up cleaning carpets.  Cara piped in and said, "yah, you can be a carpet-ter."  So cute.

I received a heart braking call from Cara's 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Miller, about a month ago.  I knew it was coming, but I was hoping what I was seeing wasn't reality.  Mrs. Miller is very seasoned and a great teacher.  She started the conversation with, "Have you noticed that Cara isn't making any progress in reading?"  She reminded me that she is getting 2 on 1 resource help for an hour each day as well as 2 hours of reading in the classroom.  She must have said, "I just don't know what to do" at least 5-10 times.  She asked me to see if I could find some testing or some more help at the University.  She said that she and the IEP team were out of ideas and resources.  I reminded her of a conversation we had a back to school night when I told her that I had been reading with her every day during the summer and her reading skills were so poor that it was as if she had never been worked with.  She said, "I really thought I could teach her to read, but something isn't clicking, we need more help."

That weekend I dedicated my fast to getting the proper testing and proper diagnosis for her so that we could use the right tools to teach her to read.  When I told Josh what I was fasting for he said, "I'm not fasting for that.  I'm fasting that she can learn to read."  It is a little frustrating for me to deal with a child who has an apparent decoding learning disability and for the vast majority of people to think the way that Josh does, that it is just a matter of more practice.  If that were the case, if she could learn to read like most children, she would already be a fluent reader based on the amount of practice she has already had. The bottom line is that she has got to learn how to read no matter how hard it is for her, but I am looking for tools that will make her more successful.  As a side note she is doing well in math and other subjects, with the exception of speech where she is still really struggling.  Her reading and speech disabilities may be related as they are both language related.

Finding help at USU was a faith promoting experience.  I started by calling the Special Ed department, they sent me to the CPD (Center for Persons with Disabilities) and they transferred me to someone for testing.  I left a message, but felt like I hadn't reached the right person.  So I started making more calls.  I called the El. Ed. Department who sent me to the Early Childhood Department.  They told me that I needed to talk to a PhD student who runs the after school reading program.  I tried to catch her every day for a week and she wasn't returning my calls so the staff assistant finally transferred me to the Professor over the Early Childhood reading program who's credentials are out of this world.  He took a vested interest in Cara and my dilemma and spent almost an hour visiting with me on the phone.  One little test he had me perform over the weekend was to have her name the letters of the alphabet in random order for a minute and see how many she could do.  He said it should be properly identifying 50+ in a minute.  On her cold run she got 15.  After she'd warmed up and practiced she go 25.  She defiantly qualified for additional testing.

I received Cara's test results and I was frustrated to tears.  The results were terrible, which was no surprise, but my frustration comes from the fact that I know nothing more now than I did before.  I could have told them that she knew about 50% of the sight words that she should know. I could have told them that her letter identification is improving since I tested her two weeks ago, but there are still a few letters she gets confused on.  I could have told them that she can only read about 50% of the most basic CVC words and that more difficult words have an even lower percentage.  The fact that she is reading 30 words per minute and has a fluency accuracy of 46% was no surprise.  And I already knew that her comprehension is decent if someone reads to her.  I am FRUSTRATED because this data only tells me that she is delayed.  It doesn't tell me what to do about it or what is going on in her brain.  Why isn't she responding to the normal interventions?  Why is she shutting down?  The test administrator recommended the after school reading program.  It is 3 days a week and costs $20 for each 30 minute session.  Does that seem like a fortune to you?  It normally isn't even one on one it is two on one.  The tutors are bachelor students and although supervised it seems like their rate should be linked to their level of education, not $60 for 3 30 minute sessions a week.  To put it in perspective I pay $60 a month for 10 one hour sessions for Cara's suzuki violin and piano lessons.  I know that is an incredible deal, but still.  The gal telling me that I should do it and that it wasn't over priced also told me it is the same price I would pay to have her in piano lessons.  True if she were taking private lessons from someone with a PhD.  So now what!!??

While I'm posting about the latest, I've got to share how adorable John is.  He is the sweetest, best baby.  I just love that little, okay maybe not so little, guy.  He has his bottom two front teeth and he'll be nine months next week.  He isn't even close to crawling.  He doesn't roll over although if I lay him on his tummy there is a chance he will push himself backwards.  I've stopped nursing.  I nursed him for two months longer than any of my other kids.  The fact is I just can't loose weight when I'm nursing so I can only stand to keep the extra chub for so long.  Selfish, I know, but I feel proud of myself that I lasted for more than eight months.

Andy and Ali live simple but good lives.  Ali eats around the clock but still looses her pants when she jumps.  She is so skinny.  Andy doesn't eat anything healthy, but seems to be thriving.  He does think it is cool to pull funny faces when he is getting his picture taken.  He is good at them too.  The highlight of the day for Andy and Ali is when Cara and Caleb come home from school.  That is when life gets exciting.  Here we are sporting our John Deer gear in honor of Grandpa Neil.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Disneyland or Bust!

We did it!  We survived a road trip to Disneyland - mission accomplished - the kids made wonderful memories and had a great time.  For me, I wasn't sure if I was going to survive.  It was so much work.  I'm glad we did it, but until my kids are older and help a little more I think a leisurely week at a condo is a better family vacation idea.  

The trip started at 3:00 AM driving in a blizzard out of Cache Valley.  I was convinced that the kids would sleep and we could get the majority of the trip behind us if we left in the wee hours of the morning.  I was wrong, not the Kirk kids.  They didn't sleep a wink.  The only advantage was that they went to sleep easily the first night, in Vegas. 

Caleb was awesome at helping us get packed up the night before we left.   He wanted to leave at midnight.  At 11:56 he came upstairs and said, "I know I'm a little early, but it is time to go."  Josh insisted that he go down and take a nap before leaving.  

The drive wasn't too bad.  We enjoyed our stop in Vegas to brake things up and arrived in LA in the early afternoon in time to go to Hollywood.  The kids found the prints of the Harry Potter cast. 

We also saw the sun set at the observatory.  It was really amazing!

We hit Disneyland really hard for three days.  The crowds were low (for Disneyland) and we were able to do everything many times.

My mom, my Aunt Merle, my sister Connie and her husband Colby met us there as well as my sister Cathie and her family including her five children who my kids adore! (Grandma and John)

When Caleb was younger and scared of every ride I wondered if he would ever grow up, but he has and he loved every ride.  (Caleb, Colter, Connie, Colby) 

Ali and Andy were the best.  I especially loved Ali's excitement and happiness.  It was the happiest place on earth for her!

It was so fun for the kids to be with their cousins.  It wouldn't have been the same without them! (Corbin, Colter, Caleb)

There were plenty of characters with short lines.

Connie did the girls hair cute each morning.  Look at that darling bow she created out of Cara's hair.  Amazing!

Caleb, Cara and Andy all got to be Jedi Trained.  I'm just hoping the stay away from the dark side.

The park hours were short because it was low season, but we were exhausted at the end of each day.  

Kate and Ali

Merle and Connie got the girls Minnie ears.  They were so cute! (Cara, Emi, Lina, Connie, Ali)

Merle got us all matching shirts.  Here I am with my sisters Christie, Cathie, Me, Connie.

Andy and Corbin were best buds.  They were always trailing behind the rest of the group at a very leisurely pace.  

Caleb and Colter loved to hang out with Colby and Connie and go on the "big kid" rides.  

Johnny was really sick for the first half of the trip.  In fact I spent one night in ER with him for breathing treatments.  (Instacare wouldn't take him because he was under two.)  He was a real sport.  When he was upset all he needed to settle down was Grandma's iPad.

We spent two days at Lego Land as well.  It was a cute theme park, and our kids were the perfect age.  It defiantly isn't for older kids, but there were no lines and our kids had a great time. Ali was a terrible driver. 

The lego displays were amazing.

Caleb had some money that was burning a hole in his pocket.  He was obsessed with spending it the entire trip.  He looked up here realizing that he hadn't budgeted enough for tax.  He spent every penny he had.

Cara loves to have her picture taken and doesn't mind being a ham. 

We went to the Lego Land Sea Life center as well.

It was a so fun to be together and to get out of the freezing cold of Cache Valley.  The drive home wasn't bad, and life has settled back into a routine.  I feel blessed that we have the means to create these experiences for our children.  


I thought it would be fun to interview the kids for the new year.  I did it weeks ago, but I'm just getting around to posting it.  They didn't hear me interview each other.  It is interesting that Caleb and Cara both said that they would be a cheata if they were an animal because they are so fast.  I wrote just what they said, bad grammar and all. 

What is your happiest memory? Jesus Christ and my mom and my dad going to church
(That is her answer for EVERYTHING.  Every night we ask the kids to tell the best part of their day at dinner and that is Ali's answer.  At age two she has learned the Sunday School answers and she runs them all into one comment.)

What makes you happy?  Jesus Christ
What is your happiest memory? Making cookies (he wants to make cookies today)
What is the best part of being a kid? be happy
If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why? A Power Ranger because I love to
What is your favorite thing to do? Why? Play with the toys because I love to and play on my computer
What is your favorite food? Macaroni and Cheese
What is the best age? Why? seven because I love to actually four because I want to be four

What is your happiest memory? Going to Disneyland and playing with my cousins
What is the best part of being a kid? Having fun
What advice would you give your parents? Its okay to go out to eat
If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why? A cheetah because I am so fast
What is your favorite thing to do? Why? Going out to grandmas because it is fun there
What do you think you will be doing 10 years from now? (16) Maybe go on a mission
What do you think makes a person good looking? nice hair and nice cloths
What is your favorite thing to do with your family? go out to dinner
What is your favorite food? chicken pot pie, brownies and popsicles
What is the best age? Why? Any age I don't know

What is your happiest memory? Going to Alaska and Disneyland
What is the best part of being a kid? You get toys for Christmas
What advice would you give your parents? To do my chores
If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why? A zebra or a cheata because I just like zebras and because cheata's are really fast
What is your favorite thing to do? Why? Play with friends because it is fun
What do you think you will be doing 10 years from now? (18) I will probably be doing piano
What do you think makes a person good looking? Their style
What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Go bowling and go to the fun park, the fun park bowling and soft play, and going to the trampolene park
What is your favorite food? Chinese chicken and stake
What is the best age? Why? ten because you can help people better