Sunday, March 24, 2013

Birthday Season

We just had our family birthday season with three birthdays in two weeks.  We kicked off the season with Caleb's birthday on February 28.  Finally, I laid down the law and didn't allow Caleb to have a friend birthday party, or anyone to have a friend party.  It was so much less stressful for me!  Josh was traveling over Caleb's birthday and I was traveling for Ali and Cara's birthdays so we just couldn't add to the craziness.

Caleb turned 9.  Every once and a while I think he is growing up, but mostly he continues to pull the same old junk.  He fights with me every day about doing his homework and hates to practice the piano.  He would do almost anything to get out of helping and chores.  He is an expert at stalling.  He has more excuses up his sleeve than I ever thought imaginable.  He is always willing to do his homework "later." When later roles around he is still unwilling.  Luckily he is really smart and social.  I am just struggling to teach him discipline.

Caleb thinks that he should have a theme cake every year.  Art is NOT my thing.  I let him decide and we work on it together.  This year he wanted a trampoline since we went to the trampoline park for his birthday.

Caleb and his BFF Isaac jumping at the park.  I loved that Caleb just had one friend.  We went to dinner at his very favorite restaurant after jumping, Golden Coral.  He pigs out on shrimp and steak and dessert.  I always feel like I've gotten my money's worth with him.

One of Caleb's greatest strengths is playing.  He can play with anyone.  Of course he prefers his friends, but he has a great time with his siblings too.  He even managed to put together his lego birthday present with his sibling committee.

Ali's birthday was next on March 8.  She loves all of the gifts and attention that her birthday brings.  Grandma Iva always gives great gifts including this darling doll and wagon.

Ali is so independent and getting more and more helpful all of the time.  She is strong willed, but I'm sure the things that are making her one of my harder preschoolers will be the things that are going to make her a fantastic person.

I have been wanting to get the kids and electric car for some time.  Caleb has been begging me to get one for Andy.  One day I walked into Walmart and they were selling this $350 car for $125.  I couldn't resist.  It is adorable.  It has a real radio and real lights.  What kid wouldn't want their own red sports car?  It was Ali's birthday but it was as much for Andy (who's birthday isn't until September) as it was for Ali.  Now we just need the weather to get nice so they can really enjoy it. Josh has always wanted a sports car kit to build his own car.  Hopefully this will satisfy his desire.

  Don't they look cute and happy? Andy had a pain in the back of his knee for a few weeks which left him limping terribly.  I'm not really sure what happened, but it was awesome that he had a car!

Cara's birthday was March 15. She did got plenty of celebration even though hers was last of the three birthdays in a row.  The highlight was that Emi, her only girl cousin near her age came to visit from Alaska.  They had a fantastic time together at Grandmas house.  

Merle bought the little girl cousins matching Easter dresses.  Getting a picture of Ali and Kate is always a challenge even though they are so so cute.

Emi and Cara were much easer to get to hold still and smile for a picture.

Here they are all together Emi, Cara, Lena, Ali and Kate.

Even without birthdays this month would have been insanely busy.  I have been doing Diamond Club  and teaching many more essential oil classes than normal (due to the fact that the company is reimbursing a portion of my travel expenses.)  I love really love teaching the classes and helping to improved people's lives in a positive way.  I feel like I have been so blessed in my journey with essential oils and I am constantly receiving confirmations that I am on the right path.  I am so grateful for this opportunity even though it is creating a crazy home life for a few months.  I know that the little sacrifices we are making right now will create huge opportunities in the future.

Every three years I have the opportunity to attend a reunion/overnight retreat for the CES program I worked for while I was in college, Academy for Girls.  Academy was a highlight in my life and these reunions help me to become refocused on my priorities and to remember that it is the little things we do every day that will lead us to exultation.  I was open to having the feeling that I should not be dedicating so much time to my business when I was at the reunion.  I was open to feeling guilty and cutting back if the spirit so directed, but it further confirmed to me that I am on the right life journey for me.  I was so inspired by my time at the retreat.  I came away with three goals for improvement in my life:

1. I will make reading and sharing the Book of Mormon a priority in my life.  We were challenged to give away a Book of Mormon before this retreat.  I am not the scriptorian I used to be and I haven't given away a Book of Mormon for a very long time.  I gave it to a friend in Alaska who has been going through a tough time.  It was easy and wonderful.  It reminded me that sharing the gospel is the most important thing to share with people.  It is a wonderful thing to testify that our understanding of Jesus Christ and of his Atonement will be strengthened as we study the Book of Mormon.  It felt amazing to give away such a gift, and I want to seek for those opportunities more often.  I strongly believe that if we are seeking and praying for opportunites to testify and to share the gospel they will come.  I used to know the scriptures so well.  I need to rededicate myself to gospel study.

2. I am dedicated to making my personal Sabbath Day observance more purposeful and meaningful.  I taught a class on Sabbath observance and felt the spirt confirm to me that the lives of those who spend their day in service, study, the building of family and faith will be blessed.  I feel like keeping the Sabbath Day Holy is so much more than a "to do" and "do not do" list.  Sabbath Day observance is not so much a day of rest as it is a day of service and of spiritual progress.  I want to apply these principles more fully in my life.

3.  I phrased my third goal as follows: I CHOOSE to life with PURPOSE and come what may and love it." We can't control everything in our lives, but we can control how we respond to it.  I will respond with a positive attitude and look forward with faith and hope.

I am so grateful for talented friends who make this retreat a reality.  I could never possibly explain how amazing it is, but one of the gals who planned and hosted it posted pictures and some great thoughts on her blog if you're interested: 

The kids are busy with school.  Caleb did a "Sound Waves" project for the science fair.  He was proud of his project and he should have been.  He and Josh spent many hours on it.  The poster wasn't quite what I had in mind.  It is interesting to let my children to learn to do things on their own.  Josh and Caleb also "bonded" working on his Pinewood Derby car this month.  It got the award for being the "Fastest Looking" but it wasn't the fastest.  So many things to do!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cara Update

I was so frustrated with my testing experience at USU for Cara as expressed in the previous blog entry.  I expressed my frustration and got a meeting with the Early Childhood Department Head, who happens to be a leading specialist in reading, as well as the Director of USU After School Tutoring Program. The two of them spent more than 90 minutes with me and went over all of the data I have gathered from the schools testing as well as the testing they did.  

By definition she is dyslexic.  The only thing we can do is give her lots of practice and the opportunity to master one skill at a time.  She will progress slower than the other kids, but she should progress.  Skill mastery before moving on is imperative.  They also believe that her speech and reading delays are absolutely related.  After reviewing how much reading help she is getting at school they don't even think that the after school program is a good idea.  It was wonderful to have them really take a look at the data!

Following are my major "take-away's" from meeting with Dr. Reutzel.  

1. She is being bombarded with too many programs that are unaligned.  Each program has it's own objectives, language, cues, etc.  She needs to work on a single objective, in a variety of ways, until she masters it.  She is currently doing four different reading programs at school and being pulled from the classroom 90 minutes a day.  She is doing reading over three hours per day. (He sent me home with a published research article entitled, Does Instructional Alignment Matter? It can be found in The Elementary School Journal volume 112 number 2 page 259.)

2. FOCUS on a chosen program and even if you use materials from a variety of programs make connections to the common objective.

3. She needs to start back at the basics and not move on until she has mastered each skill.  She needs to go all the way back to letter names and not move on until she first has accuracy and then fluency.  Then move on to blending.  First shoot for accuracy and then fluency etc.

4. Teach her through modeling.  Most teachers say, 1) sound it out, 2) give the child the word, 3) interrogation, sound it out, 4) look for cues to figure out the word.  What we should be doing is modeling (thinking out loud) how to decode a word.  "Watch me, this is how I figure out this word.  This letter is d it says d. This letter is o, it says o. Together they say do.  The last letter is g.  Together they say d o g.  dog."

5. Perceptual Reasoning (Block Design, Picture Concepts, Matrix Reasoning, Picture Completion) are a huge strength for her.  Whenever possible we need to capitalize on that strength.

6. Her IQ is high enough that she may have some success with whole language.  We me want to implement some whole language memorization for high frequency words.

He sent me home with two research papers he has published on topics he felt were relevant to Cara's situation.  The second article is titled "Behind test scores: What struggling readers really need"  Published in The Reading Teacher Volume 57, Number 6, March 2004 page 520.  Her hearing has been tested before, but she will have a full auditory test at USU on March 20 to eliminate a hearing impairment because she is getting further and further behind in speech.