Sunday, September 30, 2012

Self-Help Skills=Mommy's Frustrations

Me: "Kate! Go upstairs and get dressed please!"
Kate: "Ok Mommy!"

And, off she goes. She runs up the stairs, picks out a decently well put together outfit (usually), changes her underwear, puts on her clothes and comes running downstairs to show me how beautiful she looks. Sometimes, she requires a slight tweak here or there (no you can NOT wear the bright pink shirt with that; no you may NOT wear your fairy wings and "heels" to the park; no you may not wear a sundress and sandals when it is snowing outside), but overall, she did it herself...and she is proud of that fact.

Me: "Go brush your teeth please."
Kate: "Ok Mommy."

Relatively clean teeth in about 2 minutes flat. Toothbrush put away, toothpaste not too messy, sink relatively clean.

Bliss! That is life with my 4-year old typical girl.

Kate (age 4) learning to brush her hair...on her own.

Me: "Ben, go get dressed please"
Ben: (Silence)

Now I have to figure out 1) did he hear me? 2) is he ignoring me? 3) did he process what I asked him?

Me: "Ben, come here please. (he walks over) What did I just ask you to do?
Ben: "Ummmm... go eat please?"
Me: "Go get dressed please."

Processing issue...possible behavior/ignoring issue. Off he goes upstairs. 10 minutes pass and I don't see Ben yet.

Me: "Ben, did you get dressed?"
Ben: (while playing with a toy in the hallway on the way to his room) "Oops! I forgot."

Attention issue.... possible behavior/ignoring issue. He's not arguing or giving attitude, so I let it go. Off he runs into his room and starts going through his drawers. I leave him to it, trying to teach him to follow through with my instructions without me "babysitting" him. 10 minutes pass and he comes downstairs, mostly naked, holding clothes in his hands.

Ben: "I got my clothes! I need help putting them on!"

I look at the clothes. He has baseball pants and a sweater.... it's 100 degrees with 80% humidity outside.

Me: "Silly goose. Do you wear baseball pants everyday?"
Ben: "Nooooooooooooo."
Me: "Do you wear a sweater when it's summer?"
Ben: "Nooooooooooooo."
Me: "What kind of clothes should you get?"
Ben: "Shorts and a shirt."
Me: (dreading sending him upstairs yet again to get sidetracked) "Ok. Go on back upstairs and get the right clothes. Remember. It's hot outside."

Off he goes. He returns a few minutes later, still mostly naked, with the correct clothes in hand. At this point, almost half an hour has passed since I made the first request. My patience is running thin, but I keep telling myself that a year ago he couldn't do ANY of this on his own and that it's getting better...really it is. And, this was a big part of the decision to homeschool. He has to learn basic self-help skills and has to learn to do these things ON HIS OWN.

I quickly set out the clothes on the floor to make it easier for him to get them on. Knowing that he will quickly get distracted, I sit next to him and tell him to put on his underwear... then his shorts... then his shirt. He does it pretty much on his own. Success!

Me: "Good job getting yourself dressed!" (while I am thinking, 'Does this really have to take 35 minutes?')

Me: "Andrew, go brush your teeth. Remember not to get water all over the bathroom and not to get toothpaste everywhere."
Andrew: "Ok!"

Off he goes. I am praying that he will just brush his teeth without destroying the bathroom, but know that the chances are not in my favor. But, I have to let him do it on his own and suffer the consequences on his own. 5 minutes later, I go in to check on him. Like normal, he is sitting on top of the sink (it's easier than standing on the step stool for him since he can climb, but can't stand). I can tell already that it's a bad toothbrushing day. Both faucets are blasting and every electric toothbrush is turned on. There is toothpaste on the sink, oozing out of its container and Andrew is filling up a cup with water to watch it overflow.

Me: (trying not to start screaming my head off) "Andrew. Turn off the water and the toothbrushes NOW."
Andrew: "Ok."
Me: "Have you even started brushing your teeth yet?"
Andrew: "Oh, oops!"
Me: (head starting to spin around, eyes wide open, nostrils flaring. I speak slowly through gritted teeth, trying to calm down) "Brush your teeth and clean up the bathroom. If you are not done with that in 5 minutes, you will be grounded for the rest of your life and have to sleep hanging upside down from your toes from the playroom tomorrow. Do you understand?"
Andrew: "Ok. Mommy."

Magically, this does the trick. He's done and the bathroom is cleaned up (sorta). Now, I KNOW that in the evening his ADHD medication is completely out of his system. I KNOW that when he is not on his medication, he has basically no impulse control because that part of his brain is not only damaged, but mostly gone. He doesn't generally leave a path of destruction behind him during the day when the medication is in full force. But, boy does it make me lose my temper to see a kid who I know is capable of doing the right thing decide to completely ignore everything and create a mess that I will probably have to clean up.

Why can't they just do it? Why can't they just get themselves dressed without having to be reminded and told 100 times? Why can't they just brush their teeth on their own?

And, then, I think about how a year ago I had to do it for them completely. A year ago, Andrew didn't have the dexterity to brush his teeth or the attention to even make it into the bathroom and on the sink without being reminded and brought in there by an adult. A year ago, Benjamin couldn't even take his shirt off on his own and could barely put it on by himself. Putting underwear on was not even something we were working on yet.

So, yeah, it's frustrating. Yes, there are times when I want to scream and think of the unfairness of it all. I know that I need to be grateful that they at least have some of these abilities, because that was not always apparent. It's just hard to remember that in the moment... when I am tired and cranky and have worked all day to teach them something only to have them not do it. I sometimes just want to give up and do it for them. But then, Andrew comes into my room one night to proudly tell me that not only did he brush his teeth on his own without me telling him, but that he put all of the stuff away too. Or Benjamin goes upstairs for bath time and gets himself completely undressed without me even telling him once. That's when I realize that it's worth it. I am helping my boys to succeed in areas that they might otherwise not succeed.... and it will get better. It just takes an extra heaping spoonful of patience in the meantime. And, it's ok that I don't always have it.

They will ALWAYS be worth it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What They Don't Learn in School: Sewing

This week, I started to do embroidery again. It is something that I have always loved doing, but had to put aside because of lack of time. As I started my current project, Kate became interested and wanted to learn.

I was about Kate's age when my mom first sat me down and taught me to sew by hand. I remember having a needle and some thread or yarn and a piece of material. I remember going in and out and constantly asking my mom the rethread the needle (yeah.. sorry mom... I understand the frustration now). She didn't teach me any fancy stitches, but I learned very early how to do basic sewing and how to do things like sew on buttons.

So, I decided to sit Kate down to make her own project. I taught her the dangers of real needles, set up her embroidery hoop, and threaded her needle.

After hours of us embroidering together (and hours and hours of me rethreading needles that came undone and knots that kept getting stuck), Kate finished her project and I made good progress on mine.

My current project.

Kate's version of my current project.

She is very proud of her work :) I love it because it shows her abilities at 4 years old. I am making mine into a pillow and we are also making hers into a pillow. I can't tell you how excited she is to see the results of her efforts.

I was then told by my wonderful sister-in-law about a plastic practicing version for kids. So, off to Michael's I went. There are these awesome little plastic shapes and plastic blunt needles that kids can use to practice their sewing with yarn. Right now for Katie, it is all about learning the in and out motion, learning to thread her own needle (can't wait for her to get that one), and seeing the results of all of her hard work. 

The entire project cost less than $3 since we already had the yarn. She will be able to use the needles over and over again (as long as she doesn't lose them, which I am sure she will) and they have lots of different types of shapes for the future. 

Tips for teaching a young child to sew:
  1. Let go of the idea that it has to be perfect. I first showed Kate how to make the stitches small and close together the way that they are "supposed" to be. She made them really big after I left her to do it on her own. I thought for sure that the plastic forms would help her with that, and was eager for her to follow the holes. She made a couple of stitches small and then went back to making them super long to cover up more space. As much as I wanted to fix it for her and criticize her attempts, I had to let it go. It's her project, not mine, and she is still getting practice and joy out of it. I will save the constructive criticism for when she isn't 4 years old.
  2. To teach a young child to thread a needle, wrap the end of the yarn with a little bit of tape. Make sure that it can still go through the hole in the needle. The tape will keep it stiff enough and will keep it from unraveling. Threading a needle can even be difficult for adults and requires patience, especially when dealing with multiple threads in yarn or embroidery floss. 
  3. Instead of doing a single strand, double the strand up and tie a knot at the bottom. This will make it so that the needle doesn't come undone every 5 seconds. I first tried to show her how to pinch the top of the needle where the yarn goes through so that it won't come undone, but she quickly forgot to do that and it came unthreaded again. The goal is to not have to have me thread the needle every 10 seconds, so I doubled the strand, tied the knot and let her have at it. She went through the yarn much quicker that way, but oh well. 
  4. The blunt, plastic needles are really awesome for teaching basic skills. They won't go through fabric, but they will go through the plastic forms. She still wants to use a grown-up needle as well, but when she is practicing on her own, she will use the plastic one. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trampolines? Yay or nay?

The kids' first time on a trampoline at a neighbor's house.
Some of the best memories of my childhood was jumping on my friends' trampolines in their backyards. We didn't have one ourselves (we had a large pool instead), but many of my friends had trampolines and we would spend hours jumping on them. My parents had a strict rule of no flips, but since I couldn't do one anyway, it didn't really matter to me. It was still just a lot of fun chasing each other around the bouncy mat and jumping as high as we could. I only once ever jumped off the trampoline unexpectedly, and I survived it.

Just this week, the AAP issued a warning about the dangers of trampolines. Lots of kids get injured on them, with or without the safety nets. But, how dangerous are they really? We were planning on getting one for the kids for Christmas (with a safety net of course)... should we forgo that plan or should we just exercise caution?

According to the report, most of the injuries are "normal" kid injuries like contusions (fancy word for bruise), fractures (broken bones), and cuts. There are some neck and head injuries, which are the most serious, but only account for about 10% of the visits. The question is, should we limit an activity that offers cardiovascular exercise in a fun and inviting way in the interest of protecting kids?

I am all for kids' safety. I make my kids wear helmets and knee pads on their scooters and bikes. I watch them diligently on playground equipment. Most parents that have seen me at the playground comment that I am very strict with them. I hate whenever they get hurt. But, at a certain point, ya gotta let kids be kids. Kids get hurt. They fall, they break arms, they get stitches, and all kids have bruises. The only way to prevent kids from getting hurt is by wrapping them in bubble wrap, keeping them sitting still, and handing them a controller. Oh wait... that might have its own negative consequences, not to mention they become obese from lack of activity. Now, I am not against video or computer games or even television. Like everything, I think it has its place and is part of a great childhood. However, I think it would be sad to take away other fun activities because they could get hurt.

Think of all of the activities where kids get hurt. Should we not let kids do monkey bars because they could fall? What about climbing to the top of a great big slide? That fall would be dangerous. What about riding scooters? They could tip over. Don't even get me started on skateboards (it definitely wasn't safe when I strapped myself to it, with no helmet, and had my brother push me down our steep driveway onto our street). For that matter, running. Have you ever seen a kid run down a hill? What about tumble down the hill while running. Or hiking. They might trip and fall and break their arm. Benjamin broke his arm when he was four by tripping over his sister's baby swing while walking slowly through our house. Maybe I shouldn't let him walk. Then there is the most dangerous of all activities and is one of the leading killers of young kids: driving.

Yes, I understand that I am being extreme and that walking doesn't hold the same dangers as a trampoline. I get that. But, in a nation where the obesity rate in children is climbing, where do we draw the line? I wonder what the rates of head and neck injuries in bike riding are. Or climbing on the playground.

With all of that being said, we are still considering getting a trampoline for Christmas. We will have a safety net because I don't want my kids to fall out unexpectedly. We will have padding to cover the springs. We will have basic safety rules like no pushing each other and no doing flips. We will not allow 500 children to jump at the same time, and will not allow bigger kids to jump with smaller kids. We will exercise caution, but I am not going to limit a cardiovascular activity that my kids are able to do and that they love. Like all activities that involve falls and potential injuries, we will watch them diligently.


Tell Me a Story!

Ben when he was a baby, "reading" his book.
Today, while in the car with Ben, I was trying to think of a way to include him in a conversation. He normally prefers to sit in the backseat and not participate, but I am trying to push him to be more involved. I then remembered a game that my mom used to play with us in the car when we were kids and decided to give it a try. I call it "Tell Me a Story."

I am sure most adults have played this game at some point in time. It starts with the adult starting the story. You say one or two sentences to set the scene and then it is the child's turn to add to it. They add a sentence or two and then it is the next person's turn. You continue until you decide that the story is finished. It's a super easy game and was one of my favorite things to do in the car when I was a kid. Today, I decided to try it with Ben. Here is our story:

Me: "Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Ben who likes to climb trees."

Ben: "Ben and his little sister and their mother went to the store. The end."

Me: "Ummm... no. It's not done yet. When they got to the store, something happened."

Ben: "They looked at trucks and found a fantastical pick-up truck."

Me: "The pick-up truck was magical. It grew really big... big enough for Ben and his sister to sit in! They got inside it."

Ben: "Then it turned into a magical fire engine! Then they took it! The bad guy people! Ben and his sister chased them and got it back!"

Me: "After they got back the fire truck, they heard a fire alarm!"

Ben: "The magical fire engine put out the pretend fire. It wasn't a real fire."

Me: "They saved people from the pretend fire."

Ben: "They saved Daddy and Mommy and Andrew. The end."

Not too bad for our first attempt at creating a story. Plus, it got Ben involved, using his imagination and speech. He also had to pay attention and use auditory processing skills to know what to add to the story. Yes, he decided to try and end the story after one sentence. Yes, he casually ignored the climbing tree plot that I tried to introduce. Yes, he defaulted to trucks and fire fighting (his obsessions) in order to complete the story. But, he was able to use his imagination to add to it. It wasn't just a retelling of something that happened in the past. I think that's great progress for a 5 minute car ride that would normally be spent with me asking easy questions with him giving me 1 or 2 word answers to just appease me. This is definitely going to be a new tactic in my arsenal.

I am also going to use this activity to help with creative writing. We are just beginning our writing program for this school year and I am constantly looking for writing prompts to help him develop. He has a difficult time retelling anything without prompts and usually has a difficult time coming up with stories on his own. This will be a great in between step that will help him to develop those skills.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

He did it!!

Ok... so a while back, I posted about how as a parent of special needs kids, I am fortunate enough to get to celebrate the little things that most people take for granted. This is one of those things...

Today, Benjamin wanted to play bubbles outside with his sister. Usually, that means that we get out our super duper bubble blower and they pop them, or he watches his sister blow bubbles. When he tries, he quickly gets frustrated and gives up. His motor skills make it very difficult to blow hard enough and directly enough to actually get the bubbles to form.

Today, however, he was determined. He wanted to blow bubbles. So, we worked on the dipping and wiping first and then I showed him again how to blow. He immediately did what he did before and blew incorrectly. I told him to watch my mouth closely and try it again. He did, and guess what?!???!? He blew bubbles!!!! You have no idea how excited both of us were. He did it! After years of trying and not succeeding, he finally was able to do it!! He blew bubbles over and over again with various levels of success. But, the thing is that he is finally able to do it! Hooray for Benjamin!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall Crafts for Kids!!!

I LOVE fall. It is my absolute favorite season, especially since moving to NC. The leaves turn beautiful colors, the weather is wonderful, and there are lots of opportunities to do fun activities. In fact,  I have chosen a lot of "fall" colors for the decor in my house. With that in mind, I decided that I would like to have the kids make some artwork that could be displayed on my walls. I had thought about doing this often, but didn't know exactly what I wanted to do and wanted to make sure that they looked nice. I didn't just want random finger paintings or scribbles up everywhere, and all three of my kids are not at a point artistically where their artwork looks like more than that without specific instruction. My boys are also at an age where they now realize that not every scribble is beautiful artwork and they get frustrated by their fine motor limitations. They don't usually feel successful at art. So, I came up with an easy art project for them to do that not only teaches them about color mixing and painting with acrylics on canvases, but creates a piece of artwork that can be displayed in my home.

  • One canvas per child. 
    • I purchased these at Michaels with a 40% off coupon. Tip: it is actually a much better deal to purchase a package of 7 with a coupon than to purchase 6 of them in 2 packs. If you are planning on doing more than one project with canvases, the multi pack is the way to go. I think I paid a total of $12 for 7 canvases. I know we will be doing a Christmas painting using canvases, so that worked out great for me!
  • Fall colored acrylic paint.
    • We used green, orange, red, sparkle gold, and sparkle green. My kids especially like the sparkle paint.
  • Sponge paint brushes. 
    • Super duper cheap at home depot and my kids prefer to paint with them over regular paint brushes. They are a little smoother and more forgiving.
  • Sponge cutouts of leaves.
    • I took regular kitchen sponges (the cheap ones) and traced leaf patterns. I then cut them out with heavy duty scissors to create leaf stamps.
  • Paper plates to use as a palette.
  • Clear spray sealer.
  • Teach the kids about mixing paint while you mix red and green together to create the ideal brown color for the trunk. Depending on the age of your child will depend on how much they can help with this. Since I was making a lot of brown, I decided to keep it controlled and do the work by myself. However, even my 4 year old mixes colors together on a smaller scale.
  • Using sponge paintbrushes, have the child paint their tree trunk.

  • Put the non-sparkly fall colored paint on their paper plate palette and have them stamp using the leaf cutouts. It works better if the sponges aren't completely saturated with paint, leaving some of the white canvas to peak through. It's ok if the leaves are on top of each other and if the colors mix together. It helps to add to the tree look.

  • Use the sparkle paint last and repeat the previous step to create a layered look. If you do the sparkle paint first, it will not be noticeable under the other paint colors.
  • When dry, spray with sealer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Family Projects

Our first unit in social studies this year is about families. As a supplement to the basic curriculum, I thought it would be great for Ben and Kate to make books all about their families. They kids loved telling the stories about their family members and loved reading the completed books over and over again. They turned out so cute! It's definitely one of those projects that is going to go in my "save" folder for the year.

To make books:

  • Fold a sheet of regular construction paper in half horizontally.
  • Fold multiple sheets of white paper in half and put them inside. Make sure that there are enough pages for every family member. Remember that the sheets of paper will be folded in half to get the right number of pages.
  • Staple the folded ends together and voila! Inexpensive books! I am definitely going to be using them a whole lot more this year.
The Project:
  • First, print out small pictures (we used 2x3 size) of each family member.
  • Cut them out and paste one picture per book page. 
  • Either have the child dictate or write about each family member on each page (depending on their ability). Since Kate is just in preschool and Benjamin cannot write well, they pretty much dictated their stories. I required more on Benjamin's pages and required him to write one word on each page. Kate only had to write the title and her name, but spent the rest of the time decorating the pages once finished.
  • Share with family!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Am I Forgetting Something??

Sorry for the disappearance recently from my blog. I have been super busy with a last minute Disneycruise vacation (I know... poor me...), stomach bug that hit everyone in the house (actually poor me), 2 groups of out of town visitors, and the start of the new school year. Top that off with the cold now circulating through my house and you get the idea of how crazy I have been recently.

School is off to a TREMENDOUS start! Benjamin is totally rocking the homeschool thing. Decreasing the amount of out of the house activities has really helped him to get focused and complete his schooling in record time. I have also implemented a positive rewards chart system for his schooling. Everyday, I write the activities that we are supposed to complete in a chart. He chooses the order he wants to complete them in and then we cross them off when we are done. When he has completed his chart for the entire day, he gets a sticker on his sticker chart. When that chart is filled up (ours has 27 spaces), then he gets to get a prize. He is completely motivated and finishes all of his work in about 2 hours a day!!! I am SHOCKED that he can get everything done this quickly.

Ben on the first day of school at his new desk in our schoolroom.
Since he gets all of his work done so quickly, it makes me think that I might be forgetting something. I mean... we are doing math, extra math, vocabulary, handwriting, phonics, reading, social studies, and science along with thematic unit work. We have done 1-2 small art projects a week. I haven't started our writing for the year yet and have been using computer programs for spelling and Spanish. He has social skills tutoring, piano, Bible study, AWANA and gymnastics outside of our house. We are doing a special geography project once a month. We are making good progress in all of his curriculum. It seems like a well-rounded curriculum and once I write it all down, it seems like he is doing a lot. But, we are finishing quickly.  Is this a common homeschooling phenomenon or am I forgetting something?