Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HOME sweet home...

So glad to be home!

We had a GREAT trip to visit Elizabeth and are thankful for the little break from the everyday as well as a fun weekend visiting with her and spending time together :).

We have had a laid back day today, lots of playing and snuggling and just hanging out.

It's been interesting, too, working back with the RR team a bit over the last week helping move their forum from an email based one over to one on a contained forum.  I haven't been very involved in the last 7 months since traveling for our kids and resigning from the Ukraine program, and it has been fun to follow along again and be involved, albeit without so much (or any, really) responsibility :).

I have a few blog posts running through my mind to share different things I've found lately and thoughts and stuff with the kids and.... I will try to find time to share some more soon :).

In the mean time, I'm glad to be back in the summer run with all the kids!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fun in PA

We drove through Amish areas and out of respect took only a distant picture of the back of a buggy.  We also took the Strausburg Railroad out for a fun ride through Amish areas.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Horses in Philly!

We made it to Philadelphia and my sister's uncle picked us up from the airport and brought us to see his horses and ponies.  The girls had a great time!  A huge THANK YOU to
"Uncle Mike" and "Cousin Rachel" for
entertaining us and taking the girls out on the horse!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh my Aching!

The last two nights I've woken up multiple times in the night with a SORE neck!  There's pain in my shoulder, neck, and radiating down my arm and down my back.  NOT fun!

I have no idea what I actually did to have this happen.  I haven't done anything unusual and I have the same bed and pillow I've used for quite a while.  This is such a drastic shift, ICK!

I ended up getting up at about 2am after going to bed near midnight and taking Tylenol and moving out to the recliner.  I also stole one of Mike's socks and filled it with rice and microwaved it for a few minutes.  I don't have a heating pad but I know that works!  It did, and I was able to sleep off and on for the rest of the night.

We looked at mattress toppers yesterday and pillows that are more forming but since I'm leaving before the crack of dawn tomorrow we didn't bother with anything right now.  Hopefully my sister's porch is more comfy than our bed! :)  I will be bringing my sock heating pad and some Tylenol just in case.

Wish I knew what I did so I could know what to avoid!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What a week!

It's been a busy busy week, but a great one too!  I do realize it's only Wednesday but I guess it all started last week.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week I brought Brianna to the first grade lunch to experience "eating in the cafeteria" and just as she had the last week, she did great!  Wednesday was a "down day", as was Thursday to a degree.  Friday we spent the day in IEPs!  Saturday and Sunday flew by like a blur...  And Monday was the last day of school as well as PreK graduation for Brianna.

Monday afternoon started what feels like could have been a a week already :).  When we got home from school we suited up in swimsuits and blew up the 3-ring pool!  The kids had a blast in the water all afternoon!!  I have foam pads out under and around the kids' pool, and set up a big shade umbrella near a 'baby bath' where Wesley played in a few inches of water as well.  Then a Spider Man sprinkler that was a birthday present to one of the kids earlier this year was at the edge of the foam and a bubble maker a little distance away so it didn't make the foam mats slippery.

After pool time and a quick rinse off, we all made individual pizzas and baked them up.  That with smoothies on the side was a great first day of summer break dinner!

Yesterday we spent the day moving around things at the house.  Lynae has had the 'guest' room to herself for a little while.  She was waking early and in the middle of the night, but has gotten off of that trend lately.  For now, she's now moved in to the girls' bedroom in a toddler bed!  Lynae is 20 months old and although it's a little on the early side, she has done great once she realized that we meant business about staying in her bed :).

I purchased plastic zippered mattress protectors for each of the kids' mattresses since there's been quite a few  accidents lately so yesterday was the day to change all 8 sets of sheets and add the mattress protectors to the beds.  I moved the boys around a little too.  Wesley has been in a toddler bed, but keeps getting into contorted positions in it.  James, on the other hand, has been in the adapted bed that was Emma's, and has been pulling the vertical blinds down and already broke one on both ends.  When we put the side rail all the way up to protect the blinds, well, James hurt himself instead.  So, the boys are switched!

For now, James is in the toddler bed and Wesley is in the adapted bed... which may or may not last.  We'll try it for a few nights anyway, and we had waited until school was out to do it at all since we know it will likely affect the amount of sleep that everyone is getting.  Of course I'm sitting in their rooms at night until they go to sleep... or rather switching back and forth between the two rooms to make sure everyone stays in bed if Mike isn't home :).

Today I packed bags for my trip this weekend!  The little girls and I are flying up to Philadelphia to visit with my sister :).  I was going to take a solo trip, but instead decided we'd make it a girls' weekend for the two little ones that have had their world turned upside down and spun around this year :).  They are also the easiest to travel and, let's face it, Lynae flies free! LOL.  Michael's going to try to take Kristopher for a little get-away next month to spend some time with him.  The other kids will each get a chance here and there for a "day date" but none of them really enjoy a night away or traveling at the moment, so we'll make different arrangements to do some solo time with them.

Anyway, this morning was spent packing for Brianna, Lynae, and my getaway weekend, and a friend from church that also is James and Micah's Sunday school teacher is going to be helping out here a few mornings a week in the summer time, so she (Katie) was here this morning to keep the kids entertained.  Friday we will fly out and we'll be coming back home on Monday.  It worked out great since Mike has Monday off so only one day of childcare was necessary for us to have 2 1/2 days up with Elizabeth.  Michael and the other 6 will have a busy weekend, I'm sure, but he does great with the kids and will find something fun to do here at home while we're gone.

Tomorrow's "unscheduled" before we fly out, but I think a trip to Sam's Club may be a necessity since we're almost out of Pediasure.  Then, a relaxing weekend with 4 flights with 2 little girls and sleeping on a couch with the kids on an air mattress.  Sounds like an adventure :). ((Yes, we really WILL have fun!!!))

Monday, May 23, 2011

More graduation pictures!

Just sharing the rest of the pictures from Brianna's graduation. :)

Preschool graduation!

Congratulations Brianna!  On to kindergarten!

iPad Apps- PreK Colors

Pre-K Colors
  • Smart Baby Colors (FREE).  This app shows stripes of a color and says the color and has the color name.  On a tap or swipe it changes to “green iguana” with a picture of an iguana.   You can tag some to set it up to only see some of the flashcards- “favorites”.  A good app.
  • Color Match (FREE).  This is a concentration game using colors.  You can choose for the pictures to be face up or face down and can choose whether there are 2 sets (4 cards), 4, or 8 used.  As each color is flipped over it says the color name.  When the colors match, the tiles are removed and a picture is below of a crayon.  Brianna loves this one!
  • Color Slapps (FREE).  3 levels of play,  Level 1 says “Find black” with only black on the screen.  Level 2 has two colors.  No recognition of wrong answers, only correct answers.  “Find pink” repeats every few seconds to prompt the child.  Level 3 has three colors to choose from. 
  • Parents Flashcards (FREE).  I have in-app purchases disabled (for ALL of my iPad!) and this program gives me tons of errors because of that! The free ones are colors and shapes and there are flashcards and quizzes.  They’re decent!  The quizzes ask which color is…  and has the name of the color at the bottom.  4 choices to choose from.  This is a nicely made app, the only down side is that it has arrows to push rather than a tap or flick to advance. 
  • Balloons (FREE).  Colors, numbers, or animal games  The bad part is, the color is written on a sign on the left side of the screen!  Idea is to pop the balloons that are that color.  The color word is written in its own color, so you can see “yellow” IS Yellow, but still no verbal directions.  For the numbers and animals, it’s not as easily distinguished, so if you don’t know the number word you can’t play the games without help.  Great for learning color, number, and animal words though!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

iPad Apps- PreK Animals

Pre-K Animals-
  • Farm Flip (FREE). A basic concentration game!  The initial screen has all the animals and as you touch them they play their sounds.    Touch “play” and use matching to find each animal pair.  After being matched the animal sounds play and the card becomes a watermark where it was.  A very cute, simple, independent game!
  • Animals Tool (FREE).  This has a bunch of animals in a ‘board’ but they are goofy looking renditions of the animals with one eye bigger than the other in all of them and parts of the body emphasized like a big nose or head, etc.  When each is clicked on it plays the animal sound.   This is a very basic app and doesn’t say the animal name, so I don’t use it much.  It’s not one I’ve noticed the kids getting interested on their own and won’t be staying installed.  Maybe the full version has more features?
  • Animal Farm (FREE).  Little animals each have their place around a farm.  After you put them in the ‘puzzle’…  well, not sure what you do!  This one’s getting uninstalled. 
  • Animals Free (FREE).  This has you choose English or French right off the bat, which is annoying for Preschoolers to do on their own, but then has real NICE quality pictures of animals.  Click the animal photos and their sounds play.  Scroll down to see MANY beautiful pictures and hear the unique animal sounds.  Beautiful real life photos make this one worth it.  Not sure what else the paid version has, but this one’s worth it alone even!
  • Photo Touch Farm Animals (FREE).  This is similar to an alphabet app, the same maker.    It gives 3 animal choices and says “Touch the goat”.  A correct answer gives positive reinforcement.  As it progresses, it goes from 3 choices up to 10 to choose from.  Great real pictures with white backgrounds and shows in all different patterns on the screen.  Good for identifying and learning instead of just feeding information. 
  • Flashcards (FREE).  Only one set of cards is free—Animals.  The flashcards show a cartoony picture of an animal and say the name, it also has the word written below the animal and a ((())) sound button.  Click the animal and it makes the animal sound and says the name.  Click a letter of the word and it says the letter name.  Click the ((())) sound button and it says the animal name.  Advance with a ‘flick’ or after time it will advance.  A good one!
  • I hear Ewe (FREE).  This has several pages of cartoony animal faces and transportation vehicles too.  Twelve on each page, and I like this for WESLEY!  You click an animal and it says “this is the sound the frog makes” and makes the sound.  That is great because the name of the animal and the sound are together.  Since he has vision issues I love that he hears the animal name and sound so even if he doesn’t see the animal, that he associates the animal sound and name together.  Not an annoying voice either, which is helpful!
  • Animal Sounds (FREE).  A large set of animal pictures, click one and it brings up the animal picture with the word below.  The animal sound plays.  No spoken ‘name’ of the animal.   Click on it and it goes to a second picture of the same animal.  Another click and it goes back to the home page.  Not a bad app, real life pictures, but not very exciting.  It can be customized but I don’t see a way to have it say the animal names aloud.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What is AYP and why does it matter?

This question is one that I was faced with about two weeks ago.  I looked it up and eventually found enough information to satisfy my curiosity as well as help me tremendously with the difficulty I was having with school placement for my children.

The hard part is that I wasn't offered any information on this subject and found out about AYP through a 'random' encounter with someone.  Our school staffing specialists didn't offer the information to us, and once we had researched it and brought it up to them, they denied knowledge of it and even began to say that it didn't affect us.  Once we shared that we were educated about AYP, they finished the conversation with "You'll have to ask someone else about that, we have no idea."  I then had to call someone else, who called someone else.. and it took 2 weeks to find out real answers.  I explained more about our personal situation at the end of this post.

Now that I have the answers I was looking for, I want to share them.  Because the second part of this difficulty is that if I didn't know where to start looking or WHAT to look for, I wouldn't have found it.  There didn't appear to be anywhere that had all the information in one place.

That's what I'm attempting to do now.

Here is my "unofficial" post with my understanding about AYP, why it matters, and what it really means.  If I've got something wrong, please, please correct me!  Also, I have focused only on the "school choice" aspects of AYP, though there are other parts to it dealing with transportation and even supplementary services, so check out the resources after the Q&A for more info!

What is AYP?
AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress.  It is something that every school receiving governmental Title I money needs to attain and is based on a number of things including the state testing results.

What if a school doesn't make AYP?
If a school doesn't make AYP for two consecutive years, then the students attending that school have "school choice."  There is a letter that should be mailed out from the school if your child attended the previous year.  If your child will be a new student at that school the following year, you may need to go to the school to find out whether school choice is an option and if so, to pick up the forms and learn the deadlines to turn it in.

What does school choice mean?
School choice means that the district would provide each student with a choice of two schools that are nearby and are doing fine (not other schools that are also having school choice I believe).  The student can choose to stay at their home school OR to attend one or the other of the two choice schools.  If a student attends one of the choice schools, they can stay at that school until one of the following occurs: their time in that school ends, for instance staying in an elementary school through the highest grade that it offers (5th or 6th grade, generally); the student chooses to return to their home school; the student chooses to change schools

If a district offers "school choice", who is that available to?
School choice is available to ANY student that would be attending that school either because it is their 'home' school or because it is their 'feeder' school (such as for special needs programs offered only at certain schools).

What if a school didn't make AYP for several years and "school choice" is offered, then they make AYP again?
A school must make AYP for two consecutive years before school choice is revoked for current or new students.  Students that have already chosen another school do not lose their ability to attend their choice school.  This means that a school that the first year that "school choice" kicks in for a school, that is automatically 2 years of children that have the choice.  If the school doesn't make AYP the following year, there are still 2 years.  In this way, if a school did not make AYP the current school year and is in school choice, then your newly enrolling child for the following school year definitely has school choice since it requires two consecutive years making AYP for school choice to stop.

Can a "chosen school" deny the admission of a child based on overcrowding or class size?
No.  This is important!  If the district offers that school as a choice and the family chooses it and is 'accepted' through the choice program, then the school cannot turn down that child's registration based on class size or overcrowding.  They must accommodate the child as if the child was living in their school zone.

FL Department of Education:  http://www.fldoe.org/nclb/adequate_yearly_progress.asp
FL School accountability reports (perform a search to find your school)  http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/default.asp?schoolYear=2008-2009
Broward County (FL) Public schools FAQ for AYP  http://www.browardschools.com/schools/ayp.htm

How this all affects us...
As I've written before, we have 5 children all attending one school this year.  Next year we were told that there were four different schools that were considerations for different kids of ours.  The school our kids currently attend is out of area for us.  Emma attends there on a McKay scholarship, which is a Florida state based scholarship due to her special needs and because that school would serve her better than the "natural feeder school" that she would otherwise attend.  Kristopher is out of area due to his siblings' placement.  The other three at that school are all in PreK and they are not 'zoned' for one PreK school or another, but placed there by their IEP team.

Next year, two of our children (both newly adopted) were ineligible for the McKay scholarship since they've not attended school for two FTE (funding) periods, October and February, prior to this school year.  Brianna would be eligible for McKay, but we understand that the school she is attending this year may be closed to accepting new McKay scholarship students next year.

So-- James, Micah, Emma, and Kristopher could stay in their current school, but our other three students wouldn't be allowed to attend there under normal conditions.

We knew that the school that, through the IEP process, was determined to be where Brianna, Aleksa, and Wesley would all need to attend (the other 2 possible schools were ruled out) was not a school that we wanted our children at.  It is a 'feeder' school from our home school and has the program that each of them will attend for students in a supported level classroom.  Unfortunately, we were running in to closed doors when attempting to get our children all placed together at their current school.

When the letters "AYP" were mentioned, we learned that the school that the three children would be placed at has not made AYP in 5 years and has been in "school choice" status for three.   Immediately, with limited information, we tried to find out whether that meant that feeder students also would receive school choice.  At that time, we also did not know that school choice was instilled for another year AFTER AYP is made (AYP has to be made two consecutive years for school choice to be removed).  So we thought we had to wait until the FCAT test results were in which could be July or August, as school starts, to know whether our children could transfer schools or not.

After learning the last "piece of the puzzle" as it feels like some days, we now know that our children DO qualify for school choice!

How do we know that the school we want them to attend will be one of the choices?  Well, there are only 2 schools that have supported level units in our area aside from the school that is not doing well.  Since the district has to offer two schools, the school we have our other children at should be one of those two choices.

I REALLY wish that this all would have been told to us without us having to go and 'find it out' on our own... and when we began asking about it that our questions would have been answered rather than, seemingly, being pushed under the rug or ignored.  I do not know whether it was really a lack of information and education on the part of the team that we were working with, or whether they were withholding information, knowing that we wanted to keep our children together yet not wanting to provide us with the answer that allowed us to do so.  I would like to think they were ignorant rather than malicious.

Now we know, and I'm very glad to 'know', though still without anything definite, that our kids will all be together attending a great school in 2011-2012!!

iPad Apps- PreK Words

Pre-K Words
  • Smart Baby Food festival (FREE).  This one has several  sets of free flashcards and others you can purchase.  Breakfast foods are free.  A simple tap advances the screen.  This does have several settings you can work with.  You can choose to show words then flachcards, or images then words, capitalization customization, and you can add, delete, and customize flashcards, record voices, playback, add photos, etc.  It appears to be very customizable!!  I HAVE NOT USED THESE FEATURES YET.  I did choose “Words then flachcard” and it shows the word “Bread” and speaks it, then shows a loaf of bread with the word below and speaks it again.  I like it! J  One option is to see the list of ‘favorites’ where you can star words in ANY flashcard set (within this app) and you can view all of those together.
  • Smart Baby my first couplets (FREE).  Very similar to the Smart Baby Food festival app, there are custom settings such as capitalization, play mode, timing, and sound.    Animals, shapes, foods, toys, etc are all on here, but this one goes a step further and gives an adjective for each noun “healthy broccoli”, “long carrot”, “soft koala”.   A neat app with a lot of custom features.
  • Smart Baby Around town lite (FREE).  More customizable flashcards with park, businesses, vehicles, shuffle features, and the ability to choose favorites within the app and view them all together. 
  • BEE Free  Animals First Words (FREE).  Animal flashcards—it has the N backwards!! YIKES!  This shows a chalk board with letters and a animal in the corner.   C O W.  Cow.  You can choose to ‘speak’ or ‘spell’ in the top corner, then a next button to advance.   It’s an app that my kids will play with, and it teaches spelling and is cute.  It does really bother me that they write the N backward in their name though!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

We all Survived!

Our last two IEPs of the year are FINISHED!!

Only ONE more day of school too!!

And... I think there may be a need for a drumroll here...


Right Now

Subject to change

There is a very high chance that

ALL SEVEN of our kids may go to the SAME SCHOOL next year!

Anyone else jumping up and down??  :)  Ok, that's probably just me.  More on how that works later, but the outcome of the IEPs today was what we were hoping for-- placement for Aleksa is a supported level classroom and for Wesley it is the SAME!  We were concerned about a possible push toward a profound/participatory class which wasn't even the slightest bit the case, which I'm SO glad for!

As of today's information, here's our next year:
Aleksa- Primary supported level classroom (2nd grade)
Emma- Primary supported level classroom (2nd grade)
Kristopher- 2nd grade
Wesley- Primary supported level classroom (Kindergarten)
Brianna- Kindergarten with resource (pull out for Reading and Math in supported level classroom)
James- K4 EELP
Micah- K4 EELP

Of course, nothing is finalized, because that's how things work :)  We get info, then we get new info, then we get more new info...  Then more... which changes the first three sets of info we had :)

But today, I will just be happy that we THINK that all the kids will be together

It's IEP time!

It's time for another two IEPs!  Here we go for Wesley and Aleksa!

I expect these to be fairly straightforward... the only hesitation we have is making sure that the children's lack of exposure to any and everything academic as well as their limited English isn't going to hold them back from being able to access everything they have the POTENTIAL of doing well.  For instance, making sure that Wesley isn't put into a classroom based on what his current level of function is when looked at another 6 yr old with the same skills.  Rather, looking at the development he's made in the previous 5 months since the beginning of his exposure to a family, socialization, and the language, we should determine what his potential MAY be and push toward the  higher level of those two.  After all, if it doesn't work out in the "higher" placement, reconvening to move him to a different class isn't the end of the world.  Starting off in a "lower" placement, how will we know that he needs to be placed higher??  And then how much time has he "lost" in a lower placement?

So... off we go!  I am actually not so nervous about this one and looking forward to a great set of goals for each of them.

Let's hope the school personnel agree with me :) :).

OH- and more info about school-related stuff (general info that may help others too!) coming up either later today or soon... whenever I find the time to type :D

iPad Apps- PreK Numbers

Pre-K Numbers
  • 123 Numbers- iTouchiLearn Numbers (FREE).  This opens with familiar music and as spoken words and animations to show each number.  It does it very quickly and doesn’t pause to allow you to count the objects, though it does count them for you.  The games are something Brianna enjoys playing,  The Frog Game has 3 frogs and gives oral directions to select the correct number for how many frogs are there.   Music plays throughout the time on the app.  You earn stars in the games and has encouraging comments throughout.  The matching game is one that Brianna likes to play, especially.  It goes into a little higher math skill with “touch the lowest number”.  Another very basic app, but if my kids like to play with it and will learn while doing it, then that’s worth it to me!  This version has only 1-2-3 unless purchased, so the free version gets kindof boring pretty quickly. 
  • Finger Count (FREE). Practice is interesting… you have a visual that’s very abstract that looks like two hands placed palm down on the iPad (thumbs in the middle).  The fingers are numbered with number WORDS, which isn’t helpful for kids who are learning their letters and numbers still, but does introduce the sight word of the numbers for later on.  This is one of those apps that looks like a great idea and ends up being a bust.  It’s uninstalled.  Too abstract, not enough directions to figure out what you’re supposed to do, etc.  And that’s ME, not the kids J
  • Toddler 123 Free (FREE). This is a partner to Toddler Alphabet/ Toddler ABC also reviewed.  The number one seems to be better designed!  It describes what to do a little and at the top has arrows (tho they appear to be disguised!) to advance activities.  This is the same wooden puzzle idea, with a story spoken then you choose the puzzle pieces and it audibly counts which answers the question.  You do have to get the right squid into the right space, which is kindof annoying.  But, it’s a step up from the toddler ABC game.  The number song is cute.  It has something written in some weird language next to the 123 at the top, but then sings “10 little Indians” with a unique accent J.  Writing numbers is another fail out because you just have to scribble on the page and it says “cool” as long as the entire number is colored in too…
  • Dots Lite! Tots for Dots (FREE).  This shows one dot, then speaks “one”.  Touch the dot, the number 1 shoes.  Touch the number 1, two dots show and “two” is spoken.  Each time the screen is tapped it advances.  You cannot count the dots by touching the screen because it advances.  Another very basic one, not one I love.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

iPad Apps- Alphabet and Writing

I've been going through our iPad apps and writing up what each one is about and whether we like it or not along with what its best uses are.  Here's the first (of several) post with the alphabet and writing apps that we've tried out and have at least made it to the "second cut".  Many of them are GREAT apps which I highly recommend!  Several of them made it to the second round on the iPad and are about to be uninstalled.  So... happy reading, and please share any Alphabet and Writing iPad apps that you like (or don't like!) with us as well!  Please also note if they are FREE or if they cost something ($-$$$)

Here goes...

 iPad Applications  (05/2011)
Pre-K Alphabet and Writing-
  • Starfall ABCs ($)  This is one of my favorite app’s for the alphabet!  Brianna spends literally hours exploring this app.  Originally designed for iPhone (but being used on our iPad), it brings up the uppercase alphabet as ‘stacking blocks’ which move side to side sliding along their rows as the iPad is tipped sideways.  When a letter is selected, the letter shows up in uppercase and lowercase form and says the letter name twice along with an object that starts with that letter (not spoken) such as a horn (with sound) for H.  There is a blinking arrow in the corner to press to go on to the next screen, and the letter sound (hhh) is made as it transitions pages.  Another pointer shows to press the lowercase letter on the side of the page, with a picture in the background (h, helicopter).  Press the letter and it makes the sound, says the name of the picture, animates and puts sound to the picture, and brings the letter down to the bottom of the screen where the word for the picture is written (hhh, helicopter), then another arrow appears to advance to the next screen, along with a vocalization of the letter sound with the screen transition.  There are two more “identical” screens, with different words represented and animated, etc. **The program does not allow the child to advance to the next screen until the animation and sounds, etc are complete!**  After 3 words, the letter H goes to a game saying “make a match” which is a basic concentration or memory game with uppercase and lowercase letters being matched together (6 pairs).  Letters are spoken as they’re chosen, and the letter sound made when the match is made.  Encouragement “You did it!” and music plays at the completion of the game.  The next screen shows a sentence with an animated picture “See the happy hippo”.  The words are spoken and the picture animated, and it’s hard to see, but that picture was under the concentration game while playing.  This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for but I’m very happy with the amount of thought put into its development.  Starfall.com has been a long time teaching tool we’ve used with our children which has additional (free!) features too!
  • 5 Pumpkins ABC and Me!  (FREE) I love this 6 in 1 app!  These are basic flashcards, but with some customizing available.  The six areas are letters, numbers, shapes, colors, vehicles, and foods.  Each area allows you to ‘star’ certain cards and in the settings you can choose to see only starred selections.  When working on 5 alphabet letters or three basic colors, you can choose to have only those shown.  This is great!  With letters it shows a capital letter with an object (A, apple) and the object name (Apple) written below.  A ‘flick’ advances the pages, right to left.  The letter is spoken, the sound spoken, and the name of the object as well.  For the other sets of flashcards only the name of the number, shape, color, etc is spoken.  The colors have a child’s voice.  It’s a very basic app but with the ability to customize which flashcards are shown it is worthwhile, and, FREE!
  • ABC Al… Touch  “PhotoTouch” ABC.  (FREE) This app is just a little more advanced than basic alphabet flashcards or ‘teaching’.  It shows three uppercase letters on the screen then says “Touch the L”.  Choosing the correct letter ‘circles’ the letter and a verbal encouragement “Super!” (rotating encouragements!) is given.  If incorrect, a sound (not discouraging) is played.  The same positive encouragement is given regardless of the number of wrong answers previously given.   After several correct answers, it becomes a choice from four letters, then five, six, etc up to 10 letters shown.  Their layout on the screen (scattered) changes as well.   In the corner is a “replay” button to repeat the requested letter (spoken). 
  • iWW Lite, I Write Words (FREE)  This is the lite version and isn’t a full program, but, it’s FREE which is nice!  This is a cute concept that teaches how to make the letters (writing).  It uses spoken words and small animations to encourage and make it fun, clapping sounds, etc.  A little face shows up with colored numbers on dots along the outline of a letter.  Drag the ‘monster along from number to number like connect-the-dots to form the letter.  If it’s dragged outside a small perimeter box, then it resets at the beginning.  If you stay within the box and within generally close proximity to the letters, it accepts your approximations.  Uppercase A, B, C are included in the lite version as well as lowercase a, b, c, numbers 1-9, a few basic words (cat, cup).  This is one we will consider purchasing in the future if our kids take off with the concept, but the lite version allows us to know if they’ll really use it before purchasing!
  • ABC Alphabet (coloring)  (FREE)  This is a very basic app, but if your kids like to color with their iPad then it is a good one.  It’s got a basic technique of coloring in a whole area at a time and shows the entire available color palate on the side of the screen.  Can zoom in and out on the photo and save, though we don’t really use those features.  Each ‘coloring page’ shows a letter, object, and word “B b (picture of ball) Ball”
  • Pocket Phonics ABC LITE  (FREE).  There are two games here, letter sounds and writing and word game.  This one is also based on writing letters correctly and suggests “Say iii then write”.  It is more precise than the other writing app and says “try again” if it’s incorrect.  Some of the directions are written (when I say a sound, touch it) .  It forms words by asking for sounds and you touch the corresponding letter ie: “iii”   “ttt”  “it” “it”.  It also shows pictures.  It’s not a very exciting game and the voice isn’t super encouraging, but it is a good app if you’re sitting with your child and able to encourage them to continue and give brief promptings to get started on activities.  Full version includes the entire alphabet and you can add users. 
  • ABC Free (FREE).  This app shows an opening screen with the alphavet, a mixture of uppercase and lowercase (lowercase I and J) with pictures next to each letter representing their sounds.   When you select a letter, the screen changes to show a scrolling version of the homescreen in one long row across the top, then speaks the letter name “O” and shows the image for that letter larger in the center of the screen.  Tap the picture and it says a sentence “O is for orange” and has it written in all CAPS across the bottom of the screen.  I didn’t think it was that entertaining, but… Brianna enjoys it.  So, we kept it and she is learning when using it, and that is the goal!  The images are fun and in a ‘drawn’ style.
  • ABC Coloring Book (FREE).  This app opens with a painter’s palate with the alphabet on it.  Select a letter and it speaks “M, monkey” and shows a small image of a monkey near the alphabet letters.  You can change the backdrop from a painter’s palate to a winter scene, but some letters are locked in the winter scene.  Click the image of the monkey and it becomes a coloring page with a digital ‘pen stroke’ to color with (as opposed to clicking an area with auto-fill).  The next letter is at the edge of the screen to choose to advance that way instead of by going back to the home screen.  A cute coloring tool.  “Monkey” is written at the edge of the screen and clicking on it vocalizes “M, monkey”.
  • Alpha ABC Free (FREE).  This is one that I don’t think will stick around long on our iPad.  The voice, quite frankly, is annoying!!  It’s a child-like voice but not a comforting or playful one.  You can choose which type of African animal is above the alphabet flashcards and advance the cards with the right to left flick. “Aa” with a picture of ants and “Ants” written below them show on the card.   Ads on the top of the page.  Again, not one that’s sticking around on our device, but another generic flashcard program if you’re looking for diversity.
  •  Phonics Land Free (FREE).  I am impressed with this one and will likely purchase the full version soon.  The opening screen shows 6 letters and plays music.  Choose a letter and it shows three ‘cards’ with an ‘A’ word on each (Ant, Alligator, Apple).  Use your finger to ‘erase’ the white card and show an image below of the word.  The word is then shown at the bottom and the word spoken.  Not difficult to ‘clear’ the entire image, as much grace is given.  When all three cards are uncovered,  an animation begins. A , A, aaa aaa aaa, then “Ant” “apple” “alligator show with animations and speaking.  Then the three words are put together into sentences using those three words, all animated, all read, and the first time through the words are shown at the bottom.  The story repeats two more times with rhythm to it.  Very cute!  Only six letters are included in the free version.  This is an app we will look at purchasing the full version of!
  • Alphabet World Free (FREE).  I believe this is by the same developers as Phonics Land.  Four letters (and two songs) show on the opening page.  This says the letter name, then shows how to write it both uppercase and lowercase.  It shows a word “apple” then goes into a fun song using the word and an animation “Apple, apple, crunch crunch crunch”.  Then goes on to other words with a.  “Ant, ant, crawl crawl, crawl”.  Very cute, though I can see the little catchy tunes getting on my nerves after a while J  After the animation there’s a coloring part.  This doesn’t give any boundaries in coloring and you cannot see the letters when you color as soon as you color over their boundary lines.  There’s also an alphabet game that asks to find the picture that matches the word “Apple” and there are 5-6 bubbles floating around, you click the corresponding picture.  These go with the words introduced with the letters.  At the top of the screen is a menu that pulls down that allows you to choose ‘home’, ‘chant,’ ‘letter,’ ‘color,’ and ‘game.’  After every 2 letters there’s a song choice, which puts the chants into a cute little song.   It shows the words at the bottom of the screen, highlighted as they are spoken.  A cute one, another that we may purchase in the future.
  • Z is for Zebra (FREE).  This opens with an ad… which is annoying!  The free version has the first 8 letters of the alphabet.  Choose a letter from the home screen and it shows the letter with a picture representing it “Ff (pic of fish)”  There’s a “volume” looking button in the corner that makes the letter sound.  VERY basic, one that won’t stick around for long because it’s not very exciting and because it doesn’t engage.  It’s one the kids quickly click the button on because they can’t figure out what to DO with this app.  But for some simple instruction on letter sounds, it’s one more avenue to use. 
  • Toddler Alphabet- Toddler ABC Lite (FREE).  This one looks cute and plays music and speaks in a fun voice when opening it, but that’s about how long it lasts with Brianna.  It works like a wooden puzzle, putting 3 puzzle pieces in to a puzzle, all starting with the ‘a’ sound.  Then… what do you do??  At the very top of the screen you have to move a small picture along a maze to go to the next activity.  It’s not a very exciting game.  No suggestion as to WHY the baseball, boat, and bear are chosen… no visuals of their words or the letter sound isolated.  Another that we click on and expected fun learning but were disappointed.  HOWEVER, there is an alphabet song with the ABCs all dancing which the kids like to listen to as well as an area to write each letter.  Except… that it doesn’t make you do the letter correctly or say “oops” or anything, it just makes sure a few key areas of the letter are covered with pen, but the ENTIRE page could be colored in and it says “good job” and continues on… The “learn the alphabet” area has a whole page of letters but no directions of what to do with them.  You eventually figure out that you press the “b”s if that’s what is shown at the top of the page.  Not very good directions.  It circles each correct letter and makes a sound at wrong ones, then uncovers a picture when all the letters were selected.  Again, not really a winner, but has potential to be a decent app maybe with some upgrades to the directions. 
  • Phonics Free- Learn Phonics (FREE).  This one has three parts.  Letters part has all the uppercase letters and as you touch them they say their letter sound.  Very simple, but cute and easy to use and understand.  Word Construction you choose a letter and it shows a word starting with that letter.  Click the word’s letters and they make their sounds.  Also shows a picture.  Changes one letter at a time to make new words when possible.  “Bad”, “bed”.   Several words for each letter.  Does not allow you to advance the word before the previous word is written and sounded out.  A cute app, decent build to it and one that we’d consider purchasing if the kids enjoy using the free version.
  • Trace Right! (FREE).  This is a PARENT app, one that shouldn’t be handed to a child and let them go with it.  Instead, it’s a great one to sit with the child and do together.  It shows ‘b’ and shows how to draw it then has another one drawn to trace over.  It does correct you but only if you ASK it to.  It is also pretty precise, since I did it ‘close’ and it kept telling me to try again… you can advance without it being ‘right’ if you decide to.  Also, if you tap three times, it starts the same word three times and stutters.  This is one of the 'tests' I do with apps since my kids tend to press multiple times for a single request.   I like the concept, but it does need a little work.  
Your turn!  Any Alphabet and Writing apps that you love??

My word board

Here are some pictures :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Because I need to write

I have no idea what this will end up being, but, here it is...  Because I need to write.

I've had so much going on lately that it's been hard to blog.  And a lot of what has been going through my head and heart isn't stuff that I feel like I can openly post about.  My opinions of how things are going with the school-- knowing full well that many people will be reading here that are involved in our school things-- aren't exactly something that I can write about.

So here's my attempt at putting words on paper (?- digital paper?) because I need this outlet... without being too outward in what I say since I don't want to get myself in trouble :D.

Ok, here goes...

Aleksa lost a tooth!  Michael and I were talking while I was at Wal Mart on Sunday and was panicked that Aleksa's tooth fell out, and there wasn't another tooth under it :).  Confused?  HE WAS!!  LOL  Kristopher's teeth have always been 'pushed out' by the adult tooth underneath.  So Michael hadn't had a child lose a tooth that didn't already have a tooth under it already :).. So... YAY, for Aleksa's first tooth that she lost at home (tho we have no idea what she DID with it...).  This is her front right bottom tooth, the second ones out.  She'd already lost her front bottom teeth before she came to us (Wesley too!).

I've been working on some summer projects.  We try to continue working on academics in the summer time, in fact, working on things that will head the kids in to a successful year the coming year!  One project that I just finished making is a word board.  We had an empty science backboard, so I took some strips of hook velcro and put one on each 'end' piece and three down the length of the back portion.  Then, I took some plastic folders and cut them into strips.  On each strip I wrote a word.  I used family names, color names, days of the week, months, number words 1-10, the numbers 1-20... then I got two different kindergarten sight word lists and combined them... and the DownsEd list of words.  I put a hole punch in each word strip and bought rings to group the lists into separate rings so they can easily be accessed.

Right now, Kristopher's having a great time working on family names, numbers 1-20, and color words with both Brianna and James!  Kris is enjoying being the teacher, James loves being able to do anything that Kristopher does, and Brianna is enjoying being successful at the game since she already knows her colors (and at the moment the colors are all written on their own color word strip-- later they will be on white strips too!), and she knows her sibling names and numbers 1-10.  So, she's having a lot of success and just working on 11-20 and having success with the rest of the requests.

School... well, here goes.  We have IEPs for Aleksa and Wesley on Friday.  I wrote up an explanation of where our kids are and where they have come from and sent it on to the people writing the IEPs for them.  I included our desire for them each to attend 2-3 day school weeks initially and the behaviors that we are seeing from Aleksa that are of concern.  I learned today that the kids will have to be on psychological homebound in order to not be held to the compulsory school attendance and truancy issues.  I already knew that this was a possibility, and I'm fine going through the process but it's just one more thing that we have to take on to jump through the hoops to.  And so... I have contacted our pediatrician and social worker to get their input and assistance in going through the process.  Another full day of hone calls and research and emails and faxes.

I also cleaned our room today.  You know, the room where the adults in the house sleep... the one that never gets looked at by anyone other than Michael and I and therefore... piles up.  When we are up three or four times at night we're tripping over still-packed bags from our last trip out of town and boxes of things that got moved out of the main areas of the house.  Well... now they're out!  The bags are unpacked.  The toys are pitched back into the playroom.  The clothes that had been set aside after being washed (or not?) are back in the laundry.  The room is CLEAN.  Walkable.  Livable.  It was highly overlooked... and looking much better!

Today was the first of 4 shortened school days.  The last 4 days of school before summer.  The kids all had a nice day, and tomorrow is THURSDAY!  Another day without plans.  The second one in three weeks!!!  I can't wait.  :)

Ok, enough therapeutic writing :)  Time to tend to the little boy that just started crying in his bedroom.  I'm SO glad he's decided to sleep better even with his hip brace for night time.  He's such a sweet little guy...

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's been a year!!

It's been ONE YEAR since James moved in with us!  I can't believe it's been an ENTIRE year, but at the same time it's been ONLY a year!  So much has changed, and James has grown up a lot too!  He's now walking steadily (all the time!), off the bottle (for 6 months!), and is such a sweet little man :).

We are so thankful for our little "baby blue eyes!"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

IEP #3

Yep, more on IEPs!  After receiving comments, it often opens up other thoughts on the subject :)  So, here is a response to a comment...

In 2 1/2 years of IEPs for 4 kids (currently, the other two are next week), we have had many 'easy' IEP meetings!  Several that we went in, went through the IEP, were comfortable with everything, and we left.  I recommend getting an advocate or family helper only if you have difficulty understanding the IEP, the process, or being able to speak up for your child, or if you feel there is or will be conflict that you want help with.  If any of those is the case, then get some help :).  Help doesn't have to be adversarial!  It is to help you and your child to find our way through the system and through the wording and through the process without being stressed out :).

YES, our IEP for Brianna was stressful, and any IEP for a child where the expectations of the school personnel and the parents is known to differ before the meeting will inevitably be a little difficult.  But, as I tried to stress in the previous posts, Prayer, Trust, and setting yourself AND the school up for success through educating yourself and informing the school staff will help everyone to have a successful meeting.

Be KIND, ALWAYS.  That's a necessity! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More on IEPs

Ok, so I got started this morning, and later talked with people and got reminders of other things that we do to help an IEP go smoothly.  I also had a few requests posted (which I don't think have been published yet because I read them while on the phone).

Anyway... here's a little more about IEP's!

When preparing for the IEP, if your team is open to it, talk to them before the meeting.  Your teachers and therapists are likely in contact with your child on a regular basis if your child is already in school, but if this is a first IEP, especially, then the team may or may not really know your child.  Even if the child is already in school, input from home is never a bad thing!  Making up a quick document that says some of your current concerns or things you'd like to see done in the next year and giving that to your IEP team ahead of the meeting while they are still determining goals and writing up the IEP.

For families with a brand new IEP-- whether it's because you've moved, adopted a new child, have a child entering in as a 3 yr old into the school system, or have a child newly-diagnosed with the need for an IEP-- giving the IEP team a little background information can be very beneficial!  Each time that we adopted we wrote up a bio and sent it in to the IEP team ahead of time.  I haven't finished Wesley's yet (Aleksa's was done this afternoon!) but in general I tell four basic things:  background of the child including info pre-adoption, behavior, what things we have been working on at home and how the child is doing with those skills, and what your brief outlook is for the coming year for your child.

That was a big piece that I'd left out :)  Communicate BEFORE the meeting!!

A second thing is KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.  Know the laws.  Know what IDEA is, what FAPE is, and what the LRE means.  Those three are biggies, and so are their meanings :).  IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and is the federal law that supports our children's rights to certain things.  FAPE means Free Appropriate Public Education.  LRE is the Least Restrictive Environment.  That is a piece of IDEA and means that your child's placement decision should START by looking at full inclusion and from there go into more restrictive placements based on the needs of the child and what aspects of that child's disability may make it difficult for the child to be fully included with their typical peers.

I would HIGHLY recommend Wrights Law.  Peter and Pam Wright have written MANY books and also have a great website that supports parents and disabled persons.  They also have conferences across the country listed out on their website.  I'll be attending one in June! :)

Also, someone asked what we wish an IEP team knew before the meeting.  I only have my own take on this, but I will share...

I think there are some definite things an IEP team should know before the meeting.  One major thing is to make sure the team knows what your intentions are.  What are your goals for the next year and your intentions for placement?  Even if a school doesn't agree with my intentions for my child, I would rather not blindside them with my ideas  At the same time, I want to prepare myself knowing what I desire for my child and knowing WHY I want that :).  It helps to be able to say what the reasoning is, and what the laws are that support that as well.

A second thing that the team should know is the child's background.  If there are unique aspects of the child that may not be obvious, changes taking place in the home, or other info that you think may be important, then those are definite things I would be sure to let the IEP team know ahead of time.

Lastly, the IEP team should come to the meeting with something that no parent can just "say" to them and make them aware of.  The IEP team should come to the meeting with something that the parents also must come with (after all, parents ARE part of the IEP team!).  That something is VERY important, and can really make the meeting go well.  It's the knowledge that one part of the team without the other won't work.  And that each part of the team brings something very important to the table!

So, there's the second IEP post of the day :).  Feel free to post any comments (and YES, they will be published, when I get to it! LOL).  Please consider leaving comments on the BLOG rather than FB so that they stay with the post for others that are looking back at this post later on :).

More later

I received some great input about the IEP post, and some requests as well.  I will write more on this later!  Right now, I need to actually prepare some more for our IEPs :)

About those IEPs...

Last week was one IEP, one that we knew was going to be more involved because some of the school representatives had expressed different desires for Brianna's placement than what we were wanting.  We also knew there would be three schools represented, which inevitably adds to the length of the meeting.

Here's a few thoughts on how we prepared for Brianna's IEP, and some things to consider when preparing for your own.  We have another two IEPs next week for Aleksa and Wesley, so this is not only fresh on our minds, but also something that we are about to do two more times next week.

Though we have six children with special needs, since they are all 1st grade and younger this year, we haven't been at the IEP thing for long!  It's helpful, though, that in 2003 I graduated with my bachelor's degree in education.  Though my focus was elementary, it gave me a basis for understanding the basic IEP process as well as where to look to learn what I don't already know.  I'm thankful for this basis, because it has really helped us to know where to start when we needed to look deeper.

So-- Here are a few things that I'd suggest for any parent going in to an IEP, especially if you know that there may be some differences between what your desires are for your children's education and what some of the school personnel may want.

FIRST AND FOREMOST:  Know that whatever happens, this IEP is a work in progress.  It isn't something set in stone for the rest of their lives.  It is a very important first step, but it's not the end of the world.  I have a hard time with this, simply because we have 6 IEPs and I don't want to have to have more meetings than necessary as we redo IEPs that aren't working out.

1- Ask for a draft copy of the IEP and request to have it at least 48 hours ahead of time, even if it isn't nearly complete.  If there was any testing or evaluating done on your child that will be presented in the meeting, ask for that as well.  Also, it was helpful for us to ask who was going to be attending the IEP meeting.  Our meeting notices only named a few people, but many more were invited yet unconfirmed and not written on the invitation because of that.

2- Get someone to help you.  If you don't understand the IEP or the process, ask someone for help!  Look at parent advocate organizations and even ask your children's school if there is an organization in cooperation with the school system.  Other parents can be a great help, especially if they are from your district or a nearby district that uses a similar layout for IEPs.  Our IEPs in our county are very different than those where James used to attend school and different from others in other states as well. All the same information is on an IEP from any area, but it's laid out very differently in each area.  Find someone to go over the IEP with you before hand, and someone to attend the IEP and help explain and ask questions with you at the meeting as well.

3- Consider the goals.  Aside from the goals on the IEP, consider what things you want your child to be doing a year out.  What Math, Reading, Social-Emotional, and Self-Help skills do you want your child to accomplish over the course of the year?  What goals do you want your child to accomplish in the areas of gross and fine motor skills, as well as speech?  Write down where you want your child to be in a year.  Then look through the IEP.  Match up the goal subjects and see what your thoughts are regarding the goals that are on your page and those on the school's.  We found that several of our goals and the school's lined up fairly well, and would accomplish the same result.  We also saw that a few of their goals weren't on our list of things  that we wanted her doing, and since they weren't steps to further education, we asked for one to be changed and in the second area an additional goal was written for that subject area to address the concern we had.

4- If you're asked to come up with some goals for your child, consider looking at developmental profiles to see what gaps your child may have in those areas.  Also, look up your state educational standards, and even modified standards to see what things your child would be working on at grade level or even several grades above or below to get a bearing on what you want your child to do in the future and what things need to be done between now and then.

5- Consider placement.  This is the last thing discussed at an IEP meeting, generally, but you should think about it ahead of time.
     a- Do you want a self-contained classroom, full inclusion, or some combination of the two?
     b- Will therapies be push-in or pull-out (served in the classroom or in a different room) or a combination, or will it be left to the discretion of the therapists and teachers?
     c- How will time out of the main classroom be handled? If your child will have a combination of different rooms, which rooms will provide what aspects of the IEP, and how will it be determined what times each room will provide each? (for example, if your child will be in a regular classroom but pulled out for reading block, how will scheduling be handled between the two classrooms?  Will the exed teacher adjust to the regular ed schedule?  Something to discuss...).
     d- How will your child get to and from school?  A bus, walk, or be driven?  If they will ride the bus, will they need a carseat or restraint or will they ride in a regular seat?  If they won't ride the bus on a regular basis, but will ride it for field trips throughout the year, will they need a carseat or restraint at that time?  All of this will be written into the IEP.
     e- How much therapy and services will your child receive, and what types?  Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, behavioral consultation, technology consultation, adaptive PE...  Consider the amount of time that your child needs to work on each area, as well as the amount of time that it will take away from other educational tasks.  Determine which is more important and go from there.

6. Pray, and bring snacks!  Those are my favorite two parts of the IEP.  In addition to being a time where the entire team gets together to discuss the coming year for your child, it's also a great time to rely on God, on prayer, and on His peace.  It's also a good time to thank the team working with your child by treating them to a little snack.  It's also another way to break up the meeting a little bit and have two minutes of social time together instead of working straight through with everyone being serious the entire time.  Sometimes a little cookie or muffin break is just what is needed in the midst of an IEP!

7. TRUST.  This one comes from friends, and IEP members that they keep saying to me.  I have had people say things to me about my family and children that have made this very difficult.  And that makes it hard for me to let my guard down at a meeting and TRUST that the entire team has my child's best interest at heart.  I am trying, very hard, to trust that everyone wants to see my kids succeed!  And this is the hardest part of the IEP for me.  Don't get me wrong, I trust every person that interacts with my children on a regular basis!  The IEP team consists of more than teachers and therapists, and people aren't perfect.  It's difficult to have an IEP meeting with someone that you may not get along with, but it is also part of life... part of dealing with people :) Another area where PRAYER comes in even stronger.

If you have any other IEP tips, PLEASE SHARE!  If you're reading this on FB, consider sharing your comments on the BLOG instead of on the FB link so that others looking back at the post later on can find your comments!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back down to earth

It's been a busy week and more, but what a blessing it is to have a relaxing day!  Of course I still had stuff going on today, but I was able to be productive at the same time.

This morning before 10 I had cleaned and sorted the boys' room putting all of the toys away-- in the right places! LOL  That's a big task :).

Then I vacuumed and shampooed the carpet in there, rearranged the furniture, and put Wesley's bed back in there now that he is back sleeping through the night since he's out of the cast.

Then... I rearranged Lynae's room and cleaned up in there.  The kids had made a HUGE mess in there, and it had been totally UNorganized... you know... all my school supplies for the kids' homeschooling.  Now it's all back to usable, at the very least!

An RR board meeting took the rest of the morning and some R&R after the kids were in bed was very helpful :).

Now awaiting wake-up time so I can go get the kids from school in about 10 minutes.  This evening is a laid back night.  Maybe I'll actually get more of the house cleaned up.  After a week and more of neglecting the house and just tending to the kids and outside responsibilities... well, it's time to pay a little attention to the house again!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

My 8 little duckings and the mommy duck at the zoo with her 8(?) Little duckings too!

On second thought I think there are 9 duckings.  Oh well, hard to see on my phone!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Happy Birth Mother Day...

Today, the Saturday before Mother's Day, is known as Birthmother Day in the adoption community.  It's a day that was created by birthmothers for their own remembrance, yet picked up by adoptive parents and adopted children/adults to remember the birthmothers that brought the children into this world.

Today we remember the five birthmothers that each made a choice to bring life to their children.  In 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006 our children's birthmothers brought life to the gift that we later received.  We remember their sacrifice.  We remember their gift.  We remember their hardship in giving birth to a child that wasn't who they expected.  And we are grateful that we have each of our 5 children that were birthed outside of our family, but are now every bit our very own!

To the birthmothers who we will never know... thank you.

Friday, May 06, 2011

A week with all Mondays

I think this week has all been Mondays!

The first Monday, the real one, I spent in Orlando with Wesley getting his cast off then getting a brace fit for him.  It was an all day event, getting home right at the end of school for the kids then Mike had a meeting at church in the evening, so he came home for a quick dinner and I had the kids for the evening.

The second Monday, well, Tuesday, I spent in Orlando with Wesley doing his MRI and then dinner.  The MRI was running late, and he hadn't eaten all day... They finally did it at 2pm.  Finished up around 4... grabbed some dinner... then got a call from the brace company that Wesley's brace (yes, ordered the night before), so we went and picked that up.  Got home just before bed time.  Then sat and researched the paperwork that I'd received from the school for Brianna's IEP...

The third Monday, Wednesday, I spent the morning at the kids' school at Field Day!  It was a lot of fun, but also HOT and I had three kids with me plus the two participating (Emma and Kristopher), so it was a busy morning too!  After that, we went to observe at one of the schools that they may be placing some of our kids at.  Aleksa was, by then, in rare form.  I guess maybe it's not rare form, because she seems to do it often, but goodness, she was not listening, acting out like a true institutionalized child that has no bonding... it's so sad to see.  She was taking off her glasses, running away with a grin on her face, standing up every 20 seconds when asked to sit down, running up to strangers and taking their hands or climbing them to pick her up... she was wetting herself once we got home (she was in pull ups for the day since I knew we'd be on the field for field day, and I'm not sure if she wet herself in the morning or not).  It was a TOUGH time with her at the second school then at home in the afternoon.  We were supposed to have a vision eval but the therapist had called our home phone... which was not yet reconnected since the lightning strike took out our phone modem... so I had a babysitter to help with the kids and, he didn't show up.  Youth group at night for Kristopher so another solo evening for me!  I also got a draft copy of the IEP for Brianna that afternoon and spent most of the evening going through it and, well, rewriting it... because there was quite a bit that just wasn't what we were looking for with Brianna's school year next year.  I was up until about midnight working on that...

The fourth Monday, Thursday, I spent the morning working on the IEP again.  About 1230 I left for the school.  The IEP started at 1:30... and I got home at 6:30!  Just in time to get the kids in bed and...EAT.  A pop tart and can of coke only go SO FAR for a day!  I was exhausted and starving!!  Then I made a few phone calls to people that wanted to hear about the IEP and attempted to hit the sack early.

The fifth Monday, Friday, I went to WalMart first thing in the morning to buy gifts for the kids' teachers!  It's teacher appreciation week, and I hadn't had a second to breathe to get something for the teachers!  So... off we went to WalMart then parked at a park near the school to sign the cards then to the school to drop off gifts!  I love delivering gifts, especially when the teachers aren't 'expecting' them.  It's also nice to drop in on the kids every once in a while and worked out that the timing of it was during down time in each classroom so we were invited in to each one to visit for a minute... even with three kids in tow!  I really like all the kids' teachers this year!!  We rescheduled the vision therapist for today at 11:30, so we ran back home for lunch and the final piece of the vision eval.  Nap time was also bill time and apparently phone call time too!  Then back to the school to pick up the kids (in the rain) and to my parents' house to drop off my mom's mother's day gift.  I was going to drop off Mike's mom's also, but it was late and raining, and well, she'll read that here before I talk to her since she didn't know we were coming :)  But that one just had to wait a day! LOL.  So we ran home, unpacked, got everyone settled and made another phone call or two between playing with kids and supervising the building of a cardboard box house by Kristopher.  Mike had a ball game tonight so wasn't home for dinner (or until about 11pm LOL!) so I cooked up a quick dinner, PJs, and bed time for the kids...

Which brings me to now, when I've been sitting on my bed with my iPad watching multiple shows of Brothers&Sisters and just TOTALLY VEGGING.  Oh, and I ate a drumstick ice cream in bed too.

Tomorrow... Mike has another meeting in the morning, then I'm running to Sam's, and we have the privilege of having friends over for the celebration of their daughter's 5th birthday!!  I'm looking forward to celebrating with friends and some down time with it :)

Sunday- CHURCH.  THAT'S ALL.  I think...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Brianna's IEP

It's been a crazy 48 hours...

Brianna's IEP is written for next year.  In the end, it's the best compromise we could all come to, and I think it will work for Brianna.  We still don't have a school placement and it will take a while to figure that one out, but we're half way there!

Brianna's IEP is written to have her "homeroom" in the Kindergarten class- starting and probably ending her day there.  She will be pulled out for a 45 minute math block and a 90 minute reading block and go to a supported level classroom for resource time.  The rest of the day she'll be in a kindergarten class with push-in and pull-out therapies, to the discretion of the teacher and therapist.

I think there were 17 people at the IEP meeting today... lots of good input and lots of controversial input.  I think the general consensus of the group of school personnel was that they want to put her into a full time supported level classroom.  I'm not 100% opposed to that setting (after all, I do have a child in that class right now- Emma!), but I want for Brianna to have the greatest opportunity at inclusion that she can have, and the biggest chance of success in that classroom.

Based on Brianna's personality, she is VERY shy.  Most people were concerned that she wouldn't hold her own in the classroom and that she would withdraw.  Unfortunately, no matter what classroom she's in,  SHE WILL WITHDRAW!  She's just that kind of kid... She's going to be quiet whether she's in with typical peers or if she's in with disabled children.

We talked about her personality and how she would be better sitting back and observing in a room full of typical peers with appropriate behavior and language modeling that is learning advanced skills than in a classroom with lower level skills and mostly low-verbal skills.  We talked through a bunch of reasons why a regular classroom would benefit her, and different accommodations which could be used to help her fully participate in a kindergarten classroom.

Almost 5 hours later... we have an IEP!

Now, we have to figure out what school her IEP will be served at.  Not our zoned school because she can't get resource time there.  The "feeder" school may be where she's staffed, but they haven't made AYP (adequate yearly process) in five years... so likely she will have the opportunity to choose another school at that time.  Hopefully the school she's at this year.  It's also possible that we'll go about another wan of getting to that school.  There are a few ways- McKay scholarship,  out of area...  So, we'll see.

We're most of the way there!  Just need to figure out a school now.  I was REALLY hoping we'd know that today too!

May 20th are two more eligibility, IEP, and placement meetings... for Aleksa and Wesley!

Thank you for the prayers!  It was a long meeting, needed to speak up for Brianna quite a bit... but I'm happy with where we landed.

I'm not sure, but I think Brianna may be the first child in this area with Down syndrome to be an inclusion student, even tho she'll have resource time.   Either way, we'll keep close tabs on how it works... and be careful that she's not overwhelmed-- or the teacher!  But I'm glad that she can have this opportunity!