Monday, December 31, 2012

Picture Exchange: decorating a tree!

THis is a quick and easy activity for Christmas time: Every year I take my 2 foot tree and wooden ornaments in for my students to decorate. This year I added Picture Exchange for my nonverbal students in my Autism class: I put all the choices out-and had a sentence strip handy: Untitled Once they had all had several turns (and gauging their interest and ability to sit!) I would pull out the "light" picture. Once it was chosen I plugged it in, we turned out the lights and the activity was over. Usually only one boy chose it-the others wanted to put on the ornaments. Untitled Untitled I did this as a circle activity so all 4 students were present We worked on requesting AND turn taking-oh boy did we work on turn taking. The funny thing was, each one demonstrated that they understood turn-taking but none of them wanted to wait. One little boy would turn away when I told him it was "K" turn...and then roll on the floor and yell. By the end of the month-after almost daily tree decorating-we took turns with little trouble.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My Winter door

Circulating around Pinterest is a very cute snowman door. I have searched and searched and searched for 1) the original post and 2) directions without any luck...SO I decided to recreate the door and post directions. I had some, um, trouble-so while I am documenting how I did this-I have put some helpful hints here and there along the way. First, You need cups. I used plastic cups one size smaller than those red and blue Solo cups. I bought a huge bag of them at Sams Club. I bought 3 different size styrofoam wreaths at a craft store (Michaels). They have flat sides and are 2 or three inches thick. THIS IS IMPORTANT! My little wreath was only an inch or so thick (it was all they had) and it caused major issues. After the fact, I found a small one at Hobby Lobby that was the right thickness. Untitled Next I hot glued the cups to the wreaths. I glued around the flat part of the wreath first Untitled I reinforced with masking tape (FYI-USE DUCK TAPE PEOPLE), Untitled then glued to the cups. Untitled I ended up with this: Untitled I repeated this 3 2 more times and voila, I was done!!! Untitled Except-I came in the next morning to this: Untitled (In truth, this was the scene more than once-as I performed a trial and error emergency fix on Mr. Snowman--most of the time he fell apart on his own-but I am fairly certain at least once one of the older students played a part. This was also caused by that thin wreath head-it gave me the most trouble. The thicker wreaths came loose but not much and oddly enough, the biggest one actually never came loose at all) So I stapled every cup to its neighbors Untitled and finally duck taped end to end and all around on the back. Masking tape might work-but I had crappy generic doesn't stick to anything tape-so my advice is to get duck tape. I ended up using black duck tape and you can't even tell-so whatever color you have should be fine. I hung him on Command Hooks. I added cut out eyes, mouth and buttons...and rolled up a piece of paper for the nose...Added my scarf and: The finished door: . Untitled . PS-no stage of this took very long. I spent maybe an hour putting him together the first time...and each fix was a few minutes in the making once I figured out what to do. I would definitely do this again. The kids-and teachers-LOVE him! (and I do, too!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Mummy Door

Since my office moved into an actual school this year (instead of the basement of a church) I have more students and staff walking by my door. I found this idea on Pinterest and decided to recreate it on my door: You need: White party streamers (I used 2 rolls) double sided tape 2 inch masking tape 2 small paper plates black construction paper scrap of pink paper Here is what you do: You start anywhere on your door. I chose the top. Using the doublesided tape-tape an end of the streamer on the edge of the door. Go across the door at an angle. When you get to the other side put some double-sided tape down horizontally on the edge and run the tape across it, then fold it back like this: DSCN0854 Go back and forth like this-you will need more tape on the door edge but the longer the piece the less times you have to retape: Keep going. It will look like this: DSCN0851 DSCN0859 Make sure you go in all directions to give your door a wrapped Mummy look: DSCN0861 When you are done, you want to take the 2-inch masking tape and run it over the door edge to seal off the edges, then trim the dangles: DSCN0857 Finally, take the plates and paper and make Eyes, Mouth and Nose. VOILA! DSCN0862 I LOVE my Mummy! The kids do, too!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What people wear

I went to a WVU game (when they were winning) and snapped these photos of what people were wearing: Some typical... DSCN0808 DSCN0803 Some that make me laugh... boots with tank and shorts (they are there-just couldn't get a good angle)... DSCN0817 Pants.... DSCN0802 DSCN0807 and.....This: DSCN0815

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Favorite Sandwich

When I was in college years ago I would walk through our student hall several times a week.  I would always stop at the Vegetarian Sandwich stand.  I would watch the vendor making sandwiches from his very short list of offerings.  They sounded wonderful but I have 3 very annoying food allergies that make many vegetarian meals off limits (almonds, bananas, avocados) so I avoided sandwiches like Peanut Butter and Bananas and Avocado and Tomatoes.   But one sandwich always caught my eye.  I watched it being made for weeks before I finally jumped in line and ordered one.  It became my favorite sandwich of all time.
It is simple enough to make at home:

The Apple and Cheddar Sandwich: DSCN0849 Spread some Miracle Whip on 2 pieces of Wheat Bread Slice an apple and put on the bottom piece of bread Pile some cheddar cheese on top add some chopped walnuts top with the 2nd piece of bread That's it. The vegetarian stand also added sprouts...but I rarely do. You can change Miracle Whip for Mayo..walnuts for pecans...wheat bread for white...whatever works for you....but TRY IT! It is Yummy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Busy Night

Driving home from a weekend away I saw this sky.  Count the airplanes.  There were even more than I could catch in a moving car with a point and shoot....


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The week that was perfect

So--our week with Little Miss was heavenly.  She was 2. very 2. Independent, determined, demanding, and oh-so-melt your heart.  I actually wrote a paragraph about her stay each night for the first few days...and I intended to post them--but I read them now and cried.  I just want to keep them to myself.  That week was so perfect.  We were parents.  We went to the park, to the mall, etc-and when people saw us-they saw a family.  I broke down in tears-at the mall- the first time I realized this.  The husband didn't have dry eyes either.
We learned a lot that week.  Our home-no matter how we tried-wasn't child proofed enough.  Our dog acted like an older sibling when you bring home a new baby.  She was jealous-wanted to be on me, next to me, under me-but please don't let the little girl touch me or fall on me.  But she can feed me from her plate. They both did fine-no matter what we tried Little Miss had to be touching Chloe at all times she was in the room-in reality that, and eating vegetables, were the only things I was unable to get under control (so to speak) of all the very cute climbing, touching, demanding, stubborn 2 year old things that come with a child who doesn't know you and wants to test boundaries.  So we just gave the dog breaks (i.e. naps in our bed)-she is almost 13 after all--(and who needs to eat veggies for a week stay anyway).
OMG-and installing a car seat deserves to be an Olympic sport.  I am tall.  I don't fit in a back seat of most cars.  Let;s just say I have never been so contorted and uncomfortable putting that in-and then when it came unhooked-doing it all a second time. And then a third time when Little Miss showed us just how fast she could get out of the harness (needed tightened-which basically means taking it out to tighten.  It didn't get any easier to bend my body into that backseat with "practice". 
The husband and I watched kids shows all week.  She didn't-which is great (from a speech therapist side of things) except when there was singing.  I figured I would take the week to watch the shows my students watch.  I had never seen Bob the Builder or Thomas the tank engine (yes, I knew who they were).  My favorite by far was Lazy Town.  I don't know why.  Robbie Rotten, I think.-his face was so expressive..and the Icelandic accent.  The husband liked it so much he recorded a few episodes to put on when "nothing else" was on. Seriously.
I missed a huge part of the Olympics.  Gymnastics is my favorite Summer event.  I literally saw the last girls routine each night and one mens routine.  That was it.  and forget about "on demand viewing" I was tired.  Happyily exhausted.  Not complaining, though-I would give up TV and sleep completely to be a Mom.

So the week came to an end way too quick-and she left us.  It has been a month and we still miss her terribly.  Her toys are still out.  Her bed is still made.  The sippy cups and kid plates are still "in my way".  The car seat is still firmly implanted in my car.

We were kind of teased before she came-and after by the agency that she might come live with us permanently (and yes, there were reasons they thought it might happen including an emergency call to us before she came to "take her early" which ended up not happening) while she was here we had that in our heads and "a week" might be was too easy to let ourselves get attached when we thought she might be "ours" someday. 

....but as of yesterday, we were told that isn't going to happen.

We are back on THAT rollercoaster

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A start

Today started our week-long adventure with a two year old girl.We are providing respite care for a foster parent going out of town. 
Not sure if this will lead anywhere other than getting our name out more....but
we are in heaven and living a dream, even if for only a week.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Roller Coaster

So I have said that we are in process of adopting from foster care. But is is not an easy thing.  In fact, if things were different I would probably jump off the foster train and adopt overseas or go through an expensive newborn adoption.  Adopting from foster care is easier on the pocketbook-but wow! do you pay in emotional currency. 
We had the whole newborn incident.  We have had  profiles sent to us with teasing info (on the order of "he is cute, smart and just needs a stable home with love to continue improving") so we request more information only to find out that the child has more behaviors than we can handle (like this 4 year old child is severely autistic and has behaviors that cause all doors to have to be dead-bolted in house and someone awake 24/7!-not even exaggerating).   The initial information is so misleading.  No behaviors mentioned, no diagnosis--nothing. We have been approached about kids needing full organ transplants.  While our hearts break for each and every child-we have to decide what is best for us and our family.  Severe medical and behavior issues are just not for us.  We were beginning to wonder if that was all we would ever be approached about--children with issues beyond our abilities to parent?

Then we were approached about a child with very mild issues.  We got excited.  We requested more info.  We got even more excited.  We requested to "go forward."  We were interviewed.  One of 4 families.   We waited and waited and waited and waited.  We were turned down.  No reason specified.  This totally sucks.  It was like a job interview.  For the job of your life.  And we failed.  There are few words to describe how sucky this whole process is. You get one shot.  One.  And you may fail because of something simple.  Or not. You don't usually find out why.  You just get told they decided to go with someone else.  Rejected.

Now we have been approached about an infant.  Things sounded good.  Great even.  Less obstacles. Less hurdles.  So we (of course) said Yes.
We were going to get to meet the baby.  To "babysit".  To move towards placement. It was all set.  Just one phone call away.
And then the hurdles started.  CYF is putting us (our agency?/us?) off.  They said yes, then No. Making them/us stand back. 

So now we wait.


Based on our previous experiences-I don't really have any hope.  Babies are very wanted. CYF has their "favorite" families-that discrimination  of "their families vs agency families" pops up again-which we have no control over-cyf no longer enrolls families-but they discriminate against agency families and cyf makes the decisions of where children are placed.

I am emotionally drained.  My emotions are on a hairpin trigger.
 I know I have to ride this roller coaster to the end....
but I don't know how much more I can take...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Climbing out of a hole

I have been very absent lately from this space.  I think every day that I will write-I want to write...but I haven't.  I just can't find the words....

I am stressed.....

I have been mired down in work-not only did I have end of the year meetings and paperwork and "oh-one more thing needs done and turned in" emails...we had to pack everything up to be ready to move to our new (smaller, older, not as friendly) building at the same time.  I had to sort and pack 30-something years of stuff accumulated by my predecessors! Oh-and still provide all the speech therapy I usually do each week. 

Now, I have a couple weeks off-and am trying hard not to think of my stuff all packed and sitting in my new (much smaller, shared)  room waiting for me....packing was bad, unpacking is 100 times worse...oh, and then there is the "see all my kids" thing while trying to do that.  Of course, I could go in on my time off and!  (ok-I went in one day and unpacked my desk--just to give me some small peace of mind)

I am depressed.....

I have also been riding the "waiting for a match" rollercoaster that is the adoption through foster care process. THAT is a post in itself.  Let's just say I see why people adopt overseas-but we don't really have the money to explore that option.  I am more depressed IN this process that I was before we started.  I never thought actually being in process of finding a child to adopt would make me feel this way.  But the system in my area just makes it that way.  Maybe if I was younger I would not feel this way-but I am over 40-and want to be a Mom.  Now. Yesterday.  I feel like it's almost too late.... I am still trying to start a family-when so many my age are done.

Thankfully, the weather here has been sunny and hot-just the way I love it.  So I have been spending as much time outside as possible.  Sunshine and warm weather makes everything better for me.  I am planting flowers, weeding and generally sweating my way through this....and consciously trying to climb out of this mood.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Over my spring break my husband and I decided to spend a few days in Gettysburg.  It is almost the perfect place for us.  I get to spend all day outside and he gets to indulge in his American War love.  I say almost because I would prefer that there was tropical weather and a nearby ocean to unwind at the end of a nature hikes.
I like Gettysburg...the first day or so.  I get into the battle and the scenery.  But zomg!  My husband LOVES this stuff.  We tramp all over the battlefields-me looking at scenery-him finding and reading every.last.monument.  There are monuments for each state, every battalion, every regiment and I think every last person who fought in the war is represented there (at least it seems that way).  Did you know that every ummmmm regiment? has a small marker for their left and right flanks.  Yep. And guess who had to find them?  Him.
As the official photographer of the family (meaning HANDS OFF MY CAMERA!) I was required to take a picture of every monument that was of interest.  To me that means any monument that looks nice-by decoration, statue-something well, interesting.  To the husband it meant every one he pointed at.  Even Left and Right Flanks-which look like this:



I spent much of the time half listening to my husband and annoying him with how I keep all the facts straight.

Him- "oh look it's General Longstreet"
Me- "oh-You mean Tom Berenger?"

Him- "Chamberlain did this and such"
Me- "He was Jeff Daniels, right?"

Do not get me wrong-I was interested..but the familiar actors helped keep my head straight. History was never my strong subject.  I also kind of enjoyed watching his head explode a little.

The rest of the time I took in the scenery and practiced my picture composition skills (Confession: I kept the camera on auto a lot of this trip since at any given moment I had to swing around to shoot another monument-I couldn't focus long enough at a time to focus on learning Shutter and Aperature, etc.).  I did try to get a good night shot, since the moon was amazing.  I set up my tripod focused on my favorite tree )It has a great shape!) and broke out my new wireless remote-I waited and waited and fiddled with all the settings and took picture after picture.   I didn't get a great shot.  But it was a learning experience since it was spur of the moment and I had no idea how to get the moon to look as nice at it did in person. Here is the best one:

 Moon Rising

In the end, I took some pictures I loved.  So I had a good time.  Here are my favorite pictures:

Moon rising


Observing the sunset

Silent Canon

Silent Sentinel

Canon at twilight

There is one I will have framed-I think the colors are perfect.  Can you guess which one?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I already am discourgaed by the system...otherwise known as "At least I have a clean house, now"

So,  we are officially licensed foster parents now.   I was waiting to tell you when I got the "Official" Paper, however, that seems lost in a shuffle of paperwork on someones desk--believe me, for 7 weeks I have been asking where that paper is and I keep hearing "Everything is done--it will be going out soon"...
However, yesterday we got a call for a newborn placement.  Baby boy born recently, going home today. Without going into details-the agency believes this child will eventually be up for adoption based on past history of the family.  So we said YES! and I started making a list-things to buy, things to ask--I took advantage of this event and rallied the husband into cleaning the house.

Then then waiting started.  Waiting for the social worker to get in touch with Child services, waiting for Child Services to get paperwork on the child. waiting for the caseworker to get that paperwork to the right desk, waiting for them to say we could go pick up baby boy, waiting, waiting, waiting. 24 hours of waiting.  

and then we were told we couldn't have the baby. 

Child Services used to be the only place to be a foster parent.  Then they stopped taking new foster parents and all these agencies were created-We could not foster parent directly with Child Services.  We had to go to an agency because of this system.  The agencies have all the foster parents now-and child services calls the agencies who in turn  find homes for children.
Except that isn't entirely true.  Child Services still has their old foster parents.  They don't get new ones-but they have all these families willing to foster-it's a direct route.   Child services calls them directly to foster-not going through and agency.

So where was I?  Oh baby needs a home.
Child Services called our agency because of a sibling....but when that fell through our agency contacted us...
when our agency called with our names Child services said ummmm NO.  We will place with one of "our families" because it is cheaper since baby can't go with sibling.  Not-"wonderful!, you have a family that is willing to ride this out and provide a one stable home if he is able to be adopted."  Just "no thanks--we will place with any of our families because it is cheaper".

So-rollercoaster of a time the last 2 days.  Ending on a low....but we are getting a good understanding of how things work-and why everyone complains about the system....

On the bright side-I have a clean house.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Random Update

I haven't been around here much lately-just not in a writing mood, I guess. I have 5 posts started but have not felt like finishing them.  Oh well. It will pass-or I will just force myself to start again.  Spring (and daylight savings time) is coming-and my mood will lighten with warmer weather and daylight. Guaranteed.

But here's the short version of what's new:

1)  We are supposedly certified to foster.  It has been a month and still no letter confirming that, despite several emails on my part.

2) Our profile was sent away for consideration for a toddler in need of a family.  We never heard anything back-and that's the way it works.  If you don't hear anything-they chose someone else.  No polite kiss off letter-you just wait and wonder.

3) We inquired on another toddler posted on our state's adoption listings.  The children there are typically "hard to place" for various reasons-age, race, large sibling group, medical and cognitive conditions.  I know this-and can read between the lines about some of the problems not actually stated.  What I knew about this child's "issue" probably meant several surgery and therapies- but would lead a typical kid life..   However, once we got more info we ended up "passing" on this little one.  Sadly, what wasn't stated was a very serious medical condition that is just too far out of our comfort zone.  Sigh.   I knew it couldn't be "that" easy.

4) I started a partial "envelope system" to help us budget more carefully.  I was always so pissed when I paid the bills to see just how much we spent using debit cards-the money just melts away without you realizing it.  So I pay the bills and withdraw the next two weeks worth of food, house stuff and miscellaneous money.  The debit card is only gas and prescriptions.  The first 2 weeks went well, with only a little bit of overage spending on the debit card.  The next 2 weeks will be a little rougher-since the bills are higher the 1st of the month-but I really feel we are on the right path here.  With some thought I think I can balance everything-and stop nickel and dime-ing the savings account to cover our overspending.

That's the the winter, I basically hibernate-so not much to say.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A key...

What do you do in a data-driven special ed world to show that a child with autism understands basic skills so you can declare a goal mastered?  So you can "prove" to those that "want to know" that this child is super smart.  Has so much potential if only the key could be found to unlock his world.

A 4 year old child that screams rather than tells you an answer.
Recites rote phrases and entire songs.
Can't answer a "simple" question like "what is this?"

You KNOW he knows the answers.  You have goals that you need to show progress on.  You KNOW he knows it-but can't prove it.

You search and search for the key....and, if you are lucky, it comes to you one day, perhaps accidentally when that 4 year old cute-as a-button child reads aloud a word on a paper. You write more words. He reads them aloud.  You write a sentence- let's say,  "No Screaming"-and show it to him when he screams--and he immediately stops.  Then says. "No screaming" and walks away quietly.

I have a key...maybe not the key to his entire world-but its a key.

So I made these:
Match the function of objects to the picture:

function of objects

Match the action to the picture:

And he matches them.  It holds his interest for an entire session.
he is beginning to verbalize the answers, too!

This is opening up a whole new world of how to teach him and how to find out what he knows.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books of 2011

I did a really nice list last year.  But my books this year don't really fit those questions for some reason.

This year I will just post a few highlights and lowlights.

First, I am on if you are too-look me up here.  I am always looking for new book friends.

Secondly, I discovered audio books this year.  Makes the commute to work so much better and I found out that some books are just better listened to.

5 star books of the year:

Printed books:

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
This was one I read for my book club and it has become one of my favorite books ever.  I even asked for (and received) a copy for Christmas (I check 99% of my books out from the library.)  It is 6 stories, loosely connected and told in a nesting doll format (you get 1/2 of each story until the 6th one, which you read whole, then get the 2nd half of each story....weird, but it works!)  I never would have picked this up on my own-I am so glad that I read it!

Speak, Lauri Halse Anderson-This book is hard to describe.  A teen rape victim who doesn't speak anymore- is ostracized from her friends-no one really notices she doesn't speak-or why.   But it is so much more than that.

Still Alice, Lisa Genova-it's about a woman's decline into Altzheimer's disease, told from her perspective.

And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson  This is a children's book. It is based on the true story of 2 male penguins who on their own became partners and, when given an egg, raised it as their child.  It is listed on the banned books list. 

To Kill a Mockingbird, 50th anniversary narrated by Sissy Spacek.  Sissy Spacek is phenomenal as the narrator.  My husband loved it too, and he isn't the reader I am.

Every Last One, Anna Quindlan  The first half of this book is about a typical family.  You get to know them and their ordinary, every day lives.  The second half is about overcoming a tragedy to the family.  There were lots of descriptions and slower parts that would have had me skimming had I read the book.  In audio format it was magical.

The Bonesetter's Daughter, Amy Tan  What made this audio book so good is that it was read by two women who spoke English and Chinese.  They used authentic accents (as far as I know) and pronunciations of words. 

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon.  This is one of my favorite books, one I have read over and over. I decided to listen to it-all 28 discs.  It was very good.  It took me a little to adjust to understanding the Scottish brogue (which you read with the accent  in the book) but by disc 2 I was enthralled again.

I read some other books that, while not 5 star books, they are worth mentioning:

Room, Emma Dongahue  The main character is a little boy who has lived in "room" his whole life-his mother was kidnapped as a teen and held in this room, a shack.

The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell  This is another hard to describe book and I read it for my Book club.  Again, I never would have read it and i am very happy I did.  Several people, including a Jesuit priest, travel to another planet in search of life.  Very Interesting.

Before I fall, Lauren Oliver  In this book, the main character dies, and gets several chances to make things right.  A nice take on this "Groundhog Day" kind of book.

And one that I couldn't rate:

Beyond Reach, Karin Slaughter  I loved this series. (Grant County).  This book was really good.  But the ending....was....anger inducing.  I hated it.  I have tried to read another series of hers...and I'm still angry at her...But, at the same time....It took guts to write it that way.  Enough said.  Read the series...just not the last chapter of book 6.

On to 2012:
I don't usually set goals for my reading but I do two a few simple ones.  Last year I set a goal to read 75 books and I did that exactly.  This year I want to read at least 80-but with audio books I might actually reach 100.  I also want to read more books about Cherokee Indians since I have ancestors that were Chiefs in the tribe. 

Have you read any of my favorites?  What did you think?

What are your favorite books?  I would love to add them to my To-Be-Read List!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Happy New Year.
I welcome 2012 with all my heart.

No resolutions. No predictions. 

Nothing other than:  This year HAS to be better than last year.