Wednesday, November 30, 2011

random thoughts on this year's IEP stuff

I'm not sure I can organize my thoughts in any reasonable fashion, so I'm just going to spew forth some randomness and hope for the best.

Quick catch-up for any newcomers . . . well, no let's just do this: if you're new to this blog and this whole special needs journey we've been through, take a browse through the posts labeled "special needs" on my sidebar. That will help. There's still some holes since I switched from a blog with real names (which is now inactive and privatized) to this blog with fake names - so there are a whole lot of posts that haven't made their way over here. But, oh goodness. For all the time it took me to write all that, I could have just summarized the whole thing. Hmph. Oh well.

Anyway, this year Samuel was mainstreamed, and he got into the charter school with his siblings (as opposed to the self-contained special needs class he was in last year in the public school) and we held him back a year. They decided to re-assess him to better be able to see where he's at and how he's doing and what kind of services he needs. All that stuff. For his "Individualized Education Plan" (IEP).

So, essentially, the interesting parts of this were that the teacher sees the well-behaved quiet cooperative Samuel - or what I interpret as the anxiety overriding his ADHD. When he meets one-on-one with the specialty teachers though (and the psychologist who did the testing), they see the hyper, easily distracted, can't keep still and concentrate on anything Samuel. This was a huge relief to me, though, that these specialty teachers are seeing what we see at home. I'm not crazy after all!! And it fits with what we think is going on. With why we think he behaves so differently in those 2 different settings. We think the bigger group just makes him anxious and he is able, somehow, to suppress the ADHD in those situations. In some ways, it is good that he is able to do that. In other ways, I still think he's needing to use a whole lot of mental energy to maintain that. So far that's not affecting his school performance. So they're not concerned about it. It makes for some really crazy times at home though. Sigh.

Anyway - he is right where he needs to be for the grade level he is in. They all agreed that this decision to retain him was good for him. He is more confident than I have seen him before. He participates in class. He fits in socially and physically. And he is so happy to be at the same school as his siblings. He plays with Elisabeth at recess and does great with going into school with them and meeting Isaac afterschool. He does his homework. He just seems to be doing well and it is such a huge relief to me.

The cognitive testing showed that he has a strength in processing speed, which means when he knows something, he can work through a task really quick. He has a weakness in one of the memory recall areas (can't remember the technical name). But the areas where he showed issues weren't statistically significant to qualify as any sort of learning disability. But he has obvious struggles with speech and language (some receptive, mostly expressive). He's in about the 3rd percentile. Meaning 97% of kids his age speak more clearly than he does.

So we've reclassified him as Speech Language Impairment instead of Developmental Delay. I have been nervous about having him only classified in speech because I still feel there are other issues going in, but they reassured me that the classification just kind of opens the door for special education services, but it in no way limits the type of services he can receive. So I feel ok about that right now. I think I need to look into getting some sort of private help again for the issues we're having at home that won't be addressed at school because they aren't causing "school problems" and that's just the way it's going to be.

And we set some new goals for speech and language that I think will be good for him. I don't know. I need to get to the school to observe him some more. I still worry about his peer relationships and how his speech affects him. His teacher did say he is really reluctant to read aloud in reading groups. But he does answer questions when asked. I need to think some more about some of the things I still worry about.

But overall, I feel good about the meeting. I feel like they took my concerns seriously and left options open for revision if we feel like new needs arise over time. I guess that's all I can really ask for at this point.

Now, we're beginning the process of having Elisabeth evaluated for some concerns we're having with her (and shared by her teacher and also noticed by the Occupational Therapist who informally observed her). Sooo, here we go again, right??
We just keep moving forward . . . with whatever we've got.:) Phew!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Look what I found!

An entire site devoted to reviewing apps that are most useful and helpful for moms? I can go for that.;)

(click on the pic to go to the site)
(and if you saw the 2 links I posted recently in Pinterest from The Top 50 apps for Kids and The Top 50 apps for moms, they were both from this site.)

Just wanted to share that. Keep telling me about good apps, folks. I know there are more of you out there with some good ones you use! (and thanks to those of you who have answered thus far - I appreciate it!)

That's it for tonight. Good night.:)

Monday, November 28, 2011

I think I'm in love

oh, I know. This is all old news for a lot of you (most of you?). And you probably knew I was going to take this big step eventually.

But I finally took the leap and got myself an iphone! hip hip hooray! And I love it even more than I thought I could.;)
Zac and I decided to use our Healthy Lifestyles money from his work (where we get paid for exercising, doing self check-ups etc) for something "fitness related" for each of us. He's getting a GPS watch. I got the phone that I can use to track my calorie intake and calorie burn, etc.;) (My check is also paying for the first little while of data plan! wohoo!)

Anyway - it's a fun new toy. Very exciting for everyone in the family (Isaac is way too excited for the games for example. Oh you Angry Birds . . .). I'm finding all kinds of apps I didn't even know existed. And I'm trying to figure out a way to get free texting, among other things (also excited that I can text other iphone users for free, though. Which just happens to include pretty much my entire family. Except for Zac.)

Anyway - now's your chance to tell me all about your favorite apps!! I'm especially interested in hearing about any fitness/health related ones that you've found that work well (since that was my justification for getting this thing - heheh). I've found several, of course, but I'm curious to know which ones you like. If you're into that sort of thing.;)

And anything else, too.
Educational games for the kids? Neat free practical things? Budget tools? GPS navigation? Music? Photos?

What do you like the best? What do you use the most?

Tell me everything. It's all new to me so I'm all ears!

Ready to listen and learn.:)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Advent

One of the traditions I've loved carrying on from my time in Germany is Advent. While I was there and visiting different families and joining them for their celebrations, I learned that many of them celebrate Advent the 4 Sundays preceding Christmas by singing Christmas carols, eating treats, and lighting a candle on the Advent wreath (a circle wreath with 4 candles - each Sunday they light another candle).

I finally found myself an Advent wreath a few years ago and we've added in our own traditions of what to do on each of those Sundays. I think I've written a little bit about this before (although maybe it was on the old blog, I don't know). We like to drink hot chocolate around the candle wreath on the table and sing carols. We've also tried planning out a few different things like writing our Christmas cards, making cookies, reading the Bible story etc. on those Sunday evenings. Some of those have been more successful than others over the years. But just about every year, for just about as long as I can remember in our married life, the first Advent Sunday (or as close as possible) is when we get out our Christmas decorations and decorate the tree. Then we admire what a great job we've done and sing O Christmas Tree.:)

So that's what we did today. I can't believe today is actually the 4th Sunday before Christmas! I've had a hard time getting into the holiday swing of things and such this year (bah humbug!). But, it's true. Christmas is on its way. We forgot to light the candle tonight. But, you know, that's just how these things go sometimes. Zac and I were both really tired and the kids were hyper and we were just happy to get the tree decorated and put them to bed. Oh well.

Anyway, just thought this year I'd share with you what we do each week for Advent. Just for fun. I love spreading out our Christmas celebrations over the whole month. Christmas is a season, not just a day, right?

So, may your holiday season be off to a merry start. (Like it or not, I do believe it's started . . . haha)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Relay Race!

Our local churches were putting on an 18 mile relay race that Zac wanted to run. He thought it'd be fun to get Abigail to run on a team with him, so he was trying to get a coed team together. We found another guy to run (our neighbor Jaxon) but had a really hard time finding another woman. So. Guess what? Yep, I ended up getting talked into it.

Then we ran into some issues because the race organizers decided we couldn't have a youth on our team. They either had all youth teams or all adult teams. But then they did more discussing or something and changed their minds again. So we ended up in the Open Category at the last minute.

Each of the legs were between 1 mile and 3.3 miles and we each ran 2 legs. I had the shortest sections, but one of them had a huge hill that about killed me. Especially since I haven't really done much running since the triathlon. The guys were speedy though and that helped our team do really well!! Abigail did great, too, but she was really sore from running the 3.7 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving so it was tough for her. But it was more fun than I expected it to be and we came in 2nd for the Open Group and 5th overall (out of 2o-something teams). Plus doughnuts at the finish. So yay for us!!:)

Anyway - here's the photo story for you: (Enjoy!)

Go Team 4!!:)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Abigail, Isaac and Zac ran the 3.7 mile Turkey Trot. Zac is still nursing his injured leg so he jogged with Isaac. (No free pie this year! oh well - haha) But I'm really proud of the kids for running.

Elisabeth and Samuel wearing the cute pilgrim costumes they made at school:

At my mom's house. Mom and Lowell, Chelsea, my fam, and Devin, Liz and Miles (who slept through the whole dinner but had his own feast later):

Cousins!:) My kids and 11 mo old Miles:

spinning around on mom's porch swing:

Elisabeth thinks she can climb trees:

Miles' first thanksgiving (wearing the hat they had for his first thanksgiving last year - but he decided to be born 2 wks - or more? - late and he missed that one!):

And cute Miles who is just starting to walk! Love that little boy.:)

It was a great day. Can't even express how thankful I really am for so many many things. Really.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

thankful thursday

"Gratitude is a quality

similar to electricity:

it must be produced

and discharged

and used up

in order to exist at all.”

William Faulkner

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

a sheltering tree

Had the chance to see one of my oldest, best friends today.

There is not much else quite like being with someone who has known you since you were 12. Girls camp, church dances, sleepovers, concerts, youth conferences, letters, all the way up through college roommates. Then continued friendship through mission, marriage, having kids, living closer in the same state, and living across the country. There are things we can talk about that almost no one else can understand. I think we have a level of trust and safety with each other that just takes a lot of years to develop, even through some of the times that we aren't in touch as much as others.

Anyway, I appreciate having a friend like her. And it was a lot of fun to get together again for the first time in a few years.

Thanks to the random person I snagged in the parking lot to take our picture.:)

And thanks again to Alyssa for this thoughtful little souvenir, too.:) It sums up everything about our short visit just perfectly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Signs and Wonders: album by Matt Billingsley

I think this is the first time ever in my life that I can truly say I know someone personally who has "released a music album," so of course I will do everything I can to help get his name out there and get his music into the hands of everyone and anyone who might be interested in it. And since you never can really tell who might or might not be interested, better just to let everyone know about it, yes? Yes, of course.:)

Matt is an old friend of mine and he has written, performed, recorded, mixed, produced and whatever else is involved in making an album (I don't even know) all of this all himself. That in and of itself seems like a gargantuan accomplishment that I can't even begin to fathom. Not to mention the courage it takes to open yourself up to possible criticism and rejection that is the process to which every artist is subjected. And then not to mention even having the talent to produce something that is good. And then, not to mention writing songs that are personal and express such faith and devotion to God. That is impressive to me.

I realize that this kind of Contemporary Christian music is not every one's cup of tea. But I would encourage anyone at all to give this a try and listen with an open mind. It's amazing sometimes what we can discover and enjoy when we set aside all prejudices and preconceptions and just let ourselves experience it for what it is. You might even surprise yourself. :)

I really enjoy all the songs on the album, but I think that two of my favorites are "Everything is New" and "Road to Everlasting" (at least right now).

"Road to Everlasting" is a really beautiful instrumental piece. The best words I can come up with to describe it are contemplative and encouraging. Just something about it . . .

And "Everything is New" seems to capture for me that sincere and full moment of true conversion to Christ. And it is a feeling that I think we seek to renew as we constantly recommit and repent (especially used as in the literal translation of the German word for repentance: umkehr, which means "to turn around"). The best part is the ending which closes with the repetition of this phrase: "when I'm feeling like there's hope in the world . . . it's you . . ."
Hope. Joy. New Beginning. Being loved and forgiven. That's what I feel like it's really all about, when all is said and done. And that's what I feel more than anything listening to this album.

Go here to listen to song samples and to buy for yourself from: Amazon or iTunes

Monday, November 21, 2011


Recently, I keep going into the little kids' room in the morning to find Elisabeth climbed up and fast asleep with Samuel in the top bunk. They're not really supposed to do that, because they tend to talk and laugh and play instead of going to sleep. But it is kind of sweet to find them together in the morning.

Last night they were scared of something so we left their door open and hall light on. I peeked in when I walked by later to shut the door and saw Elisabeth's bed empty. And here they were:

My sweet, sleeping, open-mouth-breathing kids (and with partly open eyes, which they get from me).

I'll use this photo as proof as they get older that they really did like each other at one point.;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

something I've been thinking about

If you've been reading this blog for very long, or know me very well, you already know there are some recurring themes of things I often think about, and read about, research, ponder, talk about, ruminate on, try to figure out, etc etc ad infinitum. One of those topics is about our moods, feelings, emotions and how much we do or don't control them, how and why we react to them, how to manage them, how to cope. Something like that. It's interesting stuff.

I am often bothered by the notion that we can "choose to be happy" or that we "choose to be offended" - or any of these ideas that somehow we can just make a mental choice to feel whatever it is we think we "should" be feeling - or not feel what we "shouldn't". Quite frankly, (and I know I'm treading on dangerous, controversial ground here), I don't buy it. Now, before anyone attacks me with their own strong opinions on this, let me just allow that I am still working these things out in my own mind. I haven't gotten it all figured out. And let me humbly assert that, ahem, neither do you . . . or anyone else. We are all human, forming our own fallible opinions based on our own very individual, limited experiences. We don't have all the answers and we cannot know what anyone else is really experiencing, much as we might try.

But, this quote above rings true to me. Or at least mostly true. I saw it on Pinterest and added it to my collection and I've been mulling it over, trying to decide what I think. I think it is important to let ourselves feel whatever emotion is being evoked in us. Really and truly, I think it is healthy to acknowledge all our feelings, good and bad, positive and negative, all the things we should or shouldn't feel. I am not sure that we really make conscious choices to feel anything. But we can choose what to do with our feelings. And like this quote, we can choose (more or less) what we will focus our thoughts on, which waves we will surf. This analogy strikes me because I think that some days, the waves are just a little rougher than others. There are days when our choices of which waves to ride are just a little more limited because of the conditions creating the waves. Not to mean it is out of our control completely. Or that we are left completely at the whim of external circumstances. I don't know for sure how much of the waves we help to create ourselves, or the conditions that create the waves. There's a lot to consider I guess and I can't pretend to expect this analogy to stand up to all scrutiny. It certainly doesn't.

I guess part of what I'm trying to express though is that sometimes it feels to me like we are bombarded by huge rough tumbling towering waves, one right after the other, no breaks, no breathers, no clearly "better" ones to surf. It feels to me like sometimes it's all we can do just to keep our head above water and try to make it back to shore in one piece. There is also a bit of skill to be learned, like surfing. I've never surfed so I really don't know - but I imagine it takes quite a bit of practice to learn which waves are "better" to ride, and it takes lots of practice to be able to surf without a whole lot of "wiping out." Knowing how to deal with our own feelings and especially those of others is tricky business, a lifelong pursuit. I can even see that surfers must also take a lot of time to learn how to read the conditions and ascertain when maybe it's just best to observe the waves from afar and not jump in and paddle too far out. In other words, maybe sometimes we just need to observe our tumultuous stormy feelings and let them work themselves out on their own.

I don't know. Hm. What do you think about all of this? Am I trying to read too much into a rather simple concept? Is it helpful at all to you to think of feelings as waves and choosing which ones to surf - or not? Am I just waxing a little to deeply (psycho) philosophical? Should I just keep my thoughts to myself? ;)

Be nice (as always, of course). But do share. Thanks!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Grabbed my camera yesterday and ran outside in the cold in my pajamas and barefeet to catch these photos of the sunrise:

Good morning world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lookie what I did!

I know this isn't really a DIY-er, crafty type blog. That's because I'm not really a big DIY, crafty kind of gal. But this is why I have to celebrate whenever I do something DIY-er, crafty-ish. Because I'm kind of impressed with myself. So it's a blog post. hehe. ;)

I turned a bar of soap into homemade liquid handsoap! hooray for me.

I kept seeing this idea on Pinterest (of course) and, knowing how sensitive and dry my kids' skin gets in the winter, and knowing how hard it is sometimes to find liquid handsoap that isn't antibacterial, I decided to try it.

The recipe I used was:
1 gallon water
1 bar of soap, grated (I used generic Dove)
2 Tb glycerin (found at Walmart somewhere by the bandaids)

So here's my stuff:
Here's my pretty pile of grated soap (looks like mozzerella cheese, but . . . it's not):

So, you heat it all up til the soap is melted. Add the glycerin. Stir it all up. And let it sit for 12-24 hrs or something to let it thicken up.

Here's my pot the next morning:

The hardest part was figuring out how to get it from the pot to the containers. I ended up using a measuring pitcher thing and a funnel. But my mixture turned out with kind of a snotty gloopy consistency, so it was still no easy task to transfer it all (it kept wanting to slime out of everything all at once in one big glop).


Besides the somewhat unusual texture, I'd have to call it a success. Mine didn't turn out as an exact replication of storebought liquid handsoap, per se, but I think it works. And I think that saves us about $8 in handsoap refills so yippee!

Anybody else ever tried this? Anybody want to try it and tell me how it goes for you? I've read that higher quality soap works out a little better. Curious to know what anyone else has tried.

Have you done anything nifty-crafty, DIY-ish lately that has surprised even yourself? Or anything else you've done/made/created/cooked/baked/sewed/blogged/whatever that you're proud of? Do share.:)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

thankful thursday

- thankful that the weather was mild and I felt well enough to go outside for a walk

- thankful for leaves on the sidewalk, and in the grass next to the sidewalk, that I could walk through and crunch and kick up in the air with my shoes

- thankful for the season of Autumn when the natural world reminds me to slow down. It's quieter and a bit solemn and sad to watch the slow decay and withering away of summer's blooms. But. It reminds me of how every season is needed. Even if the season is a little more brittle and brown and melancholy and subdued than we might sometimes like. I need it. We need it. And even if I am a bit more like Autumn in some ways than the bright happy energetic summertime people, somehow I am reminded that my slower pace is ok too.

- thankful that most of the phlegm has moved from my head down into my lungs, so that although I can't breathe very well, at least I can think again! (well mostly)

- and thankful that I took my camera for a walk today:) It's always good for me to look closely and notice what's around me again.

No Spring or Summer Beauty hath such grace

As I have seen in one Autumnal face

- John Donne

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree

- Emily Bronte
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