Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One For the Record Books

So....Eli strikes again!

First, he was so cute yesterday when I picked him up from school. He'd had a great day and was really proud of himself .He's really, really trying to do well this week.  He is definitely learning character lessons in karate that he's trying to apply. He WANTS to do well...which is great.

But sometimes, I think his brain is working so fast that he gets carried away.  Or he's wired a little differently (a lot of gifted kids are). Sometimes he seems like the most logical person in the room.  But inevitably, as soon as that thought occurs to me, he does something that the rest of us wouldn't have thought of (or that we think is really weird).

Like eating his attendance card while waiting on karate class to begin.


My 4 year old, who is mature beyond his years and is homeschooling grade levels above his peers ATE HIS ATTENDANCE CARD.  Okay, let me be honest - he only ate half of it. And yes, the half he turned in was seriously soggy.  Yes, I gave him a snack before class, and NO he wasn't hungry.

Is it sad that part of me really wishes he wouldn't do stuff like this...and part of me wants him to continue because it's hilarious later?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up - The Week of Misbehavior and Exhaustion

We. Are. So. Tired.

It's amazing how tired one family can get in one week...and we didn't even have any more activities than usual!

This week was so exhausting, the kids went to bed earlier than normal each night.  W has been an early riser (very early) since day 1 and is usually a morning person...but for the first time, he actually slept in Friday morning until after 7. He's usually up around 6. I took a picture to prove that I was up first : ).

W slept in!
W had a fantastic week at preschool, other than a day or two when he was tired and didn't want to go in the morning. He participated in Tumblebus for the first time and LOVED it!  At home, he is working on learning some of his numbers and he is now pretty solid on counting to three.  We now have a pair of sticker/activity books that we are using for a simple start. He is very, very proud of himself for learning to draw circles this week (and we were proud that he learned the word "circle").  We did some sidewalk chalk this week while working on fine motor skills and colors, and he painted with watercolors today (in a children's watercolor book). He is learning to be sweet and gentle toward the cats and absolutely adores seeing the horses.  We are starting to hear him sing songs and pick up on the words to familiar songs.  We are allowing him to watch one or two TV shows each day, like Sesame Street or Umizoomi, hoping that he will continue to pick up on concepts. His vocabulary is expanding rapidly, and his speech is really improving.  He is still asking us what everything is and what it does. Our days are constantly peppered with "LOOK! LOOK!!What that? What that?" He is definitely not interested in many of the foods we offer, so I've begun to be sneaky with certain foods (to increase nutritional blending pumpkin puree into waffle syrup to get some Vitamin A, while simultaneously reducing the amount of sugar in a serving).  This week, he was much more open to different types of foods in the store, so hopefully the participation will translate to braver eating choices.  He is definitely getting better with self-help skills, such as dressing himself (shirts/shoes are still a problem) and washing his hands.

Eli had a more difficult week. The majority of the misbehaviors this week were his (although W expressed some very interesting new behaviors, too!).  From spitting on the playground, to ignoring directions, to throwing rocks at his very best friend, to being excessively rude and disrespectful to Ms. E, to eating ice off of the floor in a restaurant, to trying to run across a parking lot when we left a playground and laughing in my face when initially's been a very trying week. 

Son, could you NOT do that again?!

My sweet, loving, wonderful child turned into a "loco muchacho" for a few days.  On the bad days, we really didn't get much schoolwork done.  Today was infinitely better, as the lessons he's learned the last few days are starting to sink in. Yeesh.

And he clarified to me later that he didn't actually eat the ice off the floor in the restaurant...he said he was blowing on it to see if his breath was hot enough to melt it.  I could have sworn it was in his mouth...and he shouldn't pick things up off the floor in a restaurant...but I'm wondering if I can count this for a science lesson...? 

In other (planned) science this week, Eli learned about several parts of the car when I went for an oil change, and we've been consistently discussing parts of a plant and what plants need to grow.  With Eli's cucumber seedlings, we've discussed primary and secondary leaves; with the tomato plant and blueberry bushes, we've discussed how the plant produces leaves and flowers, and then the flowers produce tomatoes/blueberries after they've been pollinated.  He's been begging to work on his SNAP kit or to do some experiments, but I've been so exhausted, that I've not been able to pull it together.

As one of the consequences for his misbehavior this week, Eli lost the opportunity to go to karate class on Tuesday. This meant that in order for him to earn his next stripe on his white belt, we had to make up the class.  I debated the value of making him wait on the stripe, but I really want him to enjoy and learn from karate class.  So, I told him that if he did his karate questions that he could make up the class today...especially seeing how the questions were about respect/courtesy.  He really worked on his questions and was able to answer them, so we made up the class today. His attention to his instructors has improved significantly, and he's actually had two classes where he paid attention and worked hard the entire time. He did so well today that I allowed him to sign up for a tournament in a few we'll see how that goes!  He practiced for quite a while this afternoon : ). Here's his 'attention' face:

Even though we missed Tuesday's karate class, we did make it to children's choir on Wednesday. Eli did very, very well and is excited about the songs that they are singing : ).

Surprisingly, even though we've felt tired this week, we actually got quite a bit of schoolwork done. Eli did not consistently do the homework I sent to Ms. E, but we made great strides in Language Arts and Math anyway.  Eli now only has about 3 sections left in his Language Arts book (1st grade level), so we will be finishing it by mid-May if all goes according to plan (it never does!).  He understands all of the material in the book, but I am going to have him complete the lessons for reinforcement.  We're in the same place in math. We have 3 chapters left in his Life of Fred: Apples book, and we are zooming through them. We should finish this one no later than mid-May, too.  I've begun to bridge Eli into some more complex math; he is definitely beginning to move from the 1st grade level to the 2nd grade level in math. We visited a lot of concepts this week, from writing 1/2 (and its meaning), to properties of geometric shapes (squares, rectangles, pentagons, octagons), to reviewing place values (1's, 10's, 100's), to addition review, to a review of writing the numbers from 1 to 120, and a review of skip counting by 5's and 10's to 100.

We also checked in with how Eli's doing with the Dolch words.  His Language Arts book has a list of the words in the back, and Eli discovered it this week. He wanted to see how many he knew, so I let him...he's at about 75% memorized, with several others that he can figure out if given time or the context of a written sentence.  When he realized that he knew so many words, he went to his desk, dug out some old flashcards that Ms. J made for him back in August, and said "I won't be needing these....this is for babies, and I know these words."

In other reading news, we are still reading "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back", but should (hopefully!) finish it this week. I've been looking at books for Eli to begin reading next; I want him to read something slightly more complex without it being too overwhelming. I'm definitely open to suggestions here, if anyone has some good recommendations. I really think he's ready to move beyond Seuss. His reading fluency continues to grow by leaps and bounds; it's to the point where he actually started reading one of  the word problems in his math workbook to me, instead of the other way around.

We have accomplished very little this week in terms of social studies/geography, and I feel so behind on our "50 States Fridays."  It's kind of sad that a child with two social studies teachers for parents is getting the least amount of instruction in this area!  That said, I think we at least sang the "continent song" at least once...!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wow...saying it's been a busy week just seems like such an understatement!

Even though I have not yet finished the post I planned for Easter, I thought I'd go ahead share a sneak peak pic:

So proud of the pink shirt he picked for Easter!

W had his first ever dental appointment, which went really, really well. Eli was a tad jealous because he LOVES going to the dentist!  I managed to stop at the Korean market on the way home to pick up some of our  favorite rice cakes (red bean mochi!!), some kim chi, and roasted seaweed.  W was definitely unsure about these foods, and he didn't really want to try any.  He came from a home where cheetos, chips, soda, and candy were plentiful...but fruits, veggies, and meats (other than chicken nuggets/ hot dogs) were not.  He is being exposed to so many new flavors and textures, I think it's sometimes overwhelming for him. We're trying to meet him where he is and make sure he has at least 1 or 2 familiar foods per meal...but it's harder than I thought it would be.  Allowing him to "help" cook has been great - he's more ready to try foods that he worked on.

In fact, both boys have helped some in the kitchen this week. They made corn bread - and other than assisting with some measurements and putting it in the oven for them, they were able to do it fairly independently.  W was so excited that he helped, that he ended up eating four servings...and clapped for himself each time! I also had them make what we call "fiestada".  It's an enchilada-flavored pizza-like entree that is very reminiscent of the food Patrick and I ate in public school as children.  Corn tortillas (the really fresh kind), ground beef, cheese and enchilada sauce are the only ingredients. Eli devoured his...and W at least tasted some without prompting.

Eli has been keeping up well with his reading. We are most of the way through "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back".  We definitely missed some reading days in the time after W arrived, but we are back to Eli reading 1-2  pages per day.  Thursday night, Eli got out "Green Eggs and Ham" and we alternated reading pages as a bed time story for the boys.  I can't believe how much his reading fluency is improving day-by-day.

W is learning his alphabet. We're starting with lower case letters, since they are the most common ones that we see. He has an ABC puzzle that we have worked on together, and I've had him start playing with the ABC page on StarFall. He's really not yet ready for any kind of written work, so I am giving him lots of activities for strengthening his fine motor skills (like painting and using chalk).  He currently knows the letter W and that's about it.  "Aa" and "Bb" will continue to be a focus this week.

In language arts, we are having Eli work on sentence scrambles and on writing some of his own messages.  The sentence scrambles are difficult enough that he really has to think about them, but he is able to get them without much help.  Simple ones, like changing "a This truck is" to "This is a truck" are much easier, of course, than longer sentences.

With W, we are continuing to speak to him a lot, and he is beginning to ask a lot of questions about what words mean. His conversation skills are improving, and we are starting to see him try to have conversations. He often doesn't know what to say to continue a discussion, so he mostly repeats himself (which is common at 3!). We actually sat and watched "Paw Patrol" together, and he asked me to explain more than half the dialogue. I think this is one instance where watching TV together might be helpful - we are definitely encouraging him to watch Sesame Street and Umizoomi with us. I am noticing his language begin to improve, though he has a looooong way to go.  His diction is beginning to show signs of improvement, too. 

In math, Eli is continuing with addition, and is showing a ton of improvement with sums greater than 10. He really doesn't have many of his addition facts memorized, but I've focused a lot more on process more than memorization.  We've used Khan Academy a bit this week, and he is really enjoying it. He's shown an interest in their computer programming class, so I may go through it with him.  We have been using Life of Fred once or twice per week, and he's almost finished with the first book (Apples).  I was really going to skim over one of the topics the book introduced, sets, because I didn't think it was necessary at his age - but he actually likes it. He has mastered the topics in the books, and at this point, we're reading the last few stories for enjoyment more than for learning new material.

W is learning to count to 4 on his fingers and I am using some flashcards to help him learn what the numbers 1-4 look like. We also have a number puzzle for him to become familiar with the shapes of the numbers. He has definitely mastered the concepts of "1" and "2" this week (the he does not recognize the numerals), and I've even heard him correctly use two in a sentence as complex as "Hey! Two water towers!" 

We definitely missed a couple of 50 States Fridays, due to W's arrival, and we are trying to get back on track. Eli jumped to working on New York, since a friend of ours is moving there. We will working on Hawaii this week, so we will be discussing islands.  Eli is also reviewing the 7 continents, and still loves the continent song.

In science, we've spent a lot of time outdoors. The boys made see-through planters at a local home store, and we planted strawberries in them.  I love that it makes it easier to discuss stems, leaves, roots, and flowers with W, since he hasn't had the experience. Eli remembers the information, but it enjoying the experience anyway - and can't wait to have a strawberry! With Eli, we are discussing the role of pollen and bees in a plant's life - and he's enjoying that, as well. The boys helped me plant some other plants in some containers, and have been excitedly watching our tomato plant develop tiny tomatoes.  They also planted cucumber seeds and basil seeds, and have been watching them begin to sprout and grow.  Eli has also been spending some time putting together some dinosaur skeletons (we got some kits from the dollar store). He still loves dinosaurs, and has learned a LOT about them from the Montessori dinosaur app that we have on our iPad.

Our growing cucumber seedlings!

The boys' strawberry plants in the viewing planters that they built!

Finally, we managed to sneak in some art time. I had the boys use stamps earlier today. W made a stamp page for his mommy, while Eli made a stamped card for Grandpa's birthday, then attempted to spell "Happy Birthday Grandpa" on the inside (Hape Brday Grandpa).

Later, Eli wanted to paint a picture, so I suggested he paint one for Grandpa. I gave him some suggestions, and we settled on the idea of a fish. I traced one for him onto a canvas, and helped him get started with acrylics. He's really into mixing colors, and is learning the ideas of layering them. I had him use some sparkly orange craft sand on top of his fish to make it stand out. W also wanted to paint a fish, so I traced one for him, too. He is enjoying the experience, and exercising those fine motor skills!

Eli's finished fish painting!

W's finished fish painting!

To be honest, I didn't have W work with acrylics. He's just not ready!  We're currently using inexpensive, washable, non-toxic finger paint. The viscosity and simple colors are easier for him to handle (even with a paintbrush)...and necessary for his wardrobe!  Of course, once he saw the craft sand, he wanted some, too!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sweet Moments

Part of the issue with having a temporary child is that one day, he will leave, and we will MISS him!! 

But in the meantime, there's some real bonding going on. In the midst of a a few difficult behaviors that have surfaced (most of which are age-related and not because of his situation), we have also seen some truly wonderful pieces of his loving personality.

Yesterday, Eli had the option of playing with either the Kindergarten kids after school, or playing with the three year olds (which is where W is).  Eli always goes with the Kindergarteners, mostly because he usually needs to finish his home school work that I sent for the day - but partly because he loves playing with the big kids. 

When I went to pick the kids up, a teacher stopped me to tell me that Eli had decided to go to the 3 year old room that afternoon. She said that Eli told her that he thought W might be lonely, and that he wanted to play with him.  Once he walked into W's classroom, W leaped out of his chair and hurled himself at Eli, wrapping him in as big a bear hug as a 3 year old can manage.  They were sweetly playing when I went back to pick them up.

As difficult as any major transition is, it's wonderful to see them get along so well.

We even managed to fit in some lessons with W on doing puzzles and learning letters...and while Eli didn't finish all of his home school work, he did get some time on StarFall and Khan Academy after karate.

It's also wonderful to report that we actually all got a full night's sleep last night!  W was asleep within 3 minutes of laying down with NO complaining or crying.  Hopefully W's first dentist appointment will go well this afternoon, and we'll have another peaceful evening.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

W, we are trying to adjust to being a temporary family for our visitor. For privacy reasons, I will not be using his real name, so I will call him W. 

Yesterday, W and Eli took advantage of the very real family fatigue and turned on some explosive energy. Unfortunately, it ended with tantrums and time-outs.  Yikes! It made for a difficult evening, that's for sure.  It was one of those afternoons that, after the boys were asleep in bed, I definitely wondered what in the world we'd gotten ourselves into.

Last night notwithstanding, W seems very happy and content in our home during this first 'honeymoon' period.  He's a very cheerful little chap and pretty easy going.  He's more energetic than Eli, and has significantly fewer verbal skills.  The difference between W and Eli at age 3 is marked and dramatic.  Truthfully, W development is about what Eli's was at 1 and a half; if I had to guess, I would say that W is on the low end of normal for most areas.  I've witnessed him struggle with even a simple shape sorter that most kids his age have outgrown...even after being shown how to match the pieces several times.  Perhaps it's not fair to compare Eli's development to W's...but it helps us understand both kids better.  It's odd to remember that Eli was really taking off with reading at this time last year...while the only letter of the alphabet that W recognizes is....W.

So, we are definitely working on counting, numbers, shapes, colors, and ABC's with W.  We are also working on self-help skills like dressing, pouring, and brushing teeth. Quite frankly, we're also working on teaching him about new fruits (he knew about bananas), vegetables, chicken, beef, and rice.  We definitely have him in the kitchen with us as much as we can; we trying to teach him to help pour, stir, and follow directions.

With an entire week together under our belts, and with W enrolled in preschool (Eli is still doing a blended preschool/home school), we're sliding into a good routine.  We will be shaking it up a little soon, with the addition of W's visitation times, but so far, so good.

In other words, we've got our work cut out for us! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Plus one....?

The Reason for Missing Weekly Wrap-Up!
Okay, so the picture is an over-dramatization - but I've definitely missed blogging! I feel as though I've been away from the computer for much longer than I actually have; a lot of it is a current lack of quiet time in the house. Remember that I've written that we were having some big changes in our home?

At the moment, we are sincerely hoping for an adoptive placement to happen, but we know that this could take quite a long time. In the meantime, our family has decided to care for children in our area who need a safe place to live for a little while. 

On Monday night, we received a phone call asking if we could care for a little boy, probably for a few months.  And, of course, we said "Yes!".

That's right - we are now a family of least...temporarily. He's a little younger than Eli, but has just as much (perhaps more!) energy.  Suffice it to say, I've lost 4 pounds in the first week of his visit.  By the time he leaves in a couple months, I might fit into my skinny jeans again!

So, for now, there are two children in our lives.

For now, I've got two preschoolers to chase.

And for now, I'm exhausted - but very happy!!
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