Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting My Crafty On

As the months have gone by since Kayla's arrival and Steve's new job, I've slowly embraced my role as stay at home mom and wife.  I've cleaned, decluttered, and reorganized our kitchen; went through all of the kids' clothes and packed up a ton, while pulling out the next size(s); and started making new recipes.  The past couple weeks brought a few new specific things that I've made.  I joined Pinterest and am loving it!  (If you want an invite, just let me know!  Either email me or leave a comment with your email address.)  I've gotten a bunch of good ideas for all sorts of things; sometimes I copy exactly what I see, sometimes it's just a jumping off point and I make my own.

I recently decided my kids needed some more responsibility.  I was getting so frustrated making them clean up or just doing it myself.  So I decided to make a chore chart and give them some ownership of the chores.  It turned out great!  I did a slightly different one for each kid.  I found the pictures on a website and designed the layout myself.  I printed them on cardstock, laminated them, then taped them to the fridge.  (I used painter's tape so it comes off easily, and taped every single edge down, so they couldn't pull them off.  Not pretty, but quite effective.)

They each have the same 4 chores: Gather Dishes, Clean My Room, Make My Bed, Clean Up Family Room.  Jilly has an additional one which is "Mom's Choice".  I made 6 slips, with a different chore on each.  I laminated these as well and put magnets on the back, so I could easily switch them.  I wanted Jilly to have more chores, as she is 2 1/2 years older than Jason, and I wanted some flexibility with her chores as well.  Plus, as we know, variety keeps kids interested. ;-)  I taped the envelope on the fridge as well, so I could keep track of the slips!  This was because within the first hour of making them, the kids had shoved at least three of them underneath the fridge.

My friend is going to make some magnets that will help with the chore charts.  She is going to make several magnets with checkmarks on them.  So when the kids finish a chore, they'll get to put a check mark in the box next to the chore.  If they get all their check marks for the day, they'll get a star (magnet) for the day.  I haven't decided if they'll get any sort of reward for a week of stars, probably not.  I think they'll just enjoy seeing the star.  So far, when we remember to use the chore chart, they get really excited about doing their chores.  Hopefully this will decrease the fighting about cleaning up, and result in a cleaner house too!

My stepdad's birthday was at the end of January and when asked what he wanted for a gift, he specified "Kid art that I can hang in my office."  Kid art?  I can sooooo do that.  Once again, I found the idea on Pinterest.  In the original post, they used the kid's name, but I switched it up.  I bought a canvas and used painter's tape to tape off the word "GRAMPA".

Next up, I had Jason finger paint over it all.  He picked out the colors and did most of the painting; I just helped fill in the gaps and make sure it was painted all the way to the edges.

Here it is all painted, just waiting to dry.

It dried really quickly and I peeled off the tape.  Here it's the finished product!  You could do so many different things with this idea.  If I was to do it again, I'd do it a little different, but I really like how it turned out.  Grampa loved it too!!!

The girls also did an art project for Grampa.  I saw this adorable idea and LOVED it.  I might do more of these and hang them in the kids' room.  SO CUTE.  You paint the child's feet (I let Jilly pick the colors for both her and Kayla) and stamp them on a canvas.  Cross the feet when you do it, so the left foot is on the right and vice versa.

Once they're stamped and dried, paint or draw a body, head and antennae and you have a gorgeous butterfly!  I added a smiley face to both of them as well.

My cousin Bailey had a birthday at the beginning of this month as well.  With my stepdad's suggestion of kid art, I decided to do something similar for Bailey.  Once again, found the idea on Pinterest.  I painted the kids' hand and stamped them on a canvas.  The prints turned out a little different than I expected, but probably because I did them in a hurry.  After the finger and foot painting, I'd put both the big kids in the bath tub.  Then I remembered I still had to have them do this!  Oops.  So, while they were in the bath, I painted their hands and stamped them.  Jilly didn't get a full, firm press, so her print is a little lighter and smaller.  In fact, this makes it look like she and Jason have the same size hands.  Not quite, hers are a little bigger, but they are close.  Jason definitely inherited his dad's wide paws.

I added Kayla's later, but she was less cooperative.  She kept balling up her fist, so I had to tickle the back of her hand to get it to unfold.  (Steve had gone to bed, so I was doing this all by myself.)  She moved her hand too, so it got a little smudged.  But still, cute.

After these dried, I added the yellow centers and stems, leaves, and grass.  Beautiful hand print flowers!  Bailey was over the moon about them and said she'd be hanging this in her office at work.  Sweet!!  :-)

All three finished canvases.  They turned out SO GREAT!  I loved them all.

I also made a meal calendar.  We ended up with an extra calendar and I decided to turn it into a meal planner.  I made little squares with meals (just entrees, really).  I, once again, printed them on cardstock and laminated them.  I hot glued magnets on the back.  I cut off this month's page from the calendar (I needed it up high enough that the kids wouldn't mess with it and thin enough that it would stay on the fridge) and stuck it on the fridge.  Each square went on a day and BAM!  Meals planned for a month.  I probably won't keep to the plan 100%, but hey, at least I have 28 meal ideas right there in front of me and can adjust it easily as needed.

For Paul and Bailey's birthday party, I was asked to make the dessert.  I love making desserts, so I was going to volunteer anyway.  I found a recipe for a Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle and I about passed out from sheer anticipation.  I checked with Paul to make sure this was something he would like (I knew Bailey would love it) and he was totally down, as long as there wasn't candy in it; that would be too much for his taste.  The recipe called for peanut butter cups, but it was easy to leave those out.  I had to buy a trifle dish, but I'm glad I did, because this turned out so awesome, I know I'll use it again over and over!  It was pretty easy to make.  First, layer of brownies.  I made my super awesome Double Chocolate Brownies, and used Dark Chocolate chips, instead of semi-sweet.  YUM.

I tried to fill in the big gaps, but there were still lots of little ones.

Next, a layer of peanut butter mousse.  This mousse was TO DIE FOR.  I am in love with it.  Peanut butter + cream cheese + powdered sugar + whipped cream = divinity.

Next was a layer of Chocolate Fudge pudding.  This was just Jello instant pudding.  It was totally fine, but I think I'd like to find a better chocolate layer option.  Maybe some homemade hot fudge?

I then added a layer of whipped cream and repeated all the layers.  The top layer of whipped cream came to the very top of the bowl.  The recipe suggested piping on the whipped cream, but I liked it better spread fairly smooth.  Not to mention it was way easier.

A view from the side.  Look at all those pretty, pretty layers!  This dessert was just as pretty as it was tasty.  It was a huge hit with everyone at the party!  And it feeds a lot of people!  I've seen a few other trifle recipes, and it's easy to see how to adapt this.  Pretty much just layer a bunch of yummy things together!  This was a big success and relatively easy to make, so I'll, for sure, be doing it again.

So there you go, the crafty projects I've been working on lately.  There are sure to be more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jillian's School Progress

Last week, I attended the annual meeting for Jilly's IEP. This year was slightly different than the past couple, because she will be going to Kindergarten in the fall and the IEP needed to reflect that. It was a great meeting, all of the observations by her teachers were right on track with what Steve and I have noticed about her. I feel very good about the plan for her for next year.

For the past almost two years, she has been in a self-contained preschool program at a local elementary school (though not our 'neighborhood' school), receiving help in Social/Emotional, Communication, and Gross Motor areas. To give some perspective, when Jilly started the program, at 3 years old, she was speaking in 2-3 word sentences, could not jump, and never objected to another kid stealing a toy from her or hurting her. Now, at 5 years old, Jilly has met every goal set for her and exceeded several of them. In the Social/Emotional area, she can now identify her own emotions and those of others. She's become more assertive and taking ownership of her possessions, which is leading to using words when in a conflict with another child. In Communication, Jilly has progressed amazingly. Now she is able to answer Who, What, Where, and Why questions with 100% accuracy; she understands pronouns and prepositions; colors, shapes, etc. She maintains eye contact and and greets people appropriately. Also, she can make requests, ask questions, and has a great vocabulary. Her SLP told us how when she evaluated Jilly, Jilly used pictures of people in a classroom to narrate a very detailed story, with dialogue and everything. It was fun, because the girl is always talking and telling stories like that! In Gross Motor, she can now go up stairs alternating feet and not holding a rail. She can jump forward about 12-14 inches with feet together, jump down from about 18 inches high and jump independently on a trampoline. She can walk on the balance beam with one foot in front of the other (which she demonstrates for me on the way back up the hill from the bus stop, using the curb). She is learning to catch a ball, throw it overhand, and kick. If you saw her two years ago, this progress is just astounding.

While Jillian has made super duper progress, she still has a bit farther to go. So the IEP set new goals for the next year. There are 5 listed on the IEP paperwork.
  • Communication: When given structured group work and/or play activities Jillian will appropriately interact with her peers by using eye contact, asking questions/requests, and making comments improving expressive and pragmatic language from >50% of the time to 90% of the time.
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given the opportunity to appropriately resolve conflict Jillian will select an appropriate strategy (claiming & defending possessions, use simple strategy, and negotiating) improving her social skills from walking away and finding something else to resolving conflicts, using her words to claim and defend her possessions, and to negotiate.
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given free-choice time and it is time to clean up Jillian will respond to the request (time to clean up) improving her social skills from needing to be reminded, and helped to follow directions 50% of the time to responding appropriately (end playing and clean up independently) 90% of the time.
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given unstructured, child-directed, free-choice time Jillian will establish and maintain proximity with her peers who are playing in the same area improving her social skills from solitary play 80% of the time to establishing and maintaining proximity with her peers 75% of the time.
  • Social/Gross Motor: When given physical activities at recess and in the PE/motor room Jillian will increase her skills for balance activities and ball handling improving participation from needing verbal cues to participate 85% in all skills to needing no cues to participate 85-100% in all skills.

As you see, Jilly's main delay now lies in Social, not Communication. I think she will probably always be a more solitary girl; she's an introvert (she gets that from her dad). But she needs to be able to engage in conflict resolution and be able to defend herself, as well as at least be comfortable working with others and initiating that contact. Her Communication goal goes right along with her Social goals. It may seem kind of silly, or trivial, to have a goal about 'clean up time', but I will tell you this is a big struggle with Jilly. She almost never wants to clean up and often refuses to do any measure of it, even after repeated requests, demands, threats, etc, and will need someone to physically take her hand, pick up a toy, and put it in the right box. Her little brother is much better about this than she is. It goes beyond the typical willful young child resisting the end of playtime. So it was a bit of a relief for me to at least hear that it is an issue at school and something her teacher wants her to work on. Her teacher told me, she will be trying to work with Jilly one-on-one, daily, with this.

The rest of this school year will continue with her therapies the same as they have been the past two years. Most of the work is done in the classroom, with going to the motor/PE room once or twice a week. But once she starts Kindergarten, this will change a bit. Her teacher said that Jilly is definitely ready for a General Education classroom, meaning she'll no longer have to be in a separate Special Education classroom. She will be in a normal class with typical kids her own age. Academically, Jilly is soooooo ready for Kindergarten; she can read easily and is starting basic math. But she does still need some extra help. This means she'll be in the regular classroom full time, but with “pull-outs” for her therapies. The way it breaks down is Gen-Ed for about 80% of the time and the rest for her Special-Ed needs. She'll continue to have Speech & Language Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Social/Emotional/Behavioral therapy. I will register her as normal at her 'home' school next month, and then in April, her preschool teacher will get in touch with that school and hopefully we'll be able to get her teacher assigned this spring, meet them, and ease the transition into Kindergarten in the fall.

Overall, I am happy with this plan. After the Parent-Teacher Conference back in the fall, I had wondered if getting Jilly into a Special-Ed Kindergarten class would be the better choice for her. But hearing this plan, I feel like the Gen-Ed class is better. Jilly is far enough along in her progress and development, that I think being around 'typical' kids will do more to push her and encourage her, rather than making her fall behind more. I think she will thrive in the Gen-Ed setting. We have ZERO worries about her cognitively/academically, which is why I feel Gen-Ed is the best. She will get a little extra support and help with her social, language, and gross motor skills, and have lots of time to practice those skills with her peers. She is due for her next full evaluation in March 2013 (a year from now). If she continues to make progress at this rate, she might even be done with extra services and be 100% mainstream/Gen-Ed. We'll see how her progress goes over the next year. But in the meantime...

Jillian is Kindergarten bound!