Digital Citizenship

Sometimes it’s scary to think of raising kids in the digital age that we live in. Terrorism, pornography, bullying, and so much more can creep into your home via the computer screen. It wasn’t like that when most of us were kids, but on the bright side our kids have such an advantage over this past generation and I’ll explain why.

The internet wasn’t really around until I was in middle school (I was born in ’82 by the way). I remember visiting a friend’s house who was not the best influence and fortunately that relationship didn’t last. We went down to the basement where that boxy cream colored IBM sat and she logged into the dial up AOL service. As the computer dinged and beeped for what felt like half an hour we talked about teachers and boys and acted like 12 year olds, because we were 12 years old. Finally we were online! She knew more about this world wide web stuff than I did and she quickly moved her mouse around on The Simpson’s mouse pad until she arrived at her determined destination. The chat room.

I just sat there and stared at the blinking cursor on the screen as she started typing away. It was totally random small talk with strangers. Supposedly boys. The small talk then esclated from How is it going? to I think you’re hot. faster than Homer can say Doh! She even said I love you (and other things). It was so bizarre, because there was no way for this guy to know whether or not she was hot and there was no way for my friend to fall in love with someone online within a few minutes. I was an adolescent and even I was mature enough to see how ridiculous it was! But for a lot of kids there were no boundaries when it came to the information they gave or what they looked at online. There wasn’t software to filter out objectionable content nor was there a way for parents to track what their kids were looking at or who they were talking to. There was no Youtube Kids or Kiddle. We only got those two sites within the past year! So as technology gets darker and scarier we’ve also made huge advancements to make it safer. That’s sad for the kids that were the pioneers of the internet, but really great news for this generation of children!

One reason this is on my mind lately is because Z got a phone for his 9th birthday.

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For the record it is his dad’s old iphone and it can’t make calls, text, or us data. He is completely connected to his dad’s account and if he tries to go onto a website or download and app it sends a text to J which allows him to choose whether or not to approve the action. Z doesn’t get to take it out of the house and only gets it with permission. There are a lot of cool educational apps that he uses and I am really happy that he has the device. Even with all the monitoring I know we can’t keep him in a bubble forever so we have had lots of discussions about internet safety and have even gone through the workbook “Good Pictures Bad Pictures“. I’ll do a separate post about that eventually, but if you want to discuss pornography with your child I HIGHLY recommend it.

On top of that he has had lessons in online safety from Cub Scouts in order to earn his cyber chip badge.

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One day I asked Z if he cared if I used his name online and he said “Yes and no.” I felt bad because I really want to respect his privacy and I asked him to elaborate. He said that while he didn’t really mind, he learned in Cub Scouts that you shouldn’t give your name or personal information on the internet. That was a proud momma moment for me.

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On a side note, I realize that I share a whole lot more than some people would be comfortable with. On the other hand there are people I respect (including famous people) whose children’s faces and names are out there for all the world to see online, on TV, and in books. I think it’s a personal decision and I choose not to judge anyone one way or the other.

Last night was parent information night at Z’s school and I learned even more how much the internet is integrated into their daily lives. However, the thing that they stressed over and over is how serious they are about online privacy and safety. They use a curriculum called Digital Citizenship and they went over all of the basics with the students right off the bat when school started and will continue to cover more throughout the year.

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Aside from being Amish technology is a part of life and just like proper hygiene, or safely crossing a street, or driving, internet etiquette and safety has to be taught. Thankfully I made it through the internet dark ages without too much trouble, but I have friends who can’t say the same. It was new and we had/still have a lot to learn. However, I am grateful for the resources that are out there and the leadership that is making internet safety a priority. There was no such thing as digital citizenship when I was Z’s age, but times have changed and as his mom I want to be proactive in equipping him for those changes.

By | September 14th, 2016|Parenting Tips, Schooling, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Home Stretch for This School Year

It’s official. I turned in re-enrollment forms for both of my school age kiddos. SJ will be going into 1st grade and Z is going into 3rd. I’m really excited about this next milestone for these two.

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Not a lot will change for SJ because her school uses a montesorri type format. So she will be in the same classroom with a lot of the same students next year, except now she won’t be the youngest. You would think this would be an easy transition (for me), but I get anxious almost every year.

The schedule is the same for SJ which means she spends about half of her time doing academics and the other half is speech and language. This year I felt great about that because even her hearing peers were only doing half day kindergarten anyway, but in 1st grade I have to worry about her getting a “full day” of curriculum in half the time. I worry so much about her being behind. I practically had to have a voluntary intervention at the parent teacher meeting last week.

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Thankfully we have the most amazing team of teachers, directors, even the audiologist was in there at one point. They all encouraged me by answering my questions and telling me what an incredible job SJ is doing. They also reminded me to remember how far she has come and she really has!  I feel 100% better after going to this meeting and now I am ready for next school year. I make it sound like I am the one going to school. I know I’m not, but I might as well be. We’re in this together!

3rd grade

Z is going to be switching classes for the first time when he starts back up in the fall. He said he is a little apprehensive about that, but I know he’ll be fine. I am beyond excited that he gets to be at this school for the 4th year (new building, but same school by the way). I love his school so much and we weren’t sure if we were going to be moving, but we’re not. We are staying in our rental home another year. After that we’ll try to become home owners again and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The funny thing is, even though I don’t have to worry about Z falling behind I worry about him being challenged. With Z he has shown a lot of signs of being at the top of his class and he’s really great with technology and math. He wants to be an inventor and I want him to be able to do that. How do I harness his abilities without being pushy or overbearing? I know I sound like such a worry-wart, but I prefer the term over-thinker. The other day he had to remind me that college is still 10 years away. I am that mom.

Regardless of my tendency to fret I can assure you that these aren’t thoughts that constantly pervade my mind. With 4 kids I don’t have time to obsess. I am all about kids being kids and learning trough play, yada, yada, yada. I think all moms want their kids to succeed and reach their fullest potential. That’s what it boils down to.

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I am genuinely excited about wrapping up another successful school year. The last day of school for both Z and SJ is exactly 5 weeks away!

Look out summer, here we come.

By | April 21st, 2016|Schooling|1 Comment

Create Your Own Speech Therapy Book

When SJ was first diagnosed with hearing loss I was encouraged to create an experience book. Books are a great resource for speech delays anyway, but a book that has pictures and experiences that your child can directly identify with is even better.

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I try to make a new one every year so that we can expand on what she has learned. Here is a look at how easy it is to create and implement.

First Words

The first book was the most basic both in it’s design and the words that were in it. For this one all you need is

  • 4×6 photo album
  • Pictures of your child or objects that are familiar
  • Index cards to spell out the words you are encouraging the child to say

I chose words like hurt along with a picture of SJ with a boo boo

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or sleep with a pic of her sleeping.

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Trash is a word you may not find in your typical “first words” book, but trash (or some people say garbage) is a word we use everyday. That’s the beauty of customizing your own language book. You get to choose what to put in it.

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When we first made this book we weren’t even ready to start with saying words we were mostly working on the ling sounds like “Shhhhhh” for sleeping or “mmmm” for eating. Eventually she learned all the words and it was time to make a new, more advanced book!

First Sentences

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At this point she was learning the names of everyone in the family

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Along with the places we visited frequently (like the grocery store, museum, or school).

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When we started the book we kept it very simple and I had her repeat the words “Breakfast” “Lunch” “Dinner”. Eventually she started saying sentences and so we could expand to say “I see my teacher”. You can show a picture of a friend or a teacher, but it’s more meaningful to the child when they see their friend or their teacher.

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Early Reading and Abstract concepts

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She got this book for her birthday and she absolutely LOVES it. For this book I wanted to put in some sentences that she could read on her own because she is learning to read now. So for example “I love my family” is not expanding her speech because that is a sentence she has been able to say for a while now, but it’s simple enough to read. SJ loves to point to and sound out all the words.

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Then I included parts that are a little more difficult to read, but they are words and ideas that I hope she will start to have a better understanding of. For example, this page says “Sometimes I am sad, but I still obey mommy and daddy because that is a good choice. If I make a bad choice I say I am sorry. Mommy and daddy love me when I am happy or sad. They will always love me.”

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This can certainly apply to any child, not just special needs. My oldest son has recently requested that I make a book for him and I plan to do that next.

Now let’s look at the progression

If the first book says “School”

The next book says “I go to School at Ohio Valley Voices”

Then the next book says “I go to School at Ohio Valley Voices in Loveland Ohio”

It’s been so rewarding to watch SJ learn to communicate. I am really grateful that the idea for this was introduced to me and I hope it can be helpful to others.

Both of the hardback photo books shown here are from Shutterfly and I cannot recommend them enough. Right now there is a promotion going on for a free 8×8 photo book just like the one I’ve shown on here. The coupon code is ” SPRINGONIT “It expires tomorrow (March 22, 2016) so I know that’s not much time, but I will tell you that the Shutterfly website makes it so easy to throw these books together, so it doesn’t take much effort and they turn out beautifully. If you miss this offer you can catch the next one. Just Like Shutterfly on Facebook or sign up for their email to be in the know on the latest deals.

Your child will love seeing their pictures in print and you will love hearing them say all the new words. It’s a simple, but wonderful tool all the way around.

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A Safer Internet

I knew the day would come when we wanted some kind of filter for the internet and with an 8 year old doing reports and searches online that day is here. I have been asking friends what they use and it’s been on my mind a lot lately.Except we aren’t at a place where we can afford a subscription or service like that right now so I have just been trying to keep a close eye on things.

Recently Z created a biography on Google Docs. It was really neat and creative, but I asked him where he got the images and it was basically a search engine. I took some deep breaths and explained that he wasn’t allowed to do that anymore.

Quick side note there is a book out there called “Good Pictures Bad Pictures” and from what I have read about it it’s a great way to open up discussion for if (or better yet when) your child is exposed to pornographic images. I haven’t ordered the book yet, but I’ll let you know more about that when I do.

There is bad stuff in the world and we can’t bubble wrap our kids, I get that, but it’s just depressing when you are looking up sing-a-longs on youtube and one of them is laced with vulgarity to be funny or you are trying to do a report on swing dancing but images of swingers show up and scar you for life. I am speaking from experience here.

So when I first heard about Kiddle the FREE safe search engine for kids, I immediately went to check it out.

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Then I typed in words like guns, bikini, Oscar dresses, farts, butts, Kim Kardashian, transformers, spice, swingers, beheading- any word I could think of that could trigger something inappropriate and it passed all of my tests! Most of my even slightly controversial words it said “Oops, looks like your query contained some bad word. Please try again” Although when I checked it today I noticed it said “Oops. Try again” I am not too surprised they modified this because I am sure people were not wanting their kids to think everything was a bad word for example menstruation.

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I am really relieved that Kiddle is here and paving the way for the internet to be a great resource for kids without damaging them. I mean it’s one thing when an adolescent goes looking for trouble, but  it breaks my heart when a child is trying to do something totally innocent and gets blindsided. You can’t unsee things.

Granted, some parents are still upset because they were able to find questionable content on Kiddle. My response to this is that it is not a replacement for monitoring your children. Disney Land is generally a family friendly environment, but there is a possibility that the guy in front of you in line will have a tattoo of a naked lady on his bicep. So yes, when it comes to censoring the entire world wide web by hand there is a chance that things are going to slip through or that a search for the word lesbian is offensive to one person, but not the other. At least from what I’ve experienced Kiddle is going to filter let’s just say 99% of the scary stuff.

One other minor thing that I haven’t seen anyone else talk about in their reviews is that Kiddle will not show copyrighted content. At least that’s what I am guessing is the case I’m not sure. This heavily limits the amount content available when you use the images tab. So let’s say Z is looking for a picture of The Rescue Bots or Sonic the Hedgehog (words that we actually “Kiddled”). A bunch of other random stuff comes up that isn’t relevant. There are tons of other options when it comes to looking for images, but I thought I would mention this little hiccup in case you were looking for a picture of Elsa and found this

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Instead of this.

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So needless to say I am really excited about this search engine. I am thrilled that it is accessible to everyone even those of us on the tightest of budgets.

I know I will still want some other filter eventually that will work on all websites and devices, but this buys me some time. My 8 year olds internet usage is very limited and heavily monitored right now anyway so I think this will cover us for a while.

Do you use any kind of filter or program in your home? If so I’d love to hear about it.

By | March 3rd, 2016|Family, Schooling|1 Comment

Mirrored Writing

Have you ever seen the servers write their name upside down at Macaroni Grill? I waited tables there for years and really had the backwards cursive signature down pat. It took practice though. It wasn’t like I just automatically write in reverse although sometimes it looks like my daughter SJ does.

 

left handed mirrored writing

She hasn’t been writing for long, but in the past couple years I have noticed a trend where she not only writes from right to left, but the letters are often backwards as well.

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Above is a drawing of her dad teaching her to ride her bike. The names are Daddy, Ezra, Sedona, and Mommy. Not all spelled correctly, but clearly written starting on the right. Writing her family’s names is one of her favorite things to do and it always looks something like this.

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Of course I freaked out a little bit when I saw this repeatedly because she has been a detail oriented perfectionists since she was two. I could tell story after story of how visual and focused she is. I think some of it comes from her delayed access to sound. So I knew it must be something that was a mix up going on inside her mind and not just her being silly or sloppy.

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It sounds like I am the perfectionist, but I am not! Not at all. Thanks to her speech delay I have never expected her to be able to write at age four. I was just worried because I hated the idea of her as a special needs child to have another hurdle to face.

I do realize dyslexia is more than just backwards letters, but at the same time I didn’t like how consistent she was with this mirrored writing. All kids mix up letters and left and right from time to time, but this was so thorough!

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The above is her copy of the “EAT MOR CHIKIN” sign from Chic-fil-A. So in this case she was looking directly at the message she was copying. The words below were completely from memory and those are some of her sight words. I, am, the, little.

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Here is the beginning of the alphabet (she did this in the car recently)

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And here is the same image MIRRORED. There are a few backwards letters like J, N, and P, but she’s still learning. I think if she knew the “right” way to write them then she probably would have written all of them backwards!

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I could give other examples about reading or journaling from back to front, but I have been asking about this for years and the experts didn’t seem concerned. She goes to a special private school where they give frequent assessments and go through everything with a fine tooth comb. They told me not to worry. When she is at school with the lined paper and direct instruction she seems to be doing everything the correct way from left to right. Most importantly she really enjoys reading and writing. And she absolutely loves homework!

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Still, at the last parent teacher conference I brought it up AGAIN and they looked through some samples I brought and explained why the order and precision of her work does not show signs of dyslexia at all. Not that I think dyslexia is the worst thing in the world. Like I said though, she has enough extra obstacles due to her hearing loss without adding any other disabilities.

The more people I talk to and the more I research online it looks like her mirrored writing can probably be attributed to her being left handed. Just one of the many resources I have found to support this is from the Better Health Channel and it says

  • Left-handed children learning to write often write back to front (‘mirror’ writing). This is a natural inclination, not a sign of dyslexia, and will resolve given time, practice and encouragement.

She just has to be the minority in every aspect doesn’t she? That little stinker! I am just joking. I am serious though about being grateful that this whole mystery is pretty much solved.

Have you seen or known any mirror writers? This was a first for me.

By | October 16th, 2015|Schooling, Special Needs|8 Comments

School is Cool

I realize I already talked about school yesterday and don’t want to bore you all, but I do have more to share and I’ll tell you why.

1. I am extremely passionate about education. If we can get our kids to love to learn then the sky is the limits on what they will achieve through self motivation.

2. Public schools get so much bad press and some of it’s deserved, but what about all the of the good, life changing things that happening!? I want to be someone who shines some light on the positive and gives credit where credit is due to all the phenominal teachers out there busting their butts.

3. Lastly, I also love homeschooling families and have a great amount of respect for the mothers that are investing everything into teaching their own children. For all my friends and reader who homeschool it is my hope that some of these ideas could possibly be inspirational.

So here are some fun highlights from this first semester of the 2015/2016 school year.

Kindergarten

Ohhhh, it’s so hard for me to narrow it down. They do so many cool hands on learning activities for each subject and theme it is incredible. The time spent learning about maps is probably my favorite so far. First of all I told you that SJ learned her city, state, and country. She also learned the pledge and I put that video up on youtube this morning so here it is (not perfect, but still a big deal!).

Then with permission from parents they looked up each student’s address in google maps and displayed the homes on the smart board. SJ LOVED this. I was a little reluctant because we live in such a dumpy old house (for my small space peeps the garage isn’t even ours), but at this age the innocence and appreciation children have astounds me and she was so proud of what she calls her “rectangle house”

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Another activity they did with maps was to bring in a stuffed animal from home and leave it at the school overnight. The next day the students went into the class room to find all their furry buddies were gone and there were foot prints leaving the classroom! They posted some of these hilarious photos on the Facebook page. SJ’s toy is the unicorn.

 

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That morning each child was given a clue and a map to try to navigate through the school and find their beloved toy.

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In the end each student was reunited with their animal and they had such a fun time while learning how to use maps!

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 2nd Grade

As with SJ’s school I could just go on and on all day about what Z comes home learning and how they make interesting for the kids.

For the lesson on fossils they used different materials to imprint shells and compare how the materials held the shape, which one worked better and why.

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They also had a lesson in digging with tooth picks for fossils using chocolate chip cookies. The goal was to find as many chocolate chips as possible while keeping them in their original condition. Sounds delicious!

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Also, the second graders have been reading and writing about farms and they had a very special guest who owns a farm, but also happens to be the PRINCIPAL!

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I love their school principal so much he is really involved and I love how he cares so much about connecting with the parents and children.

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Quick story to share what I mean. One day I was picking Z up from school and he said he had something he wanted to show the principal so he bolted through the administrative office down the hall to the principals office. I was mortified! It happened so fast I couldn’t stop him. I mean he might as well have broken into the white house. You just don’t do that! The secretaries came over to see what was needed and just then the principal walked up and Z showed him the little game he made. The principal was completely interested and focused on every word this little 1st grader had to say and was showing some of the other staff members what impressive work they were doing in his class. As I watched and eaves dropped from a  distance I held back the tears.

It was the perfect picture of our heavenly Father and the relationship he has with us. He has authority and power and yet he give us ACCESS so that even if it’s something so simple or seemingly insignificant we have his undivided attention. Oh. How grateful I am for the direct line I have of communion with God. Ephesians 3:12 In him and by faith in him we can approach God with freedom and confidence. Thank you Lord.

I know that’s a total side note, and I understand their have to be some rules and boundaries at school, blah blah blah, but that was such a wonderful reminder for me of Christ’s love for us and now I have it written down.

Okay, so now that this post is really lengthy and all over the place I will just end with saying yes I do love my children’s schools. I am so happy that the Lord has placed us here and divinely orchestrated everything for them to be in such good care. I look forward to the months ahead.

By | October 15th, 2015|Schooling|8 Comments

Kindergarten Success!

I’ll admit to being apprehensive about the day SJ would go to Kindergarten. She has always been so far behind in speech (due to her late identified hearing loss) that I just didn’t know if she would even be ready in time. At the end of her IEP meetings they always ask if I have any goals that I would personally like to add to her plan and I would always say that I want to reach academic goals like knowing the alphabet or being able to count past 10. It’s been a big mountain in my mind. Last evaluation report I received she was at the level of a 3 year old with her speech. My concern was how on earth she would be able to not only catch up with her vocabulary and articulation, but to learn reading, writing, and mathmatics at the same time!

Well, it’s been a little less than 2 months since her first day of Kindergarten and I have been completely blown away with her progress.

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I know I sound dramatic, but I really cannot express enough how amazed I have been with what she has learned in such a small amount of time. It is is unbelievable!!!

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We are talking about a girl that has made great strides in speech, but she rarely talks in complete sentences, doesn’t know the ABC’s (the song, or the order, but she does actually recognize them) and a lot of the words she does know are extremely difficult for her to enunciate. I am not undermining how far she has come, but I didn’t see her being ready for Kindergarten work at all, until she came home and completely proved me wrong!

In the past 8 weeks she has learned when her birthday is, she is really close to knowing all of the months of the year and days of the week.  She learned her city and state and how to spell it! She has come home talking about President Obama, The White House, and saying the pledge of Allegiance! In this video she leaves out “for which it stands”. It’s hit or miss, but she’s almost got it! *Never mind about the video for now. It’s too large to post, but I’ll work on that.

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She knows several sight words and last night when she did her homework she was reading simple familiar sentences on her own and she had to write the missing word with multiple choice sight words. She did the whole lesson on her own (other than one written backwards, which is another topic entirely. I’ll have to tell you all about it sometime)

After she finished her assignment she said “I tell teacher I do homework by myself. Mommy, not help me.” I looked her and said “Yeah. That’s right” and  she said “You proud me.” It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t Are you proud of me? She said it as a fact, because it’s true. I am proud of her. I am so so proud of her. I just about cried in that moment. She has to work twice as hard just to get to the starting point, but she’s doing it.

I was going to do a post about this anyway, but it’s perfect timing because Ohio Valley Voices (SJ’s school) has just a couple days left in a competition to win $10,000 as one of Cincinnati’s favorite nonprofits. They are only a few hundred votes behind first place. It’s easy to vote and it would mean so much to me, SJ, and all the people impacted by this incredible school.

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Go to moment.com> Choose Cincinnati> Fill in your name, email, business name, and phone number> Choose Ohio Valley Voices (I think it’s the 6th one down on the list)>click VOTE. It takes seconds to complete. The short form will ask for a business name. I don’t even know what you are supposed to put there, but I just put OVV, so feel free to do the same.

Thank you so much for supporting such a wonderful cause. I can’t guarantee that we’ll win, but it sure would help the school if we did!

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This has been the best school year so far. I don’t know why I ever doubted.

By | October 14th, 2015|Schooling, Special Needs|0 Comments

Books and Toys for 8 Year Old Boys

As you may have noticed I have been in birthday mode and that is what sparked the idea for a list of gift ideas, but even if there are no children’s birthdays coming up for you in the next few months Christmas is right around the corner (only 104 days to go).

Keep in mind that although these are things my 8 year old boy loves, the age and gender is definitely not limited to that. I hope that these gift ideas are an inspiration for shopping for kids in general!

Snap Circuit Kit

This kit is AWESOME. Z got his for Christmas a couple years ago. Children can build real electronic gadgets by following the instructions and snapping the pieces into place. You can make a fan that flies up into the air, an alarm, a voice recorder and dozens of other fun games and electronic projects. There are several different kits varying in skill level and price range. This is the one that Z has. He still needs an adult’s help when he plays with it, but it has been a wonderful activity for him and his dad to bond over.

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Razor scooter

Z got his Razor last year for his 7th birthday. Since then we have searched Craig’s list, yard sales, and thrift stores to get one for each family member (except Ezie, he has a three wheeled scooter because he is still too little). The recommended  age is 5 and up. The handle height adjusts and the scooter can fold up and fit in a small places. You can easily throw them in a car trunk or closet. Anyway the Razor is a lot of fun. Even J and I enjoy riding them and we’re in our 30’s!

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Encyclopedia Brown

Z just happened to find one of these books at a thrift store recently and since then I have been telling everyone about them. I was late to the party on this successful series (the first book was published in 1963 and the last one was 2012). The books are so cool because each chapter is a mystery that Encyclopedia Brown solves, but they don’t tell you what the conclusion is! You have to see if you can figure it out for yourself and then you can look up the answers in the back. The stories are tons of fun and anything that encourages boys to read I am all for! It would be a great read for families to do together for ages 8 and up.

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The Day the Crayons Quit

This one is really intended for children under 8, but similar to many other children’s books it can be appreciated at any age. All three of my kids were laughing out loud and loving this story from beginning to end. They request it almost every night. Not to brag, but I am known to do a variety of dramatic voices when I read out loud and this book presents many “colorful” characters to really get crazy with. I will admit though, one of the reasons my kids love the book is because the crayons are so sassy, so you might want to review the story ahead of time to make sure you feel it’s appropriate for your situation.

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Legos

I don’t think I need to go into a detail about why legos are so great. Most boys at this age love legos and Z is one of them. That’s that.

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Nerf Gun

Just like with Legos the Nerf brand is a childhood classic. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but Nerf is another one of those toys that J and I seem to enjoy as much as the kids and we may or may not have had Nerf wars with each other. Check out this post about how to do your own target dart game.

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Science Kit

My 8 year old boy loves video games and screen time of all kind. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that to a degree, but I try to encourage other forms of play and more intellectually stimulating activities. He loves doing hands on science experiments and for his birthday this year he got his second science kit. Both of them have been a HUGE hit.

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The World According to Humphrey Hamster

This is a book that his class started reading this year. It’s actually a series and Z has fallen in love with it. It’s written from the view point of the classroom hamster. Again, anything that gets boys reading I am going to shout from the roof tops so that’s why I am sharing this book. It might be a little advanced for an 8 year old, but that’s probably a good starting point, especially to read aloud to them.

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All of the items on the list have been owned and tested by my child/children and approved by me! Not to mention I compared them with other lists online and it only confirmed that these are very popular interests so it’s not just my wacky family that likes this stuff (which could totally happen). I did link to Amazon for more info and I am an Amazon affiliate, but these products should not be difficult to find at any local toy/book store.

By | September 11th, 2015|Parenting Tips, Schooling|3 Comments

Ideas for Helping Kids With Daily Routines

“Routines involve repetition.  Repetition involves predictability. Predictability involves stability. Stability involves security.  Kids crave routines because routines make kids feel safe and secure.” – Maci Elkins

When I was a new mom I read “Baby Wise” which is a book about getting your little bundle on a schedule from the beginning. I quickly learned that that approach would NOT work for me. I am the messy mom. Laid back is my middle name. Just call me The Messy Laid Back Mom. Actually, don’t call me that.

The fact is we have had to be flexible because the past 3 years of our life has demanded it. On the other hand, as my babies get older and more independent I realize they require more routine to help them navigate through this unpredictable world. So this week I have been focusing on the topic of routine and structure, but sometimes (or in my case most of the time) that concept is easier said than done.

The other day my friend Tiffany posted this question-

What do you moms do with your kids after school? In my house, there’s just a lot of fussing, boredom, and people complaining about doing homework. Would appreciate your ideas. THANKS.

I already shared our morning and afternoon routine, but that isn’t even half the battle. You can schedule your day down to the minute but how do you get a rowdy bunch of little ones to go along with your plans? In Tiffany’s case this means 4 kids, including 2 year old twins and 4 and 6 year old boys. There is certainly no easy answer to that question, but I can tell you what has worked for me and share some other ideas that I found online.

For my family, it’s all about the timer/alarm. I have about a dozen alarms on my phone that go off throughout the day. These alarms are set for everything from just waking up to reminding me to go get the kids from school. All of those things that I listed yesterday are all alarms on my phone.

 

 

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Granted, if my volume is down or my phone is in the other room I may not hear it, but I usually have my phone with me and these are activities I am anticipating anyway so the phone is more of a backup.

My oldest son made the system a little more fun last year by adding emojis and special ring tones. This was totally his own doing by the way. He also added more alarms that said “Too late” or “Really really late!!!!” with little screaming emojis… which I deleted. He knows us too well.

I love the alarm sound options. I use the ducks for bath time and the robot for when it’s time to leave (my mom mentioned that it sounds like it is saying “beep-ba-beep Time To Go” and now we sing along when it goes off. Also, the crickets are a great signal that it is time for bed. As a bonus the kids love it when they have a day off school and my alarms are still going off because they are set for every weekday. They love to laugh and joke about it, “Uh-oh. Time to go to school- NOOOO!” It’s a fun reminder of the responsibilities that they are off the hook for on that special day.

So the kids get some visual and auditory queues that times up and we are moving on to the next activity. It’s even a sensory tool in some ways because the phone vibrates and at times I have had to bring it up to my daughter with hearing loss to let her feel and see that the alarm was going off. Last year I wrote a post called The Magic Kitchen Timer . I talked about how the timer is a great alternative to just nagging and screaming because a machine is not an emotional being. It can’t be offended or manipulated.  The routine becomes more about the clock and less about you just being mean. Your kids will still whine and protest, at least mine do. And you will still have to nag at times. For me though, I feel so much more prepared and armed when I have my timer to blame. Hey, the timer said times up, not me!

*I repeat, this has not eliminated all struggles in our home. Some days are better than others. Long term results have definitely been positive though or I would not have kept it up for the past three years .*

Here are a few links to some other schedule incentives that I thought looked promising. 

Pill box reward tool by The Inclusive Church. 

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Having treats for every little thing might be overkill on a daily basis, but this system was designed for special needs kids in a church program and for those situations it seemed pretty cool.

 

For older kids you could just hang up a list. This printable schedule by Smashed Peas and Carrots reminded me a lot of our routine.

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I thought this clock looked like a great idea to give kids a visual.


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The fussing, boredom, and complaining that Tiffany mentioned is not in any way unusual and unfortunately somewhat inevitable, but hopefully these ideas can help.

Maybe you have a creative solution of your own. Please feel free to share it in the comments. It might be just the thing another mom needs to hear!

 

By | August 27th, 2015|Parenting Tips, Schooling, Special Needs|5 Comments

Carter’s Size 8 and More!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Carter’s. The opinions stated in this review are genuine. 

When I mentioned that I was doing our back-to-school clothes shopping at Carter’s you all responded with “I love Carter’s” “Carter’s is the best!” or “Us too!”

So maybe I’m not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know, which is that Carter’s clothes are adorable, affordable, convenient, and comfy. But did you know that they now offer a size 8?!

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This is really exciting for my family because Z turns 8 in like a week and he’s starting to wear size 8. So when I went to the Carter’s store a couple of weeks ago it was so convenient. I was able to shop for all 4 of my kids at Carter’s and left with a bag full of bargains.

That’s right, I said all FOUR of my kids because this pregnant mama stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the baby clothes at the front of the store. I couldn’t resist doing a little shopping for the little one coming in 3 months!

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Then I moved onto the size 5 girl clothes because SJ needed some new leggings and a first day of school outfit. There were so many options and I get nervous with this cutie pie because she is by far my pickiest dresser. She came with me though to choose what she liked. Carter’s makes shopping with little ones so easy thanks to their helpful employees, a nice clean layout, and even a little play table to keep the tiny shoppers entertained.

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We both fell in love with the “Shine Like a Star” ensemble.

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I loved how easy they make it to mix and match. I got the whole outfit for 50% off and even stocked up on some cute accessories. SJ rocked this look on her first day of Kindergarten.

Z was due for new shoes, new jeans, some back-to-school tops…the works!

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I found everything I was looking for at Carter’s thanks to the new size 8 and size 3Y shoe options. The adjustable jeans are the best thing ever because growth spurts do happen! He looked stylin’ in his back-to-school clothes and he entered the 2nd grade with confidence.

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Lastly, I also had to pick up a matching outfit for Ezie.Ezie

He really looks up to his big brother and they are still at an age where they love to match so how could I resist.

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I scored all of these items and more at such a great price and I even got $20 worth of coupons at the end (which I already spent by the way).

Now is a great time to stock up on awesome fall fashion sets for your kiddos because the deals are so amazing! First of all you can use this printable coupon or promo code to shop at your local Carter’s store or online and get 25% off your purchase of $40 or more.

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On top of that right now and through the end of August they are running the #CountMeIn Sale with many items up to 50% off and doorbuster savings like $6 leggings, long sleeve tees, or boys terry pants when you buy 2 or more. Then get ready because Labor Day weekend the entire store is 50% off! That’s my kind of a sale.

I already loved Carter’s , but some of these latest improvements have just made me love them that much more.

onthegoAre your kids closets ready for fall? Head on over to Carters.com or the Carter’s store to stock up on the styles you and your on-the-go-gang are sure to love!

By | August 24th, 2015|Babies & Toddlers, Frugal Living, Schooling|7 Comments