Archive for January, 2011

This week in my classes

This was my first week of the Spring 2011 semester.  I have three classes this semester:  Dysphagia, Seminar in Child Language, and Motor Speech Disorders.  I also have the same three instructors I had last semester.  It’s nice to know something about their personalities and style before entering the classes this time.

To start my semester out on the right foot, I actually did all of my reading and reviewed lecture slides before each class.  One of my personal goals this semester is to work better to balance my workload by staying current on my reading and breaking up big assignments into smaller, weekly (or even daily) chunks.  This is not earth-shattering, I know, but it’s difficult for me.  However, I think that this semester, the combination of way too many IEPs for school-work, along with some major projects for school-degree means that if I don’t make a concerted effort to be organized, I will lose my grasp on the thin thread of sanity by which I hang.  I’m going to prove that you can teach an old ADHD dog new tricks.

So, class.  Tuesday evenings brings Seminar in Child Language, from 8-10pm.  I love child language, and I would say it’s close to my primary interest in the field of SLP (especially if I include autism, which is currently my primary interest, since it is a subset of child language).  I am very excited about this class.  I’m also very excited that the textbook we are using is the same textbook I used this summer for the class I had to take in order to even start grad school.  It’s Language Disorders from Infancy to Adolescence by Rhea Paul. OK, I admit that one major part of my excitement is that I’ve already read, and been tested on, half of the book.  But I’m also excited because I love the book.  You know you’re an SLP geek when you think a textbook about language development is riveting and fun to read, right?  I am excited that we’ll be covering all of the text, and going beyond age 5, which is what my class covered this summer.

In class this week, we reviewed the syllabus and talked in-depth about the projects.  Our major project is in lieu of a research paper, and I’m also really excited about the project.  We have to put together a research resource binder on a language topic of our choice.  Right now I’m trying to decide between autism and something to do with literacy.  I’m leaning toward literacy, since both are areas of high interest for me, but I already know a lot more about autism, so I would gain much more professionally from the literacy binder.  WE also have to make a therapy product.  I’m leaning toward a paper bag game to address wh-question deficit, but I’m also thinking about a photo book to address pronoun usage.  And maybe a social story to decrease an unwanted behavior in a child with autism.  All three are immediately practical for me at work.

On Wednesday I had Motor Speech Disorders, which is from 8-9pm.  I’m excited a lot by this class, because I know I’m going to learn a lot.  In our first class, he reviewed the syllabus, and then gave us a quick run-down of various etiologies for motor speech disorders, because we have to choose one for our projects.  Project #1 is a PowerPoint presentation or 4-5 page paper on the medical background information  of a disorder, disease, or condition that produces a motor speech disorder.  Project #2 is the speech therapy approach that would be used to treat topics addressed in project 1.  And it’s a good thing I’m writing this blog, because I went to Blackboard and see that half of the class has already submitted their project.  So now I need to get moving, because only two people can do the same topic.  It appears on the syllabus that we will be presenting our projects this time, too.  We did a project in Neurology last semester for the same professor, but never presented those projects.  I enjoy presenting, and I enjoy learning from others’ projects, so I’m glad for that, too.

We also watched a video of an old filmstrip, where we saw examples of several types of dysarthria.  It was very interesting to hear the differences in the speech, as well as how each disorder affected other systems.  Some of the differences are subtle, and part of the class is learning how to distinguish between all different types of dysarthria (there are seven!)

And finally, on Thursday I had Dysphagia, from 8-9:30pm.  For those unfamiliar with the field, this is otherwise known as Swallowing.  This class I entered with mixed feelings.  I know virtually nothing about dysphagia, except that it exists.  It is not a topic we covered much at all in my undergrad (except for in Anatomy and Physiology, where we learned most of the structures, and a quick overview of the swallowing mechanism).  However, I haven’t ever had a big interest in the topic, like I have in both language disorders and motor speech disorders.  Plus, I already knew from reading the syllabus that we had a major project that was going to take a lot of effort.

We started with a review of the syllabus and the major project, which is performing a Bedside Swallow Exam, either supervised by someone from WKU, or videotaped so that it can be reviewed.  I am not really worried about actually doing it (I know we’ll learn what is necessary), but I am worried about setting it all up!  This goes into the need to be organized, I guess.  I have to find someone to supervise, find someone willing to be client, find a video camera, figure out how to set it up, perform the exam, transfer video to DVD, write up the required information, and submit it all.  Whew.  This is the kind of project I want to put off, but I’m working hard on doing the necessary work well in advance this semester, so hopefully I won’t be completely crazy the last week in April (it’s due April 28th).

We also got started with actual lecture in this class, and I was surprised at how much I loved it.  That’s a good sign!   We looked at pictures and watched video of a normal swallow.  Our assignment is to draw the structures as many times as it takes to get it right.  She says that it’s important to be able to draw it and explain what is happening for patients and families, and we need to do it until it’s easy.  I’ll scan in my best attempt later this week.

Planning for Week 2:

Seminar in Child Language:  read Chapter 1, and revise Discussion Board post (I thought it was due this week, so I did it quickly.  I may want to revise it after I’ve read the whole chapter).  Choose my topic for my resource binder.  I’ve already pulled a lot of articles on literacy, now I need to scan them to see if there’s a particular focus I want to take.

Motor Speech Disorders: Choose my topic and email the professor.  Start researching.  Read Chapter 3.

Dysphagia: Practice drawing structures.  Read Chapter 2.


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It’s report card day!

And that seems like as good of a time as any to talk about my kids and what they’re learning.  Recently I read a blog post where the author mentioned how lots of homeschooling bloggers comment frequently about what their children are learning, and how school is going, but parents with kids in public school tend to do this less.  And I realized that is very true!  So I decided that I, as well, would let my blogging audience (Hi, Mom!  Just kidding, I know 5 other people read this too!) know how my kids are doing in school.
This is your warning, it’s really good.  So, if you don’t want to hear endless bragging on my wonderful kids, it’s OK to close out and wait for another post.   This might be like the worst braggy Christmas letter that you throw away every year without reading.   This one is long, really long.  But, if you are interested (Hi, Mom!) then here it is!

First up, my Humorous Thinker.  He is 9, and in 4th grade.  This was his first grading period in 4th grade, as we did a grade skip after just the first 9 weeks in 3rd grade.  And it was a wonderful move.  Some day I’ll go into more detail on that, since grade skipping is oft-debated.  In our case, it was the right move at the right time.  Will we need to adjust back some day, for social reasons?  It’s not out of the question.  We’re not worried about it right now, however.  He’s doing very well in his new class.    His class is all boys (there is also an all-girls 4th grade class at our school), with an amazing teacher.  He fits in well to the class as a whole, he loves learning, and he loves his teacher.  He made high honor roll again, and got all A’s (with a couple of A+), with a B+ in gym (Ah, just like his mom. Sorry, son!).  His STAR reading level goes up to 9.4 (forgive me for not leaving the warmth of my bed to find out the lower number).  We’ve had 18 weeks of school, and I think he’s read close to 40 books for the Accelerated Reader program.   Of course, none of them so far are above an 8, because our library doesn’t have any books above an 8.  We need to start utilizing the public library for his AR books, because he’s read out most of what interests him in the school library.  He also does math at home on IXL, where yesterday he learned the Pythagorean Theorem.  He does 5th-8th grade skills on IXL, depending on his mood.

More than academics, though, I’m glad to see his character continue to develop, as he is a strong boy who loves God.  This winter he donated at least $50 by purchasing hats, mittens, and books for other kids in South Bend, as part of our church’s outreach at Christmas.  He’s always willing to give to others, be it Monopoly money for someone going broke, or his time, or a hand to help out.  He’s kind to the kids at school, and is learning how to use his fine-tuned sense of humor in a positive way (including knowing when is OK to tell a joke, and how long is appropriate to laugh when it’s funny).   I love being able to see him throughout the day, and I love that when I do see him, he’s always very excited to see me, sit by me, and give me a hug.

Next up, my Perpetual Motion Boy.  PMB is in first grade, and closing in on 7.  He got all 1s and 2s on his report card, with 1s on the highest content areas (math, language arts, reading).  The big news on his report card is that his Guided Reading level is now N!  This is big news, this is a third grade level reading level, and he started the year at a G.  His STAR reading level is a little lower, topping out at 2.5.  He’s working so hard at reading, and when he slows down and doesn’t try to scan two lines ahead while he’s reading, he improves his accuracy even more.  He also loves reading, and he still loves for me to read to him.  Which is good, since I love reading to him!  He’s suddenly taken a huge liking to math, as well.  He is working hard to master all of the 1st grade skills on IXL, because he wants to do them all before he starts second grade skills.  He wants to work daily for 10 minutes in my office before school starts, along with wanting to work every day after school.

My speech office is right across the hall from PMB’s 1st grade classroom, so I see him frequently throughout the day.  He also loves to see me, gives me hugs, and is very affectionate.  I love seeing my guys during the day!  He’s growing in other ways, too–he grew a half an inch in the last 2 weeks (with more to come?  He still eats like it!), and just yesterday told me how some of the kids are calling one of his friends nicknames (nothing mean, just lots of nicknames and not done in good spirit), and how he’s sticking up for him.  He also “broke up” a fight between two of his good friends yesterday, standing between them and telling them to stop.  I should be clear that these two boys are also friends, and it wasn’t a fist fight, but they were arguing and maybe pushing.  I’m glad he’s confident enough to step in.

He is struggling some with focus and attention at school.  It’s always been a problem at home, but we’ve mostly found ways to help him out.  But it is creeping into his school–he missed 4 on his last spelling midweek test, all right in a row, and I could tell he’d lost focus, because one of the words he wrote wasn’t just a misspelling, it wasn’t even one of his spelling words.  He says it takes him a long time to finish some things because he gets distracted by what the other kids are doing, like if a kid is counting out loud while doing math.  And he’s started saying, “I’m stupid!  I can’t do it!”  So we’ve really hit hard on working on changing that self-talk to truth.   Building up his strengths, as well as speaking plainly about where he struggles (attention, focus).  For the spelling test today, I didn’t really quiz him on words.  I knew he knew how to spell them all.  I helped him think about how he could focus during the test:  work hard to write the word right away, then take time to be distracted until the next word is said.  He said he was able to implement that, and he did get them all right.  I am trying to be thoughtful and prayerful about continuing intervention and teaching skills, behavior modification, while keeping a close eye on his mental picture of himself.

And now for Miss Imagination.  She is 3 1/2, and in her first year at a public Montessori.  She loves her school!  I would know more about how she was doing if only I had not completely forgotten about her parent-teacher conference on Monday…  But everything she reports is great, and her teacher told me she has no concerns at this time.  She’s a rhyming machine, which is the most fun development I’ve seen from school this quarter.  She rhymes so well, both nonsense rhymes and real-word rhymes.  She also is attending to so many details in books.  This afternoon I listened to her tell us about a current favorite book from the library, a Charlie and Lola book called, “I slightly want to go home.”  She recited it with so much detail to the phrasing of the book–many pages were nearly perfect.
Miss Imagination loves to play pretend with others, too.  Of course, as her family we’re often called into service.  But she has frequent play dates organized by Carl to keep her active.   She also plays quietly every day in the afternoon in lieu of a nap, and she knows that is completely “play alone” time–she is creative and engaged in a make-believe story that whole time.   I miss her during the day, and can’t wait for the time when she is at my school, too!  Only a year and a half to go!  All of my favorite teachers better still be there when she starts Kindergarten.

Miss Imagination is also doing very well in gymnastics.  She can walk on the beam by herself now!  Her core strength is amazing to me, as it’s something I just do not have.   She dances, twists, jumps, and spins through most of her day, including skipping whenever she can.  I’m pretty sure that neither of the boys can skip, even at 9 and almost-7.  And I know she’s the only one of my children who can effectively sweep the floor.  Thank you, Montessori!
So there you have it, just a few details about my children.


It’s not me, it’s him

A recent comment made me realize I need to clarify something.  My level of super-amazingness is not what allows me to do all of this and blog.   It may be in part the ADHD, leading me to have an iron in way too many fires, but the only reason any of it gets done successfully (or done at all, instead of just half-done) is because I have an amazing husband.

You may read all of the things I do, and think to yourself, “Some days I feel fortunate to get the laundry done.  I could never do the rest of it, too!”  Just so you know… I don’t do the laundry.  Well, sometimes I start a load. And occasionally, I remember to move a load to the dryer after Carl asks me to do so  (but I often forget).

And you may think, “I can’t even keep up with my two kids, not to mention having 3 kids and working!”  To that I remind you, my youngest is now 3 1/2 and in school half days, and I have no responsibility to get her there and back.  That’s all Carl.   He also volunteers at her school. And while I’m at the same school as the boys, if there’s something important, I put it on Carl’s schedule, because there’s no way I’ll remember.  And then, even when it’s on his schedule, and he reminds me, I still might forget.  Take, for instance, today’s parent-teacher conference for Miss Imagination.  Today at 4:40.  I was supposed to leave the house at 4:20.   The boys could handle themselves at home for 40 minutes until Carl got home with Miss Imagination from gymnastics (and I would have asked our neighbor to monitor Perpetual Motion Boy, who was outside with his neighbor buddy).  And I forgot.  Completely, absolutely, not even a glimmer in my mind forgot.  I don’t remember anything on my own.

Or you  may say, “My brain feels too full with just keeping up with family stuff, I couldn’t also take 3 graduate level classes!”  To that, I remind you of my husband.  I don’t keep up with family stuff.  I read to the kids, I play games with them, and I snuggle each night.  It mostly happens the same way every day, so I don’t have to keep track of it.  The doctor’s visits, the dentist, each of their activities–that is all Carl.  I couldn’t do it!  To tell you the truth, when I was a Stay-at-Home Mom, he still had to help me keep track of most of that, even when he worked full time.  I’m not very good at it.  I can admit that weakness!

There’s one other major factor going on here, and that relates to a sermon this fall at our wonderful Living Stones Church.   Sam talked about a “sun stand still” prayer, in a sermon series on the book of Joshua, this one in particular the 10th chapter. (Carl could tell you the date, I’m sure.  The sermon series was called “Unstoppable”, if you want to hear it, it’s probably at the beginning of November.)  If you’re not familiar with the book of Joshua, the Israelites were engaged in a battle, where they were overwhelmed and unlikely to win.  He prayed for the sun to stand still in the sky, a pretty big thing, so that the Israelites, who had God on their side, could win that battle and fulfill God’s plan for their kingdom.

To that end, our “sun stand still” prayer for the church was to provide a hat, book, and pair of mittens or gloves for every student at the two closest elementary schools to the church.  The two schools together have 1000 students.  And, do you know,  our church did that?  We provided a very practical gift (the number of students at my own school with no hat or gloves is high, I can only imagine the same is true at these two schools), for a large number of students.  We prayed a big prayer, that we could meet this need.  And we did.

I didn’t call it a “sun stand still” prayer, when this journey of working + grad school started, but I know that it is.  This really is a pretty big undertaking, doing grad school, having a family with 3 kids, working full time (with a caseload that’s way, way, too high).  The only reason I can get through all of this right now, all at the same time, and still be smiling (most days), is because I know a great God.  Who gave me a great man to be on this journey together with me.  Who directs me on this journey, as we seek to fulfill his plan and serve Him.  There are about a thousand reasons why me getting my master’s degree helps with our ability to serve God.  Maybe I’ll get into that later.  You can trust me, though, that we are fully convinced of our lives happening this way for a reason.

There’s a reason I gave Carl an iPad for his birthday last year.  He’s that amazing.   So, when you’re tempted to think, “I wish I could do all of that!” … stop.  I didn’t start this blog for a comparison game, I promise.  And I can’t do all of this either.  Instead, know that it’s not me, it’s him.  And Him.


Hair Day

Today’s hair styling was not a shining example of how it can be a bonding moment between mother and daughter.  Miss Imagination was whiny.   Very, very whiny.  I admit that it may have pulled a bit more than normal–I normally do her hair when it’s still wet, right after washing, so it’s easier to slide out any tangles.  But today I did her hair dry, after washing it yesterday.
After wearing it free yesterday (I didn’t take any pictures, but it was cute!), I parted it down the middle last night, then put it in 4 big braids.  Then, this morning I styled it as I had planned.  But because it was free yesterday and I didn’t really detangle it last night (she was kind of grumpy then, I just wanted her to get to sleep!), parting it involved separating a lot of curls, which I guess hurt more than normal today.

You see, Miss Imagination normally doesn’t cry at all when I do her hair.  I do not consider her to have a tender head.  Sometimes she gives a quick exclamation, but she hardly ever fusses unless she’s just bored.  Today, she fussed from the get-go.  I tried doing her hair while she played in her room, but my fingers weren’t working smoothly enough to handle that much head motion today.  So we came downstairs and watched some more Martha Speaks.  That helped, and we got through.  The first half of her head I did not do a great job, but I resisted the urge to take them out and do them again, in the interest of not exasperating my daughter any further.  And as it settled, I admit they don’t look too bad.

I’m still new to cornrows.  Last hairstyle was the first time I’ve done more than just the front “bangs”, and that was only two.  They came out fabulously, much better than this week.  But, it’s still good practice, and after getting the video, it wasn’t too miserable for either of us.

Here it is from the front.  From this far, it doesn’t look too bad.  I love how the cornrows into big puffs worked out.  The puffs softened a lot after I shaped them with a little water and my hands.

And here, this is the vulnerable, “I don’t always know what I’m doing” picture:  from the back, with the flash on, exposing the funky cornrows and not-quite-straight parts.

I do really like the style, though, and I’m excited for her to wear it this week.  I will probably end up doing small twists or braids out of the puffs later on this week.


Relaxing weekend mornings mean…

  • Getting to lie in bed until I really feel like getting up (I think I made it until 7am today!  After the first child came into our room at 5:45, that was quite a bit of lying-in-bed time.)
  • Kids watching videos.  Today was the end of The Fox and the Hound; Science Rocks; and Martha Speaks.
  • Drinking lots of coffee, not because I need it to wake up and function, but because I really like coffee.
  • Making the first frittata I’ve made in years.  It was beyond good.
  • Getting to split “hair day” into two mornings.  Today, take out old style, wash, and product-ize (what’s the word for that?) I put in Wet Set Hair Pudding.  I will leave it free today.  Then tonight I’ll put it in quick braids, and tomorrow morning I am thinking about this style:  big cornrows into big puffs.  I like it free, but it’s a lot of maintenance that we don’t really have time for on a daily basis right now.  It breaks a lot more, too.
  • Kids playing computer games.  Right now their favorite is Poptropica, but they also really like tvo Kids.  I love all three of them playing the one game together.
  • Thinking about doing homework, but still having the freedom to wait a little longer.  (But I do have homework to do before Monday).
  • Not thinking about progress reports to do at all.  Except now I’m thinking about them.  Moving on…
  • The luxury to not shower until after 10:30 am.
  • Did I mention lots of coffee?

It’s almost time to move on with the day.  I need to clear the table off in preparation for Grandma and Grandpa coming over to spend the afternoon with the kids (some painting projects are in the works!), and get ready to go to Growth Group training with my wonderful husband, who is leading the training.  And I do have to shower.  And do homework.  I will not do progress reports, though, unless I get bored. 🙂

But I love relaxing mornings.  Sometimes I want to be productive, but working full time has made me really appreciate staying in the pajamas and lounging around.  I did not fully appreciate weekends until I started working!

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Gluten Free, yet again

After years of being gluten free, I found out I actually was allergic to barley, rye, and oats, but not wheat.  I went back to eating wheat, sans the other gluten-containing grains.  This made eating out still tricky, and I never could eat home-baked goods that were not my own baked goods (or my mom!), because nearly all of the all-purpose flour and bread flour has barley flour or barley malt added to it.  Didn’t know that, did you?  Neither did I, until I read the label on the bags of flour.

However, over time I’ve started having more issues with reflux, and bloating, and other general digestive malaise.  Nothing huge, but just not comfortable at all times.  So, when I went to the doctor for an annual checkup, I asked for her to run Celiac Disease testing.  She did, and it was negative.  That was good, and yet I still felt like I needed to give gluten free another try, at least for a month or so.  Evaluate at that point how I feel.

Going gluten free is pretty easy for me, since I’ve done it before(for 4 1/2 years!), and Humorous Thinker has been GF for 6 years now.  So I’ve got the recipes, I still mostly cook and bake gluten free.  It’s the bread, and the snacks, that I really had to cut out.

It’s been less than a week.  And today I wore a pair of jeans that I also wore on Tuesday.  When I wore them on Tuesday, it was hard to button them, because I was so bloated.  When I wore them today, no problems. They were comfortable all day.  I guess that’s the answer I need right now.  I’ll give it a few more weeks, then I’ll do a challenge.  It may just be coincidence.  We’ll see.

In celebration, tonight I did my first experiment with some gluten-free crackers based on this lovely recipe: Seriously, I love these crackers!  So my gluten free version isn’t perfect yet, but it’s decent.  Nicely crispy!  The buckwheat flour I used is a very strong buckwheat, so the flavor is strong.   They’ll be good with hummus tomorrow.


Busy day, so tired

My day today was full of good things.  However, these good things do leave me lacking in motivation to blog.  I’m currently curled up in bed, cozy pajamas, and electric blanket on.  It’s 8:21 and I could fall asleep right now.  In a few minutes we’ll watch Modern Family, and then I will fall asleep.

But about today.  I started typing it all out, but it’s too much.  I don’t have the energy to make it readable.  So, I have two things:  A summary, and my favorite part of the day.
Summary:  wake up (5:30), get ready, go to Growth Group, go to work, therapy for 34 students, attend/take notes for IEP conference at the end of the day, catch the end of a playdate for Miss Imagination, spend time talking with playdate’s mom, start dinner, do a presentation on How and Why you should Read to your Children, come home, read to Perpetual Motion Boy, take care of slept-most-of-the-afternoon Humorous Thinker Son (who might be sick son), get into bed, check Blackboard for most recent information on 3 grad classes starting next week, realize I have an assignment due on Tuesday (first day of class), plus some reading to be ready for lecture, write blog.

Favorite thing:  It seems like it was actually 3 days ago, but my Growth Group (by any other name a Bible Study or Small Group) has been something I have been wanting for a long time.  I started this group for the current round of Growth Groups through I’m so thankful for women who are willing to meet at 6:30 am to learn and encourage each other.  What a blessing!

Modern Family has loaded.  Time to laugh.  And sleep.  Probably in that order, though I never can be sure.