Friday, December 30, 2011

7 months of gluten free

Believe it or not, we have been doing the gluten free, dairy free diet for 7 months! Feels like our new normal now. Initially I updated you all on how the diet has helped Little Bean with some of his behaviors related to autism. I don't think I have done an update in a while, but wanted to do one, and let you know how wonderfully this diet has helped him.

In the beginning when we would see improvement in a particular area it was always such an amazing thing and we really took note of it. As he settled into the diet, and the concerning behaviors diminished, we became used to the "new" him. (I don't want anyone to be offended by that statement. We love our little man no matter how he behaves, but I will say the "new" him is much more happy and well-adjusted than the him we knew prior to our diet).

Around Thanksgiving we took a trip to CA to visit my parents and family. My dear mom took great pains to see to it that the kids stayed on their diet while we were staying at her house. I know how overwhelming the diet can be in the beginning, but she did a great job of helping us cook a gluten free, dairy free Thanksgiving meal for them and purchased special foods for them as well. All week, Little Bean did very, very well. We got several comments from family saying how they have noticed the changes in him. We started this diet after leaving CA, so to hear that felt good; knowing that we weren't just imagining the changes, but others could see them too. Both Little Bean's great grandmother and his aunt commented on how he would give hugs now, without holding back. If you have an autistic child who doesn't hug, to have him learn to open up and enjoy that simple sign of affection is a great feeling.

When we got home that week, Little Bean regressed. We saw more of the self-stimulating behaviors, more aggression and problems with impulse control. It really scared me. I thought, "Are we really back at square one?" I wondered if the diet only works for so long. The days after his diagnosis, when his behavior was so terrifying were some of the darkest days of my life. I really thought that. ya know, in a few years from now we would have this huge, uncontrollable child who needed to be medicated or institutionalized due to his aggressive behaviors. I never want to go back to that. It took about a week, but eventually the behaviors went back to normal, and I can only surmise it to be one of two things: 1) maybe he accidentally ate something while in CA that caused the reaction (the only thing I can think of is coconut milk, since he had not previously had that), or 2) it could be that he has a problem with apples too. When we got back, the only fruit we had were apples, lol, because they stay fresh for so long. We were super busy, so the kids ate alot of apples that week since we couldn't make it to the store. Apples contain something called a salicylate (and that's about all I know about them! I don't even know if I spelled that right!) which children with autism are sometimes sensitive to. Berries and almonds have it too, and we have found that he has problems with both of those--he has not been eating those for a long time either. In any case, we stopped giving him apples and he has gotten back to his normal brands of gluten free foods, and we have since seen the behavior problems go away.

One thing that incident taught me was how the diet isn't therapy. Therapy theoretically will teach the child ways to cope that are more appropriate and pleasant. The diet is different. It diminishes his behavior problems, and enhances his ability to cope by making him feel better physically. But should the diet be interrupted, we realized he had not really learned how to deal with life in better ways, he had not learned coping strategies, he had only masked the problems with diet. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. If diet works (or when therapy doesn't, as in our case), then I think it's a valid option. Is it feasible to do it forever? I don't know. This is all food for thought, I suppose.

Fast forward to Christmas, and of course things got a little hectic again. It was our first Christmas in this part of the country and Raymond's parents and his sister's family came down. They have three boys, all 6 and under, and things were a little crazy (that's putting it mildly). Finally Little Bean freaked out started crying because they were all getting into his toys and wouldn't put them back in the right places. I think my sister in law and brother in law were shocked. They haven't been around him since he was small, and haven't really seen a lot of his autistic behavior. They watched as he slowly relaxed as his toys were put back in place and his room closed off for the night. Another reminder that the diet (at least for Little Bean) isn't a cure. He has autism and always will. But the diet helps.

Just before Christmas, Little Bean lost his first tooth. It had been loose for months, and the adult tooth had already grown behind. We were sitting at the table doing spelling when all of the sudden I noticed that his tooth was gone. How I noticed the moment it happened, I don't know. But I said, "Hey, where's your tooth!? Did it fall out?" And in that moment, Little Bean realized that he must have swallowed it. We were all cheering and trying to show him in the mirror the much anticipated missing tooth, but he flipped out. He started crying and hopped up from his chair and started gagging like he was going to throw up. I ran to get him a bucket because he really seemed like he would throw up any moment. Blood was dripping from his mouth because he was not swallowing and was all drooly. Nothing would calm him down. :( All I can think was the sensation of the blood and the missing tooth and the knowledge that he had swallowed an inedible object was too much for him. Eventually, he calmed down and wrote a letter to the tooth fairly explaining what had happened. She pays extra for swallowed teeth of course! ;)

I'd like to spend some time doing a post on what brands we have found tasty that are gluten/dairy free. I know it'll take a while to write up, which is why it hasn't happened yet, but hopefully will in the future. Anyway, that's where we are at right now with the diet, and no plans to change any time soon.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Bible for auditory learners

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Several weeks ago I was sent a portion of the Bible on CD to review. The CD is made by a company called The World's Greatest Stories, and isn't that what the Bible really is--the greatest story the world has ever known? Most of us want our kids to enjoy it, but often times we find that the stories are hard to understand when we read them to our children or our children read them by themselves.

The World's Greatest Stories puts out a collection of CDs for purchase that are word for word from the Bible. Read by George W. Sarris in a dramatic tone, these CDs DO bring to life those all important stories from God's Word. Not only were my kids enjoying them, I too was listening along and picked up on some details I had not previously remembered reading.

You can choose from KJV or NIV. I chose NIV for us, and was sent a CD on the prophets. My CD included the stories of Jonah, Daniel in the lion's den, Beltshazar and the writing on the wall, Elijah calling down fire, and the fiery furnace. Little Bean, my 6 year old LOVES to listen to audio books of any kind, but these were a special treat because they are read in such a dramatic fashion and include sound effects like the sound of a blazing fire in the story of the fiery furnace. Miss O liked this CD too, but Little Bean really seemed to favor it.

Each CD is $7.95. You can listen to samples on their website too! Other offerings include: The Life of Christ, Beginnings, Joshua and Esther, Joseph and His Brothers and Defeating Giants.

Note: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: Vintage Remedies

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Vintage Remedies a company dedicated to teaching children and teens about natural living and a healthy lifestyle. They have a number of wellness products with this aim, and I was sent a copy of their Vintage Remedies for Kids curriculum, which is geared toward children ages 2 to 6.

Vintage Remedies for Kids is approximately 200 pages, and has 18 health and wellness topics to discuss with your child. Rather than a workbook, Vintage Remedies for Kids is more of a discussion guide with creative ideas to extend the learning for young children. Each chapter has a few pages of discussion that help the parent to lead the child into a conversation about a particular topics. Following that are some ideas to make the learning more hands on. For example, one day the kids and I discussed fruits, and then made a smoothie. We learned that smoothies are healthier than juice because you are eating the whole fruit (pulp). We also learned about what kinds of vitamins and nutrients are in different kinds of fruits. Other topics to explore include: foods that are not real foods, nuts and grains, how I grow, when I get sick, and many others.

While I thought there was quite a bit of quality information in this little book, along with some good ideas for making the learning come alive, I would have found it more appealing if it did come with more visual aids (pictures, of which there are none), and worksheets or mini books to do together. I don't want to have to put together my own crafts to go along with each lesson; I just don't have time for that! Vintage Remedies for Kids is $25.00.

I was also sent a book called The Kitchen Herbal. The Kitchen Herbal is a book that explores 18 different herbs, and their uses for health and wellness as well as for taste! The author, Jessie Hawkins gives a small history of each herb, as well as several recipes and information on how to grow and store the herb at home. Those who enjoy cooking and trying new flavors will likely enjoy this book, as it contains a wealth of information on herbs and their uses. The Kitchen Herbal is is $9.95.

Note: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

2nd grade, fractions and geometry and a game called Fractazmic

As some of you know, we use and love our math curriculum, Right Start Mathematics. Little Bean is in Book C now, which is for second graders. He is doing quite well with it! Recently we began a series of lessons focusing on geometry and fractions. Little Bean has been using a 30/60 triangle and a T-square to construct various shapes and divide the shapes in parts. He is doing some comparing of fractions during this time too. While this has been very challenging for him, it has also been a great way for him to realize that real math problems are the kind that don't have an immediately apparent answer. He has really had to problem solve to figure out how to divide the shapes accurately.

I was excited when I was given the opportunity to review a fraction card game called Fractazmic because the opportunity came at the same time as our study of fractions did. Fractazmic is a card game with three suits (colors) that the players must collect and add up the fractions on the cards to equal 1. The trick is that the fractions don't all have a common denominator, so the student must convert the fractions to a common denominator in order to figure out how to make the cards equal 1.

Initially this seemed too difficult for Little Bean, who has only had a gentle introduction to fractions, and no introduction to conversions. But as we played, we utilized the illustrations on the cards to help us. For instance, one suit has pictures of eggs in a carton. To add up to 1, you must have 12 eggs. This he could understand, so we built on that, and used the game as our introduction to conversions. To start, we also played our hands open faced, so I could help him along. Later, in Right Start, he was briefly introduced to this concept by dividing triangles into fractions and comparing the sizes of the pieces.

Fractazmic is $6.95 cents (plus shipping). As a learning tool and a fun game, I haven't a complaint about it! The makers of Fractazmic, a company called I See Cards, has several other educational cards games, so if you like the looks of this one, be sure to check out their other offerings!

Please note: I received this game in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Big hopes for the bigger house...

I have grandiose dreams of having a lovely schoolroom in our new house that is all organized and pretty and not combined with any other room. We'll see if finances allow for a fancy room like that, but regardless we will have the space!

Even with the space though, I'm finding it very difficult to run the house, take care of the baby, and school both kids. Things have really slowed down in the school department, which I guess is okay since they are "ahead" anyway for their age. But it leaves me feeling disorganized and scattered and questioning whether we even got anything done in a day (and dreaming of what I had pictured their school years to look like). Having a child on the autism spectrum only adds to the stress because he has so many special supports that need to be in place to have a smooth day. Add to that that we have some curriculum burn out (at least for me), and I'll say I'm not in the best place (as far as homeschooling goes) right now. I don't even want to think about what my life is going to be like when this new little one arrives at Easter time!

In the past we have used the workbox system on two separate occasions. We used it, loved it, dropped it, and then came back to it briefly. It does keep you on course, but it is SO much work, at least in my mind. By the end of the day, all I want to do is spend time with my husband and go to bed. I don't want to think about filling the boxes and making centers for them to do. But, I know I need to do something because what we are doing now (aka flying by the seat of our pants), isn't working. It was alright when we had a newborn on our hands, but Mimi is almost 4 months old now, sleeping through the night and (mostly) napping during the day. When I think about the last 4 months, I just keep thinking about all the wasted time....sigh.

We have found we can really only school when Mimi is sleeping. And right now she is sleeping alright during the day. But it means we have to break our schooling up into chunks with playing in between while I care for her. We aren't used that, so that's been an adjustment. The kid's toys are in the school room and during breaks they wreak havoc on the space and make it difficult for me to come back hours later and pick up where we left off! Unfortunately, I don't have another place to put the toys even if I wanted to move things around. I also don't like knowing I only have a certain amount of hours to get all their schoolwork done in a day, since we are only working while Mimi is napping. I end up having to pick and choose what we will get done each day, and never feeling like we got it all done.

I know, poor me! But I'm writing hoping someone will have some been-there-done-that advice for me. :) For the first time in a long time I'm feeling like I can't do this well, even though I'm trying! Help!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our House



I mentioned a while back that we had purchased a new home. It's entirely new, hasn't even been built yet! And if you read my post the other day, you know with a baby on the way, plus Mimi (not her real name), our foster baby, and two older kids, we are eager for the extra space. Above are a couple pics of the layout and exterior of the home.

It's 5 bedrooms (the media room we are putting in a closet to make a 5th bedroom), with two bedrooms downstairs, including the master. We will have a formal dining room downstairs which differs from the picture in that we will be closing ours off to make an extra room (playroom maybe?). Upstairs there are three bedrooms and a "game room". Our game room will be the school room. It sits on 1/3 an acre. We would have loved a little more land, but for the size of house we wanted and the price range we had, 1/3 was about as good as it gets! It's very close to Raymond's work too. We are excited and feel blessed to be making this purchase! We are hoping to close in February.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All About Spelling Level 3, not a review, just an update

We are cruising right along in All About Spelling with both kids. Miss O, in Kindergarten is 10 lessons away from finishing Level 1. Little Bean, in 2nd grade, is 9 lessons away from finishing Level 3. Both of them do really well with this curriculum, and are shaping up to be excellent spellers. I will say Little Bean seems to be a natural speller though; his memory is amazing! Just seeing a word once or twice he is able to memorize it.

In Level 3, the student moves beyond just sentence dictation to creating his or her own sentences. Little Bean made a nice little story using his All About Spelling words (teacher, reading, staples, smarter, papers) when he noticed all the words he was given connected to each other in some way.
Another activity we recently did in Level 3 is practicing the sounds of /ed/. You probably never thought about it, but the sound /ed/ actually makes three sounds (ed, d, and t). Here, Little Bean had to sort the words under the proper sound the /ed/ made.
In the interest of full disclosure, this post contain my affiliate links. But don't worry, I would still recommend it if I wasn't an affiliate, and truth to told, I haven't made any money being an affiliate with them anyway! ;) Course if you want to be the first to help me make some extra money, please feel free to click through my post to make your purchases. :)

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Free Digital Homeschool Magazine

Just a heads up, follow this link to get your free digital copy of The Old Schoolhouse Christmas issue. I really like this magazine, and though I would love to read it in print, digitally is okay too. And hey, can't complain, it's free!

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A poem with some news hidden in it

We've really been focusing more on Language Arts lately, and that has included some poetry writing. I pulled out a poetry packet I received in college when I was studying for my teaching credential and we have done a few of the activities from there.

One such activity is a non-rhyming poem called I wonder. Each line begins with the words, "I wonder" and the child is free to wonder about anything at all! Little Bean seemed to really like this activity, and if you read closely, you will see some hidden news in his poem.

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...did you see it? If not, I'll just tell you; in one line of his poem he wonders how mom gets a baby. ;) Yup, that's right, I'm pregnant! It's late in the game too. I think I'm around 20 or 21 weeks already! I kept it a secret for so long because I knew we were visiting my parents in California and I wanted to surprise them! We go for the gender ultrasound on Friday.

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