An Update on Junior…Summer 2014

We’ve been continuing twice a week speech therapy with auditory verbal therapy with Junior this summer, but have taken a break from occupational therapy until the Fall, and may begin physical therapy when we resume as well. The few OT sessions we’ve had have already helped his balance and his sensory issues, and his speech is really improving!

He’s 25 months, but has been implanted for 16 months, so his speech capabilities are expected to be around that of a typically developing 16 month old. At his last assessment, he understands over a hundred words and phrases, and can say 50 words, including a couple of sentences! “Daddy” is still his favorite word, and “Hi Daddy” is his sentence of choice. Occasionally he’ll mix it up and say “Hi doggy” or “Hi Gramma” when he sees a familiar face, but Daddy is his best buddy.

Some new words he’s started saying recently:
-Apple…this one is super obvious. A stranger could hear it and know he’s saying apple!
-Stuck…“uh oh. Stuck.” is the phrase he uses when he can’t reach a toy or when he can’t get my hidden chocolate stash out of it’s hiding place =)
-Owie…every time someone or something gets hurt, he runs up and gives it a kiss while saying “owie”. I love seeing his caring personality emerging.
-Stink…this comes out sounding like “ning”, but he’s beginning to tell us when he needs a diaper change. I’m thinking potty training may be in the near future!
-Drawing…Junior loves to draw (occasionally on my walls), and proudly announces that he’s daww-eeee” (drawing).

The next step in Junior’s progress will be continuing to strengthen his vocabulary. There are two types of vocabulary we’re aiming to increase…receptive and expressive. Receptive vocabulary are the words and phrases he understands, and it comes along quicker than expressive language which are the words and phrases he can actually associate with something and say out loud. We’re hoping his expressive language hits a major growth spurt soon, and that he starts stringing lots of words together to make sentences.

Besides his therapies, Junior has been enjoying a lot of time in the water this summer. We opted for a waterproof cochlear implant so he can hear while he’s swimming, and he’s definitely a water baby. He never wants to leave the pool, and yells “bahhhhh” when we’re driving by the beach.

Stinker adores her little brother, and is very protective of him. They like to snuggle up on the couch and watch Frozen together. It’s so heartwarming, and I’m so grateful to be at the point where I wouldn’t change anything about Junior’s challenges, since he’s so perfect just the way God made him.

Have you read Junior’s story?

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DIY-“Glass” Table Cover

Back when we were fortunate enough to have a Pottery Barn outlet in California, I found all sorts of great treasures. A few of my favorites included a velvet Christmas tree skirt for $13, a set of floor-to-ceiling curtains for $20 (regularly $200, and matched my bedroom perfectly!) and a kid’s school room set–a bulletin board, desk, and bookshelf for around $100 total.

Since Stinker was just a toddler when I purchased the table, it was an art table for a while, and I sought to protect the wood from the disastrous effects of errant paint and over zealous glittering by covering it with a vinyl tablecloth. Messes wiped off easily, and it worked well. Until this year.

Now that Stinker is in school, I was looking for a way for the desk surface to be more accessible to allow for easier writing, (and more of a school desk feeling), but would still protect the table from scratches. 

Initially considering glass, I consulted my grampa (an former engineer and woodworker with his own little workshop), who suggested I look into plexiglass for the project. Not only was it significantly cheaper, but it also was safer for the kids…no shattering if it were to fall.

I measured the table (multiple times to ensure a perfect fit), and purchased a sheet of plexiglass from a home improvement store slightly larger than the table so I could make it fit (it cost less than $40). Then I found someone with a table saw (my awesome grampa!), and he cut the plexiglass sheet to fit the table perfectly. (My gramma and I helped. It was a team effort :))

Since plexiglass is lighter than glass, it doesn’t sit on top of the table as easily, so I purchased a few wood-safe velcro strips that hold the edges of the plexiglass down without the use of adhesive.

I put paper under the plexiglass, and Stinker can use dry erase markers to practice her writing and letters without wasting paper.

Simply erase when done! I love our new table, and Stinker has enjoyed sitting at a “big girl” desk.

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DIY-Jeopardy Board

We’re a few months into my first stab at homeschooling, and I have to admit that I’m really enjoying it. When I was little, I would sit my stuffed animals in a row, and play school. Sometimes I would dictate a spelling test to them, then quickly write the words on each animal’s paper. Of course, I had my favorite animals that would always score 100%, and some less favorite stuffed animals that routinely “misspelled” their words. Having the opportunity to do school with Stinker has been both enjoyable and gratifying. She’s come so far in the last few months, that the effort is definitely paying off.

One of the curricula we’re using this year is Classical Conversations (CC). I like the Classical model, and Stinker loves learning through songs and games.

I’ve recently gotten Stinker hooked on Jeopardy, (I am, myself, a Jeopardy addict, so it’s fun to watch it with her), so I decided to create a Jeopardy board to practice CC. It really couldn’t have been easier to make.

I went to Lakeshore and got a tri-fold poster board, a pack of self-adhesive library pockets, and some self-adhesive name tags. I also had a pack of index cards laying around.

Hopefully you can multiply better than I can. (Apparently six categories times five questions per category requires more than 25 library pockets. I had to make a second trip.)

Lay out the name tags and library pockets as shown. The name tags will show the category, and the library pockets will hold the questions and show the value of each question.

Write the category and value as shown.
Write your questions on the index cards. I abbreviated the category and put the value of the question on top as a way of keeping score and keeping organized. 
To play with one child, have them choose a category and point value, and ask the associated question. If they get it correct, put the card in one pile. If they get it incorrect, put the card in another pile. At the end of the game (I usually ask about 10-15 questions, or at least one question from each category per game), subtract the cumulative point value of the incorrect answers from the cumulative point value of the correct answers to come up with a final point total. There can be actual prizes for winning, or just “Yay! You got 1000 points. Great job!”
To play with more than one child, play as in an actual Jeopardy game, putting questions aside in separate correct and incorrect piles to determine final point score.
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Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier since we returned from vacation. All that local fish and produce was so amazing, and I felt good after every meal. We typically eat pretty healthy anyway, (fresh fruit makes up nearly half my monthly grocery budget), but lately I’ve been trying to minimize pastas and breads in favor of healthy proteins and veggies. But, of course everything in moderation! I have maintained weekly pizza night, and I need to share with you the best pizza cooking tip I’ve ever received. Prepare to have your life changed!

First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, then grab some pizza dough…homemade or storebought. You’ll need one recipe, or about a pound of dough. Next, for one of my favorite kitchen items, a cast iron skillet (mine is 12 inches). Make sure the skillet is well-seasoned, and place your ball of dough in the skillet, stretching it from the middle out to the sides. The dough will go up the sides…that’s what makes it deep dish. Push the dough out and up the sides until it’s of uniform thickness. 

Put the cast iron skillet in the hot oven for about eight minutes, or until the dough has set and is slightly browned. (It’s thick dough, so you want to make sure it cooks all the way!) Pull the skillet out of the oven, and add your pizza sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Put back into the oven until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is browned. 

Let sit for a minute, then remove the pizza to a cutting board using a large spatula, and cut into slices. Enjoy!

**Note: If your pizza doesn’t slide right out of the skillet, it means it’s not seasoned well enough. 

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