Friday, October 19, 2018

New Blog

I have not posted for about two years now. I have missed it.

The last few years have been full of a lot of ups and downs. Life doesn't always turn out the way that we plan, but sometimes God has a new plan for us. We have to be resilient and meet the challenges of life head on.

I feel like I am in a place to blog again, but I feel a fresh start is needed. My new blog is I Am Brave, I Am Me.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Photography = Happiness

Photography makes me happy. I have not been able to do as much this year as I would like. Here are a few pictures that I have taken that make me happy.

We don't see these too often anymore, but I remember seeing them when traveling to see my great grandma when I was pint-sized.

We watched fireworks this year from atop of a 6+ foot hay bale.

Even though this water lily is not native, it was a lot of fun to photograph.
A goal for myself is to take time to relax through the camera lens. I prefer nature photography, but do enjoy taking pictures of the kiddos.

Do you have any goals that you are working on?

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Boot of Doom Saga

It has been a while, but I'm back! We have upgraded our internet service to another provider, so posting is a lot easier. Hooray!


The Boot of Doom Saga

I have posted a bit about the boot of doom, but to simplify things here is the whole story. 

I damaged the ligaments in my ankle in early December. I had the dubious honor of wearing the "boot of doom" for 4-1/2 weeks (December - April). After 4 months of the boot, the first podiatrist gave up on me. It is pretty depressing to have a doctor actually give up on you. But thankfully the next podiatrist had me out of the boot within 2 weeks. I did have an MRI after 2 months in the boot and managed to avoid surgery.

Once I graduated from the boot, I had 6 weeks of physical therapy. I had an amazing therapist. I learned that: It can be fun to write the ABCs with your toes. Walking on your tip toes can be a challenge, until you build up your strength. And, prolonged use of a walking boot also weakens your calf muscles.

Unfortunately, I sprained it again in mid-July and went back into the boot for another 2 weeks as a precautionary measure, for a grand total of 5 months in the boot of doom. I still have swelling in my ankle, but I have been boot free for almost a month now. Hip hip hooray! 

Unfortunately the first round of uneven walking caused twisting of my spine, so I am now seeing a chiropractor. I have been going for a month so far. The chiropractor is pretty amazing and she has a very sweet office dog. Good new is that I can get out of bed now without squeaking in pain and it is getting easier to bend over to wash my hands in the bathroom sink. I have been very fortunate to find some really good medical professionals this year.

I have learned a few things from this experience: 
1) There is a device called Evenup that you attach to your good foot/shoe, it helps to balance you out so one leg is not taller than the other. The chiropractor told me about it, so I had it for the last 1-1/2 weeks of the boot. I wish that I would have known about it back in December though.
2) Avoid hickory nut husks at all times. We need to keep the driveway between the house and garage either swept or scooped of hickory nuts and sweet gum balls at all times.
3) Always wear an ankle brace when on uneven surfaces, although my last two injuries were on a paved surface. 
4) Produce bags from the grocery store are awesome way to protect the soft part of the walking boot and your foot from snow and rain.
5) Safety pins and felt shapes are a fun way to decorate a walking boot.

This experience has taught me quite a bit:
~ I have more empathy for those with mobility issues. I also pay better attention to how close I park to others in parking lots. I never had a handicap placard and there were a few times, I had to wait for another person to return to their car before I could attempt to get into my vehicle.
~ I have had to learn to rely more on others and to ask for help more often. 
~ My children have become more helpful. Pumpkin is now my laundry buddy; the washer and dryer are in the basement. Princess is my dishwasher buddy, helping me to bend over to get items. 
~ A bar stool is a wonderful item to own and it was very helpful for cooking without standing in the kitchen. 

It is my sincere goal to never wear the boot of doom again. ;-)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Task Initiation & Working Memory

I pondered over the ten spokes of executive functioning from the last post and decided to start with the chapters focusing on task initiation and working memory. Children learn at different speeds and have different strengthens and weaknesses. Princess is my procrastinator, sometimes getting her to move to another task is like herding cats. Pumpkin is stronger in this area. Working memory is the reason that I started looking into executive functioning. Pumpkin struggles with some aspects of his academic work in regards to his short-term memory. It has to be frustrating for him, so I really want to find a way to help him with his memory retention. He is a bright young man; we just need to figure out the key to unlocking the information that goes in his brain but gets trapped trying to get out. Princess is stronger in this area.


As stated in the last post task initiation is the ability to stop what you are doing and switch gears to another activity. When we procrastinate we resist starting a new activity. The more immature we are the more we want to procrastinate. For children playing is more rewarding that taking a bath or doing school work. The author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Executive Functioning Disorder breaks this chapter into three age groups: the young child, the elementary child, and the adolescent child. For the young child, we can start teaching how to move to a new task by using “first, then” and “before, after” statements. First we put on our pants, then we put on our shirt. It is helpful to give a countdown before moving to another activity, like we are going to take a bath in 5 minutes. With my monkeys, I find it useful to say “When the numbers on the clock say 7:45, it is time to take a bath.” Pumpkin has a harder time understanding the length of 5 minutes, but a clock is a concrete tool that he can check to see how much time might be left. Take time to praise them for their successes both large and small.

The author introduces the Premack Principle for the elementary child. It builds on the “first, then” concept using the undesirable task first, followed by a desirable task. First we finish our homework, then we play on the iPad. Children may be resistant at first, but if you make a consistent routine of expectations it becomes easier over time. If you have multiple tasks to complete, offer the child the option of what order to do their work in to allow them some control over the situation. Start teaching the child simple goal setting techniques. If a book has to be read over the weekend for an assignment instead of waiting until Sunday night, read a few chunks at a time. Read a chunk on Friday night, read another chuck or two on Saturday, then finish the book on Sunday. To help with task initiation have a set homework routine. Designate a specific location free of technology and schedule a specific time. We actually did this at the beginning of the school year. I created a homework tub with all the supplies needed and it sits in the middle of the homework table. We have a snack when we walk in the door, then we start working on our homework. We are more lenient on Friday night, and break the homework load up over the weekend.  I’m going to skip commenting about the adolescent child since we are not quite there yet. One highlight in that section is ensuring that your child gets enough sleep. Sleep is critical to managing a lot of the spokes of executive functioning.


Working memory is the ability to hold information in your mind long enough to do something with it, also known as short-term memory. This is a biggie when it comes to academic success. Working memory is needed in following directions, taking class notes, reading comprehension, and multiple step math problems. Working memory can be broken into two groups auditory (verbal- assists in comprehension of complex directions) and visual-spatial (sight- assists in comprehension of what things should look like). Repetition is very helpful in learning to harness working memory. Ask your child repeat back the directions that they were given to ensure that they heard all of the steps. The author recommends the exercise of assigning the child three items to remember on the grocery list and have them assist you at the grocery store finding the items. Another tip is to encourage your child to write down appointments and assignments. The physical act of write information down helps with memory retention.

Seven tips are suggested for strengthening working memory. 1) Priming- Give a heads up before starting a task. “We have three chores to do before we can play outside. One we need to pick up our Legos. Two we need to pick up the pillows. Three we need to vacuum the floor. When we are done we can go outside.” 2) Rehearsal- repeat what you were told. That is kind of what I am doing with the blog postings for this book. I do a better job remembering when I write down what I learned. I usually take written notes, then type up the notes to help reinforce the information. 3) Clustering- chunk information into groups to assist in memory retention. The author suggestions memory games like- Simon, Memory, Concentration, Bop It! We did get Simon for the kids and they both seem to enjoy it. We will have to see if it makes any difference over time. 4) Mnemonics and Associations- create an acronym, poem, or song to remember what you learned. I remember learning ROY G. BIV growing up to remember the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). For the planets we said “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto). 5) Visualizing- using multiple avenues to process information (hearing, seeing, writing, demonstrating, etc…).  The author recommends the website PBS Learning Media.  I checked it out. We may need to add it to our study arsenal. 6) Build Recall, Not Recognition- fine tuning the studying process. Flash cards are a great way to promote recall. I think that I was the index card queen in college. I had index cards everywhere, and I color coded my class notes with different colored markers. Flash cards were the key to remembering all of botanical information in the 30+ botany classes that I took. I also used a dry erase board to practice my information. We use dry erase boards with the kiddos for spelling and working out math problems. The online program Quizlet is great. We use it for Pumpkin’s memory verses, but I see a lot of promise for the future. 7) Elaborations- linking new information to information that is already known. An example:  When you see a dead tree on the ground in a forest how would you explain the purpose of leaving it where it is? The dead tree can be a hotel for bugs to live inside, but it can also be a restaurant for birds to come and feast on the bugs. The bugs, moss, and mushrooms live on and inside the dead tree. Eventually the wood will become spongy and the dead tree will turn into dirt for other another tree to grow. also has some tips for working memory strategies.

This book is fascinating. I believe that there is something for everyone in this book. We are all human and none of us is perfect. I am thankful to learn a few tips that might help my kiddos. I am also thankful for the reminders of the learning styles that I have used forever and taken for granted. I have a feeling that it is going to take me a while to whittle through this book so I bought a used copy online. Hooray! My library book is due in a few days, so I will take a reading hiatus until my “new” book arrives.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Executive What?


As parents, we tend to have the best interest of our children at heart. We want our children to soar and experience the ups and downs of life. All children have strengths and weaknesses, joys and failures. Like all children Pumpkin has challenges to overcome, but sometimes discovering the key to that success can be like finding a needle in a haystack. I’ve read that children with ADHD and children on the spectrum can experience hiccups with executive functioning. I went to Pinterest and to check it out. Maybe learning more about executive functioning would be beneficial to my family as we struggle with academic and social hurtles. I interlibrary loaned the book The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Executive Functioning Disorder by Rebecca Branstetter, PhD. (Please note: No one in our family has been diagnosed with executive functioning disorder, but I find that it is beneficial to expanding my knowledge as a parent. Building my tool arsenal helps me to help my children the best way possible.)

So, what is executive functioning? Executive functioning allows us to process our thoughts, feelings, and needs clearly. When there is an issue with executive functioning we may experience working memory problems, lack organization, lose focus, may resist change, be impulsive, manage time unwisely, lack flexibility, lose emotional self-control, or move from task to task without completion. All in all, executive functioning is important to our everyday lives. Everyone struggles with some aspect of executive functioning; for some it may be a minute hurtle, to others a gasping chasm. The good news is that we can teach ourselves to successful overcome our own individual hurtles. Executive functioning is a work in progress, the older you are the easier it is the harness your abilities. As parents we need to analysis our own executive functioning strengths and weaknesses, so we can better help our children.

Using our imagination is a good way to explain these type of complex ideas to children. Our brain is what controls our thoughts and processes. Imagine a tiny little person inside our brain, like the characters in the movie Inside Out. That tiny little person helps us to control our actions, as the author calls it “boss in your brain.” We can talk about the boss to help children understand new concepts without making them feel like they are inadequate or lacking in anyway. Another way is to link the information to something that the child knows and is familiar with. Example: “Oh no. The train is stuck on the tracks. What can we do to fix this math problem and help the train reach the station?”

The author suggests teaching executive functioning skills through modeling, repetition, and consistency. A) Monkey see, monkey do! Be a good example to your children, they will watch you and model both the right and wrong. Model the behavior you would like to see in them. If your children are losing things, help them find a “home” for each item and place it there every time. Praise them as they are learning the new routine. B) Try, try again! Don’t give up. Keep trying the activity, and eventually we will be successful. If a child is having problems with a task, help to break it into visual steps. Example: “Time to brush our teeth. Remember we talked about using toothpaste and brushing in circles around our whole mouth. Don’t forget to brush near our gums to chase all of the cavity germs away so our teeth stay healthy.” C) The wheels on the bus go round and round! Consistency is the key. Keep to your routine, if it isn’t working sit down with your child and create a routine that will work. Keep the directions short and sweet, but with a predictable sequence. Example: Bed time routine- take a bath, put on pajamas, brush your teeth, read a book with mom or dad, and go to sleep.

The term executive functioning is like a bicycle wheel that is made up of ten main spokes. Spoke 1: Task Initiation- the ability to stop what you are doing and switch gears to another activity. Spoke 2: Response Inhibition- the ability to keep oneself from acting impulsively, basically delayed gratification. Spoke 3: Focus- the ability to keep your attention on the task at hand. Spoke 4: Time Management- the ability to complete tasks within a set amount of time. Spoke 5: Working Memory- the ability to hold information in your mind long enough to do something with it. Spoke 6: Flexibility- the ability to change your plans based upon the ever changing environment around you. Spoke 7: Self Regulation- the ability to reflect on your goals and make necessary changes to achieve them. Spoke 8: Emotional Self Control- the ability to manage your emotions and reflect on your feelings without acting impulsively. Spoke 9: Task Completion- the ability to harness your energy and attention to see a task to its end. Spoke 10: Organization- the ability to keep track of items and maintaining order in your personal space.

Oh my, it looks like we need to work on a large majority of these. I think that my biggest hiccup right now is organization- but since I have two pint-sized tornadoes in the house it is no surprise. I will have to dive into all ten spokes in regards to the kids, but as they mature each spoke will get easier. It might be better to group these into smaller posts as I work my way through the book, so look for more post to come. I am impressed with this book so far and the author has made the book very user friendly. I think that it would be an asset to have in our home library as a reference and guide.