Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Mission: A service dog for Caleb...quick update

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we were knee-deep in the process of applying for a service dog for Caleb. Well, we just got a little deeper into the process! We passed the phone interview and have now moved to the second to the last step; the professional reference form. This form has to be filled out by either a doctor, physical therapist or counselor. The form will then be sent back to CCI for review. The final step would be a personal interview with Caleb and I.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up...but I can almost see Caleb's name on that waiting list!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

SNOW!

Texas experienced some actual winter weather recently. The boys were thrilled to wake up to falling snow on Friday morning. Snow...not ice. Real snow. It snowed almost the entire day and we took advantage of the wonderful powdery fun.

Trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue.

Just chillin' in the snow.


We just bundled this kid up and let him crawl all around the snow. He had a blast.


Making some ammunition.

This kid was loving the snow. 



Snow angel.



Benjamin's snowball came back and got him in the face.



See-saw was a little slippery.



The boys had a blast outside in the snow. I'm glad we were able to get snow before the winter is over. I am thankful that we don't get snow often though...it's kinda messy and a hassle. I really don't know how people survive snow several months out of the year. Once a year is good enough for me. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mission: A service dog for Caleb

We have pondered a service dog for Caleb for several years. Canine Companions for Independence has a booth at a local adaptive sports event every year. So we have had the pleasure of meeting these amazing dogs and chatting with the volunteers on more than one occasion. Caleb loves the dogs and we practically have to drag him away.

Here are some pictures from some of the events over the years. You can see how much Caleb loves these dogs.



We put off applying because it required a two week stay in California for training. We just didn't think we would be able to pull that off....but then, I learned they are building a training facility in Texas! So we have applied. The application process is lengthy with several steps involved. The application process alone can take up to 6 months to complete. Our initial application was accepted and I completed the phone interview today. We will know in the next couple of weeks if we will move forward with the next step. If we make it through all the steps then we will be placed on the waiting list. And then we wait. And wait. It can take 6 months to 2 years from the time your name is put on the waiting list before you get a dog. You can read more about the steps in the application process by clicking here.

Because Caleb is underage, we are applying for a Skilled Companion Dog. With a Skilled Companion Dog, an adult (me) is the main facilitator of the dog. It will be my job to administer the commands and keep the dog well trained. Caleb can't be out and about with the dog alone, I have to be present. The dog will be able to assist Caleb with different tasks like opening doors, or picking up something. The dogs know about 40 commands once they are done with their training. The dog also serves as a social bridge between Caleb and other kids. These dogs are also really helpful to those that struggle with anxiety. It really is magnificent.

Once CCI is ready to place you with a dog, you attend a 2 week training session. This allows CCI an opportunity to place you with the right dog and equip you with the skills needed to care for the dog and keep it trained. CCI isn't messing around. This is a top-notch organization and they are incredibly thorough. The receive tons of applications and they have to turn many away. They raise and train the best of the best. I have seen these dogs in person and they are truly amazing. They are highly trained dogs.

 I don't know if we will make it through the application process and if we do it will be a long while before we get our dog....but I believe it will be more than worth the wait. I am trusting the process. I am trusting that God will provide us with a dog if it is the right thing for our family. I'm excited about it. I should know within the next few months if we will be placed on the waiting list.

If you ever just want to feel warm and fuzzy, check out the CCI Facebook page. They post pictures/videos of their dogs often. These dogs are just precious. And impressive. The puppies start their training early in life and train for about 2 years before they are placed. They are truly the cream of the crop.

I'll keep you posted on the process.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"How's Caleb doing?" An anxiety update

I've been pretty honest about Caleb's struggle with anxiety. You can read about his journey here and here. So many of you have asked "How's Caleb doing?" so I thought I would give a quick update.

In a word: Better.

He's doing much better.

Honestly things started improving once we got him off the Zoloft. That stuff took him to a whole new level of anxiety. I caught a glimpse of what depression looks like in a 9 year old when he was on that medicine. He stopped smiling and laughing. He wouldn't go outside. He cried. He refused to eat. He threw up. It was truly a nightmare. It may be one of the hardest seasons I have gone through with him.

We are miles away from that now. He has been going to a counselor since November and that has also helped. She is teaching him how to talk through his anxiety and how to get control of it when it starts to flare up. He often couldn't tell us why he was anxious about something, he just couldn't put it into words but he is learning to. It's a process for sure.

Caleb is a picker. He picks at his skin and rips his fingernails off. The counselor recommended Silly Putty. I was able to find it in the Dollar section at Target. I bought several containers and we have strategically placed them throughout the house, in my purse, and in the car. It's worked! Caleb plays with it constantly and he knows to get it when he is feeling fidgety. We've actually had to cut his fingernails recently because he actually had fingernails to cut!


The counselor is also working with Caleb on what I would call grief. I think Caleb's grieves the fact that he has Spina Bifida....but doesn't realize that is what he is feeling. I think he feels sad sometimes but can't really figure out why. I've been unsuccessful at helping him talk through it. She is helping him put a voice to those feelings. I'm curious to see how that plays out in the weeks to come.

Caleb does really well with the counselor. He talks with her privately for about 30 minutes and then I come into the room to catch up. He talks openly with her and she is able to ask the right questions. She also challenges him.

Caleb still has anxiety but I feel like he is managing it better. I suspect he will always have to battle anxiety to some extent, I think it is just part of his personality. But, I think he can learn to deal with it. He has already made great progress.

So yes, Caleb is doing better. We are seeing more and more of this:


That is a beautiful thing.

(Thank you to all of you that have commented and sent messages to me. So many of you have asked about Caleb and I know you have prayed for him as well. That means a lot to me.)

Valentines Day

Valentine's Day is so fun with kids. The boys get so excited about it for some reason so I try and make it fun for them. I was gone most of the weekend for a local homeschool conference so I wasn't home much on V-day so I tried to make it extra special for them. 

Benjamin needed a bag/box to collect cards in for Sonshine club. This is what he came up with. 


So cute and so easy. A good combination.

Both boys needed cards to hand out at Sonshine club and they wanted to create their own. Thanks to PicMonkey, we were able to create some really cute and original cards. 

Naturally my bird-loving boy Caleb chose a picture of love birds for his card. 

Benjamin loves Skylanders (he doesn't actually play the game...he just likes playing with the figures) so this is what he came up with. We added some hot head candies to go along with the card. 

I put up some decorations.

 And made the boys a card.
For Caleb

For Benjamin

The boys got the matching Skylander figure to go with their cards. They were so excited.



Friday, February 06, 2015

Tapestry of Grace: Unit Two

We just wrapped up Unit Two from Year One of Tapestry of Grace. You can read about Unit one by clicking here. We covered a lot of history in this unit; Ancient Indian civilization, ancient China, the Inuit, Mesoamerica, Mayans, early Greece, and we caught back up with the Israelites (while studying their neighbors: Hittites, Amorites, Moabites, etc). We even spent time reading about Odysseus and his adventures.

One year of Tapestry of Grace is broken down into 4 units, 9 weeks each. Here is a snapshot of the last 9 weeks.

We learned about the history of the Chinese dragon and made our own. 

We made shields and daggers out of cardboard and duct tape. We were learning about ancient warfare and the weapons used. Obviously they didn't have stickers to decorate with back then. 

We learned how the Israelite's built their homes using a stagger blocked pattern with one long block followed by two short blocks. It made for a very strong wall. We imitated this block pattern using Legos. I try to pull Benjamin into as many of the hands on activities as I can. This one was perfect for him.


We read about ancient pottery and made our own using clay.


We spent quite a bit of time on the early Kings of the Old Testament. We read about Saul and David and learned about the culture and civilizations during that time. David was a gifted musician and played the Lyre. We made our own Lyre using a hanger and rubber bands. 

We also made our own sling shots! Benjamin LOVED this.

It's blurry because he is spinning that sling shot like a wild man. 

We spent several weeks reading the story of Odysseus. Caleb was asked to compare himself to Odysseus in different ways. I loved his answer under "obstacles". Odysseus may have faced a Cyclops but Caleb battles anxiety. Love his honestly there. 

We learned about the Phoenician art of glass making. Since we can't exactly make our own glass we made cracked marbles instead. Marbles are made of glass....so close enough. 

Basically you heat the marbles in the oven to get them really hot and then dump them into icy cold water. This makes them crack.

We glued our marbles to rings, our very own glass jewelry.

And we completed another lapbook. These serve as such a great resource for reviewing. We were able to flip through it at the end of the unit and quickly review everything we had learned over the last 9 weeks. 

While I pull Benjamin into many of the Tapestry of Grace activities, he does have his own Kindergarten curriculum. We use My Father's World. Benjamin is doing really well. I was really worried about the responsibility of teaching him to read but he is actually picking it up! We spend time on phonics each day and he is leaning to sound out words and has started reading very simple CVC (consonant vowel consonant) books. It's a slow process and he gets a bit frustrated but I see progress and I think he will be reading some basic material by the end of this school year. So exciting to see him learning. I'm so glad I get to be a part of it.

My little lefty. Just like his Gammy.

Notice the child doesn't have a chair by his desk. That's because he doesn't sit. Ever. He stands or kneels. This kid would die in public school. I'm so glad I can teach him at home in a way that meets his needs. It's a real blessing. 

Sometimes you need your feet to help hold the glue stick. 

We use Math-U-See with both boys. Benjamin is working through the Primer book. He seems to grasp math pretty quickly at this point. I suspect he will be strong in math. I can just tell.

Phonics. Phonics. Phonics.
He's so cute.

We also did an ant farm as we studied insects. This was actually pretty cool. I had some serious doubts because the reviews on Amazon were just terrible. The ant farm was really neat and it was fun to watch the ants build their tunnels.

So that sums up the last 9 weeks or so. I'm still really enjoying Tapestry of Grace and I'm so glad I took the leap in buying this curriculum. It's been a good fit. I've also enjoyed My Father's World Kindergarten for Benjamin. I'm so excited about a local homeschool convention coming up. I'll get a chance to attend some really great sessions including one by the woman who wrote TOG! That's like meeting a celebrity to us homeschooling folks. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Winter" in Texas

Winter in Texas can be quite a roller coaster ride of highs in the 80's and lows in the 20's. You just never know what the weather has in store and it can change in a blink. We have enjoyed some spring like weather recently which has allowed us some outside time.

We dusted off the bikes.





We took the training wheels off of Benjamin's bike. He was less than thrilled. It turned out to be quite difficult for him...and for Daddy's back.

Benjamin had enough of trying to balance on two wheels, he wanted a go on bubba's cycle.

Earlier this week we had a perfect homeschool day. The kind of day when the boys get started on their work early and we have everything done by lunch. With a whole afternoon to do as we pleased, we headed to the park.

Benjamin tackled the playground equipment. He pretended he was a contestant on America Ninja Warrior. Caleb was the announcer and did the play-by-play as Benjamin tackled different obstacles. This was the "shaky metal ladder". Benjamin also competed in the "platforms of peril" and "tube of terror". 

I think Caleb must have reached the age where playgrounds aren't interesting. He was anxious to walk the trails and look for some birds. 

Benjamin found a stick and a hole.

Benjamin always finds a stick on his adventures. Somehow they make it home with us. We have a stack of them in our garage.

On the look-out for birds.


"Hey mom, look at me on this cliff!"

This park is on an old pecan tree orchard so there are pecans all over the place. Benjamin loved cracking the shells and eating the nuts.


 We have definitely enjoyed the weather recently. It's about to get a wee bit cooler though. We won't pack up the shorts just yet (you never really pack up your summer clothes in Texas) because you never know when the weather is going to turn warm again.

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