Monday, January 28, 2013

Luke's Jobs

I've mentioned before that I have a tendency to coddle the boys too much.  This is in part because I'm a softie for a cutie, but I also do things for them because they are so distracted and move so slowly that it is just easier for me to do it.  However, I know that they have to learn how to do things for themselves, and I also know that the only way they will learn is if I MAKE them.  And in reading the conference editions of the Ensign (church magazine) we were advised to give our kids allowance to help them develop responsibility.  So we started a chore system that is linked to Luke's allowance.  He gets 5 cents for each chore completed AND if he gets all of his checks in one day, he gets as EXTRA LONG SNUGGLE HUG at bedtime.  If he doesn't do one of his chores, I take a nickel away.

Luke's chores are very much meant to target the skills he is working on.  They are:

1.  Poo poo like a big boy (This means he has to sit forwards on the toilet and keep his pants and shoes on while he goes potty.  Recently it also means wiping his own bottom.)

2.  Eat a new food without gagging or throwing up.  Recently Luke has become a pro with scrambled eggs and cubed ham.

3.  Pick up your toys.

4.  Put on your pajamas all by yourself.

5.  (Tues. & Sat.) Empty your bathroom trash can.

6.  (Tues. & Sat.) Clean your potty.  (His potty needs it twice a week!)

One night last week I sent Luke to his room to put on his pajamas.  He came back wearing this:

But he did it all by himself!

(Luke is really into making funny faces for the camera!)

And of course Micah wanted his picture taken too.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

5 Dots

In my (sort of) panic to get Luke ready for kindergarten, we started doing seat time everyday.  Well, that's the goal anyway.  It doesn't actually happen everyday.  Anyway, this was an idea that Luke's ABA therapist and I put together to help Luke learn how to sit in a seat and work independently.  To begin he did activities like play with the ipad or paint or string beads on a shoelace-- any activity that he could do on his own and that he enjoyed-- with the simple goal to practice sitting in his seat.  I praised him for staying in his chair and for working independently.  Then I introduced more "academic" activities like tracing letters and doing coloring activities.  Once these types of activities were introduced Luke needed a clear motivator to help him stay focused.  Shortly after moving to Amarillo I made this "dot chart" with card stock, lamination, velcro, and buttons.  It is the BEST THING EVER.

When Luke is doing a good job (like when he completes a task) he earns a dot.  When he has 5 dots he gets to do the reward that we had, in advance, agreed that he could have/do after earning 5 dots.  So he will get to turn the fan on in Mama's room a few times.  Or pretend to drive my car.  Or use the extension cord to plug in his stereo.  Or use his little CD player.  Or pick one of Mama's CDs.  Or whatever it is that makes him tick that day.  Currently the things he picks most often are:

1) Turning the oven vent on and off
2) Pretending to drive a car
3) Using the power sander

Here he is with the sander.
(We are redoing our kitchen table and chairs.)

When we first started doing more academic type activities he would earn 5 dots in the process of completing one activity (like one worksheet) because he needed frequent reinforcement.  He has now come far enough that, often, each dot is a different activity.  For more challenging activities, he can earn 2-3 dots for doing an activity independently in a reasonable time frame.  Here are some examples of the ways Luke earns his dots:

I really like Luke's private OT here.  She pinpointed some struggles that Luke has and is really good about giving me homework to do with him.  Some of the things we are targeting are tracking with his eyes (keeping his head still and following an object by moving only his eyes,) writing lowercase letters (Luke especially has a hard time with diagonal lines), and drawing shapes.  With his shapes we target directionality, like making a circle that starts at the top and moves to the left first (as opposed to the right.)  These are activities that require a lot of verbal reminders and even hand over hand teaching.  These are important skills that he needs, but he can't do them independently yet.  Luke usually has one "cycle" of dot-earning that focuses on difficult tasks in which I am highly involved.

Sometimes we are solely targeting independent work.  So he does activities that he has more or less mastered.  The point is just to stay in his seat and get his work done without me being next to him.  Some of the activities he does for this 5-dot cycle are letter worksheets (the letters he already knows well), coloring, cutting, puzzles, or drawing pictures.  We try to do 1 cycle of independent work each day too.

And recently we added another cycle where we do a reading lesson from the book "Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons."  I got this book because Luke is excited for reading and ready to learn, but I am unsure how to teach phonics correctly.  In every song, etc. kids are taught that A says aaaa, like in apple.  But what about in the word "about" or "almost" or "ape?"  This book helps me teach the phonics rules.  And then we also do sight words some too, even though this book bashes on that technique for teaching.  But whatever.  I have found that usually a "little bit of this and a little bit of that" approach tends to be the best.

Letter practice-- 
Micah always joins in for easel writing.
He is a BIG fan of the dry-erase markers.

It probably sounds a bit overwhelming to do these cycles everyday.  It was at first, but we've made a routine now, and since Luke is used to the routine, it goes pretty fast.  And then there is the fact that Luke is HIGHLY motivated to earn his dots.  So most of the time a cycle starts at his request.  He will say, "Mom, can I earn 5 dots so I can drive your car?" and I'll say sure!  If I'm busy at the moment we focus on working independently.  If I'm free, we target a more difficult skill.  So Luke is happy.  I'm happy.  And he is making sooooo much progress.  And, as an added bonus, since Micah is always watching during the lessons and wanting to participate too, Micah is learning a ton as well.

Now.  Can I earn 5 dots if I clean my bathrooms today?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eat it or Wear it

Micah chooses to wear it.

Every single day!

Last week he rubbed cheese, applesauce, sweet potatoes, glue stick and vaseline into his hair (among other things.)  He's a mess.  But he's a cute mess!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thomas Shoes! Thomas Shoes!

A few weeks ago I found a pair of Thomas and Friends snow boots at a consignment store here in Amarillo.  They are now the ONLY pair of shoes that Micah will wear.  He stretches out his legs and demands that people look at his "Thomas shoes."  He shows them to friends and strangers alike.  He loves them so much that he will bring them to Jared or me at any time of day and demand that he "wear Thomas shoes."  He is often found wearing them with his pajamas.  I'm guessing he may still be wearing these shoes in July.  I can't wait to see how they look with shorts...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Bike

Luke got a new bike from Santa.  This bike wasn't pre-assembled though, and since Jared was sick on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the bike didn't actually get assembled for a few days.  But eventually it was done, and the boys had a ton of fun "helping" to put the bike together.

After it was completed we took the boys to the playground at Luke's school to try it out.  Luke was frustrated at first trying to get the bike to go.  His little tricycle didn't have pedal brakes (I'm not sure it if had brakes at all, come to think of it,) and Luke would build up momentum on his tricycle by pedaling backwards a time or two and then jutting forward.  His new bike brakes by moving the pedals backward, so Luke's old strategy wasn't working, and that made him pretty mad.  But by the time he had made it once around the walking trail that surrounds the playground, he had pretty much figured out how to get it going.  That was mostly thanks to Jared who has much more of a sink-or-swim approach to teaching new skills.  Micah kept me pretty occupied near the slides, so I couldn't interfere and slow the learning the process with my coddling.  I'm so glad that Luke has D to help him.

 Jared took a turn too.

After 30 minutes or so Luke said his legs were getting tired, and he wanted a break to just play on the equipment.  So we did.  First he peeked at the weather machine.  Can you tell how much he loves it?

and then we did some climbing with Micah.

A pretty fun morning!

A very fun bike!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


After 10 months of waiting...

Is anyone else as excited for tomorrow night as I am?

Christmas Day

Luke woke up on Christmas morning a little bit after 5 am.  I tried putting him back in his room, but he didn't stay in bed.  So I finally crawled into the tent with him and we "slept" on the air mattress until about 6:15 when Micah woke up.  Luke was so excited to crawl out of his tent and see his presents.  Our bedroom is on the other side of the living room from the boys' room, so Luke had already seen some of the presents.  He told me, "I see a big bus out there!"  But we made him wait until Micah woke up.  The first thing Luke asked was, "Where is my candy fan?"  He found it in his stocking and was so excited that Santa brought him what he wanted.  Then he looked around for the elephant game.

Luke and his candy fan

Micah was a little bit more confused than Luke.  For one thing, he takes a bit longer to wake up.  For another, he hadn't actually asked for anything for Christmas, so he didn't have any expectations.  All he knew was that suddenly there were new toys in the living room.  He crawled right into the bus.  He would poke his head out and yell, "I see you!"  He also kept demanding that Jared, "Come in there!"

Both of the boys enjoyed ripping paper off of the presents.  And they were very happy with their new toys.

We got our first big snow Christmas morning.  Luke was very excited to go out and play.  He put on his new hat and gloves from Aunt Jennifer and ran outside to play.  His snow boots from last year were much too small, and he didn't have any snow clothes, so we did the best we could.  Luke, surprisingly, acted oblivious to the cold and jumped and laid and ran and rolled in the snow for quite a while.  Micah point blank refused to have anything to do with the snow, so I stayed inside with him.  There were 2 down sides to this: 1) I didn't get to play in the snow and 2) Luke kept opening the door to tell me things, even though he had Jared's full attention outside, so the cold air kept coming in as did lots and lots of drips of snow.  

After Luke and Jared came inside the boys asked to paint.  So we pulled out the paints and their new brushes and set it up.  I was expecting this to be an activity that lasted about 5 minutes.  That's about the record from the past.  But NO.  They painted for 20+ minutes AND have painted at least that long several times since.  We are running out of paint and need to get some more.

Luke picked out a puzzle for Jared for Christmas.  This is actually not the puzzle Luke picked out.  He picked out a giant Little People 24 piece.  And while that was fun, it took about 5 minutes to put together.  Maybe 10 because Luke was highly involved.  This one actually took hours and hours to put together but it was finished by the end of Christmas day.  Any guesses what Jared did most of the morning, afternoon, and evening?

It was a very low-key, very relaxing, and very perfect Christmas day.

Hope you had the same!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Eve

Jared was sick on Christmas Eve, so he spent most of the day in bed.  The boys and I played in the living room.  I tried to make the day "Christmasy," so we listened to a lot of Christmas music and watched a few Christmas movies.  The favorite by far had the least to do with Christmas.  It was Merry Christmas, Thomas and it was really just a winter themed video.  Basically every episode had snow.  But whatever.  I tried.

Thanks to years of gifts from the Herreras we have a lot of Christmas books, so we also read a lot of Christmas stories.  Having read them throughout the month of December, the kids knew their favorites, so we stuck with the favorites on Christmas Eve.  This was the top book of the month:

followed closely by:

Mortimer's Christmas Manger

About 5 we started our special Christmas Eve activities.  We first had dinner.  It is an Orton tradition to have danish pancakes and little smokies on Christmas Eve.  As Jared was sick and wasn't eating and I have yet to figure out how to make a gluten free aebleskiever, I broke the tradition and made the kids' favorite-- meatloaf.  Luke eats incredibly slowly, and I quickly figured out that if we were going to do everything we had planned we had to start while Luke was still eating.  So we read a few books that we had saved for the night while Luke finished dinner.  Jared came out to join us as the boys were finishing dinner.  He was such a good sport because I only had to look at him to tell how terrible he felt, but he wanted to be with his family on Christmas Eve.

After dinner we sang Christmas carols.  Luke, of course, had to play them on his stereo.  The only problem was that most of our christmas CDs have been scratched or lost over the past few years, so we had pretty slim pickings.  After singing a few primary christmas songs, Jared played others from the internet and we sang along.

Then we went back to the table to make thank-you letters for Santa.  We made pictures instead of cookies.  Afterwards the boys wanted to hang them up where Santa would be sure to find them.  Luke suggested that the ceiling fan strings would be the very best place to hang them.

Micah's picture

Luke's letter

Then we had our Christmas treat!

 Read the Christmas story

and sent the  boys to bed.

Jared looked close to collapse by that point, so he crawled back in bed and I got Christmas presents ready while I watched the all time best Christmas movie ever: The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Luke's presents from Santa:
a bike (still in the box!), Elefun, and a candy fan (in the stocking.)

The ONLY things Luke asked for for Christmas were the elephant game and a candy from Walgreens that has a little airplane with spinning propeller and lights on top.  Good thing Santa came through!

Micah's presents from Santa:

Presents from all the people who love us, ready to be opened the next morning:

Overall I'd say we had a good Christmas Eve, given the circumstances.  I think this was the 4th out of 6 christmases that Jared has been sick.  Poor guy!  Luckily he was feeling quite a bit better the next day.  The boys had a good time, and that's the most important thing!