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Thursday, March 24, 2011


is a milestone.  

Flanna read her first whole book today.  It was called "Sam and Dog," and is a little Random House ("Step into Reading" Phonics First Steps) book from a set my mom found that starts with simple consonant-vowel-consonant words with short vowels that are pretty easily decodable.  Flanna was so proud of herself, and had a right to be!  Up until now, she had just read little words here and there in her princess books when we were reading with her.  So this was a pretty big deal. 

As I trimmed the video, all I could think was that she seems so grown up already.  Where does the time go?

When did you learn to read, or does anyone in your family remember?  I think my parents said I started to read at 3 because my sister taught me.  Big sisters are nice like that.   

Look Good, Feel Good

I got brave and trimmed my daughter's bangs tonight.  And I have to say, I think I did a pretty fantastic job.  Check out the cute little hairstyle she has going on here!

After I trimmed her bangs, I blow-dried her hair.  Afterward, she looked at herself in the mirror with a proud little grin and asked, "Mommy, can you fix my hair like this before school tomorrow, too?"  She's really been into wearing fancy dresses and "church shoes" to school lately, as well.  I think she just feels good when she knows she looks good.  Don't we all?

Her sweet way of admiring herself today inspired me to maybe try a bit harder tomorrow to make myself look good.  I do feel better about myself, more confident and put together, when I like the way I look. 

What about you?  Do you think your appearance has an affect on your mood?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be The Memory Keeper

My family probably gets tired of me taking pictures everywhere we go.  But sometimes, the light is so perfect, the moment is so sweet, the colors so vivid, that I just have to snap a photo.  These photos were taken with my iPhone, so they're not the most amazing quality, but still, I just love them.   We were having lunch after church with Flanna's cute friend Lucy.  It was just an ordinary day, but I think sometimes those are the best to document, the photos that will bring back the strongest memories just out of their everyday ordinary-ness.

I'm the memory keeper of the family.  I'm writing down the stories, noting the little quotes, snapping the photos of shared laughs, and hoping one day these little mementos will bring a smile to us, remind us of the lovely start of our little family, and will help Flannery see that she's been treasured at every step of the way.

Lucy and I are the squinty eyed girls here!

Flanna laughing with her Daddy-O

What photo of your childhood do you love best?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Speechy Sunday: BrainPOP Review

My school recently got our teachers a subscription to BrainPOP.  Basically, BrainPOP is an animated learning website that you can subscribe to (family packages range from $80-$99 or so) to access educational resources that are pretty darn fun.  There are resources featuring science, social studies, math, english, health, arts/music, and technology topics.  Each topic is introduced with a little movie featuring Tim & Moby (a boy and a robot), and these videos are definitely the best part of the BrainPOP package.  There are also other resources related to each topic, including things like quizzes, experiments to try with students, and even comics.   I've yet to click on a topic that didn't spark my interest, and the quality of the little movies is pretty good.   Plus, the movies are relatively short and seem to hold students' attention well.

As an SLP, I've been using BrainPOP with a few of my speech groups, and I've found it most useful for students working on identifying the main idea, summarizing, answering wh- questions, sequencing, and vocabulary.  I've also used it in articulation and fluency groups, at the generalization phase of treatment, by letting my students take turns reading and answering the "quiz" questions after the movie.  That way, they're not just having a conversation unrelated to the classroom curriculum--they're having a learning conversation and can take their new knowledge back to the classroom feeling like an expert on a topic.

I really think students learn a lot from engaging and fun educational materials, which is what makes new educational technology so exciting.  When my students are laughing and interested, they'll pick up high level vocabulary without even realizing it, and some of my kiddos on the autism spectrum really love all the facts they can collect about certain topics of high interest featured on this site.  If you're an educator or parent interested in introducing academic material to your students or kids in a fun and motivating way, I think you'll be pleased by BrainPOP.  

By the way, BrainPOP has made its tsunami resources free for the next few weeks.  Check them out.  (I especially like the "FYI" resources and the little tsunami experiment.)  There are also some other free resources you can try out here.

What new educational technology do you just love?

(By the way, I don't make any money for endorsing this product.  I'm not that techno-savvy yet.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Girl Friends are Good for You

Flannery's friend Lucy slept over tonight.  They have been so cute dressing up, dancing around, and generally talking nonstop.  Here's a rare serious moment from Flanna.  

The girls even ate dinner in fairy wings and high heels.  Too cute.  

In all seriousness, though, I'm so glad that Flanna has such sweet friends.  Girlfriends are good for everyone.  We chat, we listen, we talk about insignificant stuff, we talk about deep stuff, we support, we push one another to be better people.  We just generally rock.  Don't believe me?  Check out the the research on girl friends over at MWF Seeking BFF.  (I just love that blog).  

Now go call your sister or your BFF and talk nonstop for a little while.  It'll do you good!  

Live Your Priorities

Guess what?  My daughter had a friend stay the night tonight.  And they're already asleep!  At 8:25!  I almost don't want to write it down so I don't jinx it.

Annnnyway.  This post was to be about priorities.

Today, as I was washing dishes, I couldn't stop thinking about whether my life was reflecting my priorities.  I had spent a wonderful morning with my daughter...walking our dogs, playing at the park, enjoying the early light of the sun coming up together.  But I kept thinking that most of my day today was spent cleaning, doing laundry, playing catch-up on everything that slides toward chaos during the work week.

I wrote a post way back when about living my priorities, and the question I asked myself and my readers was, "If someone tried to determine your priorities in life based solely on your actions, do you think they would be fairly accurate? If not, what are some barriers to living your priorities right now?"
Today I did a little exercise to help me think through this.  I wrote down how much time per week I devote to each area on my priority list.  Then, being the nerdy visual learner that I am, I made a pie chart (pretty easy using a google doc spreadsheet, by the way).  I'm not going to tell you the order I rank my priorities just yet.

So, here's what it looked like:

Can you guess the order of my priorities?  Based on the time I spend on each, it would seem to be that they're ordered this way:
Extended family

But, no.  Actually, I rank my priorities in the order they're listed on the key to the pie chart.  Yikes, huh? You might never know that by my current actions, it seems.  Now, I expected that work would definitely fill the major chunk of my week, but I was surprised at how the other categories ranked.

So, I've got some work to do.    Good to know.

What keeps you from living your priorities right now?  For me, it's money.  We're working on getting out of debt, so it's important to us to maximize our income for the next few years.  Which means I work uber full time.  It makes intellectual sense, but it's still hard.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Life in Pictures: Museum Field Trip

Today, my speech intern and I were brave and decided to help out by chaperoning a group of 3rd to 5th grade boys with autism for a museum field trip.  It was an excellent day, with so much engagement and initiation of communication and shared wonder and smiles and laughs.  I wish I could take a day to spend with every child on my caseload this way.  It was such a wonderful chance to see the sparkle in the boys' eyes as they shared joint attention about a lemur, a bear, a butterfly, or (everyone's favorite) a computerized camera to see the animals more closely.

At one point, one of my students who isn't normally all that talkative unless we ask him to speak, sat down next to my speech intern on the bench at the butterfly house and said, "Wonderful," as he looked at all the butterflies flying overhead.  It was magical, that moment, and I let myself pause to appreciate it just for a second.

And then, of course, I had to scramble to keep up with a fast-moving third grader.

But there were many more beautiful little moments of shared awe today. Hooray for field trips.

Wonderful, indeed.

a bear off in the distance

a ring tailed lemur--so cute!

What wonderful thing did you experience today?  Did you let yourself "be in the moment" to take it all in?

Curious and Exotic Plants

 Check out this amazing flowering pink popcorn shrub in our neighbor's yard.  I haven't been lucky enough to run into my neighbors lately, but I'm dying to know what it's called.  My best guess is that it's a variegated weigela, but that's just based on a little googling I did.  If anyone knows what this might be, please leave a comment with a guess!

Flanna's new favorite pose for photos.  Cracks. Me. Up. 

Also, today, I went to the Museum of Life and Science for a field trip with our cohort of kiddos with autism, and during the tour of the butterfly house, I came upon this really cool vine.  The flowers are so  distinctive, light green and banana-shaped.  Gorgeous.

What's your favorite strange plant?  I just love cleomes.  They're so quirky.

Experience Nature

I am so excited that spring is here.  I just love the transition from one season to the next.  The comfort of warmth after a long cold.  The freedom to be outside after months of feeling sequestered.   The fun of all the blooms and newness.

Last weekend, Flannery and I transplanted some of our seedlings into pots outside.  We had shovels, but Flannery decided to use her hands because, as she says, "I love to get muddy."  So far, only a few of our seedlings have been stolen by squirrels (or flexible rabbits?) :).  And we're hoping to get our herbs and tomatoes transplanted soon.

Being in nature is so restorative to me.  There's a calm that I don't think can just be attributed to a relaxing day off.  That's why I've made "Experience Nature" one of my happiness commandments.  When I follow it, it really does boost my happiness.

And now, for a weekend of muddy hands once again.

How are you going to experience nature on this "spring commencing" weekend?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Picnic

 We had a picnic with some wonderful friends on Saturday.  The girls climbed trees and made mud stew while the adults sat in the sun and chatted.  (OK, the moms sat in the sun and chatted.  The dads played with the kiddos quite a bit!)  It was a gorgeous day, and a real treat to get to enjoy some outside time as spring approaches.

My hubby is just the sweetest and best dad around.  It brought tears to my eyes watching him play soccer with Flanna.  Such a gentle and kind soul--she just adores him.  Plus, isn't he cute?

Remember to wear green on Thursday!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Speechy Sunday: Black History Projects and Graphic Organizers Galore!

On Friday, our school wrapped up our school-wide unit on Black History.  As I walked through the hallways and classrooms to see what each grade level and each class had been working on, I was so pleased to see an overwhelming use of graphic organizers in our students' final projects.  I love graphic organizers and swear by them as visual ways to help us learn more, store more, and more easily retrieve more information later, as well.

Anyway, I thought you'd get a kick out of seeing some of the ways different grade levels used graphic organizers.

There were timelines.

There were cluster organizers.

There were pie charts.

There were causal flow charts.

I think that the students at my school really learned an amazing amount about the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and black history in the past 6 weeks.   And I bet they'll remember these projects and the information they organized for themselves in such lovely visual ways, for years to come.

What school project from your childhood do you still remember?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Starting Seedlings

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I planted some seeds with 3 seedling starter kits.  Our seeds sprouted pretty quickly, and now our leafy green seedlings and soybean seedlings are almost ready to transplant.   Our basil is getting there, as well.  It's exciting!

Where are you seeing growth in your life these days?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crafty Ideas: Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

Or, in this case, have your daughter make wrapping paper for you.

I love using Flannery's paintings as wrapping paper.  As long as she agrees, mind you.  I remember one time, I didn't ask her beforehand, just assumed she'd like it that I wrapped one of her great grandmothers' gifts in something she made, and poor thing, she got really upset because she had wanted to keep that particular painting.  So we had to carefully unwrap the gift and use a good old gift bag.  Luckily, for this gift, Flannery was happy for a "baby" to receive her painting.

This gift was for a baby shower for coworker of mine (that's my little speech room in the background).  I even made the bow from paper scraps.  Recycling can be so pretty!

What have you recycled or re-used lately?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A School Garden: Before

My coworker, Mary, and I applied for a grant to start a school garden at our elementary school.  And guess what?  We got it!  Out of 14 applications, ours was chosen to be funded!  We're very excited!

I took some "before" photos of the area where we're going to start the garden.  Years ago, this was a "victory garden," but it's been neglected for quite a while.  It used to have a pond in the middle, but we're going to fill in the pond and plant flowers in that bed.  The two raised beds are going to be for herbs and veggies.

I work with the intermediate autism classroom at my school, and we're really looking forward to having some language lessons planned around gardening experiences together before the school year is out.  Stay tuned for the "after" photos as spring approaches and we get the garden in shape!

Have you started planting your spring garden yet?  What are you planting this season?