Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kicking Classroom Instruction Up a Notch!

Hi, everyone!  My life has been busy in 2nd grade!  We are on day 8 and while the kids want to lay back and relax, I am about to turn on Turbo Speed! 

If you haven't heard about my daughter's fundraiser, and you want to find out what is going on and learn more about the awesome fundraiser my blogger friends are helping me with, just click here.  You can get lots of awesome packs for just a little bit of dough!

I just wanted to show you really quick what all we have been up to.  It seems like we have an interactive notebook for every subject these days!  We are super interactive in my room!  Here are some pictures of some of what we have been doing!

I have found that if you are new to interactive notebooks (I have used it some, but not fully like I am this year) that it is easy to start out with word sorts and reading strategies.  So, if you are new at this, you can get started pretty easily!  I hope these help you get some ideas!

When I want to read a new book I really only have to read the first two pages.  I will count the words that I 
can't read and if I miss more than three words I know that I need to choose a different book.

Here is a different look at the recap of a revisit to the same mini-lesson because some of the kids were still struggling.

This is what my version looked like

I hope this gives you a few ideas for your classroom!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Angelyn's Really RAD Fundraiser

Summer is rapidly coming to an end now for all of us and we are all about to go full speed ahead into the school year.  I feel like I lost so much 'professional time' this summer.  I had intended to revamp packs and beef them up...get this new blog going....start a blog on adoption just for my own therapy....and maybe even work in a vacation for a bit.

In truth, none of that happened as my family experienced trauma after trauma this summer.

Simply put, I am an abused mom and this may be the most important post I ever write.  I hope that it helps other RAD moms, dad's, and families understand that they are not alone.  Just in the last few weeks, several of you have sent messages of support with stories of family members that have been challenged by RAD.  It is not an easy battle, but I commend them.  Many times they recognize the symptoms and behaviors, but did not even know RAD exists.  But, it is affecting over 1.5 million children...and most parents have no idea what they are dealing with.

In the judges chambers being officially adopted.  Our awesome casework is in the back!

This story began in October 2008 with us welcoming our 2 wonderful kids into our home for good on Halloween.  However, Angel's behavior problems started on the drive home that very afternoon with her having a 'tantrum' (we later learned these are called rages) and kicking the back of the driver's seat as we drove down the Interstate.  Just months after we formed our little family my husband and I would joke, "Is this a trick or a treat?".  We had waited so long for kids due to infertility problems that we were determined to make this work.  We are STILL determined to make this work.

Taken shortly after we brought them home--on our way to church!

Angel has always been hard to handle, but she has had her loving moments when she wanted to take a nap with mom <me> or cuddle on the couch to watch TV.  But for the most part, she set herself apart and tried to become the alpha female. In her mind, it is a disloyalty to her birth mother to bond with me.  I never put much stock in all the alpha female stuff, but we could see that Angel was slowly trying to control our family.  And she did in small ways and we never even noticed.  Kids diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, must have control to feel safe.  They are afraid to follow directions because it shows a sense of weakness.  She is afraid to be loved because she doesn't want to be rejected again like all of the other times.  

At the playground at school, playing with Dad. One of my favorite pics.

She and I have most often butted heads when it came to her biological half-brother....she tried to mother him and would often undermine me and would even challenge me when it came to time-outs or taking away a toy or 2 to teach him a life lesson.  She has told him, "She isn't your mother.  You can call her Jennifer."  We have explained the adoption to him and he realizes he isn't our biological son, but he has accepted us fully.  Our son has often felt like he was being pulled from two different sides during the years.

We often went round and round when it came to chores getting done or her simply being told 'no' when she wanted to do something that wasn't in her best interest.  Most RAD kids are diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) in the beginning and it is typical for diagnoses to change.

My husband and I will soon be married for 14 years.  He is my lifeline.  My best friend.  My partner in crime.  But for the last few years we have barely gotten to talk...barely remember to kiss goodnight...rarely have our schedules in sync.  Why?  Because we are exhausted with trying to balance our family's dynamics and we are victims of trauma.  

We are always waiting for the next rage to develop.  Angel's rages can last from an hour to five hours long and during that time, we have to lock all of the doors in the house to keep her inside and often have to physically restrain her.  Often, we depend on the police to come to our house so that she can be transported to the children's mental hospital so that we know that she is safe.  After getting her admitted, we go home to find that we are bruised from being hit and kicked, have bite marks, and suffer from back pain.  I often suffer from depression because of it, after all, I am the mom, right?  I am supposed to be able to 'control' her, help her, teach her, fix her, and hug and kiss her boo-boos.  But I can't do that if I can't get close to her.  And with RAD children, the mom is the #1 victim because she is the one responsible for caring for the kids.

5th Grade Graduation.  Notice the silver 'heels'  Beautiful!

Angel has had plenty of trauma in her life and I wish I could have been there when horrible videos were put on while foster moms were away, or the time when broccoli was shoved down her throat as punishment, or the night she was taken by Child and Family Services and her biological mom never woke up to notice that she was gone.  I can't truly comprehend all that she has gone through.  But I can comprehend that the RAD developed because the removal from her biological home caused so much damage to her neurological bonds that we may never a way for her to heal.  We know that her healing will be a challenge because of her age. She essentially has brain trauma and some would even go as far to say that it is brain damage. There is a lot of guilt from our parental view because we thought we needed to treat her for her bipolar disorder.  Those three little initials, RAD, were tacked on at the very end of our adoption paperwork and never really discussed with us.  We never knew that those three little initials would shape and almost ruin all of our lives.

Coming home after being in residential care for 6 months.

Angel spent 6 months in a residential school last year and this summer was not a good time.  She was in the juvenile detention center for almost 3 weeks because she had been on the computer all night long one Saturday night and decided to run away after we corrected her.  My husband thought I had the computer.  I thought he had the computer.  She said it had gotten lost and she didn't know where it was.  This is typical RAD 'divide and conquer' behavior which occurs after you wear mom and dad out and they can't think straight.  It was actually in the bottom of her closet, covered with shoes, blankets, and discarded clothing.  When I told her that if I went to her room to search that the computer would be put up for the rest of the summer it magically appeared.  I sealed my fate as a person she needed to hate when I told her that she could not have access to the computer for a while. Confronted with punishment, she grabbed her purse full of books, her stuffed duck from her sister, and hopped on her bicycle and rode away. We thought she was just riding down the street to let off some steam.  We never dreamed my husband would find her a few miles away, driving in and out of both lanes of traffic, trying to balance her duck and her purse as she pedaled away into what she thought would be her new future.  It took a search for her by my husband and the police to get her home and the next day we had to file papers with a probation officer.  Angel sealed her own fate when she was disrespectful.  It earned her a night 'back in the back' and a hearing scheduled for the next day.  At the hearing the next day, the judge asked me if I could be able to ensure her safety if she was released to us.  I had to answer that in all honesty, no, I could not.  With that, she was sent 'back to the back' again until her next hearing and I once again sealed my fate as someone that she cannot love or trust.

Finally relaxed during her first full pedicure.

But, enter in pathwayforhealing.org and a little-known boarding school for girls with RAD in North Carolina.  My husband forced, and yes, I say FORCED me to go to a mother's retreat in North Carolina near the school.  My new friend, Jennie, assured me that she would take care of me if I went.  Two days before we went I told her I just couldn't go.  I couldn't handle the anxiety and needed to be in MY bed at MY house.  I needed what little control I had maintained in my home.  The night before we left I actually threw up and refused to pack.  I thought I could actually get my husband to forget I was scheduled to leave....or that he would give me a reprieve.  But it didn't happen.  He made me go.  And it was the best thing I ever did.  During that weekend, I learned that I was not going crazy or even already crazy.  I learned that all of the moms there were victims of abuse from their children just like I was.  I learned that just about everyone was on an intense amount of medicine.  I learned that I wasn't the only one that was exhausted. I wasn't the only mom going to work each day and going through the motions and trying to do the best that I could. I learned that I wasn't the only mother that thought at times that her child was possessed by some evil entity.  I learned most of all, that I wasn't the only one that had wanted to give up but had kept on trucking only because of God's Grace.  I can't tell you how many times I wanted to just go sit somewhere and fade away.  I learned that I have been abused so much that it may take me years to work through things because of the way it has affected my life.

When you have a child with RAD, your priorities change.  My 'I Can Do It All And Be A Mom, Too' mindset changed....I wasn't going to be an administrator despite earning an ED.S. right before the kids came to live with us...over the years my name has  faded away in my district and I'm not even called on anymore to train other staffs...I have reconciled myself to being an unknown in my district.....my own principal begged me not to adopt the kids because she said that it would affect my career negatively.  And it has.  I'm not the same teacher I was six years ago and I won't ever be that same person again.  

I have lost friends and my close-knit tie with my family because of my kids.  Our families supported us with our decision to go through with our adoption even though things were tough, but they all begged us not to go through with it.  We are rarely invited to join other families after church on Sundays for lunch.  My own sister won't babysit my kids for me because it is such a challenge.  My mom fears that she will get a phone call telling her that I have been injured because she doesn't know what Angel will do next.  Friends have even said that they won't come to my house anymore if my daughter is home.  It is almost too much for me to fathom.  This isn't the life we set out to live. So, the conclusion is that she MUST get the therapy that is needed so that she can heal....so that we all can heal.

If you keep on reading you will see a wide variety of packs that have been donated so that my family can raise the funds needed to help Angel get therapy.  The therapy we seek for the boarding school and at Turning Point camp in October has an 85% success rate....we plan to soak up every second of it, but it can't be done on our own.  At this time, her therapy needs are in excess of $10,000. Insurance will not cover it because it does not involve their typical view of therapy.  

I have never met any of the teachers that donated these packets.  I 'know' them from online and have worked with some for years through blogging.  The response to my call for help has been amazing and has brought me to tears many times.  These teachers want to see Angel be successful.  I don't have words adequate to thank them.  All that I know to do is to be the best mom that I can be and to try to rehabilitate my broken daughter so that she can be successful.  I have faith that she will be rehabilitated and will one day be able to say, "I love you, mom" and truly mean it.  One day.  Hopefully soon.

I sincerely want to thank you for coming by to hear my daughter's story.  Here's to a happy ending for all!  For those of you thinking about purchasing, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  100% of what is raised will go to her therapy.

If any of you have a similar story or know someone with a similar story feel free to connect them with us.  Or, send them a link to attachment.org.  Or both.  We would love to help anyone we can.

And now, on to the good stuff!  Here is what you will find! 

There will be 2 different zip files for Kindergarten and first grade that can be downloaded.  I got really creative and labeled them bundle #1 and bundle #2.  =)  You can find them in my store on TpT.  I encourage you to backtrack a bit and be sure to follow not only my store but the stores of each of the teachers that were gracious enough to give up their own profits to help my daughter.

As soon as I can get them up, there will be files for 2nd and 3rd grade as well.  With school starting, therapy, and family I am burning my candle at both ends.

Thank you so much for your purchase!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet the Teacher Linky

I am off to a great start in 2nd grade this year....let's hope I just get to stay in 2nd grade!!  There is some skedaddle about the possibility of having to move a teacher and God help me....I am close to the Kindergarten team.  God help me!  I love to watch them for entertainment purposes, but Holy Cannoli.....I don't have enough milligrams on my anxiety medicine to increase it any more, so hopefully, I can just beg to sit still.  Pray!

When Stephanie from Falling Into First suggested a teacher linky I was pretty excited.  Then I looked at all the questions and wondered how I would ever get it all answered....well....here I am....and I am ready.  Enjoy getting to know me!  In a lot of ways my life is an open book but then in other ways, I am a very reserved person and I find it hard to 'give myself a shout out'.  This is my attempt.  No animals were hurt in the process of writing this post!

Q: These are a few of my favorite things…

This is my family during the adoption of our two kidlins about 6 years ago...you can see how serious we all were as the kids were asked if they wanted to be a part of our family and Matt and I were asked to accept these two as our own children and love them as much as we would any biological children that we might be given.  As our entourage strolled through the courthouse, several people stopped to ask if we were off to a wedding.  There was little J-Man in his suit and tie <which he has decided to save for his little boy when he grows up>.  And Angel was decked out in her beautiful white dress with little pink flowers embroidered on it, a white sweater, her white 'heels', and her white purse.  We have saved her dress and her hair barrette for her to pass down to her own little girl someday.  I love these 3 people so much...oh, and there is Winter, our caseworker, standing in the back watching the proceedings.  We still love her, too, and she checks in on the kids from time to time.  Since then, she has adopted her own children as a single mom.  She is the bomb!

'Nuff of the mushy stuff.  Here are some of my other favorite things...these are linked to Amazon for your shopping entertainment!!

This is my favorite book of all time--The Giving Tree.  I cry every time I read it.  Then I feel guilty and call my mommy.  =)

This is the life-giving sustenance that keeps me going.  I have a HORRIBLE immune system and used to stay sick all the time.  I would have sinus infections and bronchitis 4 or 5 times a year and miss a school.  If you can ignore the taste (it isn't horrible...you just don't want to linger around drinking it) which is better tasting than a shot of anything with alcohol and chug it, you are doing fine.  It actually acts as a superfood and rejuvenates sick cells and kills off the bad ones, and helps promote healthy cell growth.  Last year I think I only had 1 sinus infection that turned into bronchitis.  It works well as a meal replacement, too, and I think I have lost around 30 lbs on it.  I try not to step on the scale.  Ever.  But sometimes my doctor makes me. LOL

I LOVE 5 Mil laminating sheets.  It is the same width that ID's are laminated in.  My centers are lasting longer than ever and it is worth it to me to pay for laminating sheets instead of relying on the school's laminating machine.

I have lots of other favorites, but it is time to move on...

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what would you want to be?

That is a hard one...I started out as a journalism major, so had I stuck it out I might have ended up at some huge newspaper (but I never read the newspaper) or at CNN or something.  I actually think that I would be a good 'stick stirrer'.  When something horribly looms in the night or the underdog gets kicked, I seem to always be the one to speak up and be ready to fight for 'THE CAUSE'.  

Right now the 'CAUSE' that I am fighting for is Reactive Attachment Disorder.  You'll be hearing more about that in the coming weeks since my daughter was diagnosed with it.  We are fighting for her love, her life, and her future.  

Q: Three little words that describe you.

Stubborn  (My husband probably wouldn't say mule, though.)


Once you are a friend (or husband!!!) I will always love you and fight for you.  I am that way because my Jesus loved me and fought for me on the cross.  My love comes from up above.  =)

Q: Finish this sentence, “___________________, said no teacher 


25 minutes for lunch - 5 minutes to walk to and from the cafeteria - 5 minutes for the bathroom = 15 minutes to eat.

Q: It’s your birthday and you can invite anyone {dead or alive} to

 the party. Who are you inviting?

All of the Great grandparents and Grandparents, Parents, Kids...we'll just keep it all in the family.

Q: If someone wrote a book about your life, what would be the


Drama and Trauma for Little Mama

HEHE  I am actually writing my autobiography some day.  It's a catchy title!!

Q: You get to pick one superpower. What is it?

Time Traveling.  Hands down.

Q: What’s your favorite quote or saying?

I can't think of one right now...you'll have to get back to me!

Q: If you HAD to sing one song on American Idol, what would it


It Is Well With My Soul--I would actually like to get enough nerve to sing it with my husband.  I wish I had a video of him singing it...I looked on youtube, but there is NOT ONE that is comparable to how he sings it.  =)

So....I would probably go with the song below so that I could sing it to/for my daughter.  It is so easy for her to give up on life these days.  I want her to know that God has a vision for her...and so do I!  I included the link to Youtube.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am an introvert.  I find that most introverts like to stay up late--it gives us peace and quiet and we can get a lot more accomplished!

Q: What’s your favorite resource that you’ve created in your TPT


This is my newest pack.  I was originally trained as a Montessori teacher and a lot of times, I keep falling back on that.  I love 3 part cards because a student can never get the wrong answer and it boosts their self-esteem so that they are willing to take risks with learning later on.  I am just now getting this cut and laminated but I think it is going to be awesome for my ESL learners.  It bums me out that my really good stuff is at the tail end of my store and a lot of people never check the last few pages!

I think I used this activity more than any of my others last year...It really helped my kids with their vocabulary.  I haven't blogged about it yet, but you'll just have to trust me that it really does help...and there are a lot of extensions that you can use with it to make it sort of 'come alive'.

Q: Share something we might not know about you!

I HATE RECESS!!!!  Air conditioning is my friend!

I am super scared of frogs.  One attached it to my hair while I was swimming one evening and I could not even get a scream out because my whole body stiffened.  My muscles actually ached the next day.  I can't stand them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back to School Blog Hop

I'm thinking that you just rolled on in from Miss Squirrels.....she was busy doing her thing.  Did you know she is crocheting baby blankets now?  I had no idea she had that hidden talent.  Pretty cool!!

Well, we are off to a rip-roaring and populated second grade year.  Must have been something in the water!  There are 4 of us teaching second grade this year....the largest grade level in the school!

We have been using a great back to school packet by The Bubbly Blond Teacher that the kids are loving.  It is great to use right now because I am so busy getting ready to start my Back to School assessments.

Click here to buy it!

I am also using this great 'keep 'em busy' pack from Tanja at Journey of a Substitute Teacher.  My kiddo saw it printing out and was about to grab a sheet of it before I caught him...that's all I need...to be one short when there is a copy shortage going on!!

I am using this pack from my own store to have with sight words....we need lots of work on those!!  I wish I had been able to snap some pictures....but....the first few days back are tough!!  The kids loved matching the phrases with the pictures though!!

This is what I am using to do some of my assessing with.  It is FULL of different types of assessments so I anticipate using it all year.

Our focus right now is Problem Solving on your OWN!

Not that I want to start with the negative, but this may come in handy for you.  These two were pushing and shoving in the line...they were at the end, mind you....and could not work out their issue by themselves.  So, in my room, if you can't work together as friends, I will FORCE you to become friends!  These two spent about 15 minutes holding hands while trying to work together, getting water, and cleaning up.  Needless to say, at the end of that 15 minutes they were fast friends and ready to be rid of each other.  I haven't had any more pushing and shoving either!!  The wonderful thing about it---no parent can be mad at me for doing something ridiculous.  At least not too ridiculous.

Here is a little freebie from my store...I have lots more if you want to go grab others.  It is a beautiful welcome banner and it even has some dolphins!  I just took a little snippit of a pic just to make you curious!!  Go on and download it!!

So, it looks like you are off to go see Cupcake over at her place.  Leave her a comment when you get there and tell her hello for me.  She'll get a kick if you say "Jenn said to tell you hello!"  hehe

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

100 Happy Days--Back to School

Have you been to the website 100 Happy Days to sign up so that you can document what makes you happy?  All you really have to do is PAY ATTENTION!  Just start noticing the things that make you laugh, amuse you, makes you get all WARM AND FUZZY!!

You can even take pictures and label them #100happydays or post on Facebook and use that same hashtag.  If you want, you can even EMAIL your pictures to myhappyday <at> 100happydays.com to avoid publicity and keep it on the down low.  And if you really get into noticing what makes you happy....journal about it!

You can even get a "HAPPY PACK" to make your happiness official!  You get a journal, a pen, and a clipboard!

71% of the people that originally started in this challenge stopped because they said they didn't have enough time.

They didn't have enough time to be happy.  Do you?

Now, I am sure you are sitting here thinking...sure I have enough time to think about being happy...but can you journal about your happiness for 100 days in a row?

Now, I am sure you are sitting here asking yourself....

The individuals that successfully completed the challenged said that this experiment:
1.  taught them to look for the things that could make them happy.
2.  helped the be in a better mood every day.
3.  Smiled more and got more compliments from others.
4.  Realized that their lives were pretty awesome!
5.  Learned to be more optimistic and not give up easily.

and here is the biggy:

6.  Fell in love!!!  (Who doesn't have time for love, people?  Now, come on!!)  

Can you imagine doing a happy journal with your kids?

So....here is what makes me happy today!

This is a picture I took when I was high up on a mountain top in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and a mother's retreat.  There was a small group of us and all of our children have RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder).  That weekend retreat gave me enough sanity to return home and continue to fight my daughter's fight.  You can read her story here.  I really encourage you to read this--not because it is about my daughter, but because we have kids like this in our classroom and up until this year I had no idea why they were like they were. 

As of a few days ago, she is somewhere in these very mountains learning how to love.  Sounds strange doesn't it?  But that is really what she is doing.  When I left those mountains I had no idea that this would be the very place that we would take our daughter so that she could find her solace.  I miss her very much...is hard to take your 12 year old somewhere to stay when you really just want to grab her up in your arms and hold her tight.  But I am happy that she has found a place to really work on herself.

So...until next time....Be Happy!

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