Nicole’s New School

We got a call towards the end of September offering Nicole a spot at Spectrum Academy.  It’s a charter school for kids with Autism.  We toured the school last year and felt like it would be a really good option for Nicole.  I really love my kid’s home school (Foothill Elementary) and I loved having all 4 of my school aged kids in one school.  Unfortunately, I felt like our home school didn’t have the perfect place for Nicole.  The regular ed class is too big and didn’t have enough support and the small group seemed too restrictive and not challenging enough.  I love the idea of her being in a class with her peers.  Kids with the similar abilities and similar disabilities.  The thing that I was most excited about is that they said they were seeing the kids develop genuine friendships.

They gave us 48 hours to decide or they’d offer our spot to someone else.  Spectrum Academy does a lottery system for enrollment, so it can be tough to get in.  Clearly by the title of the post, you know what we decided.  We got the call on Tuesday and she started at her new school the following Monday.  I picked Nicole up early from her last day of school at Foothill on Friday.  This picture is of Nicole with her Foothill teachers.9.25.15  (2)

Her teachers have been very kind and supportive.  I felt a little sad pulling her out.  I took her straight from Foothill over to Spectrum so she could see the school and meet some of her new teachers.  This is Nicole in her homeroom.9.25.15  (3)

The school runs a little bit like a Jr High.  The students start out in homeroom and then they go to other classrooms for other subjects depending on their levels.  They test the students to determine appropriate levels for math, reading, ect.  If the student preforms well, they can move up, if the work is too challenging/stressful, they can move down.  It’s a continuously leveled system.  The whole school is designed for kids with autism which is particularly evident in places like the bathrooms.  It’s a new experience for all of us.  Nicole was telling me about the upcoming fire drill for two days and we got an email from the principal about it before it happened.  (Things like fire drills can be traumatic for these kiddos).

Here is Nicole on her first day at Spectrum:9.28.15  (2)

She has been in her new school for about a month now.  I asked her today which school is better and she said “Foothill is better because it’s the best school and it has more stuff” but when I asked her if she wanted to go back to Foothill she said that she wanted to keep going to Spectrum so that she could “get used it it.”

She had her first friend from Spectrum over on Thursday.10.15.15  (8)She was super excited to have her friend over, but they occasionally had to be reminded to play together instead of just doing their own things.
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I feel like I don’t know exactly how she’s doing at school because I haven’t been able to observe her at school.  They require background checks to enter the school and I can’t volunteer to help out in the classroom on a regular basis.  I can schedule 15 minute observations which I haven’t done yet since I wanted to give her a chance to learn the routines.

The school itself is about 15 minutes away which means it has added more than an hour in the car to my daily schedule.  Since she started I have felt like my schedule is more demanding and stressful.  I think I expected to have more free-time with 4 kids in school.  I suppose that might have been true if I wasn’t volunteering in the schools as much as I am and if I didn’t have a half day kindergartner breaking up my day.

Deseret Peak with Isaac, Charlotte, and their grandma

After our hiking adventures in Arches National Park a couple of weeks ago, I started getting the thought that the kids (especially Charlotte) could take on a serious hike. I had a really great hike on Deseret Peak a few years ago, and the week after Labor Day seemed like a good time, but I hadn’t really committed to anything until the night before. It all felt like it was a little impulsive, but I invited my mom, told the kids, and we set off at 6:30 on Saturday the 12th. It’s a bit of a drive out to the trailhead; we got started hiking around 8:30.

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One thing about Deseret Peak is that it’s an alpine wilderness surrounded by Utah’s desert. There are lots of woods on the way up, and even though it was late in the year, the stream was still running. A view of North Willow Peak through the trees from the trail:DSC02430-01

We took it easy on the way up, with lots of stops for rest and snacks:DSC02433

I said this is a serious hike. Well, for folks more athletic than I am (and that’s most of you!), it’s not so bad. A little over 4 miles to the summit, but a lot of elevation gain: about 3600′. Here’s the crew climbing up some switchbacks:DSC02441

There’s a tough climb up to a ridge that’s right around 10,000′. Once on the ridge, a big meadow opens up, with some nice rocks for having lunch:

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Isaac was pleased to note that no one had thrown up at this point. (Isaac threw up on our Delicate Arch hike, and I have a little history of barfing when I get to about 9500′.) After our lunch break, we hit the trail up toward the summit. At this point, there’s still another 1000′ to climb, and after the switchbacks up to the ridge, it can be a little tiring. We met some nice folks from Florida who called it quits at about 10,500′.

I kept telling Isaac and Charlotte that they’d know we’d made it when they looked around and there was nothing higher than them. I could tell they were hurting a little on this last stretch. You really feel the altitude, and it takes some commitment to keep going up. There was a little complaining, but I kept telling them to think about the positives: think about telling your friends how you toughed it out; think about being higher than you’ve ever been before; look at how far up we’ve come already.DSC02449

Here we are just a bit below the summit:

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Finally, I was able to shout: “CHILDREN! Is there ANYTHING higher than you are?” (There was not.)DSC02479

 

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The view from 11,031 feet:

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Time to head back down:

 

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We made pretty good time back down to the ridge, where I got a nice picture of the kids enjoying the view to the north. The van is 2600′  down and 3 miles away still (somewhere behind Charlotte’s head, I think):DSC02513

Here we are at the sign post at the top of the ridge, just before heading down the switchbacks (this is looking the other way, to the south):DSC02515

Coming down wears you out, and we were all starting to feel it. Here we are making our way down the switchbacks below the ridge:DSC02528

The trail back always seems twice as long when you’re tired, and we were all glad to be back at the van. Charlotte was proud of how dirty her feet were:DSC02546

Our final obstacle was this ridiculous deer. She just looked at me when I beeped the horn at her, but the kids thought it was pretty funny. DSC02553

I was proud of how well Isaac and Charlotte (not to mention my mom!) did with this hike. It’s a lot of climbing for a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, and they toughed it out. I’m always pleased when they’re willing to do tough things, and this hike will prime them for more adventures. Assuming I can keep up with them.

Thomas and his Favorite Widow

Thomas loves Sister M.  She comes to nursery to sing with the children every Sunday and she does a fabulous job.  Whenever Thomas says he’s too sick to go to church, I tell him Sister M. will be so sad if you’re not there.  Singing with Sister M. is his favorite part of church. One Sunday he wanted to stay home so instead of saying he was sick, he just said “I want Sister M to be sad.”  Another time he told me that Sister M. lives at the church.

Each week he watches for her and as soon as he sees her arrive, he goes over to her and gives her a big hug.

Yesterday morning he decided that he wanted to make a card for Sister M.

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Trip to Huntington and Arches with Dan and Bethani

I’m a murderer. A mur-diddly-urgler.

Well, that’s how I feel sometimes after underestimating the desert. But let’s not get too far ahead! Let’s go back to August 4th.

With my sister and her husband visiting us from California, the time was right to get out to the red rock. Dan hadn’t ever had the chance to see it, and Bethani hadn’t been to Huntington in many years. For those who aren’t aware, Huntington, UT is where I lived until I was 8 years old. My dad taught at the LDS seminary there (and did about 40 other jobs as well). And since we weren’t able to make the trip to Seattle this year, I thought that the children could use an adventure. So we loaded selected children (those I figured could do some hiking) into the Sienna and headed south and east. Read more »

Isaac at 11

Isaac is a unique kid.  He would rather read a history or math book than fiction.  Military history is still his go to subject, but his favorite book this year is a book called “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”  it was written by the other of this blog.  Isaac read it cover to cover more than once.

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Isaac’s 11th Birthday

Due to a variety of circumstances, we ended up celebrating Isaac’s birthday in parts over a few days.  First we had cake on Monday so that both sets of grandparents could be there.  Isaac wanted Baked Alaska for his birthday cake.

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In keeping with Cochran tradition, everyone sang terribly.

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The last week of May 2015

It’s been a busy week as you can see by the 72 photos I decided to share.  I took 277 pictures, so I’m only sharing about 1/4 of the pictures I took this week.

Monday was Memorial day.  The children picked out places for the stepping stones they made last week and we put them in the ground.

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This week in pictures (May 18-23)

Thomas was dancing around saying that he had spelled the word Alphabet.  He was so proud as he sounded it out that I didn’t have the heart to tell him he hadn’t actually spelled it right.

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I organized my pantry.  I find the pantry one of the most difficult places to organize because the food items in there are usually subject to large amounts of flux.  Sometimes we have lots of soup and other times we have lots of crackers or other such things depending on what was on sale at the store most recently.  I’m hoping that containers will solve my previous organizational dilemma because maybe they will accommodate the fluctuations better.

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Here you can see my laminated labels.  I actually laminated a blank post card for one of the containers so that I can write on it with a dry erase marker and change it’s label as often as I need.

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Thomas has started referring to his Aunt Heidi as “Grand Heidi” maybe partially because she lives with Grandma and Grandpa.  Grand Heidi picked up some stepping stone kits for the children to make for family night.

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Each child made something different and each child was pleased with his/her end result.

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Charlotte has started giving Ila piggy-back rides across the street so that Ila doesn’t have to put shoes on.

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Thomas said he was brushing his hair into boy hair.

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These kids were super excited to help me make banana bread.

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The school had a skate night where admission to classic skate was free.  I took 4 of my kids and 2 of the neighbors.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a nice clear shot of everyone wearing their skates.

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It was a little challenging because the only kid who could skate without assistance was Charlotte.  I paid to use two “walkers” (there are pictures of them in last weeks post when we took our older children skating).  Lucie and Nicole used the walkers for the whole time and really enjoyed them.  They boys were too embarrassed with so many classmates there to try the walkers.  Instead they both held onto me for support.  Ila tried a walker briefly, but didn’t know how to go forward so all of her skating experience was with me holding her hand.  Neverthelesss, they all had a fun night.  Here they are as we were leaving.

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The next morning we got up bright and early to go see the Payson Temple Open House.  We had tickets for the first session that day which meant leaving the house at 7:15 AM.

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Thomas was not in the picture with his grandparents because he was busy being stubborn and pouting on the steps.

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He was still a little grumpy, but he asked to “try again” and we were able to get a few pictures with all of us.

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Charlotte and Ila are such good friends.  They always want to be together.  I imagine them growing up the best of friends.

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After we got back from the open house, I took Ila and Thomas to their grandparents’ house so that I could go with Nicole on a walking field trip into the canyon with her class.

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And because I’m an obsessive picture taker, I took pictures of her eating her lunch.  She only wanted a poppyseed muffin and marshmallows in her lunch so that is what she ate, but I’m not one of those parents who feels too guilty about my kids occasionally having a terrible (in terms of healthiness) lunch.

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I should say that I am impatient for Nicole’s hair to grow out into a normal looking haircut.  Her hair is still recovering from when she cut it to her scalp so she could pretend to be a baby.

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She made this kite and loved it.  She ran around with it and had so much fun that she didn’t want to put it down for the walk back to the school.

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This is Nicole with her class.  She tells me she’ll marry Gabriel because he’s her friend.  (He’s the one on the far left and he’s a bit of a math genius).

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I took the kids out to buy presents for their Grandpa’s birthday.  Thomas was really proud of his choice to get Grandpa these candy raspberries.

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They choose to buy him lots of candy, some solar pathway lights, and some cans of whipped cream.

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They were inspired to get the whipped cream because Grandpa likes to fill their mouths with it!

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This is Isaac next to his knowledge bowl plaques that hang in the school.  You probably can’t read it from here, but his name is on each of the ones next to his head.

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I went to the school to watch Isaac preform in his class opera.  I found Charlotte and her best friend in the audience.

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I really enjoyed the Opra.  The class did a great job and it was quite funny.

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Isaac was a student studying for a history test when some Sasquatches and Evil Robots started changing history.  The students had to go back in time and work with some magic squirrels to defeat the Sasquatches and robots.

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At pack meeting they learned some new cheers.  In this picture they are pretending to be bacon.  They had to lay on the ground and sizzle, then flip over and sizzle some more.

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We also had a guy come with his reptile collection and talk about all the different reptiles and how to care for them.

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On Friday we donned hot pink shirts to race with the kids at the annual 3K.

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Isaac and his best friend Evan before the race:

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Charlotte and her BFF Alyssa pretending to race.

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I ran with Charlotte.  We started off with Isaac too, but we stopped to help Evan after he got trampled at the start of the race and we never caught back up to Isaac.  Charlotte would have run a lot faster, but her friends got all tuckered out and started walking.  Every so often Charlotte would take off running again and her friends would yell “Stop Running!  Hold her back!  Not again!”

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Zach ran with Nicole.  He said she pushed her way through the race running the whole time.  At the end she told me she won the race.  She also told me she was allergic to winning other things.

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Charlotte dumped her bottled water on her head after the race:

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And that was our week.  Next week is the last week of school.  I’m not sure I’m ready for the summer, but I am looking forward to my Mom, Dad, and brother Bryan coming to visit in early June!

Nicole’s 7th Birthday

My Mom always made birthdays a really special occasion.  The whole day was special in every way should could think to make it special and I always try to do the same for my kids.

Since Nicole loves “The Rainbow Queen” so much, I thought it would be nice if she got some rainbow clothes fro her to wear to school on her birthday:

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She choose french toast for breakfast, but I was so busy making and serving it to everyone that I didn’t get any pictures of her eating her birthday breakfast.  After breakfast, Nicole and I made this rainbow crown for her to wear to school on her birthday:

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Nicole at 7

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I am struggling to come up with just the right word to describe what this year has been like for Nicole and for us.  It was almost exactly a year ago that we got her Autism diagnosis.  At first it seemed like no big deal, it didn’t actually change anything about her to have a name for her peculiarities.  Then everything changed.  It was almost like she knew she had a title and now she needed to live up to it.  Only she didn’t really know anything because we didn’t tell her.  The first real memorable change came just before our trip to Ohio.  She came with me to run some errands and while we were out, Ila needed to use the potty.  Nicole refused to go in the multi-stall public restroom.  I don’t remember the specific details, only that she screamed and I felt panicked about leaving her outside of the restroom by herself or leaving Ila to go in by herself.

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