Blog Archive

Semi-Annual Reader Appreciation Sale!

It's that time of year again!  Time to say thank you to all of you for your love, support, and kindness.  

This Semi-Annual Reader Appreciation Sale is even more special because it marks the end of one era and the beginning of another at Every Star Is Different.  

My husband is returning home full time to work with me on the blog!  I am so excited to have him back.  His last day of work outside of the home is July 20th.  We couldn't be more excited.

Semi-Annual Reader Appreciation Sale

This means all of those new unit studies you love so much will be returning because he'll be around to help.

It also means so many more amazing resources for your classroom.  We can not wait to get started.

Whether he's preparing delicious meals so I can work (He's an amazing cook.), or he's creating magnificent science, history, and art printables for you, rest assured he'll be staying very busy.

Semi-Annual Reader Appreciation Sale Details


So in celebration of this momentous occasion and because I can't say thank you enough for all of your support, enjoy 25% off all products in my shop for a limited time only.

This sale only comes around twice a year, so be sure to grab the products you've been meaning to purchase.

The Semi-Annual Reader Appreciation Sale starts at 12:00 AM EST Friday, July 20, 2018 and ends at 11:59 PM EST Thursday, July 26, 2018.

There is no need for a special code or coupon.  Discounts have already been applied to products.

All you need to do is visit my shop, click on the products you'd like, add them to your cart and check out!

And once again thank you so much!  I love reading your beautiful comments and messages. 

It makes my day to learn how much a reader enjoys a product from Every Star Is Different.  I melt when I see pictures of your children being successful because of something we've created.

Happy shopping!
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Montessori-inspired Squirrel Gifts Ideas and Classroom Resources for Children

Squirrels are such a fun animal to study during the fall season, especially when you incorporate acorns into activities and learning.  

They also make for a great fall classroom theme.  And we all know how much fun it is to decorate a classroom to match a special theme.

Sunshine has been obsessed with squirrels for quite some time.  It only made sense to share our favorite Montessori-inspired squirrel gift ideas and classroom resources for children.  


Montessori-inspired Squirrel Gift Ideas and Classroom Resources for Children

Montessori-inspired Squirrel Gift Ideas and Classroom Resources for Children


Schleich Eating Squirrel Figure
Sunshine loves her squirrel figure. She actually has two.  They are super cute and work perfectly with other Schleich figures.

Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
My kiddos adored this game.  They played it over and over and over again until they grew out of it.  (So so so sad.)  I love that this game encourages the practice of fine motor skills and colors.

Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Card Game
I honestly had no idea until they made this list that a card version of this game existed.  How fun to have with you when you're on the go, or for a kiddo who can't get enough of playing card games!

Janod Nutty Ball Track
This is just so adorable and beautifully made.  If I had a little one still, you can bet I'd have this set up in our Montessori-inspired play area.

SmartGames Squirrel Go Nuts!
Princess loves brain teaser games.  This one is perfect for her.  I just love the fall theme and can't wait to make it available on our shelves.

Excellerations Tree and Squirrel Blocks
Bulldozer has and probably always will love blocks.  We've collected many sets over the years.  This one is perfect for the autumn season and includes two wooden squirrels for extra fun.

Squirrel Confetti
For every season I have a collection of table scatter/confetti to use for tweezing activities, sensory bins, and table decor.  It's a staple in our home.

Montessori-inspired Squirrel and Acorn Gift Ideas and Classroom Resources for Children

Welcome to the World of Squirrels
Such a great true to life picture book to include at home or at school with great information to learn and enjoy.

Squirrel and Acorn Cookie Cutters
Cookie cutters can be so versatile.  They can be used to bake or incorporated in play dough activities.  We've also used them for painting and stamping.

Mazing Squirrel and Acorn Wooden String Toy
Whether encouraging practice of hand and eye coordination or working on fine motor skills, this is a great resource to have at home or in the classroom.

Because of an Acorn
This children's book has the most beautiful illustrations describing the ecosystem and how it works, starting with an acorn.

Learning Resources Alphabet Acorns Activity Set
This activity set provides endless opportunities for learning, whether using the acorns alone, or with the treasures inside.  Such a perfect resource when learning first letter sounds.

Wooden Acorns Counting & Sorting Kit
For those who prefer natural materials in the classroom, this is a must have.  Just imagine all of the fun counting and sorting activities.

Artificial Acorns
If real acorns aren't available where you are, you may want to consider picking up a bag of these!  They work great for all sorts of learning activities.

I just love filling our home and learning environment with seasonal treasures to enjoy.  The kiddos get so excited about them.

If you enjoyed this post and are looking for other fall resources, be sure to check out the posts below.
Autumn Leaves Unit with Free Printables Apple Unit 2 Squirrel Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Autumn Activities & Free Printables Fall Harvest Unit Syllabus Fall Harvest Printable Pack Bundle

Squirrel Themed Fall Harvest Gift Ideas and Resources for Children
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Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children

We've been working incredibly hard with Sunshine to help her pause and calm herself before responding inappropriately to situations around her.

This has been quite challenging as Sunshine has a very low frustration tolerance.  When she becomes upset aggression is her go to coping mechanism, despite how inappropriate and harmful it may be.

When we're able to observe Sunshine is becoming upset we immediately use the following four prompts to encourage mindfulness.  These work extremely well when she is stable.  They have saved us from many unnecessary behavior issues.

These four steps were something that I came up with in the moment, trying to calm Sunshine a several months back.  She responded so well we continued to use them.

Though I have not tested these prompts on other children besides my own, I can only guess that they can promote mindfulness in all children.

Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children


Here's how this works!

Stop

When Sunshine becomes agitated she immediately starts moving.  Most often this can result in a lack of safety awareness followed by someone getting hurt.  As soon as I see Sunshine reaching this point, my immediate response is,

"STOP!"

It's short and simple, loud enough so she can hear me clearly and is accompanied by a hand signal that she knows means stop.  

Not only does Sunshine receive an auditory prompt, but also a visual one.  

When she is stable, Sunshine is very quick to make her body still.

Breathe

Once Sunshine is still, I prompt her to breathe.  I do this by using the one word command.  I then inhale slowly, raising my hand starting below my torso and lifting it above my head slowly, encouraging a very long inhale.

After I have observed that Sunshine has inhaled as well, we pause for a second and then exhale together slowly, pushing the air out as I bring my hand down slowly.

Look

The next step is to help Sunshine become present.  I do this by prompting her to look at me.  

Now this does not mean that I expect full eye contact.  What it does mean is that her body and eyes are facing my direction and I know she's not distracted by something else.

As I prompt her using the word look, I also bring two fingers to my eyes.  Once again this provides both auditory and visual prompts which is extremely important.  Just one of those prompts often isn't enough.

Listen

It's only after Sunshine has followed the commands to stop, breathe and look, that I point to my ear and give the last command to listen.  Most often Sunshine shows me she is ready for this next step by pointing to her ear too.

It's at this point that I can communicate with her, knowing she's looking for understanding and has a sincere desire to follow directions and be her best self.

Nine times out of ten this method helps Sunshine calm down and become mindful of herself and others, as well as her surroundings when she is stable.

Why the Prompts Work

I love this method because it's simple and direct.  Too many words can cause confusion and an increase in negative behaviors.  

I also love the prompts because they help Sunshine remain in control.  There are no power struggles over using the word no, taking things away, touching her or giving negative consequences.  

The main goal is to bring Sunshine back to the present and calmly speak to her to help her better understand a situation before it gets out of hand.

By the time the four prompts are completed both parties are calm and rational, despite any negative emotions and energy that might have been there before.

Another aspect of the four prompts I really like is that I know very quickly if they're going to work, or if Sunshine is past the point of calming down.  

The entire process takes less than a minute to complete.  If things go well I can enjoy a fabulous conversation where we both can express emotions and better understand what's going on. 

When I notice she's unable to follow the prompts I can immediately move forward with making sure everyone stays safe.

It has been amazing to see how these four prompts have helped Sunshine remain calm in so many difficult situations.  She immediately recognizes the first prompt and knows exactly what to do.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.  They include other behavioral strategies that we have used in the past and still use now.

4 Steps to Managing Aggressive BehaviorsOne Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions5 Lessons to Teach Kids About Balancing Emotions

Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children


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Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Girls

Princess is turning nine years old at the end of this month.  I still can't believe she'll be that old.  My has the time flown by.  It has been quite the adventure to watch her change from a little girl into a preteen.  Needless to say there are only a few toys that are "cool" anymore.

These gift ideas for 9 year old girls were selected by Princess herself. If you have a daughter transititioning into that preteen stage as well, we hope these help when it comes time for gift giving.

Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Girls

Let's check out what's on her list!

Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Girls


Gift ideas for 9 year old girls-Board Games
Princess LOVES board games.  Bulldozer and she play board games together almost every afternoon.  We are in desperate need of some variety.

All of the board games listed here are junior versions of the real game.  This is purposeful in that the kids can play these games without an adult guiding them through it.  (With all of the special needs in our house that's very important.) It also provides opportunities for all siblings to play together when they desire.







Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Girls-Books
Princess' most favorite thing to do is read.  She would read all day without stopping if we let her.  This year Princess enjoyed several selections on her book list.  She is very eager to read sequels to her favorite novels, as well as look into other books by the same authors.  

In one case she loved a book so much, she is requesting her own copy to read again and again.  These books are just a few of those she's requested.








Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Grils-Brain Teasers
It's no secret that Princess is brilliant and always needs to keep her hands busy.  We've found that brain teasers are the perfect fidget toys for her as they provide a challenge, help focus, and keep her hands out of trouble.

Princess loves dot-to-dot books and calls them brain teasers as well.  She enjoys counting as a self-soothing tool and these provide the perfect opportunity to do so.

The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Original! Book 2

The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Original! Book 3

Think Fun Gordian's Knot

Kanoodle Genius

Gravity Maze

Think Fun Fifteen Puzzle

Gift Ideas for 9 Year Old Girls-American Girl
Princess has developed a definite liking for all things American Girl.  She especially loves their newest books and cookbooks.  Her favorite characters include Grace, Saige, and Luciana.  As you can imagine she's always trying to collect items that emphasize these girls.

Luciana: Out of This World

Mega Construx American Girl Grace's 2 in 1 Day in Paris Construction Site

Mega Construx American Girl Luciana's Space Lab Building Set

Starring Me Magic Sequin Journal

American Girl: Around the World Cookbook: Delicious Dishes Across the Globe

American Girl: Breakfast and Brunch

Princess' second most favorite thing in the world is art.  She has a whiteboard in her room where she draws and writes for hours.  Her coloring book collection is overflowing. 

The only problem we have is keeping her stocked with washable dry erase markers, white board erasers and colored pencils.  She has informed me that she desperately needs the items above.  Lol.

Crayola Washable Dry-Erase Markers

Crayola Fine Line Washable Dry-Erase Markers

Magnetic Smiley Face Circular Whiteboard Eraser Pack

Sketchbook for Girls

Learn To Draw Princess Kingdom!

Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils

Princess has gone from wanting to be a doctor to having the desire to become an astronomer or astronaut.  I am totally eating up this phase as I love astronomy and all things space related myself.

Land's End Girl's Graphic Tee: Dog Constellation Size: Medium Regular

Qurious Space STEM Flash Card Game

Plush Fleece Outdoor Waterproof Blanket

Bushnell Falcon Binoculars

Women In Science

LEGO Ideas Women of Nasa 21312

Princess came up with so many great ideas here.  It's going to be hard to choose what to give her for her birthday!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
Gift Ideas by Theme Family Wish Lists Children's Book Recommendations

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What Family Life Looks Life After the Mental Health Crisis is Over (Chapter 10)

It's been almost four weeks since Sunshine started her day program.

It's been over two months since our world turned upside down.

People are asking,

"How is everything going?"

This is my attempt to share what family life looks like after the mental health crisis is over.

There are so many changes, strong emotions and sacrifices on every one's behalf.


Life Turned Upside Down

We are a late to bed and late to rise homeschooling family.  My husband works the 2 PM to 11 PM shift and doesn't usually make it home until around midnight.

The girls have always started bedtime routines around 9: 30 PM.  My boys see their dad when he gets home and go to bed after that.  Everyone sleeps in.  We have done this for years because it works well and accommodates everyone's sleeping needs.

When Sunshine started her day program daily routines turned upside down.  Not just for Sunshine, but for everyone.  The kiddos now need to wake up early and go to bed early.  We're not just talking about a 30 minute adjustment. We're talking about a three hour adjustment.

This has been so hard, especially as my husband continues to work, returning late each night.  He wakes up in the morning to help see Sunshine off to school because it's the only time of day he sees her at all.

Everyone has sacrificed so much.

The Least Restrictive Environment

Sunshine's transport picks her up at 7:45 AM.  Before transportation was arranged, my husband or myself were driving her 30 minutes to school one way.

That was two extra hours of driving each day with only one vehicle.  We had to rely on friends to pick my husband up from work, or I had to wake the kids up to go and get him.  Thankfully this only lasted a week.

Sunshine's transport is a retired police officer of 32 years. He comes in a retired police vehicle, painted silver.  She is the only student in the car.

This is Sunshine's least restrictive way of getting to and from school.  The man is kind and very jolly.  Sunshine enjoys him and talks with him all the way to school and back.  But still...

My daughter needs a retired police officer in a retired police vehicle to transport her to school for safety reasons.

I'm not sure I'll ever get over that.

Changes to Routines

We used to spend mornings outside playing for hours, then came lunch, rest and reading time followed by learning time in the afternoon until it was time to prepare dinner. That was before Sunshine hit a phase of development that changed everything.

Now...

The three other kiddos wake up after Sunshine leaves.  We tried to have them wake up together, but Sunshine's meds don't kick in until right before she leaves for school.  It takes both Jason and I in the morning to get her ready and out the door on time.  None of this is Sunshine's fault, but it is reality.

Learning time has switched to the morning because of Sunshine's school day schedule.  There is no rest and reading time.  Sunshine no longer is here for her afternoon nap and doesn't take one at school.

Sunshine comes home at 3 PM.  Sometimes the afternoons and evenings go well. Sometimes they don't.  Just yesterday Sunshine earned nail polish with glitter after working hard to have seven good days at home after school.  This was a goal she'd been working on for over two weeks.  She was so excited!

It usually takes at least an hour of stimming to calm her down from her day at school.  Stimming for Sunshine right now is feverishly "writing" or coloring a page until whatever she's coloring is completely finished.

Dinner is at 5 PM to ensure Sunshine goes to bed on time.  Meal prep time is and always has been a struggle for Sunshine.

Medications are given at 5:30 PM and not a moment later.  Those medications Sunshine received in the morning only last so long.  We need to be sure there is enough time for night time medications to take effect before it's bedtime.

We try to get outside after medications so long as it's not too hot or storming.  We've had to say goodbye to days when Sunshine gets to spend hours outside.  Instead she spends her time in school.  This still doesn't feel right to me.  Outside time is one of the things that helps Sunshine the most.

Sunshine is in bed and asleep between 6:30 and 7:30 PM most nights.  She's so tired all the time.  Her naps have been taken away.  There is constant sensory over stimulation at school.  Not to mention she's not getting the exercise her body so desperately needs.  It makes me so sad.

My husband sees Sunshine for 45 minutes every morning.  I see her for a maximum of four and a half hours a day.  Her siblings spend up to four hours with her total.  I still can't shake the feeling that this is so wrong after spending 24/7 with her for six years.

Missing in Action

As I said before my husband is still working.  The only time he spends with Sunshine is in the morning before school and on his days off.  We had hoped he could switch his hours, but it didn't work out.

Sunshine misses her Daddy so much.

With him at work, I'm on my own after school until Sunshine goes to bed.  On those bad days I miss my husband more than words can describe.

In-home respite services were supposed to start, but the initial process hasn't even begun so that's at least a month out, if it happens at all.  This was supposed to be my lifeline while he continued to work.  Oh well.

I've noticed my boys starting to change.  Dinomite feels a need to cheer me up and make things better after difficult situations when my husband isn't home.  Bulldozer gives me extra hugs and snuggles.  They've become the men of the house and Sunshine often treats them as such.  This isn't a good thing.

Mealtime Independence

The kiddos have become used to preparing their own dinner or knowing that what I prepare will be simple.  If only dinner prep wasn't such a difficult time for Sunshine...

I try to justify the meal time independence by telling myself it's great that the kiddos are becoming more confident in the kitchen, developing their practical life skills etc.  Now that they feel confident preparing their dinner, they've started to do so with breakfast and lunch as well.

For all intents and purposes this is a great thing. Any mother would be thrilled, but for me, there's just been so many changes all happening so fast, with so much loss wrapped into them.  I miss preparing meals for my children.

Strong Emotions

It took the older three kiddos two weeks after Sunshine started her day program to seem okay again, after two months of turmoil.

There were so many strong emotions and words that needed to be shared.  None of which were easy to say or hear.

Princess seemed to struggle the most.

How did we get here?  I still don't know.

Thankfully all have seemed to adjust to our new normal now.

School

Sunshine has good days and bad days at school.  There are some days when she struggles at school and then brings those strong emotions home. Other days she may have a great day at school and then a horrible time at home.

We've been working really hard to help her remember what happens at school stays at school.  She gets to start over at home.  It's okay to have a bad day at school and a good day at home and visa versa.

This motto works well except for those days that start out horrible and just progressively get worse.

Sunshine is Sunshine no matter where she goes which means it didn't take long before teachers were experiencing Sunshine's behaviors as we do at home.

I still have this inner conflict with myself about it all.  It feels reassuring to know that it's not just me.  We're not dealing with parenting problems. Sunshine is really struggling, no matter who is trying to help her.

But then I feel horrible that others are experiencing what we have.  My goal was always to have everyone see Sunshine at her best so they could get to know the sweet and funny girl we all love.  That may sound unrealistic, but I wanted to be sure people saw who Sunshine for who she really is before learning about and experiencing her struggles first hand.

I keep telling myself that it's all okay.  Things could be worse.

For now I'm just thankful things aren't worse at school.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.  There's a difference between the unconditional love of a mother and the feelings of those who are paid to experience Sunshine's bad days.

I have to remind myself that the daily log Sunshine brings back and forth to school is the documentation we need.  In the future we will be at another cross roads.  This documentation will mean everything.

Academics

We have been a Montessori family since Dinomite and Bulldozer were in preschool.  Sunshine has been brought up in a Montessori lifestyle since she was adopted at eighteen months.

This year Sunshine made such huge strides academically as she was finally stable enough to do so.  The Montessori materials are perfect for educational needs with her vision impairment and autism.

Just before Sunshine's mental health went downhill she had started to learn to read.  We were working on CVC words.  She was learning her numbers to 100.  Sunshine was finally learning to write. Things were going so well.

And now...

Every now and then a worksheet will be sent home from school not at all tailored to Sunshine's academic needs or skill level.

Sunshine has regressed without the daily practice of all that she's learned.

During the summer, Sunshine's day program is much more laid back.  The class goes on field trips twice a week (which Sunshine loves).  Sometimes they do paper crafts where the teacher cuts out all of the shapes and Sunshine just glues and colors them.

I'm hoping to see more progress in the fall.  But if not, I just keep reminding myself this is a behavioral placement, not an academic one, even though it breaks my heart that I can't give Sunshine the Montessori education her siblings are receiving.

My husband and I have gone back and forth about what to do regarding Sunshine's education.  Packing up her Montessori learning materials and activities was one of the hardest things I've had to do.  It took me over a week, with tears pouring down my eyes every step of the way.  This was a loss I hadn't expected to feel so much.

Sunshine LOVES to learn.  Learning time is the most enjoyable time during the day with her.  Yet at the same time, it can be the most difficult for her as her frustration tolerance is so low.  With so little time with her now, after having been at school all day, we just haven't decided how to address her academic needs and keep Montessori principles in place.

Hopefully with time we'll figure this out.

Friends

Sunshine is in a classroom with five other students. Some are nonverbal.  Others have significant behavioral issues of their own.  There are six adults in the classroom to manage all of this.

Sunshine has been punched and bullied by "friends."

Sunshine has also been the bully to "friends."

I still struggle with this aspect of the school/ day program she attends.

There are no positive role models for her.  Instead she just brings home the behaviors of the other children.

Yet, on the other hand there is no one that will fall victim to her aggression, who doesn't dish out the same thing back.

Still to accept that she belongs and fits in there...  That it's where she needs to be...

How will she learn to overcome these behaviors if they seem normal and okay because everyone else has them too?  I have to believe that she can overcome them.  She's smart and capable.

Oh my heart!

The Inner Conflict

My husband, older three kiddos and I thoroughly enjoy the break that comes when Sunshine goes to school.  It's amazing the difference in our home.  Everyone feels it.

Transitioning to when she is home is very difficult.  It's almost as if it's a completely different lifestyle.

We all know life is better with her going to school, and even Sunshine says she enjoys it, but it's still hard and just so different.

I feel guilty for enjoying time apart and I feel guilty for struggling when she's home.

There is always such an inner conflict of emotions.

The Future

Gradually we are adjusting to our new normal.  Yet we know life can't stay like this.  It's inevitable that more changes are coming.  The mental health crisis is over, but now is when the real work begins.

This is not the last time that Sunshine will have a mental health crisis.  We can hope and pray that nothing like this happens again, but at this point, any medication changes in the future have to happen inpatient.

This will not be the last time Sunshine ends up inpatient at a child's psych ward.  Developmental changes wreak havoc on the brain.  Medication changes can and probably will cause instability.  None of this is Sunshine's fault.  It just is the way life is for her.

This is only the beginning of a long journey to help Sunshine become the best she can be with the challenges she's been given.

So we've begun to prepare for a future that will be beneficial for everyone.

As soon as it's possible my husband will be returning home full time to work with me.  For those who don't know, this is how we helped Sunshine be her best self in New York before we moved.

This is a huge sacrifice financially, but Sunshine needs her father around.  It's important to have two adults at home with so many special needs.  We're hoping with both of us working on the blog we'll be able to make up the income quickly.

With two parents at home, no matter what struggles Sunshine is having, my husband and I can divide and conquer, tag teaming when necessary, in hopes that we can keep her home and not have to consider residential placement.

We love Sunshine so much and want to do whatever we can to help her succeed in life.

It's rare to get a glimpse of life after the crisis.  Many believe things get better and return to normal.  Life becomes simple again.  But that's not the case with a mental health crisis.

No matter how many times I review everything in my mind, I can't figure out a way for us to go back to the way things were before all of this happened.

That simple life we were used to is gone.  Everything is so much more complicated.

I think to myself...

How many families are living like this?

How many families are asked to sacrifice everything in the name of mental health because they love their child and there is no real help out there to be found?

How many people are working through all of these changes, experiencing such strong emotions and making so many sacrifices?

This is just a glimpse of what family life looks like after the mental health crisis is over.

If you enjoyed this post and want to follow our story from the beginning, read the posts below.
Call the Police! What You Don't Want to Have Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons What Should Happen When Your Child is in the ER for Mental Health Reasons Check-in-at an inpatient children's psychiatric hospital My Daughter is inpatient at a Children's Psych Ward Our First Family Session in a Psych Ward Nine Days This Was Not Okay Miracles


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