Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa Party!

The pre-party started in our classroom as we gathered around with our snacks to watch an edited-for-children version of "The Elf". (Memorable quote from Buddy the elf: "Sounds like somebody needs to sing a Christmas Carol!")

We were honored to have two volunteers as our guests:

Melanie Graetz (seen here with Corey), a student at NC State from Greensboro, has been volunteering at Frankie Lemmon since October. She wants "to see what this school is all about" after long talks with friends who are also special education teachers.

Shelby Potts (in photo, left), a graduate student from Appalachian State, has been "shadowing" speech therapist Sharon Hanvey as an intern every day while on Christmas break. Hoping to be a speech therapist herself someday, Shelby follows Sharon's footsteps as she goes through her paces.

Around 11 o'clock, we marched up to the fellowship hall with the other two classes. Already present were the staff and dozens of parents and relatives, with cameras ready! Executive Director Janet Sellers bid us welcome and kicked off the main event: Santa and his big bag of Christmas gifts. She told us to enjoy ourselves. Which we did!…

Slideshow photos by Peggy Walters

P.S.  Voting is now officially closed in IKEA's Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest . We'll have to wait until January 17 to find out if our own Melissa Matthews (mother of Aiden, a child with Down syndrome) will get to spend a year (and $100,000) helping others at Frankie Lemmon. (See my December 7 blog: "The Polls are Open".) Melissa was still in the lead as the polls were closed. Thanks for your participation!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Bells, Songs, and Flying Caterpillars

How Dustin makes Caterpillars fly
Occupational therapist Vicki Demaster specializes in developing skills in the areas of visual perception, fine motor, gross motor, cognitive and social skills. For example: What's the difference between a sheep and a rooster? Does a square peg fit into a triangular hole? How do you thread a needle? And most importantly—how does Dustin make a caterpillar fly?

Holiday Bells and Song:

And how does Melissa Raley spread all that joy? Melissa and her talented musicians—all from the nearby Underwood Gifted and Talented Magnet Elementary School—honored us with a special Christmas concert today. Melissa has been teaching there since the Magnet Program began in 1981. She is eligible to retire but says she is still having too much fun in the classroom to consider it! Today she brought her fun to the children of Hayes Barton Baptist Church and to my Frankie Lemmon friends. To you and your wonderful music makers, a big THANK YOU, Melissa!


To Miss Forbis and Miss White and all my friends in the class of four-year-olds, Thank you VERY MUCH for the wonderful wreath and card. (The wreath is designed around a circle of little handprints.)

Reminder: Last week to vote!
If you think our own Melissa Matthews should spend a year (and $100,000) helping the Frankie Lemmon School, then click here to vote for her today and every day through December 23rd. Every time you vote, IKEA also donates $1 to Save the Children.

And a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Polls are Open!

What would you do if you had the chance to spend $100,000 on helping others—and could take a year doing it? Who would you help? How would you help them? What if all you had to do to get the money was state your case to IKEA®, the world's largest furniture retailer, better than thousands of others? Well Melissa Matthews, mother of Aiden, a child with Down syndrome at Frankie Lemmon, has almost done just that. I say almost, because her field of worthy competitors in IKEA®'s annual Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest has been reduced to five finalists—and she is one of them! And now she needs YOU to help her over the top. Melissa states her case:

"When I was 28 years old, I gave birth to my second son, who has Down syndrome. Having been a kindergarten teacher and reading specialist before my boys were born, I worried about Aidan's transition to school literally from the day the ultrasound tech noted soft markers for Down syndrome. I will never forget the first day I visited Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, NC.

“I saw children with intellectual disabilities, some who doctors said may never talk, not only talking and playing like their typical peers, but reading, working on computers, and playing musical instruments as well!”

The Polls Are Open
It's up to YOU! If you think Melissa should spend a year (and $100,000) helping the Frankie Lemmon School, then vote for her today! From now until midnight December 23rd, you can vote as often as once per day. And every time you vote, IKEA® will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. Program. What a deal—a win-win for everyone!

Here's how:
1. Go to Ikea's website at: IKEA
2. Under "Life, Improved", Click on "Vote now". This takes you to The Life Improvement Project.
3. On the right you'll see a rotating display of five videos. Out of thousands of applicants who want to "build a better tomorrow", only these five finalists remain. Melissa's video is labeled Special Technology for Special Kids!
4. Under the videos, click on "See All Videos".
5. Then click on Melissa's video. (As of December 6, she was in 1st place!)
6. When her page comes up, click on "Submit vote" and follow the directions.

Go ahead ... you can do it ... vote now and vote often! Meanwhile, we'll play some Christmas music.

A Final Note

In the animated movie Toy Story 2, Woody the cowboy puppet has to decide: does he go to a museum where he can live forever and never be loved again, or does he go home to his friends, including that wacky puppet space ranger Buzz Lightyear, where he can be loved but may not last another day. Woody decides on the more perilous of the two. As for myself, I will NOT live in a museum! "To infinity ... and beyond!"

Speaking of friends, I think I can hear them now!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Simon's Picture Perfect Day

Portrait Makers Donna and Landy Davis ( were here all morning. Their mission: to take individual and group photographs of all my young friends at the Frankie Lemmon School for the school yearbook. I think the story is best told through one child, rather than all. So I picked Simon.
...Maybe because he was typical. Maybe because he looked so good in his tie!

Simon (right) and Cory begin their day by coloring pictures of their own.
But Simon soon takes his turn on the portrait table.
1. Ok, let's see the REAL Simon!  2. The funny me?  3. How about the serious me?
4. Hi, Mr. Pat!  5. Puppy says concentrate.  6. Ready for my close-up Ms Davis!

Then it's back to the classroom for a group shot. Cheeeeeeeese!
Another day. Another yearbook. Yaaaay!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trickers, treaters and treats

"Children that have special needs very often have to be taught to play. It's not something that necessarily comes naturally to them. They have to be taught imagination - pretend play."
— Janet Sellars, Executive Director of the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center, featured on WTVD's Heart of Carolina Perspectives Show October 16 discussing the Frankie Lemmon Foundation's involvement with the PlayHouse Parade in Cameron Village and how it will benefit both Frankie Lemmon and the Sassafras All Children's Playground.
View at:

The trickers.

Back row (left to right): "Scarecrow" Miss Forbis, "Cat" Miss White.
Front row: "Angry Bird" Ben, "Doctor" Cristopher, "Nascar Driver" Julian, "Lady Bug" Kamryn, "Buzz Lightyear" Cory, "Woody" Simon, "Dark Spiderman" Marlon.

The treaters.

The treats.

1. Pumpkins—all these pumpkins.
2. A funny laugh from "Halloween Jack".
3. A visit from Lenora Evans, Executive Director of the Frankie Lemmon Foundation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love a Fair!

Once a year, my Frankie Lemmon friends and their teachers and staff, and even their parents, get to go the North Carolina State Fair. And this year, for the third time in a row, I got to go with them. Together, we tried to answer the question: "Is it possible to have too much fun?" Find the answer in this little movie...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Gift of Speech

Some of us were told we never stopped talking since the day we were born. Others of us never had that luxury and had to be taught…some later in life than others. Some of my friends at Frankie Lemmon can't seemingly understand, or even pay attention to, a word that anybody says. But here, they are taught not only how to sign, but how to speak. It is a gift to my friends, in a school where can be found many givers.

The gift of speech

Indeed, bring in all the great teachers and have them come to your child! And with that, we can all make hay!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tales from the Barn (paraphrased)

Miss Forbis: "Last week we went to a farm and saw some real farm animals. We saw chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, a donkey and even a baby cow. This week we'll explore 'behind the scenes' a little."

"No, we're not going to talk about armadillos. They don't live on a farm. And we're not going to Amarillo. We wouldn't get back in time to meet the buses. We're going to talk about farm animals. For example, on the farm there's a red barn and in the barn there's a cow."

"That's right, Cristopher.

And there are sheep in the barn.

And sometimes the life of a chicken can be pretty scary!

"But, all in all, there's a lot going on at the farm. Watch this video and see!"
(Mr. Pat: This movie features our friends along with Miss Forbis, Miss White, Miss Paula, Miss Taylor, a bunch of farm animals, and last, but not least, Jeanne and her wonderful girl Beagle named Gracie (from Carolina Canines).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

To the Farm!

Today, in a convoy of cars and church vans, we went on a field trip to a farm – not just any farm, mind you – "Uncle" Russell Vollmer's farm ( It's just outside Bunn, NC in a beautiful country setting. Now this is a FARM! Not only does Uncle Russell have pick-your-own organic strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, but he has chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, a donkey named Roscoe and a newborn calf named Peanuts.

But that's not all! He has something called the Back Forty Playground, where we found over two dozen outdoor fun and fitness attractions, including the Great Pumpkin Jump, the largest "Jumping Pillow" in North Carolina! We also took an amazing hayride, "milked" a cow and visited the Pumpkin Playground, where you can pick-your-own.

When I was a kid, school was NEVER like this; how sad! But anyhow, take a tour with us by video and see for yourself…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's About Family

So what were Miss Jaimie's 5-year-olds next door doing while we 4-year-olds were working and studying so hard?

Before I get to that, let me tell you first that our theme this week was all about family. You see, when you're family, you stick together; when you're family, you're always welcome.

Corey shows us his family while Miss Forbis signs "father" to the class.

Ben's family album even includes the "dog".

We learn that some families speak a different language. We count along in English and Spanish as Miss Forbis reads from ¡Fiesta! where three children buy things at the store to put inside a birthday piƱata. They take uno canasta (one basket) and fill it with dos trompetas (two horns), tres animalitos (three toy animals)... etc.

N.C. State senior Miss Lauren (between Miss White and Miss Forbis) is our newest volunteer. She joins us as we try to find Marlon under the red scarf.
Where is Marlon?
Where is Marlon?
Here I am.
Here I am.
Hello Marlon.
Hello Marlon.
Glad that you're in music.
Glad that you're in music.
Welcome to our family Lauren! We're glad you're in music, too.

Miss White leads the way and shows us how to make really neat aprons with polka dots, squares, moons and every shape imaginable. Afterwards, she lets the aprons dry on the family drying rack.

Let me philosophize: Hatred makes no sense in a world where a group of strangers can grow into a family in less than two weeks. Perhaps the seeds of our world’s salvation lie in something as simple as getting to know our neighbors.

I'm just telling you this because you're like one of the family, so it's OK.

And oh yes, what was Miss Jaimie's class doing? Well YOU figure it out! It had nothing to do with work – it had everything to do with bubbles. But it's OK – they're family. See, when you're family, you look out for each other. We all need to chase bubbles now and then! (Thanks Miss Jamie for the video.)

Click here if you'd like to chase bubbles too.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Learning About Me

It's nearly three weeks into the new school year already and I'm learning more and more about me.

I can pick the way I say good morning – like a skunk,

…or I can pick "underwater" and say good morning like Spongebob Squarepants.

I learn how to say (and sign) that the sun is yellow today.

…and I learn from the iPad that we're having chicken nuggets for lunch.

During snack time, I can't say or sign "goldfish" yet, but I can "touch" it to my teacher.

After I find my name, I can pick a sticker to wear.

I also learned about something called feelings – that there are words about the way I feel, words like happy - sad - mad - excited - scared - silly.

This is what happy looks like.

I learned songs by picking them from the iPad screen. Today we sang "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum."

And then Miss Paula taught me how to play her big drum.

After that, she taught my friends how to play the drum together as a team. Then Miss White showed us – one at a time – how to walk across white paper with paint on our bare feet. I think she wanted us to leave our footprints for posterity. Unfortunately, I was "de-painted" just before I could leave my footprints on my clothes, in my hair, or anywhere else.

I think we make one HECK of a team!
This is what we sound like…and LOOK like!

So that's what I (we) learned this week. What did YOU learn?

Announcements (Thanks Debbie):
Imagine having to reuse soiled diapers!
1 in 20 American moms struggling with diaper needs have cleaned out and reused wet or soiled diapers. You can help prevent that by donating your Rewards Points to Every Little Bottom. For every 2 points you contribute, HUGGIES® Brand will donate one diaper to their community partner, Feeding America. For a simple donation of 16 Rewards Points, you can diaper a baby in need for a day.
Open a world of reading at home!
Scholastic Book Clubs is teaming up with Kellogg's to highlight the importance of reading every day. With the purchase of any two specially marked Kellogg's packages from Walmart stores this fall, you'll receive an offer for a $5 Book Coupon from Scholastic Book Clubs. The coupons can be redeemed at checkout or submitted with your order, just like any other Scholastic Book Clubs coupon.
Turn labels into cash!
Frankie Lemmon School is excited about partnering with Tyson products to earn money for the school. Clip Tyson Project A Plus section on Tyson bags and boxes, (please see examples below), and turn into the school office. Each clipping redeemed is worth 24 cents. Thanks to everyone for your continued support. Learn more on Parents' Night, October 4.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting to Know You

Today was only the second class day of this new year. After parents' orientation day on Wednesday, the teachers and therapists are very busy with initial assessments of our new friends in areas of abilities, disabilities, anxieties and a whole checklist of needs.

Below are some introductory remarks from our new friends. (with thanks to Kate Harper Designs at

Speech therapist Sharon Hanvey is determining who needs what in the areas of speech and language therapy, which is required for every student.

Physical therapist Eliza Bankert will be teaching gross motor skills, specializing in things like how to go up and down stairs and how to step up on curbs...safely.

Occupational therapist Vicki Demaster specializes in "fine motor" and "visual motor" skills in areas such as handwriting, self-dressing, and "crossing the midline" – the ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms and legs crossing over to the opposite side. It's a skill needed for reading, writing, and even for reaching toward your foot to put on a shoe and sock with both hands.

That's not all that's new! Check out the school's completely revamped website at: There's even a link to my blog. (Look up "Volunteer Opportunities" under "Ways to Give".)

More new things are afoot…
Look for updates on the future expansion of the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center, continued advancement of school programs, and increased collaboration with the community and like-minded partners.

Last but not least…what is TIE?
Harris Teeter's Together In Education program (TIE) helps schools raise funds for anything from basic supplies to computers. Next time you go to the store, just give the cashier your VIC Card along with the Frankie Lemmon school number (2569). From then on, whenever you purchase certain Harris Teeter Brand products, the store will automatically contribute a percentage of your purchase to the school. It's painless and you are giving away someone else's money!

There are many other ways to "Shop and Give" as well. Look under "Ways to Give" on the school's website.