Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thwarted

Well, I was *going* to publish a lovely video of my son's latest robotic creation, but the photo card and the printer and the network are conspiring against me and my computer.  They refuse to let me copy the file so I can edit and upload it. 

SO, in order to show them who's boss around here, I'm writing a blog post about something completely different:  M1 and his allergy testing results.

THE GOOD NEWS:  He is allergic to precisely four things, two of which are fairly minor allergies to seasonal molds... nothing that we can't avoid or tolerate.

THE BAD NEWS:  The other two things he's allergic to are species of dust mites, and those allergies are, in clinical terms, "severe."  He reacted more strongly to either dust mite allergen than he did to a straight dose of histamine (the thing that makes your body allergic to anything).  The doctor said that she'd rank his allergic reaction to dust mites as a 4+/5... and she doesn't give 5s.

So now Oz and M1 and I get to decide what to do.  We could go the immunotherapy route, which we're considering.  M1 doesn't want to get a shot in his arm every week, which I can understand, so I'm leaving that one up to him.  Oz and I, of course, get to discuss the tougher decisions like A: ripping out all the carpet in our nearly-50-year-old house (ain't gonna happen because... well, see option B) or B: buying a house that doesn't have carpet and has two bathrooms and a fireplace and an office and a specific area to homeschool (also not going to happen, as much as I'd like it to).  My vacuum cleaner is on its last legs, so my Christmas present this year is likely to be a Dyson Animal that I'll use perhaps a little more regularly than I've been using its Bissell predecessor that currently sounds like a lion with 'roid rage. 

All in all, though, the results were a lot better than I expected.  M1 and I were extremely glad that none of our pets made the list, and the doctor and I were both surprised that he didn't show any reactions to outdoor allergens.  For now, we just keep doing what we've been doing and head back in six months for an asthma followup.

Assuming I can get technology to agree with me, there will be a video tomorrow - stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh, Look, a Wall...

As of this Saturday, we will have been back in school for one month already.  This does not seem real to me, just like it doesn't seem real that my son will turn nine years old in little more than a month.  Thankfully I already have a few gifts socked away.  Of course, if his birthday is in little less than a month, that means Christmas ideas should start floating around in my head anytime now... but that is a place I do not need to go.

Let me catch my thoughts for a minute and start again.

Right.

So, as I said, we've been back in school about a month already and it's surreal.  I don't feel like we've gotten a schedule under control yet because, well, we haven't.  We had one week of school, then M1 had his week of robotics camp that seems like it was a million years ago.  Last week all we had (other than 2.5 hours of swim and a grocery list a mile long that had to be purchased during daylight hours because Oz was out of town) was allergy testing and I started to get optimistic, but this week we are going to be run ragged.  M1 gets the results from his allergy testing, M2's violin lessons start back up for the semester, M2 has a therapy session scheduled, and my sister (who is allergic to cats) is arriving on Friday evening or Saturday morning so she and I can catch up and have 'sister time.'  Oh, and the kids are having portraits done on Sunday morning at the lower intestine of dawn and I have NO IDEA what they're going to wear.

And that's just this week. 

I keep staring at the calendar on my phone and wondering where all the little dots under all the dates came from... the dots that denote at least one event on that date.  Many of those days have multiple events (three is not an uncommon number, and one particularly ugly day has FOUR), and I haven't even added in the stuff for M2's school PTA... the one I'm supposed to be vice-chair of... the PTA that hosts meetings, the book fair, Grandparents' Day, the fundraiser, etc.  (By the way, if any of you locals want some Blue & Gold sausage, bacon, or chicken strips, hit me up.  It'll be in around September 19th, and since I'll be running all over creation anyway, I can deliver.) 

I am really trying enjoy the moments that I do have with the kids... the moments that aren't scheduled.  During those times when I'm not cooking a meal or trying to exercise or writing down the week's lesson plans for my boy (who handed me his agenda tonight and said, "Mom, after you tuck me in, can you cross off 'bedtime?'  I don't like seeing uncrossed things in the morning."), I'm really trying to make every minute count.  The kids and I finished up By the Shores of Silver Lake tonight, because I try to read them at least one chapter an evening, and they really look forward to it.  Technology is verboten during meals, and I work hard to keep my mind focused on the precious moments I have with my kids rather than letting my thoughts drift into the la-la land of What Must Happen Tomorrow.  Even so, I feel like I'm missing so much of their day because of all the running around that happens.  I don't want M1 to quit swimming or M2 to quit violin, I just want the week to magically stretch so that I feel like I really get time to spend with my kiddos!

The school year.  One month in and I can already see the wall.  Ugh.  Someone get me a ladder and a good book, because if I can get on top of it, I'm not coming down!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Random Friday-ness

I am sitting at home today.  I have nowhere I have to be at a certain time.  The third load of laundry is in the washer; load 1 is dry and waiting to be put away and load 2 is hanging on the rack.  I plan to clean the house today, but if it doesn't happen I'm not too concerned because the grime hasn't yet reached critical mass. 

The inactivity is lovely.

The best part about not having any appointments and not having to run all over creation (besides the obvious fact that I'm not sitting in one of multiple construction zones that plague our area worse than anything God cooked up for Moses) is that I can sit down and recap my week.  Closure is good.

1.  M1 has been stellar.  When we had to be out of the house and run errands, he didn't whine once.  He put up with our entire grocery list (all $250 worth) and didn't bug me for products or stop in the middle of an aisle and start whimpering about how tired he was.  He busted a move and got all his schoolwork done before we had to leave for swim yesterday, which is no small feat.  I think the boy deserves a treat today.  I'm debating whether we'll go out for lunch or just giving him ice cream at home.  Either way, he's earned it.

2.  I'm very glad that I didn't sign M1 up for homeschool gym or banjo lessons and that M2 has accepted my decision that dance class isn't going to happen.  More on nixing the dance class in a second, but my schedule is already tight.  I hate feeling overscheduled, and I'm right on the verge as it is.  One more could send me over the edge.

3.  M2 lost a tooth, as most of you know.  The other top tooth was already loose, but she discovered today that two bottom teeth are loose as well.  She's ecstatic.  I'm thinking the corn on the cob slated for dinner one night this week is probably not a great idea for her.  Or maybe it is.  She's all about speeding up the process.

4.  M2 is still getting very worked up about violin, to the point where she will barely practice.  I think it will be good to get back into lessons once September starts.  I hope she'll manage to make a performance happen in December.  I'm definitely glad I didn't put her in dance class, because I can only imagine the drama that would accompany a dance recital.

5.  Speaking of drama, M2 sent me my first letter bomb this week.  We have envelopes stuck to our bedroom doors for letters and crafts that we can send to one another (and yes, I participate), and M2 wrote me a nastygram reading: "Mom, I hate you.  You er stuped."  This was delivered with two dirty socks that she had ripped off her feet.  I was amused.  For the record, I still don't know what I did wrong, but I do know that her hobby horse now lives in my closet because it's a bloody miracle my bedroom door doesn't have a giant hole in it.  When the girl gets into a rage, she gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'beating down a door.'

6.  I do believe that resorting to locking myself in my bedroom to escape my daughter's rage is probably cause for concern.  So is having to follow her around the yard because she's in such a negative mental state that I don't trust her out of my sight and actually believe she would leave the property... NOT safe on our street.  I think I'll be bringing our mood chart and a different set of expectations to the next appointment with the psychiatrist or psychologist, whichever comes first.

7.  I hope everyone on the Eastern Seaboard stays safe this weekend.

I like Friday :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Organization Post

It's a new school year - our third for M1 to be at home.  It somehow doesn't seem right that I've been doing this for 2.1 years now, but one thing I've learned is that organization is crucial.  Don't have the right equipment?  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth on the kids' part.  Don't have a good set-up?  There will be much pulling of hair on the parents' part. 

The first year, I was winging it, as I believe all first-year parents are... or all parents in general, if I'm honest.  It's all a crapshoot until the kids are independent, isn't it?  I thought I had a good set-up because I more or less followed what was written in The Well-Trained Mind, i.e. my homeschooling tome of excellence.  Academically, it worked.  Logistically?  Not so much.  I actually felt freer to modify curriculum choices than I did to modify set-up choices.  Go figure. 

Sometime last year, I started to realize that various aspects of my day were entirely too cumbersome.  To paraphrase Dr. Phil, they weren't workin' for me.  I realized that M1 was frustrated when he had to do certain things - using a ruler, for instance, was a nightmare - and that I was frustrated about other stuff - finding needed workbooks on the homeschool shelf took more time than it should have.  But I didn't have the energy to deal with reorganizing in the middle of the school year, and so I sucked it up and went on, mentally vowing to remedy the situation before the beginning of third grade.

And I did.

First, I fixed the school supply problem:


Yes, it's a ruler.  BUT!  It's a ruler that has a part that sticks up in the middle, and it's fairly transparent, so it's perfect for M1, who likes to hold a ruler in the middle and who likes to be able to see what he's doing (whoda thunk??).  This particular device has already come in handy several times.


I also bought something I had always dismissed as a useless accessory for a family with just one student at home.  I bought an electric pencil sharpener, and it is now one of my best friends.  M1 used to spend 10-15 minutes every day sharpening his pencils, and that was assuming that the lead didn't break halfway through the process.  If it did, the time doubled.  Now one quick hop to the pencil sharpener is all it takes, and the odds of the lead breaking are way, way lower... and aren't as consequential! 


One thing that is burdensome for me but quite helpful for M1 is a schedule.  I feel that if I have his lesson plans stuck in a Word document where I can see, modify, and check off the tasks, that should be good enough... but it isn't.  M1 likes to see what's coming next.  He likes to know what errands and chores he will be dealing with each day.  He likes the feeling of crossing items off a list.  So while filling out a schedule may be a massive pain in the derriere on my part, it's sped up our daily process immensely.  M1 is now motivated to get through his work accurately and quickly so he has "extra time" at the end of the day.  The schedule indicates that we don't get done with school until nearly 3 p.m., but we haven't had a day yet that's taken us past noon, and M1 feels that this extra time is a bonus!  I love psychological games.


This is my filing notebook.  M1 chose his schedule for at least the first semester (he claims for the entire year), and so I was able to set up a huge binder with sections for each subject, in the order that we do them:  Spelling/Grammar, Math, Writing, History, Science, and electives (Latin, Spanish, and art).  He loves being able to file his own work, and at the end of the semester or year - whenever the binder is full - I'll be able to give this to him because he loves to go back and see how he's progressed.  Writing paper is at the front of the binder so I can see when we're getting low and replenish the supply from my stash tucked away in an undisclosed location.


Finally, the homeschool cabinet.  It's neat, which makes the OCD part of me extremely happy.  It's arranged by subject - from left, science, history, language arts, math, and electives - with curriculum on the left and resources on the right.  M1 loves it, too, because he knows where things are and can get whatever he needs in an instant. 

Art supplies fill the bottom shelf.  We have more art supplies in another cabinet, but these are the ones that the kids are free to use any time... the other cabinet holds things like the hot glue gun, feathers, sand for art projects, clay, etc.  I'm extremely proud of the fact that it all fits into one cabinet after this long.

That, in a nutshell, is school this year.  Of course, if you're interested in what curricula we use or how we implement our schooldays, please check it out here.

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Mother's Work...

I was all set to post about organization and the new homeschool year tonight.  I really was.  But I have to interrupt myself to bring you this important message:


M2 has lost a tooth.  And not just ANY tooth... it's a top front tooth. 

And she didn't really lose it, either.  It was viciously yanked out by her very own mother after she took one single solitary bite of a burrito (a burrito made with homemade carnitas, caramelized onion, salsa, sour cream, and homegrown tomato... not a crunchy item in the lot!) and managed to "crunch" the tooth, thereby causing blood to start pouring out of her gums.  Of course, the tooth was still lodged.  M2 tried to yank it out on her own, but it was a failed attempt.  Oz manfully got a paper towel and tried to have a go, but that didn't work, either.  Only the slightly sadistic mother would have the strength to carry out this fateful, growing-up-before-your-very-eyes quest.

It's my mission in life.  I'm resigned to it.


"Mom, it feels weird.  But thanks.  Can I write the Tooth Fairy a note??"

I love you, too, Big Girl.  Enjoy your gap!

Installment 2 of the Lost Teeth series, entitled The Other Front Tooth, should be out later this month.  She's working very hard on it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Robotics Camp

So robotics camp is officially over.  I wish I could show you the videos of M1's robot at work, but I'm a technological genius and recorded them "sideways," and I don't know how to fix them.  If they ever get fixed, I'll share them, but for now they are hidden in the Oopsie vault.

Anyway, I did get a few still shots:


The kids had a demonstration period on Friday afternoon where parents and friends could come watch them show off their accomplishments.  This is M1 and his partner, J.  They got to introduce themselves and put their machines through their paces.  Their programs/robot did pretty well... not as good as some of the others, but for (what I assume are) a couple of first-timers, their robot more or less performed as expected.  I was proud.


Then we got to go back to the classroom for dis-assembly and M1 got to show off his and J's creation a little more.


They had to put everything back into its place before they could leave.  Each kid got a certificate, and they were fed pizza for lunch that day, so it was a great end to a great week.

The down side?  It's over.  M1 is okay with that, though.  He was ready for his schedule to be back to normal.  Speaking of schedules, in the next post I'll talk about our setup for third grade.  It's only taken me till year 3 to figure out how to make it all move smoothly for one child; I can't imagine how those of you with two or more keep it all straight!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oh, the Misery

My poor boy.  I'll post some wonderful things about him tomorrow, but tonight I'm throwing him a pity party.  This is not to neglect the girl, who is in her own special realm of reality and has been alternating between insanely happy and scarily despondent for the past few weeks, but the boy gets his own post tonight.

He is miserable.

M1 has had allergy problems since he was tiny.  It started with eczema, which isn't an allergy per se but can indicate an inclination to them.  By the age of 3, he was having regular sinus infections, and all the rinses in the world weren't enough to alleviate his misery, so we had to use antibiotics (and their other half, probiotics) to get the infections under control.  We started him on Zyrtec to reduce his histamine response.  As long as he was on that, he did okay, but I hated giving him a pill every single day, so sometimes I'd try to give him breaks.  Inevitably, we'd wind up back at the doctor's office.

When he was five, he had his tonsils and adenoids removed.  To paraphrase his ENT, they were gross.  This helped his eczema and sleep patterns and some behavioral issues since he was able to breathe more easily, but it didn't help the sinus trouble.  He also developed asthma triggered by cold, dry weather.

About two years ago, in the dead of winter, he developed a rash after being outside.  *I* thought he must have been coming down with something, but when I braved the incoming sleet and hauled him to the urgent care center, they chalked it up to 'virus' and sent me home.  Sure enough, the rash disappeared by evening.  In summer, it reappeared at random intervals, like when we were having a Fourth of July party and he was being pelted with water balloons and running around in the sprinkler.  At that point, I thought he must have had a grass allergy and began to try to wonder how on earth one deals with a grass allergy in an overactive 6-year-old when one lives in the middle of the country in an area well-known for being HORRIBLE for allergy sufferers.

Winter arrived and killed all the grass, but the hives persisted in appearing.  I began to wonder if, in fact, my little boy was allergic to cold, not grass.  My hypothesis was seemingly confirmed when we had a really warm day in spring and he hived up the instant we walked into the chilly grocery store.  A few months ago, he developed these overblown, nasty-looking things and said they itched like crazy.  I already knew that there was little to do for hives, but he'd never complained of itching before, so back to the pediatrician we went.  We came home with antibiotics, which both helped and confused me as to why they helped.  The pediatrician also suggested taking a daily Pepcid to up his body's histamine blocking abilities.  It was too much.  I asked for a referral to an allergist and got one.

We saw the allergist about two weeks ago.  She agreed that it sounded like M1 had cold urticaria (a fancy name for hives) and made sure that I was carrying an EpiPen, which I do, since patients with cold urticaria can have an almost anaphylactic response to hives developing quickly and pulling all the body's energy away from vital organs.  She told me that people who develop hives can also develop them whenever they're fighting an infection.  That was what she suspected had happened when M1 looked and felt so awful.  She then asked if M1 had ever had allergy testing done. 

*sigh*

He had done a blood draw when he was four or five that showed a massive allergy to dust mites, but I'd been pretty diligent about taking care of the house since then - special pillow, mattress cover, HEPA vacuum used on a regular basis, air filters changed regularly, stuffed animals kept in a plastic container, etc.  Oz and I even purchased him a separate HEPA air filter for his room after the Big Hive Incident. 

Yet even on the daily Pepcid and Zyrtec, M1 is still sniffly.  His nose still itches.  The hives have pretty well stopped appearing, but if I forget to change the filters or if he steps into a dusty environment, M1 will have a sneezing fit.  We still have to watch his asthma in cold weather, and I carry a rescue inhaler alongside the EpiPen.  He's 8 - almost 9 - now.  Developmentally there's a huge difference between 5 and 8, and it appears that his allergies have significantly worsened over the past couple of years. 

As much as I had hoped to avoid it, allergy testing has become necessary.  The doctor kindly explained the different techniques of allergy testing to M1, and he opted for the scratch test over redoing the blood test.  We set up the testing date.  Then the doctor gave me the pre-test instructions... including stopping all antihistamines one week prior to testing.

M1 has been off of his Zyrtec and Pepcid since Tuesday.  He had been doing okay, but yesterday I noticed that his face was looking blotchy.  He began complaining about his legs, too, and today they began to get spotty.  I'm trying to keep him from scratching, but it's nearly involuntary so it's almost impossible to stop him.  I don't think I can give him hydrocortisone lotion, but I'm using calamine in the hope that it won't mess with anything.  I'm encouraging him to stay in his room with the door shut as much as possible to try to avoid all the airborne allergens that may be in the rest of the house, but again... he's 8 and he's active.  I can't just shut him in a bubble!

He's asleep now, but Tuesday morning can't get here fast enough.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Big Question

Curiousity may kill cats, but I'll be willing to be it kills moms sometimes, too.  The question I've heard most today is, "How did you manage to get a week off??"

The answer?

One kid in school, the other at camp.  Simple as that! 

Of course, it's never simple.  All this does involve me criss-crossing town twice a day to drop off and pick up my camp-bound son, and I did have to pay for it, and I do have to pack two lunches each morning (which is apparently exponentially harder than just packing one?? Who knew!), but hey, we all have to make sacrifices, right?

Back at the beginning of summer... say, April... I started talking to M1 about summer camps.  I gave him two options.  Option A consisted of an entire week of away camp; Option B consisted of a week at 1/2 & 1/2 camp and a second week at an entirely different camp later in the summer... so late, in fact, that school would already be in session and he would have to cram 36 weeks of education into 35 because we would still be following M2's school schedule... unless, of course, he wanted to extend his school year an extra week.

He chose Option B.  With cramming.

Now, after the incident at 1/2 & 1/2, he had been considering going with Option A next year, but I told him to hold off on that decision until after he'd been to his second week of camp.  I had a hunch that it was going to be a much better fit for him altogether and wanted to get his thoughts on the matter... and that we would cross next year's camp bridge when it came.

---

Q:  Why did I think this would be such a good fit for him? 
A:  It's a robotics camp, for kids going into grades 3-5, based around the Lego Mindstorm kits.  So it's specialized, a small age group, indoors, with - *gasp* - adults running the show instead of teen counselors!

Listen closely.  You'll hear angels singing.

---

I dropped him off this morning with a little trepidation.  I think that's to be expected.  The good news was that the list of names on the sign-in sheet totaled about 15.  Some, apparently, did not show, so the grand total is now 11.  Eleven children in the entire camp for the entire week.  There are no other camps at this location, and many schools are already back in session.  This makes this class smaller than the identical session they held earlier in the summer.  The atmosphere felt very comfortable.  After he put his lunchbox in the fridge, the kids were ushered into a cozy room full of computers so they could play on flight simulators.  Gosh, what a rough wait.  M1 could barely wait to be rid of me, so I left.

I ran errands.  I exercised.  I started cleaning my house.  Maybe it wasn't a fascinating day, but it was amazingly productive.

I picked M2 up from school first, and then we headed through town to pick up M1.  I'm not sure how the teacher managed it, but when I arrived a few minutes early, all 11 children were sitting quietly, raising their hands, and seemed absolutely captivated.

When I finally got my boy to the car, I learned just how excited he was about the program.  He's enthralled.  He's learning to program.  He gets to build the robot however he and his partner want.  The kids are paired in groups of 2 - one group of 3, which M1 declares is "not fair" - to build their robots.  M1 is paired with a boy named J, and M1 claims they get along quite well... he says they seem to have "a shared mind" about how the robot should look and work.  I'm sure you can imagine the relief on my face.  M1 also said that there was "no place for me to get punched... except on the playground," but that everyone played tag - the one game that he knows how to play extremely well!

I'm beyond thrilled that this is going so well for him.  I can't wait to see what challenges they cook up for the kids over the next few days, and I told M1 that I wanted to come see his robot on Friday when the camp wraps up.  Then I asked him if he was excited to go back tomorrow.

"No, not really."

Wait, WHAT???

"Well, I was excited today, but now I know what's going to be happening, so I'm not excited.  I already know it'll be another day full of fun."

A true Aspie answer.  What a great camp!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time Off for Good Behavior

Next week, I am childless.  Not entirely childless, but between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3:10 p.m., except on Tuesday when I have to pick up M2 early for therapy, I am childless.

This is a weird, weird feeling.  I have never been childless for five days in a row like other stay-at-home moms whose children are 8 and 6.  When M1 was in kindergarten and M2 went to preschool two days a week, I had two days to myself, but at the time I was working and honestly, two days a week isn't much when there are errands to be run, a house to clean, and you have a part-time job that you enjoy.  It goes by quickly.  And once I brought M1 home for first grade, that was it. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'd never want to send M1 back to school and relive that particular hell we experienced when he was in kindergarten.  I can only imagine what he'd be like in a third-grade classroom... or on the playground.  Neither of those is a pretty thought.  But it does mean that unless I actually buckle down and make some phone calls to various potential baby-sitters who can do weekdays and teach school at the same time... I'm here, nearly 24/7, with at least one child.  I'm sure most of you can relate and many of you have more than one at home.  You feel my pain!

Especially since my one at home is a boy, there are things I don't ever get to do.  I don't ever get to go shopping.  Not that I'm a shopper.  I'm not.  My idea of fashion has long been denim pants (jeans or shorts) and a T-shirt with a pair of neutral-colored shoes (or better yet, sneakers).  I've been trying to come out of that rut, though, and actually purchased a pair of turquoise sandals a couple weeks ago.  There is COLOR on the floor of my closet.  Bizarre.  These changes in wardrobe don't come easily to me, though, and the idea of roaming through a department store all by myself without saying, "Get out of the rack!" or "Stay where I can see you!" or "NO, you may NOT buy the $200 electronic device... and DON'T DROP IT!!!" every 30 seconds or so sounds dreamy.  I can even look through the lingerie department without excessive ogling or giggling.  Hm.

I'm sure you've gathered that at least one day next week, I am going shopping... or at least that's the plan.  I am also getting the oil changed in the van and going to the bank and even hitting the grocery store during daylight hours by myself.  I'm going to lunch with a friend or two... and one day, even my husband!  I can clean the house with Pandora on full blast and sing along with all the profanity that I want to, and nobody will be there to hear it and emulate it later.  If the weather is nice, I can go jogging (read: walking in a jogging fashion) in the park and not have to worry about someone getting bored or tired of riding their bike along with me.  I can go to a museum and enjoy the exhibits at my leisure.  I can go to all the gourmet grocery stores and get obscure ingredients for equally obscure recipes... and have time to make them!  I can get a pedicure, though if I'm honest I probably won't because getting a pedicure by myself just sounds weird.  I can even hit up some of the fancy stores like Sak's or Anthropologie and pretend like I can afford a $300 dress to go with $100 flats and $200 jacket.  Heh.  Ok, I probably won't do that, either.  Even the thought makes me gag a little.

Clearly I'm not going to be sitting still much during the week.  But the time will be MINE to do with as I wish, and that is a heavenly thought.

P.S.  This totally isn't the post that I sat down to write, but it's what came out because I'm just so darned excited!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fighting Fire

Dry.  Hot.  Dry.  Hot.  That's been the mantra of our summer here.  "Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain?"  Not so much... at least until the last couple of days.  Of course, at this point, it's so stinking dry that we don't WANT wind.  And as much as we'd love to see the rain come our direction, we'd much prefer if the lightning stayed elsewhere.

As always, though, do we get what we want?

Er... no.

Instead, we get wildfires, big ones, some reportedly caused by lightning and some with causes unknown.  Several structures have been destroyed and many families have been evacuated, left to go somewhere safe and wonder which they'll return to - the comforts of home or a charred wreck.

The wildfires have been burning off and on for more than a week now.  A few days ago a couple of my friends had to evacuate their homes for fear of the inferno; luckily they were able to return safely.  Some of my other friends, not knowing my side of town as well as theirs, called or texted to make sure that we were well out of harm's way, and for that I'm grateful, both for their concern and for the fact that it wasn't necessary. 

The incessant heat - today's high was 106 without heat index, which rose to about 112 or 113 - and the wind have hampered the firefighters' efforts.  The fire is jumping (and closing) highways, burning power poles along with all the brush and dry trees, and just making an absolute mess of things.  The folks who live in the area where the fire currently burns often have wells instead of city water, so when the power goes out, so does the pump... and with it their ability to sprinkle their house.  Since the fire is so large, it's hard for anyone to keep track of where the fire is going and whose houses have been hit.  Most of the firefighters on the scene are volunteers, and many have been working 18-24 hour shifts without sleep.  The National Guard has been sending helicopters out to dump water on the fires, which helps, but it still hasn't been under control.

There are storms on the radar right now.  I hope they bring some relief.  I just worry that more lightning will strike and there will be another fire to fight... just what we certainly do NOT need.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It Has Begun

Well, school is officially underway, and while we've hit a few speed bumps already, things are going pretty well.

M1: 
Positives:  He's very proud of being a 'third grader.'  He really liked that he got to make ice cream on his first day of school.  He really likes that he has a two classes taught via DVD - math and Spanish.  He really enjoys the new day planner that I have filled out so he can see what he still needs to do and what he has accomplished each day.  His handwriting has improved over the summer, and he's excited about learning cursive.

Problems to work on:  He's already starting to have trouble getting up in the morning.  This was a chronic problem last year, and I know this is only going to get worse on Wednesdays and Fridays after he's been up late after swim.  I'm not sure what we're going to do about this, but something will have to be worked out.  I need to also make some quick, easy-to-do activities to do in between subjects - 1 minute of jumping jacks or 30 seconds of spinning, for example.  Something to break up the monotony.  I may still put him into a homeschool gym class to help with the restlessness, too.

M2:
Positives:  She's very proud of being a first grader.  She is very happy to have the same teacher again and is extremely glad to see her friends.   She's excited about being one of the more advanced students and doesn't seem to have any problems with her first-grade class and the kindergarten class being combined.  She's happy to bring her lunch to school each day, which is great since I plan to send it most days because her cholesterol did go down over the summer.

Problems to work on:  She's going to have to have all homework assignments written out.  She nearly lost it last night when she learned that she hadn't done her work properly (the teacher sent out an e-mail with directions).  I talked to the teacher this morning, so all should be well from now on.  I suspect she's also going to have the same friend trouble she's had the last two years, in which she is stuck between two girlfriends who adore her but who cannot stand one another.  I remember having similar problems as a child, and I have little advice to give her.  We'll see how it plays out.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It Is August

It is August.  In Oklahoma.  If you live here, I don't need to remind you how #$&%(!*# hot it is.  You're painfully aware of how high your electric bill is going to be and how little outdoor work/play/anything you've done in the past two months since Satan rose up and made Oklahoma and parts of Texas his toasty little corner of the world.

If you don't live here, let me share the forecast with you:


And that's without heat index. 

Ugly.  That's what it is.  Just plain ugly.  When you can't even go outside in the middle of the night and draw a comfortable breath... well, like I said, nothing outdoorsy happens.

This means the kids have gotten extremely creative lately because I told them if I heard them bickering at one another ONE MORE TIME that they'd have to go outside and ride their bikes for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES.

I'm mean.

So one day M2 decided she wanted to make a genie bottle, and M1 jumped straight onto that bandwagon.  They dug around in the recycle bins till they found the bottles they wanted, washed them out, found a random bag of corks that was living in a cabinet (I honestly do not remember why I bought them or when I put them there, but they were very handy all of a sudden!), and decorated their bottles.


M1 wanted his genie bottle to grant unlimited wishes and have an "old-fashioned" look to it.


M2 went a little more for the "I Dream of Jeannie" sort of effect.  Lots of colors, and of course her genie was a girl.  M1 insisted that she had to have SOMETHING to make it look old; hence, the twine bow.

Then I found myself sucked into the vortex called Pinterest.  I never thought I'd actually get around to doing any of the projects I found on there, but then I remembered I had a couple of white pillowcases stashed in the hall closet for a tie-dye project that hadn't happened.  M1's tie-dye pillowcase had a giant hole in it after being brought to camp for two years, and M2 didn't have one, which was of course a sore spot for her.

So I hauled them out, went to the store for a stash of Sharpie markers (who doesn't love a good Sharpie?  Also, dry erase markers don't work for this project... I tried), and then asked M1 if he had any spare pipettes we could use.

He did.


First you make a small circle of dots in various colors of Sharpie...


Put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in the middle of the circle...


and voila!  A tie-dye effect, but with WAY more colors!  Best of all, nobody's hands get stained in the process. 


M2 had a lot of fun with her pillowcase - she made sure she used every single color of Sharpie we had.


M1 discovered the idea of making patterns in bulk. 

After these dried, which was remarkably quick, I flipped them over so the kids could decorate the other side.  I did have cardboard inside the pillowcases so the color wouldn't bleed.  I ironed them to set the color (and washed them separately juuuuust in case), and now the kids can't wait to go to Grandma's again so they can take their new pillowcases.

I won't say I'm enjoying the heat, but it's sure been nice to have projects to do while waiting for fall.

If it ever comes!