Saturday, November 26, 2011

The November Doldrums

If you take a look at the school year, there are two times each year that teachers and students dread equally - November and February.  These are the 'in between' months.  In November, you're in between fall break and Christmas, and the little break at Thanksgiving only serves to whet the appetite for the longer break ahead.  In February, you've been back at the books for a month and still have another month to go before Spring Break.  In either case, it's cold, often dreary, and not really good weather for going outside (unless it snows, and then all bets are off).

Usually *I* am the one who experiences burnout during these winter months.  This year, though, M1 is the one who is totally done with school and anything to do with it.

I can't say I'm really surprised.  At the beginning of the school year, he insisted that I write down his daily plans in his agenda, and he helped 'design' the school day.  He said he wanted to do the same schedule every single day of school.  I wondered at the time how long that would last, because even I, with my seriously Type A personality, couldn't handle that.

So it came as no surprise when he announced the other day that he doesn't like school any more.  He doesn't want to go to another school; he just wants some changes.  Specifically he wants "more projects."

I'm going to have to have a good ol' chat with him about this, because honestly I'm not sure what I can do that isn't already being done.  We do weekly projects in history, science, art, and writing.  We do biweekly projects in Spanish.  Projects aren't really gonna happen with spelling, grammar, math, or piano.  I'm going to propose doing some unit studies with him between now and Christmas, but when I proposed those last year he shot me down and I honestly suspect he'll do so again.  I don't think he really wants change.  I think he just wants a break.

Guess we'll see what happens.  Anyone know of any good unit studies that I can get my hands on ASAP, on the off chance he says yes?

November.  It's a sneaky bastard.  One way or another, it gets ya.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Which I Propose a New Tradition

Well, the Thanksgiving meal has come and gone.  Mostly gone.  There are a few leftovers.  Most of them were left at my grandmother's house for her to nosh on over the next week, but I did come home with some ham, the remainder of the pies (apple and pumpkin), and some cherry tomatoes.

When we got home, the children promptly announced that they were hungry and each ate a small ham sandwich and some of the tomatoes.  I want that sort of self-control and metabolism back.

We had a lovely dinner.  My grandmother belongs more to the Norman Rockwell genre than the paper-plates-in-front-of-the-TV genre, so we ate off the china plates and out of the crystal bowls and drank from the crystal wine glasses.  Even the children got to do this (except for the wine glass part, of course) because my two are the only ones in the family.  They wouldn't even know what to do with a kids' table!

We had turkey, ham, and all the fixin's.  Of course we all had to have a little of everything to start with and seconds of some things, and even though I really truly did pace myself, didn't overflow my plate and only had seconds of one dish, I'm still stuffed to the brim.

I'm sure I'm not alone here.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to propose a new tradition:  The Thanksgiving Weekend Fast.  The rules are simple:  Food is verboten until such time as you actually feel hunger again.  At the rate I'm going, I suspect it'll be Saturday, perhaps Sunday, before this happens.

For now, I'm going to sit in a food- and travel-induced haze and be thankful that I have such a wonderful family and that we're blessed with such abundance.

Hope everyone had a wonderful, drama-free Thanksgiving (and if you didn't, I hope you at least got some good stories out of the deal)!  :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time Marches On

As if I needed more ways to prove that each day I am getting older and each day the kids are getting bigger, M2 decided to remind me:


She has four gaps in her mouth now.  She already has two adult teeth on the bottom, but now she officially can't eat apples or corn unless they're in pie/applesauce or on the cob because girl can't bite.  (In other news, this is fantastic because when she throws her raging fits, she can't bite.)

She's been running around the house singing "ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH" in her footy pajamas.  It's adorable.

The kids decided to ring in fall without me this year:


They raked all the leaves, without me asking, all by themselves, into a pile...


... then called me outside just to take the pictures while they jumped in it.


I have no place in their leaf-pile-jumping tradition any more other than to wield the camera, and I'm willing to bet that my place there is tenuous at best, too.  One day they'll just take pictures of each other, I'm sure.


That pile also looks a lot smaller compared to the children than it used to.

*sigh*

Another sign that winter is right around the corner showed up at one of our bird feeders this week:



It's a pretty little woodpecker, and it isn't the pileated type that we normally get.  I've enjoyed watching it come to feed.  More and more birds have been showing up, which means the colder weather is on the way.

Between all this and the constant pain in my knees (I'm sure I'm 'coming down' with arthritis), winter is definitely on its way.  Again.  Who said another year could go by so quickly??

Thursday, November 17, 2011

School Update!

Since this is supposedly a blog about things educational (although I'll admit, more often than not, any education that happens around here is mine rather than the kids'), I thought it was time to take a break and talk about some of the school-y stuff that actually does happen.  Warning:  Likely bragging ahead.

M1 has made great strides in writing this year.  He has a fairly good handle on writing paragraphs and I assigned him his first "research project" this week.  His goal was to name and describe the four types of essays.  I don't have a copy of the final draft yet, but what I've seen so far is wonderful.  We read about primary vs. secondary sources, fact vs. opinion, and how to find reliable sources on the Internet before we started.  Then he researched the topic, made notes, created an outline and a rough draft, and is in the midst of typing up his final version.  The final 'essay' won't even be half a page long, typed, but really, he's 9... who cares? I'm simply impressed that he knows the process.  I told him I didn't expect a rough draft, but he wanted to make one, anyway.  Who am I to argue?

He has finished up Math-U-See Gamma and is a quarter of the way through Delta already.  So far, he likes division.  He also enjoys the cursive writing we've been practicing, and he likes the Spanish and art projects that we've been doing.  At first he thought the Spanish songs were stupid, but he sees their usefulness now and doesn't mind humming along now and then.  In art, he's finally coming around and putting some effort into the projects.  He really liked making a bas-relief the other day, and I keep finding the finished product sitting on a chair rail somewhere in my house.  He likes to display his work.

In science, he's taken over all the experiments and does them independently.  Recently, though, one of the suggested assignments was to study the scientist Marie Curie and write a report.  I decided a report was boring, so I bought some poster board and told him to create a visual report instead.  Of course he wanted parameters, so I told him it had to include 10 facts as well as photos.  A week later, he obliged me with this:


I know the photo is kind of small here, but I think it gets bigger if you click on it.  I helped him find and print the photos as well as play with the documents to get the fonts the right size and shape, but he did all the manual labor and typing.

In history, we're still using Story of the World.  This week, we studied Peter the Great.  Since it had been a long time since I'd made a meal based on history, I thought it was time for a Russian dinner.


This recipe was entitled Tefteli Meatballs, and it was SO good.  Everyone requested that I put the recipe into our family recipe book.  The basic recipe is ground beef, pork sausage, and half-cooked rice made into meatballs and stewed in a tomato sauce.  Delicious.

To go with our meatballs, we ate some dark rye bread and this:


I know it looks fairly unappetizing, but it's called Khalva, and it's walnuts covered in a custardy syrup and then baked.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn't everyone's favorite.  M2 and I liked it, but M2 will eat anything that resembles carbs and I realized later that it reminded me of the batter for hot buttered rum... and I do love me some hot buttered rum!

Tomorrow we're taking it easy because it's the Friday before Thanksgiving break, and we are taking the entire week off for the holiday.  I've got some lovely fall pictures to share, so hopefully I'll find the time to put them up tomorrow.  Stay warm, everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Girl Needs a Sugar Daddy

Oh, not me.  M2.  LE DIVA EXTRAORDINAIRE.


A week or so ago, M1 and Oz went to get haircuts from the hairdresser who performs her magic on everyone in the family.  She's begun selling purses on the side and asked Oz if I was a purse person... hint, hint, Christmas is coming hint hint.  He said I was very much not a purse person (this is true... for most of my adult life, I have not carried a purse.  I only have one now to carry M1's inhaler and EpiPen).

Well.

M2 overheard Oz telling me about this exchange and announced, "Well, Mommy might not be a purse person, but her daughter is!"

Then, while M2 was folding and putting away her laundry today, she launched into THIS:

video


May the Lord have mercy on my wallet.  I love this child and I'm sure she'll get a fantastic job and learn how to budget someday, but good grief... the drama just oozes from her pores!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Productivity ROCKS

Today was not the day I had planned, but it was awesome nonetheless.

Here's why:

  • The chicken coop is mucked out.  Fresh straw is in place.  The birds are happy.
  • The crape myrtles are no longer 75% dead and 25% living; all the cutaway pieces are in the burn pile.
  • The leaf pile the kids made in the front yard yesterday is also part of the burn pile.
  • The garage door works... first time, every time.  No more fiddling with the button to get the door to close!
  • The Halloween gear is finally stowed in the attic.
  • My van is parked in the garage.
  • The gerbil cage is clean.
  • M2 got her weekend reading assignment finished.
  • The trim between the carpet and the linoleum in the laundry room is retacked.
  • The door frame around the front door no longer has visible scratch marks.
  • The kids have made brownies.  I can smell them.
M2 and I didn't go to the local youth symphony concert that we had planned to attend; her mood was not amenable to being around people today.  However, even though things didn't necessarily go as planned, there are enough positives for me to be completely happy with this weekend.  Did I mention it's currently 76 degrees outside?  I'm thrilled that winter hasn't officially arrived.  If the nasty cold can hold off just until we get the Christmas lights up, I'll be a happy camper.

I hope everyone else had a good weekend, too :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitude

Dear Everyone:

For the kind words of encouragement regarding my educational dilemma with M2...

For reading this blog despite my tendency to be wordy and completely random...

For sharing tidbits about your own lives through your own blogs (leave me a link if I'm not already following you!)...


Signed,

Sarah

Monday, November 7, 2011

Being the Parent Sucks!

I really hate making decisions that affect my kids' lives.  OK, let me rethink and rephrase that: I hate making decisions about the kids'  lives when there is no way of knowing what the long-term effects will be.

One might argue that there's no way for me to predict how any decision, no matter how small, could affect them 15 years down the road, but I don't think that's entirely true.  I'm quite sure that feeding the kids a wide variety of healthful foods (tonight we had a dish called boerenkool... it had been suggested by a friend, and it was delicious!) is the right choice, just like homeschooling M1 is the right decision.  As much as I fought against it, medicating his ADHD has been a good thing for him, too.  Sometimes the pros very obviously outweigh the cons.

But those... well, they weren't easy decisions, but hindsight is 20/20.

(Typing pause for earthquake... during a tornado watch... because Oklahoma is WINNING.  Thank you for your patience.)

Right... so back to it.  Pros, cons, and decision-making.  I've mentioned before that my schedule is somewhat out of control.  Some days aren't so bad, but at least two days per week I'm pushed to, if not beyond, my limit.  Errands are getting pushed off to evenings or weekends because I simply don't have time to do them during the days any more.  School days with M1 are taking longer the older he gets, plus we have swim, allergy shots, events to attend... and somehow I'm supposed to keep the house in livable shape, too!  I feel like I'm not able to give M2 her fair share of attention, either, because when she gets home I'm still trying to catch up from the day, then she has violin practice or lesson, homework, sometimes therapy, and then I'm off to fix supper.  After supper the kids take their showers and brush their teeth, clamber onto the couch so I can read them a chapter out of the latest book, and then it's time for melatonin and bed so we can get up bright and early the next morning to do it all over again!

It's exhausting just typing about it, and I'm tired.  M1 is holding up all right because he gets the odd downtime in the car or on the odd days where we don't have anywhere to go.  I think M2 is suffering, though... either that or she's headed back into a depressive state... or both.  It's kind of hard to tell.

I've been considering bringing M2 home next year (she's been asking for sooner, but there are lots of complications there and it's doubtful that early withdrawal is a viable option).  The problem is that I'm not entirely sure it's the best decision for her.  For me?  You betcha.  It would change the dynamics of the day, but at least I would be able to control scheduling so I didn't have to be two or three places at once.  More on this later.  Would it work for M1?  He claims not to care although I'm sure it would affect him in more ways than he has considered yet.  M2 is a Chatty Cathy worker; he prefers working in silence.

I've been trying to compile a list of pros and cons of bringing her home.  Here's what I've got so far, and I have hope that you guys will be able to help me add to either side of the list.

PROS:

  1. I would be in control of the schedule.  Though my schedule definitely wouldn't be any emptier, it would would mean later wake-up times and probably later bedtimes and I could leave enough time in between events to keep me from dashing across town at speeds that aren't exactly legal.
  2. I would save money on tuition.  It might not be a ton, because I'd probably let M2 enroll in yoga or swim and would have to purchase extra curriculum, but it'd be something.  Given the fact that we want to move (and like wouldn't move any closer to M2's current school than we are currently), this would allow for a little extra savings.
  3. No fundraising.  No PTA meetings.  No missing out on field trips due to scheduling conflicts.  We could participate in volunteering opportunities around town, too, which I feel gives back a lot more than raising money for an individual school.
  4. The kids would get more time together.  They miss each other during the school day, and I'm blessed to know quite a few homeschooling families that have kids close to their ages so they shouldn't get too lonely.
CONS:
  1. M2 would miss her friends.  She claims she wouldn't, but she would, and I'll be honest... I'm not very good at getting in touch with other parents and scheduling get-togethers.  Plus when she's depressed, I don't want her to think that hibernating at home is an acceptable solution.
  2. M2 enjoys competition.  If she's at home, she can't be the "top" of her class because the only person to compete with is M1, and she hates, hates, HATES feeling like she's second best.  
  3. She does well at school, and the teachers do their very best to try to push her when they see that she's working ahead.  They currently have her working a grade ahead in reading, and the teacher sent home extra math pages last week because M2 insisted that she wanted them.
  4. M2's learning style is quite different than M1's.  He is thriving on a fairly classical education.  He loves schedule and structure and likes doing (more or less) the same thing each day.  M2 would get bored.  There will be days where she will want to do nothing but math... and then not touch math again for a week.  Maybe not initially, but eventually, she'll fight me like M1 never has.  I'm not quite sure I'm up for that.  I'm a little too Type A.
Of course, there's Option #3, which is to transfer her to a decent public school.  It would have a different schedule, thus saving me tuition and swim day chaos, and I wouldn't have to worry about the religion issue that I didn't even touch on (her current private school is Catholic, which our family is not).  But I'm not sure that's the answer, either.  With so many schools being taken on and off the "Needs Improvement" list, who can even tell what schools are really worth the effort any more?  And I would miss our week off in October, which is when we would take our family vacations!

I don't know.  I thought typing it out might help, but it hasn't clarified anything for me.  Thoughts?  Anyone?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We Really Do Get Everything Here

For anyone thinking about moving to Oklahoma, please consider that our state is home to the following:

Horrible allergies.

Wildfires.

Blizzards.

Tropical storms.

Deadly heat waves.

Drought.

Floods.

Tornadoes.

Never-ending construction zones.

And now, earthquakes.

Consider this your public service announcement of the day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Meds Quit

M1.

He's a FABULOUS kid.  He's smart, funny, thoughtful, sweet, and just generally great to be around... when he's medicated.

This isn't to say he can't be all those things when he's not medicated, but they don't come naturally; they are masked by all the overwhelming difficulties that he has to even function on a simple level.  Lately, whether it's due to an impending growth spurt, sinus issues, hormone issues, or a combination of all of the above, M1 has been even more difficult to handle than usual once the medication wears off... and it seems to be wearing off earlier and earlier.

Because I really need to get it out of my system, I'm going to share some shining examples:

-----

Wednesday is library day.  Wednesday is ALWAYS library day.  The routine doesn't change.  The librarians don't change.  The lighting, book placement, and even most of the flyers on the door don't really change.  We arrive a minute or two after we pick M2 up from school because the library is just down the street.  We find our requested books from the arrival shelf first.  Then I walk around with M2 while M1 selects his books; we join back up, check out and leave.  Simple enough, right?

You'd think.

This Wednesday, M1 lost it.  He "went stupid," to use the phrase that Oz and I use after the kids are down for the night.  We're not trying to imply that he's stupid but merely that his brain ceases to process ANY social norms at all and basically shuts down to the outside (i.e. real) world.  We walked up to the checkout counter and placed our books down for the librarian to check out.  I looked down and noticed that M1 had a shoe untied, and I asked him to tie it.  He squatted down, tied it... and didn't come back up.  He stayed in a squatting position.  The librarian had finished checking out M1's books, so I asked him to stand up to get them.  M1 paused, stared at me blankly, and then - I swear - bounced up and played peek-a-boo with the librarian before ducking back down behind the counter.  The librarian kind of gave me a funny look, but he's seen us around enough to know that sometimes my kids can be a bit... er... difficult.  (For whatever reason, the library is one of M2's favorite places to have meltdowns.)  Anyway, I asked M1 again if he would get his books.  I don't think he heard me, so I said his name.

Word to the Wise:  Never, ever call an ASD child's name in a public place unless you want a violent reaction. Triple this if they're zoned out.


M1 shot to his feet with an extremely loud shriek/squawk, flinched when I tried to touch him so I could try to bring him back to reality, grabbed his books, and made a dash for the door.  In the meantime, all I really wanted in that moment was a T-shirt that read, "With ADHD and Asperger's, life is never dull."  The people using the computers nearby were amused; I think the librarian was a little scared.

-----

M1's lack of impulse control is scary, too.  Just tonight, we had major battles over the following:

1.  The (mis)use of balloons.

2.  The (mis)placement of metallic, foot-eating scientific objects like wires and alligator clips.

3.  The (surreptitious, post-teeth-brushing, post-bedtime) eating of candy... and the lying that comes with getting caught.

4.  The closing (slamming) of doors.

5.  Admission of guilt to ANY of the above... because clearly he's entirely innocent and just the victim of his own malfunctioning brain. (To which I say yes, he is, but that's not an excuse to act like a giant equine posterior.)

-----

Now, please contrast all of the above to the following anecdote:

M1 and I dropped by Target and Hobby Lobby in between a swim lesson and swim team practice.

In Target, he helped me find some carrots and potatoes so I could make beef stew for dinner.  He double-checked every slot in the coffee creamer section because I *still* haven't been able to locate any peppermint mocha.  I know it's out there; I'm just not that lucky.  He used every ounce of his 9-year-old male fashion sense to help me pick a winter hat and gloves because I haven't had either of those in about 11 years.  He helped me pick out two sweatshirts and a gorgeous red sweater dress for M2 and asked if he could have another pair of sweatpants for swim days when I ask him to throw warm clothes on over his cold, wet jammers so we can haul bootie to the car and get to M2's school on time.

At Hobby Lobby, he was amazing, too.  We had used the last of our green gel icing dye for Halloween cookies and needed to get some more before Christmas because HELLO... Christmas cookies gotta have green.  It was such a fun trip!  We wandered into the scrapbooking aisle to look at stickers to see if there were any that M2 might want for her art supply stash.  He helped me pick out the best green dye for Christmas cookies and then requested black and gold decorating gels with the logical argument that if we bought them, I wouldn't have to mix those particular colors but they could still make things like gold stars or Santa's boots.  He helped me find and look at a couple of items that I've been considering as gifts for various people.

Throughout both stores, we laughed.  He let me hold his hand and pretended to be embarrassed when I hugged him in public.  He waited (fairly) patiently in line when we were ready to check out.  He picked up the bag(s) and carried it (them) out to the car for me after we were done.

-----

Like I said, he's an amazing kid.  It simply astounds me that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde really can exist in this one small boy's body.  I would love to get a look at his brain.  So if anyone out there wants to run an fMRI for research purposes, sign us up!  As long as he's medicated, I'm sure he'd be quite amenable.

And if he's off the meds?

Well, all bets are off.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I am Zombiewoman

I bet you wondered if I was going to EVER post Halloween photos!

OK, not really, but I'm going to share them anyway.  It is required by my sense of blogging propriety to subject you, once again, to cutesy photos of my holiday doings.  (How was that for writing in the passive voice?)

First, we have the cookies, decorated by my kiddos:



Then we have the dinner plates, decorated by me.  I wanted to accompany these plates with a good ol' nostalgic viewing of the Great Pumpkin movie but got voted down by my Rowan Atkinson-loving kiddos. So "Johnny English" (the first) it was.



Halloween wouldn't be Halloween without getting together with friends...


... carving pumpkins...


... and, last but definitely not least, the Wearing of the Costumes to go trick-or-treating.


My little flapper and my wise-guy gangster had a blast.

In the midst of all this, my nearly-5-year-old laptop finally bit the big one and had to be replaced, Oz got sick (and better again), and I've seen the dark side of 1 a.m. more nights than I care to recount.

Christmas is in 52 days, y'all.  Better get crackin'!