Archive for October, 2011


Chi in motion.

Ten years ago, I birthed a baby boy. He was a difficult baby, if exceptionally cute. He seemed very unhappy with his lot. He cried a lot. When he wasn’t crying he was staring out at the world through giant blue eyes that grabbed your attention and held it. At about three weeks old, he started crying every evening for hours on end. Most people told me this was colic or gas, but I didn’t buy that then and I don’t buy it now. I discovered, by sheer force of intuition, that his crying was less severe and lasted for a shorter period of time if I turned out almost all the lights, and made my apartment as silent as possible after the dinner-time feeding. I also learned that keeping his day dim and quiet helped with the nighttime crying jags.

As he got older and he developed far beyond his age, for the most part, (commando crawling by 4.5 months, pulling up by 5 months, cruising by 6 and walking by 9), he got happier. The more he was able to move the more smiles wreathed his face. When he started cruising, he would circle the room over and over and over again. Once he started walking, he always walked on his toes and would run as fast as he could. This began the day after he took his first steps out into the room. When he became more proficient at both walking and running, he would slam into things on purpose and spin and spin and spin without getting dizzy.

As he began his tactile and oral explorations, I noticed that he never touched anything with his hands first. He always touched things with his feet, played with things with his feet. I have record of this phenomenon as early as 10 weeks old.

As he got older, instead of falling less, he fell more. He would fall right out of chair at the dinner table even when sitting directly on his behind. His movement grew more, not less, awkward with time and maturation.

Whenever we would go out, he would fall into screaming fits for no reason that I could see. He wasn’t worried about not getting something he wanted, he just seemed extremely distressed. If the schedule was off by the barest fraction of a minute, he would fall apart. If something was a surprise, if plans changed last minute, if a playground wasn’t exactly as he’d expected, he would melt into a limp little ball of Chi. (This still happens today, by the way.) He isn’t a spoiled brat. He knows that no means no and I don’t do negotiations. Still, these things happen.

**note: If you see one of those parents with the screaming kid who seems much to old to be throwing a temper tantrum, consider for a moment that they may have an autistic child, or simply a child with SPD or ADhD that cannot process the sheer sensory overload that occurs at places like grocery stores and the mall**

Once he started public school things seemed to progress in a backward sort of direction almost immediately. He became uncontrollable and completely over-stimulated at all times. I had not had him assessed before public school, because I had, somehow, always figured out how to best deal with him without professional help, but school introduced a whole lot of outside influences that I had no way to control.

Fast-forward to this year. (You can read about our struggles through public school elsewhere on this blog just look under Educational Experiences in the Categories section. I’ve pretty well documented things since he was in the second grade (when things when from awful to untenable).) We started homeschooling and we’ve had our bumps along the way, but one thing stands out as a bright shiny beacon of AWESOME. Chi is better.

Chi is flourishing. He’s not cured, if there is such a thing, if I would even seek it out if there were, but he loves homeschool. He looks forward to it. He pays attention, in his way, and does the work and cooperates. We’ve been slowly working toward him doing more and more of the work himself without me having to walk him through everything, and he hasn’t balked at being asked to write more and more of the answers himself.

He is calmer. He can still meltdown unexpectedly, but it is very far between right now. We keep a schedule still and we stick to it. He knows what to expect and can even deal with things he’s not that excited about without much issue. The only time in the last few months that we’ve had major issues has been when I’ve taken him to the grocery store (or Target or mall). I’ve learned that avoiding those places unless absolutely necessary when Chi is with me is really the best course of action. It makes everyone’s lives a little bit easier.

I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to know that I made a good decision so far as Chi is concerned. I’m so glad that the investment we’ve put  into homeschool  is paying off in such big dividends. It’s priceless, really.

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We met 15 years ago.

We got married 14 years ago.

We bought our first car 13 years ago.

We moved to a new state 13 years ago.

We had our first kid 10 years ago.

We bought our first house 8 years ago.

We had our second kid 6 years ago.

We had our third kid 4 years ago.

How can I express how much you mean? The facts seem to speak for themselves, but they are so dry. So.

15 years ago, I met you and wanted you in my life in whatever way.

14 years ago, I committed myself to the person who’d become the love of my life and my best friend.

Today, you are still the love of my life. You are still my best friend. My favorite past times include you. My inside jokes include you. My favorite holidays include you. My favorite vacations include you. The most fun I’ve had includes you. My three favorite kids include you. 😉

Thank you, Matt, for sticking around and loving me. Thank you, Matt, for choosing me and caring for me. Thank you, Matt, for making our relationship and marriage a true partnership. Thank you, Matt, for believing in me and for being so DAMN AWESOME! I love you more each day, however improbable that sounds.

Dear Chi;

Happy #10, Chi!

At 3:11am on this day ten years ago, you were born. You were plump and healthy. You did  not cry. Your eyes were wide and alert and the doctor had to put a knuckle to your chest to get a peep out of you. The minute she removed that knuckle, though, you stopped crying again. What got you going, finally, was being wiped down under those bright lights. All the poking and prodding finally got to you, I guess.

You slept a lot during that first week, and I didn’t have to fight you to get you on a schedule. Turns out, that was going to be the mantra to live by with you. Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. But that’s alright because I like schedules, too. Also, it turns out, that the poking and prodding and bright lights would make you cry for years to come. Sensory processing disorders are like that, and yours manifested very early on.

I’ve always been so happy with you no matter how difficult the little things have gotten. I love that you are your own person. I love that you don’t do whatever everyone else around you is doing. I love that fads pass right by our house with nary a pause. I love that you are so fabulously odd and so wildly unique that I’ve yet to meet a kid that reminds me of you. I love that your imagination is larger than the universe and that you can slip into that world so effortlessly. I love your perspective on things and the comments you make about what is going on around you. I love that sarcasm makes no sense to you. I love that you will explain sarcastic comments and figures of speech to those around you, namely your brother and sister.

I love what a great big brother you are. I love that you would be content to have 10 younger siblings. I love how snuggly and loving you are. I love your soft heart.

Things will be difficult for us: namely navigating a world designed for the neuro-typical. But we will always be there for each other and you will always have me.

I can’t believe you are ten, and yet somehow, that’s just right. Happy Birthday, Chi. I love you more than I can ever express and beyond.

~~Mom

Do you remember, Mom?

Do you remember, Mom, teaching me to make cookies? The dough was always my favorite part. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, watching the Sound of Music and Little Women over and over and over with me? Watching Singing in the Rain? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, how we were too chicken to try out the subways in NYC until the very end of our trip, and how we swore we’d go back, just to use the transit system properly? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, the awesome birthday parties when I was growing up: the backwards birthday party, the slumber parties, the parties centered around really fun games, the McDonald’s Caboose parties? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, singing songs to each other and to my kids? Do a deer, Favorite Things, Second Story Window, and others? “Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. Snowflakes that  stay on my nose and eyelashes. Silver white winters that melt into spring. These are a few of my favorite things.”  I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, when you would wet my hair and braid it? Sometimes it was one braid and sometimes two, but always it was this perfect French braid. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, when we would sing in the car together? I would sit on the armrest of the Malibu like it was my own personal chair and we would belt out songs. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, teaching me the nursery rhyme song and how much fun it was to try and come up with as many nursery rhymes as we could? “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. When she went there, the cupboard was bare so she threw it out the window. The window, the window, the second story window. With a heave and a ho and a mighty throw, she threw it out the window!” I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, teaching me to play Nardle? I remember playing over and over, and having SO much fun. I ended up teaching friends, I liked it so much. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, building a snowman in the snow? I think we were in Ft Smith, which means you were pregnancy encumbered, but I had a blast. Thanks to you. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, drying my hair and ironing it on the ironing board? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, laying face to face on the bed (or floor or where ever) upside down to one another? Do you remember the funny upside down faces and the laughing? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, playing boardgames in the camper at the end of the night when we all went camping? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, just you and I going to the movies and seeing tear jerkers and crying on each others shoulders? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, going for drives and getting Sonic sodas and beef meximelts from Taco Bell? Do you remember sitting at the lock and watching the river flow by? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, going shopping in Little Rock, just us? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, swimming at Meemaw and Grandad’s house for hours on end? “Fish on land!!” I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, going to see all those musicals? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, teaching me to play the piano? How I preferred to memorize the songs as opposed to reading the music? How I hated theory? I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, all those duets we loved to play together on the piano? You always played the bass clef because I was ruined from playing the clarinet for so long. Bass clef required all kinds of counting and figuring out what was what for me anymore. I remember.

Do you remember, Mom, being there for the birth of my children? I remember.

Making Memories

Do you remember, Mom, holding me and loving me? Yeah, all those times you’ve always been there. I love you, Mom, I’m so thankful for you and all the memories we’ve made. I may not know your birth story the way your mom tells it to you, but I know your life story as I’ve lived it with you. I look forward to all of the memories we will make going forward and all the times you will hold me and love me.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

A really good thing about homeschooling is flexibility. Before we started school, I sat down with my computer and my iCal and worked out our school year (over and over, actually). I took into account holidays and birthdays and summer breaks that include my niece and nephew staying with us during their summer break. I took into account not having too many weeks of school in a row without a week break (we don’t want to burn out, after all, and we can literally go all year round).

Now, I don’t do schedule changes well. I like things that are planned to be exactly as they are planned. Surprises and I aren’t on good terms. (Sound like anybody else?) So, when I made this schedule, I knew at some point that there would need to be changes occasionally, like a day when I’m sick or the kids are sick and we can make up those days on the weekend if necessary, and we’ve done that pretty successfully. And somehow, I’m not freaked out by it.

Next Saturday is Chi’s tenth birthday, and I had set up the break for the following week. Well, this morning Pynni is sick, and this weekend I destroyed the living room to put my area rug together and before the furniture was brought back in, I cleaned out the two closets in the living area. NOW, a lot of that mess is all over our school table and needs organizing which I need to do before we can have school today, so I proposed an option to the kids of Lamp Post Academy:

Yes. Yes, that's grey hair.

Let’s move next week’s break to this week. That way we don’t have to make up Pynni’s missed school day on Chi’s birthday weekend.

I left it up to them to agree upon, and they chose to take the break a week earlier (surprise!). I’m fine with this, it gives me an opportunity to finish my organization project and get caught up on some house work and school prep that I’ve been needing to do. (History and Science are more labor intensive than I was prepared for.)

I’m still a little weirded out that the schedule got changed at the last minute and I’m not suffering from panic attacks and fits of anger and irritation. Hey, maybe I’m growing as a person.

Chi at the Farm

Makin' Butter.

It’s an update really. We’re almost finished with this week of school. Tomorrow is Thursday, and we’re going on a field trip to Vollmer Farm. The preschool Pieces attends goes every year, so I have been to the Farm every fall since 2005 (plus, we participated in their CSA. It was excellent! I highly recommend this!). This year I’m taking the students at Lamp Post Academy and the assistant principal (Hubs). We will tag along on the tours Pieces’ class is going on. The weather has been glorious, and looks to cooperate.

That means that Friday is our last day of school this week. So far? Changing the schedule around has helped tremendously, so has adding fun and games.

The corn pit. It's corn kernels. A pit of them. And the kids think it's Mecca.

I’ve also started creating my own questions for Chi’s reading comprehension.

Pieces has sort of a thing for Pumpkins. He talks about them endlessly and can sense them within a quarter mile. It's like Spidy Sense, only without all that pesky responsibility.

We used a published workbook for the last book he read, Stuart Little, and I was unimpressed. What I learned from that experience is what types of questions Chi is capable of answering and how difficult I can make them. I’ve also found this website, Book Adventure, where I can assign Chi books to read (I registered as a school AND a teacher) and then I can assign him quizzes to take and book reports to write. I’m excited to see it in action.

So there you are. There was just a hint of Pynni obtuseness on Monday, but as the week has progressed, she has settled into the rhythm and seems to be more at ease in our little classroom.

And so have I.

That Corn Pit? Wears them out. They ALWAYS sleep on the way home.

Chi and Pynni

I never would have believed in a million years that Pynni would be harder to teach than Chi.

There are any number of challenges I face when dealing with Chi in any situation, and they all seem to be amplified when set against a backdrop of education. Until homeschooling started, education was a struggle of epic proportions with Chi. It required meetings and extra work and special considerations in class and lots of pep-talks and tons of extra time and effort spent on homework. There have been various therapists and therapies and extended leaves from school due to upheaval in the teacher situation.

My whole experience of parenthood with Chi has been difficult at best.

Cutie Pynni Pie

Pynni has been the complete opposite. She was a very happy baby and almost always had a smile on her face. That has been the case with her through all her phases. She finds the humor and the joy in everything. She has a curiosity about the world around her that Chi never exhibited. She has been keen to learn and was ecstatic at being in school.

Through everything that we went through last year, her love of school remained untarnished, but her love of learning was damaged. Now, I struggle to get her to participate. She lays her head upon the table and mumbles into the crook of her arm when I ask her questions. She huffs and rolls her eyes and shrugs her shoulders. I don’t feel as if she doesn’t know the answer. When she’s struggling with a concept, she will strive to retain her ignorance. She actually refuses to get a new concept. I can see her choosing to ignore the click in her brain as something starts making sense.

Food is FUN!

Reading has been a particularly hard subject. I’ve chosen to teach Pynni to read through the use of phonics as opposed to the memorization of sight-words that was used in public school. Part of her struggles with reading stem from the difference in learning styles. She wants to look at the picture and guess at the words that she doesn’t have memorized as opposed to sounding out the words she doesn’t know using the letter sounds she does. I took her back and started at the beginning. We were able to speed through the first 30 lessons or so because they were all relating to letter sounds, at which she is proficient. The following two weeks we worked on simple three letter words and combining them into simple three or four or five word sentences.

The third week of school she hit a wall and refused to even try to overcome the difficulty she was having with words ending in ‘en’ (Ben, den, hen, pen, etc). Part of it is this crazy North Carolinian accent she is sporting. Words like hen sound almost like ‘he-yun’ but the biggest part is that she isn’t used to seeing a word and then sounding out the individual letter sounds before saying them all together in a word. She wants to be told what the word is every time she sees it until she knows it by sight. So after she cried, well, weeped is probably more apt, all through one reading lesson, I realized that I was going to have to spend a little more time on these simple words and sounds before moving forward any further.

Look, Ma, no nostrils!

So I did some research and found a workbook that teaches phonics that can be used in conjunction with my reading curriculum. She balked at first, but has realized, I think, that when she takes a deep breath, she can do the worksheet easy-peasy. Once she started doing the worksheets easily the reading part of school got just a smidge easier.

I went to visit my parents at the end of our first 5 weeks of school (after which we were taking a week break) and had our first homeschool away from home experience. It went really well, except for the fact that there isn’t any one particular room I can shut Pieces (and whichever sibling isn’t working) into where they can stay occupied, out of trouble, and quiet, so there were a lot of interruptions. Regardless we got the work done and began our first break.

Pynni's Waxed Teeth

My mom observed the schooling. She has been extremely supportive and is very interested in what we are doing. She took the opportunity to listen and watch how school went with Chi and Pynni. She says that I am obviously frustrated with Pynni when she starts in with the mulishness. I told her that’s because I AM frustrated and I slow my speech down and speak more clearly because I’m trying not to yell at her and wring her ornery little neck. *ahem* She says Pynni gets more and more recalcitrant as I stress my enunciation more and more. And apparently I use too much bass in my voice. I point out that I have never talked to my kids like they were frightened little animals who might shy away at the slightest provocation. I have always talked to them like people who deserve respect and that raising the octave of my voice seems false and patronizing.

Well. It can be good to get outside opinions on things because seeing what needs changing can be difficult to discern from inside the problem. The first thing I’m going to do is divide up their learning. I will start with Chi and typing because he can get that finished before we take Pieces to preschool. After the preschool drop-off, Pynni will do math followed by Chi doing math.

Lamp Post Academy

Then I will alternate the subjects and the students in that manner until we get to the things they do together: history and science. Hopefully that will negate any attention span issues with Pynni.

The second thing I’m going to do is incorporate educational games into our curriculum. There are great, fun games out there that reinforce reading and spelling and math and logic. That, I think, will help make my kids more excited about learning.

Finally, I will try to curb my frustration differently. I’m hoping that switching from student to student will help alleviate my frustration as well as their attention spans, and in the end, we will all win.