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So much has been going on. So much has not been going on. I’m in limbo. Last week Riley went to shadow for a day at a local special needs school. She was so excited. She had no qualms about me leaving her there. She marched confidently into her day. Just a couple of hours in, I got a call. They had given her math work to do, along with the rest of the class. She panicked because it was presented in a way she wasn’t used to. She raised her hand, but the teacher was busy with another student. She wound up crying and running from the room. She managed to finish her day. She felt happy about it. When I picked her up, the principal said she’d be meeting with the teachers about Riley and getting back to me. It’s been over a week. No word. I called Monday, left a message. She has not returned my call.

Seth was supposed to visit a private school this week. He’s been doing quite well with his PANDAS, and hadn’t been sick in months. His tics were becoming less severe. Hardly noticeable if you didn’t know him. On Saturday they flared up again. On Sunday night, he complained of a sore throat. By Monday it was severe. We had to postpone his visit.

It’s a great school, but I’m left wondering if this is the right thing to even consider? Will being in school just keep exposing him to more strep? Will he constantly be sick? Will it be a never ending battle? Is it worth it? Neither kid is entirely thrilled at the possibility of going to school. They are perfectly content being home. It’s me having a hard time with it. But why? Is it really that bad?

I’ve figured some things out over the past few days. I have a friend whom I love dearly, and I’m in daily e-mail contact with her. She runs a thriving business. She can’t imagine doing what I am doing, homeschooling. It is her worst nightmare. So, whenever I have a bad time…I find a great ear in her. I can commiserate and she can be all, “Girl, you have to get out of that house! You have to get their butts in school!” It feels like she actually kind of pities me being at home.

And she means well. And I’m not blaming her. I’ve certainly been asking for it. But it’s not what I need.

When she has bad days or weeks at the office, I never say, “Girl! That job sucks. You should quit immediately. I don’t know how you stand it! Close down the business!”

I tell her, “You are smart. You can do it. You are good at it. You know what you are doing.” Because she is smart. She is good at it. She does know what she’s doing.

I need someone to tell me that. I need to ask for that.

My kids just might be homeschooled for the duration. If that is the case, rather than running to someone to validate why I hate it, (and btw, I only hate some parts of it, just as she only hates some parts of her job) I need a different kind of support.

Homeschooling is such a radical departure from mainstream society. There is little validation for it. Even in the homeschooling community, families are going about it in so many different ways. I never quite feel like I’m doing it right. I always feel lacking. I always feel worried about the future. Their futures.

Settling into bed the other night, I said to Todd, “If I knew we were all going to die in an accident in fifteen years, I wouldn’t change anything about what we’re doing right now.”

He replied, “Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that.”

And we laughed! 

I hate feeling unsettled. I hate not knowing what is going to happen. It’s so unnerving.

I feel like it’s time to shut out the opinions of everyone else in the world, and listen to my own heart. Trust my own instincts about what’s best for them, and what’s best for me.

Today in the shower I put a hot washcloth over my eyes and pressed down until little sparkles appeared behind my lids. I felt a calm come over me and a sense of gratitude.

Thank You.

Thank You for this.

Thank You for the not knowing.

Thank You for this moment which will lead to the next beautiful part of our lives. It’s okay not to know. It leaves the door wide open to possibilities.

Previewing this post I click to enlarge the photo I chose and notice Seth, our angel baby, ahead of us on the path, both feet off the ground.

How to Afford Camp

Upon learning my kids are going to day camp for four weeks this summer, a neighborhood mother who is an acquaintance said, “Must be nice. We can’t afford camp.” 

Now, I’m just going to let the fact that her kids go to public school fly. That she gets to send them off everyday without a thought. Instead I’ll be offering a public service announcement on how to afford camp.

1) Drive old cars. We bought one used, the other new. Both are over a decade old. We have not had a car payment in years.

2) Live close to where you work. Todd’s commute is short. Very little gas required.

2) Never go out. We spend very little on restaurants, and virtually nothing on fast food, due to special needs and special diets. Our booze bill consists of about $10.00-15.00 a month, my contribution to “porch night” with the girls. I drink about 1.5 glasses of wine a week with them. Two if I’m feeling wild. Hot Toddy drinks nothing. Ever. Neither of us smokes.

3) Trade babysitting services with a friend rather than paying for them on those rare occasions when you do get to go out with your spouse.

4) Have kids who are naturally unathletic.  We pay nothing for soccer, tennis, lacrosse, you get the idea. 

5) Don’t do your hair. I have high lights right now (which I got before my 25th high school reunion last summer and have had touched up once since then). Prior to that I got my hair cut maybe twice a year and did my own color at home.

6) Use the library.

7) Don’t go on big family vacations. We’ve taken two family vacations in the last ten years. One was paid for by my friend who died and left us the money for it. I would rather send my kids to day camp for four weeks than “vacation” because vacations with kids are rarely “vacations” for moms, and I need a break. Did I mention we homeschool?

8)Rarely buy clothes or new make-up.

9) Don’t ever buy soft drinks. Home or out.

10) Get your produce from a co-op. We spend $25.00 a week and get a huge basket full of organic produce which would cost three times as much if we bought it in a store.

11) Bring rather than buy. Todd packs a lunch every single day. He doesn’t spend a dime on cafeteria food or take out for lunch at work. Ever.

I know times are tough for many people. I understand that for some, camp is out of reach no matter how frugal a family is. For others, it is a matter of priorities. If Dad can buy a new motorcycle, there is money for camp. If Mom spends money each week getting her nails done at a salon, there is money for camp. For the most part, except in dire circumstances, we find money for what is important to us. I don’t begrudge anyone their motorcycle, their hair, their nails. Their junk food. Their new car every couple of years. I really don’t.

But spare me the “must be nice” about camp.

Together, 24/7

What is something in your life that you have an attachment to that is somewhat limiting your vitality?

This was our question to ponder at last night’s 40 Days weekly meeting.

Mine is that I am the only person in the world who can give my children what they need at this time, even if it is killing me somewhat limiting my vitality. I don’t see a clear way out of doing what we are doing presently, but I’m actively considering there might be other ways to live and learn which can work for all of us, including me.

Lunch Time Compliments

We were sitting at the kitchen table for lunch yesterday, and I made a request,

“Riley. Tell me something good about your brother!”

Munching on a piece of apple* she said, “Well, he’s fun to play with and he does nice things.” She paused, and added,

“He’s a do-gooder.”

I don’t know where she picked up the term. You don’t really hear “do-gooder” very much anymore. And if you do, it’s usually in the pejorative sense, but she meant it absolutely sincerely. I almost fell off my chair from the love.

Seth considered this, and smiled shyly.

Next, I asked Seth to tell me something good about his sister.

“She’s nice. And she’s a good listener.”

It’s true. Seth is chatty. And he’s home all day. And mothers have many, many things to do, like check Facebook, so they aren’t always available to truly listen. Riley is much better than I at absorbing him, and being interested in all he has to say about Lego and Michael Jackson, and Chihuahuas.

One do-gooder.

One good listener.

And one mom who is head over heels for both of them.

*I  put a little cinnamon and sugar in a sandwich bag and put the apple slices in and shake it up to coat them. It’s a quick, easy, healthy-ish treat and jazzes up the apple, because let’s face it. Apples get boring. I added this just in case you care.

 

Sister Assist

The kids are taking a play-writing class. They worked on character development the first week, and this week they are to bring a scene, already written, back to class.

One scene.

Riley’s written two very lengthy ones, and could go on. Seth struggles with one.

He sits at the table, forlorn. He has it in his head, can’t get it on the paper.

Finally, I let him dictate to me and then when we’re finished, I ask him to copy it in his own handwriting. It’s important the boy be able to write if he’s capable of it, and he is.

He starts, then gets teary. It is so much to copy. He’s paralyzed. I am losing patience.

Riley says, “Mom, it’s just that he’s overwhelmed.”

“I know Riley, but he’s not doing anything.” Exasperated, I look at her and say, “Why don’t you help him.”

She goes over to the paper, takes a second sheet and covers up all but the line he is currently writing. Relief washes over him, and he begins to write.

One line at a time.

An Important Lesson

Today I was tired, so I took a nap.

I let the kids play their Nintendo DSi games, and I slept, for over an hour.

I was upstairs, with the door open, with a calico cat snuggled into the back of my legs. I could have heard them if there were any trouble.

There was no trouble.

They were happy, since DSI’s are usually not allowed during the school week.

I am rested.

I was tired, so I took a nap.

Don’t say I didn’t teach them anything today.

Co-op, Speed Stacking, and the Clay Class Formerly Known as Effing

Today was the first day of homeschool co-op. Riley and Seth are taking a play writing class in the first block. In the second, Riley is taking puzzles and games, which is a lot of charades type games, mind teasers, thinking on her feet. Does she need her mom in that class? No she doesn’t.

Seth is jazzed about cup stacking for his second block:

 

You want to see kids thoroughly engaged? Get them cup stacking. And, it’s good for you!

…stacking improves hand-eye coordination and reaction time by up to 30 percent.
Sport stacking helps students develop bilateral proficiency equal performance on both sides of the body. By increasing bilateral proficiency, a student develops a greater percentage of the right side of the brain, which houses awareness, focus, creativity and rhythm. Stacking helps train the brain for sports and other activities where the use of both hands is important, such as playing a musical instrument or using the computer. Sequencing and patterning are also elements of sport stacking, which can help with reading and math skills.  
– From the speedstacks.com website

The kids are also taking another session of clay class, (formerly known unaffectionately as effing clay class) and Riley has requested her mother NOT be there. So I am down the hall, for two blessed hours, (within earshot of screaming but not small blips, and in the path of the door should she bolt). Let me repeat. I am down a long hall, hands off, for clay class this year. Yesterday I was able to write for the full two hours. She had a couple of very small moments, but none that required my intervention.

Tutors come three days a week for a total of seven hours, (math, science, Spanish) thanks to the Ohio Autism Scholarship. We’re doing a ton of reading. Our schedule is very loose, but we have a lot going on. Last week was a field trip to the Art Museum.

It’s Friday afternoon and they are presently plunked in front of the TV, vegging with some popcorn. Soon they’ll be outside riding their scooters on this unseasonably warm and gorgeous day.

Riley thinks she wants to return to school for high school. Her motivation? She wants a boyfriend. This, she confided to her tutor. Did you hear the thud of Todd fainting over that one? Seth would like to be home forever, despite the fact there is a charter school here that uses Lego as part of their curriculum. He’s still intermittently wracked with lots of neurological tics and some other issues associated with PANDAS so I am glad for him to be home at this point in his life. I’ve learned not to look too far ahead.

For now, we are in a good place. Lots of freedom. Lots of activity. Lots of learning going on for all of us.

Have a great weekend!

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Room to Bloom

I took this picture during recess at the homeschool co-op today. Riley is in the green shirt and pink leg warmers. I love how she’s smack in the middle of the play. Sometimes she hangs on the outskirts, but not usually.

People often ask the “socialization” question re:homeschooling, especially for Riley who per Asperger’s has more of a challenge than most when it comes to social situations. The thing is…now that she’s not having to hold it together all day in school, she is able to be a lot more social. The kids she comes into contact with get to see who she really is, not an anxiety riddled, fight or flight version of herself. Riley. Sweet. Kind. Maybe a bit quirky but not much more quirky than a lot of them. There is so much more freedom to be yourself within the homeschool crowd.

I also love the range of ages depicted in the photo. The kids, from teens on down to toddlers play together during recess…without any adult telling them what to do or how to do it. We’re out there, in case anyone needs us, but truly? They don’t. The big ones watch out for the little ones. The little ones experience such freedom and feel perfectly safe.

This year Riley and Seth have had the benefit of meeting a brand new baby. They’ve negotiated Lego building around sweet, but “Mine!” oriented toddlers. There are teenage girls whom Riley looks up to, and there is another girl on the spectrum just Riley’s age (a rare find) whom she really likes.

There are lots of boys for Seth to play with, and he is figuring out his way around that. He’s not used to rough and tumble, having only a delicate older sister..but today I saw him attempt to pile on. Interesting.

Homeschooling is working out well for them.

I’m so glad we gave it a try.

OM

Update:

We went. Had the place to ourselves. It was very cool. The kids especially loved the audio. I especially loved the variety of recycled fabric the artist used. Those little straw kids wore some funky clothes, made of shirt sleeves, socks, bandannas, even underpants with sharks on them. I can’t imagine how much work went into dressing these children! And yes, Australia has only nine million children under age 15.
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We’re going to check out this interactive art exhibit after homeschool co-op today. My friend Jancy told me about it and suggested I take the kids to see it, and I do whatever she says.

OM from Melissa Daubert on Vimeo.

It looks pretty cool. One sculpture represents one million of the earth’s children. Except where there are no children, then there are penguins. And just looking at the exhibit on the website, could it be true Australia is low on kids? We’ll find out.

It should be fun. Later gators.

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(Seth decided these four represented our family).

Friday Rampage of Appreciation

I’m feeling kinda in love with life today. It was the first day of the new homeschool co-op session. I am teaching a Lego class:

Seth preparing borrowed Lego, getting ready for the class (JACKPOT)!

It went well. We worked on two dimensional projects today. We’re going to slip in some architecture concepts, careers in Lego, and lots of challenges, but mostly it is just fun. Lego literally means “play well,” and I plan on sticking with that theme. I am getting a lot of ideas from Lego Quest Kids. I appreciate the website so much! If you have Lego lovers in your house I highly recommend it for ideas.

Seth's creation (MJ-because obsessions aren't just for Asperger's)

Hot Toddy has arranged his schedule so he can come to co-op most days

In the afternoon block, Riley is taking a puzzles and games class. They did some brain teasers, then moved onto a charades type of game, and in the middle of it, she dismissed me. She did the “come here” motion with her index finger and whispered in my ear,

“Mom. I don’t think I need you in here.”

It was awesome!

I let her go to a scrap booking class last session by herself (me out in the hall within earshot) because it was small. Just one other kid, and two instructors. This class had about eight kids. She did great, even getting up and doing the charades, and dealing with it when people weren’t guessing what she was acting out. I held my breath for a second…she was clearly feeling worried and on the spot, but she got through it on her own. It was after that, when she gloriously gave me the boot.

Also this week….Riley’s Spanish tutor is 70. She has taught homeless men, juvenile delinquents, those with dementia, and those with autism. She uses art and music. She told me she prayed for just the right client and here Riley is. This sweet woman stood in front of me and told me my child is the answer to her prayer. Any parent would love that, but this mom, who remembers her darling girl getting kicked out of preschool…it balms those wounds. We all want our kids to be included and loved.

We had homeschool book group this week. Such a great group of 8-10 year olds. We read Frindle, by Andrew Clements, about a boy who has the idea of inventing his own word. The kids were so enthusiastic and I have to say they stay on subject better than the adults in most of the books groups I have been in! Various moms take turns hosting at their houses (we don’t have it at our house because of cat allergies) and I lead the discussion. The best of both worlds for me. I get to lead the book group, which I love, but don’t have to clean for the occasion!

Speaking of “the best of both worlds,” this is the phrase I have coined for going to bed, backing up to Todd in a spoon position, stealing his body heat. He falls asleep while I read. We get to snuggle. I get to read. It’s “the best of both worlds.” One of life’s greatest blessings.

Okay, I’m gonna wrap it up before I make you gag if it’s not already too late.

May you have a beautiful and blessed weekend.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Talk Nerdy to Me

‘Cause I love having my mind blown…

And this is one reason why homeschooling does not scare me that much. We have no idea what world they will be living in or what we’re even preparing them for. We may like to think we do, but we don’t. It’s changing so fast. All I know is Riley, Seth (and I) are constantly, enthusiastically learning. We don’t know of boredom.

  • Mother
  • Spiritual growth enthusiast
  • Married to a great guy
  • Law of Attraction buff
  • Writer
  • Thinker
  • Traveler
  • Nature lover
  • Friend
  • Likes to help
  • Sets healthy boundaries
  • Autism resource
  • Choral singer
  • Yoga student

What words will appear on your shirt in the future?

*P.S. If you watch the video, wait ’til after the applause for a couple of questions and imagine how this technology might help those with autism and others with communication difficulties.

Homeschool Co-Op

This is Riley, (below right), enjoying a quiet lunch with two other girls at the homeschool co-op. The three of them decided to excuse themselves from the busy gym and eat in one of the classrooms.

“Mom, can I go eat with A & H please?”

Um, yeah. Why yes Riley, you may.

Friday was the last day of this session, (our second with the group) and it was sharing day where tables are set out and everyone can look at what the kids were working on in each class. I taught a class on dogs this time around.

We learned about service dogs.

And breeds.

Grooming (everyone got a turn brushing Jingle)

And lots of other things like canine body language vs. human body language, how dogs see, taste, hear, etc. Where dogs come from on the evolutionary scale, how they got to be domesticated, and on and on. You should have seen me pulling curriculum out of thin air! It was a stretch coming up with eight weeks of material, but mostly it was a success.

Children in the co-op sign up for two classes each, with an hour for lunch and recess in the middle. My kids were in the dog class for block A.

Jingle lives for co-op.

For block B, Riley enjoyed a scrap-booking class, not taught by me. Or assisted by me. Or requiring a single thing of me. The whole time.

Me? I sat outside of the class and worked on material for my next week’s dog class. Like it was nothing! Just another mom, not having to be in her kid’s class with her. That’s right baby, check me out!

Seth took a class called Discovering your Artist’s Eye. He learned about positive and negative space, drawing using different sides of the brain by turning objects upside down and sideways. Using grids to ensure correct proportion. That kind of thing.

Other classes offered included Spanish.

Oragami

There was even a class on “How to be a knight,” which was adorable. A bunch of rambunctious little boys learning how to be chivalrous, all while using homemade swords they helped saw, and shields they cut out themselves. They even sewed their silver knight costumes!

There were other classes too, one on theatrical and other games, there is a Girl Scout troup that meets during Block B. A nursery for the little ones and a class for preschool age kids. I’m probably forgetting something. Classes change up every session and parents are expected to teach or assist or help out with set-up/clean-up. There are between 40 and 60 kids in this co-op at any given session. I’ve so enjoyed meeting all the parents.

It has truly been a blessing to us. (HT got verklempt the first session, seeing Riley sitting in a small classroom, relaxed, engaged, learning without intense anxiety and fear).

On the way home Friday, in the van, I said, “Riley, I am so glad you have Asperger’s. There was so much about school that didn’t make sense for any of us, but if you’d not been such a sensitive person we never would have realized it. It’s because of you that we are homeschooling, and we get to go to co-op, and do so many other amazing and fun things together, and spend time with so many nice people. I appreciate you.”

She’s taken us down a different path and many gifts have come with it. She is such a blessing.

She thought about this for a minute, then said,

“And I couldn’t do all the things we get to do without your support. I appreciate you, Mom.”

Imagine, from where we’ve been, to this?

A sense of calm came over me. We’re okay. Rolling along, I felt all doubt melt away. We are where we need to be right now.

Things have a way of working out.

Appreciation Saturday

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While the guy is painting our living room downstairs, Riley, Seth, Jingle, Yippee, the cats, and I are piled into the bedroom. The kids are watching TV while I type away. Seriously, why don’t we do this every day? So cozy and fun! I am in love with technology. How is it I can sit here wireless, writing under a big down comforter? It is still such a miracle to me. How is it we have electricity? Phones? Cell phones? Plumbing? It is all so amazing. Someone figured it all out, and I didn’t have to. I don’t have to do everything! I can just come along and reap the rewards. The Universe is abundant, I tell ‘ya. People who invented these things, wherever you are…I appreciate you. I love brilliant minds. I love learning.

Did you know there is a website called Khan Academy where you can learn just about anything?

I am really loving the whole learning at home thing lately. I admit we did it out of necessity initially, but more and more it makes sense for our family. And cue sunshine and rainbows please….we recently were approved for the Ohio Autism Scholarship for Riley which will allow us to have a tutor come to our home during the week to teach her(at no cost to us). I cannot tell you how much this will help our family. This is the best case scenario. She gets to be home, but we don’t have to bear the full responsibility of teaching her. We don’t have to do everything! This will afford us more one-on-one with Seth, and allow me to get things done around the house while the tutor is here.

I used to joke, “I’d love for her to be homeschooled; I just wish someone else would do it.”

Dreams do come true.

I’ll never forget the relief I felt in her pre-kindergarten year, when the wonderful private teacher we hired said, “I’d like to take care of the educational piece, so you can just be her mom.” She was a special needs parent too, so she knew. For so long I’ve had to be everything. Doctor, advocate, attorney, teacher, nutritionist, coach, you name it. I am feeling sweet relief.

We are finding now that Riley doesn’t have to keep it together 35 hours a week at school, (with homework on top of that) she is much more sociable. She is starting conversations (in small groups). She is joyful. She can follow a conversation through lots of twists and turns. We belong to a co-op which meets on Fridays and has anywhere between 40-60 kids each session. There are very small classes. Each child picks two classes and there is an hour long recess in between where children can eat and play. At first she stuck with her brother like glue but the last couple of weeks she’s been hanging with the girls her age. An outsider looking in would never be able to pick her out of the crowd as “the kid with autism.” She is more relaxed. Part of it has to do with the company.

This is what I’ll tell you about the homeschooled kids we have met.

-They are polite.
-They are kind.
-They do not feel “entitled” and are respectful not just of adults but of other children.
-They are not particularly competitive.
-They are creative.
-They seem to nurture each other.
-They happily eat nutritious food.
-They are accepting.
-They are happy with a big long thick rope, playing tug of war. Piling on. Dragging each other around, all over the gym, for as long as we let them.
-They are enthusiastic learners.

So, it is going well.

And of course, one of the very best things about being home is the ample time the kids get to spend with their animals.

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Some days are more challenging than others, but today is a good day, and it deserves a mention. Good coffee. Good kids. Good dogs. Good computer. Comfy bed.

Date night tonight with Hot Toddy. We’re seeing The King’s Speech.

Life is good, yo.

For real.

Love.