Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 in review

I got this from a new blog I'm reading: MOM-Not Otherwise Specified . (I love the title of her blog... referencing the diagnosis of PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, which happens to be Reece's diagnosis.) As a way to review this past year, I'm going to copy the first line of the first post of each month:

January 2006 - Our founder, Captain Jack Sparrow, has come to live at the Black Pearl Academy!

February 2006 - I got this off Laney's blog!

March 2006 - It's March 1st, and today it is sunny and a beautiful 72 degrees!

April 2006 - New Spreadsheets: 1. List of books and other materials I want to purchase at convention next month, their list prices, and the prices at my favorite discount retailers.

May 2006 - Autism Awareness month is over officially, but I have found a few links that I still think are wonderful!

June 2006 - 10 simple pleasures I got tagged by Lisa.

July 2006 - After tithing off the bonus, and getting Russ some great shirts on clearance at The Gap, the amount left of the bonus was exactly what I needed to pay for My Father's World Adventures! :)

August 2006 - Our first day of school is tomorrow!

September 2006 - Fun Friday... the kids have been looking forward to it all week!

October 2006 - Aren't those a cute group of little birdies?!

November 2006 - Here is Reece's picture from preschool!

December 2006 - Wow, cannot believe it's December 1st already! :)


That was sort of fun!! What did your year look like in the blogosphere?

The last day of 2006

I cannot say that I'm sad to see 2006 end. I have great hopes for many changes in 2007, mostly within myself! :)

Happy New Year's Eve, friends!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Eve kids


I know, I know! I haven't posted since before Christmas! We had a very nice day! The kids enjoyed all of their presents, and have been playing nicely with them since Christmas Day! We enjoyed having my parents visit, and we're all enjoying the down time from school! :) Especially mom! LOL!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Baking

We had plans to do our Christmas baking this evening and we got it all done! Here is Austin working on his cookies on the kitchen counter.

We ended up inviting Riley's friend A over to make cookies with us! She said she had never done this before! I'm not sure if that's true or not, but I'm glad we invited her anyway! It was alot of fun for Riley!
Here is the result of all of our hard work! From left to right you'll find White Madness, behind it is Peppermint Bark, then the cake for Jesus, and little star shaped cakes (found those tins at the dollar store!), then the Tiger Butter, and lastly the sugar cookies. We will do the frosting on the cake and cookies tomorrow, to give the kids something to keep them busy!
I almost took a pic of the mess to call it "The Dark Side of Christmas Cooking" (esp. since we haven't had a working dishwasher in 18 months! LOL), but decided to just get busy cleaning the kitchen! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reece's favorite song

Studies in different cultures?

Here at the Black Pearl Academy, we strive to not only study different cultures, but to try to put our studies into practice! See below how we are sitting in a traditional Japanese style:


Ok, Ok, before I offend any Japanese readers, I'd better stop! Here's the real deal: last week after supper, Riley cried out that the kitchen table was falling over. We bought it used, sight unseen, from a yard sale earlier this year. It has never been sturdy, but my dad and my dh have worked hard to reinforce it whenever it got too wobbly. I assumed when Riley called out, she meant it was really wobbly. Nope! She meant what she said... the table was falling! The wood at the base of the pedestals had splintered, and the table was falling. It's a heavy table, so I'm glad Riley wasn't hurt. However, replacing said table a week before Christmas isn't so much fun! My friends encouraged me to blog about it, since we moved the coffee table into the kitchen for the kids at least to eat from! One day, I'm sure, I will laugh about all of this! ;)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mini book review: Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books

I was able to finish this book on the ride to my MILs house yesterday. I was definitely worth the time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I would love to try to implement this approach while teaching Reece to read! The main thing that concerns me is that it's a very intuitive program. It does have certain steps that are laid out as part of the program, and even includes masters for copying for record-keeping and planning purposes. But during each lesson you really have to be able to work on the fly! Also, it would require placing a good bit of trust in myself, which is something that I'm not altogether good at doing! But I think it might be worth considering some more, since I do have time until I would start with Reece. And there are alot of suggestions for things to do before the formal lessons would begin, that I do fully intend to start implementing after Christmas!

I highly recommend this book, even if you have already taught all of your crew to read! It was excellent information!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas pictures

Here are our new Christmas pictures!





Sunday, December 10, 2006

A reading list of a different sort

This post will be about MY reading list, and the first entry on it is a book that I heard about on Lisa's homeschooling blog (link to be added after I get permission), Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books. I had to get this book in Interlibrary Loan, so I've been waiting a little while for it.

I am only 2 chapters in, and I already suspect that a copy of this book will be making it's home in the Language Arts section of the Black Pearl Academy's library. This bullet point from Chapter 2 especially strikes me, since I am reading this book in particular interest for teaching Reece to read:

"Phonics programs overlook the fact that knowledge gained by rote memory does not readily apply to the complexities of actual reading."

I am learning more and more about the nature of autism spectrum disorders, and I have seen readily that this is true with my children especially. They are excellent rote learners, but when it comes time to apply that knowledge, to put it into practice, they struggle. It does not generalize.

I have taught 2 children to read, so far. Austin struggled through phonics programs (3 different ones). He is doing much better with his reading this year, but it's just from the years of practice. He much prefers for me to read aloud to him. Riley was around 3 when we started homeschooling, and she immediately started begging me to teach her to read. Finally, when she was just over 4, I sat her down and showed her how to blend words. Then I had to get back to teaching Austin to read because he, after all, was 6 and in Kindergarten! ;) A few weeks later, when Riley was 4 and 3 months, she read the first of the Bob Books. I guess, long story short, she taught herself to read. When I tried to sit her down and do phonics with her again when she was 5, I found out that she could already read fluently.

*** Ok, funny story here! I had purchased at a used booksale, the phonics primer from Abeka. I wanted to use it for Riley because Austin was still working through Phonics Pathways. So I sit her down, and hand her the primer, and she proceeds to read off the cover: "Abeka Reading Program A Handbook for Reading". Very well, phonics lessons are complete! LOL ***

I have posted some of the "learning to read" experiences I've had with Reece this last year of teaching her to read. She has picked up the sounds very quickly (Thank you Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD!), and she even figured out blending quite easily, too. But she just gets no meaning from it. And without meaning, I do not see a point. Part of her RDI program is that she communicates (uses language) for meaning, not just for the sake of using language. Reading should be no different. I have backed off, because I want to get a love of being read to instilled in her. Unfortunately, since she's the tail end of the homeschool, she hasn't had alot of 'snuggle and read a picture book' time. She's mostly had 'sit here and hush so I can read this chapter book/history book/science book' to your siblings. Not that that is bad, but I don't think it gives her a love of books as quickly as picture books might, especially considering her developmental level.

OK, I'm getting all rambly here. I'm going to continue to read this book, and see what other information strikes me. For the record, he does not advocate abandoning phonics, but rather utilizing phonics within a context of children's books. On a first glance, it reminds me a bit of Ruth Beechick's 3 Rs book on Reading, mixed in with a little bit of Calvert's approach in their Kindergarten program. Regardless, it's got my interest. Will keep posting as I read more!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Support group meetings

Tonight was our county's autism support group meeting, and Riley's first sibling support group. This was my 3rd time to attend this support group, and I have to say that the 3rd time might be the charm! It was a holiday social, and I sat and spoke with 3 of the nicest people. We briefly went through our 'stories' and chuckled at similar experiences! There was information presented about the summer camps offered by the group, and I would like to sign Austin up for one or more of them. They showed a DVD from last summer's camps and they looked like alot of fun! I'm not sure Reece would be ready for something like that, but they don't register until March, so I have time to decide.

Riley attended her first sibling support group meeting, and they had a holiday party as well! She was the only girl, which was frustrating because the lady I spoke to about the meetings said it was mostly girls! Oh well, Riley still enjoyed herself! She even won the 'Star' Cupcake for being so well-behaved and helpful! The college student who facilitates the group has a brother with autism, and I think that makes such a big difference. Also, the teenage girl who helps out also has a brother with autism. This is exactly what I was looking for for Riley! Riley wants to go back next month! :)

I signed Austin and Reece up for a sort of mini-camp beginning in January, which is basically fun, age-appropriate activities during the monthly support group meeting. It was $20 per child for the remaining 3 months the support group meets. (The fee is to pay for the trained staff.)This will also free up Russ to attend the support group with me, if he desires. Riley will continue to attend the sibling group.

I'm really glad we went, in spite of this frigid weather that blew in today!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Austin's follow-up appointment

Austin saw his autism doctor today for a 6 month follow-up! It's sort of hard to believe that it's been 6 months since he received his diagnosis!

The appt. went very well, I think. We all went (all meaning the girls and daddy, too!) and actually it went very nicely. I love that the doctor's private practice is in a home, since it helps all of my kids to relax. The big issues I wanted to discuss with him were Austin's increased anxiety, his lack of sleep now that we had to stop the melatonin for the side effects, and the RDI program.

As far as the anxiety is concerned, we were offered a medication that Dr. R said would help with both the anxiety and the sleep issue. It is given only at night. I am really not wanting to jump into a medication, so we'll research this more, try a few other 'natural' non-medicinal approaches, and then we'll decide later. Austin needs to sleep again, badly. Dr. R noted a big growth spurt in the last 6 months and mentioned that we needed to be prepared for puberty. WHAT? Puberty?!?! ACK! I think I'll just stick my head back in the sand on that one! LOL (Actually, Dr. R wanted us to know that the increased anxiety could be related to the beginnings of puberty.... esp. since we've had the BO problem going on for a year, and now a growth spurt that coincided with the anxiety going up. So I'll keep that in mind, but still keep my head in the sand!)

Regarding RDI, Dr. R encouraged us to not rush into it. The plan right now is for me to go to the workshop in March, and then discuss it more at our next appt. with Dr. R in mid-March for Reece. Because it costs so much money to implement an RDI program with a consultant, and we have to multiply that times 2 kids, we just want to make sure that we're using our resources wisely. Dr. R said that, in his experience, progress is less dependent on the methodology of the program and the particulars of how to go about the program, and more dependent upon the time spent individually engaging with the child. So it's less about exactly what sort of activities you are using, and more about the fact that you are doing something organized and deliberate to work with the child.

One thing that I was grateful to hear was when he encouraged us to not drive ourselves mad and broke trying to find the next 'big' treatment or cure. In fact, he told us to make sure that we allow ourselves time and money to take a family vacation (this is where he won over Russ for sure! LOL), and not to put all of our resources into autism. He suggested that, instead of the expensive social skills groups, Austin could get as much out of taking karate, which would also provide him with the physical exertion that he needs as part of his sensory diet.

I wish I could express more clearly the impressions I got from Dr. R today. But it was a really good appointment, and I feel like I have some goals for the next 6 months for Austin, and for ourselves. He does want to see Austin again in 6 months (wants to keep a close eye on him as he approaches puberty which can be rather difficult for kids with Aspergers). We go back in 3 months for Reece's one year follow-up, when she'll be five!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fun Friday 12/1

Wow, cannot believe it's December 1st already! :)

Today we put the FUN in Fun Friday! Our plans to go to the zoo got scrapped by the icky weather and the fact that Riley has a sleepover party to go to tonight. I had intended for us to go to an indoor inflatable place, but decided this morning to find something different than the one we go to at the mall. I located a place I thought would be good, printed off a coupon for said location, and we loaded up.

Arrived at the inflatable place only to find out it wasn't opening for another 90 minutes due to an emergency. But my kids did not freak out! I was so proud of them, I offered to take them to lunch! :) So we did a quick lunch (not too heavy as to interfere with bouncing), and then we went to Walmart to kill some time.

This inflatable place was fantastic!! We had the place to ourselves, except for one mom and a toddler! :) The kids had a blast playing with the little guy, and I talked to him mom for awhile. It turns out that her pediatrician had just mentioned to her recently that her little guy might have some form of autism. Some of what she described to me did sound somewhat familiar. I encouraged her to contact Babies Can't Wait and get him evaluated. It's free, and if there is nothing going on, then she will know and can move on. If there is something going on, early intervention is a great thing! She asked for my email address to keep in contact with me, and she also wanted to have my kids play with her little boy again at the inflatable place! LOL She commented that my kids were some of the nicest bigger kids she has ever come across! :)

I'll try to post some pictures later on that I took of the kids bouncing and sliding!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A good day for Reece

I had to call Reece's facilitator after preschool today to share what Reece did on the way out to the car. Almost as soon as we got out the door of the preschool, she started telling me about M and C (2 boys in her class) and that they were arguing with each other. It was such a neat thing! She never ever talks about preschool, and definitely doesn't talk about the other children. In fact, when we see the other children also walking out, she doesn't even acknowledge them. I was so excited that she shared with me her experiences at preschool! I was even more excited when Miss Amie told me that the episode had indeed happened! And to make it even better, the boys were arguing right next to where Reece was sitting, and they were being a little physical, but she didn't let it bother her! Miss Amie said she was waiting closeby to see if Reece was going to get upset, but she never did! :) She said Reece has had a great week this week!

Reece did much better at ballet this afternoon as well! She went right in (had a little trouble in the line when she wasn't line leader) and she participated better than she ever has! She was distressed once by some loud music and singing but she just put her hands over her ears and kept moving! That's a good improvement!

All in all, she's had a really good day!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's the post-break brain erase!

This week has been a big struggle for Austin. We took nearly the whole week off last week, and this week he seems to have forgotten everything (well, at least everything related to math!)! Add that to the fact that we are beginning multiplication of 2 digit by 2 digit numbers and his brain has shut down! I've tried to explain to him that this is another really complicated thing, involving multiple steps of multiplication and addition, but he is so easily frustrated! Because math has always been his best subject, he has high expectations for himself. He thinks he should always just get everything right away. (I guess that's a good sign that he forgot the 6 months we spent on addition and subtraction with regrouping lol). So we'll just move slowly again while he gets the hang of this. He understands the concepts behind it, it's just the processing that is giving him trouble. I've also figured out some interesting things about math curricula and the assumption of concept generalization... but that's going to have to be another post.

Easy Grammar is going well, so far. He has memorized the preposition list, or rather refreshed it from when he learned them in 2nd grade with First Language Lessons. He intuitively understood what a prepositional phrase is. Next week we'll see if he can identify them in sentences! :) That's usually where we get tripped up --- application!

Is it Christmas break yet? LOL

Saturday, November 25, 2006

3 drawings

Reece absolutely loves to draw! I have to give at least part of the credit to Riley, because I am not artsy, and Austin is not artsy. But Riley is artsy, and Reece has grown up watching Riley draw her wonderful pictures!

However, there has been a problem this last 6-9 months or so. Reece has drawn this same picture over and over. It's called "perseveration" in autism terms. Here is a scan of the picture, which I literally have hundreds of. The colors don't change. The order of the people don't change. She would draw 5-10 of these a day (I believe this one she drew at preschool):
Yesterday, my dh took the kids down to visit his mother while I worked on getting things cleared out of the kids' rooms for donating or giving away or throwing away! We just had to make room for the upcoming onslaught of Christmas toys! They were gone nearly all day long, but they were all very wound up! And in this time, Reece drew me the following 3 pictures, one after the other:


This one (above) is a picture of our van in the middle and all 5 of us in the van. I'm driving! If you look closely at the front of our van you will see the ray of light coming out from the headlight. That's because this is a drawing of driving home in the dark, in the rain. See the dots of rain and the dark rain clouds? Also, note the crescent moon! The 2 other vehicles were added after Reece showed me the picture the first time. She said she wanted to add other cars driving. Isn't it so cool?!

This picture (above) is Reece with her flower that she is growing in a pot. She told me that we were out of light blue, so she had to use dark blue and make it look light. Also, she made sure that I noticed that the flower that is drawn on the pot is the same flower that is growing in the pot! In the corners you can see what look like little 'framers'.

And this last picture (above again) is a picture of the flower before it went into the pot. You'll notice the dirt is brown and the grass is on top of it. Notice the black dot at the bottom of the stem? That is the seed! She told me she planted the seed in the ground and the flower grew up from the seed to make the flower. I asked her what flowers needed to grow and she said, "Sunshine and the rain!" Smart girl!

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) I am utterly tickled about these pictures! She put such thought into each one! Her brain, for however long it lasts, isn't stuck on the same picture! This alone gives me a very big reason to be Thankful! :)



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

X marks the spot!

Today, I earned a bit of admiration and respect from Riley, which is honestly not the easiest thing to come by! Today I began her lessons in cross-stitching! She has longed for a mother with some artistic flair, a mother who could teach her to knit scarves and sweaters or sew dresses and blankets, even a mother who could identify the flowering plants and trees in our backyard! Alas, she got a mother whose only true skill is the ability to find patterns in numbers and who thinks taking a course on tax preparation sounds like alot of fun! :)

Here is her first completed X! The ones you see above it (closer to her) are the ones I did while I was teaching her!
She is concentrating very hard and really seems to enjoy it! :) She took to it very quickly, as she does most things! Maybe I'll get a new cross-stitch kit and we'll work on something cool side by side! :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Look! It's Sirius Black!

Only 235 days until OOTP, according to Mugglenet! Wow, next summer, between Pirates 3 and Harry Potter 5, I am going to be living at the theater! Say it with me... GIFT CARDS! :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's not supposed to be this hard?

I am watching the RDI DVD and I am just not believing my eyes! First, let me say a special thank you to my online friend Pam who so graciously sent this very expensive DVD to me to borrow free of charge! I'm only about a 1/3 of the way through it and I am already so impressed I can't stand it! I have read the foundational books that RDI is based upon, but seeing it in action is just amazing!

One thing that keeps striking me is how smoothly and easily the child and parent interact with each other! And how the child seems so relaxed and ready to have fun! There is so much that is wonderful to experience in the world and so often my kids who have the ASDs are too anxious to even realize it! One before/after video really hit home with me: in the before the mom was trying to engage the child and the child was smearing his spit on the two-way mirror. On Thursday when Reece had been asked to sit out of ballet, she spent the remaining time smearing her spit into the mirror. She didn't even care that she was missing the class. She didn't even seem to realize that anything had happened. The after portion of the video showed the dad and child playing a game together where the child had to look at the parent for non-verbal instruction before doing his part, and together they came to an understanding on when the action could happen, and then the last step was them doing it together. They were having SO much fun and they looked at each other with such engagement! Excuse me while I pout here a moment: I WANT THAT!!!! ::stomping and sticking my lower lip out::

My kids are smart and they talk well (Reece does now anyway, when she wants to lol) and they are overall really great kids! But Austin progressively becomes more anxious and controlling of his world so as to avoid anything 'different' and 'unexpected'. And Reece seems to be quickly following the same pattern. And I find myself working my butt off trying to keep their world controlled and 'same'. But that is nearly impossible, so when faced with the unexpected and different, they melt down. It's just not supposed to be this hard, and I see it now! It's been such a part of our everyday life forever, that I didn't fully appreciate how life is meant to be.

Well, I'll keep posting more about about the DVD as I continue to watch it... and Russ and I are going to be watching it together next week as well! I am so excited for him to see this stuff now! :)

The Reading List dilemma

This is a good dilemma to have! Remember the free reading lists I came up with for the kids before this school year started? If not,
this will help to refresh your memory!

Well, here we are towards the middle/end of November, and Riley informed me last Wednesday that she is starting her last book on the list. Didn't she get the memo that this list was for the entire year? Apparently not! LOL Now I have to search for more books for her! Oh the calamity! ;) (Also, she's going to finish her 2nd regular Pathways reading book for this year right before Christmas! Not sure what I'll do after that!)

Also, Austin only has 3 books left on his list, and then there are 2 more that he has requested to be added to the list after reading excerpts in his Bob Jones reading book! That is really impressive! His list is long, and the books are not short at all! :) So I guess I'll need to start looking for books for him as well!

And this has absolutely nothing to do with reading, but while I was looking for the reading list post I came across the post where we were deciding about choir for Riley. I really should say that I'm SO glad we chose to do this church choir instead! She has enjoyed herself SO much, and it's free! LOL I'm not sure she would have enjoyed herself as much if she had done the Atlanta Youth Choir at this age! :) It's nice to know we make the right decision now and then! LOL

Will this day ever come?

Will a day come where the first thought of the morning isn't about autism?

Where the last thought before bed isn't about autism?

Where I don't spend the wee hours of the morning reliving the day and chastizing myself for opportunities I missed?

Will a day ever come where I don't regret the way I reacted to some meltdown or other behavior of the children that they really can't control?

Will a day ever come where I can carry on a conversation with someone without talking about autism?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fun Friday 11/17

Well, we had a slight change of plans for Fun Friday that was brought about by Austin throwing up late last night. He seems to be doing OK and has eaten today fine, but I didn't want to take him out running around today just in case.

I got out the Spin Art machine and we got busy with creation! Hands On Art! :) Imagine that!

We also finished reading our latest read-aloud, and we cleaned up (but the post hands-on art stuff pretty much took care of the cleaned up parts of the house! LOL).

So there you go, Fun Friday! LOL

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I left the house for THIS?

(Thanks to Sadie for the title of this post!)

Our HIGH today was 48. Low was 46. It's windy, which makes it feel like 41 degrees at the most! Reece had her Thanksgiving Feast at preschool (which I had promised to help with) and then she had ballet.

Well, come to find out this morning at preschool she spat in the face of another child, because he messed up her line of puppets.

Then at ballet, she was asked to sit out because she was being uncooperative and disruptive.

So, I repeat... I left the house for THIS?!

Time to light a fire. I need chocolate! And a Pibb.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well, I signed on all gung-ho to blog, and now I haven't the foggiest idea what to blog about! LOL Let's see what's been going on at the Black Pearl Academy:

Grammar- Over the weekend, I purchased Easy Grammar for Austin. He was struggling so much with Rod & Staff that it just wasn't worth all the time we were spending on grammar anymore. R&S only gets harder, and I just couldn't see him ever really understanding and applying it. He's now into the 'memorizing the prepositions' part, which is fairly easy because he memorized them in 2nd grade for FLL. We just have to do a refresher course. Now, will he be able to understand what a prepositional phrase is, and be able to identify it in a sentence as to eliminate them? Well, that remains to be seen. If not? Then I think we'll be taking a break from formal grammar for a few years and see if he's ready for it when he's older.

Academics in General- Taking WAY longer every day that I would prefer. I'm not sure what can go, in order to make the day shorter and leave more time for reflection and spontaneity. Still working that out, but due to the way my children's brains work, it just may be that our days are long and there's nothing to change that. Riley is doing very well, still! Austin is struggling in some areas, but his attitude is generally much better than it has been previously. Reece is taking a break from formal academics right now.

Autim stuff- I went to a meeting of a support group in another county and enjoyed myself greatly. Their topic was "Working with Siblings of Children with Autism" and it was excellent. The speaker has a sibling with autism, so she was able to speak to us from the perspective of both a professional in the field of autism, and also as a NT sibling of an autistic individual. We're on the right track in how we deal with Riley and her needs, but we have a long way to go. She also gave me several really great ideas for the spectrum kids in our family. She emphasized how much the social functioning of an adult determines their success, not necessarily their academic performance (hmmm, whether they could master grammar in the 4th grade? LOL). So if my goals are fixed on academics, without regard to social functioning, I will not be doing my children justice. Side note: I did NOT agree with their training methods on working towards those social goals, but that's a topic for another blog.

That's about it for now! I can't believe it's nearly Thanksgiving already! Where has this year gone? It is flying by! Only 20 days until Dead Man's Chest comes out on DVD!

Look for my review of "Stranger Than Fiction" coming hopefully tonight! It's been ages since I've done any movie reviews! Well, it's hard to when I keep seeing POTC2 over again! :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

5 years of Book It

For the 5 years that we've been homeschooling, we have gone to Pizza Hut for Book It with my friend H's family! Back in my pre-homeschooling days, H homeschooled her son while Austin went to preschool and then Kindergarten. I honestly thought H must have chosen to do it because she couldn't get her son into preschool. They moved the same summer we bought our house, and it was hard to find a preschool that time of year. It would turn out that she would be my inspiration 2 years later to homeschool after a terrible experience in the public schools! Here are the kids during the first year we went to Pizza Hut for Book It, November 2002!


Here we are this year! We arranged everyone by age, so my Austin is the first one (he's third from the left on the top). Riley is the 3rd one in the picture below (she's the 2nd from the left in the above picture). The two little girls were sling babies when the 2002 picture was taken (Reece is 6th from the left in this picture below), and the little guy at the end was not even a thought yet!

My word, how everyone has grown so much! I know I talk about how fast everyone is growing up, but this is just picture perfect evidence! Five short years ago, these kids were so little and look at them now! It's amazing! We can't even fit everyone on the bench anymore! LOL

We had a wonderful time, as we always do, and afterward we went to the park to play and explore. It's near 80 day! What a way to spend Fun Friday! :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A moment of (somewhat unclear) clarity.

There has been a very interesting thread from my local autism support group email list going on the last day or two. I have to be snooty here for a moment and admit I don't really feel this group has alot to offer me because I appear to be the only homeschooler, and most of the discussion centers around public school special ed. But a particular response to this thread about frustrations with a high-functioning autistic (HFA) 9 year old boy really grabbed me and gave me much to think about.

The original poster in the thread was complaining about her son's lack of ability to remember to do things like take his lunch money to school, or to remember to wash himself when he showers, or how he is now falling behind academically. He is mainstreamed and she didn't mention if he has any special supports or anything.

The reply that really caught my attention came from a mom who has a 16 year old son who has HFA. This is part of the reply that just made me stop in my tracks:

"The more I adjusted my expectations of him to something that I knew that he could handle and then praised him to death with that (and his teachers at school did as well) then he became more acceptable to learn new things and adjust to new situations.

But let me blunt here. If your child has highfunctioning autism he is NEVER going to act like a neurotypical child/teen/adult. Period."

It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. I'm trying to act like Austin doesn't have HFA. Or maybe I'm just forgetting that that is a HUGE part of who is he and how he processes things. She went on to add:

"It has nothing to do with really with his being defiant or something like that. It is just that he has a different way of processing information than other individuals. Not good or bad,.... different."

I guess there is a part of me that thinks that just because we homeschool, that eliminates ALL of the interferences that the HFA/Aspergers presents with learning. Sure, we can eliminate the noisy, chaotic environment (somewhat lol). I can present information at the pace he needs. Well, I guess that doesn't always get through to my brain. I'm still very fixated on what level he is at. And I sometimes push him through things forgetting that it just takes him longer. He gets things, it just takes him longer. The neuropsych emphasized as much.

I don't even know if I'm making sense here! LOL I've been so very focused on the fact that I'm not going to let autism/Aspergers stop him from doing what everyone else does, that I've forgotten that he's not like everyone else. But that doesn't have to be a negative thing.

Hmmm, lots to think about now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A great pic and a sick mom

Here is Reece's picture from preschool! They had a professional photographer come in at the beginning of October to do individual pictures! I wasn't holding out much hope because Reece is notoriously hard to get a good picture of, and her class has outdoor playtime first thing in the morning so I was sure her hair would be a complete mess by picture time! But look!! Isn't it a great picture?? I can't believe they got her to stand by a tree, sort of look at the camera, and smile! :) It's my favorite picture of her ever!!


Now on to the not so good stuff: I am still sick. This is so disappointing. I've had to modify Fun Friday today to exclude anything that requires me to use my voice. I am so congested, and my throat is so scratchy. I sound terrible. I was thinking of taking the kids to a new museum here in our county today, but I guess that will have to wait for another Friday.

Let's see, any other BPA news? Oh yeah...I handed out report cards on Wednesday for the first time! It went pretty well. The kids compared, somewhat, but it wasn't too bad. They asked for report cards, or I wouldn't be doing it at all! LOL Silly kids!
The kids are struggling a bit in their attitudes, but I am chalking that up to 3 weeks in a row where someone has been sick. I am aching to get back into our regular routine and good habits! We have been accomplishing the bare basics (grammar, math, reading, writing) these last 3 weeks, but the rest has been hit or miss. We had History Day last Friday where we got caught up on our history reading, but again this week that's been pushed aside. Hard for me to read History when I have no voice! LOL (This is when using SOTW would be handy, because I could pop in a CD! LOL) Science, too, has been pushed aside while I await our science book I purchased off ebay. Latin is going well because of the CD and flashcards. I am just ready to be feeling better for more than a few days at a time!!! WAH!
Ok, enough whining or I'll be forced to make myself walk the plank! ;) Have a lovely weekend, and Keep to the Code! :)


Monday, October 30, 2006

Teaching Reepie to Read

Well, it's just not as easy at it was with Riley! Austin was so much older when I taught him to read (6 and had spent the year in public school K), so maybe this is just something that will come with maturity. Riley just learned to read so quickly and effortlessly. Also, now that I know about Reece's autism and having seen Austin struggle, I worry that this is just the beginning of the same sort of struggles that I have had with him.

In other words, as with so many other things, would I worry about this if she didn't have autism? Would I worry about this if her big sister hadn't been fluently reading at this age?

We've been doing reading "lessons" for 4-5 months now. She has known all of her letter sounds for about a year (she picked up the sounds during her articulation speech therapy). She quickly picked up on the concept of blending, but it doesn't seem to be progressing beyond that. She is very speedy with her blending, but she doesn't seem to be able to move forward with it. She still sounds out each letter and then says the word. She can see the same word twice in a row, and not recognize that it's the same. She'll start back over and sound each part out. I've tried to explain to her that she doesn't have to say 'b-a-t bat' but she doesn't get it. Today we did word families and she didn't see that the '-at' or the '-an' at the end of the word was the same... she sounded out each letter individually each time. I even showed her that it was the same letters at the end and it just didn't seem to get through to her.

I wish I knew if I should just drop it for awhile and try again when she's older. (She will be 5 in 4 months... yikes!!) Or if I should keep at it because of the fact that it might take her longer. Austin took so long to learn to read and it really held up what he was able to do for school. I always wish I could do it over again and start him younger, but now I wonder if that would have helped at all.

Is this just a maturity issue? Is there a processing problem related to her autism? Do I need to try something different? Do I need Calvert??? (Sorry, couldn't resist! LOL)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another one from Lisa!

When was the last time you brushed your teeth?
This morning before I took Reece to preschool

What do your teeth usually look like?
Ugh. Crooked. I want braces.

What book do you like to read over and over?
The Well-trained Mind.. sick I know!

How many times do you crack your neck?
I don't do that!

What’s your favorite logo?
POTC/Jolly Roger

How many times have you been on an air plane?
Four times, round trips... so that makes 8 times on an airplane?

What were you wearing this day last week?
Oh gosh, we were going to Austin's ballgame so I am sure I was wearing a shirt and jeans.

When was the last time you ate peanut butter?
Yesterday, on the way home from the botanical gardens!

Do you like the Charlie and the chocolate factory with Johnny Depp?
Oh yes!

What is your fav. Exercise?
I love the elliptical machine, and the weight machines.

Do you like this tag? (meme??)
It's not boring!

Ever considered living in a hobbit hole in new Zealand?
Sure!!

What are you obsessed with?
Me? Obsessed? Nothing really! I don't get easily obsessed! Honestly!

How many times a day do you check your e mail?
Alot... but I'm on DSL so it's fast!

Finish this sentence ''they are taking the...
Hogwarts Express

Why did you answer it that way?
Too much Harry Potter

What is the first thing you think of in the morning?
I should have gone to bed earlier last night.

What is your fav. Super hero besides Jesus?
Captain Jack!

How do you like better- Jack Sparrow or Will Turner?
Captain Sparrow!

What are three of your future children’s names?
While there won't be future children, we do have some unused names:
Reagan (for a girl)
Logan (for a boy)
Trey (for a boy)

How would you describe your self?
Emotional, organized, not easily forgiving, curious

Pick a word you use most often.
Honestly

Meme from Lisa's blog

1. The phone rings. Who do you want it to be?
Someone who will listen to me and not think I'm wrong for how I feel.

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?
Most of the time.

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?
If I know the folks I'm around, I'm definitely a talker.

4. Do you take compliments well?
Nope, I get embarrassed.

5. Are you an attractive person?
I used to be!

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?
Not a chance!

7. Do you like to ride horses?
Nope, I'm terrified of horses.

8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?
I went to band camp the summer between 9th and 10th grade.

9. What was your favorite game as a kid?
The Game of Life. I bought a new one to play with my kids and it's not nearly as fun.

10. If a hot person was pursuing you, but you knew he/she was married or in a relationship, would you get involved with him/her?
Not a chance.

11. Are you judgmental?
I used to be. But I try not to be so bad now. I've learned alot in this last year.

12. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?
My first thought is no, but then I realize that I did do that when I met dh.

13. Do you like to pursue or be pursued?
Both, it depends.

14. Can you speak another language?
I used to be able to speak French quite well, but I haven't used it. Now with teaching the kids Spanish and Latin, I can't remember French much at all.

15. If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?
I think I'd rather be deaf. I wouldn't like to not be able to see my husband or children. And I could still communicate in sign language with them.

16. Do you know how to shoot a gun?
I've shot a gun before, but that's been 20 years ago.

17. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grab?
The lock box with all of our important papers in it.

18. How often do you read books?
I shoot for daily!

19. Do you think more about the past, present or future?
I go back and forth between the future and the past. Mostly the future.

20. What is your favorite children's book?
Owl Moon

21. What color are your eyes?
Blue-green

22. How tall are you?
5' 5"

23. Where is your dream house located?
St. George Island, FL

24. Last person you talked to?
My mom

25. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?
Yes

26. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?
Within the last year

27. What is on your keychain?
The keys to my house and van, key to my mother's house, a POTC keychain (medallion) that Jan got me on her first Disney trip, Kroger Plus card

28. Where was the furthest place you traveled today?
Reece's ballet and Reece's preschool

30. Do you like mustard?
Nope.

31. Do you prefer to sleep or eat?
Sleep

32. Do you look like your mom or dad?
Mom

33. How long does it take you in the shower?
20 minutes

34. Can you do splits?
I'm not sure I ever could!

35. What movie do you want to see right now?
POTC 3 ;)

36. Do you put lotion on your dog or cats?Lotion? On pets?
People do that?

37. What did you do for New Year's?
Watched POTC with the kids

38. Do you think The Grudge was scary?
I haven't seen it

39. What was the cause of your last accident?
I've never had an accident.

40. Do you own a camera phone?
Nope, don't want one either.

41. What are you drinking?
Mr. Pibb

42. Was your mom a cheerleader?
No, but my mom's sister was.

43. What's the last letter of your middle name?
N

44. Who did you vote for on American Idol?
I don't watch it!

45. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Around 6-8.

46. Do you like Care Bears?
Yes, they are adorable!

47. What do you buy at the movies?
Nothing usually, but if I have the money and calories to spare, I'll get popcorn, Mr. Pibb, and chocolate.

48. Do you know how to play poker?
Yes! I learned how to on a video game when I was a kid.

49. Do you wear your seatbelt?
Yes!

50. What do you wear to sleep?
In the summer, SS jammies and bottoms. In the winter, sweats, tshirt, sweatshirt, and socks!

51. Anything big ever happen in your hometown?
I'm not even sure what I consider to be my hometown! LOL

53. Is your tongue pierced?
Nope

54. Do you always read MySpace bulletins?
I only go to My Space to read Sadie's blog, which she hasn't updated in forever.

55. Do you like funny or serious people better?
Do I have to choose?

56. Ever been to LA?
No

57. Did you eat a cookie today?
No

58. Do you use cuss words in other languages?
Just the one that I learned from watching National Treasure

59. Do you steal or pay for your music downloads?
I always pay!

60. Do you hate chocolate?
Oh that's a terrible thing to ask! Of course not!

61. What do you and your parents fight about the most?
How much they spoil my children.

62. Is your cell usually on vibrate or ring?
Ring

63. Are you a gullible person?
I didn't used to think so.

64. Do you need a boyfriend/girlfriend to be happy?
Nope. But I wouldn't be happy without my husband.

65. If you could have any job (assuming you have the skills) what would it be?
Accountant/Tax preparer

66. Are you easy to get along with?
I don't think so.

67. What is your favorite time of day?
Rest time! LOL Just kidding! I like mornings when nobody has to go anywhere!

68. Who was the last person you held hands with?
Reece

69. What is the last tv show you watched?
A Designing Women rerun.

70. Do you want a new cell phone?
No, but I bet my husband does! LOL

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fun Friday 10/13

We had a more 'normal' Fun Friday today! The kids each did some work in their geography workbooks, and did some reading. Reece had a reading lesson. We played math games (Snap it Up/Hot Dots money), and did some thinking games (VPSB/Rush Hour).

After a fairly early lunch, we bundled up:

and went to the park! We have been going to this park for about 9 years, and we call it the "train park" because it's located across from a very busy train track. When you hear a train sound and the signal goes down, everyone from the park RUNS to see the train and wave to the engineer! It's great fun!

The kids played on the tire swing, ran around on the playground equipment, and enjoyed the sounds and sights of TWO trains passing by! They made new friends of a couple of families who happened to be at the park on this chilly fall day!


It was a nice fall Fun Friday! :)

The BPA Lunch Table

This was what I saw when I walked back into the kitchen, after checking email during lunch! It just made me laugh! Doesn't anyone sit the right way at our school? :)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

TAGGED

I've been tagged by Jan!

5 weird things about me (Some of you at this point are wondering how I'm going to keep it to five!):

1. When I get gasoline for the van, I pull all the way forward to the last pump in the row. So people can pull in behind me. Anyone who doesn't is wrong.

2. I'm very particular about my day planner. I keep it in pencil. And if we change plans I'll erase it. If we do something that wasn't planned, I go back and write it in. In pencil.

3. I freeze up when entering a group of people I don't know if I'm all alone. I just can't make any words come out of my mouth. Once I'm comfortable, then I can't STOP talking, and will usually stick my foot in my mouth.

4. I don't like any of my food to touch each other, unless I make it that way on purpose!

5. I don't like my hair to be touched. Makes it really hard to get a hair cut! LOL

Ok, I'm tagging anyone who may read this! Comment and leave a link so I know where to find your replies!

Monday, October 09, 2006

What an observant girl!

Today I made some playdoh for Reece using the recipe that her preschool teacher gave Austin. (Austin had signed up on orientation day to make playdoh for the class for October!) It's a great playdoh and it really works her hands well!

I also cannot believe how creative she got with the playdoh today! She 'designed' a park! I wish I had thought to take a picture of it! It had a little slide, and some swings, and an area with baby swings. (I had to take her word for it... all I could really make out were the baby swings! lol)

Then she said, "Oh wait! I forgot one thing!" She worked a bit longer then said, "That's better! Ant hills! Now the park is complete!"

She sure knows what she's talking about... the parks in GA really DO have ant hills all over the place! ;)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fun Friday 10/6


Aren't those a cute group of little birdies?! This is a picture from our field trip to the zoo last Friday! It was a perfect day for an outing! And it was the baby panda's one month birthday! We saw the gorillas being fed. We saw the lions, tigers, and leopards (oh my!) napping! And we rode the train around the zoo! :) It would have been perfect, except for the 2.5 hour commute home in Atlanta traffic. We only live less than 40 miles from the zoo. Apparently rush hour hit early last Friday! ACK!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reflections on our first year with ASD

Princess Reece (aka Little Peanut)

Well, it's been a full year since Reece's diagnosis. The roller coaster seems like it's starting to go a little smoother now. What used to feel like jolts and steep inclines and fast speeding descents seem now to be mostly average ups and downs, with only an occasional big pit here and there.

Goodness, I'm not going to be eloquent here. I feel like I should be able to write some wonderful, deeply moving tribute to this last year. I should be able to say that the worst is over and we're all doing really great! I guess that is true to some extent! Some days I'm very confident and believing that God has a plan for Reece. Other days I feel like I'm in over my head and there's nothing that I can do, and I worry that she will never fall in love, get married, hold down a job, etc. Most days are somewhere in between.

Reece graduated from Speech Therapy at the end of April, and from Occupational Therapy at the end of June. Her tantrums are few and far between, and I'm much better at handling them when they do occur. She is completely potty trained, including night times. She is sleeping through the night 95% of the time. She's doing pretty well at preschool, with her facilitator, and she loves to go! She is in ballet class, and that's a bigger challenge, but she has a very patient teacher! She is learning how to read (she can blend sounds into 3 letter words, but she doesn't get the point and purpose of it! I've tried to introduce Bob Books and she isn't interested!), and she prints (all capitals, thank you HWT) better than Austin or Riley did at this same age. She loves to color and draw!

The things she still struggles with are the need to keep everything the same all the time. And now that she's talking well, she does alot of repetitive talking (same conversations over and over, same questions over and over). She doesn't really understand how to interact with other children her own age, and this seems to be a bigger problem earlier than it was with Austin. I guess that's a girl thing... little girls are so incredibly social, and they notice that she's not! She still runs off when we're in public and I'm not holding her hand (though this is getting better!). She loves babies, and touches them even though we've talked about not touching babies without asking the mom first (this is a repetitive thing too as she will run for and touch the same baby 10-20 times, even though we've gone through the whole 'lesson'). And she still has no sense of stranger awareness (sits on the laps of strangers, hugs them, asks to go home with them). Some of these things get harder to deal with as she gets older and older, they become more obviously out of place.

I guess there's not much else to say! I'm here, we're all here, we made it through! I've learned so much this year, and I know I still have so much to learn! We just continue to plug away, for Reece's sake! :)

Disney moment: Look who I saw!

As I was coming out of the POTC ride for the first time, Capn Jack and another pirate were doing a (too short) skit! I got video of them singing "A Pirate's Life for Me!" and it was awesome! That's as close as I got though... Capn Jack ran off though, as part of the skit, I think. Surely he wasn't running away from me was he?

He's not a bad impersonator is he? He's a little larger than our real Captain, but he had the voice and the mannerisms dead on! He did need to be a little more dirty, though, IMO. :) And he had no compass. LOL

One Year Ago today

Reece was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDD-NOS). At some point today, I'm going to reflect on what sort of changes this past year has brought to our family, and to me personally. In some ways it seems like one of those life-changing, defining moments that causes new mourning every day. And in other ways, it feels like nothing is really all that different than before the diagnosis.

But for now, I can't even really pull my thoughts together coherently! I think I'm suffering from Post-Disney Disorder! ;)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Technical Difficulties and a Vacation

It's been 2 weeks since I last blogged! I wasn't intending to get this far behind, but our DSL went out for a week, we got a new DSL provider, and then we left to go to Disney World!

I will catch up on things tomorrow! I need a good night's sleep first! :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

TGIF 9/15

Fun Friday took on a little bit of a different flavor today. We slept in this morning, since nobody was in bed before 10 last night due to a baseball game. We had alot of housekeeping to catch up on, so we knocked that out of the way first! I had picked up a few things on Mom's Night Out so I gave those to the kids this morning. Austin got a Learn to Juggle kit, Riley got a Card Making kit, and Reece got a princess coloring book. (Borders has some really good bargain items!) They played with those while I finished up the dishes, and then the girls and I played with a new game called Square by Square. Austin worked on his VPSB exersizes, and then we all played Uno. Spanish will again be put aside in favor of a lovely fall day! There will be plenty of icky winter weather in which to learn Spanish later! :)

In other school-related news:

Wednesday we took our first field trip of the school year to the Aquarium. This was our first time by ourselves! We usually go with at least one other family! The weather was dreadful that day, and I wasn't sure we would brave it, but we did! The aquarium was not very crowded as a result, and we spent a leisurely 4.5 hours there!

Yesterday Austin had his first chapter test for Rod and Staff Grammar. He got a dismal 64%. I went over the errors with him after the grading was done, and he seemed to understand what he got wrong. He kept saying, "I got all confused!" This was his first ever grammar test, and really his first exposure to heavy-duty grammar. I probably should be happy that he got more than half correct! Anyway, we are going to move slowly forward, while reviewing what he struggles with along the way. I've also decided that we'll shoot for completing this book in 2 years rather than one. I'd rather he learn the material well!

It seems we had quite a test day yesterday... Austin had a math test and scored a 98%, and Riley got a 100% on her spelling test. She took her first math test last week and scored a 94%. I'm not sure if I posted that or not! She's doing really well with her work!

Latin is going well! The kids have learned their first 5 vocabulary words, so next week we'll move on to lesson 2. I did have Riley complete the writing assignments in the workbook, and she had no trouble with them. I was unsure if I would require that of her, but I'm glad to see that she can handle it!

Reece got a good report from her facilitator on Thursday! Her behavior is getting better (except for chapel apparently lol), and she initiated an interaction with a little girl in her class on Thursday! She just LOVES to go, which makes it very nice for all of us!

I guess that's about it! We have one more week of school before vacation! Next Tuesday is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so this weekend I have to go pick up all of our pirate books from the library! We'll also be watching POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl in honor of the day! :)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 5 years ago

We've been trying to keep busy today, but I can't help thinking about what I was doing 5 years ago today.

Austin was in Kindergarten, Riley was at preschool, and I was pregnant with Reece. My friend Kristi (who was due with her son in a few weeks) and I decided to meet for a breakfast alone at IHOP. I never turned on the TV on 'school mornings' so I had absolutely no idea anything was going on. I even listened to a tape in the car, so I didn't hear the news on the radio. While I was waiting for Kristi to come to IHOP, I kept overhearing people talk about it. It was so confusing, though, because nobody knew what was going on.

Kristi and I ate our breakfast, and talked about going to get our Kindergarteners (her oldest is the same age as Austin and they were at the same school). We both decided not to interrupt the day of such young children who wouldn't understand.
I called my husband on the way to pick up Riley, and he asked me if I was going to pick up Austin as well. I told him no. I wonder if he thought I was nuts! (Reflecting here for a moment... I feel like such a different mom now. If that same thing were going on today I would have gotten him in a minute. Can you believe I sent him to school the day his baby sister came home from the hospital? I didn't want him to miss a moment. @@ OK, back on topic!)

My husband and I watched the news that afternoon, evening, and the days that followed. I was most concerned because I have a friend who lives on Long Island, and her husband works in the city, but I didn't know where. I couldn't get ahold of her, and finally called her on her cell phone even though I knew she was at work. She's a high school teacher, and they were having to hold many children at school because their parents couldn't get back to Long Island. But she and all of her family were safe!

We kept the news off when the kids were around. They were so little... 5 and 2.5! Austin had such a soft heart, even back then. I was afraid it would frighten him and make him feel insecure. I've been letting Austin watch the news now talking about what happened that day. We talk about it in detail! Riley hasn't asked any questions, but I would certainly be honest with her.

I won't ever forget 9-11. Ever.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TGIF 9/8

Oh, it's a gorgeous day outside in metro Atlanta today! It's 79 degrees right now at 1 PM (57% humidity so my fingers are a bit swollen lol but oh well!). The kids are playing outside having a wonderful time! They're in the backyard that is freshly mowed!

Today was Fun Friday... and we did our geography, reading, and math games. I chose Sorry! for our board game and the 4 of us played together! I read aloud from Ginger Pye while we had lunch! It's hard for me to want to call them back in to watch Spanish, since it's the first really lovely day we've had in a long time. So we'll just watch Spanish another time.

Austin's first ball game of the season is in a few hours, so they will come in for rest time at some point! But, wow, what a beautiful day it is!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fascinating quote

The following comes from the latest Timberdoodle newsletter:

"Because Krissy's autism had resulted in severe language delays, she did not naturally ask questions. Even when she became able to make her needs known with one or two word demands ("Milk, please") she was unable to ask, "Can I have milk please?" During the training phase we would constantly prompt her by saying, "Ask."

One day, out of the blue, she asked/demanded "Disneyland." "Ask!," we responded. Then began a very laborious process as she worked at remembering and saying the right words, in the right order. Finally she stammered out, "Can I go to Disneyland please?"

Why did we make her go through all that effort when we knew there was no hope for a yes answer? Krissy's autism hinders her from seeking out the most basic of relationships. When she demands something, she assumes she deserves a yes. Which implies no need for a relationship or dependence on us. As she learns to ask and not demand, she is beginning to understand that she needs us, she needs relationships. "


That last part I put in italics sums up so much of what I struggle with in Reece, and Austin to some extent. It's also why RDI places such an emphasis on the 'master/apprentice' relationship! I have noticed it especially in the younger babies and toddlers of my friends. How they naturally look to mom for recognition that it's OK to proceed. The implied "You are my comfort and my safety... I look to you for guidance". I always joke that Austin and Reece never read the study that shows that toddlers won't wander more than a certain distance from their caretaker because they recognize that the safety lies with that person.

Anyway, it was very interesting to read that story! It helps me to verbalize something that is one of the core deficits in autism. And it's also such a fine line... Reece and Austin are clearly very loving and attached to me, and to other people in their lives. But when something doesn't work out as they had planned or expected, instead of looking to me (the master) for reassurance, they throw head-long into panic mode. And I find myself trying to calm down a child who isn't going to be calmed by anything I can do or say. It's frustrating, to say the least. I'm hoping it's something we can remediate through RDI as we get more involved with it!

Salvete!!

That's "Hello" in Latin (if you're addressing more than one person! It would be Salve if you're addressing one person. Since I know there are at least 3 of you who read this blog, I can use Salvete! LOL)!

We started Latin today while Reece was at preschool! We're using Prima Latina, and the first lesson teaches us how to say hello, how to pronounce the Latin vowels (which are the same as the spanish vowels so we're ahead of the game there!), and it introduces 5 vocabulary words and derivatives, as well as an opening to prayer.

Today we looked over the vocabulary words (I had written on note cards for them), and they wrote the definition on the back. Austin also had to write a derivative, definition, and part of speech (if any were given) on the back of his cards. We went over the words with the audio CD, and that was our first day of Latin! We're going to continue Lesson 1 next week! But since Reece was gone at preschool, I felt like this was a good day to introduce something new!

I do have to admit to being surprised that one of the first vocabulary words is "toga"! Hmmm, my kind of Latin program! ;)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pictures from Austin's camera!



More about preschool


The day started yesterday with Reece waking me up at 6:30 saying, "Is it my preschool day today?" and I said yes it was. She then said, "Then why you sleeping??" :) Oh perhaps because you don't have to be at preschool for another three HOURS?? LOL

There isn't very much more to say since I didn't get any updates from the teachers other than her enjoying the art center and playing outside (which were a given!). She told me last night that one of the children cried, and that she cried because the other child was crying. I bet the noise bothered her! I'm hoping to get more details from the teachers after tomorrow!

This picture to the left is of the kids all walking up the hill to the preschool entrance! Riley had to wear her new dress, too! Austin's up ahead in a white tshirt and denim shorts. The one at the top is Reece next to her hook for her backpack!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to preschool!


Here's a picture of Reece from the parking lot at preschool! She was so very excited to go this morning! She said she had a nice day, and that's all that I care about right now! :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tomorrow

I already had a post titled "Tomorrow is the big day" so I am at a loss for a title tonight! Reece's first day of preschool for this year is tomorrow. I spoke with her facilitator for an hour this evening, discussing expectations, communication, and other things. I am very excited, and impressed, by Miss Amy! I hope this will all work out nicely for the both of them! I will be sure to post a picture and any details that I get tomorrow afternoon!

Friday, September 01, 2006

TGIF 9/1

Fun Friday... the kids have been looking forward to it all week! I had to make a few changes, for my sanity! We will be playing ONE board game together, and the math and thinking games will have to rotate as far as who needs mom and who doesn't! We did do our art lesson, and it was fun!

Today's line-up:

Austin
Visual Perceptual Skill Building packet
Snap It Up Multiplication

Riley
Rainbow Rock CD-rom (counted as thinking game too)

Reece
We did more OT things this morning rather than a game, since I figured she would be playing with us. She did the Sit and Spin, and then she played leap frog from couch to lovesac to the other lovesac to the loveseat.

The board game we played together was Monopoly and we had a blast with it! We played until it was time to eat lunch!

Now for the fun part of the day, we're going to see Cars again at the dollar theater! :)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Orientation

Reece had orientation at preschool today, and it went very well! Her lead teacher is the same one from last year, and the assistant teacher taught her during VBS this past summer! So the new face in the crowd was her facilitator. I had no part in hiring the facilitator, and didn't really feel like I should try to, because the school is picking up most of the cost. Her name is Miss Amy and she seems very, very nice! She came over and introduced herself right away, and asked if it was alright if she calls me over the weekend so we can discuss Reece and my expectations more personally. The school has given her their expectations and needs, and she was interested in knowing more about Reece from my perspective! That impressed me right away! There are 11 children in the class total, and 3 teachers. Miss Amy will be there mostly for Reece, but she will be interacting with the rest of the children in her job as helping Reece become a participant in the classroom!

One thing that started back up today was Reece starting a 'collection' and then not wanting anyone near her or her collection. It was buttons today. So I think we'll send in a few things Reece can have for herself (thinking porcupine balls, special buttons, her little unicorns), but she has to understand that things that belong to the classroom belong to ALL of her friends. We helped her (Miss Amy and I) to share some of the buttons with another girl, and the girl reciprocated. Reece talked about that later on in the day, how she shared and the girl shared with her, and could the little girl come back to her preschool class next time! LOL

As far as the ages of the kids, 2 of the children will be turning 4 next week, so they are only 6 months younger than Reece! And she didn't look huge compared to them! She was quite a bit bigger than some of the other children, but I think it will all work out. I'm not sure how to handle if we should tell parents that Reece is older, and why Miss Amy is in the room, too. I'm not sure if the parent will ask, but I probably would have been wondering why there was a 3rd teacher in there if I didn't know! LOL

Anyway, I'm looking forward to talking with Miss Amy this weekend and getting to know her better as the school year progresses! And I'm glad to know that Reece is in the good hands of teachers who are familiar with her!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Extra-curricular balance?

We're in the 3rd week of our activities being in full-swing, and I suspect a good bit of the problems we've been facing are because of a fully-loaded schedule. Next week we add preschool, too, so we're not even all the way into it! YIKES!

How do you get a balance between giving your children social opportunities, and being on the run too much? It's especially hard with my autistic kids... the very social activities they need so they can practice their limited social skills and get used to being around other children their age are the same activities that cause them to be so stressed out and it takes so long for them to recover!

Here's our lineup:

Sundays the girls have choir for an hour. This doesn't seem like much, but since we're going most of the day to church we're barely home on Sunday.

Monday there will be baseball games for Austin through October. Once his season is over, the OT suggested I find a tumbling class for him.

Tuesday and Thursday Reece will have preschool. Tuesday afternoon is Riley's ballet, Thursday afternoon is Reece's ballet. Some Thursday evenings will have ball practice or a game.

Wednesday mornings will be back to normal after next week. We're done with therapy until the end of preschool, as I cannot afford to pay for both. Wednesday evenings are AWANA.

Fridays are free, except for the possibility of baseball practice.

Saturdays are also free, except Riley wants to do cheerleading in the winter for basketball. (And there I would say no, except that I feel like she needs to have more time away from her siblings and be around more typical kids).

It really doesn't look like very much. And most people do that sort of schedule(or more) while their kids are at school all day and have homework in the evenings! Why do we short-circuit with it?

So how do I determine what sort of pace to keep? How can I tell the autism specialist when he asks what social opportunities my homeschooled children have, "Well, it was just really wiping them out and they were having meltdowns as a result!"? How do I tell Riley that she can't do something else, when I really feel like she needs the time away from Austin and Reece? Is there a way to find a balance?

Better today

Today has gone a bit better, though it's 2:45 and we're only halfway done with our school work! We took a break mid-day to go have lunch with daddy at work! Austin's attitude was markedly better, and he got a 100 on his math test which naturally lifted his spirits. However, I told him that it's not the grades he makes that I'm concerned about. It's more the attitude he carries that concerns me... I know things are going to be hard for him. But when he starts into things with the attitude of "I can't do it. It's too hard. I don't know anything!" and he won't even be open to being instructed that's when it's hard for me.

He came in to me when I was grading his math test and said, "Mom, you do a great job homeschooling. I know you think you don't, but you do." I gave him a hug, told him thank you, and knew that somebody's daddy must have had a talk with a certain 4th grader last night while I was at the gym. LOL Sure enough, daddy did talk to him. I don't wish to play on Austin's emotions, because in the long run it just makes him more anxious. But I don't know what else to do.

Big surprise, eh? ;)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

First month of school blues

Austin is really struggling with 4th grade. I'm wondering if I made a mistake going ahead with 4th grade work when he tested in the mid-2nd grade range at the end of last school year. I am so discouraged.

Riley is doing very well, and she's really rising to the level of work I'm asking her to do. She complains a bit because there is considerably more work for her this year than last, but she's capable of doing it.

I need to do more to keep Reece engaged. Too often I look over and she's lining things up, or staring off into space. She's really enjoying the things I've been doing with her, but I can't keep her engaged all day long. Preschool starts back next week, so that will help.

Friday, August 25, 2006

TGIF 8/25

I think it's safe to say that this week wiped ALL of us out this time! LOL I had decided to let the children sleep in this morning, but at 9 AM I finally woke them up! :) We did our geography lessons, memory work folders, and an abbreviated game time... then we headed to the mall to play at the indoor inflatable place! Then we ran a few errands before coming home for rest time!

The games played today were:
Chutes and Ladders (Reece did NOT enjoy this one... the pictures of the kids doing naughty things really bothered her!)
Hi Ho Cherry-O (She asked to play this one after C&L because she was so distressed lol)
Connect Four (Austin)
Guess Who? (Riley)

Next week we're adding Typing for Austin, and science (though I'm struggling with it!). We have a really busy week though, outside the house. A dentist visit on Monday and Reece's preschool orientation on Thursday will totally wipe our mornings! We'll add Latin and Spanish after Labor Day, and that will make a full schedule! :)

Friday, August 18, 2006

TGIF 8/18

Well, this week is over now, too! I am completely wiped out! LOL Which I guess is a good thing!

Today was Fun Friday and the kids chose the following games:

Riley:
Math Game- Making Change game
Thinking Game- Shape by Shape (tangram game)
Board Game - Life

Reece:
Board Game - Hi Ho Cherry-O
She filled all the little Life cars with blue and pink pegs, so she's got fine motor practice done!

Austin:
Math Game- Snap It Up Multiplication
Thinking Game- Visual Perceptual Skill Building 2
Board Game - Battleship


We also did geography lessons, and had another art lesson on Lines. And they read from their Reading List selections. Fun Friday is hard work! We didn't go anywhere for 'nature study' today because I'm too tired! We may try to get over to the pool next week one afternoon, before it closes!

I need to relate a funny story about Riley! Austin and I invited her to play Snap It Up with us during the last round. (I am really working with Austin to play games with her and with other children in general). Nobody really knows the multiplication facts yet, so I was telling them which combinations to look for. We were doing "48" so I told them it would be 6x8. Riley hollered out that she had it... and she laid down a 6 and a 5 and a 3. I told her she needed an 8. She said "I have an 8... you have to add the 5 and the 3 together first, that makes 8. Then you times the 6. 48!" What a smart girl isn't she??? Unfortunately, the rules indicate that you can only use 2 factors, so she didn't win... but that was really clever! :)

So that's our Fun Friday report... I need to go collapse! lol

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another Beautiful Ballerina

Today was Reece's first day of fall ballet! She was very excited, and I was a little nervous! I knew this class would be larger, and after the hard time she had with all the noise last night at AWANA, I was concerned. There were 8 in her class altogether, and after comparing birthdays, Reece was found to be the oldest! She did a very good job, and her teacher (also Riley's) is just a gift from God! The other mothers were also quite amazing and unusual... they all went around finding out everyone's name and their child's name! :) I've never met a friendlier bunch of moms! I went ahead and told everyone about Reece and her autism... let's put it this way: nearly all the girls in Reece's class have a baby brother or sister! "BAAAAABBBBEEEEE!!" was heard at least 15 times! :) I figured it was much easier to let them in, than to have them wonder about her behavior! They were very kind about it, and interested, and one mom later came and asked me what were some of the things that made me get Reece evaluated because she is concerned about her 18 month old! It was a very pleasant experience, and I'm glad for it! And Reece enjoyed the class, but was disappointed that they didn't have time for "Dancing in the dark for Jesus!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Riley's 1st day of ballet


Riley was supposed to start ballet on Thursday, but since there weren't enough girls to have a homeschool class at her beginner level, they asked if we could change to the other class (which started about 45 minutes from the time of the phone call!). Riley's friend is in that class, so we jumped at the chance! We got ready in a hurry, I did my best attempt at a bun, and we were off! She looked so lovely, and she had a wonderful time!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In today's mail...

I got the report from the autism doctor today in the mail. I didn't rush to open it, because I wasn't in the mood. But boy was I surprised by the following recommendation:

"Often children with Asperger's Syndrome experience a great deal of anxiety which can be manifested by non-compliance, distractability, hyperactivity, and tantrums. Stimulants can be helpful to address distractability and hyperactivity, but often can increase anxiety. A very structured school and home program with a lot of preparation for transition and changes has been successful in helping to reduce anxiety in children like Austin. Austin seems to be doing very well with his homeschool program and we recommend that he continue in this program."

Excuse me... could someone pick me up off the floor please?!?!

::dances away doing the happy pirate boogie!::

Monday, August 14, 2006

Not Back to School Party 2006

Here are the pics from today's party!! It's getting so much easier to get these pictures! It's really getting easier overall to have the NBTS party! :)

Here are the moms!!
Here are the kids doing a crazy picture! LOL It was sort of a reward to keep the boys from doing this during the regular picture! ;)



A trip down memory lane!

Before I upload the pictures from this year's Not Back to School Party, I wanted to show off pictures from previous years! It's so great to see the kids when they were little! It's amazing how everyone has changed in the last few years!

2005






2002 - Reece is in the stroller on the left!

2003 -Reece had wandered away in this one!

Friday, August 11, 2006

TGIF 8/11

The week has drawn to a close, and I won't deny that I am grateful! But we had a fun day today!

This morning was the first of our 'Fun Fridays'. On Friday, no matter what else has gone on during the week, we will be playing games (math games and thinking games), doing a few pages out of a geography workbook, reading, and doing some sort of nature study. We'll also have an art lesson, and if there are any crafts for Spanish we'll do them then. This is what it looked like today:

Math games:
Austin - Hot Dots flash cards (time/money)
Riley and Reece (and mom) - Sum Swamp

Thinking Games:
Austin - Visual Perceptual Skill Building 2 (didn't give him a choice on this one - he needs to do it)
Riley - Rush Hour
Reece- Candyland (hey, it's a thinking game for a 4 year old lol)

Austin and I played Checkers too, because he was sad he didn't get to play a board game with me (the girls all played Candyland and Sum Swamp together)!

Our art lesson (from How to Teach Art to Children) was the first lesson on Lines. I did the lesson on the white board on the easel and it brought back memories of teaching school! I had a white board in my classroom, not a chalkboard! :) It took all of 10 minutes, and now I can say we really did art this year, at least once!

For Nature Study we went to the pool! OK, it's not exactly what Charlotte Mason had in mind I'm sure, but it's the last weekday the public pool is open, and the little pool in the next town over is only $2 per person! (Also it's too dang hot to be out in nature in August!) We had a fantastic time! Stayed 4 hours and now we're all sunburnt and wiped out! And we saw 2 birds, a squirrel, and lots of ants! So it is nature study! We also tied in our earlier geography lesson by discussing if the pool is a natural resource or a manmade resource! ROFL

So our school week is over! I'm glad! LOL But I'm also somewhat looking forward to next week! Sort of! :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Better school day today

It wasn't "The hills are alive with the sound of music" good, but it also wasn't "Mama said knock you out" bad either! ;)

We are consistently getting up on time, and getting our chores and things done on time, so we can start school on time. I am a little concerned that the reading/math/grammar combo is taking us so long. I do include a recess/snack break in there, so I need to keep that in mind. The scheduled break eliminates the need for all people under the age of 11 to start asking "Can I have a break?" and/or "Can I have a snack?" starting around 9 AM. I feel like the kids need the recess/snack break and I can't wait for it to be cooler so they can play outside during that time! But still, I'm a little nervous about how long our day might be since we haven't added in spelling, Bible, History, or Science yet! LOL

Which brings me to my next topic: there very well may not be history or science at all at the Black Pearl Academy this year! Unfortunately, Adventures in my Father's World is not what I consider a 2nd/3rd grade curriculum, as they advertise it to be. Perhaps 1st grade? Definitely not what I want for my 2nd grader, and I couldn't call this 4th grade in my wildest dreams. So now I'm faced with choices. And all of my friends and regular readers should know by now that I'm fantastic with making choices, especially curriculum choices. Most of my closet friends refer to me as "decisive and confident"! ROFL Ok, enough of the joking.

Here are my options:
1. Add something to Adventures. They only use segments of the main text book, so I could read it all to the kids. It's a 5th grade book for Christian Liberty Press. That would require planning. But my brain was ready to do American History this year, in preparation for returning to the classical 4 year cycle next year.

2. Do CHOW (Sonlight Core 1+2) which is what I was planning to do before the money for Adventures turned up. Feels weird to spend a year on world history to turn around and do world history again next year. But maybe I could do Sonlight's 1 year of American History after that, then return to a rotation?

3. Don't do science or history this year and just say that I am tired of making decisions and not knowing if they are good ones or not? ;)

I need to decide by Monday... I am planning to begin history on Tuesday. Science... well, I am fully prepared to wait to add that until September while I figure out what to do! I'm leaning towards the Science in a Nutshell kits, as they come highly recommended!

So there you go! It's time to eat lunch now! :)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An equal opportunity post

OK, we've had our first bad day of the new school year! I nearly didn't blog about it, but that sort of feels like lying, so here goes!

After such a rip-roaring day yesterday of Austin handling making mistakes so well, today was just more than he could tolerate. He made mistakes in every subject, and kept flipping out over it. I tried to calmly talk to him like I did yesterday, and I tried to encourage him. It just didn't work. Finally, I told him that if there was one more outburst, he would not be watching the Braves game at 1:00. During his free reading, I placed the latest papers for correction on his desk and he melted down. So I told him he couldn't watch the game... and that's when the big meltdown occured. He begged me for another chance... begged and begged and begged. Cried, screamed, told me that if he could watch the game he would be calm. I'm sorry, but that's just not how it works. I sent him to his room until he could calm down. He stayed there for 45 minutes, when I had to go in and tell him to get his shoes on for therapy.

He had taken all of the coins out of his pirate money bag and thrown them on the floor. He had taken what appears to be baseball cards and shredded them into little pieces. He was still muttering under his breath and crying all the way to therapy. Both the OT and the ST spoke with me at length about trying to help him with his perfectionism(like I don't??), and the ST and I talked about the perseveration (him not being able to just get over stuff). She is making me a visual reminder for him of when he has been given his warning for his behavior, and the consequence that follows, etc. She said it's a possibility that it's not connecting verbally, so we'll take that aspect out of it and make it very visual.

We left there and went to get lunch like we usually do on Wednesdays. I chose Chick Fil A, and Austin started to cry that he doesn't like CFA. Never mind that we had been there last week and he didn't seem to mind. Today he wasn't "expecting" CFA and a meltdown came. Yeah, I know he needs advance notice... but come on! To me, it's ungrateful to cry because the lunch out is not what YOU want and there are 3 other people around. So I told him that the crying would stop before I got to the place to order, or he wouldn't be getting food. He said he didn't want any anyway. Fine. I reminded him that the option if you don't choose to eat what is offered is cereal or peanut butter. He said he wasn't hungry for lunch at all. Fine.

He's in his room now having rest time. Before he went in, he told me to call his friend and tell him he wouldn't be going to church tonight. He doesn't feel like going anywhere. Fine. Control, control, control. It's times like this where I wonder if he really does have Aspergers, or whether he's just a spoiled brat. It sure seems like a fine line sometimes. How often do we have to play out this same drama, all caused by this insane perfectionism? I just want it to go away. He's sleeping now thanks to the melatonin... he's taking the fish oil supplement that is supposed to help mood and brain function. I wish I could see some good results.

The girls did well during school. Riley has a bit of work left after rest time (it was hard for her to focus while Austin's meltdown took over the house). Reece and I did some more from her First Steps to Building Thinking Skills... working with a geoboard. She loved that! She also played with playdoh again, and with the wooden blocks. That was going so well until she ran out of the pieces she needed to finish what she was making and there was no substitution. She ended up knocking it over.

I think this is what I've been warned about with trying to homeschool autistic children. I am just mentally and emotionally drained now. It doesn't matter about the good days that have come before. They can only fill me up so much. This morning took everything out of me, and I am completely empty. When the days go smoothly, they are very nice. But the days that don't go well, where I can't avert a meltdown that can happen for any reason (reasons that yesterday didn't apply, reasons that tomorrow may not apply again, I can only guess... walk on eggshells and keep my fingers crossed that something doesn't trigger it)? Then it's completely gone. I can't get the day back. I can't get him out of the meltdown curve and back into a recovery phase.

So there you go. Part of me wants to delete this whole post. Better hit publish before I lose my nerve.