Friday, May 30, 2008

Back from the Beach!





Two moms. Six children ages 6-12. One minivan. 5 days at the beach. Lots of fun!

I'm very wiped out from a week of fun in the sun! Enjoy the pics, and I'll post the details as soon as I recover! :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last weekly review for this year

This was a very light week as we wrapped up all of our subjects for the year! I was planning to extend everything by one more short 3-day week, but then we were invited on an impromptu free trip to the beach with friends, so we decided to call it a year. I guess we could call the beach trip a "field trip" but we finished our required days for the state a couple of weeks ago, so it's all good!

Austin finished his Math-U-See Delta book! YAY! :) I'm so proud of him! He hasn't finished reading Farmer Boy yet, but he says he will finish it during Sun and Fun this summer. He also finished history, and we got to our stopping point in Junior Analytical Grammar. Adverbs are tricky fellows, but we'll return to them in the fall.

Riley finished her math chapter and I'm so relieved to be done with units of measurement! LOL She has been free reading this week and she chose to re-read her favorite chapters of her favorite books such as Harry Potter, The Dragon of Lonely Island, and Meet Julie.

Reece read 2 more of the Real Phonics readers this week... she was actually telling me she wanted to keep reading and she finished a whole book in one day! She started adding 10s in Math U See, and she was feeling very incompetent. I'm going to go ahead and have her start Math U See Alpha in the fall, since I feel like she is ready for it. She has already mastered a number of addition facts.

This was a year of big changes for all of us! I'm anxious to get planning for next year, and refining our goals within RDI and CM! But that will have to wait until we get back from the beach! ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

And now Wii are twelve

Wii have a birthday boy in the house today! Wii celebrated with cake and presents. Wii were very excited to give Austin his birthday presents! Wii knew he would be surprised! Can you guess what present Wii gave him?

Ok, so I'm being goofy! If you haven't already guessed, Austin received a Wii gaming system for his birthday! My mother gave it to him, along with a few other games! Wii (hee hee) had to wait for Daddy to get home to set it up! Austin and Daddy got right to business:
The guys started out by playing a shooting game, since that is Austin's favorite when we go to Chuck E Cheese or Jillian's:
Then, of course, they moved straight into baseball! Austin is pitching and Daddy is batting:
Holy growth spurt, Batman! Austin grew as much this year as he did the past two years combined!
Here is a new picture of the birthday 'boy'! Something seems so different about him, now that he's 12. I can't put my finger on it, though. When we went to the movies on Friday, Jan was surprised at how much Austin has changed recently. I really believe it, too. He is becoming a young man, rather than a boy. And as Reece so eloquently put it, "Happy Birthday, Dude!"

Dress rehearsal/Recital news

We got home last night close to 10 PM, and as I walked up the driveway, I felt like Frodo after the One Ring was destroyed! Ok, so perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic, but it was such a relief for the task to be done! All in all, it was not nearly as bad as a trip through Mordor... not even as bad as I had anticipated it would be!

I was backstage mom for Riley's class. I had never been backstage mom before, so I didn't know what to expect. The girls were all very well-behaved, and the only child who drove me even remotely crazy was my own. ;) I think that was related to my being there, because she was with another mom for the first recital (she had to dance her tap dance in the first recital as well), and that mom said she did very well for her. I had taken a big assortment of stickers, plain and patterned paper, and tape, along with oversized paper. The girls all started out playing their Nintendo DS games, but it didn't take long before they were making wonderful creations from the paper and stickers. It kept them entertained and engaged for many hours! We didn't even use the portable DVD player I had brought. Another class borrowed it after hearing I brought one! I was really pleased that the girls enjoyed the stickers and paper more than their portable gaming systems! :)

Reece did much better backstage than I had anticipated, also. And I had reason to fret. She woke up in a funk, and by the time we got to dress rehearsal, she was no longer responding to anyone. I was about as close to being in a panic as I think I have been in a long time. My mom wondered if she needed to stay, but I really wanted to wait and see what Reece would be able to manage. We left Reece playing with her Gameboy quietly. I was in the next room over, and Reece's backstage moms had my mom's cell phone number. Another of the moms from Reece's class, one who had kept her backstage last year and who has previous experience with autistic children, spoke yet again to our backstage moms. She arrived about 30 minutes after we did, and I had told her about Reece being unresponsive. She told me that on the way over she and her daughter had prayed for Reece, and that she asked her daughter to try to help Reece feel comfortable. Her daughter asked, "If Reece runs away, what should I do?" LOL Her mom told her to tell one of the teachers right away! ;) Anyway, this mom also offered to stay with Reece, and to be available by cell phone. I just about cried right then, knowing how much everyone was willing to do to make sure that Reece felt competent and comfortable during the rehearsal time. It was a 6 hour long process, which is hard enough for the most resilient 6 year old!!

About 10 minutes after this discussion, the same mom came back smiling to tell me that Reece was participating in the group game and saying hello to everyone! She wanted to let me know so that my mind would be at ease! I can't tell you the relief that swept over me! I was finally able to relax a little bit, knowing that Reece had been able to cross over that first big hurdle. There were a few more hurdles as the day went on, but they never had to call my mom to come get Reece. They did run into her in the hallway so my mom offered to take her and give her some OT/alone time, which helped quite a bit.

The dancing part of the dress rehearsal was quite confusing for all of us, and Reece struggled amidst the confusion. I was really glad I had given her dance teacher a copy of a handout from one of my yahoogroups that discussed behaviors that come about as result of feeling incompetent, because Reece was doing at least 4 of them on stage! LOL Her teacher is completely patient and kind regardless, and helped Reece figure out where she needed to be on this new and different stage and gave her some visual clues to help her remember her place for the recital.

During the recital, both girls did so well, and I was incredibly proud of them. Riley is such a fantastic dancer! I will truly be heartbroken if I have to make her choose only one dance class next year. It would be gas/food prices that would require us to cut back in the kids' activities. I hope it doesn't come to that. She seems so happy performing on the stage!

Reece's dancing was amazing! She was more "on" than I have ever seen her be during dance! In her ballet dance, she was so confident and ready to perform! I started crying as soon as the lights went up, and I was absolutely sobbing by the time the song was over. It wasn't just the dance, and the fact that she has worked so hard and was doing better than she ever has, but the music just seems to fit her whole life. Some of the lyrics are:

I once was lost, but now I'm found...
...I once was blind, but now I see..
..I once was dead, but now I live... Now my life to you I give...
(And Now My Lifesong Sings, by Casting Crowns)

Sometimes, I look back on the time before she was diagnosed, when it was so much worse and she wasn't communicating and she would scream over everything and have meltdowns for hours, and I feel like she was lost. As hard as things are sometimes still, I know in my heart that she has come so far. And I am truly grateful to God for that. And I am truly grateful to her dance teacher for wanting her in her class, and to the moms in the class who encourage and support me to keep bringing her when it gets hard and I feel like she'll never fit in.

The recital finally ended, and my mom gave the girls each a bouquet of roses and some Webkinz. I don't have any pictures of that because I was cleaning up our area and getting our girls signed out to their parents. My mom will send me pictures tonight when she gets back home, and then I will post a few! My dh took some video with the Flip, and they are up on You Tube. My user name over there is Niffercoo, if you would like to see them. I may decide later to embed them, but I'm not sure yet.

I am very glad the recital is over for another year!! Reece indicated last night that she would like to dance again in the fall. If she really feels that way, I will let her dance, but only in one class, at least for now. Riley, of course, wants to stay with her 3 classes plus she wants to add drama! I'm not sure we'll be able to add anything, but this studio does charge per hour rather than per class, so it works out to be a little bit cheaper the more classes you take. We'll have to wait and see how much gas is by the time August rolls around! ;)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pre-teen

Happy Birthday to my oldest child, my only son!! :) 12 years ago today, I became a mother. I was grossly unprepared for the job, and yet, 12 years later... my firstborn has not only survived his mother's numerous mistakes, but has also grown into a very special young man!

We'll be celebrating his birthday tomorrow, due to this weekend's dance recital (yesterday's practice was 6 hours long, today's recital will be 8 hours for Riley, and 4 hours for Reece). He will get cake and presents tomorrow, so we can focus on it being his special day!

Happy 12th Birthday, Austin! I love you!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Weekly Review/Weekend Preview: 5/12-18

I'm going to go ahead and post our review tonight. Tomorrow, the kids and I are going to go see Prince Caspian at the theater with some friends! Then we're going to go out for lunch afterward. Saturday and Sunday are going to be devoted to dress rehearsal and recital. Please keep Reece in your prayers, as this process takes a lot out of her!

Austin finished the 2nd to last lesson in MUS Delta, scoring an 83 which we consider to be a B! He began the last lesson today! WOOHOO! It's another lesson on Roman Numerals, so I'm not overly concerned with it. But he is SO good at Roman Numerals! It blows my mind! :) He started Adverbs in grammar, and it's throwing him for a loop. He's reading Farmer Boy and still really enjoying it. He can't wait to share the next part of the story with me every day! Austin read another chapter in This Country of Ours, but I am totally at a loss for remembering what he told me it was about! LOL

Riley worked with the metric system again and grasped the new material (capacity in liters) easily. Today, she actually found her workbook that she had lost! YAY! She loved just working with me though, using the whiteboard. She told me it made math become her favorite subject. She knows how much I love math and want her to love it. She said if she has to do the workbook again, it will make math NOT be her favorite subject. Nice try, princess! :) She finished Caddie Woodlawn today, going ahead and reading 2 chapters. She'll just do free reading until the end of school.

Reece read another of the Early Phonics readers, but other than that she had no formal school. I'm just letting her relax in anticipation of the recital.

In science, we learned more about the sun. I'm still reading Nim at Sea at lunch time. We finished all of Christian's story in Dangerous Journey. We just have Christiana's story left, and we'll finish that next week. Jason captured the Golden Fleece in "The Argonauts", and they are going to attempt to go home. Being that it's a Greek Myth, my guess is that doesn't end up turning out to be as simple as it sounds! LOL

I keep forgetting to update our foreign language progress... Austin is review Spanish with La Clase Divertida, level 1. He is on lesson 10, I think. He does it fairly independently, since we all went through it together when he was in 1st grade. Riley is working on French, learning the irregular verb "avoir" and working on some vocabulary work. She will resume First Start French in the fall. Reece likes to sit with Austin while he watches his Spanish DVD, so she's picking up some Spanish. I'll probably start it formally with her in a year or so... La Clase is quite a lot of fun!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! I'll post a recital update on Monday!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dance costume pictures

I got the professional studio pictures back of the girls in their dance costumes! This photographer offered a CD of all of your pictures for one price, so I was able to get everything! He took 3 poses in each costume, so I'm just putting up my favorites, for now. If I have time later, I will put up a few others!

Here is Reece in her tap costume:
Here is Riley in her tap costume:
I had a picture taken of them together in their tap costumes:
Here is Reece in her ballet costume:
And here is Riley in her ballet costume:
The pictures of Riley in her jazz costume are missing. I am going to have to ask the other moms if they got theirs or not. I don't know if they didn't come out, or if he just forgot to add them to my CD. The jazz costume is the leotard of the ballet costume, with pink jazz pants.

And here is a special picture I had taken as a Mother's Day surprise for my mom:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I saw this quote over on Higher Up and Further In, and it has touched me deep in my soul.

"We talk of lost ideals, but perhaps they are not lost, only changed; when our ideal for ourselves and for our children becomes limited to prosperity and comfort, we get these, very likely, for ourselves and for them, but we get no more."
— Charlotte Mason

It causes me to wonder: What is my ideal for myself and my children?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Weekly review/Weekend preview

Weekly review:
We're nearing the end of our school year! It's nice to be wrapping things up. Riley is almost finished with Caddie Woodlawn, then she can just free read anything she wants to. Austin will finish Farmer Boy by the end of school. He is really enjoying it, and tells me he wishes he lived in Almanzo's so he could raise cows and horses, and buy caps for 50 cents. Reece took a break from formal school this week, while we focus a bit more on RDI for her. This is a very busy time of year, and while she's handling it better than she would have a year ago, it's very evident that she's not herself.

Riley managed to lose her math workbook, so I'm having to wing-it with the textbook and the extra practice workbook I purchased but haven't needed yet. Thankfully, Singapore 3B covers measurement, graphs, and fractions, none of which require lots of written practice from Riley, so I think we're OK. Austin will finish up Math U See Delta on the last day of school. It has been ages since he cried during math, and he has had a few times where he's struggled. But he's being so much more resilient! Reece has learned to count by 2s, with the help of the skip counting CD, One Hundred Sheep. It's skip counting set to songs about Bible stories. I've used it since Austin was little, and I love it!

Austin has one more lesson to complete in Junior Analytical Grammar. He took the test on Subjects/Verbs this past week. This is something that he had covered in Rod and Staff English before and would score 30% and 40% on assignments and tests. This time he scored an 87% if I didn't count the diagramming, and 77% if I did count the diagramming. That is such a wonderful improvement! Especially when considering that, unlike in R&S when he was only working with the simple subject and simple predicate and was doing so poorly, with JAG he is labeling nouns, proper nouns, articles, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, prepositional phrases, and action verbs. Then he diagrams the subject/verb and all of the modifiers for the subject. It's much more complex! I'm very proud of him! I especially like it when I hear things like this: "Mom, usually 'park' would be a noun, but in this sentence, it's being used as an adjective. You can't just look at the word, you have to look at how it's been used in the sentence." and, "Oh gosh, I see what I did wrong there... the subject of the sentence will never be inside a prepositional phrase." It's very cool. And it's helping me in my decisions about holding off on formal grammar until 5th-6th grades for Riley and Reece.

Riley finished up the history I had planned for her this year. Austin has 2 more chapters to read. We finished listening to Prince Caspian last week, and I started reading Nim at Sea, the sequel to Nim's Island. We will also finish Dangerous Journey, a version of Pilgrims Progress. And also we will finish up the tale of Jason and the Argonauts from The Heroes by Charles Kingsley.

I'm not sure yet how we'll handle science, as we're only on lesson 2 of Apologia Elementary Astronomy. I may continue to read it during the summer if the kids want to.

Weekend preview:
This morning around 6:15 AM, Austin, dh, and my dad (along with the other asst. coach and his son) left for Florida for a weekend fishing trip! It's girls weekend here, and we are going to spend it with our favorite wizard! Yep, we're having a Harry Potter movie marathon! As I type this, we are finishing up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1st movie). We'll have some supper and bathe, and then start the 2nd movie.

Tomorrow morning the girls have a 3 hour rehearsal for their recital next weekend. The guys are supposed to go deep-sea fishing if the weather holds out for them!

Sunday is Mother's Day and my girls are taking me to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch! ;) Isn't that nice of them? LOL The boys should be back late in the afternoon. We'll take Monday off school since I have a feeling Austin will be pretty wiped out. And besides, we've only got 2 more official days as far as the state is concerned, even though we'll be schooling through the rest of the month. And, I may have mentioned, we almost DONE with our books! ;)

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend. And to all the mamas who read my blog, I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Mother's Day!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Big game tonight!

grand slam
noun 1.
In baseball, a home run hit when three runners are on base.


My son hit a Grand Slam!!
My son hit a Grand Slam!!
My son hit a Grand Slam!!
My son hit a Grand Slam!!
My son hit a Grand Slam!!
And no, I didn't get pictures, or video. :( But at least I WAS there this time!!!


Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading! :)


Oh yes, by the way, I am back!

I guess I just jumped into posting last night without saying, "I'm home!" I didn't want to forget yesterday's important lessons, and I was right for thinking I would forget. Today is back to the laundry, and cleaning, and homeschooling... and sometimes those more important lessons and memories get lost in the day-to-day stuff.

I had a very nice time at the scrapbooking retreat, and I was VERY productive. It was SO nice to spend a couple of days with my friend, Jan. She and I typically would have been at our homeschool convention this weekend! The best part of that, though, is the fun we have at the hotel in the evening: we spread catalogs out on the beds and talk, plan, eat chocolate, and watch the Pirates movies! We still plan to do that this summer at some point, just without the convention part to interrupt the fun! ;)

During the retreat, I started and completed a scrapbook from my Disney trip with my mom. I also started and completed a scrapbook from our beach vacation last fall. In total, I scrapped almost 300 pictures! I don't have a page count, but I'm pretty sure it's at least 50 pages. I am a very fast scrapper because I'm not very creative and artistic. I just put a few coordinated colored papers together (that my mother has usually helped me to coordinate), slap the pictures down, and sometimes add a few brads, stickers, or other trinkets. I journal in my own handwriting, but sometimes will do a fancier title. Maybe one of these days I will become more creative in my scrapbooking, but I sort of doubt it. I usually say "When I have more time to scrap, I will be more creative." But I wonder about that. I am not very artsy on my own. I absolutely LOVE kits that come together with everything you need including the instructions! :)

I managed to get all of that finished before the time was up for the retreat, so I whipped out my laptop and started working on some digital scrapbooking. I was able to work on the school year book that I want to do this year! I also worked on a 2008 gift album that I want to give to my in-laws as a Christmas present this coming year. I got SO much done! It feels great!

I got home yesterday afternoon and immediately fell asleep! I don't think I realized how tired I truly was until I got home! LOL I was glad to be back home with my family, even though I didn't really show it by falling asleep!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On cognitive responsibility, episodic memories, and lawn mowing

I've been thinking a lot recently about Austin's future. He will be a "middle schooler" this fall. It's natural to think about our goals and his goals and how to get there. It's too early yet to know if Austin will be able to go to college or not, so my plan of attack for him is really two-fold: 1. advance academically at his pace, as far as he is able to go; and 2. work on practical skills that will hopefully help him with independent living, including finding and keeping a job.

Today we worked on the latter with him, through lawn mowing. DH is in charge of this particular activity because I'm still a little nervous about the whole "my baby is mowing the grass" thing! :) Previously when Austin mowed the grass, DH worked with him closely, scaffolding the process so he would feel successful. Now, DH wanted to "transfer cognitive responsibility" over to Austin. That's a fancy term in Guided Participation Relationship Models for "getting him to think it through for himself as soon as he is able, rather than being prompted by us on what to do." So DH just told him to cut "his" side of the front yard, plus the back yard (We have one side of the front that has two low trees and it's difficult to mow over there so that's Daddy's part of the yard to mow). Then DH came inside for a drink of water.

After awhile, he went back out to check on Austin's progress. He noticed that Austin was mowing the lawn in his own pattern, not the one Daddy had shown him. DH asked about this and Austin said, "I do better when I mow it like this. It's easier for me." That is SO awesome... thinking about what he's doing, and how it works best for him! Also, DH noticed some patches Austin missed. He didn't say anything about them, but Austin went on, "I missed a couple of places. I'm going to go back over them at the end." He's evaluating his job... didn't get upset over not getting it perfect the first time, realized he can fix it, and that it will be good enough.

Austin came in for a drink of water after completing the front yard. He showed me a little cut he had on his leg. He told me, "A year ago, I would have been upset and cried and wanted a band-aid. But now that I'm older, I can handle it. I just looked at it and told myself that it's not really bleeding, and I turned the lawnmower back on!" I'm so glad he has the episodic memories of handling these smaller cuts now. Even the tiniest cut before used to result in a huge meltdown and screams for bandages. (And Reece is there right now, so it gives me hope for her as soon as she's progressed a bit more developmentally! LOL) I'm so glad that he can use "self-talk" (as I understand it from Awakening Children's Minds) to work through this now!

Then, he went to check in with Dad to make sure he understood what to do about the backyard. That's an RDI objective we've been working on! Nice to see it applied in everyday life! Dad told him to mow the tall grass (aka Fescue). He did it to completion... parked the lawnmower, and came in the house. He was tired, sore, thirsty, and full to the BRIM with confidence in himself! He talked with each of us a couple of times about the mowing and how tired he is. But it was just a few times, and not too over the top. I see it as encoding the positive episodic memories!

DH and I are really pleased with how it went today. It's going to be very important for me to remember that these sort of experiences and activities are every bit as important for Austin's future as academics are!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Read something fun?

Several of my friends recommended in the comments to yesterday's burnout post that I read something fun. The suggestion couldn't be more timely! I am anxiously awaiting two new releases from favorite authors next Tuesday, May 6th!

The first new release is the last book in the Percy Jackson series, The Battle of the Labyrinth. The children and I will be listening to it on audio book from the library as our lunchtime read-aloud! I think the audio book releases a week after the hardcover, but that will be OK! We all prefer listening to Jessie Bernstein read it, rather than me! :)
And the other new release is one just for me. It's the new book by Stephenie Meyer, who writes the Twilight series that I love so much. This book is written for adults (Twilight is 'young adult fiction'), and is titled The Host.
I am not really a fan of science-fiction, but I am a fan of Stephenie Meyer's writing! So I'm going to give it a shot. I expect it will be very similar to when I recommend Twilight to folks and they tell me they aren't into vampires. I always say, "This is much more of a love story than it is a vampire story." I imagine that it will be the same with The Host... more love story than science-fiction!

So fun reading will be waiting for me soon after I get back from the scrapbook retreat!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gimme a B.....

...U...R...N...O...U...T! What does that spell? The way I feel!

Look, I am so burned out, I don't even want to plan for next school year. Yes, it's that serious!!!!

Never fear! This has been a seriously draining 12 month period, and I think my brain has shut down for awhile. We've had so much to adjust to with RDI, and I can only handle so much change. Not to mention the fact that not only are we going against the flow within general society (by homeschooling), but within the autism community we're also going against the flow (by homeschooling and by not using ABA), and then within homeschooling we're going against the flow (by using a CM approach and not following a traditional scope and sequence).

Personally, I'm not used to that much up-stream swimming. :) It's exhausting! And times like these, I feel like I'm drowning.

Thankfully, our school year is nearing completion. Austin's on the 2nd to last lesson in MUS Delta! Riley is almost to her stopping point in her Singapore 3B math book (honestly I'm going to scream if we have to "add and subtract in compound units" one more time)! They are each reading their last required book of the year (Caddie Woodlawn and Farmer Boy). Reece is plugging right along with her reading and math.

I'm torn about not going to the homeschool convention this weekend. One one hand, I usually come back from convention enthusiastic for the new school year. On the other hand, it usually fades by June. On one hand, I like to spend time with my friends looking at curriculum. On the other hand, I am afraid this year I wouldn't be very good company. It feels weird to not be going!
Instead, I'm going to a scrapbooking retreat! I think this is probably exactly what I need for this weekend. I will be able to get away for a couple of days without having to think about 'work' (meaning homeschooling).

And hopefully when I return, I'll be ready to jump back into the river and continue that up-stream paddling!