Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friends

I know, two posts in two days. How unusual! I didn't run this morning, so I found myself with a little time on my hands before the kids woke up, and I decided to peruse the Well-Trained Mind message boards. That's a precarious venture, as those of you who know me well realize. But I didn't click any further than the Special Needs board when I came across this link from Mom-Not Otherwise Specified's blog.

It's the first post in a series about a presentation she did to help her son's classmates better understand autism. I have read Mom-NOS's blog for several years off an on, and always appreciate her candor. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how she explained her son's autism to his class at school, and how they responded so positively.

It has me thinking about my post from yesterday about fitting in... I wish I could as easily explain Reece's behavior to other people, especially children. I have had the idea before about trying to explain Reece to other kids - her ballet teacher actually asked me if I wanted to do it when she moved to a new ballet class and the other girls didn't understand why she cried so much. I sat down to try to figure out a way to explain it to 5-6 year olds (which is how old the other girls in the class were at that time) but I just couldn't figure it out. Maybe it's because I don't really understand her very well.

Why does she want to wear princess dresses and tiaras when she's nearly 9? Because she likes fancy things?

Why does she like to touch people's jewelry and hair and sit on the laps of people she doesn't know? Um...

Why does she cry so easily? Not really a clue... because things upset her?

Why does she get upset when people do neat things, like play a song they wrote for the piano? Why does she cry out that they think they are better than her? Why can't she be happy for other people's success? Not a clue on that one, either.

I'd love to be able to just tell kids that Reece is really neat if you can get past the other stuff. That she has a wonderful imagination and she loves to draw and paint and create. That she can play for hours with Littlest Pet Shop! She really likes the idea of friends but she just doesn't know how to make it work and needs someone who can take the lead for awhile. Austin used to need that more, too, when he was little. Now that he's older, he knows that he has to take more of the responsibility for maintaining an interaction - and the main thing stopping him now is a huge dose of teenage self-consciousness. He is SO afraid of saying/doing something wrong that would be embarrassing, so he prefers not to say/do anything at all.

The last issue of American Girl magazine had a neat article in it about a girl with autism, and she tried to explain a little about autism. I read the article to Reece and she got upset because that girl sings the National Anthem at ball games and she (Reece) doesn't get to. She said that girl must think she's better than everyone else because she's famous. ::sigh:: Not exactly what I wanted Reece to get out of it. I did lend the article to my BFF to let her kids read so they might be able to understand Reece a little better. I wish the article were online so I could more easily share it. :(

Reece isn't in ballet this year, but she is already talking about the things she wants to try next year. So far it's piano lessons and gymnastics. The piano lessons I might be able to pull off if I could find the right teacher who would be understanding - lots of meltdown potential with something as performance oriented as that. Gymnastics I'm not seeing how that will be possible at this age. There are usually multiple classes going on inside a loud, echoing gymnasium. And at her age, if you can believe it, there are few beginning classes. I don't want to set her up for struggle... and for ridicule when/if she has a meltdown because she's feeling incompetent.

I'm not sure I had a point when I started this blog post. LOL I'm sitting here trying to come up with a good way to end it and I'm at a loss. So I guess I'll just end it! Hope everyone has a nice Wednesday! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fitting in

On Sunday, I was running late for church, and as I got into the shower, I told Reece to go get dressed. That was my first mistake. I wasn't specific enough, and she was rather excited about going to church because it had been a month since she had been, due to various illnesses among her and her siblings. When I came out of the shower, she was wearing a Princess costume. It wasn't one of her "real" Princess costumes (read: it wasn't made by Disney), but it was definitely a flowy princess dress. I hadn't said, "Put on a dress from your closet." I just said to get dressed, and she likes to be Fancy.

Then she asked me to put her hair in a bun so she could wear the tiara she bought at Magic Kingdom. As I already mentioned, we were running late, and it would take me longer to explain why that wasn't a good idea than to just toss her hair into a quick bun and be done with it.

But as I was doing her hair, I started to wonder if this was a good idea. I wonder if it's time to guide her into dressing more age-appropriately. She will be 9 in a few weeks, and at least in our area, 9 year old girls don't dress in Princess Wear. And definitely they don't do it in public. Honestly, most girls her age have grown out of the Princess phase entirely.

She already doesn't have any friends at church. No little girls come running up to her to say hi. They don't giggle and want to run around on the playground with her. For the most part, the girls her age avoid her like the plague, lest she have a meltdown. And she hasn't really even had very many meltdowns lately, but we attend a small church and children this age have really good memories. Does allowing her to come to church dressed in a princess dress and tiara make that worse? Is she "that weird girl who dresses like a princess"?

For the record, all of the adults who saw her completely doted on her. And one toddler boy said, "Daddy! It's a Princess!" when she walked by. She loved that! She doesn't seem embarrassed by any of it. And I'm totally OK with it... as long as it's not contributing to her not fitting in. I'm just not sure if I need to be putting an end to it. ::shrug::

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More praise for Right Start Mathematics

I hope you're not getting tired of hearing how pleased I am about using Right Start Mathematics with Reece! I was concerned that she was going to have trouble jumping back into it after a long Christmas break, but I decided to start right where we left off and use games and review to get her back up to pace if it was necessary. But it wasn't necessary at all! We are finishing up the 2nd week of lessons after Christmas and Reece is doing absolutely wonderful with her math! She's even had a really nasty cold this week, but it hasn't affected her ability or her perseverance.

The only way I can account for this success is that the methods that she learned through RS actually stuck. She didn't memorize shortcuts and she didn't memorize meaningless processes! She truly internalized her math. In fact, when she was solving a problem in the oral review art of the lesson and I asked her how she got that answer (which is very, very common with RS), she had actually solved it in a completely different way than any of the methods she learned. It showed me that RS has allowed her to truly understand numbers and be comfortable working with them.

The problem, by the way, was something like 74+74. Right start teaches to add the tens to the first number so you have 144, then add the 4 for 148. Well, Reece explained that she did 40+40 which was 80, and then she added the 30+30 (left over from breaking up the 70 into the 40s) for 60 and 80 plus 60 is 140, and 4 and 4 are 8, so 148. Yes, it was more complicated, but it got her the correct answer! Remarkable!! I wish I could explain this better so you can see it! 6 months ago this child could not remember that 5+3 equals 8, and when she finally figured it out (using the MUS blocks usually), she could not comprehend that 3+5 also equaled 8. I know that development can account for a lot, but I can't help but give much of the credit to RS.

I am so pleased with her progress that I am planning to use the Right Start Geometry program with Riley next year as part of her "Pre-Algebra" year! I have been following along with my friend Tammy as she blogs her daughter's progress using RS Geometry and I really think Riley will enjoy the hands-on aspect of the program, as well as the Geometry focus while reviewing fractions, decimals, and percents before we move into Algebra. (She will also be finishing the Singapore Primary Math curriculum which she will alternate with Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra).

I continue to regret not starting this program sooner for Reece. And boy I wish it had been around for Austin!! But there's no sense in crying over spilt milk, right? Or spilt tears over math? LOL Reece has about 20 lessons left until she's finished with Level B. I already have Level C which I found at a curriculum sale last spring! :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A touching scene

Sunday evening, Riley was away at a sleepover. My dh and I were watching his Christmas present: the first season of NCIS! Austin likes to sit in and watch with us sometimes, and that night was no exception! But since he is not so little anymore, he can often block our view, and we have to use my ever-so-wise father's favorite line, "You make a better door than you do a window!" He was aggravated and didn't know where to sit. I suggested the floor, and he plopped down and grumbled, "But it's cold down here." Reece walked out of the room and actually I didn't realize that she had walked out until she walked back in.

Carrying a blanket.

She covered Austin up and gave him a hug! And he let her! He even told her how nice she was! And that made her so happy, she went back to her room and brought back a pillow, and some stuffed animals, and her unicorn pillow pet! She put these all around Austin and hugged him! :) He hugged her back and told her thank you! (I would have taken pictures but the blanket and pillow had Tinkerbell on them and I didn't think he'd appreciate a pic of him covered in Tink and a Unicorn Pillow Pet floating around on the internet! LOL)

It was so totally cool! After Reece went to bed we talked to Austin about how exciting that was, what Reece had done. She heard him expressing a feeling of discomfort to us, and she took it upon herself to fix it! And we told him how awesome it was that he let her do that for him, even though he didn't really want to be covered in Tinkerbell and unicorns! How that was going to stick in her head and in her heart, and it would help her grow. We told him he was doing RDI and didn't even realize it! ;)

I love it when these moments happen... they fill me with such hope!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolved

If you have come looking for a post outlining this year's goals, you will be disappointed. If you have come looking for a post updating my progress on last year's goals, you will be disappointed. Sorry!

You see, I did everything right in 2010 when it comes to making resolutions and goals. I made them measurable, specific, designed to cover a set time frame, and I wrote them down and even posted them for the world to see. I accomplished some of those goals - many of them, actually. I should probably sit down and figure out the percentage of goals that I accomplished. But I'm not going to.

I should be proud of what I accomplished in 2010. I ran four half-marathons. That in itself is pretty cool. But at the end of the day - or the year, as it were - it didn't matter. I ended 2010 in the same way I began it. And actually, it's quite possibly worse.

What went wrong? Shouldn't I be able to look at my list of accomplishments for the year and feel good about myself? Maybe I should. But I don't. Instead I feel as sad and empty and depressed and overwhelmed and discouraged as ever.

And I think I know why that is. You see, in all the list-making and goal-setting, I took my eyes off Jesus. I, once again, decided to take it all in my hands and think that if I could only achieve these artificial goals then I would have a "good year". Instead, while the kids really made great progress in their development, we achieved our debt free status after more than two years of sacrifice, and I accomplished some huge running goals, I still have this lingering black hole of despair.

But I didn't realize all of this until I started considering my goals for 2011. Yes, I could list that I want to complete my first triathlon and start training for my first full marathon. And I could come up with lots of other stuff, I'm sure. But it doesn't help my hurting heart. And it doesn't give me the peace I'm so desperate for. And it's doesn't help me to enjoy my life and to recognize the blessings that I'm given. There is only one way to get that, and that will be to put the focus where it needs to be. And by focus, I don't mean reading my Bible every day so I can check it off my list. That just doesn't do it.

I'm not going to attempt to make a list of what "will work". I'm sure I could google or ask my friends what I need to do to "deepen my relationship with God". But that doesn't solve anything. I'll just start with what I know: prayer, Bible reading, church. And I'll let the Holy Spirit lead me from there.

I know... weird, huh? Coming from the box-checking list-maker? But I've done it my way so long. And my way ain't working.

Word of the Year 2011: Joy

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." James 1:2-4 (NLT)