Monday, March 21, 2011

A Fresh Start

In honor of the first day of spring, I am starting fresh with this blogging thing. I really love blogging. The problem is, I spend so much time loving other people's blogging that I forget to leave time for my own. So, in keeping with the optimism that spring always lures me into, I decided to recommit. You can find me now at my new home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Anatomy of a Homeschool Snow Day

I'm such a mean mother that I tend to make my children do schoolwork even on their sick days, so you can bet that I don't let them off the hook just because it snows. Actually, I don't always make them do work when they're sick, but I do try to get them through some material if they aren't feeling too rotten. That said, there is still something about a good substantial snowfall that calls for bending the rules a little.

7:30 - Sleeping in is one of the first concessions to the weather. Starting late is no big deal, especially after getting a phone call at five in the morning from John's work, telling him to not come in before noon.

9:30 - Sitting snug on Mom and Dad's bed, watching the snow blowing around out the window, Carter and I discuss run-on sentences while Austin does a little Rosetta Stone French.

10:15 - We watch the bird feeding frenzy around the four stations of the bird seed taste test experiment we set up for Austin's ornithology course. Highlights include two blue jays sparring over the suet and a bald eagle flying over.

11-12 - We get down to honest to goodness schoolwork. We're even in the classroom!

12:00 - Lunch accompanied by a lively discussion about which Pixar characters we are each most like when we lose our tempers.

1:30 - Austin finishes up geometry while Carter suits up and heads out in the snow with Grandpop (I highly recommend everyone have grandparents as neighbors).

Next on the agenda is reading an excerpt from Moby Dick, a group dance-off Wii-style, and shuffling around the schedule to accommodate the lessons we missed (of which there are only two!). I love my life.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Retiring, Routines, and Resolutions

I love resolution-making. For me, it adds a freshness to the post-Christmas doldrums that tend to set in. There's so much optimism in the act of setting a goal. This year, as I look forward to a year of big life changes, that goal-setting seems even more important somehow. After 19 years of wedded bliss, based on my husband working outside the home and me working in it, he is retiring and coming to set up permanent residence in my space. Overall, I think it's going to be great. But the little voice in the back of my head has begun to point out areas of potential difficulty in our new arrangement. I have 6 months to prepare, so my goals this year are all aimed at increasing the efficiency of our household, tightening up our budget, and strengthening the personal relationships in our family. I realize I can't tackle all this in one massive January launch, so I'm spreading things out, hoping that injecting a little goal-setting into our lives each month will keep things energized.

For January, I'm not tackling anything so out of the ordinary for myself. Every January I create a new budget for the year and review our daily routines--specifically in the areas of homeschooling and household chores--for any tweaking that might need to be done. This year is no different. Budgeting is easy. I've been making a budget every year almost since the beginning of my married life. Since putting all our finances on the computer, it's been even easier. If you don't have some type of money managing software, I can't recommend it too highly. It's easy to learn and so very convenient.

Household chores are another beast, though. I have tried many cleaning schemes, schedules, and plans, combined with a wide variety of chore charts and allowance systems aimed at getting my children to be more involved in the process. I have had periods of improvement in this area, but I generally find myself sliding back into my old, unsuccessful patterns. This year, I am trying out yet another new scheme, made up of pieces of other approaches I have either tried or read about. I hope to have it up and running next week. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Coming Clean

One of the blogs I frequent is written by a woman whose little girl died two and half years ago. I was introduced to her blog by the friend of a friend and found the brave way she told her story and continued to live her life after such tragedy to be so compelling that I began reading her on a regular basis. Last week she wrote a post that was so poignant I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Her honesty struck a real chord with me and took me back to the days when my oldest son was diagnosed with autism--thirteen years ago this month.

Autism is like a death in some ways. I remember the time I spent watching my sleeping little boy, crying over the loss of the life I dreamed he would have. I did a lot of grieving in those days. At an age when most children are opening up and their lucky parents are getting to know them more and more, our son was retreating farther away from us. He wouldn't talk to us or look at us. He wouldn't hug and kiss us. It was years before he could bring himself to say "Mom" or "Dad". And while the years that have passed since then have been full of many victories, I wanted to let you know that I still grieve.

I have heard many parents of special needs children vow that they wouldn't change a thing about their children. In an effort to push societal acceptance, it has become trendy to declare that disabilities do not need a "cure". Let me just say that I would love a cure for my son. I do not relish the suffering and isolation that he must endure and it is the dearest wish of my heart for all the obstacles in his path to be removed. I know that our family has been blessed by the trials this has brought into our life; I don't sit around wallowing in self pity. However, I have had moments where resentment has washed over me. Mostly I focus my anger at my son's disease, but I've also leveled it at innocent women whose only crimes have been to produce non-autistic offspring.

So, to all of you women out there who fall into that category, I'm sorry if I sometimes hate you. I'm sorry if I'm not sympathetic when it comes to the challenges you face in raising your children because I'm too busy thinking that I have it harder than you. I'm sorry if I don't show enough appreciation for the support you show my son when it doesn't come in the form I think it should. I'm sorry for sometimes blaming you for not understanding how it feels to be me.

The vast majority of the time, I don't feel those feelings. I certainly feel them less these days than I did when my grief was new. I just want you and all the mothers that are parenting special needs children to know that my grief is still there, despite all my progress in coming to terms with it. I also want you to know--and this is the most important thing my grief has taught me--to celebrate the little normalcies of your children. They may seem as automatic as breathing, but they are truly miraculous.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Vote as if Your Life Depended on It

In June of 2008, an elderly man was struck by a car while crossing the street, sustaining life threatening injuries. The driver did not stop. The other drivers drove around him, but kept going. The pedestrians nearby looked, but kept walking. No one came to his aid until a police officer, responding to another call, happened to come upon him. The man later died. One interviewed bystander explained the lack of action as an unwillingness to commit to involvement in the situation. In other words, no one wanted to take on the inconvenience of stepping in.

In the television show, “What Would You Do?”, scenarios are acted out before a hidden camera to capture how ordinary people will react when confronted with various ethical dilemmas. From witnessing the suspected theft of a car to seeing someone attacked, the program aims to reveal whether or not people are willing to get involved  when they see a need. Many continue to step in and speak up, but a disappointing number will turn away like the pedestrians at the accident. It is simply too uncomfortable, perhaps, to confront a stranger and too easy to believe that someone else will take care of it.

We have gradually, but steadily become a society that abdicates the responsibility for solving problems to the government. We have begun to believe the government should stop people from losing their homes to foreclosure, provide income to those who are out of work, force restaurants to serve healthier food, pay for healthcare, and meet all sorts of other needs that used to be universally considered the obligations of the individual citizens. Our silent acceptance of this system is costing us our freedom. Liberty and responsibility go hand in hand. Once we allow the government to become our parent, we cannot avoid becoming children to it. And, just as our children are subject to us to decide what is in their best interest, we will soon be unable to avoid being subject to our so-called elected representatives.

If you think this can’t or won’t happen, simply consider the culture that has arisen around the career politician. The fact is, the very integrity of our governing bodies demands that even the best and most beloved of our elected officials ought not remain in office indefinitely. Your representatives may speak for you, but do they really represent you? Or are they actually trained professional participants in a process that has become more about manipulating the electorate than representing it? Gone are the days of the citizen politician, pressed into service by his or her fellows. They are being replaced with candidates groomed by strategists, playing a game of backroom deals, insider jargon, and a whole host of techniques aimed at keeping themselves in power and perpetually removed from the common folk.

And what do we do? Too often, we mutter under our breath, but ultimately accept our fate, believing the government-endorsed position that one individual cannot make a difference. As angry as I am at the abuse of power I see within our government, I have been vastly more frustrated at the apathetic complacency I find among many of my fellow citizens. Like the witnesses to that shameful hit-and-run accident, we see the wrong doing and walk away, hoping someone else will take care of it.

It is time for us all to wake up out of this self-destructive stupor and realize that, yes, someone else will take care of it. If you do not exercise your power as a citizen, someone else will seize that power. You are free to buy into the program the government is selling, but you must realize that the cost will ultimately be your own freedom.

As election day approaches, I urge you to wake up and take back the power that belongs to you--the power to choose your government. You are not just one individual. You are one of many. Yours may be the one voice that makes the message just loud enough to be heard.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I took a bath with Oliver tonight, which gave me the opportunity to learn three important things:

1. I need to exercise. Let's just say I think the appeal of bubble baths and jacuzzi tubs lies in how much of the human form they conceal. A shallow tub with a 12-month-old is not nearly as forgiving and quickly erases any illusions of sveltness to which one may have been erroneously clinging.

2. I need to utilize a little more creativity in my parenting. As any mother of a young child knows, finding time to bathe/shower oneself is not always easy. It sometimes seems downright impossible. And yet I always manage to bathe the little one. Jumping into the bath with him not only provided him with great amusement, it rescued me from the misery of a showerless day.

3. Babies are heart-wrenchingly cute--especially when they're wet. Alright, I already knew this one, but some lessons are worth repeating.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of School

I love homeschooling. I never thought this would be my life, but I'm so glad that circumstances have steered me into this course. I love that the first day of school means something totally different to me than many other moms. And I love that I get to participate in that back-to-school fun of tackling new subjects and new books right alongside my children.

Oliver did his part to start us off on the right foot by sleeping through the night--from 9 to 6. He even tacked on a bonus hour after that, just for good measure. For the record, that is the longest stretch he has ever slept in his life. I did my part by rustling up some good farm-girl grub.

Eggs from our own chickens, bacon from our friends' hog, and homemade donuts.
Then it was time for back-to-school presents! I am sad to say that my children have not inherited my innate love for all back-to-school supplies. However, by the time Carter got to the bendable ruler, he started to spark up a little enthusiasm. And Austin was most pleased with his ornithology field journal.

"Oh, cool!"
The wireless mouse was a winner.
Austin with his field journal.
 We had our usual obstacles to overcome. I had to hastily install a few software upgrades to get Biology working for Carter and our internet connection went out at one inopportune moment, but we managed to roll with it all just fine.

Online lessons are the best
Lounging on the couch with an African folktale
 Oliver has been as cooperative as one could expect a 12-month-old to be. He enjoyed flinging dry erase markers and CDs around the room and spying on one of Austin's online lessons. Overall, the day took much longer than it should have, but I am trying not to sweat the schedule thing. I can get overly worked up about time tables and deadlines. Really, as long as the boys are working steadily and staying engaged with their learning, I should not get my stomach in a knot over whether we finish at 2 or 4:30.

Here's to a great year!

One Year Ago

One year ago, I gave birth to a baby boy I hadn't expected to have and who I wasn't sure I was excited about. John and I had gone back and forth for some time over the decision of whether to have one more child, but could never feel really settled on the matter. Then, pondering things one day, I decided I felt like our family was complete and we were done. I felt pretty solid on this decision. Two short weeks later, I found out I was completely wrong and baby number three was on the way.

Throughout my pregnancy I went through many emotions, most of them negative and motivated by selfishness. With my then youngest just turning 9, I felt depressed at the idea of starting over with the demands of an infant. I was convinced the lives of my older children were ruined, because so much of our family's focus was going to have to shift to accommodating the many needs of a little one. Once I worked through that, I began to wrestle with the nagging fear that something would be wrong with the baby. I knew there must be a reason for us to be having a child at this point in our lives. The small part of me that wanted to be optimistic latched on to the belief that we were to be blessed with a daughter--something John and I both hoped for. When the ultrasound proved otherwise (I was so angry with the ultrasound tech for pronouncing the baby a boy that I wanted to punch him--as if it was all his fault) I became increasingly convinced that this baby was being sent as a trial for us. The closer my due date grew, the more I pored over every ultrasound image, looking for some defect, in a panic that something even worse than autism was in the cards for us. There were moments when I was able to set that all aside and allow myself to feel happy anticipation, but I was so afraid to get my hopes up, feeling that I would just be that much more devastated in the end. My midwife actually told me that she thought I was subconsciously blocking my body from going into labor because of my fears.

But then the fateful day arrived. Even then, my body resisted full blown labor; starting and stopping through the day until they threatened pitocin. Less than an hour later, my Oliver was born, dazzling me with his blond-haired, cherubic perfection. I examined him thoroughly; there was simply nothing to cause alarm. All the despair and fears of the previous nine months washed away in an instant and were replaced by the kind of joy only such opposition can create.

The past year has been amazing. There have been huge challenges to be sure, but even more than that there has been a renewal of my faith in God and my faith in myself. Oliver has brought so much more to our family than I ever feared he would take from it. I can't believe I nearly closed the door on the chance to be a new mother again at this point in my life.

Sharing his food
Oliver is definitely a Tigger kind of guy

Which one to throw first?
One year old and already can't wait to drive
Examining his percussion set
It was a race to get them all lit before the letters started to melt
Getting sleepy
The cake was barely put in front of him before he grabbed it and took a big bite
My boys!