Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quick Questions

Because I so enjoy my friend Lynne's blog and she asked for answers to this list of questions, I'm complying with a smile.  I'm definitely classifying this as a "personal" post, so feel free to skip if my tastes or experiences in various areas make no different to you.  I  even like her enough that I'm answering both sets of questions :)



Question set one:
1. What book from your childhood do you remember the most, and why?
The Count of Monte Cristo
My dad read this to me when I was about ten and I just loved how everything clicked into place.  It was absolutely a gleeful delight to me!  Reading it as an adult, it's still masterful, but the primacy of revenge makes it less appealing to me.  As a kid, it was all about joy that everything worked so perfectly in the intricacies of the story.


2. What type of music do you enjoy the most? Please include examples!
Sappy love songs: As Time Goes By, Always, It Had to Be You, I Swear, Through the Years, Always and Forever, Unforgettable, The Vows Go Unbroken, You and I
Some jazzy stuff like "In the Mood" and Natalie Cole and lots of oldies
Almost ALL secular holiday music.. all year round
Classical is usually spotty-
Rachmaninoff... nearly sobbing at the symphony
Ravel: Bolero
Chopin: nocturnes
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty
The overture to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when the french horns come in.... mmmm, mmmm that's powerful stuff!

3. What subject do you find most challenging (to teach or to learn)?
Teach: singing.  It's a skill that I never practiced the academic way and I have no clue how to teach someone anything but the lyrics.  I don't mind breaking into song with the most tone deaf of friends though!
Learn: precise stuff.  Computer programing would drive me batty (even the idea of hours spent finding a misplaced comma makes me cringe).  Painting tiny figures where every dot counts or decorating a cake with a geometric pattern by hand.  I find those kinds of strictly precise requirements brutal to even attempt and no fun!

4. What is your favorite hot drink? Bonus points for including the recipe!
Decaf Americano with heavy cream and two teaspoons of a cocoa macca blend (you can get the powder at Whole Foods).  

5. About what new book, movie, or TV series do you want to let others know?
Hmmm, Star Trek: Next Generation and Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes are the two TV series I've most enjoyed with my husband.  We don't get TV so these were purchased and certainly aren't new.  My back log for books is so huge, that I don't usually get to them new.


Question set two:
1. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
Take off for Israel when I was 17 and travel the country on weekends alone.  Perhaps a little foolish at times, but it was thrilling! (Picking up Atlas Shrugged in Jerusalem, during that year, and finishing it in Poland was pretty earth shattering too.)


2. What is the most meaningful thing you’ve ever done?
Parenting.  Parenting as a career focused on excellence gives me a deep joy as I see my son grow into a different human being because of my actions.  Seeing his peers, especially in the special needs classrooms, and how the parenting effects them, I know how different a person he would be with poor or even eclectic parenting.

3. What is the general activity you enjoy doing most often?
Parenting. 
I do love baking (even though I'm gluten intolerant) and singing (hours at a time) too.

4. What do you like most and least about blogging, if applicable?
Most: The community.  I have found so many dear friends with fascinating insights :)  I also like that I can clarify my thoughts.
Least: The rare feeling that it's a chore.  I just don't blog then though, so there's not much negative.

5. How do you feel about Colin Firth?
I've never seen or heard of him except mentioned on my buddy's blog.  Maybe when I get through my backlog of Hepburn, Grant, and other movies, I could be initiated?  Recommendations?

OK, out to enjoy a day full of sunshine!  I may see more of these in San Francisco, but they're a glorious treat in Seattle during the fall.  The air is so clear too... it's going to be grand :)


We're in a no-regular-smiles phase... just goofy ones for anyone who  is given permission to take his picture.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mommy, Teacher... Mixed Roles

An email from a friend inspired me to tackle this question because I've had similar issues.  Fundamentally, parents are their kids' teachers in a vast number of ways.  However, when it comes to academics, there is a different role of teacher that is distinct.  Certainly, many parents homeschool and take on that role of curriculum organizer, lecturer, teacher, homework helper, or any combination of the four.  I think the key is recognizing that this is a distinctly different role and must be approached that way to be effectively addressed.  I had a ball playing with letters and colors and shapes with my toddler and he was enchanted too.  He also loves some fine motor work, but writing is not his passion.  I can play lots of games with writing, but that doesn't change that he doesn't love it and that it also remains a vital skill that needs to be practiced over time.  So, when a parent takes on the job of education in a more complete, formal way, it's not like the toddler games where if the child isn't interested in "Q" you can skip that letter.  The more formal education requires an adult using their greater context to impart  fundamental knowledge to a child.  The child does not have the context to know what is most important to their success and thus can not be expected to be completely self-motivated.  That is not to say that we don't do the best we can to attach academic material to their values, but there will be times when a kid doesn't fully get the importance of a lesson until a later time.  That presents a key challenge for any teacher, but especially a parent who has a vast roll of emotional, independence nurturer as well.  A school teacher can be clear that it is their job to teach a certain material and a child can relate to them in that manner without really liking them.  If a parent succeeds in teaching arithmetic at the price of a trusting, positive relationship, that's a big problem.  As I've contemplated this issue, I've come up with three suggestions.

1. Decide on the Importance
Is being your child's academic teacher worth the challenges?  Where does the roll rank in your values considering your current: location (local schools),  parent-child relationship, time availability, and career goals?  Over the summer, I did "Mommy School" and found that my son gradually resisted more and more.  As long as I changed things, he was happy.  But, any kind of consistent curriculum that would cover a subject was resisted even if the individual lessons delighted him.  Now, this was a summer, playful time and I could just swing with it.  If he didn't want to do a particular conceptual building block, say in Dreambox math, he didn't have to.  It wasn't my job to construct a hierarchy of knowledge without holes.  I was just supplementing with quality information.  That doesn't work for creating a curriculum though.  One need only look at social studies curricula with lots of scattered lessons that do not integrate to a whole and are impossible for even the most enthusiastic student to retain.  There's nothing wrong with a little summer study of Madagascar, but if my son's entire knowledge of geography was little bits of different countries that happen to interest him over a ten year period, I couldn't expect him to retain even those bits and certainly not to gain any historical understanding.

2. Make a Deal
If you decide that it is in your best interest to take on the teacher roll, make a deal with your kiddo.  It is amazing how creative kids can be when presented with an issue.  Asking them, "What will we do on days when we don't feel like studying writing?" can result in a slew of intriguing ideas!  The most general way I've found of tying education to kids' values is to link it to their thirst for independence.  Once we get past that toddler drive to learn some basics, older kids often need help seeing that link.  My kiddo decided he wanted to be an airplane engineer, so... when his handwriting was sloppy, we could chat about how confused another engineer would be if he left a note.  He might even misunderstand and build the wrong part!  Voila, improved efforts to write clearly.  That's more specific, but most kids have a general desire to be independent and can understand that being able to write or add up their own groceries is important to eventually MAKING THEIR OWN CHOICES.  This is a key, motivating idea at my house and I imagine it will help others too.  If you can make your deal with a solid motivation (because your kid can see that the knowledge will help them be independent), and you also get their creative suggestions for what to do when motivation lags, you're set up for a more likely success.  (I'll add the deal should be written down both for reference and clarity.  Also, it should be modifiable after the current instance.  With our bed time deals, we've modified them often together, but it's not at 9pm when he decides he wants to change things.  We talk about it the next day and modify as needed but, usually, because we developed the deal together, he decides that he doesn't want to change it.  Keeping the deals flexible keeps them relevant and effective for your needs.)

3. Recognize that It Will Always Be a Challenge
Fundamentally, it will always be a challenge for a kid who does not have an adult context to see the value of some aspects of a complete, foundational education.  While I think the best motivator is that glorious drive for independence (making their own choices), there will be gaps in their interest for a particular lesson that can't be skipped due to its requirement for later understanding.  I think expecting those challenges and planning for them can make them less distressing.  I don't think there's anything wrong with looking at deals that recognize a kid's different context and offer a motivation more closely tied to their immediate values.  For example, I can imagine a deal where after completing school on a blah day Mommy Teacher and Student Child earn a joint outing to the ice cream parlor.  Recognizing that everyone has their down days is just being honest.  Talking about the overall motivation, while helping kids over the hump makes sense to me.  I certainly do the same kind of thing myself, like finishing the mail before jumping in the hot tub :)  Of course, the challenge is making sure this doesn't turn into a reward system with everyday being a blah day so that it ends in a trip for ice cream.  I've found that bringing up those concerns in the original deal-formation-stage works beautifully.  I get the look that says my kiddo understands that I understand and we chat honestly about choices.  (Again, I recognize the difference in kids!  I know my kiddo is a major talker and loves to process like crazy.  I can imagine lots of quieter kids would rather just have brief reminders of the deal and continue on.)


So, I have been thrilled to find adults that can be my son's academic teachers and allow me to be his supportive guide.  I like keeping the rolls separate, but flexible.  As we prepare for an upcoming move, my son has said he wants to do "Mommy School" until we come back to our current location.  If I agree to that, I will certainly sit down with him and make sure we are completely clear about what that means and what I need to make that interesting to me.  He just turned seven and he can understand that I'm not interested in nagging... he learned the word "impatient" quiet early!  Now, if I'm slow or don't respond to questions, he'll tell me in his little, grown up voice, "Mommy, I'm getting impatient!"  Ah, the joys of "I" language and having a kid who really gets it!  We don't attack each other with "you" language in this house, so I know whatever solution we work out for schooling over the next year, we'll all be able to say, "I'm happy with the deal."

Learning chess... now I keep coming down in the morning to find him playing himself.  Somehow, he 's always the one who gets "the other guy" into check mate! :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our Own Cider

It is very cool that Andrew got to bottle hard cider made from our own apple trees!  We couldn't have guzzled enough before the apples rotted and now this will keep nicely and be delightful to share.  Yay for our friend who has lots of experience making beer which is, apparently, quite a similar process.


Other things to share:
This week's Objectivist Round Up.
Where Andrew starts work November first... I booked his flight to San Francisco!
I'm going here for my birthday tomorrow... so looking forward to a non-moving focus for a few hours!  (Oooo, just realized that's a bad pun because the restaurant moves (rotates) and part of what I'm anticipating is watching the sunset!)
Cute antics:
• commenting frequently when watching a movie he'd already watched with Daddy, "I thought so", "As I expected".
Story:
Yesterday, I tried again to see if my kiddo could pay attention to a full Lower Elementary History class (thirty minute recording) because I'd so love to enroll him with my teacher. (Results still ambiguous, but we'll see.)  Anyway, I played him the first class and today we were picking out a spelling word for the week and I suggested the new word he learned from Mr. Powell.  He didn't remember, so I prompted "puh".
He grinned and declared, "Pinocchio!"
Ya, well that is more complicated to spell, but I was shooting for "plethora"! 



That would be a very kind auntie tipping the bowl of potato leek soup so Cameron could use two spoons to scoop every last morsel... no shortage of enthusiasm here!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wobbly to Wobbled

Yep, that means we've progressed from wobbly ground to shaken loose.  My dear husband is hooked on the prospects of working with his two best friends in San Francisco.  So... we're moving.  There's a house to sell and a million different things to address.  I just finished getting a big husband hug and being told that he wouldn't have branched this far from his comfort zone without my support.  He considered the idea off the table until I pointed out this may be an opportunity not to be missed.  I think this will make him gloriously happy.  That doesn't change that this is going to involve wrenching up a lot of roots.  I'm finding myself thinking about all the dear friends that I'm going to miss and often getting teary in the most awkward places.  I don't know how frequently I'll be blogging over the next two months.  I may find this a relaxing outlet, but I'll more likely want to crash into bed after dealing with all the challenges.   So, on to new adventures and nurturing my son through this wobbly time.  I have high hopes that we'll find many new joys and delights in our new home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wobbly Ground

3:15pm on Thursday.  The update was sent early.  The bags were packed.  The plan was to leave for an overnight, apple-picking adventure with buddies at 4pm.  Ring.  Ring.  Husband calls to say that the division he's working for at Microsoft is being disbanded and the announcement is scheduled for the next day.  Screech, halt.  He wanted to be there for the announcement and to support the team he manages, so... no trip.  But, we went out for a truly decadent dinner at Ruth's Chris that just hit the spot for quiet, quality couple time and began contemplating the next options... while no one lost their job, we're now on wobbly ground! 

Other things to share:
This video from a kid in my history teacher's youngest class!  

Cute antics:
• playing Clue with my dad he commented on Mr. Plum who turned out to be the murderer using a knife in the billiard room, "Better if Mr. Plum with the billiard ball in the billiard room."
• informing me, "This is so hard. No its not!  I was just using sarcasm."
• commenting on the character Ramona who stuck out her tongue when someone asked if the cat got her tongue, "HA!  It's just an idiom!" 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday Gems

I have a seven year old!  While enjoying the post party and visiting calm, I thought I'd share some gems I've discovered for a successful birthday celebration.

1. Know your kid
I know that's obvious, but my point is that different children have vastly different temperaments and will thus respond with glee to vastly different situations.  Naturally, I've focused on settings to please a sensory-seeking, high energy kiddo like mine!  We went to GymStarz where my son could share trampolines, rings, foam shapes, balance beams, balls, and lots of running space with his few guests.  Which brings me to my next point...

2. Numbers
We almost didn't have a party this year, because my son wasn't sure he wanted to have people.  He came up with one person, he might invite.  Slowly, he decided he was willing to interact with more people.  If he'd stuck with one, we could have had a nice play date at home with one friend.  It is easy to overwhelm my kid, but I know lots of kids who thrive on more peers.  We had six guests and a lot of space.  It was perfect for my guy.  So, we have a physical and social situation that fits a particular kiddo and finally...

3. Choices
When my toddler was first dealing with the challenges of Autism and powerful emotions, I found one of the best ways to work him out of a tantrum was to give him control with a technique of hyper-choices.  He was upset because he couldn't have... a given food.  "I hear you're angry.  Would you like your fork on this side or this side of your plate?  Would you like the napkin here or here?  Water with an ice cube or without?"  It could go on for fifteen minutes or more and may sound silly, but it put him in control and  you could literally feel the tension, fury, and volume diminish with each answer.  My seven year old (WOW, can't believe he's that old) doesn't need nearly so much coddling, but parties are a situation outside the norm and he does benefit from lots of choices (colors, favors, guests, location, cake, ice cream, time, activities).  It also makes him feel special :)  So... that was a long intro for saying that giving your kiddo the most choices possible will make the party the grandest for them because it doesn't matter if the balloons and the napkins don't match.  The more it's truly theirs the more smooth and smily it will be :)

Here's to delightful celebrations as kids grow!

No wobbles for father and son :)

Roll, roll, roll in the hoop!


Tunnel Break


Parent break
Blow out the candles... that's a flour-less chocolate cake that he dubbed "better than gold"! :)



Friday, October 8, 2010

Scotch Search

Treasure hunts are so much fun!  We wanted to see if Cameron could be trusted with a secret, so he helped me make the clues and had to keep the secret from Daddy for three days!

1. These are the clues to find your gift
you will find them if you're swift
Your next clue is downtairs where it's bright
Look inside the kitchen light

2. By the wall
but not too tall
Near the statue
is your next clue

3. Under the couch cushion
you'll find your next one

4. Be sure to look in Cameron's shoe
That is how you'll find your clue

5. In the closet you will see
There is a clue for thee

6. Behind the Goals picture you will find, easy as pie,
Your next clue, if you try

7. The next place isn't too far
Look inside Mommy's car

8. Where you put your coffee grounds
That doesn't make grinding sounds
[French press]

9. Under the sink, by the pail
Is your last clue, so don't fail

10. On Mommy's chair, by her desk,
You will find the end of your quest 
[New bottle of Scotch]


Other things to share:
Hysterical video of singing anesthesiologists.
A delightful autumn poem from a friend:
Autumnal Delights
The sudden cool of morning brushes skin,
Air scented thick with ripened apples mulls,
Piquantly spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon,
A breeze, a whoosh of fallen leaves, then lulls.
Perhaps still green, remains a supple leaf.
As maple bursts in orange-red, umbered oak,
And aspen’s deepest gold, explode! In brief
Calliopes of color: Nature’s cloak.
Surrounded by the changing atmosphere,
Imbibed in richly, flavored, shades of earth,
Awash in subtle, brilliant, bracing air, 
My senses wake! I breathe autumnal birth.
Outside grows cold as inside’s glow ignites, 
With Fall’s imbued sensorial delights.

Cute antics:
• playing dominoes with rhyming responses like, "Blank six and one, none of those are fun." (He also calls the game "Marlboro" because we have an old set that has that label on the back of the pieces.)
• enjoying the treasure hunt we put together for Andrew so much that he wrote me a clue after hiding one of his own dimes and pennies, "look in a box".
• ready for school Sunday morning :)  Shoes / coat / lunch all set!
• singing to the part of Sound of Music Lonely Goatherd, instead of "She yodeled back back to the lonely goatherd", we got, "sevens are so hip-er-oni"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thyroid: Tinkering

Successful weaning, I've been off thyroid medication for three weeks and I didn't see any significant changes.  I weaned very slowly, by quarter tablet of T3 over many days at each dose.  At the end, I got ill, cold etc. with the same frequency as before.  Just to clarify, my most exasperating symptom is getting a headache with nausea and fatigue anywhere from noon-fourish and having my body basically check out for the day.   Before using iodine, this was happening 3-4 times a week.  Now, it's decreased to several times a month, often bunched together.  (It always resolves with sleep.) 

Just prior to starting tapering off the thyroid medication, my hair started falling out again.  I'm wondering if that is iron related, so I've started supplementing with iron for one week each month and we'll see how that goes for my next labs.  (I had stopped since my level had reached normal.)  I've removed all the other regular supplements too except for 1/4 tab of iodine and fish oil.  I even take the multivitamin only on weekends and I've decreased Melatonin to 3mg each night.  So... I'm eating healthy whole foods and quite pleased to focus on that for my complete nutrition!

Happily off lots of pills, but still getting ill.  What next?  About one week ago I decided to try the Low Dose Naltrexone.  It is a medication that can take two months to show effect and supposedly has no side effects at this dose (3mg instead of the 50mg it is prescribed for for non-autoimmune issues).  I've been taking it for about a week and haven't noticed anything negative.  On the positive side, the few times I've been feeling ill it hasn't progressed to the same degree of discomfort and once it actually resolved (highly unusual for me to start feeling ill and rally without sleep)!  The pilot studies appear well done and show great promise.  As something autoimmune (thyroid or other) seems the most likely cause and this trial appears safe to me, that is my next attempt.   Here's to figuring this all out with some trial and, hopefully, not too much more error!
Still having tons of fun... I taught my kiddo very basic sewing to put patches on his Halloween costume :)   He's going as the daytime sky.  Blue with birds, dragon flies, clouds, and a smily sun... gotta love that creativity!

Friday, October 1, 2010

October Glee

Yay, it's my favorite month! It's the month that says the end of summer heat and the start of autumn briskness and colorful delights.  It's the month of pumpkins, squash, corn mazes and so many smells of homey baking.  It's the month of leaves falling through slanting sunshine on a crisp morning where every part of me delights to be breathing and seeing and enjoying this world.  
My favorite walk near our house... I don't often go alone :)
(He's a tiny dot between the trees.)
Other things to share:
This week's Objectivist Round Up.
An inspirational poem/song from a friend.
A neat way for the computer lighting to help you get sleepier.
Cute antics:

• coining the word "un-rare-est" (as a synonym for "common")
• after a taste of Andrew's ouzo, he pronounced "It's a horrible kind of drink."
• calling Andrew "Dear", laughing, and then declaring, "I'm not your wife.  I'm so silly."  ("Dear" is one many endearments we share regularly instead of names.)
• placing a button in the hand cleaner bottle (When I discovered it and expressed my confusion, he said it needed to get clean.)
• stating he would need a "gentle factory" to make bee-bees or the "big chomppers" would crush them.
• getting a wee bit confused on world geography, "Brazil is the only country in Africa that speaks Chinese."  (Hmmm, a bit more work with that new world map we put up seems to be in order!)