Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mommy School 2011- Evaluation

As tomorrow is the last day of summer vacation, I wanted to sit down and evaluate how this summer of Mommy School has gone.

Math: I've been floored!  I wanted to make sure we got the multiplication table down... he can multiply into the septillions.  He learned long division.  He is converting fractions to decimals to percentages.  He's delving into pre-algebra too.  While I had glorious moments like this.  I also had plenty of upset moments as he demanded an incorrect answer was right or whined about learning efforts.  I don't know how much of this is to be expected as the trials of learning something new, but I think I have plenty to learn about keeping the process positive.  Those rough days make me not want the job of academic teacher because I enjoy our positive times so much.  He challenges the school teachers much less, but he learns so much less there and he's so bored.  Keeping things challenging and interesting while maintaining a positive attitude in a student that is easily discouraged... WORK!

History: I've been double floored!  My kiddo had the occasional whine, but mostly just lapped up the full American History course with HistoryAtOurHouse.  I developed a game of Taboo with the historical figures from the course and he aced it gleefully.  I made a history Go Fish game this weekend and we're already moving on to not using the historical figure's names, but describing them instead "Mr. Peace-Without-Victory, Mr. 95 Theses.".  I am just amazed by how much he has made these historical figures a part of his life.  He has learned from them and keeps them close as he does his favorite literary figures.  Last week, I thought we were going to have a normal trip to the egg farm, but it turned into a detailed discussion on what makes a good president.  He stated an opinion on a particular president and I just kept asking questions.  He drew on his knowledge of the founders and came up with quite the list of what is required for a good president... not the usual chat with a seven year old!  EXCITING!

Writing: This remains a non-favorite, but he has made progress and I've really worked to keep it fun.  Lately, we've been focusing more on organizing writing instead of handwriting.  I'm content with how this worked, but I was often faced with him trying to bargain for smaller amounts of writing.  I didn't like being the external motivator and it made me feel uncomfortable.  I'd love to find a way to keep this more positive, like it started... he did love writing the clues for hide and seek :)

Music: This was the dud.  It started off with eager interest in piano playing.  He did not want to keep at it at all when he found both rhythm and coordination difficult.  (He still loves to improvise.)  We tried the MusicAtOurHouse course and he balked at listening too.  I really want music to stay a solid positive for him and that's not what I'm seeing unless he is completely in play mode.  He doesn't want to put in any effort to learn more.  He did complete the full Kindermusik curriculum and he has some video games regarding notes.  I haven't found that thing yet to make this optional value higher on his list.

Overall, I'm ecstatic with the progress made this summer, but I think I have some key work to do in keeping the tone more consistently in this zone.  Depending on when we move, I'll likely take over finishing this school year myself and the more prepared I can be for the adventure, the better.
Definitely having fun!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Updates

I've sent weekly updates for about fifteen years that have been so powerful in keeping valued family and friends close to our lives.  When I have a busy week where I can't put them into paragraph form, I use bullet points from the "3 Good Things" emails that I share daily with my best friend.  Since this has been a most unusual break due to vacation, I'm going to share yesterday's giant update.  This format makes it so easy to keep a record of memories.  

First, here is the "3 Good Things" idea which I learned from Jean Moroney:  

Here's a daily practice I learned from Martin Seligman, author of
*Learned Optimism* and *Authentic Happiness*.

Once each day, write down three good things that happened in the
last 24 hours. You can write them before going to bed or first thing
in the morning. You can write them in a journal or in a calendar or
on a Post-it. You can include important achievements such as
winning a contract or simple pleasures such as eating a good meal.
All that matters is that you write down three such items, every day.

As you can guess, the purpose of this practice is to reinforce a
positive outlook and avoid feeling overwhelmed by negativity. Even
on the worst of days there are a few bright spots, and bringing them
to mind helps you maintain perspective.

Dr. Seligman ran controlled experiments to test the technique. Not
only did his subjects report being happier and more optimistic
during the studies, but they liked participating so much that they
continued writing down three good things each day after the
experiment was over.

This little bit of thinking each day has large emotional rewards.
Why? Because it strengthens two kinds of value judgments:

1) What you hold as good: Every time you decide consciously that
something is good, you reinforce, clarify, and concretize what
"good" means.

2) What you hold as important: Important means "entitled to
attention or consideration." When you spend a little time focusing
on the good in your life, you are implicitly asserting that the good
is what's important.

Not bad for three minutes of thinking each day.

You may forward part or all of this newsletter, if you include
this copyright & contact notice in its entirety:

"Copyright Thinking Directions. All Rights Reserved.
To subscribe to the Thinking Directions Occasional Update,
email: Or visit"

Jean Moroney
Thinking Directions

Thinking Directions, 527 Third Avenue, #223, New York, NY
10016, USA


And now, my latest update:

Hello everyone,
This is the mondo-mega update that covers three weeks of vacation!  I'm just going to describe brief sections and then bullet point the other good things.
Driving to California (two days)
We took a more leisurely route along the coast which was so pretty!
• (just before we left) I played with Cameron like the floor was lava... this kid loves to rough house :)
• We left WA only an hour late
• We didn't forget anything important that I couldn't fix with a call!
• Really pleasant lunch with friends in Vancouver, WA on the way south 
• Gorgeous Oregon coastal views felt wonderful
• Saw the sand dunes park
• Listening to Music Class, History class,  musicals, and Call it Courage... lots of time
While Andrew went on to San Francisco (via dropping my statue off in Napa), Cameron and I spent a week in Sacramento with my parents.  He was as homebody centered as ever, not wanting to budge from the house even to go for ice cream or to the lego store!  We had fun pulling out the board games and sharing quality time.
• Sleeping well with decreased melatonin and a cherry powder my parents use
• Seeing E. Taylors Taming of the Shrew
• Decadent mani/pedicures with mom (I love this tradition whenever we get together!)
• Dealt well with multiple melt downs.  Kiddo is out of his routine and sticking to his homebody response too.
• Fascinating lecture on giftedness and autism and sharing this video with my parents that nails why Cameron is a kid with a dual diagnosis!  (Especially minutes 30-40:
• Playing HP clue and electronic Monopoly
• Watching Cameron gleefully ride the scooter with my dad
• Catching up with my science TA who is going to be Peter (the guy who visited from Germany).
• Starting my first homemade bacon, much cheaper and hopefully tasty... I'll know in a week.
• Catching up with my best bud over several days of phone calls :)
• Walking in my parents' neighborhood which is so lovely and near and nature preserve... I had a morning of birds: jays, hummingbirds, and wild peacocks!
• making my first promotional clip for Science at Our House:
• Now I've got syllabi posted:
• Teaching my mom about bubble buts (a game my sister and I used to play where, using the jets, you get a bet a big bubble of air in the but of your bathing suit and go floating around the hot tub... very fun!)
• being treated to seeing Camelot in the theatre (stage in the round) with Cameron and my dad
• visiting a decadent  Sacramento chocolate shop
• Finishing the last American history class of new material... Cameron is a whiz!
• Another video... the producer wants a series.
The second week of vacation was spent in Sea Ranch, my favorite spot along the California coast.  Andrew joined us there for a week where my parents and my family had a glorious time together.
• Gorgeous drive with excellent companionship 
• Delectable French onion soup and prime rib lunch
• catching up with Andrew and waltzing around the rental home together
• Steak and eggs breakfast for my fam :)
• Cameron was friendly with the neighbor who came over to check out his balsa wood biplane
• My misplanning that led me on a 5.5 hr hike didn't cause me more damage than massive foot soreness and a mild burn.  Gorgeous scenery, but I should have brought both a hat AND the phone number of our rental!  I know better, Ooops.
• Watching the sun set into the clouds, no ocean sunsets yet but gorgeous colors
• Star gazing and watching the moon reflect on the ocean... I just love this place
• Andrew reading a 1941 etiquette book that was on the shelf  "The girl who is not a success at her first ball should carefully analyze herself as soon as the tears have dried from her eyes. If she is not absolutely homely, the fault probably rests on her own shoulder."
• Sand sculpture of toy bot (one of Cameron's cartoons) made with my mom
• Nice saunter with my dad... that was the ideal pace for me and my sore body
• Cameron loved the frogs next to the hot tub, he spent much time delighting in playing with them
• Tasty salmon sharing with my mom
• Third clip promoting the science curriculum:
• Andrew and Cam delighted in playing video games all day (Civilization is the favorite.)
• Fun games, relaxing, knitting by the ocean and general mellow visiting
• Homemade bacon was a success
• my present of a kite was loved by husband and son
• more pleasant strolls
• Giant flock of pelicans... breathtaking
• Finding sea urchin shells at the tide pools
• Kindle reading while snuggled in the window seat
• Leaning about local geology that explains our foggy mornings and sparkly afternoons
• discovering and naming Tide Bobber Beach with his dad, my little explorer :)
• My mom didn't kill herself when plunging from the rock into the ocean (we were close to the water and it was only two feet deep, but it still looked freaky!)
• Fun teasing Cam about being a werecat (he spent a good hour trying to prove he was a boy.)
• Glorious drowsing on the window seat while the crisp ocean breezes played with my hair and my body was cozy under a comforter warmed by the sun
• Last moment watching the ocean with Andrew, we saw seals playing
Next, while Cameron went back to Sacramento with my parents, Andrew and I drove to Napa to visit with the Cordairs and to see if the wax problem with my statue was able to be fixed (the answer is "yes", but it took more time than she had so it's still at the gallery).
• Survived the roller coaster ride away from the coast in the MINI... screeching tires, windy road, steep drops, gleeful husband
• Multiple trips through the Cordair gallery and falling re-in-love with a painting... we'll look at finances
• Decadent dinner at a Himalayan restaurant.  One of the best curries in my life.
• Chatting late and sleeping late at the home of our friends who own the gallery
• Yet another decadence in Yountville... We both raved over a polentta with a veal balsamic reduction and Andrew thought his tortelini was among the best things he's ever tasted  
• Took my first Imitrex ever to see if I could stop a bout of the ickies and it worked!
• I got this report from my mom on how things were going in Sacramento: Cameron has had a good day.  We have played a lot of chess, checkers and crazy 8's.  He watched Pinocchio for his TV watching and of course had his iPad time.  He has a timer and has been very good about the rules.  Dad let him drive the scooter by himself on the driveway after taking him up to the bluffs and back.  He will thrilled.  I did Costco shopping and got you some more salmon.  I made Cameron a meatza for dinner tonight which he loved. 
After about 24 hours in Napa, we headed over to Oakland where Andrew stays with his CEO and his wife while working in SF.  I only joined them for less than 24 hours before heading back to Sacramento, but it was busy!
• Glorious eve sailing, best conditions which only happen 3x each year.  So fun!
• Redwoods walk and lunch with Wendy and my Mom
Then my mom, who had driven up to share a hike and lunch, drove us both back to Sacramento for the final week of vacation while Andrew stayed to work in SF.
• Fun hello hugs from my kiddo and sharing chocolates from Napa/Oakland!
• Watching a spectacular production of Annie Get Your Gun with my dad (one of the best live productions I've ever seen)
• Intense hot tub time, such powerful jets in my parents' spa
• UNO is Cameron's new passion (I figured he'd like it after he enjoyed Crazy Eights so much!)
• Jane Eyre BBC production beautifully made
• pampering my dad and Andrew with homemade salt sticks
• Seeing the Harry Potter movie a second time, with my mom
• Playing UNO attack (the machine "draws" for you by shooting out cards!)
Andrew came back to Sacramento Friday afternoon, we shared a chatty evening with my parents and then we hit the road for our homeward journey the next morning (one full day in the car, home after midnight).
• Belting out musicals tunes in the car with my dear husband while the kiddo reads in the back seat... hour 1 of 15 or so.  
• Glorious day to go for a drive :)
And... a full week of catch up that is just finishing up.  I folded the last load of laundry last night!
• so nice to be home
• fascinating watching the 1950s version of the Browning Version.  POWERFUL!
• lots of processing and much more to do, but productive day working through the hundreds of emails and piles of mail from three weeks
• success with the crock pot to keep us fed while busily catching up: started a lunch curry after breakfast and dinner ribs after lunch (must get out to restock the fridge)
• final clip for the science curriculum:
• super duper errands with Cameron before the rain started
• getting to the egg farm early enough to swipe their full stock of five dozen eggs that were still warm from being collected that morning (tasty scrambled eggs for lunch)
• more reading of Eragon, I keep getting myself hoarse, but Cameron loves it (we're now on the third book)
• positive meeting with the autism doc 
• Lunch with Ms. B... so fun catching up and munching Thai food together
• Typed up Cameron's first "essay".  We've been working on organizing thoughts when writing and this is what he dictated to me with help from our brainstorming diagrams.
The vacation that lasted three weeks was fun.  I went to Sacramento and Sea Ranch.
My favorite things in Sea Ranch were: riding my grandpa's scooter, discovering Tide Bobber Beach, getting in the hot tub, and playing games with Daddy.  When I got in the hot tub with Grammy, I found tree frogs.  They were fun to play with, but one got so sick that he couldn't flip over and we put him on the ground where he slowly crawled away (he couldn't even jump or do a short hop).  I think the frogs liked the hot tub's warmth.  My grandpa's scooter was really fun, especially on the hills.  Wee!  It has batteries in it and you can control its speed and, if you put it on its fastest speed, boy you are going fast!  Tide Bobber Beach is a place where there is so much rock climbing to do.  You can't get there unless you rock climb down.  I had so much fun finding it with my dad and naming it.  By the way, there are caves to explore and in the first one that I explored there was a white bobber.  That is part of the way the beach got its name.  The last fun thing at Sea Ranch before we talk about Sacramento is playing games with Daddy.  I liked the video game Civilization and flying our kite.
The fun things in Sacramento were: Clue, UNO, chess, piano, and movies to watch.  Clue is a game where there's a mystery.  You're trying to figure out who did a murder.  UNO is a card game a lot like Crazy 8s except there are double decks and punishment cards.  By the way, the cards don't look the same.  Chess was fun, we even have a Greek, war-like chess set with swords.  I like playing with the chess set and pretending the kings can battle each other with staffs.  The piano is fun.  I like making noisy, frantic music and I like pressing the loud button with the notes that are low, but not really low.  I also like putting the chess pieces on the piano.  Finally, the last thing to talk about until we're done with this writing piece is the movies to watch.  My favorite is The Mouse Detective although I'm wearing down on it.  I like the song they sing at the end and I like seeing the videos in the background.
In conclusion, I had a fun vacation in Sacramento and Sea Ranch.  Bye.
• special dinner date with a friend who needed a supportive ear
• awesome home schooling day with Cameron learning about writing organization of paragraphs and an art painting of Queen Elizabeth
• arrival of my gourmet  ice creams (special treat I ordered for the family)... fun!
• playing with all that left over dry ice (frothy potions and eery mists) ... fun, fun!
• surprise family dinner... fun, fun, fun!

Here's to fun, fun, fun!
P.S. Cute antics:
• Mom: When you read you begin with...
Cameron: OCD
(Um, not quite!)
• shrieking as we were going between buses, "OK then!  We're cornered!  Surrender!"
• after a fast stop, "Ow!  My shoulder aches and my nose crackles."
• trying to convince me to skip math by using his history words, "We'll nullify math whatsoever."
• freaking out his grandmother by waking her at 6:30AM with a jubilant good morning... his nose two inches from hers.
• testing the taste of a ketchup blob and announcing, "I experimented it."
• Mom: Why should you get allowance on vacation?
Cameron: Because it's the rules, lady.
(Ya, that spurred quite a conversation!)
• suggesting for the video game, "How about a cannon on a war elephant's back?"
• getting confused about dates, he declared, "BC=AC."  When Daddy said it meant alternating current, he wasn't believed.
• "It's very fun to laugh heartily in crazy 8s."
• referring to losing at UNO, "You didn't skewer me in the ribs this time!"
P.P.S. Update photos:
These are from my camera.  I'll supplement with ones from my mom's camera next week... those haven't made it to my computer yet :)

So, that's probably the largest update ever, but you get the idea of how easy it can be to just capture the highlights so that they can be retained and revisited.  I gather the cute antics throughout the week by sending myself quick emails or voicemail or writing on scraps that get into my inbox.  I keep the "3 Good Things" emails that I send to my best friend and they compile to form the basis of the updates, but they can also be the whole update if I don't have time to do more.  It's just been such a positive way to keep our family memories from fading.  I'm all for scrap booking and memory boxes and other methods too, I've just found this to be a glorious way to keep more... it's hilarious to go back to the updates I wrote when we were brand new parents!