31 March 2010

La La La La...



la la la... Wait. Is that a camera? I don't want you taking my picture! "NO! Aaaa! Dop it! Nah NO!" *sigh* This mom of mine will not stop, will she? And the church nursery workers keep GIVING ME BACK to her no matter what I tell them, so I guess I just have to live with this crazy lady. I need to make my own accomodations if I want to keep using my marker AND not have my picture taken for my mom's stupid blog. At this rate, my mother will blog my teen years in detail as well and ruin any chance I might have had to have a social life. Can't she just leave me alone??

30 March 2010

Fighting Brothers

I'm so tired of it. Elf and Emperor need to knock it off. They are constantly fighting over who gets to read more and who gets more cuddle time with their mom and I get complaints like, "I read a page with a picture, so that doesn't count as a whole page."

And of course, I get responses like, "But YOU went first with the reading time so **I** should get more pages..." followed by, "But YOU got to look at the pictures while you were reading, so **I** should get ten extra pages..."

And that is MYYYYYY pencil. Nevermind that it's a standard yellow pencil just like the other one; I just *sharpened* it. SO it's like you're making me DO ALL THAT WORK for free and it's NOT FAIR! I mean, really, it's five steps over to the electric pencil sharpener. You have to hold the pencil in the sharpener for 30 seconds or so. (I'm really worried about the kid getting traumatized over this horrible loss.)

And I know that the children in Haiti and the Sudan are weeping for Elf and Emperor because horror upon all horrors, we live in unsanitary conditions that would make them blanch with disgust. Elf touched his sock during school time and THEN TOUCHED HIS SCHOOLPAPER. I know. It's just so gross that it's hard for you to imagine. All the foot-sweat the kid must have been building up since his shower two hours before this incident... well, it's too terrible to contemplate.

But the ultimate - the ultimate, I tell you - awful thing happened today. Emperor wouldn't share his answers to questions like, "Who is unable to complete a perfect work of salvation from sin?" and "Why did Jesus Christ suffer and die for sinners though He had no sin and deserved no punishment?" Poor Elf was floundering on his own. He wanted to make sure he had just the right answer! It wasn't fair that Emperor wasn't sharing! I was cleaning the kitchen at the time and dealing with the telephone, so I told Emperor just to share already and went back to work.

By the time I got back, they were punching each other. Apparently, the answers to the Easter lesson are trade secrets that even Mom cannot command to be discussed openly. I think we need to call all the missionaries home now, because it's not fair other people are asking for the answers and not working to arrive at right doctrine on their own.

Um... I really let 'em have it. I'm not a screamer; I SING at my children when I am angry. If I'm really, really furious, I will clap my hands a lot with the singing. I figure it's better than beating the stuffings out of a kid, even if it does sound awful. I took 22 minutes (Emperor counted) to have a "discussion" with them about the error of their ways, and how they really should be in tears, repenting before God right now with lots of wailing because they were just *that* bad (Emperor's, "but wailing is annoying. Why can't I just talk to God?" got him an answer he didn't really want to hear at that point).

And how certainly, martyrs are dying *right now* to bring the gospel message to the heathen in the hinterlands (where? we never studied that place? *nasty look from Mom* No, I'm just asking!! ... show it to me on the map so I can look it up, ok? *gggrr* Um... I will ask you later... I ... guess... if I can remember later... ok, I'm listening now).

Arg.

As I was saying, martyrs are dying *right now* to bring the gospel message to the hinterlands, and you can't even share a workbook page titled, "God is Love" with your brother?? Aaaa... waaahhhh... blah blah blah really lonnnnng lecture blah blah. Now you need to get this done and Emperor, you'd better help the Elf finish the work.

"But I can't write anymore!" Elf wailed. "Emperor took my *best* pencil!"

Arg. As I was saying... blah blah blah big lonnnnng lecture blah blah and you have FIVE OTHER PENCILS blah blah can we just get back to the schoolwork?

OK.

(Whew!)

Of course, it only took ten minutes to complete three worksheets once they worked together.

After dinner, I told Elf and Emperor to sit at the kitchen table and get ready for reading time. Yay; my fave part of the day schoolwork-wise. Wouldn't you know it, though, as I was coming across the room to sit down I saw them fighting *AGAIN.*

"Oh, hiiiii!" Elf said smiling.

??

I see Emperor's smiling little face pop up behind the Elf. "What's going on?" I asked. I *know* I saw them jostling each other.

"We're best friends!" Elf said with delight. Emperor is nodding vigorously in the background.

"Oh, reeeeeeeallly?" Sarcasm is my forte.

"Yes. And Mom," he said in his little Elf voice, "We know that if we fight, you will come over and ask a lot of questions. So we have decided something. We don't want you to interfere with our disagreements. We have discovered that nothing good comes out of it."

Welll... should I have thanked him or told him I felt insulted?

28 March 2010

Panda Time




We made ours with Bendaroos. These are wax-covered strings that can be bent, cut and otherwise formed so that one can make all kinds of objects. We found these hard to work with, although the directions were quite simple. It was hard to get the tubes to "stick" together and stay when more things were added. As you can see, we had to go through all kinds of mechanations to occupy Woodjie and Rose whilst making our creations. I had to drag out the puzzles and eventually just fed them lunch so we could keep working. It took that long. After we finished, Emperor wanted to know if we could do a zebra next. As in, right now? Nope.

26 March 2010

Feminism?

I'm quite pleased to live in an area that has regularly scheduled homeschooling programs in the local library as well as the usual preschool and toddler storytimes. Mind you, my children can't go yet; they get too overwhelmed. But it's nice that we have these regularly scheduled homeschooling programs, even if I can't make it there.

I asked the homeschool coordinator of our local library if I could do a presentation of some of the artwork I received from Picturing America. And she said yes! I was asked to do a presentation on the only two women whose works made it into the Picturing America portfolio, Mary Cassatt and Dorothea Lange, because March is Women's History Month.

Well, ok...

So I did some research. And naturally, I found that these were women who went against the cultural mores of the time. They were described as independent, stubborn... that sort of thing. More than one source I cited claimed that their works were instruments for social change, feminism, government intervention, blah blah blah.

So I presented that. Apparently reporting the facts that one finds... after being asked to do a presentation about these particular works... well, one reviewer stated that I was overly "politically correct" and had an agenda.

You heard it here first, folks. I am a radical feminist, and I was out to indoctrinate the little kiddies by telling them that sometimes ladies don't want to grow up, get married, and have lotsa babies and stay home. I'm almost sorry that I left out some of the more... interesting... facts, but sort of glossed over them in such a way that only the adults would understand if they were listening carefully during my presentations. I mean, I mentioned that Cassatt couldn't be trained in painting with men in art school because people didn't think it proper for ladies to see the "live models." Doggone it, but I *purposefully* neglected to specifically mention that the "live models" were butt-nekkid strumpets out to destroy the traditional family values we hold dear by allowing men to doodle their boobies, and I didn't mention that Cassatt must have been inherently evil for having any ambition whatsoever.

I was kinda miffed. The library lady who coordinated the presentation (did introductions, made sure tables were set up, that sort of thing) said to me later that as Christians, we would like the world to be a certain way, but sometimes we just have to go with where the facts lead us.

The facts (unfortunately, I guess) also led me to mention that there was this guy named Roosevelt, and this thing-o called the Resettlement Administration during the Great Depression, and that people were really starving and needed help. The background behind the picture I presented was really heartbreaking: a mom with seven children, and they've run out of food, and just sold the tires of their vehicle so the kids could eat, and now they're stuck. You would think if I were just a little more brazen, I'd have advocated for Obama personally popping into the ol' black and white photo to begin handing out unicorns and free pony rides and running up the national debt for these lowly moochers. The nerve of that hussy, photographing hungry people in the hopes that they could be helped.

Snippy little me thinks that when you get *too* extreme, you start to worry about whether the mom in the picture were picking frozen peas in a skirt and debating about whether it's proper for her to "work outside the home" at all, and ignore the fact that these people were hungry and desperate and likely didn't care where help came from if their children ate that night.

I told D about the bad review I got and he thought it was hilarious that I was called out for being a feminist. He's been calling me "Femmie" all afternoon. I'm not conservative enough to pass muster in homeschooling circles, I guess...

:P

25 March 2010

The Trouble With Tribbles


... is that they really aren't tribbles at all. These little creatures each have their own beds, but in the mornings are often found huddled up next to one another for sleepy snuzzles. Go away, Mom.

23 March 2010

What Should We Do With This Kid?

Obviously we love him. And he's doggone cute. But I do wish that there were a good plenty of books with actual, real, tested-in-someone-else's-kitchen (and shopping center!) advice on how to raise a mostly non-verbal autistic child.

Grant you, most run of the mill parenting magazines and books written for standard-issue child raising are stupid. I think I read a zillion of them for a little while. But really, after the first couple of "oh no, my kid is screaming" and "oh no, my kid is quiet and probably dead of SIDS; let's go check" months, you sort of know what you're doing with your children if they're pretty typical.

Usually little tiny people don't have what we term "common sense," but they learn enough of it before they get big enough to open the front door and walk out on their own. Woodjie hasn't left on his own yet, but I know that day is coming, and I don't know how to teach this idea that we don't wander off into the street or, as he did yesterday, pick up little spiders and squeal with delight.

I am only one person, but I am doing everything I can to protect him. I have asked around for a little help, but none is readily available. This post pretty well sums it up: "Now that you are not talking to (your family) anymore, where do you turn? Our days are filled with therapy appointments, learning, house cleaning, and some of us work on top of it all! We don't have time for friendships that bond and we are okay with that. Friends who previously were supportive have ditched us because they don't understand our children or our lives."

So here you are with a situation in which you're overworked, you're not sure what to do, AND you have zero support system. Hey, I love my bloggy friends, but they can't help in a pinch if I get the flu. And this sounds so, so selfish, but here it is: in "real life," I'm so busy treading water on a *good* day, that I just can't help you out and pay you back if you do me a favour today. So that right there makes me a bad friend. I swear to you that I used to be more of a *giver* than a *receiver,* but those days for the present moment are just plain over. Sorry.

If you've never lived with an autistic kid or three, maybe you don't understand. But kids who are nonverbal are not like kids who are deaf or mute. It isn't like living with Clarabell from the Howdy Doody show. True that Woodjie can nod his head "yes" and say, "No, thank you," but that doesn't mean that you can ask him questions that don't involve pictures or objects right in front of him. "Do you want pudding?" works. But more complicated ideas are impossible to communicate right now.

"Sorry, but we must wait in the doctor's office for two hours and not touch anything. I am strapping you down to the stroller so that you don't run away, because this clinic serves the prison population as well as very uninsured and sick people. Mom will freak out if you touch germy things or nibble on everything here. And after your very long wait, you will be undressed, poked and looked at by some guy you don't know. I expect you to please not scream, kick, and scream 'OWWWWW' and 'NOOOOOOO' continually and get us kicked out an hour and a half into the process. If you do this again, we will go BACK the next day and start over instead of going to Wal-Mart like we planned..." Well, ideas like that do NOT register as they are beginning to with my two-year-old. And the "he's into everything" toddler phase is magnified by about 100 with Woodjie. Rose is a cakewalk. Hard to explain. But trust me, you have no idea if you haven't been there.

So, while we're at home, I use the gate system and we're all happy for now. It's great. I'll take a bucket of toys out at a time, take little breaks and do activities upstairs, or just sit with him in his area. Things are more or less ok at home so long as I don't get distracted or do something foolish, such as actually have to go to the bathroom during his mealtime or get called away on the phone.

When I'm out at the doctor's and the like, I find I just do a lot of sh-sh-shhhh-ing and toss him quite a few little toys that can be scrubbed down later. I literally bust my guts (I had a BAD hernia situation before and it scares me when I feel my stomach muscles burning under the strain) trying to lift and carry him all the time, and my arms are tingling and my head hurting by the time I get home. It takes me two days to recover from a two-hour appointment; no kidding. And I look ahead to 15-year-old Woodjie and wonder how I can do all this when hormones kick in and he is 6 ft 2 like my other older children.

I guess this is just an "I'm feeling very overwhelmed of late" post. It's not that I'm feeling less blessed with this kid, or want to trade him in for another. Never! But I think feeling overwhelmed and misunderstood is probably common amongst parents like me, but we're so busy trying to communicate that OUR CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING that we often leave that part out when we talk with people who don't "get it."

And it's not that I'm sitting on my duff and not working on helping the Woodj-ster be as functional as possible. The big thing I'm working on with Woodjie is this idea that we want to STAY WITH MOM when we go places. I hope to teach him enough common sense that he understands that dependency. Really, once you understand that, you're beginning to understand that you are dependent on someone for a *reason.* Then you're ready to learn about some of those reasons (cars, strangers, etc.) and finally... you're ready to take some of the responsiblity for running your own life. That would be nice, for Woodjie to run his own life. I'd sure like to be able to dismantle the gate system and know that he will use the potty when he needs to go, not panic and run places he shouldn't be, that sort of thing. I would like to be able to take a shower when other people in the house are awake. Right now, my goals are pretty modest, but sometimes turning a goal into easy 1-2-3 steps is a bit above me. And they have to be easy and not one-on-one instruction-y things that I see all too often. I *do* have five other children, and some of them *do* have special needs and stuff.

I don't really have much of a peer group. I can't just get together with 20 other moms who have similar situations on a "playdate" and compare notes. I get a lot of feedback on the blog, and I *imagine* what other parents' kids are like based on what I read from their entries and comments. It's my lifeline, really. I know with these folks, I don't have to hear yet another story about weird Uncle Arthur who didn't talk until he was five because all his older brothers done kept on finishing his sentences for him, but then when he started talkin' he quoted about five of Shakespeare's sonnets, and now he is a professor of Doodledysquat at the University of Pittsburgh. Siiiigh...

20 March 2010

All About China



Patrick will be going to China in June, as he has raised enough money for his trip. So I thought our next Social Studies unit would be "stuff I pieced together all about China." Emperor and Elf used the stencils of Chinese symbols to design their very own Happy Elf Homeschool t-shirts. (Our school slogan is, "Happy Elf Homeschool: The Home of the Happy Elf," because I'm original like that).
*
D, G and I went to the Chinatown market in downtown Kansas City to search for things to share with the family. I bought lychees in a can. Patrick informs me that these are exactly the same consistency as a dissecting frog. Eeew, and they smell bad, too. D is scared that the can's contents could be poisonous, or need to be cooked first, and that sort of thing. SO I had to look it up on wikipedia. It's fine. We just didn't eat it.
*
I also bought some chili-ginger candies that... well, now that I have 'em out of the wrappers, look like sugar-coated cat poo. And have nuts in them. I also bought some sort of peach/ginger candy that no one could eat because the plastic is melted onto the candy and peels off in tiny strips. You will *never* get the candy free; one would have to eat a half-plastic, half-candy concoction. Needless to say, it's becoming obvious that Patrick will be mighty hungry by the end of his trip to China if this is the sort of food he'll be eating. But I did also buy Chinese pears. Apparently these taste just like apples, but they are about five times as expensive. (Oh, well.)
*
Another thing I bought at the market was a New Year's hanging of some kind. And I bought some cute paper money called joss paper. Welllll... you're supposed to BURN this money to help your ancestor ghosts. There was a lot of this stuff at the market, so I assumed it was a big part of Chinese culture, since it's important enough to have several brand names. The younger boys are enjoying it anyway. Patrick refuses to touch it now, even though he was very eager to play with the pretend money before he found out its usual purpose.
*
We are working on a BJU Booklink titled, "These Are My People," the story of Gladys Aylward. We also watched an old movie about Aylward titled "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness." Elf and Emperor found several inconsistencies between the book and the movie, but I think they very much enjoyed the movie now that they have read most of the book. We've done tear-paper pictures and shadow puppets as well as our t-shirt art and regular worksheets and reading. I'm reading the Chinese Stencils book with the children as, in addition to some really neat paper stencils, it gives the history of each design and a pretty nifty overview of the nation itself, its art, major religions, and what homes looked like in ancient times.

19 March 2010

What Should I Buy Today?

We're discussing plans for the day. The car is in the shop, requiring $2,250 worth of repairs (yes, you read that correctly), so D and I are figuring out who gets the van and where everyone will be for the remainder of the day.

"I want to get chickens!" G interjects, flapping his arms.

I know D is about to say, "NO CHICKENS!" because not only is he out $2,250 today, but outrageous and/or odd requests like this are made about every five minutes in this house. But I am quicker.

"That would be awesome! You should look into the city code to see if we can even have any in the first place, though. And you need to learn how to take care of 'em, how to feed them, what they need, how much it costs, and all that. *Then* we can get more serious about thinking about it."

"OK! Can we go to the farm store now?"

Well... yes. This conversation likely started because we were going to go anyway. G, God bless him, does not want clothes from anywhere but the farm store, thrift store, or local school district. So his shirts consist of chicken with egg - themed "Farm Boy" brand shirts, track shirts, and assorted worn out (but soft!) shirts from the thrift store. It's quickly becoming impractical to shop at thrift stores for G, however, as he is very tall but thin. Can't just pick up a 2x for the guy or he'll swim in it. A regular "large" will make him look like an emaciated Winnie-the-Pooh. And the school tees work well, but the school doesn't sell jeans for fundraisers. Time to go to Feldman's.

So when are the chickens coming in? One of the workers informs G that the store is going to get chickens on Tuesday. Tuesday. On Tuesday! It's etched in G's mind. Guess what he will ask to do after school on Tuesday?

Off to look at the pants. And chicken coop wire! Well, he will get a rooster and a girl chicken and within a few years, he'll have hundreds of chickens.

I'm thinking that on our little lot, likely the city code says you can have none. You aren't even allowed more than two dogs in the city limits. "What if the city code says you can only have two?" I ask him in one of those rhetorical tones.

This question throws him for a bit of a loop. Maybe he will just get a girl and boy chicken, and then eat the eggs. I'm thinking the eggs would have baby chickens in them, but I don't say anything except for the fact that maybe he wants to grow a pumpkin this year instead.

G tells me he wants a garden. A really big garden. Right in the middle of the backyard. I know how D would react to that one. But I want one, too, really. I just don't know how to set one up for cheap with no effort on my part. G tells me it's easy... you just find rocks and put them around where you want the garden, and then add seeds. I'm thinking it really takes professional landscapers to set up the koi ponds and waterfalls that I've seen other people seem to need to grow their green beans. And I know that if I did that simple "dig in the middle of the yard" thing without setting up some hugely raised beds on the lot, that D would mow right over my beautiful pumpkins on purpose. He would make some lame excuse about the pumpkins being too close to his trees and using up all the water, or "oops," he couldn't tell the difference between a GIANT PUMPKIN VINE and the nearby grass.

But G is insistent that he can set up a garden. I should purchase several packets of premium vegetable $eeds from the very front of the store near the $34.95 cell phone holders. I somewhat too easily convinced him that pumpkins would be better, since we had the seeds from the 12-pound pumpkin we grew earlier still. Not to mention, we know this kind of pumpkin can grow in our yard... so there you go.

"Let's call Dad right now and tell him we need to set up our garden!"

It's getting dark outside. I'm thinking maybe we shouldn't say anything right away, but wait for a better time, don't you? (Yeah, I guess...) I think to myself that maybe he'd like growing a pumpkin, if he finds a good spot for it and sticks with the project. Problem is, he'll likely tire of the idea right when the hard work starts.

The second we arrive home, G interrupts his father with his garden plans. D looks incredulous and his answer isn't very diplomatic. He "reminds" G about the three-foot square area by the mailbox he promised to weed out for the season *last* year, and how much complaining he did about it. (Yeah, probably no way in la-la land we're getting chickens or a giant garden this year, but I'm ready to be convinced he can do all the work and follow through. I think it would be a lot of fun as long as it's not yet something else I wind up saddled with...)

Poor G trudges downstairs to the laundry room about in tears. "Buddy, I *told* you not to ask Dad right away, but find a better time, didn't I?"

"Well, I thought you meant just not to call right then, but to wait 'till we got home," he explains. "It's all my fault I do things wrong."

Awwww. Poor dejected fella. "It's not your fault you have autism and knowing stuff like this is hard for you," I tell him. "Maybe just wait 'till Mom tells you it's a good time to ask Dad next time."

He nods. We talk a little about his new farmer-meets-rap star jeans and new socks, and he cheers up considerably. "Well, I can't wait until Tuesday! I'm not sure what kind of chickens I'm gonna get!"

18 March 2010

Please Leave the Store

If you're in Wal-Mart and like declare to your appreciation for big butts (and you cannot lie), there's a whole section on youtube made by people just like you, baybee. Now somehow, it's "news" that Wal-Mart corporation is "shocked" that someone would use the intercom system to make a racist announcement and is covering its big butt with a bunch of legalese regrets. And it's so tragic that the county offers offended customers grief counselling. I can't believe in all seriousness that anyone *really* imagined an "all black people, leave the store now" quip was a genuine announcement from the management... though... not being there, I couldn't tell you. My question is, given the fact that these youtube videos are widely established, why didn't stores take action to *prevent* announcements like this from being made in the first place?

16 March 2010

This Blog Post Brought To You By

Teddy Roosevelt. I don't know why; Elf was very insistent that you *must* appreciate his impersonation. Thanks.

15 March 2010

These Are My People

We're going through the Bob Jones Booklink on the true story of Gladys Aylward, the Chinese missionary. The Booklinks have several fun hands-on activities as well as the usual worksheets you'd expect. Here are our "shadow puppets" made of black paper, brads, masking tape and straws. D has set up a large light he uses for leatherworking in the background so that the boys could put on shows for Miss Pretty-Pretty and the Playskool gang.

14 March 2010

The Joke That Went Too Far

Usually I try to see the teacher's perspective on name-calling and bullying in the classroom. I know of several oversensitive kids and their parents who really can't get a joke. Sometimes, parents also forget to keep in mind that there is definitely a "cultural" side to the way in which one person jokes with another.

Here, silly people are called Dorcas Brains, as in "you're being a dork" in a friendly, almost Biblical, way. And I know folks who call their children sh*theads and that sort of thing, and they don't mean anything bad toward the little tots. It's not something I'd do, but the kids are used to it and it isn't meant to be demeaning. The tone is teasing, not humiliating.

But now, take that little word to school with you, and it has a whole new meaning to people outside that culture. A teacher calling a kid a sh*thead would definitely be out of line.

Same thing with "loser."

I was kinda thinking before I clicked over to this story that "loser" would be ok to a point. As in,"Don't be a loser! Study for your test." I think we ought to give the benefit of the doubt whenever reasonably possible. (I know I'd appreciate it if I had to teach so many students! One comment taken out of context could ruin a career!) When I was in high school, a beloved social studies teacher would hand out a "Golden Shovel Award" (really just a spraypainted plastic shovel) for the essay with the most BS that year.

The winning essay was read with much giggling from the whole class. Probably today, the teacher wouldn't be able to get away with that due to privacy concerns, but back then, the recipient of the award and the entire class thought it was pretty funny.

This story isn't. It sounds a bit beyond friendly teasing... and it makes me wonder how much other stuff is going on that is NOT written down.

13 March 2010

Family Update

Woodjie

Guess what Woodjie can do? Yup. He can go potty!

Well, a little. He still wears a diaper. He still has to be assisted. He doesn't talk, so I just time about an hour and take him. Like the rest of the boys, he goes wayyyyy off to the right, so you about have to stand him sideways and hold things in place.

He loves to flush. Our water bill is pretty high now, as you can well imagine. But he doesn't understand about the poop thing. At all. I am still working on not doing the "shakeshakeshake... shakeshakeshake... shake your little weeeeener" dance too early for obvious reasons.

Was that TMI or what? I was chatting with one ol' college friend today who told me that nothing can be TMI if you've already typed it on your facebook page. He's a very funny guy. *waves at friend because I know he's reading* :)

Elf and Emperor

They're taking swimming lessons at the local community center with mostly four- and five-year-olds. They haven't noticed yet. Or they don't care. They're just there to learn how to swim and seem pretty serious about it. Emperor has a very hard time straightening his legs and kicking. I'm thinking it's the same lack of control that prevents his handwriting from being the neatest. Speaking of which...

They're typing. A little. They have learned how to use the home keys and the top QWERTY row. They tried Typer Shark and were amazed at how quickly they got eaten by the fishes. If you have AOL as we do, you can play for free by going to the "games" part of your welcome screen and searching for "Typer Shark." Their rating: chum.

G

Not sure what to do with this boy. He has continued to punch walls and remove his cast while his broken hand was healing. He now has a lump where the bones didn't heal right. I'm mad at the ER doctor for not casting it, at the orthopaedist for not casting it, and at G for not FOLLOWING THE STUPID INSTRUCTIONS to leave his cast on except for bathing, and to take it easy. Arrrg.

I guess his hand is as healed as it is ever going to be. It's hard to see your kids make choices that are not in their own best interests.

Patrick

... is going to CHINA in June with the school orchestra. Yep. He's raised $1500, despite not having a job, by going door to door selling tickets, shovelling snow, and babysitting. Mostly babysitting. He gets $5 an hour. How many people do YOU know who can pay $5 an hour (plus $2 per poopie change) and have good, reliable care for four other children, two of whom are autistic? Oh! And said teen takes the quirks of each child into consideration. I have a good deal going on.

Music lessons are also $5 an hour. Can YOU get music lessons from a knowledgeable teenage scholar, for TWO children, for $5 an hour? Bargain time! I wish I had a big boodle of money and an extra Patrick. Then I could have childcare for the younger ones AND music lessons at the same time. No. I want three Patricks, because the third one needs to clean my house. He refuses to do toilets, though, but I guess we all have our limits. :)

Miss Pretty Pretty

Rose is still a "speech kid" for the most part because she rarely speaks and when she does, it's usually mm-MMM! (as in "no") or a one-word utterance that only people in the family understand. Still, she is learning her colours and knows two letters. She sleeps in a big bed but must have her low-ahs (stuffed flowers) and dolls and other assorted pillows in with her. She must be tucked in a certain way, too. We discovered that one night when she fell out.

09 March 2010

The Job Application

We're reading These Are My People by Mildred Howard. It's about Gladys Aylward and her missionary work in China. We're going to study China as Patrick will be heading out there in June. Right now, we're in the part of the story where Gladys is filling out job applications. Here are the sample job applications, with Elf and Emperor's answers in red.

Name Elf
Date of Birth (given)
Position for which you are applying Pastor
Why do you think you would be good at this job?Because I love Jesus
Last year or grade of school completed Colege
Previous work experience choures
Give the name of one person who knows what kind of worker you are. Mom
Hobbies/Talents reading
Give the name of one person who knows what kind of attitudes you have. Mom

Name Emperor
Date of Birth (given)
Position for which you are applying Police
Why do you think you would be good at this job? beCause I'm strong
Last year or grade of school completed 3rd grade
Previous work experience household chores
Give the name of one person who knows what kind of worker you are. Mom.
Hobbies/Talents Talent: math
Give the name of one person who knows what kind of attitudes you have. our Mom.

08 March 2010

More Kitchen Pics


Made some little valances and covered a bulletin board for my kitchen. It looks "busy" again, but at least we have a "blue and white pottery" sort of theme with the busy-ness.

06 March 2010

The Shock! The Horror! Letting Tots Watch Baby Einstein!

What on earth is this world coming to? Do these parents not know how horribly they will corrupt the young minds in their charge? Don't you know that precious IQ points begin fly out the window after your TV screen has been on exactly 45 minutes?

But my goodness, I'm just in awe of this mom, who survived spending more than an hour ALONE in the house with her child:

"The thing is, raising a small child involves a lot more than sitting in the playroom, giggling together over a pile of board books. There’s also washing at least three loads of clothes per week, vacuuming up the dust bunnies so the baby doesn’t eat them, preparing healthy meals and chopping them up into tiny pieces, scrubbing the dishes (and the highchair, and the floor under the highchair) clean of all the pieces of food the baby deems inedible."

What an incredibly busy and harried mom! Three loads of laundry a week, I tell ya! Scrubbing things and vacuuming dust bunnies! Wiping up the baby's tray AND chair AND the floor? Will the tragedies never end???

Just try to picture this horrid scene: her husband was away at work ALL NIGHT and left her in charge of the baby, who (shockingly!) got messy at dinnertime so... just this once, she let the child watch Baby Einstein while she ran and got a bath ready. She must be Supermom. Maybe she can give all you military moms with spouses overseas lessons or somethin'.

Three loads of laundry per week. I'm still in awe. I don't know how she does it!!

05 March 2010

Bible Verse of the Week!

I want you to listen *carefully* and tell me who the Bible verses are about and why we might be learning them, ok? Listen:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:3-4)

*gasp!*

"MOM!" Emperor jumps up like a little frog. "The verses are about FRANKENSTEIN, the creature FRANKENSTEIN made! THAT's why we're reading these verses this week! I didn't know the Bible had Frankenstein it it!?? Can we read the rest of the book and find out what happens to him?"

Um... sure... we... can... finish... Frankenstein. And ummm, Frankenstein's monster was certainly a "man of sorrows" and "rejected of men," but the verses aren't... really... about that...

Elf rolls his eyes. "It's about JESUS. Everyone knows Bible verses are all about JESUS."

"Wellll, yeah," Emperor says defensively. "I just thought maybe Mom was reading from another version besides the King James."

It's a BOY!

Emperor peeled this from a cutie. Elf thinks that it will sell on eBay for at least $11,000. Emperor says he should get alll the money. I told him no, since I'll be paying the taxes on it, I'll be getting some as well. Emperor kindly offered me $4,200 of the total sum. Elf has been dancing about because this means he'll have enough for a Nintendo DS!! YAYYY! "Oh, wait!" he said. "TITHE! The pastor will have enough for a DS, too!"

04 March 2010

My Kitchen Before and After!







Remember the Polish pottery I got at the thrift store a bit ago? I've finally found a way to display it! The floral kitchen look was fun while it lasted, but with all our other stuff around, it looked very "busy" and could use a good update anyway. Well, here it is! And what a dusty job that was. My house is *relatively* clean, but jobs like wiping down all the windowframes and cleaning under the microwave during the painting process were a bit... humbling. It took me all morning to complete most of the painting, and a good part of the afternoon hanging stuff and touching up the edges. *whew* Patrick paid me the highest compliment when he told me that the look is so country rustic that he will have to look out the window frequently to be sure he's not in the countryside. :)

03 March 2010

Unhappiness.

Dear Reader: I'm not allowed to grab my brothers' glasses and throw them. People yell at me and make me sit in time out when I do that! I can't rip books. Or throw toys. Or get a third helping of cheez-balls. Or go out every day and get expensive items that catch my eye on the Wal-Mart shelves. I'm having a hard time with these mean, rotten people who are trying to teach me "good character and deportment." Perhaps you can come over and advocate for me. Tell Mom and Dad you want to discuss "Miss Pretty-Pretty" when you come over... they'll know who you mean. Bring lots of money and sugar products to keep me occupied whilst you chat. Sincerely, "the Girl."

02 March 2010

Odd Stuff Post.

... full of odd things that don't require a whole post apiece.

The Happy Elf Homeschool

In our homeschool, we've been working on typing. Elf and Emperor know the home keys and most of the keys in the top row. I haven't taught them q, p, g, and h as yet. Otherwise, we have the top two rows down letter-wise. Emperor still hunts and pecks when he has a writing assignment on his AlphaSmart. Sometimes I will make him do his typing practice on the computer because I will know if he is "cheating" by looking at his fingers while typing, but he hates this because the computer feels different and the letters are spaced differently. And it isn't his speeeecial machine. Ok, then. So don't let me catch you cheating again, kid. I have seen him think about not looking in the right place a few times, but he hasn't really fallen down on the job yet.

I've also printed out a small "QWERTY Keyboard" picture and hung it under the computer screen for Elf and placed Emperor's on the back of our pencil holder. Now when they're tempted to look at their fingers, they need to look at this and think about which finger to use next and where all the letters go. Well, it's a work in progress.

Reading About Homeschooling

I picked up "Homeschooling the Child with AUTISM" (Amazon link) at the library recently, but haven't really been able to look at it too closely. Elf caught sight of it and got very upset. He said I ought NEVER read anything about changing our school. He likes our school just the way it is! PLEAAAASE don't change anything, Mom!

He said to please not read the book. Please. Emperor is of the opinion that if the book says that I am to give them less work, that I should be allowed to look at it. I told Emperor that I have NO IDEA what advice it would offer until I'm able to read it. Emperor said maybe I should just leave it and not look at it ("...just in case it says to give a lot of work," he mumbled under his breath as he walked away).

Do your kids attempt to censor your reading like mine do?? Not that it works. I want to educate my kids well and get all kinds of ideas. It doesn't matter if those ideas come from public school educators, people with autism, people who educate special-needs children, or other parents. I liked reading this article by a public schoolteacher who began homeschooling. It's been linked about everywhere on the blogosphere already, but I'd like to share with you the fact that I appreciated that she became more humble through the experience (being that SOLELY responsible for the education of your children will do that to you).

I also hope that she is respected and valued in the homeschool community for her ability to teach larger groups. I don't see where she should be *ashamed* at having once been a public school teacher, or never bring it up as it might naturally arise in a conversation. I have gotten plenty of insight from these teachers in the past, and my educational career with my children isn't over yet. Here's hoping we all see ourselves as fellow learners who are continually improving and sharpening our skills... Most of us do, unless we are

Those Unschoolers, Who Are Lazy-Asses

Blog link, or read my extremely loose synopsis/almost actual quote: "Of course, unschoolers don't qualify as people who are really teaching at all. They're sitting around and just letting kids do whatever they want. As a smarmy and self-righteous potential homeschooler myself, I just want to say that anyone should be able to prove at any time that they are actually homeschooling. I mean, I would be ready for my kids to jump through rings for some lady they haven't seen for months in the middle of the grocery store because I'm all organized like that and am ready for these impromptu pop quizzes. We all know that people who are REALLY homeschooling wouldn't find their kid going on and on about video games... right??! Based on my being nosy in the grocery store and quizzing some kid and his mother about their homeschooling habits, choice of curriculum, hours of actual instruction and educational methodology, I'm just going to go all-out crazy on every homeschooler who doesn't meet the gold standard of some guy I'm vaguely related to who 'homeschools' under the guidance of a 'real teacher.'"

Oh, and here's an ACTUAL quote:

"I'm going to start driving around with standardized tests and bust people."

See, I have a different stereotype in my head about those horrid unschoolers, which is why I can never become one. So far as I know, if little Joey asks a question about whales, you must immediately drop everything, go to the ocean, interview a marine biologist and give Joey time with the whales. He must learn about how to operate all the whale sound equipment. It isn't a complete visit if he doesn't also learn the history of whaling and memorize a few facts about krill, the ecosystem, and learn to differentiate each whale type by region.

Even watching TV can be a difficult educational experience. If Joey wants to hear about Plankton because he saw Spongebob, we MUST see plankton under the microscope. Draw plankton. Create plankton sculptures that are true to scale using painted styrofoam shapes and coloured cellophane from Michael's craft center. Labelled with proper spelling. It must be done that week as we ought not wait... that would stifle the immediacy and joy of the learning experience.

Don't get me started on the etsy shop every unschooler must open for himself, selling world-class eclectic handmade goods from recycled materials, creatively reconstructed into imaginative and fanciful crafts as well as useful items. We don't grade, the unschooling family says, but since Joey grossed about $75,000 from his etsy shop, we think we will learn Swahili in Kenya next year on the proceeds. Granted, it's a bit of a structured curriculum with an "end" in mind when we set up a class objective in this fashion, but we think occasionally we can bend the rules. This time, we are bending them by making a few, since we didn't have rules to begin with.

I'm tired and broke just thinking about what a task unschoolers do every day. Lazy butts, they are not. :)

01 March 2010

Ducky Math!

I put a couple plastic ducks out to encourage the children to participate in the teaching time during math. When you think you know the answer to my question, pick up a duck, put it on your head and say, "Quack! Quack! Quack!" before letting me know the answer. Suddenly, I have some very eager math ducks on my hands. People who shout out the answer without saying "Quack! Quack! Quack!" get no credit. People who shout out the answer to the entire math problem, but not my QUESTION get no credit, either. Listen carefully! I might ask you what unit the problem is asking for, or how many quarts you STARTED with.

The Homeschool Holy War

I dunno that there is one. But this old post on an Assemblies of God blogring I came across makes me wonder if some people in the ministry might just be taking parenting decisions of others a liiiiiiittle too personally. A children's pastor states that homeschoolers often come in with this haughty, elitist attitude and don't let their kids "mix" with the other kids.

Oh! Her words of advice go vaguely sorta like this: "If you're a homeschooler, you need to be supportive of the church leadership. If the church leadership provides a children's pastor and has children's programs, you should show you're 'supportive' by sending your kids off to them. If you don't like the children's ministry, you can leave the church... but don't take any other families with you! That would be most un-Christlike of you, because those people belong to us. We own 'em."

I'm sorry, there's a line that oughtn't be crossed around here somewhere, even if it is a bit blurry. I think people need to butt out of the parenting decisions of others unless they're specifically asked for advice. Tell me I *need* to support the children's programs at the church? *Never* say anything bad about staff? Um... no. Though I will certainly agree with her that we should pray for our church leaders and not say things about them we wouldn't say TO them. And even beyond that, I think there should be a certain level of honour and respect the title of "pastor" should carry. With very few exceptions, we should disagree *respectfully* with people who have followed the call to ministry.

Not that I've arrived at this mythical place where we always speak the truth in love. But it's a nice ideal. I know there is a balance between total rugged independence and being "accountable" to leadership. The former leads to whatever-you-want- ism and the other leads to finding yourself a member of a cult in ten years and addressing some other chick as "sister-wife."

I can "get" where someone like this blogger is probably coming from. No doubt pastors deal with a wholllle bunch of backbiting and gossiping and that sort of thing, and for my part, I'm glad I don't know the half of it. But maybe let's let me be the parent of my own kids. If I don't want them hanging out with the worldly kids in Children's Church, then they won't be hanging out with the worldly kids in Children's Church. If I have a criticism, I usually try to take it up with you, but I'm certainly not obligated to shut up if I don't get my concerns answered to my satisfaction.

By the way, my children will not be going to Children's Church for the forseeable future. But did anyone ask me in the last several months about how the program might be altered a bit to accomodate my children? Hey, it's a small enough church, and my kids have enough special needs that it probably isn't asking too much on my part to expect a phone call or short conference asking about how we could make the area more Elf and Emperor- friendly. Do you even know the real reason we aren't sending our kids to Children's Church? It has nothing to do with homeschooling; I can tell you that much!

One of these days when I think the CP is ready to listen, I'm going to have a few things to say. I don't think either of us will enjoy the discussion, and a discussion isn't going to necessarily change things for the better. I'm afraid it might make things worse, and so I keep putting it off. I have soooo much conflict in my life already right now that I'd hate chancing a blowup (on my part!) and my having to leave. Siiigh. And yet he isn't a bad guy on the whole. I just have a bad temper when I feel my kids have been wronged and don't trust *myself* very well yet to be calm about things. And odd as it sounds, I don't feel "led" to discuss it with anyone just yet. That is... not a usual feeling for me. I'm usually pretty forthright, and I probably will be much more so with you, dear reader, once I feel the issue is addressed (or not addressed) and I've given the CP a fair chance to address it.

But suffice to say, it isn't the worldliness of the other kids or the fact that the NIV is used that keeps my kids with me in "big church." Not that I like the worldliness of the other kids or the fact that the NIV is used. That's just not the reason.

If you're a pastor, and you're finding that your church's homeschooling families are leaving in droves, it isn't *necessarily* because they're overly picky about the other congregants, or even because of anything whatsoever to do with homeschooling at all. Though sometimes the pickiness of parents can come into play, it's true. Don't take it personally, but several families leaving for similar reasons should clue you in to a problem that's beyond their "pickiness." It's either your problem or theirs, and you can only do something about your own and pray for the people at the next church who will inherit theirs...

But while I'm on the subject of picky parents, I feel the need to mention that it isn't just homeschooling parents who can be perceived as bossy and overinvolved with their children. It's those crazy GenX parents of public schoolers as well. Those GenXers are bossy, nasty people who don't just take the status quo for their kids. They have unrealistic expectations. They're totally unfair. Blah blah blah.

Really.

You can't win, folks. I'm thinking the best you can do in any situation is to try to look at it from another viewpoint and "manage your expectations." And while I think parents ought to try to be reasonable folk, parents should have the last say-so on what goes on with their children. Why do I think that? Because I'm the MOM; that's why. :)

Star Trek Roller Skating!

Woodjie LOVES the audience.  I made these little outfits for the children and they danced to the Star Trek: Next Generation theme...