Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Give It Your Best Shot

In preparation for the upcoming hockey season, Anna went to a hockey clinic.  Here she is all "geared up" for it.

It was the first time she wore full gear, and she thought it was pretty funny stuff.  She's still begging to take dance. Dad's still dreaming of a hockey star.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sensitivity Training

Let me start by saying that after you read this post, you are going to like me less. Two of my fellow bloggers, Cari and Joanne, just posted about things people unwittingly say that cut us, parents of kids on the spectrum, to the core.  Just a few years ago, I was one of the worst offenders myself.  I confess that I often said "That is SO retarded" or "I am so retarded." One time someone gently corrected me on this, and I thought to myself, "What expressions are left that you can say in this politically-correct world?"

It gets worse. All the time I was randomly spouting off the "R" word, I had no idea that one of my long-time co-workers was silently going through his daughter's autism diagnosis. Guess when I found out? About a year later when my twins got their diagnosis. I was in tears telling my manager, and she said, "[Co-worker]'s daughter was also diagnosed with some developmental issues. I think it was autism. He doesn't really talk about it. I don't think too many people know."  My manager must have talked to this co-worker right after I left her office because about ten minutes later, he motions me into a conference room to talk.  I learned all about his daughter's story, and there were many kind words of understanding. I'm pretty sure my jaw was on the floor when I first found out that one of his kids had autism.  I mean, I talked to this person everyday.  I had already worked with him for eight years at this point.  And all the while I had no idea what he and his family had been silently enduring.  Looking back, I know I asked him all the normal baby and kid questions about his daughter. I'm sure I thought his answers were short because men don't always elaborate on all the baby stuff.

Now, three years later, we're both quiet about our kids' issues, and some of our co-workers still have no idea that we both have kids on the spectrum, but I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that there is someone in my office who just understands. A lot of my co-workers have kids, and when everyone was going on about how awesome their kid was doing in school or soccer or whatever, I knew there was at least one other person there who understood that I was juggling ABA, OT, and speech instead of soccer, dance, and Chinese.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unexpected Great Finish & Handwriting Motivation

It's Friday.  It feels like it's been a challenging week, which is probably why the flow of my blog came to a near halt.  Every day this week Ehren and Christian have had "color changes" at school, which means a lot of behavior issues (talking when they weren't supposed to, not following directions, tipping back on their chair, swinging their backpack and hitting someone one with it, writing in a school book...).  Ehren is still struggling with his in-class work, so he brings home a lot each night.  In addition to completing all this work, he needs to work on his math, memory work, Bible readings, and vision therapy exercises.  Did I mention he's a slow eater?  Plus, I really want him to get some exercise after school, but it's hard to fit it all in and get to bed before 8:30 pm!

As far as I can tell, Anna seems to be sailing right along in Kindergarten.  She is very proud when she takes responsibility for herself (packing her backpack; being the first one all ready and in the van in the morning; choosing and matching her own clothes).  She's very independent-minded, and actually told me she would prefer it if I would just drop her off instead of walk her into school each morning.  Her strengths and weaknesses could not be more different than the boys'.  She has great penmanship, great art skills, great speaking skills, great socializing skills and is very athletic.  But she doesn't remember her sight words (the boys were great at this), and she has trouble with "Think of a word starts with [fill in a letter here]."  Lucky for me, she doesn't really have homework so far, so we can work on these things.

BUT, this long week had an unexpected great finish.  First, neither of the boys had a color change at school today.  Second, they brought home two weeks worth of corrected papers (second grade teachers have a lot of papers to correct!), and there were some good surprises.  Let me mention that I completely forgot about that "whole spelling test thing" last week.  We never even looked at their spelling words at home.  Despite this, Christian got all 15 of his spelling words correct on the test, and he also got two out of the three challenge words (these are extra credit).   Just in case you were wondering, "Echxsideing" is the really complicated way to spell "exciting."

Ehren got only one wrong, so still an "A" on last week's spelling test.  Both boys got one "A" and one "B" on their math tests.

But, the best news is that Christian got his first ever "S+" in handwriting! 

Last week, when Ehren and I really started hitting the handwriting hard, I said all-exciting-like:  "What if you got an S+ in handwriting?"  My super-bargainer and quick-thinker said, "If I get an S+ in handwriting, can I play Plants vs. Zombies?"  This game has been completely banned in our house for a long time, but Ehren and Christian still wish they could play it.  Thinking this would never-in-a-million-years happen, I replied (so both boys could hear me), "If you get an S+ in handwriting, you can play Plants vs. Zombies for an hour.  Plus, I'll be so excited I'll be jumping up and down."  You cannot believe how hard they have been working on their handwriting for the last two weeks.  Even though Ehren hasn't seen an "S+" yet, all the worksheets he brought home except one had an "S."  In under two weeks, he's gone from this:

 to this:

To top off my Friday, Christian asked me if he could give five minutes of his time playing Plants vs. Zombies to Ehren.  Of course, I said "yes."  I have always loved Fridays!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Holy Social, Batman!

When Anna's first piece of Kindergarten artwork came home last week, I was going to do a mock art review, "In her first new work this year, up-and-coming artist Anna Banana creates a memorable mixed media representation of a boat on the water.  This untitled piece layers Crayola washable marker and crayon over graphite to form a bold image splashed with bright neons..."

But then this week, a whole pile of artwork showed up in her backpack, at least 12 pages.  I thought, "Wow, she's spending a lot her free time drawing."  When we finally got a chance to sit down and look at it together, I realized it was more like, "She's spending a lot of time socializing,"  About half of it was exchanges with friends.

I love how in his picture (lower right), Will put Anna in a box with his little brother, while he's above them.  Not sure what that means, but it's all pretty cute to hear about from Anna.  I'm glad she's interacting with her classmates.  And the best part is that I already know two out of these three kids -- the benefits of a small school.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pigeons Count as Pets, Right?

We have somehow managed to keep three of our goldfish alive for about a year, and that's been challenging.  My kids would love to have more pets, but you know who would be caring for them.  I'm not ready to make that kind of time and financial commitment. 

Earlier this summer, we had a "pet" chipmunk.  He adopted our deck after we started eating dinner outside.  There were lots of leftovers beneath our patio table.  Every morning, he showed up for his breakfast on the deck as we were eating our breakfast indoors.  He was the perfect pet.  Then one day we found him belly-up in our tomato garden.  I have no idea what happened.

A couple of weeks ago, we found a new friend on our deck.

This pigeon is tame.  He flies up to the deck and walks right up to the kids.  He must belong to someone because he has numbered bands on his legs.  Maybe he just visits us on his outings.  The kids love feeding him.  He's very particular about his snacks.  He only likes bread and not the crusts.  We haven't given him a name yet, but we're open to suggestions.

The only problem is that he's going to be really difficult to bring to school for show and tell.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm Free!

With my new schedule, I get one day off work each week.  Last week after I dropped the kids off at school, I felt almost giddy with the freedom.  I'm free!  Well, sort of.  The list for my first "free" day went like this:  Get tax receipt for item donated to school; pickup my husband's birthday present, laundry catchup (at least four loads); plant the tulip bulbs I got for my birthday, relocate my Echinacea plant out of the raised bed my husband will be tearing out; get my cell phone fixed; deposit two checks; start marking kids clothes and toys for an upcoming garage sale...  Yeah, yeah, you get the idea, not totally free. 

But still, I got to sneak in a little garage-saling, I got to watch daytime TV while folding laundry, and I won't be doing laundry all day Saturday! This day is a gift.

First Week of School in Review

I know the kids have only finished the first week of school, but I was really excited to see these come home in Christian's backpack on Friday.  All A's.

And an "S" and "Much Better!" on Christian's second handwriting sheet this week!  I know what handwriting is supposed to look like in second grade, but as I've said many times, Ehren and Christian get less than satisfactory marks in this area, so this "S" was really exciting.  I know he really wants to to a good job.

Now, updates on the other two.  Ehren's been having a really hard time getting his in-class work done.  He had one "A" and a couple of "B's" on his work this week and no good marks in penmanship.  He can do it.  I just need to help him find a way to work out those wiggles.

It's hard to say exactly what Anna's been up to in her first week of Kindergarten, but I think it's safe to say it's going well.  Each day she comes home with three review questions about what they learned.  She had quick answers for Friday's questions: 

1.  How far away from the bus should we stand? 
She promptly answered, "twenty feet!"  When I asked her how far twenty feet was, she showed me an arm's length.

2. What type of letter do we use to start our name? 
She answered, "um, A!"  I prompted her further, "lowercase or uppercase?"  She answered, "Uppercase!" 

3. What did we read about in the Weekly Reader? 
She answered, "Animals."  I asked, "What was your favorite animal?" She answered, "The baby lions."  I asked, "Do you know what a baby lion is called?"  She knew it, and answered, "A cub!"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Plethora of Peppers

It's practically raining peppers in our garden.  Hot, sweet, green, purple, red, yellow -- we have them all.  I need to find something to do with them.  I'm also trying to find someone who wants to trade me broccoli or basil or apples for some of our peppers.  If you know anyone, send them to me.

In other news, we have a beautiful Cinderella pumpkin,

and two more shaped like the one below.  We planted two varieties of pumpkin plants plus some seeds someone gave us.  We got three pumpkins.  Not exactly a bounty, but perfect for three kids.

And then there's the watermelon.  I'm not sure even one of these will be ripe before it freezes.  No matter what I do, I can't seem to grow melons!

The good news is that we are still cooking from the garden, or from other people's gardens, as the case may be.  These potatoes are from my parents and the corn is from their neighbors.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Sweetest Sound

Yesterday when I was dropping the kids off at school, I heard:  "Ehren, Ehren..."  It was one of Ehren's classmates dying to tell him something exciting.  Ah, the sweet sound of friendship and acceptance.  Music to this mother's ears.

Now I just hope Christian is feeling some love too. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of K

The day before school started,

we had a little ceremony

to take down and photograph all of Anna's summer artwork.  Then her door was empty and waiting for all her new Kindergarten projects.

On the morning of the first day of school, Anna put on her specially-picked-out, first-day-of-school outfit.  Then I put her hair up in the "snails" hairstyle {as we call it in our family}.

At school, I got a really, really long hug good-bye.  I didn't think she would let go of me.  But she did.  And I think her first day went well.  But when she got home, she promptly fell asleep on the couch with Dad.  Fun, but exhausting!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bicycle Errand Upgrade

Knowing nothing about my last blog post, guess what my wonderful husband was doing?  He was at REI buying me a bike rack and grocery panniers for my birthday!  I was so surprised and excited when I opened my present.  He is really good at picking gifts I love (and that, my friends, is not an easy task). 

After having read a lot of reviews of grocery panniers online, I was a little worried about the "heel strike" problem (where the back of your foot hits the bottom of the panniers as you pedal).  However, when I took my super fancy new gear for a trial run, I had no problems.  Sometimes having small feet comes in handy.  Actually, it was my husband's great installation.  I know he put a lot of care into adjusting and testing, and he's a perfectionist at these things.  Not having the weight of all the groceries on my back was so much more comfortable.  And the panniers snap off or fold flat when not in use (not that I've been using my bike for anything else lately).  These are perfect!  And just so you know, this won't be turning into a fitness blog anytime soon, but I just had to share my excitement!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bicycle Errands

If you live near my house, you might have seen me riding my beat up 80's StumpJumper mountain bike wearing Christian's school backpack.  And you might have been laughing a little.

I'm pleased to report that I have now completed five grocery runs on my bike.  By the way, five out of five times, SuperTarget has NOT credited me for bringing my own bag.  I guess backpacks don't count when you ask to pack the groceries in them yourself.  Also, I know what you're thinking:  "You can't haul groceries for five on a bike!"  And you're right, but I'm a bad planner, and I'm always running out for just a few things.  The big shopping gets done at Costco on my way home from work anyway.

When I first thought up this idea, I started shopping online for a proper bike rack and grocery panniers.  But... I have this problem.  I can shop forever for the perfect equipment for my latest great idea. but as soon as I spend the money on the equipment, it's almost a guarantee that I won't get out and do whatever it was I was planning {that's the problem with being a dreamer}.  This time, I decided I better just get out there and try a few runs before investing in any new equipment.  I found that as silly as I might look, the school backpack works perfectly fine for now. 

Besides physically feeling great after my little errands, maybe there will be other benefits.  At my annual physical last year, I discovered that my cholesterol level was borderline high.  I was supposed to get it re-checked six months ago, but I've been putting that off because I haven't really gotten my whole diet and exercise plan on track yet -- especially the exercise part.  Maybe if I can keep up the bike errands, I'll have the courage to go get it checked again soon.  I'll keep you posted.   However, there is this looming problem of winter.  I can promise I won't be biking through slush and snow with groceries.  Dry conditions?  Yes.  Wet conditions?  Forget it.  I've had that black stripe of wet road grit painted up the back of my pants and shirt before... when I was a biking fanatic in college.  No thanks.  Not going there again.  We'll see what other grand ideas I get this winter.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't Underestimate This Kid

The last day we were at my sister's, everyone was ready to spend a relaxing day on the water.  I left the dock for awhile to check out a big auction at the nearby Mennonite church and school (that experience deserves a post of its own, but I have no photos).  To my great surprise, I returned to a seasoned, five-year-old water skier!  I was in shock.  First, I didn't even know my sister had any kid-sized water skis.  Second, I had no idea anyone was thinking about having the kids try to ski.  Third, Anna just turned five!  My sister and I both love to water ski (she's the better skier by far), but my parents had to nearly drown me several times during my childhood before I could actually ski.  I remember vividly all their unsuccessful attempts to teach me.  I finally learned at age 11, and then I loved it.  But really, FIVE?

Apparently, Anna popped right out of the water on her second try.  She skied several more times and loved it -- quite the little pro.  She was skiing by the dock smiling and waving at her adoring fans.  Anna seems to be so athletically gifted while her brothers struggle with sports.  I sometimes wonder, "What is God planning for this family?"  How will this work out for the boys -- having such a sporty little sister when they struggle?

Well, of course I didn't want Anna lording this over her brothers, so I convinced Ehren to give it a try.  He tried once:  no go.  He tried twice:  got a lot of water up the nose.  He tried a third time:  that was enough already!  I was disappointed, but not surprised {not surprised that he tried it -- he's a champ like that, but not surprised that he failed -- again, not gifted in sports}.

Afterwards, Anna was clamoring for another turn.  We let her ski around behind the little fishing boat for a long time.  When we returned to the dock, I was amazed to find Christian asking to water ski.  He has to come to things on his own terms.  There's no point in trying to convince him to try something, so I was glad (and surprised) that he decided on his own.  Truthfully, I was not hopeful about the outcome.  I don't think Dan was either.  But guess what?  On his second try, that kid popped right out of the water and skied for over four minutes!  He skied through rough water, made it through several turns, and was all around amazing!  I was almost in tears.  Here's short clip from his run on skis.  I had to edit out the sound because I was screaming in encouragement and excitement throughout the video.  Why do I underestimate this kid?  He's apparently a better skier than I was.