Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Check it out -- we were crafty this week!
One of my shortcomings as a homeschooling mom is that I'm just not that good at the arts-and-crafts thing. Partly, it involves gathering supplies, and towing three kids through Hobby Lobby in search of, say, Mod Podge, is just, well, not so recreational. But anyway, in an effort to infuse our learning with a bit of variety and really go hands-on, I decided to take advantage of Ian's newfound interest in knights and all things medieval (which means we've had some success in the history arena - yea!) and make a coat-of-arms with the kids yesterday. Here are the results:

Not bad, eh? I have to say, there were about ten minutes when I thought I was going to implode and chuck the whole thing since I get so frantic when I'm trying to set up the project and Caroline has dived right in and is, while I'm attempting to discuss heraldry with Ian and Eliza, insisting, "I need yellow. I need yellow. I need YELLOW. I NEED YELLOW!!!" (Picture yellow paint smeared everywhere; her "project," involving a hands-on exploration of color-mixing, is in full swing while the older two are just getting started.) In the midst of I misplaced three paintbrushes, all three kids were talking at once, as is their custom, Tim called to report his latest test grade, Ian decided in a characteristic fit of divergent thinking that he didn't particularly CARE for the rules of heraldry I was imposing on him (after all, I bought the book!), etc. etc. etc. BUT! This too did pass. Deep breath. Eliza's coat-of-arms actually has some significance in the medieval world (the crescent shows she's a second-born, the yellow color shows her generosity, red her courage, blue her loyalty, etc.). Ian's is meant to symbolize his CLUB, a elite organization comprising two members, him and Oscar, and representated by an object that, sorry honey, looks rather like a turtle but is actually a boy holding a giant water balloon with an arrow through it. Top THAT, Sir Lancelot.
[Oh. I'm supposed to interject here that my father-in-law is sitting behind me on the couch and wants to be sure that I record for posterity the fact that he thinks I'm great. :-)]

P.S. Guess who achieved some minor fame in the world of Bicycling Commuters this week! Woo hoo! He says to feel free to leave adulatory posts. :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A fine, fine day

The weather today could not possibly be more perfect (70s, sunny, leaves falling), and for once in several weekends, we are just home today until we go over to friends' house for dinner tonight. We biked over to a nearby farmer's market this morning to pick out pumpkins, and now all the kids, including Oscar, whom we refer to as our fourth child, are in the backyard launching water balloons from the treefort. Caroline didn't exactly understand that throwing her balloon would cause it to explode, but now we've learned that lesson and Big Brother in Shining Armor (make that Big Bro in Too Short Pants, yikes he grew since last March!) is off to make her a new one.
Vive l'autumne!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pictures from the TX coast

Here are a couple photos from our trip to Port Aransas last weekend. We were there with our friends and fellow homeschoolers and church members, the Dixon family, which includes three boys. I went with low expectations, since I had been spoiled by the Carolina coast and had been told such varying reports of the Texas beaches, but was pleasantly surprised. No, it wasn't Hilton Head, but the beach was wide and uncrowded in the off-season, the surf just right for our crew, the water not too cold, the trash under control, and the only problem was the ubiquitous man o'wars speckling the beach. (Funny story: the day after we got home, Caroline was with Tim and me in the kitchen and she started squealing, "A jellyfish! A jellyfish!" We looked closer and there on the floor was a smudge of butter, not one inch long, which indeed resembled the general outline of a jellyfish. LOL!) I always find that being at the ocean relaxes me(my MIL says it's something about the negative ions in the air) and quiets my soul. I can walk by the surf's edge and just converse with the Lord, or sit and make sandcastles with the kids with only the rhythm of the tide to keep time. There is, too the connection to some of my more pleasant childhood memories, like the summer I spent two weeks at my grandmothers' beach house on Fire Island and would sometimes get up before anyone else, walk down to the beach, and do a cartwheel or two and then just enjoy being alone with my deep, eleven-year-old thoughts. :-) The solitude was never frightening the way it would seem, say, in the woods. Just comforting. And, now that life is much more complicated, quite timely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

O what a night

What a red-letter night: first a scurry down the street with kids and neighbor in tow to watch the space shuttle fly over and blink out, then the Red Sox in the World Series in my home ballpark, giving thus far what might safely be called a drubbing to the Rockies -- woo hoo!

On a totally unrelated note, the other day Eliza learned a new word at co-op which she shared with us at dinner -- "temporary," or as she would say, "tempowawy." It was so cute to hear her try, in her careful and slow way, to explain the concept to Ian -- "It's like, you're not going to be that forever." We had an interesting discussion complete with examples -- Uncle Allen and Aunt Kristen are having a TEMPORARY move to Boston to take care of Grandmommy and Papa; Uncle Peter was going to TEMPORARILY evacuate from his apartment because his entire city was basically going up in smoke (which led to a discussion of wildfires which led to a discussion of something Ian read in Magic Treehouse about the San Francisco fire of 1905. Interesting.). I think Eliza got it down pat because the next morning she came and opened the shower door to ask me, "Mom, is Caroline a TEMPORARY baby??"

Yes, honey, she sure is.
(And does Mommy have very mixed feelings about that? She sure does.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why I married him

OK it wasn't EXACTLY this self-centered (but partly!) ...
Tonight I discovered that the reason I couldn't find my phone earlier this afternoon was that it wasn't anywhere in the house, or car, or stroller. All evidence pointed to the fact that I had somehow lost it at the park this morning (yes, another school-at-the-park day). I shared this info with Tim (why can't I react as calmly and amiably to Ian's absent-mindedness as Tim does to mine?) and then returned to my computer, where I sat feeling rather anxious over my, oh, fourth lost item of the month, and wondering how early I would need to get up tomorrow morning to go find it before leaving fr our morning fieldtrip. Well, guess who emerges a few minutes later with reflective vest and headlamp, ready to sally forth into the dark deeps? Sure enough, not 15 minutes later he returns, phone in hand. He had called it from his phone while walking to and through the park, listening and watching for the blinking screen to shine as a beacon in the dark, and and rescued it from peril on the steep hillside where I had been manhandling the stroller about 10 hours ago. What a guy! :-)
(Incidentally, I am reading a most enlightening book now called A Mind at a Time, and according to Dr. Mel Levine I'm not absent-minded; my brain has trouble with spatial ordering. Which is basically the exact opposite of Tim's brain. So there we go.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reading Aloud

On a totally different note from yesterday's post, I wanted to share this neat thing that happened very spontaneously at the park yesterday morning. I was reading aloud to the kids from D'Aulaire's Leif the Lucky while pushing the two girls on the swings (Ian can finally pump on his own now). I realized that the grown woman sitting on the fourth swing, smiling to herself and swinging very softly back and forth, was blind. And since I had to read loudly enough for the two older kids, who were both swinging, to hear, the woman could doubtless hear too. I found myself hoping she was enjoying the story too. :-)

Off to pack up the car for a weekend at the Texas coast! Looking forward to relaxing a bit, I hope ...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The test results

Well, I don't have so much time right now so will have to continue this later, but I know some of you have been wondering about the testing results, so I'll give a brief summary here and then try to elaborate later.
We met with the psychologist this morning, finally -- the appt. had been rescheduled a couple times. She had obviously put a lot of time into compiling and interpreting the results for us. After her initial description of how Ian handled the testing, she made the observation that she does believe he "qualifies" (for lack of a better word) as gifted. In fact, she noted when presenting the various components of his IQ test that she has never had a child score as high as he did on the Verbal Comprehension scale. Not surprising, if you know Ian. He also was sort of "off the charts" on the Rorschach test in terms of creativity and imaginativeness. And he scored very well on the Visual Perception of the IQ test.
So, that was the good news.
The more difficult news was that both the subjective observations and her objective ratings pointed to a clearcut clinical diagnosis of ADHD, with possible Sensory Integration Dysfunction to boot (I know Jenny may be the only person reading this who understands what all this stuff is, but anyway). He also just scored average on the Working Memory and Processing Speed portion of the IQ test (both of which have to do with attention and focus), which incidentally affected his composite IQ score -- not that that matters much, but still interesting. I guess none of it was really a surprise at all, but still, I'm kind of reeling.
It does sort of explain why people who meet Ian usually think two things: 1) Wow, he's very bright (because of the high Verbal ability) and 2) Boy, kind of a handful! (Although most people are too polite to say that out loud. :-))
She had some recommendations, from a social skills training group to parent training group to discussion of meds with his dr. (low on our list) to .... here's the biggie ... school. Believe or no, kids with ADHD tend to do best in highly structured environments (kind of counterintuitive, no?), and she recognized that not only can that be hard to provide at home but also it can stress the parent/child relationship to have to provide that level of structure while homeschooling (yup). So, she recommended that we at least consider private or public school.
I went to the interview feeling that I should go with an open mind, not closed to anything and yet not taking anything as gospel either. I still feel that way. I am not ready to make any changes without a LOT of prayer and discussion with Tim, but I also realize that I shouldn't reject the idea of change out of hand.
A verse from Proverbs keeps coming back to me in these days, about trusting in the Lord with all my might, and not leaning on my own understanding, but acknowledging Him in all our ways so He can direct our paths.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nothing wrong upstairs

That Caroline. She's a toddler with Big Plans, as was obvious today. Here's her latest: I was getting ready to go tutor for an hour, and Tim and I had a brief conversation about my sister, Kristen, picking up Ian from his taekwondo class to bring him home (we only have one car). Next thing we know, Caroline has Tim by the hand: "Daddy, I want you take out my carseat." Not quite following her but feeling obliging, Tim removed her carseat from my van before I pulled out of the driveway. Now, background: yesterday Kristen came to watch the kids while I was working in the afternoon (my regular tutoring time). Caroline, as usual, clamored to go for a ride in Aunt Kristen's car, but alas, her carseat was with me in the van and therefore she was denied the coveted ride. So today, when Kristen showed up with Ian, guess who was waiting for her, fully equipped with carseat in hand? You got it! They decided to reward her resourcefulness and Caroline got to have her very own playdate at Aunt Kristen's house for nearly two hours! Another friend who was coming for dinner picked her up and brought her home. Quite the independent little socialite, at 22 mos. already! We may need to get her a Daytimer to keep all these plans organized soon. :-)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Freeze the Moment

I just passed the sliding glass door that opens onto our back patio and then the yard, and witnessed what appeared to be an idyllic moment ... all three kids, digging away in the sandbox under our huge oak tree. Now, granted, had I been up close and able to hear the conversation, there's a possibility the moment wouldn't seem so idyllic, but I choose optimism in this case -- and distance. Ignorance is bliss, right? It was one of those moments I wished I could have stuffed in a bottle and preserved, just so, for playback when they're teenagers, or off to college, or just, you know, being not-so-idyllic. :-)

Yesterday was a red-letter day for Ian -- he earned his first stripe on his tae kwon do belt, for doing some particularly challenging activity in class. For the belts, and the stripes, the teacher (a woman, interestingly enough) emphasizes character development just as much as athletic skills, which I'm all for. He was *very* excited, which should provide some momentum for moving forward. Yea! Incidentally, while watching him outside the door of the class, I had the interesting experience of meeting the mayor. Yup, the mayor of Austin -- a very nice man named Will Wynn whose daughter, unbeknownst to me, is one of Ian's classmates (and this is a pretty low-profile place, mind you, so I didn't exactly expect to find that the dad I was chatting with was the mayor!). He told me that she wants to be a Jedi knight and if she gets all her homework done at night, they battle with light sabers. OK, I'll vote you for next time around! :-) I happened to know that he was one of the people whom Al Gore trained to give his very cool, pardon the pun, Inconvenient Truth slideshow, so I asked him about it and we had a chat about how fascinating that whole subject is. He goes around to various companies and organizations in Austin giving the show during lunch hour. He also informed me, with good humor, that the newspaper is coming out with a story about how he's doing this lecture instead of doing his job as mayor (which I doubt) ... I guess being in politics gives you pretty thick skin.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The thing about blogging is, there's a certain inertia to overcome once you've been away from it for a few days. In other words, the longer you procrastinate writing things down, the less appealing it seems to do at night when you (yawn) just want to veg.
So there's my excuse.
But, there's also the fact that it's so much easier to write about smooth, pleasant days than it is to describe those when you spend much of the time fighting tears, sometimes unsuccessfully, because there are things than just can't be described in a paragraph or two. And today was the first smooth, pleasant day I could write about, the first day of the past several that I haven't found it necessary to attempt escaping from my kids so I could just sob alone in the bathroom -- just for two minutes, people, two minutes! OK, one minute! :-)
Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom here in the nest, but I seem to be experiencing a confluence of stressful life situations -- they never quite come one at a time, do they? And when the prizes are given out for grace under fire, I won't be in the running, that's for sure.
Rather than go into the nitty-gritty about every one of those life situations, I'll just recap a bit of yesterday morning. At 10:15 a.m., we're out in the backyard, chores and "morning lists" successfully accomplished with a minimum of nagging on my part. We spread out the blanket for chapter of Family Under the Bridge, which is Caroline's signal to nurse (I've concluded that she simply won't ever wean as long as I read aloud to the other kids). But I can deal with that, because it keeps her quiet and happy, and it's pleasant in the shade, and Ian and Eliza are listening with a decent degree of attention. After that, we do some spelling and letterhunting for Ian and Eliza, respectively, on the patio with sidewalk chalk. I feel generally good about how things are going.
Except for the fact that Ian is obsessing about the Calvin and Hobbes book that he left at Oscar's house next door, and feels compelled to run over there every five minutes to see whether anyone's come home or left it out on the doorstep for him (I forgot to use Anne's technique of having him visualize locking those thoughts in a room for a few hours). I let him do his independent reading in the treefort Tim is building, but still, he only makes it through half a chapter before disappearing next door for a good 5-10 minutes (not sure why it takes that long to check a doorstep). The relative calm in my soul begins to ooze away and Mean Mom arrives to take me hostage, puppeting herself through my mouth with gems like, "It's taken NINETY MINUTES for you to get thirty minutes of work done this morning. I was HOPING to get a couple errands done before lunch, but how am I going to get that done?" Introducing the crotchety second grade teacher, here to sap any ounce of joy out of the learning experience! On top of that, I spend maybe ten maybe more, hauling out paints, water, brushes, and butcher paper for the girls to work on the patio, and they spend maybe ten minutes actually using the paints before losing interest and finding a way to smear some of it on my clothes. Then, my sister calls to discuss, nicely, a little "oops" I had made during a family discussion online and to apologize for not communicating better, but the conversation sort of escalates and next thing I know I'm melting into a puddle of tears behind my bedroom door while Caroline bangs on the other side. For the rest of the day, I feel like I'm constantly on edge, either trying not to cry or feeling helpless as Mean Mom hijacks my voice, if you know what I mean. If Mom sets the tone for the home, then life at our house yesterday was definitely being played in a minor key.
The reality is, stress compounds everything, and kids just don't put their needs on hold when you're preoccupied with trying to care for other people, so things like the paint and the Calvin and Hobbes book and everything else, even the phone call, should not have been that big a deal, but all rolled into one, they were. I told the Lord that I seem to have a long way to go before I really know what it means to roll ALL my burdens on Him.
So today seemed like a gift of grace from Him. My father-in-law had breakfast with us and read to Eliza for a while before leaving for work. Then a good friend came and picked up Caroline for the morning as she was hosting a playgroup at her house. That gave us two hours for the three of us to sit in the treefort and read (St. George and the Dragon, which they LOVED, and more F.U.T.B.) and play a good long round of a math game (Ian announced yesterday that he didn't really like math, so I'm trying to mix it up a bit and back off on the "boring workbook"). As much as I adore Caroline, the experience of being able to truly focus, to sit in one place for an hour or more and exchange full attention with the older two, felt priceless. Tomorrow may be rough again, and today wasn't perfect, of course. But it felt like a gift, and I'm going to savor it.