Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Shopping, Nerd Style

If you are anything like me, you like some of what your kid receives for Christmas to be educational.  I like to call it "cultivating my nerd".  The way I see it, Isaac's going to be the one picking out my nursing home some day.  The better the job he has, the better off I am.  Ok, that's only half of the reason I like to buy or request educational gifts for him around the holidays.  The other half is because if there is a way that I can make school and learning easier or more fun for him, I'm going to do that.  Kids, especially those with quirks, have enough to deal with when it comes to school.  I can't be there for the times when his friends decide to gang up on him on the play ground, but I can give him a boost academically and maybe free up a little energy to deal with social issues.  So without any further ado, here is your holiday shopping guide for those of you who are also worried about your future nursing home.

Chunks is a word building game- great for learning sight words and beyond.
Math Dice, Jr. for making addition and subtraction automatic and fun.  This will be in Isaac's stocking this year.

Spot It! Not only a good stocking stuffer, but also a travel-friendly game that helps work on matching and PAYING ATTENTION!  My distracted five year old will be pulling this out of his stocking this year, too.

And if you're really holding out for a future engineer, you can't go wrong with the nerd-tastic gift my husband picked out for himself Isaac: an Erector set.

Happy shopping, my fellow over-parenting friends!

Monday, October 22, 2012

IEP: Kindergarten Edition


Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
      Listen to the DON'TS
      Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
      Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
      Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Isaac and I read this poem before bed last night, and I took it as a good omen for today's IEP and re-evaluation meeting.  I'm glad I did.  I have never, NEVER walked away from an IEP feeling good before, but today it actually happened.  The school psychologist started things off on a good note by telling me that Isaac cooperated for her portion of the evaluation and that his IQ is in the "high to superior range for his age."  Well, I don't know what parent wouldn't love to hear that about their child.  She went on to say that while he does struggle with getting distracted, it is not in a range of abnormal concern or enough to be able to classify him as having ADD or ADHD.  One less label and one less concern.  They will continue to support him in this area, however, by having him sit close to his teacher during work assignments and augmenting tasks for him to help him focus better.

Also, according to the re-evaluation results, Isaac no longer needs to be pulled out of class for speech and occupational therapy!  He has caught up enough in those areas and tested well in them.  He is even correcting his own mistakes with holding scissors properly, etc.  The special ed service woman will still check on him 5 times per marking period to make sure things are in place to help him function in the classroom, and help with transitions- such as the transition to first grade next year.  There wasn't even talk of that being a "maybe".  It was apparent to everyone there that he will be headed to first grade on time.  The whole meeting was a big I TOLD YOU SO to the principal, who was there taking notes, and to her credit looked pleasantly surprised and happy about his progress this year.  I know she meant well at the beginning of the year when she tried to convince us he didn't seem ready for kindergarten, but I will say to other parents out there what I always say- go with your gut and push back where necessary.  If I had listened to her at the beginning of the year, Isaac would be home coloring in the next room with his above average IQ and being taught by a less than great homeschooling mom (me) rather than by a great kindergarten teacher like Mrs Glenn.  By the way, he had a near perfect report home last week, and a decent one this past week.  Very different from the beginning of school in which all the bullet points on the report sheet were highlighted as areas that needed work.  Isaac is, in all the ways that matter, a pretty typical kindergartner.  I really couldn't ask for more.

So how did I celebrate such a good meeting?  With a trip to the grocery store, a dark chocolate Milky Way bar, and telling off the rude, rich woman who was snotty to my poor cashier for accidentally charging her twice for something.  Life is all about the quiet riots, and occasionally about the louder ones.  Stick up for someone in your life today- be it your kid, or that sweet cashier at Target who often works 12 hour days.  It's always worth it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Growin' up

Oh, life.  You know, we're all getting older and all that.  Some of us are getting older faster than others.  I had an appointment this week with a vein specialist.  Yes, you read that right.  This twenty-seven year old is getting surgery in December and January on her VARICOSE VEINS that are not working properly.  I am still planning to run my 5k next weekend, but not holding myself to any speed goals this time.  Good thing I ran out on Tuesday and got a new tattoo, or the surgery news would have had me spiraling into a deeper circle of early-life-crisis.  I recommend impulsiveness to all mothers as a legitimate form of therapy, by the way.  I don't care what this rather large tattoo on the inside of my left forearm is going to look like at 80.  Right now it makes me smile, run a little faster, and feel a little younger.  Worth every penny.

Isaac, too, is growing up.  Just tonight he chose one of the Shel Silverstein books on his shelf for bedtime for the first time.  He didn't care that they weren't filled with colorful pictures, the poems cracked him up.  He also informed me that he is officially done playing with his toy kitchen.  This is not news to me, since it's been months since he's touched it, but it just drove home his new level of boyhood.

Likewise, I had a phone interview with the school psychologist yesterday for the autism part of Isaac's re-evaluation.  It felt good to be able to say, "Oh, that used to be a problem, but not so much anymore" so many times.  It also made me laugh when she told me that Isaac said he didn't have any friends and didn't want any.  I know what that was about.  She pulled him out of class, out of his routine, and he was searching for the quickest answer to get him back to where he was "supposed" to be.  I'm sure he was grumpy about it, too.  The truth is, Isaac has friends.  In fact, he even made a valentine for a girl in his class on the first day of track out break.  He wrote, "I love you, Joy" on it all by himself and cut it out into a rough heart-shape.  He brought it to her on Tuesday, along with some Space Angry Bird drawings for his teacher.  He learned how to spell and call me a b-o-o-b from a boy in his class.  Although I wasn't impressed at the time, I realize that all this is NORMAL and I'm grateful for that.  Now I just have to find the motivation to sit down and fill out the SAT sized packet for the rest of his evaluation.  You would think I was applying for citizenship by the size of this color in the dot test.  Ah, more wine, please.

Part of me doesn't care if his diagnosis changes from PDD-NOS to Aspergers.  Or if he gets labeled as having ADD while trying to function in a busy classroom of 20 kids.  We will keep doing what we're doing either way.  Trucking on, being surprised, being proud, and most of all, being absolutely in love with this little boy.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A good morning update

This morning during breakfast Isaac said, "I wish other people had the same stuff as us."
    "What do you mean?" I asked.
    "Like the stuff in our kitchen.  Some other people want the same stuff and don't have it."
    "Oh, do you mean people who don't have very much?"
    "Yes, I wish they had the same stuff as us," he said.
    "That's why it's important that we share or donate things when we're done with them."
    "Yeah, like my baby toys."

I'll stop there.  An abstract thought about "other" people?  Out of the blue?  I do believe this boy is growing up.  I didn't even know these things were, or would ever be on his radar, but I'm glad they are.  If Isaac struggles socially, at least it's not in the area of empathy.  That much we know.

Isaac is on his first break from year round school right now.  So far, he's filled his mornings with doing homework out of a workbook and drawing lots and lots of pictures, writing words, etc.  And he's done this all on his own.  There are some great things about having a routine monster, even if I have to hear him ask about school several times a day, every day, until he goes back.

It's finally cooling down here in North Carolina and starting to feel like fall.  I can tell this because I suddenly feel as though it's my job to get as much sleep as possible.  Had we a berry bush, I would probably be grazing, storing up for winter.  I hoped being a little further south would keep me from my usual tendency toward hibernation this year, but it doesn't look like that's the case.  At any rate, I will keep running and getting ready for the 5k race next month.  So far, thanks to friends and family, I've raised $275 for the Autism Society of North Carolina.  Thanks to all who have donated!  If the rest of you could just pray that the old legs hold out til then, it would be greatly appreciated.

If you're reading this, I hope your morning is filled with hot coffee and sunshine.  Here we're settling for hot coffee and gray skies.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Running for autism

A lot of people have been complaining since I deactivated my facebook account recently.  While it touches me that so many people are sad to miss out on connecting with me that way, I have to say that I have not regretted the decision in the least.  That is, until tonight.  There are a few reasons I decided to be done with facebook for awhile, the biggest being that I was a little sick of networking aka stalking people from my lonely, little hut in Apex.  I have a lot of time on my hands, folks.  Isaac is in school six hours every day, five days a week.  That's a lot of time to be living.

When we moved to North Carolina in April, I told myself that there were three things I wanted to do when Isaac started kindergarten: be more disciplined with exercise, writing, and keeping up on housework.  It's Friday night and my laundry and dishes are caught up, my dog is walked, and I'm currently writing a blog post to all of you.  Oh, and I accidentally ran four miles today.  Accidentally.  Ran.  Four.  Miles.  I had no idea until I mapped my route on the computer this evening.  Which brings me to why I'm slightly regretting having deleted my facebook account.

I have signed up to run the 2012 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism on October 13th and I have a goal of raising at least $75 to benefit the Autism Society of North Carolina.  I would love to surpass that goal. Facebook would be a great way to rally some sponsors, but I'm just too stubborn to give in this soon. Hey, you would be, too, had you accidentally ran four miles today in your free time.  So I'm posting the link for pledges here, in my other online community in case anyone is feeling so inclined to help me reach my goal.

The first and only other 5k race I've run was the Lap for LAP Repite in Lansing- a care center offering services to families with children or adults with special needs like autism.  I think it brought us some good karma for when Isaac was diagnosed with PDD-NOS about one year later.  I'm really grateful for the services we received to help Isaac on our journey.  I just want to pay it forward with something a little more active than a facebook post.  3.2 miles and $75 should do it.

If you would like to learn more about where the money goes, you can visit the Autism Society of North Carolina's webpage.

Thanks, friends!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Isaac turned five today.  I know it's cliche to say, but I really can't believe he's five already.  I know this would be an appropriate time to get misty about how fast life is flying by with this very special boy, but the only thing I'm sad about is how much closer I'm getting to thirty. Ha!  In all honesty, Isaac just keeps getting better with age.  His little personality is getting bigger.  His sense of humor is impeccable.  And he's just a lot more fun than that baby and toddler that didn't sleep through the night or talk or even look at me a lot of the time.  He gets stuff.  Isaac over heard Andrew and I talking about Neil Armstrong's death the other day, so today while Skyping with his grandparents he decided to start a conversation on that topic.  "Did you hear about that space guy who died?  That was sad."  I kid you not, that came out of my five year old's mouth.

Also, I'm really glad that I can finally buy toys that have no purpose other than being toys for his birthday.  I am no longer constantly thinking about sensory input, learning skills, etc.  Here he is playing with the new cement mixer truck we got him for his birthday.  (Ignore the blinds ruined by our very naughty dog.)  Pinto beans from the bean box double as concrete to be churned and pushed down the chute.  He doesn't need a whole sensory room anymore and all of his toys have been downsized to fit into his bedroom.  Life is simpler at five, and for that we're all grateful.

Don't get me wrong.  There are still plenty of things we are working on.  A mainstream kindergarten class of 19 has proved a challenge for Isaac.  There is currently a packet sitting on my coffee table waiting for me to finish filling it out so that Isaac can be evaluated for ADD.  Hey- we knew this day was coming.  I'm realizing how much we're used to his quirks and compensate for them.  Just the other night he was getting ready for bed and I told him to go pee and get in bed.  He pulled down his pants, stood in front of the toilet, looked up at the lights above the sink and said "Oooh! Let's count those lights!"  and totally forgot what he was supposed to be doing.  The fact that I was still standing there after I told him to go pee proves that I had a feeling he might get distracted and need a reminder.  Compensating is automatic for mothers.  I think he'll grow out of it, because Andrew and I were a lot like this as kids, but our great special ed service lady just wants more info on the best way to help him function and get the most out of school right now.  Fair enough.  I'll take it.  PDD-NOS, ADD, or whatever else gets slapped on a paper about my kid for school purposes has very little to do with who and what he is in our lives.  The word for that is: Everything.  We love you, little man.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Bullying

It is no surprise to me that Isaac is sometimes, and will probably be in the future, the target of bullying.  I've seen him be singled out on the play ground by other kids- whether they sense something is different about him or not is immaterial.  It happens.  It shouldn't.  End of story.

For the past week or two I've noticed that Isaac has come home with red marks on his cheek every so often.  Today he came home with red cheeks and a scratch on his neck.  I asked him what happened and he told me that a certain classmate has been hitting him.  I asked him if he was playing or if he was doing it to be mean.  He said he was doing it to be mean.  I asked him why this kid has been hitting him- if he had hit him first or back.  Isaac told me that he doesn't do anything to him except say "no thank you" and walk away.  I asked if he had told his teacher that so and so has been hitting him and he said no.  Trust me, I think he handled it perfectly on his own, however, if this keeps happening like it has been, the teacher needs to know.  Little Mr. I Think It's Ok To Hit Other Kids isn't going to learn that it's NOT ok without some guidance.  One time occurrences are bound to happen and don't need to be tattled.  Repeated offenses are an issue and a symptom of something more.  Bullying.

There is a new parenting trend out right now that I find interesting.  It's the "let them work it out on their own" trend.  While I think this has some merit, I think using this as the only means to have your kid learn socially appropriate behavior is negligent at best.  Because guess what guys?  At the end of the day, whether our kids turn out like little ass holes or compassionate citizens is on us.  It's. On. Us.  I'm not saying that every parent with a bullying kid has learned that model directly from their parents, but I am saying that if you have a five year old and they are already showing consistent bullying tendencies toward their peers, it's because you let them.  I don't think it would be fair to say this about toddlers.  Toddlers have a lot of stuff going on.  But by kindergarten...

Yes, kids do need to learn to problem solve on their own and not be little tattle tales, but they also need some guidance in order to do that.  Never looking up from your book or your conversation at the play ground is probably not enough guidance.  Not having consistent conversations about how to treat friends and classmates is, again, not enough guidance.  I am no super mom, and Isaac is not perfect, but with a little effort we've managed to raise a mostly sweet kid.  Not a kid who goes up to other kids at recess and starts punching them for no reason at the age of five.  Five.  Get that through your head.  What is sixteen going to look like for that little boy or girl if this is how they interact with kids at the age of five?

I'll tell you.  He's going to look like the 18 year old who thought it was appropriate to put his hand on my leg and say sexual things to me as an elementary school kid just to make his friends laugh.  She's going to look like the high school girl who pulled my hair until my head almost bled just because I was fat and she assumed my parents made more money than hers.  He's going to look like the kid other parents don't want their teen to hang out with.

It's on us, friends.  It's on us.  The "boys will be boys" attitude doesn't sit well when you're the mom of a kid with special needs who's getting hit on the play ground several days a week.  Sits with me like oil and water.  Are you raising a bully?  You might be.  Pay attention.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Never a dull moment

Last night we caught Isaac reading Go, Dog, Go! out loud, pointing to each word, and reading very fluidly all by himself.  It was one of those rare, serene parental moments when you feel like you've done right by your kid.  When you feel like you've made at least some good decisions.  Enough good decisions that your not yet five year old is reading this well.  All this was after Isaac had hopped in the car after school beaming and saying, "I had a good day!  I get a cookie when we get home!  I didn't cry at rest time... I had zero 'minders (reminders)."  Awesome.  He finally feels better and is getting the hang of school and enjoying it, I thought.  Just in case, I emailed his teacher to see her side of things.  Her only response was to ask if we could come in to talk to the principal at 3:15pm today.  All feelings of good completely vanished.

My first thought was that they wanted to put him in a separate special ed class.  I reasoned this in my head because I had dropped off a big folder of all of Isaac's evaluations, IEPs, report cards, etc. for the special ed service lady yesterday.  I worked myself into a hot mess, went for a run, listened to music, prepared for battle.  I even gathered my troop- which consists of Andrew, to reign me in, and I was glad he came because he remembered something about Isaac that I would have forgotten to mention.  It turns out that his principal wanted to express her concerns over Isaac's readiness for kindergarten.  Fair enough.  He is not even five yet.  But also, to be fair, he's only been in school for a total of 7 days in the first two-three weeks of school.  Five of which he wasn't feeling well.  Andrew remembered that it took Isaac a few weeks to get back in the swing of things at the beginning of his second year of pre-school, too.  We asked what our options were, and she said that while the decision to enroll him is totally up to us, there are other programs like "pre-kindergarten" programs that would be just wonderful.  Oh? We asked, where are these programs? At private schools, she said.  Is there room at these programs?  Tuition?  She wasn't sure about any of these questions.  She did know that a few were affiliated with churches.  Southern churches.  No, thank you.  We chose public education for several reasons.

So we compromised.  We asked that she give him a couple more weeks now that he's feeling better to get the hang of things, and if he hasn't adjusted to their liking we will talk about options then.  Although, she even admitted to me that he is already having a much better week this week.  Andrew and I decided that if at the end of a couple of weeks they are not happy with his progress, or "readiness", or if his teacher seems not willing to work with us, we will just homeschool with something like curriculum and enroll him in community classes for socialization until next year.  Never a dull moment around here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stress eating cherries

Because what I really need is a beer and it's only 4pm, and let's face it, I'm on a diet.  Isaac had early dismissal at school today so we had some time to hang out before his check up at our new pediatrician's office.  We went to Wendy's and split a small fry and had some water and lemonade.  We talked, or rather I tried to get him to tell me about school.  His report home was highlighted with all the things he needs to work on- which is basically everything.  To be fair, he's only been to school a total of 6 days in the past two weeks and has a bigger learning curve than most kids, so I'm TRYING to take it with a grain of salt.  In reality, I'm inwardly obsessing about whether or not I made the right decision about kindergarten this year, year round school, etc.  My mind is buzzing with all the things we need to work on- like how to get my child to answer more than two questions in a conversation he is not interested in.  What I did manage to dig out of him is that there are about 17 kids in his class- quite the increase from the 8 total of last year.  I also found out that he has not seen the special ed service lady once.  She was supposed to be dropping in a couple times a week to see how he functions inside the classroom, etc.  Lovely.  

We headed into the bathroom and he argued with me about which stall to pee in.  I wish I was kidding.  I am not.  We went to the appointment.  Isaac did fine for the nurse but would not answer any of the doctor's questions.  And then they mentioned the shots he needed and he immediately worked himself into a full on tantrum before the shots were even brought out.  Hysterical screaming, crying, writhing like we just said he was going to be re-circumcised.  I had to physically restrain him with my entire body and he still managed to hit me square in the glasses- which now need to be adjusted- and almost attacked the doctor.  Even after the shots were over he purposely hit the tray the used needles were sitting on and continued screaming, crying, throwing himself around- even while I told him he would lose more privileges, while I paid my co-pay, while the poor little boy in the waiting room wondered what the hell they had done to make Isaac so hysterical.  He is now in his room until I tell him it's ok to come out as he is obviously too tired to have good behavior and my eye is obviously still twitching.

Just another day in parenthood.  At least it's the weekend.  At least it's the weekend.  Did I mention it's the weekend?

Back in balance

As suggested by the urgent care doctor, I kept Isaac home all day yesterday to stuff protein, fat, water, and probiotics down his throat.  The plan from the night before did not happen, mostly because he refused to eat the breakfast sandwich and because I couldn't find the blades to my food processor to make the strawberry protein shake.  Typical.  His breath was already smelling less yeasty due to switching up his probiotics the night before, and his appetite for things other than bread was much more agreeable.  So we compromised and gave him gfcf oatmeal with some soy protein powder mixed in.  Oatmeal is a good source of both protein and fiber on its own.  He then went on to eat two pieces of Applegate Farms bacon, one AF chicken tender, strawberries, pears, half a turkey sandwich, more probiotics, lots of water, tuna and pretzels, brown rice fried in coconut oil (for good fat), and broccoli with vegan butter.  By the end of the night he was back to being himself, had the breath of a four year old without a drinking problem, and is in school today.  I love it when a plan comes together!  But I think it was more than just a yeast problem, because the bug hit me for part of yesterday and I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  One missed day of school and lots more tools and products to help our kid function better?  Not a bad deal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Plan of attack part 2

If you were in my house right now, you would be all too aware (as I'm sure my husband is) of my consecutive sighs.  It's the involuntary noise I make when I am tired exhausted.  Being a mom is not for the faint of heart.  I fought with Isaac to eat breakfast and failed and gave in and let him eat half of an Udi bagel- which did him no favors.  I ran with my dog, paid bills, did dishes, laundry, and just before 3pm received a phone call from Isaac's school saying he was in the office crying and tired AGAIN.  They wanted to give me the option of coming to pick him up early.  I agreed, since my after school plans were to take him to urgent care anyway to rule out an sickness that might be causing Isaac's lack of appetite, fatigue, etc.

I then proceeded to drive to, unload, and haul my four year old into the orthopedic urgent care.  Sorry, wrong number.  The lady behind the counter informed me that the urgent care I was looking for was in Cary- the next town over.  Luckily, it was near a grocery store I like so it was easy enough to find.  We were the only ones in the waiting room when we arrived and yet we still managed to be there for two hours.  I have several theories about why this might have happened, the biggest being the kind doctor that likes to chat and look things up on his smart phone for you.  Things like books about coconut oil, and types of apples that are lower in salicylates.  I'm not kidding.  I may have found the only mainstream/urgent care doctor that does not look at me like I have two heads when it comes to Isaac's diet.  In fact, he was impressed that I knew the trick about switching up strains of probiotics every few months.  We bonded.  Isaac whined.

After examining Isaac, he determined that everything looked good and that Isaac was probably still feeling the affects of last Thursday's stomach bug and an increase in yeast.  He tested his urine and said he was dehydrated and low on nutrients (not surprising when the kid won't eat).  He suggested keeping Isaac home tomorrow and trying to pump him up with water, rest, protein, fats, and fiber.  (Apparently my kid doesn't poop enough, either.)  A kid who won't eat is just going to keep having no energy and crying at the end of the day at school until the problem is fixed.  Fair enough, but I hate that he keeps missing school!

We got Isaac to eat a little dinner tonight, and I finally made it over to GNC before they closed.  I picked up the coconut oil Dr. Smartphone recommended to start cooking Isaac's food in, some soy protein powder, and probiotic/fiber chewables.  Isaac actually dipped a couple of raw baby carrots in the oil and ate them. The chewable was a big hit, too.  I'm hoping it works some magic over night.  My plan of attack is this:

1) Make him a soy protein/strawberry shake in the morning with the blender I no longer own- crap!  Ok, time to dig out the food processor.

2) Compromise and make him a bagel/bacon breakfast sandwich buttered with coconut oil.  OR butter with with soy butter and slap an egg cooked in coconut oil on there.  That might work.

3) Keep the water with a fun straw going.

4) Smell his breath, pray for poop, and hope for a miracle.

That's all I have.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plan of attack

Life with Isaac has been pretty normal lately, and when normal happens I forget some things.  Like that my kid doesn't process typical amounts of sugar and carbs well.  Summer means popsicles and lemonade and chips, but too much of a good thing lands us in yeastville.  Our indicators this time were that our usual tough guy was crying a lot, craving rough play, super finicky about food, and for the past couple days has the breath and gas of a middle-aged alcoholic.    All this while trying to adjust to a new school, new teacher, and new schedule.  Poor kid.  Poor teacher.  Poor mom.

It's bad enough that probiotics alone aren't getting it under control, so tonight I did some research and found the following resources quite helpful:

We have not tried enzymes to help break down excess carbs and sugar yet, but I think it's time to try.  How it works is that you give your child digestive enzymes prior to eating or drinking their special treat (lemonade, popsicles, cookies) and it helps break down the sugar in these foods quicker/better so that they are less likely to feed bad stomach yeast.  I ran right out this evening to GNC to pick some up only to find them flipping the sign on the door and shutting off all the lights.  Just my luck!  So I'll have to go back tomorrow.  I did hit up the grocery store to get some all natural meat for Isaac, though.  Protein and fat help fight yeast- which is the good news.  The bad news is that once an overgrowth is to the point that your kid's breath smells like rising bread- they are usually only craving MORE carbs and sugar to feed the yeast and the fight to feed them just plain chicken breast is exhausting and tearful on both sides of the table.

I've also noticed that our usual cured turkey sausage, turkey bacon, and beef hot dogs have not seemed to be helping him lately.  So tonight I bit the bullet and bought Applegate Farms gfcf, uncured beef hot dogs, Sunday Bacon, and chicken tenders- along with some Hormel natural gfcf oven roasted turkey breast cold cuts.  These are all meats Isaac is more likely to eat (and cost more than he weighs), but I'm hoping they will be worth it in our constant fight against yeast.  Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Surprise! Kindergarten in July

There is nothing I love more than finding out that I need to get my four year old, type A child ready for kindergarten last minute.  We received a postcard in the mail on July 3rd informing us that Isaac starts kindergarten at our second school of choice on July 10th.  Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.  We had already gotten plane tickets to fly back to Michigan July 11th-18th.  Having a kid with pdd-nos miss the first week of school is less than ideal.  Turns out his staggered entry day is July 10th, and all they do is go and figure out where your kid is academically.  Then they don't go back to school until the following Monday, so Isaac will only miss the first three days of school.  Again, not ideal, but not the end of the world.

We met his teacher yesterday, and while she seems very nice and like a seasoned teacher who will have good classroom management, she did not know what pdd-nos was and had not received Isaac's school records and last IEP yet.  Lovely.  Juuuust great.  My first impulse was to talk to the principle to make sure that this teacher was going to be a good fit for Isaac.  She said that while she might not have heard of pdd-nos, she is one of their best teachers and has worked with many special needs kids.  Ok, that somewhat made me feel better. I guess?  Internally my thoughts were, why the hell did we move to North Carolina?  I cried, fought with my husband, and then got a grip and channeled my that mom.  I have spent a good part of this morning researching info on pdd-nos to print out, make notes applicable to Isaac, and give to her.

That only solves part of the equation to make kindergarten start off on the right foot for Isaac, though.  Yesterday, whenever we would walk into the very busy hallway Isaac would start spinning in wide circles, and while we were in the office he started jogging around the the chairs in a circle.  This is one of his tell-tale self-regulating behaviors.  It is not a discreet one.  So later, while enjoying some Rita's lemon ice, I asked him why he was spinning in circles.  He said, "I just missed you."  Just twist that knife right in there, son.  Thanks.
 "Does spinning in circles make you feel better?"
"I'm afraid you're going to run into someone.  Do you think there is a safer way that you can make yourself feel better?"  
"I don't know."
"Ok, we'll think about that."

So I thought about what might work.  Isaac still uses sensory chews once in awhile, but I don't want him carrying one around, dropping it on the floor, or having one obviously pinned to his shirt.  I asked if he thought a chewy necklace or bracelet would help him feel better instead of spinning and he said yes.  So I ordered this chewlery necklace and bracelet set in the color of his choosing- red.  Hopefully it will help.

Next, I ordered this book:

Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success by Jennifer Veenendall.  I'm hoping it will have some good tips for Isaac to learn how to manage himself in school.  We're not in special ed anymore, Toto.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer routine: do those words even belong together?

This has been our longest summer break by far since Isaac left school when we moved in April.  At first, I was pretty on top of dividing his time between home-school, play, and nightly routines.  But after being away for over a week at the end of May, let's just say I've, well, completely failed at that recently.  The affect is a little boy who argues for a sense of control and a frustrated mom.  I'm realizing that I need to get things back on track before school starts, or we're in for a lot of notes home or worse. 

How do I know that Isaac misses having the routine school provided?  He pretty much told me.  On the way to his Kindergym class last Thursday he said, "Mama, I miss Miss Minda and my old school and teachers."  He said it with the pathetic, Oliver Twist tone that he reserves for making me feel really guilty.  He lit up the minute we got to the class, eager to be with other kids and learning.  The trouble is that there are only three more Kindergym classes and they are only once a week.  The community center called me tonight to inform me that the art class I signed him up for had been cancelled due to lack of interest.  That was going to be once a week for four weeks, also.  I can just picture him once Kindergym is over looking up at me with those sad, blue eyes, "Can I have some more, please?"

So, I'm brainstorming.  For sure, I need to reinstate daily school time and a little more structure to our day.  But I think I also need to head to two of the suburban mom's pillars of socialization and sanity: the library and church.  Luckily, we found a church that doesn't feel like a country club or an outpost for the KKK.  Now I just need to tell them all of my obsessive-mom food warnings before letting him attend anything for children.  That shouldn't be too hard.  I'll just call up the church and say, "Hi, I've only attended here once, but could you please adhere to the following guidelines for my child?  Oh, and for the first few times he might squeak at your youth pastor rather than answer any questions in an audible tone."  I'm no longer above this.  I'm realizing that if I want Isaac to be successful in certain situations, I need to be the one to pave the way.  Even if paving the way means getting myself and a mouthy four year old out the door on Sunday mornings. 

Here's to a better week with the routine monster.  May I fight off summer laziness in return for a happy kid.  After all, it's a only a few short months til school, IEP meetings, and what we all fear- the unknown.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


We arrived home Sunday night after being away for over a week.  Since then, my house has not stopped buzzing with the sounds of my washer and dryer and of a little boy rediscovering the toys he had missed playing with.  Nor has my head stopped buzzing- either from fatigue or flashes of memories made in the past week.  And maybe from a tiny hangover, but that's neither here nor there.

Isaac was in rare form while away from home last week and while completing his mission as ring bearer at his uncle's wedding.  The first half of the week he was on edge, responding in shouts like a nervous crack addict.  We finally figured out (I still don't know why it takes me so long) that his stomach yeast was raging.  So after almost throwing him off his grandparent's boat into Lake Wallenpaupack and leaving him for the fish, we decided to hit up the drug store for some powder probiotics.  Why I ever took him off them is beyond me.  Not giving Isaac probiotics is like starving an angry dragon.  He starts breathing fire when he talks and growling that I'm not his mom anymore. 

The probiotics helped bring him down a notch and sweeten him up, but he still wasn't the golden child I'd hoped he'd be for the wedding.  And while I can chalk some of that up to being an overstimulated, type A child in a type B situation, I've come to realize that most of what was going on with Isaac was a result of the unholy alliance between Andrew and I's genes inside of him.  He said fresh things all week that made it almost impossible to stifle our snickers while trying to discipline him.  He refused to get dressed if he didn't like the way something felt.  He stripped off his little tux the minute he got to the reception- crying out that he wanted his "normal clothes".  And while I have a tendency to say "sensory issues", which they are, the jogging of my own childhood memories made me realize that Isaac is a little boy version of me at his age.  He even sneaked champagne from the toasting glasses when he thought no one was looking.

There is something about the Chambers/Johnson genes that makes little children more akin to little rock stars.  They want everything done their way, in their time.  They say things that would make truckers blush.  One of my grandmother's favorite memories of me as a child was when we were on a motor home trip to Disney in Florida.  We parked and were going to head down a long sidewalk to a rest stop and get some breakfast.  I stood in the door way of the motor home and surveyed the distance they thought I was going to walk, put a hand on my hip, and said with the growl of your chain smoking Aunt Rosie, "Jesus Christ, somebody better get me a stroller!"  My dad and grandparents almost died on the scene either from laughing or pure shock. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm grateful that Isaac has not yet become a small version of Jim Morrison, and that he mixes his more trying times with an equal measure of entertainment.  After a killer day of picture bombing and not good listening, he strode out onto the dance floor ready to party.  He surprised us with his break dancing skills and that he danced all night- letting us all have a laugh and some fun.  Granted, he did crawl up under the bride's dress, but we can blame that on the champagne, can't we?  In the meantime, I've got some new coping skills up my sleeve after last week.  Too tight socks?  Cut slits in the ankles to loosen them up.  Doesn't want to cooperate?  Bribe with legos.  Need travel friendly probiotics?  Try these kid packets from Culturelle.  Each packet is one serving to slip into their coconut milk, etc. and they do not need to be refrigerated.  They are gluten free and dairy free, for the win!  But the number one thing I learned over the past week is that, pdd-nos or not, Isaac is clearly my kid, and that I'm getting everything my parents ever wished on me.  Touché, mom and dad, touché.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Motormouth syndrome

Perhaps I am just having trouble with the adjustment of going from a child who had a limited and late vocabulary to an incessant one, but I find myself at a loss to curb my commenting and questioning child to a polite equilibrium. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that he can and does talk and is finally up to speed in that area, but I can't say that I'm always grateful for his timing or lack thereof.  For example, we were visiting a new church today and he just could not keep himself from chattering away no matter how many times I shushed him and threatened no play ground time after church if he did not have good listening.  He just could not help himself.  During communion as the pastor said, "Here is Christ's body, broken for you..." Isaac very loudly asked, "Body broken?  What's that mean?"  "Shhh..."  "Mom, tell me! What's body broken mean?"  And later when standing between me and the person sitting beside me, "Pew! Something smells bad. Gross."  I started silently praying that the woman beside me didn't suspect that he meant her.  To his credit, it was her.  God forgive me.  Her clothes had that smell that clothes get when the dryer shuts off before the load is fully dry, slightly mildewed.  In case you were wondering, I am mean and still didn't let him play on the play ground after church.  I was a little too embarrassed to stick around.

While I know that kids are famous for the "from the mouths of babes" stuff, I also know that people on the spectrum sometimes struggle with what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to say.  I can't help but think of the woman that Kim Stagliano mentions in her book for being fired from a store for not being to stop talking about babies and pregnancy to women buying pregnancy tests.  Is Isaac going to be the kid that is constantly saying awkward things?  He already gets some strange looks on the play ground for being a bit exuberant and forward when it comes to playing with other kids.  A little girl asked him what he was doing the other day and he responded with one hand behind his back and a pointer in the air like a cartoon professor, "I am here to make new friends!"  And sometimes he is the kid who is desperately trying to join in and not quite getting that the kids running away from him aren't playing a game of tag, but are actually trying to get away from him.  That makes me sad, but I also know that that is life.  In the meantime, we will keep working on context and a cure for motormouth syndrome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

School Assignment Update from Desperate Housewife

Well, we did not get into the school we hoped- the one closest to our house.  Instead, we got assigned to a school 6 miles or so away that has a pretty good rating, but some bad reviews about the current principle, etc.  It just seems very inefficient to send a kid to school 6 or so miles up the road when there is a school one mile up the road.  But I can't think about this too much or thoughts like this enter my head: "So, we live one mile from the school and didn't get in.  I bet kids that live closer to Cary got into that school and we didn't."  Because that kind of thinking sends me into a spiral of hate for the way the system works here, and I already have some political beef with North Carolina.

Instead, I neatly filled out a transfer request form with some guilt thrown in about how much gas money it's going to cost me to drive my child to and from the school we got into every day on top of paying a mortgage for a house that hasn't sold and rent on the house we are currently living in which is, by the way, one mile from the school we want to be in.  Did I mention it's only one mile?  I can run that far.  I could even pack my kindergartner up in his industrial sized Amish wagon and walk him to school at that distance.  Ok, rant over.  I did what was in my power to do, but if they deny our transfer request we will just send him to the school he did get into and hope we like it.  Who knows?  Maybe the kindergarten teacher there is better than the one at the school we wanted.  Maybe I will like the parents that attend Turner Creek better than the ones I would have met at Olive Chapel and I will finally make some friends!  Too much?  Yeah, can you tell we're a bit lonely out here?  I just pictured my face to look like this: 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Resources Resources Resources

As some of you may know, I am casually homeschooling Isaac until kindergarten starts in the fall.  I say casually because we do not have a set curriculum.  I am basically just using some workbooks, free print outs, games, the Ipad, and my mean mommy skills to accomplish a basic kindergarten prep.   Not everyone who homeschools does so to prep for public school, so my method (or lack thereof) probably wouldn't work for serious homeschooling families.  But I thought I would pass on my resources nonetheless.

Workbooks:  Some are better than others, but in all honesty, the ones from the dollar store do the trick.

Print outs:  I just discovered for free printouts.  I'm lucky to have a kid the likes boring old worksheets, and that's just what these are.  So if you're looking for practice exercises or trying out work for the next grade level, this is a good place to go.

Games:  Playing board games is a really good way to practice following directions, simple math, etc.  We are still loving the Busytown board games.

Ipad:  Why?  Because visual learning just works... and keeps my kid quiet on long car rides.  We LOVE the Reading Raven app.  It's really well put together and has helped Isaac's reading skills become more automatic.  Also, did you know that there are special education apps?  They have free social stories, and a really in depth app. you can purchase that works specifically on conversational skills for many different scenarios.

Mean Mommy Skills:  I simply make Isaac read at least one new easy reader book to me every night before bed.  I have also started keeping these books in the car in place of toys.  I often find him reading to himself in the backseat while we are out running errands.

Nice Mommy Skills:  I signed him up for a Kindergym class at the community center that works on basic floor tumbling mixed with some academic and social skill work.  I also signed him up for an art class through the community center that will work on drawing and painting (read fine motor) skills.  I hardly ever signed Isaac up for community center classes in Michigan because he was always too tired after his afternoon pre-school class.  Now seems like the perfect time to do it!

Really, we're just living life and throwing in some school work.  It's been pretty fun so far, and really rewarding for both of us to see those little worksheets and paintings up on the fridge.  The park has been our classroom for practicing social skills, and I've loved to see Isaac following kids around and asking them their names.  It's very sweet.  We're still hunting down postcards, but writing to friends to- you guessed it- practice writing will be next on the list.  I hope you all are enjoying spring.  Please share any resources or tips you might have with us!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Less is more/Making friends

Since leaving our 1900 sq. ft. house on half an acre to move into a much smaller ranch house with a modest back yard, life has gotten simpler.  I thought we would be scrambling to fit even our basics in here comfortably, but that has not been the case.  Sure, it's taken some creativity to find the best arrangement of furniture, but we've made it work.  And the space has caused us to evaluate all of our possessions and be honest about what we need and use and what is just plain excess.  We sold and donated quite a bit before moving, and I just took two more boxes to Goodwill yesterday and 2 bags to the dumpster.  Isaac's mini trampoline and slide now live in the backyard as there is not a bonus room or basement in this house.  His toys are neatly stored on one side of our very open living room and in his bedroom.  He even helped me sort out his "baby" books from his "big boy" books with none of the sentimentality that a mother might feel about them.  I thought we would really miss having the play room, but we don't.  Isaac ends up playing with his toys so much more now that he's not over run with excess and now that he doesn't have to go down to the basement to do it.  We get to be spending time together while doing different things, and I've really enjoyed watching his creativity as he plays.

We do miss our friends, though.  Isaac asks about them every day.  Our plan so far is just to keep hitting up the parks in the hope of making new friends and practicing social skills.  Yesterday I nearly hugged a woman because she was wearing the red version of a blue shirt that I own and it was a good conversation starter.  I tried not to blurt out "PLEASE BE MY FRIEND" too directly during our time together. I'm sure the only thing that held me back was that she shared that she blogs about her political affiliation.  If you know me, you know that my eyebrows are somewhere in the region of my upper forehead right now.  She was nice, though, and I hope we get the chance to see her and her kids at the park again.  Wish us luck for round two of Please Be My Friend today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Homeschooling, school assignment, and a sharp, hot stick in the eye

We're here!  We've officially moved into our sweet little rental house in North Carolina. Isaac has taken to homeschooling himself quite efficiently.  He calls me over when he needs help with directions or a concept, but is pretty self motivated.  He's flying through all the work books we have and asking to do art.  I think I will sign him up for a class or two this summer with the community center.  The kid misses his friends.  Big time.  Right now we are each gorging on the web after not having the internet for a week.  He's playing games on and I'm taking a break from researching schools in the area.

As it turns out, just because you live close to a school does not mean you are guaranteed to get into that school.  You must pick 5 schools and rank them according to your liking on a website, and then a stranger does some magical formula involving demographics and you are assigned to a school.  Bummer.  The school I really hope to get Isaac into is the one closest to our house as it is highly rated.  My conclusion is that I don't care, because what I know is this:  My kid is smart.  He will excel  wherever he is as long as I keep supporting him at home.  And if I end up hating the school he is assigned to, I can always switch him.  Hell, I can always pull him out and keep homeschooling him if I want to.  This is the way I have to approach all this school stuff. Otherwise a sharp, hot stick in the eye starts to sound really appealing and I'm not entirely sure that my new health insurance has kicked in yet.

And that, my friends, is your update.  I'll let you know when I find the Trader Joe's and the love I am sure to feel when I do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ice cream and moving boxes

Stressed?  I'm not stressed.  By the way, have I told you how good Homemade brand Cherry Cordial ice cream is?  I'm not typing with my mouth full either.  And my typos have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with sticky keys.  Just so you know.

Today we are patching and painting the walls after taking down our pictures last night.  People are filing in and out to pick up craigslist items.  Isaac is handling his excess toys being sold with all the indifference and grace, if not of an adult, then of a child trying to master all levels of Cut The Rope on the ipad.  Whatever works.  That is my motto.  Life has an ebb and flow and I'm learning to just go with it.  Fighting change does little to ease the way.  Quite the opposite.  And I'm noticing that life is too short to not be curious about what is waiting around the bend.

I have heard back from one of the administrators at the elementary school I hope to get Isaac into for the fall.  They were cordial and willing to work with me on squeezing him in.  I plan to come with documents in hand to ensure a smooth enrollment.  I could sit here and cry over the fact that my only child is going to kindergarten in the fall, but today I'm choosing a more zen-like approach: It is what it is and every next step seems more fun than the last.  We are not the first people to sell a house and move with a four year old and we won't be the last.  Does anyone want a house in Okemos, Michigan?  Let me know.  I'll even throw in a half eaten carton of ice cream.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Keeping perspective

In about two weeks we are moving from Michigan to North Carolina.  Life right now revolves around packing, purging, patching, and painting.  Our house is on the market.  In Michigan.  Need I say more?  We had our first showing today and the feedback was not encouraging.  As I sit here I'm fighting the urge to round off my salty-sweet pattern of stress eating. And because I'm out of ice cream, today's pattern is slightly less pathetic: chips, strawberries, chips, strawberries.  Someone will eventually like the house.  Hopefully sooner than later.

In the meantime, I'm doing what I usually do- swinging between angry and grateful.  I'm angry that we're losing money on the house; I'm grateful for Andrew's new job opportunity.  I'm angry that we have to go back to renting a smaller space with enough carpet to give my vacuum cleaner a heart attack; grateful that we get to simplify a bit and focus on things that aren't things.  I'm upset that we always seem to move away right when we finally have a great group of friends; I'm grateful for a fresh start.  You know how I am.  Neurotic.  Most of all this move is a reminder of how well Isaac is doing.  A year ago I would not have considered uprooting him from his special ed class and routines.  This year I'm confident he'll be fine.  In fact, I will be homeschooling him until he starts kindergarten in the fall.  Wish us luck.

Here are our educational and social goals by the time school rolls around:

1) Practicing conversation- asking and answering questions appropriately.

2) Solidifying sight and complex words so that reading level 1 books becomes more fluid.

3) Firming up pre-math and simple addition and subtraction skills.

4)  Make some friends!

I am hoping to find or start a play group for kids Isaac's age in our new town.  Of course, it will never be the same as our Okemos Play Group here, but it will be necessary.  Not only is Isaac a quirky kid with some room to grow socially, he's an only child.  Play group keeps his quirks and my biological clock in check. I'm choosing to believe that this move will stretch him more than it will shake him.  I'm sure Isaac will surprise me with his stellar adaptive skills, as usual.  Right now the idea of living so close to a beach and mountains overshadows any sadness he might have about moving away from everything familiar.  Let's hope North Carolina lives up to our expectations as much as Michigan has grown on us.  My guess is it will.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grateful but over it

This is how I would describe my current feelings in regard to Isaac and his special education class.  Has it done a lot of good for him to be in this class? You bet.  It's given him a great background in routines and basic pre-school academics.  His teacher is even meeting his above average reading and math skills.  I'm very grateful for that.  However, in his recent parent/teacher conference it was suggested to me by her and his speech therapist to consider begindergarten next year solely because he struggles socially in school.  Now, if you know me, you know that my theory behind some of Isaac's social "struggles" is that he is in a class full of kids who are also below the bar socially.  Isaac does reasonably well at play group, on the play ground, and in Sunday school.  He even goes out of his way (according to his teacher) to read books to a pre-verbal friend at school.  I can't say as I mind him not being the best at small talk if this is the social character of my four year old- reading books to a kid who truly struggles.  So how is being in a class with other kids who "aren't ready" for kindergarten next year going to help my child?  Enlighten me.

His teacher and I agreed that adding a mantra about talking to his friends at school might be helpful.  So on the way to school Friday I broached the subject with Isaac- giving ideas of things to ask his friends.  His response?  "I can't."  Why not?  Well, one friend is just "wild and crazy at school.  I can't talk to them."  Fair enough.  "Well, why don't you try asking people what they had for lunch?"  "I can't.  They never remember what they had for lunch."  OK.  I don't know how to argue with that.

Today his teacher told me he needed a lot of reminders to use his words.  On the way home I asked Isaac why this was the case and he responded, "I can't use my words because nobody listens to me.  My friends don't listen to me."  Maybe I'm partial, but I've visited his classroom before and can see where this would be mostly true of the other kids in his class.  Meanwhile, Isaac talked to me all the way home.  I opened his school folder to find a worksheet with adult handwriting on the back saying that Isaac answered questions in an "inappropriate (snotty) tone" with other speech therapy notes.  Unprofessional, to say the least, Miss Speech Therapist.  It's also completely unhelpful to send this home without any explanation with it.  Mind you, this is also the woman who didn't realize that my son was reading.  It goes without saying that I take what she says with a grain of salt.  My child will be going to Kindergarten (with a capital K) in the fall.  I'm so ready.  Will we be working on "the social piece" til then?  Please, you should know me by now.  He'll be ready, small talk and all.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blog neglect

... is what happens when life gets normal.  I can't say as I mind, at all, that I have less to blog about when it comes to Isaac and special issues lately.  I found him up in his room sounding out words in a Starfall beginner book today.  He constantly wants computer/Ipad time for games, is curious about how and why we do things, and how to spell words. Lately, I can usually figure out why he's grumpy; it's usually my fault.  I'll take it.  It makes me feel more at peace with the unknown- what kindergarten will be like, what if we travel, move, etc.  I'd say that's worth a blog dying, for the meantime at least.

What have we been up to lately?  Impressing Isaac's teachers, taking every opportunity to practice social skills,  and getting ready for a trip to Florida.  By the way, when I say every opportunity, I mean every.  I've graduated from being the over-meddling mom at school to being the obnoxious woman in line at the grocery store, making my son answer every question the cashier asks him, even if it takes several tries.  I'm the Politeness Nazi at the restaurant making my child say thank you to the server while looking at him- at least in his direction. I'm modeling conversation and giving my child lines like the director of a Broadway play. I'm hoping that this new form of obsessive obnoxiousness will pay off just like all past forms of this behavior. I'm choosing to believe it will, for my own sanity.

So if you don't hear from me and my little blog for awhile, it's because I'll be in Florida forgetting that I own a house in Michigan.  A very cold house with an un-shoveled driveway and unwashed floors.  I hope you have the opportunity to get away for a little while, too.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good news, bad news

It's been one of those weeks, and it's only Tuesday.  Our ceiling is leaking in the living room, most likely due to something going on with the plumbing from our upstairs "master" bathroom.  It's the smallest bathroom in the house, yet strangely gets the prestige of being the "master" because it's in our bedroom.  You know who actually has a master bathroom?  Yep, the kid.  He doesn't have to live in fear that his toothbrush might one day fall off the sink and land in the toilet.  You have no idea how many new packages of floss I've lost to our toilet because there is literally an inch of space between the sink and toilet.  In fact, I almost hope it's the toilet's fault that my ceiling needs to be re-done just so I can laugh all the way to the landfill with it.  Nope, I'm not a hippie liberal enough to reuse it as a planter box.  Sorry.  On top of that, there is something askew with the wheel on my car.  Isaac got his first stitches yesterday due to a split chin from gym class.  They are the type of stitches that will need to be taken out this weekend.  Ah, Saturday fun.  And whatever is wrong with my right ear seems to be immune to any of the medicine prescribed to me.  Oh, and Andrew came home from the dentist today with news of needing to see an orthodontist.  That's the bad news.

The good news is that none of this is a big deal.  Just annoying.  I will take stitches over broken bones and head injuries any day.  I'll admit to being spoiled enough to have two other bathrooms to use while we figure out what's leaking.  Oh, and what's that?  I have health insurance and a pharmacy that doesn't charge for run of the mill antibiotics that may or may not work.  Did I mention dental insurance?  Yep, we have that, too.  Sounds like my bad news is really just a bunch of reminders to be grateful.

If that's not enough to be grateful for, then certainly the fact that Isaac is officially reading and spelling should qualify as good news.  He's got the phonics bug- trying to read and recognize words everywhere we go.  Our conversations are consumed with how to spell things, what vowels are and do, and examples of blends. You would think we were grooming him for a junior spelling bee championship, but it's all his leading.  Tonight he whined because I told him we couldn't do flash cards until after dinner.  Huh?  Oh, and our most heated argument today was about whether the 'h' in 'hop' came at the beginning of the word or not.  I feel like I'm raising a mini version of my husband, who is a compulsive corrector in all things intellectual.  I actually imagined having to hide my "beach trash" literature from them in the future, so as not to get picked on for reading memoirs of female comedians.  I'll have to hollow out a copy of War and Peace to keep them in.  Andrew would have no trouble believing that it'd take me 5 years to finish that book.  It's the perfect plan!  Meanwhile, Nerd and Nerd, Jr. will be discussing 14th century history and the political climate or something else I don't understand.  Wow, I think I just scared myself out of reading bedtime stories to Isaac tonight.

As bitter-sweet as it is to watch Isaac grow up, I guess the good news is that all those boring old educational Christmas gifts we bought him have really paid off.  In addition to the videos, books, and flashcards, Isaac has been using his V-tech laptop almost every day.  That toy became far more usable once we found the volume control and learned that we can turn the carnival music off with the push of a button.  He's been frequenting the phonics, math, and brain booster games on the computer.  I have to admit that I'm relieved that I no longer have to play memory with him as it is one of the brain boosters on his laptop.  I love my son, but playing memory with him made me want to spoon out my eye.  I was also pleased to find a language game that demonstrated basic conversational phrases.  In level 1, it demonstrates questions like "How are you?" and a response to that question.  In level 2, your child can pair the phrase to the appropriate response.  Maybe I won't have to write those social stories after all.  Now that's good news.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Consistency is key

... but it gets a little boring.  Since all the winter germs have been hanging around our house, getting comfy, we've been watching the LeapFrog and Meet the Sight Words videos on repeat.  That Leap character sure is annoying, but I put up with his anamorphized, high pitched voice because my visual learner gets what he's saying.  Still, the monotony of our current learning routine needs a little shake up.  For me.  Isaac doesn't seem to mind one bit.  This always drives me to do the American thing; add things to my Amazon wishlist, of course.

A friend of mine suggested this Magnetic Word Builder to me after Isaac wouldn't stop playing with the alphabet one (trying to make words) at the house she nannies at:

Next, I found these color coded, multi-sensory reading rods used for word and sentence building.  These look like they would work well for a kid who just has to touch things.

Lastly, I found this sight word game that looks easy enough to make at home.  I especially like the add-on ideas that the first reviewer suggests.  Check it out.  

That's all I got so far.  Ask me how the social stories are coming.  Ha! Oh, winter, you're pretty, but you are the most un-motivating of seasons.  And for that I will blame you til my death.  I have, however, managed to play several enjoyable games of Busytown Eye Found It! with Isaac this weekend.  Best pre-school game ever.  It's quick and either everyone playing wins or Pig Will and Pig Won't win so not even my over-competitive tendencies have a chance to sneak in.  In fact, the game is based on team work to race to Picnic Island before the pigs eat all the food.  This would be a great game for siblings as there is very little to argue about, and the rules are incredibly simple.  It works just as well for one parent and one child.  Especially if you are a parent who typically does not enjoy kid's board games- one that dreads Candy Land and watches the clock during Chutes and Ladders.  This is the game for you.  Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sick Day, Part II

This is what today's sick day looks like.  A picnic on the floor with a Nalgene of water and math puzzles.  After this, Isaac requested writing words.  This time he chose beach-themed words: water, sand, pail, shovel, etc.  This lead into writing some of the alphabet and fixing some backwards habits, which quickly lead to being silly and mommy taking a break.  I have to admit that I have nothing to do with this educationally themed sick day- it has been all Isaac's leading.  I would be lying if I didn't tell you that our morning started out with How to Train Your Dragon to quell a snot induced meltdown.  I would also be lying if I said I wasn't still in my pjs, because I am.  I'm wondering if it's worth showering at 1:30 in the afternoon.  I keep telling myself that I'll get a workout in, but I think I'll be lucky to brush my teeth.  I'm teetering on the edge of this cold, too, and would love nothing more than to bury myself in the couch, pop in a Pixar movie for the kid and get lost in writing, reading, or drooling over  How does a kid this sick still have energy enough that he needs to be reminded that he will, in fact, choke if he runs with food in his mouth?  And how can I turn that energy into a proper dishwasher?  I hope you all are healthy, but if you aren't, find a way to milk it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blame Winter

I'm so glad that Isaac already had today off due to it being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, because he would have missed school otherwise.  Ah, yes, winter germs are here in full force with a pretty intense cold.  I'm taking the opportunity to make Isaac watch all of the educational videos we bought him for Christmas.  The original plan was a puzzle marathon, but when he started melting down over me putting together the purple car I thought it was time for another idea.  He's been frequenting the LeapFrog learning dvds since Christmas, and with much success.  Thanks to Math Adventure to the Moon he can count to 100 by 10s and is going around the house making patterns with different objects.  Thanks to Word Caper Isaac can tell you which letters are vowels and what the silent 'e' does.  Today I thought it was time to break out the Meet the Sight Words dvds, and confine my snotty boy to his easy-chair under the guise of visual learning but really for my own sanity.  I'm happy to say that he enjoyed the videos and was recognizing a few more sight words by the end.  As well as visual learning works for Isaac, I'm really hoping for a quick end to this cold so that he can go back to school soon.  That way he can waste their tissues.  If you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about.

Other educational feats involve FINALLY purchasing some pencil grips (I found them at Target)!  Isaac methodically put one on each colored pencil, and we spent about an hour spelling, sounding out, and writing words with much more neatness and control.  He would name a word that he wanted to learn to spell, we would sound it out together, and he would write it all by himself inside a "buddy box"- a long rectangle drawn to confine his often too big hand writing.  Just another example of "why did it take me so long to get around to doing this?"  Ah well, when all else fails blame winter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

This is not a restaurant

This is the phrase Isaac repeats back to me when he knows he's being somewhat demanding at the dinner table.  Being on a gfcf/feingold diet is anything but vast when it comes to options, but we manage to mix or at least rotate things a little.  Isaac is only 4 so I'm pretty sure even if I fed him hot dogs twice a day, every day he would not complain much.  A friend asked me to post a menu of what a week of food looks like for Isaac.  Prepare to be bored.  Not only is my kid on a strict diet, but he's a pretty picky eater.  I will try to show you what a more varied week can look like.

Day 1:
Breakfast: Bob's Red Mill or Eco-Planet Original GF hot cereal/rolled oats with a squirt of agave nectar and a dash of cinnamon.  Coconut milk with 1/8 tsp of gfcf probiotic powder shaken into it.

Lunch: Crunchmaster Original Seed Crackers with Barney Butter Creamy Almond Butter spread.  I make them into a serving of four little cracker sandwiches.  I also give him a fresh pear and raw carrots to eat.  Water to drink.

Snack at school: Glutino GF pretzels

Dinner: Moist chicken breast (he likes to put mustard on his), broccoli with Earth Balance Spread on it, and mashed potatoes made with Earth Balance Spread and S.O. Delicious Original Coconut milk.

Snack: Homemade or store bought gfcf chocolate chip cookie.  It is cheaper to make small batches of these than it is to buy them.

Day 2:
Breakfast: Jimmy Dean's Turkey Sausage Patties (2), fresh strawberries, coconut milk with probiotic powder.

Lunch: Hebrew National hot dog sans a bun, pureed winter squash from the freezer section, and Glutino pretzels.

Snack: Meijer brand kettle popcorn.  It's dairy free, not all brands are.  Since this is a day packed with protein, a snack with a little sugar in it like this is usually fine and super easy to send into school.

Dinner: GFCF mac-n cheese with leftover chicken breast shredded into it.  Yes, I try to pack the protein in wherever I can.  It helps mellow out stomach yeast, and aids in concentration.  Isaac loves to eat raw broccoli with EB spread on it, so I might throw that on the side of this meal, too.  Water or coconut milk to drink.

Day 3:
Let's pretend that on this day I was feeling really ambitious and threw together some original Chebe bread rolls.  It's a mix, and very easy if you're not lazy like me.  The mix is found in the baking aisle at Meijer with the gfcf food, or at Foods For Living, or on

Breakfast: Sausage/Daiya Vegan Cheddar Cheese Shreds breakfast sandwich made with the above rolls.  The usual milk/probiotic cocktail to drink.

Lunch: Tuna sandwich made with Helman's Real Mayo and the Chebe rolls, Beanito Black Bean Chips, and half of a clementine orange.

Snack at school: Glutino Pretzels

Dinner: Brown Instant Rice, a turkey-burger with ketchup, fresh strawberries, and carrot juice to drink.

Day 4:
Breakfast:  An almond butter and Chebe roll sandwich, fresh pear, usual milk cocktail.

Lunch: Mug scrambled eggs (literally whisk an egg in a mug and microwave for 45 seconds) with ketchup on top, two strips of turkey bacon, and fresh berries.

Snack at school: Crunchmaster Original Seed Crackers.

Dinner: GFCF pizza made with individual Kinnikinick frozen crust, marinara sauce, and Daiya Vegan Mozz Shreds.

Snack: Some sort of raw vegetable.  He frequents raw broccoli with EB spread.

Day 5:
Breakfast: Cherrybrook Kitchen gfcf pancakes with EB spread and agave nectar, usual milk cocktail.

Lunch: Hamburger made in a pan  and served on last Chebe roll, Oreida regular french fries, and canned peaches in lite syrup.

Snack at school: Beanito Black Bean Chips.

Dinner: Tilapia Cheese Soup.  Basicallly make a thin version of the sauce for gfcf mac n cheese with the Daiya Vegan Mozz Shreads, add onion power and baked tilapia.  Carrot juice to drink.

Day 6:
Breakfast: Turkey bacon, fresh fruit, milk cocktail.

Lunch: Nachos made with Beanito chips, ground meat, and melted Daiya Vegan Shreds.  Raw broccoli and butter.

Snack: Fresh fruit or Kinnikinnick vanilla gfcf animal crackers.

Dinner: Tinkyada spaghetti with EB spread on it and gfcf meatballs made with gfcf bread crumbs, and a veggie.  Isaac is picky about veggies and cannot handle corn so that usually leaves broccoli, carrots, or squash.  I would freak out about this, but Temple Grandin lived off of Jello and yogurt for years and still ended up smart.

Special Snack: S.O. Delicious GFCF Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.  I love this kind because they sweeten it with agave instead of sugar.

Day 7:
Breakfast: Same oatmeal as Day 1, milk cocktail.

Lunch: Hebrew National hot dog, Glutino pretzles, raw veggie.

Snack: Fresh strawberries

Dinner:  Meatloaf made with gfcf breadcrumbs, rice, steamed broccoli.

Crunchmaster crackers are awesome to make cracker sandwiches with just about anything- tuna salad, chicken salad, almond butter, dairy free cheese, etc.  There is a lot of gfcf food out there, even in the freezer section for easy prep, it just depends on what your kid likes.  Amy's brand makes some tasty things. I just got a special diet cookbook for Christmas so I'm hoping to get some new inspiration for meals for Isaac.  Hope this helps give you an idea of what a week of food looks like for my gfcf/feingold diet four year old.