Monday, December 12, 2011

How We Study

Now that Ty is in third grade, they have tests. Real tests. Over subjects like science and social studies. For a kid with ADHD, this is tough. He actually learns very little during the day at his public school. Most of what he learns is what we study at home.

I like to call it "Home Schooling in an Hour a Day."
(Yeah... don't get me started. That is a topic for another post.)

We use a multisensory approach to learning around here. I thought I would share some of the things we do to assist in learning.

Movies. I make movies and PowerPoint (or KeyNote, since we are a Mac family) presentations that cover the content of the current unit. I usually download images using Google Image Search. I also include narration as well as print. I use text to emphasize the most important words. Sometimes I draw my own diagrams or pictures to illustrate a concept. I use the computer's built in camera or my iPhone camera to snap a photo of the drawing. This simulates a direct teaching session without me actually having to cover the material daily. He can watch the movie on his own, an then we do one of the following activities together.

Little Questions: We do this for all subjects. I leave a little question or math problem written on the bathroom mirror/sliding glass door/window in his room in dry erase marker. The next time Ty passes by, he sees it and solves the problem or answers the question. Then I check it and either write a happy response (if he got it right), or I call him in to discuss the error (if he got it wrong). We also have a small white board that I put questions or problems on and leave in the most peculiar places. He might find it tucked into his underwear drawer, in the refrigerator, rubber banded to the box of cereal, on the shelf where he keeps his Nintendo DS, etc. He writes his answer and brings it to me to check. Usually, when I put it where a leisure or fun item is stored, I have confiscated the fun item so that he must answer the question and bring it to me in order to get that item. He gets it as long as he answers the question to the best of his ability and with a good attitude.

Quiz cards: Ty's teacher sends home a study guide for all science and social studies tests. I make flash cards with a question on one side & the answer on the other. He will look through them on his own and then I quiz him aloud. To make this a more sensory friendly activity, we usually do the quizzing while taking a walk, or while Ty fidgets on his rocker board, etc.

Jokes and Examples: People learn best when learning is fun. People also learn best when concepts can be related back to real life. In all of the materials I make for Ty, I try to include examples that he can easily relate to, and things that make him smile. For example, in a recent science test, he had to name three living things and three nonliving things. The examples I put on the flash card for nonliving things was "rock, paper, scissors."

Games: I make lots of games up for curriculum content. It goes back to that whole "learning should be fun" thing. Currently, we are using a game I call "Jump To" for science. This unit covers carnivores, herbivores, consumers, producers, etc. I took several sheets of scrap paper and wrote the name of one animal on each one. Then I spread them out on the floor of our living room and give instructions like, "Jump to a carnivore," or "Tippytoe to an omnivore." when he starts to learn the information, we play in rounds, where I take turns following his directions, too. He tells me if I'm right or wrong. I purposely get some of them wrong, and when I do, he has to tell me why I'm wrong and what the correct answer would have been in order to "steal" that point from me.

When these aren't enough: I add an extra layer of sensory input. Tyson is what we in the special education community might call a "pressure junkie." He fidgets, jumps, crashes into my [poor] furniture, etc. in an attempt to gain pressure sensations into his nerves. So, adding support objects such as weighted blankets or lap pads, rolling him up tightly in a big blanket, sitting on a big fitness ball, etc. help him stop fidgeting enough to focus. We also do things like "pushes," where we stand facing each other, touch hands in front and he pushes on me. He gets these as a reinforcer for working hard or getting a really tough question right. His goal is to push on my hands with enough force to make me step backwards. He also recently learned to stand on his head (while leaning against a wall) so I will often quiz him or take dictation for a writing assignment while he's upside down. I know it sounds crazy, but he is so calm and still, and he just seems to focus and think better that way.

Of course, sometimes I can do all this and he's still climbing the walls. When this happens, I just go with it. My dad just about had a heart attack when he saw the picture below, but as the mother of a child with ADHD, I have to be

So, this is how Tyson studied for his science test last week. I quizzed him, and he pretty much stayed this way the whole time.

So, how do you help your kids study for tests?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to...

...make mostly useful stuff from things you might normally throw out.

This week we are talking about fire starters. We enjoy pausing on our journey down the purple brick road to enjoy family camping trips and hunting seasons. One of the most important parts of camping is the camp fire, but sometimes its the most difficult part to get going. This is especially true when kindling is scarce or the wood is damp.

There are lots of different ways to make fire starters, and this one uses something that you normally throw in the trash:

That's right! It's your dryer lint!!! (And in our case a bit of dog hair. Sorry about that.) It's largely made up of cotton fibers. If you're a mom, it probably also includes shredded tissues, Legos, silly putty, paper clips, bugs and playground pea gravel. That's okay. Just do your best to pick the big stuff out.

Now, I should tell you that this project requires a stove, and involves the pouring of hot wax. Like, really hot, melted wax. In these situations, I find that a little common sense goes a long way, so please be very careful and keep kids at a safe distance for the more dangerous parts.

We used a cardboard egg carton, dryer lint and some candle wax. This wax was given to me (read: it was free), but you could also use the stuff that's left over from burnt up candles. Just scrape it out and save it.

I melted the wax in a soup can, using the redneck hoosier do-it-yourself double boiler method.

Meanwhile, the boys rolled pieces of lint into little balls. They placed these in each space of the egg carton.

I placed the linted egg carton onto a foil-covered cookie sheet, then poured the hot wax over the lint and into each little cup. (The wax is really hot, so the boys did not get to help with this step.)

I set them aside to let them cool for a good, long while.
All that's left to do is cut the sections apart and pack them away for our next several camping trips. If you are a super-prepared-for-anything type of person, you could also put a couple of these in a water tight bag with some matches in your 72 hour pack.

When it comes time to light the campfire, you just put one under your pile of kindling and light the cardboard. the lint acts like a wick and the wax gives you a flame that burns long enough to get a fire going.

Please always use caution around fires. You should only light a camp fire outdoors inside a cleared and ringed area with sand/water nearby. Never allow children to run or play around fires, and never, ever leave kids unattended around a fire. Especially if they are creative and adventurous boys with a unique curiosity and ability to challenge the laws of physics. 

Remember the old commercial: "Smokey the Bear says only YOU can prevent forest fires."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Visitor!

We have a visitor currently residing in our kitchen!

 Can you tell what it is?
It looks like a little stick or piece of wood. It used to be a greenish-brown caterpillar. And soon it will (hopefully) be a beautiful butterfly!

The boys named it Mrs. Magnificent. Although its been 10 days of waiting. and waiting. and waiting.

It's very hard to wait. I thought this type of caterpillar would pupate in a week, but now I'm thinking maybe its the variety that pupates for a month. So we could have more waiting in our near future. and waiting.
and waiting...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to...

...make useful items out of ordinary household byproducts.

I am all about saving money. I clip coupons; I shop sales; I insist that my family eat leftovers before they spoil; I enjoy garage sales and consignment shops; and I am all about reusing/re-purposing stuff. To me, one of the most important steps to saving money is to make use of what you already have, and to avoid waste whenever possible.

We here on the Purple Brick Road have been looking for new and interesting ways to reuse household byproducts that might normally be thrown out. Now, I'm not talking about going so far as to compost using human waste, or to stuff my sagging couch cushions with crinkly newspaper. But, I think I've got enough to make an interesting series, so this will be the first of several.

Today I'm talking air fresheners.

A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned out my spice cabinet. I ended up with a depressing amount of expired spices. And I don't mean "This expired last month," either. I'm talking about, "Ohmygosh, this container of cloves is older than my firstborn child!"

I absolutely hated the idea of just tossing all of those little plastic spice containers. So, I decided to re-purpose the them. (Confession time: I might have a totally freakish and very serious problem slight obsession with containers.) These are great little containers with different kinds of lids, perfect for bathtub and sandbox play, as well as sprinkling/containing glitter, small stickers, etc.

In order to make the emptying process faster, I got out my trusty trash bowl (read: a re-purposed margarine container) and started dumping. By the end of the project, I had lots of little containers for the boys... and a big bowl of yummy smelling spices that I couldn't cook with.

Coincidentally, I also recently cleaned out the boys' sock drawers, and I had a pile of mismatched and too-small socks.

So, I combined the two items and made sachets. I simply put a couple of large spoonfuls of the spices into each sock, then sewed the top closed just below the cuff. Then just to make them pretty, I tied the top of each with some ribbon remnants that I've been collecting pretty much forever.

I got a good number of sachets, and all it cost me was 45 minutes at my sewing machine.

These sachets were pretty potent, so I put one in each of my plastic shoe boxes, which I store in the garage, and which tend to acquire a certain aroma during summer months. I also dropped about four of them into Hubby's hockey bag, which wreaks so badly that it could probably be weaponized by the military and used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Not a bad use of items I almost threw in the trash. Stay tuned for some other money saving, re-purposing projects!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bye-Bye Tonsils!

Well, Riley is short two tonsils & some adenoids now. But he gained two tubes in his ears. His procedure was this morning at 10:00, and we are now hanging out in his room. His tonsils were HUGEMONGOUS and he has sleep apnea, so we'll be staying overnight.

So far, he is taking this like a champ! He's been munching all day and so far he's had two slushees, most of a PB&J, some trail mix, apple juice, a little macaroni & cheese, a couple of chocolate covered pretzels, and some of his dad's chips. He's now scarfing down some pudding and fruit (with a couple more chocolate pretzels). He has watched Batman Begins and an entire DVD of vintage Tom & Jerry cartoons, and he's now watching Scooby Doo. Oh, and he took a nice, long nap earlier.

He wants his IV out and wants to go home now; his throat is a little sore; and his voice sounds funny. But he's doing really well.

I have to say a HUGE thank you to all of our family and friends, both near and far. All day I've received phone calls, tweets and Facebook comments expressing support and love, and telling us that the people we love have been praying for us. Thank you all for your prayers.
We love you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say

Have you ever heard yourself say something at the same time that everyone else in the room heard you say it? And have you ever been surprised to hear the words that came out of your mouth?

The most popular example I can think  of is that moment when you say something and then realize that you sound exactly like your mother/father/grandparent/caretaker. Sometimes that moment comes with an inner groan of, "Oh dear. I really have become my mother/father/grandparent/caretaker. I'm talking about that moment when you realize that you just gave the old, "I will turn this car around if you do not stop touching your brother," or "Because I said so," or, "Don't make me come up there!"

I do that often, as I'm sure anyone who is a parent, step-parent, foster-parent, guardian, etc. does.

And then sometimes there are those things I say that come flying in from left field. I have no idea where they come from, but they are often dictated by whatever is going on with the people around me (the usual suspects include my husband and kids, of course).

Over the last week, I've said some amazing things. Things I never thought I would say in a million years. Here are some of my most shining moments from the week:

  • "Dude. We do not put our penises on other people. It's rude." (This was followed by, "Yeah! And really weird," from my other son.)
  • "Please stop flogging my refrigerator with a rubber snake." 
  • "Did you seriously just bonk my kid in the head with a butter bottle?"
  • "Why did you pee in the middle of your bedroom floor? Batman does not pee in the middle of his bedroom floor."
  • "Please do not lick the caterpillar. No, he does not like to be licked. It makes him sad."
  • "Oh, it's okay, Sweet Pea. Everyone falls into the toilet every now and then."

Is it me, or is there a running theme of private parts and bathroom-related comments? Such has my life become... just a string of bathroom-related comments.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

Make that "The ADHESIVE and the Hare."

Actually, it was "The adhesive and the HAIR."

Well, really it was more like, "The Adhesive IN the hair."

Little Dude had to get a sleep study done. Because he isn't sleeping well. (Okay, that part might have been obvious.)

He gets up a couple of times a night, which, as everyone knows, means Mommy gets up a couple of times a night. In fact, last month I felt like I had a newborn baby again. Except I didn't have the maternity leave and helpful family & friends around to make it bearable.

Also, Little Dude sounds like Darth Vader when he does sleep.
 It's sad. And loud. We can hear him through his closed door. When his door is open, we can hear him from the foot of the stairs. It's a little funny!

But also, it's not so funny. I feel bad for the little guy. And now that I'm home for the summer, I feel bad for me. Because an interesting thing happens when you have a three year old who doesn't actually sleep: they lose their freaking marbles. (So does Mommy.) Seriously, he is extremely hyper and impulsive, prone to extreme tantrums and is having difficulty learning things that he should know by now.

I know, I know. This sounds like every other three year old you've ever met. But think of the most hyperactive, impulsive and moody preschooler you've ever met.

Now imagine that kid on meth. After downing three espresso's and a case of Red Bull.

Welcome to our family!

So, we took him for a sleep study. (Actually, Matt took him for the "sleepover," but I scheduled it and filled out all the paperwork.)

This is an interesting experience. Have you ever had one? They attached about 50 censors to Riley. He had them wrapped around his chest and belly, taped to his arms, knees and face, and glued to his head. GLUED. To his HEAD. Over his HAIR.

His "do" was hysterical when he came home the next morning! It was sticking out all over his head, and it was really, really funny.

It was really funny... Right up until the moment we tried to get it out of his hair.

Did you know that sleep clinics use INDUSTRIAL strength glue to keep those little things stuck to kids? We tried the special wipes they gave us, but they weren't very useful. We tried a couple of other things, and settled on baby oil as the best sticky-stuff-remover. After a lot of rubbing and scrubbing with the baby oil, we figured there couldn't be much glue left in his hair, so we shampooed him.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.




The great thing about having boys is that they are dirt magnets, so by the end of the day, it was easy to see all the spots we had missed on his skin.

And by the next morning, it was apparent that we had removed neither all the glue nor the baby oil from his hair.

And this leads me to one of the other great things about boys. They look awesome with short hair. Really short. That has been unceremoniously shaved off in the bathroom by a frustrated mother wielding fourteen year old clippers that make a really annoying sound.

He hates it, and I've promised him that he can grow it back out. For now we're calling it his "summer hair."

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Weekend Away

I have to admit to being a "country girl" at heart. I dislike all things "city," and love forests, fields and fauna. If I could, I would have chickens, goats, a couple of sheep or alpacas and a hugemongous garden. Unfortunately, our neighborhood indentures and committees frown on these things, so for now I'm making due with a smallish garden, wool purchased at local yarn stores, and frequent camping trips.

Last weekend we went to a state park we hadn't visited before. We went to Graham Cave State Park. We loaded up the kids and an astonishing amount of normally forbidden junk foods, hooked up our little pop up trailer and headed out into the wild blue yonder. Sort of. The park was only about an hour and a half from our home, but in our part of Missouri, you can drive relatively short distances and be away from everyone and everything.

The weekend was fun. During the day. But both Friday and Saturday night brought us thunderstorms with high winds, a little hail, heavy rain and some scary moments. We found out Saturday morning that a funnel cloud had been spotted just 9 miles from our campground. And the end of each storm inspired prayers of thanks. Check these photos for some of the things we did:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guilt Steals Joy...

I recently read those words in Kristen Welch's awesome daily devotional "Don't Make Me Come Up There!" I'm enjoying this book quite a bit. Kristen has a wealth of wisdom, and a great sense of humor, about the everyday challenges of motherhood.

But really, those words ring true for everyone, whether you are a mother or not.

"Guilt Steals Joy."

I might have to incorporate that into my next tattoo. I definitely need a consistent reminder to let go of my guilt. We don't need to feel guilty when we sleep in on a Saturday. We don't need to feel guilty when we have that dessert after dinner (or before dinner for that manner). We don't need to feel guilty when we buy that pretty nail polish or purchase that large sweet tea (as in Kristen's case). We don't even need to feel guilty about those three boxes of Girl Scout cookies we have hidden in the chest freezer in the basement, conveniently tucked under a plastic bag clearly marked "chicken gizzards" (but which is actually full of some awesome wool for knitting)...

I'm sorry. Was that last one just me? I'm telling you, you can hide ANYTHING in a freezer under or behind a bag that says "chicken gizzards" and you are practically guaranteed that nobody in your family will go near it!

But I digress. When it comes to guilt, I have quite a bit of experience. I grew up with a mom who has a black belt in guilt. Although she used to heap a good helping of guilt on herself, she was like a ninja with the guilt. She'd sneak up on you, smack you with a healthy dose, and disappear in a puff of smoke without ever actually having been seen. Nowadays, she's a lot better about guilt in every way. I don't think she lugs as much around with her, and she very rarely sneaks it onto me (although I do occasionally get those voice mails about how I don't call or write, and she talks to my three sisters all the time, but she never hears from me, yada-yada-yada).

I have spent a lifetime feeling guilty about everything from that insensitive thing I said to a lady at the grocery store eight years ago to just plain not being as good as I thought God probably wanted me to be. I always assumed that I should feel guilty because I must be disappointing God in some way. Every minute of every day.

These days I'm getting better too. About the guilt. I still need to work on that whole keeping in touch thing. What can I say? I don't like to talk on the phone. Last year when I read the Bible in 90 Days, the biggest lesson I learned is that God is not who I thought He was. He is much better than I ever gave Him credit for. We don't have to drag all that joy stealing guilt around because Jesus already took it away. God created joy so that we could experience it. He wants us to have joy. He doesn't want us to simply exist with the joy stealing guilt monster looming in the back of our consciousness. He wants us to live with joy in our hearts.

So I have been choosing one thing each day that I feel guilty about. And I have been letting it go.

You should try it. It feels good!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top Ways to Know Summer Break is Here:

10. The cicadas have invaded Missouri and are wreaking havoc on my sanity. And my car.

9. St. Louis has already experienced its first heat advisory.

8. My neighbor's air conditioning hasn't stopped running in 7 weeks.

7. My boys are sporting their "summer hair" (i.e. buzz cuts).

6. I am sporting my "summer hair" (i.e. ponytails and twisty buns every day).

5. My tennis racket has been freed of its bag and cleared of the cobwebs. (Yes, I have cobwebs in my garage... I know. That's a shocker.)

4. My normally quiet house is filled with noisy boy sounds all. day. long.

3. My normally delightful-smelling home suddenly has an air of sweaty dogs (and boys).

2. I am suddenly getting lots of cleaning/organizing knitting projects done.

And the number one way to know summer break is here:


My school year job might drag me (kicking and screaming) from my blog, but summer break mostly leaves me alone to share my extremely interesting crazy blessed life with my friends & family who live far away. (And those who live close, but who apparently lack enough things to do and feel compelled to read this masterpiece train wreck despite having actual social contact with me on a monthly/weekly/daily basis. Yes, I said daily. Feel sad for those people.)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Brace Yourselves!

Mostly, that's what we're doing today, anyway. Apparently a huge ice/sleet/snow storm is on it's way to St. Louis.

Bread, milk & eggs are flying off grocery store shelves.

Hardware stores are sold out of every kind of snow shovel, ice scraper and bag of salt.

Gas stations are busy, with people trying to fill up their cars before Hades freezes over.

Big box stores are out of generators, kerosene heaters and lanterns.

They are predicting .5 to 1 inch of ice, followed by 3 to 12 inches of snow, followed by winds gusting up to 40 mph.

The biggest problem will be the ice. A half inch of ice puts an additional 50 lbs of weight onto above-ground power lines & tree branches. When the wind comes later, that will mean lots of broken power lines and many, many homes & businesses without power.

We are ready. We've got lanterns, ice melt, lots of food and a gas fireplace. We're prepared to hunker down for a few days. If we don't lose power, I'm sure I'll be posting about it.

And then again, everyone knows that the meteorologists in St. Louis are right about 55% of the time, so it could do absolutely nothing tonight. I'll let you know tomorrow!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Visit

When the snow falls quiet,
we put out the tray of seed.
And a host of God's small creatures
come to visit for a while.
Thankful for what they receive,
they commune with each other,
with God,
and for a few moments, with us.