Saturday, July 14, 2012

Not What I Expected

A wonderful friend of mine has been encouraging me to write for an upcoming Chicken Soup book for parents of kiddos on the Autism or Asperger's Spectrum.  Tonight I felt inspired to take a stab at a 1200 or less word letter to Caleb. When I finished it was 1,196 words! Someday, I will actually have him read it. But for now, you get to be my test audience.  Of course, the Chicken Soup books don't have pictures, but I had to add some here!

Not What I Expected
Dear Caleb,
You have been surprising us from the day you were born.  From the time you entered this world six weeks early you have been surprising us. The doctor hoped you would be at least five pounds; you were almost six!  The doctor had a team of specialists waiting to help you breathe in case you couldn’t on your own.  You never needed oxygen; your gusty cry tore through the room announcing your entry into a bigger, wide open world.
 No one knows this but I secretly prayed that God would give us a son as our firstborn.  I prayed that God would give us a young man we could be proud of, a big brother that his siblings could look up to.  I prayed for a young man after God’s own heart, one with compassion and a heart for serving others.   We imagined your life reflecting the model child from the many parenting magazines in the doctor’s office.
Then you turned three weeks old.  Your three week birthday marked an apparent end to our dreams.  You were no longer the tiny preemie who slept all the time.  You woke up when you were three weeks old and have been very alert to the world around you ever since.  From the time you were three weeks old you began letting us know that the big world around you was overwhelming to you.  You probably wished you were back inside of me where it was warm and quiet, where you didn’t have to wear scratchy clothes and squint at the lights all around you.
When you were three weeks old you started screaming.  All of a sudden one Wednesday afternoon, you began to cry and didn’t stop except to eat and occasionally sleep.  Each day turned into a week and each week turned into a month.  You rarely stopped crying.  The doctor said you had colic, but as the weeks turned into months and you refused to be soothed, I began to wonder why.  My heart told me that you didn’t just have an upset tummy. 
My heart told me that the other moms who had babies when I did were not going through what we were. They were eventually getting sleep. They had babies who sat and crawled.   My heart told me you were different.  I didn’t want different.  I wanted a son whom I could be proud of.  It was hard to be proud of a baby who screamed all the time.  It was hard to be proud of a baby who met very few of the milestones mentioned in the What to Expect books that first time moms fervently read to make sure their babies are normal.  You were getting further and further from the normal described in all the baby advice books and I was getting further and further worried about you.
The day finally came almost six years later when your dear kindergarten teacher told us that you were not like all the other kids in her class.  “But, I just can’t put my finger on why,” she would tell us.  A year later your first grade teacher told us, “I’m not sure what it is about Caleb, but it seems to be neurological.”  It was time to figure out if your differences had a name.
Your differences were becoming more apparent as you grew older.  Things that most kids outgrew before they started school were still a struggle to you.  You had a hard time taking turns.  You had a hard time handling noises.  You didn’t wear jeans because they “were too hard.”  You didn’t like it when your routine changed.  You didn’t like to eat French fries because they were too gritty.  You still had tantrums when you didn’t get your way.  Tying shoes and handwriting were very difficult for you. 
The reason we didn’t seem overly concerned about finding a name for your behavior is because you were so special in so many ways. Your sweet nature and amazing science vocabulary often made you seem older than you really were.  How many 5 year olds already know they will be a meteorologist when they grow up?  We just assumed that you were a stubborn and headstrong little boy who liked to do things his own way.  Besides, could anyone who communicates so closely with God when he prays really have something “wrong” with him?  By the time you were seven though, our hearts told us that your behaviors differed enough from the other kids at school and even from your own siblings that there must be a reason why.
Some parents fight against a diagnosis or a name for their child’s peculiar behaviors. But after years of feeling guilty for not being able to make you behave, never being able to help make you adjust to something new, and always trying make you be normal,  we were relieved that these behaviors had a name.  We were relieved that they weren’t our fault.  We were even relieved that you didn’t do these things on purpose.  The day the doctor told us “I’m seeing so many patterns here; can we keep talking?” we were actually excited! 
Our excitement was buffered however by the fact that the name for your behaviors fell on the autism spectrum.  Wasn’t the word autism reserved for guys like Rainman?  You were nothing like that.  In all of my years training to be an elementary teacher no one ever taught that kids can have a high functioning form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome.  We had so much to learn about the way your brain ticked. 
The word Asperger’s or autism no longer frightens us.  We have learned so much over the past five years about your brain, your amazing brain!  Your abilities by far outweigh your shortcomings!  Your hearing is remarkable.  Your sight is amazing. You may have trouble controlling your emotions but you have an amazing ability to love.  You may not handle routine changes well but you are learning how to adapt.  You may not be super organized but have amazing focus when it comes to studying meteorology.  You may be easily hurt by others but you are the most tenderhearted boy when we visit the nursing home.  You may not read other’s emotions and facial expressions as well as your peers but you love everyone just the way they are.  You don’t care about the latest fashions and trends to hit America’s middle schools, but you care deeply for everyone around you.  When other people just see a cat, you see a friend. 
You may not be the son we imagined you to be but you are so much more.  Those prayers I prayed when I was carrying you were not just answered, but were so beautifully carried out.  Your tender heart that loves to serve others is evident in your everyday life.  Your love of meteorology may lead you down a vocational path, but your heart will lead you exactly where God wants you to be.  That’s exactly where we want you to be.  That’s exactly who we dreamed you to be!
                                                                                    Love, Mom (& Dad) 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal 7/13/12

My week in review...

In My Life ThisWeek...
Does the phrase, "Lazy Days of Summer" really exist?  It seems like we are busy even on the days when nothing is on the calendar.  I guess I would be bored if I woke up each day with literally nothing to do.  Then again, just a little bit of boredom would be ok...

My family planted 10 acres of sweet corn this spring which is now ready to pick and sell.  (The 10 acres are at my brother's house not mine.) So we have spent much of the past week being farmers!  My oldest son leaves the house at 6 to pick corn with his grandpa and uncles.  The two other kids and I meet them in town to seel it a few hours later.  It is hot, tiring work but very rewarding as people in town look forward to sweet corn time all year and are so excited when someone from my family starts selling.  (I think my uncle has twice as many acres of corn!)

In Our Homeschool This Week...
The kids are learning their 4's facts!  Corn is $4 a dozen!  They are also learning to count change and be nice sales people!  We also decided that after 15 or more days of above 90 degree temps outside, that it's OK to have ICE CREAM FOR LUNCH!
 Caleb tallying the number of dozens we sold.

We also managed to finish some radial symmetry art.  I think they turned out really neat.  They were difficult for the kids but they were very proud of them.

Helpful Advice or Tips to Share...
Crayola Washable Watercolors are by far better than any generic watercolor paints!  Look how bright these Warm and Cool Paintings turned out!

Crayola® Washable Watercolors

I Am Inspired By...
My cousin, Chandler.  (The one who was drafted into the NFL by the colts this past spring.)  He was in town today (Thursday) helping his brother sell sweet corn!  The kid's got an amazing future ahead of him and he still came home to sell corn like he has done all his growing up years.  I wonder how many autographs he had to give? :O)

Places We're Going and People We're Seeing...
We feel like we have seen half the town!  It's kind of fun to sit by the road and watch cars go by.  It's even more fun when the cars pull in and my kids fight over who gets to help the next person.  It's even more fun when someone wats a LOT of corn and we realize that the truck is getting emptier and we will get to back home to the airconditioning soon!
Caleb had been up since 6 picking corn.  He decided a nap in the shade was in order around 2:00!

My Favorite Thing This Week Was...
On Wednesday, I got a list of my campers in the mail!  I LOVED church camp when I was young and have never returned as a counselor UNTIL THIS YEAR!  I am so excited to spend the week of the 23rd with 10 little girls, including my daughter!  It will be good for me to spend a week away from my computer!  But, I promise there will be pics to share the following week!

What's Working For Us...
Not doing formal schooling the rest of July!
What's NOT Working...
The many late nights and early mornings!  We just can't seem to ever get to bed before 11 these days! 

Questions and Thoughts...
Wroms in sweet corn are gross!  It's so dry this year that the worms are just nasty and plentiful!  I guess they have to find moisture somewhere and they prefer sweet corn to anything else!

I am starting to plan for our homeschool co-op in the fall.  Does anyone have any ideas for fun classes?  Maybe classes your kids love or ones that have been successful in your group.  They can be academic or just for fun!

In your co-op, do the moms have to stay every week?  Does every mom have to have a job?  We are trying to increase our number of volunteers. 

I'm Reading Finally Finished!...
"Bonhoeffer"  Yeah!  It was one of the most inspiring books I have ever read!  If you like "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom you would also like "Bonhoeffer."
I think I need something less academic to finish the summer off with.  Any suggestions? 

I'm Cooking...
Lots of sweet corn!  I betcha never would have guessed that one!
We are making snickerdoodle cupcakes this afternoon for a church pool party tonight!  YUM!  I got the idea from Pinterest, of course! The original recipe is for home made cake but we are usually pinched for time so we adapted it for a cake mix.
  • Just add about 2 tablespoonfulls of cinnamon to a yellow cake mix and bake in cupcake papers as directed.
  • After the cupcakes have cooled Melt a half a stick of butter.  (Real is best!) Then brush some melted butter on each cake.
  • Sprinkle the melted butter tops with a cinnamon/sugar mixture.
  • For the icing I make a butter cream from scratch.  Soften 2 sticks of real butter to room temp.  Add 1 T cinnamon and about 4 C. of powdered sugar just about a cup at a time.  Add a little whipping cream if you have some!  About 1/4 C or less.  Keep adding sugar till it's thick enough or cream if it's too thick.
  • I use a pastry bag to frost the cupcakes but a knife will work just as well.
  • I make these cupcakes for gifts and the ladies (and my husband) always rave over them!
Snickerdoodle cupcakes, YES please.

I'm Grateful For...
The days when my husband does not have to work over, go out to eat with clients or does not have meetings!  He has not been home 'till around 10:00 each night for the past two nights in a row.  The kids miss him and so do I.  I especially miss him when our Aspie is having an Aspie moment!  My prayers are for anyone parenting a child with Asperger's or any like diagnosis on their own!  I am so grateful for the tag team parenting we do in the evenings.


I'm Praying For...
Each of the 10 little darlings on my Camp list!  Just think, I will have ten daughters to love on and teach about Jesus in less than 2 weeks!

My 14 year old son will be going to Pittsburgh next week to do some inner city mission work with other junior highers from church.  I have to let someone else handle his meds all week and trust that God will take care of all of his needs.  This will be the first time he has gone off on his own other than church camp.  The being on his own doesn't worry me.  He will be fine.  What I am praying for is that after a day of hard work, he will not have any negative Asperger moments.  I will not be there to pick up the pieces if he does.
 Here's his pic if you want to pray for him too!  (He's all decked out in his rain gear to collect hail during a storm!)

A Product I Have to Share!
I decided that making my own laundry soap would be fun...another Pinterest adventure!  My son thought I was grating cheese!  Anyway, I have been missing the fresh smell in my laundry.  The home made soap is pleasant but has very little fragrance.  I make a big pickle jar full at a time and it lasts forever and works really well at getting our clothes clean but I just miss the fragrance.  

While at Wal*Mart this past week I came across these Purex Crystals.  I added half the bottle to my pickle jar full of soap so there is a little bit in each load.  It smells so fantastic that I have actually been trying to find things to wash this week after my regular laundry was done!  Everyone now has fresh smelling sheets and all the freshly washed blankets are making the whole house smell great!  I picked the "Fresh Spring Waters" scent.  It was about $4.50 and will last through 2 of my batches of home made soap.
(Not sure what the "87% natural" is all about!  I wonder what is natural or unnatural about it?! :O))It's made out of mostly salt so I bet it makes my hard well water softer too!  I wonder if I can use it in place of salt in science experiments?  Hmmmm!?
A Photo To Share...
Our kittens are 4 weeks old!  If you read my post 3 weeks ago I mentioned that the first one was born while my oldest son was still holding the momma!  We had to take about 20 pics today just to get one where they were still enough and not bluring the picture!

 Doesn't the one on the left look ornery with her tongue out?!

Their poor momma is as skinny as a rail from feeding them all! 
Poor thing, she must be exhausted from taking care of 5 toddlers!  I'm glad my kids didn't go from newborns to walkers in just 4 weeks!

Blessings to you all this week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Top 10 7/10/12

It's Tuesday Again!

10 Reasons Why I'm Excited for the New School Year!

  1. The Boxes came on the UPS truck over a month ago and I can't wait to use our new stuff!  What is it about new books that makes me so excited?  It's like Christmas!
  2. We changed some of our curriculum to better meet the kids needs.  I am excited to see how they benefit from these changes.
  3. Our Co-op is hoping to try some new and exciting classes.  I am looking forward to me kids' excitement over seeing their friends as well as learning together.  We are trying to add an election class, a LEGO class as well as Sign Language!  I also have a friend who wants to teach watercolors and one who might teach Indiana History!
  4. The kids need to get back into a routine.  The grumbling and compaining is escalating these days. As much as I have tried to keep some routine in our summer schedule, it is just so hard to do in the summer.   
  5. I need to get back into more of a routine myself...My devotions seem to suffer every summer when we have more late nights and sleeping in mornings.
  6. I miss snuggling to read every day.  The kids do read during the summer but not as consistently because we are more often going and doing. 
  7. My Aspie's mood swings will probably simmer down some.  Even good changes in routine like church camp and sweet corn picking are still change to an kiddo with Asperger's Syndrome.  The more routine driven schedule of fall helps him settle down some.
  8. Our first week back to school is going to be LEGO week.  The kids should be really excited!  I have a lapbook planned as well as many other LEGO related math and language arts activities.  This should be a fun way to kick off the school year. Click on the Imkage to see where I got the idea from!           

  9. The start of a new school year means the start of my cousin's first year in the NFL!  We are pretty excited to see how that unfolds for him!  Click HERE to read some about it!
  10. I just LOVE to teach and watch my kids learn.  It's not that they don't learn during the summer, but the learning and growing and excitement over "getting" something for the first time really kicks into full gear at the start of a new school year.
  11. Last year's "First Day Of School" Pic!

Monday, July 9, 2012

LEGO Newsroom

What my oldest son did while I was out of the house for a few hours today...

We recently visited a local TV studio for a family field trip.  Click HERE to see the real pics of the evening news team from Indiana's News Center.  Apparently they made a favorable impression on Caleb!  I love his attention to detail!
The news anchors have red coffee cups and even a desk monitor.
 These two guys are the producers in the Control Room.
The Camera Man! Notice his microphone!
The LEGO News Network Truck with a satellite on top!
Notice the weatherman has  a "green wall!"

He also wants us to help him look for his MP3 player before he leaves for a trip next week.  We were watching Huck Fin today and Jim was a "wanted" man.  He thought the phrase "Dead or Alive" was amusing.
There are at least 4 of these posters hanging throughout the house!  Notice the attention to detail again...he crumpled all the posters to "make them look authentic!" His siblings are quite excited about the $5 reward!

Besides creating with plastic bricks and Microsoft Word, he has also spent much time with my camera.  Taking pictures of what else? The weather, of course!

Notice the nice anvil on the top of this cloud? It was storming in Fort Wayne at the time. I bet you're wondering if the "bump" on the top of the cloud will rise any further.  :O)  It did...3 pictures later!

Let me know if you've enjoyed this "Day in the Life of Caleb" and I'll pass on your comments to him!