Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anxiety (and middle school orientation)

I homeschool one child. She is on the autism spectrum. Her neurotypically developing sibs attend a school-building school of the public, government school variety.

My son, a school-building-schooler, begins middle school next week. Today is middle school orientation.

My homeschooler has a lot of anxiety. Anxiety can create the perfect storm for a melt down (what HANDLE calls a "flare up".) A new situation can create so much uncertainty that anxiety rises, "autism" shows up in a big way, and we see behaviors that we haven't seen in a long time. We parents of children w/ autism try to preview new situations as best we can, role playing, practicing, going to a venue ahead of time, using social stories, pictures, fiction about a similar situation.

We tend to think of anxiety and the need to preview and prepare as something limited to autism and individuals with special needs.

The past few weeks, I've realized in a big way that my homeschooler is not much different from typical kids.

My son has mentioned quite a few times that he does not want to go to middle school and that he does not want to attend middle school orientation. I am quite relaxed about it. We've been through MS orientation with another child who has had a positive experience at that same school. And if the experience is too much for my son, I know that we can homeschool him. (Two-and-a-half years of homeschooling have shown me that, while homeschooling sibs while homeschooling one with autism would be a big challenge, it is something we could manage, and a few years ago, I'd never have thought it was an option; now I know it is.)

So, yesterday, when he was grumpy and backtalking a little bit, (his "behaviors" are more "acceptable", but the "behaviors" are signs of stress and anxiety nontheless), he expressed again that he does not want to go to orientation OR to middle school when school begins next week. I got it. I sat down with him and walked him through what past orientation days have been like. We'll get his schedule, locker assignment, locker combination. We'll make sure he can open his lock. He's had a combination lock for a couple of months to practice with; he knows how to do the right, left, right thing; he simply needs his new combination, although he has asked me several times why can't he take his lock to school and use it instead of having to learn a new combination. We'll walk his schedule a couple of times. He'll have his school picture made, buy supplies, maybe pick out school spiritwear (will he want a giant sweatshirt hoodie like big sis did?).

ALL of us need a preview before a new situation. Whether it's a first-time scheduled c-section or going to a new concert venue, we all want to talk to someone who has been there before. What is surgery like? Did you feel anything? Where is the best place to park? How early should I arrive?

Sometimes I think my daughter who is on the autism spectrum needs a preview because of the autism. I am wrong when I think that way. She needs a preview prior to a new event because she's just like all of the rest of us.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Owls, Bats, & Hummingbirds, OH MY! Capturing the Difficult Photographs

You may have noticed my struggle to photograph hummingbirds at my mom and dad's last week. (See posts here and here and here and here.)

In my e-mail inbox this morning, I learned that among the free classes offered by Homeschool Blogger dot com, there's one that teaches us how to photograph hummingbirds! (who knew?)

FREE CLASS, Thursday, September 2nd:

Owls, Bats, & Hummingbirds, OH MY! Capturing the Difficult Photographs

click HERE for details

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Contest: GFCF cookbook and goodies!

Be sure to check out


and enter by Tuesday, August 31st, for a chance to win one of three great prizes!

I Won! Rudi's Gluten Free

Gluten Free Steve and Rudi's offered a giveaway in July, and I won!!!

Thank you Steve and thank you Rudi's!!!

We arrived home today from a trip to find my prize.

After 600+ miles on the road, we got a real treat!

Check it out: A sturdy tote bag, three loaves of bread, a t-shirt, a box to pack a sandwich in, a stack of Rudi's sticky notes, and a handful of coupons.

Eldest and I tasted the multi-grain bread. It reminds me of a specialty multi-grain wheat bread with cherries I used to buy (except the Rudi's doesn't have cherries, but the texture is similar).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taking Turns

The 13-year-old

polished the fingernails

of the 3-year-old a pretty pink.

Then the 3-year-old wanted a turn to polish the fingernails of the 13-year-old.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Orange Moon

This evening, we are treated to an orange moon.

A little closer...

I'm on a mission to capture a perfect photo of a hummingbird. (You are probably bored with my personal mission.) The battle is ME vs the HUMMINGBIRDS and I am losing. The hummingbirds are not cooperating (they are conspiring to taunt me as a group, and no, I am not exaggerating). Neither is the plant behind the hummingbird feeders. When I peek from inside the house, there are many hummingbirds around the feeders. As soon as I go outside, they hide. Hmmmmmph. I was able to move slightly closer to the feeder this afternoon and a couple of the teeny birds came in for a snack and graciously allowed me to snap a few photos.

More birds

The hummingbirds are up and at 'em this morning. So are the blue birds. I think the blue birds may fly this week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Did you see the moon tonight?

No matter where we live on Earth, we are all looking at the same moon. That we can be in different locations around the world and share that experience on a place called the internet is sometimes mindboggling to me. Have you seen the moon tonight?

Genesis 1:16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. (NASB ©1995)


He is checking out the camera (or me)...
Getting a drink

I am always amazed to see the hummingbirds sitting still. They sit in trees, too, but are difficult to photograph because they blend in with the colors of the tree.

Bird On A Wire


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Books in the mail

My snail mail mailbox was full today. (I'll pretend the electric bill wasn't there today.) Two books arrived. One, I bought. One is a review item. I didn't expect to see similarities. The topics, the subject matter is completely different.

I ordered (and paid for) "The Little Man In the Map Teaches the State Capitals!" from TOS store. It arrived today. (I reviewed "Little Man In the Map" almost two years ago.)

The review item that arrived is Vocobulary Cartoons.

Individuals who are on the autism spectrum tend to learn more easily with visual cues. Both books share that characteristic - they teach using a mnemonic device that includes visual cue (a sketch), that the student, hopefully, will reference in his or her mind, as a clue to recalling the information. The visualization component to reference mentally is creative and hopefully will begin to bridge a gap to another developmental step. ;) The other part of the mnemonic device that both books utilize is with word play. (I'm not sure how the word play will work with a child who tends to be very literal. We'll see.)

We don't start "formal" school for a few more weeks. Especially after what arrived today, I am excited about the possibilities! ;)

Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture by Kathleen R. Hopkins

When Professor Reuven Feuerstein writes the forward for a new book, I want to read that book. I am certified in one level of Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) and I learned a lot about learning from Dr. Feuerstein's methods.

Guess who wrote the forward for "Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture"? Yes, Dr. Feuerstein.

First of all, Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture" is written primarily to teachers, and I include homeschool teachers in my mind as I read the text, and I also include any parent who is involved in the education of a child. In "THtLiaWtLC", Kathleen Ricard Hopkins does a really nice job explaining the many pieces (functions and skills) that work together to create what we label "learning" and "intelligence". "Learning" is not rote memorization. Intelligence is not a score on a test. Hopkins teaches us about cognitive modifiability.

Hopkins discusses, in terms and with anecdotes that are easily understood, concepts like competence, confidence, memory and memory types, curiosity, inner speech (self-talk).

About students who qualify for special education, Hopkins writes on page 58, "With all that we in western cultures have learned about the brain's modifiability, it is scandalous that we should not do our very best to change the intellectual abilities of struggling learners. Yet in most developed nations antiquated beliefs are still held about these children. Whether those beliefs are expressed openly or just held privately in the hearts of educators, erroneous thoughts are pervasive. 'It is no use to try to teach these children, they will never be good thinkers,' say the skeptics. Perhaps what we really need to do is stop adjusting the curriculum downward and instead adjust or modify the teachers. The solutions are not as difficult as they may seem...." .

If you've not been introduced to the concept of cognitive modifiability or Dr Feuerstein, this book is a nice introduction, for any teacher or parent/teacher.

It is a book that describes interaction with typically developing students. If you are the parent of a child with developmental delays, know that in this particular book, Hopkins focuses on, heavily spotlights the use of oral language for teachers as they interact with students. While the information is helpful as I continue to think about learning in new ways (nice idea generator for me), I will have to modify many of Hopkins' suggestions for a child with delays in areas of language that include spoken language.

Table of Contents

About the Author
About the National Institute for Learning Development
1 The Intelligence Dilemma
2 A Way Out of the Pressure Cooker
3 What Every Teacher Needs
4 The Big Picture
5 Setting Students Free
6 The Power of Oral Language
7 Moving Beyond Memorization
8 Those Inner Voices
9 Potential or Propensity?
10 Rediscovering the Joy

The NILD web site is HERE.

Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture
Kathleen R. Hopkins
ISBN: 978-0-470-34352-4
176 pages
April 2010, Jossey-Bass
US $24.95

Jossey-Bass Teacher, an Imprint of Wiley, sent me a review copy of "Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture". I am not financially compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Carol Fenster: 100 Best Gluten Free Recipes

Carol Fenster is a name I became familiar with 9½ years ago when my daughter went on a gluten free diet (three weeks later, we removed casein from her diet, also). I own a couple of Carol Fenster gluten free cookbooks, both are paperback with no photos. (And yes, I purchased them.) And Fenster's recipes were gluten free - not casein (dairy) free. I don't cook from them often because I have to figure out how to alter recipes to fit all of our other dietary requirements. (Fenster is NOT an allergen free baker/cook.)

I trust Fenster. She's well known in gluten free circles everywhere; she's a popular speaker, and her flour blends are often recommended and shared. As I become more comfortable making substitutions for our specific allergens, I am more comfortable trying recipes from folks who, like Fenster, aren't completely allergen free.

100 Best Gluten Free Recipes is different from the other cookbooks by Fenster that I own in that it is hardback and it contains color photographs, and offers recipes that are vegetarian (meat/dairy free) and offers substitutions for some milk-based ingredients in some of her recipes.

Fenster gives us a little bit of everything in this cookbook. Here is theTable of Contents:

Breakfast, Breads and Muffins
Small Bites: Appetizers, Soups, Salads and Sandwiches
Grains, Beans, and Pasta
Main Dishes

There are photographs of some of the completed recipes. The pictures are wonderful. (I like a cookbook with photos of completed recipes.) I have a short list that grows longer by the minute of recipes I want to try. If I can find a soy free, milk free cream cheese substitute, I want to try the Individual Fruit Tarts in Coconut Crusts pictured on the back cover. I'll try the crusts without the filling. The corn dogs pictured inside are the neatest, most "normal" looking corn dogs I've seen in any gluten free cookbook. (Will I be able to make mine look like those? Hmmm.) I want to make my own ice cream waffle cones. (Yum!) Lemon chicken. Chocolate chip muffins (they're actually chocolate muffins w/ chocolate chips, and yes, there's a photo).

For the most part, Fenster cooks with "regular" ingredients. If you're a gluten free cook, you'll recognize all of the different flour substitutes, the gums needed for baking, etc. Chia seeds are used in one recipe and are one of the few unusual items in the cookbook (I haven't seen them in a store yet).

If you are looking for a strict GFCF cookbook, this isn't it; although there are plenty of GFCF recipes to try here. If you're allergen free, you'll have to make quite a few substitutions. (I've said this before and I'll say it again, being simply gluten free would be so easy!)

This book is small, physically, too, giving it advantages and disadvantages in my opinion. A smaller book travels more easily, fitting into my tote bag on a trip or to the waiting room of an autism therapy appointment. On the other hand, a smaller book is more challenging to cook from (thank goodness for my StudyPod to prop it upright and open in the kitchen). A smaller book means the font is smaller, although I need my reading glasses for pretty much any book I cook from now.

Priced at $16.95, yes, I'd buy this book to add to my collection.

Wiley sent me a complimentary review copy of Carol Fenster's 100 Best Gluten Free Recipes to review here. I am not otherwise compensated for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Evocative Coaching

"When we 'provoke' someone, we do something to them in ways that provoke a reaction. To 'evoke' means that we do something with someone that unleashes or calls forth their full potential."

I have spent the last five or six years learning about how human beings learn, grow, and develop within a social context, within relationships, between-you-and-me. Most of my time has been spent on the parent/child relationship. Our family uses an intervention called Relationship Development Intervention(r), which uses a term borrowed from Barbara Rogoff, called "guided participation". We are applying a typical course of development, via the parent/child relationship, to the developmental delays and what RDI(r) calls the "core deficits" of autism.

We've learned to use ourselves in ways that allow our daughter to grow, to change, to make her own discoveries about relationships, about people, about herself.

Evocative Coaching is a really interesting, insightful read for me. It is, in my opinion, "guided participation" applied to the relationship where one teacher coaches another in a way that the teacher being coached makes discoveries about his/her self, his/her strengths, his/her fears, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, toward making that teacher a better teacher. I see so many similarities between what we work toward with my daughter (w/ autism) and what is taught and described in Evocative Coaching.

"Timothy Gallway's (2008) book The Inner Game of Tennis, first published in 1974, was a call to limit the use of instructions and incentives in coaching because of their oftentimes debilitating impact on the internal dynamics that make for optimum skill development and performance improvement. Ironically, he noted, the more important the stakes of the external requirements and reinforcements, the more instruction distracts people from their own 'natural learning' styles (p.22)."

External requirements and reinforcements distract from natural learning? Who knew? (sarcasm)

p 11: "Such coaching does not try to change teachers and does not try to persuade them to do things the 'right' way; rather, evocative coaching dances with teachers as they consider their options and invites them to become fully engaged in the process of discovering their own unique strategies for doing better." In RDI(r) we're not out to change our kids - we dance with them in a way that allows our kids to make their own discoveries. Here's another book that helps me look at the same concepts through two new sets of eyes.

Wiley's press materials use the word "dance" too: "By taking a teacher-centered, no-fault, strengths-based approach to performance improvement, the Evocative Coaching model generates the motivation and movement that enables teachers and schools to achieve desired outcomes and enhance quality of life. Viewed as a dynamic dance, the model is choreographed in four steps Story, Empathy, Inquiry, Design which are each laid out in its own chapter with powerful illustrative materials and end-of-chapter discussion questions to prompt further reflection."

How do I use myself to teach my children about others and themselves without telling them what to do (which leaves them passive) in a way that allows them to change by being active participants each day? How would I mentor another mom? This book shows us how.

Yes, this book is for adults, teacher-to-teacher, but I am gleaning a lot from it from the perspective of an autism interventionist. I think parents of typically developing teens might find it useful. Any mentor, I suspect, will learn from this book. Chapter one is HERE in its entirety. I think you'll be inspired.

Resources in the form of forms (that's clear, isn't it?) are HERE.

Wiley sent me a free review copy of "Evocative Coaching". I receive no financial compensation for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Chrysler Stinks

Spring 2010: Our nine-year-old vehicle needed more work than that it was worth. We looked at all of our options, and chose to buy a new vehicle. The price difference between new and late-model used wasn't that much, especially when we compared the warranties. We went with a new Chrysler vehicle. I wanted to stick with an American-made vehicle.

Today, I think I made a mistake by thinking "American-made". I am unimpressed with Chrysler's customer service today - in a big way.

Monday, during the new vehicle's first routine oil change and check-up, the dealership found an oil leak. Hubby's right; finding any problems or potential problems is exactly what is supposed to happen during a routine check.

Problem: The dealership could not look at my vehicle for TWO days, today, and could not offer me a loaner until NEXT WEEK. I have plans next week that include my vehicle.

I took the car to the dealership this morning. Now I have ZERO transportation.

I called the dealership this afternoon (- they didn't call me with any update -) it's a leak in the oil pan gasket, and because it's a NEW van, Chrysler requires them to authorize that particular part for payment. The service department at the dealership was waiting for Chrysler to call to authorize the repair. The dealership could not order the replacement part until Chysler authorized it.

So, they make ME, the CUSTOMER, wait, during this Chrysler red tape.

I called Chrysler customer service to ask them to speed up the process, to ask if someone at Chrysler would call my dealership and authorize that part. Customer service informed me there is no such authorization process and no dealership had logged a call on behalf of my vehicle today. Additionally, the rep at the Chrysler customer support 800 number told me that the oil pan gasket is a part the dealership should have on site, a part that should not have to be ordered, a same-day repair.

Who is telling the truth here?

The dealership reported to me that they talked to technical support, not customer support, and they do indeed have to get authorization to repair this particular part on a van this new. Additionally, Chrysler instructed the dealership to put MY VAN through some cleaning and testing before repairing and returning it to me. I might get it back at the end of the day tomorrow on a repair that the Chrysler customer service rep said that should be same-day.

Instead of REPAIRING MY VAN IMMEDIATELY AND RETURNING IT TO ME, and testing this broken oil pan gasket part on some other company-owned test van, they WASTE MY TIME, using my van as their guinea pig, cleaning, testing, whatever, and provide me no loaner vehicle.

That is bull hockey.

I am irritated and frustrated. There is a disconnect at Chrysler where they leave the customer out in the cold, a disconnect among technical support, customer support, and the dealership, and the customer is the one who loses.

TOS Seeks Product Reviewers


Product Reviewers Needed: This is for TOS-published works in progress. Must have good writing skills, be able to answer emails quickly, and turn reviews around promptly. MUST not already be affliated with TOS or the Crew. gena@tosmag.com for details.This is a volunteer position and you must be a homeschool parent to participate. email... gena@tosmag.com


I'm doing a lot of waiting today.

The new vehicle is going to the shop in a few minutes (I was told it is leaking oil when I took it for an oil change, Monday, although there is no oil on my garage floor). I hope it's something simple to repair. I cancelled quite a few appointments this week because I do not know how long I will be waiting without transportation.

I got a urine sample from my girl this morning, have to prep it, send it, and wait for results.

There's even some waiting about something that is not ready for publication.

But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Animals by mail

Fed ex delivered today a box containing

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amazing All-in-One Resource Disguised As a Planner aka A Planner Made for Me

I am a planner-person-wanna-be. I want to be the organized mom of a homeschooler and school-building schoolers who is organized and uses a planner to keep track of our family's days, weeks, and months. But I'm not. And I have a resource that helps wanna-be's like me, too.

A Planner is a Planner is a Planner,

except when it isn't only a Planner,


it's an all-in-one-household-homeschool-resource
disguised as a Planner!

Finding the right planner or calendar has been a wild goose chase for me. I have spent more than one afternoon driving from big bookstore to big office supply store, looking at nothing but planners and calendars. I haven't found a "just right" one yet.

I haven't found one made for me.

Until now.

The Schoolhouse Planner allows me to customize and personalize a planner made just for me!

The first half of the 614 page Schoolhouse Planner is homeschool resources, arranged by month, that includes recipes (including a dozen gluten free recipes), articles, facts, reference materials, hints, tips, & how-to's, advice from other homeschoolers. This section contains a wealth of information and idea-generation for me, and I will refer to it again and again, but none of that will go into my planner.

A Planner made for me has calendar pages, (obviously) but, I omit recipe pages
because I have another place for recipes.

My Planner has all of the household forms that I want
and none of the ones I don't want,and I can change my mind and add to my planner at any time.
My planner has homeschool forms, too.

My Planner is flexible and expandable, like those 3-ring binder pre-packaged types, but without the pre-packaged, take-it-or-leave-it package. I have an incredible list of options in designing my Planner. I am able to tell the print shop exactly what I want in a Planner made for me.

A Planner in an e-format is convenient, and I can type right on the form and print one or multiple copies at my convenience.

My Planner has forms
for tracking...
...auto maintenance
...home maintenance & repairs
...musical instrument practice (x3)
...menu Planning/Shopping
...goal and objective making (homeschool)
...daily planner pages
...weekly planner pages
...weekly schedule for three children pages
...some audio/video log pages
...a few field trip forms to begin with
...some pages for logging books read
...some craft log pages
(we use crafts to work on relationship development, and I'll be able to journal that in a unique way)
...extracurricular activities log pages
...memory work log pages
...Scripture memory log pages

Yes, I print my pages. Some folks operate from the straight from the computer screen. I haven't made that paperless leap yet.

Most helpful to me are the pages I'd call "non-planner pages" that are included in The Schoolhouse Planner. The homeschool related templates are a time saver for me. Nature journal pages, journal pages, book report pages, - I like being able to pull up my e-Planner and find one quickly, print it, and we're good to go. The reference sections are also helpful. No searching through the backs of cookbooks trying to find a measurement conversion sheet or a list of U.S. Presidents. I want to implement chore charts this school year (finally), and The Schoolhouse Planner gives me several from which to choose. There are a lot of forms (in pure wanna-be style) that I'd like to use that I've learned not to print until I actually begin using them.

Peek inside my Planner options package.

My Planner options package can be YOUR Planner options package: $39 e-book; $44 CD.

A 59 page sampler is here.

What's inside YOUR planner???

I am a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, and am an independent contractor with The Old Schoolhouse magazine. I received a free copy of the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner in exchange for writing this advertisement. This is not a review, but an entry in an ad-writing contest.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kids Day on Broadway

It's not every day that we get the opportunity to see stars of Broadway live. We were treated to a performance with tickets donated from the outdoor venue to a local autism non-profit. Our seats were wonderful and so was the show!

♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...RAY, a drop of golden sun...!!!♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

♪♫•*¨*•.¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...greased lightning, go greased lightning...!!!♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

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