Thursday, February 28, 2013

Civil War History 150th Anniversary Events

I grew up within driving distance of a Civil War battlefield. We took day trips there, with picnics, with family and with youth groups from church. The gigantic anchor and chain always fascinated me, as did the cannons and the pipes in the ground that were used for communication.

The kids and I visited Fort Massac in 2009.

And last fall, we visited Fort Nashboro.

Perhaps I am the last person to realize that we are in the middle of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The realization hit me as I read an article about an upcoming reenactment in the newspaper. If you want to learn about Civil War history in settings where battle action took place, now is the time to look at a calendar of events and make plans. We've missed quite a few events already. I have, anyway.

I found a few of web sites in a quick google search.

Some events are within driving range for us. I'm taking notes. I hope we can attend at least one reenactment event. Field trips like historical reenactments are a great way to generate interest for my homeschooler with ASD. All of my children enjoy the field trips and I do, too.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Bradford Pear

We are looking at a Bradford Pear twig to check out the buds up close. (photo here) I wanted us to draw it. First attempt was a rush job to complete the task and check it off of a list.

We're working on detail and attention and more importantly, visualization.

Her second opportunity, with me guiding this time, is much better. She looked at it more closely and saw details that I don't think she paid attention to before. 

We have a pencil, "yellow ochre" (which immediately takes my mind on a field trip to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat") that is almost the exact color of the bud. I pointed that out to her, and spotlighted that when the tree blooms, the blooms will be white, not yellow ochre. I can't wait to see the blooms. (I'm not sure she's excited about them.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Triple Talk Vocabular Cards Review

Super Duper sent me a game of vocabulary cards called Triple Talk to use and review. The game consists of 240 laminated playing cards in a cute tin mini-lunchbox type box.

The game gives players 60 word cards (see the example, "fair" in the photograph) and 180 photo-definition cards. There are three photo-definition cards for every word card, and the photo-definition cards represent three levels of difficulty.

I really appreciate the fact that the photo-definition cards say "Level 1" or "Level 2" or "Level 3" on them instead of grade levels. My teen who is academically delayed becomes upset when I introduce a game or book that is clearly labeled a grade level that is much younger than she is.

The cards are bright, the colors and photos are attractive, they are the size of a deck of playing cards and they are laminated to be sturdy. The photos are a big help to students who need that visual cue. The metal case makes them look more like a game or toy than anything "educational".

The description calls for a fast paced game where the word cards are face down in one pile and the photo-definition cards are dealt to each player. As each word card is turned over, the players look to see if they have the photo-definition card and the first player who finds a photo-definition card wins that round. Other photo-definition cards that match the word are discarded. The player who discards all his cards first is the winner.

We haven't used that set of rules at our house. My child with autism needs a slower pace for additional processing time. And, like most homeschoolers, we modify everything we get. We use nothing exactly as it was intended to be used. Triple Talk is easy to modify for our needs. My child recently completed some achievement testing and she needs practice and experience in visualization. I've been pulling the photo-definition cards and we've been going over them to come up with one word that captures all three definitions. It's our own version of the "Learn the Definitions" variation from the rule book that comes with the game.

We are working on nouns, verbs, and adjectives at the moment, and one of the game versions is "Noun or Verb?" and another is "Nouns and Verbs in Context" (which includes adjectives, too).

My girl needs practice and experience defining terms and concepts, too, and I have struggled with how to model that. Defining a word without using the word is challenging. Now I have a game that models that for me.

Other games mentioned in the game booklet include, "Fill in the Blank!"; "Multiple Meanings Jeopardy"; "Pick a Card, Any Card"; and later, a way to use the words and definitions to learn figurative language, something we need practice with in autism.

Triple Talk is priced at $34.95 and can be used at many levels, which makes it a good value in my opinion. This is not a product that we'll use and finish quickly. We will pull this one from the shelf again and again.

Super Duper sent me a free game of Triple Talk Vocabulary Cards so that I could use and review it for you. I was not paid for this review. The opinions are my own. I am not obligated to provide a positive review. 

Monday, February 25, 2013


My husband has made an effort to eat fewer calories while increasing nutrition on his journey to lose weight. He has begun eating large amounts of lettuce-based raw-veggie salads and he has lost a lot of weight, so much that he had to take pants to a tailor for alterations.

He's been making his own salad dressings so that he can control fat and calories. Watching him experiment is fun. He's like a mad scientist sometimes.

Here's a link to a dressing I make sometimes. It was a hit at the marching band banquet in November when I had fresh from Florida oranges to put into my salad. (Our high school marching band sells fruit as a fundraiser every fall and the oranges are just a day or two from the tree when we get them. Yum. The marching band banquet was the day after we got our fruit!)

Back to the husband: I knew exactly what to get him for Christmas. I found these salad dressing bottles at Target for around $4. The bottles have recipes on the sides that require no measuring cups. Simply fill with an ingredient to the line marked on the side of the bottle. (see close up photos below) I saw similar bottles at Macy's in the Martha Stewart line but when I went to buy them, our store had exactly one with no price and no way to look up the price. I was pleased to find them at Target and I'm positive the price was better at Target.

I also spent some time looking for specialty oils, vinegars, and spices. My favorite vinegar is the one at the very front, a cherry balsamic from Pastamore that, probably because it is my favorite, they have discontinued. I discovered pastamore at a local street festival. They carry gluten-free pasta, too.

Hubby is a little bit like a mad scientist as he mixes and measures and tries new combinations. ;)
 Close ups of two of the recipes on the salad dressing bottles:


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spring is coming!

From a distance, the branches appear dead and bare. A different story is revealed up close. This Bradford Pear is budding, about to bloom. One day very soon, the world will wake to see a blizzard of snow white blooms dotting the landscape from these stinky trees that are so beautiful in the spring.
Hmmmm. Perhaps my homeschooler with ASD and I will spend some time drawing the before and after bud/bloom. Nature Study 101.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

90 Days Through the Bible

90 Days Through the Bible, A Devotional Journey from Walk Thru the Bible is a 233 page paperback has a list price of $14.99 brought to us by author and Walk Thru the Bible editor Chris Tiegreen.

As the book title suggests, there are 90 devotionals, each 2-3 pages in length, that are arranged in the order of the books of the Old and New Testaments. Each daily devotion offers readers questions for reflection.

At first, I thought the book was a read-through-the-Bible-in-90-days kind of book. It is not. This walk gives some history and background information and general themes and overviews, zoomed-out big picture kinds of steps, sometimes the things I miss in daily Bible study over specific verses.

An excerpt from Day 16 about the book of Ruth reminds me in the midst of a rather chaotic week from the bumpy autism pathway, "The book is a case study in the scriptural truth that God lifts up he humble and draws near to the brokenhearted. Even in our deepest disappointments, he finds ways to make our lives meaningful and bring us into a place of fulfillment. This process can take a frustratingly long time, but when we demonstrate faith and patience, He makes sure it ends well. And it's always worth the wait."

For those of us who struggle to sit down for quiet time, 90 Days Thru the Bible would be easy to keep in the car for time in pick-up lines at school, for waiting during homeschool baseball practice, while a child is taking figure skating lessons. It is also a good choice for keeping beside the bath tub where a lot of us always have time to read two or three pages during a soak.

The information is interesting and captures my attention and I admit that it is easy to want to read ahead and not stick to one devotion per day. It would be a really good audio-resource or book for my tablet, too. I like this one very much and I am seriously considering using this as a homeschool text for of the questions for reflection. The reflection will make good writing and journaling assignments.

Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of 90 Days Thru the Bible. The opinions are my own. I was not paid for this review and I am not obligated to provide a positive review.
90 Days Through the Bible  is a book I received a while ago. I am behind on reviews and this one is apologetically very late.Tyndale House Publishers offered it as it was published last fall and I requested it and tried to begin it in the middle of a busy marching band season and the beginning of homeschooling another child (two total, one with autism, one without). The book was set aside in the busyness of our lives at the time. (I stopped requesting review items because my busyness is not fair to the vendors who trust that I can do this job.)

Autism in the Family (review)

Autism in the Family, Caring and Coping Together arrived as a surprise from Brookes Publishing. Sometimes they send me new books, and this one is a treat.

The process of acceptance and coping with the challenges and demands of autism alongside the grief that we process as we journey this pathway that is so different from the one we dreamed about when we thought about parenthood can be lonely. We parents are often misunderstood by adults with autism who are functioning at a level where their autism is something positive they see to be embraced and celebrated, when in fact, the autism we see is something negative that holds our kids back. (An aside: I have blogged in the past about my opinion that the two sides are in fact one side who happen to be defining autism differently.) The emotions of being a parent of a child with special needs are a puzzle piece that we parents sometimes overlook or ignore.

Naseef addresses both the emotions and the day-to-day challenges of parenting a child on the autism spectrum in Autism in the Family. The combination is unique, in my opinion. I don't remember encountering this combination in all of the books I have read along the way.

Most of the books I read about caring and coping are written by women. Robert A. Naseef's book is a surprise, not simply because it was an unexpected delivery, but because it comes from a male perspective.

His story touches me, reaches my heart, and I relate to his experience in a way I didn't expect. Naseef is authentic, real, a peer, parent of a child with autism.

Naseef is a psychologist as well as a parent of an adult child with autism, and that makes a difference that is evident. He has insight, empathy, and understanding that many professionals in our journey have not had. (Many of our professionals were not parents. Looking back, that was a problem because they had no experience base to perspective take from my point of view as a parent!)

Naseef gives us advice and insight about our children, but more importantly, about ourselves as parents. He reminds me to include my own reaction to my child's behavior in addressing challenging behavior, something our developmental approach has taught me. I'm better at it some days than others. "If you are spending more time correcting your child than guiding and enjoying him or her, then that may be the signal that it is time to seek help." p. 63, Chapter 5, Understanding and Guiding Your Child's Behavior. 

Naseef writes in detail and honesty about topics that are difficult to talk about, write about, and self-examination toward making changes for the better, for the parent, from the inside out. His book plants seed after seed for my self-reflection and growth, something I did not expect when I opened the book for the first time.

The table of contents:

About the Author
by Cindy Ariel

Prologue: A Letter to My Son
  1. My Story
  2. The Emotional Journey: From Lost Dreams and Chronic Stress to Acceptance
  3. Understanding Autism
  4. Starting Over and Falling in Love Again
  5. Understanding and Guiding Your Child's Behavior
  6. Surfing Your Stress: One Wave at a Time
  7. Parents and Professionals: A Partnership in Child Development
  8. Big Boys Don't Cry: The Secret Life of Men
  9. Ordinary Couples, Challenged Relationships: Another Developmental Process
  10. A Different Perspective: Understanding Siblings
  11. Family and Friends: Finding and Building Circles of Support
  12. Adolescence
  13. Adulthood
  14. Reflections on Peace of Mind and Happiness

I especially like the way he does not ignore challenges and issues that are specific to girls and the autism spectrum.

My one complaint: Naseef is a psychologist, a scientist, and he relies heavily on what science has to say about a cause or a treatment or intervention. While I agree that lots of "snake oil" does exist, there are many therapies and treatments that are safe and that work where the scientific studies lag behind. And I do not believe the science is in, yet, on whether vaccines play a role in autism.

Autism in the Family is a resource I would not have purchased for myself, although it is one that I needed. I'm glad it arrived as a surprise at my front door.

I found an interview with Dr Naseef here, if you'd like to know more about him. An excerpt from a previous book is located here.

Autism In the Family, Caring and Coping Together is available at book stores and online. A 268 page paperback, it is list priced at $24.95.

Disclaimer: Brookes Publishing sent me a free review copy of Autism in the Family, Caring and Coping Together. I am not paid for reviews. The opinions here are my own. I am not obligated to write a positive review.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Art Without Boundaries

We were given a treat this morning. A local artist is completing certification for MnemeTherapy with the Art Without Boundaries Association and we volunteered to help her with certification.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another hard drive crash

She's back from yet another hard drive crash under warranty. Yes, crash #3. Unbelievable. And HP replaced the hard drive that crashed twice with a third hard drive just like the other two. :(

I don't realize how much we use our notebook until it crashes and we lose it for a couple of weeks. Homeschooling, blogging, researching, social media come to a screeching halt.

I had a moment of bewilderment and then fury after we picked up our notebook from the tech shop that diagnosed the crash and handled the return to HP for us. The notebook didn't look like ours. It had a dent on top that I didn't remember and no missing keys (ours had one missing key). I contacted HP to ask what, exactly, they had done to the notebook. The rep reported that the keyboard had been replaced to give us all of the keys.

I started the notebook fresh from repair and got an error message that a cooling fan wasn't working and the machine shut itself down.

The next day, the tech center phoned. They'd given us the wrong notebook. Two almost identical notebooks were mixed up, one in for repair, and ours, just in from repair, and they'd  mixed them up. I am happy to report we are up and running and playing catch-up today.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Imagine a stage in a theater or auditorium. You are there to attend an important presentation. The stage is busy with props, furniture, and equipment. Everything there is interesting to view and you find yourself unable to pay attention to the presenter. The items on the stage take your mind away from the speaker on stage. The props are an obstacle. Now, imagine the same stage and the same speaker, this time with the stage completely dark except for a single bright spotlight on the presenter. When we work with our children with challenges in attention, removing obstacles to meaning while spotlighting what we want them to see is important.
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