Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Week Recap

* Hockey season ended - with nail biting playoff games and trophies. That frees up Friday nights and Saturdays to...well, do more stuff!

* Christmas Cookie Baking has begun - with great disappointment and a service call to GE Appliances for cookies browning on one side and raw cookies on the other side of the oven :(

* Ethan participated in Midland School's Annual Jumpathon and ended up in the local newspaper, which made him extremely happy, and his ego even bigger. Gavin, Mikey and Sean were also given a chance to jump, which made them all very happy.

* Thanksgiving was super-casual with parade-watching, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, immediate family and paper plates. It was nice. I didn't even clean the house for everyone coming. Come to think of it, I didn't clean it after either.

* Post-holiday, I joined the women of Dennis' family for dinner and a holiday show. Kid-free, ladies only. Rare and very nice.

* Saturday was spent attending birthday parties. A space-themed 5th Birthday party and a beautiful Sweet Sixteen.

* There was a trip to NYC that needs it's own post!

* The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers were served as 'turkey salad sandwiches' for our trip to NY and dinner this evening as 'dinner pie' with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls on the bottom, turkey, carrots, broccoli, and gravy as the filling and stuffing piled on top and baked. Met with mixed reviews - and thankfully finished.

The payment for all this fun and frivolity is a laundry monster that is howling from the basement and the rest of the house looking like this.

Truth in advertising.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dan, The Wild Man

The kids and I attended a class coordinated by one of the moms from Green Valley Homeschoolers. Another mom offered her yard. Yes, class was held in the yard. We were joined by Dan Farella of Return to Nature. He is a Wildcrafter, Herbalist and Musician. He came to teach us about wild edibles that could be found on a suburban front lawn.

He talked about plants like they were friends of his that he wanted to introduce us to. He dispelled alot of myths about where minerals come from (like calcium - from plants!!) and where they can be found - your front lawn!! He doesn't call it a lawn, though, Dan calls it a garden.

We learned to identify several plants such as dandelion, plantain, and wild onions. We tasted them right there on the front lawn in the garden.

The kids were very interested in all he had to say and were eager to try remedies like chewing up plantain for applying to bites or stings. They asked great questions and added all types of anecdotes to his discussion.

I am enjoying reading his website. He happened to bring a few medicinals with him and I picked up his Elderberry Cough Syrup for a particularly nasty cough I have had for 10 days. I will let you know how it goes.

We really enjoyed our time with this passionate man who helped us think differently about what we put in our bodies and how we can use what nature has given us. I don't think this is the last time we'll be learning from Dan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Had Med Students for Dinner

On Monday evening, we opened our home to a new set of 'medical students'. We have been part of a seminar run by UMDNJ for over 10 years (on and off). The students are 3rd year students participating in a pediatric rotation during which they will receive training in treating patients who have disabilities. As part of the seminar, they are required to visit the home of a family raising at least one child with special needs.

I do this because I feel that it is so important for these soon-to-be doctors to cross the threshold from the clinical into the personal. I like them to see who we are, how we live, and what we need from the medical community. I hope that telling them the stories of the difficult beginning as well as what challenges we expect to face in the future will leave a lasting impression on them.

Three young men who we've never met before walked through our front door into our "you-get-what-you-get" environment. They walk in to video games and dinner prep and having to step over toys and dodge nerf bullets. During dinner, the guys ask lots of good questions. Did we know Ethan had Down syndrome before he was born? Who gave us the news and could it have been done better? What are all Ethan's diagnoses? What were the early years like? How do the boys interact? What do we hope for his future?

 I make sure they all have two big plates of chicken parm and I never tire of telling them that we need doctors who will listen, doctors who are human. I share with them some of our lowest points, personal things. I tell them that there were things that were and still are very hard. I tell them not be afraid to be optimistic and encouraging to new parents. I tell them that although they will be treating children during all types of difficult times and terrible illnesses, that raising children with special needs can be a gift.

I remember lots of our medical students over the years. I hope that they remember us and that it changes how they deal with another family who needs compassionate medical care or a family to whom they need to share difficult news with. I hope they will remember how much we love Ethan. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homeschooling - A Dark Side

There must a down side, you think. It can't be all freedom and field trips, times tables over leisurely, hot breakfasts and boys crocheting while I read aloud, right?

It's true. There is an ugly side to homeschooling. It's something many of us try to hide behind closed doors - It's Messy!!

First, there is the 'stuff' I keep.

Baskets, bins, bags, piles, shelves and closets full of stuff! I love for The Boyz to have access to science kits, art supplies, bioscopes, maps, puzzles, magnets, manipulatives, books, paper, games, glue, telescopes, crafting supplies, computer programs, musical instruments, building kits, scales, etc. You never know when one of them might need a Hieroglyphic Stamping Set or a clear form of the Human Body.

When things are in full swing, there are ant farms on the counter, crystals growing in my drinking glasses, my kitchen aid mixer whipping up paper mache,  and chickens mummifying in plastic bags.

Sometime when it gets to dinnertime...

There is nowhere to put dinner!

We deal with the regular amount of 'family living' mess with the addition of the house being 'in use' by children 24/7. Things that school kids leave behind in school shares our home with us. It's all good stuff and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Not even neat and clean.

Friday, November 11, 2011

38 - Learn Tightrope Walking

Gavin, Mikey and even Sean (and previously Ethan) take every opportunity to scale things, climb things and balance on objects that beckon them to balance on. While other mother's are yelling at their kids to get down, I'm taking photos.

Gavin & Mikey are particularly agile, and I like to think some of it is because they have been allowed to hone their skills. As far as tightroping walking goes, they can do the tops of bike racks, chain link fences, the tops of swingsets, and railings.

I particularly like that they did this with books in their hands, looked like they were walking on the ground and turned around at one end and did it again without falling.

Hey, you have to start somewhere!

Dangerous? We haven't had any problems yet. I guess you risk a broken bone, but I supposed that's bound to happen sometime.

53 - Whittle

I don't know how many kids whittle. I don't know how many kids are allowed to carry and handle knives. Are yours? Gavin & Mikey as well as their friend who were whittling here the other day are all Cub/Boy Scouts. In order to carry/use their knives they were taught how to handle a knife and some basic guidelines. They know that the improper use of a knife would results in losing that privilege. That is *really* something these boys do not want to lose.

Worried about your kids playing too many video games? Give them knives - they'll go find much more interesting things to do. You have to get outside to whittle, it could turn into a fabulous hobby, and it's a useful skill - how can you go wrong?

Dangerous? It is, but with proper training and some simple guidelines you can trust that nothing more than a little blood will be the worst of it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Market Day, Soccer & The Greatest Fort, Ever!

Homeschool soccer is *always* a good time. A great park full of kids and stellar weather to boot. Most kids come to play soccer and some come to watch and play with friends. It's all good at homeschool soccer.

This week was Market Day. The kids bring their wares to sell. We ended up selling stuff only to turn around and buy someone else's treaures - I think that's what Market Day is for. There were custom buttons, homemade baked goods, origami, candles and various handmade jewelry.

By far, the best part of the day was The Awesome Fort. I will do my best to convey what was so incredible about watching the kids build this circular work of art.

It began with kids dragging *huge* fallen limbs over vast distances into a central location. I believe from start to finish there was about 2 hours worth of work done.

There was alot of planning and hashing out of plans. There were definately leaders that emerged and busy workers.

No adults got involved. No one told them a 'better' way of doing things. Little kids worked, big kids worked. Boys & girls worked together. Polite orders were given and reponded to with cheerful 'okays'. Knives were used safely. Requests for help were met with extra hands. No one poked an eye out. The circle got bigger and higher by the minute. It became clear that this was not work to be interrupted. Several of us waited for an hour (and some of us needed to use the bathroom) because it was clear that it was really important to them. They eventually accomplished the task and took away from it what they were all needing and wanting. You'd have to ask the kids what that was, because all the adults could see was a huge circle of broken branches, but the kids clearly saw something much bigger than that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Green Valley Homeschool/A radio station tour

The kids and I hang out with folks from a homeschool group called The Green Valley Homeschool Coop. I came upon them when someone at another homeschool group snidely commented (with an stinkface) that I sounded like I belonged "at Green Valley". Turns out, she was right.

Green Valley is an ecletic and diverse group of people. There are all types of homeschoolers - highly academic & structured, classical, Charlotte Mason subscribers, Waldorf types, unschoolers and every variant of those. It was exciting for me to meet people with every religious and philosophical affiliation, lots of nationalities, different family structures, and with children of all ages. It was a welcome change from the 'cookie cutter' type of homeschool group. And good for my kids.

Green Valley is a free-flowing, social group. I always leave a gathering feeling blessed. Although there is not a specific curiculum of classes offered, they always seem to 'just happen' somehow.  Someone offers a book club or spanish lessons, someone coordinates classes at a local museum and offers it to the group, and people are always organizing field trips. That is how we ended up at Magic 98.3 this week.

Touring a radio station was way more interesting than I had anticipated. The office at this station happened to be really friendly and welcoming. We were shown several different studios, given history of the stations they supported, ratings were explained and we were able to meet the on-air personalities. We were told they are no longer 'disc jockeys' as there are no such things are 'discs' anymore!

Kids and moms alike had lots of questions and I think listening to the radio will certainly conjure more vibrant images of a fascinating industry. Keep up the great work, Green Valley, we're awesome!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Relationship with Halloween

I like Halloween - in theory. I like the idea of costumes, apples, pumpkins and fall frolicking. I hate the idea of trick-or-treating and the treats obtained turning my kids into monstrous versions of themselves. I dislike hearing my own voice saying things like "Quit pushing your brother!", "Stop walking on the neighbor's flowers!", "Watch out for that puddle", "Stay together - get over here!". I turn into a parent I don't want to be, with kids I don't want to have!

This year we hosted a Halloween party, for which I was without a camera and power thanks to an Oct. 29th snowstorm. (18 days prior, we were on the beach and in the water!)

On Halloween, Gavin & Mikey and I had the opportunity to visit with some residents at The Brandywine Assisted Living. I admit, it was a little awkward at first, trying to speak with people we did not know. But the residents seemed really happy to just see kids traipsing around in costumes.

Mikey was a shining, little beacon to the residents. He could talk easily with them, sit close to them and even ask them to try on his mask! He thought the ladies were lovely and they thought he was the cat's pjs!

He asked how soon we could go back and visit Barbara & Doreen. What a gift! We are definatly going back.

Later on, the boys only wanted to go around the block - and Ethan opted out about 1/2 way around. He likes handing out candy. But, the candy certainly got the better of them and there was still all types of frenzied behavior and mouthy children.

Hyper and fresh - but soooo darn cute!!