Monday, April 30, 2012

11 - Throw Rocks

Ethan's activity of choice since he could walk, and grab a rock in his chubby little hands, was to throw rocks. We gave him appropriate places to do it, his favorite being into a little stream behind my mother's house. He spent lots of time with my mom just throwing rocks as a little kid.

All my boys enjoy throwing rocks (is that like saying they all like candy?) I have gone places with the intention of allowing them to throw rocks into a stream or a pond only to have other mom's telling their kids repeatedly to 'put the rocks down'! My kids would shoot me a glance to see what I expected of them - go right ahead I would tell them.
I taught them very early on to throw rocks when there was nothing between them and the water - like other people! I also showed them when and where we would throw rocks and where we would not. I feel like because they had chances to do it when they wanted - they were willing to abstain when  I asked them to.

Let them throw rocks! It is fun and feels really good - go ahead, try it.

Dangerous? A little bit. The risks are mild if the parameters and settings are right. 

What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Something Stunk - and it wasn't the animals!

I took Sean and Mikey to the zoo today. When we arrived, there were 6 buses unloading and lots of schools already there. We were one of only several 'non-school' parties there and it was hard not to notice some things that were going on that I thought were really unfortunate.

Our first stop was waiting to ride the train. As we waited, the group behind us experienced some conflict between the children. A boy called a girl a name and she began to cry. The adult that was present in the party knelt down to the little girl and told her what she needs to do is ignore him. She sniffled an 'ok' in response. The adult said nothing to the boy who committed the infraction until a few minutes later when he did something else that I did not see. At this point, the woman who was obviously in charge told him that if he broke one more rule, they were all getting out of line and 'the whole group would pay because of him'. Really?!? So much for all the 'bullying' hype!

The group in front of us were probably Kindergarten age. They were having a difficult time waiting in the long line that had formed. The two women that were in charge of that group were deeply engrossed in a conversation about a vacation one of them had taken. The kids were getting understandably rowdy. I watched as opportunity after opportunity was lost to point out interesting surroundings to the kids, a nearby butterfly that had landed on a soda machine and a little creek filled with all sorts of things to look at. I played 'I spy' with Mikey and Sean while they told the kids if they didn't 'start behaving', there would be no more class trips. They never started 'behaving' and lots of 'stop its!' followed. Guess these kids managed to garner the attention they were trying to get.

In front of another exhibit my kids were sharing space with a religous preschool. We were there for several minutes during which the teacher was very loud and short tempered with the kids, used sarcasm, and did a lot of sighing and eye rolling. This lady was obviously at the end of her rope with these kids, and seemed in no way interested in hiding that from onlookers.

Another situation I noted was while walking along a path that housed many small animals and birds. The kids kept asking the teacher what the animals were. 'A hedgehog', she said. It was a porcupine. 'That's another hawk', she said. A turkey vulture. 'Some kind of cat', she said. Yeah, a Lynx. I don't know if I am much smarter than her, but I do know that I am a better reader, as the names were on the plaques near the cages.

This is a lot of incidents of really what I think is crappy interactions with small children in the span of two hours. Another factor that I find very interesting is that we were in a public place where anyone could witness these displays. Had I known any of these children, I would have been on the phone promptly with their parents. Everyone had on name tags or shirts with the names of the programs they were with.  Talk about terrible publicity.

It impacted our visit. I kept thinking - this is unbelievable and it stinks! Why do you think I was able to witness so many poor interactions in such a short span of time? I considered each of these scenarios to be easily to remedied.

As a mother, I understand frustration and running out of patience. I do. Should it be different for people who've been put in charge of other people's children? Am I overreacting?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

1st Beach Day

The beach calls to me. It whispers, during those winter months that I dislike so much, that soon it will make everything better. It promises to warm my body, from the souls of my feet to the top of my head. It calls to me until eventually, it warms enough to make good on it's promises.

The beach promises me a happy car ride, windows down, music playing. It promises me eager boys, with arms loaded with fun.

It promises me plenty of fresh, salty air to fill my lungs and carry our kite.

It promises that the boys will all find a spot to play and relax.

The beach promises tidal pools full of treasure,

a leisurely, evening trek on the bay,

and a shiny, golden sunset.

The beach never fails to deliver on it's promises.

“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”

--Robert Henri

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Being Bald

It's inevitable. Unavoidable. Guaranteed. Anywhere I take Ethan, he is going to get stared at. We are going to get stared at. Yes, everywhere, all the time.

If you are used to how Ethan looks - good for you! If you don't find it that shocking - great. If you don't think it's a big deal. Think again.

It ranges from causual glances, double takes, stopping and standing, nudging a companion, teenagers that openly make jokes, little kids that point and stare, and grown adults who almost bump into things. There is not a trip to the store or the park or anywhere else for that matter that I can say there is not one or more 'staring' incident. My reactions vary from day to day, the severity of the infraction and how much I've already put up with that day. Of course, the younger the child, the more I can understand. Recently there were a few 7 or 8 year olds at a soccer field that were so persistant with their 'sightseeing' that I had to say, 'really guys, it's just a bald head.'

I suppose it's not just his bald head, but the distinct look of Down syndrome. He also draws quite a bit of attention with his somewhat loud, and somewhat gruff speech. We have a trifecta, folks!

Several times I have taken the opportunity to approach a group of teenagers and tell them how much it sucks - really sucks - that they would make fun of him so openly, and that they are old enough to know better, and that they better hope that they or any of their friends never get sick and lose their hair. I tell them to think about it. I don't know if they ever do, but it's a message I need to send.

I have had more than one mother who told their children to 'shut up' and pull them away quickly when they ask 'why does that boy have no hair?' Way to go moms, nothing like passing on your ignorance. In all honestly I have heard two moms give sweet, truthful answers - "I don't know, honey" and "I guess he just doesn't". Now, was that so hard?

It's the adults that I just can't get. Turning around multiple times and mentioning it to their husband or wife and believe it or not, once a mom pointed him out to her middle school son. I don't know if people feel invisible in crowded places, but I can easily read 'look at that kid over their' on their lips, with their heads tilted towards another's ear and a gesture in our direction.

I have shared words with a fair share of them. I want my other kids to know that it is ok to let people know that you see them. I have told people they can stop looking now, only to have them offended that I would address it. I have asked them if they know Ethan or did they want me to introduce them. No one has taken me up on that offer.

The converse side of this, is we have experienced our fair share of people being incredibly nice to our family. Once, Ethan was given a basketball jersey at a basketball game just because 'he should have this'. In an incredibly long line at the Empire State Building we were instantly picked out and told that 'kids like him don't have to wait' - which meant the rest of us didn't either! My boys were taken directly to the front of the line at Times Square Toys R Us to ride the infamous ferris wheel when the line was approximately two hours long. People have handed him extra ride tickets at the fair and we have received free ice cream cones on one occassion because 'those boys all deserve it'.

And they do. And baldness has it's benefits.

Ethan had normal hair until he was 6. He then developed alopecia universalis. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes his body to mistake his hair for 'enemy cells'. It affects slightly more people with Down syndrome than the general population. He has no eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair on his arms and legs - 'universalis' - universal. It does not affect his health in other way and for that we are grateful. Although there are some standard treatments that are questionably successful, Ethan has other health issues that make addressing it with any types of medications or therapies very undesirable. Ethan enjoys being bald (except for his daily sunscreening at my hands).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Newark Museum

We had a chance to enjoy The Newark Museum for the first time. Thanks to a savvy homeschooling mom that tipped us off to a good deal on Seize the Deal for membership that includes a great reciprocity agreement.

The museum was easy to get to and has it's own parking lot. The hours are 12-5. We had no agenda when we got there, we weren't looking for something in particular, which was nice. We simply perused what they had with plans to come back a few more times (the benefits of membership!)

There are plenty of hands-on exhibits to interest the kids.

A new exhibit, Generation Fit, was not only hands-on, but whole body. A good place to burn off steam and calories! If you are looking for art, they have Asian, African, American, and my boys' favorite - classical artifacts from Greece, Rome and Egypt.

We took in a show in their small, but very nice Dreyfus Plantetarium. They change their showings periodically, so we look forward to seeing something else soon. The museum also boasts The Ballentine House, which we did not visit yet, an outdoor garden, an old schoolhouse and a fire museum.

It's a nice place to stroll through and see what grabs you kids' interests and take it from there. The boys' agreed it is somewhere they would like to go many more times. I like the idea of having places like this lined up for when extreme weather on the forecast. I also find that seeing things displayed really solidifies an idea or a concept that we have read or heard about.

They had a great gift shop and I am definately picking up the teeny, tiny origami bird earrings they have - I knew I'd be sorry when I left without them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

34 - Deconstruct an Appliance

I happened to have a bunch of kids at my house. I also happened to have a VCR that I bought at the thrift shop for $3.98 on 1/2 price day. Borrowing Dennis' tools, I gave them something to keep them busy for an hour and a half.

I did not give them any instructions, but I told them that they were welcome to the tools and the VCR if they had interest. They all went promptly to work.

They were all interested in different parts of the machine. Some liked the circuit boards, other copper wiring, some smooth spinning wheels on ball bearings, and some were interested in fashion - look, Janet...I made a headband!

I was watching 'headband girl' for several minutes, because she seemed to be on the periphery of the project and I was trying to see if she needed me to intervene for her. Then I noticed what she was doing was taking the discarded screws and matching them to the screwdrivers that were available. She informed me that there were 'star-shaped' tops and 'lines'. Neat.

When they all had their fill of unscrewing, wire clipping, hammering, unsnapping, and breaking the VRC down it's tiniest elements, they procured Ziploc bags and divided up the booty. There was trading and negotiating, a little fighting and then they all seemed to gather an acceptable cache of 'treasure'.

No tools or children were hurt in the carrying out of this challenge.

Dangerous? No, not really. But really interesting.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tag - I'm it

Theresa, over at Red Oak Lane, 'tagged' me in a 'game' and I decided to play along.

The Rules:
1. Post these rules.
2. Post a photo of yourself and 11 random facts about you.
3. Answer the questions given to you in the tagger’s post.
4. Create 11 new questions and tag new people to answer them.
5. Go to their blog/twitter and let them know they have been tagged.

11 Random facts about me:

1. I have crazy taste in music - country, 80s dance mix, Michael Jackson, Eminem, Johnny Cash, movie soundtracks, folk. I like particular 'songs' more than I like a particular style.

2. I love to bake but don't love to cook.

3. I love daytrips - a lot.

4. I like cleaning my house.

5. I like tattoos.

6. I can talk to anyone, anywhere.

7. I lose stuff - a lot. Worst I have ever done - airline tickets left in a rest stop on the GSP and cashing an entire paycheck and throwing it in a trash can at Taco Bell. Got both airline tix and $$ back!

8. I hate watching sports on TV.

9. I wished for a baby boy with Down syndrome when I was 15.

10. I have attended the NY Renaissance Festival almost every year of my life that I can remember.

11. The fact that I am a married mom to four boys sometimes still freaks me out.

The Questions I was given:

1. Why did you start blogging?

I love reading other people's blogs and wanted to join in the fun. I have never been good about keeping a 'diary' or a journal, but blogging seems to be sticking. I like to tell stories about what goes on in my house and often someone would tell me, 'you should write this stuff down'. Now I do. I think my family is a little unique and interesting and I enjoy sharing that.

2. What is your best advice for a new blogger?

I am a new blogger! Do it for yourself. Write because you like it, are interested in developing a style of your own. Don't copy anyone else's blog.

3. Do you think something good can come from something bad?

It feels good to have enough life experience to know that it does. Unemployments that we thought were the end of the world turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. Challenges we have thought were unsurmountable became part of what made us who we are.

4. What is your biggest challenge?

Trying to discern what my challenges are versus my strenghts - they seem to end up intertwined!

5. If you had a day all to yourself, what would you do?

Hike, read, sit on a beach, not cook.

6. What is your favorite book?

Wow - I have to pick one? I think I'd have to pick The Mists of Avalon - Arthurian legend.

7. What are the 5 most important traits in a friend to you?

My friends are honest, smart, insightful, introspective and funny. Those must be important to me since they all seem to share those qualities.

8. Do you trust your first impression of someone?

I do, but I like to think I give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Do you get energized from being around people or alone time?

People, people, people, parties, outings, family, friends - I might be an 'extreme' extrovert.

10. How does your life compare to the life you thought you would have when you were a kid?

I never thought about it. I just did the next thing. I never planned anything that I have now, but I also never missed anything, because it is just not how I think. I am not a long term planner - I think it has the capacity to breed disappointment. It's going to be what it's going to be.

11. Any future goals you would like to share?

I have interest in a nursing career and I'd like to spend some time on a sunny island someday and I'd like to own a motorcycle ;)

I am wondering if Sigal at The Mom and Dad Academy and
Kate at Homeschooling in the Garden State would like to play along. Please feel free to answer the same questions that I did.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter, A Pictorial

It really was just this nice. Perfect weather, lots of family, friends, & food and lots of time outside. We did the compulsary egg dyeing, read a lovely easter story to the kids and spent some time listening to inspiring and uplifting music. I spent some time honing my photography skills.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Do You Strew?

No, not sew or stew and nothing about a shrew. Strew.

The dictionary defines this as "to cover an area with loosely or carelessly scattered objects or material". Sandra Dodd, homeschooling guru, coined the term for homeschoolers and defines it here.

I love the concept of it, and embrace it in a very broad sense. Although we are 'homeschoolers', I seldom, if ever, think of myself as my kids' 'teacher'. I do think of myself as their facilitator and the 'Strewer of their Paths'!

I like to bring as many things into my kids lives (or their paths) as I can, and allow them to pick up, latch on, mull over, or cast aside these things as they please.

I use my house to do it. I pin up maps, timelines, posters, papers, and quotes.

I don't decorate some 'schoolroom' with these things. They are everywhere - yes, *everywhere*. I love a captive audience!

Conversations begin, questions are asked, factoids are recited to me over breaksfast, facts I did not "teach". Maps are referenced very frequently. I have often seen one of the kids sitting intently, reading something I've put up or had to ask them where they learned about something only to be told it was on something I left around.

I also consider what I keep on the bookshelves that the kids frequent, strewing. I purposely look for copies of great books with interesting covers, bold print, gold embossment, or whatever looks nice to place on their shelves. I cull and rearrange the shelves frequently. They ask to be read things that I never thought to read to them, I find books in their rooms that are way over their heads, books being previewed and books I did not even know they read.

I have a very deliberate set-up in their literal path. I use a bookshelf they walk past 100 times a day to place things I think they might like and I change what is on it often. Toys, games, manipulatives, books, art supplies, and puzzles. I do not call their attention to it or tell them go and do something on it. It is really a buffet for them to choose from.

I also consider all the places I take the boys to be a form of strewing. It is an offering to them, they can pick what they want to look at and read about. They can stay as long as they like in front of something, or walk past it altogether. I am often surprised by what interests them in a museum. I want to put as many people, places, things and experiences in front of them that I am able to - it's a gift.

Strewing can also be applied to everyday experiences. The music I play, the talk radio on in the car, food being cooked, things I am interested in on the internet are all shared with the boys in my house. It is like a yummy piece of fruit being peeled and offered to share - they can say 'yes, please' or 'no thanks', return later for some or eat a whole bunch of something before they tire of it. 

Dot their paths with tasty, little morsels.