Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thoughts on Forced Socialization

Since the debacle with my e-mail, I've been staying away from this place.  I'm not really sure why, other than I'm working on some ideas for another website.  Perhaps my heart only has room enough for one online home? Who knows.

Sunday turned into a massively busy day, and when it got to be 8:00 and I still had school assignments to write and computer updates to run, I know that Menu Plan Monday wasn't going to happen this week.  I did however, plan my menu and shop on Saturday, so at least I know what we're having all week.

Our art co-op was cancelled this week because a couple of teachers were sick and/or had other appointments.  I didn't mention it to Chico because I knew he'd be disappointed.  It is a testament to his social development that I'd need to be concerned about him being saddened by missing a group activity.  A year ago, I'd have been working hard just to get him through the door.  It makes this mom quite happy to see him enjoying an activity that includes other kids, even if it's still parallel at his point.

I know that if any other parents of social activity-averse kids are reading this, then the burning question on their minds is "How did you do that??" The answer is (and I know this is going to be disappointing to some), we waited.  We fought against the feeling that we needed to force C to be social and chose instead to trust him to know what he was ready for.  I can't tell you how much unsolicited advice I've endured over the years from people who just knew that C needed to be in some kind of group activity.  Actually, I probably don't have to.  If your kid's Autistic you already know.

Listen, I did try to orchestrate social opportunities for C.  It became clear though, that he wasn't benefiting from them.  The presence of other kids was nothing more than another stress inducer for him, so we backed off.  I decided I'd rather endure judgement that continue to push C into things just to appease people whose opinions I never asked for anyway.  In this case, being proactive meant trusting in Chico, and not caving to my own social pressures.

Anyway, the tldr: version is this:  If your Autistic child (or sibling, parent, great uncle, etc.) is telling or showing you that they don't want the social stuff, believe them.  Back them up.  Trust them.  Enjoy the world on their terms, and let them decide how much, if any, social interaction is beneficial.  Believe what they tell you about their own experience, even if there is conflict with established protocol.  It is quite possible that at some point they will be ready on their own terms.  And if in fact they are not ever able to socialize in a way that is conventionally expected or accepted, that doesn't mean that they won't find a way that is meaningful to them.  Not to you, perhaps.  But to them. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Google +?? More like Google Minus!

I've spent the last two days fighting with Google +.

I signed up for a new gmail account from some business networking.

While slogging through the inevitable muck that one must endure to create such an account, I must have linked the gmail to this blog.

After a total of nearly seven hours researching and trying different things, they are still inexorably linked. 

For a bit of added entertainment, my Youtube channel and feedly are now gone as well.

I'm not sure what to do from here.  Hours spent scouring the internet have yet to yield a solution.  After trying a couple of fixes from help forums (the only help available to users of Google+ and Blogger, evidently), I'm worse off than before.

I think it may be time to move this place over to WordPress.

So lovelies, how's your Wednesday so far?

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Planning Night Looks Like

As I mentioned, I am back to DIY-ing Chico's curriculum right now.  While I love the flexibility of being able to add in new options and easily remove those that aren't proving themselves out, it does add a significant workload back to my weekend.

I'm currently planning out a week at a time.  I've chosen to do it that way since I haven't yet ruled out using Sonlight or similar all-in-one curriculum for this year. I don't want to spend time planning each day of the entire year until I've decided which items are going to be in our permanent line up.

On Sunday night, I sit down with my homeschool planner and laptop and map out the tasks that Chico will need to complete for the week.  I'm loosely following along with several subjects from Easy Peasy Homeschool, so I look over the skills and assignments, adding those to my homeschool planner.  Then I click the links to make sure they are live and also to familiarize myself with the assignments.

Next I go through our reading comprehension book and assign chapters to each day. I am working with C to improve his comprehension of what he's read, so each day we answer about 10 questions related to each chapter that we read.  I will take some time during the week to formulate comprehension questions, and I try to stay 1-2 weeks ahead with my q&a prep.

This year, I'm experimenting with more block scheduling.  This gives C an extended period of time to work on projects or explore a subject more fully, rather than needing to quickly jump from task to task to get everything covered each day.  We do math, reading comprehension, writing practice, social skills, and read aloud each day.  History, Science, and Art are covered twice a week for each subject.  To complete my planning, I add in these three on their assigned days, prepare printouts and file by day of the week, and check that we have the needed supplies. 

This takes me a couple of hours from start to finish.  That's about an hour and a half more than I was spending with SL, but I expect that the time will decrease as we weed down and get our final choices in place.  It's an acceptable trade off for now, and a good opportunity to study and analyze what works for C.

Menu Plan Monday October 13, 2014

It's a busy Monday (aren't they all!), filled to the brim with homeschooling, cleaning, and trying to get a little outdoor recreation with the boy. On days like this, I'm so glad that I took some time to plan a menu and get all of the grocery shopping done over the weekend. 

This week:

Monday - Bean and beef tostadas, Spanish rice, zucchini

Tuesday - Red chile enchilada casserole, refried beans

Wednesday - Chicken stir fry, rice
Thursday - Leftover Buffet

Friday - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies

I'm linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.  I plan to spend some time today looking at other menu plans for some new ideas.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

My Homeschool Planner

After using Sonlight for the last three years, we are back to a build-your-own style of curriculum. In many ways, it's exciting to go back to our roots of building a program of study that is uniquely tailored to Chico's interests.  I have to admit though, that giving up Sonlight's fully laid out lesson plans was daunting.

I searched the web for homeschool planners, and while I found some really beautiful options, there were none that fit exactly what I needed.  I wasn't looking for a place to track every facet of our lives; I just wanted somewhere to write my lesson plans by subject, jot down a note or two, and keep track of what I was making for dinner that week.  I'm also frugal, and the thought of paying $25-$50 for a download, PLUS paying to color print on card stock, PLUS paying for binding, was more than I could do at the time.

Lucky for me, I'm handy with Microsoft Office and Photoshop, so I got busy and made my own.

It's quite basic, starting with the subjects at the left, a column for each weekday, a column for weekly priorities (I limited this space to eight rows because I tend to get a little crazy with the to-do lists), and a Menu Planning block, at the far right.  I printed a full-page calendar for each month, and put these together in order at the front of the planner.  This gives me somewhere to pencil in future plans. I made the cover image in Photoshop, and included this quote:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." 
                                                                                                     Jeremiah 29: 11-13

I've had my planner in use for two months now, and I love it with one small exception.  When I made this planner, we typically had at least one take out or restaurant meal a week.  Because of that, I didn't put all seven days of the week in my Menu Planning block.  Our circumstances have changed with going from two incomes to one, and so now we are less likely to eat out.  I can work around the missing Sundays, but it bugs me a little bit.  I will definitely add them in for next year. 

I printed it at home, and had it bound with a clear cover at OfficeMax.  My total cost was about $20 for the index card stock, printing, and spiral binding.  Not free, but not break-the-bank expensive either.  It was well worth the hour or so of time I spent creating the pages and printing them out. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Menu Plan Monday October 5, 2014

This week is filled with tried and true recipes. I made a double batch of stew yesterday, so Monday is a no cook night for me, and I will make extra enchiladas on Tuesday to give me another night off from cooking on Wednesday. I normally wait a day before serving leftovers, so we don't have the same meal two nights in a row, but that's just how it worked out this week.

Monday:  Beef stew, cornbread

Tuesday: Green chile and chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, calabacitas*

Wednesday: Leftovers from Tuesday

Thursday: Spaghetti, rosemary foccacia, steamed veggies

Friday: Q's choice (fallback plan is beef tacos and refried beans)

*For the uninitiated, Calabacitas are zucchini, prepared New Mexico style.  I use my mama's method with a few of my own changes, but this recipe will give you an idea of the ingredients and preparation.  If you are working through your fall zucchini harvest, I'd recommend giving this a try.

Linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

I'm so glad to be back to Menu Plan Mondays.  This is what's on the menu this week at La Casa Azul:

Monday: Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry, Rice

Tuesday:  Beef and Red Chile Enchiladas, Pinto Beans

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday:  Sloppy Joes, Crudite, Baked Fries

Friday:  Oven baked Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Steamed Veggies 

Linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  Stop by for more menus, and great home organization ideas!


I don't need my alarm to wake up anymore.

For so long, it seemed like that dreaded beep would pull me from the best sleep of the entire night.  Over this spring and summer, after exerting a little self-discipline in going to bed on time, I finally got to the point that the beep would find me feeling rested and ready to begin my day.  Now I wake up before the beep, but I don't have to be out the door for work anymore.

Is it irony, or another example of God's grace in preparing me for this new season of life?

I'm still feeling adrift. I've defined myself for so long by my work, by my ability add to my list and workload and never falter.  Now my life has been pared down in many ways, and not necessarily with my complete acceptance.  Q gives me daily encouragement, and good advice to just look at this as my new calling, and I'm trying.

I'm rebuilding myself, and my daily schedule, and my goals.  I keep looking back at what I had, and how things were, but I think I need to keep my eyes forward.  What was then was, and I'm grateful for the experiences I had, and the people I got to know, and the blessings that came from it.  But what is now is, and I have to keep my focus there.  I keep finding myself trying to find a way to recreate what I had, but that's not realistic.

So I breathe deeply, and pray for strength, and tell myself for the 100th time to focus not on what was, but on what is.

What is today, is the sun rising over my mountain view.  It is a husband at work, providing for our family and never faltering in his commitment to us. It is a son who's still sleeping, but who will be up soon and needing to get started on our studies.  It is a warm, safe home in need of tidying up, and chores to do, and a whole world out there to connect to.  It is where He has put me, and for today at least, I'm going to to dwell there.  Not in what was, but in what is.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Be Not Afraid

Some of my best growing-up memories involve hearing my dad sing in church.

Even now, with me having been far away from home for nearly two decades, and it having been even longer than that since I sat on the front row as he sang, the words to a particular song will come to me when I need them.  They come unasked for, like the wise words of an earthly father and a heavenly father will.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amid the burning flames
You shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all.

The ending I was afraid of came today.  I'm no longer at a job that I had, that I loved, for fifteen years.  It feels like the ending should have been bigger, to mark the loss of such a long relationship.  But, like a lot of long relationships, there was the Familiar (me), and the Newer, and the Newer won out.  I have been tried by fire in the last couple of months, and I'm still here.  A little grayer, a bit scarred, and no longer naive enough to believe that a co-worker would always be a friend.

Four weeks ago I was so sad and scared I couldn't breathe.  I couldn't eat, or sleep, or concentrate.  I was running numbers compulsively through my head, trying to sort out how to keep living the life we were living without my salary.

Today, I have a calm in my soul that could only be from God.  Nothing significant has changed from four weeks ago.  We still have the same expenses, and my wages are still gone.  But I'm once again able to believe in the promises of the Father, that my Father used to sing in our living room at Wednesday rehearsal, and then again from the right hand side of the altar on Sunday.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come, follow me
And I will give you rest.