Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is Our Home School

He is curious, and a reader.  Math doesn't come easy, and I haven't found the key the goes to that particular lock yet.  Art is his favorite, and the images flow out of his fingertips in a way that only a true artist can achieve. He loves words, but they have to be in the right context, and they can make his head bobble with nervousness if they are the wrong ones.  So I pick my way slowly through Big Nate, Little House, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, looking for landmines and trying to keep him engaged. 

I wake up every morning wishing that we could jump right into our studies, but no, I have to go to work first, because blood draws and Endo visits don't come cheap and insurance keeps a few more worry lines off of my forehead.  So we chat for a bit about the drawing he did the night before, and the ones he plans to work on that day.  Then I go my way and he goes his, with promises to sit shoulder to shoulder and learn together after my obligatory six hours are done.
Sometimes we sit in chairs like company, and often we sprawl on the floor like you never can in public school, 'cause this is our school and we can recite scripture and learn about the Constitution any old way we want to.  We roll marbles back and forth while we recite addition tables.  I wish I could draw it all out for him. I have a feeling that if I could on figure out how, then 4+5 would equal 9 now and forevermore.  But images don't flow out of my hands like they do from his, and so we try this new thing and hope it will be The One.

He wrinkles his brow and counts marble by marble and gets the right answer.  Sometimes he tires of counting and guesses, and I hold my breath and hope he guesses right because the only thing worse than a hard to pronounce word is a wrong number.  When the numbers are wrong I use my softest voice and the most delicate words I know... so afraid to discourage this little man who works so hard at every little thing.

And when those numbers are wrong,  then it's all my fault for not having found the right key, and for the hours I spend at work, and for sometimes being as clueless as anyone about how he sees the world.  But I know I'll never quit, not as long as I have breath to teach with, because no one in the world cares about his success as much as I do.  And he won't quit, 'cause he's no quitter no matter how hard things are.  He might fuss, or growl, or even cry, but he doesn't quit.  And so I don't either.

Then Math is over, swallowed like a nasty pill, and chased with pats on the back and promises to shoot hoops or draw together later.  We move on to the things he likes, like reading and art and writing in our journals.  All of these things come easier to him and it occurs to me that these are my triumphs too, for the hours we've logged, both in chairs and on the floor.  We've earned them by singing ABC and trying to make it through "carpet time," by tracing letters on the easel that we finally got rid of when he had to crouch over to write on it.  For hours of explaining that A is for Apple, yes, but also for Ape, and sometimes sounds more like a U, like when it's used in Apartment, this is the reward.  Now I get to listen to him read to me from a book that is on 'grade level' (homeschoolers will insert a huge eye roll here), and there is a journal filled with his writing that is the most precious thing in our home.

Not all school days are breakthrough days.  Some of them are breakdown days, to be honest. Even on the hard days though, there is no denying that this is where he is thriving.  This is the environment where he learns, and where the only labels he wears are printed in large red letters and say "WONDERFUL", "IMAGINATIVE", "TALENTED", and "CHERISHED". 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sometimes It Feels Like

If you sang the rest of that line, you can stay.  If you are too young to know what I'm talking about, kindly take your little whippersnapper self and move on down the road.

...Aaand now I'm singing the song from the Wiz.  This is how my mind works, people. 

So, Q is now a reader of this blog. Hi, Q! (waves) Eeep, and Eeewww, and Uh-uh-no-boys-allowed, indeed.  Not sure if that's a good thing, or if it will make me blow this place up once and for all.  We don't at all have that best-friend, I can tell you anything sort of marriage.  It's more of an I love you but I don't need to be all up in your id sort of arrangement.  I'm fighting the urge to go back and edit entries.  I don't mind that anyone with google can find this place, but it's kinda-sorta creepy to know my husband is reading.  Too bad I don't have one of those MIB memory erasers.  I suppose I could use him reading here to my benefit, and place some ads for stuff I want him to buy me.  Ooh, and I could also write passive-aggressive entries anytime we disagree about something.  Must brainstorm about how to best leverage this for my own benefit.

We've now had a four day weekend from school, and I'm struggling to find some motivation to get back to work today.  It might end up being a light week academics wise. 

I checked out an Encyclopedia Brown book to read with C a few weeks ago, but we just barely eeked through it.  I loved those books when I was a kid, but the first one kind of fell flat this time around. I need to find more fun books to read with him.  He enjoyed the Yuck! books, but we finished the series.  Any suggestions?

C had blood drawn yesterday.  It had been a few months since his last draw, and he really struggled.  He cried and screamed and crossed his arms tight and refused to straighten them for a while.  Finally he pulled the Tegaderm sheets off by himself, and somehow or another we got him to give the techs an arm to draw from.  The room was too loud, and there were too many people talking at once, and I just wanted to run out, so I can only imagine how hard it was for him.  I think the ideal would just be near-silence from everybody but him, but I can't figure out how to make that happen.  Mama says it's not nice to tell people to please for the love of baby goats just shut yer yap already.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Locking the Door

I'm having the public vs. private debate again.  I have a private family blog where I don't have to keep up with pseudonyms and obscuring / combining certain details of the things I write, and I have to admit it's a lot easier to just let the words flow without the constant need to think five steps ahead of myself.    

I used to maintain this public space because I loved the sense of community that came from blog linking and comments.  These days I rarely link to my blog, and comments are a long distant memory.  I never had a ton of them, mostly because blog promotion was not and is not my thing.

The trickle of traffic I did have has dried up, and I think it might be nice to just lock this space down and continue from here on without the need for anonymity.

On the other hand, I have a few friendships that I never would have made without blogging, and even though I rarely see (or even talk to) those folks, it gives me pause to think that I might be shutting the door and future opportunities to build our village.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I believe

I believe...

That my son is perfect, just as he is.

That Autism is a difference in neurology, not a tragedy.

That harming a child is never acceptable, and that caregiver fatigue is never an excuse for abuse or murder.

That my primary role is not to teach my son to change, or "pass", but to facilitate his successful navigation of a world that is not built for him.

That C's life is meaningful, and valuable, and my life's work will be to affirm that to him, and to get others to see that as well.

That although my life must be dedicated primarily to Chico, that in no way obligates him to me.  When the time comes that he wants independence, no matter how little or how much, it will be my duty to give it to him.

That my summer experiment of 'servitude living' has made the happiest and most satisfied I've ever been.

That no hobby, project, or DIY that I skipped doing could be worth more than the time I'm investing in Chico.

That these days, no matter how long they sometimes feel individually, will pass altogether too quickly.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Like the clean, white digs?  Me too.  I think this space needed a change, but I'm not sure yet quite what that means.  I guess a blank canvas is a good place to start. 

We're starting a new school year, of sorts.  We school year 'round, but we move up to the next level of curriculum in September.  This summer brought a lot of changes to the way I'm approaching school with C, and I hope that they will prove to be positive.

I've spent so much of the last few years spreading myself way too thin.  I wanted to nurture and educate my son, bring in a full time income, keep a spotless home, cook 99% of our meals from scratch using whole foods, make time for my husband, provide exciting adventures for C, make sure he had adequate opportunities for physical fitness, keep my own workout routine together and lose fifty pounds, make connections with our church family, read a minimum of a book a week, blog, and find time to sew, craft, and maintain our family journal.

I was simply trying to accomplish too much, and I was exhausted and feeling like a failure all the time.  So last spring, I made the hard (at the time) decision that I needed to reassess my priorities and let some things go.  I worked at the assessment part all through the summer, and I'm working on prioritizing and weeding out now.

Without doubt, I know that my priorities are my relationship with God, my marriage, and my child.  Tonight I'm working out on paper how I'm going to transfer those priorities to the 24 hours I have in a day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Worst Blogger Award

And the winner (loser?) is... me! My last post was April 24. That's just short of two months ago. In that time:
*Chico turned 9 and had a family party with a Cat in the Hat cake.
*My parents and sister were here to share in the birthday fun.
*We finished the School Room Redo.
*We purged and painted our garage.
*I completed the gallery wall in my kitchen.
*We went to New Mexico for Memorial Day.
*We've hit up the water park several times.
*Chico is two weeks away from completing this year's Sonlight core.
*Q turned 42. We decorated the house, whipped up his favorite cake, loaded him up with cash and gift cards, and spent the day at the City Creek.

Our summer's going well. Thanks to taking a week off of school in April and again in May, we have a couple of weeks left to finish the core that I'd planned to have done in May. Not a big deal, since we school year round and will be moving on the next core as soon as this one is complete. I've waffled a teeny bit as to whether we'd continue with Sonlight (only 'cause it's holy expensive), but I've decided that we will. Due to C's delays, we didn't utilize the entire curriculum, but that's okay. The important things are that he is learning, he continues to get stronger on the RWR basics, and he enjoys the history and read alouds. Math continues to be a challenge, and I don't know if Horizons is still the best fit for him. I'm researching Math U See before I submit our SL order.

I'm trying very hard to be present and enjoy every bit of our too-short Utah summer. We've been to the water park, and have played outside so much that C's and my normally pale as milk complexions are decidedly bronzed. School makes it hard to get away from the house as much as I'd wanted to, but I'm doing my best. Story of my life.

Okay, enough rambling. My coffee cup's empty and it's time to get ready for work.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Just Like Everyone Else

Most days are rewarding.  Chico and exist in a place of peace and admiration. We have conversations about just like any other mom and son.  There are shared interests and activities.  Give and take abounds in this space, and we laugh, and it's great.

Some days are challenging.  Chico and I speak our different languages to each other, and no one understands much of anything.  After bumbling about trying to find something we can enjoy together, we both retreat into our individual interests.  But it doesn't feel like a break to recharge so much as it feels like hiding and avoidance.  We tiptoe around each other, and speak in one-and-two word phrases, and it's lonely.

This is the reality of parenting at my house.  There are great, glorious days when I feel like "I got this!".  There are hard, disappointing days when nothing much seems to go right and I feel like my son got the short end of the cosmic stick in having me for his mother.  Not so different from the parenting at any other house, I'd wager.

That similarity is what I try to stress to people.  I think that as long as they continue to see C as fundamentally different from their children and the children they know, they will be either pitying or unsympathetic towards him, neither of which is helpful.  C is not a tragic figure, nor is he spoiled.  He is neither indifferent toward humanity, nor a saint meant to save us.  He is a person with a loving heart, good intentions, generosity, a bit of self-interest, and all of the other complexities that a human being can possess.

Just like everyone else.

His greatest challenges lie in navigating his world with a heightened sensory palette, in words that sometimes won't come when they're needed the most, and in trying his best and hardest every day despite the lack of understanding he regularly encounters.  His most trying days come when he attempts to stifle the things that help him to cope (some would call them stims) in order to blend in and not be stared at, or judged harshly.

April is Autism awareness month.  The message my family and I will try to convey is this:

Our son is just like you.  Our parenting is (mostly) just like yours.  Our family is just like yours too.  I would venture to say that the same is true for the families of most Autistic individuals*.  So be kind, give the benefit of the doubt, and venture a hello.  You never know what  you'll learn.

*if you are rabid about person-first language, that's your choice, yo. Ain't nobody got time for that argument.