Sunday, March 28, 2010

Outdoor Hour: Maple Tree Nature Study

Ahhh, so nice that Spring is finally on the way, and that Barb's Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges are right there to get us out in it. This week we did her Maple Tree Challenge.

First we read about maple trees in the Handbook of Nature Study online and about making maple syrup here. Then, through the magic of the www., I was able to find a video about farming in Vermont that I remembered we used to check out of the library for my son when he was little. Our current library doesn't carry it, so I was very excited when I found it to rent online from Amazon video on demand. It has a section on making maple syrup, but the whole video is worth watching even if you're not studying maples. We used to check it out of the library like every other week.

Afterwards, we headed outside to observe our red maple tree...

Then we used Barb's notebooking page to record our observations.

And of course, we had to try some real maple syrup :)

As always, the best part about the Outdoor Hour Challenges is that they get us outside and paying attention to the beautiful world in our own backyard. This day we went in search of other spring things around our farm...

Check out the upcoming Spring Nature Challenges at the Handbook of Nature Study

Saturday, March 27, 2010

World Autism Awareness Day... some thoughts

So lately there has been a wave of discontent washing over the land of bloggers who parent autistic children (one of the fiercest kind of mother bears). After this post, in which a mother of seven details her disgust at someone else's child misbehaving in public, hit the cyberworld, there was a call for bloggers everywhere to write a post about World Autism Awareness Day. I was going to stay out of it, as I felt like enough had probably been said on the subject, but when I saw that World Autism Awareness Day happens to fall on my son's birthday, my son who has a mild "case" of Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism, I felt I could hardly ignore it. So, here's my contribution...

I don't know if the little girl in the post was rudely hurrying the author's daughter off the library computer and being encouraged to do so by her coddling grandmother (I always thought a little coddling was in a grandmother's job description, but perhaps this was out of line) or if the girl had autism. Probably know one will ever know. The truth is it could have been either one. I have to say, I have seen things from the point-of-view of the author. Seen parenting as only black and white - children were either well-disciplined or they weren't. And that I had every right to roll my eyes at the ones who weren't. Then my son came along, and brought shades of grey into the picture that I had never seen before.

I had been told that Asperger's and ADHD (which my son also has) were psychobabble. Labels used to excuse bad parenting. And I might have been a person to believe that at one point in my life, but God humbled me in the most direct way by giving me my son. And I am grateful for it. Because it was a gift that changed the way I viewed the world. Because I know that when my seven year old son once barreled and pushed his way through the packed lobby after his gymnastics class, it wasn't because he thought he was better than everyone else and deserved to get out first. It was because he was trying to frantically escape the crowd to avoid the hundreds of touches that were overstimulating the skin he was about to burst right out of. Because that part of his brain, the part that is sensitive to touch, is more supercharged than other people's are. He didn't hear the chorus of "Excuse You!"s or "How Rude!"s, but I did. And so do the hundreds of other parents out there who are doing all they can to make their autistic spectrum children fit in in a world of neurotypicals. Is it okay to let children push people out of the way? No, of course not. And we are constantly working on ways to help my son deal with crowds, and patience, and are constantly teaching him that that is not a cool thing to do. But it has taken longer than it does with other children. Because one of the issues that autistic children have to deal with is being "mind blind", and not being able to tell what other people are feeling or thinking, not knowing what bothers them. And while teaching and discipline in life is what drives much of our behavior, you have to admit, so does worrying about doing things that might offend other people. Take that element out, and yeah, sometimes you might burst out with some geeky or jerkish behavior. But you don't mean to.

My point is, God made everyone different, and is it my place to judge the behavior of others? I used to think so, I did. But not anymore. The next time some guy pushes past me to get off a bus, will I be mad? Probably. But will I go home and write a post about his rudeness. Probably not. Maybe there was more to his shove than rudeness. Maybe he was a claustrophobic on the verge of a meltdown. Maybe his wife was at the hospital at that stop about to have a baby. Maybe he was just being rude. There are more circumstances than we can ever imagine driving people's behavior. Maybe that little girl at the library was working on patience in the best way she knew how, maybe the grandmother didn't stop her because she was distracted by grieving a recent death in the family, or maybe neither one of them stopped to give a thought to those around them. Most people don't wear signs detailing what's going on in their lives, whether it be a disability or a bad day. So does that make it okay to throw stones?

It is not OK to be rude, ever. And there are children out there - many, many children - who are allowed to get away with it. And that is sad, because it is almost getting to be the norm. But is a lack of compassion and empathy (or say, judging people for little things like using the computer at a library instead of looking at the books) perhaps a form of rudeness, too? If rudeness means not thinking of how what you do or say affects others then, well... As an example, if that little girl did have autistic issues, to jokingly say that her flapping, which is a natural calming tendency in those with autism, was about to make her take flight, is a slap in the face to those parents who are wishing with all their might that their kids didn't have to "flap" to cope with daily life, but whose kids do anyway. I'm just sayin', parents raising autistic kids have it rough enough, trying to deal with the quirks and freak-outs that are an unavoidable part of their child, especially in the younger years until they've learned to cope. Sometimes a smile of compassion instead of a slap in the face could go a long way. I am positive that the author of the post mentioned above never intended to offend those with autism in any way, and I do commend her on keeping her patience in check at the time. But I think the opposition is trying to point out that what looks like undisciplined behavior could be more than it seems sometimes. It isn't always black or white. Sometimes you just have to trust in the greys, that may be a little bigger than what you've experienced in your own life.

So April 2 is World Autism Awareness day. Why should the world be aware of autism? Because autism makes it HARD TO COPE WITH LIFE, and those who have it, or who are raising those who have it, could use a hand up every once in a while. Or at least not a shove down.

The Wild

I've posted about Hollywild, my favorite animal park, before, but this time we went there on a field trip with our homeschool group and got to go on the safari ride, where buffalo and giant cows lick food right out of your hands. So I thought I'd post some more pictures. If you're not an animal lover, you can skip out :)

(Thanks to BeachPea and my dad for taking several of these pictures)

Friday, March 26, 2010

You Capture: A Moment

All the cousins together for the first time...

Welcoming their newest into the world

the girls wearing their new spring dresses that I finished minutes before the picture was taken (but hey, they're done! I actually did it!)

What a moment.

See more MOMENTS captured over at this week's You Capture Challenge.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Be back soon

Why haven't I been blogging lately? Because this adorable little bundle of preciousness (also known as my brand new niece) is here visiting for a few days.

I'll get back to posting soon, but for now I have some cheeks to go squeeze. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Day Crafts

Oops, somehow I never really got around to planning any St. Patrick's Day fun for today. But here's a quick search of some craft ideas I looked up this morning before we have to run off to swim lessons. Hopefully we'll get at least one in today after we get home.
  • Cute craft ideas, including a handprint rainbow here.
  • More crafts, and some printables and games here.
  • Last year's post on our St. Patrick's Day crafts
BeachPea did make us some St. Patty's scarves to wear today:

So at least we'll look festive.

Of course, what I'm really excited about celebrating is that...

I don't think I've ever been so ready for it. Yippee!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It begins...

There have been murmurings here on the farm of getting chickens. Growing up I always knew I wanted to live on a farm, but that it would be a farm with no pigs and NO CHICKENS. I have vague but powerful memories of visiting the houses of friends who had chickens when I was a child - and they involve dirt-y, chicken-scratched yards and running for my life from angry, pecking chicken beaks. So no chickens.

But my son has been thinking lately that he might like to raise his own chickens and sell the eggs to the neighbors. Now considering that this techno-son has very little interest in anything, well, with a heartbeat, I can't help but MAYBE think this idea over a little. And then my mother-in-law sent over a pound cake the other day made with eggs from a friend's farm-raised chickens, and I was amazed at the difference in the taste and texture of the cake. It was heavenly. And then yesterday when we were shopping for rabbit food, THIS happened...

Please, mom?

No, I didn't cave yet (tho' if we had a pond those cute little ducks may have had to come home with us), but now my kids have definitely caught the chicken bug. And if chicken-care could actually get my son outdoors and interested in something other than electronics, and help him save up some money and gain some business skills, well....


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Updated Hospital Gown/Hazelaid Mail

So, remember that old shirt-turned-dress-that-really-resembled-a-hospital-gown I made for DJ?

I tried my first attempt at embroidery and added a flower to it. I think it helped a little...?

But the flower addition isn't actually why DJ has that big smile on her face...

It's because her new Hazelaid necklace came in the mail.

She was excited

really, really excited

and ran and danced all over the yard in her new jewelry.

It seemed like Hazelaid reviews were popping up on blogs everywhere, so I decided to check it out. BeachPea has had chronic stomach issues since, well, since she was born, and nothing we've tried has seemed to help. So when I read that wearing hazelwood against your skin can absorb the extra acid in your body and help relieve stomach pain, well, I figured it couldn't hurt to try. Tho' I was skeptical. Not because I don't believe in natural cures - I'm sure God has given us more natural cures in this beautiful world of His than we can imagine. But, as a mom trying to rein in some of the effects of ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome in a son, I've been warned more than once to watch out for companies selling natural fix-all products who prey on desperate parents with their fake merchandise. But, I figured even if this necklace didn't work, at least BeachPea would get a cool-in-a-beachy-kind-of-way piece of jewelry to wear (they are really cool looking). And I didn't want to miss out on the fun, and since I, thankfully, do not have any of the issues cured by hazelwood (stomach pain, acid reflux, eczema, teething pain, etc.), I ordered myself an amber bracelet, which is supposed to boost your immune system by rubbing off trace amounts of succinic acid into the body.

So, BeachPea and I have been wearing our new jewelry from Hazelaid for over a month now. And I have to say, BeachPea honestly has not been complaining of stomach pain as much. Whether it's psychological or real, it has helped. And she has a cool-in-a-beachy-kind-of-way piece of jewelry, so I don't regret the purchase for a second. And as for my amber bracelet - remember a few weeks ago when my family was hit by that virus-that-wouldn't-quit (my dad was here visiting and got it, too, and his doc said it was probably swine flu) - well, it laid my kids and husband, dad, and aunt (also here visiting) really, really low - the sickest most of them had been in, like, ever. But I was able to shake it off in about 3 or 4 days (compared to weeks for some of them) with much less severe symptoms than the rest of them. Was it the boost from the bracelet that helped? I don't know. But it might have been.

And since it claims to also help prevent ear pain and infections, which DJ has been fighting constantly since the beginning of the year, I was convinced enough to order amber necklaces for her and CarriBear. OK, and a cool-in-a-beachy-kind-of-way hazelwood and amber necklace for myself (I couldn't help it, ok? We're about to go to the beach and I wanted to look cool).

So we were all really excited to get our Hazelaid package in the mail a couple of days ago. I'll keep you updated on the ear infection situation and if the amber seems to help. In the meantime, I'm having fun watching DJ dance around in her new jewelry. :)

Monday, March 8, 2010


Last weekend for me was one of those that when you get to Sunday night, you wonder where the weekend has gone, and what, if anything, was accomplished. But this morning when I looked back at our pictures from the last two days, I realized that quite a lot had been going on afterall. Guess I just didn't slow down enough to notice the first time around.


many fun hours spent in the new chair-and-a-half


and sleeping

(one faker)

and my sweet husband built our monkeys some new monkey bars

and for a short time the weather actually climbed above the 50s, which meant the kids broke out the bathingsuits and water balloons

which, of course, our sweet little DJ had no part of

instead she went inside and "played" through a whole piano primer in one sitting

and... tum ta dum!... learned how to spell her name ALL BY HERSELF. She was SO proud!

And I made a new spring dress for CarriBear, which, again, was a little too short and a little too wide, but she insisted on wearing it right away anyway, which made me smile despite my sewing disappointments. I was a little proud of my first ruffly sleeves, anyway.

and everyone had fun playing in crunchy leaves

and poor Ollie hurt his foot doing some kind of cat gymnastics that cats do

so he received a weekend of royal treatment

which he was mostly happy about

And I think the girls picked just about every spring bulb that was in the yard this weekend, but oh well, they don't last forever, and they had fun decorating the house with them, which, maybe is almost better than seeing them out in the yard. :)

Now to start a new week, which promises to start off in almost as much of a whirlwind as the weekend, as I just got a report from my son that the bunny Holly is hopping around in the yard instead of in her hutch. Off to go rabbit hunting.

Update: Holly has been caught, and after a leaving some lovely scratch marks across my forehead after a chase under the porch, has been returned to the hutch. Sigh. Welcome to Monday :)

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