Sunday, December 26, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010


A few weeks ago, Andrew started using 'air quotes.' You know, you put your fingers in a quote position when you are stating something. Explaining to someone WHEN to do that is not an easy task but we have had the opportunity to do that in the past few days.

I mentioned on my previous post that we had a Santa issue again. After that he started asking more and more specific questions. I don't care if people do Santa, don't do Santa...whatever! One reason we have not been more specific before now is that I don't want Andrew to spoil it for others. Last year we did tell him briefly that there is no Santa but he still wanted to believe so we just went with it. We have never marked presents under the tree from him but kind of let Andrew think the stocking was from Santa. Still, even on ones that said, "from mom and dad," he had in his mind were from Santa. We didn't correct him.

Back to last week... He kept asking more and more specific questions. It would have been impossible to perpetuate the myth without outright lying and manufacturing very tall tales. Those who know my kid know that he wants to know SPECIFICS. (And yes we have and do talk about the real St. Nicholas.) So because he kept asking the questions we told him very specifically again that the big red dude in the suit is not real. He was disappointed. I was too a little bit. But I have always had in the back of my mind- if you say Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are not real- what about Jesus? (We have never done the Tooth Fairy or the Bunny.) Again, if you do Santa in a big way, then that is fine so please don't send me hate mail. I don't judge. I'm just trying to convey how we are navigating this difficult topic.

Yesterday the subject came up again and he was sad. I finally said, "how about we do..."SANTA." I used giant air quotes around "santa". I said, we can pretend. It'll be fun! And it really was a great idea to him and to me. A fun way to keep the dream alive but not lying. He had actually done this with the word santa a few weeks ago... but he didn't quite get what he was doing at the time. Now he does..and it will be fun. I think it is hard to be in a 10 year old body (and mind in some ways), but be emotionally much younger. It is hard to be a mommy to that 10 year old as well!

I think I will post this on the Holiday Bliss meme because I know there are others that struggle with this topic as well. Plus it is yet another way we are trying to navigate Christmas into holiday bliss. It's a wild ride.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Roller Coasters .....

I have had a $50 Build a Bear gift card burning a hole in my pocket..for two years. (It's a big hole.) I decided if we were going to go before Christmas, that today was the day because next week the kids would be out of school. So we went. It was pretty busy but it was still before noon. Andrew had no problems choosing his bear and a sound to go with it. While standing in line, there was a woman who came up behind us and said, "is that a cochlear implant?" My 'trained' hear could tell she was probably deaf. Indeed she was and mentioned that next week in Toronto she will be going for an evaluation for a cochlear implant. It has been rescheduled three times. (Canadian socialized medicine..but let's not go there.) She asked Andrew a question, he answered, she thought that was pretty cool especially in a noisy environment. When she was twelve she became deaf which is why she had very good speech. It was a nice exchange. She decided she didn't want to stay and get a bear so she gave us her coupons... $15 worth! .. and left. A little whisper from God... a divine appointment.

The people at Build-a-Bear were great. I haven't always heard great things so I made sure to tell them how much I appreciated their patience. They didn't rush us even one little bit even though there was a line. Mr. Epic can be seen above!

But life is still not all sunshine and roses. Next, we went to lego. Again the staff was great. I have learned to just let Andrew go and ask the questions of the staff where we go. And they were very nice. But Andrew wanted a SPECIFIC top for his mini-fig. He started what could have been a giant meltdown. (You know..when your kid starts to scream and you are thinking, all the eyes are on me and I wonder how we will get out of here?? I know some of you know what I'm talking about.) I don't know if God dropped the idea in my head but I said, "lets build 3 of the same! One each for Joe and Jacob." That was a great idea- until we couldn't find all the same face. Finally we did, we left, found J&J who were in the mall.

On the way out we passed the Santa area. He didn't see Santa..but a lady asked if we wanted to write Santa a letter. Andrew did and wrote that he wants the movie 2012 for Christmas. He has had this in his brain for MONTHS. On the way home I mentioned that he wasn't going to get anything I didn't approve and he started crying that he had, 'made a terrible choice in his letter.' We don't perpetuate the Santa thing. We told him last year when he asked the real deal and he keep asking. Finally when we got home I said, "if Santa is real he will know exactly what to get you." He was afraid he'd be bypassed because he'd written the letter stating 2012. I have more to update this on another post because since this time we have basically told him the truth... had another emotional roller coaster.

Back to Build-A-Bear. Sometimes it is just...strange..bittersweet... to be having such JOY with a 10 year old building a stuffed animal. Sometimes it is just hard to be completely JOY filled. I have said to people, "I get to see God in slow motion with Andrew." But sometimes.... although I am so thankful for the progress... it just isn't that exciting.

I already wrote about autism and snowflakes and how the cutting of them should have been fun. We ended up making paper chains last week. It was fun so I bought a 'kit' of various paper patterns to make more. It ended up in a GIANT meltdown this morning. Something that should have been FUN ended up with major angst.

And of course there is the 'fun letdown' factor after EVERYTHING we do. I get that it is a real emotion...after you finish something you feel letdown. But again, this is something that is just on a whole new level for us rather than most people.

PS: Two days later as I am finishing this post it is easier to celebrate the victory and progress than when we were right in the thick of it. I am so thankful that Jesus came to this earth as a a human being. He knows how I feel because he has felt it too... every last shred of emotion. He 'gets' me. He doesn't want me to just 'be happy.' He wants me to know him.. and feel His JOY!

Tiny Planets- a TOS review

I was given the opportunity to review the Tiny Planets website. On this website you create a cadet for your child and there is an option to create a parent name as well. There are different sections of the website including

  • My Tiny Planets
  • Tiny Planets TV
  • Tiny Planet Labs
  • Tiny Planet Books
  • Tiny Planets Learning
  • Tiny Planets Fun

Much of the website is free. There are options to buy 'keys' which unlock additional videos and books throughout the website. Some sections require 'cadet' sign in and others do not.

My Tiny Planets section, as far as I can tell, is mostly games. I know that when I let Andrew on this website he ended up here.

Tiny Planets Learning has some interesting PDFs for basic number and letter skills that you can print off for your young learners. Tiny Planet books has..books that you scroll through. I went through the first free one and there was a word misspelled. The TV section has some free cartoons and some you can buy. (They are not closed captioned.) Tiny Planets Fun was more TV. Tiny Planets Labs was primarily games.

The part of the website that I personally liked the best was the blog. I got there by clicking on the 'what's new' arrow at the top.

As I mentioned you can purchase additional keys to view more books etc. Some folks on the crew found additional areas of the website that I just didn't find even though I spent quite a bit of time there. Feel free to browse the other reviews. I would peek at the free items, create a cadet and parent account and play around a bit. That way you can get a personal feel for if you like it. It is nice that they provide this free option.

If you choose to purchase 'keys' here is the breakdown.

10 keys $1.95 (about 20 cents per key)

25 keys $3.95 (about 16 cents per key)

85 keys $9.95 (about 12 cents per key)

250 keys $25.95 (about 10 cents per key)

600 keys $49.95 (about 8 cents per key)

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given complimentary keys from Tiny Planets website. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wits and Wagers / North Star Games- a TOS review

I had the opportunity to review Wits and Wagers Family from North Star Games. This is a very fun game where you are proposed a question that has a number for an answer. (Example: How many crayons were in the original Crayola box?) And then everyone writes their answer on a dry erase board while hiding their guess answer. THEN, everyone shows their answer and you get to guess who you think is right. For example, if the question is, "how many Disney princesses are there?" you might go with the guess of a 13 year old girl vs. a 40 year old dad. You get points for getting the right answer but also for guessing who was closest. If I made it sound is not. And you can change the rules up however you want. We are never one to play by the rules.

There are all sorts of ways to 're-frame' this game to make it accessible to all. There are various points you can assign while guessing whose answer is right. It is easy to simplify to just one 'guess of the right guess.' You can also preview the cards to exclude any that would be way out of someone's league. This is half the fun if you are playing with some folks but others may find it helpful to 'tweak.'

We played this game as a family and then I had my son and niece play the game. They are pictured above. It really is a hoot because you can be SURE someone has the right answer and then be totally off! There are additional 'factoids' on the back of each card also. And this is a fantastic game to play when you have a WIDE AGE RANGE. If you take out some questions you could start playing this game at young age and up to great grandma could join! Some families I know have made up their own version adding their own 'stump people' cards.

The game retails for $19.99 and you can purchase it here. They have a facebook page too! You can click on the banner below to see others who have reviewed this product.

I received a complementary Wits and Wagers game and am not obligated to give a positive review.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Kid's Heart

P.S. The fate of the nation is in your hands!

A the army of the Lord!


For the past two years we have participated in Desert Angel's Treats for Troops. It is a great organization that sends Christmas packages to the troops. (And also at other times of the year I think.) Last year we helped put together the packets and also made cards. Above you can see a drawing Andrew did in his Praise and Worship class as well as a card he made. Just love it. Both are on their way..somewhere.. to bless someone defending our nation!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

mmmm..Starbucks / Panera gift card give-away!

Hop on over to "Ohio Homeschool: Serving Homeschoolers with assessments, Helps and How To's." You can win a free cup (actually several cups) of joe! This is a really cool blog that does more than just "do assessments." They post interesting helps and anecdotes about their lives. Both blog authors are homeschool teachers. Becky has six kids that keep her running and Lisa's children are grown and have flown the coop. There are many ways to win get an extra entry in their give-away.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snowflakes...and autism...

No I'm not talking about how each autistic child is as unique as a snowflake although that is true. I'm talking about paper snowflakes.

I'm going to put a disclaimer on the front of this post. My friend that I talk about I know will take no offense to this comparison as we have discussed it many times. I appreciate that I can talk to her about even this stuff and she doesn't take it personally. It is probably part of the reason we have been friends so long.

But I digress.....

I was chatting with a friend yesterday and she mentioned that they were making paper snowflakes. Today Andrew said, I'm bored. I thought, "let's do it." Let me back up by saying that in RDI (our autism therapy) we are in the terrible twos. Yesterday at the Christmas parade he (10 years old) decided to yell and throw a tantrum over the candy that the other kids got. On the way home I was thinking how 'two year old ish' that is.

So anyway, my friend was saying what a GREAT afternoon they had had making paper snowflakes. I had oodles of blue faded construction paper and brought it into the kitchen with some scissors. I didn't even really frame the activity as I didn't plan any objective to go along with it. I truly thought we'd have a fun 20 minutes or so making paper snowflakes. I wasn't going for an afternoon full of fun. Just something a wee bit different. Andrew made a BEAUTIFUL one and decided to 'keep cutting.' I mentioned that if he kept cutting it would fall apart. And it did... and meltdown happened. And kept happening. Also in our RDI program we do some behavioral techniques. We did a 'restart' on that Friday so I am sure this was part of that testing. But that is the stinky part of autism. People have all these traditions that are lovely. I am passed being jealous of them. I just feel sad. Perhaps I am grieving again. We are considering going to a walk through nativity. Do I chance it?

Garden of Learning is having a Christmas meme called Holiday Bliss 2010. (I had forgotten the name of it and just flipped over to grab the button..and I actually laughed a little at the word bliss.) I just thought i'd give a shout out to those out there who aren't living in 'bliss.' I know you are out there and praying for God to bring us all some Big Holy Hugs this season in one way or another. Each year is a little better and we do find new traditions but for whatever reason, this year is kinda rough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

If I'm Diapering a Watermelon Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?- Review

I 'heart' Carol Barnier's books. She sent me a copy of her Wired Child holiday e-book and I mentioned that I had read two of her 'paper copy' books. When I told her this was the one I was missing, she sent it to me! I will tell you what I told her. The reason I never bought the book was because by the time I found her books, I didn't have a baby in the house so I thought it wouldn't be applicable. BUT the book has nothing to do with having a baby in the house (although it could be very helpful if you do). The second part of the title is less eye catching but describes it perfectly; "Help for the Highly Distractible Mom." (It sells for $12.74 on Amazon.)

Like her other books, it is chock full of great IDEAS along with wit and humor. I just don't want to give anything away and I can't express the ideas as she does so I would do it a disservice, but she has simple ideas like putting a wrist band on your kid when you send them off to do something such as clean their room. And set a timer for them..both where you are where they area because if both mom and child are distractible, everyone will need a little help. She has a unique technique using hand cues that can help you remember ANYTHING...such as... the 'why did i walk in the living room again?' syndrome.

I have read a LOT of books on how to organize, how to homeschool and 'tips for success' books. Most of the ideas in this book I had not read or heard of somewhere else. This book also validated me in some ways..the choices I have made to do what I do. I know, I should get all that from the Lord and I'm working on that. But a little encouragement via a book every now and then is helpful!

She also doesn't set out to change you..or your child. (The book is written as tips for mom.) It celebrates the gifts that you have as a highly distractible mom. To quote her in the introduction, "I'm not interested in turning you into a carbon copy of these lovely and naturally ordered moms. To do so would be to lose some of your very best strengths." The book is laid out as 'awareness statements'. That we might become aware of areas where a bit of help would be ..helpful.

You can get to the book by clicking HERE or at the picture at the top. She also has an awesome blog called Sizzlebop. I do think this would be a fabulously fun and helpful Christmas present for many a moms. Or get one for yourself.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and am not obliged to give a positive review.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Master Innovations- a TOS review

I had the opportunity to review Master Fractions from Master Innovations. I received the one person set which retails for $17.95, the workbooks which retails for $15.95 and I received a bonus poster.

There are videos on how to utilize these products and they can be found here. I have put the video for the fractions below. We have done some fractions so the nice part about these tools is that they reinforced some of what we had already learned. They would also be ideal to travel with. I used these primarily for Andrew to explore. With a dry erase marker you can also highlight sections of the 'books' to help a student understand. I wish we had started with the Master Ruler only because I think that might give me a better understanding on how to use this product.

We 'heart' story problems and the workbook was full of them for multi levels. They were full of 'actual' fraction situations.

I don't think this is a stand alone product, at least for us, but it is a nice manipulative. I am supplementing with many other fraction 'hands on' items as well as many living books. A favorite book I picked up at random at the library is Fractions, Decimals and Percents by David A. Adler. It is a slightly higher level than some of the basic fraction books out there. A great book to go along with this product might be The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. (Cookies are a good manipulative for that one too!)

I am thinking of other ways to use this product that are a bit beyond where we are right now. I think it could be useful to overlay one book with another so that you could see that 3/4 is more than 3/5 for example.

As I mentioned, if we had started with the ruler, it might have proven to be even more effective. All in all it is a good product. I know some folks who reviewed this item and others by the companies loved this! So please take a look at their reviews by clicking on the tab below.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given the complimentary from Master Innovations as indicated above. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - Day 30

Wow- is this really the last day of this Gratitude Challenge? Around day fifteen I thought I'd never be able to blog EVERY day for 30 days. I have a lot to be thankful for but I am famous for half finishing stuff. (You can see that on an earlier post if you have been following.) But I am thankful I stuck this out.

Today I am also thankful for the Jesse tree! We have done this in the past and you can read that here. There is also a great FREE one online. You can find it HERE. You have to sign up for the daily email or a 'feed' to get the free PDF but it is worth it. It started yesterday but do two readings a day for a couple of days and you are caught up. If you have any problems email me or leave a comment and I'll see if I can walk you through it.

The 'flavor' of this one is different from ones in the past that we have done. It is less 'academic' and focuses on relationship. It talks about being expectant in this season. Each day has a reading, a devotional and an optional activity. There are paper ornaments at the end. I printed them on cardstock. I thought about laminating but didn't get that far. We are just going to paste them on the wall.. no branch. Keeping it simple. We are also listening to the readings online. You can do that FREE on Bible Gateway. (I'm thankful for free stuff on the internet too.)

On the note of being expectant, as this Jesse Tree Journey draws out, I am thankful for expectations... When I live in God's expectations, instead of my own, I live a more peaceful life. That is my own journey that I seem to be living out daily.

So thanks for reading all my gratitude posts. I toyed around with doing the December Garden of Learning's daily posts but I have two reviews due and another one that doesn't have a due date but I want to get out ASAP. (Diapering a Watermelon book.... it is really good and you don't need to have a baby to appreciate the book.) I will probably link up with her a time or two though! Oh- and it's CHRISTMAS!!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 29

I had a blog post up for this earlier today and I decided to take it down. So just mentioning in case you already read it and are confused! It was too vague and impossible to explain without the details. So I'm a woman and I can change my mind. Simply today I am thankful for friends. Had a wonderful conversation with a friend today which helped me greatly. Also had dinner with someone I have known since college. We SAY we will get together every month but it ends up being like every six months- but we keep on getting together! That is the point. On Wednesday we are having a Bible study reunion. If I can swing it I might even get out for mom's night tomorrow night. Love my girlfriends!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 28

Today's post is about connections. I am thankful that Andrew makes them as I know that some kids (spectrum and not) have a hard time with i recognize when Andrew makes them.

We were watching the original Charlie Brown movie yesterday; the one where he gets second in the National Spelling Bee. We only watched half way through because Andrew was so mad at Lucy. So when Charlie won the local spelling bee I thought best to turn it off. We adults talk about bullying being new but I do believe Lucy was one of the original bullies- as were many of CB's friends. Andrew was verklempt over it all. (My friend Jean was the first one to use that word a long time ago but I digress.) He was angry, mad as a hornet. Mark shared that he too used to get so mad when Lucy would continue to pull the football out from under CB. (I keep wondering why CB kept doing it..but again..I digress.)

This morning Andrew was STILL upset and I was glad that the show had 'disappeared' from the dvr as shows sometimes do. But I mentioned to him that sometimes I wonder what made Lucy so angry. Why was she always so mean? Did she have something happen to her that made her mean? Andrew's wheels were turning but I didn't know it. I was off that topic and had picked up a magazine. He said, "It's a Garthism." huh? "You know, like in The World According to Humphrey."

You see, in that book there is a boy named Garth. He becomes mean during the book. The teacher pulls him aside and asks what is going on and teases out of him that his mom is sick. Wow!

How many of us stop just long enough to really think about connections. (And about where other people's behavior comes from.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 27

Thankful for my sissy. We are 10 years apart and I moved out to college when she was about six years old. But over the years we have grown closer. I just wish she didn't always live in another state!! I miss her!

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 26

Aut-2B-Home asked if I had any good recipes. I have blogged our Thanksgiving menu over at my Settings Of Silver blog. You can click on over there for the recipes. Here is a quick 'self assessment' of our meal.

The turkey was great. I cooked it in a new roaster I bought for $20 at Walmart. It was over 13 lbs and cooked in under two hours. When I checked it (early) it was over 220F. Yet it was still really good. I suppose the thermometer could have been broken but I think buying a "happy turkey" was well worth it.

Mashed potatoes were made simply with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and some chicken broth. They were tasty as was the gravy. I used Trader Joes pancake mix in the gravy. I had read yesterday while googling gravy that sweet rice flour works really well for flour. I will do that next time.

I loved the cornbread stuffing. I thought being cooked in the slow cooker it might be too moist but it wasn't. I would make this again. Everyone loved Shannon's stuffing too.

I am probably the only one that ate the cranberry sauce but it was great...and I'll make it next year and maybe sooner because I love it. My brother requested the stuff in the can. Next year I'll do that too.

Green beans were good but nothing special. Green bean casserole is good but I really didn't think that I could make that gfcf. The green beans were not really needed because I made the brussels sprouts. They were tasty- in my opinion. But they were different. Roasting brussels sprouts are great even with all the hullabaloo of the pecan vanilla butter and pomegranate arils. We DID make a good RDI exercise out of making the pecan butter and getting the arils out of the pomegranates. I truly loved this recipe. I think if you are in the mood to try something different, the flavor combinations are out of this world.

Mom's sweet potato casserole was great. It is the first time she made it and it was good. Not GFCF but I really am not sure that can be made GFCF. I was so thankful that she made it because it is a must have on Thanksgiving.

I didn't eat the rolls or Shannon's pies (because they are not gfcf) but she made them all by hand and with love! And I heard rave reviews. Oh I wish I could have tried them!!! The pumpkin pie was especially good. I hesitate to even try to make gfcf versions of something that is so good.

I made a sweet potato pie with a crumble topping. It was 'ok' but I was the only one who ate it.. still it was tasty. Next time I will just make me and Andrew a 'mini' version.

So today I am thankful for ...LEFTOVERS. I plan to make a version of this later- a turkey shepherds pie! I might have to make more mashed potatoes because there are precious few left of them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 25

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hard to see but this is my dad carving the turkey!! It was great. Fun times, good food.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 24

The sweet potatoes are in the oven for the pie. Last night I made the cornbread for the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Brother and family will be here in a few hours. Looking forward to a fun filled night of cooking, movie watching, Wii playing and just..whatever. (Notice, I did not mention the house was clean. Not horrid..but not clean. Thankful that even though my brother is quite neat and tidy, he loves me as I am :) ) Above is a picture from this summer. I WISH it were that warm today. But thankful for him and his whole family!

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010 Gratitude Challenge - day 23

Today I am thankful for another year! I thought about not putting this on here but I truly am thankful for it! How can I put anything else?!

A few highlights:

-"HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! For your first gift, I will give you an extra snooze." (count to 3).. "OK. Lets go downstairs now." I tried to give him the sign for in more sleep... but he didn't have his ears on and he says, "food? you want food? ok I will share my french toast with you!" (He never shares...and I guess this means I am making french toast for breakfast LOL.)

- My son informed me, after we had pulled the arils out of the pomegranates that he wants to make me a GIANT pomegranate jello mold for my birthday cake. I told him I'd love just the MOLD as I can't find a jello mold anywhere.

- Went and got the grey washed out of my hair and a new cut. Change is good.

- Andrew started his art therapy today. It went so-so but I love that he wants to share with me when we get out. It is a good thing.

- Did ya'll know there is a Sur La Table in Somerset??!! That is seriously dangerous. I got to spend an hour or so wandering the mall!

- Now going to curl up with some apple cider and watch some TV!

2010 Gratitude Challenge - Day 22

Today I am grateful for 'mulligans'...for do-overs. In a sense that is what being a Christian is about at least in part- it is the ultimate mulligan. You screw up, you ask for grace from Jesus our Savior, and guess what? He gives it to you! It wasn't always that way. Before He came and saved the world, there were offerings, sacrifices and work that had to be done in an effort to 'make up' what you had done. But not so anymore. He came and paid the price. The fact that we get our do-overs does something in our heart. We don't want to rush out and just do more wrong. We want to get to know Him better so that we become more like Him and have less of a need for the mulligan! We love more because we are loved.

God bless on this Thanksgiving!

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