Special Blessings Feed

Earlybird's Visual Learning

My goodness but I've been working on this draft for some time now ... and yet for some reason I just can't seem to wrap it up! Well, here we go anyway ... I hope you enjoy! :)

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So here at last is Earlybird's "learning line," something I mentioned last month on Instagram and promised to show in more detail here at the blog ...

This learning line is basically a simple, visual catalog of information - consisting of sheets stored in page protectors. We've had some good success with this the past few weeks, so I snapped some pictures to share here in case this might work well for someone else's child ... :)

But first, a bit of background ...

Our 14 yo Earlybird has autism and teaching him in a way that is both engaging and meaningful has been a real challenge for us as a home-educating family. We are always looking for ways to make learning enjoyable for EB, while taking into account his varying special needs. He can't really handle long lessons or a lot of one-on-one, intense instruction so I like to "sneak in" the ideas and concepts we're working on and then revisit them to assess how things are sinking in. (EB is developmentally delayed but has a fantastic memory and a bright inquisitive mind. Some subjects (like science) he readily absorbs like a sponge, while others (for example, math) he really struggles with.) My first thought was that we'd just sit down together with a binder full of the sheets shown above, but EB can be funny about this kind of activity. I could envision myself saying, "Hey, EB, how about we sit down over here and look through your lesson pages together?" To which EB would most likely say, "Um, no thanks." Or maybe even something like "Noooo, I don't wanna ... noooo!"

(Insert door slam here.)

Compliance and flexibility are things we work on every day with EB's (amazing) behavioral therapist - and we're making progress, certainly - but as you can imagine, this kind of attitude doesn't really lend itself to easygoing homeschooling moments. It's actually quite disruptive and really messes with the lesson plans!

Hence our ongoing efforts to find methods that are appealing to EB while also training him to be more accepting of requests and responsibilities. (This is also why I tend to make EB's lesson plans with a rather wide-range vision. I sketch out some general topics and themes for a month, then write up weekly goals which get plugged into the days of the week as they work best.

My October notes read like this: Explorers, New England geography/geology, Americana artists - Moses/Wysocki, music of Harry Potter (composer John Williams), autumn weather/frost, woods/leaves, soil, migration, St. Francis, All Hallow's Eve

Side note - it is really difficult for EB to sit and listen to someone read aloud to him (re ~ sensory issues) and while he can read on his own, he doesn't have a lot of stamina for it. So in come audiobooks! Funnily enough, I've never been a big fan of audiobooks myself - preferring paper as I do - but they have been a real lifesaver! And so incredibly enjoyable. I play all kinds of literature while we drive around, bringing Crackerjack to his "out of home" classes or the soccer field or on errands, etc. It seems we're in the car every day for something or another these days! So I just casually press "play" and when EB asks me to switch back to "the news" (he loves news radio, lol) I say something like, "Oh we'll go back to that in a minute, let's just find out what happens next ..."  We just finished Peter Pan, and have now begun Harry Potter ... I am so excited to revisit this with Earlybird! It's his first time, but one of many re-reads for me!

Ok, so enough of my chatter, here are some pictures of our "learning line" - and this also gives you a little sneak peek into how the learning room is coming along (Slowly, but surely! And a full tour to come soon ... )

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So the line stretches across the entire back wall of the sunroom learning room. Bill just used "Command" hooks and a length of kitchen twine for this project. Other supplies include sheet protectors, post-it notes and small wooden clothespins. The current books are on the windowsills for now but eventually - once Bill builds me some book ledges! - they will be displayed on the walls. Both the books and the sheets reflect current learning topics ...

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Some of the things I have hanging in the sheet protectors:

  • a map of the US slowly being colored in as we cover each state
  • a state bird and flower coloring page (we're starting in New England)
  • a photocopy of a colorful state map, corresponding with the state bird/flower page
  • some Peace Day print-outs
  • a corn plant with diagram labels
  • a map of where corn is grown in the US
  • some index cards with landform vocabulary terms - these are specific to New England (EB was asked to look them up and record the word on each card)
  • the weekly forecast
  • September's poem

I've since added a compilation of seed-dispersal facts and a Charles Wysocki art book page (with New England theme) as well as some coloring pages and crafts made by Little Bear at his library Storytime.

To some of these pages I might add post-it notes with questions such as:

  • According to this map, which area of the US grows the most corn?
  • What is the capital of Massachusetts?
  • What are three adjectives that describe September?
  • What day this week looks to have the best weather?
  • What Native American tribes were found in Massachusetts? Check the Giant US Discovery Atlas

Some of these pages are photocopied from workbooks, text books, library books and other resources. Some things are found online as images or printables. (How did we ever home school before Pinterest?) The index cards are in sheet protectors with divided pockets. Currently I'm just filing the sheet protectors in a binder as is, retiring last week's pages over the weekend and hanging fresh sheets before the new week begins.

(Ok, let me rephrase that - I'm actually placing all those pages in a basket until I find a binder I like for this purpose! I need a large one, but the rings need to work very smoothly for Earlybird.)

The "learning line" is something EB uses with his therapist as well. They've been working his homeschooling into their daily sessions and it has been a tremendous help! I think Earlybird likes this approach because it's visually appealing and he feels proud to see some of his work hanging up in this way. I've heard him show visitors his learning line and he'll comment on it sometimes to me throughout the day. It's a way of keeping his lessons front and center - but with a relatively low-key approach. Some items stay up longer than a week if I feel they need to "sink in" a little longer.

Note: these pictures were taken last month ... here is a peek at the line this week!

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So there's a look at one of the ways I incorporate "visual" learning into Earlybird's week. I hope you enjoyed this peek into our learning room, and as I mentioned above, a full tour will be coming up soon!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

See you here again very soon!


A Seasonal Paper Chain for Earlybird!

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Hello and Happy September, my friends!

Now, before I get into the meat of my post - did you all remember to say Rabbit Rabbit this morning? :)

I'm happy to say I did! Well, sort of. Since Little Bear had us up at 2 a.m. (wanting out of his bed and into ours), I may have muttered a little incoherently before I remembered to say the magic words ... ;)

So today I'd like to share a bit about the project I put together yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed to share it actually, since it's really a rather basic craft - one I'm sure many of you have seen and/or done yourself - one I've shared here myself a time or two! - but it just looks so pretty and I know a lot of you love paper as I do, and I think it's sort of a new twist on an old favorite ... so here goes!

A bit of backstory ... Earlybird, as most of you know, is autistic, and one of his challenges is a real preoccupation with "things happening now and/or next." Like, holidays and special events and things he really looks forward to. He will ask to talk all about say, Easter, in the middle of July and act like the Big Bunny himself might be appearing any minute now. Then, on a whim, he'll forget all about Easter and suddenly we're hashing out the Thanksgiving menu or he's wondering why we aren't getting our Christmas tree this weekend ...

Yes, he is his mother's son - a lover of seasons and special days! And his capacity for joy is so wonderful! But I'm always looking for ways to help him get a bit of a handle on his passion - and understand the passage of time and order of yearly events and all that. I have a few things going on this year that I hope will help him, but here's the first thing:

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A paper chain for counting down the days of fall and winter!

For this project, the first thing I did was buy paper for a chain lasting from September 1st  through January 1st. I chose "appropriate" paper for each month - an alphabet design in September (because, back-to-school), an orange print for October (because, pumpkins and Halloween), a beige wood-look for November (because, bare trees), red and white for December (because, Christmas!) and festive stars for the days leading up to New Year's. I also purchased a pack of pretty heart-shaped tags. (You'll see why in a minute.) 

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I cut the paper into strips for each day of each month (this was 12x12 scrapbooking paper so I got 10 strips per sheet) and set aside a number of hearts.

Next I worked late into the night to assemble the chain ...

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No, just kidding. The lighting is just dark here - it didn't really take all that long. :)

Once it was all linked up, I hung it up in the sunroom-soon-to-be-schoolroom ... 

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And I added a heart tag wherever a special day would be coming up on the calendar ...

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So here's the paper-chain plan:

Every morning we'll take down the next link in the chain and then, on the back, we'll write something we remember about yesterday. (Preferably something positive!) Then I'll roll the strip up tight, tape it closed and pop it in a large container. On New Year's Day we'll go back and read through our memories. :)

(So today we remembered that yesterday we took time to check our our neighborhood creek and found it quite empty and dry. Not necessarily positive, lol - but we've determined to begin a little science project by observing the creek weekly for changes. EB has a special fondness for this creek.)

For Earlybird, I'm hoping the paper chain will give him a fun and visual way to increase his awareness of where we are in the year. So when he wants to keep watch for trick-or-treaters I'll point out that we're not even in the orange links yet, and the tag for Halloween is still many links away! And so forth ...

(I have tags for the first day of autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, EB's birthday, the winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day.)

If this is successful, I will do the same thing for January through April, but that's getting ahead of myself! :)

The other things I'm doing with EB this year is ...

One - He will have his own month-at-a-glance calendar to manage (I love this style for its large, lined template). Every morning, when he sits down with his therapist at their work table, he will open his calendar, cross of the day before and see what today's date is and what is on the "agenda." I'm also adding notes and stickers to make it even more fun for him!

And, Two - I am making up a three-ring binder with tabs for all the holidays and events he likes to talk about and make lists for ... aside from the ones mentioned above, he also loves to plan out shopping days (to Whole Foods, usually), vacations (Disney, for example), family parties and playdates at my folks' house. We often use these lists for language work and he holds onto them and packs them up and takes them with him until they're practically falling apart. I thought I would have sheet-protectors in this binder where we can file all these things and when EB wants to talk about something we can use the binder for reference. Halloween candy we'll buy ... pages from a catalog with costumes ... recipes we cut out from magazines ... Thanksgiving menu and guest list ... a birthday wish list ... a letter to Santa ... etc. Honestly, he really does LOVE to think about and talk about these topics! I hope these activities nurture his interests, channel his energy and help him learn a little more about how the year turns ...

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Well my friends, I hope your September started out on a good note! Thanks so much for stopping by and next time, I will have my yearly seasonal themes to share. 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again sometime soon!


Homeschooling: Year 16!

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Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that, but - as Facebook reminded me yesterday - we began our homeschooling journey 15 years ago this month! Holy crow, that's a lot of years ... and boy did they go by really fast!

And so begins our 16th year ...

We are still getting used to a new daily routine here at home, with Earlybird's therapy taking place every morning for two hours, Monday through Friday. This is a Godsend, honestly, but I am realizing this means I need to tweak my daily routine (and expectations) a bit. EB's therapist is here from 10-12, and though I'm not directly involved, I need to be close by for support and sometimes, translation. Before he arrives, I'm scurrying about getting myself, the kids and the house ready ... and after he leaves I'm throwing together lunch and then getting Little Bear down for his nap. Next thing I know it's 4 p.m. - time to tidy up and make supper! So, I'm asking myself ... when do I clean? When do we homeschool? When do I get my older son to his classes and back? 

And how about ... when do I blog? 😉

So this new schedule will take some adjustment, but I know it is for the very best, not just for Earlybird, but for all of us. Autism is very much a family diagnosis, after all - it changes your life in ways you never expected. So ... I will work a new routine into our day and we will all adjust ... I am blessed to have many helping hands around me and I certainly plan to make use of them! 

Anyhoo ... today I just wanted to wish all my readers, and their families, a wonderful back-to-school season! Whether your kids are in traditional school or learn at home or even if you have no kids at all - enjoy this month of transition! A time for new supplies and fresh attitudes, as we let go of Summer's freedom and embrace the structure of Autumn ...

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear about your kids and if they are in school or homeschool or have perhaps flown the nest! Just to catch you all up to speed - my four boys are now 20, 16, 13 and 27 months! The oldest is in college (junior year!) and the rest are still homeschooled. Well, except for the toddler  ... who hasn't quite begun his homeschool career just yet *wink* ... though he sure does like to be in the thick of things!

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are enjoying your Wednesday, and that your September is off to a great start! Thank so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!

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Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

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Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

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Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

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All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

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(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)


Earlybird's Lenten Chain

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

We have bright sunshine here and bitterly cold temps - but no snow at the moment! At least not in the air ... on the ground is a whole other story! But it's a good day - we have power (which means important things like heat and coffee can happen) and we're safe and cozy at home. These are blessings I try to remind myself not to take for granted ...

I did want to let you know that I'm having some "tech" issues at the moment, so my posting might be a bit "off" this week - but I wanted to share this quick project with you all ahead of this (Ash) Wednesday.

Earlybird, as I've mentioned, gets a bit obsessed with upcoming events, especially holidays. So I'm always looking for ways to help him understand how time passes and perhaps slow him down a bit and build up his patience. And these are good goals for Lent, I think! Well, this is what I set up for him this weekend:

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 We began the chain on Saturday, February 14th (Valentine's Day) and it stretches all the way to Sunday, April 5th (Easter). These are just strips of construction paper, and there are:

4 green strips (Ordinary Time)

42 purple strips (Lent)

1 pink strip (Rose Sunday)

3 red strips (Paschal Triduum)

1 white strip (Easter)

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Very simply, I wrote a brief note on the inside of each strip. What is this day? What might I give of myself for someone else? (So, examples would be: "Clean up Little Bear's blocks. Bring Crackerjack's laundry downstairs. Help CJ with trash. Help Mama make supper. Etc.) Helping with chores is not something EB typically likes to do so it will be a sacrifice for him to make these offerings.

(ETA - I pinned the chores around my weekly routine - so on Mondays the strip suggests laundry help or bedroom pickup, while Wednesdays are for kitchen tasks, etc. Just might make it easier for working with him on this.)

Before hanging the chain, I jotted down each strip's note in my Lenten Planner so I would be aware of what EB would be reading that day (and could prepare for things I suggested). Then I taped the loops together and hung them up in the kitchen, along the learning wall as seen above. I anchored the chain to the maps with small, wooden clothespins.

So now Earlybird has a visual reminder of how close we are getting to Easter - and a simple Lenten path that will help him participate to the best of his ability in this most holy season. It pleases me so much to bring our Faith into his world in ways that register with him, and bring him joy. :)

Well my friends, I hope this day finds you safe and comfortable, wherever you are and whatever your weather. I have a really fun post to share next time! I've been busily nailing down those housekeeping routines - plugging tasks into a schedule - and I will be sharing it with you all very soon. It's a rather large project and I'm still trying to iron it all out, but I think it might be the most comprehensive list of housekeeping I've ever written! So stay tuned!

And see you here again very soon ...


Our Earlybird's 13th Birthday!

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It's hard to believe, but the little boy who was just four when I started this blog, is now 13 years old! Earlybird shares his birthday with my dad, and so we always celebrate these two special guys together. On Sunday we had a lovely brunch and I thought you might like to see how we celebrated this happy day.

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First of all, up top is the "snowy marshmallow mountain" cake I made for our two train buffs. My dad is a model railroader and Earlybird has loved trains since he was tiny. He loves them as much as - if not more than! - the planets! As most of you know, our EB is autistic, so while he may be 13 in physical age, he's developmentally much younger. So even at this milestone birthday, it's hard for me to say - "Oh my goodness, my boy is a teenager!" - because really, he's not. He'll get there someday, I know he will ... but this is not that day. And that's OK - I pray to God daily that it will be. 

You all know this is a positive place. And I don't mean to sugarcoat things, because parenting a special needs child is very hard at times. (Many of you understand that, I know.) But I mostly try to share how joyous our life is with EB ... how well he does in certain areas. We struggle with many things, though - make no mistake about that. It's easy (easier) to be home in our comfort zone, working together on simple projects - baking, crafting, playing, asking and answering, observing - and learning about life at his speed. But things like outings, restaurants, road trips, community events, church and parties - not to mention doctor's appointments and testing and meltdowns and rigidity and extreme emotional behavior is not. The list of things he (we) struggle with is long, but we take it all day by day (and sometimes hour by hour).

It's hard sometimes not to wish things were different, but what I try to focus on is that we love him, dearly, for all he is right this minute. And for all that is inside him even when he can't get it out. We try not to worry about where he's not - but we work on addressing his challenges while cherishing all of his strengths.

Ok, enough of the heavy - on to the pictures!

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 Getting ready to make wishes! As you can see, EB is a bit apprehensive. He does not like the "Happy Birthday" song (we have to promise not to sing) and only recenly became comfortable with the candles.

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Here I am with my dad, who is so important to me - to all of us. He jokes that it's no longer his birthday - that he's given it to Earlybird, but I am so grateful to celebrate both of them together. Every year is a blessing.

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My brother making funny faces at Little Bear. (With a half-decorated tree in the background!)

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Three of my best guys - Crackerjack, Little Bear and Bill. Bookworm is in his finals week at BC -  we'll have him home for break later this week! (There may have to be another cake ...)

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The boys gave their Papa a "Papa Bear" mug for his coffee. So cute! :)

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And for Earlybird - some dvd's, a book, a Monster Truck, a terrarium kit and this jacket - a gift from my folks and us. He can't stand wearing zippers so we're always on the lookout for a "button-up" (or snap-front) coat. This one will do nicely - thank you, LL Bean!

Having family support makes such a huge difference - not just in the life of a special needs person, but to his immediate family as well. We are so grateful for our support system, and that we never feel alone on our path. This was a lovely day, a memory to treasure - certainly not perfect, but really and truly good.

And remember yesterday's post? I count it all joy.

:)

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends - thanks so much for stopping by!


Advent Activities: Think, Do, Read

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Well my friends ... here, at last, is my Advent activity outline! Below I have listed each date in Advent, the sticker (vocab word) I've chosen for that day, and the activity ideas I have noted in my plans.

As we are a Catholic family, many activities tie into our liturgical calendar and family faith traditions. There's also a good bit of baking and nature study, some simple conversation as well as several crafts. There are not too many outings, as we tend to stick close to home at this time of year. And it goes without saying there will be days when only a fraction of my "plans" are put into action. I try to respect energy, interest levels and moods (theirs and mine) as much as possible.

(Note: The books listed are ones we own as well as some I have on request from our local library. With the exception of the book for 12/23, which I purchased new for our collection ... because I couldn't resist!)

November 30th: evergreens

Today is the 1st day of Advent and a new Church year begins! We'll gather evergreens in the afternoon to place next to our Advent candles. Why are they called evergreens? (everlasting life) Light the first purple candle tonight.

Read: The Littlest Evergreen

December 1st: cookies

Happy December! "Rabbit, Rabbit!" Today we'll bake some cookies and talk about our favorite kinds at Christmas. (Who could we surprise with cookies who might not expect it? Let's make a plan.)

Read: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

December 2nd: nuts and spices

Today we'll check our stock of baking supplies, especially spices. How do they smell? What makes spices so special? Why did the Magi bring spices as gifts for the Baby Jesus? We'll place our wise men dolls at the start of their journey (in a far corner of the house).

Read: We Three Kings

December 3rd: presents

Today we'll write (and decorate) a letter to Santa and then compose a list of gifts to give to our loved ones this year. What would make people happy and feel loved? (Stress actions and gestures over material gifts.) Also, we'll watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree on tv tonight!

Read: The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

December 4th: winter birds

Today is the Feast of St. Barbara! We'll say a special prayer for Grandma Barbara and later on we'll snip a forsythia branch to place in water. (Might it bloom by Christmas eve?) While we're outside, we'll check the state of our birdfeeders and feed our hungry bird friends. 

Read: Merry Christmas, Merry Crow 

December 5th: ornament

Today we'll bring our Christmas ornaments down from the attic and take a look through the boxes. We'll talk about family favorites and the stories behind special ornaments. We'll make some homemade ornaments together in the afternoon.

Read: The Spider's Gift: A Ukranian Christmas Story

December 6th: St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, EB's patron saint! We'll watch St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving (Veggie Tales) with a snack of popcorn and hot cocoa (there might be a bishop's staff/candy cane stirrer in our mugs!). We'll clean the corner for the Christmas tree and at nightfall look for the Full Cold Moon in the dark, cold sky ...

Read: The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale

December 7th: Christmas tree 

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent and tonight we light our second purple candle. Where did the custom of Christmas trees come from? We'll read "The Song of the Christmas Tree Fairy," by Cicely Mary Barker. After Mass we'll head to the woods and cut down our Christmas tree! (Can we identify what kind of evergreen it is? Bring a field guide to the farm ...)

Read: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

December 8th: dove 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! We'll set up our children's nativity and arrange star candles and flowers around our Mary statue. How can we be more peaceful - at home and in the world? Let's brainstorm some ideas and write them in a peace & prayer journal. 

Read: Can You Say Peace?

December 9th: bell

Today we will listen for the afternoon bells at church, and make some bells of our own at home! We'll listen to Mama's favorite carol, "The Carol of the Bells," which is based on a Ukranian folk chant. We will also read: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Read: Jingle Bells

December 10th: snowman

Today we'll make thumbprint snowglobes and once we're done, we'll watch The Snowman on dvd. After Little Bear's nap, we'll have some warm milk with honey and almond and Mama's tangerine snowball cookies. We'll also read The Snowman aloud to LB. (And naturally, if we have snow, we'll build our own snowman!)

Read: The Snowman

December 11th: pinecone

Today we'll make pinecone seed ornaments for our bird tree, as well as some silver (glitter) pinecones to give as gifts. We'll attach tags that describe "The Legend of the Silver Pinecone." After dark we'll walk out to the bird tree and there will be a surprise ... colorful lights!

Read: Night Tree

December 12th: poinsettia

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! We'll visit a local nursery to see all the poinsettias - the greenhouse, with its steamy warmth, will be a nice break from the chill December air. While we're there, we'll buy some amaryllis/paperwhite bulbs to prepare as gifts. At home, while Mama works on a poinsettia ornament, we'll watch Frosty the Snowman (note the scene when he gets stuck in the greenhouse!). For snack, we'll have cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars and "sangria" (fruit punch with chunky winter fruits).

Read: The Legend of the Poinsettia

December 13th: orange 

Today is the Feast of St. Lucia! For breakfast we'll have orange-cranberry muffins (lit by beeswax candles!) and spicy Swedish "glogg" (non-alcoholic version). Later on we'll slice oranges and hang them to dry in the kitchen window - they'll smell so good! We'll also say a prayer for big brother Bookworm who starts his final exams today!

An Orange for Frankie

December 14th: gingerbread

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and today we celebrate one of our greatest joys - our Earlybird himself! It's his 13th birthday!!! Earlybird (and his Papa, with whom he shares his birthday) will be honored at a special lunch with all his favorite foods and a delicious gingerbread cake! Tonight we light the pink candle.

Read: The Gingerbread Pirates

December 15th: fruitcake

Today we'll bake mini "fruitcake" breads for our neighbors. We'll be using the delicious fruits and nuts we ordered from King Arthur Flour. Once the breads are cool we'll wrap them well and store them somewhere cold. Then we'll make tags for the breads (which will be delivered on Christmas eve).

Read: The Polar Express

December 16th: reindeer

Today we'll watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and talk about what made him special and how it's ok to be different! How that which makes us different can also make us shine! We'll do a little research: Where do reindeer live? How do they live? Let's add some reindeer stickers to our map. Weather permitting, we'll visit our local farm to feed their beautiful reindeer.

Read: The Wild Christmas Reindeer

December 17th: stockings

Today we'll hang our Christmas stockings along the mantel and make a donation to a local toy drive. These will be items we've been adding to a bag all month. We'll talk about why it's important to help those who have less than we do, and sometimes that is in material form and sometimes it's through our time and actions. Let's brainstorm ways we as a family can help others in the new year.

Read: The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

December 18th: mint

Today we are going to bake all-natural candy-cane cookies and enjoy them with homemade hot peppermint cocoa. We will also have some homemade play-dough to shape and bake into letters. (upside down candy cane = j for Jesus) Before bed we will enjoy a minty herbal foot bath.

Read: The Legend of the Candy Cane

December 19th: candle

Today we'll roll beeswax candles to give as gifts and enjoy our supper by candlelight. We'll discuss light - the type and amount of light at this time of year (natural world) and also, why do we call Jesus the Light of the world? And tonight, a special dinner to welcome Bookworm home for Christmas break!

Read: An Early American Christmas

December 20th: snowflake

Today is the last day of Autumn! Let's talk about how seasons change, and how the Winter season is different from the Christmas season (natural/liturgical). We'll make snowflakes to celebrate the new season (either paper ones or these depending on energy and time) and brainstorm ways to get ready for winter storms!

Read: Snowflakes Fall

December 21st: yule log

Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent! It is also the Winter Solstice (6:03 p.m.), the shortest day of the year! After Mass we'll go for a walk (weather permitting) and listen to the silence of the woods. We'll bring home a fallen branch to make a 12 Days of Christmas Log. We'll talk about why we love our cats and how we can show them our love (care, kind words, special attention). As a special treat there will be a yule log for dessert at Sunday dinner!

Read: The Christmas Cat

December 22nd: holly

Today we'll walk around our property and look for what's still green. Are there any holly and ivy plants? As we walk, we'll listen to the old English carol, "The Holly and Ivy" (on Pandora). Back inside we'll have a coloring picture to do (this will be the first entry in our new nature logs) and we'll copy "The Song of the Holly Fairy" to accompany the picture. Why is the holly plant like a crown? (pointy edges) Who is the newborn king - why/how/when does he wear a crown?

Read: The Story of Holly & Ivy

December 23rd: star

Today we'll put the star on top of the Christmas tree and make some simple star ornaments using cardboard and yarn. We'll find Bethlehem on the world map (approximately) and place a glittery star sticker above it. Let's look at the night sky and see what stars we can pick out. And before bed, a special surprise! A new Christmas book for our collection ...

Read: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

December 24th: heart

Very simply: What (Who) is the heart of Christmas? Let's talk about the love Jesus has for us ... the love His parents had for Him ... and how we can we show Jesus we love Him this year? (stress the idea that Jesus is in everyone we meet) As the sun goes down we will pay a visit to the outdoor creche, and inside we'll light all our Advent candles and say a special prayer (one we've composed) together. Before bed, EB will have an herbal "Christmas" bath - soothing and softly scented.

Read: Manger

25 - Holy Family

Merry Christmas! Let's have a wonderful day!

**

Now, this calendar is primarily organized with Earlybird in mind (my 12 year old autistic son who is, developmentally, much younger than his calendar age) but as you can see, many activities involve the whole family and can be adapted for children of all ages. And as I said before, this will not all flow as smoothly as described - some days will just not go as planned. And that's ok, I've come to accept this aspect of special needs parenting! Each weekend I'll prepare in advance in hopes that things will work out, and then we'll take it day by day. I'm looking to establish a hopeful mood and make warm memories - not wear anyone out (most of all me!)

I hope, overall, that my children will remember the days of Advent as time well spent together - in a peaceful spirit, with present minds - as we prepared our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Blessings to all on this late Thursday eve ... see you here again very soon!


Autism Awareness ... & Appreciation

Dear friends, I'm sure many of you know that April 2nd is is Autism Awareness Day - perhaps you've seen signs, or heard about it on tv, or maybe you know of a relative or neighbor with autism ... Or maybe you, like me, live with "autism awareness" every day of the year, because one of your precious children is autistic ...

Well today, as I pray for my Earlybird and for all people with ASD, I'm also thinking about the siblings of autistics ... for they too have a lot on their young shoulders. At an early age they must show patience in ways most other kids do not. They develop a sensitivity to "differences" because they see them in someone they love. They settle for taking life's side roads at times, and they learn what it means to love someone even when that's sometimes a challenge.

Earlybird is our third son of four, and Bill and I are truly grateful for our older boys, Bookworm and Crackerjack ~ for all their help and understanding through the years. They've had to make allowances and adjustments, and have been such a good example for their little brother ...

Our boys 5

Earlybird could not ask for better big brothers. He's a very lucky boy, indeed!

**

My friends ... I hope you'll join me today in praying for all those living with autism - that they receive the love and support they so need and deserve. I pray also that with growing "awareness" comes more understanding and support - not just around the world, but in our very own communities as well. The importance of community cannot be overstated, because the world for some autistic people must begin (and sometimes remain) very small. Every gesture of support (family, community and society) makes such a difference and is so deeply appreciated.

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by today and listening ... and as always, for your prayers and support. I'll see you here again very soon ...


An Easter Countdown for Earlybird

Countdown 14 

One of the things to know about Earlybird is, he looooves parties. Getting the house ready, preparing the food, welcoming family and friends - he loves it all. Happily for him, we host a lot of parties! And when we finish with one, the next day he's asking, "What comes next?" So of course, right after Christmas he was all ...

"When is Easter?"

So I've been planning a countdown of some sort for him in my head, but I couldn't nail down a firm idea ... I'd come up with something, but then it would seem too complicated. EB needs something simple and fun, easy to keep up with every day. (I do too!)

Recently I was at Staples and I found these border paper rolls on sale for $2 apiece. Some were plain white and some had this pretty blue sky pattern. I bought some of each as well as a couple of packages of big smiley face stickers (also on sale, but the price escapes me just now). I had some index cards on hand and colored markers, of course, and so a plan started to form ...

This is EB and me working on the chart before heading into the hospital yesterday. (Yes, I left this to the very last minute, but that's just how I roll lately.)

Countdown 12

 The wrap on his head was covering the electrodes and wires - the backpack he's wearing held the transmitter into which the wires fed. It still amazes me he wore all of this - and that he slept with it! 

Later in the evening, once we were home, I got back to work on my project, with a few new helpers this time ...

Countdown 4

Countdown 15

I enjoy all my distractions, I really do. :)

With a black marker, I drew a curved line up the middle of the paper and with a purple marker, I wrote numbers alongside it, 40-1. At the bottom of the chart is the 40th day to Easter (Ash Wednesday) and so on upwards to Holy Saturday. Then Bill questioned me on the Sundays - where are the Sundays? Well, of course, we don't count Sundays as part of Lent, but Earlybird is a bit of a stickler when it comes to things like patterns and routine, and skipping a day won't sit right with him ...

So I made the six Sundays a separate part of the poster - in the form of pretty lavender index card crosses (one is pink for Rose Sunday) that sit off on the side. (I made these from index cards.) On Sundays I will write something special on each cross ~ a few joyful words of encouragement.

Here's how the poster looks hanging on the side of the liturgical bookcase ...

Countdown 9

And here's a closer look at the paper and smiley face stickers ...

Countdown 11

You can see where we started at the very bottom with EB's 1st smiley face sticker.

Countdown 13

 There are some notes about the days to come as we move up - feast days and natural events. More might pop up as the season unfolds ...

Countdown 10

 So at the end of each day EB will place a sticker over the day's number and so on throughout Lent, moving ever closer to Easter Sunday, and the top of the chart.

(And on Easter morning the top of the chart will sprout a giant rainbow and beautiful flowers!)
*** 

Now, Lent is about sacrifice, but for Earlybird, we're encouraging little acts of kindness/extra effort each day ... giving a little more of ourselves can be its own kind of sacrifice, after all. And really, all he went through this week with the EEG and hospital visits was a true trial ... I told him last night as he applied his sticker that he was very brave and did things he really didn't want to do. Today he has to let me wash his hair (to get more glue out) and I know he really doesn't want me to do that. But I will remind him that sometimes we have to give up a little of our comfort for a greater good. (It's a big and perhaps confusing concept for my little guy but it won't hurt to say it.) Tomorrow I'll suggest a kindness we can do for someone else and have Earlybird help me complete it.

Each day we'll do a little something and over time, fill our chart with smiles, and bring ourselves steadily closer to Easter.

:)

So that's the plan I finally decided upon, and I'm happy with how the project came out ... more importantly, Earlybird seems happy with it! I hope it helps him pass the time until our next family celebration ... and perhaps stretch himself a little as he gives a bit "extra" every day.

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

**


Thursday This & That

A few notes on this fine, frosty morning ...  some newsy bits to share. :)

1. Earlybird did very well yesterday wearing the ambulatory eeg - he only fiddled with the contraption once (the itching was driving him crazy!) but we were able to get it all back in place, using gauze and tape we had at home. The hospital visit was quick - they used dissolvable glue so it all just washed off. He's not a fan of head washing - or hair cuts for that matter - so it was a little rough on him - but, thankfully, quick! So now we wait for results, and a follow-up with the neurologist next month. We're greatly relieved to have this behind us ... I honestly felt an eeg might be beyond our reach. I hope and pray this gives the doctors information that will ultimately help them help Earlybird.

Speaking of help, we are grateful to my mum who once again made the situation so much better not just for EB, but for all of us ... and to our friend, Laura, who helped get our Crackerjack home from his afternoon class. And of course, to everyone here who shared prayers and kind words - thank you, thank you, so much. I'll keep you all posted on EB's journey.

2. And now, as life gets back to "normal," we find ourselves officially in Lent. So I changed the valance on the liturgical bookcase this morning, from green to purple ... 

Purple sheers 4

My friend Debbie gave me this lovely set of sheers last year - and how happy they make me! They look perfect in the library, in the liturgical corner. (I have that "library tour" post nearly ready to go - I will have it up, most likely, tomorrow.)

3. Now, if you look over on the righthand side of my blog you will notice a sunny little "sign" for my "Kitchen Chat" series. Divina made that up for me, isn't it lovely? And wasn't that kind? If you click on that button it will take you directly to the Kitchen Chat archive ... and I'm thinking this will run longer than 4 weeks. There's so much to discuss! Even once we re-start Masterpiece Mondays, there's room for both posts, I think! 

Next week's topic (3/10) will be: Menu Planning. That seems to be another hugely popular topic. So if you'd like to join the conversation, please jump into the comments! (First post on Seasonal Eating is here.) And if you have a blog yourself and would like to link in, feel free to grab the button and share your thoughts in a post at your blog. We'll have lots of fun!

And here we have Little Bear, "helping" me get my marketing book back in order. He's great at culling those outdated coupons. :) 

O coupon help 1

4. Lastly, how sweet are these?

Peter rabbit baking decorations

A Peter Rabbit cupcake decorating kit - a real "find" at HomeGoods last week. Perfect for Easter of course, but I may save them for Little Bear's 1st birthday in May. That would be a darling party theme, don't you think?

***

Well, my friends, I hope you all have a nice Thursday ... thanks so much for stopping by, and stay tuned for more on all those things I mentioned above ...

I'll be back here again very soon!


Well, so far so good!

Good morning, my friends ... I'm checking in quickly to report that all is going well so far with Earlybird's ambulatory EEG! We're halfway there!

Our trip into Children's yesterday was successful - thanks in no small part to my mother who accompanied us and provided EB with that extra comfort he needed. And though he balked quite a bit initially at having the electrodes applied, the staff was able to figure out how to do it as quickly and sensitively as possible. EB left the hospital with a soft "helmet" wrapped around and taped to his head, keeping all the electrodes in place, wires tucked into a backpack which was (and still is) strapped around his torso. He was so wiped out from the ordeal he went to bed at six, and slept straight till three - but the important news is, the EEG is still in place! He has not bothered with it, so hopefully the transmitter is recording the data the doctors need to get a closer look at our Earlybird's precious, beautiful brain. :)

Today we bring EB back in to have the whole contraption removed, and then we wait for our follow-up in April to discuss the results. In the meantime, we'll continue with his anti-seizure medication - oh, and speaking of! - I don't think I told you all the good news. We were able to find a pharmacy that would make up his med and a vitamin B solution without ANY synthetic dyes, flavors or preservatives!! We're hoping this will help EB tolerate the meds a bit better - and we're trying out this option before considering a switch to another med. (The one he's on now is affecting his mood and behavior - possibly it's just the additives, but we will see ... one small step at a time!)

Thank you all so, SO much for your prayers and support. You cannot know the comfort and strength they have given me. When we were safely back in the car yesterday, EB was all set, and I felt like I could finally breathe ... my thoughts went to you all and your prayers on our behalf. I KNOW they made the difference, and I appreciate it so much.

So here we are then, Ash Wednesday morning, and Lent underway - I've barely spared it a thought, it seems ...

My hope this season is to give more of myself every day and to serve my family as they need ... that I need less for me, so I have more to offer them ... and that, in all my words and actions, I express my love for, and deep gratitude to God.

**

Blessings on your day, my friends ... thank you for listening, and caring ... I'll be in touch again very soon.


Prayers for Earlybird, please?

My friends, tomorrow we are taking our Earlybird into Children's Hospital for a second EEG attempt. (You might remember the first try went badly.) This time they are going to set him up with an "ambulatory eeg", meaning, he'll wear the whole kit and kaboodle home (electrodes, helmet), and then the test will (hopefully) record as he sleeps overnight ... 

I am trying very hard to stay positive and not "stew" in my worry, but I'm having a hard time seeing how this will work. I am hoping that he will be able to withstand it all - we're asking a lot of our sensory-challenged boy! And right now I'm praying we find the strength and patience to guide him through it as smoothly as possible. I need to find words and actions that will soothe and support. I need to maintain an energy that is loving and firm. I need to keep my wits about me and remember that, above all, I am this child's mother, and I know him better than anyone.

All this to say ... I'd be so grateful if you would keep our EB in your prayers tomorrow ... it will be a tough day for us all, and I might not get on here for a bit. But I will post an update just as soon as I can.

Thank you, my friends ... blessings to you and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon.

**


When you take a kid to Whole Foods ...

Whole Foods Market is Earlybird's favorite place on earth (aside from his Nana and Papa's, of course), and he asks me constantly if we can go there, when can we go there, who can come with us and whose car we'll take. We usually have the whole trip discussed, imagined and planned out days - even weeks - before we even step foot in the store. ;)

Well, it occured to me that such an avid interest presents a wonderful learning opportunty for Earlybird! Building on what appeals to him - with simple, relatable activities - makes learning easier and more fun (for us both). So I started brainstorming some ideas for a little "Whole Foods Curriculum" and thought I'd share my list here in case it's helpful to somebody else with a child who just loves to food shop!

*Quick disclaimer: I'm a homeschooling mom, not a curriculum expert or special needs pro. I don't mean to present this as anything other than a humble and hopeful collection of home-grown ideas. I'm just going by what might work for my own son and his particular interests and learning/life needs.

:)

27 learning activities inspired by Whole Foods

Make a list of things we need to buy.

Practice spelling and penmanship, expand vocabulary. When we check our pantry and fridge/freezer before making our list we practice good food management and decision-making while taking responsibility for our family's needs (all important life skills).

Try to find items on a prepared scavenger list.

"Made from oats." "Came from the sea." "Smells good." etc. (reading practice, creative/logical thinking)

Look over store flyer and organize coupons.

Good reading practice, and discerning information (what's on sale, what's fresh?). Using coupons to save money - sorting, organizing, budgeting. Simple subtraction (item price minus coupon amount).

Use a calculator to add up a small order.

I wouldn't try this with a big shopping trip, but for a basket-ful of items - using a calculator to predict how much the cashier will ask for. Math - estimation, addition, calculator-use.

• Make reusable shopping bags.

O and r at wf 4

Earlybird with his own reusable bag, a birthday gift.

  Using inexpensive cloth tote bags (from a craft store), decide on design/colors. Great creative/art experience. Discuss why reusing bags makes good sense (environmental science).

Draw a map to Whole Foods from our house.

Creative project using all kinds of skills - geography, measurement, memory, arts & crafts. Use a large sketch pad and colored pencils. Write out directions to go along with map.

Whole Foods A and Whole Foods B - which is closer?

We're lucky enough to live near(ish) not just one, but two Whole Foods stores - I know which one we prefer (size, selection, layout) but which one is closer? Observe odometer at start and finish for each trip, record travel times.

• Practice clear and polite communication.

Think of potential questions and ask for help, make conversation with staff and other patrons (language skills, social skills).

• Practice good cart management.

Earlybird loves to use the cart himself, but this takes a little skill sometimes! The store can be busy, aisles can be crowded (gross motor skills, social skills, patience).

O and r at wf 2

Little Bear is amazed by all the sights to see!

Learn: What does organic mean?

Look for the word "organic" on labels, store signs, flyers. Ask someone to explain what it means (call ahead of time) and/or research at home. Visit the library to research further - ask the librarian to help us look up information: How is organic healthier for us? For the earth? Make up a short "report" with Mama's help. (environmental science, research skills, clear communication, observation, composition/grammar/spelling/vocabulary)

Tour the store.

Ask for a tour with a store manager (or other store staff). Call ahead to ask. After tour, narrate experience (Mom types in) and add drawings, photos. Write thank you note afterwards. (patience, attention, social skills, penmanship/spelling/vocabulary)

Film a pretend commerical.

O and r at wf 1

Little Bear is all business when discussing yogurt.

Ask manager for permission to take video (on phone) while walking around the store. At home, make up a "script" and signs/props for commercial. Talk about what we like about Whole Foods. Record commercial to share with friends and family (language skills, reflection, creativity, oral presentation, diction).

Look for products from around the world.

Make a list of all the countries we find represented, and write down what products came from where. Use a world map to mark discovered countries. What country has the most products? Find out if there are available statistics for that information (ask manager). (geography, observation, communication/language, simple math, research skills)

Where are Whole Foods stores located across the US?

Research store chain locations - which state has the most stores? Look at US map as we research. (geography, observation, simple math)

How do receipts work?

How much money do we spend at Whole Foods? Look at receipt from recent visit, what does it show? Use cash to show the amount of money spent. (math skills, life skills, money management)

O and r at wf 3 

Earlybird and Little Bear on a recent trip to Whole Foods.

Visit a local farm that supplies food to Whole Foods.

Ask the store manager for a list of local suppliers. Visit one (or more) of the farms in the spring and ask about the farm-store connection. Calculate distance from farm to store - ask about how the food/items are transported. Take pictures and write up a "report." (social skills, communication, language, math, geography, community, environmental science)

Tour the individual store departments.

Visit the store and write down the name of each store department. Over following visits, investigate just one department at a time. What is the seafood counter all about? What can we find in the dairy? Talk to a staff member associated with that department - have some questions prepared. Make up a booklet at home describing the information and communication. Use photos, drawings and narration. (observation, list-making, language, organization, communication, social skills, creativity, memory/reflection)

Make up a Whole Foods cookbook.

As we visit the store through the year, keep note of what is in season when. Devise/collect recipes for seasonal foods (baked apples in winter, grilled corn in summer, etc.). Ask for a seasonal list of foods (if available) and use that as a guide. Keep all these recipes and information (along with pictures we take as we cook) in a binder. (observation, list making, language, creativity, communication, life skills, environmental science)

Make a well-balanced meal.

Plan out a healthy meal and write out a shopping list. Talk about how much we'll need, think about how many people will be eating the food. Make sure to include all food groups and talk about why that is important. Talk about the connection between good health and healthy food. Discuss how we feel after we eat a nutritious meal (energized? full?). (list-making, organization, language, decision making, science, healthy habits, self-awareness)

Practice time management.

Plan a very early trip to the store (like, 8 a.m.) and devise a plan for getting there on time. How early do we need to get up? What things have to happen before we can leave the house? What do we need to bring with us? Make a list and post it. On the day of the trip, time each activity that leads up to leaving the house. (life skills, time management, independence, responsibility)

O and r at wf

 EB can be a big help with his little brother. 

Rules are important.

Does Whole Foods have rules? Look at the entrance for any signs (no shirt/no shoes/etc.). Talk about why rules are important. What are some of our family/household's rules? (life skills, responsiblity, community living)

Write a poem about Whole Foods.

Brainstorm words about Whole Foods - nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Print out the words and cut out so that we have lots of single words on little pieces of paper. Play around with the words and make up rhymes. (language, creativity, grammar)

Conduct a taste test-survey.

Choose a sampling of foods (perhaps WF store brand vs. name brand or another store brand). Invite friends/family to try the foods (decide how best to do this - blindfolded?) and make a note of reactions. Tabulate "votes" and make up a graph to show survey results. (decision-making, organization, communication, math skills, creativity)

Host a Whole Foods party.

A nice late spring/early summer event - decide on date/time, plan out guest list, make invitations, devise menu, write out shopping list, create decorations, etc. (calendar skills, decision-making, communication, language, creativity, patience, social skills)

Have a meal at Whole Foods.

Our local Whole Foods has a cafe where patrons can buy drinks and snacks and enjoy them at a table. Plan an outing with Daddy for an early weekend morning (before it gets busy). What do we need (money)? How shoud we behave? After eating, give Daddy a tour of the store. (social skills, patience, money management, hygiene)

Plant a Whole Foods garden.

In the spring, notice the gardening items that Whole Foods offers: seeds, plants, tools. At home, plan out and create a small garden plan (pots, easy-to-grow items). Purchase seeds and small seedlings at Whole Foods. Peruse tools and other garden implements and decide if they are something we need or not. (list making, organization, environmental science, nature study, creativity, exercise/fresh air, decision making, money management)

Write a letter to Whole Foods.

Find out how to contact the "head' of Whole Foods (look online) and write a letter expressing our fondness for the store, as well as any suggestions or ideas. :) (language, creativity, research, social skills, life skills, US mail)

***

Well, I guess I'd better stop there, because this post is getting awfully long! Thanks for letting me share all of this ... I hope maybe someone else finds it useful! Lots of ideas, and some of them will work better than others ... we will try them out over the next several months as opportunity (and energy) presents itself! And of course, I'll let you all know how it goes ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today ... have a good one, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!


Earlybird's MRI was today ...

R mri 1

And now, Thursday evening, we're finally home ...

It was a tough day - a loong day - but he did well. We spent several hours at Children's Hospital in Boston (I wish everyone had this hospital local to them) and both EB and Little Bear (who tagged along of course) were as good as gold. EB was sedated for this exam and once he was "awake enough" in recovery, we were allowed to take him home. He was cranky for sure, but as we left, each and every doctor/nurse's station we passed got a "Thank you, doctors!" from EB. :) The ride home was long and he threw up a couple of times, but he seemed to relax once we were home. 

We will talk to the radiologist tomorrow but so far the MRI showed "no abnormalities that would indicate a seizure disorder." There does seem to be an issue with his corpus callosum, which may actually shed some light on his challenges ... we'll learn more in a follow-up appointment.

Bottom line: Earlybird's ok, we're home and it's over! And I'm so glad to have this day behind us. Thank you again for all your support ... reading all your messages - knowing so many dear people were thinking of and praying for my Earlybird - it means so much, I just can't express it. But please know how grateful I am, deep in my heart. I will continue to keep you all posted, and of course, keep you all in my own prayers.

A peaceful evening to you all ... see you here again very soon.


Another Update on Earlybird

So we've been consulting with Children's Hospital (via telephone) in preparation for Earlybird's MRI tomorrow. I've spoken at length with both a nurse and a behavioral therapist ... now I'm waiting to hear back from the anesthesiologist. The test itself is at noon Thursday (or thereabouts depending on wait-time). He can have nothing to eat after midnight tonight because he will be sedated for the exam, and that might be our greatest challenge - he'll be pretty cranky about that!

(As most of you know, he's always up before the sun and ready for breakfast right away!)

EB and me

Funnily enough, EB is all talk this week of "going back to Disney" and so we've been looking at pictures from our trip. I especially love this picture of the two of us (though I'm not generally fond of pictures of my backside, lol). It was taken on our last day in the park after we had just spied an alligator floating by the edge of a pond. What an amazing sight to see! We were torn between curiosity, excitement and fear! But Earlybird got nervous, so he and I left Bill and big brothers behind and walked back to "safety" (i.e. the golf cart) - hand-in-hand, talking it out the whole way.

So much of life is like that, isn't it? Sharing the good times, enduring the bad ... helping our children navigate the inevitable bumps in their roads, whether they be skinned knees, bruised egos, wildlife encounters or medical tests. It's what were here for: to provide comfort and confidence when they need it, to be their unwavering champion throughout life ...

**

My friends, to be honest, I'm nervous. But I'm trying very hard to stay positive, to let go of my worry and be the center of peace and support EB needs me to be. Any prayers and/or good thoughts you can offer on our son's behalf would be deeply appreciated!

I''ll let you all know how it goes ... but for now, thank you so much, and have a good day ... see you here again very soon!


Life's Little Pleasures ...

Never take them for granted my friends!

Like most kids, Earlybird is super excited by the idea of playing in the snow. It snows quite a bit around here, and as the world outside his windows turns white, you'll find EB pressed against the glass, wondering just how soon he can get out there ...

But the reality of snow play is sometimes a challenge for an autistic child: It's cold, and maybe the jacket is bulky or the hat is scratchy and the boots are kind of hard to walk in. Within minutes, some part of you is undoubtedly wet and steadily getting wetter ... So sometimes "an afternoon of snow play" becomes a rather brief (and cranky) event. Earlybird's senses are easily overwhelmed.

Well, yesterday he got out there and everything just clicked. The gear fit well, the drive wasn't too slippery and he was able to play for a good half an hour and really enjoy himself ...

Riley in snow 1

Riley in snow 5

It made me so happy to see my boy just relax and enjoy one of life's little pleasures. Something about which many people would never think twice ...

All followed up by cocoa of course ...

Cocoa cup

:)

Well, enjoy the rest of your Sunday, my friends, and a Happy Epiphany, too! I'll do my best to stay up for Downton tonight (hoping Little Bear cooperates!) and then I'll have a discussion post up early tomorrow morning. Hope you can join me!

See you all again very soon ...


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

{Earlybird update at bottom of post.}

PEACE

Advent peace sunrise 

I've noticed my "peace" moments tend to happen in the morning ... I think this is when my day is still fairly simple and it's easier to be mindful of the blessings around me. As the day progresses, things get a bit noisier and more active ...

For instance, right now, it's 8:30 a.m. and Little Bear has just gone down for his morning nap. The middle boys are in the midst of their breakfast and the funny pages ... there are chores to get to, and lessons to lay out, but I'm taking this little break for myself. I'm sitting somewhere quiet and typing away, feeling creative and connected ... But wait - I hear footsteps ...

Shhh, you don't see me here!

;)

Sometimes, though, peace can be found late in the day, too ...

As the kettle boils and the sun sets, I find myself busy in the kitchen ... I take a moment to breathe a short prayer, light a candle in the window. A real, honest-to-goodness, wax-and-wick candle, one that burns slowly and softly. Not as brightly as those electric candles, perhaps - it requires more thought and attention - but it's real. I can't ignore it, my eyes return to it, the children ask about it ... the lighting of a flame - an ancient gesture in a modern life.

Advent peace blue candle

JOY

Advent joy book 1

A sweet, old-fashioned Christmas ABC book ... those illustrations remind us how beautiful a simpler life can be.

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And a feast day craft - easy and rewarding:

Advent joy ornament 2 

A plain wooden ornament, painted with natural watercolors ... a precious picture printed out and cut to fit in the middle ... but no glitter to be found? How about a sprinkle of kosher salt?

Advent joy ornament 1

Looks so pretty in the lights of the tree ...

Advent joy o looking at tree

>>>Love<<<

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Now, for a note on Earlybird ...

He is doing well. He is taking the medicine better and better each day. He gets a dose every 12 hours (by dropper) and so far, aside from a decreased appetite, it doesn't seem to be affecting him adversely. Most importantly he has not had a seizure since last Tuesday night.

So tomorrow he has his first test - an EEG. To prepare him for the procedure, we have to keep him up till midnight tonight, then let him sleep till 4 a.m. - wake him then, and keep him awake until the test at 10 a.m. Now - his blog name is not Earlybird for nothing - this is a child whose self-imposed bedtime is 7 p.m. Who sometimes begs to go to bed. So we really have our work cut out for us tonight ...

 My friends, my deepest thanks for your continued prayers ... I will post an update on his testing as soon as I am able, but please hold my boy in your thoughts and prayers. This will be difficult for him and I'm sure confusing, too. Bill and I are taking this one step at a time, just doing what needs to be done to the best we are able and keeping EB as comforted as we can. Your support, suggestions and encouragement mean the world to us!

Well, I hope you all have a lovely Tuesday ... relish the blessings in your life today and look for those little moments as you are able. Drop a note and share them here if you have the time ... and I'll be in touch just as soon as I can.


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

Happy Weekend, my friends!

Well, it was a quiet day for us yesterday ... I was feeling most grateful for the acceptance and peace in my heart. So much of our reality is shaped by our perception and how we feel about things. What's that old saying? If you can't change the way things are, change the way you think about them? Something like that. I find when I pray these days, I am asking God - not so much to change things (though that would be fantastic) - but for Him to grant me the strength to handle the things that do happen. And He's been so good to help me with that.

I am also deeply thankful for all your messages of support. What an outpouring we have received from you all, I can hardly express my gratitude. The prayers that are being said for my son, for my family ... I am truly overwhelmed by your kindness, and how you've taken us under your wings ...

My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Also, a few of you who have gone through similar issues have reached out with offers to connect, and I will be following up on those connections, most certainly. I am eager for advice and insight ... Thus far Earlybird is doing ok - he is tolerating the meds well. He is not at all pleased about getting them (he begins the day with "No medicine, all right?") but I think he's becoming more accepting of it, and Bill and I are getting better at it. (There's that old saying at work!)

(Some of you have asked about his tests - his EEG is next Wednesday, but more on that in a future post.)

Well it's time to get on with my post - the peace and the joy I found in my day yesterday. A day which, in light of all the recent turmoil, was wonderfully relaxed, and though I hate to use this word - I think you know what I mean when I say - normal.  Little Bear took a super long nap, so I was able to spend some much needed one-on-one time with EB ...

First, here's my moment of peace ...

O nap 1

Honestly, is there anything more peaceful than a sleeping baby?

:)

And now for a look at our simple joy ...

Advent joy craft 3

Glue! What could be better?

Well, maybe paint. 

Earlybird asked for paints, and I did have some set aside. (I have to use natural art materials with EB.) I also had the boys work on an oldie but goodie - the "reindeer hands-and-feet" project. My 14 year-old Crackerjack is such a good sport. I asked him to join us in our craft-making and he happily did so.

Advent joy craft 1

Advent joy craft 2

I called this "Advent painting" because the blended paints became mostly purple and pink. :)

Advent joy craft 4

R painting 2

Advent joy craft 5

 The tiny one in the middle is Little Bear's.

:)

A bit later in the day, Earlylbird helped me make some brownies, a special St. Nicholas Day treat. Bookworm was on his way home from college, and we were eager to make a fun family supper. 

Advent joy baking

They were later topped with peppermint frosting - and as you can imagine, they were a hit!

Advent joy brownie

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Well my posts have been rather long-winded lately - not quite the quck and simple things I had envisioned when I started my Advent Peace & Joy series! But I've had a lot to say, and you've all been kind enough to listen ...

I say this a lot, but truly, thank you for taking the time to stop by and spend a bit of your precious time here with me. I'm happy when my words resonate with someone and/or bring something forward that is is happy or helpful in some way. I'd like to ask that you leave me comments with your own prayer intentions - I am in prayer an awful lot these days and I would be honored to remember your intentions alongside mine. 

For now though, I will sign off ... we have a tree to decorate today! I will surely be sharing some of that joy here later on ...

Blessings and love to you all ... see you here again very soon!


Wednesday Q & A: Due Dates, Desserts & Diet

Pink-blue butterfly

Good morning, my friends! I thought I'd do a little Q&A catch-up today ...

Now and again I am asked when I'm due, and I can tell you my "official" due date is May 27th (Memorial Day) - and that's (wow) three months from today! I tend to deliver close to my dd - Bookworm was born one day late (the day after the summer solstice), Crackerjack came two days early (two days before the Assumption) and Earlybird arrived a whole week early (just in time for his Papa's birthday!). But we'll have to wait and see what this baby has planned ... ;)

Yesterday, Michelle asked:

Can you share the recipe for the potato and leek soup? I think you have mentioned it before but I couldn't find the recipe. I bought leeks at the store today in hopes of making it Friday.

I'm trying this one, Michelle: Martha Stewart Potato Leek Soup. It sounds earthy and delicious - a perfect supper for the first of March. :)

Why leeks you might wonder, dear readers? Well March 1st is The Feast of St. David, who is the patron of Wales, and leeks are a national symbol (alongside the daffodil). Traditionally they are worn on a lapel, but I prefer the idea of serving them in a meal ...

Are we Welsh? No. But we're Catholic, and I enjoy working simple faith traditions into our everyday family life. Over the years they bring us a familiar, fun comfort - and happy memories, as well. :)

Now, Jen asked:

I wondered if you make a dessert almost every night? I think I would weigh 300 pounds if I ate all the yummy desserts you serve! :-) Which brings me to another question, I have noticed that there are always (or usually!) seem to be delicious sweets in your home? How do you keep your girlish figure, Dawn? Do you squeeze exercise into your already-busy schedule? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Ok, lots of points to touch on, Jen!

I do serve dessert at every dinner, but I don't always make it myself - and it's not always something big or special. I usually have simple cookies (vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, oatmeal raisin) or plain ice cream/frozen yogurt on hand. My family really enjoys a little something sweet after a meal and I feel as long as we keep it proportionate and nobody has issues tied to sweets, we're ok. I also try to keep our desserts as natural (homemade) and fruit-based (seasonal) as possible.

Honestly, I'm a big believer of "all things in moderation," so we don't forbid sweets, but we do monitor them. Earlybird is the only one of us who has a weight issue, and that is tied tightly into his autism: eating is an addiction for him - he literally wants to eat all the time. But it's not so much sweets he wants, but rather, carbs and dairy. And actually he rarely eats the family dessert - he's usually pretty happy with a couple of low fat "Fig Newmans" or a few graham crackers after a meal. Currently we're working with him on portion control and making healthier choices ... and this would be a great topic for a future post! I'll start a draft now. :)

But I do enjoy desserts, I'll admit! And I also love to bake. In fact, Bill, looking over my shoulder at this draft just said, "You love to bake stuff but you never eat it!" Which is not entirely true - I do allow myself to have a small sweet a day - but I don't eat it at night after supper, because that gives me heartburn. So I usually save my "sweet" for midday. I don't know if that makes a big difference, but I've heard it said it's wise to limit calories late in the day. And if I'm having a cupcake with lunch I'll only eat half a sandwich instead of a whole. I have to keep my meals small because I tend to have slow digestion - if I eat too much in one sitting my stomach can't deal.

Now, do I exercise?

Well, um ... no. 

o_o

I know I should - I really should - and I am always meaning to start! But the truth of it is, I just can't find the time ... or energy ... or motivation. Generally speaking, my weight stays about the same even without "formal" exercise ... but I know exercise is about way more than staying trim - it's about heart health and flexibility, etc. I have this conversation with my doctor at each annual physical!

Ideally, I'd be walking/using the eliptical a few times a week and doing some yoga or stretching every day. It's in the back of my mind that once I've recovered from this baby's birth I will get serious about doing something "formally" physical, a few times a week. I'm sure it won't be as easy to shed baby weight in my 40s as it was in my 20's and 30s!

As for watching my figure, well I try to stay aware of how my clothes are fitting - and if things feel snug I know I need to be a little more careful with my food choices for a week or two. All that said, I could definitely stand to eat healthier - I don't eat nearly as much produce as I should and I tend to shy away from whole grains. Our family food goals this year include eating less processed food, and eating a more varied (seasonal/local) diet - more food for a future post!

But Jen, I too would love to hear opinions on this subject ...

How do we moms fit exercise into an already busy schedule? Better yet - how do we find the energy to do said exercise if and when we have the time?

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Well friends, I'll wrap things up here since this post is getting long and my time is getting short. Time to rattle my older boys' cages and get on with my day. I do hope your Wednesday's a good one, and if you have questions or comments, please leave me a note below!

See you here again sometime soon ...

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Good Morning!

This wonderful article brought a smile to my face and had me nodding my head this morning. Had to share!

17 Things 'The Princess Bride' Taught Me about Autism Parenting

I love all 17 points, but these three especially:

4. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

Be patient. Change and growth takes time, and there are no corners to be cut here. Every kid is working to their own schedule and developing at their own rate.

7. Success means using the right moves for the terrain.

There is no definitive intervention for autism. The choices that other people make may not be the right ones for your family, and vice versa. And that's OK. Don't ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.

9. Inconceivable doesn't mean impossible.

Your kids will achieve things beyond what you ever expected or imagined. Believe this, and they'll believe it, too.

It's good to remember that though our situations may be different, and we all face different challenges, we're not alone. This article made me smile and I hope it does the same for you.

:)

Blessings on your day, my friends!

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