Monday, April 29, 2013

Snapshot: Daddy's Shoes


Hello cuteness and slow shutter speeds.

Sassy

"Mommy, can you put pink on my dula (cane) this time?"

How about one better? Pink duct tape with flowers on it! Bling, bling. 


LEGO Club

Little Mister joined a month-long LEGO club through his online school. For his first project, he was supposed to build a taxicab, but he talked Curly into building it for him. I'm torn between scolding him for not doing the work himself, and admiring his use of personnel resources to get the job done! To be honest, I think he was a little overwhelmed by the project, since most of the kids in the club are three or four years older than he is.

We had a chat about cheating, and doing your own work, and I'm going to try to supervise better on the next project!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back With Us

Abi had a fever this morning, and spent the day miserably in bed. Tonight, though, she joined us for some pizza and to play with a cardboard box. Getting a piece of shipping tape picked off the top of the box absorbed her for half an hour.

His Favorite Things

Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, Go Car Go, Ticket to Ride, Track Maze, Minecraft...

If he has free time, and it's his turn, Little Mister loves iPod games.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Snapshot: Good Big Brother

Teaching little sis to play in the dirt.

Still Unschooling

Little Mister and I decided to do IDVA in an unschooly way today. Instead of regular lessons, we did an entire 10-lesson science unit about habitats. Then, instead of doing silly projects with cardstock and coloring sheets, we did a model of habitats with as much edible stuff as we could find. Polar, grasslands, wetlands, forest, desert and underground habitats. All created and soon eaten! Fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Heavy Head, and Attachment Update

This afternoon, the three older Goombas had their violin lesson with Teacher Katie, and this time I went along. A month ago, Katie and I had discussed strategies for getting Abi to lay her chin on the chinrest of the violin, when all she wanted to do was keep her chin tucked and to the right. (Violins go on the left side.) We'd really had a difficult time, and at home, I tried some gentle head-tipping therapies to try to relax those neck muscles and help her carry her head more naturally.

To my surprise, Katie reported that since Abi's surgery, we have had no more trouble with "heavy head" on the chinrest. Abi is happy to tip her head whichever way she needs to. We decided, with a mixture of sadness and relief, that the thing causing all the tension in Abi's head and neck must have been the intense pain that she had been enduring.

On a broader note, Abi continues to do a LOT better with attachment. She no longer cuddles up to strangers, and she talks about us in the future as though she realizes she is staying. She doesn't have as many weird episodes that squeeze my heart in grief where I know she is hurting. Her misbehavior looks much more like a normal preschooler instead of being on the list of RAD behaviors.

I only report this because when I read others' blogs whose children struggle, I worry about them, and worry about mine in comparison. We mothers and bloggers get so busy problem-solving sometimes that we forget to report the rough waters that are behind us, the things that smooth out, the behaviors that go by the wayside.

It's encouraging to me to compare the Abi of today with the Abi from six months ago. She's almost a different kid, happier, snugglier and much more mine. I'm not saying there won't be pain ahead, especially when she is a teenager, but for the initial adjustment, I'm pretty sure we've weathered the worst of it, and to see her bonded with us and her siblings is a lovely thing to see.  My little transplanted flower is blooming. :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creative Energy


Hubby was asked to give a sermon at church yesterday. It was fun to watch him over the last several weeks as it came together, and I even got to be a test audience. He has had some deep study and a lot of thinking over these issues, so it was cool for him to get to put some into a form that can be shared. In my totally unbiased (ha!) opinion he did a fantastic job, both on content and delivery.


As an aside commentary on our family, we were discussing how difficult it is to have the creative energy to write something like a sermon or an essay, or to make a project when you have small children and are sleep deprived! I suppose that's true if you have an illness as well. I recall my sister telling me that when I was on bed rest while pregnant with Mister that I had plenty of time to write a book. The trouble was, I had no creative energy whatsoever, I was so sick. Thankfully, I've recovered, and the kids are bigger. Hubby and I both have a few scraps of creative output happening again, and it's wonderful!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Willy, Online


I think I've mentioned Willy the whale before. Maybe once or twice. He's such a big part of my children's imaginary landscape, I almost feel like he's a real part of our family.

Well, It wasn't too long ago that the two older kids discovered Webkinz, the game online where you can enter your pet's code and have an online version. You can feed them, buy goodies for them, play arcade games etc. 

Little Mister discovered gardening. He also decided that he wanted to earn the money himself to upgrade to the deluxe version of the game, which resulted in quite a bit more chores being completed around the house. I'm not complaining!

Webkinz makes a great thing to play when school is done, and a fun way that the older kids spend time together. They have several pets, although not nearly as many as some of their friends. Keeping up with the Joneses is probably the biggest drawback to Webkinz.

Another drawback is that the games and site are completely inaccessible to a visually impaired child. Abi got a Webkinz blue jay for her birthday, and is keen to go online, but unless one of her siblings helps her with it, there is no way she can play the games. Webkinz really needs to take a page out of Apple's book and design their site so that everyone can enjoy it.

Little Mister volunteered to help Abi navigate the site, however, and once I get time to enter all the right codes, three of my children will have virtual pets.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Karate and Horses

Yesterday, Hubby and the Littles and I joined the Bigs at their karate class to see what it was all about. (Usually they go with a friend.) The Littles were invited to join the class, which thrilled them to pieces. :)

The day before, Curly had her first horse lesson. Our deliberate attempt to limit the number of extracurriculars and protect our family time is fast crumbling! Still, when you consider the bewildering number of choices, from sports to dance to gymnastics to music to ice skating to 4-H to AWANAS to scouts, we are actually doing pretty well.










Making Things

I've been watching the PBS show Craft In America this week. As a hobbyist who delights in making stuff, from knitting to woodworking to sewing, to baking bread, I highly sympathize with the artisans on the series who enjoy making beautiful and useful items.

One quote disturbed me: "Students nowadays, unless they are from another country, have never seen something made." I think to a large extent this is true, and it makes me even more grateful for my grandparents and parents who were consummate DIYers. At various times, I remember my parents making everything from homemade butter and noodles to designing and building the backyard shed. Also, the community in which we have chosen to settle and live houses a thriving artisan community, and the kids see handmade items at the fairs and outdoor markets throughout the year.

As they grow, I hope they begin to discover the satisfaction of creating beautiful and functional items with their hands. To me, although I appreciate technology and automation, nothing can really match the joy of creating something new that I've made myself.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keeping Bean Busy

While I do school with Little Mister, Bean generally bounces around the house getting into trouble. I try to keep him occupied with something that might make a mess but isn't destructive. (On mornings like today, Abi opted to stay in bed playing something quietly, as she has a bit of a cold that is making her surgery site ache.) He loves to pretend to "do school" with us, so I often let him play with some of the school supplies or sit on my lap and play with PBS.org. Sometimes, he watches Spongebob, but this week, I placed a ban on Netflix, due to constant bickering over the weekend. Mean Mom.


Playing with Cuisenaire Rods

Math Snap Cubes

Inside the coat box. I spent a lot of time inside this box as a child, when it was my toy box.

Base-10 blocks spread all over the rug near the school computers.

Play dough

Markers

Cotton balls

A favorite right now is ICE! Messy, but a lot of fun.

And of course, it's fun to play with Shadow. And feed him ice.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Retro

I call these my "Ugly Glasses." They are about half-strength, just enough to read the computer screen, and they're tinted. My poor family has to endure me wearing these things around the house, because they are the only specs* that don't give me a raging headache if I wear them for an hour or so. I guess I can call this my "seventies look." *wink*


*I called them specs to Little Mister and he gave me a funny look. "What are specs, Mommy?" I explained that the word was short for spectacles, an old word for glasses. "Oh," he said, shaking his head like the explanation wasn't worth the trouble when a person could just call them glasses and be done with it.

Motivating Letter Recognition

Abi knows all of her letters in print and braille; now she needs to practice letter sounds and recognizing letters in the context of words.


Happily, I found this old place mat of Curly's (bought for a dollar at Walmart years ago). It had the perfect words for Abi to practice, plus I knew she'd love the Sesame Street characters. Some clear dymo tape and my braille slate did the trick, and soon all the letters and words had braille on them.

In my usual sneaky, unschooling manner, I set it at her place at the table to "discover" and play with. *rubbing hands together and laughing evilly*

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When Daddy Comes Home

Healing

Today is only one week out from Abi's surgery, but this morning she was happier, more cheerful and chattery than we've seen her for literally months! It makes me realize just how much pain she has been in, poor kid. I'm so happy there is something we could do to relieve it, even though it felt drastic.







Monday, April 8, 2013

Living in the "And"

Our culture loves black and white. Make a decision. Coke or Pepsi. Ford or Chevy. Choose a favorite and stick with it. Define yourself. Define others. Judge between the two.

The thing that got me thinking about this today was my daughter's hair. Braiding Abi's hair has become one of my absolute favorite things to spend my day doing, to the utter amazement of some of my white friends. Black hair = hard. tricky. tangled. White hair = easy. familiar. Yet, I do both. Curly's hair is exactly like mine: silky, fine, delicate, just curly enough to be wayward, and really slippery. Abi's hair is like other Ethiopians: natural, tight, thick, soft, dry, and easily broken. 

I was smiling to myself imagining that people would naturally assume I prefer doing Curly's hair. Actually, the opposite is true, because Abi sits still for hours, and feels so delighted and pampered. Still, I love doing Curly's hair also. I braided it for church yesterday and we both loved it. I love doing Abi's hair, delighting in its growth, smelling the aloe and coconut oil with which I soak it, combing it carefully from the tips and braiding with the sparkles that delight her little girl's soul.

Then, it occurred to me: why choose? I like both. I love Curly's hair AND I love Abi's hair. 

This idea began to spread in my thoughts to other things in life. The last few years, for example, I've struggled with our society's limited dichotomy of blind vs. sighted. One or the other. If I carry a white cane, but glance at my watch, I must be faking or lying. If I have clear, aligned, pretty brown eyes and I look down the street, it follows I should be able to read the theater marquee located there. Neither is true. 

In the process of adopting Bean, we did quite a bit of training on the struggles of biracial kids and transracial adoptees. Is Bean black? Is he white? Yes. Does he really truly fit into either distinct culture? In the past, the answer might have been no, although today I see that shifting as the lines blur. That's a good thing.

Last week on Facebook, there started to appear a pink equal sign on a red background, while in protest, other signs appeared. People unfriended one another. The message was clear. Take sides. Draw the line. One or the other.

Let me be clear here: I'm not talking about Truth. I'm talking about opinions, judgement, definitions. I'm talking about the little things that don't really matter. Laptops vs. Desktops. Microsoft vs. Apple. Dodgers vs. Yankees. Liberal vs. Conservative. Gap v.s Old Navy. Strawberry vs. Watermelon.

Our culture constantly asks us to choose. Self-definition, says advertising and media, comes by displaying the brands we buy, the choices we make. Our morals are communicated by the avatar we choose for our Facebook pages. Our skill in parenting shows up by the ability to be absolutely anal about car seats and bicycle helmets. Our sophistication depends on the wine we drink, and whether we pronounce it right.

Such limiting of ourselves ends up being ridiculous in the long run. Everyone knows (if they think about it at all) that life is full of gray areas. Most blind people can see a little. Moms can love doing different types of hair. None of us ever achieves a good Chianti every night, although it's a lovely thought. The world abounds with colors mixed and mingled from other colors, and few exist as a Primary. Good moms sometimes let the buckles get twisted. Political issues are complex because people are complex. None of us is really the hero or the villain; we're all somewhere in between.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Snapshots: Slide Pile

Abi is feeling so much better! It's hard to know how to hold her back, as she is not supposed to roughhouse. Obviously, tonight, I was a bit unsuccessful.
















Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why I Don't Like Jane Austen

Don't get me wrong, here. I love strong female characters, and Jane Austen's writing? Yummy. I love novels set in a past time period, and I'm certainly not averse to the odd romance. Witty dialogue, beautiful descriptions, memorable characters... Austen boasts all of these.

Why, then, do I cringe whenever I read a Jane Austen novel? I've puzzled about this for years, especially since I met my boss, to whom I announced when we first met, "I can't stand Jane Austen," and later found out that Austen and the Romantic period are my boss's academic areas of specialty and the subject of several of her books. Oops.

If so many people love Austen, why don't I?

I suppose the first assumption is to assume that some sort of wonderful nuance is going over my head. I struggle with telling myself I'm dumb anyway (family curse) and then working my butt off to prove that I'm not. Admitting I don't like Austen or Shakespeare is like admitting I'm too dumb to appreciate them and I just don't get what is going on.

I don't think that's the case, though. I've read all of Jane Austen's novels at one time or another, and I re-read Pride and Prejudice again a few years ago, trying to persuade myself that my tastes were merely underdeveloped and with practice, the sophistication I'd need to appreciate Austen would finally blossom.

Didn't happen.

Sure, I loved Elizabeth Bennet. Who doesn't?

The rest of the characters made me crazy, though, and with that realization, it finally dawned on me the real reason I don't enjoy reading Austen.

Instead of looking closely at Elizabeth, the star of the show, I started thinking about the secondary characters. The Rev. Mr. Collins in particular takes of pages and pages with his inane banter, and I got to thinking, "why, Jane?" Why did you write him like that? So buffoon-like, so obnoxious.

It struck me that Austen does that a lot. In order to give her female characters more power, she writes many of her contrasting male characters as complete fools. Mr. Bennet is another such weak male character. I'm not saying all of them are like that. Mr. Darcy, of course, has a few brain cells.

Part of me simply doesn't like to put up with buffoons. Some TV shows get turned off after one episode because the main device is constant buffoonery. Normally, I even watch Survivor, but not this season. (If you've watched, you'll know why. If not, don't bother.) So, it's possible that the mere lack of taste for idiocy in secondary characters is enough to make me close and Austen novel. But, I think there is a little more than that.

Forgive me for criticizing dear old Jane, here, but to my thinking, writing a strong character by contrasting her to a lot of morons isn't my favorite thing. I feel like any person who has to gain power by standing on or belittling others isn't really as strong as he or she would like to believe. A parent who belittles a child or a wife who criticizes her husband in order to feel better ultimately loses, in my opinion. Naturally, it follows that an author would fall under the same scrutiny. Austen, in feeling smothered, lashed out at the people by creating caricatures with cringe-worthy lines and a complete lack of refinement.

Maybe I'm being unfair to Jane. She was pretty gutsy to write her characters as she did, and I'm sure she caught a lot of criticism for writing a member of the clergy in such an unflattering light, as she wrote the honorable Mr. Collins. So, I'll give her a break for choosing to use the techniques that she did, but I doubt I'l re-read her books as often as some others!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Surgery

Abi's enucleation surgery of her "blind and painful" right eye was last night. She did well, but has had a lot of pain today. The surgical team and nurses were all wonderful.

We're home tonight, and already starting to see glimpses of happy Abi, but lots of tears when the hydrocodone runs out!

Pics: waiting to go in, Abi was acting really goofy on the Versed. Then, recovery room, night time, and little brother snuggles.









Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Bean and A Black Dog

Snapshots from this morning

(This afternoon: surgery for Abi. I'll keep you updated.)







Monday, April 1, 2013

Escalator Practice

Bean begged us to go ride the escalator (the only one in town; boringly, it leads to a bank) this afternoon when Alyssa and I took the kids downtown for a walk. Our intention was to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine. We also wanted to distract Abi from her pain. I gave her a full dose of meds, and we set off.

The kids all had so much fun on the escalator that Abi wanted to try it too, although she was scared at first. I did not push, but gently encouraged her that if she wanted to try it, I'd help her. She let me hold both hands and show her how to use her cane to feel the edges and moving steps. After ten repeats with me holding onto her, she began to get brave. At first, she got off by herself; then began to try getting on without my hand. She still wanted me close for reassurance.

Meanwhile, the other kids rode it up and down, much to the amusement of the bank customers. At last, Abi decided she was so good at it that she rode the whole way around by herself!

Once she did it, she was so pleased with herself that she did it over and over, while I stood at the bottom and complimented her. A lady who was headed into the bank with a leather portfolio saw her about to get onto the descending stairs by herself and panicked, asking her if she wanted help. Once we got the Good Samaritan to not endanger her by "helping," we had a good discussion about what to say to people like that. We practiced saying, "No thank you. I know how to do this." It's never too early to train both self-advocacy skills and good manners!

All in all, I was really proud, not just of Abi, but also of Mister, who is scared of escalators, but who also conquered his fear and rode them up and down quite a few times. Curly and Bean, of course, were fearless, although their antics became a bit less mannerly than I'd like as they got bored. Still, it was fun, and a great mobility lesson for Abi and Mister.