Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Birthday Abi!

Abi got to celebrate her birthday with a friend who moved out of town. The girls don't get to see each other much, so this was a special treat. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dear Diary

Abi's behaviors have gotten so out of hand I asked our doctor for a referral to a psychologist. 

In order to know what to tell them at the office, I bought a diary app. 

Interestingly, I discovered that it's cathartic to jot stuff down. It takes it out of my brain, where I chew endlessly on it, and puts it instead on my iPhone. I'd call that an improvement!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Snapshots: T-Shirt Art

Curly and I went shopping. She picked out a shirt and some fabric paint at Michaels so we could paint a shirt together. We found a design we liked (thanks, Google) and painted it together this afternoon. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Anne Sullivan on Education

"Thank Heaven, I didn't have to follow a curriculum when I began teaching Helen. I am convinced she wouldn't have learned language as easily as she did. It seems to me, it is made as difficult as possible in school for a child to learn anything. 
Helen learned language almost as unconsciously as the normal child. Here it is made a "lesson." The child sits in-doors, and for an hour the teacher endeavors more or less skillfully to engrave words upon his brain. As I look back, it seems as if Helen were always on the jump when I was teaching her. We were generally in the open air doing something. Words were learned as they were needed. She rarely forgot a word that was given her when the action called it forth, and she learned a phrase or even a sentence as readily as a single word when it was needed to describe the action.
Apparently, children learn language more quickly when they are free to move about among objects that interest them. They absorb words and knowledge simultaneously. In the class-room they cease to be actors in the drama, they sit and watch the teacher doing something with her mouth which does not excite their curiosity particularly. Passivity does not stimulate interest or mental energy. The child learns eagerly what, he wants to know, and indifferently what, you want him to know.
I have thought much about methods of teaching since I came here. The contrast between these children's plodding pursuit of knowledge and Helen's bounding joyousness makes me wonder. When I go into one of the class-rooms and see little children sitting demurely behind their small desks, while a teacher sits in front of them, holding an object in her hand for their inspection, then slowly speaking the name of the object which they vainly try to imitate, I feel somehow as if they were chained to their seats, and forced to gaze intently at a giantess who made faces at them.
I very seldom speak of what is in my mind. I do not think teachers are at all open-minded. To say that they do not welcome ideas which imply criticism of their methods is to put it mildly, I do not know if all teachers close their minds to the stupidities they practice. I have known only teachers of the blind and the deaf, and I pity them more than I blame them. When you consider the huge doses of knowledge which they are expected to pour into the brains of their small pupils, you cannot demand of them initiative or originality. The pressure upon them is so great, they find it necessary to resort to forcing methods. There follows the intensive cultivation of the memory. The little brains are crammed with knowledge to the point of indigestion. They learn a little of everything, and by a super-effort retain it until examinations and tests are over when they straight-way forget it, not having learned any use for their too vast learning.
There isn't a doubt in my mind that schools force upon the young an abnormal life. The hours are too long, too many subjects are taught, too complicated methods are employed. The teacher has no time to give to the individual needs of the children.
I wish you would let Dr. Bell read this letter. If he thinks I am right, perhaps he could use his great influence at the coming convention to impress upon the instructors of the deaf that what their pupils need is more out-of-door lessons–lessons about living things–trees and flowers and animals–things they love, and are curious about. The number of subjects taught is not so important as that the children should learn language for the joy of it. The miracle of education is achieved when this happens.
The child happily interested in his work learns quickly and without conscious effort.
All I have written may be antediluvian to Dr. Bell. If he says nothing can be done about it, I have labored enormously with pen and ink, and brought an inky mouse."


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dear Children, Life Is Not Fair

Dear Children,

Life is not fair. 

This child gets more presents than you do. Gifts are her love language. She needs those presents. 

This child gets more dates than you do. Quality time is his love language. Plus he is quiet when you all are talking. He needs time to talk too. 

This child gets more activities than you do. She's an extrovert. She thrives on challenge. She needs to be busy. 

This child gets away with more than you do. He's not quite old enough to keep up. He needs more grace. 

Dear children,

None of those children are loved more than you are. I know it looks unfair. But it's not. Because I shower you with love from the very depths of my soul. 



Bean's Date

Big brother Seth went on a date with Mommy. Therefore Bean needed desperately to also go on a date with Mommy. Because Seth is the absolutely awesomest person in the entire universe, and whatever Seth does, the Bean must perforce do. 

Today I needed to hit Walmart anyway for some stuff, so I decided to take the bus and take the Bean with me. On a date. Just like Seth. 

I also took him to lunch at Shari's. 

Happy Bean. 

Learning to trust

Abi has been really struggling lately to trust us, her parents. One of the ways this manifests itself is a stubborn determination to do things her own way. She lies, disobeys, is passive-aggressive... 

Today, though, she had a very good lesson in the futility of this thinking. 

Her birthday is coming up, and she is hugely excited about it. The other day, she saw her little best friend, J, and was so excited to invite J to her birthday. 

What she did not know is that I've been planning a trip out of town to see another dear friend, CG, who moved away. Abi has been begging to see CG for months, and I was planning to surprise her on her birthday. 

I told Abi not to ask J over on her birthday, and I told her we'd see J another time soon. They see each other at least weekly anyway. 

Today, during Braille lesson, I overheard Abi enthusiastically recording a birthday invitation for J with the braille teacher. Sigh. Yet another case of blatant disobedience and being sneaky. 

I went in and reminded her that I'd asked her not to do that, and as usual she acted surprised to get caught. We said goodbye to the braille teacher, and I pulled Abi aside for a chat. 

Basically, I told her how sad I felt that she did not trust me enough to listen when I asked her to wait. To not talk to J about her birthday. Then I told her why. I said I'd been working hard to plan a surprise trip up to see CG, and that is why she wouldn't be in town to play with J. I said that if she trusted me, I had something even better planned, since she hardly ever gets to see CG, whom she loves to pieces. (I had planned to try to organize something with J too, but hadn't gotten there yet.)

I think it finally got through, because I saw tears as she realized what she had done. 

How very like Abi I am to God! If I'd only relax and trust Him instead of insisting on doing things my own way!

But back to my story. I told her I felt sad that I wouldn't be able to surprise her now. (And I do! I hate it when surprises get ruined. Waaa!) But I hoped that this would show her how important it is to trust me, to listen when I ask her to do (or not do) something. To not sneak and try to hide her disobedience. To not insist that her way is the only way. 

I hope and pray that this is one more step along the road to healing. Trust is not so easily given when the people she should have been able to trust to care for her as a wee one could not. But for us, caring for a child who won't trust us is difficult indeed. 

One step at a time, we must try over and over to show her that while we aren't perfect, we are trustworthy. And one step at a time, I pray that she will trust us, maybe not in the way the other children do so effortlessly, but at least enough to function. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fresh Squeezed, Fifty Cents

We live on one of the busiest streets in town. It's an advantage when kids decide to sell lemonade on a sunny March afternoon! They sold out on a couple of hours, and made $25.

Even Abi's braille teacher bought a cup. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gluten-Free Injera

The Night Before

1 c. Teff sourdough starter*
1 c. Dark teff flour (that's the kind I can buy here)
About 2 c. Warm water (110°)
1 packet baker's yeast (at our elevation, it needs this)

In a tall gallon container, mix the sourdough starter with the teff flour. Knead it in the container for 10 minutes or more. Dough ball should feel like soft play dough. 

In a separate cup, mix yeast with 1/4 c. warm water. Allow to begin working for a few minutes. Add this mixture to the teff dough. Work in. Add more warm water to dough ball, 1/2 c. at a time. Work all the lumps out with your fingers until batter is smooth each time. Once the batter is runny, cover tightly and set in a warm place and allow to ferment overnight. (Separation is normal.)

(Sweet Abi helping knead the dough)


Teff batter from last night
1 c. White rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. Warm water

First, stir the fermented teff batter and save 1 c. of it for starter. Don't forget this step!!!

In a separate bowl, mix rice flour, baking powder and salt. (My regular recipe uses self-rising wheat flour. This is a replacement.) Add the warm water and stir well. 

In a blender, combine the white rice batter and the remaining teff batter 1 c. at a time until it is all blended together, and texture is silky. 

Put the blended batter back into the tall, covered container and set in a warm place to ferment for an additional 6-8 hours. 


Cooking the injera

You'll need:

A dedicated non-stick skillet, preferably electric
A lid or cover
An oven mitt
A timer
A liquid measuring cup
A clean bed sheet
A "spatula" or suffid**
Your fermented batter

Heat your pan to 400-500°F. Pour batter onto pan (I do it from the middle out, because the outside ring is hottest. If the center of the pan is hottest, pour the batter from the outside in.) 

As bubbles, or "eyes" start to form, cover the pan. Set the timer for about 1 minute. (45 seconds if your pan is hotter.) 

When the timer rings, remove the lid. Pick up the injera with the "spatula" and set it on the clean sheet to cool. Once cool, you can stack the injeras. 


*To make a starter from scratch, combine 1/2 c. Teff flour with 1 c. warm water and 1 packet baker's yeast. Cover and set in a warm place to ferment. Stir twice daily for three days. If it's not very bubbly, add more yeast on the second and third days. After three days, store in a jar in the fridge. It will separate and turn dark, but that's ok. Just stir and use, preferably every few weeks. The starter will get better the oftener its used. 

** in Ethiopia, chefs use a woven mat called a suffid to pick up injera off the pan. Before I got one, I used a piece of thin cardboard, which worked pretty well. 

If you are having trouble, the tutorial videos that I used to learn are here:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Snapshot: Princess

Abi's allowance money went toward the purchase of a beautiful, sparkly princess dress. 

Bunna inna Fandesha

Hubby and I did a coffee ceremony tonight for the kids. Such a delightful smell of frankincense, and trays of popcorn (fandesha), and tiny cups of sweet coffee (bunna). We told the kids it was a celebration of Abi feeling better, but really, it was just for fun. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Noise and Learning

This morning, both Littles are playing with Bop-Its...

...and Mister made an AM radio. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

First Hike

We love living in Idaho!

The kids are getting old enough to hike for several miles without complaining. Even Abi kept up with everyone and did most of the hike by herself. Once in a while she needed a hand to get around puddles or rocks, but mostly she took pride in getting along herself. Bean got a little tired and whiny near the end, but even he did better than I expected. 

Birthday and Mardi Gras

For my birthday, some friends offered to keep the Goombas so that Matt and I could go on a date. 

We still aren't letting Abi go to Sunday School or anywhere because she regressed so much emotionally after her surgery. So we were hesitant to accept the babysitting offer, especially when our friends decided they wanted to walk with the community theater in the Mardi Gras parade. (Yes, our town has a Mardi Gras parade the first weekend in March. Yes, we know it's not Mardi Gras.)

We talked long and hard about whether Abi could handle the afternoon or whether we should just take her with us. We've done that before!

Eventually, we decided to give it a try. Our friends have a daughter with special needs so they are familiar with some of the pitfalls and things to watch out for. We gave them instructions on how do deal with Abi and strangers, then we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. 

It turned out that she did fantastic! Jessica kept a close eye on her and did not let her get manipulative or weird. She and the other kids had a ball in the parade. And we enjoyed a longer date than we've had for years!

Friday, March 6, 2015


In order to combat the "middle child/sibling of a SN kid never gets any attention", I try to take Seth on regular dates. Today was a combined Seth date and trip to Walmart for necessities. But we rode the bus, played a game, bought some Legos... Who says errands can't be fun? :)

Selfie of us waiting downtown to change buses. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Horse Sitting

The lady who has been keeping Hazelnut needed someone to come feed her dogs, and of course, our horse. It only made sense for us to pop over there. It's been a fun week, and Curly really doesn't mind the excuse to spend time with Hazel!

I guess we are playing farmer for the week: gathering eggs, feeding animals and playing with recycled tires! The small farms like this are one reason I love Idaho. :)

Snapshot: Fan fiction

Abi and Flynn and Rapunzel went for a walk. Flynn said, you two princesses are my best friends and I want to give you a present. Rapunzel said, Abi she whispered, what do you think it is? Abi said I hope it is a sparkling dress for both of us and a crown and a magic wand.