TPfTW

Good Sunday friends and followers,

I’m loving taking a stab at this new venture with renewed passion. I hope to make this a place to read, discuss and maybe learn a thing or two.

Today, Sunday, is the day I do the majority of the planning for the week. The day usually goes:

  1. Church
  2. Lunch
  3. Relax
  4. Plan

I’m used to planning for the lessons of the week and what workouts I want to do. But now I’m finally including some meal planning in the process. My guys (DangerBoy and Sheepro) are 12 and they are boys. That means they eat whatever comes to hand, whether it’s healthy or not. I thought I had been doing a decent job of suggesting food choices until the day I saw Sheepro pop his THIRD bag of popcorn in one afternoon.

Sooo …

Here we have breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinners planned for the week:

Breakfasts –
M .. muffins/yogurt
T .. egg sandwiches
W .. cereal/Yogurt
R .. waffles/bacon
F .. grilled cheeses
Me … 4 egg whites with oatmeal

Lunches-
M … Grilled sandwiches
T .. chef salads
W .. leftovers
R .. hot dogs
F .. leftovers or salad
Me .. salad with 4-6 oz of tofu/tuna

Dinners –
M .. leftovers (Boy Scout Night)
T .. pork chops with noodles, green beans and salad
W .. spaghetti with corn and salad
R .. cod with corn and fries
F .. deer chili with corn muffins

Snacks –
Apple with protein shake or PB
Protein shake alone
Trail bars .. one/child/day
Veggies
Popcorn .. one bag/child/day
Ramen … Same
Cookies … 2/child/day

Do I have lessons planned out? Not yet. A migraine can do things to a woman, after all. But they will get done – eventually. Likely the day of. But they don’t have to know that.

I do have a couple of things in mind for the blog. DangerBoy wants to be a chef for a career. So we’ll be doing cookbook reviews monthly. That and this TPfTW (The Plan for the Week) will be regular features, with more to come.

 

Thanks for hanging out in my loft.
Melissa

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Settling In and Getting Out

Note: Affiliate links enclosed …

Hi again. We’ve been busy with our homeschool which we’ve named Brilliance in Action. The Certificate of Enrollment I fill out each year asks for a name of our school. Last year, it was Haynes Homeschool Academy because I couldn’t be any more creative than that. This year, I’ve had time to think about who we are and what we do. My kids are brilliant, yes I am tooting my own horn here, and we like to stay moving – hence the name.

It’s been a fun time adjusting to our second year of homeschool. I’ve tinkered with the schedule more times than I dare admit. And, I think I finally have a good flow; which means I’m probably going to have to change it again in the very near future.. Since we started in late July in earnest (we do lessons all year, more on that later) we have worked through several chapters of Story of Our World Volume 2, Ninja Cat has blown through two Life of Fred books. They have read bits and pieces of several books (keeping them on track with reading is my next project) including The Magician’s Nephew, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and various non fiction. They also made it to Tenderfoot rank in Boy Scouts and are almost to Second Class.

One thing we did recently was get tickets to listen to Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speak in our city. I hoped this would be a great kick-off to learning about the Presidential election process up close and personal. I say we got tickets because we were unable to get into the venue despite our tickets. Our merry band was about 30 people from the front before we hear the venue was full.

Waiting for the Senator to get off the bus.
Waiting for the Senator to get off the bus.

 It disheartened me because I thought since we had tickets, we would be able to hear Senator Cruz. That was not the case. We were not alone. About 200 people behind me also weren’t able to access the appearance either.IMG_20150811_121131405 So my poor Ninja Cat didn’t understand why we stood out on the hot sun for an hour only to see a man get off a bus. But we’ve since watched the debates and have done an overview of the election process. I’m hoping Dr. Ben Carson comes and we are able to see him speak.

For our Field Trip Friday, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the newest Whole Foods Market that opened in Germantown, TN. I have to tell you it was an experience I would do again; and, I have actually.

The coffee/crepe/smoothie area in Whole Foods Market.
The coffee/crepe/smoothie area in Whole Foods Market.

The store was putting the finishing touches on for their Tuesday opening, allowing us to see the store’s layout, have samples and even a goody bag in a reusable tote. I think Danger Boy had more fun because it was a food-centric trip and Ninja Cat could not care less about such ‘trivial’ matters. Dede from the Franklin, TN marketing team was so great listening to Danger Boy and answering his questions.

Danger Boy and Dede. I'm so glad he had a good time!
Danger Boy and Dede. I’m so glad he had a good time!

My two were obviously the youngest there but she made sure to treat them just like any other customer. We’ve since been back multiple times and most recently took the Savvy Shopper tour. I guess that should be kept for another post.

IMG_20150814_111547864Thanks for taking time to read about our adventures. I’m interested in what other homeschool families do to keep active (read not staying stuck in the house all day). Comment below and maybe I’ll feature one or two.

The autism stories no one hears

This article that I was introduced to this week really moved me. It almost brought me to tears. It was written by Amy Mackin and published 7/23/13. As I was reading the article, I kept thinking, “These words are my words.” I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.

Several inspiring people with autism and their families were profiled on Katie Couric‘s show this summer. It was wonderful to see part of a talk show dedicated to educating people on what it is like to live with autism.

But part of the autism spectrum wasn’t shown — the part almost never seen in mainstream media. Where are these people? I am a parent of a child with autism, and I am lucky. My son received the support he needed when he needed it and falls into the part of the spectrum known as “high-functioning.” He has developed coping mechanisms to deal with his anxiety and sensory challenges. He has learned to tolerate some flexibility when his routine is disrupted. Most important, he is now able to share his extraordinary intelligence, his endearing personality and his unique social conscience.

My son’s story is one of hope, not unlike the stories regularly broadcast on television, printed in magazines or making the rounds on YouTube.

Yet the autism spectrum is wide and diverse, and many who suffer from severe autism will never reach the level of functioning that my child has achieved. Although these people are also part of the story, we rarely hear their stories.

These people react so severely to sensory stimulation that they will seriously injure themselves as a way of relieving the stress. They are often nonverbal. Some require headphones streaming soothing music or familiar voices in their ears just to leave their regular environment for a short time.

Children and adults with autism this severe exhibit behaviors in public that mainstream society views as completely inappropriate. They mumble or yell involuntarily. They may reach out and grab a stranger’s hand or stroke someone’s hair.

I am not referring to people with nonverbal autism who have average or above-average IQs — those who possess the cognitive ability to communicate but whose bodies betray them. Computer applications and other technology can help these people communicate and do many of the things anybody else does, if a little differently.

Instead, those whose stories I’m missing do not have the intellectual ability for communication, whose IQs fall into the severely or profoundly impaired range. These are people who will never read or write or type. They will never graduate from high school; they will likely never marry or hold a job.

When I advocate autism awareness, it’s this hidden spot on the spectrum that I champion.

No one disputes the incredible importance of early intervention — the program of beneficial therapies started well before age 5 — and continued social-skills training and support within the educational system. Certainly much more work can be done for all people who struggle with autism. But when I fantasize about finding a cause and a cure, when I dream about a wonder drug that could reverse the effects of autistic disorders, I don’t think about my son or others like him. I think about those at the bottom of the spectrum — their daily struggle and that of their families.

The world is slowly becoming more aware and more tolerant of those who live with autism, but to understand the breadth and diversity of the spectrum, and the impact of living with these disorders, we must see the entire range, not just the hopeful, inspirational stories.

We must see the pain of a parent who watches her child smash his head against a concrete wall, who throws himself on the floor of a store because he simply cannot stand the fluorescent lights another second; the person who starts violently screaming because the crowd getting off the subway terrifies him. We must feel the anguish of compassionate caregivers when everyone around is staring at their loved one with horror and judgment.

We must comprehend the grief of parents who are forced to acknowledge that their children may never be able to care for themselves, and we should consider all the future decisions and worry that realization encompasses.

Many personal stories about autism make us smile and renew our faith in humanity. But some stories will make us cry. They should, because autism can also be terrifying and hopeless. This side of the spectrum still lurks mostly in the shadows. But to fully understand why we search so exhaustively for answers and doggedly seek a cure, these stories must be seen and heard, too.

Amy Mackin is a writer in the Boston area. From the Washington Post.

Where is the apology?

I’m going to apologize in advance because this is going to be as much of a rant as it is a blog post. But I saw something Friday that has really gotten under my skin for multiple reasons. And I have to get it off my chest.

I follow a few fellow parents who live with a child with autism of varying degrees. Friday, one of them posted something that I don’t understand why it’s not been exposed before. It appears that rappers Drake and J Cole wrote a lyric in the song “Jodeci Freestyle” that not only mentions the N word in just about every other line, but it also demeans the Autistic community by equating autism with the word ‘retarded’. I tried to read the lyrics, but had to stop after the first verse because I couldn’t deal with all the profanity and ended up using the search feature on my browser to find the line for myself and be able to read it in context. I wanted to be sure I was on point and not take it out of context. I wasn’t:

I’m undoubtedly the hottest and that’s just me bein’ modest
Go check the numbers dummy, that’s just me gettin’ started
I’m artistic, you n—– is autistic, retarded

And that was as long a stretch as I could copy without including another profanity.

This is unacceptable, prejudice speech.

These people (Drake and J Cole) can not know any autistic people. If they did they would know that most autistic people are just as mentally capable as they, if not more so if their grammar and spelling are any indication. They just need the right avenue to show it. My Ninja Cat is an ace at academics and thinks so creatively compared to the rest of us, not just to solve problems but artistically, it’s amazing. He creates the most intricate drawings and can explain what every cog is for and why each beam is in its place. He constructs huge structures in Minecraft and with the switch of a lever can make objects in that world do things it would take me twice as long to construct. Anyone that has a child with autism will tell you similar stories.

This is unacceptable, intolerant speech.

It’s using the Autistic community as the punch line of a very bad joke, so to speak, by putting down those around him. It’s using autistic people as an antithesis of his perceived greatness. Has he ever met Dr. Temple Grandin, who has done more for not just the Autistic community but people’s lives in general through her research? She has done more that touches lives directly through her veterinary research than Drake and J Cole have through their so-called art.

So, where is the outrage over this? Where is the call for an apology, the dropping of endorsements, the derision, the drop in sales that hits him where it would hurt the most – his wallet? I’ve not heard one word about it until my comrade on arms posted it Friday night on Twitter. I’m here to call for the apology! I’m here to call for the dropping of the endorsements, I’m here to deride him for his choice of words, his bigotry, his intolerance. The more we join together, not just as an autism community but as a group of people who do not tolerate bigotry and prejudices, we will be heard. Contact Sprite. Contact Kodak, Let them know their brands shouldn’t be associated with bigotry. Please help me spread this and stop the bigotry!

p.s. (7/17/13) There is a petition on Change.org calling for this to happen. PLEASE go to http://goo.gl/35aBr to sign the petition and make your voice known.

Is Enough Actually Not Enough

One of the things I like best about the church I go to is that even though I haven’t seen some of my ‘church friends’ in a long time, I can pick right up talking with them like they never left. I had cause to take advantage of that privilege recently and it made me think.

I see a woman I’ve not seen in probably almost a year. I knew she was in the beginning stages of what could be a nasty divorce and I had been wondering how she was doing for some months now. It was great to see her and be able to catch up and offer what support to her I could. But it was when the conversation turned to what she was doing to prepare for single motherhood of her three children that worried me.special moments

Here’s what got me thinking. She has finished a medical trade school and is already working a weekday job that has become more hours, by her own admission, than she could have hoped. But then she mentioned taking a job at a hospital for the weekends. She said it was to provide for her family and be able to stand on her own two feet once the divorce was final.

Mother and son 2

The thought hit me. When is she going to see the children she is striving so hard to provide for? Where is the line where working to give her children what they need/want takes the place of being there for them, staying involved in their lives? Time after time it’s been proven that time, not things, is what kids ultimately crave from their parents.

I know I’m lucky that I can stay home with my kids and  pray I am never alone in caring for my children. I also know that mothers that work are also lucky in other ways.

But when is enough actually not enough?

(Photos Courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/)

Acceptance, the Greatest Gift

After three years of making our way in this world with Ninja Cat’s high-functioning autism, we have finally run into my first real taste of – I wouldn’t say discrimination – but someone not willing to try and understand. It absolutely broke my heart for this to have happened to him; but, I guess we should feel lucky for to have taken so long to have happened.

Jigsaw

It was a local art camp. Only four days for four hours each day. Ninja Cat loves art and some formal training, however brief, would be a great help to him. That and it would be a great chance to earn his Artist activity badge for Webelos. When I called to register him and asked about him coming even though he was a high functioning autistic. They said it would be no problem and to bring him. So, I’m left thinking that they will be prepared for him and it would be a great four days of learning about something he’s pretty passionate. So confident, in fact, that I took the first day to go berry picking 45 min away from my house with my best friend – even letting her drive. That confidence soon shattered.

Not one hour into the first day the camp calls saying that Ninja Cat is having trouble and wanting to come home. I told the camp director a couple of quick things to do to help him calm down (give him a quick break and a copy of the schedule) and get back to participating. Apparently, that didn’t do any good, because they call a bit later where I talk to him personally and get him to stay. Again, I told the camp director to get him a copy of the schedule (she hadn’t done that yet), give him another few minutes to get his bearings, and would call to check on him after I finished. Later, he was somewhat better, not great, and he said he could last until I came to get him at the end of the day.

At the end of day, the camp director and I have a talk. Only then do I find out that she was blindsided by his autism (the person I registered through didn’t pass along his difficulties??) and that she admits she doesn’t have the skill set to meet his needs and there was no one there with the knowledge or training to help him. She all but threw her hands up right then, not even willing to hear the tips and tricks I have to help him acclimate. Optimistically, we came to the agreement that it was first day jitters and that he would be better tomorrow. But if not, he would come home early from camp. She even sent me an email over it. I wouldn’t say it was tersely worded; but, it was plain the director didn’t plan on even trying to make any accommodations for him, despite his difficulties. But again, me and my optimistic self knew that tomorrow was going to be better.

It wasn’t. The camp calls before the start time saying that he’s going to have to come home. He had carpooled with his best friend’s mom, who was still there and brought him home. When the three of us talked about it, we came to the conclusion he had just gotten impatient for the day to start and wanted to go ahead and start drawing something. But, the plan was for them to go outside first so the art supplies hadn’t been set out yet. It sounded like they didn’t even really try to get him to slow down and participate with the rest of the group.

Every other time Ninja Cat has participated in anything, everyone there has gone above and beyond to make him feel accepted and welcome. This time it doesn’t feel like it they tried. I admit I’m hurt and upset. I’m trying to see things through their eyes. It’s hard. I wish they could have done more. I wish I could have done more.

Thirteen County Life Lesson

Sorry to be late with this post, hopefully faithful readers. I have been in a rush since mid March and am just now coming up for some air.  I’ve been working with our school’s spring fundraiser,  two field trips in two days, my birthday and Easter weekend with Friday and Monday out of school – not to mention the usual craziness that comes with school winding down. I guess I’m through whining so I’ll get to the post.

The 500+ entries
The 500+ entries

Danger Boy, Ninja Cat and I took a trip to Oxford for the Region VII Science and Engineering Fair recently. They took their projects that I wrote about in Of Bridges and Craters. Both had won first place in their respective categories at school and they were excited to represent their school against the 500+ entries that also decided to show up at Tad Smith Coliseum that day.

We really had a good time. We talked off and on about what was expected of them, what the judges were likely going to ask and how to act/react when the decisions came down. So when we got there, found their gifted Gifted class teacher and their spots, they were as well prepared as they could be for whatever happened. Last year, I was allowed to sit with Ninja Cat as his ‘aide’ of sorts because of his high functioning Autism. But this year, we decided that we should let him sit there on his own. After all, he’s grown by a whole year and he, along with the 500+, had an electronic device to keep him occupied until the judge came to see his project. But we were close to the floor just in case anything did go wrong and he needed someone.

Danger Boy at the Science Fair
Danger Boy at the Science Fair

Next was just to sit and wait for two and a half hours while all the projects were judged by not one but two judges. Ninja Cat said three came by to see him. After that was a long lunch break. So, we decide to go to the main cafeteria on campus. We talked about what college is and an overview of how it works. Danger Boy was wondering how he would get from our house to Ole Miss and back every day. (It’s just over an hour drive.) Then I told him that you live on campus in that situation. That took him by surprise.Then he decided he wants to go to Ole Miss for college, so I can come visit him on weekends as he put it.

We get back to see if any of our students were in the running for the overall medals. Unfortunately they are not; but, that gives us time to enjoy the student/adult version of Family Feud. They did a survey of 100 children that were participating in the fair for the questions and did multiple rounds for lots of people to have a chance to play and for the judges to get a chance to judge the projects up for the overall awards. Danger Boy really wanted us to do it; and, gratefully we were picked. We decided to sit in the same chair on or respective sides so we could go against each other. Our question was “Name an animal that flies.” He beat me on the buzz in; but, I beat him on the answer. Long story short (I know, too late.), we both were surprised that dragon was the number one answer.

After the Family Feud, they were ready to announce the winners. Again long story short, Ninja Cat won 4th place for his project on bridge design and Danger Boy missed the ribbons. Neither child was happy with his result. That’s when the consoling started by not just me but his amazingly gifted Gifted class teacher. However, neither child was consolable right then. So we left right after their lower grade division was complete citing over-stimulation for Ninja Cat.

Ninja Cat at the Science Fair
Ninja Cat at the Science Fair

It took until the next day for them to be able to come to terms with their results. Ninja Cat did say the next morning he had fun doing the science fair and already has ideas in his head on how to improve for next year. Danger Boy is still in the planning stages. But that’s 10 months away, which doesn’t even place it on my radar. I let them plan anyway. It’ll be good for them to learn forethought.

What are some science fair projects you have done/seen in the past that blew you away? I’ll pas them along to Danger Boy and Ninja Cat.