Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review

In the right hand sidebar are a few updated book baskets. How quickly those get outdated. In my book basket I have listed, Home Is Where the Learning Is by Valerie Steimle. The book wasn't earth shattering in content, however, the eight stories were each very different which kept my interest enough to keep reading to the finish line. Typos were common, which is very ironic for a homeschooling book. One would think with all the scrutinizing home school families get, the editor, a homeschooling parent herself, would be a little more aware of producing a near perfect product. Anyway, I want to focus on chapter two, a spectacularly written chapter titled, Living the Homeschool Lifestyle Over a Lifetime. The author of that chapter, Cherie Logan, writes in detail about five elements she believes should go into a family's homeschooling plan.
  1. Developing the Long View - Purpose
  2. Philosophies which guide behavior to match view
  3. Structure to support the view
  4. Communication skills to enrich understanding and bring us to eternal companionship with our children
  5. Attitude Management because it is the attitude that keeps the fire lit

I am going to focus on element 4, which was completely new territory for me. I'd never read anything nor had a conversation with anyone about the topic of eternal companionship with our children. First she explains the need to be parent and friend at the same time. OK, I'd thought about this delicate balance before, but she quantified it for me. And believe me, for this math loving, percentage using, objective mom, that was a good thing. The basis is this, when the child is small, mom and dad are 90% parent, 10% friend. At this time children need to know the boundaries, rules, consequences to their actions. They also need a friend (a little bit); someone to read stories to them, tickle their bellies, laugh at their silly jokes and ride bikes with. As the child ages the percentages shift very gradually so that when the child reaches adulthood we parents are 90% friend, 10% parent. We've all seen situations where parents want to be their child's friend from day 1. By the time the child reaches adolescence they may be belligerent, sassy, inappropriate people. Then the parent tries to parent and the teen won't allow it, making for very difficult and messy teen years, for both the parent and child. So the percentage thing was very enlightening to me.

I also liked her guidelines for how children should navigate their way into the adult world. Starting at age 10 and ending at age 18, she lays out the common path youngsters travel as they make their way into adult conversations.

At age 10 they start to hover around, not wanting to add anything to the adult conversation, but wanting to hear every bit of it.

At age 12, if they've been allowed to hover, may begin to add to the conversations. They might say out of place statements and draw attention to themselves. This is a trial and error time for them.

At age 14, if they've been part of the adult conversations, they begin to add appropriate meaningful material. With intense emotion they may begin to challenge adults viewpoints. They are searching for adults who will have real conversation and take them seriously. If they've been pushed away during the above stages they might begin to think that adults don't care and may begin to retreat from adult conversations, especially with their parents. This is also the time where the generation gap begins, if the child is pushed away.

At age 16, the youth wants social, thoughtful, fun, companionable conversation and interaction with adults. They are nearing adulthood and their ease of joining in adult conversations now will help them enter the adult world with ease. They rarely embarrass parents at this stage. Again, if the previous stages have been denied, the teen will become very secretive. They have their emotions more under control making it appear things are calmer, but they are moving to accept the differences between parent and teen as normal and expect nothing more.

At age 18, it is time for the final shift in how the parent converses with the new adult. The parent needs to lead this transition. The teen no longer has to prove themselves, they are adults. It's time they prove they are good adults and it's their own responsibility. They need to make decisions and follow through. They need to inform parents as to their where abouts and then make good on those by actually being there. They need to be responsible, just as we adults are.

This review got very long, so thank you for sticking with me. If you are a parent of children in the 10-18 range, I believe this section of the book would be very enlightening to you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Week With Two Less

Kids that is, two less kids. Sunday evening we dropped Grace and Lee off at camp. They'll be there until Friday late afternoon. Grace attached herself to her bunk with pen and paper in hand getting to know the other girls in her cabin. She went as a loner, meaning she had no camp buddy to sign up with. Lee signed up with a camp buddy and he and the other boys from his cabin bonded by running, checking out the water's edge, having a pinecone fight, boy things. We left for home with two crying youngen's. Who says brothers and sisters have to hate one another?

We had so many ideas for the week, including:

  • fishing on the pond

  • boat rides

  • baking and freezing tons of cookies and muffins

  • reading lots of little kid library books

  • having a campfire and roasting marshmallows

  • have a friend over one day to play

  • tent out in the yard

...all in hopes of distracting them from the fact the big kids are gone. Here's what we actually got done so far. I tore apart the boys' room and DH and I began painting. DH stained and just started varnishing the bunk beds. We did have family movie night last night and had a friend over for the entire day, Monday. The bubble tent was pitched in the girls' room Sunday night; Lou and Ray have been sleeping there every night. It's only Wednesday morning. We do have two full days and a long morning ahead of us to fit in the fishing and boating, but it seems like the time is just flying.

Lord, keep the campers and counselors protected by your loving arms. Help them to come closer to you this week through singing and crafting at camp. Allow for friendships to build and provide all with safe travels home. Amen

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Complete Circle

Image result for down syndrome awareness

Weekly, I pass by a church marquee with clever sayings, proverbs, or bible verses displayed. Two or three weeks ago, this was posted:

Faith in God is a Refusal to Panic

I thought about that for a moment, tears welled up in my eyes. Recently, I had received news causing me to panic. We received confirmation on May 2, our 5th child (due in August) has Down syndrome.

On April 29, I had gone for a "pieces and parts" (that's what my doctor calls it) ultrasound. No biggee; I'd done this many times before and all was normal...perfect actually. I do have an antibody that causes trouble sometimes so extra care was used when checking the liver size and middle cerebral artery velocity; that was normal procedure, nothing to worry about. The baby was face up and spine down. The sonographer spent one hour and 15 minutes taking measurements before the doctor came in. He really wanted a good view of the spine. I went to the bathroom, had a glass or orange juice, pushed on my belly a few times, all in the hopes that this baby boy (I just learned that news a few minutes earlier) would roll over showing the spine. He didn't. I laid on my side; I laid on my other side, causing the sheet to slide exposing my naked rear. No one attempted to cover it, they were intent on the screen. The doc pushed, tapped, talked, ordered our baby to roll over. Still nothing. I could go. I got dressed, thinking about being late for the appointment with my OB doctor and how I wouldn't have any leftover time in the waiting room to read the novel I brought with.

I checked in at the 1st floor OB/Gyn department. Before I even sat down, Sue called me back. We passed by the scale and went straight to the exam room. No blood pressure check, no reminder as to how many weeks along I am. Just a quick, "Dr. Meier will be with you in a minute." I know Sue; she's been there with me through all my pregnancies. We share vacation stories and poke fun at Dr. Meier; she knows my weight, she's held my toes during past amniocentesis', she's seen me cry. But not today. Today she's just the medical assistant.

I'm still wearing a smile. Good, I think. Dr. Meier must be on call and wants this to be a quick in and out appointment. I like that thought...in and out.

Dr. Meier walks in; he's not wearing scrubs. He's not on call today. He pulls up the roller stool close by and says, "Jen, we have to talk." As I write this my heart pounds just as it did that moment. I say, "OK, about what?" Turns out two defects were spotted during the ultrasound. Now I know why I was there so long. First, our baby has a hypoplastic nasal septum. He also has Endocardial Cushion Defect. Dr. Meier takes me into another room where we can talk at a small table instead of me on the exam table and him on the stool. He points out to me that these birth defects together strongly lead to Down syndrome. He explains using words what these defects are. He draws simple diagrams of a normal heart and our baby's heart. He points out the missing nose bone on the ultrasound picture. He tells me that I will be meeting with the Pediatric Cardiologist in the next week. I ask a few questions. He tells me a few answers. It's all a blur. All I hear is Down syndrome.....heart defect.....most likely surgery......Down syndrome.....chromosomal defects....babies don't survive......we have to make a decision.....confirmation of Down syndrome....lab evaluation.....Mayo Clinic. I hand Dr. Meier the pen. He can see I'm shaking so that I cannot write legibly. He writes some notes. He writes four questions I need to ask the cardiologist. He reads his writing to me. He gives me a great big hug and says, "Go home and talk to your husband. Call me tomorrow and we'll make any arrangements that need be."

The arrangements he's talking about include: abortion, Down syndrome confirmation by amniocentesis or do nothing and progress as usual. DH and I talk about the only options we have. We can find out if our baby boy has Down syndrome for sure or we can wait until birth and find out. We decide that information is important and empowering.

The next day I go back to the clinic for an amniocentesis. Sue is there holding my toes. Dr. Meier jokes about the $3.00 band-aid and how he read that some hospitals are asking parents to bring a three day supply of newborn diapers to the delivery because the hospitals pay $50.00 for the same diapers that a parent could by for $15.00. I wish him well on his trip to San Diego to see his grandson and he affirms me that Sue and Kristin (a genetic counselor) will call me on Friday with the test results. I get dressed and cry all the way home.

I am in full panic mode. Not the pounding heart, constricted pupils, sick to my stomach kind of panic, but a more thoughtful panic. Will this baby ever be on his own? Or will we have to care for him into our aging years? What about the trip to Hawaii we always talk about? Will that ever happen? Will I have to get involved with Social Services? How will the kids react to this news? Will they understand? Will I cry when I tell them? Will they be scared? Will I have enough time and energy to care for our baby boy as well as homeschool the other four and give them what they need? Will I ever feel deserving of fun again? Will I ever smile again? Will I feel guilty forever about wanting more children? Why do I feel like it's my fault?

I read lots of medical information about Down syndrome and Atrioventricular Canal Defect from many different websites. Mayo Clinic, American Academy of Pediatrics and others. It's all very medical and easy to read. Only the facts, no emotion involved. I can read it; I can digest it; I understand it. I walk away from the computer and I hate what I've just read. I hate that I have to read it. I hate that I have to live with it. I hate that I have to tell people my secret.

Time passed. More doctor appointments. I'd already told my mom, father-in-law, grandparents and DH's brother and sisters and a couple friends. It wasn't easy, but DH and I survived through it. I cried every time, he didn't. Then I saw the marquee.

Faith in God is a refusal to panic

I handed Grace a pen and she wrote the phrase down on the backside of a music theory worksheet. I couldn't forget this one. I had to spend time with it, enough time that I memorized it and inscribed it onto my brain. Just like the Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm. I needed that phrase to pop into my forethought at the first sign of panic. I needed something short and real to remind me that God is good. God has a plan for me to prosper and not despair. This is part of the plan. I don't know why, I don't like it everyday, but it's my plan handed to me by God. I will accept it. I will embrace it.

I just finished reading, Road Map to Holland:  How I Found My Way Through My Son's First Two Years of Down Syndrome Jennifer Graf Groneberg writes a compelling story about her journey. Her insight and ability to love her little Avery has helped me come to terms with my own feelings towards and about our baby. For the last 6 weeks I've secretly wished this pregnancy could continue forever. I want to protect him from the cruelty of the world. Inside me no one can hurt him, no one will stare, no one will ask questions. I will be just another pregnant woman. No one will ever know my secret. I have a baby with Down syndrome inside me.

Today I feel different. I can't wait to give birth, to see his face, to feel his breathing, to smell his skin. I can't wait to experience a whole different first year than ever before. I'm still scared, but I'm no longer in a panic. I have God on my side. I have other mothers who've gone before me on my side. I have my husband and compassionate children on my side. I finally took down the original ultrasound picture of the peanut shaped baby today. Before this I couldn't. That picture reminded me of a day when all of this Down syndrome and hypoplastic nasal septum and Atrioventricular Canal Defect was unknown. It was a reminder of the days when I was just going down the same path I had gone four times before. A path I knew very well. A path I could follow with my eyes closed and still get there because I knew exactly where it lead to.

Today I replaced that original picture with a new picture. A side profile of a fully formed head with a fist held closed. My baby, our baby...the one I can't wait to meet.

6 Months Already - looking back on Joseph's first 6 months

Is there a mother in need of encouragement?  Please pin.  Thank you so much.

New Shoes

Ray shows dad his new shoes.

Dad: Hey, those are sharp!

Ray: (rubbing his hand over them) No they're not.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Today while shopping for men's shorts at Shopko.

Lou: Uh...mom? Can we (her and her little brother) just play tag while you shop? We'll meet you by the doors in two half hours.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What I'm Doing Now

We ladies know how important it is to wash our face before bed, removing the daily buildup of makeup, bug spray, sunscreen, dirt, sweat, stickiness left behind from pudgy fingers and depending on the day, salt from the tears wept. I admit, unless I shower at night, most nights I barely have enough energy left to brush my teeth, therefore the day stays on my face right where it landed. But not anymore. This is the reason I've been washing my face daily (since Friday). These towels and washcloths are absolutely scrumptious. You just can't help rubbing them against your cheek and lips and arms and.....I heard the kids had a ball in the towel department at Kohl's searching for just the right towels. They hit the jackpot; thank you for the birthday present.
And here is the reason I've been whipping up cookies. First Amish Sugar Cookies and then 100 Best Cookies, both new recipes. This present is making the whole family happy. Thank you!
I won't need to use my new flower garden sprinkler for a while; we just got 1.6 (at least) inches of rain yesterday. With now watering to do for now, I guess I'll have time to fill the feeders and boil up some more humming bird drink.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bits and Pieces From the Week

Earlier this week we hung the humming bird feeder and have filled it three times since. At one point there were eight hummers flitting around the feeder at once. Of course, no pictures because it was just too much fun to watch and I never even thought about grabbing the camera.

With all the rain, the flowers have been doing great. A few I do have to remember to water because they are under the eaves. I just love tooling around the yard watering and pinching dead heads. It's relaxing and I remember back to winter days when all was empty, grey and cold and how quickly the landscrape changes with a little rain and warmer weather.

Diamond had her kittens June 3. Today we rescued them from the extremely high and out of reach place she chose to have them. I was so afraid that once they started walking they would walk right over the edge and we'd have a very sad situation one morning. So we set up a little kitten house for Diamond and her six babies in the garage. Now what will we ever do with six kittens?

Tuesday was summery so the kids went for a dip in the pond. First time in for the year. Even the cold water didn't deter them a bit.

Thursday was muggy so we headed back to the swimming hole. Again absolutely frigid water, but the kids didn't care. I ventured out for a while in the tube, all the while shivering and gently reminding all that anyone who splashed me with cold water was in deep trouble. I got wet; no one got in trouble. Even dad took a break from work for 20 minutes and jumped in for a swim. Then it was back to ditching for him.

Lee found this 5-Lined Skink under the front step. It's either a young or female skink based on the size and blue tail.

And the week ended with my 36th birthday, June 7. Thank you mom for giving me life. Thank you to my family for being my life.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Super Summer Science

The written schoolwork is quickly coming to an end. Grace has two spelling lessons and 18 math lessons to complete. Lee has two spelling lessons and 15 math lessons to complete. Lou has five math lessons to complete. Then, officially, school will be done for the summer. However, in my mind it's never really done is it? Maybe the written spelling lessons and formal math lessons will end, but learning will continue. Currently, we have three tadpoles (one with back legs) and a clam or mussel in an aquarium. The chicks are growing steadily; our cat will be having kittens soon. The swimming hole is open for admission. There is no doubt in my mind learning will continue.

I love the idea of unstructured summer days. Kids moving freely from one activity to another with just a quick yell to me as to their where abouts. But after a week of this sometimes the freeness of it all gets to me. See, I love schedules. I love details. I love having a general outline for each day. So with that I planned a short chemistry unit to kick off the summer. There's no theme just a hodge podge of activities that sounded fun to me, each with its own concept to learn.
Invisible Ink.

Items Needed:
We ended up only using one lemon. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice onto saucer. We diluted with a teaspoon of water which I don't think is really necessary.
A quick lick of lemon juice before the real science began.

Dip the cotton swab in the lemon juice and write a message on plain white paper. We also think a blunted toothpick would work well, because you'd get a thinner line of writing. Allow the invisible ink to dry thoroughly.

To read the secret message, hold the paper ink side down over a lightbulb until the message shows up. THIS DID NOT WORK!

With the blowdryer on HIGH, heat the paper until the message appears. THIS DID NOT WORK!

Once the kids are thoroughly discouraged by this chemistry experiment, think hard about other heating sources. Rule out the lit candle (fire hazard), microwave and oven. Then in a last ditch effort to prove to the kids you really were once a science teacher in a real school, pull out the iron, turn on high and start ironing the paper. After about 30 seconds the message will magically appear in a dark yellow, tannish color. Once the paper cooled the message wasn't as noticeable so the picture didn't turn out so well. But our secret messages were as follows:

Mom Loves Dad

Lee - cool bike

Grace horses

pictures of hearts and flowers

Science behind the project - the acid in the lemon juice contains carbon compounds. When those compounds are heated they turn brown (or in our case dark yellow-maybe because we diluted it a little). We also talked about ascorbic acid and how it prevents oxidation when squeezed over fruit, preventing it from turning brown. Of course, the scientific method was discussed once our original plan had failed.