Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Day in the Life ... June Edition

Welcome to another "Day in the Life" in our family. We are currently on summer break and are enjoying lots of sports and getting home improvement projects done. So far everything is going well. I started this summer with two possible back-to-school start dates. The July date was if the kids were driving me crazy with behavior or the statement "I'm bored" constantly coming from their mouths. It is going so well that I think we might make it to our second August start date. Now on with our day in the life. No day is the same but all are filled with love and learning.

6:30 am to 9:30 am ~
Everyone woke up with tons of energy this morning. The house was loud from the start. At least the sounds were happy noises. The kids got ready for the day, ate breakfast and started a tournament with their Kung Zoo Hamsters, which they saved their allowances to buy. Even Timothy joined the game for a little while. They also watched Veggie Tales Slimo of the Opera and a Scooby Doo show. One of our summer themes seems to be a kid obsession with Scooby Doo (AGAIN). While they were all busy and content, I knocked out another home improvement project. I painted the wall behind the stove. It has been plain old dry wall for more than a year.

9:30 am to 10:00 am ~
We had circle time. This is my sneaky little way of doing a little bit of school each day. Today the kids read a book or chapter in their current library books, did a math page and three Mad Libs. (Some days we also do one of the following -- read a chapter in whatever family read aloud book we are working on, review our educational posters, write a thank you note, or review a concept I think they are getting slippery on.)

10:00 am to 10:45 am ~
We worked on chores around the house by doing a 5 minute pick-up in each room. This is a good way for us to finish up a few things without spending too much time in each room. Sometimes it is better to make a 50% improvement to the whole house than a 100% improvement to a room or two.

10:45 am to 12:15 pm ~
We packed up and went to swimming lessons. We are blessed with free Red Cross swimming lessons in our area. They run Monday thru Friday for two weeks in a row. The lessons are 45 minutes long and well organized. While they were in lessons, I drooled over read my favorite homeschool catalog.

Tom Sawyer is in level 4, which is in the deep end the whole time. He is doing well but needed to be taken out by the life guard twice last week, when his muscles gave out due to his cerebral palsy and cold water. Thank goodness we paid for private lessons for several years so that he would be competent in survival swimming and treading until help arrives. The water is much warmer this week and his muscles are holding up better. His teachers are staying closer to him as well.

Little Red Ridinghood and Goldilocks are in level 3. They are both making progress and love their teacher. 

12:15 pm to 2:00 pm ~
We went to the library, Target, bank and lunch at Hardees. We requested a plain little thick burger wrapped in lettuce for Tom Sawyer. This should have been safe, if they had followed directions.  However, they put cheese and ketchup on it before wrapping it up. I didn't realize that until he said from the back seat how delicious it was and thanked me for letting him cheat. Didn't intend to! He became angry and irritable immediately. UGGGGH! Must have been corn syrup in the ketchup and something in the cheese.

2:00 pm to 5:00 pm ~
The kids and I did 5 minute sweeps of the rest of the rooms and then it was free time. There was another Scooby Doo movie and more Kung Zoo Hamster play. The kids also played a peaceful game of Sequence.

I did laundry, talked to the neighbor, talked to family on the phone and made dinner.

5:00 pm to 6:30 pm ~
Dad is home and we ate dinner. Then there were more board games and a backyard baseball game.

6:30 pm to 8:00 pm ~
I took Timothy, Boomer and Little Red Ridinghood to dog training classes. Boomer did great with a sit- stay lesson that consisted of sitting still while food was thrown around him. This was his first class in the intermediate level and the teacher was really impressed with the progress he had made during the break between classes. Yay, Boomer and Tim!

The end of a busy day. 


Monday, June 27, 2011

My Birthday

I turned 39 years old over the weekend. I am amazed at how quickly the thirties went by ... not sad, just amazed. We decided to go on a farm tour that was being held in our area. There were a whopping 41 farms to pick from. We attended tours at four different farms.

Our first stop was a creamery. At this small creamery, they made cheese from the milk of both goats and cows. We tried samples of goat cheese and were surprised how delicious it was. We also learned about the process of making cheese. The kids loved the Great Pyrenees dog that guarded their goats. He made our Great Dane/lab mix puppy (8 months and already 60 pounds) look small.

This is the only picture taken of me during the day. It is not the best shot, because I told my son to make sure he got the mountains in the background. He got those but forgot about the shadows over our faces.

Our second farm was a fruit, vegetable, and cutting flowers farm that we would like to do a CSA with next year. When we called earlier this year, they were already booked. We picked blueberries at this farm. Little Red Ridinghood was photographed by a reporter for our local newspaper and was thrilled that she made the front page, as shown below:

Our third farm raised alpacas. We learned the process of turning alpaca fur into yarn, including watching a woman using a spinning wheel to make yarn. Also up for sale were many handcrafts made from the alpacas' hair. The kids liked visiting with the alpacas best, but they are not as friendly as llamas. These alpacas have been recently sheared, except for the mop left on the top of their head.

Our last visit was to a farm that raised bison. They were so beautiful and big. We were given a great tour of the farm. The kids loved being weighed on the bison scale.

Bison have not roamed free since 1799 in our area. This farm had a herd of about 10. We purchased two bison burgers to try with our dinner. They were flavorful but a bit dry. I guess it takes some practice to cook with such a lean meat.

What a fun day! It was really nice to go out to explore more of what our county has to offer.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal ~ Home

In My Life

We are home from Disney World and I am busy setting up our routine for the next few weeks. We arrived home Friday and hit the ground running with a fencing tournament for the oldest on Saturday and tennis lessons for the three youngest on Sunday afternoon.

I want to make sure there is time this summer to knock out some home projects. We are hoping to organize the basement, paint the kitchen cabinets, paint some trimwork and numerous other small projects. This week I did get my husband's raised-relief map framed and it will be up on the wall by tomorrow. That is a project that has been waiting for almost a year.

In Our Summer Homeschool

We are going to have lots of sports this summer. The kids are signed up for two weeks of free swimming lessons that start next week. I plan to sign them up for two more weeks in July. Also, the kids started tennis lessons that our city provides at a considerably reduced price. The kids had their first lesson this past Sunday and they all loved it. The instructors made a big fuss about Tom Sawyer's natural talent. They could not believe this was his first time holding a racket! We shall see where this leads.

My Favorite Thing This Week

My favorite thing this week is finding some new grain-free recipes that Tom Sawyer can eat. Even better is that all of the family likes the recipes, and we are finding some new foods to replace all the foods we have lost in recent months.

(Grain-Free Ginger Snaps)

(Grain-Free Banana Muffins)

A Photo to Share

What Little Red Ridinghood wanted most from Disney World is a Rapunzel wig. We could not find one there, so we bought this wig from Ebay. Our little brunette loves it.

Boomer (on the left) is now 8 months old and 60 pounds!! He is doing so well with training. However, he is still having accidents in the house and needs more work on walking on a loose leash. Overall, he is a great dog, and we are so happy to have him. His almost 12 year old "sister", Lady, on the right thinks he can stop growing anytime now. HaHa!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Disney World With a Special Needs Family

We are home! We had a very successful vacation with only a few meltdowns, and we never wished to come home early. I think that is a "first" in the last few trips. I want to record for you all and myself how we did Disney with our high-end needs family. I wasn't sure it could be done with so much success. Here is a review of the special needs that was in our crew of 7 (two parents, grandma, and 4 kiddos ~ 21, 10, 9 and 7). Our crew faced Disney World with diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, low energy issues, PTSD, Sensory Processing Disorder, leaky gut syndrome, an extremely special diet for two of us, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, poor tolerance for heat (me), Severe Learning Disabilities, and many impulse control issues. There are more diagnoses, but these are the issues that affected our every move.


  • Plan, plan, plan ... Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. We really found the book, The Hassle Free Walt Disney World Vacation, to be very helpful. We did not follow it to the letter but used it more than I thought we would. We followed the How to do a Day for Seniors plan from the book the most since it fit our family's needs for breaks the best. You can see the trusty book in my dh's hand in the picture below.
  • Have an idea of what is important to everyone before entering each park. For us, the kids wanted to go on rides, but it did not matter which ones. This allowed us to go on less popular rides with short or no lines. The few things that were really important to the adults such as the safari trip in the Animal Kingdom were easily obtained with a Fast Pass. A Fast Pass is open to everyone and allows you to hold your place in line for a later time. 

  • Find a sunscreen before leaving for your trip that your kids are not allergic to and you can get them to stand still for application. Buy lots and apply it often. We went through three small containers.
  • Rent a double stroller even if your kids are my ages. Our nine year old used it as a retreat from the over abundance of sensory stimuli. It also gave the other kiddos an opportunity to take a little rest now and again. If I could do it over again, I would rent a double each day instead of a single stroller, like we used in the first park.

  • Place ID's on your children. Fortunately, we did not lose anyone, but it made me feel better to know that they had their vital info in case of emergency. We made laminated cards with name, our cell phone number, out-of-town relative, and hotel. You can see one around Goldilocks' neck in the picture above.
  • Take frequent rest breaks inside the park or out. We stayed in the park all day two of the days (Animal Kingdom and Epcot), but for the Magic Kingdom, we left for the afternoon and returned after an early dinner.
  • Take Care of Yourself!! Check out the yummy Raspberry Smoothie I had poolside one day.
  • Drink tons of water and juice. Many folks told us to take water bottles into the parks and fill them at water fountains. I guess we are water snobs because we could not stand the taste of Orlando water. It was the nastiest water I have ever tasted in my life! It was very much worth it to us to pay out the $2.50 for water bottles inside the park. We also carried in about 15 organic juice boxes each day. Also, we carried in about a pound of blueberries, grapes or watermelon each day.
  • Bring your own food. We were forced to bring our own because of Tom Sawyer's and my mother's diet, but I have no idea how the average family affords the food in there. We carried in a small soft cooler filled with lunch meat, fruit, chips, nuts, organic fruit gummies and medications which needed to be kept cool. We spent about $55 in the three days on extra fruit, water bottles, and our Fish and Chips picnic (off the diet for Tom Sawyer and he LOVED it).
  • Decide how you are going to deal with the gift shops before you are in them. Our kids are used to only Mommy being allowed to go into gift shops, or occasionally they can go in -- after I preview the shop and make sure they can afford something worthwhile. At Disney many of the rides and shows empty out into shops. (Most rides are not amusement type rides, but rather a circular route with a theme.) We gave the kids a $15 allowance each day. We also made a game out of trying on funny hats in each shop and taking a photo, which took away the desire to OWN the hat. Even Grandma got in on the fun.


  • If you can afford to be in Orlando for extra days, spread out your Disney days. We did one day in a park, one day of rest. Here was our break down.... Friday ~ arrive and set up; Saturday ~ Animal Kingdom; Sunday ~ a day at the beach on the Gulf Coast; Monday ~ The Magic Kingdom; Tuesday ~ hanging out at the pool and afternoon at a free (with our ASTZ museum membership) science museum; Wednesday ~ Epcot; Thursday ~ more pool time and pack up to leave. My Father-in-Law really out did himself in selecting a timeshare for us this time. It had two pools, a water slide, water park, free fishing lessons, and all kinds of games and fun events.  We so appreciate the gift of a free place to stay! It really made the trip possible.

    • If you are going to do something wild and crazy like let your dear child go off his very strict diet, do it right before leaving the park so you can do meltdowns/reactions in a less stressful environment. Near the end of our vacation and the end of the day at Epcot, we let Tom Sawyer have Fish and Chips and try all of the free unusual and foreign sodas at the soda shop. You can see his ears already turning red. He had a rough night filled with night terrors, but keeps adding these cheats to his Disney favorites list.

    •  Consider your options for travel. We decided to drive to a major city four hours away and catch an overnight train and then rent a minivan in Orlando. We traveled coach and the kids slept really well in their seats. It was a much better experience than traveling by car the whole way (really out of the question with my crew) and will open up our world to farther distances. We were allowed to carry food on the train, and by purchasing our train tickets in advance, it was very affordable.
    Alright, now for my Don't list ...  It is really short!


    • Expect to do everything or even half of the things. No one gets it all done ... not the normal families either. Having fun doing a few things is way more fun than doing tons of things in a fast, stressful way. 
    • Spend a ton of time in the lines for characters. Think outside the box and take pictures in front of cut-outs of characters. We did meet a few characters when they arrived on the scene right in front of us.

    • Lastly, I am not going to say "skip the fireworks". However, if you live in a large city and have seen a really impressive fireworks display before, the Magic Kingdom's is comparable to a large city's display. Kids love or hate fireworks, no matter how big or small the display. We did the Magic Kingdom's fireworks and the kids liked it. Being out in Florida after dark meant a lot of bug bites, unfortunately. When the fireworks ended, almost everyone in the park tried to leave all at once. The kids were ready for bed NOW, but it took us more than two hours to get out of the park and back to the timeshare. We did not have everyone into bed until 1 am. If I had it to do over again and we were doing the fireworks, I would pack a blanket and travel pillows and find a calm spot to let the kids go to sleep while the crowds thinned out. I would also pack some energy food for the grown-ups to push through those final hours.
    Well, that is my thoughts for today! I am glad we went and we did have lots of fun.  It is nice to have it off our bucket list. The next time we leave on a trip, I hope it is to a calmer location. Also, thank you so much to Sarah, Kristi, Abe, Josh, and Audrey for taking care of our fish, rat, gerbil, bird and two dogs.  We are so glad we were able to keep them in the home and have all of you great helpers come in to care for them over the week.


    Wednesday, June 1, 2011


    Wow...It is the first day of June.  Our summer is really getting underway.  However, a lot of life has gotten in the way of it really feeling like summer.  I expect that to change in about 24 hours....

    Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks both had extensive eye exams.  Tom Sawyer had a great exam.  I told the optometrist how he was reading above grade level but still wanted to only read graphic novels.  She tested him and found him to be slightly farsighted.  He now has reading glasses and he loves them.  She said he would leap in to chapter books very soon.  On the first day he came home and read for 2 hours straight.  Woo Hoo!  

    Goldilocks had many more issues.  She is going to need 9 months of vision therapy at a hefty cost.  It will take us a few months to figure out how to afford it for her.  The doctor said there was lots of work that could be done to improve her reading, writing, and overall learning abilities.  She said she was surprised that she could read at all.  Her vision was that of a pre-K to first grade student.  So there is hope for improvement.  I have blamed her learning issues on low IQ, FASD and RAD for so long.  It is exciting to think that she may have an opportunity to learn better.

    Goldilocks also had some excitement with her hand.  She was chasing her little brother and trying to kick him and her big brother blocked her.  She fell on her bottom and then proceeded to try and smack her big brother repeatedly.  She missed one time and hit the hardwood floor with her hand.  Her hand did not look so bad, but she sure did carry on.  So we took her to a sports injury doctor in the morning.  Sure enough, she had bruised the growth plates in her hand and had to wear a half cast for a week.  This gave me the opportunity to repeatedly tell her that when you hurt someone you also hurt yourself. Amazingly, she has told everyone the truth on how she got hurt.  Although she looks a bit proud of herself in the photo ~ don't you think?

    We leave for Disney World in just 24 hours....   I think only crazy people go to Florida in June.  However, we fit that category.  We are packing like nuts and trying to figure out the complicated pet care for our menagerie.  I am at this stage in the packing process.....

    I hope you all are having a wonderful summer.