Michael’s sensory issues have been rather challenging when it comes to his hair. He won’t let me brush it, wash it with any regularity or to any real level of completion. He doesn’t like people touching it. It generally drives him nuts. So we got into this habit: Michael’s hair grows and grows and grows, and one night, when a grownup can stay up later than him and wait for him to be dead to the world, said grownup pulls out the scissors and cuts his bangs and the back of his hair off. Of course, he usually wakes up, or gets twitchy with the first snips and the touching and it takes nearly a week to actually get it cut unless he’s sick and dead to the world or something.

To summarize: cutting Michael’s hair sucks.

And it’s sad. Because his hair is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s thick and straight and while it’s “just brown” it has all sorts of colors in there and its shiny and it just bounces and… well, it’s gorgeous. See, here’s my baby with a lot of hair:

Town Fair, Parade DaySee that beautiful boy? See the shine? See how thick it is? And this is rather trimmed. He’d had a “good haircut” (read: had it chopped all to hell and back) a few weeks before. His hair grows quickly. And it hangs in his face. See those long bangs? Imagine them DOWN, because that’s the way they normally fall. Seriously… thick beautiful long soft bouncy gorgeous hair. Can you tell I love my baby’s hair? *sigh*

Fast forward. Michael’s sensory issues are getting worse, not better, when it comes to his head. We can’t even really touch it now. And when I get the scissors out and he hasn’t been asleep for like 3 hours, then it just doesn’t work; he hears the “snip” and wakes up.

Then I got this crazy idea to use clippers on his hair. I searched for non-electric clippers. They have them! They’re called scissors. That doesn’t do me any good. They have these awesome combs that you just brush through their hair that cuts it over a blade… but you know, he’d have to be still for that. That left buzzing it, and I couldn’t stand the idea of it. And anyway, really, if he won’t let you touch his head, is he really going to let you buzz his head?

Finally I decided that even if it took a week of nights, I would do it. I’d put a towel under his head, buzz a stripe or two until he woke up, then put it away  until the next night, eventually getting his whole head. I was determined.

And last night, I was motivated.

We laid out a towel. We brought in the clippers. We turned on the light and set a paper plate next to us to hold the chunks of hair as they came off to try to keep them contained when he inevitably started flying around upon waking. And then a funny thing happened.

He didn’t wake up.

He wasn’t medicated. He hadn’t been asleep long. The Wahl clippers are loud. His hair was like 6 inches long. I had to buzz and buzz and buzz some more (we used the one inch guard). Around his ears. Over his forehead. From the nape of his neck. Buzz buzz buzz. Comb comb comb. Buzz buzz buzz. It was crazy. And the kid almost woke up twice: when we were cleaning up with the scissors, and when I was trying to clean his ears. Seriously.

He didn’t even twitch with the noise or the vibration or even the manhandling to flip him over so I could get the other side. Of course, halfway through I took a break, went outside (to give him time to settle after being flipped), and came back in and told Alan “I think I changed my mind.” Um, too late now, chickalina.

So, I present to you, my boy. My baby. My nearly-hairless baby. My baby who doesn’t look like a mop-headed, well, moppet any more. He looks all… grown and stuff. *gulp*

Stylin' and Profilin'

I’m absolutely horrible at keeping up with a blog. It’s time I admit that to myself. You’ll just have to deal, though. I’ll pretend to try to get better, but I’ll go through my fits and starts anyway.

Everything is okay here. We’ve been busy. We have a busy summer ahead. And soon, I’ll write about it. But in the meantime, I’ll head out to get some things done to get ready for company next week, on the heels of company last week.🙂

Ut oh, it’s been entirely too long since I updated! In short:

Easter was nice and quiet, as quiet as it can be for a pastor’s family. Alexis and Alan had to be at the church before 5am for the Easter breakfast. Breakfast went fine (Alexis even found time for a friend to straight-iron her hair while waiting for sunrise service to be over). I brought the twins over for breakfast and the late service, and all went swimmingly.

At said breakfast, one of the girls asked Michael if he wanted some more paper to write/color on. He was ignoring her, as usual when he’s focused on something. Then she said “write down if you want more paper,” at which time he wrote the word “yeah” on the paper. Jaws dropped all the way around. He’s getting a bit better about answering, listening, and interacting. I’m loving this, even if he’s a pain in his demands and eating habits.

Molly has been loving tumbling, and is moving on. This summer, she’s moving to the “big girl class”. ACK! It’s going to be in the early morning too for the summer, so that’ll be interesting as well. We figured it would be easier for her to transition into a more demanding class during the summer with less kids, so we’ll see how that goes.

Alexis hosted 5 other pastor’s kids in our basement for a Doctor Who premiere party. It turned out great! One of the kids made a TARDIS cake, they walked around the area doing some kind of live action Doctor Who roleplaying (I didn’t even ask), a few came dressed as the 11th Doctor, Amy, and Rose… and of course, we had bananas, because you should always bring a banana to a party. :)  They had a lot of fun, and so did I. Good thing we don’t live super close to neighbors though, as we all SCREAMED at a scary part of the show. Yes, really.

We’ve also been on the dress-and-shoes hunt for Alexis to hit the local homeschool group’s Spring Semi-Formal. I think we finally have it all together – but I guess we’ll find out for sure on Friday night. She’s excited. I’m kinda sick. But such is life.

Things were also interesting around here with all the flooding. We had about a foot of rain, just as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Big Muddy Rivers were all swollen with spring melt. A lot of places around here got some hefty flooding, and getting around Southern Illinois was interesting there for a week or so. But now, the water is moving downstream, so…

Please keep our friends and family in your prayers as they prepare to deal with the onslaught of the water. It doesn’t look very good for the area I am from. At all. We’re hoping that the Corps’ calculations are correct – or even overestimated – and this will be a minimal event for most people. But there are a few factors that could go wonky and lead to, literally, the Mississippi changing its course to straight through my hometown, meaning devastation for the whole South Louisiana, and economically, the country for a while.

More later.

Guess I didn’t do one last week, did I? Oh well, this is our update. It was a doozy.

Alan is busy. Lent is a crazy-busy time for a pastor, and he’s been crazy-busy. We’ve had a couple of deaths in the congregation lately, so in addition to Holy Week busyness, there’s a funeral thrown into the mix. And you know what? He’s loving every second of being a parish pastor again, so it’s all good.

I was in charge of “soup supper” at church last Wednesday night. Every mid-week service during Lent, someone (or some group) is in charge of dinner. They do soup, sandwiches, drinks and dessert. I made a HUGE amount of gumbo – it fit into the 18 qt roaster! ACK!. Alexis helped out and made brownies and a red velvet cake. Another church member took over the sandwich stuff for me. YAY! Made a couple of bucks that went to the youth group, earmarked for them going to Higher Things this summer.

Alexis’ play was Saturday, and it was a great success. Here’s a little picture that a friend took of Alexis with Molly at the 2pm showing (Alan took Molly at 2pm. I stayed home with Michael, and then went alone to the 7pm showing).

Molly and Alexis at "Romeo and Winnifred"

Our girls!

So, yes, the play went very well, but the week was crazy with rehearsals and such. Then yesterday, we headed back up to The Great Shopping Area and ended up buying her dress for the spring dance. It’s a great “cocktail/social” dress that will work well for all sorts of future events, especially with weddings coming up. YAY! We were both excited.

Molly and Michael are both just moving right along and driving me crazy. Molly is loving her tumbling class. Michael is getting so incredibly tall of a sudden, I just don’t know what to do. They’re both kinda crazy. We have the two old laptops set up for them. And while they aren’t currently internet- connected, they’re both having a blast playing on them.

Coming up: Holy Week stuff, Easter, then getting ready for the next weekend’s Doctor Who Premiere Party. Whooohoo!

Our son Michael is “autistic”. Or is it that he “has autism”? I can never remember which one is politically correct to say these days.

I have read a whole lot over the years about autism, and I finally came to a decision a while back: autism is a part of Michael. While we, as his parents, can do everything we can to help him reach his full potential, autism will still be ever-present with him. I am derelict in my duties as a mom, and teacher, to pretend that isn’t the case.

While I appreciate the work of organizations like Autism Speaks or The Autism Society, it saddens me when we talk about a “cure” for autism. What caused Michael’s autism? I have very little in the way of ideas. I can look at some genetic factors that I think are heavily involved. I can look at some environmental factors that may be involved. But honestly, I’ll probably never know. And you know what? That’s okay.

While part of me would love to have a “normal” kid, honestly, what’s “normal”? So Michael has some developmental issues. We work on those. In some ways, he’s ahead of a lot of “normal” kindergartners: he reads fairly well, writes not-too-bad, knows letters and numbers and plays games on the computer. He has trouble matching. He has trouble using scissors. He has a metric ton of sensory problems (another post for another day, but a huge part in autism, from our perspective). He thinks differently. He reacts differently. He has different concerns and fears and desires than a lot of kids.

And that’s okay too.  By the hand of God, through whatever means, my child has a different framework in which he will grow up and learn to function. He will never, ever see the world the way you or I do. And 99.9% of the time, I’m fine with that. And I think that the 0.1% of the time that I’m not okay with it is okay too. After all, I’m not okay with my other kids about that amount of time. I’m not okay with myself a whole lot more often than that.

Michael has a personality difference with some physical difficulties, and we’ve come to call that a “disease” that needs to be cured. This makes me so incredibly sad. I think if I had to grow up with parents who weren’t helping me to be my best within my own framework, but were constantly trying to “fix” me, it could be the saddest, and possibly the single most detrimental thing in my life, even worse than the “disease” itself.

I try not to be judgmental; after all, all parents of children who are autistic struggle with similar problems. The rates of divorce are incredibly high for these families. Other children grow up feeling neglected from the time spent dealing with all the issues that autism brings along with it. The money spent by some families can be astronomical. We all, all, struggle with the day-to-day of this.

But it’s Autism Awareness Month. And everyone is putting up badges on facebook about “curing autism” and doing walks for a “cure” and all sorts of other things that, instead of showing autism as a difference to be worked around, shows it as a disease, a biological demon to be exorcised.

I, as Michael’s mother, cannot see it that way. I cannot look at my beautiful, beautiful boy, even when he’s locked in his own mind, stimming (self-stimulatory repetitive behavior) like crazy, or being a general pain in the butt, and see something that needs to be fixed. I see a child that needs to be nurtured, and loved, and taught, and accepted within his own framework. I know that he will never be “normal” as society sees it, but I can give him all the tools he needs to have a fulfilling life, surrounded by people who love and accept him, no matter what. So, I’ll call it what it is, autism. I’ll define him to others by his largest personality trait, and say that he’s autistic.

But at the end of the day, he is my beautiful, loving boy, and I wouldn’t trade him for “normal” any day of the week.

It occurred to me the other night, after watching some science fiction stuff, that physics is way beyond me. I’ve always been interested, but I’m a humanities girl, you know? My BA is in History, and preference there is Medieval. My minor was in Psychology and even there I leaned toward the “art” side rather than the “science” side.

Math has never been my strong suit. Granted, I suppose it’s easier for me than a lot of folks. Not feeling like I really ever caught on at all, I scored high enough on my ACT to test out of College Algebra. I struggled through Trig. I fought tooth and nail, going to a computer lab at least three times a week to get through Chemistry in college (yes, I got an A, and was the second highest grade in his two courses both semesters, but still, it was more work than I’d ever put in for a course ever). I’ve always known that physics is math, so I have always avoided it.

But something about theoretical physics pulls me in. The possibility of it all, I suppose, just has a draw that is hard for me to deny. I try to read up on the latest developments, and it is all so over my head, and I get irritated, then frustrated, and finally downright angry.

It is now time to not be angry. I will conquer this. How can I sit here and talk about teaching my kids to learn to love learning, teach them that nothing is ever beyond them, say to their faces that once they can read, they can learn anything when I just get mad that I don’t already know something? I can’t. I just can’t. I mean, I’ve been a hypocrite pretty often in my life. I just don’t want now to be one of those times.

I’m going back to school. Not in a literal sense, but in that unschooly, I-can-do-and-learn-anything sense. I’m going back to Algebra via Khan Academy videos. I will conquer this fear of higher math, and I will move myself into being able to figure out this theoretical physics thing.

I will. I will. I will.

Won’t I?

There’s been a discussion happening on one of my homeschooling lists. The topic comes up often, and it’s frustrating for me every time that it does. Grading. Let me say that again: GRADING.

We have had it drilled into our heads that grades are important. Grades make or break you as a student. Grades make or break your ability to get into college. And (most ridiculous of all), grades make or break how well you will do as a college student and in life in general.

Horsehockey. Or Cockypop. Or Snoodles. Or something.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we are here to facilitate children’s learning. To that end, we should shoot for mastery, not a comparative grade, when it comes to developing particular skills. If the aim is for a child to go to college, they will have to take college level math. There is no way around that. To get to that point, there are basics of mathematics, algebra and geometry that need to be mastered before moving on. Why is math perceived to be such a pain to most people? Because we traditionally teach for grades, not mastery.

Imagine the coolness that would happen if every kid in a class actually mastered a concept  before moving on to the next concept. Math is not history. Math is not a subject where we can have huge gaps and have it not overly affect performance. You must know how to add before you can understand the concept of multiplication. You must understand whole numbers before moving to fractions and decimals. You must understand the concept of what a triangle actually is before the Pythagorean theorem makes sense to you.

But we don’t traditionally do that. If a kid has above 90% mastery, well, we give them an A. 71% is a C, “average”. When you think about it – we are talking math hypothetically, here – what a C actually represents is a 29% gap in mastery of basic skills. Wow. Interesting.

So let us switch over to homeschooling. Most parents understand this problem, and will aim for mastery. While a child doesn’t have to score 100% all the time (mistakes happen – all those numbers on a page can start bleeding together after a while), we as parents-teachers-facilitators tend to make sure that the child has real understanding of what is happening before moving on. So, technically, our child truly does, compared to “average” students in an “average” classroom, excel at the subject, and therefore deserves an A.

This is not Mommy-grading. This is not the trap of every homeschooling parent believing their child is a genius. This is simple logic. Your child has a mastery of the knowledge, therefore they deserve an “A”.

Most colleges understand this. They realize many things about homeschoolers, including:

  • Parents sending kids off to college are likely to really want a great GPA, and because there are a lot of untruthful people in the world, they expect that a parent who grades will tend to grade higher than a supposedly neutral teacher;
  • Homeschooled students tend to demonstrate mastery at most every level, therefore, in comparison to most public school kids, they do deserve an “A”;
  • And when it comes down to it, every school grades differently, uses different weights and measures, differing grading systems (a 94 is a B in some schools, and an A in others), and sometimes *gasp* simply pass kids to get them out of their hair. No, really! Social Passing! Look it up!

While I’m not a huge fan of standardized testing, as it comes with its own issues, to be honest, in general, it’s a decent indicator of a person’s previous learning, as well as what I call the B.S. factor. No one – okay, maybe there is someone, but still – will score 100% on a standardized test. But at some point, you also learn how to reason out the stupid answers from the probable ones. You learn to use common (or uncommon!) sense and logic to help you peck around for the right answer when you’re lost. The tests tend to draw out general knowledge, and ability to learn, from the recesses of the mind. They really can be great indicators of ability.

So when it comes down to it, most colleges really could care less about grades. Grades are one of those things that we think should be objective, but are still extremely subjective. So give Mommy grades. If you give a homeschooled kid lower than an A on something that isn’t a traditional style course with outside or specific grading, have your child be prepared to answer – truthfully and with real knowledge of the situation – to an admissions officer why their own parent scored them below what is generally a “homeschool average” of A.

I think we do our children a disservice when we push them to specific grading and trying to cram knowledge into perceived gaps and use the excuse “but it’s high school!” and “what about college!” I think that as much as we, as homeschooling parents tend to fight “the system” and discuss what’s broken there, we have still fallen into the trap of feeling the need to be just like them when it comes to high school.

We are beyond that. We are beyond needing that traditional validation. We are beyond gap creation, or even worse, “gap filling”. We are beyond “teach for the test” and “lowest common denominator”. We are raising future leaders and professionals and service people and blue-collar workers and mothers and fathers and PEOPLE. And that goes far, far, beyond grades and other such travesties.

Something is terribly wrong with me today. Mentally, I am manic. Seriously manic. I have NO idea how it happened. I am going through periods of my head spinning (mentally, not physically… yet!) and having no concentration, to having that near-autistic hyper-concentration. I’ve probably typed well over 10k words today. Of course, it’s all been emails and comments and facebook, but still. I just don’t know what’s up?!?!

I’ve never, ever done the whole “manic” thing. I can do the “depression” really well. I’m good at it. I’ve been working on it for about 30 years now, so I think I have it down to a science. But manic? No, I’d do a little OCD cleaning of floors by hand when I was in my early 20’s and having panic attacks. But just to mentally go SQUEEEEE all day for no reason at all?

I wish it would pass to a physical manifestation. My house needs cleaning in a really big way.

I don’t drink caffeine. Haven’t for maybe 8 years now. I don’t totally abstain, as I drink decaf mochas from Starbucks (and they use regular coffee to make the mocha, so there are traces, and there’s always caffeine in decaf), eat chocolate (a life without a chocolate would be barren indeed) and, well, I guess that’s how I get my caffeine. I don’t know. I kinda felt like this when I forgot to say “decaf” after about 9 months off of it completely (including chocolate and decaf coffee), but that was a LONG time ago. I know Starbucks messes up from time to time, and I get shaky, and can’t sleep that night. But not this.

THIS! THIS! THIS!

Essentially, either by spoken or written word, I haven’t shut up all day. Even when I drove into town earlier, I sang the whole way there and back – when I wasn’t on the phone. I have no idea how I’m going to sleep tonight.

At this point, I’m not sure if I should be praying for help calming my brain, or praying for it to shift to something physical so my house can get clean. My luck, I’ll be all crash-dead tomorrow, when Alan has a visit in St. Louis and a youth event tomorrow night and Alexis is at a retreat.

I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

Oh yeah, welcome to my insanity.🙂 It rears its ugly head from time to time.

I’m not very good at this, am I?

Every time I left the house in this last couple of weeks, I’d get a call from Alan saying that a church member was in the hospital or had passed away. Tuesday night he finally told me I wasn’t allowed to leave the house again (of course, then tonight, he made me leave to get away for a while). This week has been busy for him. Such is life in a small country congregation.

Alexis and I went dress shopping. It went well, but of course, we still don’t have a dress for prom. She did get two great dresses that will be great dressed up for Easter and weddings, and dressed down for church and maybe even hanging with friends.

Michael has gotten taller and skinnier, with me actually seeing his ribs when he took a bath last night. Who is this child? Oh yeah, the one who has decided to be narcissistic and watch himself in mirrors and security cameras. Gotcha.

Molly’s tumbling moved to a different night, and she’s talking about wanting to move to the “big girls” class. This is good. Now, if we can just convince her that there are more family members than “Daddy” and “those other people when Daddy is gone”, it’ll be nice. It’ll be even nicer when she stops making plans with her other father, mother, grandfather, and 20 brothers and sisters on Gallifrey and then get upset when I don’t bring her to those places (this week alone, she’s “missed” a soccer game, a basketball game, wrestling, a picnic, the Doctor Who Proms, and her grandfather’s funeral…. with the latter being okay in the end, because later she was able to “plan” a picnic with him. Molly makes me tired. Molly’s imaginary world makes me even more tired.

I bought a lot of junk food today. It was necessary.

Oh, and my cousin and her boyfriend of many years got engaged tonight. I’m so happy. I was even weepy. Awesome, awesome stuff. It was time.

Oh well, off to next week!

So, if you don’t know me very well, let me explain: I am a serious lover of the modern Doctor Who. I’m slowly visiting episodes from the original eight Doctors, and that’s all fine and dandy, but I’ve fallen in love with the Doctors portrayed by Chris Eccleston, David Tennant, and even Matt Smith.

I have a lot of favorite episodes. I really like a lot of the stand-alone episodes, because they are great for using to introduce others to the series. We have a little list of stand-alones that we use to get people hooked. Alexis is on a mission, I do believe, to convert everyone in Southern Illinois into a Whovian. Apparently, at the end of April, we’ll even have a little soiree here to bring all of her friends – most of whom do not have BBC America – over to watch the first two episodes of Series Six. And actually… I can’t wait. I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, Alexis and I got home around 11 tonight, and Molly was still up. She wanted me to snuggle in front of the tv with her, so I did (no, Molly never sleeps. More ranting on that another night.), with us watching “Vincent and the Doctor” from Series 5 with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. It is by far one of my favorite episodes, and not really because of the Doctor, or his companion, but because of the awesome job by Tony Curran as the tragic Van Gogh.

It’s a throw-away episode, really. The monster isn’t very scary (it’s invisible, and when you do catch a glimpse, it’s like a big turkey-monster). The Doctor isn’t particularly witty or really central to the plot at all. Amy, his companion, is a bit more, and I love her interaction with Vincent. Vincent is the central character here. Curran portrays him beautifully. But my favorite part, the part that gets me crying *every single time* I watch this episode, is from Bill Nighy as Dr. Black at the Musee d’Orsay. It’s an uncredited part, by an actor I’ve grown to love over the years. His speech gets me every time.

The Doctor asks Dr. Black to explain “where Van Gogh rates in the history of art.”  Vincent is standing nearby, and Amy positions him to hear (they’ve brought him forward in time to show him that his painting is not for naught). Van Gogh being one of my favorite painters, this gets me every time.

“Well, big question. But to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all; certainly the most popular great painter of all time; the most beloved; his command of color the most magnificent.  He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray; but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world… No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

Maybe so, Dr. Black.

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