Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break

Spring Break week over here! SportsBoy was on his school's spring break, so Mr. Wonderful, SuperKid and I decided to join in on the fun! After a lot of indecision - should we go somewhere for break? for a few days? not at all? - we decided to hang out at home this week. Turned out to be a great decision. We all got some much-needed time to relax, hang out, play, and just enjoy each other's company. 

Tuesday morning we finally made our way to the new aquarium in town. I think it's been open for a few months now, and the boys have been wanting to check it out. We've been to a couple of other aquariums (including Newport and Chicago), and the boys were happy to finally have one closer to home. We got there right as it opened and were able to get through the exhibits pretty quickly. The website suggests planning on 1-1/2 hours for viewing, and that was pretty much dead-on. We enjoyed our visit, but all agreed it was not a place we would rush back to. The touch tank was fun - we had never been up close and personal with a horseshoe crab before - but the manta rays and little sharks that were in there are pretty standard touch tank fare, and we have been lucky enough to experience that several times in other locations. The shark tank, clearly the highlight of the aquarium, was not working properly. The water was very cloudy - at places we could not see anything unless it was moving right against the glass. We received a discount on our admission cost because of that, but it was really disappointing. The prices, in our opinion, are just too steep to warrant another visit just to get to see the shark tank.

I had wanted to visit the West Side Market for lunch after our excursion to the aquarium, but it is not open on Tuesdays, so we drove into the heart of downtown looking for some food trucks. I wanted us to have a unique experience to highlight our "special day," so sitting in a restaurant or grabbing fast food was not going to cut it. We found two trucks on East 9th that we really enjoyed - The Nosh Box and Rocco Whalen's Shortribs 1. Good, simple food but getting it from the truck made it seem yummier and more special. Very fun!

We ended our big day with dessert at The Melting Pot. That was really fun - and very tasty! We all enjoyed it. SuperKid is super-picky, so he wasn't into dipping his dessert. He's also not that into sweets, either, but he liked dunking treats for the rest of us while he nibbled on the strawberries and bananas sans chocolate. The rest of us made sure every millimeter of our treats were covered in chocolate before downing them! It was a great way to end our "vacation day."

SuperKid had Classical Conversations on Wednesday, and we did not want to miss that, so Wednesday was a school day for us, though we did get into the Spring Break spirit by having dinner at a local restaurant (we don't eat out very often, so all the meals out this week were a big treat for us). The boys spent the rest of the break relaxing, playing games, working on fun projects and just hanging out. A true vacation!

Next week, back to work. I'm ready, but I don't know about the boys. SuperKid and I were just getting on a roll; I'm hoping we can pick up on the momentum we had. We'll see. It's a busy week here next week. I am nursing several injuries right now, so I have several doc appointments as well as a couple of physical therapy appointments next week. SK has his annual doc appointment, and I have a couple of meetings scheduled, too. Classical Conversations, two sessions with SK's tutor (I will talk about that another time), cub scouts and piano lessons round out Monday through Thursday. On Friday, SportsBoy joins us at home again for Good Friday. Yep, a busy week. . . That always seems to happen after a week of the good life!  :-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Week Before Spring Break

Next week is our Spring Break though the weather has been so amazing here that I keep trying to convince myself it must be time for Summer Vacation! A lot of people have asked me if I have a hard time keeping SuperKid motivated to work when the weather is so nice. Actually, I have a hard time this year keeping SK motivated to work regardless of what the weather is doing. It's just that kind of year, ya' know? The weather, however, makes it hard for ME to stay motivated. I love being outside for the warm weather. My boys? Not so much. Sigh . . . 

Anyway, we've actually gotten a lot of work done in the past month and just this week I was telling Mr. Wonderful how much SK has accomplished. Hurray! My goal is to finish off the year feeling productive and proud of what we did this year - and not to be frustrated by the memory of the challenges we faced in the first part of the school year. We'll see how that works out for me . . .     :-)

On St. Patrick's Day, SK played in his first full-blown Piano Competition. It was a great experience - he felt very proud of himself. He's just been playing for a little over a year, and I really am amazed at how well he plays. He thought he performed well and it turns out that he was right (we weren't sure since parents were not allowed to listen to the performance). He earned  the highest rating - Unanimous Superior - which means that both judges gave him the highest mark. Congrats, SuperKid! Next up is our homeschool group's talent show (he will play Linus and Lucy - a song that he loves) and then in May he will play in a Duet Recital. All great experiences for him!

Sunday, SuperKid received his Arrow of Light Award. The highest award in cub scouting, the Arrow of Light signifies a scout's readiness to bridge over to Boy Scouting. Again, he and we were very proud of his achievement. Many thanks to the leaders and other adults who helped him accomplish this goal!

Monday we stayed focused and got a lot of schoolwork done, despite my urge to tell SuperKid to play Wii all day so I could go out and sit in the sun. :-) I will blog about our curriculum choices at another time, but I should mention that Monday was our first day of Saxon 6/5. We completed 5/4 last week (we did about half of it last school year) and SK was super-psyched to dive into the new book! It's always nice to see enthusiasm for math - and really, who isn't motivated by a clean crisp book that starts with some simple lessons? The first lessons are really building SK's confidence that he can master this book. Saxon's approach of jumping back and forth between concepts can seem a bit counter-productive at times, so it's nice that they let the kids build up some momentum and pride at the beginning.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed a homeschool program at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The program was about mythical creatures, and the instructor did a fantastic job of discussing not only the scientific basis (or lack thereof) for some of the best-known mythical creatures, but also just helping us think about what the world was like when these myths were first created.

Wednesday was our Classical Conversations Day. We gave our family presentation, which was a lot of fun. We introduced our family members and then talked about how our new puppy has helped us better understand God's love for us. SK has not been studying his vocab so he totally tanked in the surprise vocab game, but he made up for it by winning the math game later in the class. Several families referenced our speech during the class, which made SK feel really proud!

Yesterday's highlight was a Nature Walk with the binoculars SK won during a speech contest at cub scouts. The binoculars are pretty weak, but I don't think he knows that. It's not like he's ever seen a good pair, so he really doesn't know what he's missing. We noticed the plants budding, examined some fungi, talked about decomposing (which we studied earlier this year) and noticed squirrels, frogs and birds in their natural habitat. A great way to enjoy the nice weather and get school work done! 

Today SK went bowling with our homeschool group, had a tennis lesson and a kenpo lesson in addition to his school work. This evening we're all kicking around relaxing - the perfect ending to a great week!

Thanks to Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for hosting this post in her Weekly Wrap-up! Very fun to participate - I love reading the other posts!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is It Summer??

The beautiful weather continues - 80 degrees here the past two days, and well on it's way to 80 again today! Unfortunately, we've had indoor activities the past two days, so we've only been able to take advantage of the weather in the evening. Maybe that's for the best - we couldn't be tempted to skip out on our school hours, but we still had time for the boys to play with the neighborhood kids after school.

Tuesday SuperKid spent a great afternoon at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Cleveland Museum of Natural History. They host monthly homeschool programs, and this month's was really interesting - Mythical Creatures. The program tied into their visiting exhibit, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids. Honestly, we thought the exhibit was just okay, but I was really impressed with the study program. They talked about how and why ancient civilizations came up with these creatures. While some, it is speculated, were merely metaphors for life situation (the phoenix), others were likely thought to be actual animals, probably because groups of ancient people came across the remains of several species in one place and assumed that they were the remains of one type of animal. The instructor punctuated the verbal lesson with touch boxes - various relics under large boxes with holes just big enough for the kids to reach in. The kids felt around the inside of the box and then drew a picture of an animal that best represented what they felt. One box, for example, had a snake skin, wasp nest, antler and owl wing in it. This really helped the kids understand how these misconceptions could happen. Great lesson!

Yesterday was our Classical Conversations day. This is our second year in the program. Last year we participated in the Foundations level of the program. SuperKid loved it and earned the Memory Master designation. But he didn't want to do Foundations this year, so we decided to focus on  Essentials instead. I really like doing just a half-day (it's a very tedious day for the parent - especially the morning in Foundations) but next year we will probably do both. Even though we were not participating in Foundations this year, the Director gave us the opportunity to do a Family Presentation to the group, which is something SuperKid really wanted to do, so we went in early yesterday to do that. SK talked a little bit about each member of our family, including the four pets, and then I talked about how our new puppy, Winston (aka Mr. Naughty) has helped us better understand our relationship with God. I know it sounds like a stretch, but trust me, it was very simple to use our pup's interactions with us as vivid and fun-for-the-kids examples of how much God loves us and why it is important to be grateful and respectful to God. Kids, and moms, love naughty dogs so at least we weren't boring!  lol

SuperKid is doing math, reading and writing this morning - and then we finally get to enjoy the good weather during an afternoon Nature Walk. SK gave a speech at Cub Scouts last week that won him the second place prize - a pair of binoculars that we can't wait to try out. We'll wrap up the afternoon with a piano lesson and then take SportsBoy to his tennis clinic. Typically I would fit in a workout after that, but because of my injuries I'm very limited in what I can do. So I'll probably actually cook something for dinner :-) and we'll have a nice quiet evening together after tennis. 

SportsBoy has one more day of school before Spring Break starts - hurray! We're all looking forward to it. We're not going anywhere, but we do plan to explore some fun things around town, relax and play some tennis. SportsBoy has try-outs for his Middle School the week school starts back, so he's got some work to do if he's going to make the team. There are about 30 boys going out for 12 spots, and SB has not been that into tennis since his former coach left. Within the last week, though, he's decided it would be cool to make the team - so we'll see what happens.

Okay, off to swelter in the summer-like weather! :-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What a Weekend!

SuperKid had an amazing weekend! He started off bright and early Saturday morning with a Piano Competition. He has been playing piano for just over a year, and I have to say I think he's really good. I don't know a lot about music, so that may not be the greatest credential - but others who do know music agree with me. So there! lol Anyway, SuperKid and Mr. Wonderful fought the St. Patty's Day traffic (parade day, of course!) to get downtown for the early start time. Luckily, they were so early they had no trouble finding parking (first sign that the Luck o' the Irish was with them). They checked in, SuperKid went to the practice rooms - and next thing they knew, SuperKid was zipped away to perform his music in front of the judges. No parents allowed. 

He came out all smiles and seemed very pleased with his performance. He usually feels pretty good about his performances, though, so it was hard for Mr. Wonderful to gauge just how well he may have done. But no time to ponder - they had to leave downtown to grab some breakfast and make it to swim team practice by 10:30. Then home for lunch, to the club for tennis practice and then back home for all-important play time (it was a beautiful day to play outside, by the way - 75 degrees on St. Patty's Day in Cleveland!?).

So, anyway, later SuperKid's piano teacher sent out an announcement - SuperKid had received the highest rating - Unanimous Superior! Woo-hoo! Such a great accomplishment for him! And for the other kids who received the same rating - congrats to all! SuperKid's teacher is truly amazing - she really expects - and gets - a lot from all of her students!

Then on Sunday, another great achievement! That afternoon, during a break in his Cub Scout Pack's Pinewood Derby, SuperKid and his fellow Webelo IIs received their Arrow of Light Awards. The highest honor a cub scout can earn, the Arrow of Light signifies the achievements of the Webelo II and his readiness to bridge over to Boy Scouts. Cub Scouts, for those of you who don't know the program, is basically leader-led. Boy Scouts, however, is more self-led - so earning the Arrow of Light is kind of a coming-of-age event, if you will. 

I had big tears on my face during the ceremony. I thought back to many years ago, when SuperKid was being diagnosed, and recalled the doctor's warnings that our son would likely never speak or play or be a part of society. And here he was, earning the Arrow of Light! Way to go, SuperKid !!

I am so very grateful to the many people who helped SuperKid achieve this award. His den leaders truly recognized his talents and made sure to give him opportunities to prove and stretch his capabilities - just as they did for all the other boys in the group. SuperKid is not the most popular boy in the den - he is still a bit socially awkward - but I have to say that it warms my heart when the other boys recognize his talents. At his last Homeschool den meeting, the boys had to give two speeches. SuperKid's speeches were really good, and it was so amazing to see the boys come up to him and say, "Good Job!" and talk amongst themselves about how good his speeches were. My heart melts at times like that, let me tell you!

So all in all, an amazing few days. Hurray for SuperKid and his superhero-like weekend!! :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Missing the Bus

So today, something new happened to us. SportsKid, who is not a morning person (show me a 13-year-old who is!) missed the bus to his Boys' Choir Ensemble Competition. The paperwork from his teacher said the bus would leave at 6:45 am. We took that to mean we needed to be there by 6:45. We got there at 6:46. No buses or cars in sight. We went to the high school, thinking the bus might be there. Nope. Back to the Middle School. We knocked on the door to catch the attention of the janitor who told us the bus had already left. Really? He thought it had pulled out a little before 6:45. It must have. It would have passed us on our way to the school if it had left any later than 6:42. 

So at 6:51, we set off for a town about 35 minutes north of us. We were both in a foul mood, though I was able to let it go much more easily than SportsKid was. He had never planned to join Ensemble this year, but at the choir try-outs his teacher talked him into it. He had aged up to a new school, and I imagine it felt good to be wanted. He was probably a little nervous and unsure of himself, not knowing if he'd find his place in this new building with new teachers. And so, when this teacher so badly wanted him for her ensemble, he signed up. I think he knew immediately it was a mistake. This teacher is really frazzled, the music they sing is not great, and it takes away from time he would like to be spending on other things. So at 6:51 on this Saturday morning, he was not happy that he missed the bus to go to something he didn't want to do anyway. Insult to injury, you know?

I drove him to the competition and on my way home, I got to thinking. It seems like lately I have been missing the bus. Lots of buses, actually. Sometimes it seems that everyone else in the world is finding themselves, leading lives they are proud of, accomplishing things. They are on the bus. So why is the bus always leaving me behind? I used to be on the bus. I used to be early for the bus. Now, I'm so late for the bus I wonder if it even exists. I know what time it's leaving, but I just can't seem to catch even a glimpse of its taillights. What happened - how did that change? 

I wish I knew. I wish I could figure out how to get back on that bus. I wish I could say that I know this is just a phase, and surely the bus will come around for me again. But what if it doesn't? What if my time on the bus is over? What do I do then? Could it possibly be that there is no place for me to go? That this is where I'm meant to be for the rest of my life? I don't have a bad life. Probably lots of people think they would like their bus to bring them to a life like mine. Our family is safe, happy and secure. We have what seems to be such trivial worries compared to others. Yet, I feel incomplete. I feel like I could be doing more, contributing more, feeling better about myself. For some reason, I really feel like I need to get back on that bus - I'm just not sure how to catch it anymore.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Holy Randomness, Batman! This One's a Rambler . . ..

Almost Valentine's Day! This year I think Valentine's Day is getting the short end of the stick. We had planned to have a very special (with candlelight!) dinner Saturday night as a family, but then heard from my sister-in-law that she had extra tickets to the play my niece is in. So we're all going to go to the play Saturday night instead.

Our Valentine's Day tradition has always been that the boys get a stuffed animal and a book. Now that they're getting older, though, our tradition needs to change a bit. SportsBoy has asked if he can have a Ravenclaw t-shirt instead of a stuffed animal. I thought that was an okay trade. SuperKid will get a stuffed animal he's been wanting. And both will probably get a gift card to the book store for a small book. I guess things change . . .

So this week went by in a blur. I am having a very hard time thinking about what we did. SuperKid was sick at the beginning of the week, so I do remember some nonsense about a "sick day." :-) We did go to the doctor, but "it's just a virus and not catching." Right. That's why the rest of us are all sick now. Because it's not catching. So anyway, a sick day sounds good to me today, but we're too busy for that!

Wednesday was our homeschool webelos meeting. We finished up all the requirements for our Citizenship badge except one. The mayor is coming to talk to our boys at the next meetting, and then that badge will be a wrap! We played some great flag, state and national anthem trivia games and the boys reviewed the poem, "I am Your Flag" that they will recite at our Pack meeting next weekend for all the families. They are very excited!

I finally broke down and bought the Bananagrams for my kids. I think it's good for SuperKid's thinking skills, and I'm hoping it will help with SportsBoy's spelling issues. Goodness! Spelling his tough for that boy. He can spell the same word two or even three different ways in the same paragraph. Doesn't even know he's done that. And his teachers at school say he's right where he should be in spelling. Seriously? It's hard to make him care about it when his teachers don't. (Don't worry - I'm still on it!)

Oh yeah! The most important thing of the week was Middle School Orientation for SportsBoy. That was last night. I sniffled and shivered through it, but was healthy enough to get the gist of what was going on. Two big decisions he needed to make - music (he's decided to do both band and choir) and foreign language (Chinese).

You gotta love how a preteen boy thinks. SB was adamant that he wanted to do only choir, no band because he "loves choir." Uh-huh. He does like choir, but loves? I suspect what he loves is the idea of not having to practice his trumpet. My response - "No problem. Take choir and we'll sign you up for piano lessons. Not playing an instrument is not an option." I have a way of being direct. Mr. Wonderful was more thoughtful in his presentation of that decision. He explained how adults often wished they could play an instrument and much harder it is to begin an instrument as an adult. He talked about how important it is to learn certain skills when you are younger so you have options when you are older. SportsBoy is a pretty deep thinker himself, actually. He totally got that discussion. But what clinched his decision was when he learned that if you do both choir and band, you just rotate between the two each day - it's not an extra class.

Then came the foreign language discussion. A choice between Chinese, French and Spanish. Mr. Wonderful took four years of French in high school and I took Spanish two years of Spanish in both high school and college (I took two years of German in high school, too, but it was too easy since my parents and grandparents actually spoke German at home). So SportsBoy decided on Chinese. He admitted he's not sure about this one, but there are two things that appeal to him. First, he liked the presentation the Chinese class gave to the sixth graders. Second, and yes, he did admit this to me, he likes the idea that I can't review his homework or "help" him study for this class since I know nothing about it. Sounds like someone wants some independence! :-)  So, anyway, it looks like I'll be learning Chinese this summer!! :-)

Okay, not sure there's much here to help anyone out this week - but that pretty much sums it up! Today SuperKid is trying out a new Chess Club at our local library, going to martial arts and then heading to the club for a swim lesson. We'll fit some school work in there, too - and before we know it I'm sure it will be time to wrap up another week!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Game Time!

Soooo, who's watching the Super Bowl? Me? Not so much, though it's definitely on a couple of TVs over here. Every year SuperKid and SportsBoy like to invite their grandparents over for a little tailgating before the game. My parents live 90 minutes away, so by half-time the party's over. We did have a good time again this year, though.

While I can hardly call myself a cook, and therefore this is not even close to a cooking blog - I am good at following recipes. SportsBoy, who is in charge of our menu each year, decided on brats and sliders for the "entree," I picked up some macaroni salad and potato salad from the grocery store and I made these delicious treats for the appetizers. Holy smokes were they amazing! I made about 40 (SuperKid wouldn't eat them, so there were only 7 of us who I figured would actually "nibble" at them) but they got DEVOURED before I could get them to the table. SportsBoy was begging me to make another batch - and let me tell you I was so tempted. I swear we're having them for dinner tomorrow night. By the way, definitely roll them in the brown sugar. So. Darn. Good.

We had a rousing game of The Cheese Touch Game before the Super Bowl began. Anyone have this game? Let me tell you, I have a love-hate relationship with The Wimpy Kid. Not even close to literature. BUT both my boys got turned on to reading with these books. SportsBoy has moved on - he's too old for the series but he couldn't help himself - he did have to read the latest one in the series when it came out. SuperKid, too, thinks these books are hilarious. Anyway, regardless of what you think of the books, this game is genius for a kid on the spectrum. Most of the questions require you to think about what someone else's experiences - not your own. It's hard for kids on the spectrum to think from other people's perspectives - so I like this practice! Also, there's a "do it like this" category where you have to act out different motions according to the adverb on the card (ex:  the word is "clumsily" so the player says to the player next to him, "walk like this" and the player acts it out. Then he might say to the following player , "eat like this," "sing like this," etc. Tricky - but I've been impressed with SuperKid's ability to act them out! This is a great game for this stage in SuperKid's development! Love it!

Well, I'm a couple of days late posting this, though I started it on Super Bowl Sunday. I'll post now and in a laster post talk about a few more of our favorite things. Do you have any family favorites that you want to share? I'd love to hear about them!