Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Get Well Wishes

My son blows me away practically every day.

I witness neurotypical individuals habitually fail to show both empathy and courtesy to other people.

But my son habitually displays both. It hasn't been without many conversations about why these things are so important. And it isn't at every opportunity that he feels these things naturally. But there are many moments when he does that make my heart swell so huge!

And today is one of those days. His best friend broke a bone in his foot this weekend. Today Zak made him a get well card.

In case the print is too small, he wrote: 
I hope the joke I'm making doesn't "break" our friendship. :) -Get it? (No offence) I've never broken anything so I don't know how you feel, all I know is it hurts and I HATE IT when I get hurt :( So I want to cheer you up. On the next page is a comic I made to cheer you up :)

The comic is about a boy who thinks bomber planes are coming. Another boy tells him to relax, that it's just birds. The first boy then says that it looks like they are dropping bombs. The second boy looks annoyed and says "those aren't bombs, they're..." SPLAT! The first boy chuckles, "Bird poop."

That to me is as perfect a definition of empathy as possibly could be put on paper. And, yes, he is still autistic. He is also empathetic, clever, creative, a gifted drawer, and funny! Never underestimate our kids!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Busy Bags: Texture Rubs

So when I was in the craft section I found a package of textured craft foam. And it is awesome! 

So I cut some rectangles, add some paper and crayons, and done! Busy Bag fun! This is one I could chill out with for a long time, very therapeutic.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tex-Mex Shrimp Burritos

So we needed lunch, and it needed to be easy. But everyone was sick of pb&j, we were out of tuna, and we were mac-n-cheesed out.

I looked around the kitchen and spied the can of enchilada sauce that Zak had left on the counter the other day asking what it was. And the lightbulb lit up! I knew what we were having!

So I gathered the rest of my ingredients:

2 lbs of frozen shrimp
1 lbs frozen mixed veggies
1 small can red enchilada sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
Cheddar cheese (optional)

First, thaw the shrimp, and drain the excess water. This is quick and easy with a collander and cool water.

After that, cook shrimp in a large skillet over med-high heat, until uniformly pink, approximately 8-10 min. Add enchilada sauce and frozen veggies. Stir to mix well. Bring to a simmer, and cook on med-low for another 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream until evenly mixed.

Allow mixture to cool and thicken for at least 5-10 minutes. 

Lay a burrito size tortilla on a plate. If desired spread a layer of preferred cheese in a circle in the middle of the tortilla. (We do desire, and added plenty of cheddar!)

Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of filling down the center of tortilla on top of the cheese. Fold one short end over filling. Next fold the other short end toward filling. Fold one side long-ways, tucking short ends under the long flap on each end. Then fold the other side long-ways or roll burrito over onto remaining flap. Place seam-side down on plate, and after resting a minute, the heat from the filling helps the sides soften and seal a little. I have found them to stay together better this way.

Eat and enjoy!

Salsa would compliment this nicely.  And the whole meal took about 45 minutes to prepare, including filling and folding the burritos. But I cook slowly and had many interruptions,  so you may be able to streamline and get the whole meal done in under 30 minutes!

We got about eight burritos from this recipe.  And had a bit of filling left over that was eaten alone, like a stew. And they were delicious! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Water Makes it Grow

So, late Friday afternoon, Zak strolls into the kitchen, gets down a plate, pours a little water in it and sets it down on the table.

"Can I show you something? It just takes a couple seconds."

"Sure, just a second." I finish the seam I was sewing and then scoot over to get a better view. 

Zak goes into performance mode.

"I have in my hand plain ordinary folded paper." (He holds it out to show Grace and I, and turns it over to show the underside.) 

"We all know that all living things need water to grow. Right?"

We nod.

"But what about plain ordinary paper? Water can't make paper grow...or can it?"

He sets the folded paper in the water, and his surprise blossoms before our eyes! 

"See, water can make even paper grow!"

We cheer and marvel. And then I make him do it again so I can take pictures.

We marvel again.

Zak runs off to go back to his YouTube viewing. But Grace and I are enamored and are now determined to grow paper ourselves. 

We drew, cut, and Grace colored hers. Then we carefully folded each petal into the center, one at a time.

When our papers were ready, so was my camera. But this time I took videos!

This is a super easy, fast, and completely free little project that will fascinate kids and adults! We are going to have to experiment with different types of paper, and shapes to see the effects! 

Thanks Zak! (And awesome people who post cool things on YouTube.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Blast: Lobo Goes to the Galapagos - and Chance to Win a $100 Amazon Card!

My friends, I am so excited to be a part of my first Book Blast! 

I am pleased to introduce:

Lobo Goes to the Galapagos by C. L. Murphy

About the Book

Title: Lobo Goes to the Galapagos (The Adventures of Lovable Lobo) | Author: C.L. Murphy | Publication Date: August 27, 2014 | Publisher: Peanut Butter Prose | Pages:32 | Recommended Ages: 3 to 7
Summary: Lobo returns in this adventure, sweeter and a bit salty this time. This lil' wolf pup finds that there's nothing like a little sea air to bring out the best in him and his unlikely tag-alongs. Take a trip to the Galapagos with Lobo and his right-hand raven, Roxy, as they help an injured, new feathered friend return home. Lobo faces some fears and witnesses the joy that comes from helping others in this "birds of a different feather DO flock together" tale.  

Book Preview



Amazon | iTunes


The Buzz

"Who knew geography and learning about animals could be this much fun? Lobo Goes to the Galapagos is my new favorite children's book and is highly recommended. " ~ Jack Magnus, Readers' Favorite

"While Ms, Murphy's uniquely whimsical and vibrant illustrative style is perfectly suited for the wild, tropical feel of this colorful book, and easily captures young readers' attention, there is also a subtle, quiet beauty to the storyline's overarching themes of friendship, trust, perseverance, and goodwill. Lobo's tenacious and giving spirit are delightfully captured in this fifth installment of puppy-fueled fun. In fact, it's sincerely so easy to fall in love with "Lovable" Lobo that I'd happily follow this well-meaning, big-hearted, wolf pup to the very ends of the earth!" ~ 5 Star Review, Indie Author Girl, Amazon

"What an adorable story! I read this to my nephew and he couldn't stop giggling at the silliness of Roxy as well as Lobo's cute friends Bobby, Sunny, Coconut and Sandra. The author was very clever in portraying a tale of friendship, adventure and excitement that is sure to enthuse young minds around the world." ~ 5 Star Review, Gina D., Amazon

About the Author: C.L. Murphy


While new to the children’s book writing and illustrating scene, C.L. Murphy (Cathy) has been doodling her way through life since she won a school wide poster contest in the third grade. She’s had the pleasure of working as an artist in residence, creating cartoons and painting murals with the children at local elementary schools. She adores the wonder and curiosity of young children. She feels that creating picture books is something that she was destined to do, after years of filing away so many ideas, while raising her two sons. She is a member of SCBWI. She lives amongst the wildlife in an enchanted forest in the beautiful Oregon wilderness with her husband and menagerie. She has always appreciated nature and animals have always played a major role in her life. The inspiration for the Lovable Lobo character came from a wolf that she raised for over 14 years. Check out her book series and discover that you, too, will find Lobo lovable.

Book Website | Author Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


* $100 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 100 gift card

  Prize: One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash prize (winner's choice)

Contest Ends: October 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by C.L. Murphy and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

MDBR Book Promotion Services  

We are putting this on our library list today, as well as planning to check out the other books in the series! Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you to author C.L. Murphy, and to Mother and Daughter Book Reviews!

New Look!

Welcome to hide-n-sensory-seeking's great new look!

I hope you like it.

I've been wanting to update a few things for a while, and to begin to expand a bit as well.

My blog has expanded and changed quite a bit since I first started out, much like our lives have.

I write about many more topics than when I first started out. I feel much more comfortable out here in the bloggosphere. And I feel I have found my feet, and my voice, in major part by being able to put my thoughts into words here and connect with others who are or have been in similar seasons of life.

Most features on the blog are the same, even if they are a different color now.

I will be adding a few things here and there and I will share them as we go along.

One thing you might have noticed, my Username is slightly different. A little more grown up, and a little easier for networking. (But don't worry, I still don't take myself too seriously.)

Also, I am on Twitter now! Look me up: @JudithLloy ! Would love to hear from any of my readers, and very much appreciate the occasional shout out! If you are on Twitter or other social media, and you like something you read here, please feel free to post a link back here for your friends! There are icons on the bottom of each post that make linking up super easy.

Another new feature is in my Profile. My email is now visible for those who would like to contact me that way. I am always happy to hear from you and will respond as time allows (I do have 3 crazy kiddos).

Something else you will hopefully be seeing periodically is special posts related to book promotions and possibly even book reviews! Much of this is still in the getting organized stage, but I'm excited! And I promise, I will not promote anything that I am not willing to read by myself or with my kiddos. To get more recommendations, follow me on Goodreads.

If you want to get new posts by email, just put your email address in the box on the sidebar to the right. New posts can be read as an email, or just click on the title of the post to be directly linked to it here. If you would like to add a comment, use the title link to bring you to the post here, and then add your comment!

I love getting comments so please, share your thoughts! Most everyone here has always had very kind things to say. I will only delete comments that are clearly spam, derogatory or abusive, or that contain profanity. I respect others views, but appreciate courtesy and kindness.

If you have an idea, question, or something you would like to see here, email me and I will see what I can do! I may not always be able to directly respond, though I shall try. Click on my Profile to get my email.

 I appreciate so much all of you who take the time to check in here. Thank you so much to all of you who read and comment!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Busy Bags: Threading

I was thinking of making some of these from scratch, but I stumbled upon these in the Back to School aisle, they were a great bargain, and much cuter than I would have made by hand, plus saved me the time!

These are fantastic for on the go! In the car, waiting rooms, or in the grocery cart...they are quiet, not to many parts to keep track of, and fun to look at! And if you tie a lace through a hole in each of the cards, that makes it even easier to keep track of.

Kit can't really lace a whole card yet, but she likes pulling the string back and forth and poking it through the holes. That's okay by me!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Word of the Week: Sewn

It may seem odd to choose that word to describe this past week, but it has several meanings for me.

The fact that I have been piecing together eight of the ten blankets that I am behind in making for new (and some not so new, more like 1 1/2 already) babies is obviously the literal application of the word for this week. But those blankets and the thread that binds them together also hold illustrative value for me this week.

The reason I am so far behind in making them is because the tapestry of our life ran into some huge snags and snarls around the time several of these new babies were greeting the world.

All my energies, all my attention, all my everything was being poured into surviving the last two plus years. So pulling out the sewing machine was not even on the checklist.

Autism has a not-so-funny way of doing that. Of pushing to the fore, even when things are going smoothly. It's like being left-handed, in that one always is. A lefty can learn to do just about anything with the right hand. Many of these tasks may take much more effort and concentration though, even proving to be very difficult if not impossible, and there are always things that will be exceptionally easier and more comfortable when done in harmony with one's natural tendency.  One simply cannot take a day off from being autistic either. My children and father-in-law are no exceptions to this. Naturally, that presents unique challenges. Often.

Before we had backup by way of an amazing Occupational Therapist, in fact even before we had the key of an official diagnosis, we were consumed by the overwhelming and competing needs of several individuals who are at times highly driven by tendencies that are part of being autistic. Most intense were Kit's needs, which were engulfing and exhausting much of the time.

This was hard to navigate all on our own, but I want to carefully emphasize that I do not view autism as an enemy. I could never view any part of my children as an enemy, and autism is no different. While having a diagnosis has been a key that has opened up a few doors to helping us help our children find balance and excel, it is important to note that they are people, above all else. And our job is to help them feel loved, accepted, intelligent, and capable. To see the fabric they are made of and to love it.

It felt for a while that we were being over-stretched. Our seams were certainly being tested. And still are at times. And we have gotten a few rips and stains along the way as well, but we are working on reinforcing, putting things back together, and learning to view them as places where we learned something, overcame an obstacle, or survived a storm.

Families are like patchwork quilts. Each of us is a piece. With our own colors, textures, and stories. Each new addition makes the pattern richer and warmer. Sometimes it takes a while to find where each piece fits just right. Sometimes a piece gets worn or torn.

But we love it, the whole miraculous work of art.

Because we are a family.

Sewn together by love.

Linked up with:

The Reading Residence

Saturday, September 20, 2014

When Good Moms Have Bad Days

This week was tough. And those feelings were fairly evenly distributed throughout the many veins of activity that contribute our family pulse.

The kids were draggy about schoolwork, even the fun stuff.

An unusual excess of energy was never quite burned off, despite bouncing and crawling around on the floor like puppies. So the noise level and bickering that often ensued was very painful and exceedingly annoying to this mommy this week!

Much grumbling occurred in regard to chores and who might be neglecting them, including me.

I spent a rather embarrassing amount of time doing nothing but drinking coffee and watching my kids play with the chickens.

An unprecedented amount of spillage happened, with relatively few witnesses,  but many fingers pointed at the cat. But the things he spilled could easily have been set in places he has little or no access to by said finger pointers.

Because of the above, I have basically been washing towels over and over and over and over. This means I've fallen steadily behind in the laundry department again. And that which has been washed and dried (sometimes after being rewashed because it was forgotten about too long) is sitting on the couch and spilling onto the floor waiting to be folded. That which is folded is waiting ever so patiently in the laundry baskets to be put away. And the dance continues...

In the end, we did math. And watched science videos.

And prepared for Zak's public bible reading on Tuesday night for the Theocratic Ministry School at our local Kingdom Hall. (He did great. He still needs the stool to reach the microphone, and I love that despite him growing so much in the last few months, he still looks like a little boy on the stage. A lot bigger than when he started in the school five years ago, but still little.)

And we read a lot. It may not have been as hands on busy as usual around here, but it was book heavy. You can read about that more in this post.

One of the things we did thoroughly was history. We read about Sparta and Athens, the war between Greece and Persia, the Peloponnesian War. 

Then we looked up info and specs on the Parthenon and roughly sized out a column in our living room. 

Which then led to a discussion about the properties of marble and looking up different patterns and colors of marble (there is basically marble in every color, their favorites were the dark blue,  blood red, and purple examples we found!).  

That lead to a discussion and looking up pictures of Greek sculpture, which resulted in two basic reactions from my children. 

One, quiet uttering of the amazing life-likeness without any modern tools or lasers. 

And two, uncontrollable giggling every time a sculpture of naked people popped up. 

Which was a lot. 

Because the Greeks were a bit obsessed with naked people. Oy!

And then I sent the big kids off to make their own sculptures from humble clay. 

That was fun.

Another learning highlight of the week was getting the kids going again with music!

Over the summer I gave the kids their choice of any instrument that we had reasonable access to an instructor for. I will admit that I was secretly hoping they would both pick something that I have absolutely no idea how to teach like french horn and trombone, or drums and obo.


Zak picked piano. Grace chose violin. And Kit was beyond excited when I pulled out our tiny purple violin and told her that she would get to learn to play it! So, now that I have other students again,  I especially have zero excuses to not buckle down and teach them too. Attempts in the past, while indeed plagued by a few arguments that I doubt would have occurred if their teacher were not also their mother, eventually petered out.  And it was my fault for not giving it as much weight as any other subject we do for school.

Yes. In short, I was lazy and irresponsible.

And you know what else? Sometimes I don't wash the dishes! Or mop! Or recycle every jar, can, or cereal box! Actually I don't do these things a lot. The dishes more than the others though.

Because, it's simply not humanly possible to do it all.

And I prefer to be human. And to read.

What did you let go of this week? Did you have any good human/bad day scenarios?

Linked up with:

Weekly Wrap-Up

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reading Roundup

The last two weeks have been very busy, very...um...full of small challenges and a few not so small ones. Thankfully, we have our local library as well as a home library full of places to escape to. 

Sometimes we escape together, sometimes we fly solo, but either way we've had some very good reads!

So here is the short list (no sarcasm intended, despite the length of this post. this really is the condensed version!) I will dispense with writing out each title and author, they can (mostly) clearly be seen in the pictures, just for the sake of expediency.

With Kitty Bitty:

We didn't utilize this audio-book as much as I had wanted to, only using it in the car a couple times. But going into this next week, I now know where both a portable cd player and a larger slightly less portable boombox are that I can either hook up ear phones to, or move to a place where her book won't disturb the big kids. So we are going to keep giving audio books a try.

Kit's favorite this round!

This one did not capture her like the "L" Sound Box did, but she did love the pictures of the iguanas.

She loved the pictures, but never once let me read the whole story to her! I thought it was an imaginative story with really nice artwork.

She liked this one better! The pictures are great. In fact even the big kids enjoyed it together, Zak did funny voices and had Grace collapsing in giggles. I don't think the story itself is that funny, but the pictures do lend themselves to some pretty funny ad-libs.


All of the kids really enjoyed this one multiple times. Kit loved the I Spy format and looking for the objects. The big kids and I just really enjoyed the different paintings and drawings. Below is my favorite.

I am all for reading the book before seeing the movie, so this crisp new copy of Paddington caught my eye at the library. I somehow missed reading this growing up, but my kids will not be able to say the same. Victor likes to sit in while we read this one because I do all the British accents, however, my apologies to any readers in the UK as I'm sure you would find my renditions appalling! We are looking forward to seeing it when it comes out on DVD as well.

We finished On the Banks of Plum Creek as well this week! We will finish Paddington first, though, before launching into Anne of Green Gables!

Grace was reading:

She waited patiently for about ten minutes for the Librarian to come back and help her find this book specifically. And this is at least the second time she has read it.  

I am completely cool with the kids rereading their favorites, but I also want them to keep exploring, so sort of an unspoken rule is that they get at least one book they have never read before as well.  She and I spent a very looooooong time perusing the juvenile section to find her a second novel, which she did not particularly want to get but I insisted urged her to get. After rejecting a multitude of recommendations, she decided these might be worth a try. They have not made a terribly big splash with her though. 

She is thoroughly enjoying being an independent reader, but she is not very adventurous in trying out new genres and titles. She says she likes books in a series, but each one I've pointed out so far has been met with a bit of blah. But we will land on the right one at some point! I might get some to read out loud to perhaps peak her interest in some she might otherwise overlook. Suggestions are welcome!

Zak Attack:

I had put this one in Zak's locker to eventually get to for school. He found it and read the whole thing in about two days. "It was really good." He commented, very nonchalantly. 

This historical graphic novel is one of a set of eight. The set was an addition to the kid's school supplies this year. I find these in the bathroom a lot. That is, in a very backwards way, a testament to their engaging qualities as good reads, because Zak is picky about his bathroom reading. Moving on now...

He must like it, he rechecked it out for another two weeks. He gave me a quick synopses, which, like many things, I managed to forget most of. But it has cool inventions and time travel and someone has to save the world, so sounds like a pretty cool adventure to me. 

He loves these. He owns several, always knows when the new ones are coming out, and rereads them constantly. If there is not one of these or a Ripley's Believe it or Not book in the library bag, then Zak either missed Library Day or he was kidnapped by aliens. Which he would now know what to do because he has been reading:

Another addition with this year's school purchases. Zak again finished it in under three days. He said it was awesome, but there were some pretty impractical, if not impossible, techniques he was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to make happen in the event of an emergency. Like making a tornado shelter in one's back yard. Out of a school bus. Because...yeah. 

So that was our book list of late. That does not include Victor's regular visits to multiple online news outlets, with with he kept me well informed about world and economic news by sending me random texts throughout each day such as:

India's trade deficit with China has climbed to more than $40 billion from $1 billion in 2001-2002.

And maps and graphs. 
And Darth Vader jokes.

We are, at the very least, eclectic. 

Happy weekend everyone!

Linked up with:

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Monday, September 15, 2014

Busy Bags: Pizza!

So all of the previous bags that I made were strictly from materials I had laying around already. But I've had many ideas buzzing around that I have been compiling into a list, and finally went shopping for a few materials that I didn't have.

Among these items is felt pieces. Felt squares are very cheap, about 15 cents each for the plain ones. So I picked out several each of various colors.

And voila! We have pizza!

Our Pizza Busy Bag consists of one light brown triangle pizza crust, three circles of red pepperoni, two orange mushrooms, two green bell peppers, and a handful of cheese! And I think we are going to add some olives, onions, and sausage as well!

Grace, 8, LOVES this! She wants to play with it several times a week, and she expands the game by getting out the play dishes and playing restaurant. She takes our orders, (I prefer Vegetarian, Zak likes Pepperoni). She likes it so much I might have to make another one, just so she can feed two people at once! And she gets Kit completely involved, both as a customer, and busy in the kitchen. Kind of funny, I started making these bags with Kit in mind, but Grace is turning out to be the one that is most interested and plays with them the longest!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Homeschool Highlights: Princess Dresses and Letter Lessons

For the last couple of months, Kit's attire of choice is usually a fluffy "princess dress", and we have several that rotate through the laundry cycles. And a few tutu skirts that are acceptable princess garb as well.

Many nights we are only able to peel them off of her by promising that she can wear them again the next day. (We have even let her sleep in them, but we figured out that they were not contributing to her sleeping well throughout the night, so we try to get her to wear well fitted pjs whenever possible. Everyone has a better night this way.) So unless there is major spillage, she will often wear the same one a couple times a week. 

I'm ecstatic for this development and the fact that it has lasted as long as it has. A year ago, nothing with tulle could even come close to her skin! And while she still is sensitive to rough edges, softer tulle, especially between layers of satin or cotton is no longer an issue for her! In fact, where she used to simply declare it a Naked Day when clothes were bothering her, she now asks for a Princess Dress instead!

And another huge milestone that these dresses help her through is her dislike of having her hair touched, much less brushed and styled. Though not even close to every day yet, she tolerates this so much better now! Occasionally, she even comes and asks to have her hair done in two braids, her favorite.

While technically not about homeschool, my purpose in telling you this is so that when looking through the pictures in the rest of this post, you can now understand why she is only in two different outfits even though I took pictures on several different days. ;)

Preschool Throws:

In keeping with the princess theme, and in an attempt to keep her busy for a while and not be irritating the big kids, Kit and I made a chalk princess. I taped a couple long sheets of butcher paper to the floor, and outlined my sleepy little princess with blue chalk. After she rolled off the paper, she picked out colors and I added embellishments to our paper princess. Most of the details are too light to see in any pictures, but the tiara stood out beautifully! (The right hand however looked a bit like it had a run in with a swarm of angry hornets.)

When Kit gets overtired but won't nap (which is pretty much any day Daddy isn't here to put her down for her nap. Any day Daddy is working basically) she has a tendency to start throwing things. From bath toys to books to breakfast cereal, when she gets tired and dysregulated, she chucks 'em. When I mentioned this to Miss V, her OT, several weeks ago, she recommended setting Kit up with an activity that encourages positive throwing. I remembered this on Thursday when Kit's way of telling me she was done putting stickers on the letter "I" was by catapulting the sticker sheets.

A quick scan of the room spied a box. I grabbed the box, propped it up on a kitchen chair, and told Kit we were done with stickers, and it was time to play a game. She was curiously examining the box and chair in the middle of the floor while I pulled the basket of bean bags out of her locker in the other room. I slid the trampoline in line with the box, about six feet away, and set down the basket on the trampoline. 

"Try to toss the bean bags into the box!" I did not have to repeat myself more than a nod to her raised eyebrows. She tossed them all, one at a time. We laughed when they missed, celebrated when they landed, with a thud, in the box. Then we retrieved them all and repeated the game three times, until she dumped the whole basket onto the trampoline and proceeded to bounce and giggle. 

Below is the lowercase "i", decorated with hearts, which was given to daddy as a present upon his homecoming. Our spur of the moment bean bag toss saved it from being tossed, torn, or otherwise tortured.

Other days this week proved far easier for Kit to cope with. On Tuesday, she picked out her uppercase foam letters to try out. She enjoyed every aspect of this activity, from taking them all out, to me handing her letters and her naming them as she looked for their spots, to squishing them back into position, to the pictures of things with each starting letter. Toward the end she started to dump and scatter them, the sign that she was done. Next week we will try the lowercase letters.

A little later, she played with her magnet maze. The little wand was frustrating her at the beginning. She could get the pieces going just fine, but she wanted to scoot them along so fast the little magnet balls couldn't keep up, and soon the wand was too far to keep the pull through the plastic, and they would roll backward again. So I gave her a larger magnet wand to try, but she really just liked sticking that to the smaller wand and pulling them apart again. After watching me several times and asking for a help a few more, she finally got the hang of going slowly to pull the balls along. Great job Baby Girl!

I have very little recollection of what happened on Wednesday. I'm guessing that is probably not because it was such a fantastic success of a day. There is a very likely chance that the big kids did math, played with the robotics set, and finished a few chores while Daddy entertained Baby, and Mommy hid in the bedroom. Moving on...

On Thursday evening, Kit suddenly jumps off the trampoline, scurries underneath it on her back, and after a few seconds wiggles back out and reports that ''this is my dad's car. I'm fixing it. It's broken." and then shimmies back under. She popped out periodically to report on the progress. 

When she was all done, I asked her if it had been "a problem with the alternator?" 
"The starter?" 
"Oh, well, the battery maybe?"
"No, it wasn't the battery...it was the...the...the engine!"
"Wow! The engine? What part of the engine?"
"The whole engine!"
"Wow! That is a big job to fix! Did you fix it?"

And not even a smudge on her princess dress! 

7th Grade Woes

This week for the big kids wasn't quite as exciting. 

Math has been steady but not exactly "problem free". This is the look of a boy sick of long column subtraction:

"I already know how to do this! Why do I have to so many of these again! Why can't I just start with new stuff I don't know yet?! Can I do electronics early?"

"It's good that you know it. You don't actually have to do so many of them, about three per lesson is good with me. It's important to go through the review material to make sure there isn't an important foundation point that you missed. No, you may not, stop asking."

Repeat this conversation for every math concept in the lesson, multiplication, division, writing long numbers in digits, etc. Basically everything except Roman Numerals. There he just gets irritated that the Romans didn't come up with a numeral for zero. And then asks to play electronics early.

3rd Grade Lows

Grace's math difficulties mostly stem from her difficulty with flexible thinking. For example: Despite me for the past year and a half using, with high frequency, the terms addition and subtraction, Grace still asks every time she sees those words or hears them what they mean. In her mind those procedures are called adding and taking away. Period. Her brain has closed the door on any further terminology, no matter how hard she is trying to open it. My job this weekend is to make Grace some keys. 

I call them Cheat Sheets, but they are tools to help lower the drawbridge and let information to pass freely between page and mind. She is highly visual, so I have to give her visual cues. So I will make some sheets that show familiar word = unfamiliar word = example. She needs these in several subjects. On the bright side though, once she knows something or understands, she remembers it forever. I therefore, am very careful about how I explain things to her, because once it's in, it's etched in stone.

The area that is giving her the most trouble however is, no surprise, writing. The act of writing is exceptionally complex. And Grace struggles. I recently have been seeing signs that part of her struggle may be due to weak hand strength. I need to investigate further, but her grip when she tries to squeeze my finger is not nearly as tight as I expected, even though her body is shaking with effort. And she tires quickly of putty with a thicker consistency than play dough. Hopefully we might get professional insight sometime soon just to make sure. 

In the meantime though I try to make the task less tiresome. I purchased some pencil grips that help promote proper grip. And we have switched back to the wider ruled writing paper, with a space between the rows, and the dashed line between top and bottom solid lines. This provides a better visual guide and built in space, leaving her mind freer to concentrate on letter formation and spelling. Her letters have significantly improved again since the switch. For a while her "n"s and "h"s all looked the same, among other letter issues. She wasn't keen on reverting to letter practice, but she commented herself on how much better they looked after.

But Pintrest Knows!

Another way I wanted to help her was to let her focus on spelling, while easing up on how much fine motor was required. I saw this on Pintrest, and knew we would have to try it. Shaving cream was the ticket to giving each kid what they needed at the same time! 

Kit got to smooth and smush up to her elbows, and she did! She totally got in the zone, repeating the same line from Diary of a Wimpy Kid over and over, making the big kids giggle because she doesn't even get the joke. Not that she cared one bit!

Zak, my other mover and shaker, was completely still in body, while his hands kept busy. He would quickly spell in the cream the word I read out loud, then after I got a quick look, he was free to mold and mash until we moved on to the next word. When his hands are engaged completely like this, his brain and body seem to relax, and his constant need to say out loud whatever pops into his head seems to relax, and he can quietly manage to be with us. This is a difficult state for him to attain without electronic means, or a really good book. I love these moments. 

His calm contributed enormously to Grace's. She feels the pressure of needing to hurry up and write her words when we have been doing this as a pencil and paper activity. Pressure makes her flustered. Flustered makes her frustrated. Frustration makes her anxious. And anxiety shuts down her brain. 

Combine those things with the already difficult physical task of writing...recipe for disaster.

But today, without the mental strain of an advanced big brother waiting on her to finish, and without the confines of a pencil and paper, she was able to coordinate her mind and hands! The most words we have been able to do in the last two weeks was twelve, ten of those being base words that we had worked on day after day for several days. Then I stopped before she got overly frustrated. Writing in the shaving cream, she was able to spell ten brand new words, and I only had to really help her twice! 

I'm so glad this helped because the more things we can combine and have the kids do together the easier it is on me. I was beginning to fear that spelling might not be a subject that we can combine, but now I think we will be fine. We just had to find our balance and the right medium.

I might also try sand, or maybe salt. (Both ideas also seen on Pintrest ;) It mostly depends on whether or not Kit decides to start throwing it. Though this might be something we could take outside and try as well. 

There was a lot more to our week, but this is more than plenty for now. I'm compiling another post of what we are reading. And a few other activities that kind of deserve their own posts as well. 

So, happy weekend to all!

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