Oct 272016

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When looking something to add to our school day, Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal For Kids caught my attention.  It looked fun, the picture on the cover intrigued me, and the idea seemed silly enough to hold the attention of my kids.

George has several variations of books such as this one, he tends towards the artistic thinking.  Jack, however, does not have any such books.  He is usually a black and white thinker, taking to artistic things only if it suits his fancy.  I was not sure how he would react to this book, though was hoping for something unexpected that he could do during the day when he was bored.  It would also act as a journal of his life at this point in time.

Me: A Compendium was picked with Jack in mind.

When the book came, I called him into the living room, handing him the book without saying anything.  The look in his eye was one of excitement, “Is this for me?!”  Seems it was going to be a hit with my practical child.  (George was a bit jealous, till I reminded him that he already had two books like this.  He still wanted to ‘help’ fill in some of the pages.)

As with any new book, I encouraged Jack to get to know the book before doing anything with it.  Starting at the most obvious place, the cover, he asked why it was blank.  “That is for you to fill in.  You write your name in the blank rectangle, either only your first or any combination of your names you choose. This is your book.”

Turning it over to the back cover, the questions continue.  The child is asked for favorites, descriptions of various body parts, and other information about likes/dislikes.


The biggest surprise, though, was the inside of the cover.   “Super Secret Stuff” was a hit with this 7 year old.  He did not even want me to tell George or Dad about it.  “Mom, it is secret!  That is what secret means; others do not know about it.”  We had not even cracked the cover yet and he was already smitten with the book and the notion of filling it in as he saw fit.


Several pages were filled in the first day.  One of them surprised me, “This is what I’ll be doing when I grow up…”  Up till this point, he has always wanted to be a construction worker, or a constructions worker who works part time as a policeman.  This was the first time he said he wanted to, solely, be a policeman, “to help keep people safe”.  Being safe is a common thing he worries about, so this was not so surprising.

“As long as you do not want to be the person the police are chasing, I think it is a great idea”, a comment of mine that resulted in the oh so cute, “Mooooommmm” with the accompanying eye roll.

me-compendium-book-collageThe second picture took a bit of interpretation on his part before I understood what was going on – playing Frisbee with Dad.  Again, not a surprise, as this was drawn at a time where my husband was busy and not able to play with them as much as he, and they, would have liked.

Knowing Jack is not a huge drawer, I was very surprised and pleased to see how quickly he wanted to pick up drawing utensil and get to work filling in the paper pages.  If this is what it takes for my fine-motor activity adverse kid to draw, I will buy these books all day long.

I have no doubt Me: A Compendium will last us quite a while.  The cover is hard back and the pages are a heavy paper.  The drawing and fill-in-the-blank prompts are diverse, helping keep it interesting through the whole book.

Since drawing in it the first time, Jack has asked several times where this book was, as he wanted to work on it more.  This fact alone makes it a five-star book in my opinion, especially as it is not a particular cartoon construction worker and his builders, nor an alien race that can morph into various vehicle forms to fight other bad mechanical alien here on Earth.  This is a book that makes him stop or slow down, think, and transfer those thoughts to something outside of himself.  There are no right or wrong answers, and no grades.  So, if your police car looks more like a lump of coal, that is okay. 😉

I thought I would give Jack a chance to share his thoughts, in his own words.  Here is what I got:

Me: Jack, what did you think of this book?

Jack: (glancing over, sees the book on the screen, and gives a sly, shy smile, goes back to building his Lego creation.)

Me: Well, what did you think?

Jack: I don’t know.  I haven’t finished it yet.  I can’t tell you what I think of it till I finish it.

Me: Well, up till now, what have been your thoughts?

Jack: (silence, but smiling.)

And there you have it.  He liked it but was unwilling to put it into words, the normally accepted form of communication for creatures of our species, yet a form that Jack often does not like to use.  Hey, at least he did not spell it out in the air, as he is inclined to do at times.  That would have been harder to transcribe.


As I was writing this review, I had another thought, “This would be great for a kid in Foster Care.”

Why? It would help create a scrap book of sorts, a place to write things down and store memories at a time where other forms may not be available.  At times there are gaps in a child’s photographic history or “This is Me in Grade ___” papers from school are lost.  Giving them a sturdy place to record various facts from their life at this moment, a way to possibly even share them with the adults in their lives, is a great way to encourage emotional connects, a connection with their personal story, and a record of this time in their life.

Me: A Compendium does not require batteries, is gender neutral, and easy to transport.  As the holiday season approaches, if you are considering being a part of a gift-giving effort, even if not for Foster Care specifically, this would be a great gift option to keep in mind.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Jul 152016

Kid Garden Helper

As the mother of two kids with ADHD, one hyperactive and the other inattentive, I can attest to many of the 28 Things Nobody Tells You About Having A Kid With ADHD.  It is more than having an active kid, and it takes parenting to a whole new level, especially when you add in early childhood trauma and other equally fun things.  Each of these hit me at the core, they really are true, deeply personally so many times.

These are not just “yes, my little Jimmy/Jenny also annoys me sometimes … I can not even look at Facebook for an hour without him/her whining to me about something” or “I always have crayons and scrap paper with me for those times we have to wait.  Otherwise we would never get through that 30 minute wait time at the doctor’s office.”  If you are one of those people, please, do not even try to commiserate with me.  I know you mean well, but it only makes me practice biting my tongue more.  That really hurts after a while.  Besides, it only makes me feel like more a failure in this parenting arena.  I already feel that way really, really, often and do not want to feel that way more.  Please do not be surprised if I stop talking about my kids to you, or even if I stop talking to you altogether.

Here are some thoughts I had as I went through the list, you may want to open the article in another window as you read through below:

Signs and visuals have helped, but only go so far, which is why we have “underwear check” most days … to make sure it is on AND not backwards. (Point #2)

FYI – Yes, I know my kid’s shoes are on the wrong feet, but I am tired of telling him yet again to put them on right. So, please do not ask me if I knew they were on wrong. We got to where we were going on time (ish) and that was higher on my goals list for the day.  If they bother you, feel free to tell my child who put them on, not me. I learned a long time ago which is the right foot and do not need the extra practice, thank you very much.

#3 –  I used to think I was super patient and calm.  Then I was given my two kids to raise and learned what it meant to be prideful.  That was a tough lesson.  Now I am learning to say, “I was wrong for loosing my temper.” and “I’m sorry.”

#4 – If you do not think this is true, wait till you realize your kid has NO friends to invite him to birthday parties (while brother seems to go to them all the time) and you have to try and explain why. This is also why we invite whole families, when we do invite people for parties.

#5 – After talking with a friend who had two very well behaved kids and one very active kid, whom we love, I found out she was this way until they began parenting their active kid and had an “ah, ha” moment.  Yes, you may be a great parent, but it could also be that you just have easy kids.  Don’t judge.

#6 – Sensory issues surprised me, it is something like the chicken and the egg. In our case we tried addressing all the other items first to help reduce the ADHD behaviors.  When it became obvious there was ADHD involved, we then addressed the ADHD to help reduce all the other items. Neither will ever go away, so we are learning to live with both and “tolerate” some things that normal life brings, like having to do things you do not like to do.

#7 – “Oh, they are just boys.” That is true only up to a certain point. Even I tried to tell myself this for too long.  After a while you have to admit something else is happening.  Staying in denial can actual cause longer term harm to their brains; imagine hearing “no”, “stop that”, “why can’t you do xyz”, “sit still”, “focus”, etc all day long.  After a while it really starts to affect you physically and emotionally.

#8 – They might, but we did go a year giving them almost no (and I really do mean ‘almost none’) candy, sweets, etc.  We were those mean parents who told grandparents and friends that our kids could not eat those things at Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween (which we didn’t celebrate, so this was fairly easy), Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

#9 & #10 – very much YES! Yet I still relearn this point over and over.  I could give you example after example of success and failures here, but will not waste your time doing so.  Let’s just say that I am not kidding when I say I have to prepare for a trip to the (grocery store, church, post office, museum, restaurant, special event, etc.)  This included going over what are expected behaviors, what is planned, what might happen, who might be there, etc.  Though I have to make sure not to set expectations too high, as if they are not met we have a melt down.  Not pretty.

#12-#14 – Ah, medication. Everyone has an opinion. 🙂 Even I have changed my views on this, somewhat, after living life as a parent of two ADHD kids. (P.S. we really have a goal for at least one kid that goes like this – “Not Get Arrested”. Yup, setting the bar high over here.)

#15 – Yup, I already know people (even family) have already labeled at least one of my kids. Because of that I choose not to share about our daily life with them.

#18 – And even those within the school. Thankfully we are in position to find an alternative to those issues I less than love. Well, usually.

#20 – There are movies/video games I am ready to mark as “Banned!”in our home. I really do not feel like hearing about them for hours. Every day.

#21 – I used to wonder how our bathroom got so dirty so quickly, “Mom’s never did.” Then I started paying closer attention and realized it was not due mainly to my homemaking skills, but to the aiming skills of others. “Look where you point!” Is a common refrain in our house.

#22 – I really thought this was in our future. Instead we got help, home schooled, worked with public schoolteachers/adjusted IEPs, took more parenting classes, added in therapies, and sought resources. 1.5 years later I think be might avoid it.

#26 – Yes, this is something I deal with often.  I have to remember that we all have issues, some are just easier to hide than others.  It is easy to let the jealousy turn into anger toward the child.  This is something I have to keep my finger on, especially during the harder than normal times.

#27 – Surprisingly, even in church there are few who do this. I have made sure to tell them how much I appreciate their efforts.

All of this is to say … I love my children.  They are great people.  They have fun personalities, individual likes and dislikes, they love to help, and they are maturing.  If I were to dwell on all the points above and never on the other things, I think it would be hard to get out of bed each day.

Yes, all the above are a reality in my life at one point or another, but they do not define who we are inside.


Feb 242016

wooden forest path

Looking back can be a good thing.  It gives us perspective on how far we have come or back slid, or it can give us new energy to keep going toward our goals.  We might even be able to relearn something we have forgotten or learn something we did not understand at that time.

Here are a some posts from years past.  These were written during this time of the year.

This Week in School- December 28, 2014  – oh how lost I felt during this time.  “How do I implement what is in my head without overwhelming myself and my kid?  How do I get from Point A to Point Q?”  

In the end I ditched the worksheets.  They are there if the kids want to do them, but they really were busy work, one of the things Jack could not stand but which they did a lot of in his public school classroom.  I came to find out that he has this line of thought, “If I already know how to do it, why do I need to keep doing it 10 times?  There is Life to live. Seize the Day, because it might get to be bedtime and there may be more things I did not get to build.”  I kept pressing them for longer than was needed; I wanted to make sure Jack did not get behind … now I laugh as this kid learned even while taking a month off this past November/December.  

The method that ended up working the best was a version of unschooling with Charlotte Mason influences for the 2015 spring semester.  We had to work through all the bad habits and issues triggered by having gone to 3-4 months of Kindergarten.  It was not the act of going, but of having to tolerate that (loud, chaotic, many people around you who are unpredictable, boring because you had already figured out what they were teaching you but they made you sit and do fine motor skills anyway which you found tedious and difficult and pointless) environment and those demands, of having to leave the environment which made you feel safe.  There were further issues raised by having to go, but I will not go into them here.  He had to learn to love learning again, to not react to the word “school” negatively.

I started by changing the word and making it look nothing like what he had been doing.  Almost a year later and he is asking to do the things I had tried to implement last spring and this past fall.  Things that used to cause arguments and tantrums he is asking to do.  We have found a groove and I am hoping the end of it is a long way off.

Looking back, attachment is at the center of our reason for home schooling.  We are not a “here is your work, go find a quiet corner and do it” sort of family.  Well, we could be if I wanted them to never get anything done beyond playing with their toy cars.  I found that even improving his reading had to come from a place of relationship, he needed to feel safe and encouraged to step out on this new journey.  Once I figured out what was going on, I was able to change what I had been trying to do and results were quickly apparent.  In other words, I had to convince him that he really could read and do it in a way that was not confrontational or overwhelming.  Thank you “The Fox On A Box” for providing that doorway. (a non-affiliate link)

Now the logical follow-up, “if you home school Jack, why not George?”  Because no two kids are alike and neither are their needs.  George seems to need the extreme predictability of schedule that school provides.  We do continue to school over summer, mainly for George’s benefit.  Also, the way I have him do his homework very much is reflected in our style of home school, which reflects our style of living.  An example: last night he was to “work with money”.  That is what his homework sheet said.  I handed him my spare change jar and asked him to sort the money into piles.  Then I spend about 1 minute asking him about the different coins.  Today, with a snow day upon us, I will give him the envelope of money from our produce stand and have him do the same thing.  (Yes, I still have money from the stand that needs to be divided up; it has become a running joke between my friend and I.)  It will not be a long lesson, it will not involve a worksheet, and it will involve the real item.

I have been feeling like he is missing out, so I have begun saving one of the daily read alouds for when he is here.  Right now they are Aesop fables or one of the selections from 50 Famous Stories as those are two things we are behind in reading.  We have a lot of work on oral narration, as this is something they do not do in public school and I think he is a bit lost on what it actual is.

Monday night, I also asked him to cook supper.  The menu: hot dogs, chips and drinks.  I turned on the gas stove, then became hands off in the process.  Guidance in what needed to be done, in things to think about, in finding items in the fridge – that is what I contributed.  He was so proud of himself.  Again, not technically an academic area, but a reflection of what we want to teach our kids.

cooking hotdogs child

Don’t Replace It, Just Fix It! – finding a solution for our bed – I had forgotten this event happened last year.  The beginning of 2015 held a lot of things that broke and needed replacing.  Our bed slipped my mind though when I thought back.  What I have not forgotten was my joy in having it fixed.  It is actually something that came to mind earlier this week.  In their exuberance to show how much they love us, our kids like to flop, jump, squirm, wrestle on our bed.  While I love our kids, I also like our bed and have to tell them to “stop!  I have fixed it once and I do not want to do it again.  Get off the bed!”

Life Is Like A Game, which is why it was no surprise that George’s teacher said he is good at synonyms and antonyms.

DIY: Washing Machine Repair, Part 1 – now this I remember breaking.  🙁  It was a tough few months.

When You Have One Of THOSE Dreams … – because we could not let the fun stop at only a broken bed and a broken dishwasher.

How To Save $25 On Gardening Each Month With Swagbucks – still a relevant post and one I like to review from time to time, it helps keep me on track

Living Without An Oven – didn’t I say the fun kept going.  Yeah, and going. And going. And going.  It did finally end, I think this was the last major thing to break for a few months.  I think, as I have started to forget those bad memories.

Comrade In Arms … – I still remember this moment and count it as one of the lucky ones, getting to see something in nature that one normally wouldn’t because life moves too fast sometimes.

A Long, Tall Drink – I still do this for my houseplants.  This plant in particular seems to respond well to this method of watering.