Day Forty Eight

A mother who posts on some of the unschooling boards I visit lost her daughter to cancer the other night. The little girl was only 9 years old and was recently diagnosed. The following is what will become her obituary and it's so powerful that I wanted to not only share it but keep it here so I can go back and read it.
For those wanting to help, please click here.

Hannah Lea Jenner left this life peacefully, in her mother's arms, early on February 24, 2006. She was 9.5 years old and had a smile on her face, as she so often did. Chemotherapy had just begun for her recently diagnosed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, but the infection too quickly claimed her body. Hannah was a life long learner for whom all experiences came with joy and love. Survivors,
grateful for having loved her, are her mother, Diana (Lambert) Jenner; her brother, Hayden Jenner; her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and countless friends-who-should-be-family. She is embraced on the other side by her father, Mitch Jenner, and others who have gone before her. In lieu of flowers, the family requests outpourings of love and tender regard to every child, and gratitude on the part of parents of living children everywhere.


Day Forty Seven

Jacqueline, my mother & I went to Barnes & Noble today, after dropping Cimion off at the Yu-Gi-Oh duelist league. I decided to join their members program for $25 a year, after thinking about it for a while. I already have their educators discount card, but the member card is good for anything in the store, including Starbucks. :-)

I actually got a good deal in there today. They had the Shrek Totally Tangled Tales TV/DVD game for 75% off. The original price was $29.99. Then I used the member card and got another 10% off bringing the total to $6 and some change. :-)

I also picked up 100 Things you should know about science. It's a nice book, lots of information and illustrations....but I don't like the title. LOL! 100 things I should know, according to who?
I think to much. :-)


Day Forty Six

Something really nice happened today. :-)

The kids, my mom and myself went shopping in the dollar store today. I had to pick up a few odds and ends and the kids wanted to buy some valentine candy for each other. They each took a few dollars from their money, picked out what they wanted and I took them, one at a time so the other two wouldn't see, to the register. They usually do all the paying and checking out by themselves but they like me there just in case they need me.

Cimion went first and I stood back while he was waiting on line. As he got closer, the woman standing behind him asked if that was all he was buying, to which he replied yes. She told the cashier that she would be paying for his purchase and to put it on her bill. I was kinda speechless, this woman was a total stranger.

I told her that he had his own money and that she didn't have to do that. She just smilied and said that she wanted to. Cimion & I both thanked her and told her that it was a very nice thing that she did.

I mean, granted it was only $1.07 but the fact that she did it was very cool!
I spoke to the cashier about it later when I was helping Jacqueline check out. She said that the woman had done that 2 other times, both times with kids that had one item.

:-) It really made my day.


Day Forty Four

The 3rd Unschooling Carnival is up and ready to read. Andrea & Ron did a great job.
A carnival is a collection of blog posts on a particular topic. this one being unschooling.
The unschooling carnival is held the 2nd Thursday of each month and submissions can be sent to submissions@atypicalhomeschool.net


Everyday Blessings

I borrowed Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn from the library yesterday. Cimion & Shawna have a Storytelling Club there on Tuesday and Jacqueline & I use that time to take out books.

In the back of the book, they list 12 exercises for mindful parenting. The first one is:
Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this everyday for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

Another one is:
Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, what you say. How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

When Billy & I took our 10 week MAPP class, as part of our homestudy to adopt through the foster care system, the instructor visually and mentally helped us put ourselves in the place of a foster child. It was quite scary and most of us were affected, one even had to leave the room.

I keep that with me and I use that tool with my children now. It helps me to see past the behavior and see the child instead. It helps me when I'm getting angry and feel like yelling, to see myself as they see me.

Putting yourself in your childs shoes, will show you the world in a whole new way. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to find a new way of parenting their blessings. :-)


Day Forty Two (I got tagged)

Ren Allen, whose blog Learning in Freedom is a great inspiration for unschoolers, tagged me. :-) Before I get started with the questions, I want to post a link to a companion piece to a presentation she gave with Sandra Dodd on Mindful Parenting. It's a great read.

On with the "Four Things Meme"
(To those I tagged, just copy and paste the questions into your blog and answer them.)

4 jobs you have had in your life
1. Owner of The New York Dance & Fitness Center Inc in NYC. We were open for 7 years and had classes in all forms of fitness, exercise and dance. Being a business owner is very demanding but I enjoyed every minute of it.
2. Manager of a health club chain facility. This job lasted about 5 years. I started out as an instructor, got promoted to assistant manager then to manager.
3. Dance teacher & fitness instructor at several local NYC dance studios. Off and on for about 5 years.
4. Department manager at a very trendy clothing store in Greewnich Village in NYC.

4 movies you could watch over and over
1. The Crow with Brandon Lee
2. Goodfellas
3. The Godfather trilogy
4. Wild Things

4 places you have been on vacation
1. Florida (before we moved here)
2. A dude ranch upstate New York
3. Atlantic City (cha ching!!) many, many times
4. Cove Haven Resorts in the Poconos

4 websites you visit daily
1. yahoo to check my mail
2. Forever Parents, my adoption site and the forum that goes with it.
3. Rock On...a community of hard rock freaks!
4. Unschooling Basics, which Ren is the co-owner of. :-)

4 of your favorite foods
1. Spagetti with white clams sauce and extra baby clams.
2. Salad with lettuce, chick peas, olives, mushrooms, brocolli and cheese with Italian dressing.
3. Anything chocolate
4. Not really a food but I can't start my day with out a cup of tea.

4 places you would rather be right now
This is hard because there is no place I'd rather be than right here but there are places I'd like to visit.
1. Italy. I'd love to trace my roots and see where my grandparents lived.
2. England
3. Canada
4. Las Vegas

4 Cars you have owned
1. GMC Safari
2. Ford Aerostar
3. Grand Am #1
4. Grand Am #2

4 bloggers you are tagging
1. NYCityMom
2. Ron & Andrea at A Typical Life
3. Henry & Janine at Why Homeschool
4. Daniel at Key Words

Thanks Ren! :-)

The 6th Carnival of Homeschooling has been posted. (A "carnival" is a collection of blog posts on a particular topic). You'll find our post in the "scenic area".


Day Forty One

Aaaahhhhhh. :-)

A nice peaceful day.

These are the kind of days I wanted when I took my three children out of school.
We took a relaxing walk around the neighborhood this morning. The weather was beautiful, clear skies-low 70's.
When we came home, we watched
Cheaper by the dozen on dvd.
After that we spent the rest of the day, outside in the yard, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, under the open blue sky. Cimion tinkered with his bike, using the tool box Billy put together for them. Jacqueline braided her dolls hair and Shawna read an Anamorphs book. The birds were chirping and there was a very calm breeze throught the trees. There was not much conversation, everybody was doing their own thing but we were all within a few feet of each other. Every once in a while, one of us would talk and someone would respond.
It was a very calm and comfortable day.
Just the way I like it. :-)


Day Forty (Super Bowl Sunday)

We had our annual Super Bowl Party tonight. Actually, it's just winding down now.
We invited less people than last year because we weren't even sure we were going to have it with my mom just getting out of the hospital.

Billy made marinated chicken thighs, sausage, peppers & onions, rigatoni with marinara sauce with crumbled ground beef & tuna pasta salad.

I made a tossed green salad.

What can I say...I'm not much of a cook. LOL!

We had 9 adults and 10 kids and everything went very well. The kids played outside on the playset and the trampoline. We also borrowed my moms big screen TV and hooked it up in the screen room for whoever wanted to hang out outside.

Me, I'm not into football at all, I just like getting together with friends and family.
I don't even know who was playing! :-)


Typical Unschooling Day

Here's what homeschooling/unschooling looks like at our house, on a typical day at this time of year:

Cimion (13 years old) gets up at 6:00 AM with my husband Billy. He makes his bed and they have breakfast together (2-3 bowls of cereal with 2% milk) and Cimion hangs out with him until he leaves for work at 7:00. After he leaves, Cimion stays in his room (playing with his legos or reading, lately it's Goosebumps) until I get up, which is about 8:00. After I get up, he'll exercise and have a snack, which usually is yogurt and fruit or a bagel and peanut butter with apple juice or a smoothie. During this time, I'm usually feeding the dog (a 6 year old black female miniature poodle named Mini) and the iguana (a 10 year old female named Buddie) , I make my morning tea and go online. By that time, which is about 8:30, I get Shawna (10 years old) up, she makes her bed, exercises and has breakfast. Cimion is usually washing up and getting dressed at this point. Jacqueline (age 7) usually stirs about 9ish, most of the time because Mini jumped on her bed and started nudging her. :-) She gets up, exercises, has breakfast, washes up, get dressed and makes her bed. I usually end up having my breakfast about the same time as her so we sit together while we eat. By the time we're all done it's about 10:00.

After that, we go for our morning walk. We aim for 3-4 days a week. I walk, Jacqueline takes her bike and Cimion & Shawna either walk, roller blade or skateboard.

When we get back, Shawna & Jacqueline are usually ready for a snack and they'll have something similar to what Cimion had. Shawna’s been on an orange kick lately so if we have any in the house, she'll usually have two. Jacqueline will almost always want fruit or cheese and crackers.

I try to get everybody settled into something inside and then I take a shower.
Jacqueline will usually watch a movie. The last few she watched were Little Women, Disney Princess - A Christmas of Enchantment and The Secret Garden.
Shawna usually reads in the family room. She's working her way through all the Pony Pals books.
Cimion usually plays Need for Speed Underground on PS2.

After I get out of the shower, we usually go out.
Sometimes we're go shopping in some of the thrift stores around here. Some recent finds have been Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets audio books for $4, a bunch of Barbie chapter books for. 25 each and Boggle for the computer.
Sometimes we go to the library, other times we have errands to take care of. If it's Thursday, we usually get together with a local homeschool group at the park and hang out. If the Discovery Science & Outdoor Center is having a homeschool lab, we'll go to that. If it's Saturday, Cimion goes to his Yu-Gi-Oh duelist league.

After we come home, we'll have lunch in the back yard. I tend to make a big lunch.
Today I made rigatoni with marinara sauce that Billy made, crumbled up ground beef sprinkled in, cheese on top and a chunk of whole grain Italian bread. Sometimes I’ll heat up marinated chicken thighs (That Billy made) with some kind of pasta side dish and veggies. Billy cooks a lot of food on the weekend and then I freeze it. It’s great that he does this because not only is cooking one of least favorite things to do, but I’m a vegetarian and having to cook meat is not my thing.

After lunch, we usually hang out outside. Sometimes they’ll ride their bikes in the front, or go on the pogo stick. Sometimes they’ll go in the jacuzzi (to cold for the pool yet). I’ve been learning to garden, so if the weather is nice, one of them may help me plant some things. Billy just put a toolbox together for them so they’ve been hammering stuff together and taking things apart. We also have a large wooden play set and a 14’ trampoline so odds are one of them will be on it. My mother just bought the house next door so they’ll go over and help her unpack some boxes. Usually by this time, the public schooled kids are out and some of their friends may come over to play.

If the weather is rainy, we'll be inside.
Jacqueline has been really interested in space lately so she might spend time reading some of the books we have, her favorite being Earth & Space. We also have some software on the solar system that she likes to play with. Today she went on NASA for kids and enjoyed it.
Cimion likes to catagorize and list things, such as his yu-gi-oh cards (he lists all all his cards and their powers and then makes a seperate list of ones he wants to trade) and cars he likes (he cuts out the pictures from his car magazines and glues them in a book I bought for him. Than he writes all the details about them, like make, model, accessories, extras, etc).
Shawna loves pretending that she has a job in an office so she'll set herself up at her desk with the computer and phone and go to work.
Cimion & Shawna have been interested in Colonial America, so they might decide to continue learning about it, like I posted about here.

Depending on what day it is, Jacqueline may have her jazz class or her Brownie troop meeting, Shawna may have her Girl Scourt meeting or Cimion & Shawna have been going to a storytellers class given by the Ocali Storytellers Guild.

We have dinner around 5:30. Usually, Billy is home by that time. I tend to make something one step and easy because I start to lose mental energy at around this time (LOL!!). I’ll make something like chicken nuggets and salad or chili with cheese and crackers or spaghetti and sauce.

After dinner they take showers and spend time with Billy. Sometimes he’ll color with them or they’ll read to each other. It’s a nice time for them to connect after being apart all day. I’ll usually go online, read or play The Sims. Currently I’m reading The Whole Parenting Guide

After a while, they stay in their rooms and we have some quiet, down time in the house. They’ll usually read but sometimes will write, (Jacqueline has been writing her second Barbie story) color or draw (Cimion likes to draw cars). Billy & I will sometimes go in the jacuzzi or watch a movie. If it’s Tuesday, we watch The Sheild.

Cimion starts to get tired at 9ish and the girls at about 9:30-10:00. Everyone brushes their teeth and gets some rest.

There you have it! A typical day of homeschooling/unschooling at our home.


More on RAD

Billy, Cimion and our friends that went, had a great time at Daytona on Saturday. Cimion was so excited to be seeing a Nascar race live! They got a few autographs and Billy bought Cimion 2 small die cast cars. He even bought one for Jacqueline because it was the Disney Princess car. :-)

Unfortunately, over the next two days, Cimion was very argumentative, short tempered and did a lot of crying. This behvaior is typical for Cimion after we do something out of sync with our routine or he's in an unfamiliar place or situation. We saw a little bit of it on Sunday, Monday was a normal day but then Tuesday was when it exploded.
He reverted back to some old behaviors and spent the day arguing, pouting, crying and being very disruptive to the rest of us. I told him to stay in the back yard play area, which has the trampoline, playset and the bikes. We had talked about other ways to handle these feelings and I like to keep him near the physical stuff so he has a way to work it out if he chooses to. He'd much rather wallow in self pity and keep telling himself how bad he is though. Also, when his behavior is like this, I keep him seperated from Jacqueline. She's had to live with his issues far to long and it had started affecting her. I can't let Cimion heal at her expense. She has a right to thrive and grow without having his behaviors in her face all the time.
I stayed outside in the back yard for the most part, just cleaning and gardening.
He basically ignored me, kept his head down and sulked.
After about 10 minutes I saw him over on the other side of the yard. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he wanted to get the football. I asked him if he remembered what I had just told him 10 minutes earlier. He said yes, that I told him to stay in the play area.
At this point I want nothing more than to say "Okay, no big deal" and walk back inside.
But I can't.

A child with attachment disorder sees the world very different than we do. They learn ,early on not to trust adults. It doesn't matter how much love we show him. They believe the only way to stay safe is to push all adults away, especially any adults who try to show them love. Control is the thing that drives them and they use defiance, manipulation, violence to keep you away.

So at this point, I have two choices...walk away and show him that I'm not strong enough to handle him (in his mind, I can't take care of him) or finish what I started.

Past experience with Cimion has taught me that this stage is where it has always gone from bad to worse. This is the stage where he has broken doors, chairs and hurt himself.
But, the good news is (yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel!) that I've been working with him on moving forward. I've been trying to show him that although he didn't do as I asked him to (which is one of his two rules, the other being respect everyone in the house) the rest of the week doesn't have to go downhill. That he can, apologise, offer restitution and move forward instead of raging, crying and dragging himself as far down as he can go. That he actually has a choice. It's been so hard for him to grasp that it doesn't have to be this way.

Very calmly I remind him that he broke one of his two rules.
Very calmly, he apologised.

So far, so good.
I told him that because he didn't do as I asked, I wanted him to sweep the cemented area of the front and back yard.
At this point, he usually will rage for the next 2-3 days and then sweep.
I felt myself basically holding my breath, hoping that all the work we've been doing will get him through the next few minutes.

He picked up the broom and went to work.
I went inside and cried.
Sometimes you just have to release it.

Facts about RAD from various online sources:
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a psychological disorder that occurs during the first two years of life when a child does not attach and bond properly to their primary caregiver. Fundamental processes do not occur resulting in on-going rage, fear of attaching to anyone, lack of trust, an unusual effort to control everything in their lives, a lack of self worth, and an inability to fully comprehend cause and effect.
Attachment-disordered children are guided only by what they want at the moment. Their focus is self-centered and there is no concern for how their behavior impacts others. Behavior and attitude is similar to those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
Children with RAD will not love you until they can trust you. They will test you over and over to see if you mean what you say...to prove that you are trustworthy.
RAD behavior is often an effort to feel safe. What they're trying to do is prove that no one is strong enough to be in control of them. They make efforts over and over to prove that you can't control them, which then reinforces their fear that no one is strong enough to keep them safe.
Children with RAD either avoid forming personal relationships (the inhibited or unattached type) or they seem overly friendly to everyone, without making any distinctions between their parents and strangers (the uninhibited or indiscriminate type). In both cases, there is no real trust. The children treat other people either as threats to be avoided or as suckers to be fooled and manipulated.

After he swept, we talked about change and choices and moving forward. Cimion is just at the very beginning stages of wanting to change. The next 6-12 months will be tough for him, just like last year was for Shawna.
Changing behaviors and thought processes are never easy but they're extremely scary for hurt children. They believe that if they get close to someone, something bad will happen, that they will be hurt or possible even die. Their life depends on staying emotionally detached.

He has come a long way in the two years that we adopted him. My goal with him right now to to stop the rages and the explosions. The more I can keep him rational and calm, the better off he is.

One step at a time.