Isaac and Geography

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Yesterday I told Isaac that there might be a new country in the world.  I told him about the vote going on in Scotland and how Scotland might become it’s own country.  He was VERY interested and he got out his atlases and started drawing maps of the United Kingdom.  He was hoping that Scotland wouldn’t break away because that would interfere with the accuracy of his books and the geography songs he likes…and that kind of change can be SO uncomfortable for Isaac. :)

When he pulled out his atlas and the pile of papers he had with it, I noticed that he had been working on a project for a few days sort of under the radar. He had been making his own world atlas with little drawings of the countries. He had a few from every continent. He had Mongolia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Algeria, Chile, Argentina, the US, Fiji, among many others…. Some of the pages included facts about population and ALL had clear page numbers (organization is PARAMOUNT!). I spread out the pages on the floor so I could take a picture. And then a few minutes later I realized: Isaac is six.

My heart starting pounding hard. I was feeling a mixture of swellings of pride followed by shame for feeling that pride.

I mean, of course I am proud of my kids. OF COURSE I am! But this was different. This was feeling pride in an area where Isaac is gifted. Isaac is YEARS beyond his typically developing peers in his understanding of geography. In fact, Isaac knows things about geography that most adults don’t know. He knows his states and capitals and where to find all states and most countries on a map. But he also knows what many state and country flags look like. Like Algeria’s flag. He can pick out Algeria’s flag in a group of flags. But, most impressive to me…he knows the states in order of statehood. He knows which state was the first to join the country, which was the last and he knows every state in between. If you asked him “What was the 43rd state?” he could tell you. That’s like asking you “what’s the 17th letter of the alphabet?” and you being able to answer WITHOUT going through the alphabet. He knows that Louisiana is the 11th state BOTH in alphabetical order AND in order of statehood. I’m not sure that there is anyone else, ever, that’s noticed that.

Honestly, this geography thing is a little hard for me. It’s MUCH easier for me to get excited about Andrew’s contraptions and inventions than it is for me to get excited about states and capitals. But yesterday, when I saw the atlas Isaac had been assembling, I felt SO PROUD of him. And I had a moment of feeling overwhelmed that my six year old can do this. I wasn’t trying to balance it with “but think of all the things he CAN’T do.” which is a common strategy I use. I wasn’t trying to pull myself together with “EVERY kid has amazing strengths! Don’t act like yours are something special!” which is another message I tell myself a lot. I was just feeling proud and impressed. Which made me cry in the bathroom a little. Sigh.

Dave and I used to wonder if we needed to have a college savings plan for Isaac. I know that sounds sort of mean, but it was purely a practical conversation. As things stand now, if we started a college savings plan for him and he didn’t go to college, we’d take a HUGE hit in taking that money out and using it another way. (which is actually a problem that Autism Speaks is working with Congress on… tax sheltered ways to save for your children that might NOT go to college.) But now we think that OF COURSE we should be saving for Isaac. Not just because of his capacity for memorization and his academic ability, but his self-care skills and safety awareness have come MUCH farther than we thought they would. He might actually be able to go to college and…do his laundry! and get himself to the cafeteria for meals! and cross the street safely! :) College doesn’t seem as far fetched an idea as it did a few years ago.

I also know that this seems like a common autism story. How many stories have you heard of autistic kids that couldn’t talk at 3 went on to do X!Y!Z! But for me, living a part of that story, doesn’t feel like “oh this is sometimes what happens”, or, “this is sort of common with autism.” It feels like “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?!” It’s a little rattling, honestly. It mostly feels great that Isaac is blossoming as much as he is…but it has also felt unnerving too. Like I can’t keep up with who he is.

After my tears in the bathroom, and my deep breaths to calm down, and after the waves of pride settled down a little, I pulled myself together and finished making dinner. And things went back to normal. He was just my goofy little guy who needs to pick up his mess and loves his pizza and just wants to talk to Andrew about Super Mario Brothers. He seemed normal Isaac again, but as for me…I think I made a little progress. A few steps in the right direction of celebrating my son.

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school stories

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Today is day 10 of the new school year, and knock on wood, everything is still going very smoothly.

I hadn’t been hearing much from Isaac’s teacher, so I wrote her at the end of last week and asked how it was going. She said it was going well, that he has picked up the class routines nicely and she is currently working with him on raising his hand. She said that she knows he often knows the answer when she asks the class a question, but he prefers to passively sit there and not answer. And this is SO ISAAC. He’s never been one to show us what he knows. I can picture him thinking “I know the answer to that, and YOU know the answer to that, Teach…so why are you asking?”

Three years ago this *same teacher* had to teach Andrew NOT to raise his hand when he didn’t know the answer, because he ALWAYS raised his hand. She actually put together a lesson about just that for him and his fellow-ethusiastic-hand-raising buddy. She explained that they won’t always know the answer. That before they raise their hands, they need to think to themselves “DO I know the answer to this?” To practice she’d ask them questions like “What is 2+2″ (they raised their hands), “Who is the main character in yesterday’s story?” (they raised their hands), “how much money is in my wallet?” (they started to raise their hands before catching themselves…ha!)

The difference here between Isaac and Andrew in regards to class participation is CLASSIC. I feel like it illustrates them perfectly. :)

Last night was curriculum night and I met with Andrew’s teacher and she told me Andrew’s reading level…which jumped 3 levels over the summer! For some reason I find that so exciting! He’s really been into reading lately…which is just so fun! GO Andrew!

But…writing is another story altogether. He HATES writing. He tells me “Mom, I’m just not a writer!” As though that is free pass out of writing. Sorry, pal…you still have to learn this. We’re working on it everyday…but it’s not easy. In school, to encourage him to write, they dangle this carrot:

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A circuitry kit! That they got specifically for him! When she showed me this last night, I was SOO impressed. And SO GRATEFUL. I feel like often people that work with kids with ASD work so hard with the areas that challenge them, that there is no time or space to encourage their personal interests/fascinations/obsessions. Sometimes it can feel like I only hear “yeah, yeah, yeah. He loves science…but we really need to talk about his writing.” Their fascinations can be all-consuming, distracting and even annoying…but their fascinations can also be PRODUCTIVE. And I just feel so great about Andrew having access to people that get that and WANT to encourage what he loves.

And one more thing. I saw this on the wall of Isaac’s classroom:

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Which has me thinking that Isaac assumes I spend all my time at home gorging on technology. oh Isaac. :)


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weekend

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This weekend was Dave’s birthday! Andrew made a present-machine out of rope and boxes and tinkertoys. He’s sitting next to it in the photo above. And here’s how it works. Andrew sits behind it and pulls on a tinkertoy-rope contraption. As he pulls on the rope, the present starts to emerge from behind the sign (the sign says: “Hi and happy birthday. this is a machine.”) and as it emerges, it lifts the sign up. Andrew claims that this is the first invention that he’s made that works! But…I don’t think that’s true. It seems like a lot of what he makes works…but maybe he means this works like he envisioned.

Isaac cut out the little 36′s out of paper, helped me wrap the presents and made Dave a card that included a maze he drew (Isaac’s drawing mazes now! Remember Andrew’s intense maze phase?) and a dot-to-dot.

Dave loved his presents (a digital miscroscope and a suitcase. for some reason everyone was more interested in the microscope. I thought luggage was a practical, thoughtful gift! ;) ) and loved the care that went into their presentation. :) These boys are so fun with that stuff.

On a side note: I have confirmation from Andrew that he will be playing the role of Santa again this Christmas. He has some new chimney designs he wants to try and I have a whole long list of Santa-esk tasks that he’s going to help me out with! :) He’s SO the kid for the job!

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The boys and I put little helium balloons inside the suitcase we gave Dave, so that when Dave opened it, they all escaped. It was super fun. And luckily Isaac was more than willing to help with the cleanup of that project while Andrew hid in the bedroom fearing a balloon might pop :)

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The next day we went hiking!

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It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve gone hiking and this trail was such a great one. :) It was nearby, not too tick-y, not too steep and the boys ran, zig-zagging down the path for a lot of the hike.

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And now, Monday.

Hope yours was a great weekend!


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big plans

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Saturday is Dave’s birthday. When I told the boys this, Andrew started cooking up a big plan. He was going to build a machine that hangs from the ceiling and lets go of a bunch of balloons when Dave walks through the door. It will be remote controlled and he will hide and use the remote to activate the machine from his hiding spot and then he’ll jump out from hiding and give Daddy what he really wants for his birthday: a Wii U.

Oh Andrew. It always starts this way. With plans bigger than his little body can hold. A few weeks ago he wanted to build a dunk tank. A life sized dunk tank. In our dining room. And he started duct-taping pieces of what would be the mechanics of the tank to our dining room wall before I caught him, squashed his plans and demand he scale back. I’m always encouraging him to scale back and it always makes him SO MAD. It’s PERFECTLY REASONABLE to build a dunk tank in the dining room. WHY CAN’T I SEE THAT?! (In the end I won this one. He built a small dunk tank that dunks a little toy person. It’s still pretty cool. Though I DO understand that dunking mommy would be exponentially cooler.)

The other day we were walking to the grocery store and he was explaining to me how to make a engine that runs without carbon emissions and how Thomas Edison was SO CLOSE to inventing the right contraption, but he couldn’t quite get it right but ANDREW knows how his plan could be improved upon. (I don’t really understand if Thomas Edison lived at the right time to be working on carbon emissions. Isn’t that more of a modern day problem? But…I’m not the one that recently read a biography of Edison…and really…I was just trying to get to the grocery store to buy some yogurt…so…I did’t press for those details.)

Anyway, what usually happens when Andrew is in planning-mode is not all bad really. Andrew cooks up a plan that not even high level engineers could pull off. But, in trying to make that plan happen, he makes something else that’s actually pretty cool. I guess that whole shoot-for-the-moon advice might be onto something.

Last year Andrew had a big plan for Dave’s birthday. Which for the most part, turned out pretty well. He made Dave a present-presenting robot. He rolled it out to Dave and if you pull this lever and yank on that cord *just so* a door will open where your present awaits. So I’m hoping something similar can come together for this year’s birthday. And I’m going to do my best to make sure nothing gets permanently affixed to the ceiling. Which means, all eyes on Andrew from now until Saturday.

Wish me luck!


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Monday thoughts and boys in culverts

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I’m sorting through photos from our trip to Vermont, our camping trip in Pennsylvania, and three different client shoots. I’m making steady progress, I’m glad to say…but I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I feel on top of things again. I keep coming back to these photos though. We did the Great Vermont Corn Maze with my friend and her boys while we were in Vermont and it was an amazing amount of fun. There was this huge culvert in the middle of the maze, with corn growing on top of it! and the boys all loved the play potential of this cool structure.

Things are settling in here with very few hiccups to speak of. No one has contacted me yet about hard-to-manage behaviors that they are seeing from my boys…though it’s still early. ;) I’m totally on stand by for when my kids get squirrelly and the people that work with them need a little support from the home front. But so far, so good. Andrew claims he has the best teacher in the world. And Isaac is proud of his classroom job. He is one of two fish feeders who make sure Donnie Bubbles gets a good sprinkling of food before leaving him behind at the end of the day. It really is an important task. :)

I feel skeptical that fall will actually come this year. And I’m surprised about how much I don’t want summer to end. But, today is cool and breezy and I’ve been seeing some yellow leaves scattered about. And…it’s nice.

Here’s to buckling down!


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begin again

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This morning has been about deep breaths. :) They are back in school.

Night before last I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about the bus. I always worry about the bus. If the matron will be a punk, if the bus will be late, early, safe, crazy. If my boys will behave on the bus. But last night, I was able to let go of my bus worries a little and just let it be. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.

Andrew is starting fourth grade. Yesterday we went to the school to meet his teacher. He told her all about circuitry and magnetism and how electricity affects magnets and how he hopes this school year will be REALLY HIGH TECH! She affirmed it would be a high tech year and asked how he knew about circuitry and they chatted a little. He told her that was excited to start the STEM classes (his school recently got a STEM grant making them a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math focused school) and that when it was time to chose his STEM class, he was going to put a BIG star next to the most complicated robotics class there is! Not sure there actually will be a robotics class…but I sure hope so! When there was a lull in the conversation, Andrew took the opportunity to wink at her. “Did you just wink at me?!” she asked. He responded by nodding and winking again. ha!

Isaac is starting first grade. Yesterday we went to meet his teacher, whom Andrew had in first grade and who might be the best teacher on the planet. Not *sure* about that… but she’s pretty rockin’. I’m worried that Isaac will be a rascal…because I think Isaac WILL be a rascal. But…she’s dealt with her fair share of rascals (you know…like Andrew…) and I think she can manage him. This program does a LOT with behavior management and a common element that the classrooms use are “token boards”. The kids carry around little clipboards with velcro badges they stick into place to record positive behaviors. When they earn a given number of badges, there is some kind of reward. Isaac’s teacher custom made him a token board with a map of the United States! So he’ll be earning states for good behavior! I LOVE it! :) And…so does he!

I feel like I have finally have some space to think my thoughts and get some work done and tidy up around here. I was dreading back-to-school. Those early mornings are brutal! But the routine, structure, time, space…it’s really nice. And I love the team we’re working with in educating our kids.

Here’s to a rockin’ school year!


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Isaac In Vermont

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While in Vermont:

1. Isaac swung from the pipes in the basement at my parents’ house. There are some at his level by the stair case and if he grips them just right he can swing back and forth at the landing. My parents, as you might imagine, are not thrilled with this trick.

2. He pee’d: off of the front porch, off a pier (twice), off of my dad’s boat, on the wood pile, and off of a bridge. He occasionally also used the toilet.

3. He revved the engine of my parents’ truck. We adults were all fussing with loading the boat onto the trailer just so, when Isaac went over to check out the driver’s side and pressed on the gas pedal with his hand while the truck was running. Luckily, it was in park.

4. He made several atlases. In the first draft of his first atlas, he made a table of contents that told you which page you’d find each state. He brought it to me, and explained, if I turn to page 1, I’d learn all about Maine. I turned to page one and all it had was the word “MAINE” in large letters. :)

5. He’s also going through a pig phase and often pretended he was a little piggy looking for carrots. He was thrilled to meet some real pigs at the County Fair.

6. When brought to the toy store to pick out something, he picked out a large map of the United States, which he brought everywhere and showed everyone. He assumes EVERYONE is as jazzed about geography as he is…and I have to say, his enthusiasm IS contagious.

7. He explored the “Water Stream” (a stream by our cabin, which he called the Water Stream) every day. He labeled different sections of it “Water Stream 1″, “Water Stream 2″, etc. And he was DYING to crawl through the culvert at the end of the stream that directs the water under the road. Finally on the last day, I let him and Andrew crawl through. They LOVED it!

8. He always rearranged the same things in my mom’s house when we would visit them. He’d leave on the lights in little used rooms, arrange her books in a different way, turn the heater on, and leave the main door in the basement wide open every time he went through it. My mom learned after a few visits which spots to check after we’d leave to turn off the heat, the lights and close the doors. Somethings she left until we were safely back in New York before she bothered putting back the right way.

9. Every time we’d visit my brother-in-law’s home, Isaac would crawl up on the roof of my niece’s playhouse and just sit there. My brother-in-law, after watching him do this several times, told me “I think Isaac’s going to be a roofer!” ha! maybe!!

Isaac is a wild, slightly dangerous, whirling dervish wherever he is. And Vermont fits him perfectly. :)


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I’m here!

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Hello!!!!!

We just got back from a two week trip to Vermont. And now I’m in back-from-Vermont, organize-everything, back-to-school, but-first-go-camping mode.

geesh!

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Just wanted to check in though and say I’m still here and we had a great trip.

more later, gators!


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weekend

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We had a jam packed weekend. :) Which was great! I needed it!

On Saturday we went to the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

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Where we met up with our friend Zaida and her rad parents.

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We had a really good time!

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Then on Sunday we drove up to Hyde Park, New York and walked across a bridge that stretches over a mile across the Hudson river. Dave and I walked, the boys however, scooted across the bridge.

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Once we got to the other side, we walked a little ways down the bank of the river to another bridge that took us back.

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The second bridge had a “Bridge Music” feature with speakers and buttons to press and music to listen to. :)

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It was a great weekend. :) The boys are both home this week. Camps are done and this mama is in high gear, full time parenting mode. Watch out, Andrew and Isaac. Extreme parenting, heading your way. :)


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pigs and frogs

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1. My kids love pigs lately. When we went to the Hot Air Balloon Festival last weekend, we stopped in at the show tents where farmers brought some livestock to show off and my kids LOVED the pigs. I take them to the zoo and they show no signs of interest at the lions, giraffes or gorillas…but the pigs at the fair?! Now THAT is fun!

2. I decided to make fancy cookies for the boys to bring on their last days of camp. Isaac’s last day was yesterday and Andrew’s is today. During Isaac’s end of camp celebration, the pig cookies were clear favorites. Kids would ask unsuspecting parents for a pig cookie after seeing their friend with one and the parents would ask “ummm…ARE there pig cookies?” oh you bet there are! Andrew can’t wait to show off the pig cookies to his new friends. (poor frog cookies. so unappreciated!)

3. This week I finished the book To Kill A Mockingbird. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read it. I can’t BELIEVE I’ve never read it. I LOVED it. Now I’m reading The Mockingbird Next Door which is about Harper Lee’s life after Mockingbird was published. Also, so good! I’ve been reading up a storm lately! I love it. :)

4. August is here. Dave is home. Dave got in during the wee hours of the morning, and when I woke up the boys this morning to tell them Daddy is home, Isaac responded with equally exciting information “It’s August!” August is no camps and no school and some lazy-days-ing.

5. Dave is home! After a fiasco at the airport after they gave away his seat. And after sitting on a parked plane for two hours while mechanics replaced a broken part…he finally made it out of London and got home. And…he brought presents! sweet!

6. This summer Andrew and I are watching So You Think You Can Dance together. He’s all signed up for another year of ballet which will start in the fall and I’m on the sidelines waiting for him to loose interest. But he doesn’t. Whenever ballet class comes up he has nothing but good things to say. I’ve loved watching SYTYCD with him. He gets so excited about the acrobatics these dancers can do.

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7. Thanks for your kind comments about my anxious summer. I’ve settled down somewhat. But come September I’m sure it’ll flare back up. :) Oh Motherhood.

8. I’m hoping for a rockin’ weekend with Dave back in town. There better lots of fun! :)


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