Sunday, April 10, 2011

Prayer to the Hockey Gods...

Wings Win!!! Please, if there is a God, let Dallas win tonight!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Food & Homeschool: How I became one of "those" parents. Part 1

Those of you who know me know I am not really very mainstream when it comes to the food I feed my family. My path to food activism came through a desire to not see my oldest son suffer at school from the effects of the massive amounts of stimulants his teachers insisted he needed to function in class. Jordan was highly distractible, prone to making weird noises at inappropriate times, and wasn't really interested in sitting there doing busywork. They complained and complained about him, bruising my pride in the process, and making me feel like a failure for not being able to rein him in. I didn't really get it, in Kindergarten his teacher had given him glowing reviews, praising him and us for his abilities and behavior. Then we moved to a different school district. This one was supposedly "better," whatever that means. Within six months his teacher was on an extended maternity leave and a person who was not even a teacher was teaching his first grade class. Her mother was the Title I "teacher" at the school. All of the sudden our brilliant, well behaved child was a problem child. We were told he was highly distractible, prone to making weird sounds at inappropriate times, and that the other kids were not relating well to him.  This person actually asked me if I wanted my kid to be one of " 'those' kids" as this was a very small school district and the kids in his class would always be in his class. I felt like a loser parent, like there was something I had done wrong in loving and raising my sweet boy. I had some serious anger issues over it and hurt his feelings time after time. We tried every "plan" the school came up with: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, working on 1st  grade homework for hours. All we ended up with was a very sad 6 year old.  I took him to a psychologist who tested him and told us he had a genius IQ, but that he was distractible and might benefit from pharmaceuticals for ADD. He started on the stimulants in second grade. Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Adderall, he took them all at one time or another. They increased his dosage every month we went back. At the time he weighed only 45 pounds. He never gained weight for the 2 years he was on stimulants. He went from a vibrant, beautiful child to a skeleton; a ghost. His eyes were sunken and there were dark shadows around them. His hair was dry and falling out. He never slept. When I addressed this with the psychiatrist his answer was just to up the dose of stimulant and concurrently up the dose of Phenergan we were giving him at night. A normal adult will be knocked out by 15-25 mg of Phenergan. I finally drew the line when the psychiatrist thought nothing of telling me to give my 45 pound 8 year old 100 mg of Phenergan every night and didn't seem concerned at all that he had not gained any weight over the course of 2 years.

I had been doing some research online because I knew I could not continue to do this to my child to make it convenient for the school. I read some out there theories, but the one that stuck with me came from the Feingold Association. The Feingold Association claims that in some children symptoms of ADD/ADHD are caused by a reaction to salicylates, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sodium benzoate, and the petroleum-based preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ. This assertion is backed up by an extensive list of studies. After discussing it with my husband, we decided to go ahead and try the Feingold diet. I threw away almost every single thing in my kitchen. I got rid of hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and bought NEW groceries following the Feingold plan. At the time, many of the items that were acceptable on the Foodlist were not locally available. The health food stores in our area were sadly lacking. It was incredibly hard, but we made it through Stage One, and it was like we had a brand new child. He was still prone to making weird noises at inappropriate times, we've found that's more his sense of humor than a psychological phenomena requiring pharmaceuticals. His attention span was better, not the BEST, but better than it had been on stimulants. His teacher that year in 3rd grade was wonderful, exactly what he needed. She was very stern, but loving and supportive of our treatment plan. She believed in it because she actually saw it work. That year was hard. Really hard because almost everything had to be made by scratch. Jordan couldn't eat school lunch, he couldn't eat anything at school. He couldn't spend the night at a friend's house or even at his grandparents' house easily. He never really argued over the food. Other people did. Milk is milk, right? Wrong. Most milk you can buy at the store in Michigan contains a preservative in the Vitamin A Palmitate that is added to it that would set Jordan back a week. We were driving 45 miles one way to the closest Whole Foods Market to buy groceries and those groceries didn't come cheaply. One day in 4th grade Jordan came home literally bouncing off the walls like he was crazy. I asked him, "What did you eat?!" He had to think for a long time and finally he remembered that the snack in his after-school program had been a prepackaged Kellog's Rice Krispie Treat. That was the most dramatic thing that sold me on this plan. It was amazing to see. Scary, but amazing at the same time. 

At the end of 4th grade we parted ways with Jordan's school. It was time for him to move to the other school, the middle school, with a different teacher for every subject and a vastly larger set of people to educate and convince not to feed my son food that would set him off. We put him in a local charter academy and he did well for the first year he was there. By the second year we were tiring of the food prep and of fighting the system to get good, healthy food for him. The support structure just wasn't there and we started slipping, buying what was on sale locally or what we had a coupon for or just what we had been missing for so long. Jordan's attention span went right with our backslide. In sixth grade he was spending the entire day at school but not really paying enough attention to "get" it. I spent the evening reteaching the lessons and making sure he got his schoolwork done. It was never done before 10 pm.  He would take it back to school and invariably forget it in his locker. This school was big on personal accountability, and there's nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, it was affecting his grades in a big way. My kid with the genius IQ was getting horrible grades. At some point we all realized that he was not having the childhood that a 11 year old should get. He was literally stuck with schoolwork from 8:00 am until at least 10:00 pm, when I would make him go to bed. We had talked about homeschooling. Usually it was a threat, as I didn't figure `an 11 year old would want to be home with Mom all day. Eventually he came to me and told me that he wasn't getting graded on what he knew, he was getting graded on his level of organization and responsibility. If they were going to assign grades based on those things he thought they should call the classes, "Organization and Responsibility." He asked me if he could be home schooled. I made him finish out the year at school because that was a huge step for me and I wasn't at all ready to take on educating a child at home.                                         

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Science, Spelling and Pill Bugs

We are having all kinds of homeschool fun today! Dids' science lesson today is streaming from Yahoo Kidstudy via K12  It sounds like a 1970 something movie day in my living room. I love this kind of lesson. It requires the minimum from me and Dids enjoys just sitting there passively acquiring knowledge too. 

I found an app for my iPad that lets me enter a spelling list with words, sentences, synonyms and antonyms and has practice each day and tests him too! Princess Beans played it this morning with the levels 1, 2, and 3 Dolch sight words. She knows them to see them, but if you ask her to spell them she has some difficulty saying the spelling without looking. She was so proud of herself when she could spell a word and  even more proud when she could write it on the whiteboard in the app. The app is called SpellBoard by Palaware. If you home school and your kids hate the normal spelling activities it's worth a look. 

PB spent some time outside looking for Pill Bugs. Did you know that Pill Bugs (we always called them Roly Polies) are not insects? Kirsten has to to an oral report, complete with presentation board and book with references, that she can read at her level. She's in KINDERGARTEN! This is one of the sort of projects that makes me hate sending my kids to public school. She didn't get to pick her animal because it's virtually impossible to find a book at the Kindergarten reading level about a very specific animal. She got the only book that was suitable at Barnes and Noble for the price of $7.99. We couldn't find anything suitable in our home library or at the used bookstore. This is a parent project. One that tests how resourceful the parents are at finding the things expected for the project, and how pretty the parents can make the board. It annoys me to no end. The sheet explains that for every day the project is late, 5 points will be taken off. Really? In Kindergarten? Is this going to affect her ability to get into Brown when she's a Senior? Okay, yes...she needs to learn the responsibility of turning in a project, but not a project her parents did. Stupid public school. Why don't they ever get it?

The last thing of the day...where did the phrase, "Mad as a wet hen," come from? Jordan left the chicken coop open today and our hens are happy as pigs in poop cruising the back yard for every sprout of new grass they might find. They certainly don't look mad, I couldn't force them back into that coop if I wanted to!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To Spring Break, or Not to Spring Break?

Princess has spring break this week. Dids...does not. Although in practice he is home schooled, in reality his "school" is a public school, so we have to loosely follow their schedule. They do not have a spring break scheduled other than Good Friday and the Monday after Easter Sunday off. Dids is NOT happy about this. Jordan is resigned to doing schoolwork every weekday, so he's not seeming too bothered. It's causing strife for Dids, who wants to sleep all day and goof off and play with his sister, or even spend the night at a friends. Poor kid. He'll be the happy one at the end of May though, when he's done with all the year's curricula and Princess has to go to school until July to make up for all these snow days we've had this year. It will all even out in the end. Mwhahahahahaha!

Please keep your fingers crossed for Jordan. I've applied for him to school through K12 and Connections Academy next year, with the hope that he will get into one or the other. Both schools have an enrollment cap of 400 that is mandated by the state. Last year both schools ended up with extensive wait lists. I got an email from Connections Academy today basically telling me not to hold my breath as there will be very few empty slots, possibly only one or two. He should have an edge with K12 as it is Payton's school already and I think siblings get first preference before a lottery. I'd rather he do Connections Academy though, I think they have it all pulled together better and have more teacher "face" time one on one. Both have the video game design classes Jordan wants to take. Both would keep him more accountable to a teacher for his grade instead of to me, which is what he needs right now to prepare for college, and the distance learning model seems to be the wave of the future. I'd be happy with either one, but probably happier with Connections Academy.

Monday, April 4, 2011


My living areas are clean again, so I feel sane for a day or two.  Scott and I went out to dinner and I had a couple margaritas, really good steak & mushroom pie, and cheesecake; so I'm full and happy.

I redesigned the format and colors for the blog. What do you think?

Oh, and it's looking like spring! My first crocus sprung out today after the snow melted.

The mess is killing me.

Have you ever wanted to just run away from your house? I'm so sick of living in this mess. There is no way I can keep up with the messes of 5 people. I can completely clean the kitchen and in 2 hours it looks like Hiroshima. I can have the living room completely clean on a Friday night and come home Monday morning from work and it's worse than before I left Friday night. No one in this house is capable of sweeping the massive floorspace with which my husband blessed me. At least when it was carpet people would vacuum.  Now if I don't sweep, no one does. No one ever hangs up their coats. Dids thinks a box beside his bookshelf is where his books go. Jord thinks every water bottle and Soda Stream bottle belong on the floor in his room. Scott thinks the floor 5 steps from the laundry hamper is where the dirty laundry goes. Princess strews toys and crayons from one end to the other and top to bottom. I'm tired of walking through the house after I get out of bed and needing a towel to wipe the dirt off my feet before I put on my socks. I want my carpet back. I want kids who pick up after themselves. I want a husband who can find the laundry basket. What I really want is to win the lottery and pay someone else to be the maid, before I run away screaming from the insanity that living in chaos causes me. My brain does not function in this kind of chaos. I feel angry and upset, and like I just want to go away until it  magically cleans itself. Except the only one who will clean it is me. With a LOT of yelling. I can't take it. I may implode tonight. Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow. :( *sigh*

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday, Sunday...

Well, here it is, Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting at the rink. Freezing my fingers off, desperate for coffee but not wanting to sacrifice the lining of my stomach to concession stand coffee. Scott is playing in an Old Timer's tournament this weekend and at noon the championship game begins. Two of his teammates are flew out for warmer parts this morning and won't be playing. Another of his team mates, the former Red Wing has injured his back. Fingers crossed for them, they're going to have to play hard. Standing in the lobby Scott was drafted for another game tonight in a different league. I have no idea how many teams have rostered him. I didn't realize there were this many leagues in Flint, MI. He had just finished telling me that his knees were worn out for the weekend, but he can't say no to hockey. I don't know what he's going to do when he's REALLY an old timer.

My little 10 year old Dids was diagnosed this week with Narcolepsy. While it feels good to finally have a diagnosis after 5 years of chasing it, I'm sad for my boy. Narcolepsy is a fairly serious disability, it can prevent him from driving and precludes him from many jobs in the future. It explains a lot though, and looking back I wonder how we never saw it. So many of the symptoms can be explained by other diagnoses, simpler thing like ADHD or behavior issues. Now we find out that those behaviors were coping mechanisms, attempts to stay awake for whatever was expected of him. We're waiting for the pediatric neurologist's office to call so we can talk about treatment and what to expect. The standard medication is not approved for use in children. Another of them is GHB. Great, just what I DON'T want to give my kid...the date rape drug. :( Payton was very worried when he heard us talking about it, wanted to know what this disease he can barely pronounce is. I found some websites that break it down in terms he can understand. He's been very quiet this week, thinking and processing it all. Until I get hinm to the neurologist I don't know how else to address it with him.

Jordan started driver's training this week. My hermit child is much better socialized than I had expected. He didn't gravitate toward the other sullen, cocky teenage boys who were trying to look like they were too cool for life. Instead he gravitated to the two cutest girls in the class. They come sit with him every day. I approve, they seem like nice girls, they're including him in their conversations and he's finding he might actually have something in common with other teenagers his age. He's walking taller this week, taking a little bit more care in his appearance. It's so nice to see him blossom and find his way. He drove one day this week, he was terrified but he did okay. He said one of the other kids was way worse than him and another was way better. As soon as he gets his "pink" slip he can begin to drive with us. I use us loosely, I don' know if I'll have the guts to drive with him yet. We'll see. Hopefully he'll be as responsible of a driver as he is at home, I'm slightly terrified since I see the victims of trauma fairly regularly.

Our beloved Red Wings clinched their playoff berth this weekend in Nashville. Twenty years of playoff seasons. Love April in the D. Almost time for Scott to go on the ice, so better get in where it's cold.