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yogurt & granola

mothering • knitting • cooking • gardening • canning • reading • hiking • biking • camping

Last Build Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2017 03:08:52 +0000


On Running

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 23:34:00 +0000

I have reached a point in my life where I am not happy with my physical shape and size so I have decided to do something about it. This is not the first time this has happened to me and I have been lucky enough to shed pounds and "return" to the person I have always intended to be with relative ease. (Indeed, the last time this happened--11 years ago--I had a bad break-up and responded by simply biking around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis every night after work as a way to hide from life. Turns out, I was actually giving myself my life back. I also dropped 30 pounds in the process.)But having kids has changed more than just my body. My free time is already constantly on the chopping block as a stay at home mom, and to add to that, I'm also a student again which means that I am always studying.After Jackson, I was able to drop the pregnancy weight in the "normal" amount of time (they say nine months to put it on, nine months to take it off,) and even bypassed that by five pounds the other direction. Then Amelia came and, well, it didn't come off very easily (at all?) after the second time.Not. Acceptable.I have dresses in my closet that I love! I have the perfect jeans just sitting there waiting for me! (Hello, size 8, it will be awhile, but we'll be together again.) I'm tired of never being able to find suitable NEW clothing that I like and that fits!In short, I'm tired of my skin. So it's time to shed it.I signed up for the Minneapolis Duathlon for this summer as a major fitness goal to get me moving again and so far, so good. I have always wanted to do a triathlon but I hate swimming, so this one seems like a good fit for me. It's a 5K run, followed by an 18-mile bike ride, then another 5K run. I LOVE biking. Love it with all of my being. I can't wait to be so prepped and trained and ready for that portion that I can just hop on the saddle and fly without even thinking about the effort.The running is another story for me. I have done a few 5K races before and was never the last finisher, but I was definitely mediocre all the way. I did one 10K trail race once which I basically trained for by NOT running (super smart, right? I think I thought that my summer of backpacking would equate to being ready for it, but it didn't...big surprise) and we shall never discuss that one again. Running has never been my first choice and there are a number of reasons why. But, I am also a person who doesn't like excuses--especially from myself--so I've trashed all of my reasons:1. "I'm too large-chested to enjoy running." --> Solution: Get a better sports bra. (It's on its way and I'll link to it if I turn out to love it. Highly recommended by friends, so I'm hopeful.)2. "My knees are getting old and couldn't handle it." --> Solution: Really? Try running. Turns out, the knees were actually creaky BECAUSE of the lack of activity. They haven't creaked or cracked or complained once yet.3. "It's boring." --> Solution: Put running in the same meditative place where biking and knitting go in my head. I am capable of doing incredibly "boring" work for long stretches and have proven it again and again with biking and knitting. (Case in point: I'm knitting a size 4T dress for Amelia from sock yarn on size 2 needles at the moment. See?)4. "I don't have the right gear." --> Solution: So...get the gear, dummy.Done, done, done, and done. No more excuses. I'm taking it very slow for starters (it's only March and the race isn't until August) and am still in the "walk one block, run one block" phase. But it's not bad. I have learned that it's easier to run farther if I look up (straight ahead) instead of at my feet and if I concentrate on finding my "numb zone" where I just keep going because my legs are a machine and they just need to run. I can do this with biking with relative ease, but it's harder for me to find this zone with running this time around. I know I will though. I have before. And I really want to do well in this race. ("Do well" = personal goals only, no competitive agenda for the first big race)I will always be a biker[...]

Why I don't watch "Parenthood"

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 14:09:00 +0000

(cross-posted from

I just figured out why I still have not watched the NBC show "Parenthood," despite being implored to watch it by countless friends and family members. Apparently, one of the characters on the show so greatly resembles my son that everyone feels that I really need to watch it. Though I never have.

It's not because I don't like getting into a TV series. It's not because I don't have a TV (I don't, but that doesn't stop me from watching shows in this modern era of the Internet).

But I think it is because I am already living this life with a challenging, bright, frustrating, awesome, difficult, and totally lovable Aspie boy in the flesh and I don't feel that I need to spend hours each week watching a fictional show of a family going through the same thing.

Some would say that that is exactly why I should watch it--because the family on the show supposedly knows how we feel--and I can feel that we're not alone while watching it. My response to that is that we already feel that we're not alone because of the support system we have in place made up of real people with Aspie kids in our area and real professionals here who help us daily. And on the days when I do feel alone, I can promise you that watching a piece of fiction wouldn't change that. Those are the days when I need to have coffee with a friend--parent of an Aspie or not--to ground myself again.

But what I do think is cool about the "Parenthood" show, and what I am grateful for that is a result of all of these incredibly well-meaning suggestions that I watch it, is that it has helped EVERYONE ELSE understand what we're going through a little bit more, without us having to school everyone personally. Each person who makes the connection that the little boy on the show is a lot like Jackson, and then watches a difficult situation on the screen or sees the family's joy in his intense abilities in another area, also makes the connection that our days in this family, in this house, with this child, are a lot like that show. (For better or for worse, since I've never seen it.) They might be realizing why play dates are not always graceful for us, why we hover and give a lot more input than normal when Jackson's having a conversation with someone, and why we are so intensely proud of our son for his intelligence. It normalizes Asperger's for everyone else.

Given that the main reason I don't watch "Parenthood" is because I am already living that life and don't need to see it on the screen again, the secondary reason is that I'd rather watch a completely different "life" on the screen when I do find some time on the couch to watch TV. "Downton Abbey," (the new) "Sherlock Holmes," and "Battlestar Galactica," to name a few. Take me away to a completely different world (perhaps without Asperger's?) and I'm a happy clam. TV time is off-duty time when the kids are in bed, after all. Let me forget and relax a little bit while you watch and learn about us. Then let's meet for coffee to connect and keep it real!

Jackson's Story (cross-posted)

Thu, 22 Dec 2011 20:52:00 +0000

This is a presentation that was given to a graduate course on special education at the University of St. Thomas on 12/1/11. I am posting it here for the sake of posterity.


My name is Catherine and I was asked to talk about my son, focusing on our journey through diagnosis and experiences with special education. Not specifically noted here but not at all insignificant is the support we received from Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) throughout Jackson's early years (and continuing today). When things got extremely rough and we were pulling out of other programs right and left, we continued with ECFE both for continuity for Jackson and for sanity for me. The unconditional support we received from ECFE served as a pillar of strength for our family when we didn't have very much strength of our own to draw upon.


Jackson is a person of extremes, which will all start to make sense in a few minutes, but it did not make sense to us at all when he was first born. We didn't even realize the extremes until they had long since passed.

(Click here to read the rest of this story. It was originally posted on my Aspie blog.)

Hiking and Apples: A Perfect Fall Day (in pictures)

Sat, 24 Sep 2011 23:36:00 +0000



Wed, 31 Aug 2011 20:38:00 +0000

Passing off his new R2D2 toy for his sister to watch over it while he was at school. My teary-eyed moment on the first day of Kindergarten wasn't dropping him off, it was THIS moment!

Not all that interested in being photographed (surprise).

Squinty eyes looking into the sun, pictured here with new team of teachers.

Being silly with little sis.

The closest thing I could get for a "real" smile. I'll take it!

Nobody could have predicted this

Thu, 11 Aug 2011 03:59:00 +0000

I have earned three A's over the course of the summer, so I hope that will suffice as a pretty good excuse for not being present here on this blog (two of the courses were taken concurrently during one summer session which equates to full-time student status, something I had not realized and lamented--nay, outright bitched and moaned about--daily). Two of the A's are for math.* That's right, M-A-T-H. I promised to explain why I had to catch an algebra train in a previous post, but then didn't have time to explain.To sum up, the prerequisites that I need for the graduate program to which I am applying have prerequisites and I got bumped pretty far down the math and science ladder. (Turns out having two degrees in social sciences and cultural studies isn't enough to get into grad school.) Rather than complain about the math component, however, I just jumped in (okay, fine, I complained too).Elementary algebra and intermediate algebra were first up on the docket to make me eligible to re-take statistics (only because my last stats grade on record--an A--is 15 years old and they want it no less than 5 years ago). I was nervous going in, but I quickly picked up on the rhythm and maneuvered my way through the courses with fairly smooth sailing.**...and I just need to highlight this here...I PRETTY MUCH TAUGHT MYSELF ALGEBRA OVER A 10-WEEK PERIOD AFTER IT HAD PLAGUED ME AS A BLEMISH ON MY PRETTY-DARN-NEAR-PERFECT RECORD FOR 20 YEARS.(Taught myself = they were self-directed courses with tutors for assistance, no lectures; history = I got a D in algebra in high school and that was my last math class, despite A's in nearly every class that I liked in high school and college since then)How happy was I to realize that I not only CAN do math, but also that I can do pretty well in it? Fly me to the moon, baby. Chemistry is next. (And stats, of course...)*The other class was Medical Terminology, another online course. I actually read an entire textbook, cover to cover, in 5 weeks. Easy A, but a lot of work.**"fairly smooth sailing" = totally panicking before each test, freaking out over each homework assignment to get them perfect and not missing a moment of study/math center time so I could maximize the opportunity to ask questions in person. Dan probably wouldn't call it "smooth sailing" from his vantage point of supportive spouse.[...]


Tue, 12 Jul 2011 23:17:00 +0000

I found Jackson teaching Amelia how to play Mancala today and captured the end in this short film. I had nothing to do with it (I was in the kitchen making dinner) and am so impressed with both of them. I'm trying to incorporate more turn-taking board games during the day now that Amelia is old enough to understand some of them. She LOVES playing with her big brother. And I love that he is such a patient teacher with her here. This is not always the case!
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(My favorite part is the end though it's almost too soft to hear, J to A: "Do you like it?" A: smiles and nods...)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 04:44:00 +0000

I use this recipe for crust and this recipe for the filling. DEE-LISH-US.

Strawberry Picking

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 04:39:00 +0000

He was a good helper at first......but then he got bored.The perfect strawberryHelping DadThe strawberry of my eye."Picking strawberries is dumb.""I'm still pouting."15 pounds of berries!My Strawberry Girl"Picking strawberries is dumb.""Ooh, look! A grasshopper!"[...]

Amelia Learns to Jump In the Pool

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 04:28:00 +0000

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Then and Now: Canning Report

Mon, 27 Jun 2011 02:06:00 +0000

My pantry last summer, half-way through canning season (pre-tomatoes).My pantry tonight.I am so sad to see just two jars of tomatoes left on my shelves, but so, so, SO proud of our family for 1.) deciding that we didn't want anything to do with commercial tomato cans containing BPA* and,2.) acting on that choice by growing and preserving our own to last through the year. (We didn't quite make it through the year, since these two quarts won't last until tomato harvest this year, but I think we came pretty darn close.)Growing/Canning/Preserving 2010 Review:• I spent WAY too much time processing a bunch of our tomatoes into sauce for the freezer. We don't use sauce nearly as much as we use whole/diced/chopped tomatoes and I'm struggling now to find ways to use it up (we're not big pasta people). I did find this great use for sauce though--it's even more super awesome if you add oven-dried cherry tomatoes from the garden/freezer.--> This year, all tomatoes will be preserved water-pack style for "the sky is the limit cooking" throughout the year. (Those that aren't eaten immediately off the vine, that is.)• We invested too much time/space/energy growing things that we either didn't care very much about or that just didn't produce last year. (What's up, carrots? Don't like our awesomesauce compost-full raised beds? p-sha...)-->We belong to an awesome CSA again this year and we're going to let them do the work regarding vegetable varieties. We, on the other hand, are growing tomatoes.• Way too many pickles.--> Less pickles this year. (Though we still planted some cucumber seeds because they are fun to grow!)• It was fun to experiment with some canning recipes like Spiced Red Cabbage and Corn Relish, but the cabbage tasted terrible (in fairness, I did forget the cinnamon...), and how many jars of relish does a family need?--> There won't be as much time for experimentation this year anyway, so that's solved. (I have always wanted to try making Watermelon Rind Pickles though...does that go against my "less pickles" rule above?)• We ROCKED it on the jam production and are pleased with the remainders. The cherry jam bombed texture-wise since it didn't set up, but it's delightful as a sauce on yogurt or ice cream.--> If only I had the time this year to create another year's supply... Guess we'll have to spread a little less on each piece of toast to make it last longer!Photos from my Facebook pageSummary:Being back to school has definitely made me refine my domestic diva activities a lot this year, so growing/preserving will take a hit too. My goal is to focus on the tomatoes since that experiment worked SO well last year and just be happy with whatever other few jars I can put by here and there between exams. "Exams in the summer?" you ask? Yes, my "summer" doesn't begin until August 5 when summer session II ends and lasts until August 22 when fall semester begins. I'm REALLY hoping that my toms will cooperate with my schedule and ripen in time to be canned during those two weeks!In the meantime, I'm still cooking and baking as often as I can because our CSA really is awesome and I refuse to waste good food. This weekend alone I made:• Mediterranean Macaroni & Cheese--I doubled the amount of tomatoes (I REALLY love tomatoes) and added artichokes.• Quiche--family recipe, added oven-dried cherry toms from last year (freezer) plus basil and chives fresh from the garden • Vegan Banana Bread--a staple around here• Salad, salad and more salad, since the CSA provided three glorious heads of lettuce this week (plus French breakfast radishes, cucumbers and garlic shoots...)• Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp--warning, link opens a PDF, but it's well worth it• Chana Saag--I added potatoes, so I think that changes the name of this d[...]

Jackson The Bug Guy

Wed, 22 Jun 2011 04:47:00 +0000

We went to see a show by Bruce The Bug Guy at a local rec center today and Jackson had a fantastic time. His interest in insects in skyrocketing this summer and I wouldn't be surprised if it became his Aspie obsession.Amelia also had a great time at the show. She happily and willingly touched all of the same insects that her brother did (though she's not in as many photos as him because she spent a lot more time running around the gym during the program). I am proud that neither of my kids are squeamish! Their mama did work in a natural history museum for 10 years, after all. It would be sad if they couldn't even handle a hissing cockroach. :)Stick insectsBeetlesCecropia mothAmelia giving it a go too!Moving on to the hissing cockroachAmelia checks out the cockroachesExamining the scorpion in its cageHe REALLY wanted to take it out...Rosie the TarantulaGetting ready to eat a Cheddar-flavored mealworm......eating it......not bad!The best part of the day? During the show, I received a phone call saying that Jackson was moved off of a waiting list for a bug summer camp at a nature center and he has a spot in the camp. He.Was.Ecstatic.[...]

Well, that was a wash...

Sun, 29 May 2011 01:21:00 +0000

Our first camping trip of 2011 wasn't a total flop, but we can't exactly call it a success either. The culprits:Wow. The state park was crawling in ticks and we were picking them off of us and the dog every minute (it seemed). Way too many ticks. Way too creepy, crawly feeling."Who, me?" Yes, you, Daisy Dog. She may be the perfect family dog, but she is a timid camper which results in her having stage fright when it comes to elimination. We have a dog that won't pee in the woods. WTH? We feared secret packages in the tent corner by night, but we were finally able to convince her that the campsite was "home" by taking numerous walks in and out of the site. Neurotic.Oh, don't let these adorable faces fool you. You're not looking at angels here, but pure Camping Monsters through and through. We have a curly-mop almost 3yo who shouts, runs away, and eggs her brother on and a 5.5yo almost Kindergartener who used to be a good camper but is still a loose cannon who is easily affected by a rebellious 3yo. "She used to be so sweet..." "He got awesome reports at the end of preschool..." Scrap it. They are pure evil together.Click to enlarge to see them in action mode(Okay, fine. Maybe not pure evil, since they did do a lot of hiking on our own personal campsite path together. But I still think this is where they made their plans for campsite domination.)The rain was the last culprit, and possibly the biggest. We're happy to report that our new McMansion tent held up beautifully with not a drop of water inside the tent. But it was a wet, soggy camping experience with two small kids and a dog. Fun.Some parts were indeed fun though and it was a gorgeous campsite with a super soft tent pad. Very secluded too (good thing, given all of the parental shouting towards the end--i.e. "STOP SITTING ON THE DOG'S HEAD!!").Spirits still high upon arrival"Naked" tentIt extends quite a bit with the rain fly and add-on vestibule--two extra "rooms" outside the tentWe started camping in teeny backpacking tents so we wereall "wow..." at the space in this baby.Silly in the tentDinner in the Trail Center the first (and only!) night due to rainSpoiled dog--she nestled INTO my sleeping bagand wound up at my feetChilly morningWalk-in site--this was our private path to our campsite"Are we having fun yet?""Cheers?"Despite the annoyances, we ARE raising little campers(who like to waste their flashlight batteries by using themwhen the sun comes out, but, whatever...).Working on the State Parks Junior Naturalist Badge workbookSpoiled dog againAt the interpretive center--Jackson's got thewing-span of a red-tailed hawkVerdict: We are NOT camping with these small creatures again until they're a little older. The combination of Aspie-oppositional-defiant boy and 3yo crazy, rebellious, whiny girl is just not a good idea for camping. (The State Parks thank us for this, we know.) But we do want to keep these urban kids used to being in the woods, so we're going to go with calculated, planned out day trips to the State Parks this year instead. Same gear except the tent and the sleeping bags. We'll leave at 6 or 7am and return late. Eat all of our meals outside and plan to use the picnic areas near the playground at the parks for grilling (WAY easier to keep kids occupied around a fire at a playground than a boring old campsite). We'll hike, swim, shower off and then return home. Easy. Right?Maybe we'll wait til after tick season has passed...P.S. Dan and I have a camping trip for the two of us planned in two weeks that we are NOT canceling and that we are looking forward to with great anticipation. To us, camping means long hikes, good food cooked over a fire and plenty of time to read. Without the kids along, we will be much more likely to achiev[...]

Daisy the Doggie-Woggie

Mon, 11 Apr 2011 02:46:00 +0000

Our family got a new puppy this week and it has rocked all of our worlds (for the better). She is the sweetest, most gentle dog we could have found and we are happy to welcome her into our home! Meet Daisy:• Fox Terrier/Beagle mix (the vet says "light on the Beagle for sure, mainly Fox Terrier")• 9 months old; rescue/shelter dog, no previous family life, she came from Oklahoma• loves the kids, loves the cat, loves Dan and me, loves the house, loves the fenced backyard...• the cat reciprocates her love, they're both sleeping in the dog's kennel in the dining room right now• "barkless" (she barks about twice a day and it's a low "woof" vs. a yap--score!)• about 16 pounds now and may only grow another pound or two more, small dog• Dan loves her despite the last bullet point (my "big dog guy")• LOVES running fast in our yard and has the build of a Greyhound when she really gets going• has claimed me and follows me around the house, always at my heels• will only play fetch in the yard with me :)• loves going on walks in the neighborhood or for nature hikes; freaks out if we attempt to leave the house for some fun without her; loves the car• came to us housebroken; chose "her spot" in the yard to do her business immediately and consistently goes there (and it's a woodchipped corner, so yay!)• willingly goes in her kennel at night and when we leave the house• eats well but is not motivated by treats; she prefers us fawning over her with praise instead and politely declines the treats while her butt is wagging from the excitement of a job well done (I gave her a treat to go into her kennel one night and she took it, walked into her kennel, dropped it in the corner and laid down to sleep. Like, "Thank you, but no thanks.")See for yourself!Serious buds. Instant friends.See caption above.Hiking at Minnehaha Falls.Who's a sweet little doggie-woggie??The cat was trying to intimidate the dog when it was time for dinner by not moving away from her bowl the entire time she ate.Amelia was NOT sure about Daisy at first, but she has warmed up to the dog now. Another budding friendship. (Daisy just ran up and cuddled with Amelia in this shot. Amelia was shocked, to say the least!)Her yard. For sure.The first time they sat together. Now the cat rubs on the dog and the dog licks the cat.Daisy SuperDog Cake! (Because the kids want to dress her as a super hero for Halloween and they think she smelled like cake when we got her home from the groomer.)Regarding her name, I wanted to name her "Cedar," thinking that I could appeal to my Nature Boy Jackson by saying "But Sweetie, Cedar is a name connected to nature--it's a tree!" He replied, "Mom, so is Daisy. It's a flower." Jackson won. :)[...]

Thanks for the socks, Gigi!

Sun, 03 Apr 2011 01:58:00 +0000

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Ellen! Ellen!

Mon, 14 Mar 2011 21:06:00 +0000

Did you all see this BBC clip with animals doing funny things with human words/thoughts?
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SO funny! It made the rounds on FB and my kids just adored it too. We watched it a few times (okay, maybe a hundred times) a couple of weeks ago, but not since.

Imagine my surprise when I hear my 2.5yo shouting from upstairs, "Ellen! Ellen!" (which sounded more like "Ewwen! Ewwen!"), just like this cute little groundhog in the movie. When I went upstairs (laughing), I asked her what she was doing.

Amelia: "I have a poopy diaper and I was calling you to come." (she was laughing too)

me: "Why are you calling me 'Ellen'?" (still laughing)

Amelia: "Because it's funny!" (bursting out laughing now)

We had a good laugh fest over that one (I've never had so much fun changing a diaper before!)

Patterns of Progress

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 03:41:00 +0000

Jackson's preschool conference was today and I am pleased to share that the overall report was good. Very good, actually. We all know that there are some very definite challenges preventing Jackson from completely engaging in every activity, but he is making progress on all of his goals and is learning what he should be learning during this transitional year just before Kindergarten.

Two things stood out for me:
Most kids his age can cut this curvy line within 1/8" without difficulty and Jackson is no different. I love this example of his work though because it shows a unique discrepancy in his fine motor skills: while he still struggles with pencil grasp (tripod), he can cut on lines normally. It's a completely different type of grasp to use scissors versus a pencil, of course, but it's fine motor and he's got it.

I also like it because he is so obviously bored with cutting due to his occupational therapy assessments and other tests of his skills. The last time someone asked him to cut something on a line (when I was present, at least), he blew out air and said in the most disgusted 16yo boy voice, "I already know how to cut." I don't love the attitude, but I love the mastery and "can we move on already?" ambition on his part.

(The tripod grasp is coming along nicely too, though Be Damned! the person who attempts to help or even happens to be in the room when Mr. I Don't Want Anyone Watching Me And I Want To Do It Perfectly The First Time Or Not At All is writing something...)

I love this next one even more though because it shows his brain power:
This was a pattern project and the kids were supposed to demonstrate an "A-B" pattern (pink, yellow, pink, yellow, etc.). Most preschoolers can do the A-B, but the A-B-C pattern starts to stump them. Jackson blew by these patterns and demonstrated an A-B-B pattern on his own. That's beyond where he's "supposed" to be, and yet another example of the strength of his mental abilities.

As his mom, I am not the least bit surprised at his patterning skills because I've seen him do patterns since age 3 or so. And it makes sense given that he is a boy who craves routine so much that he has been known to breakdown when the routine changes. Routine = pattern. It's how he thinks.

I think he's pretty neat.

My babies

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 05:09:00 +0000

"The love of learning, the sequestered nooks and all the sweet serenity of books."

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 04:58:00 +0000

As I mentioned in this post, I received a Kindle for my birthday from my sweet husband. I always said I didn't want to go electronic with my reading because 1.) I like the feel of BOOKS (I know, it's @font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } cliché), and 2.) I didn't want to get roped into having to BUY my books again (I'm a proud library user). But Dan decided to override me on this one because he always hears me complain about wanting to knit and read at the same time (it's awfully hard to find a good way to keep the book open and flat while using both hands for knitting...) and thought the Kindle would prove to be a nice hands-free compromise.< < ding, ding, ding!! > >Major points to Dan for 1.) listening well (I guess I did complain about that a lot), and 2.) making the executive decision that truly revolutionized my reading life.Kindle, oh Kindle, how did I ever live without you??Real paper books? Over-rated. They get dusty and then you loan them out and forget about them.Library? Still grappling with that one, but at least I didn't have to wait in line behind 760 other people to read The Help.I just looked at the list of books on my Kindle that I've read since my birthday and was astonished at the number. Ten. I've read 10 books since December 17, 2010. That's pretty much a book a week. I always thought those people who do the 52-book challenges over the course of a year must do nothing but read, but I guess I could totally do it. (And I do way more than just read...)So, it's time for a running tally of these books. Because, well, I'm like that.• The Help, by Kathryn Stockett• The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins• Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins• Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins• The Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer• The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children, by Ross W. Greene  • Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic Boy and the Dog That Unlocked His World, by Nuala Gardner  • The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time, by Mark Haddon• The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery, by Alan Bradley•  The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery, by Alan BradleyCurrently reading: • A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Mystery, by Alan Bradley• The Feminine Mystique, by Betty FriedanNext up and already awaiting me on my Kindle:• The Lacuna, by Barbara KingsolverI would love to describe what I thought about each and every one of these titles, (Oh! The Mockingjay! And can I have just a little more Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, please?), but that would go on and on and would, frankly, take me away from my reading. Because this is when I read these days: late at night. I am a college student again, after all, and remain a more-than-full-time parent which keeps me quite busy. But the studying shuts down at 10pm, and while the parenting does not shut down, it's at least semi-quiet in the late hours. So this is my time. And it's way more logistically satisfying to read a slim, no-pages-to-turn Kindle in bed than have a bulky hardcover (textbook) balanced precariously on your chest. Now, off to see what Flavia is up to tonight... *Quote in title from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, of[...]

Trilobites and Ammonites

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 05:59:00 +0000

A friend told me that the Science Museum of Minnesota has a Preschool Playdate program on Mondays and I decided this week that it was time to visit. Being a former museum professional myself, I had visited the Science Museum many times previously, but never with my own kids (I assumed that the content was too old for them still).Amelia is still too young to really "get" the exhibits, though she absolutely adored being there and experiencing it with her brother.But her brother, the big five-year-old, LOVED it.Jackson spent the summer collecting anything and everything he could find in nature that was interesting: shells of bugs, seed pods, agates and rocks and even an entire, intact monarch butterfly (dead). He became Nature Boy and declared that he was put on this earth to collect things.People would ask him "what do you collect" after he finished telling them that he is a collector, and he would reply "everything." It's sort of true too, though we're trying to hone his collecting skills a bit to make sure that his bedroom doesn't end up resembling a junkyard.The same friend who told me about the Preschool Playdates at the Science Museum mentioned their Collector's Corner trading post program where kids can bring in an object they found in nature and trade it in for another item at the museum. They have to share their knowledge about the item and it is assessed by the staff who then determine its point value for trading. I knew at once that Jackson would love this, so that was the big push behind our visit this morning.Given that Jackson has Asperger's, I did a lot to prep him for the visit. We talked about how Collector's Corner works, which item would be appropriate to share (no, sweetie, they don't want a button or bottlecap from your collection), and what it might be like to give it up and leave the museum without it. I presented the option to him of just visiting today and not taking part in the trading, so he could check it out first. We could go back another time to trade if he wanted, I said.He just did an "uh huh, uh huh, uh huh" routine with me during our prep so I wasn't sure what to expect.We got to the museum early and were the first ones to the Collector's Corner (probably the biggest key element of our success) and after I said the pleasantries and greetings, he dove in:"Hi, I brought something to show you, it's a trilobite. It's also an arthropod. It's a fossil and it lived millions of years ago. It's related to a horseshoe crab."(exchange of information ensued with the impressed staff member, he earned 3,000 points for his trilobite and an extra 500 "for knowledge")< < < excuse me while I beam > > >He then proceeded to explore each of the trays of items within his point range for an item that he could take home. Quietly, carefully and purposefully, he selected a large piece of quartz. He decided he liked it because it was a crystal. (I thought the fossilized sea urchin was cooler, but it was his trade.)Then, (this is where it gets good), he went on to tell the staff members what else he saw in the case. Some things were obvious (sea horse, starfish, sea urchin) but here's where he surprised me: "Oh, there's an ammonite. It's a fossil."To quote his father's text message to me later in the day, "Ammonite? WTH is an ammonite??"My reply to him "I don't know, I thought you taught him that!"Turns out that neither of us taught Jackson about ammonites so we assumed that he learned it at school. (Preschool though? I was still skeptical.) At home, I turned to his new Kingfisher First Enc[...]

Seat Drop

Fri, 14 Jan 2011 20:30:00 +0000

The kids and I spent the morning at a local gymnastics gym during preschool open gym. Jackson has been many times before, but this was Amelia's first official visit (where she wasn't carried around watching the action from the comfort of a sling on mom's back). To say they both L-O-V-E-D it would be an understatement. Their sibling relationship is really blossoming lately and Jackson even taught Amelia how to walk on the balance beam (very well too! both of them were scooting back and forth on the low beam like it was the regular sidewalk). We bought a family season pass. :)

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Thu, 13 Jan 2011 17:47:00 +0000

I don't really need to say anything about this girl. I mean, the pictures speak for themselves, right? (I will note, however, that I find it interesting that both of my kids got the flexible tongue gene while I still can't do more with mine than merely stick it out of my mouth. The next generation is infinitely more talented! And cute.)

(I will also note that these successive photos were not the photographer's idea, but the subject's. She kept coming closer and stopping for me to snap the next one. Ham.)


Mon, 10 Jan 2011 13:34:00 +0000

Normal Sick?

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 19:54:00 +0000

Jackson was sick again this weekend, but I'm pleased to report that he was finally "normally" sick, instead of his usual routine of ending up in the hospital due to dehydration and lethargy. Here he is last night getting ready for movie night with his dad, after a full day of rest, non-stop talking and playing Legos. (Note: the cat does NOT normally sit with Jackson and Jackson was VERY happy about it, despite the intense face.)

Book Report: A Thorn in My Pocket by Eustacia Cutler

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 19:50:00 +0000

@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }p.MsoFooter, li.MsoFooter, div.MsoFooter { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }span.FooterChar { }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } (This report was submitted for my General Psychology course last semester.)Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Temple Grandin, probably the world’s best known "autism celebrity" today. In her memoir A Thorn in my Pocket: Temple Grandin’s Mother Tells the Family Story, Cutler explores the difficulties and challenges she faced raising an autistic child in the years immediately following WWII. She tells the story of Temple's life from birth, chronicles the misinformation they received and diagnosis they struggled to grasp, how the family coped (or didn't cope) and what pathways opened up for them all as a result.When Temple's parents first sought assistance for their daughter, they were shuffled amongst skeptical doctors. Mental retardation and brain damage were the first terms used to describe Temple; autism and infant schizophrenia were eventually used to diagnosis her at the age of 3 (Cutler, pg. 30). The gravity of these words was enough to send Temple's father reeling and he firmly dug his trench in his war to have Temple institutionalized from the very beginning. Eustacia never allowed it and their marriage suffered for it, ultimately ending in divorce when Temple was a teenager.Despite little societal support, Eustacia was adamant about Temple's therapies, social instruction and rigid behavioral rules. She sought all treatments on her own, worked them in to her family's life (Temple also has three younger siblings), and persisted in the notion that Temple could learn, all the while defending her first-born daughter from naysayers (including her own father) at every turn. And it worked. By all accounts, Temple succeeded (and is still succeeding) in her life against all early predictions. Today, Temple holds a Ph.D. in animal science, is a professor at Colorado State University, a world-renowned humane livestock facility designer and autism advocate/speaker.Clearly, the intense conviction Eustacia demonstrated in her daughter's abilities is amazing. As a parent with a child on the autism spectrum, I can sympathize with her emotional reactions to Temple's diagnosis and commitment to "fix" her daughter, but I can’t even begin to imagine living in an era of such unbending social rules with a misunderstood child who doesn't match the norm.What I find even more astounding is how the psychiatric institution as a whole dealt with autism. Eustacia's hindsight reveals that the experts she consulted didn't really know what they were doing after all, but needed to find a way to describe, catalog and deal with individuals displaying autistic traits. Some advanced doctors were willing to think outside of the box and acknowledge that they didn't understand the whole picture. One of Temple's earliest pediatricians ordered brain scans to rule out petit mal—absence seizures connected to epilepsy—and Eustacia later credited him for at least being willing to explore possible neurological differences in her daughter (pg. 209). But most were more than willing to institutionalize a child in the name of science (pg. 138). The pervasive belief that psychoanalysis[...]