Friday, March 14, 2014

"A" for apple week

This is how the chalkboard looked at the end of this week  It will stay like this for a bit longer and hopefully when I hit "B" week I'll change the chalkboard closer to the beginning of the time instead of the end.
My plan was to leave up the letters from kindergarten as our frame.  That's a plan right?  NOT taking something down?   I was encouraged to hear my mother-in-law (who is a teacher) tell me that the first three years are teaching the same stuff anyway.  First is introduction, then the next year is actually learning it, and the third year is maintaining it.  Now, if you are like me you might think.. why not skip the first two years and just learn it in the third?  And there would enter perhaps some of the arguments and evidence for later school start times.  Anyway, I digress. 
 I do really have a plan.... it's just not really planned too far ahead of time.   Generally I lose sleep by planning mainly just in my head.  Night time is the only moments of "space" where I have time to really think and get creative.  It's really annoying because I'd much rather be sleeping.  Last night I realized just how close "B" week is coming up and ordered a live butterfly garden kid through Amazon and a Fancy Nancy book.  Which just goes to show that you shouldn't stay up late with brilliant ideas and spontaneously spend money.  (It's okay, I'd rather buy school things than birthday decorations for myself anyway.) 
The little one posing by some library books and my calendar/schedule book that I only can seem to use about 1/4 of the time.... if that.
 Here's some more of my plan.  We go to the library almost every week and get movies or books or whatever and when I know a subject is coming up I like to grab a bunch of books that relate to that subject.  So, I'd planned on doing "A for apple" week again and got some books on trees, apples, seeds, Johnny Appleseed (big hit that one) and a book about John Newton and his life before writing the hymn "Amazing Grace" (which starts with an "A" so we might as well throw that one in too.) 
Pie cookies are always a big hit
Random moment from the other day.  The two oldest ones were wrestling and pushing each other off the chair. (no one was hurt in the picture taking of this picture) and the littlest one who isn't old enough to get "Wii credits" ran for a full TEN minutes and then did some other Wii fit games!  I was impressed at her desire to keep at it!
 I did most of the baking alone with just the occasional taste tester.  The girls were too excited about going outside and enjoying the weather and roller skates to want to help me in the kitchen.  Which was actually totally fine with me!
The middle one got roller skates for her birthday!  They have been outside a LOT these days and I figure it's a good thing to do so before it's so hot that we are all stuck inside in the middle of the day again (I take them out then to swim at night, but they can't stand being out in the day.. even in the morning.)  I wish they could spend more time outside!
 I did not plan on making an apple pie at all until we were reading one of their books and saw the character make an apple pie and I suddenly just felt like making one.  I wouldn't have planned this and would have been overwhelmed if I'd planned ahead of time to make an apple pie.
In case anyone has to be gluten free like us and wants a good pie crust recipe this one is fabulous.. though it's just a mix!  Pamela's Bread mix is what we use and on the back it will have directions for making a pie crust with the bread mix.

 I set the girls up with some play dough to make their own "pies" and my oldest got all excited about the idea that we could make a peach pie when we get to the letter "P" and had fun making up lots of other yummy and/or yucky sounding pies according to what might match a letter.  The next day when the pie was gone and my husband saw the empty dish when he got home he said, "NOOOOOOoooo!  When is 'P' week coming for Pecan and Peach pies?"
I think the "rainbow pie" is quite pretty.
 We cut dixie cups for the pie pans in case anyone is wanting to try this at home.

I still haven't finished reading all the library books on trees that I got, but it would have been too boring to read them all together (I sprinkled them through our usual story reading.)  The girls aren't always interested in every book, but I never know what is sinking in or not and one girl might like a story more than the other so usually it's interesting to someone.  I'm pretty certain that if my oldest was at a public school she'd either be extremely depressed in her compliance or (if she acts like she does at home) would be told that she needs medication to help her sit still.  I let them put puzzles together or build towers or play with silly putty, and (often) have to remind them to not talk unless it's asking questions about the book we are reading.

The girls did a little "A" letter search in a poem from one of our books and they had fun drawing pictures that related to the letter "a" as I was working on the chalk board.  For the most part they are the most engaged and ready to learn when they are just observing what I do and want to do it too!

All three girls have their own little chalk boards as well that they had fun drawing on.  I wasn't sure what to do really and just started doing a tree.  Then my oldest said I should draw Johnny Appleseed under the tree (definitely the favorite story from this week!) and so I sort of copied how he looked from the book we had about him.  (Note, the "marshmallow math" hanging to the right of the chalk board that I talked of in the last post?)

LOVE these books!  I have almost half of them now and want to get them all because they are so fun and perfect for our letter themed weeks that work for all the ages of my girls.  At the end of each book they have some real facts about the featured animal and some games and things to play using the letter of the book.

This particular book had a word making game with cups.  The short "a" lesson turned into a silent "e" lesson from how the girls were asking questions.  We just go with it and work as long as they want.  I can sense pretty easily these days when their interest is waning.

 The book inspired some balancing acts of their own, and this is about when I stepped away from school for the day and am letting them play with the cups all afternoon.
The little one even tried a balancing act!  My middle child dissolved into tears because the first time she tried to balance the cups they fell over and was not consoled when I mentioned how long it took Alexander in the book to learn how to do it.  I only mention that bit so you realize that homeschooling is not all shiny like the pictures on blogs show.  I didn't particularly want to take a picture of her laying on the floor upset.

 It didn't take the middle one too long to recover.  This was after she'd had some time upstairs by herself at her own choice, and they are all still playing with the cups while we watch the old "Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" movie.  We've been reading the "Narnia" books before bed for quite a while now and I thought it would be fun to watch and compare the movies.
On another day, when I was taking a shower, my oldest wrote the word "Frosn" (for Frozen) on the steamy mirror and I wanted to post about this because it's a good example of how something popular can inspire learning.  We've been enjoying the "Frozen" songs ever since we saw it in the theater at Christmas time.  Can't wait to own the dvd!
You might be wondering how the picture above fits in with this post, and you might want to point out that she spelled the word wrong anyway.   I of course know that, but that is entirely beside the point.  This word written on the mirror is a glimmer of how far we've come in a year.  NOT because of how she spells (and no, I didn't say anything,) but because she actually wanted to write this all on her own without any prompting or coercion from me.  I feel like this last year of laying off the reading and writing intensity has helped her come back from the land of "I hate this" to the land of interest again.  My goal in teaching my girls is to inspire them and help them WANT to learn.  It's definitely not about perfection, grammar rules, and memorizing facts for us at this age.  We will memorize facts when we need to and grammar rules on occasion, but it will never be ABOUT that.  Perfection is never possible anyway, so I'm throwing that totally out.  We strive for excellence yes, but excellence to us is using our imaginations and being interested in the world and stories around us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marshmallows, Math, Toothpicks, and Dodecahedron Plans

 And speaking of wanting to do things that make learning is fun.  My oldest thinks it's neat when I cut her sandwich at lunch time like a puzzle.  It's kind of random I suppose, but why not, right?

 So speaking of math.  Here's a little math day that happened a while back.  I had played "X from outer space" with the girls before taking this picture and talked about adding and multiplying (Waldorf math introduces the concepts all at once instead of one at a time and it really does make more sense this way.)

Well,  I'd used these little blocks to help illustrate some math concepts and then when the older girls lost interest and wanted to go play with their dolls I just stayed their with the little one hooking blocks that matched together.  We lined them up and the oldest looked over and got interested in what I was doing.  I started wondering out loud how many of each color there were and counted the longest.  Then subtracted to find the numbers for the others.  Note:  I counted by 2s or 10s without trying to "teach" any of these things.  I was just doing and they were observing.  They noticed enough of all this and then we made some stacks of a hundred.  There were 333 blocks total. 
 When I saw that I wasn't needed any more as my oldest wanted to take the blocks and play with them herself I observed the designs she was making with the colors.  I remember doing this as a kid.  My oldest has a keen eye for patterns and I know this will be helpful to her if I teach to her natural inclination.  Right now I'm more modeling and observing than trying to teach much.
Note: how even the littlest one enjoyed this project.  Granted she was basically just eating them, but at least she was happy right? ;]
 We also spontaneously jumped into a math project with marshmallows and tooth picks.  I did this with them 3 or so years ago but obviously, they can get a lot more out of it now.
 Again, I wasn't trying to teach anything.  I was just building right along with them.  What happens if I make a shape with only triangles?  I did talk some about the language of math and how there are names for shapes because it started getting tiresome to say, "You know that shape with four sides and four corners?" This was a great conversation because it took the (sometimes confusing names) and gave them a context and purpose.  You might think that's obvious information, but when memorizing dry facts is the way of it, the more context and interest the better.
 I'd already done just a little too much text book math with my oldest (I could see her face fall when I said we were going to do math this day) but I got to see her learn and try things as we were playing with the shapes.  She was the one that came up with the idea that a bunch of triangles would make a ball shape.  I fiddled with it and fiddled and somehow stumbled on that very shape!  She said she could see it in her brain.  After I'd made a few she tried it too and was able to make a "dodecahedron" as well!

It sort of started like this and you just sort of keep going.  Sorry, that's all I got and that's how we did it.  Left brained people make up the directions but sometimes it's more fun to just fiddle with something till it comes out right then try plan too much and figure out how to do it.

Once we were running out of toothpicks we started to paint the marshmallows!  This was a clever way to keep the 2 year old from eating our creations.  She'd already eaten her whole pile of marshmallows and was quickly swiping some of her sisters work and nibbling.

You do have to be careful to not use TOO much water on them or they'll dissolve, but for the most part the watercolor paint worked quite well.
The middle one (just turned 6) made some cubes and hexagon shapes.  When the Daddy came home and said all impressed like, "Wow you made a box!"  She said, "Actually, it's a cube."  haha, which impressed the Daddy all the more.
And a random moment playing ball with the little one.  I remember really wanting to read something at this point in whatever day it was, but decided a little game of ball wouldn't go amiss. 
The way in which I plan our school and days feels just like how I felt when I made the dodecahedron out of marshmallows and tooth picks.  I could sort of get the general idea of what I was trying to do (it's a bunch of triangles and ends up in a ball shape) but I couldn't make a "how to" unless someone was capturing what I was doing on video or taking pictures as I went and writing it for me. 
This is my attempt to try to figure out how I did it so I could help her make one.
I keep having to remind myself that the shape I came up with is just as valid as the same shape made by someone else with a detailed plan.  We both achieved our objective, right?  Just because I can't plan like most people doesn't mean that our days can't be "put together" in a way that allows for growth and learning.

I'm glad that I can take pictures and blog about what we are doing because so often I feel like I'm not doing enough or doing the right things.  After all, we plant a seed, but can't see anything that goes on with it's growth until much time has passed and the first little leaves have formed.  In the case of children and homeschooling I've planted so many little seeds that I really don't know what those tiny leaves are going to turn into.  Hopefully I've sown more good seeds than weeds (that they'll need to pull later), but that will happen as well.  And right now, it's the time to continually remind myself to play with my kids and enjoy these projects with them.  It's not about rushing to the end. Or hurrying the growth along.  It's about savoring the moments and watering the seeds.

Creativity and our Bias Against it

Originally I was thinking about writing a post about how I plan our school.  Which feels extremely illusive to me since I don't really know how I come up with what to do with the girls.  Yes, I do have a frame work of sorts and have some bits of "set" curriculum pieces that we use on occasion, but how does it all come together and what do our days look like?

All this thought and observing our days and my plans for them led me to some reading about creativity.

I've always been told how creative I am, but what does that mean?  I read recently that all children are born divergent thinkers and (if left to their own devices) will come up with different solutions to a problem naturally, and around the time they are 12 or so is when they generally start conforming.

I saw that in my own life.  I went from an attitude that was "You say I can't do that?  Then I'll prove you wrong."  And I would.  To a place where I wanted to learn to "fit in" and where I felt pressure to spend time doing urgent (mundane) things that haven't (for the most part) helped me as an adult rather than keep developing my natural creativity which would help me much more now.  I did have quite a bit more opportunity to follow my own interests and hobbies because I was homeschooled and was able to make the time for my own interests, but I still felt the pressure around me to conform.  -- Not going right off to college?  What is wrong with you?  Not working full time as a whatever?  Lazy aren't you?--

What do we use to measure success?  When I finally worked for a Bridal shop as a seamstress when I was 21, all those years of teaching myself to sew and design my own clothes and alter things to fit me seemed to be "worth it" because I had an acceptable venue for using those skills.  That is, one that earned money.  Which is how we seem to rate success.

If that is how we rate success then where does that leave us homeschooling or stay-at-home-moms?  -- but that's a thought for another post.  Back to creativity and how to develop it in our own lives as well as allowing our children space for it.

Check out this video with John Cleese about creativity

In the video with John Cleese, besides being funny and fun to watch, talks about how to be creative.  That is to say, he talks about how to make space for creativity.  By first setting aside space and a specific amount of time (he suggests an hour and a half) and be open to ideas and play and not be afraid of mistakes because in that mode there are no mistakes and to have fun with it.  Allow humor rather than solemnity to be present.

The ending struck me as well but first let me reference this bit of info about what traits are and aren't present in creativity--

The researchers created a 20-item creativity “prototype” which consisted of 10 characteristics previously found to be associated with high creativity, and 10 characteristics found to be associated with low creativity.
Characteristics of creative children included qualities like:

Characteristics that were least typical of creative child included qualities like:

The article linked in the quote above was pointing out that our society doesn't value creative people, yet also notes that "In a recent survey of 1500 CEO’s by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, “creativity” was singled out as the most important leadership characteristic for businesses of the future."

Making a home atmosphere that allows for creativity seems to be pretty vital if we want our children to thrive in the future.  So how do we do that?  Watching the video and reading the article are some good starting points and also giving ourselves that space for creativity, but I also have some thoughts about what it's not.

And now I'm back to talking about the ending of the John Cleese video.  I wrote a "close" transcript of what he said at the end which won't be nearly as funny as listening to him saying it all, but as I listened I was comparing what he was saying about business to parenting and what it might look like to squelch creativity rather than nurture it.
How to stop your subordinates from being creative too.
We all know that if we encourage someone to be creative then before we know it they are rocking the boat and coming up with ideas and asking us questions.  If we don't nip this in the bud then we have to justify our decisions by reasoned arguments....

Here's how to stamp out creativity to get respect going.
1: Allow subordinates no humor; it threatens your self importance, especially your omniscience.  Treat all humor as frivolous  or subversive.

2:  Keeping ourselves feeling irreplaceable means cutting everyone else down to size.  So don't miss an opportunity to undermind your employees confidence.  A perfect opportunity comes when you are reviewing work that they have done.  Use your authority to zero in immediately  on all the things you can find wrong.  Never never balance the negatives with the positives.  Only criticize. - As your school teachers did.  Always remember:  Praise makes people "upity"

3:  Demand that people should always be doing things.  If you catch anyone pondering accuse them of laziness and or indecision.  This is to starve employees of thinking time because that would lead to creativity and insurrection.

So, demand urgency  at all times, use lots of fighting talk and war analogies and establish a permanant atmosphere of stress, of breathless anxiety, and crisis.  In a phrase, keep that mode closed.  In this way we can be assured that any bit of creativity even in its most microscopic measurement will be all our own and not that of our employees.

BUT let your vigilance  slip for one moment and you will find yourself surrounded by happy enthusiastic and creative people who you might not be able to completely control ever again!  So be careful.  Thank you and good night.

Lets note the above (on how to squelch creativity) which was basically

-lack of humor

If you've followed my blog much you've seen me struggle with organizing or developing habits to make housework easier.  I've talked about ideas for our school and shared some of my struggles with how hard it is for me to create a "schedule" for our days.  It's discouraging to try to work the cleaning plan only to have the freshly made beds or clean bathroom need a cleaning the very next day (or hour) because of a little person accident of some kind or another.  I've fallen into being more reactionary with cleaning and house things for much of the time, but then I feel like I'm constantly not able to catch up.

But guess what?  When I try to keep a "schedule" I lose my patience and start to feel too "busy" and I'm more critical of my children (who are making all the messes!) and humor definitely doesn't come into it because I'm just too exhausted to enjoy their silly antics because all I can see is the mess that I (again) have to clean up.  This goes for a strict school schedule as well.  I get stressed by it and can't be humorous or spontaneous.  Patience and being non-critical gets thrown out the window when it's all about checking the boxes on the lesson plan.

Under it all though, what I truly value is creative space.  Which might partly be why I can't stay in that negative creativity squelching place.  I look back to my own life and those things that I really appreciated growing up, time to play and create and be, are what I want to give my children.  I don't have an agenda for their future careers, I simply want them to explore who they are and what they like and stretch their minds in their own time.

Often I feel like my own value (in this area) is pushed aside by MYSELF because I think that the way to get to a "better place" is to plan and schedule.  I can't tell you how many times I've felt like creating something only to stop myself because I had "something else to do" and thought it would be better to do my to-do list and plan the creative thing for a different time.

Inevitably I wouldn't remember or care what I'd originally wanted to create and never get around to it. 

Occasionally I find it difficult to teach my children about what we believe through our school even though there are so many homeschool resources out there that have Bible lessons.  I don't often see the gospel emphasized (our inability to be good enough to go to heaven and how Jesus died for us and loved us in our sinfulness.)  Much of the lessons are teaching morality and emphasizing obedience and compliance.  While, yes, I do believe it's important to teach our children to obey us-- that's not the gospel message and shouldn't be the main focus.   I think it's far too easy to take that teaching to its extreme, and in our own sinfulness it's far too easy to focus on the verse that is only talking to kids and obeying and gloss over the verse right near that one that says "Father's do not provoke your children unto anger." Should they obey us because we simply don't want to deal with them right now?  Are we asking them to change who God actually created them to be by trying to make them comply?

God gave all of us a personality and creativity of our own at birth and helping our own kids develop that (rather than squelch who they are) is honoring to our Creator.

I don't know if any of the conservative Christian types will be reading this, but I can hear the argument now.  Lets look at the creative non-creative traits again.
Someone might argue that the "creative traits" which are-
Makes up rules as he goes along
Takes chances
Tends not to know their own limitations...

Are traits that are (or could be) sinful.  One thing that I've often reminded my kids when they hit their sister (for instance) is that the Bible says, "Be angry, but do not sin."  Being angry isn't a sin.  God himself gets angry!  It's what we do with our emotion that can be a sin or not.  Being emotional isn't a sin, but depending on how we act on our emotion we could end up sinning.

I should probably also point out that the people who are natural "rule-followers" that might fall into the non-creative traits list can fall into sins that are much harder to see (like pride) and are not inherently "better qualities" and yet, being tolerant (at least of us and our sins) and dependable and compliant are what we seem to be trying to instil in our children or students at large.

 Different Children, Different Needs: Understanding the Unique Personality of Your Child

Different Children Different Needs was a wonderful book about personality and how any trait can be balanced and healthy and any of them can be out of balance and we as parents need to recognize who our children are and instead of changing them (which isn't possible anyway) we need to guide them so that they can learn how to be emotional (for instance) but express it in an appropriate way.

In conclusion--
What I seem to be learning lately is almost a rediscovery of who God created me to be to begin with.  Where can I find my creativity again?  How can I make space for it and value any art that I want to do (whether it is "successful" or not.)  How can I make that space for my girls?

And how will that look in our day to day lives?
...if we encourage someone to be creative then before we know it they are rocking the boat and coming up with ideas and asking us questions. will find yourself surrounded by happy enthusiastic and creative people who you might not be able to completely control ever again! 


If you are interested in developing your own creativity (especially if you don't think you are creative) a great book to start with is this one.
 Product Details
"A million little ways"

Monday, March 03, 2014

Sensory processing disorder -- and our "tiny changes"

 I have done some reading on sensory processing disorder (in the past 3 years) and before I start this blog I should point out that it can be over-diagnosed.  Little children wiggle and are clumsy and learn things at all different rates.  Their mood can swing from one extreme to the other just because they don't realize they are hungry or tired.  This is all normal! 

So, why am I talking about this?  Actually, it's because I realized that all those "quirky" things about my husband (he'll let me pick on him) finally seemed to "make sense" when I read about SPD.   Like, never wearing jeans or hating the feel of corduroy.  Saying angora was "too soft" and he couldn't stop feeling it on his fingers after he touched it.  Being bothered by the seam on his socks as an adult or needing a LOT more physical touch than the average person.  That is to say, he would love repetitive scratches or brushing movements to help him calm down because he would feel stressed out easily and that would sooth him.  He would be extremely effected by the moods of other people and seem to "soak up" whatever mood was around him as if he almost didn't have an autonomous feeling.  He can't easily notice the differences in spices and flavors, but can't tolerate over salted or condimented or spicy foods. 

He would comment about how much better he slept when it was a cold night and I'd put an extra blanket on the bed, but it wasn't because he was warmer.  He would always describe how he slept more deeply because of how the "weight" of the blanket felt on him.  One time he complained about how irritating a dripping faucet was, "can't you hear that?"  He asked.  I listened past the sound of the fan and three other "white" noises till finally I could barely hear the drip that came every 5 seconds or so.  Now granted, a faucet dripping IS annoying to everyone, but the point of that was noticing how he couldn't seem to ignore or "cover up" sounds.  He heard them ALL!  How overwhelming would that be?  He's also always loved the feel of things between his toes and the "five-finger" toe shoes that came out a few years ago were the only thing I heard about for a year at least. 

The noise of the children seemed to be overwhelming to him.  He could barely stand being with them for an hour before he was worn out.  We aren't talking crying noises either, just them laughing or playing was too much.  This was really hard for me because I felt like a single parent with how much I had to take on when he couldn't (or when he'd make my job harder by getting upset with them or just unable to enjoy them.)

I'm finally (finally) starting to feel more rested and added more vitamins and been figuring out how to take care of me so that I'm no longer as depressed--- which was partly do to home sickness and loneliness and a lot to do with not being able to recover sleep since our third was born.  I feel like I can get back to helping my husband again with learning how to regulate his sensory processes.

 Here's an exhaustive list of possible SPD symptoms if anyone is interested.  Note;  A lot of us might have exhibited some of these things in the list as a child, but it was just because we were children.  The world is new and our senses are heightened and alert.  I myself remember some of these things when I was a child as well, but I grew out of almost all of them.  I can see various symptoms in my children as well (quite different from each other), but my goal has always been to try to help everyone in the family get what they need.  I'm the peace maker -- being the "homemaker" is a big deal to me.  I want everyone to feel at home and feel comfortable and be the best version of themselves.  Whether my girls will have this in later life as much as my husband does or whether they will grow out of most of it like I did is beside the point.  I'm not going to NOT try and do things that will help everyone if I can. 

Over-scheduling our outings are a big deal.  Now, this could be an introverted/extroverted thing and just balancing what everyone in the family needs in this way so that no one is too overly stimulated and no one is too terribly under-stimulated.  Last year we were involved in a church that was demanding more from us than we were able to give - demonstrated by the evidence in everyone's moods after they were overly stimulated.  It was NOT pretty.  It was in fact miserable for at least a week.  The littlest one grew more shy (hard to believe that could be possible) and clingy (which was exhausting to me) and the oldest was acting depressed and withdrawn and the middle one had many more (loud) melt downs that of course didn't help my husband with the auditory issues.  It was really just not possible to live like that.

Any one of those things I listed about my husband could just be quirky and funny and endearing, but all together they started to create a picture.  I began to read about ways to help people with sensory processing disorder to help them calm down and to help ward off anxiety and so forth.  Check this out if you are interested in learning a few ways to help 

When I tried the "joint compression" on my oldest she said she really liked it and she began to calm down and rest as I did this to her.  My husband however was EXTREMELY impressed with this and said basically that it was better than toe shoes!  He couldn't seem to get enough of it and talked about how it made him feel "together" instead of "out there" so to speak (I'm condensing the conversation some.)  Buying the special brushes and using them on him were also a big hit!  When he was a child he would feel extremely anxious and scratch his legs till they bled (sometimes not noticing that he'd injured himself.)  Now, he didn't do that when we were married (though he'd discover injuries that he couldn't remember getting, like scrapes and cuts and so forth.) 

My husband however is quite successful and incredibly smart with a memory that baffles me sometimes.  He has a great job and doing what he loves to do (he's a writer) and is functioning in society really well, so why should I look for ways to "help"? 

While school systems seem to suggest that children should be checked out for this disorder because they won't sit in circle time (at 3 years old) or the child seems clumsy or doesn't want to touch another child or is too physical with another child or seems overwhelmed by too much noise from all the other children -- their goal is to get the children to all "fit in"... that is not my goal as a homeschooling Mom at all.

When I read to my girls or play a game with them they all take turns getting up and wiggling and wanting to play with silly putty while I read (from the almost 3 year old to the 8 year old) -- that's what kids do sometimes!  And that's totally fine.  What I wanted to help my family with though is those little changes that I could do to help them find rest.

The strong reaction my husband had to "heavy" things gave me the idea to make this weighted blanket.  It's a sheet folded in half with sewn "pouches" (just straight lines of sewing about 3 inches apart) and then on the open end I filled every other pouch half way with rice.  In the end I put 20lbs of rice in it!  I still need to make a slip cover for it, but my husband has been acting less stressed and worried and hasn't as easily overreacted to the children's noises.  He seems to finally be able to be home and enjoy the quiet when the girls are quiet instead of stirring up the level of stress in everyone.  He's also always commenting now on how well he's sleeping. 
 Besides the weighted blanket I've read some about Magnesium and how important this is for everyone and how it's even more important for people with autism spectrum type disorders.  I'm seeing tiny improvements by us taking magnesium now too!  It's really encouraging and our house is growing more peaceful all the time.
An afternoon moment showing off my new blanket that my husband tried to swipe for himself because it was so heavy.  (The oldest is doing math logic games on the computer and the two younger ones were watching "Wild Kratts" and told me later all about sharks.)  ;]

Bad smells bother me a lot more than they do my husband (he hardly seems to notice them it seems) and I read about aroma therapy essential oils and how lemon can help you feel "unstuck" and several other good things like how it's energizing or whatever.  I've had a thing for fresh lemonade for over a year now and perhaps understand why I've craved it so much!  Lemonade with stevia = good stuff and another example of a tiny helpful thing I've done.

Quite recently (now that I'm feeling more rested and able) I've started to clean off our dinning room table more often during the day and it really does help my mood.  It's frustrating to always have a messy table when you only have that one, so keeping up with the tidy table and sweeping under it has been a nice "tiny change" to work on.

The little one cracks me up.  She doesn't take naps these days and the older two like to play with just each other sometimes, so she's my little buddy.  I'm afraid I'm not very good at saying, "no" when she asks for the cookies we made the day before or for a little piece of chocolate.

I tend to turn that moment into an event for the two of us.  My little buddy and me, sharing some milk and cookies.

We ate the last two cookies!
So, this post is a little long (like usual I guess), but it's been a hard journey these past few years as we've had to work through these things on our own and especially for me as I didn't have help with the girls (so I could get a good nap in and some energy back.)  One good thing though about being so alone in this time and being forced to face these things is getting to a spot where I can help my family better.  I want my husband to be able to get the rest he needs so he can enjoy our girls especially.  Realizing some of these issues has helped me to be more understanding towards my husband and also my oldest in certain areas that I'd likely just feel impatient over. 

Maybe some of what I've observed and learned will help a person reading this too.