Thursday, February 27, 2014

I've Reached A Parenting Milestone!!

Picture of the cookies I just baked.  (Photo credit: Me)

Yesterday I let my kids eat cookie dough. 

Yes, you read that right. I have finally gotten to the point where I determined that their 12 & 9 year old bodies can handle raw dough. Yes, I feel ridiculous at how long it has taken me to get to this point.

Now, in no way shape or form do I condone the use of cookie dough either for medicinal or recreational use. Consuming cookie dough is a slippery slope into much harder doughs like cake, muffin and brownie batter which I absolutely do not condone. (But freaking YUM, amIright??)

Here's how it all went down. I found what I now call the "Magical Cookie Dough". It is not magical because it doesn't contain eggs (it does), it's magical because you make the batter, form it into balls, stick it in the fridge, then bake them cold after smooshing them a bit. This hits ALL my "perfect Mommy" buttons because:
1. I am making them from scratch so I can control the ingredients, use organic when I have it and if I want to and keep out all the stuff that I'm constantly trying (and often failing) to control. 
2. I get to have that "perfect Mommy" moment when the kids get home and I get to say, "who wants fresh cookies still warm from the oven?" Of course I'm singing it and my voice is perfect because hey, thats how I roll.  
So in my mind we're sitting around this perfectly clean and tidy kitchen and enjoying our afternoon snack, and it totally would have been clean and tidy if I had not just mixed cookies hours before and then life got in the way but whatever... we're sitting around the table and I take my first bite of the Magical Cookie which has allowed me to live out this perfect Mommy fantasy and I say, "ugh! The dough was better!"

And it was, it has cream cheese, butter (organic of course), more brown sugar than white sugar, extra vanilla and of course the aforementioned eggs, the dough was delicious. Then I hear...

(*gasp*) "You ate the dough?? I want the dough!" Thank you, Adam for catching that and everything else I say that I shouldn't. Eating dough in our house was strictly verboten and in the past I had to sneak my love for cookie dough into the pantry, the laundry room or even the garage.

It was then that I realized that my boys are NINE and TWELVE! By the time I was 12 I would make brownie batter with absolutely no intention of baking it at all, I was mixing and measuring only so that I could eat the batter. Of course after a few spoonfuls my stomach would start hurting and I would bake off the rest because it really is a sin to let good dough go to waste. So it was completely ridiculous that I was keeping the boys from the great wonderfulness that is cookie dough.

I had only baked one cookie sheet of the dough balls from the fridge so there were still a lot left over, I got out three cookie balls and gave each of us one. I did the prudent parent thing of telling them that the ingredients in the dough were raw and it is not a good idea to eat some raw foods but just this once they could try the dough.

We all agreed that the dough is indeed better than the cookies and that I would continue to bake a few more sheets because you can't take raw cookie dough to school in your lunchbox. With the added bonus that I got to have another perfect Mommy moment when I included two homemade chocolate chip cookies in each box this morning.

So thats the parenting milestone I've reached this week. I feel it is pretty monumental. Maybe not as monumental as when I let The Hubs take the boys (BY HIMSELF) to visit my in-laws on their uncleared retirement property in New York that has no running water, no sewer and no electricity. I was pretty much convinced that the boys would come home broken in some way shape or form, but they didn't.

I patted myself on the back for not freaking the hell out that weekend and today because sometimes being the Perfect Mommy isn't about controlling everything that goes into their mouth, sometimes it's about letting them eat the dough and then hiding the rest in the back of the fridge in an empty container that used to contain non-fat, sugar free, unflavored yogurt because there's no way I am sharing my stash!

PS: The Magical Cookie Dough recipe is actually Softbatch Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies from blog Averie Cooks, which I found through Pinterest. Recipe HERE.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Not Very Popular Opinion

This is my thoughts on full inclusion programs.

This has been something on my mind for a while and I hesitated to write about it because it goes against the current "norm" of the public school system model.  This became of great interest to me last year when I was looking for a middle school program for my 11 (now 12) year old. I wanted to look at each school, how it organized, how they handled inclusion and what types of supports were available in the middle grades.

I set out to learn all I could about special education in the middle school setting, charter programs, magnet schools, non-public placements and private schools (expensive!!!). I looked in my county, other counties around ours and even other states. I found a lot of information including accommodations, modifications and ideas for transitioning into Middle School but also I found instances of continued segregation (Washington Post) and how charter schools may be contributing both to continued segregation and reducing funds available to special needs students (Huffington Post & Aljazeera).

So then I took the information I collected and applied it to MY situation and MY boys and what are OUR options? How does all this good, bad and ugly apply to Autism, ADHD, Aspergers?

For example this article tells us that charter programs cannot turn away a special needs child but that they often aren't equipped to handle them therefore the majority of the time special needs students remain in the public school setting. And it was then that doors started closing and I started to get mad.

Charter Schools do not receive all of their operating costs from the school system budget but they receive a large amount. Magnet Schools (gifted and talented programs) housed within the school system do receive all the operating costs from the school system budget. BOTH of these programs are closed to kids like mine, one isn't equipped to handle their needs and for the other, my kids don't qualify. Which means mine are excluded.

So I went looking for the specialized program that will meet their needs and found NONE.

In a school system that has two charter schools and a magnet program, they have NO program to meet the needs of a high functioning special needs population. In many cases high functioning special needs students cannot always be included in the typical public class setting, large class sizes, constant changes in routines, massive amounts of distractions and stimuli make it almost impossible for them to learn. These kids (MY kids) cannot learn in a standard class setting but many are at grade level and diploma bound.  For them it is a constant challenge just to exist within a typical class setting, much less access the education they are promised.

Can the kids in the charter schools and magnet programs learn in a standard class setting?


School districts are allocating funds to teach kids in a specialized setting because they won the charter lottery or because they are super smart but there are no specialized programs for my child who cannot learn in a regular classroom setting. Why does "least restrictive environment" not apply to them but it is the ruling fist of law that special needs parents need abide?

So there, I've spoken out against Charter Schools and Magnet Programs but here's the kicker, I'm NOT OPPOSED to those programs. I have friends who have kids in the charter schools and in the magnet program and I am very happy that their kids have that opportunity.  I am not opposed to the parent who wants the very best education for their child, I want the same for mine as well. I just cannot understand how a school system can create specialized programs for kids who are fully capable of functioning within a typical class setting and yet completely and wholly dismiss the needs of the kids who cannot.

As an aside I would like to speak about segregation which is something that I just cannot abide. I am saddened by the research I found that it is worse now than 40 years ago. This both hurts and infuriates me. I read a quote where someone suggested that all schools within the same county (city or district) are fundamentally the same which begs the question, if they are all the same, why not let families chose the school they want? I think then you will find very quickly that there are schools who have better teachers, better resources, more money. When 90% of the school age population asks to attend one school, you have to wonder why....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lunatic Autism Mom Reviews The Numbers League Game

It's no secret that my 9 year old is struggling with math and we are struggling right along there with him.  This has resulted in full Neuropsychological testing and subsequent evaluation for Dyscalculia in which we were found "borderline".  Basically there is a misunderstanding with the building blocks of math which makes even simple math concepts incredibly difficult.

Currently we are working with the school to look for interventions, at home we do extra work with current curriculum and do additional practice on the basics and facts.  We are constantly looking for fun ways to bring math into real life opportunities as much as possible. We practice money by keeping a check register of gifts and the occasional pay day for chores (I could do a whole post just on chores and payday!), we practice fractions with cooking and we practice measurements with cooking as well. What can I say? I like to bake!!

Another way to try and bring in more math practice is games. For Adam, those simple math games just couldn't break through the ADHD and keep his interest so we went in search of a new game and found Numbers League by Bent Castle Workshops.

I love boardgames and consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur and I think this game is really fun! More importantly it holds Adam's attention and he gets to practice his math skills. 

How to play: There are at least two levels of play with this game and so far we have only played the basic level. You lay out the Villain cards in the middle of the table and then you build Heroes to capture the Villains. Each piece of the Hero (legs, body and head) has a number value and added together equals the strength of the Hero. Match the Hero strength to the number on the Villain and you have captured the Villain! If you don't have enough strength, never fear, you can also use a weapon or tool to boost your strength AND band together Heroes to capture the Villain together.  Once all the Villains are captured the game ends and the person with the highest score wins (by this point we are pretty tired of adding numbers so sometimes we determine the winner to be the person who captures the most villains).  

This is a picture of my game pieces. I had *8* Heroes so we added post-it tabs to help us keep track of our Hero totals. When adding up 3 or 4 Heroes to capture a 22 point Villain this really helps! Above my Heroes are the Villains I had captured and the deck to the left was the draw deck.  Another thing I think is fun about this game is the names of the Heroes, each card contains a piece of the name and when you build your Hero you will determine his or her full name.  Here you see (L-R) Wise Winged Wonder, Ancient Yellow Quarrel and Frigid Twisty Paladin.  

The basic game uses addition, the next level has some subtraction and even multiplication cards as well. Expansion packs are available so you can keep vanquishing Villains with your Numbers League!! 

We've played this game a few times, in that time has he learned a ton of math skills? Not really BUT he is practicing addition for an hour or more! I'd like to see a worksheet make that happen.  Adam loves to build the heroes and even if we don't have time for a full game or if he can't find an opponent he still loves to build the Hero and determine his/her strength. Its a super fun game by itself and the fact that you practice math is just a bonus.  I give it the Lunatic Autism Mom seal of approval!!  

**Edited to add... I purchased this game after finding it online quite by accident. I did not receive it from Bent Castle and I am not being paid to review it. That would be an AWESOME career though!!**