Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fifth Annual Trash Pick

So, I flew solo for the big trash pick this year. The girls joined me for a few houses, on my way to dropping them off at my parents' house. (See previous years here.) This meant I could crank Yo La Tengo the whole time. So I did. Sets the mood, it does.

First up, a medley of items. Had my usual partner-in-trash been with me (she had an important softball game to watch), we would have been wearing these festive green hats. Top left, laptop bag, plastic storage container with flag paperweight, tie-dyed sheet, stationery and handwriting paper. On the right, two new Whole Paycheck reusable bags. Aren't they adorable? So me! I don't actually shop there, but I do recommend their bags. Knock down a hippie and steal theirs or something.

This is some gooood stuff right here. The Pottery Barn rug and vanity came straight out of a house and into my minivan. Much more from Nice Family (NF) below. We almost bought a cornhole game like this one last year. They are $100. So are rainbarrels, at least. Those big plastic containers will be used to grow potatoes next year.

You can see last year's very disappointing brussel sprouts blooming in the back there. 

Here's the sporting equipment section. New gardening gloves, too. The drill is from NF. Snowboard from my parents' neighbors. Also scored another pink flamingo. It matches the one from last year. The pair bonding was so strong that I was used as a tool to bring them back together. They are crafty animals, those plastic flamingos.

The kids have been playing catch with N ever since we got this stuff. I love trash. *happy sigh*

That's N mowing in the background. Left to right, a broken globe, which was almost immediately replaced by a beautiful $3 garage sale globe. This one was just to remind me that I wanted one for Nea. It's in a purple bike basket, to match my new purple bike (purchased last year for the triathlon), hand mirror and glasses in front. Why do people throw out glasses? You can donate them anywhere. People need glasses.

Next part, front to back, Easy to Bake Oven from NF, with mixes. I'm selling that. What a hunk of junk. A painted mirror, which I gave to a friend's mom. It's perfect for her summer house, and she loves it. New in box (NIB) clock, organizers. NIB flag and NIB hurricane lamp. Someone was throwing out wedding presents. (No, really.) Then one of my very favorite items -- old and sturdy gumball machine! Ooooh! And an assortment of purses. One of them is Tommy Hilfiger. I forget which one.

This is my OTHER favorite part. I should have counted how many beautiful books I started out with. I already swapped/gave away/sold a big stack. Some were in better shape than the same ones on my shelf. There were several book club picks! You can't see them all here. There are more in the box and the bag. Some in new condition. Poor little books. Unloved until now.

Another huge score from NF, a Dragonflies brand winter jacket with hood. As she handed it to me, she plucked off a sock. She'd just taken it out of the dryer. Nea loves it and wore it home. In the background, part of the swing we trashpicked a few years ago.

And lastly, I watched a guy lovingly put a newspaper-wrapped bundle on the curb. I swung back around and got it. What could it be? The suspense was killing me. So here we have it. Your moment on the Internet, old-timey people! Bet you didn't see that coming. It was probably 16x20 inches, and we couldn't rescue it from the broken glass it was stuck to. The frame is nice, though. We kept that. 

In conclusion, it was a sunny day. Ideal for picking trash. I love trash.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp

5 cups rhubarb, chopped
¾ cup sugar

¾ cup flour
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¾ cup oats
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup chopped walnuts

Mix rhubarb with sugar and set aside. Let stand.

Mix flour, butter, cinnamon. Add oats, sugar, and walnuts.

In a buttered dish (10 x 10 inches or so), place the filling, then the topping. Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream on the side.


I made this for Mother's Day for my parents. Everyone liked it a lot. The kids had seconds. I like rhubarb because it's so seasonal, easy to grow, and hard to find in stores. At least around here. And it tends to be expensive, so growing it seems smart.

And I know it's too late for Mother's Day, but here are three things I learned from my mom:
  • Always go to places early (zoo, grocery store, whatever. It applies everywhere.) before the crowds show up.
  • Wool is warmer than fleece.
  • Keep some candy in your purse for emergencies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Technology and learning disorders

If your child has an IEP and any issues with learning, make sure your school is using the vast choices available in technology to help. I know it’s at least partially because of my pushing for a better curriculum that our district will be offering Co:Writer in all 6 elementary schools starting in the fall. See the product demo for info.

Here’s a writing sample from Nea using Co:Writer. There is no way she could produce at this level without this tool.
The rocket ship landed on the moon and the man got out. The man said one step for a man. The man said one leap for a man. The man go in the rocket ship. The man go back home.
Nea has been using Lexia and Symphony Math this year, and I asked whether it was available to us at home as well. We were the first in the district to ask and receive it. Just another free (to us) tool to use this summer.

We have not yet tried Khan Academy but will be using it with both girls this summer. It comes highly recommended, and it’s free. 

Our school district will have all kindergarten through second grade students using iPads this fall. Our school started piloting them two years ago, and now the program is expanding. I am, with the district administration, forming a district-wide support group for the parents of special needs children, and one of the first things I brought up was adding a list of iPad apps on the district web site. We need to communicate more widely what works in the classroom, so that the learning can continue at home. 

Low-tech, but worth mentioning: we received some unused workbooks from the school because I asked for more summer materials. They are from the mainstream math curriculum, but are the older versions that no one is using. You never know what you might get until you ask! 

Any other recommendations? What is your child using?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen

I'm sure most of you, if not all, have heard the sad news that Maurice Sendak has died. I've been meaning to write this post for years. I guess today is the day.

Back, way back, when I taught German to high school students, I would occasionally read them children’s books that I hoped they were familiar with. Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt and Wo die wilden Kerle wohnenAnd also some others that were new to them, like Gustav will ein großes Eis and Vom kleinen Maulwurf, der wissenwollte, wer ihm auf den Kopf gemacht hat -- both also excellent, if somewhat weird.

Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt was pretty fantastic for the vocabulary covered. Days of the week, common food items ("Ein Stück Schokoladenkuchen, eine Eiswaffel, eine saure Gurke, eine Scheibe Käse, ein Stück Wurst, einen Lolli, ein Stück Früchtebrot, ein Würstchen, ein Törtchen und ein Stück Melone."), some nice adjectives. But Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen is that rare bird, a book that is arguably even better when translated.
Die wilden Kerle brüllten ihr fürchterliches Brüllen und fletschten ihre fürchterlichen Zahne und rollten ihre fürchterlichen Augen und zeigten ihre fürchterlichen Krallen.
That’s some fine literature right there. Makes the original seem a little wimpy: 
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.

RIP, Mr. Sendak.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Garden 2012

I could be weeding, but it’s pretty wet out, so I’m on my porch swing with a sandwich and a laptop instead. Only a few more Fridays that the kids are in school, and Fridays are my only non-working days, so gotta soak up the lazy while I can.

It’s been an odd Spring, here in Chicagoland. More Springy than usual. Other years we go Winter, Winter, OH HELL SUMMMMER! But this year has been (very mild) Winter, Winter, OH HELL A WEEK OF SUMMMMER! Then cold and dry. Then cold and wet. Then one day of HOT. Now back to Springy. It’s very confusing, but the plants seem to like it.

Been eating plenty of asparagus already, and the radishes are doing great. I’ll be making rhubarb pie this weekend, I think. Or cobbler if I’m lazy. And I might be. Moved the strawberries into a strawberry pot to make more room for tomatoes. Plus the chipmucks eat them all anyway. I have ideas about how to prevent that, now that I have a portable pot. Onions doing better than normal. Bunch of stuff self-seeded, like the bok choy, orache, broccoli raab. We’ll be eating lettuce soon. The raspberries that came over the fence from the neighbors are spreading a lot, but I like raspberries, so that’s fine. Peas, carrots, beets all coming up well.

Started seeds, of course. Green zebra and brandywine tomatoes, cukes, melons, peppers, basil. All pretty happy. Haven’t started the zukes and other squash yet. Can’t quite decide my game plan on them, vis-à-vis vine stem borers. Plant late, like last year? Worked, but the harvest is so late …

The beans are being moved to a new sunnier location. I’m hoping this means I won’t need a ladder to harvest this year, but only time will tell. I’ll post a photo when it’s looking like something.

Gave up on potatoes for this year.  Bah.

In a stunning upset, both the dill and oregano are coming up gangbusters. I know!

One more story. The neighbor kid was over here recently, and he said he loooves chives. I said, oh, you don’t have any? Here, I’ll pot you up some. So I randomly dig up a little dirt to put in the wee pot, and find N’s wedding band that he lost almost two years ago. What are the odds? So I asked N to marry me. He said yes.

Oddly, my grandfather also lost his wedding band in his garden and found it again years later. Apparently this skill skips a generation.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Apraxia and self-help skills

Twitter (via!/YTherapySource) alerted me to a survey on self-help skills for special needs kids, being collected by an OT. I decided to give it a whirl. As I took it, I realized that this was a nice list to start working on. (Reminder: Nea is almost 8, and has apraxia of speech and also limb apraxia, affecting her fine motor skills.)

It was also a nice list to see things we’ve made progress on:
  • Manages safety belt independently in vehicles
  • Can receive and make phone calls (to her dad at work)
And then there were some items I’m going to give a pass for now:
  • Knows the difference between putting out paper fires from grease fires
  • Cleans up broken glass safely
Here’s the list, with my comments.

  • Puts on and fastens a button up shirt   We don’t do a lot of buttony clothing, but we should make sure she can do a button.
  • Puts on and fastens tie shoes   Forget it. When she’s older.
  • Washes, rinses, and dries hands well   Key word being “well” – a comment that applies to this whole section
  • Completes nose care well (blows nose)
  • Brushes hair and manages tangles
  • Brushes teeth well
  • Flosses teeth well – OK, who am I kidding. Should work on.
  • Obtains soap and hygiene products for bath/shower
  • Uses a knife to spread foods (butter)
  • Uses a knife to cut foods
  • Those sections she is age-appropriate on, or don’t apply
  • Identifies the value of coins and bills   working on
  • Makes a simple purchase from a store or vending machine using cash with assistance
  • Prepares a cold snack (chips, fruit) or meal (cereal, sandwich) independently – Sounds like a really great idea!
  • Can dial 911 in case of an emergency – We’ve spent so much time on learning our phone number that I’m not sure whether she can do this. Need to check.
  • Follows safety rules when talking with strangers – working on
  • Has stranger awareness when asked to leave a location with an unfamiliar person – working on
  • Follows fire safety rules and knows family fire safety plan – should work on
  • Uses a key to unlock doors to enter house – should work on
  • Follows basic road safety skills (crosses street safely) – working on
  • Brings all necessary materials to school (homework, lunch, permission slips)  This section I’m willing to take the blame on. I’ve been taking papers out of her backpack and putting them back in. I need to stop enabling. It’s her responsibility.
  • Brings all necessary supplies home to complete homework assignments or projects
  • Completes homework and returns it on time
Also, I talked to our old babysitter, who is off getting a degree in special education (!), and she’s willing to work on getting Nea to ride her bike this summer. We’ve pretty much failed at this. Maybe she will be the lucky charm!