Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Sincere Pumpkin Patch

James' sister asked when we were going to visit a pumpkin patch for Halloween. This weekend seemed an ideal time. Sonoma County is a great place for agricultural events, so we have a nice range of choices for pumpkin patch experiences.

Because we don't want to take the time to drive to Petaluma, and brave paid parking and crowded, dusty, noisy places, we usually try our side of the Petaluma grade. We've tried a local farm about 3 miles from our house. This year, however, they are not doing a patch. Our favourite place has been Grandma's in Healdsburg.

This weekend I really wanted to keep it simple, as James was having a fussy day. I had noticed a Pumpkin Patch sign along a country lane that ended into my work commute. So I piled the kids in the car and we headed there. I am so glad I did, because we discovered the newest, sweetest little pumpkin patch ever.

There were barely 2 dozen pumpkins left on the hay-strewn patch of ground. Growing beds flanked the pumpkins and the sprinkler was spritzing away at them. A few cheerful decorations were set up, and the man who had been spinning the pumpkin sign at the entrance hurried up the lane to greet us and explain that this was their first year selling pumpkins.

A large black truck had followed us in. When the driver heard this new patch did not have a bounce house, hay rides, or a corn maze, he turned right around and headed back out. This left us free to roam about and explore what was there. It was like having our own, personal pumpkin patch. It felt very down home, and sincere.

We ended up buying a pumpkin, a small pumpkin, and a gourd. Joshua, our sales guy, thanked us for coming, made a good push to sell us some Indian Corn, and finally invited us to come back in December, when they would be selling Christmas trees. He was quite funny about uses for the gourd. My daughter has plans based on his ideas.

I think we'll be back. Great Pumpkin, if you are looking for a Sincere Pumpkin Patch, make sure you stop by Shiloh Road!

They have a wonderfully quirky sense of humour!

Morning Glory

It's Fall. Summer foliage and warmth have been slowly slipping from us. Just this past week, nighttime temps started diving. I added a blanket at night and in the morning, the leaves responded with new bursts of colour.

On Friday, I came out the front door as the sun cleared the hills in back of our house. The light flared the trees into vivid colour; their fallen leaves blazed up and glowed from the ground below. It was breath-takingly beautiful.

Halloween is this week -- the kids are so excited!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

20 Minutes of Reading, Daily

I've been trying to find new books to read with James. I am never quite sure what will catch his fancy. He adores Pete the Cat, Olivia, and Where the Wild Things Are.
I even got him into a Halloween book: Where's My Mummy?

As much as I love sharing these with him, I sometimes want to stretch things a bit. This week, I found a good book to try - my old copy of The Great Brain. Tonight he fell asleep, listening to a long-ago story about a boy with 2 older brothers on the frontier of America. It was great.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Twighlight

I took this photo earlier this month. We were at a special event at our local air museum. Jazz music floated on the breeze at sunset, as we saluted days gone by.

James is wearing my scarf - he looks like a junior aviator.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
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               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Starfall Observed

James has been coming home saying things like "Q and U stick like glue" and "B ... OA ... T. That spells 'boat'," and "T ... tiger ... whatya doing, tiger?" I knew it came from a program at school, but did not think too much of it.

This past weekend, James started asking me to go type a word on my computer. The word was "Starfall." I asked him what it was. "Go to Starfall, Mommy. I want to see Starfall."

This is what I found:

I very fun and well-rounded explorations of letters: the sounds they make, and words that use them. Presented, sounded, used in words, and stories, with a little kinetic action along the way.

James was excited and I let him play with reading online for a while, After I got my computer back, I looked at other sections. This site covers materials from pre-K through second grade reading levels.

James loves plays and puppets; this is awesome.

Very cool and inviting, just like our real library!
They even had a small selection of childrens' audio books, a section on music, and holiday-themed activitied, all tied in with their phonetic system. The organization and dedication involved in all this boggles me. I am not a teacher, but I was struck how well everything was laid out and coordinated. It's an incredibly well thought-out site and program.

There is an app! Actually, there are 2. Of course I downloaded them. He's playing Starfall almost as much as Minion Rush, which amazes and pleases me.

Starfall has apps at both the Apple Store for iPhone and iPad and Google Play for Droid phones.

The Starfall website is completely free!

So, some disclaimers: This is not a solicited or paid post. I forked over $2.99 per app that came from our household account. I am not a professional educator. I am a mom learning to parent an autistic child with developmental delays as best I can.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: What Is Art?

Was going through piles o' school papers and came across this random offering. It was really hard for me to get even this quality photo - my daughter drew in red pen on orange paper.

In the frame at the right of the paper is Good Picture/Bad Picture. The Good Picture has a price tag, and detailed clothing, which is intriguing to contemplate. The Bad Picture has a charming smile and feels more lively than its more detailed counterpart.

What I love, however, is the mysterious creature at left of the frame. Martian? Robot? Art Critic? Either way, it is full of wistful consternation. I can almost see the cartoon bubble over its head, posing the age-old query "What is Art?"

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reading Along With Max

James has loved the story Where the Wild Things Are for several years. This Halloween season, he seems particularly attached to it. I think he wants to be the boy who says "I'll eat you up!" Preferably at school, but also to those who attempt to get him to do homework (especially writing).

This whole last week, he's asked to have us read him the book, which was a present from his GrandMarie. His Dad brought home a Scholastic DVD of Maurice Sendak stories, which James adores. He's also been curling up with his book while reading along to the story on TV; James actually went through the DVD options to make sure he was watching the version with the captions.

I know he likes having Max greet him, as he comes home each day:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Attitude on a Monday Morning

I am trying, trying, trying to wake up and find my get up and go this morning; from behind James' bedroom door I can hear him yelling happily "Yahoo! Wahoo! Hooray!!"

Forget the coffee, I want some of what he's got.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Power of Blankets

Every since he was old enough to track familiar things, James has been attached to his Bear Blanket. It was a hand-me-down gift from a cousin. What a wonderful gift it's been!

That Bear Blanket has seen Disneyland, ER rooms up and down the state, traveled through Oregon and Washington and visited the MIND Institute at UC Davis. It has soothed him through many an illness and helped him go to sleep at night at and away from home. It must always be positioned just so, with the red border tucked under his chin at bedtime.

While James does not carry his Bear Blanket around as much as Linus did his, he does like to wrap it around his head, and sometimes drape a chosen person with it for a big hug session.

I know most 8 year-olds don't carry their blankets around anymore. But really, when I see him smile like this, I just don't care.

And you know what? Blankets are awesome. The people behind Project Linus know that. We've made a couple of fleece blankets from a kit for them. Check them out, and spread some comfort and cheer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: Peace Day

Did you know that September 21 is International Peace Day? I did not. James' sister did.

How did she find out? She was bored and looked at her calendar for something to do. This is what she made, as her part of spreading the message of peace:

Her calendar misinformed her, slightly.

She then took the half dozen messages to all the neighbours we know near our house.

So proud of her!

Yes that was Saturday, but today is Magic Marker Monday.
Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Colour Spectrum

James started stimming again about school tomorrow: "There's no school tomorrow?"

We'll get this about 20 times today. I decided to change things up a bit.

Wish they still sold this t-shirt!
-- Take 1 --
Me: "James, what's school look like?"
He: *Look of "that is a dumb question"*

-- Take 2 --
Me: "James, what colour is school?"
He: "Yellow."
Me: "What colour is your classroom?"
He: "Blue."

-- Tangent --
Me: "What colour am I?"
He: appraising look ... "Silver."
Me: "What colour are you?"
He: "Shiny."

Love it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creative With Spelling

James still does not like to write much. For spelling this year he's having to up his practicing. His aide makes simple flash cards for him, tracing over his pencilled words with a coloured marker, to make them more interesting.

Tonight his assignment was to alphabetize his spelling words and practice writing them. Normally we work from the spelling list, which becomes a battle of wills. James does not deem alphabetizing words to be of general interest.

For the first time I thought to use the cards instead of the list. There were still several sticky moments, with James attempting to balk at finishing the project, but being able to put his finger on the cards at the first letter of each one as we wended our way through the alphabet  and turning over each card as he ordered it seemed to help a bit.

Finally I had James write the words as I read them from the stack of alphabetized cards. Sometimes we talked about what the word meant (progress!) and sometimes I had to work him through a mini melt-down over the spot on the paper ("It's wood pulp, Honey; you'll never be able to get it out - it's part of the paper.").

And for some extra credit, we found ways to use spelling words in during his bedtime story:

James likes George, but he's still a bit scared of dogs and puppies. Hmmm....
We got in cute, ate, made, safe, five, and rule. Not bad!

Magic Marker Monday: "Big" Top

Michelle's post a couple of weeks back reminded me of a great little craft the kids did for Carnival Week at Summer Camp - the Paper Circus!

Paper people and tent parts were coloured and then cut and pasted.

James liked the the tent. He was not that interested in the people. This has me thinking that he'd probably like making a circus train, and maybe a station. Hmmmmm ....

I love how he decorated teh stripes with numbers!

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Outdoor Persuasion

James does not want to leave the house. The hot weather and leaf blowers in outside the front door do not help our efforts to get him outside.

This morning James slept in a little. Then he had breakfast and had some iPad time. He cheerfully got changed out of jammies and into clothes, helped sort and put away his laundry, and finish his math and writing homework. I learned pretty quickly that the alarm on my online timer made him cry. I switched to the microwave's timer and we had no further issues.
So ironic, because I used this website to time my contractions the night before he was born.

He balked at going to the Farmers' Market with his sister and I. We haven't been going much this year because our favourite bakery is no longer there. I figured today was not too hot or crowded, so would be a good, short-ish outing for us all.

Once we got there and bought a tasty sourdough baguette from Costaeux's, he was cheerfully skipping alongside me as we checked out samples of Sonoma County's early Fall Harvest. Let's see - peppers were everywhere; delicious, glowing peppers. Apples are still coming in, as are all varieties of grapes. There were even some nectarines and the peach slice I tried was so fabulous I bought one to share with my husband for dessert.

The crowds were light and mellow, which made walking and people-watching easy and fun. James and I saw on a low wall to catch the live music performance. He loved seeing them play guitar and flute. His sister sucked on a honey stick watched the dogs romp with their owners on the lawn. I bought some of those flavoured straws when I picked up a jar of blackberry honey (which is fantastic tasting and made locally).

You would think this happy event would have mellowed him a bit. But no. First thing James said as we got back home was "I am going to stay Right Here!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tackle It Tuesday: Yard Helpers

This past weekend, as I was struggling to wake up enough to drink my coffee, the kids were pinging off the walls. That's how my daughter wound up making pancake batter from scratch from the first time. It's great that both kids are old enough to learn how to do more things by themselves.

James kept begging me to download yet another Minion App for his iPad.
 - "Not unless you do a chore," I told him. "That app costs money."
 - "Yes!" he cried. "I do a chore! I'm gonna get a Minion app!"

Okey-dokey, time to come up with a chore he can do with minimal supervision ...

I told James he could rake the back lawn, but that he first needed to change out of pjs and into clothes. He took off for his room at warp speed. I took this opportunity to suck down half a cup of coffee.

James' sister, meanwhile, was starting to ask if she could do a chore. She suggested sweeping the back patio and I took her up on her offer, directing her to first change into work clothes.

To make a long story short, we spent over an hour in our backyard, raking, sweeping, and tidying away a whole summer's worth of stuff. During rest periods, we'd drink some water and talk about what we'd tackle next. By 10:30, we'd filled a green garbage bin and learned more about the arts of raking, sweeping, and sorting discarded items among our 3 waste bins.

As the fruit trees' leaves are just starting to turn colour and fall, there will be ample opportunities to become proficient at these tasks.

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