Thursday, January 28, 2010

In My Child's Mind

Apparently right-brain dominant kids are prone to having anxiety at night. Their divergent thinking – the organic, free-form flowing from idea to idea – combined with their tendency to think in pictures and stories and metaphor, and their sense of “reality” as existing within their own minds…well, in the dark of the night that can lead to some intense, upsetting, and persistent thoughts, visions, and feelings. That’s T-Bear to a tee.

Our family has been immersed in a Lost marathon this week. The kids have been wandering in and out, sometimes following the stories, sometimes just checking in for a bit before going off to do something else. But they’re familiar with all of the characters, and one of the most endearing characters in this series is Charlie. Well, last night Charlie died. We all cried, because it was sad, especially when Hugo tells Claire that Charlie is gone and they cling to one another sobbing. Then the scene ended, the next scene began, and we were all fine. Until bedtime. Then, T-Bear got really upset. He started crying and couldn’t stop. It’s not unusual for him to get deeply immersed in upset feelings, and it’s difficult to help him get out of it. Explaining that it’s “just at TV show” and Charlie isn’t really dead because he’s not real doesn’t help. Convergent, logically sequenced thinking doesn’t work because that’s not how his mind works. Sometimes getting him to focus on other, more pleasant thoughts can help, but it’s hard to find a thought in the moment that is enticing enough to his mind to divert it. Mostly we just have to wait it out.

After reading the first part of Chapter Two, I’m beginning to understand that divergent-thinking kids think in pictures and stories. I suspect T-Bear got stuck in the picture of Charlie’s death (even though it wasn’t graphic, it was upsetting) and of Hugo and Claire’s grief, and the vision and emotional impact of it was so powerful and enticing to his mind, it wouldn’t let go. I’m beginning to understand that the best approach to help T-Bear out of his upset would have been to co-create an even more enticing story, one as wild and imaginative as possible, in which Charlie is magically saved and reunited with Claire and their friends. A purple mermaid swims in through the broken porthole, takes him off to her people who all live inside a giant golden sea snail’s shell, their magician (who is a brine shrimp) brings him back to life, Charlie charms them with an underwater concert backed up by a band of sea slugs, and they give him a blue walrus to saddle up and ride back to the beach. Giggles and a happy ending. And, hopefully, a good night’s sleep.

I’ve always tried to see through the eyes of our children in an effort to empathize with them and understand where they are coming from. I’m beginning to see now that even more than seeing through their eyes, I’m going to have to start seeing through their minds to gain more understanding of them as people. I’m going to have to learn divergent thinking, wildly irrational creativity, existing in timelessness, and how to be fluent in the metaphorical universe that they live in, if we are going to gain a deeper level of understanding of one another.

Parenting is a challenge beyond any other.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Family Heirloom

This plaque used to hang in the home of Papa Bear's grandparents.

Now it hangs in ours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Say hello to my leeetle friend!"

BooBoo started building this water bomb cannon grappler thingy a couple of days ago, which has been through a few design changes. BroBear helped him perfect the design and finish it up today.

The general idea appears to be launching three water-filled aluminum canteens with a line attached to them, up and over a tree limb, and have the weight of the canteens pull BooBoo up into the tree. It hasn't quite worked out. Yet.

Lookin' down the barrel of the cannon.

Three water-filled bombs taped together.

"Sight" on the top.
It's a very good thing BooBoo is so independent in putting together his projects, because I'm really not that great at this type of thing. At least this one did not involve fire.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Day Four

Edwards had us build picture planes, an 8 x 10 sheet of glass or plexiglass with cross-hairs drawn on it, and two different sized "frames" to lay over the glass. We used them (with extra grids added) for our cartoon recreations. Today we used them to get a sense for an "artist's eye", how an artist will see a scene as they draw it. We held the picture plane on the finger tips of our left hand, squinted at our hand with one eye, and used a non-permanent marker to "trace" the outline and edges that we saw. Here are the results:

Mama Bear's left hand.

Brother Bear's left hand.
It was amazingly easy to "draw" the "foreshortened" view of our fingers (pointing up toward us) using the picture plane. I also used it to "draw" a scene in the family room, with similar results. This little gizmo certainly gives one a new way of "seeing" one's surroundings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Edison-Trait Kids

Torch designed and built by Boo-Boo.
Pie tin to reflect the light, and funnel to catch the dripping wax.
Yes, he did light it (on the back deck), and it did catch on fire. More than intended.
There was no permanent damage.


I’m currently reading Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD. It’s about kids (and, eventually, adults) who are right-brain dominant, or divergent, thinkers. The book was originally titled “The Edison Trait”, because Palladino cites Thomas Alva Edison as the prime example of a divergent thinker. Not just the genius inventor part of his character, but also the kicked-out-of-school and burned-his-father's-barn-to-the-ground (oops) parts. She gives three classifications of Edison-trait kids. There is frequently overlap in these classifications, but often these kids are very strongly one or another. See if you recognize anyone you know in these descriptions.

“Dreamers - Some Edison-trait children…daydream. They live in the sky with their heads in the clouds. They are imaginative and artful. Ideas and stories have personal meanings to them. They can become quite absorbed in “inner space.” If your child can tell you what star date it is, but not the actual month, day, and year, he may be an Edison-trait Dreamer.” (That's T-Bear to a tee).

“Discoverers – Some Edison-trait children….are doers. They must see what happens for themselves, so they “do” first, and ask questions later. They are insistent in their opinions and their inquisitive, adventuresome ways. They are passionate, spontaneous, and often dramatic and entertaining. Like Thomas Edison, they like to experiment, so they test to see how far they can go. They experiment with themselves, with others, and with the rules. If doing things his own way is paramount to your child, he may be an Edison-trait Discoverer.” (That's Brother and BooBoo).

“Dynamos – Sometimes, Edison-trait children….also have an inordinarly high energy level. These are children who are constantly on the move. Sometimes they have an aggressive streak. Their impulsivity lands them in various kinds of trouble, which usually disturbs those around them more than it does them. They can be dauntless. They like power and speed and a personal challenge. If your child can’t pass up a race or a dare, he may be an Edison-trait Dynamo.” (Also BooBoo...nice combination, huh?).

A few lists. Edison-trait children tend to show the following qualities:

• Openness to multiple sights, sounds, and thoughts
• A daring or wandering imagination
• A global perspective
• Creative urges or compelling attraction for new ideas
• Intense focus on his own pursuits and interests

Culturally, we tend to phrase these traits in a more negative light, especially when they are in a classroom setting:

• Is easily distracted
• Lives in a state of disorganization
• Neglects important details
• Doesn’t follow things through to completion
• Won’t obey or comply

Edison-trait kids find some things come easily:

• Thinking up wild or unusual ideas
• Standing up for, feeling strongly about, and getting involved in those ideas
• Making things up, and imagining the future
• Trying things out
• Starting new projects

And, some things are more difficult:

• Focusing on someone else’s ideas
• Letting of his own ideas
• Remembering things he’s been asked to do
• Practicing skills repeatedly
• Finishing things

Now, the author keeps talking about “if you have an Edison-trait child” as if any family would ever only be blessed with one of them. Unlike my family, which has been blessed with three kids who clearly have these traits. And a husband.

I think I need to read faster.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wax Seals

BooBoo Bear got it into his head that he needed to make a wax seal for a letter he was planning to write. He ate a couple of Baby Bell mini-cheeses so he could use the wax covers for his project. He had already wadded up the wax and stuck it on a metal skewer when he came and asked me if he could borrow my wedding ring. I, naturally, asked "why", and he explained his project. I, naturally, said "no, you can't use my wedding ring for that, but let's see what else we can use." I found a lapel pin in my jewelry box and a lighter on the mantel, he grabbed some construction paper, and we got started.

Wad of wax on skewer, and lapel pin.
Wax melting technique.

Set lapel pin into soft wax.

A completed seal.

Brother Bear's seal using my bracelet.
We tried a variety of pressing materials, including LEGOs, and found that metal is best. It takes a fairly steady hand to get a nice pool of melted wax, and it's best to let it set for about 15 seconds before pressing. We let the pin set in the wax for about 10 seconds before removing.
That's about it. BooBoo proves on a daily basis to be somewhat of a challenge to keep up with. That little noggin of his must be a really interesting place to live...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hobby Tables

So, once we had permanent shelving in our pantry, we had a bunch of "temporary" shelving needing to be put to good use.

Temporary shelving waiting to be put to good use.
So, Papa Bear got it into his head to build some hobby tables for the Cubs, using the shelving as a base for each table. The tables for Brother and T-Bear would be two shelves tall...

Two-shelf tall base.
...and the base for BooBoo Bear would be one shelf tall. 'Cause he's shorter. Papa picked up some heavy-duty plywood, which he cut into a large "C" shape and then secured to three sets of shelves for each table. Brother Bear drilled most of the holes through the plywood and shelving, and BooBoo helped Papa secure the tops to the top shelves with carriage bolts.

BooBoo bolting.

Detail of underside attachment.
Then Papa set BooBoo to primering each of the table tops.
Three tables being primer by Booboo...

...wearing roller skates.

BooBoo's table ready for color.
Each table was then disassembled, hauled down to the Imagniarium (formerly known as the basement), reassembled, and then painted with each Cub's NFL team colors (painting was overseen by Mama Bear).

First layer of color.
Papa Bear added contrasting color, then decals for each NFL team.

BooBoo's Cardinal table.

T-Bear's Falcons table.

Brother's Packers table.

The final touch...a stool.
So, there we have it. Spectactularly large and useable hobby tables for each Cub in the Imaginarium. Every boy's dream. And dad's, too...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Day Three

After reading Chapter 5 about the development of drawing skills in children, I decided it might be wise to take a step back. Or two. Edwards points out that in the progression of artistic development, most people get stuck at around age 10, when they begin moving out of drawing in symbols (a circle represents a head, scribbles represent hair), and into drawing in a realistic manner. But, most of us are never able to work out the many problems inherent in making a realistic drawing of something in “real life.” We get frustrated that we can’t “get it right,” conclude that we “can’t draw” because we don’t have the talent, and give it up for life. Sad, huh?

So, seeing as Brother Bear is still in the “symbology” stage of his drawing development, I figured we might back it up a bit, keep our drawing lessons on his level, and try drawing more symbolically. I asked him what kind of drawing he wanted to do, "realistic" or “stuff like cartoons and superheros”, and he said "both". That was enough of an opening for me...I suggested we start with drawing one of his favorite cartoon characters, and that’s what we did today.

When I was in HS (my first day in a new HS after moving, come to think of it), we did reproductions using graphs. (I still have the poster of Nessie that I reproduced from a magazine ad hanging in my study - weird the stuff that sticks around, isn’t it?). So, I got us started using basically the same technique. Yesterday I spent about an hour making two “viewfinders” from sheets of glass and heavy black posterboard, so we were all set.

Our "subject", Sonic The Hedgehog, seen through a gridded viewfinder. We were just focusing on Sonic and the poster he is holding, leaving off the background elements.

Corresponding grids on our drawing paper.

Brother Bear's initial sketch, with poster colored.

Color added.

Final product (signed) with poster detail.

Brother Bear still is not entirely satisfied with what he is able to produce, but this process has helped him get a better sense of proportion. He did realize that he got his "grids" confused during the initial sketch process, which is why the spikes on the head and the poster are elongated. I keep emphasize the learning process as we go along, and I think with some practice he'll get to a place where he's more comfortable with his finished products. It probably doesn't help that he's learning "with" someone much older and a wee bit further along in their development. We talked about the developmental process, and I think he's okay with being where he is for now. That can be tough at any age.

Mama Bear's initial sketch.

After deliniating with Sharpie and erasing pencil marks.

I went for colored pencils instead of bold marker, 'cause I'm just girly that way.
After an hour and a half, I didn't have the patience or inclination to do the poster detail...another whole figure. For me, "good enough" was. Maybe next lesson we'll do Spiderman. Though I'm leaning toward Scooby Doo...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Homeschooled Kids Do All Day

Physics lesson for the day.

BooBoo Bear jumped right up with a huge grin on his face, laughed hysterically, and tore back up the stairs for another go, to the applause of his brothers. The ship, however (affectionately named P1), is still in the shop for repairs.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Boy and His Dog

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Expander

Yesterday Brother Bear got his “expander appliance” (yes, we did brave the black ice long enough to get to the orthodontist's office). For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of shepharding a child or young adult through the process of othodonture work, an expander appliance is a metal gizmo that is semi-permanently attached to the “first” molars in the mouth (Brother Bear’s is upper), designed to widen the jaw. Sounds comfy, doesn’t it? This what it looks like.

The Expander Appliance, installed.

And, this is what it sounds like.

The effects of an expander appliance on speech.

Because his tongue is no longer able to touch his upper pallet comfortably, Brother Bear is going to have to make an adjustment is the way he forms certain language sounds. This was immediately, and hysterically apparent when he said to the technician who had just cemented the gizmo into his mouth, “I schound juscht like Schid.” I thought I was going to have to pick her up off the floor, ‘cause it was lookin’ like she was sure to topple out of her chair, she was laughing so hard. It’s great having kids with “personality”, huh?

Some of the more amusing side-effects of the expander include excess saliva production (we may get to see some drooling for the first time since he was teething), difficulty swallowing (we’ve already experienced the weird sucking noise he makes trying to get liquids, including that excess saliva, to the back of his throat so he can swallow), and…well…difficulty with certain speech sounds. We’ve been assured that these are all temporary conditions, and will subside after a few days. In the mean time, it could be quite entertaining. Come on over if you like.

Oh, yeah, and did you notice the arrows engraved on the expander appliance? Well, that’s to remind me which direction to crank that puppy when I adjust the thing EVERY NIGHT. Yep, I’ve been promoted to “Jr. Orthodontic Technician”, and am now responsible for adjusting Brother Bear’s expander every night. Good thing I‘ve got my fancy beeping watch to remind me I need to do something important at 7:00 pm. I mean, besides giving T-Bear his Lantus. Two beeping reminders for the price of one. Can’t beat that.

So, a few food items Brother Bear will be banned from consuming for the next six to nine months that the expander appliance is in: hard and sticky candy (like there’s any other kind), ice, gum, Doritos and Fritos, pizza crust, raw apples and carrots, popcorn, and sugared carbonated drinks. Oh, and pretty much stick to soft foods and soups until he figures out how to swallow food without choking.

As usual, I’m taking this new development in our family’s evolution as an opportunity to ban yet more junk food from the house. Between Juvenile Diabetes and braces, we’re going to end up with a really healthy diet. Silver lining, folks. Silver lining….

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Day!

I stepped out onto the front porch in my slippers and listened to the sound of snow. Not snow falling (which is an amazingly peaceful sound), because there was no snow falling. Not the crunch of stepping onto snow that’s been sitting out all night ice-ing (although I did hear that). Just the sound of Snow “being”. In the magnolia tree. On the lawn. On the lawn ornaments. Quietly chatting with itself while it moved through the transformation that sunrise and the day will bring to it. Quietly preparing to melt, just a wee bit, when the sun kisses it. I suspect Snow will linger today and through the night, since the temperature is predicted to remain very low…in the 20’s, and dropping into the 10’s tonight. I can’t wait to chat with the Last Remains of Snow again tomorrow morning.

So, I called a homeschool “snow day”. No chores, and no studies. Woohoo! Everyone was stoked, including Mama Bear, because I actually got to spend a little time blogging and posting photos. Just hung out, played Wii, watched Mythbusters, hit the Y, and took Brother Bear to his Orthodontic appointment (more on that later).

But, there was a downside. T-Bear had an appointment scheduled with our pediatric endocrinologist today, but the office called and said they were cancelling all appointments for the day…we’d have to call back on Monday to reschedule. Most kids would be thrilled to hear their doctor's appointment had been cancelled, but T-Bear had decided earlier this week that he was going to ask Dr. A to approve an insulin pump today. He’s really excited and impatient to get an OmniPod – even wearing his taped-on dummy Pod for the last three days – so he was genuinely disappointed when I told him his appointment was cancelled. Drat. Hopefully we’ll get in to see Dr. A next week….

So, here are the pix, starting with “before the kids are up”…

Stepping out onto the front porch.

The front walk...revisited.

Bird...revisited...with detail.

Magnolia in the Morning.

Magnolia, too.

Magnolia, tree.

Anxious chicken, in the morning.

Umbrella, dusted.

What do you see?


First one out!
My little Snow Elf.
Yes, I made the scarf....can't you tell?

Hunting for snow.

Found it!

Snow Angel #1.
Did I call HIM an angel?!?

Snow Angel #2.
Yep, I guess I did....

Brother Bear's gloves.

An icicle...sort of.