May 24, 2015

What Surviving With Grief Has Shown Me About Living With Autism

My son Caleb has autism.  Mostly his autism is what has come to be known as high functioning, but high functioning isn't really a technical term when it comes to autism.  Along with his autism diagnosis, Caleb has sensory processing disorder, signs of ADHD combined type, anxiety, and a couple other seemingly in the grand scheme of things minor learning disabilities/processing difficulties.

He is also clinically profoundly gifted.

May 21, 2015

When Temperament Collides: My Choleric Boys

I want you to meet my two oldest boys.

Aidan and Caleb.

Fire and Ice.

Introvert and Extrovert.

Super Academic and Super Social.

Total opposites.

Or so I thought, until I sat down with Connie Rossini's new book, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child.  We have some strong personalities in this house, mom and dad included, and I am always looking for any good resource for helping us meld those personalities and dispositions into a cohesive and united front.

May 19, 2015

Garden Magic

This is what my garden looked like at the start of last spring.


Dull soil.

Terrible drainage.

Completely out of control grapes.

This was my garden in June of last year.


In the end we did ok for ourselves, but ok is never really enough for me.

Check out our new and improved (and vastly expanded) primary garden space.



I had been thinking we maybe doubled our total garden space, but looking at these pictures, I'm thinking closer to triple.  Instead of 2- 15 foot rows of potato plants, we ended up with 4- 20 foot rows.

Hard to see from the picture, but there are three new dwarf apple trees where the lighter colored wood chips are.

I'm going to attempt the corn and dry beans partnership where they are planted together in rows and the beans grow up the corn stalks.  I have no idea if this will work, but if it does we will be eating a lot of corn and beans.

We added the property line fence along that section to keep our dog from racing at people coming up the neighbor's driveway.  Strange dog is worse about their driveway than ours!  It only goes maybe five feet into the woods, but it's enough to slow him down.

Still need to fence off that back end or the deer will have a field day.

Also I anticipate children and four legged things having their own field days running through the garden if I don't.

We plan to add a long row of some sort of raspberries between the trees/grapes and the property line fence, but probably not until next year.  I think next year I will also probably add three more dwarf fruit trees on the other end of the grapes.

Tim is in the process of appealing to our city to allow backyard chickens.  If he is successful, they will find themselves to the left of the rabbit's area.

Since the above pictures were taken, Aidan (with some help from his dad) built himself a little lean-to for his rabbit to have shade.  Eventually I think they will finish off all of ends to more fully enclose the area (and it doesn't lean as much as it looks like in this picture- that's what I get for going and walking over wood chips barefoot to take the picture).   It's really hard to see, but the rabbit has his enclosed hutch (which is an old dog kennel) mostly for overnight and then a small "yard" to play in during the day.   The rabbit is seriously spoiled....

As in he gets to come inside when it rains and Aidan has a whole set up in his room for that too.


In the land of finding a balance of self-sufficiency and practicality, there is always a long to-do list.  I've learned (so far) that there will always be more that I could do and always more that I want to do.     Projects still cost money and it doesn't grow on trees...even tiny cute apple trees (we planted cherries too somewhere else).   I think they key is prioritizing that list and taking it one thing at a time.  If we don't get to it right away, or even this year then that's ok.  Last year's gardens were more of an experiment in light and shade and soil than an attempt to actually preserve enough for any one year (although our potatoes did last until December).   This year I'm hoping our biggest progress will be in increasing the amount that we are able to hold over until later.  I did tons of winter reading on rotating and planting quantities per person.  

We are really limited with animals in our city, but we are working on how to work within those guidelines (and gather enough support to change them when we can't).

We are in a weird place of having more than enough space for an urban homestead, but without the flexibility to do whatever we want to due to city rules.  I've seen families go almost completely self sustaining on significantly less land than we have.  I'm learning it's more about creativity and persistence (and a healthy dose of stubborn), however, than it is about a set formula or procedure.

No matter how much those books want to convince me otherwise.

May 14, 2015

Siena's Story: Leigh's Perspective

Waiting for Siena
Not long after Siena's birth, Heidi asked me to write my story about Siena.  I kept waiting for the "right time" - when inspiration struck, when I had plenty of time to really think and process what happened, when I had more than 30 minutes of "free time," when....  You know how that is, right?

About mid-March, I realized the "right time" hadn't arrived because I was afraid to write.  I wasn't sure that whatever I wrote would be enough to give proper due to Siena's life and what it has meant to my family and me.

April 28, 2015

In Memoriam Tour 2015, Stop #2


Two weekends ago we began our 2015 Siena Memorial Tour at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   This past weekend, we travelled a bit further to visit the New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, IA. 

April 27, 2015

Race to 100!

I was surprised to learn last week that I don't have game instructions on the blog for one of our favorite games- Race to 100.  This is a game that helps us understand the concept of place value, reinforces basic facts, and prepares students for dynamic addition (carrying).


Play is fairly simple.  Using the stamp game, students roll a dice to collect unit pieces.  When they collect ten units, they exchange for a ten piece.  

April 22, 2015

Montessori Math for Many with MUS


One of the challenges of using Montessori at home with a large family has been tracking everyone and presenting lessons consistently.  I've used many different schedules to keep things moving and on track, but every other minute it seems someone is transitioning into a new sensitive period or plane of development.   Then life happens and I'm left with out anyone to pick up the pieces when I'm on extended bed rest or in the hospital, or whatever else.  I currently have four needing regular lessons.  For subjects that I can't combine, such as math.  I end up with either hours of lesson presenting on math day, or splitting up math so that I have to do multiple subjects in a day which is a another mental nightmare.