Monday, August 15, 2016

Sensory Integration and Splinter Skills

This has been a summer of heartbreaks and this is what has left my heart empty of blogging. Alas, I seem to have a way of saying that at some point every year. Just when I think things are going swimmingly, something happens which proves we still have this or that to work on. This year after I wrote about the wonderfulness of Sensory Integration Therapy and Vision Therapy, we learned that we have more skills to work on. What is going on?
When my kids were diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder, they were quite young. My son was 9 months old and my daughter was 3. We worked with a wonderful occupational therapist. She'd give me piles of reading material about research and therapy. When we met weekly for my kids' therapy sessions, I'd ask tons of questions. One week I asked her what the prognosis was for my kids. Would they ever go to college? Would there be hope of college? What was going to happen? What could I expect when they were in their 20's and even older?
She said that kids with Sensory Integration Disorder develop splinter skills. This is where kids can have high intelligence with enormous strengths in some areas but deep weaknesses in others. Hence, splinter skills. The skills are split between strong and weak.
So..... we kept doing lots of sensory integrative activities that employ the vestibular, proprioceptor and texture. Anything we did in the beginning brought great results, but then the brain seemed to get bored with that, so I had to keep changing up the activities. With change, we saw more results.  Variety is, after all, the spice of life.
When I started homeschooling I did my best to incorporate hands-on learning as well as the vestibular, proprioceptor, and texture. I tried to gear our field trips and summer vacations and other family activities around vestibular, proprioceptor, and texture.
Then when they started college we learned that they needed vision therapy, so we kicked in all sorts of exercises for that, which amazingly seemed to build on the activities we did for sensory integration. There was quite an interesting correlation between the two so with our new found discoveries we worked new facets of the brain. We also learned that beyond working specifically with the eyes, we also needed to work with spatial reasoning. Although that seems to be one of my son's strengths, it is one of my daughter's weaknesses. It is  amazing how similar yet different they are. They are polar opposites in strengths and weaknesses.  
And so now...even though my kids have mastered so much, even though they no longer have quite the degree or number of sensory issues as they once did, every once in a while we feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under us and again we have to regroup.
I've been praying, researching, digging in my brain, reviewing all the facets I've learned, trying to target weak areas to bring more strengths to the table. Now that my kids are older with more responsibilities, it is harder to find time to work with them.
The world is not conducive to the type of work we need to do. Much of the focus on technology that surrounds us day by day works against what my kids' need.
I won't be going into detail, in order to protect my kids' privacy. However I might share some of our activities under the guise of mere activities, knowing that in the big scheme of things, my entire approach to life revolves around sensory integration activity anyway since I have become an ardent believer and supporter. My new ideas would never have come without these newer needs, but they still fit the sensory diet that we seek.
 Yet for all the woes, I need to rejoice in all the wonderfulness that has occurred in each of their lives. So wonderful, that they have risen like cream to the very top of amazingness. For every wall each one seems to have hit, doors have opened for them in other avenues. Splinter skills. Enormous weaks...and at this point of their lives, hidden weaknesses that become imperative to address.
This post has taken a month to write. It wasn't important to me to publish it. For me personally, starting this in my drafts began a journey of healing and I was content to leave it there. However, if it gives another mother on the journey strength, then I am obligated to share.
At the end of the day, I guess that life with Sensory Integration Disorder is a journey that is to be taken one day at a time. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Olympic Swimmer with Pearl Earrings and Resolve

I've meant to blog more, and to blog about the Olympics. I have lots of thoughts to share because I enjoy the Olympics so much. However life has succumbed me once again, alas to the point of even missing much of the women's incredible gymnastics competition this week. Even so my trials are so little compared to others, but more on that in a bit.

First, I want to talk about pearl earrings.

Faux Pearl Collection

Earlier this week I felt a kindred spirit connection with American Olympic swimmer Kathleen Baker. Why? She likes pearl earrings so much, she wears pearl earrings when she competes! That's a gal after my own heart, not that I compete in swimming but my favorite jewelry is pearl jewelry. I have quite the collection of pearl earrings, mostly faux jewelry, that I've probably worn them at times to the pool myself. Unfortunately I've lost one, in the Smithsonian American History museum a few years ago when we attended before the Presidential Inauguration while meeting Mount Rushmore Presidents and swooning over First Ladies' Inaugural Gowns. It's sadness to lose a pearl earring. They were a favorite pair.

But Kathleen's story is more incredible! She has a thing for wearing pearl earrings in every race! (Have I mentioned how classy that is?) The sadness was that she lost one of them last Sunday while swimming a preliminary race for the 100-meter backstroke.  Thankfully a diver in full gear found it at the bottom of her lane at the 15-meter mark. I love one of the tweets in response: "Jewelry lost and found from Rio: Lost: pearl earring. Found: silver medal. Kathleen Baker will take that trade." (Pat Forde) See his tweet and the story and photos of her in classy style here.

The pearl story introduced me to her more dramatic story of how she is such an incredible swimmer, that she could conceivably train, compete and likely win in several swimming events. However Kathleen has Crohn's Disease. This disease is so debilitating that she had to curtail her swimming.

Nevertheless, she refused to be completely consumed by Crohn's. “I found doctors who weren’t going to be just like, ‘You’re Kathleen with Crohn’s disease.’ I need to be Kathleen the swimmer with Crohn’s disease.” (Kathleen Baker)

She found such a doctor, though he wasn't sure if the Olympics was even possible. As determined as the disease was to overtake her, she was more determined to have not only a normal life, but also a chance at the Olympics. Her desire was to swim, swim, swim. From the Olympic commentators I learned that her coaches saw her potential was to race in various events with great success. However balance was needed.

Reluctantly, Kathleen reduced training to one pool session a day. She reduced her races to one event. The nineteen year old made the 2016 Rio Olympic team. She competed. She scored her personal best time. She won a silver medal!!! 

For more details on her story with Crohn's Disease, read this. Also at the link is a picture of her wearing pearl earrings even in the 8th grade! Such class!

Yet now the story is that Kathleen might be able to race on Sunday. Another chance at gold! Team gold! This race will be the 4x100 medley relay. She'd, of course, swim the backstroke leg of the race. Nothing is official yet for the determined swimmer with pearl earrings. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Olympic Medal for Everyone in 1896

Today we know the Olympics to be about winning, however in 1896 the focus was on competing. Therefore all participants received a bronze medal. Although there is more to be gained from winning and losing, the reason for the focus being on competing was that 1896 marked the very first modern Olympics. Furthermore, there were only 241 athletes! Distributing 241 bronze medals definitely sounds characteristic of the Gilded Age!

A Frenchman named Pierre de Coubertin not only revived the Olympic games, but also tried to model them as closely as possible to the original ancient Greek games. According to the Smithsonian, the ancient Olympians valued competition over winning. (see the medal here, at the Smithsonian's link) However the official Olympic website reports that winning was definitely the goal for many an athlete... which is actually perfectly normal and raises the excitement for all. I love the competition of the Olympics and of course I root for my hometeam of America every time. Nevertheless, it's fun to see other great athletes win too...especially after hearing their personal stories. We are all human. We all have stories. At the end of the day we all cheer one another on to be the best we can possibly be. After all, with each person striving to be their best, the bar is raised so that we are inspired to do our best. And part of being our best, is to cheer one another on.

At the 1896 Olympics the Greeks yearned to win the marathon, not only because they wanted to relive their history but also because this was a special historic moment. They were the host nation. How incredible would it be, after all these centuries, if they could repeat history on the very soil their ancestors competed? "Spyridon Louis set off from the city of Marathon and took the lead four kilometres from the finish line and, to the joy of the 100,000 spectators, won the race by more than seven minutes." (

A gallery of photographs and more fascinating facts are available at

Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Olympic Dress for a Queen

I was hoping to do some historical sewing related to the Olympics, but I've been too busy for that. Perhaps for another Olympics. In lieu of that I thought I'd share an interesting dress that Queen Elizabeth wore to the 1976 Montreal Olympics. This silk crepe evening dress has rings embroidered with "silver and iridescent sequins, silver beads and turquoise colored beads." Located at The Royal Collection Trust, the accession number is RCIN 100067

Friday, August 5, 2016

Happy First Day of Olympics Day...with a Geography Lesson!

I love the Olympics! Watching the games has been a fun time for me ever since I can remember. The history, pageantry, enthusiasm, human interest stories, and teamwork is great! Of course I had to introduce my kids to the Olympics when they were little, and the interest goes on when they sit to watch the events with me.

This time I even planned dinner around the opening ceremonies. I was enormously busy, as I've been all summer...hence the slow blogging, but never fear, I will catch up with all the wonderful stuff I've been experiencing! Anyway I was purging 7 years of accumulated paperwork yesterday and I was determined to conquer. Because we were all busy, I made dinner super simple. I bought lots of snacks at the grocery store after I picked my kids up from work, started heating them up at 7pm and by 7:30pm we had finger food to enjoy (think Sports Bar cuisine) while watching the opening ceremonies.

When my kids were little I used the opening ceremonies as a geography lesson. The globe sat on the coffee table so we could locate the countries as they marched through. It must have helped because my daughter developed a love for geography and both of my kids competed well in the National Geography Bee at the local levels when they were growing up.

Meanwhile the opening ceremonies was a great time for us all to learn more about culture as well. All the fun is seeing how each host country will present their history and culture. Of course the Olympics are not supposed to be about politics, and sadly that sadly pops in. But that always makes a great discussion point for analysis. Homeschoolers tend to take advantage of each moment anyway. 

Additionally the parade of nations is great for learning about all the other countries. Seeing the excitement of athletes who worked hard to get to this event is inspiring. Seeing how each country dresses their athletes is a peak into their culture. Seeing the language on each country's identification sign is a peak into the host country's language. Seeing the flags of each country sticks better for learning than seeing them in isolation. Oh yes, my kids notice that and are great flag identifiers. When we were in Washington DC last weekend they were digging through their memory banks to identify different lesser known international flags that we saw on display.

Then of course, seeing the creativity of how the entire show is put together. Who will bring in the torch. How will the cauldron be lit? So much fun. Finally...let the games begin!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Join the Patriot Honor Ride!

A few days ago I noticed my neighbor's red Plymouth Cruiser missing, only to reappear in colorful detail of red, white and blue (stay tuned for photo link when it goes public)...because it is the chase car for a 2500 mile bike ride...the Patriot Honor Ride. Traveling 15 states from Lubec, Maine to Key West, Florida, Gary will be biking...and stopping to fly flags representing heroes who gave their lives in service to our country. His hope is to raise scholarship money for their families, and to allow the public an opportunity to share their gratitude as representative flags are raised over historic spots in 15 states  and ceremonially folded to continue the journey. Already there was a fund raiser at the local Chick-fil-A (where my kids work) where Gary and guests folded many, many honor of those who served us so we can be free. As Gary states on his website, "Freedom is not free."

Boston 1 (1)
Memorial Day in Boston

 I am raising educational scholarship money for kids and spouses of fallen and severely wounded warriors. I stand with Folds of Honor, a wonderful non-profit, in their effort to leave no legacy on the battlefield. This site is intended for friends to watch, encourage, participate in my 2400 mi bike ride through 15 eastern states from Maine to Key West. On my 60 day journey, I wish to raise $60,000, completing my ride on my 60th Birthday on Oct 1. During my trip, my support team and I will carry 30 US flags with us. Each flag will be dedicated to a family of a fallen warrior. These flags will fly on as many flag poles as possible and will be folded with honor, over and over, by as many citizens we can meet along the way. These flags will be presented to the dedicated families along with a journal, archiving the entire journey. Join me, support me, get your friends to help. It's going to be an adventure.-Gary West, quote from his Patriot Honor Ride fb page

Gary, himself, is a retired USAF colonel, who has flown 130 combat missions. When my husband retired from the USAF, we moved from Texas to Virginia and immediately went house hunting. One of our concerns, of course, was finding the right neighborhood with great neighbors. The day we bought this house we walked outdoors after our home inspection. Some neighbors pulled up...incidentally in a red Plymouth Cruiser. That was a good sign. I'm totally into history and historical clothing and reenactments, so that car just seemed so right. Gary and his wife stepped out of the car to meet us. After the warm greeting, my family were in gratitude that *these* were our neighbors.  My family and I have known them for 7 years. We have had great times. I can testify that Gary is an all around great guy! From all the things we've learned and experienced with him over the years, it only naturally follows that Gary would ride his bike 60 days to honor military heroes, culminating on his 60th birthday.

You can learn more about the heroes Gary will be honoring here. These heroes gave their lives in serving our country. Real people.  Real stories. Photos of heroes. Photos of families. Notes from loved ones. Stories of dedication to country, but also to family. Easter egg hunts once attended. Love of learning. Babies once held. Sustained vertigo. PSD. Lou Gehrig's Disease.  These are the stories from across these 15 states that represent our heroes to whom we owe much because they gave all.

Where will flags be flown? Fenway Park, Independence Hall, Massachusetts State HouseFort Knox, Maine, Fort McHenry, to name a few. Oh, and Gary told me that he'll also be at my favorite place...Colonial Williamsburg for a special flag ceremony at the Capitol with the Fife and Drum Corps!!! I'll definitely try to attend that! The day after that there will be flag ceremony at the Victory Monument in Yorktown!

The flags were generously donated by Annin Flag Makers.

Some of the first flag folds was at the Lincoln Memorial in the snow.

Details, including maps, of the trip are here. Gary's Patriot Honor Ride can be followed here on facebook and here on Twitter. The trip begins in August! Stay tuned! I won't be surprised that we'll all be watching some of the progress on the evening news!

Patriot Honor Ride is a great example of venerating heroes, which Eric Metaxas warmly details in his book, If You Can Keep It!

If You Can Keep it By Eric Metaxas

Monday, August 1, 2016

HSLDA Online Academy Discount

Do any of your students take classes through the HSLDA Online Academy? If so, you can get a discount by typing PT6PYY1 in the "coupon" field when you sign up here. In fact, this will benefit both of us. I receive a small commission whereas students "will receive a $30 discount on their total HSLDA Online Academy registration cost. Families registering two or more students should submit separate registration forms to receive a discount for each student." (Quote from HSLDA Online Academy)