Help yourself to a slice of pi

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Anyone for “pi?”

My teeny tiny tackle this week is to master international parcel mail. I purposely made the latest batch extra small and extra light so that I can use the flat rated, still hideously expensive, parcel rate.

I’ll keep you posted as to my success…….or otherwise. I may need a guinea pig to practice on, someone trustworthy who can let me know that I effectively sent them a pile of broken china.

Don’t forget to check out other “tacklers” as well as “Trish.” You don’t need to have a blog to join in, merely a postal address. Afterall Father’s Day is the 21st of June both here and there, and quite possibly everywhere.

Come to think of it, what better guinea pig could I find than “crystal” afterall I’m sure she’s the perfect match for the “farming life.” I may not share her extraordinary insight, but we do share a “single handedness” and an awful lot of “laundry.”

Cheers dears


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Green Capitalists – step by step guide

How to make paper flower pots from newspaper and then further exploit the enterprise.

This idea was originally from my chum “DJ Kirkby” on her post over “here” but I decided to steal it from her to provide her with the opportunity to sue me for copyright infringement. They’re a litigious lot those Brits.

1. You will need a PVC pipe of the right diameter [small, medium, large] a cutting tool and some newspaper.

2. Chop the pipe to the desired height that you want your pot to be.

3. Turn the newspaper diagonally and fold in half for extra strength.

4. Fold over again to the same height as the pipe.

5. turn over the paper and roll the length of the strip around the pipe.

6. several time until you have a couple of inches of tail left.


7. fold upwards.
8. Tuck in the other end, squish it, to form the bottom.

9. tuck in the top tail between one of the folds.

10. Voila! Pots for free.

11. Make loads in advance ready to fill whenever you come across an errant seeding.

This was, necessarily, a joint family enterprise to take account of different people’s skills and limitations. Those who were paper averse in the tactile defensiveness department relied upon the fine motor skills of their sister to help fashion the pots.

Then is was the boys’ turn to identify the seedlings in the garden. It’s easy enough to spot different coloured flowers but it’s far more taxing to identify teeny tiny little green plants and to differentiate between them. However with a handy aide memoire clutched in their hot little puds, this too turned out to be easy peasy. Laminate both sides because you know it’s going to get muddy and soggy.

N.B. make one for each child to avoid hic-cups.

Then all you have to do is wait a couple of weeks for the seedlings or cuttings to settle in.

After that teach the basic principles of capitalism to your socialists who pocket money is apparently deficient.

Then sit back and watch the competition clean up with baubles for the magpies amongst us.

“Works for Me Wednesdays” the “Frugal” Edition.

Yes I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’m a bit previous today.

N.B.B. This post is brought to you via the ability to enjoy outside play.

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Got you pegged!


A step by step guide to making your own peg bag or laundry hamper or toy tidy, it’s that versatile! Reduce, recycle, re-use and go green all at the same time.

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Level of difficulty = easy peasy

This is best made from sturdy material such as corduroy, canvas or heavy linen. Alternatively, use up anything you have hanging around including old clothes that are no longer wearable. Use a plastic hanger because then when it’s hanging up outside in the weather it won’t rust.

Cut out the shape, large or small depending upon how many mountains of laundry you tackle in the average day.

Look at your hand, if you are the one who will be pegging out the clothes and compare it’s size to the bowls in your kitchen. Use the right size bowl to draw a circle in the upper centre of the front of the bag with taylor’s chalk, or any other chalk come to think of it. [*] Keep it on the high side so that you can reach into the bag, as if you put it too low all the pegs will fall out.

Sew around the hole with bias binding.

Since bias binding is hideously expensive and comes in a really titchy packets, you can make your own either contrasting or of the same material. All you have to do is cut a strip diagonally [the bias] across the warp of the fabric. [or possibly weft?] Bias binding is stretchy and therefore more forgiving when you attach it.

Bind off the neck [top] similarly to prevent fraying.

French seam outside edge and reinforce the ‘shoulders’ and base seam if you plan to use a lot of pegs, as if they’re wooden they get much heavier when they’re wet.

Lastly insert the hanger through the hole.[*] Make sure that the hanger will also fit through the hole first before you attach the bias binding.

These natty little bags are also very handy for camping unless you want to sleep in a nest of Pokemon. They also double as laundry hampers. You can hang them on the back of your child’s bedroom door to encourage independence. If you use them for either of the previous purposes then it’s a good idea to add an open-able flap at the bottom of the bag for quick release.

I have tried doing this with old favourite t-shirts but the results are a bit too stretchy with far too much give, however, I think it’s perfectly feasible to make the bag out of a plain white fabric and then attach a large front square of the stretchy T-shirt as an appliqué decoration.

And if anyone gives me a tissue box cover or a peg bag for Mother’s Day I shall be extremely miffed………unless it’s been made with tender loving care from smaller people with bigger souls.

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Listen very carefully

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Because I shall say this only once! Well, that at least was the plan. I don’t know about you and your campaigns but around here consistency and persistence are our watch words, together with big dollops of follow through. I think it’s the follow through where I am apt to trip up and fall down.

A case in point would be a recent campaign that I instigated in an attempt to return some order to the chaotic state that we currently live in. It was quite a small campaign in the great scheme of things, very simple. The new campaign for the children was to pick up their Webkinz and Pokemons and put them in a laundry hamper, a large one, rather than leave them strewn all over their beds and carpet. It is so much easier to make beds and vacuum every day if you avoid having to wade your way through a morass of wildlife.

Hence just before our night time routine I told them about the new campaign. I made sure that I had everyone’s attention first before making my proclamation:-

‘Listen very carefully because I shall say this only once. Are you listening? Can you hear me? Right. So before you come downstairs tomorrow at 5 o’clock in the morning, first you must put every Webkinz, Pokemon and other fluffies in this large laundry hamper. Do you understand? Can you do this?’

Once a positive response was extracted, I moved onto the next child and repeated myself because although I was sure to ‘only say it once,’ I did in fact say it three times. I said it loud enough so that each of the three times that I said it, the other two could also hear it, because that’s what we call positive re-inforcement around here. I made it plain that consequences for non-compliance would follow. What consequence? A time out for all malingering fluffies, although I failed to specify how long that ‘time out’ would last.

Thusly the following morning I was confident that henceforward my domestic duties would have halved over-night.

Sadly, as it turned out, yet another campaign failed at the first blip.

The back story for anyone with special needs children.

It was pretty much doomed without a prompt in the morning, a prompt that I did intend to give but failed to give, due to the reality of two wet beds and copious amounts of dog vomit. Very unwelcome gifts at 5.04 precisely.

I think that this is an all too familiar reminder that in an idea world, I like to set up my children to experience success. Although the prompt was in the ether, in reality I failed to perform.

To be fair, I think any child would have a hard time remembering something new from the night before, especially if the new thing was a chore. I did follow up and remove the toys to a spot out of reach but I know that they won’t be there as long on a ‘time out’ as if I had other children.

Other children might accept this as a commensurate consequence but not my children. If I had done this a few years ago, screaming meltdowns would be more or less guaranteed but these days we have words with which to express our disdain more logically. Logically, they believe that the toys are being punished for their oversight, which therefore is patently unfair and the cause of great angst.

I share this because parents of special needs children frequently feel like failures. It can be very de-moralizing and debilitating to stare at the faces of defeat, especially when they are of our own making.

Even after all these years I still get it wrong and I still make mistakes.

Meanwhile I have to design “three original cakes” for the fundraiser at school, which is great because I’m much better at cakes than kids. The theme is ‘fiesta’ although I personally wish it was ‘siesta,’ any ideas gratefully received. All I can come up with with a cactus with great big pokey spines.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too……if you give it away.

Last three days of the bowl “giveaway/freebie.”

Cheers dears


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Try tackling it Tuesday

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Spring has Sprung around here and so it’s time to tackle the garden, or more specifically, how to train a plant to be a standard? Standard? What kind of Standard? The standard kind which has one stalk. There are many reasons why this is a useful exercise, most commonly for people with either small garden or narrow flower beds. If you can train the plant to do all it’s flowering at eye level then this frees up the bottom of the bed for other plants and effectively doubles the amount of blooms you can squeeze into a small space.

This is Jasmine which has many stalks as well as many runners. First find the thickest or most vigorous stalk and cut back all the others at ground level. Nick off any little sprouts that emerge from your main stalk.

Within a year you can move from a wild out of control plant to this stately one stemmed version. This of course is a honeysuckle not a Jasmin.

There will always be more sprouts at the bottom but they’re easy to remove on a weekly basis.

Be careful what time of year you attempt this tackle as you may wipe out a whole years flowers. Ideally this should be tackled at the end of the flowering season ready for the next year or just after the first flowering as here it is not uncommon to have three or four blooming periods.

Now if only everything else in my life were as easy as this! There again, ‘standard’ is probably a little over-rated except by certain control freaks like me.

Cheers

So don’t forget to add your name to the “original post list” and help spread the word for the giveaway, wouldn’t like to miss anyone out.


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Shark infested waters

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This week’s tackle is mammoth and unexpected as my boys have hit the Houdini stage of development. As with all special needs parents, vigilance is our watch word and when that doesn’t work we use padlocks, deadbolts and trip alarms. After that, the ammunition possibilities are a little limited.

I shall keep this brief as the children are on Spring break and I’m writing whilst they are asleep. I think my own sleep schedule is now officially canceled. I had another post entirely planned but this is more important.

I returned home today from the passport office to find both the boys in the front garden where they had climbed over the five and a half foot wall to avoid the locks on the door. Oh yes, well done boys, I am so impressed with your climbing skills, co-ordination skills, spatial awareness, teamwork, landing safely skills without splitting your respective noggins open on the concrete floor.

A wee while back “Mama Mara” suggested that I use my broken pots for mosaics, however, I have another and MUCH better idea. Jagged, shards of pottery shall henceforth be cemented to the top of every wall on the premises above a moat full of sharks. Well………….maybe if I had a little more time. Hence meanwhile I shall be using the lovely Spring Break to teach my children compliance.

Don’t forget to check out other “tacklers” as well as “Trish” and the “freebie list” at the end of last week’s “tackle,” giveaway either in the box or as a comment. You don’t need to have a blog to enter, merely a postal address.


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Cat and dog love

If your family already has a cat and wants to add a dog, or vice versa, how is the best way to ensure that they all get along?

It’s good to begin with a carefully orchestrated plan of desensitization. Never force either animal into close proximity with the other. This technique requires a great deal of time and patience. As with all relationships, it cannot be rushed. Each animal needs to progress at their own pace.

One easy place to start is to feed each animal it’s favourite treat by hand at the same time so that they can then learn to associate treats and the new pet, with positive associations. If this is done on a regular basis, gradually they will hopefully become physically closer.

Currently, our cats are not keen on the dog but will tolerate being in the same room together.

As we have just completed two science projects for school with the children, their enthusiasm for experimentation has expanded in quite unexpected directions. They decided to investigate another possibility to speed up relationship development between their pets with the assistance of these two trusty tools. First spray the dog with liquid cat nip then sprinkle liberally with dried catnip. Wait patiently for the cats to fall in love with the dog. They waited quite a long time until it suddenly dawned on them……both the cats and the dog are all boys. I decided to explain ‘ménage à trios,’ when they are older, maybe, the children not the pets.

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Fox on a stick – how to make your own

Recently on “Victoria’s Stillwell’s” programme, ‘It’s me or the dog,’ on “Animal Planet,” they featured an exercise toy for dogs, especially our Labradoodle, Thatcher. This tremendously fun toy is of course completely “unobtainable” and all the stores have sold out. I know you’ll believe me when I tell you that after half an hours viewing, we had to have this toy, and not just for Thatcher the dog. Our dog Thatcher needs two, one and a half hour exercise sessions a day, but with the current rain schedule, this task has fallen solely upon my soggy shoulders. No big surprise there. However, with a little temptation for other members of the family, you too can take a little respite by making your own ‘fox on a stick.’

You will need:-
A flexible stick [not too long or may break or bend]
Duct Tape
Drawer liner plastic fabric
Swivel
Thick cord
Bungee cord
A strip of furry fabric or old stuffed toy
Bacon grease

First tape the drawer liner fabric to one end of the stick and build it up to fashion a handle for those with poor fine motor skills or elderly persons with other grip issues.

Slip the thick cord through the swivel and duct tape it to the other end of the stick.

Knot one end of the bungee cord to the swivel.

Slip knot the fabric or old toy to the other end of the bungee cord.

Spread a little bacon grease on the furry fabric and introduce the contraption to your dog. Once your dog is in a state of ecstasy over the bacon grease transfer dog and contraption to the garden and whiplash the furry fabric around the lawn and watch your dog revel.

Needless to say, my youngest son who favours long handled things of any kind is almost as ecstatic as the dog.

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How was your day?

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At school pick up we all experience variations on a theme. One child talks non-stop without drawing breath. Another is taciturn but otherwise chirpy. Still other’s are silent and may well have been silent all day. How do we encourage our children to converse? How do we ensure that the channels of communication remain open, not just now when they’re little, but for the future and those doom laden Middle School years?

How do you coax and encourage quiet and non-verbal children to converse?

Non-verbal is a term that causes a great deal of confusion to many. Surely the non-verbal child is one who does not speak? Whilst this would be a logical conclusion, it would be very far from the clinical truth. This is in part because ‘non-verbal’ is a liquid term, a shorthand that covers a wide spectrum of speech impairments. I only have direct experience of two versions of non-verbal:- both my boys hit the requisit milestones of child development but thereafter languished. If I had been more astute, I would have recognized that whilst technically they had met the milestones, there was a significant gap between the general and the specific. Three word sentences existed to make verbal demands for what they needed, however, the social element was absent. The subtlties of joint attention:- ‘look mum, look at the bird!’ or relationships, “look at me Mom!” or common social nuances, “I like that cat / thing / you,” failed to materialize. These, amongst many others should have warned me, but they didn’t.

I was deceived by their other skills, a facility with letters and numbers, their ability to read well above their chronological age and their willingness to pronounce long words, predominantly dinosaur names.

Rather than draw up a full list of the many scaffolding techniques available for parents, instead I’m happy to share a tool that worked for us, to a greater or lesser extent.

First I collaborated with the school who were willing to provide a daily report about both boys performance during the day. Additionally, I obtained a list of all the childrens’ names in their classes. This can sometimes be difficult with very young children where privacy issues have to be addressed.

I then made a laminated question sheet for each child with half a dozen standard questions with tick boxes. Many children have greater receptive language skills than expressive language, in that they understand far more than they are able to express themselves. Hence, tick boxes provided for yes or no answers rather than anything more stressful.

If your child has a favourite colour, then now would be a good time to use it. Personalized icons also help attract their attention and personalize their input. The kinesthetic act of attaching their particular face icon to the chat sheet, helps engage them in the exercise, like a first step to acceptance and ownership, to help them have a personal investment and reinforces the one-on-one aspect.

Every day after school we went through the questions. [for weeks without any response at all!] I adapted them over time to take account of changes, errors and mistakes. They covered the main ‘who/what/where/which/why/ how’ queries as they had great difficulty distinguishing between these. These kind of routine, structured and predictable questions eventually produced responses. Many are factual, such as ‘who did you sit next to today?’ which are infinitely preferable to the ‘how do you feel?’ nebulous kind of enquiry.

They can be used to reinforce and generalize other skills that you’re working on, such as sharing, negotiating and compromising, asking for help. I appreciate that this is a very basic communication tool but it was an invaluable early stepping stone when five hours of total silence was more commonplace. Since I had three young children at the time, I started with my daughter and then each of my sons as the repetition helped them to know what was expected and also reassured them that this was just another piece of the everyday schedule. [that had to be endured!]

Try not to insist on eye contact or general body orientation. If you have a child pinned down to tackle a particular obstacle, such as answering verbal questions, now is the time to allow them to use all their different coping mechanisms in order to initiate a positive [verbal response.] What does this mean? Ignore the hand wringing, toe tapping, squirming, hair twiddling, ceiling staring, floppy bodies, chair rocking, clothes pulling, skin picking, ear tweaking, nail biting…….it doesn’t matter if they answer you, you can deal with all that later once you’re managed to evoke a verbal response. Don’t let it distract you from the primary goal, speech. If verbal communication is not their first choice, then we need to make it worth their while. If we cut off all their coping mechanisms we’re actually making it harder for them. {yes, I appreciate that this is the opposite advice from many speech therapists, where the child needs to stop all the fiddles because the fiddles are distracting}

From a parents perspective, it also gave me a tool to ensure that I was consistent and calm. It only took a few minutes a day. Although they were unresponsive for many weeks, eventually they accepted that this was just another one of those little parental hurdles that had to be overcome. For my boys at least, once something becomes accepted as part of the routine, there are far less meltdowns as it is no longer ‘new,’ but it can take a long time, far longer than the typical child. However, in the long run, however long that might be, it’s definitely a small step in the right direction.

Above all, do not become disheartened. Some of the changes we try to implement seem so tiny and insignificant. Although they are tiny and insignificant, they also have a huge negative impact upon our children, initially. What seemed like a jolly good idea in the middle of the night, can seem like the stupidest mistake the next day when we try and implement it. Once we have started a new routine or campaign, the fall out can be heavy, resistance can seem quite overwhelming. Suddenly the previous status quo seems infinitely preferable. We are then faced with the reality that we need to follow through on what we started, otherwise they learn that protest will succeed.

This is not to say that there aren’t mistakes. Sometimes we overlook something important such as timing. For example the first half hour at home after school may not be the best time to plague them with questions. This doesn’t mean that the question campaign should be abandoned, rather that a better time should be chosen when they’re more receptive. If we discover that one particular question provokes a more violent response, then change the question to something less taxing, avoid that trigger and stick to the big picture.

How do I know that this works for some children? Well one particularly frustrating day, my youngest son was fizzing away and unresponsive. As he leapt away, I ran after him clutching my question sheet and a pen. I resisted the urge to duct tape him to the floor. He kept running around the periphery of the room and I ran after him. Then he jumped up to touch something at shoulder height and shouted “Ryan!” in answer to ‘who did you sit next to today?’ He kept running and each jump and touch meant a shout, an answer. That was the first day that I had a verbal response to each question. This is how I learned to ignore the fizzies. I also learned to sit in the middle of the room whilst he ran rings around me. It’s been like that more or less, ever since.

I could write a whole book on just this one issue so I’ll shut up now as I can tell that I’m beginning to ramble.

Cheers dears


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Laundry – try tackling it Tuesday

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In a household of “7” filthy people, there tends to be a lot of laundry, my sole responsibility. Each step of the laundry process, and we all know that it is a many step process, is just fine with me, except the last step, the ‘putting away’ step. It is not uncommon to find all seven of my laundry hampers full to busting at the top of the stairs. For some unknown reason, probably mere inefficiency on my part, this is my perennial stumbling block. The very best thing to do with stumbling blocks is to blast them into outer space.

Personally, I’m sorely tempted to convert the garage into a holding pen, fill it full of racks and shelves, and house everyone’s clothing in one spot, right next to the washer and drier. This would streamline matters considerably. Since the average American already uses the garage for storage purposes, with cars parked out on the hard drive, we would just be that little bit ahead of the curve and start a whole new trend.

I think it would also foil burglars who would break and enter through the weakest safety point in the average house, the garage, and would then be distracted from the task at hand by a tempting display of clothing. It’s a trick used by most store keepers, put the most attractive items near the entrance to lure in the punters. By the time the burglars have picked out just the right size, style and colour, the police will have arrived and the game will be up.

But I digress.

Here is where the art of delegation comes into play. What is the point of having children that create work if you can’t tap into their ability to contribute towards the smooth running of the family unit? Call it child labour if you will, but if we ever hope to develop independence in our children, it’s a step that’s hard to resist.

Here I must confess my main objection to teaching my children independence, namely, that they do not meet my exacting standards when it comes to putting away the laundry. This is why a few little visual pointers can help them navigate the way and keep them on the right washing line. Labels my friends, labels. If your children can read, then all well and good. If not, then little icons or PEC’s help smooth out the bumps and indirectly save on ironing. Folding is well beyond our current skill set but hangers work well.

I’d like to don my environmental hat and cut down the laundry, wear clothes more than once or dab off stains like my mother used to do whilst the occupant is still inside. I’d like to curb the three or four changes of clothes whilst they attempt to approximate the costume of their favourite characters, but at the same time, I am also dumbstruck by this extension of pretend play. Suddenly they’re happy to attempt dressing. They’re motivated enough to overcome some of those fine and gross motor challenges. Do I really want to choke off and stifle such tender new growth?

Sadly, although we started this new campaign over 18 months ago, what with one thing and another, I have let matters slide. However, that’s no good reason why we shouldn’t start again, renew the campaign and continue to tackle our own particular mountain, or failing that, “regroup” and take “cover.”

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