I don’t know, but I can find out.

Afternoon peeps!

Our week has gone well in general, I hope yours was alright as well.

What do you do when you don’t know the answer to a problem?

Choosing to learn at home comes with some amount of criticism, often posed as concerned questions.

One common one is:

“What happens if your child has a problem with a subject and you can’t help them?”

The criticism is that a homeschooling parent cannot possibly have the same knowledge base, resources, or ability to assist a student that a school teacher possesses. An accompanying assumption is that when faced with lack of knowledge, all hell breaks loose.  Next thing you know little Timmy is a delinquent.

The common rebuttal in the form of a answer to this question is, “I will find the answer, or I will find someone who DOES know the answer.”

Little Bee (10) asked to learn computer programming this year.  Except for a frustratingly boring semester of C++ nearly two decades ago, I have no experience with programming.  I remember sitting for hours looking much like this:


Undaunted by the fact the mere presence of code makes me break into a cold sweat, I said yes. She’s two years ahead in math, so I let her cut back to math three days a week, and add programming for two.

She is working through the java script learning modules on Khan Academy.

Into module three there was a PROBLEM.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

She was getting an error message, and could not figure out which line was in error.  I looked it over twice.  That’s right, I looked at code for my baby. THAT is love.

I could not make heads or tails of it.




I posted to Facebook asking for help.

I emailed computer smart friends not on facebook.

I even contacted her Dad, my ex husband, who spread the need for a tutor among his contacts.

Guess what? Her Dad found someone willing to give her his time via email or video chat whenever she needs help.

In the end, we didn’t need to contact him over her problem because I FIGURED IT OUT.  That’s right, ME.

My slow coding ignorant  noggin finally saw the error.

When I say I’m slow, I’m serious. During IQ testing they tested my processing speed and I’m like a commodore 64 (1982 computer) in an Intel processing world.Yet I can remember (long term and working mem) more sh*t than the average bear, including it seems twenty year old coding knowledge.

So, potential earth shattering educational misfortune was avoided.


We can all sleep tonight.  If we want to. Maybe.

I know that when she has another issue with this, if I can’t figure it out, I have someone to ask.

I don’t have to know it all.

Homeschooling or not,  I’m sure there are times when you’ve needed guidance from other people.

Do you have a favorite mentor? (could be a teacher, or colleague, another artist, or an author…)


(sorry my personal facebook is very private I am not adding ANYONE NEW, but the blog has a page link in the right column – lookee! )








Create NOW, no bliss required.


Wow. That phrase IRRITATES me.

Often  it is used to encourage people to do what they love to make an income. Being able to do for a living what brings one “bliss” is often (not always) a thing of the privileged. Resources not available to most of the  world’s  population are often a necessity to get to that point.  We can’t all walk off to wander the globe or commune with the orangutans just because its what we want to do.

Circle of No

In other cases, finding one’s bliss isn’t always a moral or healthy pursuit.  Meth making chemists do well I hear and take pride in a product that creates lifelong addiction.

I’m not against the idea that we should strive toward our goals. I hope to someday support us with my “art” without need for assistance.

Yet, the philosophy seems to forget the “now” and our immediate circumstances.  

Now and then  I re-watch Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech “Make Good Art.” He talks about the need to keep making art, everyday,

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.

For the non artist it should be phrased,


It is available to you whether or not you are blissful.

I live in a house that is 70+ years old.  Something is always breaking. When I bought it, it was with the belief that it has been refurbished.



I’m not sure what the seller’s definition of refurbished was, but when a house needs asbestos removal, plumbing, electrical wiring, and roofing work, the word “refurbished” doesn’t apply.

One contractor I hired to help fix the mess would tell me stories about her remodeling projects. One day after looking at my artwork,  she said to me, “You are so creative, I wish I was, but I just don’t have it.”

Thinking on it later, I wondered why she couldn’t see the creativity in her work.

One feature of the human brain that separates us from other animals is that we are able to take previous knowledge and remix, improve, and expand upon it.

We problem solve.

We create culture.

Everyone has creativity, no bliss required.


How do you use your creativity?






Have Canoe, Will Drift- Nature Quest Fest

Nature Quest 2014 is done!

This past Saturday was the “Nature Quest Fest” for families who completed at least five trails in Baltimore County’s “Nature Quest” which included drawings for prizes and a grand prize for participants that completed nine or more.

We didn’t reach our goal of nine, mostly because of weather/transportation issues. I didn’t take two of the boys to the fest because I felt that they wouldn’t enjoy themselves, or be able to manage that long of a day.  I respect their sensory issues enough not to try to force them into something they wouldn’t enjoy just for the sake of “family togetherness.”

Quest Fest included the usual food and face painting as well as activities put on by the different parks.

We looked at reptiles,


and painted with dye made from black walnut hulls.


I plan on giving this a try at home, if I get to it, it will be blogged.


We also looked at   Native American instruments/tools, and tried our hand at archery with  a basic bow design.


Bee found it much more challenging than her usual bow, but she hit the target!

They also offered free canoeing on the dam lake.


See everyone happy?  Happiness turned to frustration about twenty minutes later because huge gusts of  wind were blowing us all over the lake. When I had us righted again, we’d paddle awhile, and then again the wind would blow us off course.  Bee was front paddler and began to get very tired fighting the drifting of the canoe. I was as well.  We ended up needing towed back to dock.They found getting towed kind of exciting.

Afterwards, we went in search of food.  Myself and the two I didn’t bring have diagnosed gluten allergy, and as  predicted, there was nothing there gluten free save for potato chips. It is  not typical for organizers to have the time or resources to  consider all possible allergies.

We did win something, a gift basket from Oregon Ridge Nature Center including a bird feeder, t shirts, ball cap, and some of their honey and maple syrup!


Aidan and Bee are already talking about “next year.” I’ll be happy getting back to hiking at our more local parks, but am definitely up for doing it  again.



SandyHook solution: strip homeschoolers’ rights and stigmatize the mentally disabled

I had not seen this in  the news until now.

In response to the Sandy Hook Massacre,  The governor of Connecticut,  Dannel P. Malloy  created the Sandy Hook advisory council  to determine what actions could be taken to reduce risk of further tragedy.

What recommendation did they come up with the decrease future school violence?

Requiring stricter homeschool oversight of mentally disabled students. 

Under the proposal, home-schooled children with behavioral and emotional disabilities would have to have individualized education plans approved by the special education director of the local public school district. Allowing for the continued home-schooling of such children would be predicated on the individualized plans and “adequate progress” documented in mandatory annual reports.


Adam Lanza was twenty years old, homeschooled for only the last two years of highschool, and in the public education setting the entire rest of the time. Yet the solution to school shootings is monitoring disabled homeschooled kids and holding their parents to a different set of standards than current Connecticut homeschool law requires?


The reasons being because of “the risk in not addressing social and emotional learning needs of children who may have significant needs in that area who are home-schooled.”

That PRESSUMES  two things

Presumption One

Homeschool parents of children with social and emotional disabilities are not as capable of determining the social and emotional needs of their children as the school system.

The school system had Adam Lanza for 16 years. His parents attempted to get him help, and it was apparent  early on that his problems weren’t addressed. Saying that they can somehow do a better job in meeting student’s needs leaves me incredulous.

I  WITHDREW my sons because of their social and emotional learning needs.


Presumption two:

Our disabled children are potential powder kegs. It assumes there is some sort of heightened risk for violence because of their conditions when there is no data to validate that, or the previous assumption.

It is “the  disabled are  dangerous” trope that encourages stigma.

Never mind that the disabled are more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators, or that disabled children are more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers.

Many parents pull their children over concern for THEIR health and safety at the hands of typical children.

I  hope that people of Connecticut don’t stand for this scapegoating.










Saint Amanda martyr?

For the Iamnotkellistapleton flashblog.

This is likely my last  post about Issy Stapleton unless there are new developments and something more needs said.

When I was younger, around 18-19 years old,  I didn’t believe in grey.  Everything was black and white. Everything was either right, or it was wrong. It was good or it was evil. People who didn’t acknowledge just must be confused, or lazy.

In the last twenty years I’ve learned that nearly everything is grey, and really complicated. There are rarely simple answers especially when it comes to human relationships.

Late into those twenty years,  I earned my Bachelors Degree.

One thing I focused study on was family systems theory.  There are many different factors that affect each family, each member of that family and the individual relationships of members in that family in different ways. No single family is identical to another and each individual member of that family experiences family life differently.

There is no typical family.

People say autism is family/marriage ruining. They say that, because it is easier to look for a simple answer to “What went wrong?” than acknowledge its not that simple, or to acknowledge fault.

When an autistic child acts out aggressively its easier to blame the autistic child, or the autism as if its some sort of separate evil entity  than taking a close look at everyone involved and examining the environment and the people in it to see what factors are at play.

If a person  judges, others, or demonizes one person or one thing (idea, practice, set of people) it takes away responsibility for change. People will happily believe black and white, angel and demon, good and evil. Often we  don’t even make a conscious decision to do it, its merely a behavior pattern that works for us.

It is better to look at the facts and factors of each individual case.

It has been suggested that as a mother of autistic children I should understand and empathize with Miss Stapleton’s mother, because I must know, I must understand what autism puts us through.



I am not Kelli Stapleton.

I cannot relate to Kelli.

Let’s look at the facts shall we?

  • Kelli had supports and services for Issy that I never have.

I don’t think supports or therapy are half as important as love, and care. I do not believe in endless therapy that encourages “normal” behavior at the cost of individuality.

  • Kelli blamed autism for her daughter’s aggression and their poor relationship. It’s easier than taking a closer look at her own behavior or considering whether a change in their family environment, was needed.

I do not look for scapegoats.  I try to understand and learn because although over half of this household is autistic, myself included, I understand that we’re all different, and parenting is never easy. I also know its important to look after my own mental health.

  • Kelli posted in words, picture, and videos the  intimate details of her daughter’s life, putting her daughter in the worst possible light. She portrayed herself as martyr and victim.

Saint Amanda martyr I am not, and you won’t find me violating the kids’ privacy in that manner.  Whether or not too much is online, and how exactly to share our lives without oversharing about them is constantly on my mind. I also know that this  martyr/warrior attitude is unhealthy mentally in the long run, both for a parent’s mental health but also for their child. It is unhealthy for how the child perceives themselves and their relationship with their parent.

  • Kelli attempted to murder her child.

That is not ever going to happen.

As grey as the world has become, some things are still wrong.  Trying to murder someone is still wrong. Abusing someone, is still wrong.  Blaming a victim of abuse and attempted murder is still wrong. It is not understandable to me.

  • In sentencing Kelli’s lawyer also  blamed her mental illness for this behavior.

As someone with PTSD and the anxiety and constant low level depression it brings, I find that pretty damn insulting. 

No, I am not her, and I cannot relate.







Book Review – Their Name is Today

Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold (Plough Publishing House)


I was sent this book for free from the publisher as a part of library thing’s early reviewer program.  The author’s beliefs concerning God, and  also what makes a family differ a great deal from my own. While the author is perfectly entitled to his own opinions, supporting he or the publisher with my purchase would not happen.  The chance that profit from my purchase could be used for  spreading beliefs and ideals against my own is too high.

Yet, I felt a responsibility as a reviewer to read and review the book based on its own merit, regardless of how I differ in world view  from the author.  My criticisms are based on my experience and qualification as a parent, scholar, and one-time  bullied child.


The good bits of his book are themes repeated throughout  concerning:

*the importance of unstructured play

* the importance of hands on experience/trial and error, learning from mistakes

*the need for good adult role models

*childhood as a time  that should be without the stress of overscheduling, achievement/safety obsessed parenting (say no to the tiger mom), or  the stresses of an adult world

*that medicating children should be used as last resort, as changes can be made to environment

*testing/standards focused education making little room for addressing individual needs or time for free exploration.

I agree wholeheartedly.


BUT this good stuff was outweighed by:


*Solutions the author suggests are in no way unique to those suggested in numerous magazines and books on the same subject.

*Much like “Last child in the Woods” (link to my review) this author reminisces about  and romanticizes a childhood that simply isn’t the reality of the average 21st century child or family.

*Every chapter was filled to the brim with anecdote that the author then used to make generalizations.

*He seemed to really be addressing a very specific audience, one that shared his world view and socioeconomic class.

*Citations were often links to other people’s opinion pieces, similarly themed books,  or news articles about studies in some cases, non-definitive (correlation is not causation) or only slightly related to the topic.

That leads us to:


People make my brain hurt.


In an anecdote a mother talks about how her teen told her that “he is comfortable talking to people on the computer because he does not get bullied.” She goes on to call what her son says was bullying as “awkward childhood moments” being “opportunity for growth.” That maybe, just maybe, if he hadn’t been online, he’d have better social skills.

Interesting anecdote. To my knowledge  there is no study saying online communication causes problems with face to face social skills. The author certainly doesn’t cite one.

I was bullied from elementary through high school. It  didn’t  teach me social skills. Those “awkward childhood moments” of being spat on, pelted with rocks, and sexually harassed did teach me something. I learned fear, shame, and self-hate. Oh how it would have been nice to have the internet back then and to have been able to connect with people who understood.


Arnold tries to say internet research where children have access to the libraries of the world is poor, and somehow not spending time in a limited resourced library creates lazy students.

While teaching how to find good resources is necessary, saying that internet research is limiting is preposterous.

For a fellow interested in solid research, he really drops the ball with this:

“Many children find themselves unable to communicate with a real person who requires a thoughtful verbal response. More and more children arrive at preschool with speech difficulties; some do not speak at all. Since this is a diagnosable trait in autism spectrum, how many children may be categorized as autistic when they have simply not had the opportunity to learn human interaction?”


So lets get this straight…

Technology=less social skills=autism?????

Even if he were right regarding technology and social skills (and he isn’t) poor social skills does not equal autism. Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that research shows is present at birth and leads to significant differences in brain development especially in the first year. There is far more to it than merely communication or social skills issues and autism would not be diagnosed merely on speech delay.

Further autistics, because of difficulty (in varying degrees) with spoken face to face communication, benefit from having technology as alternate means of communication both online and in day to day life.

The author hasn’t done his research.  We face stigma and ignorance and  here he encourages a common dangerous misconception.

This book gets one star…its already in the recycle bin and filed in my mind under  “ableist crap.”

Mostly Harmless Electricians and Salamanders

Morning Peeps!

Are you morning people?

I am not, which is why I get up early.

I keep my phone  in my kitchen.  I let it charge there and that is its location when its alarm goes off about quarter to five every morning. Having the alarm an entire floor away makes it less torturous than it would be if it were nearby.  I get up that early to center myself, figure out my to-do list, and get some writing in whilst guzzling coffee.


On Saturdays, I sometimes skip this and dare to “sleep in” till 7.  The children spend nearly every weekend with their father so I have more morning time to get moving.  This morning though, the alarm was set  because I have electricians coming this afternoon to get my electric meter up to standard.  I know it sounds like a simple thing, but the thought has me on edge.


I’m feeling anxious about letting unknown walking/talking variables into my house, but I am keeping in mind that they are probably, like the rest of the human race, MOSTLY harmless.


I need time to prepare mentally for this, plus I wanted to share our finds this week.

Our first week of fall home school went very well. We managed to record some amphibians for MARA (our state herp database).

Nature speaks to us in many ways, but a good indicator of ecosystem health is the presence (or lack of) amphibians.

We visited Robert E. Lee park,



looked both ways and crossed the light rail tracks,

CAM00092 CAM00093 CAM00094

rolled logs to find numerous earthworms and a toad (not sure the species, I just sent a pic in to MARA, hope they needed him),


and found a red backed salamander.


Finally, we found our seventh nature quest marker,


well, sort of.

It was cheering to see so many indicators of eco-health, sadly it has not been the case many places we visited this past summer.

Tessa (5) told everyone we met today she was a “creature venturer on a nature quest.” She also chatted to several people about the wonderfulness of earthworms.
On the way back she was getting tired.
“My legs hurt. My feet hurt.”
“That is one of the hard parts of being a creature adventurer Tess, unfortunately the only way to get back is to walk back the way we came.”
“Yeah, maybe.”  She was quiet for a few moments.  “But Chris and Martin (the Kratt brothers, hosts of a national geographic series we have on DVD) they have a car fing (jeep)!”

That they do, as well as a production crew.

I am a production crew of one so,

its time to get to my to-do list.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Saturday.

I Raise Sons Not Tragedies (part 2)

Trigger Warning for discussion of war, trauma, suicide, murder, illness. (no graphic images)

I don’t often blog as autism being the main subject of a post on this blog, unless related to learning or acceptance or perhaps linked to something I find might be useful to share.

I often worry about portraying myself or the kids in an incomplete way. I worry if I leave the challenges out we would be a sunshine and roses unrealistic picture of life on the spectrum. I worry if I stray too negatively I may perhaps not convey how happy we do happen to be. It’s difficult to know what to share, so often times I err on the side of “not enough info”

I can say without a doubt though, all total:

Nothing tragic happened today,

at least, it didn’t happen here.

I have heard it said that “Mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers.”


I read a aloud a book about different kinds of forests, and the book “Snail Trail,” by Ruth Brown. We also read “Mr. Brown Can Moo.”

Today I wiped some butts, worked on language goals, and let my son with pdd-nos help make dinner.

Today I did dishes, bathed a teenager and checked my aspie son’s writing assignment. It was very amusing. He’s a funny guy.

Today, my autistic son worked on geography and got out several puzzles.

Today, no one cried.

Today, no one died.

 I’m betting the late Andrew Watson would have rather been reading stories or shampooing my sons’ heads than carrying the bodies of infants out of bombed buildings.  I know his family would rather he was alive today.

Caring for my autistic children does NOT create  the same stress as a soldier in combat.

I’ve heard autism compared to cancer.

Today, there was a lot of stimming and scripting. Today we spun and paced and hummed. Today there was hand flapping.

Today Patrick and I sang “Say hey (I love you) and danced in the living room.

No one needed chemotherapy today.

I’m betting my children’s great grandfather would have rather have been hanging with the kids than vomiting blood today.

Autism is not like cancer.

Autism Speaks refers to my children as “lost.”

Today, in just a bit,

I will need to go upstairs and help people get ready for bed. I’ll tuck them in, tell them goodnight, get my kisses and hugs and then I’ll check on the teen.

I’m betting the parents of Alice Gross, would rather have their child alive today, regardless of her neurological make up.

There are many lost children in this world. They are the missing and the dead.

Autism is not like a child being missing or murdered.

I have heard autism blamed for divorce, for abuse, for unthinkable crimes such as the attempted murder of Issy Stapleton by her own mother. I have heard  the media, and so called advocates give her would be murderer pity and attention, portraying Issy as some sort of violent animal.

There will never be a day I use autism as an excuse to hurt, vilify, objectify, or otherwise misuse or abuse my kids.

Today, in court,

Issy’s father stated

“(Issy) is not a monster and she is not like a chimpanzee and she is not broken and she did not do anything wrong,” he said. “She is the victim, and thank God she is alive.”

I know that people are fond of metaphor so the rhetorical device is used often to try to sell emotional money begs, “awareness” campaigns and sensationalist talk shows.

If I have to combat anything, its the hate, generalizations, stereotype and ableism flung our direction.  If there is a problem comparable to disease, its ignorance. If there is something  missing, it is the inclusion of the autistic voice in decision making and representation.


For more thoughts of autism rhetoric please see:

I raise sons not tragedies. (part one a blog post from Quora)

Trenchcoats and boots. Sweaters and shorts.

Yesterday was day one of the “fall” home school session.  It went fairly well.

I took some phone pics (my camera is on the fritz, poor fritz) of the early morning.

Try to notice the underlying theme. One of these things, is not like the other.  What would that be?


Aidan munching on a waffle reading Mark Twain.


Lily using the weekly schedule to figure out what she wants to work on.



Pete and Patrick chilling on the couch while Bill Nye talks about plankton.

Did you spot the difference?

It has to do with temperature.

Two boys are huddled under thick blankets.

The girl is wearing a thick sweater.

And then there is the boy in short sleeves and shorts.

One might assume that -that boy simply didn’t dress for the weather correctly.  I’ll grant, I sent him back to get pants on, but


It was 65F (18C) degrees in the house. It was so wonderfully comfortable.  Between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit  is my idea of heaven.

It boggles my mind every fall when the temperature dips just enough to match the temperature the children prefer the air conditioning to be all summer (or else its “tooooooooooooo hot”) they are suddenly


cept Patrick, he’s the sane one.

Well, one could argue that the sane one was the one still in bed in curly headed five year old dreamland,



Fall is beginning,

I love fall.

Fall is dry leaves, and wind, and smoke. It’s harvest and festivals, and brightly colored skies.

Fall is trenchcoat and boot weather.

I have them out in giddy anticipation of sporting an upturned collar, boots and thigh high halloween socks- cuz thats how I roll.



Not yet.





Loss and finding balance.

marshypoint4                             Finding Balance- Just stick out your hands.

We have sad news at our house.  My ex-husband’s grandfather only has a short time left to live.  The children went to their father’s earlier than planned. I hope the big kids have a chance to see him before he passes on.

The kids for the most part have not experienced loss (at least that they would remember well) so it is tough. My thoughts are with my ex’s family as well. Things wont be the same without “Papaw.”

For me, today has been a day for planning, cleaning, and organizing. Next week begins our “fall session” of home school (October to Christmas). I am writing out new schedules and making plans in terms of focus.

One of the main thoughts today is in finding balance between structure and choice, as well as between academics, enrichment,  and the “work” of being a family (time together, chores, ritual).  Add to that my work of writing and there is a great deal to factor in!

I have said that I do not use a set curriculum and one of the reasons why is each child has different ever changing needs in terms of structure, choice,  organization method, attention and focus. They are also wildly different places academically.

All of these different things combine to make our family life ever shifting and changing, often with the seasons, naturally as life moves along. This is why our “structure” is never rigid with specific time periods or expectations for every hour of the day.

People often try and “fail” at different organizational (curriculum, time management, etc) systems often because they do not fit who they are as people.  They work to change themselves rather than modify the methodology to fit.  It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that keeping up the effort does not work out long term.

As I have said, having  loose plan and structure works for us.

We had a month’s break to relax.  I did not find it relaxing at all. The van issue and prowler experience ruined the month for me in terms of stress, but another reason I felt a bit lost this month, is that I dropped the normal structure to our routine. I found I got very little done that I had wanted. Some of the children stayed busy on their own, while others were quite bored without having a set thing to do. Peter and Tessa kept asking me for work to do (and I gave it to them). Patrick played happily on his own all month.  Aidan and Lily undertook projects without hardly any direction at all.  So, the break was mixed.  Everyone seems happy to be getting back to a schedule.  Well, everyone except for Patrick!

Along with home school, I  ALSO need to work through a new schedule for myself for work that flows well with everyone else. If it doesn’t work, it simply needs modified.

I’ll get it.  :-)

How about you? Are you a schedule person or more free flow? Have you had success with organizational systems long term? Are you a planner like me, or do you just wait and see?

There is no such thing as "normal."


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