Sexy times with the angiosperms

This is a wrap up post for our three day seed/fruit unit study.

After we learned about what a fruit is, and how seeds are dispersed in general, we backed it up a bit and looked at – How is a seed created?

We watched videos, looked for more seeds outside, and completed some more traditional hands on work from the botany shelves.

Videos for our seed study:

Brief Description of Fruit Development

Time Lapse -Watching flowers become fruit

Crash course Biology

The section on angiosperms (video description included links to video sections)

The children watched all the videos together, even the littles watched crash course biology.

Hands on Work -from the Botany Shelves

Aidan (14) traced the flower from our three part cards and then made two separate  drawings focusing on the male and female parts of the plant


Bee (10) and Tessa (5) traced and labeled a flower from the  botany chart


and the other boys completed traditional three part card work.


We talked about how the flower produces a seed and the role of insects in pollination.

So ends what Aidan calls “the weirdest school week ever.”  Both and he and Lily will need to work on their writing and math tomorrow while I’m at that meeting, but in general, that wraps the week up.






Sensory Friendly Trail at Patapsco Hilton

I WAS planning on another unit study post but

WOW – there is something new to talk about!

Patapsco state park has several areas we like to visit, the closest being the Hilton area.

At Patapsco Hilton there are only a few trails and a little one the kids had enjoyed was closed for some time.  A sign marked that the trail was under construction, and a new “sensory friendly” trail would open soon.

Today we went to check it out.

I have to admit to being skeptical that such a thing was possible, or even needed.  Well I was wrong. To be honest I never considered that our park trails aren’t generally accessible to those with disabilities, because while half of us are autistic,  walking trails is something we can do freely. I was wrong to dismiss it so quickly or not bother considering because its not a problem I face.  I was  wrong to pre-judge something I knew nothing about.


Picture is of a sign that reads in English and Braille:

“All Sensory Trail

Welcome to the All Sensory Trail at the Hilton Area of Patapsco Valley State Park! Accessible for people of all abilities, this train provides an experience in Nature, where all of one’s senses can play. It is followed by trail information and then reads:

“Design and Construction Assistance provided by Maryland Conservation core and Maryland Conservation Job Core, in partnership with Maryland School for the Blind.” It was funded in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation.

I don’t know how people of other abilities are liking it, but it was a wonderland to us. 

This  trail is beaten flat with rocks removed. I believe as long as it isn’t muddy, it will be wheel chair accessible. People aren’t supposed to be on unpaved trails after a rain anyway.


A cord stretches along the trail as a guide. It is bumpy and my son with classic autism  liked running his hand along it.


There are wind chimes on posts before new things to touch or experience which includes several plaques like this one:


We had to try them all the chimes out, they are wonderful to the ear.

Other activities incorporated into the trail were  drums, and xylophone,


a brightly colored bird area and the sensory garden of touch and smell.


The only problem is that isn’t longer, and that there isn’t something like this at every park.

Wow Patapsco, I’m impressed.



Seeds, gastropods, and wire tapping. (seed unit study-day one)


This week was supposed to be a run of the mill week, however, as you know they do, plans changed.

It turns out I have an unexpected, likely all day appointment on Thursday *grumble*.

So I wouldn’t have to drag all the kids to an office for heaven knows how long, I arranged with the children’s  Dad to pick them up early which means losing both Thursday and Friday with the kids. SO I decided this week we’d do something a little different and have a three day mini-unit on seeds and fruit.

It seems a tricky thing, designing a unit study that will be useful to five different learners at wildly different levels but its very manageable. I don’t tease out subjects for unit studies, it concerns me little, if for example, we don’t end up doing much formal math in the next three days.


We watched Magic School Bus Gets Planted (season three episode 10) and Magic School Bus Goes to Seed (season one episode 11)


We talked about what makes a fruit, the parts of a fruit, and  “dissected” and labeled the different parts of a fruit.


For story time we read:


Then we went to the park and gathered black walnuts to make ink and looked at hedge apples. This fruit smells like a cross between citrus and pine. While it is non-poisonous, I hear it tastes pretty bad.

I brought one home. It was far too hard to split in half,so I cut out a wedge.  The inside (mesocarp layer) reminded me of pawpaw fruit and the seeds were sort of like pumpkin seeds, but smaller and not as flat.


Bee and a Hedge apple, also called an “osage orange.”

Aidan feels they’d make for almost certain brain injury if a person was unlucky enough to get hit in the head with one.


We continued to look for reptiles and amphibians for the Herp Atlas but only came up with earthworms and a slug.


Isn’t he the cutsy-wootsiest? I wanted to take him home. Not kidding.

As a child I brought home earthworms, slugs, dead crickets (hey, someone needed to look after them, being dead and all they couldn’t do it.) and various other creatures. I even kept a (live) mouse in the bottom drawer of my dresser.  As usual mom found out about it. In the case of the mouse,  it was because she was taping everyone’s phone calls.  My friend and I worked out a secret code after that.

(Bringing home jars of shark embryo from the zoology lab.. her response was priceless. )

I’m strictly catch and release these days. Every living thing, including adorable earth worms belong “free and in the wild.”

As we walked along the trails, we  talked about the many different ways seeds are dispersed and the adaptations that facilitate dispersal. (yummy fruit for the animal to eat, wisps to carry the seed on the wind, “helicopter” seeds, bur that stick to animals…etc.)

We also found a tire swing.


Tomorrow we’ll get a little more specific and talk about flower reproduction. Sexy times ahead.

How did your Monday go?








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.

There is no such thing as "normal."


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