The Chicken Adventure, Part 3: Two Birds With One Stone…. aka Chicken Therapy

wpid-wp-1435724053497.jpegMy 4 year old son has Aspergers, and let’s just say that despite our best efforts his social calendar mainly involves his siblings so far. His sometimes incessant ramblings about math, Minecraft, and National Geographic combined with a tendency to tantrum if “the rules” are not followed leave his preschool peers alarmed, confused, annoyed or a combination of all three.

Despite my certainty that Adam is destined for greatness someday, I do sometimes worry that he will be lonely, which is why his enthusiasm for our pet chickens came as a delightful surprise. But what has been even better is our chickens’ enthusiasm for Adam. Continue reading

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Sanity Saver #1: Dictionary Pictionary

wpid-wp-1428882531655.jpegSanity Savers are for those times when you’re:

1) trying to do something with one of your kids and another kid has finished their work already and keeps saying, “Mom, I’m done,” “Did I earn a screen yet?” “I’m bored,” “Can you make me a snack?”

2) cooking dinner and everybody is freaking out.

3) putting the baby down for a nap while your other children are arguing loudly over whether your eyes change color if you press them both with your index fingers or if they stay brown from blinking. What.

4) on the phone and everyone is suddenly talking to you, urgently.

5) trying to take a shower.

6) any combination of 1-5.

When I shout “Go do Dictionary Pictionary,” which I have literally done in every one of the above scenarios, my older children respond to this by retrieving their notebooks and the dictionary, and leaving me alone for about 15-20 minutes (and sometimes huffing or rolling their eyes, because let’s be real here, a dictionary is not a snack). Continue reading

The WH Game

wpid-wp-1426820042663.jpegIs your family into games? Or, are they not that into games but you wish they were? Either way, I’m going to tell you about one of the simplest yet most successful games we’ve ever played (and still play several times per week). When I ask “who wants to play the WH game?” as it is so fondly called in our house, the reply is a shrieking stampede for the living room. As some of you might know from my article on childmind.org, I’m a fan of making up the rules as I go along, and the WH game was born in similar fashion.

I originally created the WH game for two reasons: 1) to help my 4 and 5 year old recognize WH words more fluently when reading, and 2) as a compact activity that traveled easily into waiting rooms, long lines and the minivan. What started as six index cards with “who, what, where, when, why and how” written on each has transformed into hundreds of index cards with anything from “how many minutes are in an hour?” to “The endermen were coming to get him” (for the Minecraft-obsessed in our house). But before I make this sound more complicated than it is, let me lay out the basics for you.

Age: Pre-K and older Continue reading

RACK Recipe #1: Pinch and Pour Marinade

RACK is short for Reading and Cooking Kids. When you see RACK in front of a recipe title on this site, you can assume:

1. It is a flexible, easy-to-make recipe.

2. The recipe will be easy to read with straightforward instructions and simple measurements.

3. It will still taste good if a couple of mistakes have been made (I’m pretty sure these are foolproof).

4. It can actually be made independently by your kids (except for the fire parts).

5. Your kitchen is probably going to be a mess afterward.

6. But your kids will be practicing reading and cooking at the same time!

7. This is the first step to you lying on the couch playing Word Chums while your kids make dinner on Fridays.

Our 5 year old was a budding but somewhat reluctant reader last year – she could read things along the lines of Little Bear and Frog and Toad but as soon as she got to a word she didn’t know right away, she wanted to “take a break.” After several weeks of frustration I told Margaret, my big helper in the kitchen, that she could cook dinner alone once she was old enough to read the recipes. She was immediately enthused by this prospect and RACK recipes were born. Though she has since become an independent reader and cook, we started out slowly. I used to put all of the ingredients, mixing and measuring implements, and cookware on the kitchen counters where she could find them, then would hand her the instructions I had written on a sheet of printer paper, go into the next room and close my eyes. I’m one of those “clean as you cook” types, so this was really a lesson for me as well.

Margaret has become quite skilled at preparing everything from gourmet pizzas to roast pork tenderloin but I started out with recipes that all but guaranteed her success. Below is what we call “Pinch and Pour Marinade,” meaning “2 pinches of ____” and “1 pour of ______,” in terms of measurements. Approved by Step Into Reading or Scholastic? I like to think they’d appreciate my initiative. Professional chef material? Perhaps not. Tasty with basically any roasted or grilled vegetable you could imagine? You bet. Continue reading

Welcome to the zoo!

While it seems as though I’m now writing as far away from New York City as humanly possible, I am happy to announce that I’ve found a connection to my old stomping grounds. Among the many things I’ve been missing about the city, Central Park is definitely in the top ten. We used to live just a couple of blocks away, and even after we moved to Brooklyn took the subway there twice a week for homeschooling meetups, a junior park rangers class and of course, for the zoo. So you can imagine my glee as I looked at my new home-to-be online and saw listed within the sale info, Subdivision: Central Park. Did we seriously just move somewhere called Central Park? In Texas? If that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is.

Somewhat reluctantly, I decided to leave my blog, TheFoorce.com, in New York where it belonged, and to continue with a new website and new direction. As I still have special needs children there will still be plenty of special needs info on this site. However, I have other children and lots of other stuff to talk about (surprised?), so it would be silly for me to ignore the many other exciting things going on around here. Let me show you around the new site, devoted to all things big family, homeschooling, special needs, cooking and Texas: The Central Park Zoo.

Animals and Exhibits

We came home one afternoon to find a flock of newly hatched ducklings stuck in the pool, and have since removed dozens more eggs from the surrounding gardens.

We came home one afternoon to find a flock of newly hatched ducklings stuck in the pool, and have since removed dozens more eggs from the surrounding gardens.

In this section I know you’re expecting me to compare the animals at the Central Park Zoo to my kids or something cliche like that. But since we both know that that’s exactly what I’m thinking, let me go with something slightly less obvious. Muscovy Ducks! Before you take offense let me assure you that this is no expletive, but rather the cause for many expletives around our house, especially by my husband. What started out as “Wow, we have 4 ducks in our pond!” has grown into “$%#@, we have 37 ducks in our pond!” And in our pool, on our patio, on top of the roof, and basically anywhere you wouldn’t like a bunch of duck poop. We also have hawks, egrets, pelicans, vultures, and a whole slew of other birds that I’m still trying to label.

Aside from our bird exhibit, we also boast lizards, snakes, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, and a variety of fish, many of which also enjoy the occasional swim in our pool (obviously not the fish but definitely the snakes). And let’s not forget our world class insect exhibit. NYC’s “waterbug” is called a palmetto bug down here – they’re all cockroaches, people. There are also fire ants, crazy ants (look that up on youtube if you don’t feel like sleeping for the rest of the week), mosquitoes that are wicked even in January, beetles, giant grasshoppers, wasps, dragonflies and enormous hairy spiders, many of which have also taken a dip into our pool at one point or another.

Feeding Times

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Yes, that’s my 4 year old with a knife.

We don’t generally feed any of the animals outside of our house, but if we did I bet they’d eat less often than my kids. This page will be filled with kid-friendly recipes, quick and easy meals, and meals your kids can make alone (seriously, my 5 year old cooks dinner most Fridays). Plus we have a toddler who is allergic to just about everything – nuts, dairy, soy, sesame, egg yolks, so I’ve also got a whole slew of recipes to survive cheese, butter, or peanut-free without giving up cupcakes.

(Cheap) Admissions

In this section, I’m only admitting to things that don’t get me into serious trouble. All kidding aside, you can come over any time you want and pay me to look at our animals. Heck, you can even take one home with you. Muscovy duck, anyone?

Education

In between "classes." In pajamas, of course.

In between “classes.” In pajamas, of course.

As homeschoolers, this section is primarily aimed at convincing my family that we’re not weird, but is also to share some lessons, tips and activities that we incorporate into our daily learning. Eventually this page will introduce things like the mysterious and wonderful “Wh” game I created that 1) covers any subject on the face of the planet, 2) teaches my kids to read more fluently, 3) is 100% portable and 4) passes time pleasantly whether you’re on a NYC subway or in the equally crowded and slow-moving Texas grocery store line.

Texas

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the sky here.

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the sky here.

What would the site be without sharing stories and resources revolving around life in Texas? In the six months we’ve been here I already have enough material to create an extra website!

So, loyal Foorce followers and new readers alike, I encourage you to sign up for updates (top right corner) and follow this blog. I’m not entirely sure where it’s headed, but it won’t be boring.