Finding “X” in Algebra

Beckie has always been a bit impulsive, so it comes as no surprise that she has little patience for spending time solving algebra problems. She’s entirely happy to have mastered the basic mathematics functions and as the problems in her current text get longer and more complicated her frustration increases. She struggles with inattention and her working memory is not great, so with multi-step problems she may start strong but fade quickly after the first few steps. I ask her to find X. She perkily points to it in her math book and says, “There it is! And there! And there!” I then more specifically and deliberately ask her to solve for X. She grins at me and wants to know why we can’t just leave X alone, having found it already. She suggests that leaving X unknown will add some mystery and interest to our lives as we just leave X with its potential to be many things. I try to encourage her. I point out examples of how algebra is used in “real life” by adults in their work. She retorts that she will not be pursuing any profession involving algebra or geometry or any other higher math skills, so this is not worth investing her time in. I come back with examples of careers that would not be considered “math” jobs, but that never the less utilize math to some extent. Beckie offers the rebuttal that she will somehow find a way to determine which professions can avoid all but the most basic of math functions. I reply that if nothing else, doing harder math will prepare her for life because it will teach her to stick with things and think to solve problems. Beckie points out that her current problem IS math, and that for any problem she can’t solve she is confident that someone can be hired to do so. I’m thinking of directing her toward becoming a lawyer, since she enjoys making her case whether she has evidence to support it or not. Plus, she can always hire somebody to get her to court on time and take care of the billing. She might be good at it, since she can be tenacious about some things. We have to work with what we have, right?

Plop, Plop, Plop…A Dalmation!

This cold weather and the accumulation of snow has caused my black dog to come inside wearing snowflakes on his face and back. He is old now, 14 years, and for a large black lab mix that is a long life. Seeing him dusted with snow reminded me of a time when he was a young dog, sitting in his usual place near my daughter, Beckie. Shadow strategically managed to be around Beckie when she was eating from the time she was in a high chair. There were two good reasons for this: Beckie loved all animals and would gladly sneak food to him, and she tended to be a messy eater since she had sensory issues that led her to make every mealtime a full-body experience. Now Beckie has always loved ice cream, so I thought it was safe to give her some vanilla ice cream in a bowl while I cleaned up after the rest of the meal. Another thing about Beckie at that age was her constant singing or talking, and since she was very imaginative I didn’t think much about her chattering, “Plop, plop, plop” as she ate. It wasn’t until Shadow walked past me covered in blobs of ice cream that I realized she had been plopping spoonfuls onto him. She had seen Disney’s 101 Dalmations movie and loved it, and before I could ask her why she had covered the dog in globs of ice cream she proudly announced, “Look! A dalmation!” She was quite proud of her creation, and Shadow happily lapped up the ice cream we scraped off his sticky fur and into his bowl. A win-win for Beckie and Shadow.

“Normal” is whatever you’re used to

My daughter, Beth, has grown up with an older brother and younger sister who struggle with AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues. Any outsider to our family in our younger days would have been able to see immediately that two of the children were not typical in many ways. To Beth, however, she’s grown up with them and is used to the way they need to hear directions repeatedly and have tasks broken down into small steps. She’s grown up seeing strategies in place to help her siblings keep track of school materials, shoes, and of course the elusive and frequently missing library books. She grew up pairing visual cues with auditory information to maximize retention and knows that without writing information down her siblings will not retain it. Beth has an in-depth understanding of the need her siblings have to be in motion, even while they are doing school work. She can list a dozen safe ways to meet the need for physical activity without it being too distracting to others or dependent on the weather. Beth is adept at redirecting a distractible child and helping them get back on track with their focus. Now a college student majoring in special education, Beth recently joined me at my part-time employer to be a substitute teacher in a preschool classroom. She thoroughly enjoyed her day with the children, and those working with her gave her rave reviews. They said she was a natural, and jumped right in without having to be told what to do with the kids. When I passed the compliments along to Beth, she was pleased but really didn’t think what she did was a big deal at all. Beth’s whole life has been part of her preparation, and to her she is truly doing what comes naturally. Her response to some of the challenges of special needs kids comes automatically, through years of practice and observation in her own home. Beth feels passionately about helping children who struggle, and her insight and experiences make her a natural in her interactions. Her responses reflect that “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean “like everyone else”. “Normal” can be whatever you are used to, and will vary from unusual person to person.

Best Little Brother Ever – Is His Sister!

Josh and Beckie have always been close, even though they are five years apart in age. Since they share the diagnosis of AD/HD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Auditory Processing Disorder, they have more in common with each other than with their neurotypical sister, Beth. I have observed Josh and Beckie as they interact with each other, and they are so in sync that they often need only a word or gesture to convey complete thoughts. When one is upset, the other can speak for them and explain why the sibling is upset and what might be helpful in the situation. They also recognize when the other is headed off course, and come to their father or me to discuss what they think needs to be done. They can cheer each other up, provide comfort, or give encouragement more effectively than any other companion, because they understand each other and think alike. I know that Josh recognizes the special relationship he has with his youngest sister, although he had hoped for a younger brother since he already had a little sister before Beckie came along. He quickly discovered that Beckie was eager to play with him in some of his favorite pastimes: Legos, cars, digging with sticks, climbing trees, and anything else he thought up. Beckie has always been very versatile, playing dress-up one minute and laser tag the next. As she grew and began martial arts training along with her older siblings, she could even spar with Josh a bit. Not long ago, Josh did something to tease Beckie and she retaliated with a warning kick that stopped just inches from Josh. Josh grinned as they bumped knuckles to say good-bye before he left for work. He kept grinning as he looked at me and said, “She’s the best little brother ever!”

Hey! I just insulted myself!

I am so glad to have my daughter Beckie in my life. She has a plethora of good qualities, along with a feisty temper that she assures me she got from her Dad! The other night her older brother Josh got home from work and had once again been insulted by a coworker who never misses an opportunity to try and victimize Josh in some way. As Josh described the most recent episode, Beckie’s extreme loyalty to her brother surfaced along with her indignation that he is treated badly and repeatedly by the same offender at work. She blurted out “That guy sounds like he has the emotional maturity of a 15 year old girl or something!” Scott quickly agreed and said that’s exactly how this guy is – emotionally immature and manipulative to try and get a rise out of Josh. After a few thoughtful moments, Beckie (who is 15 by the way) said with some astonishment in her voice, “Hey! I think I just insulted myself!” Her impulsivity and belated insight into what she was saying cracked us all up and relieved some of the tension and frustration we felt at what Josh had experienced on the job. I love Beckie’s obvious affection for both of her siblings, and I have no doubt that she would willingly take someone on either verbally or physically to defend them. Even though Josh is about 6’2″ and like Beckie has a black belt in martial arts, Beckie would still throw herself into the fray to try and protect and defend him if she thought it would help. Consequences? Like Scarlett O’Hara, she’d think about that tomorrow.


Yesterday I went for a walk with my son Josh. I told him I was planning a gathering for some friends, and one of them is allergic to tree nuts. I know that walnuts and pecans grow in trees, but since peanuts grow in the ground I wondered if that would be a different category of allergen. I mused aloud as we walked, realizing that I don’t know which nuts grow in trees and which ones don’t. I told Josh that I really like Brazil nuts, but I don’t know where they come from. With his usual grin, he told me, “Mom. They’re from Brazil!” And then he looked at me like I was nuts.

Paint like Zorro!

We just had to have our thermostat replaced in our dining room, and since the new one wasn’t the same size and shape as its predecessor we will need to repaint around it to cover the exposed wall. It reminded me of the time when we first painted the dining room. I’d read up about various glazes and finishes and decided to try to add some texture using a glaze applied with a feather duster. After the base coat of blue, I started applying a white glaze in my typically meticulous fashion. I was getting this wonderful cloud-like effect, but being meticulous meant very slow progress so Scott offered to take a turn. I gladly turned the feather duster over to him, and left him to paint for awhile. Scott’s method was to paint with Zorro-like swipes, which was much faster. The Zorro method was a little too rough for the feather duster, though, which began losing feathers by the end. It also wiped out the lovely clouds, but clouds change their looks over time anyway and what we ended up with still looks good. The Zorro method of painting was probably more fun than what I was doing, and now I hope that Zorro/Scott will paint once more to cover the area around our new thermostat. What do you say, Scott?