Book Club Notes #1

I participate in our church’s book club. Our pastor selects a book, we read it, then meet for food and discussion. I’m not always able to participate in the discussion, so I decided that this would be a great place to publish my notes. Today’s post contains my notes and thoughts on “Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity” by Tim Challies.

As a SAHM, I struggle with productivity, and my “next thing” (to do) list often seems to be never ending.I find it difficult to focus, and I often multi task to varying degrees. My desire to be social is often at odds with my workload, and rest often seems like a waste of time. I also find myself allowing circumstances to dictate how I spend my time. For example, I get a notice about a bill I’m certain that I’ve paid, and I immediately stop whatever I’m doing to try and solve the problem before I “forget about it”.

“Do More Better” is one of the most helpful books on productivity I’ve read in a long time. The first three chapters helped me to narrow down my focus, as well as to write out my priorities using the worksheets provided on his website. As a result, when I’ve been asked to participate in other book clubs, or to assist someone with a minor project, I was able to refer to my lists, and say “no”. The “Serve and Surprise” worksheet was also helpful in focusing some of our time on fun things. As a result, our family is taking a trip to the aquarium that I’ve been postponing, and I’m planning another “field trip” to the planetarium. The aquarium trip will save us money, as they are running a ticket special that expires at the end of the month. Continuing to postpone the trip, would have meant missing out.

I appreciate Tim’s organization system, and recommendations for information storage and productivity apps. However, committing to Evernote long term will eventually involve paying money for the service as users of the free service are only permitted to upload and store a certain amount of data each month. I found ToDoIst helpful at first, but I get distracted by other things on my phone (texts, Facebook, email, Feedly) each time I picked it up to add a task. My phone doesn’t access the Google store, and using a third party app to access this system wasn’t as effective as I hoped. Attempting to keep the computer available for this purpose also lead to more distractions. I’ve personally found the analog bullet journal system to be helpful. So my biggest challenge is disciplining myself to add tasks to the bullet journal, and then follow through on referring to it and setting up each day’s tasks. I’ve found that we all function better when I have a list to function on each day. The ideal time to set up this list is the night before. If I wait until the morning, I find that I’ll put it off or forget about it until lunch, which isn’t helpful.

A Homeschooling Pep Talk for Autism Moms.

We made the decision to homeschool our son, and withdrew him from the public school. Kindergarten is definitely not what it used to be, and he needs a different sort of focus at this time in his life. The decision to homeschool wasn’t an easy one to make, so I decided to post my pep talk here for the days that I need it, and I hope that it may be helpful for some of you, too.

Keep the Goals the Primary Focus.

I withdrew him from school with the intent to work on some very specific goals on the personal skill and academic level. Mastering the personal skills will make his life easier at home, and if he returns to school next year. Improving motor skills and creativity will enable him to participate in academic activities at home, school, and church. If he does have creative goals, I want him to have the tools to make those happen.

Assume he’s listening when it looks like he isn’t.

He takes in so much. It doesn’t always seem like it in the moment, but it usually reveals itself later. My role is to communicate to him clearly, and to respect who he is as an individual.

The Schedule will change. So will The Plan.

The Schedule will need to change to accommodate our needs. It exists to help my son transition successfully from thing to thing during our day. The Plan will also need to change from time to time.

You are not alone.

Many people have come along side us to help our son on this journey, and I expect we’ll meet many more in the future. Although I am the primary, teaching adult in the house, the internet is a wealth of information for making contact with any number of experts who can help us when we run into a problem.

Eliminate the distractions.

Distractions have a way of creeping up on me. Checking a text can quickly become precious time lost on the internet that could be better spent on anything else. Chasing rabbit trails on Pinterest in a quest for the perfect activity won’t help us meet our goals. Planning to check my phone, or to read, or plan at specific times during the day will help to keep me focused and keep panic at bay.

Watch me.

Pinterest quests and tumbles down deep, dark rabbit holes are most likely to occur when everyone else has gone to bed. It just needs to be good enough, not perfect, and I need to sleep in order to function. Too much coffee and too little sleep does not a happy mom make. When I can’t sleep, pray.

Most importantly, enjoy. We’ll only have this year once, and then it’s gone forever. Our tomorrow’s aren’t promised, and it’s important to me that if I died tomorrow, my children wouldn’t remember me as a strict, teaching parent, but as a loving one.

Just Wait.

I’m becoming adept at jumping through government hurdles in every attempt I can think of to get help for Our Boy. I’ve had more visitors in my home on official business than I’d like, but whatever it takes to get him what he needs.  The questions have become such a part of our routine these days that I can answer them by rote.  The latest “advocate” is a young mom, close to my age. We settle at my cluttered kitchen table and I apologize for the state of my kitchen. It’s a work in progress. She responds as the others do, “Oh, don’t worry about it! You should see mine!”


And so it’s down to business. The questions pass quickly until we come to what I think is the most frustrating: “When did you first notice his symptoms?”

“Right after his 18 month MMR vaccination. If I were a conspiracy theorist…” My thoughts end in a shrug.

“Oh, I refuse to give my son that shot. I went a few rounds with Dr. X the other day. He didn’t seem too happy about it but I told him if he had to talk to the parents that I do he might think differently of it.”


The questions continue and we get thrown off topic as I wince and answer yes to all of the horrible things that Our Boy is at risk for. Elopement. Abuse. Sexual abuse. Abduction. “Is he at risk for taking off in public?”

“Oh, yes. For now he can ride in the cart but he’ll outgrow that.”

I don’t know how we get on the topic but soon we’re discussing the comments of the general public. “Do you get a lot of comments?”

“Well, I had a harder time with it around the time that he went through testing and diagnosis. I learned to avoid Kroger on Senior Day because too many people would try to engage him in conversation, ask about Santa Clause. He looks older than he is. These days I really don’t care what a random person in the store thinks.”

“Just wait,” she says. “Just wait until somebody walks up to you and asks you why he can’t talk yet.”  It’s the worst thing, I guess, that she can think of.

I shrug. “I don’t have time to educate everyone that we come across. If they seem to really care about a response, I’ll give them a straight answer. If not, it’s easy enough to walk away.”

She seems surprised that I don’t care what strangers think.

“The only time that it matters is if they decide to make a hurtful comment. People assume that because he doesn’t talk or doesn’t look them in the eye that he isn’t listening or that he’s stupid. The effect on him is what matters to me. Not educating the public.”

We move on.


Book Review: 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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When I was given a copy of the book 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (first edition), I was convinced that I’d be reading “old news”.  Although already familiar with some of the information, I was completely blown away by the section on behavior (chapter three), which has helped me in my daily interactions with our son.  I also think that the behavior chapter is especially helpful to educators. Too many in the autism world have been influenced to think that functional communication is the only true means of communication. It isn’t.

From page 67, on hostile or aggressive behavior:

First, understand where the behavior is coming from. Almost all such behaviors are rooted in your child’s sensory and/or social impairments. He is not doing it to provoke you, embarrass you or make your life miserable. He is not an inherently unkind, cruel, malicious or evil individual. He is most likely feeling frustrated, fearful, threatened, tired, unable to communicate his needs or otherwise unable to cope.  Let your response spring from this understanding.

The chapter also points out ways to avoid escalating a skirmish, which are helpful for parents and educators alike. I also found Chapter 7 To Know the Law, to be helpful. It contains a brief explanation of navigating laws within the public school system as well as links to the three federal laws: IDEA, Section 504, and ADA (see page 196).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the material was clearly organized and presented in a helpful way. Web addresses are contained within the text, so there is no need to flip back and forth to a notes section at the end of the book to find what you are looking for. Book lists for suggested reading are also given where appropriate, as well as vendor information.  There are some endnotes but they aren’t overly cumbersome.  A great index at the back of the book makes it easy to use this guide as a reference.  I highly recommend this book to all educations and parents. It’s a worthy addition to the library shelf.

NOTE: The authors have published a second edition, which you can peruse here:

If I Believed in Omens.

September 11th found me employed at Kmart and bored at a front register.  I recall that my smock was too big and I hoped that my new engagement ring would be ready to pick up from the jewelers. There was a sudden flurry of activity as an older lady who worked in the back offices ran up front to tell the front desk clerk, Melanie, that something awful had happened and to come see the news.  Melanie left me in charge and followed her back.  After a few minutes, she came back up front and told me what happened. The older lady, whose face I can still see but whose name I’ve forgotten, came back up front in a full fledged panic attack because her niece worked at the Sears tower, and the news media was reporting a possible threat to that tower and that they hoped there would be an evacuation. Melanie also had a connection at the Sears tower and they left to be with family.  I was sent to break by the store manager. Continue Reading

Where’s the Beef?

I keep trying to think up business plans that result in our family relocating to the sticks and becoming farmers. Occasionally, I’ll decide to ask my uncle (an actual farmer) questions about the business. I called him last week to invite him to Our Boy’s birthday party and decided to ask him: “How’s the cattle market going?”

He told me it was pretty good and then mentioned how much money he’d gotten for an old cow at death’s door. I’d give you the details about it but it has put me off beef for over a week now and for my uncle’s sake, I’d like the beef market to stay good.

But I’m on a beef hiatus for now. I hope to be over it by the time chili season gets here.