31 October 2007

Happy Halloween

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A serious look at the future . . . or the lake

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Last weekend's photos

Halloween decorations -- amazing how the scare crow actually matches the house.

Saturday morning angel

I just love these happy pictures.

And my David.
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More and more and more

Julia is a wonder. Since the end of last week, Julia has discovered coloring and drawing in a big way. It reminds me of her working with with clay back months ago. This past summer when I would try to get Julia to work on the big white board that we have, she would tolerate me as long as I would draw dinosaurs. I would try writing letters, numbers, and drawing what she wanted, but I could not get her to add much to anything that I did.

She came home from school on Friday ready to work. She tore through her coloring book, using markers on page after page. Sometimes she asked for help, but mostly she did it herself. She colored better than she has before -- not quite in the lines, but with a deliberate attempt to capture the picture. Then she started in on the white board. I brought it in the kitchen and put it on a chair. I could cook and she could draw. Her drawing is still not completely recognizable but she draws person after person, sometimes telling stories while she draws -- all very dramatic, of course. Some of what might be characterized as scribbling after she is done with a picture is her effort to extend the story of what she had drawn.

On Monday, Julia and I went to get her assessed by an Occupationally Therapist. I am elated that we have finally found someone who is interested in putting things together! Julia grinds her teeth when she is happy. She also will taste and try almost any food and sucks on her shirt collar at times for comfort. Using these behavior as an example, the therapist said that Julia probably didn't get enough oral stimulation as a baby and these were her methods of coping with that need. In some instances -- like teeth grinding when she is happy or excited -- Julia has used her coping mechanism to sooth her in other instances. Ah! This is the conversation I needed to have! And I hope that insurance will cover OT -- Occupational Therapy -- and we can help Julia work out lots of behaviors.

Another good report from school on Tuesday and a pretty good report from afterschool!

I interviewed for a administrative position at the federal court up here. It is not a legal position but my options are a bit limited since I can't get into the bar right now. Our appeal letter to the board of bar examiners has been delivered but we have no idea how long it will take to resolve this, even if it can be resolved in my favor. Meanwhile, I need to work if I want my kitchen. Basically, we can live on one paycheck but anything extra at all is tough. I admit to feeling rather geeky about the court house -- I had a pain of missing the life of the court while I was getting the tour. Who knew??

25 October 2007

More good news

We've had an exciting three days at school.

Julia's aid at school told me that Julia was very concerned when this aid got abug bite. Julia asked if it hurt and if she was okay. Julia has done this to David and I but not to anyone outside the family. It is so good to see her extending her care to someone else who cares about her.

Julia told me a few days ago that during after-school, there wase a boy who was picking on another boy -- she said hitting and pushing. She told me that she wanted to hit the culprit. I told her that she shouldn't do that, and instead, she should tell a grownup. So yeterday, one of the afterschool folks told me that Julia came to her and told her that a bigger boy was hitting a little boy. AfterJulia told her, Julia ran back to the boys and shouted, "That is notnice." So much better than hitting herself, and what control on Julia's part. Julis is working so hard on controlling her impulses.

And just to be sure she is learning from her peers, she said "EEWH,Gross!" this morning when she saw a bug in our kitchen.

How amazing this process -- time and patience and love and care andgood teachers and therapy and noodles for lunch.

A note from the teacher

Julia's kindergarten teacher uses a notebook for keeping in touch with parents. The notebook travels in Julia's backpack and in it I let Christy know when I have to pick Julia up early, when she will eat the school lunch, and concerns and tips. We make good use of this notebook. This is the note that came home yesterday:

10/24 Wow Suzanne --

All of a sudden Julia is drawing people and somewhat recognizable objects instead of only scribbling! She sometimes still finishes by scribbling over it but we're trying to get her to stop before that point.

She also is becoming much more independant and able to focus on things that aren't motivated from within! Very exciting progress all around.

Have a great weekend!

23 October 2007


Maybe it is just because the sun is shining. Or maybe it is because there is no good or bad news today, or that Ihave finally recovered from this awful cold, or that Julia has really been pretty much like a regular kid for a few days, or that I cooked a good dinner yesterday (don't overestimate the result of food!), or that I have a few fun projects for the house that don't involved find places for what comes out of boxes, or that I have another bunch of iris corms to dig up and divide, or that I have an idea for theater to bring to the kids of Julia's school, or just that the sun is shining. I feel energy today. I am again ready to embrace everything that is coming and everything that is here. And I can meet the challenge of today.

21 October 2007

Halloween Preview

On Saturday evening, we went to the Franklin School Dance. It was pretty wild and Julia lasted about 45 minutes before the kids running around, the noisy music, and the rotating mirror ball got to be just too much for her. Before we left home, she posed for a few pictures, but I just can't get her to smile and look straight at the camera.

On Sunday, we went to our local zoo which was having a halloween day. Once again, it was a little too crazy for Julia -- too many kids, too much noise, and too many lines. So we left the zoo, has lunch at Zuzu's cafe which is one of Julia's favorities and then went to Olbrich Gardens. Ah, beautiful fall gardens.

Communicating with Daddy!
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20 October 2007


Perfect Saturday weather. Warm with a breeze. Leaves of color fall, dancing in the sunlight. The green ones are firmly attached and I wonder what thye are waiting for. Ladybugs visit. We worked in our back garden this morning. David put some chicken wire at the bottom of the fence so that our great chicken biter remains where she belongs. I planted iris corms that I've been digging. I have another bed of them that I could dig and also some siberian iris in the front. I love the siberians and so I might dig those to spread them around.

I walked some corms to the folks who used to live here, and they traded me for some bulbs they had bought. I was not meaning to trade but it was great to get a few new bulbs. I asked if any are planted in my garden and there will be some. I am trying so very hard to keep myself from buying anything for the garden until we've been here a year And I am learning about this garden, but I want to make it over into my own.

After lunch, Julia and I took a long walk to look at the empty community pool (Julia's idea) and to visit a playground. Julia wanted to learn to slide down a pole but oh, she was sooooo scared to trust her arms and legs to doing it. I finally figured out the I could sit on the ledge of the equipment and help her get onto the pole while still having me support her. Not ease and I'm sure we looked very silly. I mean, she can do it herself, but she is just scared. But we work on her being scared. She does have terrific spirit. I told her that she didn't have to go down the pole whenever she seemed just much too afraid, but she insisted on trying. This kind of strength and courage is amazing to watch and so much fun to encourage.

Our playground visit ended when Julia started throwing stones at two dogs who were tied near by. It was Julia and another little boy, but the boy ran to his mother as soon as the dog owner scolded him. Julia ploped down in the grass. I apologized, she apologized, and then it was time for home.

She came home with some burrs in her hair and we sat on the porch working at getting them out. I wa scared i'd have to cut them out.

18 October 2007

Fall, 2007

Julia posed for thi picture in front of our very big tree. She was careful not to smile. My dear little drama queen! I love it.
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Garden tour 3

Views of the back yard. Not so much gardens there yet but the fence and some of the old plants will start me off for next spring. Lots of prunning back here as the old bushes were in terrible shape.

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17 October 2007

Garden Tour 2

The corner garden and my model is noticably absent.
The garden bed around the front porch.
The curb garden on Lowell Street.
The side garden.
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Garden Tour 1

I wanted to document what the gardens look like in the late Fall and Julia agreed to model. This is the tiered part of the front garden. It could use some more color this time of year but there are still plants blooming.

Here is the curb garden on Emerson Street. There are lots of plants, including some blooming roses, here.
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16 October 2007

A good morning to pick up shoes

A good morning and worth noting if only because I tend to report the negative as it always seems more important than the positive.

David needed to sleep in a bit – we all have been laid low by the Franklin School cold which might just be the first Madison cold – and I took first shower. Julia woke up after I was dressed and we went downstairs to give Daddy a few more quiet moments. I turned on the tv and got her dressed – this watching a bit of tv while getting dressed is a ritual from Cheshire’s kid days. I didn’t really want to get into it again but David started it – yeah, blame David – and it works. Julia didn’t resist the tights much – better today than yesterday. We made lunch; she had breakfast – oatmeal with brown sugar and the noodle soup that would not fit in her thermos for lunch. We drove to school – I still don’t risk walking – and she ran into the playground to find her aid, Amy, and to meet some kids to tag and run with. When the second bell rang, Julia ran towards her class line. No, she didn’t get right on her line yet, but she is at least responding to the bell – or, she responded to the bell today. She hugs and kissed me and I left. Pretty successful morning!

On my own front – we’ve decided to take on city hall. Rather, the Board of Bar Examiners, to challenge their rejection of bar status based on reciprocity. There are two cases out from the WI Supreme Court, each with comments by the Chief Justice which favor my position. One is a dissent, one a concurrence, so her comments are not the law of the case. Still, we will appeal to the Board and if that doesn’t work we will try to Supreme Court. The court has changed sufficiently to think that we might have the votes. It is a chance and I hate to lose and lose my reciprocity fee which is substantial, but it is probably my only chance right now to get licensed.

Two things about Julia –

This weekend, when we were sending out Babja’s birthday card, Julia signed her name with help and insisted on drawing a picture in the card. The picture doesn’t look like much – but supposed to be a dinosaur. What else? – but I find it encouraging that she wanted to draw something. She has only drawn when we or her teachers require that she does it. Maybe pencils and pens are getting more interesting. And the drawing was carefully done, not just quick scribbles.

Our family therapist thinks that Julia’s attachment to us is progressing nicely. She has recommended an OT assessment for gross motor skills. She mentioned that some of Julia’s noises when she plays might suggest some autism. Sensory issues are also on the autistic scale, so this is not surprising. Scary, not surprising.

14 October 2007

13 October 2007

The Chicken Killer

Okay, she is a chicken biter, but chicken killer is such a better title. Here is the great chicken biter resting in her queendom. Note the lead that cannot be done away with until we find where she is getting out.

With rest over, the chicken biter looks for her next prey. Hopefully, the squirrels are quicker than chickens.
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Dropping Shoes and the Chicken Killer

This is from Wedneday but it's taken until today to finish it.

I know I’ve been waiting for the bad news about moving (apart from missing people and places, etc.) and until yesterday, we just didn’t see any.

Then there was yesterday.

First, the weather turned and it is cold and damp. This is no surprise and by itself, would have not phased me in the least. However, Julia and I are now sporting our first Wisconsin colds and are generally grumpier for it. Oh, and we have the beginning of the cold weather morning fight about wearing something on her legs. We’ve been out on the front porch again figuring out just how cold it is and putting on the tights or long johns. And I can’t find long johns for her. EEK!
Then, I went into school yesterday to help out with picture day. Dealing with many, many k-2 kids on picture day is just too cute. I loved every minute – for the very tough boys who would not smile to the little fashion plate girls who wanted every hair in place. I come away from the experience seeing two types of kids – those who have a stake in their fashion statement on any given day and those who don’t even know they changed from pjs to clothes.

So, after all that fun, I came outside to find I got a parking ticket. Seems the regular place I park for 20 minutes every day is subject to street cleaning on Wednesdays, and in Madison they do clean the streets. I was pissed, but they are right.

That’s it for small potatoes.

I intended to spend a lot of time yesterday getting out more job applications and resumes. While I was working in the room, the mail carrier came and I went to bring in the mail. I was so pleased to get a letter from the Board of Law Examiners thinking that I could not add that my membership was moving along. However, when I opened the letter I discovered that my application had been rejected because Wisconsin does not have reciprocity with Indiana. Gosh, do we feel foolish. Both David and I had checked the rules before we moved and I looked at them again when I was filling out the forms. There is, however, a small technically the when Indiana admits Wisconsin lawyers they are provisionally admitted for 5 years. It is a distinction without difference in regards to practicing. So, we might try to fight it. I will keep looking for government job that don’t require admission in Wisconsin, and other things. I had wanted some kind of change but didn’t know that my hand would be so forced.

There might be a bright side to this, or there might be an exception somewhere that we can use.

And then . . .

I was sitting at my desk just after the mail came, wondering just what I should be doing when an irate man stomped (I’m laying it on a little thick here) up out steps holding our Latkah out in front of him as if she was . . . . well, a chicken killer. I went to the door and he told me that Latkah had been in his yard biting his chickens which terrorized his children. He said that if she did this again, he would call the pound.

I was more than stunned and said, "Chickens?" Chickens in Madison? How had Latkah gotten into their coop? Or pen? How could me almost 6 pound dog bite anything? She is not very fast.
So, background – Our fence is up in the backyard but there are some places where she can get out from. Last weekend, David secured all the loose pickets of our neighbor’s fence on one side of our yard and made sure there were no easy places for Latkah to squeeze through. Obviously, she had found another place. I didn’t want her running around the neighborhood, but apart from danger to her as she darts across the street to chase squirrels, I couldn’t see that anyone would be hurt. And she comes home.

So, "Chickens?"

"Yes, chickens." He said. And then I apologized and he said it had gone way beyond an apology. Way beyond an apology, I thought. I didn’t even have an idea that there were chickens in Madison. And I had no idea that Latkah had been in his yard before this. So, how had this gone
"way beyond" an apology?

He said something about biting chickens, and I agreed with him, which now I think is a little funny. And I replied that of course, dogs go after birds – Latkah chases squirrels and any birds she sees. Why not chickens?

And later, a neighbor told me that these are big chickens who are pets, raised for eggs, and run freely in the owner’s yards as well as their neighbor’s yards during the day. So now I have the picture of my puny dog, who still does not have a full coat of fur, attacking these fat chickens, who must weigh as much as she does, with all her might as the chickens scatter throughout a small Madison backyard. The slaughter! The carnage! And all I could offer was an apology.

Still, I just did not feel that bad and I am sure it showed on my face. Any image I could conjure up was pretty funny.

So much for good relations with the neighbors. I want to compose myself – stop giggling – over this and make peace with our chicken farmer.


10 October 2007

Lot of stuff from last weekend.

This was our first weekend home in a few weeks and it flew by much too fast. On Saturday, we met an email buddy of mine with three of her four Chinese daughters. They are all older than Julia but Julia had a great time. We met at Monona Dream Park for a breakfast picnic. Julia wolfed down the bagel and cream cheese, more cream cheese than bagel, reminding me that although David and I are on perpetual diets, Julia is not and could use a bagel now and again.

The kids climbed and swung and slid while Cathy and I talked. It was good talking to someone who knows something about adopted kids – face to face for a good long time. Maybe I should be using our social worker for some of this but my questions are far ranging and specific and nothing that can’t be dealt with alone. It is just nice to have some comfort, support and a sounding board.

Adoption, especially of an older child, is an unchartered wilderness, and so many times I feel like I am here without a map.

Julia and I came home to find David busy with household chores. The dog is finally really closed into the fenced back yard. Who knew that our neighbor’s fence had so many lose pickets for Latkah to push aside. She has found freedom a number of times last week and even ran out the door and was missing for a few hours on Sunday. Now that she is off the lead, she just wants more freedom.

Anyway, we worked around the house for awhile, and then went to an IMAX film about prehistoric monsters under the sea, or Sea Dinosaurs. It was big and scary but Julia loved it until the dinosaurs and background got just much too noisy. We left after about 35 minute, missing the last 5 minutes. Julia was very firm with "I have enough. Time to go." We let her decide and left. If we could have turned down the sound, I am sure she would have watched the whole thing.

She came out of the theater very happy, so we thought we would push our luck. We wanted to buy a few more puzzles and Toys-r-us was open. We don’t go to stores like this very often, but I have done it twice buying things for her or gifts for other kids. Julia was willing to sit in the cart and be wheeled around, but once David let her hold a bit electronic dinosaur, she was not willing to let it go. I never let her do that. When she’s wanted something that I was not willing to buy her before, I tell her there and then. She will fuss some but we get through.

Anyway, we found out, the very hard way, that letting her hold something that eventually will not go home with us is a recipe for disaster. Julia was really angry and stayed angry for the ride home. It was a tantrum of sorts, more controlled and much more directed anger. And in the car.
Sunday was another half good/half bad day. Julia had a good horse back riding lesson. She held the reigns for the first time and her balance was very good. She is still amazed at the big animals and is kind to them. She brushes the horse she is riding before and after her ride and talked to the animal. Ranger, who she rode on Sunday, peed and pooped during our lesson. And we heard about it all day! Ah, bathroom humor.

We had another tantrum in the car on our way to a pumpkin patch. I am trying to stop when she does this and try talking to her.

The pumpkin patch was fun and Julia enjoyed riding on a far cart, picking a few pumpkins, and playing in a corn crib full of corn. She made corn angels and really like the feel of corn between her toes.

I came in to get Julia from school on Monday and was thrilled to find her sitting at a table with Christy and another child, looking at a Dr. Suess book. She was quietly looking at pictures, very comfortable with where she was and what she was doing. I got her early to take her to an appointment with our family therapist. Our intention is to work on Julia’s anger, and any thing else that the doctor thinks necessary. In the car, Julia told me about eating pizza at school for lunch – a rare treat for her to eat the hot meal supplied by the school because she really doesn’t like most of what they serve. Then, she had a small tantrum. She was angry at me, yelling and screaming and kicking. It didn’t last for long, and this seems to be a pattern – anger in the car – anger in places in which I cannot effectively react to her with anything other than my voice.

Good time to be at therapy.

Julia made the jump from 25 piece puzzles to 100 piece puzzles yesterday. We found her a few new 25 piece ones and couldn’t find anything between 25 and 100. So, we went for the 100, in a Beauty and Beast motif. She wanted to do it on Saturday but we were too tired to concentrate, so we worked on it on Sunday evening. At first, Julia was confused, maybe overwhelmed is better, by all the small pieces, but we started the patter that she uses when she works on smaller puzzles (look for Belle’s eyes, here is her dress, look there is the Beast’s nose, etc.) and she fell into working on it. We worked for about a half hour and then left the unfinished puzzle on the table. This morning during breakfast, Julia wanted to work on the puzzle more. I think she listened to me tell her about looking for clues and hints in pieces, like a little bit of Belle’s slip or half of Chip the cup. I see lots of winter evenings with hot cocoa and puzzles!

04 October 2007


After school, Julia worked on two small puzzles that I brought home yesterday -- 24 pieces of Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street. She put them together, both of them and enjoyed doing it. She talked the entire time that she worked. She seemed to coach herself through, talked about looking for Pooh's eyes or arms or feet, etc. She also made up a little story about what the characters were doing as she worked. Daddy did some helping and giving hints, but she really didn't need it.

03 October 2007

Riding to School

Julia and I rode our bike to school this morning -- need to get a picture of this because I think that Julia really likes it. We arrived about 15 minutes early and she spent the time on the swing. When the school buses arrived, she was ready to get off the swing and run with the rest of the kids. Amy told me that she does at times play with others – I assume it is more parallel play than interactive, but she does want to play with kids. She needs to learn gentle greetings like she needs gentle hands. I have to rein in my spicy dragon who gets way too close to a kid and announces, "Hi. I am Julia Dinosaur." She will get there.

Last night, David and I just collapsed after our conference with Christy. I felt both relieved that someone else, in fact a school system is really engaged, and sad that Julia has the chance of never really catching up to her peers. I do so believe in her though, and trust that her talents will lead her. We need to do more learning activities at home and disguise them as play. I probably should also read some developmental books on 2's and 3's and see if there are ideas and activities to present to Julia.

More from Conn College

I tried to add these pictures to the last post, but it didn't work. So I do a new post. Before the Sicla Banquet, we went to a crew team reception. We arrived before Cheshire did and so we explored the indoor facilities and Julia approved.

Here she is with the biggest balls she could find. What could be better than jumping on balls.

Julia had to wait her turn to row on the indoor rowing tanks. She was patient as she waited and then knew exactly what to do when she climbed into the moving seat. We may have another Crew Team member -- rowing or coxing, we don't know yet.
Lovely Cheshire all ready for the Banquet.

Posted by PicasaAnd here are my girls on Sunday morning. Julia definitely happy to be with her Jei Jei.

Our Last Parents' Weekend -- for 12 years, that is

Last weekend, we went to our last Conn College parents’ weekend. It was great seeing Cheshire, who is working very hard and feeling stressed.

We went to the CISLA (the program that allowed her to do her Bolivia research) senior banquet during which Cheshire and four other CISLA students did a take on Real World to present their projects. It was entertaining, the most fun presentation of the banquet, although they had received some flack from their faculty advisor about making their skit humorous. Most of the others were pretty straight forward and after 20 or so, a little fun was in order. These are great young adults -- every one of the projects was interesting and thought provoking -- okay, there was one dealing with math that I didn't understand. It would have been thrilling to be hearing about or doing every project.

Each presenter also made a presentation slide -- I am sure it is not too hard to make but boy is it good for presentation. These kids have been armed with skills that will help them later.
On Sunday, we went to a senior brunch and then took a walk in the school's arboretum. We talked about the future, about Thanksgiving and Christmas and about graduation. Cheshire is spending a lot of energy considering what she will do next year, and what her long term plans are. She spent Saturday night in our hotel room and it was good to all be under the same roof. How I miss that girl!

Julia jumped on a very large rock and shouted, "I am happy. I am happy."
Dad didn't look too shabby either!

02 October 2007

Julia update

During the past week and a half, Julia went to school withe less negative feelings than she has before. She even told me that she likes Christie and Amy, her teacher and aid. She did a few surprising things -- used "is", "had", and "has" in sentences, enjoyed riding on the trailing bike that is now connected to Cheshire's bike that I am using, was more careful with pronunciation, and used more sentences. We saw the movie Emperor's New Grove, and later Julia made a clay llama that really captured the essence of llama without copying what she has seen in the movie. Her talent with clay continues to grow incorporating whatever new experience she has into her little figures and scenes.

Today Julia brought home two little books that she has learned. We are supposed to "read" the books together, and so tonight, I pointed to the few words on each page as she said them. She is memorizing, not reading, but she is very proud of herself. It is clear that someone at school is working with Julia and has gone over these books many times. The class is working on color and color names this week. Julia should not have any trouble with these.

Today, David and I had a conference with Julia’s main teacher. We talked for about a hour, and told Christie what we know and what we have supposed. We answered questions about what we thought that Julia can do, and why we think she behaves as she does. Christie told us that Julia’s behavior, as it relates to her hitting, shoving, pushing, etc., has gotten better. She still has not embraced the "gentle hands" admonition that she hears at school and at home, but we keep saying it and practicing. Christie called Julia a puzzle. There are holes in her experiences and her abilities, but at times she is very much like her peers. For example, Julia’s gross motor skills – her body movement – is very young. Cathy, the principal has said the same thing. It is as if Julia is a bigger toddle at times. She moves with joy and vigor, without the restraint or concentration her peers have. We have experienced this often. Julia’s fine motors skills when it comes to anything writing are likewise very much behind. Her drawings are scribbles and she is only able to write her name with a lot of assistance. And yet, there are her fine motor skills when she is working with clay or playing with her legos.

Christie is the first person who has said to us that she doesn’t think that Julia’s delay is cognitive – not that anyone has given us any opinion at all. I feel like I have known this but have worried all the same. Of course, Christie is a kindergarten teacher and not an expert, but I believe her gut feeling. If Julia’s delays are because of a lack of stimulation, love, and experiences, the questions become whether and how long it will take her to catch up. Will she? Can she? We talked about what we could do at home, and our need to keep in touch.
We will see the psychologist again next Monday, and hopefully, start to work on some of Julia’s anger. I believe that it is her anger and stubbornness and negative feelings that hold her back. If we can get her to relax more and allow herself to be guided and taught, she will move ahead.

We still have the appointment with the developmental clinic to look forward to. I am hoping to have some documentation about Julia’s behavior by that time. I hope we can learn more from them.
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