31 December 2008

Last image of the year?

Picture by Matthew with his mom's camera. Not bad for an 11 year old. If only I could do as well!

Home Work 31 dec 08

I am going to keep closer track of Julia work at home by keeping a list.

1. went over 15 sight words and made 4 new words to start learning.
2. made sight words into sentences with addition of "house." Ex.: I am at the house, I am on the house, I am at a house, I am at that house, etc.
3. worked on 4 addition facts using item cards. Ex.: 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+2=4, 1+3=4
4. wrote name and three sentences. Sentences: No fo[o]d for me. Julia was hap[p]e[y]. I was
its[c]he[y].

Later on, we went to the Y and went through most of Julia's lesson as half laps of the pool. We have not done this in a long time -- oh, very long -- and I can really see the progress the Linda, Julia's swimming teacher, has made. Julia understands much more of what she is doing. We worked on kicking, crawl stroke, crawl breathing, back float kick, back stroke. I didn't get to do jumping and diving because I wasn't allowed in the deep end with Julia (lifeguard of the day rule). Julia does her laps with floats on and some of it with a kick board or noodle so that she can concentrate on what her extremities are doing instead of staying afloat.

30 December 2008

short update

A full day and a busy one. Marcia and Matthew came for a visit. We had a little Christmas with them. Matthew gave Julia a dinosaur magnadoodle that is cute beyond measure. Marcia gave her a giantic marble run kit. Julia has had so much fun with both and so have Marcia and I. I think we are both latent engineers. Julia loved seeing Matthew and Marcia. She wanted their attention and wanted to try to talk with them. She can do more than she could last Christmas and last 4th of Julia, but her communication still needs translation and there is always a need for others to get used to her behavior.

I pled my case ot the insurance appeal board in the hope of getting them to reverse the denial of coverage for an attachment therapist. I should hear by the 10th of next month. I know of three other kids who are covered by our insurance for the provider that I have asked for. I have been told that approval is on a case by case basis. The presentation part of the appeal was enjoyable -- if Julia's therapy was not riding on the decision it would have been fun.

28 December 2008

resolutions

Time to get ready for the new year! I am a big one for setting goals, making changes, awaking dreams. Yes, many of them fall flat -- how many times have I wanted to lose weight and get in shape. Too many times to count -- at least as many as there have been years in my life. But sometimes I get closer, closer to all those things that would make a more perfect me.

Health and fitness, more educational engagement with Julia, spiritual searching for me, once again writing, a path that includes economic advances, and meaningful social engagement -- so far that is what is on my list.

27 December 2008

Eye contact at the mall

We went to the Mall to exchange the ipod that Cheshire gave David for the ipod that David really wanted. I don't take Julia to malls often for two reasons, I hate shopping and really can't stand malls, and then there was a time when Julia's sensory issues made malls off limits. I haven't been working at extending Julia's mall time and she may always be mall challenged.

A Chinese dance troup is coming to Madison and a Chinese woman in a lovely costume was handing out flyers in the Mall. Julia and I went over to get one. Julia had a hard time looking at the woman -- an eye contact moment -- I want to figure out what I can do to make her more comfortable or able to deal with eye contact better. This is the second time -- the first was with Santa -- when a social situation that Julia wanted to enter into was made harder for her.

The woman noticed that Julia was Chinese and asked if she was from China. I told her, yes, and that she came to the US two years ago. The woman said something in Chinese to Julia. Julia piped up with her name and asked the woman hers. I asked if she had asked Julia her name and the woman nodded. Julia has lately developed a big interest in names (after two years of hardly noticing that anyone had a name) so the woman's question and Julia's answer may have been coincidental, but this is not the first time that Julia has shown some understanding of Chinese.

The woman touched Julia's cheek and said, 'lucky girl.' I've heard that before, of course, but it was very much sweeter this time.

26 December 2008

art

This is an air ship that little kids are riding in and either a mommy or a teacher is pushing. These children all all happy.

Edit on 1 jan 08. As we were reading Horton hears a Who last night, I noticed in a picture of Whoville a mother Who pushing her family in a carriage that looked very much like what Julia drew. The carriage was not an air ship but expressions, numbers of kids, and positions were a real copy. Doesn't make it less of anything for me. I am very happy she is seeing and remembering and can reproduce things that she sees.

Christmas Day

Christmas was quiet and just perfect for us. Julia managed to open one of her presents, and only one, before we picked up Cheshire at the airport, and still be very happy. She did scope out all of the packages before we let her open one and she knew which ones had her name on it. I okay her opening the biggest box with her name on it and sure enough, Santa had brought her the little pet town that she had been asking for since the early fall. We could have stopped there and her day would have been complete! Driving the the airport for Cheshire and bed time were the only things that stopped her from playing.
Most of the pets that are on the 'town' are from Julia's collection and yes, there are many, but they represent that amount of home work she has done since last Easter. She had needed to get 10-16 stickers for each pet or pet set. So her collection is such a look into her work and our time together.

Cheshire arrived home and were we ever happy! Her play took off and landed on time, but they sat on the tarmak of our little Madison airport (very pretty place, BTW) for almost 45 minutes waiting for a gate to open up. Once we got her home, we closed ranks, ate, talked, and walked the dog a few times.

Julia was so excited to see Cheshire, but she had a minute or so of not being able to look at her. She walked a bit away, flapped and figited, and then went to give her a hug and kiss. I want to know what this feels like -- I know it is uncomfortable -- and how and when to work to change it, but only if possible and only to make her more comfortable (and more acceptable when that is really important). Julia chattered on to Cheshire for ever! Much of what she said made sense but most of the time she talks without context, making it almost impossible for anyone not living with her to figure out what is going on.

We opened gifts and ate our antipasto after Cheshire got settled. Julia was thrilled to get the game Operation (but it seems to be too hard for her, we'll try again today before putting it away for a little while), she was not thrilled with a new dress. This is a real change from her old Chinese girl mentality. Our American Julia did not hug the dress to her and thank us over and over, she was very happy with her toys.

Julia gave us each presents that she made at school. She had three little wraped packages and one slightly larger box that was wrapped with brown paper, drawn on, and topped with a green 3D gingerbread man. So, she have out the smaller ifts -- I got a beaded key chain and a little piece of non-representational art painted on wood; David got two fairy/animals that seemed to be appropriate to hang on the tree. Cheshire's gift was 6 narrow sticks -- like pick up sticks-- that were painted in pretty pastels. For some reason, I really love that sticks -- so simple, so neat. Julia also decided to give the larger box to Cheshire -- she was kind of confused when we asked her about it. We didn't know why, but when Cheshire took the wrapping off the package, she found an empty box. Julia could not explain and we could not figure out the why of the empty box, but it was wrapped very well. LOL. I was so very proud of Julia for sharing her work with us, and even if the gift making and giving was totally prompted by her teachers, she understood the concept and seemed happy at all of our praise.

Julia has been off any kind of schedule for a few days now, and behavior at the end of the day is not easy at all. I am hoping to get back into gear today, even though it will be mostly an indoor day with more snow expected to start falling soon.

I took only a few pictures, mostly just enjoyed our time, but I did snap some of David's figgy pudding. I post those later and give a bit of explanation.

25 December 2008

And the little chubby old elf arrived . . . .

. . . and presents await the arrival of she flying in from Brooklyn. We tremble with joy!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve Evening

Daddy made the figgy pudding.
Julia made sure that every dinosaur had the proper holiday cheer.
We lit and tended a warm winter's glow.
And stockings were hung with the upmost care.Will Santa really come down this chimney . . . .
When the best present is already under the tree.
But in case Santa has a few packages to bring, some muffins and biscotti will be waiting for him.
Happy Christmas.

Christmas Eve

More snow. No news that one. This second it is falling perfectly in sizable fluffy flakes while the Nutcracker plays and Julia draws pictures of dancers on her white board. The temperature is warmed than it has been and these flakes has piled themselves neatly on branches of trees -- we don't get that tree laden look when the temperature is colder (Is that true?). David comes from upstairs and comments, "what a perfect snow fall." So, time to go outside and blow some away from walks and driveways. David is trying his hand at figgy pudding and Julia is determined to remain in her pjs with wild hair for as long as she can today.

23 December 2008

Santa

Julia and I are mostly inside for this week due to cold and snow. Today, we are beginning a new snow cycle -- Maybe I should just say storm but it is suppose to go through out the day and into tomorrow which feels a bit long for a storm. There are short pauses in the falling snow, but the sky keeps to its grey that promises more.

We went to the mall to visit Santa yesterday. The line was short and Julia was very ready. She was incredibly excited and we rehursed what she should say -- She was asking for a little pet shop house, and she would wish Santa a merry christmas -- but when she was within asking range, she was overwhelmed with excitment and could not say a thing. She did a lot of flapping and babbled on about everything except what she wanted to Christmas. She did manage to sit on Santa's lap and we got a picture. When Julia got off Santa's lap, she managed to wish Santa a Merry Christmas but she could not look at him.

We have not found a good house schedule for this vacation and since Julia is happiest using a schedule, we are not as happy as we could be. I would like to be consistent with home work time, time outside the house, playing, and doing some Christmas activities. I'll try again today but there always seems to be something that has to be done right now and today, and then again, I am also trying to clean.

21 December 2008

Sunday revelation

Tonight, laying in bed after I turned off the light, Julia told me that she didn't feel "good well" -- as new compound word for her. I asked her what hurt, stomach, throat, head, etc. and she said no. "Mommy, I am very angry. Very mad and not feeling good well." My girl, my girl. Is this a discovery for her? Did she understand anything of what she said? Is she growing in understanding? I hope that our working together and the therapy we hope to begin soon helps and she can be a happy girl much more often than she is now.

19 December 2008

Decorating the house

I started off doing this page by opening all my pretty blue papers and white snow flakes, but I guess our snow, our house, and our lives are a whole lot more the off greens and reds and faded snow flakes. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Snow! Snow Day! Significant Snow!


I went to bed last night and the streets were dry. The sky was pregnant with what would come but not a flake was falling. This morning we woke up to inches and inches -- I think at least 8 right now and still falling. Thank goodness, and my mother, for our snow blower. David and I got out a bit after 6:30 and dug and blew his car out of the driveway so that he could open the clerks office. I don't know if he will be the only one in work today, but the Supreme Court of Wisconsin will be open for business! I also plowed a thin path on our sidewalk because I was scared if the snow got much deeper that I would not be able to use the snowblower. Yes, it is that deep.

The snow still falls, prediced to fall until at least noon. I have a meeting to go to this morning, but with Julia home and the roads impossible, I will see if I can phone in. Julia does have her extra day of vacation and this is a "warmer" snow. We should be able to play after the walk clearing in done. I took the weather guys seriously and did a quick food shopping yesterday -- the predictions are for snow today and then another storm tomorrow over to Sunday -- so we are well laid for the long haul with hot cocoa and the makings of oatmeal cookies.

Julia and I have the tree to put up and decorate. I had thought we would do it on the weekend, but we will start today. I have some craft projects that we can do and hang.

Regarding the tree, last weekend, we put it on the unheated porch in a bucket of water to keep it fresh. The water froze and I had to bring the whole thing in yesterday so that the block of ice on the bottom of the tree would melt.

17 December 2008

My friend mommy

Today, I mail off my baked and boxed Christmas gifts. It took me most of the day yesterday to pack them up and now they are on their way. I love the baking especially because it is for those that I care so much about, but there is always a slight bit of stress as to whether I will finish in time and how it will all fit together. I also delived boxes to teachers and helpers at school. I did it today and did not wait until later. We are expecting "significant" snow tomorrow and I did not want to be caught short. I have a bit more shopping to do tomorrow which I will try to do early. I am not going to depend on Friday for anything but blowing that snow. I fully expect that school will be cancelled and that Julia will have an extra day of vacation.

A sweet note. I gave a box of cookies to our crossing guard. I did the same thing last year because frankly, I was pretty lonely last year and I appreciated so much having someone to wave to or say good morning to at the beginning of each day. I realized when I gave it to him today that I am a bit less lonely here. It was a nice recognition.

Julia and I went to Annie, our OT, after school. Because of insurance we are only seeing her once this month, but it was good to check in. Annie was feeling like she was seeing afresh because of the month gap in our visit, and I too was seeing Julia behavior in a different way. She was impulsive and tried to be very controlling with Annie. She just about barrelled into Annie's therapy room and went straight for a closet where she knows that activity boxes are stored. She knows that she is supposed to sit and make out a schedule with Annie but she did not pay attention to directions. She had to be physically moved from where she did not belong time after time, but she did not make the fuss that she has made in the past when she was taken away from what she wanted to see.

Now, Julia can be this impulsive and hard to control but she is not like this all the time. To some degree she can control this behavior when she is at home and at times in school, and it is the range of behavior -- sometimes controlled and appropriate, and sometimes impulsive and hard to reach -- that puzzles me. I plan to take note of when and where and hopefully why will begin to raise its head. How will attachment therapy change this?

Next year, Annie and I plan to work on giving Julia ways to control the impulsive, quick, darting behaviors. I am not exactly sure how, breathing makes sense but I wonder how we will get her to take those breaths.

Julia closed the day so perfectly. I mean, she couldn't have planned it better. We had been writing a few sentences that either she or I make up. Tonight, her final sentence was "I like my friend Mommy." She was very excited to write it. Oh, I had to hug the kid.

My commenters

Thank you to those of you who leave comments. I am always so surprised that people are reading my blog even though that was what I hoped would happen when I started it. For all my whining and complaining, I so believe in older child adoption and I hope that my blog offers encouragement to those who are considering. I am also so grateful for advice and support -- this road is a tough one to travel alone as so many of those who comment know. However, I do find it hard to figure out how to reply efficiently to comments. Any ideas on that?

Again, thank you.

It was so hard writing that account of our step back yesterday. All I can figure out this morning is that I have been so intent upon our progress. I have believed that as long as we are moving forward, nothing about Julia's behavior or her condition was permanent -- we would make up for all delays and we would eventually have a normal child. The ambiguity of the unknown is just too hard to wrap my head and heart around. But I know that it is always one step forward, one step back, and I know that there are no guarantees. And I know that a really normal child would be really confused in this household.

I am off to deliver and mail my baked Christmas boxes, and do a little shopping, and go to a meeting, all after a good blowing of the snow that fell last night. I need to do what I can today because they are talking about a "significant" storm coming tomorrow. Obviously, three or four inches has very little significance.

16 December 2008

One step back

We seem to have taken a step back in time yesterday. Julia and I have been having a pretty good time doing our home work. Julia is usually pretty cooperative and I have been congratulating myself on how well we work together. Too much self-congratulations has obviously attracted the ire of the gods and they have ordered a self-correction.

One of the things I have been doing with Julia is to put letters in alphabetical order. Even though Julia knows her alphabet, and knows the sounds of the letters, and sings the ABC song, putting the letters in order is a struggle for her. So we started with 3 letters and have been working our way up. We were at 10 letters yesterday and I asked Julia to get started on putting them in order when were were in the kitchen baking. I thought that we could do some work in a room we didn't usually work in and at a different time.

Julia was not in the mood to put letters in order. I tried to get her to sing the ABC song so that it would be easy to put the letters in order. I didn't mean the exercise to last very long but Julia refused to put letters in order or to sing. I pressed and sometimes it works to get her to do some work. Not yesterday. She dug her heels in and absolutely refused to do what I asked. She hasn't done something like this in such a long time that I did not recognize the behavior. I escalated the argument because that was what it had become by this time -- I was frustrated and just wanted her to do what I asked her to do. I told her that either she sing or she could go upstairs to bed.

And she chose bed.

She went upstairs and changed into pjs and went to bed. I went up and tried to convince her to sing and come downstairs again. David came home and convinced Julia to come downstairs but when I asked her to sing or put her letters in order, she returned upstairs. Julia was kinda miserable but so stubborn. David finally decided that we should just bring her downstairs to eat dinner, and I decided to forget about our tasks.

Julia came down stairs. She was both repentant and victorious. I saw it as a step backwards, not that I want to break her fierce will but that I had lost her trust. She needed to win and that makes me sad. That she was repentant was a good thing. She snuggled with me, she gave me tastes of her food, she gave me extra attention and kisses. It is good that she wanted me to feel better.

Today, we did some home work. It was shorter than usual and I did not push her like I usually do. I did not want to go to where were got to yesterday.

14 December 2008

Adult holiday party

We went to a mostly adult holiday party yesterday, and we let Julia loose. Not that we had the choice. If we were going to be there, and she was going to be there, she would make her own way among the guests. She greeted people, asked names – some many too many times -- and questions. She interrupted and spoke out of turn. She add to conversations with her own ramblings that make sense only of you know the movies that she has currently been viewing or the books that we have read over and over or the dinosaurs and animals that she has played with in the last few days. But she moves through the crowd so confidently without allowing the judgment of others to make any different in her behavior. She is not afraid to make a fool of herself, not afraid to approach the wrong person, not afraid to have nothing to say. Maybe it is her autism that gives her such strength, maybe it is not. Part of me hopes that she learns more appropriate social manners before she realizes that she may be offending, part of me wishes that I could live in such a present and greet the whole world without the burdens of ego.

There were two kids at the party – a first grader, Dex, who is a beautiful, charming, mannerly, creative and smart child, and his sister, who has just started middle school and who was polite and social and did not act bored at all when the adults ask her about school. These two kids reminded me so much of Cheshire at those ages. Kids who are used to grownups and their get togethers. It makes me realize how different this parenting experience is. What also reminded me of Cheshire was the way that these two kids reacted to Julia – with kindness, patience, and tolerance. Watching them, I wished for a big sister for Julia, one who was kind and gentle with her, one who challenged and supported her. Someone who Julia could look up to but still be a kid.

13 December 2008

About Friday

Yesterday, I was in Julia's class. They did not do writers' workshop, instead the kids finished up a wood working project. They nailed and glued, designed and painted. I helped where I could although I was a total washout when it came to choosing wood to nail. I know so little about that world. I kept wishing that they had all balsa wood instead of interesting scraps that were a pain to work with. LOL. None of the kids thought so however. Lots of planes, jets and bombs from the boys – I am sure a number of peace loving moms would be appauled at what their boys wanted to make – some more abstract decorative things, and some houses. Julia made a house. She was in the painting/staining stage yesterday. The idea of a stain didn't resonate with her at all, and who can blame her. Paint should cover everything. Right?

Before the wood working, Ginny took her little troup of 5 on a walk around the building carrying different shaped sand bags. Addressing the sensory issues, some of the kids complained about carrying anything, but most arrived back at their classroom ready to work. Yesterday, Julia's distracted behavior was the worst of all of them. She was not able to listen to any directions and did not sit, stand or walk when told. Amy, who is not her full time aide this year, guided her and manipulated her. Once Julia got settled in her wood working, she was fine and did her work. On the positive side, Julia is willing to try, willing to engage in experiences, and for all her getting angry, grumpy, and disappointed (all her words), she does not complain as much as her sensory peers.

I couldn't help but come away with the feeling that I could teach her as much at home. I can hold her attention for a longer time without needing to cut through as much distraction. My homeschooling friends will giggle at me. I am not yet teady to give up the system, especially considering how much Julia needs to learn about socialization and interacting appropriately, but it is an idea that is taking root. At times, even over my better judgment.

Watching Julia's behavior also reminded me of David's suggestion to try Ritilan. I am sure we could find a doc to give it to her. And that brings up another thought. Even asking for attachment therapy instead of traditional family therapy is our, read my, choice. Who am I and what do I know to make such a diagnosis and ask for such treatment. I know only what I've read and what is in my gut, and I don't mean to devalue my gut, but finding professional advice is still hard to come by. I think of all of the professional we have dealt with and not one of them has given me advice on the whole child. The social worker check ups at 6 months and one year said that Julia appeared very normal (and these were two different social workers), we have asked for referrals from her pediatricians without their input, the International Clinic we visited saw nothing wrong, the Waismen Clinic saw only autism, Lance was willing to entertain anything that we suggested but after 4 visits had no advice. Marilyn, who we hope will be our attachment therapist after the insurance appeal, asked us who diagnosised Julia with attachment issues. The answer had to be that we did. And I asked who should have? In my naïve trust in professionals, I expected that our IA clinic exam would suggest a number of needs a child might have – oh, how wrong I was. So, I am brought full circle and wonder at what point we should consider something like Ritilan? If Julia could concentrate and attend to what she was directed to attend to, she would progress lots faster than she does now. But I have no idea what would happen if she was given the drug and then become more hyper for even a short time. My thought right now is that if we don't see progress after 6 months or so working with Marilyn, we look at the drug route. I want to be sure that the ABA intensive autism therapy is the right way to go if and when a slot comes open for Julia. We still have more than a year on the waiting list and so this is our time frame. The ABA therapy will be an incredible commitment of time – 20-35 hours a week outside of school. It will mean giving up almost all other outside activities so I want to be as sure as I can be that it will be the right thing for her.

11 December 2008

Pictures

How embarrassing is this? I have to admit that I lost my camera in the house -- on the first floor exactly. I put it down on Friday and couldn't find it until Tuesday. And yes, it was in a very conspicuous place. Up side is that once again I can post pictures.
Julia getting ready for the snow.
Julia in the snow although she is so buried in those clothes that it might be another child. Julia doing her writing work and looking quite satisfied with herself.

All hail silly games!

Chicago is a tough place to be from. Does every and any opportunity to make a buck spawn corruption? Is everyone on the take? If there is a time to storm the heavens, it is now and it is to beg and pray that our new president is indeed above the fray. I would hate to even think that he is part of the ol' boy network in Chicago. It would disappoint a newly empowered electorate at a time when our electorate needs to believe in heros and hope. It would disappoint all of us who believe.

Julia and I have increased out home work time in the evenings. She is working hard because each work day brings another sticker to "show" to Santa in the hope that he will leave a Little Pet Shop Fitness Center (yeah, really.). We are doing dictation together. One of us makes up a simple sentence -- Julia is very excited about making up the sentence although many of hers are very long and rambling (yeah, she is my kid.) -- and she sounds out the words with my help and writes it. Her spelling can be all over the place but she is writing both vowels and consonents and remembers a capital in the beginning and a period at the end. Last night, I had her put a finger between words to separate them and make them easier to read and I think she was happy with the result. It is amazing to thing that last spring -- April or May -- I was trying to get her to trace a page of strokes, shapes, and letters, all of which meant very little to her, and now she is trying to write sentences.

She has also learned 15 sight words and we are adding more. We make felt flash cards on which I make raised letters. Julia likes to feel them as well as see them and I think this extra sensory element has kept her interest in learning them. She is very proud of herself for this work and work it is. I have finally found the knack for making flash cards a game, something that I wish I had when Cheshire was trying to learn her "word within a word" cards in 7th and 8th grade. Sorry, Ches. I was trying.

We have been using the Dr. Suess Kindergarten Games every night for a little while. As a big Suess fan, Julia never tires of the songs and silly rhymes. Last night, she spent about 20 minutes doing an addition game. It is not quite addition yet -- she puts the assigned number of fruit in each of two wheelbarrels and then counts up the number of fruit and clicks on the number on a number line. Doing this, it is clear that she understand counting (at least up to 15), that there is a one to one relationship between an item and the number assigned to it (I am not be explaining this clearly but it has been hard for Julia to realize this), and that she can recognize and use the written numbers. All hail silly games!

Two things that Julia needs to work on and I have not found the key to working on it -- putting things in order and patterns. I will ask Annie next week when we see her and hopefully we can work on these things in OT beginning again in January.

09 December 2008

Snow Day!

It snowed all last night -- a wet heavy snow that takes effort to move. David heard the snow day on the radio and let Julia and I sleep. Julia obliged until almost 7 o'clock. Right now, we are having hot oatmeal, watching Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and waiting for the full light of day. It is predicted to snow most of the day, and get colder as the day goes on. We'll bundle up and go out to blow and clear snow at least twice today.

And ah, the fun of being caught inside and cosy on such a day.

08 December 2008

Snow and sleet tonight -- possibly 6 inches during the night and another 3 tomorrow during the day. Ah, Wisconsin.

Julia is now doing matching games with 30 or so choices. Her technique is not the most efficient, but from what she chooses, I can see that she remembers where matches are, and that she is trying to figure out a more efficient way to find the matches.

Then there is sledding. Last year, we put Julia on a sled and pulled her around and she was completely bored. She had no yearning to go down hills and just wanted to get off and get inside the house. Today, she saw a Dad pulling his two kids on a plastic tobbogan and asked if she could ride on a "snow boat." I wan't sure what she was talking about at first, but when I figured it out, I told her sure. Tonight, we were watching TV and she saw kids sledding down a hill and chattered on about it. I think she will get the chance very soon.

I went to my first cookie exchange on Sunday. Ummm . . . getting very midwestern. It was fun, very low key, and just women. Maybe I do fit in here.

06 December 2008

Changes

Playing various computer games, I have noticed that Julia is not good at putting things in order. She can sing and recite the alphabet but cannot fill in the blanks when there are missing letters, or numbers for that matter, in a row. So, I took out some letters and we worked with putting A, B, C, D in alphabetical order. We tried over and over with me coaching her. Nothings seemed to work and she could not seem to do it. Then, I started to tell her that her order was wrong when it was. That was what she needed. Some black and white on my part! Once I was letting her know what was right and wrong it took her three times to put those letters in order without my help. And she did it quickly.

I think she had no idea what it meant to put letters in order -- sometimes there seems to be such gaps in what she understands. She doesn't let on that she doesn't understand but once she gets it, she has no trouble doing it. I don't think it is inability, I am almost sure it is not inability.

She is having the same problem with patterns. I have to find a way to explain working with patterns.

My girl who would not wear pjs and then would only wear nightgowns has turned a fashion corner -- well, a sleeping fashion corner. Brought on by the winter, I dare say. She like pj bottoms and tee shirts! And just tee shirts if it is warmer. (And thank you, Sarah Grace and Lisa, for handing down a stack of Sarah's old tees) Of course, I have only two pj pants, but we can do this.

More snow expected today. We are doing our Saturday swimming and then maybe a visit to the Mall to find Santa and ask him for the Little Pet Shop House before we do our massive food shopping. I have got to get geared up for baking next week! Yes, it is Christmas time.

04 December 2008

social butterfly

It is cold. It has snowed. It is Madison.

We are having a problem in the mornings getting Julia to put on her snow pants and her heavy winter jacket. This morning it took her going outside without her coat to decide to put it on. And snow pants . . . went in the backpack this morning. Comparing notes with other parents waiting for school to get out this afternoon, Julia's refusal to put on winter clothes puts her right on par with her peers. No one wants to wear snowpants!

Last weekend in Maryland, Julia asked everyone their names and used names often when she was talking to people. She did ask Jan his name about 1000 times. I am not sure why but she would ask Jan's name when she was getting ready to talk with him, then say the name and what she wanted to tell him. But it was as if, Jan's name was going from ear to mouth without registering in her brain. After the 1000 questions, I started to ask her what Jan's name was and the brain did make it into the loop.

Today, we were walking the dog after school when we ran into the two kids who live on the next corner and two friends of theirs. Julia asked each of the kids their names and tried to engage them in conversation. The Dad of two of the kids asked the name of our dog and Julia told him. She did not look at him or make any eye contact but she was listening and she answered. Julia, being herself, was a bit too much as she was trying to talk to these kids and these kids, two of whom have been pretty unfriendly in general, just stood there like duds. Julia didn't seem to care and chattered on. When I asked her to move on, the Dad moved his kids inot the house. Julia said good-bye to each child using their names. Whoa, the kid who asked Jan his name so many times last weekend, remember the names of 4 kids after hearing those names once.

02 December 2008

Braids

Before I post the monthly pictures of Julia, I sometimes wonder what picture will surface and seem significant to me. At times there was more than one that I just love and it is hard to chose; at times I almost wish I could pick something from another month. This month the picture picked itself! Julia has consented to wear braids!

As her hair has been growing, Julia is less than willing to have it combed several times a day which is what it would take to have it looking good. She has no interest in learning to brush it herself. All this is just like her older sister -- that love of long hair and total disregard for what it looks like really seems to run in this family and I admit to the same habits myself. I learned early that days and days of barely brushed hair does not pay and that threats of cutting only rouse the furies and do little to get the job done. And oh! Long hair can look so awful so quickly and wind up collecting sticky substances and impede important school work.
This was solved pretty early with Cheshire -- she wore and liked braids. I learned how to french braid and was able to really keep things relatively neat and good looking for years. BUT until this Thanksgiving, Julia would have no part of braids. Part of this is due, at least I think, to the fact that no one combed and brushed her hair when she was younger. The solution in China to unruly, insect hiding, dirt collecting hair is to shave it off. No one needs to fuss with shaved heads. As her hair has grown, it must feel very intrusive to have her parents washing and brushing and combing and putting in clips, elastics and bows. One of Julia's favorite getting ready for bed activities is to take out any hair ornaments and rub her head free.

Whenever I have tried to braid her hair, she complained and yelled and refused to sit still, but this past weekend was different. I put in braids every day and she liked it. She got plenty of praise for pretty hair and I think it might have been a relief for her to get that hair out of her eyes and away from her mouth during meals.

And she looks so cute!

01 December 2008

A good time was had by all

This is our Thanksgiving gang. Just notice who is dead center. Need anyone wonder who had the best time of all?

27 November 2008

It is late. The turkey was roasted, another was smoked, stuffing was stuffed and cooked outside any bird to preserve its vegie attitude, potatoes, in two colors, green vegies in two varieties, and canned cranberries because it is preferred to any messing with the real thing for the sake of tradition, pies were baked and guests arrived with more baked dainties and salad, and bottles of wine opened and consumed and allthe time the steady conversation in and out and all around problems, challenges, joys, hopes, dreams. The gravy did not thicken as it should have, the bakers did not like the consistency of their pumpkin pie. Everyone ate too much.

Julia's behavior reflected how different this day was from our normal round. She was quiet a few times, laying down on our bed and just being quiet. She followed Michael around, wanting to do what he did. He found his frustration level when she started demanding he say and do what she wanted. Julia did not always listen, I think the crowd, the noise that we all made was too much for her. Overstimulation to say the least, but we all were. She played her computer game -- Pajama Sam -- on my laptop with Michael and me. We got to the end of the game for the first time with Michael's help.

All in all, it was a good day for her. I am seeing more shifting to independence, more remembering, and the persistent yearning for relationship.

I took no pictures at all today. Just living was enough. But tomorrow . . . .
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoings and rightdoings there is a field. I'll meet you there.
~~Rumi
Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful.

24 November 2008

Snow!



























We got our first real snow on Sunday night. We woke up to a white fairy world. Julia was captured by it, she doesn't really remember last year and our snowy days. Once again, this is all new but she is excited by the prospect of it. She doesn't like the cold, does not want to wear her heavy winter jacket or snow pants, but the white outlines on the trees lure her into loving the outside.

Julia went to school on Monday and then early, early on Tuesday morning we left for Maryland and Thanksgiving. We were supposed to make it in a day -- driving, crazy -- but got caught in very western Maryland in a snow storm. We wound up at a hotel in Frostberg.

We arrived at Lisa's around noon today. Julia couldn't wait to see Michael and has been monopolizing him the entire day. She allowed me to put braids in her hair which is a first.

Cheshire is taking the train down tomorrow, and then we have her for 4 day! (pictured borrowed from:
http://gardengrow.wordpress.com/2008/01/12/)

Tomorrow, we cook and talk and eat. And I am very thankful to have so many loved ones around us.

22 November 2008

A postscript

Three more things before I go to bed tonight:

1. We went to our first Suzuki concert last night. About 12 families including parents, siblings and a few grandparents piled into small livingroom to listen to a dozen kids play violin from book one. Julia was not playing yet but we were invited to the concert and it was time to start training Julia to sit through concerts. Julia had a bit of trouble when we first entered - it was crowded and noisy and incredibly distracting. Once the kids began to play she settled down and watched all but two of the kids play. It was great to hear the scratchy tunes the I remember so well from Cheshire's childhood. I can't wait for Julia to really start playing, not that we will rush her at all. When she is ready, Lindsay will start on the songs. Still, it was exciting to hear other kids play and it was good to see Julia sit through most of the concert.

2. Today, we had a day mostly at home getting ready to travel. David took down a game that someone had given us at our shower -- caribou -- because Julia wanted to play with it. I had left it on the shelf all this time because I did not think she could play it. Well, today she could and she did. It is a simple matching game and she played just the simplest version, but she took turns with Daddy and later played it by herself. I need to find a good and fun game for Christmas!

3. Eh, so I have no idea what number 3 was.

G'nite.

A new therapist, I hope

We met with an attachment therapist on Friday, and we may be on the right road! I am still guarded because I now have to fight insurance to get the therapy covered. This therapist, and any other attachment therapist, is not a part of our insurance's group. Actually, when I was talking to the insurance rep, who has been helpful for the most part, he referred to attachment therapy as “quote unquot attachment therapy.” From this, I have the idea (and it is just my idea) that he/they/whatever does not really recognize the type of therapy that we need as a specific treatment.

Well, it is.

Our therapist, Marilyn, asked some questions that our last (and regular family therapist) therapist didn't get to in 4 meetings. Trying to find out more about Julia's past, she asked about others who came home from the same orphanage. She when through the RAD check list, and we immediately talked about daily cuddling and bottle feeding if Julia wanted it. I think we are on the same page. She asked if anyone had mentioned attachment disorder, and my question to her is who is suppose to notice it. I mean, besides the parents. We have had wonderful experiences with speech and OT therapies, a good Wiseman assessment, decent medical care, assessments when Julia first came home by the IU international adoption clinic, hearing tests, and more, BUT no one has mentioned have an assessment or talking to a specialist about attachment. This convinced me for a long time that Julia would not have this challenge. This drives me crazy. I am pretty much a research geek but even I stopped reading about attachment for a good long while. I only started reading again because I read that the ABA training used for autism could be harmful for a child who was not sufficiently attached . I am not saying that some/any/all of Julia's challenges are due to an attachment but some may be and we need to work on them before we begin any ABA training.

Julia had a good work week this week, but a spotty behavior week. She is hitting, kicking and pulling hair. I suggested (at the parent-teacher meeting) more transition activities to try to short cut these behaviors which Christy said they will try.

I was in the classroom yesterday, and even when she appears not to be listening, Julia have an eye and ear on what is going on. She had problems listening to the story read as a start of writers' workshop. She didn't want to sit on the carpet and started by laying down and squirming. Ginny, the SEA, tried to get her to sit up, babying her some, but in the end just demanding that she sit. Julia would have none of it. Ginny kept her in the room until Christy that part of the story she was going to read. By this time, Julia was disturbing the class, Ginny took her out of the class to sit on the stairs. When this didn't work to calm Julia down, they went to the OT space (and I am not sure where this is) and did some physical work – trampoline, carrying boxes. After this, Julia came in and started the work that was the workshop. Julia took the piece of paper divided into three columns. The assignment is to draw and write about the beginning and middle of the story as it was read, and then, predict the end. Julia drew “Blabber Mouse” in the first column and wrote, “The mouse talked a lot” using creative spelling (which seems to mean that almost anything the child puts down is allowed. Julia wrote mouse as “mos” and talked as “takd”). In the second column, Julia drew the teacher from the story and wrote, “The teacher said quiet.” In the third column Julia drew another picture of Blabber Mouse with his hands in front of his mouth, and wrote, “Mouse is now quiet.” Not a bad recap of the story and prediction for the end, especially considering how little it appeared that Julia was listening and paying attention to what directions were given.

19 November 2008

Baking and new drawings

Gosh, I have had such a feeling of quiet the last few days and have not felt like communicating at all. Julia has had some bad behavior in school -- hitting and today kicking. It is usually during one part of the day -- but either morning or afternoon -- usually not against kids, althought she wounded two boys this week, and she has been doing her work. She has also been willing to talk to me a little bit about the hitting. On Monday, Julia pulled Seth's hair. She plays with Seth and they chase eachother around the schoolyard, so she and Seth have a rough and tumble relationship. When I asked why she pulled his hair, she said it was "because Seth hit me." I was so thrilled that she used "because" in a sentence that I almost forgot to look stern. She told me that she hit yesterday because Eileen, an aide, wanted to hold her hand. Now, I am not putting any great reliance on what she is saying. Seth may have brushed up against her, or done nothing at all. I talked to Eileen this morning and she said that she took Julia's hand after she calmed down, but it is exciting that Julia is trying to provide some answer to my Why questions. I don't think she knows herself why she go into hitting mode. But once we can start talking about it, we can do more to find out.

Julia was also very concerned that Christy, her teacher, was angry because of Julia's bad behavior. This is great! Here she is recognizing emotion in others that are not part of our household and maybe she may want to please Christy sooner or later. We are moving along!

The messy face pictures are the official beginning of baking season at our house. I usually bake for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I bring a few kinds of biscotti to Maryland and last year, for Christmas I send biscotti, pumpkin bread, and poppyseed cake to those who we will not see for the holidays. I enjoy both the baking and the sending, the knowing that I am doing something that others will enjoy.

Julia loves helping and she is getting better at it. She can use the sifter, hold the mixer, and break eggs. I am hoping that we can get into measuring this year as well. The best part for her, of course, is the licking of the mixers' paddles. I remember doing the same thing as a kid. Just before I took the second picture, I asked her to open her eyes. I really didn't expect her to do it.

And now, some new pictures all drawn within the last week. Julia's people are taking on substance. There are fewer stick figures and some are even happy or excited. The first picture is a star girl who is dancing.
I love this little guy even though my picture is a bit blurry. I don't remember what Julia said this was but I love the big eyes and curls.

Finally, this is an angry fox. She drew on arms after I took the picture but then erased it too fast for me to gt another shot. When I asked why he was angry, Julia told me that the fox couldn't "do chasing."

16 November 2008

The Road Home

I don't usually post song lyrics here. I don't usually copy them anywhere but we sang this song in choir yesterday at the end of the serivce to dedicate the new addition to our church. The composer, Stephen Paulus, attended and wrote a new song especially for the dedication, but that was not the one which almost brings tears to my eyes. It was his older song, The Road Home, which we used to close the service. I would post our singing, but here are the words.


Tell me, where is the road
I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost
So long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh when will I know
There’s a way, there’s a road
That will lead me home?

After wind, after rain,
When the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream
In the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling
From far away,
There’s a voice I can hear
That will lead me home.

Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.

Each time we rehursed the song and we got to "There is no such beauty as where you belong," it touched my heart. Home, like loved ones, comes when it does. Teachers are like that too, coming when we are ready but coming on a schedule apart from our ego desires. And home is more than buildings and renovations, home is place but more, it is hearts present and caring, devoted and free. I dare say that we have found that. There is still the question of right livelihood that weighs on me, on the us that is family, but beloved ones, place, and community are the anchor. I hold firm the the rest will come.

15 November 2008

Saturday

We have a busy weekend planned – swimming on Saturday morning, shopping for tomorrow's family supper, cooking and cleaning, beautiful singing at the church's dedication this afternoon, and a lazy evening. Tomorrow, we do Julia's private swimming lesson, rake up the back yard, and entertain three other families for our November Family Supper Group. Yesterday's front raking took so long but the front and side of the house are clean AND the machine sweepers were around this morning and picked up all the piles that I had made. I felt very lucky and asked the universe to transfer that luck to my job hunt. LOL.

Watching Julia at Saturday swimming – and oh, her need to control. God, it would be so lovely if it was cause be an attachment disorder. No matter how hard the work is, if it could be remedied, if we could heal her in that way, if she could learn secure attachment and let the control go, she could learn so much. The patience, the deep, deep patience of the people who help her swim have managed to teach her something. What could she learn if she was not fighting them.

It passes in my mind, what if what I am seeing as a need for control was really a demanding of attention. A casual observer could see that . First, I have to be grateful that her teachers of all sorts are willing to see it as something else. Second, a child like Julia seeking attention would make sense. A child without attention for so long, a child who was neglected for years, now has the ability to demand such attention. I guess, believing as I do in her intelligence, I have to expect that some of her behavior may be attributed to attention seeking.

14 November 2008

Friday thoughts

I'm starting this as a break from leaf raking. The good lord has blessed us with many trees whose ample summer shade sure adds up to a lot of leaves on the ground. The silver lining to this cloud, if cloud it be, is that all of our trees are bare. So this raking is the last raking.

Yesterday, I did the deed. I called the insurance guy (the person who has just a tiny bit of authority over who we can see under our plan) and told him I was dissatisfied with our therapist and I wanted to have a "real" attachment therapist. He went through the list of providers he could approve. The list has just three on it including our current provider and I had talked to all three of them before deciding who to go with. One of the other two said she did not do attachment work and the other said she was interested in do it. I told my guy this and added that I needed someone who had experience doing attachment, not just an interest. He asked if I had a provider in mind and I gave him the name. He verified that she was not in our network (which I knew already) and that it would be unlikely that that his supervisor would approve her. Yada, Yada, Yada. He asked his supervisor, and we were given a verbal denial over the phone. We wait for the written denial and I will start the appeal.

Meanwhile, I called the therapist I want to have and through three phone calls we have an appointment next week for an out-of-pocket session that we can use to see if we are good for each other, and I can see what she does so that I can be convincing if I have to argue before a panel. She also has a few clients who have already fought this fight and she will put me in touch with mom who just won her appeal. I have not won the war but I now have a battle plan.

We had a parent/teacher conference yesterday morning. Julia is moving along and is doing things that I wondered if she would ever do last year. She is spelling, creatively, she is reading some sight words, she is doing simple math, and she may finish all of the Kindergarten work this year. I was pleased with what Christy said and what she plans and how she took my suggestions. We do have such a good team working. Most important, is that Julia is making progress. It is her own rate and I can smile to think that what other rate would Julia care to travel at. Still, she has never lost ground and has not stood still.

Julia and I had the rest of the day together. We came home after the conference and it was cold and rainy and not at all a day to be out. Julia asked for a chocolate milk bottle. We snuggled on the courch and she drank her bottle. She hasn't asked for a bottle much at all -- once about two weeks ago and yesterday, but before that it must be months. We did some of our home work and then ran errands in the car. We sang the songs from Lion King and Julia was very cooperative through shopping for groceries, finding socks and tights for her, and visiting the rehab clinic to pick up some forms.

I worked in the class this morning. I made a new friend in a little girl names Naline. She is Asian and very interested in the fact that I am not and Julia is. I told her about adoption. She told me that her Daddy and Mommy looked like her. It was all very sweet.

I helped during Writers Workshop again. The teacher read two thirds of a story and then asked the kids to imagine an ending. The kids got a piece of paper divided in three columns and they were instructed to write and draw in each column -- beginning, middle, and their proposed end of the story. I worked with a table full of boys who worked diligently but who all decided to do the same ending. Mostly laziness and not a lack of imagination. They would rather get done with their work quickly and have time to play the games that they prefer.

Watching Julia during this time, I can see her behavior falling into categories. It is interesting that I can see this now. For such a long time, Julia's behavior and reactions melted into each other all too often. So this morning, Julia tried to control the situation for as long as she could. She went into the classroom and did not get on the rug as she was told. Instead, she invetigated everything she could touch and did not listen when she was asked to sit down. She ignored directions and pleas. She was brought to the rug and sat down, and refused to listen until the book that was being read caught her insterest.

I see her fight for control at home as well -- she refused to give me a kiss goodnight tonight. She was not angry with me but just refrains from giving me what she wants. She asks me if I am serious, or frustrated, or angry, and then if I am one of those, she gets angry and grabs at me, or twists my hand or tells me how she will hurt me. I think that these behaviors are related to Julia's attachment and it is these behaviors that I hope we can work on with our therapist.

The other behavior that I observed this morning was Julia's distractability and her ability to do her work with support. In my mind, both the idstractability and her ability to do her work is related to her development, and seemingly distinct from her need of control. If she is able to reliquish her need for control, she will be able to throw her energy into what she is doing. If she did this, I could imagine that she could work and play with her full self. And then what would we see?

I added to this entry over the day and it is evening now. Dinner is finished and David is doing the dishes. Julia is listening to music in the kitchen, drawing, dancing, singing. She loves it all so much. There are few words for such enthusiasm. It does my heart good to dance and sing with her, to let her spirit soar.

12 November 2008

Question & Answer

Still not feeling that our family therapist is leading us in the right direction, I asked this question at one of my yahoo groups:

We have seen a therapist a few times now. His credentials are not attachment therapy but he is covered by our HMO group, he has worked with adopted kids though mostly domestic, and he has worked with kids on the autistic spectrum (which our daughter may be on. That is, she has the diagnosis but as I watch her grow and change I believe that much of her problem is attachment related). So, our doc has seen us 4 times, every other week or so at his preference. He seems to be continually gathering information, having us talk about Julia's challenges and what we are doing about them. I am concerned that this is taking so long to get started. I need advice now. Do you think I am being impatient? OR is this the way this kind of therapy is done?

And was answered almost immediately:


I'd get on the phone and talk to the www.attachment.org clinic in Colorado.

You should be actively doing therapy, cuddle time, reading time, having her share her feelings, practicing obeying you, repeating what you have asked her etc.
He should be suggesting specific kinds of active intervention at home for her and you, something new to do each week.

You should been seeing significant changes or have had a significant experience with your therapist within the first few sessions. If not I'd question whether this guy can really help you.

Yes you need advice NOW you are not impatient, you need ANSWERS!

A child with AD is extremely stressful and challenging. Just venting about her doesn't work.. it doesn't change her or your experience. It might relieve some stress or anger but goes nowhere otherwise. You need concrete things you can do..... I have talked to so many families who have thrown money at therapists that just wasted their time and didn't really help them at all!

To be honest I have never found much help with traditional therapist because UNLESS they are SPECIFICALLY trained for attachment issues. Why? because they try to use traditional talk methods, sand tray therapy or play therapy, theses kids just bluff their way through. IT doesn't work... IF you read Nancy's book (When love is not enough) it tells you exactly WHAT TO EXPECT from your child's attachment therapist.
HE should always see her with you in the room and work toward you having a relationship with her, not him.

Does that help any? They thought our son had Asperger's a form of autism. Guess what with in a few weeks of attachment therapy this kid proved the school district wrong...with in 5 months and therapy camp we had an entirely different child. The AD therapist said he had RAD from the first session. Was he ever right.. Now nearly a year later he is a healthy , attached, in a regular classroom, functioning normally and above grade intelligence. HE is an entirely different and we saw changes immediately!!!

Where do you live?
A

Now to the phone.

10 November 2008

Perfection

Tonight, during our home work, Julia played three rounds of a computer matching game and another simple addition game. It helped that I was there and making sure she followed all the directions, but both games held her attention. After that, we went through our sight word flash cards (9 of them so far) and did a little writing. Her attention was good through the whole time.

We had our first OT in a month -- we finished our alotted number of therapy sessions allowed by our insurance. Annie changed our music for Julia's listening therapy and we talked about more physical ways of dealing with Julia's anger during transitions. I have a parent-teacher meeting on Thursday. I will ask Christy about implementing some physical transition tools.

I admit that I worry all the time about Julia's differences, especially when I am away from her or comparing her to other kids, but when it is just us, just David, Julia and I, I see she is perfect just as she is. I am grateful for this knowledge.

Monday morning quarter backing

Our weekend was busy and we are enjoying the pick up in our life outside the house but I think that so much out of the house activity is tough on Julia. It means that she is out of her familiar zone and although we pack toys and activities for her, she is not as free as she is at home and All her stuff is not with her. The result is behavior deterioration. Last night, we went to a pot luck at Chis and Andy's house. They have 2 kids, both older than Julia but still with plenty of toys, and another family with a little girl who was a bit younger than Julia was there as well. Julia enjoyed the kids and the toys she doesn't have but she let loose with a yell a few times and was very bossy with the kids. I think that the only way to teach her how to behave in company is to be in company, but it can be exhausting.

I am exhausted this morning.

Last Friday, I went into Julia's classroom to help with some administrative stuff and to be another grownup as the kids did writing workshop. Christy, the teacher, begins the workshop by reading a story. I am guessing that there is some style theme -- last week's was see-saw writing, as in, I wear shorts in summer, but I wear pants in winter, or, Birds have mommies but trees don't have mommies. The kids then are given a number of exercises and the most advanced amonng them are expected to do all of the exercises. Last Friday, there were two assignments: the first was to complete two sides of a paper. The first side had the question, "Do _______ have a family?", and the second side said, "Yes, _____ have a family just like us." The child had to draw and write the name of an animal and follow through with the second side where the animal's name was written again and the whole family was drawn. This was one complete side of the see saw.

The second activity was to take a little "book" (simple quarter sheet books with paper covers, stapled together) and write a see saw story. My group of three kids got through the first exercise and some of the completed the second. I had one eye on Julia and she was able to get through the first exercise but not the second. And she still need the one-on-one prompting to get her through the assignment. Now, to be honest, even my group benefited greatly from the one-on-one. I think that only one of them would have finished both exercises if I had not be prompting them.

We have teacher conferences this week, and I will be very relieved to sit down with Christy and find out where Julia is. She is moving ahead -- we work on spelling all the time at her prompting -- but is it enough? And will she catch up? Yes, I am obsessed with her catching up and being normal. Maybe crazy as it seems, I will not give up on that idea. Maybe someone needs to knock me on the side of the head but I still believe in her intelligence and her imagination.

But I do see that she does not act like the other kids.

After writing workshop, the class went outside for recess with another class. The two classes stood together on the outline of a circle and sang silly songs that their teachers took turns leading. In one sense, this is the kind of activity that Julia should excell in but she was unable to stand in that circle -- this is the same basic behavior that made me give up on choir. Although Julia loves to sing, she seems unable to stay in an loosely assigned place and pay attention. Will she learn that? She was not disruptive during the singing, just not attending.

More wondering later. I have assignments of my own today.

06 November 2008

Drawing dragons and reading

I think this rainy day -- still warm, mind you -- is the beginning of our new season. The last week has been gorgeous! We have all enjoyed being outside to rake leaves, take walks, work in our garden, and of course, trick-or-treat. (The candy is almost gone.) We have at least one more good raking that we need to do but suddenly most of our leaves are down and the skeletons of our trees bend over our old house. This would be an awful time of year for me to buy a house. Give me something that looks cozy, surrounded by old trees with piles of red, yellow and brown everywhere and I would be smitten.

Julia is doing more testing than usual. Her daily school behavior report is coming home with incidents during which she disrupted the class in circle time -- something she has not done for awhile -- but with a smile on her face. She refuses to do some work, notably math, and then settles down to it and does it well. She is also stuttering again. At the same time, she is sounding out the beginnings of words like crazy. Now it is Julia who instigates the game and it is not as much of: "Duh, duh, t-Rex," and more often: "Te, te, T-Rex." When she makes a mistake with the letter, I can ask her to repeat the word and more times than not she can say the correct letter to begin the word. She is also guessing at the vowels that come next, getting them wrong often due to her own pronunciation.

The other night she took a little book out of my hands and said: "Mommy, I read this." And she did. These are pattern books with two lines on each page, and she still has them mostly memorized, but she is moving along. She is recognizing the sight words that we have been working on as well -- not all the time, but she is.
From school, I get the report that she is doing some number work. She is recognizing numbers at home although we don't do much number work other than counting.

And her drawing . . . .

Email from our president

This was the email that all those who worked for our new president received just before he took the stage in Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night. Yes, it is a mass mailing, but I was touched by the thoughtfulness of receiving it and receiving just before he went before all of America to make his first speech as president elect. I hope (and dare I say, pray) that his incredible organization which seems imbued with a tender savy follows him into the White House.

Suzanne --

I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I don't want you to forget how we did it. You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change. I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign. We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next. But I want to be very clear about one thing... All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,
Barack

04 November 2008

We have a president!

President Barack Obama.

McCain has conceeded.

I am so grateful and happy.

Amen.

01 November 2008

Halloween Memories


Day of the Dead

Julia's two days off at the end of this last week seems to highlight the Halloween holiday. If I was adamantly against Halloween, I am not sure how I would diminish the celebration. As it is, I love this arrangement. We got to do a lot more Halloween activities than we would have if she was in school those days.

Yesterday, Julia and I started the day with some house work. I put up her white board again. It's not like I had put it in some dark corner somewhere and forbid her to use it, but she didn't like using it propped against the wall in the dining room or any where else for that matter. While I was hanging it, she stood close by, like a puppy waiting for food, like a protective parent on their child's fist day of school. She did not let me straighten it with a level and it is hung slightly crooked (which drives me insane). I will fix it when she is at school. She started drawing and has been at it almost nonstop when we are in the house. I managed to get only a few pictures of her latest creations. She erases too fast for me!

I am continually amazed by her creative urge, her need to make those pictures or work with her clay or, for that matter, play make believe with her little animals and people. She drew an elevator for some character to take. She drew a door with a line in the middle, a circle above it and two circles on the side. She explained it perfectly to me. In a way, this is not an amazing drawing at all but it was dead on. She had noticed an essence of something that had been in her life for a while now but had not made it into her consciousness. The elevator was not the purpose of the drawing (of course!) but it was part of the action of the picture.

Yesterday, waiting to get my finger checked the week after surgery (finger is fine. Benign tumor growing from the muscle. They will take out stitches in another week), we looked at an edition of Sports Illustrated – no, there was nothing more interesting unless Surgery Today and other medical mags tickled your fancy. There were some great foot ball and baseball pictures and Julia got a chance to ask me about them. No, we never talk about sports and her questions were very revealing.

“Why are those guys knocking over that guy? Mommy, bad behavior!”

“Well, no, honey . . . . .”

“Mommy, that guy trying to hit?”

“Well, no, honey . . . . “

It went on like that in the same vein. The couple sitting opposite us was smiling.

We also went to a short concert at church yesterday – a kids theater group sang Broadway and Disney songs that were slightly related to Halloween. If it appears that we do lots of concerts, we do try to and the reason is two-fold. Althought we may never take Julia to a sporting event, I fervently believe that a well rounded person knows about theater, dance, and music. At Julia's age, Cheshire was going to the opera and able to sit through harp recitals. I know it is going to take awhile before Julia can do this but going to every free, short, and casual event that I can find is a start. And second, we love performance. If possible, I want us to share it with Julia. This is very selfish – I'd rather pay for a ticket for her than a babysitter to keep her home.

I am writing at swimming lesson, and Julia seems more subdued today. I have to wonder whether she feels alright or if she is really listening. Halloween candy is probably taking a toll. She had more of it last night than I feel comfortable with, and Daddy let her start her morning with some Starbursts. I know it is just once and year and thank goodness for that!

Umm . . . She is listening much more to direct commands, like take off your belt or grab the barbell.

Another thing that has been emerging is Julia's ability to repeat the directions that I've given to her. Now I forget why I was trying to do this, increase focus or test whether she is really taking in what I am saying or see if she is remembering what is said to her. Anyway, I've been doing it for a few months and only in the last few weeks has she been able to repeat anything back to me. This week I've noticed that she can repeat most of to all of what I've told her. Pretty cool!

Choir is singing in the old meeting house auditorium this weekend. We are singing In Paradisum by Gabriel Fauré and an Agneus Dei by ___. I have missed two rehearsals because of David traveling and my finger surgery, but I know the pieces relatively well enough to sing. I have been struggling with all of the conflicts between choir and teaching RE but the choir is big enough to be flexible and I will just do what I can. Next year, it will be choir all the way but for this year and for tomorrow, when the choir is singing in church, I will sing the 9 o'clock service and teach for Julia's class at 11.

Halloween in pictures

Julia Kitty Cat Schanker
Making sure the bag is deep and strong.
Obligatory pose with last night's handiwork.
Daddy, Julia, and her tail which is black so you can't see it.
Julia is very willing to share her candy with us but I thought she was thinking about a growl and hiss as she contemplated her loot.

31 October 2008

Pumpkin Carving

I would have loved carving out pumpkins this year, especially because these pumpkins had great shape and debth; however, my bandaged finger can't get wet and it is hard to cut anything, let alone decorative pumpkin carving. So, I went to choir practice and Julia and Daddy carved. I came home to two well-carved pumpkin faces shining out at me. It was very nice.
Let the carving begin!
We are always concerned about Julia's lack of focus. These pictures paint such a different picture. Just wait until I teach this kid how to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs.
The master lets the apprentice take over.
And she does.
These are the pumpkin faces that greeted me when I came home!
And here is my favorite little pumpkin with the pumpkin face that she drew after Daddy took her through the whole process. Also, note, that the kid has on the same shirt this morning that she did last night. Persuasion by the kid working well on the Dad.

30 October 2008

Halloween eve

Starting Thursday morning -- The almost-last-roses-of-summer are wilting on my desk. I don't have the heart to take them out of the vase and put them into the compost bin yet. The roses are pink and next month there will be so little pink outside.

Julia is upstairs getting dressed. I am trying (t-r-y-i-n-g, give me patience!) to let her get dressed BY HERSELF on our slow days. So I lay out the clothes and tell her that she can change them if she doesn't want to wear what I put out. She complains about socks and I tell her socks are necessary -- any socks that are in the bin, but SOCKS.

Then I take my shower.

When I finish getting dressed, Julia is naked and "reading" the new library book I read to her last night. Ok, she took off clothes. I remind her that we are going to the kids museum (a favorite of hers) and that she needs to get dressed soon, if not now. We have a half hour before we leave.

I do other things, including straightening up the house, making my list of the day, looking up the resale kids shop. I remind her that we need to leave soon. 15 minutes now. She comes downstairs, dressed but no shoes. I send her upstairs where multiple pairs of shoes are neatly lined up and she calls back down to me over and over again.

Mommy, are you angry?

No. Put on shoes.

Mommy, are you frustrated (pronounced fustated)?

Yes.

Mommy, what are you doing down there?

Waiting for you, Julia. Put on shoes.

Mommy, don't yell at me. (Good sentence!) Mommy, come here.

Why do you want me up there?

Mommy . . . mommy . . . mommy. What are you doing? I am reading.

. . . About 10 minutes later, Julia comes down with shoes on. I jump up, tell her how proud I am that she put on her shoes, and we get ready to leave the house.

I am wondering if she will dress herself for high school? And yes, I do remember Cheshire taking forever to get dressed around this age but for Cheshire it was about choice of clothes, for Julia it is about focus. I remind myself that Cheshire now gets hersef up, dressed, and out every single day.

Once we got out of the house, we were on the go for most of the day. We visited the kids' museum and heard Ken Lonnquist Halloween Concert. He was really pretty good although his audience surged and waned before he was finished. Most of the kids there were under 4 and their behavior, although age appropriate, was not really musician appropriate. Julia listened from a comfortable padded area where she could watch a fish tank and the last few minutes from my lap. Ken will have a kids' musical produced next month. I think we will try to catch it.
After the concert, we prowled the museum and Julia hit all her favorite exhibits. We had pizza for lunch and did a round of shopping -- groceries, computer store, a kid's resale shop, and our local Land's End Inlet. I found a few sweaters and long sleeve shirts but Julia still needs winter clothes. Maybe its time to go back to ebay. I am pretty disappointed with the Once Upon A Child here in Madison. It is a a great resale chain for kids clothes. I found lots of stuff for Julia at the Indy store but in the Madison store does not buy quality kids' clothes and so there is none of it to find.
During our shoppings I lost my temper once with Julia. We were in the grocery store and I planned a very quick visit. Julia got angry at me for some reason -- oh, one day she will answer the great question "Why" and we will know her reasons. She picked up two green apples and threw them. Not at me -- so that was a good thing -- but I got angry because she was being so disrespectful. I grabbed her by the ear, which shocked her, and 'dragged' her to our cart.

Okay, not good mothering. I was immediately sorry and we stopped everything and had a talk about respecting things that are in stores and food. Interesting, how some things just go too far, some behavior gets to me. Julia had many tantrums in the old days -- ha! two years ago -- Maybe it was because this came out of the blue and for seemingly no reason.

Julia is beginning to understand frustration, although the line between that and anger is very thin. She is also questioning me all the time when I raise my voice or put on a stern tone about my anger and love. So many times it is not anger but seriousness. She doesn't like me to be angry or serious.

Julia: I not listening.

Me: That is why I have to be serious.
We've had our pumpkins in the garage for the last 2-3 weeks because we have fierce squirrels who would have gobbled them if thye were left outside. Funny, that our neighbors down the street and around the block can leave pumpkins out and they are not touched. Yesterday, I put the three beautiful pumpkins out around 4. When Davd brought two of them in to carve them after the sun went down, there were fresh teeth marks on one. I am sure these are the same squirrels that yell at the dog and venture onto the front porch even when we are sitting there.

29 October 2008

Turtles

Julia rides the wild bronze sea turtle."I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille."
Julia tries on a shell and decides it is a lot better to ride on the shell instead of carrying it on her back. Can you tell which picture mommy made Julia pose for? I think that modeling is not her career. LOL!



28 October 2008

Julia's room

Yahoo! My laptop is back, albeit with a new hard drive. I have to install programs and figure out what I am going to do about word processing, but I hope I am up for a good long time.

So, do I have pictures.


The top picture is a close up of the boarder that I stencilled around the top of the room. I like it because it lowers the ceiling and makes the room cosy.
The kite that we bought in China goes so well with Julia's colors. Who knew? In the corner above the toy shelves are pictures of family and friends with Julia and also our threee "red couch" pictures.
Instead of putting a canopy over the bed, I found three paper parasols to hang from the ceiling. Notice the three metal lizards. We found them on sale at CVS and Julia really wanted to hang them in her room. I wish we could find some insects of the same ilk.

The duvet cover that is on Julia's bed was bought to finish our guest room when it became Alice's bedroom. I expected to get something else for Julia when I figured out what she liked but Julia likes this one. This is her flower blanket and so it stays.
In the last corner, we have two bean bag chairs watched over by the bird mobil that hung over Cheshire's crib. And notice that Julia has her own mirror to ask, who is the fairest one of all. Over the house book case and shoe cubbies I had some fun. The boarder "broke" and the dinosaures came falling out.