29 March 2008

The step back

There have been some good things going on here this week, but today Julia's behavior took a great nose dive and it's been a struggle all day. She was back to shouting "No!" to everything (we have been working on using a medium voice instead of a very loud voice, and Julia has been a lot less negative about transitions). Julia didn't listen, she was uncooperative at the grocery store, and although she did okay at the clay store painting her latest projects, she was not at all careful with painting her turtle. She also did a lot of hitting and pinching today and had to sit in her naughty chair. Her table manners were awful, she kicked the table and the back of the driver's chair in the car.

This doesn't sound like much but what is bothering me is that she was so far from her best today. I demand her best all of the time, that we move forward -- maybe I am too intent on this. I don't want her to be disabled, not by her delayed development, not by autism. But maybe, just maybe, I need to let he be at times. I don't know. Yes, I do. I am afraid of her losing ground. I am afraid that the progress that she has been making will stop.

Okay, now the good things--

Julia is using "I" much more. We have to remind her at times but lots of times she self-corrects when she refers to herself in the third person.

Julia is pointing out letters more and more. Many times she is guessing and is wrong but she is interested in doing it.

Julia is counting everything. She doesn't always stop at the end of whatever she is counting but she is counting herself up to about 12.

Julia is doing a sheet of pre-writing exercises and letters each day after school. She does it for a sticker -- if she does it when I tell her to and it is neat. Again, like reading books to her and like counting, she is just doing this because I tell her to (and she gets her sticker) but I believe that such willingness to do this work says very good things about her continued development.

Julia got her first groups of 10 stickers this week and we went to Toys-R-Us and she chose a new little pet! I think the second 10 will be tougher to get, but we check the special calendar each day, get a sticker or two, and count them. I had hoped that she would get another 10 before I left for Connecticut on Tuesday but I think it will be later next week.

Julia went to school the day after we went to the toy store and told her teacher, Christie, and aide, Amy, about getting her stickers, counting them, having 10, and going to the toy store to buy her new pet. Julia doesn't often tell stories either at home or at school, so this was something special and very cool. Of course, she also told them that we were going back to Florida! She wants to go back to the beach and to visit Mommy's friends!

Today, when I was reprimanding her in the grocery store, Julia told me that I was hurting her feelings. Whew, I had to stop and scoop her up.

Maybe it wasn't a step back today.

26 March 2008

New and interesting possibilities

Finally, a job has been posted that I am really interested in. The appropriate "stuff" gets sent in today. If anyone who has a through line to the heavens reads this, would you storm those heavens for me?

25 March 2008

Julia and her dog

This is the closest that Julia has allowed Latkah to get to her. Ever! Maybe it was all that Easter candy and the utter excitement of the Littlest Petshop fold out that came with her little pet. Latkah was willing to be interested.

Okay, Dad, enough with the pictures already.
And now, time for a nap . . . .

Finding the Easter basket

It's taken me a few days to get this organized, but here are a few Easter Sunday morning pics. Julia found a bunch of eggs before she found her basket in the hall. Immediately she found something in the basket very, very interesting.
Could it possibly be her favorite toy that she usually only was able to play with during after school?
Yes, yes, yes! Littlest Petshop toys!!

23 March 2008

Birth of an American Consumer

Happy Easter! Once again, we are pretty low-key with our celebration and it does seem to be just right for Julia. So many times I wonder whether we were the best family for Julia – would bigger or younger have been better, but when we have a day like this one when we have hit Julia's comfort level and have challenged her a little bit, I feel like we are perfect for each other.

It is Easter and last night we dyed eggs the old fashion American way. No Ukrainian eggs this year. Julia helped through the whole process. She put the eggs in water to boil and watched the water boil. She helped me make the dye and thrilled to dipping eggs in dye cups and removing jeweled toned wonders. Is there anything better than a green egg with your name written across it?

Because of our weekend sleeping routine – that is, one of us gets to sleep late and the other gets up with Julia – the Easter Bunny did not make his appearance last night. Instead, after a home made pancake breakfast, Julia and Daddy took Latkah out for a walk and the Easter Bunny did his work. As it happened, when I finished hiding eggs and filling the basket, I looked out the front door and in the snow, right in front of the door in the snow, was non-dog or cat animal prints. They might have been squirrel prints but I am pretty sure they belonged to a rabbit.

Julia came back from her walk and very happily looked for the hidden plastic eggs and then found her basket in the front hallway. She opened some of her eggs and found chocolate eggs and pink peeps – the peeps are her favs – and tore at the small gifts in her basket. There was a mini-kite that we won't be flying for another month (who knew?), bubbles for practicing blowing hard and gently, a chck in a show globe, and her favorite – a littlest pet shop kittie and fish. The “pets” came with a booklet of pet merchandise and Julia uttered the magic words, “I want this stuff!” And with that she became a complete American consumer.

She was enthralled with all the pictures of big headed tiny bodied cats, dogs, fish, turtles, and birds with all sorts of rediculous little houses, little playthings, and little junk! I hate the stuff – plastic trash that there is no way of keeping a hold on. It all gets lost and there is no convenient way to keep it together. But when my little consumer said she wanted stuff, I figured we had a way into the stickers for good behavior and rewards world. So tonight we set up a calendar. Julia can get one sticker for having a good day (defined as no hitting, no time outs, and generally being nice), a sticker for anything special that she has done during the day (like when I asked her to speak quietly at the movies and she did), and/or a sticker from having a good day at school. When she gets 10 stickers, she can get a new pet. I figure that she has the possibility of getting a new toy every 4 days. The pets are pretty cheap, and I am sure what she will want is the house and shop stuff eventually that is bigger and more expensive. That's when the sticker number will go up.

We tried using stickers to promote good behavior when Julia first came home and it was way too far beyond her. No way to make her understand what we were doing and what she was supposed to do. I hope we can use it now. It would be helpful to enforce good behavior and to change some of the ucky stuff.

Yesterday, Julia and I went to the clay store and Julia painted the star she made a few weeks ago. Her clay teacher, that nice high school senior guy, told us that he could fire the turtle and house that we made this week at home. Julia made a hanging vase and we turned in two projects that we did at home. She is still constrained by the rules of clay making. She does not yet understand the process of using the wet clay, drying it, firing it, painting it, and firing it once again. It will be awhile yet before she is free to create creatures and scenes like she does with the Fimo that she uses for fun, but I believe that she will get to that point.

We saw Horton Hears a Who at the movies this afternoon. It is a great movie for little kids and Julia loved it. She is still having a bit of trouble with the big sounds at movies, but after the previews the sound went down some (David asked the PTB to turn down the sound. Either they did it, or the movie was just quieter.) and she could take her fingers out of her ears. Big noise still hangs around as too stimulating for Julia. We are thinking of bringing some ear muffs or head phones to dull sound a bit. The movie is gentler than any other Dr. Suess media experiment. Even with Jim Carey doing one of the voices, there is restraint.

Julia was drawing on Friday when she called me to her white board and announced that she had drawn a Y and Y was for yo-yo. She then drew a yo-yo and a Julia playing with it. Then yesterday in the car, she was looking at the Ice Age DVD box. When we stopped, she wanted me to read words that she pointed to. I believe that after months of memorizing her little books with single words or single sentences, she is going to start reading soon. I bet by the end of summer, she is recognizing words!

This afternoon after the movie, I was on the couch at my computer and Julia was playing with her clay. She had asked me to make a kangaroo and then totally remade what I made for her, so much better than mine! She came over to me and looked in my eyes for a really long time. And then she said, “Mommy, I love you.” She laughed at me, watched my eyes to see herself in them and hugged me. Julia is growing deeper and deeper in love with us, and we more than return the favor.

21 March 2008

We are being visited by a very fierce late winter snow storm and it is a perfect day to stay inside and work with clay. Julia and I found an interesting clay book – Ceramics for Kids, by Mary Ellis – with lots of ideas for projects and lots and lots of pictures. We are due to go to our ceramics shop – Fired Up – tomorrow (depending upon he weather of course) and I want to see if we can bring a clay creation or two to fire. Or to see if it can be fired. Our directions have been simple enough but I figure that we will do everything wrong for the first few times. What is there to do wrong? I have no idea; if I did I wouldn't do it.

We had a great time at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells yesterday. It was warm inside the water park, it was crowded but not jammed, loud but not unbearable. Julia did not seem bothered by the intense sensory imput although I needed to go to a quieter place for lunch. We spent the morning in the kids' pools, the lazy river, and the hot tubs. I asked Julia if she wanted to go down the big slides and she refused. After lunch when we were in a hot tub, Julia saw that some of the big slides used rafts and she wanted to go down those slides. We went down three different slides a number of times each and I was the one who had to call it quits. At some point, my tummy decided that the speed and zig-zagged journeys down the slides were a strain and I certainly didn't need to get car sick on a water slide. Julia was or acted very disappointed to stop sliding. Last night when David put Julia to bed, she told him, “No more slide” and “Back to the puppy house, no slide.” Maybe she was not so very disappointed afterall.

There are a few words that I have told Julia I don't want her to say. I made this rule a few months ago when she brought home the word “stupid” from school. The words include “Stupid” and “shut up” and if I remember correctly, I had the same rule with Cheshire at about this age. Julia has not used these words since I laid down the law but I did not think much about it. A few nights ago we were watching Ice Age in which both words are used (Yes, I know “shut up” is not a word!) and Julia reminded us that both were bad words. So my little girl listened and is obeying my rule.

20 March 2008

My second scrap page

Spring Break

Julia is on spring break -- which I think should be called "Still-winter Break." Yes, it is getting warmer bit by bit and the snow is melting. Again, bit by bit. BUT we are spending most days in the 30s with a few reaches to the low 40s.

Anyway, the break. I had planned lots of out of the house activities, but Julia has wanted to spend her time here, at home, inside, playing by herself and with me. All okay.

She is watching Sesame Street! Really watching it -- counting when they count and saying her ABCs when they do that. I actually wish they would do more of that -- they used to when Cheshire was watching it. Lots of the "lessons" in the skits are going over her head, but the birthday party short film, which they've shown every day, is accompanied by Julia singing. She wants a pinata. LOL.

We had a play date yesterday with a friend from school. Julia and A run around together in the school yard and build lego in the class room. They are both on the spectrum and have some socializing challenges. It was interesting to see them interact -- some of the time they played together and other times they were at oposite sides of the house. It was also a start, a good start. Even though A was not a model kid to "teach" Julia about appropriate socializing, the play date gave me more confidence. We need to move towards finding a model friend -- as recommended by the Waiseman doc. This would work better if I had a friend around here with a kid willing to learn to play with Julia.

Julia did not have especially good OT and speech appointments this week. She is more compliant and more willing to transition between activities, but she spent more time hiding in her shirt and acting tired. It made me feel like she was taking that step back after weeks of moving forward. Of course, I worry each time she does not move forward, but I also realize that I have to cut the kid a break. Sometimes I find it hard to be the one who prods her ahead and who is always teaching something, and at the same time who understands that not every day is a step ahead. I will learn.

Today, it is sunny, but chilly. Julia and I are going to drive up to Wisconsin Dells and go to an indoor water park. Tonight, we are expecting snow -- 4-8 inches (no comment necessary) -- and we will spend lots of tomorrow working with clay. We found a library book about kids working with clay and Julia is really excited about using it.

17 March 2008

The New Yorker

Two nights ago, Julia and I went up to do our bedtime ritual. We brushed teeth and washed face and hands, took out all the do-dads from the hair and had a good brushing. Then, we went to bed to read. We had finished two of Julia's "reading" books when she said that she wanted to go back to the bathroom and poop. Pooping might as well be called sitting on the potty and hanging out for a long time. She likes me to hang out with her.

I grabbed a New Yorker and sat on the side of the tub. Julia asked for a magazine too and pionted to the newest New Yorker with a flowery picture -- the style issues -- on the cover. We sat companionably and looked at our magazines. Julia was not content to sit and look, she pointed out -- "Look, Mommy, look" -- the cartoons, the pictures of resorts with very nice pools, and the fashion -- "Mommy, costumes." She did not approve of the black-eyed eye makeup and thought the dark almost brown lipstick was "Ucky!" One day, Julia will get to the articles.

16 March 2008

Pants all day!

Almost forgot to add this BIG event. Julia wore pants on Saturday!

Julia has a weekly swimming lesson on Saturday mornings. She really likes putting her bathing suit on Saturday morning when she gets dressed and putting her clothes on top, and it is quicker getting her into the pool when we get to the Y when I just have to take off clothes. This Saturday I got out her blue stretch pants that she has been using as heavy tights and a sweatshirt. Initially, I forgot to bring down one of her dresses to put on top of the tights and beneath the sweatshirt, and then I saw the possibility. We put on her bathing suit and the stretch pants and sweat shirt and socks and shoes. Voila! Wearing pants for the first time!!! Julia happily changed into underwear and pants and sweatshirt after swimming and stayed like that all day.

Now, do I dare buy her a pair of jeans?
Here it is, my first digital scrapbook page. I used photoshop and did an online tutorial at http://www.digitalscrapbookplace.com . This page is a little busy but I wanted to try all the bits and pieces that came with the kit and use lots of layers and put some images behind others. It was fun and I will be doing more.

Tender Shadows

Is it spring yet? Maybe. Maybe. The daytime temperatures are in the high 30s the last few days. We saw 40+ twice last week, and oh so shockingly, 40 feels like I should be expecting something, like, like green growing things. Maria, my next door neighbor, has bulbs coming up on our side of her house. Green shoots about an inch or so high. Oh, they look good. There is still snow on lots of the yards but near the houses and near the sidewalk, it is melting. Fringes on both sides. Our highest terrace has only a little bit of snow and the side of our house around the corner is pretty bear. But no bulb shoots.

David was saying today that he saw a guy up the street raking some of his flower beds and he chuckled about over enthusiatice gardners. I had to admit that I had been planning to get out next week and do a bit of that myself, where ever the snow has melted, just to be doing it. My plan was to do it during the week when most folks are at work, thereby saving myself from getting caught by the likes of my dear husband and chuckled at.

It has been a long winter. Even for old time Wisconsin-ers. A friend commented that the first snow was greeted with glee for all the expected winter sports, more snow just meant buckling down and doing the Wiconsin snow-thing diligently, more snow brought a bit of silence among even those who professed a great love of the fourth season, and now melting snow is bringing lots and lots of sighs of relief.

We watched the original Peter Pan, with Mary Martin, with Julia. She watches most animation well but doesn't really watch live- action movies apart from Annie and a few others. She loved Peter Pan – the singing and dancing was all so exciting, but the story, the kids, the flying, and the pirates were even move. Julia has a muppets pirate ship that she plays with so pirates are already part of her vocabulary of imagination. She even knew a few of the songs because they are sung by kids singers and we play them in the car. She loves the lullaby “Tender Shepherd” but has no idea what a shepherd is and so sings “Tender Shadows.” I tried to correct her but she said “It Peter Pan song.” And she is right – Peter loses his shadow and Wendy sews it back on. I think she will be singing “Tender Shadows” for a long time.

Cheshire will be a New York City school teacher next year. She clicked the box online and took the job. This was a hard decision, and I am very proud that she has made it. Brava, my girl!

14 March 2008

I from China!

We had our first IEP (Individual Education Plan for special education kids) conference for Julia for school next year. Sort of creepy, to be with a bunch of people and decide that your child is disabled. She fits the autistic profile in a marginal way (and to decide whether it is developmental delay in some areas caused by lack of experience or neurological difference is impossible), but the label is so very necessary for her to get the support that she needs for First grade. Actually, it was incredible to sit around a table of experts from “downtown,” all who are interested in helping your kid, our kid. And they really are committed to kids and education, which is so much different from what I encountered during our short time in the Washington Township school district. I think IPS would have been way worse than that! No one tried to prove that Julia did not need the support.

It was great to hear Julia's teacher talk about how Julia has done this year, makes me realize how far this little girl has come -- from almost pre-scribbling to drawing and writing her name. Christy said one thing that I didn't know -- how it escaped my almost daily updates is beyond me -- she said that when they were talking about family traditions and heritage, Julia piped up with "I from China." It was around the same time as Julia's decision to wear her Chinese clothes to the Chinese New Year party. I was beginning to think that Julia had really closed the door on her past, and that one day it would need to be traumatically opened, but as usual she is integrating her past on her own terms in her own time.

I had a job interview on Tuesday in Kanosha which is about 50 minutes away from Madison. It is not ideal travel-wise, but it is a job I am qualified to do based on past experience. Considering that I worked for courts and not firms, these jobs are few and far between. One of my interviewers was not keen on my living in Madison and he pressed the point. What can I say? Yes, I'd rather work close to home, but basically I'd rather work! It is so interesting in an interview when the interviewer has made up his/her mind that they are not going to hire you. I saw it when I looked for jobs in Indy after law school and the pressing point was that I came from the east coast and wouldn't I prefer going back there. When you get to this point in the interview there is nothing at all to do. I'd love to be sassy enough to stand up and say, “it has been nice meeting you. I see you are having trouble with blah-blah-blah. If you change your mind and want to talk further about hiring me, I'd be happy to come in again.”

But no, I don't have that much sass.

The same interviewer asked about my children. Such a no-no, but what is the correct answer – I go into survival mode and try to suggest that kids and this job are a perfect fit, and that my kids are oh so independent and that my partner is a real, working partner. Again, none of this works and it is completely futile. Anyone whose eyebrows go up when you say, “I have one in Kindergarten,” is not giving you that job.

Again, I'd like to have the sas factor.

I also did a qualifying test for another job the same day. This town is the Sarah Lawrence of the job market. There is always another written test, an essay, or more opinions to offer before the real job interview comes. Right now, I am still not churning out the essays with ease but it is getting easier and I am getting used to it.

Anyway, there was the rather cool sounding job related to zoning. Zoning law and regulations are an old favorite of mine. If I could have found the right zoning related job years ago, I'd still be in pig heaven. I think of this job as Zoning Queen of Madison, although it has a very boring managerial title. My essay application scored high enough for me to take the qualifying test. (Interestingly, I did not score high enough on the Department of Corrections application to merit an interview for counsel in that department. Was I on the wrong side in my previous life?) The zoning test was an 81 multiple choice, plus essay, of course, test that came with a portion of the state code related to zoning. The code booklet was about an inch and a half thick and you litterally had to look up every answer. I came in late (another story about bad directions and totally my fault), but I was determined to plow through the test. Midway through the test, I realized that I was having fun! Yes, I love zoning and I love that codes about it! I am sure that I missed plenty of questions – I guessed at some and I was not as familiar with the WI code as someone who had been working with it – but I had a great time.

I have a Public Defender essay to finish for another screening interview and I will probably take a guardian ad litem seminar next month. Some where there is a job.

Closing on a Julia note, which is so much more fun than the job hunt. Julia had received a big box of toys about a month ago that our friend Alison was finished playing with. Julia has been playing with the princesses' castle and little figures for weeks and I quietly put away the dress up clothes that were also in the box. Yesterday evening, Julia checked her makebelieve box and found the princess dresses and shoes. She had a great time with the dresses but it was the shoes that were the real hit. That very distinctive sound of little girls in plastic dress up shoes echoed in the house. And those little feet with silver and jewels and feathers! What little girl bliss!

10 March 2008

Fashion Diva Struts her Stuff

Last week's art

After working with an easier photo program for a long time, I finally decided to switch over to photoshop. Now I am on a steep learning curve to figure out everything that was so easy with Picasa. Uploading pictures is one of those things.

These are two of Julia's latests clay works. She actually asked to have a picture taken of the second creation. Although we have had our second real clay class, and made a first project yesterday at the studio, she is still working with the Filo at home. There are rules to follow about real clay that you are going to fire and paint, and I don't want to stiffel her creativity while she get accustomed to the rules.

When we went to the studio yesterday, I thought Justin (the marvolous high school senior to has become her clay teacher) was going to have to teach me whatever he had planned and lure Julia in that way, but she was ready to do what he asked. They pounded some clay, rolled it out to the right thickness (using dowels as guides), cut out a big star and stamped Julia's name and a bunch of flowers and swirls on it. Now, it gets dried and then fired for the first time. We will get back to it in a few weeks to pain it. I hope that if we go through the process of making finished pieces a few times, Julia will get the idea and start making her figures to be fired and kept.

The picture above is of a witch with a baby animal. I love the detailed fingers and the nose, and also the size of the hat and its rakish angle.
This one is a spider carriage with an egg and a dinosaur on top.

Leaping forward?

Another incredible few days. We pushed the clocks ahead but that didn't change the amount of snow we have. Is is ever going to melt?

On Friday evening, we went to the Y. We have been coming on Friday nights to let David work out while Julia and I go to the family gym and Julia plays in a series of blow up obstacle courses that the Y puts up. Lots of bouncing, crawling, and sliding. Previously, I had stood near to where ever Julia was, guarding her and the other kids she bouncied near. This past Friday, I tried to stay a distance away to see if she (1) would interact with kids, and (2) to give her some measure of independence. She moved around going from structure to structure with her shirt pulled up in front of her mouth and nose. If she didn't need her eyes, she would probably pull the shirt up further. This behavior causes people to look at her and I wish they wouldn't but I am not going to go on a campaign for her to stop. She least, not yet. There wee no girls her age this Friday, but she rompes around with some boys. Watching her, I was sure she had missed out on lots of early movement and needed to make up for it.

On Saturday morning, we were back at the Y for Julia's first organized swimming lesson. She is in a very beginner class, and if she was able to listen and take direction easily, I am sure she would be passed out of this class. She can do everything they will teach her, but we need to get the listening component down. Incredibly fortunately, she is being taught by a guy who (1) recognized she was austistic (David commented that what if he asked me about her and she did not have that label – good comment), and (2) encouraged me to keep her in the class (which I have every intention of doing if at all possible). He told me that they could have 2 teachers for the little class of 4 and that there will be someone to always work with her if she needs it. I think we have found someone else that she needs.

I met a woman of another of the kids from this class. We chatted very easily which is rather unusual for me. I can start those kinds of mom talks but most of the time those chats fall off after kid information and pleasantries are exchanged. We talked the entire lesson and left saying how nice to meet and see you next week.

Oh, I do need some friends up here.

Her son has taken the class twice before, so he knew the drill was still was not comfortable in the water. She really loves this teacher. Sounds so good to me. Persistence and patience are necessary but people do come into our lives when they are needed.

David went to Indy for the weekend. His newest play, Kritis, was read for the second time on Sunday. We hope to see a full production later this spring or fall. Julia and I had a girls' weekend. On Saturday evening, Julia and I went clothes shopping! We visited a mall, went to a kids' clothes store, tried on a few clothes, and bought a skirt and shirt. Julia was not over stimulated, she was not scared and had no meltdown or tantrum. She held my hand when I asked her to and she talked to the sales people. Okay, she did sneak a few sips from one of the sales girls' soda before I caught her at it and stopped her.

Anyone who knows me might wonder that I greet this development with such glee. I hate to shop. I never shop. And I believe that the internet was developmed (probably by Al Gore) expressly so that I could shop online and never have to see the inside of a store. BUT sometimes even I concede the need to try on clothes before buying them! Julia is growing like the proverbial weed (not that I can see any weeds yet) but she has a tiny waist and butt and I don't have any skirts to fit her. She is definitely tall enough for size 7 dresses but the 6X skirt that I bought in early winter falls off her. So we needed to shop!

Julia can still fit into a 5 but it is tooooo short. So we bought a size 6 that is somewhat adjustable. I am going to be looking for elastic waistes for the spring and summer! Also, she was willing to try on and to wear a skirt with the little pants underneath. She absolutely refused to even consider these last year. Ha, ha, we are moving closer to pants all the time. Maybe I will look for some loose legged shorts.

Darn! I cannot post pictures this morning. And I had a great bunch of “fashion show” short of Julia in her new outfit. I'll try again tonight to get them up.

07 March 2008

Splashes in the pool

Another post without pictures, but not my fault, not my fault. I brought the camera to a swim party that Julia went to yesterday and the battery died. This was totally unfair as it was a great photo op.

Good news! I have three job related experiences coming up -- an interview, an exam, and an initial screening -- for three different government jobs. No counting chickens unless it is part of the exam, but I am on my way to dreaming of my new kitchen.

We have our first meeting for Julia's Individual Education Plan (IEP) next week. With the reading and talking that I have done, I feel pretty confident that I will know what is going on and what I want for Julia. The school has been fantastic so far so I don't expect this to be hard, still, well prepared can't hurt.

Last Sunday, we went to dinner at new Wisconsin friends! We met through a cyber-now-face friend that has adopted from China at the FCC CNY party a few weeks ago. This family has 3 kids, the one who is Julia's age is also diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum.

It was a pretty hectic time -- Julia and V, and V's little brother who is 3. The kids made lots of noise, needs supervision lots of the time, and ate very little, although Julia said the pizza was very good in her school journal. Julia brought some of her own toys and was pretty good at sharing. She loved all the other kids' toys, and although there were some sharing difficulties, she did pretty well. She especially liked seeing V's bedroom and bed. I have no idea what it looks like. I have to ask V's mom what was so special. LOL.

We had some good talking with V's parents, some pretty honest discussion about the special needs our kids were known to have and what they came home with. V's parents said that there were pretty clear signs that something other than her vision sn was wrong when they met V, but they were so happy to have her that they ignored it. We did the same thing. We talked some of what if we knew than what we know now. This week there has been lots of talk of adoption disruption on the yahoo chat boards because of a little boy was not adopted by the family who came to get him. I have to say that disruption was never on my mind. I don't know what Julia would have had to present with before I gave it a thought. It is hard to imagine what we would have done because it is now impossible to remember not having this child so deep in my heart.

Still, it was good talking, good being honest with someone who has travelled down a similar path.

Last afternoon, one of Julia's favorite classmates has his 6th birthday party at a hotel that has a small indoor water park. It was great! Julia loved it -- and I was concerned that she might not want to go in the water without me as one of us has always been in the water with her. Okay, silly concern. Watching Julia manage the water and slides and sprays and the other kids made my heart glad.

02 March 2008

Sunday morning musings

Julia is playing with her lego in the sun room. She often does what she is doing now – playing with something that seems to have been put aside for awhile. She hasn't touched legos in weeks. Right now, she is really building – walls for spider man (who she doesn't like), a house and a car. Lately, she had been putting toys out on various surfaces, filling tables rugs and portions of floor with figures, plastic fauna, dressed trolls, and clay embellishments and refusing to put any of it away because “I playing with everything!” The other night she had so much stuff on the coffee table that she had to put her painted lizards on the couch to play with them.

I have tried cleaning up with her and right now it is not working with these toy gathering. She really is involved with the total gathering on each surface. So, instead of fighting my little city hall, I sort and put away toys when she is not home. Cowards way out? Maybe. We still find plenty of stuff to clean up either together or Julia alone. Books, for example, are the task today as they are splayed all over her bedroom floor. I also have her put away her laundry once it is folded and hang up all her dresses. I rationalize that this makes up for my not having her clean up her toys every day.

Parenting is such a crap shoot. Who knows if you are doing it right?

I have been thinking and reading about autism. I know so little and to dive into the literature is overwhelming. I can't understand the real scientific writing; the writing about very young kids and the therapy that works for them is not relevant to Julia; so much of the how-to teaching stuff does not apply to a child who has only recently acquired the language; and although there are a good number of blogs out there written by people with autism and their parents, I have found very few that I am willing to follow. This last is a very, very indirect way to gather information.

Of course, what I want is the path and the prognosis, and it is shocking how little of that is out there. I have not found the scientic literature that says what happens when kids with autism grow out and I have taken to reading the anecdotes. This via two books -- A Mind Apart: Understanding Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome by Peter Szatmari and Send in the Idiots: Stories from the from the Other Side of Autism by Kamran Nazeer, both of which gave me much to think about. Nazeer writing about his discovery of the uses and meanings of conversation is coming full circle for me. As a stutterer, I, too, struggled with conversation; as a shy young person, or rather, as a young person without experience in playing and talking with other children and adults outside of my family, I did not at all understand conversation in much the same way that Nazeer did not understand. And here, to read that someone thought so deeply about it and systemically used what he had learned to start talking – how I admire this author. And I admit, I did feel a bit stupid. I could have done the same think from my own point of view.

David sent me the link to this article -- http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/16-03/ff_autism/ Again, mind opening. The idea that autism is not what is wrong with the brain, but what is different. Maybe there is no possible cure, maybe what is needed is accommodation, not cure. Trying to justify this idea to David yesterday, I came up with the metaphor of a color blind person – no one tries to cure him. Rather, he is taught to live in a colored world – accommodation, not cure. It is not just me that thinks that Julia is bright. Her teacher and therapists say the same. But she still needs to read and write and count and probably look people in the eye when she talks to them and answer questions the way they are intended to be answered. How do I teach her to do these things and still perserve her unique way of thinking and creating, still not squelch her belief in her inate talents and worth? I am not looking to have her live in some alternative society that says that difference or disability is to be so cerebrated that it is almost desired and is not to be departed from, but to have her live as part of the world but on her own terms. Oh, just thinking about this aim is enough to hurt my heart. This is hard row to hoe as Hoosiers say. Been there, done that, and have the scars to show for it.

I woke up with the thought that I want to find an autistic adult who will tell me more, what worked for him (maybe her, if I can find a woman – autism is much more common among males than females), what he thought about as a kid, how he grew up, what didn't work, and willing to let me bounce ideas off him about Julia. I know, I know, everyone has autism is a different way, but I am not autistic and I would really like some personally informed feedback. Of course, this makes me think that I should be mentoring some stuttering child's family.

Back to Julia – She has on a full pair of pjs this morning – shirt and pants! She has been wearing her “cozy clothes” on cold mornings – a very soft sweat suit. She wore her cozy clothes coming home from Florida and for that entire day, including going to OT. I am letting her stay in her pjs all morning – how tricky can a mama get? I want to edge her into shorts this summer and maybe pants next fall. Just to expand the repertoire, make choices a little easier to her and me.
Julia has been “hiding” in her shirts this week. This is a behavior that she gets into now and then – when she doesn't want to do things like clean up in school or do math of when she is tired, tense or scared. Right now, it is constant, when she is playing, riding in the car, walking, shopping, getting dressed. The only time she doesn't do it is when she is in the swimming pool, but then, pulling her bathing suit up to cover her mouth and nose is probably almost impossible. And this make me smile. She may have idiosyncratic behaviors but she is not crazy or stupid!

Oh, my girl.

On the Cheshire front – Cheshire was accepted into the NYC teaching fellows, a very competitive 2-3 year program that take colleges graduate and career changers and puts them into the classroom in troubled schools. She would probably be teaching Spanish. This is not exactly what she wants to do and it makes spending time with Jason in England difficult, still it is an exciting opportunity for her to consider. She is a marvel, and we are so proud of her.