29 May 2008

Evening walk by the lake


New Julia thing. She is beginning to spontaneously tell us about things -- events, actions -- without a directed question. When I ask her about school she sometimes tells me how she ate her lunch and worked on letters. This morning she told me that Jason had drawn a dinosaur for her and that he was a good drawer. These are small things but a beginning.

I had a discussion with her OT therapist, Annie, about Julia's inability, disinterest, or lack of understanding regarding games. I have been wondering about this for months but no one has been as concerned. Now, it is aparent that Julia can do games -- Annie gave her a hit the mole game, four plastic moles whose hats lit up, and the aim is to hit the mole with the lit hat with a plastic mallet. It took Julia a bit to get it, but she did, and then hit the correct mole 6 times in a row. Then, she stopped playing and started doing what she wanted to do. She held down one mole at a time, she hit moles that were not lit, she played with the buttons to turn the game on and off. No matter what Annie said to her, Julia was not interested in getting a higher score or in really playing the game with another person. Annie and I talked about the reason for this -- autism? lack of competitive spirit? some social skill lack? Some hole in her development?

Another mystery.

26 May 2008

Dodgeville, Wisconsin

We took a ride, probably a more expensive frivolous ride than we've taken for a long time, to Dodgeville, Wisconsin. We visited the Governor Dodge State Park for a long walk to a waterfall, for a big bouquet of dandelions, and for an ice cream cone sitting beside a clear and cool lake.

Painted toe nails & the angry Mom

On Sunday, Julia found a kid's nail polish kit that I had taken from her closet and put on her shelf. We had been outsides and working during the morning and so when Julia asked to have her toe nail painted. This is not my strong suit but I agreed and even tried to put dots on each nail. Julia loved it and waited relatively patiently for the polish to dry.
Then about an hour later, when I was doing something in the kitchen and the nail polish kit was closed up but sitting on the coffee table in the livingroom where Julia was playing with her littlest pets. She was quiet for a little while and I should have taken up the que then, but no, I waited until Julia came into the kitchen to tell me that something was "ucky." What was ucky was the red nail polish that was all over her feet and hands and the wood on the coffee table and the floor. I rushed to take care of the mess and I was SO angry.
I was more angry than I should have been. Afterall, don't all little girls do something like this at some time. Wasn't she doing something so very age appropriate? But I had told her not to touch the nail polish herself and I felt just so frustrated at that moment. Julia has been challenging our authority these days and I felt myself losing control of Julia's discipline. Today, I am ready to smile at what happen.
Oh, and to the extent that kids with autism have a hard time understanding that others have feelings different from their own, Julia had no trouble understanding my anger, had no trouble staying in her naughty chair until I cooled down, and knew enough to apologize profusely. I wasn't too awful, but it wasn't stellar parenting.

The Brat Fest

We went to our first "World's Biggest Brat Fest" on Saturday and saw what must be the world's biggest grill. Besides this monster there were at least 100 industrial sized grills set up and working to supply the never ending lines of brat fan with three different kinds of brats and hot dogs.
Julia waiting patiently while Daddy visited the condiment tent for brat and hot dog trimmings. What a silly face!
Julia attacked her very fat hot dog with gusto, but truth be known, she much prefers Hebrew National hot dogs.
You know it is summer when event include rides, and Julia loves rides. I asked Julia to chose three rides on Saturday and she picked the planes above, the flying baloons below, and the dragon roller coaster that moves too fast for me to get a good picture. We have lots of fairs coming up and I expect we will buy a wrist band for all the rides she wants to go on for at least one of the fairs. But for the others, I am going to give her a limited number to go on and make her pick out her favorites. Practice in lots of life skills.

Pictures by Matthew

Our friend Matthew took some of the graduation pictures and I love these of Julia working on her clay figures as she waits for the ceremony to begin. Matthew has grown up admiring Cheshire, and now Julia is growing up adoring Matthew.

24 May 2008

Julia Update

A few days ago I was going to do a bullet point update, but with Cheshire home for a few days, my brain is emptied and I may not remember anything. I'll start with our plan for First Grade.

We had our IEP (Individual Educational Plan) meeting on Thursday. This is a mandatory meeting required by federal law with mandatory participants and specific forms to follow. In many school districts all the rules are necessary in order to ensure that the plans are completed and are followed. In Madison, or at least at Franklin School, the bureaucracy is not really necessary. Once again, as in the beginning of the year, I feel like we are part of a teach who are all interested in Julia's education and development. I do not tend to say things like this, but we are truly blessed.

Julia is finally ready for school! Her behavior and work readiness is that of a child entering Kindergarten. She will receive a lot of support next year at school, including OT, speech, ESL, social communication, some physical therapy. And best of all, she will be with the same teacher next year! I have since found out that the school tries to give as many kids as possible the same teacher for two year. The theory being that such consistency is good for young kids. Christy, Julia's teacher, knows her well and knows Julia's strengths, weaknesses, and tricks to get around doing her work. The class will be a K/1 class which is also great for Julia. She will need to do lots of kindergarten work and will not have to be separated from kids in her class to do that work.

The goals for the next year include reading and writing 3-5 word sentences, using numbers 1-20, following 2 step directions independently, moving through school routines independently.

Julia is using more sentences! Best sentence story comes from school:

Julia: That stupid! (probably yelling and with a stomp of her foot).

Amy (Julia's aide): Use your words Julia. And stupid is not a word we use. (Stupid and Shut Up are bad words at home and school.)

Julia: The rules are bad.

Amy: Why are the rules bad?

Julia: The rules are bad because they are stupid!

Amy admits that she had a hard time not laughing.

When Julia was evaluated at the Waisman Center, the evaluators talked about Julia's emerging understanding of her emotions. She is interested in her emotions and she uses a few emotion words all the time – happy, sad, and angry (or mad). Sometimes when I pick her up from After School, we look at a list of emotions and faces. She is very interested. Today, for the first time, she told us that she was grumpy. And she really was (probably because she did not have enough sleep last night).

Julia was a great traveler on our journey to Connecticut and back. She played with clay, watched movies, drew, and played with her littlest pets. The toughest part of our traveling was taking Cheshire's stuff from New London down to Brooklyn, then going from Brooklyn to Jersey to pick up the furniture we brought out from Wisconsin and left in Jersey, then back to Brooklyn to drop off the furniture, and then back across Manhattan to get on the road home. Julia had a great time watching the city, the people, the trucks and cars on the road, and the road itself.

During out back and forth traveling, we passed NYC China town three times. When Julia got back to school on Wednesday and Christy and Amy asked her where she had been, Julia explained that she went to see Cheshire and she went to China! Yes, she was watching.

23 May 2008


The adoption community is small and connected by emails and yahoo groups and periodic get togethers. Sad news travels fast and so many hearts go out to support a family in need. The adoption community mourns at the accidental death of Maria Chapman, daughter of Stephen Curtis Chapman. Maria was five years old and adopted from China.


22 May 2008

Graduation Day #2

The kid gets the diploma.
Gets her picture taken by the official photo takers.
Looking oh so relieved and accomplished as she gets back to her seat.
The proud and happy immediate family.

The wonderful, wonderful fan club. Thank you Marcia and Matthew and Nick and Sarah Grace for joining us for Cheshire's big day!

Graduation Day #1

The class of 2008 was piped in. Really, this group marched in playing pipes and drums and then played as 400+ students and lots of faculty marched in and took their seats.

Julia's comment about the pipers was: "Mommy, what that?" with a look that betrayed that she was not thrilled with the sounds filling her ears.

Then came the class each carrying a tiny pine tree and looking bright eyed and bushy tailed.

The tree made it through the day and through the trip home. It will find a home in our Madison garden.

After the students, came their teachers. Here is Cheshire's mentor, Professor Eugene Gallagher, caught by the dynamic photographer, Marcia.

Tavis Smiley urged the graduates to focus on issues of humanity, to contest injustice and to have the courage to lead.

"Today, we are sending you out into the world to be leaders - if we are ever going to live in a world that is as good as its promise, you are going to have to lead," Smiley said. "I hope whatever you do, you do it with passion, purpose and principle."

And a few minutes (make that many, many minutes) Inez Cheshire Schanker (they left out the Buchko) was announced and made her way across the stage.

18 May 2008

Our own darling BA

Cheshire accepted her diploma from the President of the college today. She graduated magna cum laude with honors and distinction in her major. We are so proud, so very proud.

Much more later.

17 May 2008

My girls

Julia was pretty good today. She sat very quietly through the services and celebrations with the help of her clay and just a bit of attention. She was excited to see Cheshire as well as Nick, Sarah, Marcia, and Matthew. She wants so much to engage all of us and I cannot be more grateful for dear friends who are patient and interested in her.

Now, I am tired, and the real day of graduating is tomorrow. Julia and David are already snoring, and I need to join them shortly.

Tonight is Cheshire's last night in the dorm. How quick this time has gone for her. How amazing that she is ready for the world. How did my little girl grow into this amazing woman. How I love her.

Graduation Weekend

Today, Saturday, was the first day of ceremony for Cheshire's graduation. The seniors have been partying since Monday evening, but it is just today that family and friends joined into the gala. We started our partying yesterday at a small wine and cheese party that the Crew coach hosted for her graduating seniors. It was sweet to see these girls in pretty clothes and loose styled hair instead of sweats and spandex. Ava, the coach, gave each girl a bracelet, each one different for carefully picked. She has known most of her rowers for their entire college careers – they have worked together, spent every spring break at school, and raced and practiced and erged. It was nice seeing parents and hearing what each girl was doing after graduation. They are a good and very hard working group.

This morning we started at the athletes luncheon – a rare treat for this family who has not engaged in communal effort and sweating. Conn College is not a big jock school – division 3 in most sports --, so the sports probably have a softer edge, and the graduating seniors are students first. Still, it was about as much sports talk as I could take. A few speeches about the seniors who received awards for running, jumping, kicking or carrying balls, and swimming filled my quota of sports related speechifying for another decade or so. There was an interesting young woman who is the first Bolivian to come to Conn College, and who has played on the Bolivian national soccer team since she was 16.

Next came the SICLA certificate ceremony. SICLA is the program that Ches has been a part of since Sophomore year. The aim is to create world citizens and towards that end the students go through an application process, take the program courses in their sophomore and senior years, study abroad, do an internship abroad, and write a thesis. In so many ways this was a perfect program for Cheshire. So much of her schooling seemed to culminate in the challenge of this program. There are 35 of the 500 or so seniors who are SICLA scholars and I would have loved to read the papers that so many of them produced. Cheshire's certificate came with honors because she surpassed expectations on her language proficiency test. She was only one of 5 students to have done so, and for Cheshire is it a good thing considering that she will be teaching in a bilingual classroom in just a few months.

After the SICLA ceremony, there was a Baccalaureate, designed by students. It was a backwards look at the last four years. Students spoke, read poetry, danced and sang. Two professors spoke – one dance professor – David Dorfman – who danced and moved, and made me yearn for those days when such movement was part of my everyday life.

We spent the evening having dinner – a real family celebration. Marcia and Matthew are with us this weekend, as are Nick and Sarah Grace. Nick and Sarah arrived just as we were leaving the hotel for dinner. It was a serendipitous arrival and meant that we could enjoy their company for dinner. Cheshire also invited her mentor, Eugene Gallager, who has been so important to her college career. Cheshire has found good teachers at each of her school. People who could inspire her, take care of her, and push her beyond her comfort zone. I am so proud of the student that she is and has grown to be.

15 May 2008

On the road . . . .

13 hours in the car. Julia, in her cozy clothes with very messy hair, watched 4 kid movies, played with her littlest pets, listened to lots of music and insisted that her parents sing songs they didn't know. David and I took turns driving and napping ( No one slept well last night). And singing, of course. Ready to crash for the night and see our dear almost college graduate who is spending an entire week partying tomorrow.

Two complaints from the road --

Why can't they clean the rest rooms when they are charging us 4 dollars a gallon for gas? And don't tell me that one has nothing to do with the other.

Food choices along Route 80 are pretty slim -- McD's, McD's, or McD's. We found a Perkins Pancake house for supper and felt like we had entered gormet heaven.

As the hostess seated us, she tried to engage Julia in conversation. Julia introduced herself, and then said, "This is my Daddy, and this is my Mommy." She was very proud of herself for doing this. She is having a hard time talking again -- more and intense suttering. Not so much repetitions but hard blocks. This phase usually is short lived and ushers in some new development. I am poised to see what she will do.

Julia was much more attentive during OT this week. Thank goodness. At the very end she rode a big trike. She still has trouble peddling -- and now that I know that her calf muscles are weak, it does make sense -- but she told Annie that she wanted to ride a bike. So passionately. More summer work.

14 May 2008

Getting Ready

We are packing and stuffing a minivan full of stuff for Cheshire's first apartment. Julia is trying to be patient with moderate success. We have 900+ miles to Jersey where we will empty the van at my mother's house, and then head to Connecticut. Hopefully, we will be there by Friday at super time. And then, on Saturday the celebration begins.

This evening as David was making dinner and I was packing, Julia was drawing on her white board. She drew a person playing a bass, another person playing a drum, and another sitting at a square (that turned out to be a music stand) with music notes on it playing a violin. When we asked her about it, Julia told us what each person was playing and then said "like Fantasia." What she was drawing was the orchestra that is shown between animated stories.

We will be taking her to the concerts on the square this summer so she can get up close and personal with a live orchestra.

13 May 2008

Mother's Day Musings

Last Saturday, we were at the Madison Farmer's Market, during which we are growing a ritual that Julia gets a BIG cookie to eat and walk around the square. It was a mite warmer this week, the crowds bigger than last week, and the round -the-court-house shuffle has begun. Babies in strollers and carriages were out in force. Must have been a million of them born this past year! And Julia likes to look at each one and usually prounce them "soo cute."

As we were walking, she told me that she liked carriages. I agreed but she insisted that she liked carriages. I asked her what she meant and she told me that she liked carriages in China.

"In China, Mommy." And she puts on this face, like I don't understand anything at all.

"Do you mean that you liked riding in the carriage in China?"

"Yes." And she was very satisfied with herself.

Does she really remember that? The only place that she rode in a stroller was with us in China. For two weeks, 19 months ago. It was the easiest way to get around without carrying Julia, and Julia just about fit in the ones they gave to us or we rented. I was advised not to get one when we got home by my very smart friends and so, it was only in China that she was in a stroller.

I was very glad that she liked the carriage in China. And I was very satisfied with myself.

More on remembering.

Mother's Day is a good reflection day. This is our second Mother's Day with Julia and she is understanding a bit of it. "It is your holiday, Mommy," she told me. She was proud of signing the card and drawing a few dinosaurs on it -- okay, more proud of the dinos than the writing. She is still fully engaged in being my daughter and I would not change that for the world. I expect that someday she will wonder about her other mother. The mother who gave birth to her. I hope that one day she can form the questions about her mother, her family in China, and that she can ask those questions. We will not have answers for her, nothing specific, nothing that thousands of other children from China cannot share. We may release balloons for her birth parents on their days, we may write letters and burn them, we may one day walk the streets of her Chinese home town and look into strangers' faces searching for some feature that is so like Julia. Until that time and until Julia is ready for those questions, I hold in my heart a mother, a father, a family who I will probably never know. I hold them dear and think of them often, sending them thoughts of the dear little girl who is still fully engaged in being my daughter.

12 May 2008

The Eastern College Athletic Conference Invitational Regatta

News just in -- Cheshire told me last night, but this was part of an email David received this morning.

"Hello Camel families and fans!

This past Mother's Day Sunday was sunny, warm and celebratory as the CCgirls varsity 1 four boat raced a great race and received the bronze metalat the ECAC's, Eastern College Athletic Conference Invitational regatta. It's the first metal received by a Conn varsity boat and a wonderful end to their rowing season! Congratulations Girls!"

AND a pretty spectacular end to Cheshire's college rowing career. Bossy women rule!

I'll post some pictures if I can find them.

11 May 2008


Julia at the Y. For a full session (6 weeks, I think) and the first lesson of the second session, Julia has been taking advantage of her instructors. They are very nice people. Allen has worked with all sorts of disabled kids, his assistant ( a very young woman) is very willing. Julia has gotten use to the instructors and minimally has done what they have asked but more and more, she has taken over the lessons and used them as play time in the deep water. This is a kid who probably could go through life in some other place without swimming lessons and be a very good swimmer, but here she needs to learn the standards.

I wonder about standards, which Julia fights against. I have seen it – the fighting – in many ways now. Sometimes just aggressive behavior, sometimes wanting her own way, sometimes using her survival skills, sometimes maniplation, sometimes just having fun. And then the standards we insist on and she finds so many ways around. She has to learn her letters and reading, numbers and math, swimming strokes and diving. And when she learns all the stuff we want her to learn – and I guess we civilize her a bit – will she be trying to bend and shape our standards and rules to fit her own ideas?

I think so.

Back to swimming. Last week, Julia gave the young woman assistant a hard time, telling her what Julia would do and what she would do and being very rude. I decided to pull the plug and told the teachers that they had to impose more discipline on Julia. There was no reason for them to treat her differently than they treat the other kids and none of the other kids would be allowed to sass the teachers.

As it turned out, there was very, very low attendance at swim lessons yesterday and the pool was almost deserted and very quiet. Julia had Alan all to herself, and Alan and I agreed that yesterday was the day “to bring the hammer down.” He started what should be familiar routine with Julia – using a floating barbell kicking from one end of the pool to the other. Head is supposed to be above water, arms stretched out, and feet kicking. She usually does a very little bit of this and then bobs and plays with the barbell. When she started that, he gave her a warning that she either do as she is told or have a time out. She didn't believe him and went back to her own agenda. He called me over to her and I gave her one chance and then she was sitting on the edge of the pool with me. She decided to do what Alan said and she was back in the water. We did this same routing a number of times but each time Julia went back in the water and did what was expected of her. Alan was amazed that she could do these things. I knew that she could. When I would go over to her at poolside to sit a time out, I would also stay for when she did her lap as she was instructed cheering her on as she kicked or back floated or used her arms in a sort of abreviated overhand. I awakened my inner coach although I admit to feeling a little bit silly cheerig from poolside. She even jumped off the block (racing starting place) with the help of the lifeguard, Alan, and I, and afterwards, said it was fun.

In some way, I was outing Julia. Stripping her of her defense, the survival mechanism that she uses with adults to get what she wants. I would not do this with an adult that she didn't know or didn't trust, because somehow I know that that would be too threating for her. I do not want to trounce her spirit, to break her soul, but little by little, I (and all of the adults who care for Julia) need to break into her survival behavior to be able to teach her. Day by day, instance by instance. And with lots and lots of praise when she follows our lead.

09 May 2008

Love those dancin' shoes

Jumping hurdles

Two big hurdles this week in Julialand ~~

After we got home from school today, Julia and I went for a walk with the dog. I usually ask her about her day and the coversation goes something like this:

Me: Julia, did you have a good day at school?

Her: I have a good day at school.

Me: Did you work on letters today?

Her: Yes, I work letters.

Me: Did you work on numbers today?

Her: Yes, I work numbers.

Julia is a little better when she talks about lunch. She will tell me whether she ate all of her noodles, if she liked the green jello, or drank her juice.

But today was different! I asked her about her day in school and she told me she read a book and worked at the math center and had fun during choice time. It wasn't quite a conversation because she told me all the information at once, but she was telling me something about her day! It was just great and a good step towards coversation.

I wondered whether she would repeat the performance, and true to form – that once she learns something, she uses it – the next day and today. Today, she even was able to have a little back and forth about school without the yes and no answers. Next step needs to be some reciprocity – Julia needs to be able to ask me questions about my day. And then, she needs to learn appropriate circumstances.

Last night we walked to the Chinese restaurant on the corner (yeah, real convenient, but not that good so the temptation is not great) to pick up some dinner. We passed two girls, preteens I think, who were playing with a ball on the sidewalk. Julia was so excited to say hi and to talk to them. She greeted the girls and told them her name when we were too a few houses away from them. She stated that they were playing with a ball and told them she was picking dandelions. I love this kid and my heart breaks for her when she is so awkward. If she can just figure out how to socialize . . . I've heard that there is a clinic that runs socialization therapy/classes. I don't know if Julia is old enough to take it, and if she is old enough, if she could follow directions, but she could really use some direction.

Back to jumping hurdles, Julia was playing with her little pets and she started naming each of the pets. I was flabbergasted. Julia has learned the names of the people in her life, but has not named any of her dolls or stuffed toys. Of course, she needed to learn the English for all of her toys – bears, dogs, cats, horses. Maybe just learning the words for what these things are was enough for awhile, but there she was at the beginning of the week, giving her little pets the names of her teachers and classmates. I thought it was a really big step forward. When I talked to Amy, her aide, about it the next day before school, she said that a bunch of the girls in class were playing with little pets that they had all brought from home during choice time and they were naming the pets. At first, I was rather disappointed thinking that what I thought was a huge discovery was no more than Julia doing what her classmates did, but then I realized that she was actually copying from these kids. That too is huge! Julia is doing something that the girls she plays with does. She is learning from them. Pretty cool.

07 May 2008


A little girl in After School with Julia asked me, "What language do you speak?" I told her English. "Then why doesn't Julia speak English like me?"
"Because she only came home from China a short while ago."
"My mom speaks Hmong," the little girl said. "And I speak English."
"Yes," I answered. "But I bet you were born here. In America."
"Yeah?" She was not sure where I was going with this.
"You've lived here for at least 5 years --"
"Five and three quarters."
"When Julia lives here 5 and three quarters years, she'll sound just like you."
"Really?" She looked like she was ready for another question but then something spilled on the floor and there was a rush to wipe it up.

06 May 2008

More Sunday in the Park with Julia

A tramp across of shaky bridge.
Hangin' just like Roo.
Mediatation with an Emu.
The first corn dog of the season -- At her suggestion.
And the best show of the day -- two very lively otters that all the kids, and quite a few grownups, love.

Sunday at the Zoo with Julia

Welcome to Madison's free zoo on a warm, sunny day in May!
"Legs are broken, Mommy?" "No, flamingos stand on one leg when they are resting." "I can't do that. Mommy."
First carosel ride of the season on a wild horse.
The "fossils" are still okay.
The great climb

05 May 2008

Big idea day

There are always so many things that I forget to write down that are probably more interesting and more revealing about Julia than what I chose to write. Looking back at what I wrote about Saturday, I omitted how Julia asked for her bottle after we got home after her meltdown when she couldn't get the Little PetShop Town that she wanted. We keep the bottle, that I bought when Julia asked for it months ago, in the kitchen and after she went through an initial period of wanting to drink from it often, she has not asked for it at all. Sometimes she will ask if we still have it and I show it to her but she doesn't want it for drinking. But when we came home on Saturday, she wanted to cuddle on the couch with us and a quilt and to drink warm milk from her bottle. And so we did it and it seemed to help.

Today, Julia didn't go to school. Instead, we had an appointment to get a physical therapy evaluation early this morning and then later, had an OT appointment. The physical therapy eval was great. The bad and good news -- Julia's physical development has been delayed but she is catching up. Her hips are aligned the right way but she had "loose" legs, that is, her legs joints do not fit snugly into her hips because she probably did not get enough exercise before she came home. She also needs to develop muscle tone, most noticibly in her calfs and feet. This is a real simplistic explanation but sufficient for me. The really great news is that swimming and ballet would go a long way to catch Julia up. We already swim. The therapist suggested that we practice treading water, walking through water that is at least knee high, and kicking. Walking through sand in barefeet would also help her feet.

Ballet would help Julia's pigeon footedness (a word?) by practicing with turned out feet. Jumping would also be good for her calfs and feet. I am thinking of doing at home ballet this summer. I can teach what she needs for now and maybe we will get her ready for real ballet lessons as a side benefit.

Also, the balance beam and going down stairs using both feet. Again, we can do this.

At OT, Annie used a clothe bag with cut out plastic letters inside. Julia had to put her hand in, pick up a letter, feel it, and tell her what it was before she took her hand out of the bag. Oooo, Julia had trouble getting the idea. She kept wanting to to look at what was in her hand. But once she started guessing and getting the letter right, she was willing to play. Annie says that Julia is a huge visual person and this will help develop another sense. She also suggested that Julia close her eyes and write once she knows a letter.

Big idea day and what could be better??

03 May 2008


Saturday, saturday, saturday. We started last night with Julia sleeping in her bed for the first time since last August when I went to Bolivia to visit Cheshire and Jason. I put Julia to bed last night and I just said that we would read stories in her room. She took longer to settle down than usual, but she slept in her bed, and we slept alone in ours! Oh, how I loved the room. She is back in our bed tonight but we will get her back in hers little by little this summer.

The days started with swimming. Julia is still a polliwog, the beginning class. The class has 6 kids with two instructors. Julia monopolizes one for most of the time. Today, Allen, her instructor from last time, took the other kids and his assistant, a young woman, took Julia. Julia took the opportunity to establish the pecking order with Miss Julia on top. She did what she wanted to do and didn't do what she decided was not on her agenda. Towards the end of the lesson, Julia began speaking rudely to her instructor. And so, tough mommy had to put in her two cents! The young woman working with her was very sweet but I think the time has come for Julia to really learn about swimming. And so, I asked to make some rules, like not being rude and listening to what she is being told. If she can only attend to the instructors, she could really learn to swim pretty quickly.

After swimming, we went to find a sand box for our backyard. We went through Building Square and Walmart and unfortunately at Walmart Julia spied the Littlest Pet Shop Town that David had promised her as a reward for learn her letters. We got her away from the LPS Town with only a bit of trouble, but we could not look for the sandbox and we had such a challenge getting her to the car. Julia was so angry. She cried and yelled at us. It was miserable, but it was great to remember how long it has been since she behaved like this. She cried while David and I took turns looking for sandboxes at Toys R Us, and drove home. By the times we pulled into the driveway, she had calmed down and was saying that she wanted to snuggle on the couch with us.

We snuggled, watched a movie, napped, and regrouped for the afternoon. The girl is learning.

We went to an FCC pot luck in the late afternoon. It was a smaller gathering than the new year's party, and it was nice to really get to talk to a few of the people we had met before. Julia had a great time with the kids that were there. She played and followed around the big girls. Quite a few of those big girls were so sweet to her, and I think it made her feel very good.

All in all, not a bad day at all.

01 May 2008

Testing & the ABCs

Happy May! We could walk around in sweaters or sweat shirts today nnd that felt great. Julia played in the sand and climbed playground equipment and played on swings.

Julia didn't go to school to day because we had our almost final evaluation and round up meeting. There is a physical therapy evaluation coming next week which will be added to our final report. We started this intense evaluation process to find out where Julia is in terms of development and to get some direction as to what we can be doing for her.

Julia and I went to the Waisman Clinic this morning at 9:45 and she had two teams of evaluators working with her until noon. I sat behind a one way mirror and answered questions and made comments to the evaluators who were not working with Julia at that moment. What was so amazing to me was that Julia actually worked successfully at the testing. During the fall and into the early winter, different people at school tried to test her for cognitive levels and language acquisition. It was just not possible to get any read on her, any substantial result of the testing because Julia just could not sit still, would not answer questions at all, could not focus, and did not follow directions.

I had no idea if she had changed at all, but yesterday during OT, Annie, Julia's therapist, tried a bit of testing – following directions to draw, color, cut, circle, and cross out. Julia sat through almost 15 minutes of this, engaged and interested. Annie was as amazed as I was. This was followed by today's performance at the evaluations. I am so impressed at how far Julia has come since the fall. She worked very hard yesterday and today.

Of course, I am the one exhausted. Last week, I came home from Julia's first evaluation exhausted. I did the tough work of watching through a one way mirror! I did the same today and came home at 2 feeling like I was ready for quiet supper and bed.

Am I old or what?

At the end of our testing, David and I got together with the team of evaluators and helping grad students to talk about Julia. They said nothing that we didn't know, enphasizing her need for socialization and social training, her need to understand and empathize with others, and her need to learn to be outwardly motivated. These are all her autism markers. Their report should help our school EIP team and offer us many hints on what to do over the summer.

Learning the alphabet is a bid deal at our house right now. I think she will probably get her Littlest Pet Shop Town in another week or two. She is working every night and getting better all the time. It is amazing what this kid can do when she puts her mind to it.

Cheshire handed in her senior thesis today. She has worked hard and steadily on her project, and it is a good one. She has another two weeks of college and then my girl is done. I can't wait to see her and spend a bit of time with her before she starts her NYC adventure. We are so proud.

Oh, and about the election. We lived in Indiana for such a long time and voted in every election. Yet, never, ever, ever was anyone interested in the Democratic primary in Indiana. In fact, Indiana was usually the first state to be given to the Republicans in every national election. (I used to think that we knew ALL Hoosier Democrats.) This week major news networks have sent reported to Indiana to judge the pulse the the Hoosier electoric. I have to say that I HATE to miss it. Not fair at all.