30 June 2008

The summer room

We have turned a corner of our computer room into a summer room for Julia and I to do our reading work. Julia liked the way that I put puppets in the net and decorations for her on the wall. Now, every time we start a letter, we put it up on the wall. She has responded to having this as our work space and is comfortable doing the work I assign her there.

Monday morning blogging

Well, the camp send off was not a smooth, but it is a pattern with Julia to take the first steps very willingly and then pull back. By the time we arrived at the bus stop, the negativity had dissipated but there were a few moments when I thought we would not make it.

We took the scooter to the bus today, and my timing was off. Julia liked it but we wll have to allow more than 20 minutes to do the 10 minutes walk with the scooter right now. She loves working with the scooter and I want to encourage her all I can.

I started making new phone calls today looking for a provider for the intensive autism program. Our application started months ago is almost ready to be submitted for the "waiver." This is a state paid program but the waiting list is very long. Still, it is worth getting on -- if we need it in two year, then we will have it. Yes, the wait is about two years right now. We need to specify a provider and have them do an evaluation for the application. The group I called also have social classe for autistic kids. Julia could really use one of these! My dear baby tries so hard and is so bad at it.

Last night, we had dinner with friends. Julia is getting names down and she called our friends by their names over and over, but once she gets their attention, she doesn't know quite how to get a conversation rolling. People that know and love her, give the a break and ask questions or start talking to her, but you can see that she wants to do the conversation thing for herself.

I have been making inquiries to find an attachment therapist, and I found someone who is covered by our insurance, and who I liked talking to. The rub is that her first opening is in early September. I'll go with that for now, but I was hoping to start this summer.

I also called a violin teacher who did her master's thesis on adapting Suzuki method for kids on the spectrum. I want Julia to take a string and to do the Suzuki method like Cheshire did. I think it is sooo good for the brain, and for learning to love music as well. Maybe we can get that started this summer.

29 June 2008

On the spectrum

I wrote this to a few of the yahoo groups that I belong to hoping to get some hints or ideas.

I am looking to get in touch with anyone and everyone whose Chinese kid has been diagnosised as being on the autism spectrum. Julia, home at 5.5, has such a diagnosis -- more exactly PDD-NOS or pervasive developmental delay without a known cause. The docs guess that her autistic behaviors come from neglect. We are doing various therapies and also the brushing protocol, BUT as I do more reading, I see stuff about diet and supplements. I am wondering whether anyone has tried various diets and how they worked for their child. The bigger questions is whether autism is autism is autism, or whether behavior triggered by neglect can be modified the same way that behavior that was triggered another way.

I hope this is a bit clearer than mud.

28 June 2008

Letter update

We have done 4 letters this week as well as going through all the letters we've learned each time we sit down. Julia can now almost write her first and last name if I tell her what letter to write of her last name. She is getting stuck on the R, and I will do a re-work of that letter soon. She is getting better at finger signs for the letters and so am I. One thing she does not naturally do is to write on the lines. We are using paper with wide line and a dotted line between two solid lines. The letters are never on any of the three lines we are using, but the letters generally follow one another in the right order and are between the two solid lines. Julia makes some of the letter in really bizaar ways and it is hard to break her of that habit. I think that is one of the reasons that R is hard for her -- I can't even describe the way that she makes a big R!

Swimming today -- Actually a good lesson. Julia is doing more of what is expected of her. The progress is incrimental and I can't say enough about the patience of her teachers. I swear that kid will be the star of a swimming team one day!

David's new montra with Julia: I am open to new ideas.

27 June 2008

Summer changes

I have not pushed the alphabet work this week. I mean, the kid is pretty tired when she gets off the bus and I wanted to keep our walking to the bus stop pretty lights and breezy because it is such a step forward for her. As it turns out, we have only missed two days this week and even during those two days, we managed to sing the alphabet, sign the letters we know, or do some game. Summer learning is going well. There are days when I see Julia begin to enjoy sitting down at her little table -- Cheshire's table really, the one that my brother made and our dear friend Jim Jones painted -- and get into the work mode. No, it is not smooth and she does not fly through the alphabet sheets or drawings that we do. There can be lots of resistence or stalling, or fooling around. There is at least one sheet a day that is aimed at following directions. On that sheet, I do not allow other drawing, putting feet on letters, or coloring in shapes or anything but what the directions are -- right now drawing circles around the appropriate letter in a specific color. This sheet should take her about 2 minutes tops, and yet at times it takes 5-10. Guiding her through this single sheet each day is like breaking a horse to saddle. I do make a big deal of it when she finishes -- lots of high fives.

I am really learning finger spelling and I see that Julia enjoys doing it. We we go through the random list of letters we have learned and she is unsure of a letter, I see her hand begin to form the letter. We need to do more kinestic learning!

I wonder if it has something to do with the brushing that we are doing. We have been at it part-time, twice or three times a day, for about two months. The week Julia had off, I did it multiple times during the day which is the more normal protocol.

There is the beginning of a change in Julia use of words. I don't know if I can quantify it. Yesterday, she jumped off the bus and said a very big, "hello" to me, followed by "I missed you!" Tell me that was not music to my ears, but besides that, it seemed so direct and directed, as if a fog had been lifted and this revised child had stepped forth. She is also beginning to invent words or phrases -- she told me that herring (which she loves as much as her mom, dad, and Babja!) was fish pickles.

All parents wonder if they are the best parents for this children, but I think that I wonder this more with Julia whom we chose as our daughter. This is not an issue of love, but one of means and temperment and the kind of family like that we have. What is we lived in a bigger house, in another town, with many more children, would my child grow better. These days, today, I feel that Julia, being the only child home and with two, a-hem, mature parents, would not be in a better place. She is gaining greatly from our devotion, our time, and our rather quiet persistence. It is very good to feel this way once in a while.

26 June 2008

Flower ballet

Julia draws on her white board all the time but usually erases her creations before I can get the camera out. I caught this two days ago. She explained it as three (Used a number!) flowers dancing ballet near the door. One flower is sad, one is happy, and one is angry. I like the hats! The swirls are a new addition to her repetoir.


Julia told me last night that her legs, particularly her calfs, hurt sometimes at camp. Wow! This was just what I wanted to work on this summer and she is doing it. We have been doing lots of activities involving calfs because hers are weak. We walk down our steps using both legs, we walk in the pool whenever I can get her to do it, and we are walking to the camp bus. When I picked her up at camp yesterday to go to speech therapy, I could see the amount of running and walking that the kids do. Not to much for normal developing kids but probably a bit too much for Julia. No wonder her legs hurt at night. I rubbed her calfs and it seemed to help a bit. I will consider saying something to her counselors if she keeps complaining, but she seems to be keeping up which is so cool.

The bugs, the bugs, the bugs! Julia was not too crazy about the bug spray on Monday. Today, she asked for it.

She is such an amazingly friendly child -- we walked to the bus with one of the counselors -- a guy named, David. Julia tried to engage him in her type of conversation. He did not get it at all, but she didn't quit. So many good qualities for her life!

Have I written how dirty she is when she gets home. It is great! Even after swimming. She did say something last night about being pushed into the pool or being splashed by other kids. She was not upset by it, but said she did not have her goggles on.

25 June 2008

Camp Report

Three days into camp and Julia still loves it. We walk to her school each day in the morning, get the bus, Julia is first on the bus in the morning, and she waves to me after kisses and hugs. She gets dropped off about 4:30 in the afternoon, and we walk home. This walking to and from school is something that I didn't dare do during the school year. We walked home at times, but I didn't trust Julia's behavior to do it in the morning.

Julia comes home from camp dirty! Her perfect pink backpack looks like it was dragged in dirt. She definitely needs a bath every night. She only tells us little bits and pieces (and I miss getting the parent/teacher notebook that we had all year at school) -- arts and crafts (she made me a big heart with "fou mom" on it. I think she meant "for." She is supposed to be swimming every day and her suit has been wet. I think she has been eating her lunch because the lunch bag is empty, and she is chowing down at home.

One of Julia's counselor's rides the bus from Franklin School and when I ask about how Julia is doing, she just says that all is fine. Friday, there is visiting day for parents. I'll find out more then.

I can tell it is summer. My body is full of welts and scabs, and I itch day and night. Ah, mosquitoes. They are certainly big in Wisconsin and after our wet spring, they are plentiful. I spray Julia down every morning just before we go out the door, and I do myself before I start working in the garden. Julia is almost as suspectible as I am. She came home on Tuesday with bites on her part line on top of her head. That and around the eyes are the worst.

23 June 2008

Posing with Daddy

The pleasure of the jump

The zoo had extra fun stuff to do and not many kids doing it. And so, my girl jumped until she was done jumping. So good for her legs and so good to dispell a bit of the kid energy.


Once again, I started this last night and lost momentum.

Saturday morning, we decided to forego swimming lessons – first time we've blown this off – and head for our local greasy spoon for breakfast. I had a swiss cheese omlet and I think it was Velveta Swiss – Is there such a thing? I ordered the kid's pancake for Julia and she was given the biggest single pancake I've ever seen. She polished it off in short order and proceeded to have some of my omlet and David's sausage. She has been eating this weekend! Interesting, because she has been pretty picky lately.

We visited the zoo but the river otters – our family fav – were not in their deep water swimming place. Too much disappointment! The brown bears were looking good, the big polar bear was pensive. We ate popcicles and admired the peacocks.

Sound slow and sweet. It was and we needed it. Tomorrow is the first day of day camp for Julia, and I suspect that much of her trying behavior is due to this transition. She has been grumpy, quicker to anger than usual (Although Julia is usually quick to say she is angry at us), and every time we entered a store, which we did far too much of, Julia started asking for things – toys, candy, gloves! Well, I hope that this behavior is related to starting camp!

To ease this transition, I've made Julia a little book with her camp schedule, representive pictures and a few real pictures that I took at camp last week in it. I read it after I made it and again last night before bed. It didn't seem to make an impression but this morning was relatively smoothly. We did some of our alphabet work (about a third of what we have been doing, but I am very satisfied for our first day). I applied her sun screen and bug stuff, got her dressed, she ate, and at 8 we were off walking to Franklin School. We had 20 minutes to get there and needed 10. I anticipated some problems but they never materalized. She because pretty excited about going to camp, especially about the outdoor pool which she had seemed to ignor when we visited the place. There were a little group of moms and dads seeing kids off for the first day. A few familiar faces and at least one girl for Julia to say hi to. She got on line as soon as the bus came, had to be reminded to kiss me, and boarded quite merrily.

I will have the phone with me all day, just in case.

Other developments this weekend:

Cheshire lived through her first week of class – a bit dazed, a bit bored as one can be in a new and confusing place, a bit overwhelmed. She has her first interview this morning and it conflicts with her own classes. This situation was not covered and she could not get anyone to okay it, but I can't imagine that she will get demerit for job hunting.

We found a three whelled scooter for Julia when we were at Farm and Fleet (hardware for the serious farmer and truck driver???). It is what we should have had from the beginning. There are a number of things that if I had my druthers I would do differently with Julia – preschool at the JCC instead of kindergarten in Indy. She has to work on steering and moving and staying upright but there is no balance issue and that seems good. We walked and scooted around two blocks last evening while we were looking for dead fish.

The full report from the Waisman Center finally got to us. It is long and extensive and I expect to really read it some time this week. Short version – Julia is operating on a 3-4 year old level as of March. It made me gulp and panic for a moment but I agree with the assessment. When I think of her as a 3 or 4 year old, her behavior seems much more appropriate. And she is gaining ground all the time. The two things I don't see in my scan of the report are (1) that she is limited by her diagnosis, and (2) that her behaviors and symptoms are called autistic-like.

Sometimes when we are are the pool these days and Julia tells me she wants to swim alone, I sit and watch her (and others). I can't help but follow parents with young kids – 6 month olds having their toes put in the water for the first time, yearlings with their funny duck walks being encouraged to walk in water, two year old showing mommies and daddies how well they can splash, stop jets of water, and “swim.” Parents ooh and ah and give high fives and scoop up and hug. Those things that are ALL so simple. Nothing remarkable at all. And it breaks my heart that no one did these things for my Julia. Sometimes I have no words for how awful I feel. I want to stuff her heart and soul full of what she did not get when she was younger.

Julia has a scenerio that we go through often. She announces that she is the baby dinosaur and asks if I am the mommy. And I answer that if she is the baby dino then I will be the mommy dino just to be her mommy. We do this with all kinds of animal and movie characters. It seems like a good little playlet.

We have done 11 letters so far. I don't think we have gone any further than what she knows from school, but we do the putnik cheer, we hand spell, she work on my direction page and two or three Starfall pages. We put the letter on the wall in two ways, we name all the letters we have. As last activity, we make the letter on the window (with special window marker). My goal is not to lose ground this summer and to gain some. With this in mind, we are doing it.

21 June 2008

More Last day of school photos

Julia and Christy, her teacher, say goodbye for the last time this school year.
Julia and Margot who has been the student teacher in Julia's class room for the last quarter.
Nicole and almost Julia. Nicole has been in and out of Julia's classroom all year and guided us so very effectively through our first IEP.

20 June 2008

A near melt down and search for the GROSS UCKY DEAD FISH

Yesterday, we visited the Camp Shalom where Julia will go to next week. We went at noon, got the tour, met her counselors, and just hung out for awhile. I took pictures of people and places and I am going to put together a little schedule in book form to see if that will ease Julia's transition.

Ah, the transition. After living with this child for 19 months, I am finally, finally getting to know her behavior. Julia's behavior yesterday was a shadowy reminisence of our visiting her first school in Indianapolis and our visits to Franklin School library last summer. Her behavior was subtle and could have almost passed for no behavior related to this transition at all, but it was there for me to deal with and find a way through.

Julia was a bit too excited when we were at camp. She was overly friendly with all of the counselors and of course, they all loved her. Ummm, one day, we will work on that behavior, but not now. She wanted to explore every nook and crany and went into all of the spaces where she was not allowed. When the camp folks said good bye to her Julia didn't want to leave and also said she was not coming back on Monday. (very much expected negative behavior regarding any change). We got into the car and I mapped out what I had planned for the rest of the day -- lunch at somewhere she liked (thinking that would reset the day), a short shopping for a few new letters (and stationery) and some groceries for supper, and an afternoon at the pool.

Well, not much of that happened.

Julia and I had lunch at a bagel place where she had a bagel hot dog. We talked a little about camp but mostly about the food and the afternoon. Then we went to a craft store and we had a near melt down in the store when I refused to buy something that she wanted. She cried at the check out counter and in the car. She adamently refused to go swimming and I thought grocery shopping was a waste of time. Instead, after she calmed down in the car, we decided to go home, put on a Thomas the Tank Engine video and snuggle on the couch. We did this and all was better by the time David came home and we had dinner.

After all this time, Julia is still threatened and defensive about transitions. She still doesn't completely trust that she will always be with us. Her behavior was better than it has been through any other transition, but she still needs more time and encouragement to understand what a family means.

In the late afternoon, the mail had a letter from Abby (Julia's friend MiaoMiao from her orphanage). Abby is almost 6 and has been home just over a year. She is quite a good writer and made Julia a very special card. I read the message inside and Julia wanted to write right back to her. It was very sweet. I put down what Julia wanted to say. Julia traced over the letters pretty much very neatly. Then she drew a picture to put on the front of the little card and we put the card in an envelop. She drew a heart on the back of the envelop and had me write some very loving words. These two girls still have eachother in their hearts and I am so happy for that.

Last night, we went on our favorite walk, to find dead fish on the banks of the Bay. Last night, it was the search for the Gross Ucky Big Dead Fish. What a fund adventure! But I am not going to post a picture. Again, we said Gross and Ucky lots of times.

19 June 2008

First and last day of school

I haven't posted pictures I have taken. Here are the first and last day of school -- I think Julia looks much more confident and sillier.

18 June 2008

Tough to be a dinosaur!

Gosh, I started this last night before I took Julia up to bed, but then I fell asleep, probably before Julia, while I was waiting for Julia to fall asleep.

Julia and I are having a great time this week. She is continuing to do letter work each day in our summer room. She does a lot of drawing and coloring as well as writing the day's letter, tracing over words and trying to copy the words on a second line. Her copying is pretty awful right now, but she is definitely trying so I am sure she will get it. We also hang a big letter on the walls and some of those need to be painted. Julia is into the painting. We make a puzzle piece of the letter, cheer the putnik cheers, and finally write the letter of the day on the window with special window paint. Throughout the day, we do the putnik cheers and/or finger spell the letters with their sounds. We even sounded out a few simple words today. I knew she had seen or done some of this before. She understood what I was doing right away -- she couldn't take the initiative to do it, but she followed me.

This afternoon, we went to the kids' dentist for Julia's check up. Her behavior at her last check up (the second time she saw a dentist but the first real check up with x-rays and cleaning of the teeth) was none too good. She still had no idea what was going on and had no reason to trust the people who were examining her. I think that she probably did not have enough English to really understand what was going on. Now, she does. Yahoo! She wanted to know what all the instruments are and was not at all crazy about having the little sharp hook tool put into her mouth. She was willing to open her mouth and have her teeth touched, scraped, and then cleaned. I held her hands but I did not have to keep them down, we just held hands. Such progress, I was very please and proud.

Something that concerns us -- more David than me, but me too -- is how Julia bounces from topic to topic when she speaks. Last night, on our evening walk, we saw one of our neighbors who has a daughter who is Julia's age. Julia has tried saying hello to this little girl a number of times with the girl giving any response. Shy? I am not sure -- I see that she is also not forgiving of Julia's differences. Julia tried to tell this child not to hit her brother with pillows and when she got no answer from the girl, Julia then started talking -- not in perfect sentences -- about dinosaurs, and then about characters in her favorites movies. The little girl did not try to understand or respond at all. We smiled at the mom and urged Julia to move on to walk by the Bay.

My question is whether Julia is just trying very hard to connect or is it something else -- some inability to stay on one topic or something else? Julia is so outgoing and so fearless when it comes to talking to people. This endears her to lots of patient grownups and I believe that this impulse is helping her English learning, but what about kids?? I remember Cheshire at about Julia's age being very much into a standard way of doing things -- life was pretty much black and white for her. But I think that I could have encouraged her to play with the little Chinese girl down the street, I think she might have asked questions but I think, no I know, that she would have thought it was cool and would have been a help. Oh, I guess all kids are not like that. It would be SO easy if this little girl was a friend.

Our lakes and bay was very swollen with all the rains. Julia loves to look for dead fish after she found that one dried and semi-eaten skelton last month. So, we were looking for some dead fish along the Bay and we saw a very large dead fish -- no fish tale here! It was at least two feet long! Julia decided that it was Uck! and Gross!, and repeated her find and her opinion of the find all the way home.

As a side note, Latkah slipped into the Bay and was totally embarrassed. She just got a little too close and the grass was very wet. After a lot of shaking herself off and a bath as soon as she got home, she seemed to recover. But we did laugh at her. I am usually holding Julia back when I see her getting too close to the edge. Do I have to do the same with the dog? LOL.

16 June 2008

Monday's work

Coloring this morning, Julia is using a few colors to color a fox. It was a small animal on an alphabet sheet. She colored it green and yellow -- yellow hands, green arms, yellow tummy with green around the outside of it. Very nice blending of color. She also outlined the fox in red and another color looking very much like an aura around the fox. She said these were "dashing lines."

However, even though Julia can do very neat work, she can also be messy to show she is displeased and angry with me for making her work so much. LOL. We are still using the sticker system and when she is too messy the number of stickers she gets are reduced, and new LPS toys take longer to earn. Thing is that the importance of earning two stickers instead of one is only really important when Julia almost has enough stickers for a new pet.

Yesterday, we were working on the letter R, and I asked Julia to draw a picture of something that began with an R. She loves to do this part of our work because she gets to draw what ever she wants as long as there is something that has the letter of the day in it. I let her draw awhile and looked at what she had done. She drew a girl holding a piece of paper with the letter R on it. I had to laugh at her. Today, she was working on her white board just after dinner and she drew a dragon climbing a wall and trying to open a jar of pickles -- she told me that.

We had a lovely day today. It was too cool to swim but we worked in the garden -- I am finally getting to the back yard beds. I planted some ferns and hostas and Julia played in her new sandbox making cakes and drums.

First real day of summer vacation

From Friday: Ah, the last day of school. Julia is only in school this morning for an hour and a half, and I have to do a number of chores before I pick her up.

Oh, the sweetness of the last day of school. Julia doesn't get it, and I wonder if all the other kids do. No matter, I remember that feeling of freedom -- okay, not in Kindergarten, but by 3rd grade. Days of playing in the yard, folding towels, doing chores, going to swim club, endless hours of board games, pogo stick tournaments, and evenings at the top of our street playing spud or kick ball. I remember especially how ordinary it felt. I could inhabit that little girl's body again and be there it is so clear.

I did an incredible clean and purge of the computer/toy room that will called the Summer Romm for now. I left out only the toys she plays with, dress up stuff, puppets, games, crafts, and work books. You might wonder what I put away. Well, it is enough to fill a medium-sized closet -- dolls, kitchen stuff, stuffed toys, and younger kid toys.

The new room is cleaner and the toys that are left are easier to find. Julia loved that I separated her little animals and people into their own plastic boxes, as she was always dumping out the bigger bin to find her small people and animals.

Monday: I hadn't published the above and so appending it to today. I'll go on from where I left off.

I picked Julia up at 9:22 from school. The kids streamed out of the sturdy old brick building to meet parents, caregivers, or their buses.Teachers blew bubbles and grownups cheered. It was one of those tearing up situations. All so sweet. Julia gave hugs to Christy and Nicole and Margot and a host of other people who she sees on a daily basis. We waved to the kids on buses and shouted out that they should have a Happy Summer!

Julia and I went shopping right after school for the last few things for the new summer room. We found a chair and little rug at Target, as well as new lunch stuff for camp. We spent time that day decorating the room and then, because I was excited to try what I had figured out for her, we did letter work. We have done two more days of letter work since then and Julia is willing to do the silly activities and th writing that I ask her to do. We have done the letters, M, S, and R. If we can keep this up, we will get through the alphabet in a month. I am hoping that our matching came will get a bit more difficult this first time through the alphabet and also that Julia will get more use to copying words in additional to tracing over them. According to her report card, she can identify almost all the letters in a comfortable testing situation. She can also do that at home. My goal is to put letter sounds to the letters. We are using the putnik cheers and using letter sounds through out the day. She is getting the idea although much of the time she does not match up the correct sound and letter.

We went to an FCC picnic this weekend, and were almost rained out. We had a good shelter and jackets for the kids. Grilling the hotdogs and brats (we are in WI afterall) was a challenge, but with enough of lighter fluid and a few breaks in the showers, we ate well. Then the family who makes homemade beer came and spirits did pick up a bit. The kids, of course, didn't need much but a bit of junk food to have fun.

Julia is comfortable in this group, but she still doesn't really play with any of the kids her age. I figure in this group which is a large group for her, we well just let her socialize to her own tune.

On Sunday, we got to our community pool. Julia had a great time splashing and swimming, but it was still a bit too cold for me. David came with us and we took turns standing in the water.

This morning, Julia and I are having breakfast while watching Super Readers and Dragon Tales, two PBS shows. I am not crazy about Dragon Tales, but Super Readers is excellent and Julia loves it. If we could start the day with just one of these shows and then move onto letter work, she can be on the camp bus on time starting next week.

14 June 2008

David and his girls

Fathers are not born. They are made with lots of kisses, lots of hugs, lots of treats that mommy does not approve, popcorn and movies, long walks and piggyback rides, bedtime reading, mint chocolate chip ice cream, unasked for advice, and a few teaspoons of discipline. And David is the best.

13 June 2008


Today the task is to turn the computer cum messy toy room where the dog pees on the red run into a place for Julia and I to work and play this summer. I think, but I am not sure, that I read somewhere that it is a good idea to have a separate place to home school. Now, I wouldn't call what I am doing homeschooling. I don't think we are going to skip grades or do higher math, but the idea of a special place to do the summer work that I have planned is a good one. Somewhere to display projects and hang papers, record progress and calendar our days – our mornings and nights. Because Julia is being pretty negative right now – NO, to every new idea – I am going to go slow this weekend.

I am also putting toys away that she is not playing with – dolls are the main thing. I fear that this child is not going to demand new doll clothes from me. Ah, me. After winnowing, other toys will be displayed better and be seen.

Stormy this morning. Full lights on in this house to see anything. I could be doing this cleaning at twilight. I hope we keep lights on.

11 June 2008



I believe in magic.

Not in the hocus pocus Harry Potter kind. Not in the positive thinking to get what you want kind. But the kind that is all around us is only we can open our minds and hearts to what is outside of ourselves. It is to me a process of refocusing, looking anew at what I have seen before. It is about changing views and about changing which is so very hard for me (and everyone else.) Whenever I experience some of it, and there is a sparkle inside of me when it is working, I want to freeze the moment to figure out how I was in that open minded place. I want to recapture the sparkle so I can put it to work for me. But the stream of time gurgles on and I am left with only wet hands and no mystical understanding. Being in the moment is not so easy.

I have approached a few moms about the possibility of play dates with Julia and have been rather rebuffed. Some people are busy, I know. Some just don't do that sort of thing, perfering the kids find their own friends in the neighborhood. But I have talked to some, good possibilities from school, who have more than suggested that if their kid doesn't request a play date with a child, they don't impose a friend on their child. Okay. I smile and walk away. BUT I need to get Julia playing with someone!!! Yesterday, as I was dropping Julia off at school, a girl who is very sweet, in 1st grade, and has always been kind to Julia, was getting out of her mom's car. Impulsively, I tapped on the window and talked to the mom whom I had met at an Overture Center performance. She was more than happy to have the offer. Yahoo.

Julia notes:

Julia stopped playing with her LPS toys to call out the window to Daddy and ask what he was doing.

Julia is using more and more sentences with us. "Daddy, I need you help inside."

We are doing the brushing protocol now at least 4 times a day. It might be helping her to focus more.

Annie (our OT) and I are going to do a picture book of the camp schedule for Julia to ease her transition into the new routine.

I am going to rearrange our computer/toy room for summer work.

AND I have sent out letters of introduction and resumes to everyone in Dane County who has anything to do with Guardian Ad Litem work. Gotta find the magic there as well.

10 June 2008

Another graduation

Later this morning, Cheshire will be getting on a plane to her new grown up life in Brooklyn, New York. I was so looking forward to this time of graduation and her time at home, and I have had a very lovely time with her, even though it might have been rather slow and boring at times for her. Still, she rested, worked on her pre-course work, sorted clothes and old stuff, and hung out with us. And for this, I am so very grateful.

It is not easy to let this child/young woman/adult go. I so believe in the roots and wings theory of parenting, but damn those wings. The bestest kid grows up to use those wings! I would not change a thing. I would not want her to do anything other than what she wants to do but right now that means not having her within sight, within easy access, within my sphere of daily rounds.

Cheshire will get on a plane today, land in NYC, and put together my Chicago bed in her new Brooklyn apartment. And life will begin for her. And I will be cheering her on every day.

PS (actually Wednesday) So she did and she got there. The $30 cab ride was worth it to bring the few but very heavy bags to her apartment door. She slept in her own place last night. My girls is a New Yorker once again.

08 June 2008

First reading program

This morning it is raining, raining, raining. We are slowly moving into the day. Julia and I visited starfall.com and she wanted to play on the site for a long time. I have been looking at all the suggested reading material and I think that starfall is where we will start. More later.

07 June 2008

How optimistic does a parent of an autistic child have to be? I usually can see all those half full cups but, sometimes . . . . When I get frustrated with Julia's behavior sometimes, I yell. Maybe loudly coax would be a polite way of explaining my behavior. I have given her a potch, a slap, on the bottom at times as well. My Spicy Dragon takes great offense when I do bad behavior. “Don't yell, Mommy!” she says after she has done most of the yelling in any situation. “We don't hit,” she says indignantly. And she is perfectly correct. I apologize. This morning getting in the car we had some yelling on Julia's part. We all told her not to yell and a few blocks later, she said “Julia stop yelling.”

I am writing at least part of this during Julia's swimming class. Alan is having a hard time getting her to listen, but she does try at times to do what is asked of her. If she understands, it is a bit easier for her, but she doesn't always understand or keep what is asked of her in her mind. I don't know if we will ever make it out of polliwogs. I don't care how many times she has to repeat the class, but I want to see a little progress. HOW DO KIDS LEARN?
Julia is trying to initiate conversation with us and with anyone who will talk to her. On the way to the Thia restaurant last night, we passed a woman digging in her garden.

Julia: Hello.

Gardener: Hello. (With a big smile for Julia.)

Julia: Are you digging? (It too more than the normal amount of time for Julia to get this out. Not stuttering, but a pause to find the words. The kind gardener waited.)

Gardener: Yes, I am digging. It's hard. Would you like to do it for me?

Julia: No thank you. Bye. See ya' later.

Gardener (laughing now): Bye Bye.

Julia calls our names multiple times a day in an attempt to start talking. Trouble is that when we acknowledge her, she has nothing to say. I usually initiate some question at that point, but sometimes I just want quiet. I admit it. I just want quiet but only after she has said “Mommy?” for the 100th time in the hour. I do need to take extra patient pills for the summer, especially if I want to get some learning in.

There are people, especially kids, who have a hard time with Julia. Her impulsiveness and aggressive behavior – not hitting or anything but in-your-face speaking and playing. The worst response to her is ignoring her. The other night, she was on the swings with a few kids she didn't know. When it was time for us to leave, Julia said, “Bye, Kids. Goodnight.” And they just stared at her. I don't think tht she gets it yet. I don't think she understands that she is being ignored, but does she understand on some level. I hurt for her, but . . . . I grew up different and was always so happy that Cheshire didn't have to be so very different. Sending her to Sycamore was a way of making her like everyone else. But now I have my real challenge – my different child.

But for everyone who ignors her or looks at her funny, there ae people who are caring and loving. I don't know whether it is Julia who capture hearts or the extreme kindness of the community around us.

Julia is doing the frog kick on her back and she looks at me. I give her a thumbs up and she gives me a big smile. She has learned that pleasing her parents is a good thing. Plus, I promised her an extra sticker today if she listens to Alan. I'd like to give it to her. If she listens about 30% of the time, she gets the sticker. That's really good for her in the pool.

I wonder about Julia's inner life. I have no idea if she expresses everything she thinks about and feels. Her spoken range of emotions is happy, sad, angry, and grumpy. What else does she fell and does she want to express it. Is it language that prevents her from doing it?

They are practicing saving someone in swimming. The kids lay on the side of the pool and extend a noodle to a “drowning” person. The person grabs the noodle and the kid pulls them in. Julia was taught this in her school swimming lessons and she revels in the fact that she understands what to do. I can plainly see this. This afternoon I planted annuals while Julia played with bubbles. She is now able to modulate her breath to blow gently and make huge bubbles. Yeah, we practice everything but some of it is fun.

05 June 2008

Class Picnic

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed about a reading program. I have a bunch of programs to look at now and a week before Julia is finished with school for the summer. I have an idea of doing our work together first thing in the morning. Julia will be going to camp for six weeks and will be riding on a bus that leaves from her school at 8:30 each morning. My thought, if I can get organized and stay motivated, is to get up as if we were going to school at 7:30 and spend the extra hour doing our reading work.

Tonight, we went to the end of the year picnic for Julia's class. Christy, Julia's teacher, pairs with another class taught by Jane. They planned a few activities during the year -- an ice cream party in the fall, ice skating in the winter and then this spring picnic. (We never got to do the ice skating although it was scheduled three times. We had a snow storm, much too cold weather, and a melt.) This is also a group of parents who are pretty good cooks. We had home made dumplings, pasta salad, pizza (okay, that was bought), fried chicken, salads of all sorts, and Desserts. And Julia had fund eating lots of different foods.
The above picture is of Julia and her aide, Amy. Amy has been an incredible help to Julia and they are very close. We are so very lucky to have Amy as part of our village. Julia has flourished with Amy's steady hand.
Christy told me that Julia comes to her when someone does something that hurts her. She has done this for a little while but now Julia uses better sentences to tattle to her teacher. Christy said that Julia is breaking through to some new stuff right now -- a fuller view of her world, noticing more specifics around her. She also has almost stopped her intense stuttering. She is using more and longer sentences at home as well.

Pictures from Saturday in a canoe

Jason, Julia, and Cheshire paddling home.
Gotta love those bunny ears! Race for the Cure came right past our house on Saturday morning. Julia waved and called out to the runners and walkers. She loved the bunny people and one gentleman stopped and gave her his ears. What could be nicer!?
We even had to lie down in our canoes as we went under a railroad bridge.

03 June 2008

Looking for a reading program

I am posting this on a few yahoo groups looking for advice for our summer. If anyone who visits has any ideas, please let me know.

I am looking for a program or plan – computer or not – to move my 7 year old closer to reading this summer. Julia is finishing Kindergarten with an IEP in place for next year. She was adopted from China 18 months ago so we have some language issues and she was found to be on the autistic spectrum at the beginning of this year. Her motivation for learning in general is not great, but she has been willing to do some “family work” every night since January. We have been working on recognizing and writing letters for the last few months. She is also beginning to associate sound with the written letters. Julia is a pretty intense visual learner, and we have been supplementing visual with kinestetic exercises (writing in sand or clay). I would be be grateful for any advice about methods, books, or programs.

01 June 2008


“Alan will want to see bunny ears.”

We were getting ready for the Y and her swimming lesson and Julia was wearing the bunny ears that someone from the crowd of runner that passed our house gave to her. This is the first time in my hearing that she purposely used the future tense, although recently I can tell that she is looking both back and ahead a bit. She asks about her goggles which we didn't have at the last swimming lesson. At night she asks for the fruit that we bought that afternoon. Julia can be the dictionary definition of “be here now,” and it is nice to see her expand her vision.

Today, Julia is very energetic and is doing whatever she can to subvert Alan's teaching. Is this like playing games? Once she understands the rules, or the task, she wants to bend the rules and change the task. This my be a great tool for her if and when she does become an artist, but it is damm hard for her teachers and for us.

Amy, Julia's aid, came over last night to stay with Julia while the rest of us went out to dinner and a movie. For us itwas really great spending that time with Jason and Cheshire. The more time I spend with them together, the more I see their relationship as good for both of them. We invited Jason for Thanksgiving which he cannot do, and then invited ourselves to England if Cheshire goes there for Christmas. I don't intend to spend another Christmas holiday without Cheshire. It will be interesting to see the north of England in the winter. No matter the weather, it may well be a break from Wisconsin weather.

When we got home, Amy was full of Julia stories. It seems that she really did take over when we left. She told Amy that we used a cookie sheet when we made pizza, and when Amy burned it a little bit, Julia told her to open the windows. Julia was keen on taking an after dinner walk but walked only a few houses worth before she asked to be carried home. And I thought that Amy was so tough! She carried Julia! Oh, Julia could wrap Dark Vader around her finger is she put her mind to it.

Julia issued instructions as to how to be careful with the books that they read. She has a new pop-up book from the library and David had reminded her to be very careful and to refold every page before going on. Julia gave Amy the same instructions.

After swimming, we went to the farmers' market and Chinese Cultural Day -- conveniently both around the Capitol. Julia inhaled two kinds of noodles from a fendor and we set off looking for fresh vegies and a pink iced cookie which is becoming Julia's expected treat at the market. We ran into two groups of friends and it was nice to have someone to greet. Sarah, Ches's HS friend, and Andy were also showing off the Farmers' Market to Ches and Jason. Good to see them as well.

This afternoon, we went canoeing. Jason and Cheshire in one boat and the three of us in another. David and I tried canoeing on a Scyamore School (Cheshire's grammar school) outing many years ago and it was almost the demise of our relationship. Not really, but well, yeah. We both fought for control and blamed the other for all mishaps. We must have matured by this time (LOL), but we were able to maneuver together very pleasantly on the small lake and wekland byways. Maybe we have lost the need for control between us. Nice to think that that is true and that our relationship is one of giving to eachother as a primary goal. Julia sat on a mat in the middle of our boat – almost tipped us a few times when she moved a little too quickly to trail her hand in the water. She was non-stop chatter as she searched for “alligators” and other wild things. Fallen limbs, clumps of grass, and darting birds made the make-believe extremely easy. As we headed back to the rental dock, Ches and Jason took Julia in their boat and we had a bit of quiet paddling.