30 September 2008

Today's changes

A few small changes between yesterday and today:

1. Julia seems to be coming to some understanding about time. She has been asking whether I will pick her up right after school or after after-school. She seems to understand yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and yesterday, she asked to bring clock into her bedroom. Up to this point, Julia has lived in the present. Trying to tell her that she will get enough stickers to earn a new little pet in two days has been really difficult. Telling her that we are going to do something tomorrow or next week or next month has been next to impossible.

2. Julia wrote her entire name on a line tonight. She still needs help spelling her last name but she made her letter to intentionally sit on the line.

3. Julia also is being much more affectionate. She is hugging me and asked for her special ed teacher for a hug when she is overwhelmed at school. I have been missing her hugs. She has still been affectionate with David but with me, she can be angry or vaguely willing to do what I ask. I feel like we have cracked another layer of protection, and we have a bit more of our girl.

On the other side of things, Julia is still being very fidgety.

28 September 2008


Julia is doing more stimming -- rocking, flapping her hands, wringing her skirt, and grinding her teeth -- than usual. The behavior seemed to noticeably start last night and tonight it was more intense. She also tossed and turned before bed having a hard time getting to sleep. I am pretty sure that she went through this just before we saw some change due to her listening therapy. For the past two week, she has been listening to "Chamber Music"KT 104 CD (68 MINUTES).

According to the website information: "Music by Rossini, Tschaikowsky and Grieg. The musicians produce music which is lively, harmonising and invigorating. The music is played and conducted in such a way that it becomes stimulating and energising, by working on the human pulse and deeper levels of emotions. The CD trains the ability to listen and allows the listener to "switch off" from the stresses of everyday life and re-charge the "batteries". Therapeutic uses include help with training listening, directional hearing."

So, waiting to see what is happening.


We were up early today with time to take showers, eat a good breakfast and go to church. It is getting cooler and the day has a rather damp before rain smell. Julia made it though about half the service before we went into the kid room. Even there she was pretty quiet and could have been quiet through the sermon, but she likes the quiet kid room and until she gets into RE, we are going to use it for half the service.

Afterwards, we came home and decided to have a quiet rest of the morning. I asked Julia what she wanted to do and suggested that we put a puzzle together. She declined that idea and asked to play Candyland. SHE ASKED! A new first! She and I played, with David looking on and helping her stay on task (she did still need that kind of help). We used two pieces and raced eachother to the end. It was a short game -- Julia pulled a card that put her way ahead -- but no matter. We played an entire game; Julia won; and we gave eachother high fives all around.

27 September 2008

Saturday night in front of the television

Tonight, I finally finished an old post about our China Group Reunion. And here is a picture that Traci took of four of our girls. I have been fooling around with it -- such a good story.

Saturday in Madison

Back at swimming class. Julia missed last week because we were camping and the break seems to have been good for her. She was enthusiastic this morning about coming to the Y. The fact that we can no longer go swimming outside helps. She has given up serious asking to go to our community pool.

Julia is listening to a CD right now which is supposed to be stronger therapeutically than the two she has listened to before this. I am waiting for some reaction. To be so poised and wonder what will happen.

Today in the car, I called Cheshire. Because of the call, Julia had to wait until I was done to have music turned on. She waited without whining and when I was finished, she asked for music. Her appropriateness surprised me.

Is Julia actually trying to do the overhand stroke while holding on to a floating barbell?

Ummm, I did not post pictures of the camping trip because I didn’t take any. I packed the camera but I decided early on that I was not going to burden myself with one more thing. I had enough going on without the camera. Not that it was tough with Julia – she was cooperative and listened well. It was an adventure from start to finish but not an incredible challenge. Julia is beginning to rise to the occasion from time to time. And I did enjoy the living rather than recording of her and us. Now, of course, I’d love a picture of her next to the tent and roasting marshmallows, but I am sure I will get one sooner or later.

Later: Today is just beautifully quiet and perfect. Now, that we are officially into Fall, Madison weather is late summer-like. The early turning leaves are golden and red but the breeze is warm, the sun is shining softly through the clouds. Perfection. Our neighbors catty corner are having an Obama fund raiser on their lawn. We went over for a little while but Julia wanted to come home because the neighbors were drumming and it was too loud for her. And so, I sit on the porch and she listens from across the street and watches her bees.

Julia is more compliant than usual today. She takes a hand when she needs to, she closes the bathroom door when she leaves while I am in the shower, she lets David wipe her mouth after lunch without pulling away.

Julia is hitting in school. This hitting is what I have been having trouble with all summer – sometimes it is not hitting but threats of hitting. She can get angry quickly and strikes out. She is repentant afterwards, but doesn’t seem to be able to do anything about it before she does it. She also doesn’t have the words for "why" she is doing what she is doing. Why is she angry? I know that she had stored a lot of anger inside of her. What can we do about it? This is what I wanted to work with the family therapist about, and this is what we are waiting to work on. Patience is wearing thin.

25 September 2008

A dream

Yesterday was not an easy one and I have been feeling like my usual optimistic spirit was flagging but I had a very optimistic dream last night -- not an easy win a lottery type dream -- ummm, haven't ever had one of those. But a dream about seeing an opportunity, being sure that it was a good opportunity, not wanting to take it up because it was hard and I was not good at that type of work, seeing a dear mentor (Will) and talking, and deciding to take up the challenge and shoked that no one else could see this fabulous opportunity. I woke up feeling like I have not lost my optimistic spirit. Feeling very good about today and tomorrow. Feeling very close to seeing something that is right in front of my face.

24 September 2008

Today's adventure

Oh my, what a day.

First, I got dressed to meet a guy who runs an agency that I am interested in volunteering at. I was at the appointed place at the appointed time and he did not show up. Later, I found out that I had the wrong day -- tomorrow, not today -- but I didn't know that, felt awful, starting to believe that I could do nothing right. Finding out later about the wrong day thing, I almost felt worse. Now, he knows . . . what?

Then, I picked Julia up for OT and Christy told me that had a rough afternoon. She had problems finishing her math work, finished it during choice time, got angry and hit another child. Julia told me that she hit Ginny, the special ed teacher, but she didn't want to talk about it beyond that. She was cranky in the car, told me that she didn't want to see Annie, and I told her that we had to tell Annie that we were not going to meet with her. This is a tactic that I use at times when I cannot think of a choice to offer her. After a while, she will tell me that she is willing to do what she is supposed to and we talk about doing that thing.

At OT, Julia was amazing. She was able to concentrate and follow directions for almost 45 minutes. She made a butterfly with the grad student that is shadowing Annie. When they were done making the butterfly, the grad student and Annie wanted to play Red Light, Green Light, but Julia would have none of it. She got angry and tried to rip the red/green sign that Annie had made. She said she was angry and she said that she wanted to hit the sign. Instead of insisting that she play the game, Annie suggested that Julia use one of the swings. Annie took down the swing made of a knit material and in which Julia can curl up like she is in a sling. Annie swung her, and bounced her with a big ball. When Julia came out of the swing, she was no longer angry.

Annie and I talked about Julia's anger. This is the behavior which is so hard to do something about. It comes on quickly Julia either threatens me with hitting or tries to squeeze my arm, or wants to do damage like she did with Annie's sign. I stop her and she becomes contrite but is unable to say why she was angry. Annie and I talked about whether it was the result of sustained concentration or maybe even going back to her behavior at school.

After OT, I realized that what I thought was a few bites on my wrists was really poison ivy. I called my doc, was unable to see her or anyone in the office today, and was advised to go to an Urgent Care Clinic. There was a clinic close to where we go for OT so I took Julia. She was cooperative and concerned about my itches, quite caring in her own way. The doctor that we saw did not see it that way -- she reprimanded Julia a few times when she was fidgity, bumping her feet on part of the chair and touching a painting hung in the room. I just wanted some medicine and to get out of there but I am sure that the doc thought me a lazy mother who was not disciplining her child. I was so itchy, I just wanted drugs.

So, the drugs -- hopefully the prescription steroids will short cut this bout of poison ivy. Very unfortunately, the side effects are irritability and an insatiable appetite. These I don't need. Not at all, but if it helps the rashes, I am there.

All this, and it is David's birthday. I started a dinner before I left to get Julia for OT. He had to finish it up. We had a little cake and Julia sang happy birthday enthusiastically.

And now, I am going to bed. It all starts all over again tomorrow.

21 September 2008


This weekend Julia and I went up to Devils Lake State Park with 20 families from our local FCC chapter for tent camping. David doesn't enjoy camping -- dirt, sleeping on the ground, walking to the bathroom, and cooking over an outdoor stove or a fire -- and so he spent a very quiet weekend in Madison. Although I am not willing to go camping alone, especially with Julia, I was willing to try it with a whole group of whom I know a number of families.

And so, we went.

I bought a tent at Target and a two folding chairs. I made arrangement to share food with my friend Cathy and her four girls (and 2 collies) which freed me from buying more stuff like a stove, some coffee maker, and packing a host of supporting cooking equipment. Instead, I made a warm pasta salad, a dinner salad, and brought speghetti and David's sauce as our major contribution to weekend food. I packed fruit, drinks, yogurt and milk, sleeping bags, an old quilt, more clothes than we needed, some just in case toys and headed upstate.

Julia helped me put up the tent and was thrilled with the idea that we were going to sleep in our "little house." Other people arrived, put up tents, started cooking and eating and a comunal camp fire was made and chairs were pulled up close. Julia ran around with other kids, Cathy's girls who are so sweet to Julia and just fold her into themselves. Julia roasted marshmellows for the first time and made smores. She and a little girl, named Lilly, burned marshmellows for any grownup who would take one.

A bit after 9, Julia crawled into my lap and sat quietly with me. I asked her if she wanted to go to our tent and go to sleep and she said yes. Getting her to sleep was easy.

Getting her up Saturday morning was pretty easy as well. And I was very happy that other kids and families were up early. We had a great Saturday, doing an easy hike, and playing with kids. Julia spent a good deal of time alone gathering bugs, putting them in a cereal bowl, feeding them leaves, grass, and corn chips, and showing them to anyone who would look and listen. We added our pot of pasta and sauce to the hot dogs, brats and the array of other dishes. Julia and the other kids chowed down and left room for more burned marshmellows and s'mores. Cathy brought a few pieces of dark chocolate and tasted awful good with a burnt marshmellow.

Julia asked to go to bed again last night and went to sleep as soon as she snuggled down into her sleeping bag. We woke up this morning, and after breakfast and packing up, Julia was ready to go home and see her Daddy. We had a great time. Julia's behavior was very good most of the time and she enjoyed the outside, the grown up and kids, and living in our "little house" for the weekend.

18 September 2008

Catchup for the lazy writer

Oh, I 've have the worst time sitting down to write that last few days!!! I did add pictures to many old posts and have been putting together pictures for my China Reunion post, but my fingers and head are not quite connected these days.

So quick updates before I forget them all:

- Julia and I are going camping this weekend with our FCC group. I bought a tent and put it up in the backyard on Tuesday. Julia loved our little house and was disappointed to come home yesterday and find that I took it down. We are sharing food with our friends, Cathy and her girls, which is so great for me. I am sure I will forget lots of stuff, even with Cathy's lists. Just haven't done the camping thing for a LONG time -- um, Cheshire was potty training the last time.

- Julia is using both of her legs to walk down stairs. Yahoo! We practiced all summer and since last week, she has been doing it consistently and by herself. She is still unsteady on one leg and needs a hand to hold or the railing, but she doesn't need both, and I know she will get stronger.

- We have changed our listening schedule. Julia will now be listening to a CD that is supposed to enhance her emotions and promote empathy and compassion.

- Julia made it though a good portion of Sunday service at church. She and David went into the baby quiet room for the sermon where, by the way, was a few kids quite past the infant stage.

- We went to kids choir last night. Julia sat with the kids for a little while. She listens only in a vague way. She tried to say something and was told to listen. I started to make noise, stamping her feet, and I went to her and asked her if she wanted to leave. She told me no, and we sat together on a chair. She participated a little bit but did not really sing with the others. Again, my heart broke when I saw other kids watching her in that scared or disapproving way. I don't know whether to keep going or quit but I have a vague feeling that she wil catch on. As long as I can keep her from disrupting the class any more than other kids do, we will go.

- We are going to get an aid to help Julia in swimming class and also supplement her group lessons with private lessons. This way she will hopefully learn the strokes she needs to move on to the next class and be challenged generally. I have to get her to the pool myself at least an additional time a week to do some swimming practice.

- We have been working on -at words -- sat, cat, hat, mat, bat, etc. We make the sounds, do the signs, and use all sorts of things to put the letter in front of us visually. Julia is very complient about learning this. She is participating very well. I can't tell yet if it is really sinking in.

- Julia almost has the first littly book -- Zac the Rate -- memorized.

- Yesterday, Julia needed only 2 more stickers to get her next little pet. I had bought a pet and put it on top of the frig and she was dying to see what pet it was and to get it into her possession. So she had lots and lots of incentive to do work to get the pet. She asked to do her work when we got home from therapy (not a usual request, and frankly, I would have let her skip any home work last night after a day of school and both speech therapy and OT). I told her that if she wanted to work she would have to do it alone and she agreed. I put out three sheets for her -- one connect the dots, one maze, and a writing sheet in which she had to copy words that we've been learning three times each. She has never been able to do that much by herself, but I thought I'd give her the chance since that what's she needed to do to get 2 stickers.

Well, she worked dilligently, if not always correctly, for about 25 minute. She actually did the best on the word copying which really surprised me. She still doesn't get how to do a maze but she tried her best to draw lots of lines from the beginning to the end, so she has that much down. With the dot-to-dot, she started correctly and then got carried away. Instead of a star fish, she drew a shark type fish. I was very impressed with her determination and dedication. And she was rewarded with lots of hugs and kisses and high fives and of course, a new pet!

- I went into Julia's classroom today to talk about our family. I talked about traveling to China and meetng Julia for the first time. I told them how she did not speak English, and I did not speak Chinese. I told them that Julia had two other names before she was named Julia, and that she had a friend in Pennsylvania who knows her longer than we do.

During this time, Julia wanted to interupt and did a few times, telling the class something that was not relevant but something.

- This leads to the next item. What the class was most impressed with was when Julia told them that her mother had bit her on the butt. Yes, indeed, so much for travelling thousands of miles to meet out precious daughter, so much for all that Julia has learned in the past two year, what was really exciting was the Mom bit Julia on the butt last night and that she was never going to do it again!

And oh, no I am not! I did it playfully -- really! for the first time! but I admit to really liking to bite. Anyway, you would have thought I broke the skin, gotten a hunk of muscle and hit bone. She cried, she was angry. I had to put a bandaid on the 'wound', that is the spot where she said I had bitten her. And replace the bandaide this morning.

No, no, no, I will never bite her again.

14 September 2008

Red Couch pictures

I am putting some pictures up on Julia's bedroom wall and went though my photoshop files and raided my friend, Tracy's, blog to find some red couch pictures.

Families traveling to China have a tradition of taking a picture on one of the red couches at the White Swan Hotel. And so, the first picture here was taken on September 5, 2006, just before we left for home.
In 2007, the seven families who travelled to Nanchang for our children met in Indianapolis for our first reunion. One of our moms, Angela, brought yards of red velvet so that we could try once again to get a red couch picture.
This year, 2008, we were at Brown County State Park Lodge in Indiana and our red couch picture participants are definitely showing signs of maturity -- note Patra's cute little tongue sticking out. Two of our number were not able to attend this year, but we included their pictures on top of the couch.

12 September 2008

A new violin & my fixed computer

Yes, my computer is back and wonderful! The call from the fix-it guys came in at 4:30. Julia and I jumped in the car and went to retrieve the laptop before the store closed. Virus gone, new protections, and new speakers. So happy not to have to go through another weekend with my machine.

Yesterday, Julia and I met Lindsey who is going to be Julia's violin teacher. I had first contacted her back at the beginning of July but our schedules did not allow a meeting then. This was one of the things that I was hoping to start in the summer when Julia was not in school, but . . . we do it when we can.

Lindsey is a special ed teacher. She did her master's thesis on adapting Suzuki method for kids on the spectrum. She is very excited to get another student on the spectrum and we are very excited to get her. Lindsey came in bringing a shoulder bag full of goodies -- toys to play with, a make-believe bow, cards, and other stuff. Julia was fascinated. Lindsey played Cheshire's violin and Lindsey and Julia played the piano. Julia loved singing that ABC's and Twinkle. The lesson was about 20 minutes long.
The initial plan is that Lindsey is going to teach me beginning violin and we shall wait for Julia to want to join in. Towards that end, Julia and I went to rent a half size violin after school today. I can just see Cheshire rolling her eyes, but I did feel that it was so sweet to be taking home a little violin. I had no idea what Julia would think about getting the violin. She was pretty happy. She was patient when she was measured and the sales person tried two violins on her. She asked me a few times whether this violin was for her and whether she could play it. She carried the violin out to the car proudly. As we were getting into car, she told me that she was going to play Julia's violin, not Cheshire's violin.

We shall see.

11 September 2008

New Day

Whew, what a wallow last night!

To the extent that it was about Julia, she is doing so much better this year, this month, this week, than last year, month, week. I love her so fiercely and I want her to be the glorious person that I see glimpses of from time to time.

Whoa, but right there, not two sentences can I write without getting to me and my wants.

To the extent that my grand wallow was about me, I blush. Nah, I don't blush. I can feel so very sorry for myself and last night's post was a great example of that. So be be utterly clear, I worked so hard with Julia all summer, even during vacation. We did speech and OT therapy all summer, and I have been ever so dilligent about using the listening therapy. I have been more consistent than I am comfortable and I have expended a LOT of energy.

And Julia is not perfect yet. And no one notices any great changes that have come of all my, yes MY, energy.


Pretty ridiculous, huh?

I say we have a long road all the time. Maybe I should be saying that I have the long road.

This morning at breakfast, there was a little pet on the table. I put it in front of Julia and asked who has the little pet. Julia didn't anwer and I said as I touched her, 'I have the little pet.' Then, I put it in front of David and asked, 'who has the little pet?' Julia answered, "Daddy has the little pet." I put it in front of myself and again she should answer, I put it in front of her for another answer. And she looked at me very proudly.

10 September 2008

Tough Day all round

So there are some like this and nothing to do about it. Some days, I feel so far from the super mom that Julia needs and that I am trying so hard to be. Some days, I can't believe that Julia will be able to act her age and learn.

When I got to school this morning with Julia, I spoke with her special ed teacher. This is not the special ed teacher who watched Julia last year and who conducted her IEP, and it is not fair to make any judgment because I have not seen this woman in action. BUT. But, I asked how Julia was doing and got a vague okay, saying that Julia is willing to do some things. I had no idea what that meant. Then, she said that her two goals right now were to get Julia to stay in line successfully and to get her to sit at work stations longer. The second goal tracks the big goals that we set last spring, but the first . . . . I have no idea. Is it a means to an end -- getting her to successfully transition from one activity to another, or is it the end. As a Catholic school girl, I spent lots of time on lines and I was incredibly good at stil and quiet. And it was a total waste of my time.

I thought we had worked on the line thing last year and that Julia was reasonably okay with moving with her class although not always on line. I don't know if Julia will ever move with a class on line. Is it important? And is this the same question that I have with swimming lessons?

I talked to Annie, Julia's OT therapist, today about swimming lessons. I also posted on two of my yahoo boards about lessons and got a bunch of replies, advice really. My decision is that I am not going to give up on swimming but probably on group lessons for now. If I can get her an aid during lessons, we'll see if we can use the groups. Otherwise, I'll try switching to private lessons or some adaptive lesson.

The question of where to put learning energy continued to weigh heavily.

After super, we had only a little bit of time to do some home work and Julia wanted to play with her animals. I asked her whether she wanted to do some work with the animals and she agreed. The three of us sat at the table. My first plan was to have her and David take turned giving each other animals and counting them. Then, I was going to ask each of them how many animals they each had. This didn't work because Julia had a hard time seeing the pile of animals and not playing with all of them. I got her to count that animals that she and David had, but she couldn't focus/or didn't know the answer to the question, how many animals do you have? So, I switched gears and gave both of them three animals -- David's were white, Julia's were brown. I asked her about the colors which is something that she is usually very good at. "Who has the white animals?" I thought I could get from there back to counting and saying who has how many animals. But Julia was more focused on the animals in front of her -- that she has elephants and they wanted to talk to David's tigers, etc. So, I switched again and gave her one elephant and David one tiger. Pointing to each animal, I asked what they were and I asked who had which. She could not tell me who had which, and so I did the pattern of questions with David. Then tried the pattern with her. It took us four times of going through the pattern and then trying to get her to give me the answers before she could do it. I gave her big hugs and kisses when she got it right, but we never got to taking turns or to counting animals.

Gosh, this point up so many problems -- (1) getting her to do any numbers related work, (2) using anything that she is really interested in to do work, (3) getting her interested in work with things that she is not interested in, (3) focus, (4) question words.

Then we went to choir practice. The Unitarian Church has a kids choir for kids 4-second grade. I thought Julia would do pretty well in that age group, and we went tonight. She had the worst behavior of the group. Yes, this is a new place to her and yes, she has never been at a choir rehursal, but neither had the 4 year olds. Her behavior was that of a 2 year old. She would not sit and stand with the rest of the kids, she wanted to move around and dance or just be silly. She wanted to lay on the floor, or lean on me, or talk. She was able to do the singing exercises, but to be able to sing she is going to have to attend to what the director says.

The thing about the rehursal that bothered me the most was that the other kids, some of them at least, were staring at Julia because of her behavior. Staring in very disapproving ways, judgemental ways. When I saw this, I wanted to scoop her up and protect her from those looks. I don't blame the kids -- they have been told how to behave and they are following those lessons. And Julia is oblivious. She has no idea of their disapproval, either because she does not see it or because she doesn't know what their looks mean. Will she ever?

At some point asking for advice about swimming, someone asked me what Julia says about not listening to teaching adults. And what was it that she wanted to do. Julia doesn't engage in that kind of conversation, and that is so frustrating. She doesn't answer to 'why.' And if I asked what she wanted to do, she would say to go home and play with her toys. She has time to do those things and we spend plenty of time at home. I think I need to get her out, among people, among kids.

08 September 2008


A rainy Monday, but it kept us inside and doing lots of work and play.

Julia was very willing to go off to school today. We walked -- took the short cut up and down the hill at the top of our block -- and Julia went off to the swings when we arrived. She swung first on her tummy and then sat at the swing and asked to be pushed. I pushed her once and she started to pump herself. She wasn't totally successful but I can see that she knows how to do it. She went off and played when the first bell rang and the kids came out of the buses. She tries to approach other kids and sometimes looks sad that they don't respond as she wants them to. Julia came and kissed and hugged me before the second (line up) bell. She let me leave instead of asking me to wait until her class starts moving into school.

When she gave me a kiss, Julia asked me if I was going to pick her up. I told her that I was and she was content. Christy wrote last week that Julia has a very hard time going into after school. I know that this was a problem for part of last year, but even then she seemed to enjoy afterschool and liked the people there. I will try talking about afterschool while we walk to school on the days (Tuesday and Thursday) that she goes to it. And also ask Christy.

Julia had a good day at school. Her weekend 'journal', a series of four boxes in which she can draw or write was the best she's ever done. Many of them last year were just scribbles. Today, the sheet said that she ate soup with a drawing of a girl with a big bowl of steaming soup (she wrote 'sop' on the line provided), that she saw dancing and drumming (she wrote 'd' some other letters and 'g'), that she saw a bear (she wrote 'mome'. Did she mean me?), and that she saw a bird dancing (she wrote a whole string of letters that didn't seem to correspond to anything). This is one of the first times that I see her understanding what she is supposed to be doing.

At speech therapy, Julia was able to point out what was wrong in picture cards that Carol showed her. She needed some prompting and help, but she answered every one and kept on task. Carol tried this about 6 months ago and Julia couldn't do it at all. Progress! How I love to measure.

At home tonight, we worked on writing, 'at' words, some computer reading and sound games, a maze sheet, and a 'b' sound sheet. She really is not ready for the 'b' sound sheet. It asked her to circle whether the 'b' sound came at the beginning or end of simple words. Even with me saying the words over and over, and giving her the directions with each word, she really didn't get it. We'll go back to the easier starfall sheets tomorrow.

06 September 2008

And later on Saturday

Julia is in the living room with headphones on listening to her therapy music, making blue and pink dinosaurs with palm trees out of new play dough. She started a new session of swimming classes and we re-started our home work tonight. And I have questions.

The first about swimming. Julia has done the same class, polliwogs, three times now. She is incredibly able in the water and she can do all of what is expected to pass on to the next class. However, she does not follow directions. So, she will not do what she is told when she is told. She can kick to the other end of the pool but would rather not do it when the class does. My original plan, which might be incredibly naive, was to have her repeat the first class until she was able to attend to what the teacher was saying and listen. I have no investment in her moving ahead, but I am now wondering if I should be burdening the beginner teachers with her behavior, as if they are going to change it? My expectations are confused.

My confusion arises right now because she has a new teacher. Previously, she had had the same guy, Allen, and he was getting somewhere with her. He also knew how to handle her. Julia's new teacher, Linda, is a SN teacher but . . . . I just don't know, my gut tells me nothing, and I am not sure of who to ask. This question also feeds into a more general question about activities and Julia. There is a young kids choir at the church. Can I impose on the director and see if she can join?

Before dinner, Julia and I started our home work again. We did letter work during out vacation, but for the week afterwards and for this past first week of school, I did not demand that we sit down and work. We did a bit of alphabet saying and signing, and some informal spelling, but that was it. Yesterday, we sat down and worked on her name and some coloring. I thought we would ease into working.

I decided to try to work on simple words following the starfall.com process. She still needs reinforcement with letters and sounds, but I am hoping that the letter work will come using words. She wrote her name; she worked on "a", "t", and then "at". This was pretty unconcrete and she gave me some resistance. We read the little book, "Zac the Rat." (fascinating reading!) We went to the computer and did the "AT" exercises and the "AN" exercises, and then, did two work sheets that had pictures next to half written words. In the first sheet, she had to fill in the first letter of the word and trace the remaining two letters, the second sheet, she had to fill in the "a" for each word. Julia worked diligently with a lot of help from me to keep her focused and moving along.

I have 6 sheets that work on short "a". I plan to run through the set twice at least to see if she gets it. At the same time, we will continue to read Zac the Rat every day and sometimes at bedtime.

Once again, no idea of what I am doing, but feeling my way to the next step.

Another note, at one point when we were working, Julia started saying that she was scared of the letters, that the work was too hard and that it scared her. I put her in my lap and we hugged eachother to get the scareds out. Then she went back to work.

Oh, if I could only get inside her head!! Now, to take a picture of her dinos and palm trees.

Saturday morning

I admit defeat! I now see that I am addicted to my laptop and I cannot, cannot, CANNOT write anything on our stand alone and only can scribble nonsenibly in my paper journal. And dear little laptop in still in the shop. Nothing awful -- viruses and broken speakers --it will be fixed by next week. We are waiting for parts. PARTS! And my literary soul flounders.


Julia ended the first week of school well. No one said, 'Wow, she does everything so much better,' like I wanted them to. The summer work we've done together doesn't seem to be creeping into the classroom. At least, not yet.

But she is putting more words to made up songs. She is beginning to spontaneously rhyme. She is also much more willing to hand spell at any time of day.

Cheshire is in a much better place. After wallowing in self-doubt for a little bit, she had taken control of her class. She is wondering what to do about the kids who are difficult, and finding out who knows what. She is supposed to be teaching in both Spanish and English, but she thinks she is going to have to just teach Spanish as a subject which is a bit of a waste of her abilities in Spanish. But she is forging ahead with a great spirit!

And I am still stenciling. Pictures next week.

04 September 2008

Wednesday update

Cheshire sent a short message last night and she is doing better. Her words, "a tad better" but I was thrilled. She has taken on an awful lot. I can't imagine having the where with all to do what she is doing. but she is a marvel and she will learn to teach and teach those 3rd graders this year. I do wish she was closer to home and that we could be of real help to her. If only she could transfer to a school in Chicago -- but then I guess a NYC teaching fellow can't do that.

Julia had another good school day. I don't think there is much work expected from Julia as of yet, but I've heard that she is causing no trouble and is cooperative. She actually woke up this morning and told me it was a school day. Pretty cool. We have also managed not to watch any tv in the morning and to get dressed and eat breakfast in time to walk to school. This is all very good. Julia is also not as crazy happy to see me when I pick her up. Sometimes I felt so badly for her last year when she would throw herself at me as if she never expected to see me again. She is still happy to see me (even though I know the reception would be bigger if it was David coming to get her) but it feel more normal happy. After school, we did a bit of shopping for food, went to speech therapy, went home to play, made dinner, and eat, and ended out evening with a puzzle. During this whole time, Julia was in a good mood. It was not difficult to get through our day and evening. This might be the first time ever.

I had fun today as well. I am doing a stencil border on Julia's bedroom walls. It has, of course, dinosaurs! It is funny to do this now. Before Julia came home, I painted her room in our old house. It was soft (and kind of empty) and was supposed to look like quilts on the walls. I had plans to make "squares" on those quilts and fill the squares with images of Julia's life before we got her and after. None of that happened because she was not ready for anything to be painted on those walls! She needed those walls to be as empty as possible and not in the least stimulating.

When we moved to Madison, I had her room painted deep blue because it seemed more like her than any pink and purple confection. I've been waiting to do more and now she is ready. She came home from school and loved the little bit that I had done. Trucks, dinosaurs, animals -- Julia can be such a girly girl in what she wants to wear, but on her walls as in her play, she is such a tomboy. I love it.

Today, it is rainy and cold -- big change from Tuesday's 90 degree day. The garden and grass need the rain and I hope we have a full day of it.

02 September 2008

First Day of First Grade & Third Grade

A world of difference from last year. It was perfect but . . . . .

Julia and I woke up early and put on her listening therapy while I took my shower. She dressed upstairs without a problem and asked for pigtails in her hair. She was excited to see Christy! She was even more excited when we were walking to school -- yes, walking -- and Amy passed us in her car and stopped to say hi.

Back to the house, Julia seemed ready and willing to eat and get ready. She was very interested in what was for lunch and loved having a little bowl of leftover (from her thermos) noodles. Yes, school was ready to begin.

We had a good walk to school. I am so pleased that walking to the camp bus paved the way for this. Julia put her backpack down on Christy's white dot (the place where the class lines up) and went to swing. The buses came, the bell rang, teacher carrying balloons came out and Julia hugged Christy and Amy. She had lots to say and went through at least a half dozen movies that she had watched this summer. Julia was pleased to see her friends. Although Cynthia is in another class, Julia went to hug her and then hugged lots of returning kids to Christy's class. She got Aaron and Seth mixed up (as do I).

Julia did have a minute when the bus kids were streaming into the playground when she went to stand by one of the walls with her back to the coming throng. She has done this before, especially with Abby -- taken a moment -- and maybe this is a way for her to collect herself, ready herself for what will be coming.

She kissed and hugged me and was ready to go in. Of course, she was not really ready to stand in line, but moderately ready and kinda excited is a huge leap forward.


My big girl starts school today as well. Teaching third grade in a dual language class in Far Rockaway Queens. I can't wait to get the report of that first day and I am sending so much love and support to her for a fine first day.

01 September 2008

Labor Day

And the livin' is easy.

It is hot today and our community pool is closed and the Y is cleaning their pool this weekend. SO, no swimming which would have been the natural activity today. Instead, we gardened in the morning. I planted a few hostas I bought at Farmers Market; Julia deadheaded cone flowers; and David mowed the lawns. I turned over some compost and was very happy to discover compost! The. 3-bin system that I inherited was just so slow and I wondered whether I'd ever make efficient compost, but I changed back to my favorite 2-bin system, and with the help of some neighborhood bunny poop, my bins are just chugging along. I turned over a bit today and found that at least half of one bin has rough compost. Good for fall planting and great for dressing beds.

Yesterday, we did two novel activities for our family.

We went to church in the morning. I have felt the need for some spiritual guidance for myself and for Julia for awhile. I thought about our options. As a lapsed Catholic, I had to think about the Church but couldn't bring myself to live with the conservatism of the Church today. If it was Vatican II's church, I could consider it. I love the rituals, I love saints, and the singing.

I thought about a Jewish congregation. I am pretty cofortable with Jewish beliefs and practices, especially in the liberal reformed movement. But David is not interested in getting involved in a synagog. Too many demands, too much guilt. I am not saying that the guilt would be imposed from without.

So, we've settled upon the First Unitarian Fellowship which is bigger than I really wanted but whose ministers and message is very comfortable for us. I will sign Julia up for some sunday school and I will take a newcomers' class in a few weeks. And we shall see.

The afternoon was spent at a Ho-Chuck Pow-Wow. An interesting event. It reminded me of a Ukrainian picnic or the Bolivian Europenia. It was an event for those involved, for the family, and although we were allowed to watch, we were not included in what was going on. Still, I really enjoyed the drumming -- constant and loud -- the dancing -- soft shoes on dry dirt -- and the costumes -- each more elaborate than the next and made out of every conceivable fabric and decoration. Lots of feathers and flash. Julia enjoyed it too. When the drumming circle near our part of the bleachers was playing, she put her fingers in her ears. It was much to much for her, but her eyes didn't wander from the dancers in costumes. It would have been such a good time to get into her head and see it as she was and know what she was thinking.

It seems that after almost 2 weeks, the listening therapy CD for expression is kicking in. Juliaa's drawings are clearer, more distinct embellishment, more multiple images, AND more counting of what she has drawn. She is probably talking more as a result of the CD as well, but Julia talks so much to begin with that it is hard to measure. She is getting more of her prepositions in the right places. And she loves home -- when we first got back from vacation, she put her arms out and said, "I love this kitchen."

School tomorrow!