31 March 2009

baby steps and the punch

This is going to be very short because I still have scads to do to get ready for tomorrow's playgroup. I worked all day on organizing, and now I have to come up with two new game instruction sheets, a new playdough instruction sheet, and write up my report from last week before it gets totally confused with what happens tomorrow.

Anyway, I wanted to note that Julia really decked Aaron today. I heard about it during school when I ran into Christy, Julia's teacher, and the principal. After supper, when Julia and I were cuddling, I asked her about her school day -- I wanted her very close when I asked and not in the car or at the dinner table. Julia told me that she pulled Aaron's hair and then she punched him. I asked why and she told me she "little bit hated" Aaron. She never came up with why she did it, but the two of them totally rub each other the wrong way. They have been in the same class for two years and I hope they can be separated next year. Problem is that there may be only one classroom with the spec ed kids in it so that the aides don't get spread too thin.

What intrigued me about Julia's confession was that she did not try and hide what she did in any way. Some of that is because she doesn't hide that much from us, that is, when she answers us. But also, she was right out there with her feelings even though she knows that I don't like her to hurt anyone. And she said that to me.

On a more positive note, I heard that Julia now asks Anna or Lilah to come and sit on her mat with her during rest time. Julia has been reading with both of these girls and Cynthia, and I've heard there is more appropriate conversation that goes on.

Yahoo! For baby steps.

30 March 2009

We had quite an exciting day today, but I am starting to fade out so I have to revert to unconnected bullets of information. Ugh!

- In speech therapy, Kimberly gave Julia a vocabulary test during which Kimberly said words and Julia had to point to one of four pictures which best described the word. Last Friday when Kimberly gave her a similar test, Julia was wild with her pointing. This past weekend Julia and I were working on a workbook and she needed to point to her answers before she wrote them. I tried to teach her to use a 'quiet finger' instead of the 'noisy fingers' that she has used with Kimberly. We did this on both Saturday and Sunday, and today, she used her quiet finger to take the test with Kimberly. I am amazed, so was Kimberly. I never expected her to use what I had taught her so quickly. Added to that, Julia did really well with the testing. She stayed on task for most of the time, and considered her answers before she pointed.

- Annie, Julia's OT, commented that Julia seemed different. She described it as a different quality of listening. Julia did listen and followed directions pretty well. At one point, she got angry at Annie, and I tried to calm her down. I told her that Annie was one of her grown ups and cared about her. I said that Annie wanted Julia to be safe and the Julia should trust whatever Annie tells her to do. Julia seemed to take that in today.

- On our way to our next stop, I put on our Chinese kids music tape. Julia started to sing the songs -- in a fake Chinese -- but then after the second song, she suddenly got very quiet. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Julia looking rather sad in the back seat. I asked her if anything was wrong and she told me that she was sad. I asked why, and she said that the Chinese music made her very sad. I immediately turned it off and when we arrived at the doctor's I gave her a big hug and told her how she could tell me about it when she was sad so that I could try and do something for her. Like turn off the music.

- We went to the doctor's office after therapy because Julia has been complaining about one of her ears and her neck. Julia doesn't complain about pain much. The nurse practitioner could not see one ear drum because it was blocked with wax. Julia was very cooperative at the office and was very appropriate when they washed her ear out with warm water. A huge piece of wax finally came out of her ear and we are hoping that her ear problem is solved. Her ear canal was irritated and the wax was leaning on her ear drum.

- And finally, a blog about school lunches and what kids are learning about food in school asked our food group to contribute entries. They have just published the first one that I wrote for the blog. Check it out: F is for French Fry.

29 March 2009

I want to dive in!

Julia is no longer taking group swimming lessons because I spaced signing her up a few weeks ago, so my Saturday time for a good long write while Julia swims is gone. The second best time in Sunday for about a half hour while Julia has a private lesson with Linda. Today, Linda came with something new. She brought a little book with a swimming social story. We'll try reading it before lessons and I will add more pictures. For private lessons, Julia needs to learn about following Linda's directions, about listening, and about being just a little girl (and not a dinosaur, black cat, or any other animal) during her lessons.

Today in Sunday school, I was Kevin's co-teacher, Julia had her wonderful aide, Erin, and was able to deal with me paying attention to other kids, and was also able to do the craft. Today, the kids made nest boxes – little fruit boxes filled with things that birds might use to make nests. Every kid decorated the outside of the box with pictures and/or just colors, and then made nests! Although Kevin tried very hard to explain that they were making nest boxes, every one of our 6-8 year olds understood it as making a nest. I knew that Julia would see it that way but it was interesting that the others kids, NTs every one, understood the same thing.

Part of this week's query about our upcoing IEP was prompted on an emotional level by Friday at school. The morning which is usually Writers' Workshop with pretty defined rules was pretty chaotic – too many choices for Julia and too much distraction – because it was set up to free the teachers for a bit of time to test/evaluate kids. Although most of the kids loved this time, kids like Julia were somewhat frantic.

Thinking about Friday and then Sunday school this morning, and in addition, the sudden loss Amy, Julia's favorite aide in school, I understand better my own extremely emotional response. HOME SCHOOL! A way to control as much of Julia's world as I possibly can. I have gotten some very good suggestions about blending regular school with home schooling and even to try to use tutors instead of the classroom. My gut tells me that Julia needs more one-on-one time and stability, as much as possible, with her teachers, but she also needs her classroom.

I am seeing Julia attempt conversations. She said good bye to Anna, she “reads” stories with Lilah, she tries talk to kids getting ready for swimming lessons. Maybe she is showing growth in her social relationships. That in itself would be good reason to keep her in school. But some educational time that is more solitary is something that I can ask for.

Our cuddling is changing character as well – Julia willingly comes to it most of the time, but wants to control it and tries in much more subtle ways than she used to (we have a closing ritual and she is already to say when that ritual should start – so very cooperative). She does not fuss or need quite as much raw emotional outlet (although cuddling was what we did when Julia had trouble on Friday and then, Julia was very emotional and needed lots of controlled holding). Usually now, she gets angry at me at some point and will hit or kick at me. I immediately put her in a firmer hold and she knows now that when she is ready to tell me that her arm or leg will not hurt me, I will release the hold. She is also more willing to be herself, a little girl, and not a cat or dinosaur.

Today, after some anger and cuddling, Julia told me that she didn't want any more kisses. I tried to tease her out of her refusal to be kissed. She wouldn't hear of it. So I asked if she was kissed in China. She said no. I asked is she was hugged in China and she said no. I asked of MiaoMiao kissed her in China and she said yes. And she told me that she kissed MiaoMiao a lot in China and that they hugged as well. She had a big smile on her face when she talked about MiaoMiao. She told me she was not going back to China, MiaoMiao was not going back to China, and that she wanted to bring MiaoMiao to the Puppy House (her name for our house) and have her live with us. Although we've talked about MiaoMiao, now Abby, many times, this is the first time that she has asked for Abby to live with us. I've always known that was what she wanted and sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if we had tried to bring both of them home at the same time, or if, had her parents not come for her, we had gone back for MiaoMiao as soon as we could.

We talked more and Julia told me that Abby was safe at home. She wanted to know if it snowed “in” Abby's house like it did in Wisconsin. She seemed to have a new clarity about all of what happened to her friend.

I too am slowly finding some clarity. My first GAL case which was dismissed after I talked to the petitioner – and I hope I get assigned another case soon. This is work I want to do. The idea of keeping Julia home all summer and building a structured summer for her – lots of questions about this to all of our professional helpers but an idea to consider. Learning more about playgroups and how they can help kids on the spectrum and other kids who need socialization. Learning more about how to teach Julia and other kids who have suffered trauma. These answers, the questions, have surfaced. Last week, I was asked to join the board at ARC Dane County. I've hesitated for days. But I am ready to say yes. And PTO president for next year – I will be way out of my comfort zone there but I find myself with ideas and a mission. Where did the mission come from? I have no idea, but it is there. It is a few years since Lisa said that Julia was my vocation. Julia is not my vocation, but she has rubbed the moss off my still and settled mind and pushed me to wonder and challenge and learn.

Julia wants to dive! She jumps with her hands over her head, but her willingness is what makes me smile.

28 March 2009

I will build you a nest

I will build you a nest
Of twigs and feathers and silken threads
I’ll capture star light
And lasso moon beams to keep you warm and chase the night fears away
And decorate with bubbles to make you giggle
And tie it together with all of my love.

27 March 2009

Further into the baffle

So I've been thinking about Julia all day today. Reading and writing about possibilities. Mulling. Thinking about what I saw in the classroom today. Thinking about Julia's clay work which she does at home compared to anything she produces at school. Thinking about how much Julia's teacher cares about her and how fortunate we are to have a school who wants to work with us. Thinking about how far that child has come. But what to do about next school year.

And then, after school we went to speech therapy and Kimberly started testing Julia's speech and language. Compared to 16 months ago, when her then-speech therapist gave her a similar test, Julia was incredible. Julia participated!

That was the first incredible thing.

16 months ago, Julia wanted no part of testing and nothing could persuade her otherwise. There is still some of this feeling lurking around in that little head. She will do the testing because she likes Kimberly and because Julia trusts her enough to do what she says, but as soon as the test got boring and the end was not immediately in sight, Julia does not make an extra effort to perform well. And she still does not get the concept of a test -- you know, care very much about getting all the answers right for that good mark or to please someone. I can't remember not knowing what tests were.

The test the Kimberly administered is for kids 2-7. She gave this one to Julia because she felt that Julia could not do the more age appropriate test which included reading and answering more complicated questions. We are still working hard on Why. This test depended on Julia listening and understanding questions read to her and then pointing to pictures which represented the answers. Julia put the best effort I've seen her do. She answered a good deal of the questions correctly although at times she was bored and ramdomly pointed without any idea of what the question was. I could see that glaze come over her face. And some things she still cannot do, like counting, without a very explicit direction. Some things she just doesn't know, like that past tense of various verbs.

Whatever the result of the test, it will only be partially correct -- it is the correct measurement of Julia's willingness and ability to take a test.

One thing that Kimberly pointed out -- when Julia was pointing out the answers to Kimberly's questions, she jabbed at the correct answer which at times was difficult to catch. I commented that a less sympathic tester would have missed much more. Kimberly said that Julia's pointing behavior was autistic like. She explained the Julia did not try to help Kimberly "read" her answer -- this was a lack of empathy.

This is the first time that someone has teased out a simple behavior and given me some reason. Now, what of her behavior is trauma?

So much thinking today and the answer may have risen to the top. I am considering keeping Julia home from any camp this summer. We have been working well together and we could do some of that. And we could have fun. Just a thought right now. We could be a full time family.

In the state of baffle

I was talking to Cheshire last night and she told me that my blog was pretty boring, even though she was very interested in what I had to say. I laughed at her -- Thank God the blog is boring! I don't need drama EVERYDAY. When in doubt, take a few pictures and make a pretty scrapbook page.

And then I go to school this morning and work the kids. It is IEP time very soon -- Individual Education Plan for kids who need special education -- and I am wondering what it is that I want from the school. I am at a it of a loss as to what to ask for.

I wrote this to two yahoo group that might have suggestions:

I am trying to figure out what I want from my daughter's school for next year. I wonder if anyone is facing some of the same things and what they are thinking,and I know there are plenty here who had BTDT.

Julia is 8. She is in First grade doing kindergarten work. We had hoped that she would finish kindergarten work this year but I don't think that is going to happen. She is diagnosed PDD-NOS on the autism spectrum but the longer that I know her (2.5 years now) the more I think that at least some of her challenges are related to attachment and trauma. We have been seeing an AT for almost 3 months now and some memories of China are coming up and of course, behavior went down thetubes. All of this expected but it doesn't help at school. Her teachers and support people are all very helpful, even willing to meet with our AT therapist.

Julia is mainstreamed in school and is in a K-1 class. She is also in class with a few other kids on the spectrum so she does not stand out as different as much as she might. BUT because of some changes in district rule changes, there may be no mixed grade classes next year and she may be in a straight second grade. She is no where ready for second grade work. I am sure they will modify the workfor her but she is going to stick out like a very sore thumb. So what do we do?One of her challenges is that it is very, very hard for her to work with the amount of stimulation that exists in a classroom but since another challenge is her lack of social skills, and being in a classroom full of kids is great forher to work on skills. Has anyone ever tried part time home schooling? Julia and I work well together, so it is an option, but we do need the services she gets in school right now. Another thing, I really think that Julia has a very good brain (her art work is incredible) but her teacher and I agree that we have just not gotten to it to progress in a steady pace.

I am wondering if we should be putting our emphasison the AT work for the next few years and hope that when we work some of her trauma out, she will catch up,as much as she is able, later. But then, what does she do in school? Sorry this is so scatter shot. The levels of trying to explain are baffling me right now. Any ideas would be so appreciated.


Another thing that I did not ask about is that I've had word that a slot will probably open up for Julia in the Autism waiver program during the summer. This is an intensive program of 20+ hours of therapy a week. Right now, I have no idea just how that would help her.

26 March 2009

a note on playgroup

Ach! I tried to write something last night but I was tired and uneasy and nothing that I wrote down was true to what was going on. So I try again.

The play group met and went well. I have to keep reminding myself that progress in this sort of program is very slow. The kids are not really using the directions and instructions that I write out and yet, I keep writing. I hope they get around to using those things, but there seems to be a lot of interaction going on between the kids as we all stumble through our time together. I am very comfortable with the group not going perfectly yet. We are still new and need practice. Others are not so pleased and I have a request for more training and questions. For me, as long as we keep working at the group and keep reading, we will get it. We will understand how to facilitate play for the children.

I don't know quite where I get the confidence. Certainly, I have as much trouble steering my team as the other team leaders, but I have a very strong conviction that we, as parents, have to expend an awful lot of effort for these kids, and that daily living has provided us with lots of expertise that we can build on. Maybe for me it is just that we had our child come into our lives when she was already a 5 year old, and without even a hint about what she was like. To some extent, we have unraveled her and figured a few things out. And that was so much more difficult than any of the kids in our playgroup. I don't mean that I could take on any kid with social skill deficits but the kids we have in our group are all well loved and have very concerned parents. They have backgrounds and they do survive day to day in their classrooms.

I am trying to write my way into an answer here and I don't have one. I am just so sure we are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason, and that's just not enough.

25 March 2009

Wednesday morning

Yesterday evening, we went to the school's international dinner. A good sized group of families all bringing something to eat, and eating it in the school gym. It was noisy with kids shouting out to eachother, lots of talking and lots of running around. There is no way we could have brought Julia to an event like this last year.

How many times do I write that?

Julia is very comfortable in school. She sat with us and ate. When her friend, Lilah, came in, Julia shouted to her and later visited her at her table. I was good to see this.

We have another meeting of our play group today. I still have directions and pictures to prepare. One of our kids asked her mother to bring in string for cats cradle today so she could share it with the group. This is a child who presents are rather shy and holds back at times. I am so happy that she want to do something for the group.

I have not been cuddling/holding with Julia for the last three days and I think I see a difference in her levels of aggression, cooperativeness, and noise level. More and louder. I have not been insisting on cuddling because we've been busy but also because Julia has been coming willingly to my lap and insisting on not cuddling. The difference is there. She wants to phyically cuddle but not engage in eye contact, stories (about abandonment), or putting her feelings into her closet. I was worried that we were moving too fast for her and needed to take out time, but right now, I think that I need to press on or lose the emotional growth that she is doing.

23 March 2009


A friend, Norie, commented yesterday about Julia's talent. And it made me smile. I appreciate the comment because sometimes in my daily round I take this talent for granted. Sometimes, it is a real pain finding bits of clay stuck to every surface in the house. And sometimes when the work that we must do with Julia dominates our lives, I can forget that what she does with clay is incredible.

Clay does not go to school with Julia, although even the kids at school know that Julia can do extraordinary things with clay and also with pencils and markers. But apart from school, clay is part of Julia's everyday activities. She may want it in the car, always wants it when she watches tv, usually wants it at the dinner table. She has never asked to take it to bed but then again, I probably shouldn't put that thought out here. She will probably start asking to go to bed with it soon. LOL. Julia's talent and drive to create is as much a part of her as breathing, as wanting to eat and play with her Little Pets. Everyone in our family loves and enjoys the arts, we have all dabbled to some extent in some art form, but none of us comes close to Julia's persistence and practice. There have been times when one or the other of us has worked hard on some form, waking up early, refraining from other activities, doing something long into the night. But we work, what I see with Julia is play and joy. Incredibly joy to work a form again and again without need to preserve or display. She does enjoy that I take pictures of her work from time to time, but for every picture there are hundreds of shapes and forms. When I think about Julia's art, I get so excited to see how it will develop and how she will grow into it.

What gives me pause, what takes my breath away is the thought that althought Julia is delayed in so many areas, she has lept over high mountains in developing her art. When she first came home, we had to show her how to smuch play dough, to roll it out, to cut out shapes, to form it into simple shapes.

The yellow clay that she used to make her latest creatures has a story. A few weeks ago Julia and Annie, her OT, spread a thin layer of yellow clay on a 5x7" piece of cardboard and then used this board to write on. The resistance that the clay offers is another way for the shapes of numbers and letters to get into Julia system. We've used it a few times during our homework and Julia did not make full use of the resistance, that is, she did not press down on the clay very hard. I was hoping that we could continue to work with it.

BUT . . . .

When we had friends over for dinner last weekend, she and Sergei must have scraped every bit of that yellow clay off the board and formed it back into a ball. They did play so nicely together and were quiet for a good deal of time without any hint of mischief. I had to laugh the next day when I found the naked cardboard and later the yellow clay in a plastic bag. I should have know that I could not keep or waste clay for such a mundane things as writing.

As for training in the arts, I am putting that on hold. Although we give Julia almost unlimited access to materials for her to make art, I have not enrolled her in any classes. At this point she still does not listen and follow directions well. Her violin and swimming lessons are the outside instructions that she gets. I am hoping that as well as learning some music and learning to swim, Julia will get to listening and doing what is asked of her. I hope too that she will learn from these lessons that there is the possibility of learning almost anything. There are time during all of her lessons and schooling right now that there is a struggle for power and control, Julia refuses and takes a stand refusing to follow any directions. I don't want that happen, at least no yet, to her art. I want her to have fun, love it, and enjoy it. She only started with play dough two years ago. When she is ready we will find her a wonderful teacher.

21 March 2009

Julia art

I haven't posted any of Julia's work for a long time now. Today, we were outside in the backyard and Julia had fun with her yellow clay. This is three little birds sitting on a mountain. The one bird is sitting in a flower.
This is a daddy penguin who is frustrated. I love the tummy.
Back inside, Julia has been drawing from Show White recently. This is the Evil Queen with her cat and a bird in a cage looking into the magic mirror. Julia drew the queen's reflection in her mirror.

20 March 2009

Promise of Spring

Moist, fertile soil, tender, green shoots, butterflies. Marbles, jacks, puddle boots, and bikes. The promise of Spring. Happy Spring.

19 March 2009

mornin' ramblin'

I feel in a calm place this morning taking some sort of long view of Julia's development. And it is not because she is moving by leaps and bounds. She creeps along but pushing forward in so many arenas must be exhausting and fill her brain with so much as to spill over. For 2.5 years, I have been trying to catch up for the 5.5 years that Julia was not with us. I now have a much healthier understanding, a gut understanding of why "they" say that it takes a child as long as she was in institutional care to catch up. Any less is not at all fair to the child.

I can't imagine what it must be like to have a battery of people -- teams everywhere you look -- working on me. Trying to develope me, trying to calm me, trying to force years of love on me, and trying to teach me everything from table manners to addition. I know that I see a very bright child here and a very delayed one as well. Not only do I want to give Julia the time to "catch" up to her physical age but I want others to do the same. It scares me at time when I see little girls, her peers, treat her with distain or outright reject her. Sometimes I want to say something to these kids. I hold myself back only because I cannot think of anything constructive to say. I am too angry. I need to talk to someone very soon about one particular girl.

When the glimmer of some leap forward come into view, it is startling. Two nights ago at the dinner table, David was asking Julia about her day. We get a behavior chart every day and have been since last spring. When ever Julia get all smiles on her chart, she gets and extra sticker. She is always happy about this but it doesn't seem to give her incentive to get all those smiles.

The day in question had two frowning faces and a note that Julia hit the special ed teacher who was doing math with her. David asked her about the frowning faces and Julia replied that she hit Ginny. David asked why and Julia said that she didn't like math and didn't want to do it. David said that even if she didn't like the lesson, she still should not hit. And Julia replied that she knew but that Ginny was a very bad teacher. David refuted this and added that even if Ginny was a bad teacher, that Julia should not hit.

Now Ginny is a wonderful, patient and very loving teacher, but putting that aside, Julia and David had a real conversation! That was exciting. More and more often, it is more than a single questions and response with Julia. She still calls your name and has nothing to add, she still doesn't look at people when she talks, she still is either over enthusiastic with people or is inappropriately unresponsive, but . . . .

Last night, we didn't do home work. Instead, we cuddled together, told stories -- including hers about swallowing anyone and everyone she didn't like at the moment -- tapped, and sang. She will still fight our cuddling at times, well, most of the time, fight getting started, but once she is in my arms, and sometimes, once she had gotten her angries out, she is very relaxed in my arms. She seems to let more go.

This morning Julia told me she wanted to go to our play group today. Ah, she likes it. Good. It is time to learn something!

18 March 2009

Play Group

I ran the third session of our playgroup today because our expert was ill. I was the float and three other mothers ran the groups of kids. Cut loose and on our own, we floundered a bit but made it through. There are times when it feels like hurding cats, and I catch someone's eye and have to smile. Ach, there is so much to learn. How to handle each of the kids, how to pursuade each of them to go beyond their comfort zone, to connect with each other, to work together. From Christy, who teaches most of the kids, I hear that they love coming on Wednesday afternoons. This is great. Now, if we can only develope the skill to guide them.

As the kids ate snack, we went over their teams for the day and repeated the rules. We are using the Franklin Peacemaker Rules and adding a few of our own. Aaron recited most of the Peasemaker rule but left one out. An adult asked which one was left out, and it was Julia who called out "Follow directions." I was absolutely shocked that she knew the school rules, listened to Aaron say the rules, figured out which one was missing, and could recite it. We all said, good job, Julia, but that was pretty far from how happy I was that she could do this.

Julia was one of the two who were the most trouble today. I did not lead her group and she did not know the woman who did very well. She was not awful but really testing at every opportunity. She did not listen, she did not clean up, and she did not always stay with her group. We decided to connect behavior with the reward stickers and Julia was only able to get 2 of a possible 6 stickers. Still, Julia played with Rowan, dressed up, ate make believe pizza, put a puzzle together, and made a playdough snow person family with Rowan. I could dwell on how she did not listen or obey the rules, but she did enjoy herself and genuinely tried to play with Rowan.

Gosh, we have a long road to travel, but we are on that road.

I also started using EFT with Julia at Marilyn's suggestion. Using a series of acupuncture points, a person taps repeatedly on each point in a specific order as they say and think about a negative emotion. The theory is that the tapping engages the brain to help clear away the negative emotions, making way for change in the behavior related to the emotion. This is a very simplisitc explanation. I felt sceptical when Marilyn first told me about this but I've found references to this system on both the attachment and autism groups that I belong to. It seems to be another method that does help some people.

Julia has been cooperative for three days. Today, she helped come up with feelings that she wanted to tap. I don't think she understands even as much as I do about this system, but maybe it is making her feel better about some things, and in response to that is suggesting more issue to tap. I tap on her but I am waiting now for her to take the process over.

I also am tapping myself, and starting with weight control. Who knows? I might be one of those who it works on. If not, it is a pleasant meditation of sorts.

An Evening Walk

16 March 2009

Roots, wings, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk

Three quick thoughts before I get something done today -- that is the time between 8 and 1 when I pick Julia up from school.

First, we had dinner guests over last night and there were two kids that Julia could play with. They were rather a captive audience and Julia was loud and very bossy at times, but she has met these kids before and she enjoyed them so much. It was a warm evening so we had some wine and appetizers outside on our deck. I brought out bubbles and chalk for the kids and they had a great time. Just before we all came in, the three of them went into the backyard and played with Latkah and stomped around in our remaining mud puddle. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and mud -- what could be better.

I think she was the best she ever has been with other kids. When she is finally able to be a good friend, I think she will be the best. Julia has such a good and big heart. When we were going to bed last night, Julia asked if Cynthia and Sergei were going to bed as well. When I told her that I thought so, she wished them a good night.

Next, Amy, Julia's favorite aide in school, left at the end of last week for another position. This is the first time Julia has lost an important school person in Madison. It was well planned and executed and included pictures, a class gift, and a little party with cupcakes that I made on Thursday (so now I do feel like I should buy that red jumper). Julia is taking it well, although I saw it was harder for her to get in line and follow directions. I expect that she will have a hard time for a few days.

One thought that I have is that Julia learns about almost everything when she has a relationship with the person teaching. She is not a child who really learns from rote repetition alone, and her wanting the knowledge -- be it the sounds of all of the letters or standing in line to go into class -- has a lot to do with wanting to please and feeling comfortable with the person who is teaching. If this is so, my constant involvement with school is such a blessing. My late found patience is an incredible gift.

Finally, on Marilyn's instructions, we have become much more strict with Julia. We spent a few days noticing how often we have to call to her to have her do what we ask. We are now getting as close to one call, or two with the second with eye contact. We ask her to do what we ask once, if she ignores us, she sits on the step in a mini-time out. This is not easy for Julia but she is doing pretty well. We have more trouble remembering the drill every time than she has doing it. And she shows a bit of rebellion but overall, I think she is please with herself when she does as she is asked. And there are many less toys on the floor.

This is so different from the way we raised Cheshire. We gave her reasons when she asked or balked. We talked it out and I believed this gave her a strong sense of herself. I understand that Julia needs something else, she needs to fully depend on us, without reason or explanation -- Momma is right no matter what! -- something I instinctively balk at. But if Julia needs this, we will do it. And later find a way to give her wings. She does need roots before wings.

14 March 2009

More about China

Julia spoke again about China. Last night, after stories and just before I turned out the light, she started by saying that she hated China. I said that China must have made her feel very sad and hurt, and Julia agreed. Then she started talking about peeing in her pants (how she did it, never does it now, how it was wet and stinky). I encouraged her to talk on not knowing what she was talking about. She told me that in a black car, she peed and lost her panties, but her green pants were still wet and she had to put them back on even though the pants were stinky. She said said that after mommy and Daddy took her hands, she went in a car and took off the green pants and never had to wear pants again.

I realized that she was talking about the day that we met, and asked her if she remembered Mr. Xiao. She told me that Xiao yelled at her and she hated yelling. I asked if she was scared that day, and she told me that she cried and cried that day, and again, that her pants were wet.

I don't remember her pants being wet or stinky, but she did take off those green pants and not put on another pair of pants for almost 2 years. She still doesn't wear jeans or any pants apart from stretch pants which are more like tights than pants.

She also told me that she was not going back to China, she was staying here, at home. I told her that she was going to stay with us forever and that she was safe. When I turned out the light, Julia cuddled closer than usual and hung on tight.

David said that when Julia first woke up this morning, Julia told him that she was scared. I don't doubt that sometimes she also dreams of what she is sad or scared about.

13 March 2009

11 March 2009

My, my, how the days go by!

I am waiting for another plumber to come over and give us an estimate on the work. I have one estimate in hand which has been revised a couple of times and is in our general budget. I have one estimate for the tile which is from a small shop -- it is higher than we expected, and I have to see if we can lower it if we buy some of the tile from Home Depot. I prefer supporting local businesses but the bottom line is all important right now. All this running around and work hoping that the bathroom could be done at the end of this week, but it looks like we have to go into next week to do all the looking that we feel is necessary.

And the water sounds continue. And they are not the water sounds that one might listen to in order to relax. I want quiet!

20 Minutes later: So we probably found the plumber that we will go with. This guy comes in, is appalled by the sound of running water and says that we should fix it for now, and be able to deal with the new fixtures at our leisure. (We've been seeking divine intervention, but didn't expect it.) He turns off the water, takes apart the faucet that we were told was not fixable and is presently fixing it. This is not a long range fix but the house is quiet and if we have a bit more time, it will not hurt our family pocketbook as much.

On other fronts, it is freezing today! We had 50's yesterday and it is 11 degrees out there right now. This is March in Wisconsin. Julia was not thrilled to be back in her heaviest clothes and still freezing on the playground this morning.

Today is our second play group. I have a bunch of things to do this morning. I've done some game directions and two play dough direction sheets. And then, I have to organize all of our "stuff" so that taking things out and putting them away is more orderly. Labels! I need Labels!

Finally, it looks like I am going to take on the PTO next year as president. Elections are not until next month, but there are rarely contested elections at our school. I was asked by the current president, we talked, and I agreed. Now, here is something I never, ever imagined that I would do. LOL. I've never been a "red jumper" mom (a term that my old lunch mates had for traditional SAHMs who baked cookies for after school treats and were always at their kids' school), and right now I am a pretty nontraditional mom (you know, the age thing and having our child come into the family at 5). But the need is there and my arms are opened wide.

Pretty bazaar. What is just around the next bend in my path may just be more wild.

09 March 2009

Wonder Pets

Ok, so I have to admit to feeling uncomfortable admitting that Julia is just loving this toy and show made for younger kids. Why should I feel this way when she is delayed, has trouble playing with kids, doesn't understand everything at an 8 year old level? I understand all of that and still . . . . the little pet stuff is relatively appropriate, but Wonder Pets?

So, today, home from school and OT, she is dressing up the little Wonder Pets and making up adventures for them. And not the adventures she has seen. She is not obsessing over the Wonder Pets, and she has just assigned an empty box to keep her Wonder Pet stuff in -- she only has the pets and a boat. I better stop feeling so prickly about it.

08 March 2009

Shopping, Tile, and the Wonder Pets

I taught RE today and without doing as rigorous preparation, it went well. A good deal of that was due to Kevin who brought in a convection oven and baked with the kids. The baking as a class and for each other went nicely after talking about the community of our class, our families and the church and doing the pepper, soap, and sugar trick. While we waited for the cookies to bake we read Yertle the Turtle and talked about what it takes to be a good “king” or leader of a community. And then, the got to eat cookies and milk – and what could be better.

I have met such good people during this teaching experience. From my reluctance to teach in general to a feeling of great gratitude towards my colleagues and the kids we teach, has been a journey which reminds me that burdens have a chance to become gifts. So the task has not changed but my mind and heart has.

Yesterday, the three of us went shopping for a good long time. It was rainy and ucky out but a good day to do tasks which might be sensibly put aside if the sun was shinning. We visited two plumbing showrooms, a tile shop, and Home Depot. In each place we priced and talked and as we did I saw that what I had picked out on Friday was indeed the best option for our bathroom. We were given an estimate which was a high according to our budget for the work done. I am waiting for a full estimate from the other plumber. Truth be told, Home Depot has the same hardware – tub, sink, accessories – at a much lower price than the plumbers. Of course, with them, we will need a plumber installing the stuff. I'll check that out tomorrow. Then there is the balance of convenience of having all of the work and the hard ware from one place vs. making sure the hard ware in delivered and then have the plumber come. There is a slight chance this can all be done next week, and if that is possible we are going to go for it. Our noisy steam room, which is the disguise our bathroom now takes, is driving us all bonkers. Not to mention the waste of water!!

I am going to do the tiling. I'll price it out tonight but either a modified subway tile (3”x6”) or the regular 4”x4” will go on the surrounding around the tub. The floor will be 1” hexagons with a boarder of two or three rows of 1” squares. This is very old fashion. The only variation from the original is that there will be no black squares or hexagons interspersed in the pattern. Not much of a comment on the original but something.

Back to the shopping of yesterday. We told Julia that if she was cooperative during all of the shopping that we could get a toy. Going to five stores, all of which were incredibly boring to anyone especially an 8 year old, took an awful lot of self control. Daddy helped with the control. We got through all the bathroom shopping and did a big food shopping and then headed to Toys R Us – it seems like only yesterday that we couldn't even consider going to a store like that with all the sensory overload.

Julia asked for toys from the show Wonder Pets. We found a Wonder Pet boat with the three characters in small action figure size. The boat has a button that when pressed has a few phrases that the characters say plus a abbreviated version of the theme song. She loves it. It is a show and toy meant for a younger child, but the story line about about saving baby animals and saving anything in trouble is a favorite for Julia.

06 March 2009

Saturday at the Y

Friday I was feeling old. I think I may be coming down with a cold -- soar throat and exhausted -- and I am an awful patient.

I was in class with Julia on Friday morning. She had a rough start of the day. When she walked in the classroom, Aaron walked up to Julia and pinched her on the cheek. Julia paused for only a moment before she lunged at Aaron determine to smite her enemy. She is almost unstoppable when she is in this mode. I pulled her away (and for about 2 minutes I was the only adult in the classroom) and asked Aaron to apologize because he started the fighting. Of course, by the time I had my hands on Aaron, Julia had to apologize as well. Aaron refused, and Seth and Dakota commented that Julia was hurting kids all the time. Julia heard this and wanted to fight them as well. Tell me this sounds like a bad day in middle school. Christy came in and sorted things out and commented that this was the kind of social skills Julia needs. Julia wound up outside the classroom on a step to calm down – she was having a lot of trouble doing that.

On one had, Aaron was responsible for the problem and an observer might think it was unfair to put Julia on that step, and to some extent it was, but it wasn't the initial behaviors of any of the kids that was being “punished”, it was Julia's inability to calm down. She could not let the emotions go, she could not lose so completely.

Boundaries and regulation.

Therapy this week – attachment therapy – went well. Julia is more interested in Marilyn and spent time looking over a feelings chart and book with her. I am guessing that Julia is interested in working with Marilyn because Marilyn spends most of the time talking to me. I told Marilyn about the two moments of possible China memory that we've had, and she told me to incorporate what ever of these stories we have into the animal stories about abandonment that I am telling Julia.

We are also going to try enforcing a new stricter toy policy whose purpose will be to force my limitations on Julia like a parent would for a younger child. The idea being that Julia does not have internal boundaries or limitations because no one took the time to impose them on a regular basis. Irregular or occasional discipline just doesn't do it and I am relatively sure she had some of that. We decided to begin with toys. The new rule will be to put a toy away before she takes out another to play with. She will have place – the top of the coffee table – to leave a few things out, but only parts of one play thing, like some of her little pets. We are going to put this into effect this weekend, but interestingly, Julia started cleaning up her toys much more willingly after Thursday's therapy appointment.

What we are looking for is something that we can correct and to force her to correct it. So, we are looking to put her into time out (always in our sight) and to bend her will and inclination. We shall see what happens.

As I watch the kids swimming, I hear instructors explaining concepts – the breast stroke, treading water – this kind of explanation is so impossible for Julia. Maybe it is time to reassess the lessons that she needs.

Two parents responded to my email about the play group and I got some good information about their kids and the team that one of the parents led. Upping the expectations of the kids is going to be a challenge. Just figuring out how to make a goal and then what to do to get there. I need some study and reflection.

Now for our semi-tragedy of the week. The hot water pipes in our bathroom (only bathroom) tub has been leaking again. This happened last year and we had it “fixed”. We knew it was a temporary fix at best. The tub and the plumbing around it is original with the house and after 80 years needs to be replaced. The tub is worn and ugly; the surround is plastic which I hated from the first look at the house. Of course, the bathroom was the first room we were going to redo, the kitchen was the second, when we moved in, but that was when we imagined that it would be no trouble for me to find a job. We had a few contractors look and give us estimates, but as the months wore on and I did not land a job, we were not comfortable doing renovations with money we might need to live on.

So! We returned from Florida to find the drips and dribbles turned into a steady stream of hot water. The bathroom is a virtual steam room (oh, my lovely paint job from the fall!) and there never seems to be enough hot water for a good shower. We have no choice but to do a partial renovation. Maybe I should consider fund raising, maybe I should try to make money designing blog headers and backgrounds. I am going to do the tiling which was not in the original plan. If we can swig it, we will try to replace the tub and sink, tile around the tub and put tile on the floor. And we are going to do it fast. I could use a bit of a miracle to afford it and to do it quickly.

I am a bad mother today. We got to the Y for swimming and it seems that the next session starts today (Saturday now) and we have not registered. We will still do private lessons with Linda and register for next session. Another thought is to just do private for the swim value and forget about the group lessons until summer.

The program head is allowing Julia to participate in a class today because we got here and Julia was ready to swim. She is not with Linda and I am watching to see if she listens to another teacher. Actually, this teacher is someone who has subbed for Linda before and can handle Julia, and Julia is not doing badly in this class. She isn't getting a lot of extra help, just this teacher's expectations and barking orders.

05 March 2009

More on the play group

We are calling our social skills group a play group which is easier for the kids to understand. Some are sophisticated enough to wonder why they are in this group and why other kids from their class are not in the group. No one asked yesterday during group time but I have to have a good answer ready. Just playing together will work for kids like Julia who really don't see themselves as pick out for any reason, but some of the kids know they have differences and may connect the two. I am hoping our parents are willing to fess up to their kids -- yes, you are different, and we are working to make playing and friendship easier for you -- but that is up to parents, not the group.

Oh, I slept well last night. I saw Dana this morning at school and asked her what she thought about our group. She was surprised that it went so peacefully and so well. The kids seemed to be thrilled to be able to play together and to have a whole bunch of new stuff to explore. We need to up the anty, the stakes, and encourage conversation, but the general feeling seems to be that they had a good time and want to come back.

I wrote a long, long report of the session for the group's yahoo group. I hope I will do that each week to serve as a some sort of journal keep/research for myself. I have tried to encourage others to add their own observations but I am a bit worried that I am intimidating the other parents with my long writing. I just need to get it all down.

I really don't feel like I am that good at guiding the children in play. I mean, I am okay at it at home with Julia but not observant enough or intuitive even to pick up on what is going on to effectively intervene. I hope it takes practice. I can do that.

On the Julia side of life -- She took forever getting ready to get to school today. We were up early and siting down to breakfast earlier than usual, but she just took her time like crazy. I try not urge but not rush. Usually, I fail miserably. Today, I tried harder but the encouragement really fell on deaf ears. We arrived at school ever so late.

Now to organization and cleaning which is just a long four letter word.

04 March 2009


Where did yesterday go?

Today was pretty intense. We had our first social skills group meeting. Six kids today (one was missing and we are still looking for an 8th child), four adult guiding, and our autism expert floating from group to group offering pointers. I can only talk about the experience that I had with my group because I was too focused to get an overview of what was going on in the whole room. I played with Julia and L. and both girls did very well in terms of cooperation with each other and with our procedures -- lots of visual schedules for everything. I really did not do much to encourage or facilitate conversational interaction. I was much more focused on getting them from through our day's schedule, having smooth transitions, and keeping both of them on task.

I still have more to do and lots of organizing to get ready for next week, and thank goodness, I have a week to do it.

Oy, I am exhausted.

Some interesting things have been happening . . . .

Julia lost a tooth last night while I was out shopping and getting the dog from the kennel. She immediately asked David about the tooth fairy and last night the tooth was put in a plastic bag and ceremoniously placed under her pillow. She slipped into our bed some time last night, as usual, and so she was eating breakfast before she remember about the tooth. She rushed upstairs and found a dollar under her pillow. She was not incredibly impressed, but maybe it's time to talk about money and what it can do.

Yesterday, when we woke Julia up at the hotel at 5 a.m., she was not happy to get up. She gets up pretty early every morning but not at 5. She didn't want to get up, and she moaned and groaned. I tried to coax her to get dressed but she seemed impossible to move. She seemed to be getting into tantrum mode. She was not crying but complaining. Finally, she said that she was scared. She seemed to get a little bit of clarity -- not much, just a little -- and was able to say exactly what was wrong. I flashed on her being woken up the morning that she met us, told to get dressed, and given something to eat before she was bundled into a car and driven three hours away from the only home that she knew to meet the strange people who would take her away from China. Maybe this is just me going way out on the inference limb, but it was what I immediately thought of. I gave her a hug then and told her that she was safe, that we were going home, and that we were staying together.

02 March 2009

Julia and the Sea

Birthday pictures

Granpa celebrates his 90th birthday tomorrow, but we celebrated on Saturday at a very nice restaurant. We sat outside surrounded by plants and in hearing range of a lovely fountain. Grandpa stole a few kisses.
Julia gave granma lots of hugs.
Having Cheshire with us was such a great gift for all of us!How nice to have Granpa and Granma, and both girls across the table. Happy Birthday, Granpa.

Stuck in Florida

We are stuck in Florida until tomorrow! Better Fort Lauderdale than in North Dakota this time of year. Glass half full. Of course, David and I both have things we should be doing today and Julia should be in school tomorrow. Glass definitely half empty. LOL. We will survive.

We had booked an early morning flight today because it was direct, short, and we'd be home in time to do errands in the afternoon and be ready for the week. We checked out of our hotel, gave the rental car back, checked out bags, and headed for security. The security line was short but by the time we arrived at our gate, they were announcing that our direct flight was cancelled and that they were switching all of the passengers to the early morning direct flight to Milwaukee on Wednesday. WEDNESDAY?!?!? We waited out the line and managed to get connecting flights very, very early tomorrow morning; however, because our flight was cancelled because of "weather" (snow? in Milwaukee which I heard stopped by the time we were in line) were were not provided with hotel or meal vouchers. Now, Cheshire scolded me for complaining so much AirTran the other day because I was late getting in line and it was all my fault. So, I did think that I should issue a formal apology to the universe, but instead I will just renew my complaints effective today. I understand snow but not cancelling the flight for the entire day or not being stuck for another day or two.

We were tired from our early morning wake up, and hadn't had anything but a sip of coffee. We got our dunkin' donuts and coffee (Fort Lauderdale Airport didn't seem to have much else to offer or we were in the wrong part) and I settled down with my computer to priceline a hotel for tonight. I landed the Crowne Plaza which seems to be pretty sweet -- close to the beach and with a pool for the young one. We will suffer in style at bargain prices.

Julia freaked out a bit because of the change of plans. I have been so careful to give her a full run down of plans at the beginning of any adventurous day. She understood today and could recite what were were supposed to to back to me, but then the gods laughed. Plans and schedules work when life cooperates. How do you teach change?

Anyway, Julia's slight melt down was no where as bad as it used to be when we changed any plan at all, but by the time we were checking into the hotel she was angry and ready to want to hurt me. We managed to keep her together until we got to the room, and I immediately took her in my arms and held her while we talked about what was going on, she was able to give into her anger and squrim and try to get out of my arms, and of course, yell a bit. I held her for a long time and she finally calmed down. She is watching tv now and playing with her clay. The holding seems to have reset her feelings. We'll see if it lasts now.

This I've weekend, I've really noticed how Julia's behavior can be regulated. When we walked on the beach or swam in the pool -- heavy work -- she was much calmer for a number of hours. These activities are so much more demanding than the sensory diet that they do at school in the beginning of the day hoping to regulate her. I wonder if walking to school plus the sensory activities would be better for Julia than just the sensory activities.

I think we are going to find some pizza for lunch and then hit the beach. It is pretty cool today, so I don't know if we can swim. Still, it's so nice to be outside. Putting life on hold for another day is a pain, but a pretty hotel, a beach, and pizza sweeten sour moods.

01 March 2009


Just returned from dropping Cheshire at the airport for her flight back to NYC. It is cloudy today and we were chased inside from pool side by clouds, wind, and showers. But it doesn't matter one lick! The warm is still here and we are bathing in it! Tonight, My in-laws are going to tell us how awful it is that our weekend was not perfect, but they just don't understand that walking around without coats, hat, gloves, and heavy boots is the biggest treat.

We spent the day yesterday on the beach and eating -- breakfast, beach, lunch, beach, pool, dinner. We all got a little color -- Julia broke out in hives from the sun block -- and we came back to the hotel sand encrusted and a bit dazed. Too much good food and too much sun, but fun.

It was great seeing Cheshire for a day -- her grandparents could not understand why she did not take a sick day and come down on Thursday. Cheshire admitted that she didn't even think about it. She is still in the school mode that you don't take a day off unless you absolutely have to. We might have encouraged her to take the day but I am proud of her for being such a hard working responsible person.

Last night, we went to a fancy restaurant for Dad's 90th birthday. We were able to sit outside and the food was very good. Our waiter was really taken with Julia. He raved about her spirit, her outgoingness, and her energy -- All the things that some people find so off putting. It was only a little incident, no big thing, but I am very happy to see people immediate connect with her. Cheshire has always been an extremely likeable person, and this has been a great help to her. I hope that Julia can find this side of herself as well.

Julia is asking about what we are doing or planning to do much more often. She is remembering what I tell her. This is all good.

There is a group of people at the hotel who have small dogs with them and who also have doggie carriages with them. Julia is intrigued. She's decided that all the dog's are babies and need to be rest and not walk. After seeing the carriages and dogs this morning, Julia is fashioning their image out of clay. I wonder if we will always know what is on her mind by by looking at the clay work?