30 May 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

Here's to our first family bike ride!! First, since the new heart. We didn't go far but it was a start.
Filling the new pool! We have a great community pool a hop, skip and jump away, but this will be for therapy and to put my feet in on a hot day.
Align Center
My girl looks relaxed and happy. Oh, I love it.
And David was none the worse for wear after the bike ride.
Welcome to Camp Julia, Spa Schanker, Dinosaur Resort?
Even the dog enjoy the afternoon.
Sometimes the answer is so much there, so close, so right in front of your face, maybe part of your face, that it is impossible to see. I have been looking for how to inspire Julia to learn. I've been writing to people and talking to David about the possibility of home school for a year from now so that she can learn about being excited about learning.

I am not saying that I have any answers at all about how I could do this, but Julia is not getting this in school. And Julia has about the best the the inclusive classroom setting. But her teachers and aids intellectually drag her through the day. Julia is learning something, but is not learning to learn.

This morning I googled "dinosaur curriculum first grade" and scads of websites popped up. I was talking about it to David very quietly over breakfast once Julia had left the table. Of course, she listened to everything. She made herself a book (stapling several pieces of green paper together), drew some dinosaurs, and asked for help with the writing on each page. She has done this at school and with therapists often, usually led by the adults, and she is also watching me put her T-rex Julia book together. So she has models but she started it herself and worked diligently for more than a half hour.

So, now to figure out what to do with this interest. Any suggestions for a good "dinosaur curriculum" will be appreciated.

This morning we did not go to church. Instead, we took a bike ride. I put the tag along on my bike and Julia joined me as David rode alone. We did not get incredibly far, but we did it, and we will do it again very soon. As much as I worry about David's recovery, he is able to stretch himself all the time. He gets tired (and grumpy) but he is also making great progress.

I spoke with Cheshire who is stressing over the future. She is 25 and doesn't have life nailed down. Oh, how I remember that feeling. Ugh. No fun. But it never gets nailed down. And maybe that is the only thing that makes maturity worth reaching. I am a little concerned that I have not heard from the LEND people yet. I thought that would take care of my immediate future learning -- maybe such definition is too much of luxury for me.

29 May 2010

Saturday round up

Last few days have been pretty un-notable and I've been putting my writing time in other places. But a short recap:

I have ear infections in both ears and my ring finger on my left hand has an infected hang nail. I figure this is my reaction to the stress of the last few months. Interestingly, I am on a 14 day herbal cleansing -- fiber, laxatives, and thistle -- and I wonder whether that lowered my immune system a bit. I usually don't get infections at all. To get them in my ears and my finger . . . .

David is seeing a few bumps along his healing road. Nothing terrible serious but it means more doc visits and tests. We are more than ready to be through with that. But then, I remind myself how lucky we are to be on this side of the process.

Our New Jersey neighbors have agreed to let our oil re-mediators come into their house and inspect their basement -- this is for engineering reasons. The appointment is June 7. Maybe it is time of get the divinities involved. My hope is to sell the house before the end of the year. Oh, oh, oh.

No other words. I am beyond anger, frustration, exhaustion, boredom about the estate. I just write checks to pay bills and make phone calls to remind people of things.

David and I got the initial designs for our renovation. More about that on my house blog. Check it out if interested. I decided to keep it separate from Julia and our doings. We are having fun but so much depends on costs. I will feel freer and have more fun with it, once we establish a firmer budget. And that will be soon.

My week of angsting about Julia's education feels like it is resolved. I am going to put some of the advice offered by others this summer and then I am going to give the public school experience one more year. During the year, I will gather what I need to home school. Yes, I am considering it for fourth grade. At the rate that Julia is taking to traditional education, taking a year or two off, even if she learned nothing at all, would not mean that much. And maybe I can do better by concentrating on her -- teaching her through the things that she likes. I am closer to this idea than I have ever been. It still scares me terribly, but for Julia I will do it.

Julia's behavior in school has been good. I don't know if the work is so much better or if she is available for learning but she is more complaint. We continue to have the staring, but it is now accompanied by her asking to be looked at. My theory is that her mind is waking up to the faces that she knows and loves, and that it is a tiny thrill each time someone looks at her. When she does it with us, we try to be very playful and loving as one would be with a very young child.

I've read the T-rex Julia story to Julia a few times and she is very responsive to it. She doesn't like all of it, but it is interesting to see her get emotionally involved in it.

Julia is routinely inviting me and others to play with her. I am going to finish this up and dig into some lego. This is nice progress.

And the art, watching her with lego is a humbling experience. I am good at walls or buildings. she makes cows, helicopters, and furniture for dinosaurs. Julia has also been creating with wicki sticks -- oy, too expensive to keep her in those things as much as she would like -- and some of her creatures are amazing. I will try to get a few pictures. One of her therapists is making stories with her. Julia draws a picture and then tells the story of the picture. The therapist writes it down and they put the pages together. Julia is very interested in reading what is written herself.

And last night, she set up a bunch of toys and called us into the living room, "Presenting the popcorn theater with movies and dancing dinosaurs!" Who was the child in her past life?

26 May 2010

My friend, Norie, commented from the Montessori point of view, that only when the child is ready will the lesson stick. After watching Cheshire flourish in Montessori school for four years, I understand and agree. I remember how scared we were when we signed her up for school, believing that this was the best placement for her, but fearing that she would not do everything to keep up with her regular-schooled peers. We transferred (because of moving) her at the end of second grade and she fit right in with her third grade peers in a gifted school which was working a year ahead. The only think she was missing was cursive writing. She has some stressful, now funny, stories about that.

As I said, I posted on a bunch of yahoo boards as well as on facebook, and it did bring some experts to the top, and some parents who have made education work for their children. I posted a reply to one school-related person, and it does a better job of explaining what I am looking for for Julia.

"I know that she has to learn at least some of the standard curriculum. Goodness, she needs to tell time, count money, write a check, leave tips in restaurants, not to mention get a job one day. Julia goes to a great school. Her teachers and aids could not be better and they have tried many, many ways to put Julia on the road to learning what she needs to know. I don't expect more from them.

My questions reach further down. Julia is 9, she was adopted at 5.5 from a terrible orphanage. She was terribly delays. In the 3.5 years she has been home, she has learned a lot, but we have not managed to teach her to love learning. She resists all things new and all things that she perceives as hard for her to do. She needs to learn trust -- trust that what her parents, therapists, and teacher present to her will be beneficial to her. She needs to learn to love the new idea, the new task. I am looking for ways to teach this.

25 May 2010


I posted this message on a number of discussion groups, hoping for information or discussion. If anyone who reads here, has any ideas, please, please, please comment!

I have a teaching question and could benefit greatly from discussion. If this is not the right forum for this, could someone point me in the right direction. I have heard numerous autism activists talk about teaching to children's strengths. Is this just theory or has anyone done this? Is there any literature on it? My nine year old is an incredible artist, but instead of teaching her art most of the time and other academic subjects some of the time, we do the opposite. We try through her IEP, different therapies, and working with her at home, to get the standardized information and skills into her even though she has little to no interest in them. (Please don't take this as criticizing the school system. I have totally bought into this even before her first IEP.) But what if we taught her art first -- sort of a Montesorri gone wild. Is there anyone doing this?

24 May 2010


Today was hot, hot summer weather and I went appliance shopping.

Julia discovered tracing today. Her aide, Sheila, helped her last Friday to pick out two drawing books. Julia couldn't take them out because she already had two books out and we had forgotten to return them on library day. So she returned her books today and brought home the drawing books. I think that it was Sheila who showed her that she could trace the pictures as well as copy them. And Julia started tracing, and then adding to what she had traced (her emu baby was at least as good as her traced emu adult). She added a Joey to the kangaroo picture and colored it. She drew a pod of whales with bigger fins than she traced. She was so excited about this discovery, and she made me sit down and trace with her -- and of course, she had to pick out what I could trace. Her joy was wonderful.

And ever so good to feel with her after my worrying about numbers and math and school work.

23 May 2010

Tonight, I read Harold and the Purple Crayon to Julia. After listening to this book for years now, Julia understands the story. The make believe of the crayon becoming real for Harold. And she got it!
It is hot today. Incredible. In the 80's I am sure. We are all sweating and I am rethinking the beef stew that I was going to make for dinner. It is Sunday and I want to be lazy, but I have a few things to write and then maybe I will work on photoshop a bit. As of right now, I understand enough about my computer to move around it. I stumble at times, forget where to find something or how to use something, but I am no longer a beginner. But I have about 9 months left on my tutoring at the Apple store. I am thinking of coming up with a few projects and asking for help. A web site for sure, maybe more with Julia's book. I am in the 950's for entries on this blog, when I get to 1000, I should move to a web site. And everything is so much more fun using the Apple programs, blogging might be as well.

Julia and I did some work today -- home work. We have not done much or often for months now. We do some reading or a few pages of workbooks. Yesterday, she pulled a very easy work book down -- one that was first too hard for her and then too easy. She did about 5 pages with very little help. I was impressed with her willingness but it did not carry over to today when I suggested working.

So we did a little holding, cuddling together. She was upset but really at a very low level. I talked to her very seriously about learning. Julia kept her eyes on me. She looked like she was listening. I told her seriously what she had to learn and why. And then, she calmed down and said she was willing to work.

We did some reading of an Angelina book that we started a few months ago. We went over half the book and I checked vocab words to make into flash cards. We did a spelling workbook page. Julia understands reading. She knows that letters have sounds and that the sounds make up words. She cannot sound out words yet but the concepts are there. Julia guesses at words she doesn't know. More often than not these days, her guesses are taken from the picture or from the first letter sound. This is a leap from a few months ago. She loves exclamation words and remembers them very quickly. At school, she read a level 6 book last week. I think that represents the middle of Kindergarten.

And then there is math. Not really math, numbers. Julia still doesn't get numbers. I think she is doing a good job faking it in school -- doing mostly one-on-one and taking cues from her teachers, but although she knows the words for number, she does not get the theory. I don't know how to even explain this -- I have always loved numbers and understood number theory almost without being taught. It always made sense. I have not found any "method" to help kids without a number sense that doesn't just go in for repetition and manipulatives until some light just goes off. Can number sense be taught?

David is not feeling well today. He slept for a long time last night and then after a short walk this morning, took a long nap. It is hot and humid. I fear the change of weather might be effecting him much more than the rest of us.

22 May 2010

Saturday morning on the deck

I am sitting on my front deck, it is a perfect temperature, the bugs don't know how nice it is. I hear birds, sirens, and lawn mowers. I just wrote a long passionate post for a new yahoo group for autistic kids, most are from China right now. I know I have to do some work, house work, this morning and find a recipe for the picnic we are going to later this afternoon, but I want to just sit here and type. Julia is with a therapist -- Ellen. I spied the two of them walking to a playground a few blocks away. Julia looking all the world like a typical kid, neuro-typical. For a moment, I wonder about cure and possibilities. I can't let myself get to far with that day dream because . . . well because it is such a dream. Still, I am looking forward so much to the summer home with her. Just a few more school weeks and then we can sit on the deck and have breakfast together.

As I was doing Julia's hair this morning, she thought I hurt myself with a comb. I told her that I hadn't and then she said, "I worry about you Mommy." I cannot give her a worry free world. She has seen too much, she knows too much. We work backwards from fear, hurt, neglect, abuse to absolute love and support. What a challenge.

21 May 2010

Just one more picture today

of my girl playing her favorite game, Mouse trap, with one of the therapists. Julia likes the setting up of the trap more than playing the game, but she will go around the board with the hope of getting caught.

Poppies, said in a Wicked Witch of the West voice

I love these flowers so much. Their tissue paper thin petals are hard to conceive of as real. Their black centers look painted on. And they are such floozies! Bending and twisting, blowing in the breeze and impossible to train up and make orderly. They resist looking neat.

20 May 2010

Started on Thursday, continued on Friday

There is a messy desk to tackle and other household things. I procrastinated about the desk until Friday, but I've now spent the entire day on the desk and I have order! I know it will not last long, but . . . . I went through a lot of estate stuff that I stored last year, clearing my files of two garbage bags worth. Most of it was documents I could have gotten rid of when I received them -- like those medical not-bills insurance companies send out -- but I was being cautious.

We got some good news on the oil-contamination clean up. After months of refusing to let our remediation engineers into their house, the neighbors are now allowing it. Steps right now are engineer inspection to make sure the our house and the neighbor's house will not fall down when they start digging, final remediation plan submitted to the insurance company, DIG that contamination out! The neighbors will have to sign one more approval to do the actual digging on their land (There is actually much more residue oil from my parents' old oil tank on the neighbors front lawn than under our driveway. The cause -- downward slope.) and I have no idea if there will be a hold up there as well. I am hoping that we can finish before the fall and have a sale before the end of the year. The one little piece of good news has me spinning day dreams about the entire process.

Oh, please, please, please, please.

I expected to see Marilyn on Thursday and unload my latest worries, but the car did not start and I had to cancel with Marilyn and buy a battery instead. A new battery is almost a welcomed fix! I am go glad it was nothing worse

I did get a chance to call Marilyn and we talked for a good half hour. Julia is going into territory that is strange even for Marilyn. Julia's dinosaur behavior is very disturbing to me. Her insistence on always being a dinosaur puzzles me. Should I go further in with her, or should I insist she be a human girl? I am less upset today than I was yesterday. Julia has gone through a lot of phases with us. Why should I expect this one to last any longer than the others? And I guess the answer is because it is about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs which are Julia's passion.

Tonight, when I talked about our summer projects together, Julia suggested that we learn to draw dinosaurs together. And then, asked which one I wanted to draw. And here I am thinking of practical things like her full name, address and phone number. Maybe we can do both at the same time.

When I picked Julia up from school today, one of her class friends showed me her lost tooth and the book she got out from the library. It was the Tale of Despereau. Cheshire would have been reading that at 8. Julia is not ready to have that read to her at 9. And I sighed. I can dip in and out of blue very quickly sometimes. We still have a 9 year old who is a 4-6 year old. We will ever get to chapter books?

With one of her therapists today, Julia got closer to playing Go Fish. I hope that we can take it on vacation with us. It would be fun to play on the plane. Maybe we should try a simple Uno game as well. Another summer thing.

T-rex Julia

I put up two new chapters. It is a bit heavy handed. I'll read it to Julia today and see what she thinks. I am hoping for something light soon. I plan on just adding chapters to the end for awhile and then think about rearranging them. I did a first attempt at a cover picture today. Unfortunately, our printer ink is waning and it looks awful. So . . . tomorrow.

19 May 2010

To get Julia outside today, I just about had to drag her, but I want her outside when the weather is nice. Far too often, she will stay inside when her therapists come over and nothing they say or do will convince her to move. I decided that if I want her to start therapy outside, then I have to get her there before anyone comes over. Yesterday, it was not much of a problem. It only took a little coaxing and the promise of a sticker (she is hot for some toy and wants to collect all the stickers she can) to get her out. Today, was another story. She made lots of noise, threw chalk and dinosaurs, sometimes at me, and refused over and over to do anything. I brought her and all the stuff outside and sat down in the shade to draw on the sidewalk. We never got to the game that I intended to play, but after awhile, she settled down and picked up the chalk and drew. When she started her second dinosaur drawing, and by this time, her therapist, Morgan, was with us, she ask first me and then Morgan to help her color it in. We worked together for awhile before I went inside.

Every day a little nudge in the right direction?

Although Julia is having some problems transitioning at the beginning and end of school, she has been bringing home behavior charts with all smiles. She is doing school work.

When Julia gets a sticker, she puts it on a calendar, usually one she has made with the help of therapists. When she puts it on, we all make her say the date, and up to today, I have always had to prompt her with the name of the month and day. Today, she said the entire date by herself!!! I did point to the relevant information, but that will come too. I didn't know if this would ever happen!!!

I am working on more little chapters of T-rex Julia. I expect to post them soon. Please comment.

17 May 2010

of egos and dinosaurs

Monday and a bunch of stuff to do. Working on the garden beds last week woke me up. I have not put in real garden time in years now. Oh, I have kept up the garden, weeded, mulched, moved a few things around, but not spent days and days doing all that and losing myself in it. I am excited to be in that place again.

And I see how much ego is stored up in me. I, who have always proclaimed, even if it was just to myself and those closest to me, that I walked to a different drummer, still has such a hard time when Julia does not just fit into situations. Yes, some of the differences, maybe most of them are tough challenges to a normal life, but they are still difference, they are her and not me, and I love her as she is, and her life is such a process of healing that may or may not ever be done, and then what does done mean? With Julia, I do not need a purple hat and I am finding that very hard outside of my very small world.

Julia is intensely insisting on being a dinosaur. Her school aid wrote last Friday that Julia insisted on being called a dinosaur and told them that she hated her hair, hated her face, and hated being a girl. My heart hurts for her, but with the opening to some sadness, and her new tears, is going to come ways to help her cope. Maybe that way is hiding even more intensely in her fantasy world.

Gosh, I hope so.

This is scary for me. What is it for her? For as hard as it is for me, I am sure I know nothing of what she must do to find herself, to heal.

Are there enough prayers in heaven?

16 May 2010

Julia, Baby Noah, and our first outing

We visited my nephew, Joshua, and his wife, Heather, and their new son, Noah, this weekend. Heather's family has had more than their share of challenges and they were very kind to Julia. They followed her lead, talked dinosaurs for hours, and let herself be herself. Julia had a good time but also displayed a lot of physical behavior -- flapping her hands, hiding her mouth and nose in her shirt, insisting on being dinosaur Julia. It was a bit hard for me -- yes, my ego is still wrapped up in having a child who generally fits into the norm. And oh my, that is not my Julia.

With baby Noah, Julia was shy at first -- not wanting to even look at him baby, but after a few hours and getting comfortable, Julia took her cousin Heather up on the invitation to hold the baby. And Julia loved it. She held, and touched his fingers and toes. She stroked his head and told me how soft his hair was. She did not even mind when I held Noah. Later and today, Julia said that she did not want to hurt baby Noah. I think that there was a time when she hurt a baby, and I think that it hurt Julia a great deal. I don't know if she really remembers it, but this has come up before.
Look at that face. Look at both of those faces.
Great uncle David with mommy Heather in the background.
Daddy Joshua and Noah. And the star of the show.

Holding Noah and watching his very lovely baby face, not my child, not even the child of my child, but honestly, I met his father just a bit older that he is now, so the connection does run deep. But watching his face, open and close his mouth, grimace, sigh, try to open his eyes in a noisy restaurant and then close them again. And I am struck that Julia was just about this age, with her pouty lips and a mop of black hair, and she was abandoned. I cannot understand. No where in my soul could I leave baby Noah -- I would scoop him up and bring him home if the rest of his family could not take care of him (oh, and there is no chance of that. Smile.) I should have scooped up another infant, older, but still so young, a long time ago. I was not a mother then and I did not have a mother's heart.

But my Julia. Tears come. Her mother, her family. Who were they? What this they think? Did they suffer? Do they still remember and mourne, as I do the baby I did not claim? Our cultures are so different, our early training so disperate, our circumstances so oposite. Maybe. I have no reference to understand. I send Julia's mother and father, and grandparents, and great aunt my love today. I wish I could tell them how much I love their girl and that I would willingly share her if they could be found.

A bundle in blue baby clothes and a note tucked inside a box found in front of a hotel.

14 May 2010


The sun is shining this morning. Huzzah!! A few indoor chores and then shrub shopping and gardening!!! We have a neighbor up our block who has a plant sale every spring -- it began yesterday and I made full use of early shopping on a very rainy, cold yesterday.

13 May 2010

Julia cried tonight when the thunder was too loud. She did not scream or yell as she usually does. It was real crying with tears. And when I came into her, she asked that I put my arms around her and hug her. She told me that her face was wet with tears. Julia's tears are beginning to come to her eyes. What a step for her.

On Monday when Julia had her EEG, she took my hands and put hers in mine when the nurse was putting on the little metal electrodes on her head. She was patient throughout the testing but scared.

By the end of the day, after speech and OT and then hours of home therapy, she was exhausted, but not acting tired at all. The old vigilance crept back. I should have seen it. I should have known that the morning would have scared her so much that she would erupt and then shut down. I want Julia to learn to control herself and know how far she can stretch herself, but I think to do this, I have to take the lead. Teach her to take care of herself. Next time we do something like a medical procedure that will scare Julia, I will not push her to complete her regular day.

Julia made a praying mantis out of wicki sticks today. It is her own design and wonderful, especially the wings. They have been using wicki sticks at school to reward Julia for doing her work. She is loving it and doing her work. And we've had another week with lots of smiles on her behavior charts.

Yesterday, David and I decided on a design/build team to do our first floor renovation. We begin the design next week. We may be in construction as soon as the fall. We had thought to push it off until the spring but it sounds like we may get the best deal by doing the work sooner. So we shall see is David is feeling well enough to have the house in chaos starting this fall.

This morning, I went to the Franklin School to see the spring concert. Like last fall, Julia didn't want to stand and sing with the kids on the bleachers. She sat with me, on my lap, through out the concert. She did sing some of the songs and swayed when the kids danced. She clapped and had a great time.

I have to admit that last year and last fall, I had the problem with being the mom with my kid on my lap and not in the bleachers. I wanted us to look normal -- I wanted us to be the white family with an Asian kid which turns some heads but not with the kid whose behavior is so very different from everyone else. But today, I didn't care. I clapped for the kids singing and I kissed my kid on my lap. Sometimes it is the change of view that makes all the difference.

11 May 2010

Yet another rainy, cold day in Madison. Julia and I slept late by about an hour and were just that amount of time late for school's beginning. According to Ginny, Julia had a bit of trouble transitioning right away into math, but was fine the rest of the day. She came home rather articulate and ready to play. She really enjoyed her therapy time with Stephanie.

However, this morning upon waking, Julia was quite a loud T-rex. She did not want to go to school, did not want to get dressed, etc. I was able to gently guide her out of bed, dress her, feed her, get her in her jacket, and to school. By the time she sat down for breakfast, she was in the grove and had no trouble with the rest of the morning ritual. I wonder how much her protestations is about trauma and how much about autism. Of course, they can converge and over lap. I wonder if it would do any good to really know.

Yesterday's visit to the neurologist was interesting.
I cleaned the computer/toy room getting every toy sorted into its rightful box, getting arts and crafts stuff on shelves that are easy to find and access, and purging the room of reading books. I want to rearrange and reorganize the room for the summer, but I don't have an idea yet. I will probably replace the little table that Julia has grown out of with something that can be next to the computer desk. Also, I will take down letters and find a new way to emphasize words and a few numbers. Oh, and replace the art that is up with newer stuff -- some of Julia's and some to inspire her.

Tonight is the last PTO meeting of the year. I hope and expect that elections will keep me as president -- it is more of a volunteer position than an elected. In fact, if there was someone who wanted to take over, I'd step down very graciously. If all goes as planned, almost the entire executive committee will work with me another year. I like these people, they work hard and think deeply about our kids. I enjoy working with them so much.

10 May 2010

T-rex Julia

I've put a new page up with the title T-rex Julia. It is a first draft of two chapters of a picture book for Julia. Each chapter will wrestle one problem or challenge. Little by little, the little T-rex will transform into real girl. Anyway, those are my broad strokes right now. I'd love comments and ideas.

09 May 2010

Weekend Art

On the bottom is a mother and baby dinosaur watching a movie and eating popcorn. In the top corner is the movie with a princess dinosaur in a tower waiting for the prince dinosaur.
Julia insists these are flamingos with short legs.
Two blue birds who are talking.
This is a mouse who is eating cheese while his coffee cools off.
This is two dinosaurs getting married while their baby watches.
All the cats were sick and have thermometers in their mouths.

Julia's mother's day card

And mommy and baby dinosaur kissing. Do you think that Hallmark would be interested in a dinosaur line of cards? David asked her to make the card after they went shopping for my gift (two very nice scarfs which will be great for summer wearing). He did not suggest anything special for her to draw. I am so very thrilled that she came up with this image.

Mother's day

I have one more post from yesterday -- some cleaning and organizing that did me well -- that is not up yet. And so much about today and I am not feeling very organized. And so this is a mish mash of the day.

Julia made me a lovely mother's day card! I will post it tonight. My goodness, it was perfectly appropriate!!! I have read our Julia T-Rex book to her and she is not yet willing to draw pictures for the pages -- yes, this does relate to the sentence before. I got the feeling that she did not want to draw something that was dictated to her, but then yesterday, David asked her to make the card and she did a lovely job.

She understands mother's day.

Julia was in a drawing frenzy yesterday. I am dating pictures now. She was working with colored pencils and using lots of color.

There is a robin's nest in our back yard. The silly birds made a nest in a rather precarious place -- on top of a 2x2 beam that is leaning against the garage. We are being very careful around the nest and I think the dog is trying to be quiet when she is in the back yard. Today, I put a ladder near by and took a look inside. Julia got to see it as well and she was very careful to not touch or get too near the nest. This was VERY difficult for her. She was thrilled to see the eggs.

On our way to the brunch place this morning -- nice treat to eat Sunday breakfast out -- we got a little lost and passed a very nice garden center. After breakfast, the family indulged me and walked the garden center for awhile. What a great place!! Lots of interesting choices. I want to put in about 7 shrubs in various beds in the front of the house, and this is where I will go to find them. Slowly, the front garden is coming together -- another few years before it looks like it is truly an intentional design. This is such fun for me. I will not tackle the back until we do the house renovation although I do have a bunch of hostas growing back there that I will this summer.

David and I have been talking to architects, design and build firms, kitchen designers, and contractors -- interviewing a few each week. We've found a kitchen designer that we like, and we are narrowing down the others. It is always easy when we don't like someone. We've also decided to put off construction until early next spring. I wanted to do it sooner, but David needs more healing time (we had planned for the fall) before we throw the house into total disarray, and we are hoping to use some of the money from my mother's estate which is no where near settling. So, next spring.

We received our wedding invitation from our British friends and I wrote to a bunch of Bed & Breakfasts for reservations for our week in England at the end of July. We will be staying in St. Albans which is about 25 minutes via train outside of London. I've already promised Julia to find some dinosaurs. I think the British Museum has everything! We are planning to visit with our friends and relatives, see a castle and some art, walk in London again (I love the city!), and just be somewhere else. It will be Julia's first time out of the country since she came home, and our first big trip since China.

Oh, I want to go NOW.

Julia is playing with her ZhuZhu pets -- they are a scream, running around the house making all sorts of noises. One can almost see a pattern in their movement, and I swear the two of them coordinate their moves. Is that possible? Best of all, there is an off button -- I am not a fan of rodent pets and these toys may be all the rodents that Julia needs. At least, I can hope so.

08 May 2010

Cleaning the jewelry drawer

I cleaned my jewelry drawer this morning and a heavy burden of messiness and memories has lifted. When we moved three years ago into this house, I never really unpacked that jewelry drawer. Oh my, I call it a drawer and it is, but to imagine that it is filled with rare and precious gems is giving it far more than is due. I have not been one for expensive jewelry -- what I consider my most valuable pieces are a few old rings, two cameos, some gold and silver chains, a string of pearls, and a few goin' to court gold earrings. My preferred pieces tend to be silver and I have a few nice pairs of earrings and many, many pairs of earrings -- the kind that in the 70's I could buy on the streets of the East Village for 2 for a dollar. They cost a bit more these days but they are the same quality.

When we moved, I packed the drawer tight so that the chest of draws could be moved as a unit without unpacking it. When we arrived in Madison, I rummaged through to find a few pairs of earrings that I could wear now and then, but I was not at all sure of what I should be doing with the rest of it. I had nothing to dress up for, and raising Julia has not given rise to lots of jewelry wearing occasions.

And then last year after we cleaned out my mother's house, I brought home a few nice pieces of jewelry that she left for me, some of her costume jewelry that I picked, and some stuff that no one else wanted. I brought it home and stuffed it into my jewelry drawer without unpacking it or integrating it into my own still packed jewelry.

And now and then, this past year when I peaked into that draw hoping to find something different to wear, I felt the impossibility of finding anything at all and sure that I had lost most of my favorite jewelry to the chaos. Still, I did not find the time to do anything about it until today.

As I started cleaning today, I realized that I had done a good job of culling what I had before we moved. The cleaning went quickly. I integrated my mother's jewelry, putting some of it away for the girls if either one of them want it.

It was about transformation, it was about acceptance and moving on, something has shifted, and I can be here a little bit more than I was yesterday.


I was hoping that after therapy today, we'd go plant shopping or walk the botanical gardens but David is walking around the house with a scarf around his neck. Another cloudy, windy, chilly day. We are not going to walk the Farmer's Market this morning even though it might be the best day to do it. We will put another fake log in the fireplace today, eat soup, and be cosy.

David's last set of tests showed a nodule on a lung and so he needs a biopsy done next week. It can be many different things, it could be absolutely nothing, and could be a cause for worry, but whatever it is they will treat it aggressively because of his medically induced lack of immunity. I do worry. Of course, I do.

Last year, at this time, the day before Mother's Day, my mother was dying and Cheshire brought her a card and some of our favorite lotion. Cheshire's visits to her grandmother and attention during her last days was far beyond what my mother was entitled to from my child. Cheshire gave my mother what she always wanted in greater measure from her children -- respect and care due to her station not due to her actions or feelings. My mother never cherished Cheshire for who she was -- never sent her a note for a good concert, never congratulated her for school achievements, never had special words for her when Cheshire travelled, never stretched her vision to accommodate Cheshire's dreams. And yet, last year when my mother was dying, Cheshire visited and sat with her for some of her last weekends, doing what she could, abiding with her. Cheshire gave to my mother what my mother could not give to her children, an unconditional love with no strings, no guilt, no history. On a weekend when everyone is lauding mothers, my heart swells thinking of my marvelous daughter.

07 May 2010

Yesterday, Marilyn asked me how old Julia seems to me. She asks me this periodically and although I think about it from time to time, I never have a prepared answer for her. Yesterday, I said 6 during the day and 3 at night. Now, I think it is closer to 5 during the day and 4 at night.

We saw "How to train you dragon" yesterday. Julia very happily donned ear plugs and ear muffs, and enjoyed the whole movie. The theater was pretty empty and Julia could talk now and again. We have to try off night movie viewing during the summer. She had a great time, and we have had three excellent dragon pictures so far. I am sure there will be more this weekend. She loved that everyone in the town got a dragon pet at the end of the movie. I think she might want to move there.

I read the story I am writing for her during attachment therapy. Julia liked it. I am hoping to get her to draw pictures for it. I am also going to post it on the blog for comments and ideas but not now.

It is rainy today -- cool, almost cold. A good day for a bit of firewood in the fireplace. I have desk work and a dirty house. I will be busy, but first a short lay-down with David before he goes off to work.

06 May 2010

Julia has had a very good week so far. Good reports from school and very good reports from the therapists.

This morning I was writing a note to her teacher in our communication notebook and Julia asked to write a few words. I handed her the book and she wrote: cat, mat, sat, cake, and a scribble. She was pleased with herself.

Last night when I read Horton Hears a Who before bed, she repeated every sentence. Whew, it took a long time! And she also asked for me to point to words now and again.

Just to balance things out, she still protests, however weakly, that she doesn't want to go to school and that she does not need to learn anything. Her anger is both closer to the surface and a bit easier to disperse -- and she is making that happen.

03 May 2010

Today is transplant day plus 2 months! And I did not drive David to the doc appointment today.
Julia is off to school and I survey my world. I gather a to-do list, noting that phone calls to make appointments and clarify appointments should come first, emails for tomorrow's budget meeting next. And then there is a pick up to clear the debris of weekend play -- at least three art projects to coral, toys to separate and put away, floors to vacuum and rugs to shake. And then there is outside with the back garden to mow, weeds to pluck and spray in a few offending areas. A kitchen designer to see today if David is up for it -- he being at his monthly biopsy at the beginning of his day which was earlier than Julia and mine. Afternoon speech and OT before we settle into home with therapy for Julia until 7. Such are the parameters of the morning, the day is alive with promise and I am grounding myself in the mundane.

Julia and I rushed to get ready for school today. She maintained a happy mood and was not disturbed by the few kinks in her morning. I breathe a sigh of relief.

02 May 2010

revelation on a sunday night

Ah, now I see! It is focus that I am without right now. David still needs recovering but he doesn't need my care. Julia needs some redirection but I have to wait until we start the neuro exam. It is time for me to pull some weeds, sort some of what is in the basement, and do a bit of creation. It is time to get back, to move forward, to begin again back in a bit surer of an adventure.
Julia is very clear today. She is singing lyrics, reciting bits of tv scripts. Her drawings are clear as well -- a T-rex kicks her punching bag. I am interested to see the rest of the day. And of course, I wonder why.

She had a mixed day with her therapists. On Sunday, we have two here. Julia starts at one and ends at six. She was tough on Amy and easy on Ellen. She and Ellen took a walk and as long as Julia could see our house she was fine. It was two weeks ago (I think) when she freaked out going around the block with Ellen. She was scared she was lost. Julia has never done this with us. Is this her trust showing?

Now that therapy is over and we are getting ready for dinner, Julia is playing alone with her little pet shop stuff. She has not played with these little guys in a long time and she bring skirt full after skirt full of stuff to the living room "coffee" table to set up. She also bring pipe cleaners for some idea of hers. She will hate to stop for supper in a few minutes and will rush through eating to get to her grand design. She is telling me a story of King Julian who is not happy and his queen who is wearing a collar. They are dogs.

During Julia's therapy, I was outside mowing the lawn. I hate mowing the lawn! I cannot start the power mower because I can't start the motor with a pull. I borrowed my neighbor's little push mower and hated every second. However, I am going to be mowing the lawn for the foreseeable future. I better figure something out.

I've started working on a story of dinosaur adoption. Julia learns from stories and it could be a powerful tool to reach her, but I must admit my trepidation. I am a pretty terrible fiction writer, and not for want of trying. Oh, if I can write just what is in my heart.