31 December 2010

It is only 9:40, but late for Julia. She is brushing her teeth and getting ready to pop into bed. My bed. Should I do something about that in the new year. Possibly, but not soon.

We arrived in Madison around 5 and headed for Trader Joe's to pick up something for tonight's dinner and tomorrow. Julia wanted rice and string beans, and she agreed to steak. I wanted a salad. She wanted watermelon, but there were none to be had. Julia wanted jellybeans and I found some of those.

Once home, the first order of business was to get the Wii working! It was not hard. (Thanks to Robert and Mary setting it up when we were not home!) Julia wanted to start with the Super Mario Brothers game and she worked on it for awhile getting better at it little by little. Very little by little. As I made dinner, I heard her saying, "What a bummer!" Where did she learn that?

We watched a movie -- Julia's choice -- and now it is bedtime.

No need to stay up for the new year. It will come in quietly this year, this first new year of this new life. I have high expectations for this new year. I will not waste a single day.

Museum of Natural History

Do you think she looks happy!? We spent a few hours at the museum on Wednesday and Julia was radiant. She is more aware of sizes of the extinct animals and where they come from. Amazing to see her evolution.

In the subway stop under the museum, there are mosaics of sea life. In other stops we saw other mosaic designs, and finally, there are mosaics on the floor of the Milwaukee airport. I think we may see some of this work from Julia in the new year.

NYC Snow!

Julia never likes to go out in the snow in Madison, but a park on the east side of NYC. She sculpted snow, ran around the snow, and generally had a good time. So it might have been the slightly warmer temperature, but it wasn't that warm.
Cheshire and one of her charges who viewed me very warily for a long time. I did eventually get a smile.
Snow balls.
Contemplating throwing snow balls.

A few Christmas pictures with our favorite little guy.

The last pictures that I posted of Noah were of a tiny infant. Now, is is such a big boy. Cute as a button, such a social being! Pretty sure he is making all his developmental milestones plus.
And now, for careful consideration of the mommy's new Ipad.
And the lovely Cheshire with the little man.
We have been busy! And that has been lovely. The complete change of what we did for this holiday has had a cleansing effect and I am more at peace today than I have been since David died. This is a good feeling.

Yes, I do have pangs of regret to leave this year and my feelings of great grief behind. These are such a tangible connection to David, but they are not the connection that I want to carry through life. I don't mean to suggest that I am finished with grief. My heart will be heavy with it again and again, but it is becoming an ache, not so much the sharp pain.

Julia has had her best trip yet, marred only slightly by a new behavior. She is so curious these days and loves, really loves rummaging through stuff. Including other people's stuff. Again, this is a step forward. My girl is curious beyond belief. How lovely is that?! But when it is going into Cheshire's roommates' rooms or the closet in a restaurant's bathroom, it is a kitty killing kind of curiosity. She is also taking things -- not anything, pencils, pens, and stores of paper. Well, and also a little pack of jelly beans this morning when she was up before Cheshire or I. We will work on this immediately. Some of it -- especially, that related to art supplies -- feels like "orphanage-like" behavior. She is grabbing what she can to ensure she has enough. I so hope that she can learn to live an abundant life and can adopt a generosity of spirit. This is not an easy task for me who has usually had more than enough. It will not be easy for her, but she wants to please me and may learn only because of that. And that can be a good path for her learning.

Julia has been coloring in her coloring books all week. She got some new crayons and markers from my sister's family and she loves them. Of course. I shipped all of the zhuzhu pet stuff home yesterday. Julia is a little disappointed that she will not be able to assemble the roadways and houses and school and garden today, but it was easier than it has ever been to explain that these toys will be delivered in a few days.

Also, she lost her Tangled coloring book and although she was not happy about it, she did not melt down in the least, and apart from doing some repeated statements of sadness (which were only slightly more than a NT child), she accepted the idea that if we could not find it while we unpacked, that I would buy another one for her. This is a big forward step for her -- no obsessing!

Another good discovery, NYC still feels like home. We had dinner last night with Cheshire, Chris and his parents. His mother asked if I'd consider moving back one day, and I could really say that I could. I have wondered at times what I would do, where to go if I left Wisconsin, and it is good to know that NYC is still that option for me. I do love the people, but not the snow clearing. LOL!

Thinking through 2010 (a facebook entry)

Letting go of 2010 is bittersweet. Beloved young people were married, Noah was born, Julia made great progress, Cheshire is even more a beloved friend. I have re-connected with old friends, and new friends have enriched my life beyond measure. I have found new purpose and righted our upended family life. All this mixed in with the end of David's life. What riches are mine because of our partnership. My resolution: to squeeze the life from every minute, to leave no rock unturned, to love full out, and to invite adventure into my days. There is no need for fear.

26 December 2010

Christmas pictures

Look at that Christmas morning face! Looking right at me. She was very excited about opening what was under the tree. We woke up late, made muffins and tea, and Julia waited patiently.
Cheshire put up the tree (thank you, Chris, for the loan of your childhood tree. Julia loved it!) and turned on the Yule Log, still playing on Christmas morning on Channel 11. Some things never, ever change. It was a different, very different Christmas than usual. Not our cozy house, with a big pile of presents, poppy seed cake, big mugs of coffee, and music of David's choosing. Yeah, this was different. Very New York. Very 20 something. And Cheshire is so very sweet to get it ready for me.
Julia getting ready to get in a few minutes of drawing before the main event began.
So patient.
Cheshire's grand experiment -- mincemeat pies -- were delicious.
And who knows, maybe Mother Cheshire's Mincemeat Supreme.
Julia does a better job all the time at getting dressed by herself.

We were quiet by ourselves for the beginning of the day, and then, took trains to Jersey and had a grand, big dinner with my sister and family. But only after presents were opened. Julia was gifted and spoiled with lots of presents. She had an incredible time opening and playing with and spreading those new toys out all over the crowded floor. Once again, it was different and yesterday, different was good.

24 December 2010

Julia and I are on the plane headed for NYC and Cheshire! It is Friday and the week has been a strange mix. We tried to fit in enough therapy to make up for missing next week. Julia had 6-8 hours of therapy a day since Sunday. She was exhausted every night and slept late every morning. It has been so good being with her -- sometimes naughty, sometimes nice, she tries hard to please.

A few things-- today, as i was packing up, Julia was in the bathroom for a bath and was drying herself off when I heard a crash. I forgot that I had left my small bottle of my Coco Channel perfume on the sink with the intention of packing it. The rug, the floor, the bathroom, and then the whole second floor was embraced by the smell which was way to strong. I hated loosing the perfume, but Julia had managed to spray some in her eye and needed some first aide help. We put lots of water on her eye, but she teared and sniffled for about an hour. This is what they call natural consequences. I don't think she will be touching my few bottles of perfume anytime soon.

Julia has been investigating books -- mostly looking for line drawing to color. I have let her have anything that is a kids book, including kids cook books. She does a nice job adding to the pictures. She has one anime comic book that she is mostly in black and white. We'll see if this coloring phase lasts out the comic book.

Julia's investigation includes looking high up on the book shelves. She tells me that some of the books are too high for her to look at. I chuckle thinking that there is a reason for that.

I packed light, as possible in winter, but took one bag to check. It will delay us a bit getting in and out of airports, but I had a few (very) presents coming out and was too lazy to stuff and stuff into backpacks.

I have been dying to write, really have time to sit and write for days now, and now with the time, I am dull and witless. Strange. But just to record now.

It does not really feel like Christmas, but it does not feel like some weighty stone bearing down on me either. I am at some sort of neutral which is pleasant and not demanding. Julia is incredible mother centered right now, and I don't mind in the least. I must look at and praise many, many drawings and colorings. I must help her read signs and simple pages. She calls, she knocks my arm, she demands that I listen. This confidence in me is lovely.

At attachment therapy this week, Marilyn pushed Julia to tell a story. She asked Julia to draw a sad person. Julia drew a little boy -- not a dinosaur - who looked very sad. Julia clarified that it was a boy and not herself, but told us about how sad he was and how much he missed someone. It is another step, huge and small.

23 December 2010

I could use some of Julia's meds today! Trying to stay focused and do what I MUST first and then attend to my joys later. It is a lesson for Julia and I to learn every day. My very low feelings towards the holidays have vanished for the moment. I am all joy and excitement.

Things, shiny and new, are brewing.

21 December 2010

On this shortest day of the year, we started with a rather boring tree, no lights and only a few decorations. Truth be told, it is not unusual at all for me to put up a tree 3 or 4 days before Christmas and then leave it up through the first week of January. So, although I feel like I came to real decoration of our little tree late, I was just about on time for my own clock.
When I asked Julia what she wanted to decorate the tree with, what else would she say but dinosaurs. With the help of her therapist, Ellen, they spent the whole morning making dinosaur decorations for the tree. I took off the few decorations and put lights and sparklies and icicles and other decorations.
And at the bottom of the tree, is a whole host of dinosaurs to serve as decoration and to guard our tree. It seems to be working well. No one, apart from DiDi Chi, has come anywhere near the tree.
On the mantle, I put up a few of our regular decorations.
And had to add just one dino for balance.
There are three angle dinosaurs that are stapled together for the angel at the top of the tree.

This angel has ballet slippers. Note the halo on each of the angels.
Julia drew and colored, and Ellen cut each dino out.

Julia made dinosaurs of all of her therapists. These are precious because each drawing has something of the person in it.
Julia really likes Bethany's hair when she styles it very straight.

Morgan has long dark hair.

It's a dinosaur Christmas -- More and More!

These are two Chinese dinosaurs "being in love."
And this is Julia with her orange dress with flowers on it.

Tiffany wears pony tails.
KC always has lollipops at her desk at the clinic.
This just looks like Jessi.

Julia is just so cool!
So tired from yesterday that I did not go back and write at all! And now is another day and I have more to say.

And again I have to say later!

Two short Julia things: This morning we looked at our rather sorry little Christmas tree that the cat is trying to strip of needles, and for which I bought a few on-sale ornaments for Julia and Ellen to put on in an attempt not to go into our Christmas things at all. We looked and I felt awful sad. And not sad, because I was missing David, but sad because I've always felt such a special bond with plants brought inside the house. Christmas trees have been my noble friends. Giving their lives for my pleasure. I honor them. But I am not honoring this poor tree with a few matching but poor looking ornaments. When I asked Julia about it, she said she wanted to make a dinosaur Christmas tree. And so we will today!! We will have lights! and chains and some of our decorations and dinosaurs!!

Pictures to come.

And Julia went to get dressed today and brought down her red dress with off white and golden flowers and purple tights with poke-a-dots. I commented on how I didn't think it went together, and she said "it goes together on me." And ya' know, it does.

Sense of style? The kid has me beat by a mile!

20 December 2010

Some days the miracles just explode, there is so much to see that it is work to take it all in. But is it only because I have been working on seeing the miracles in front of me that I can see so much, or that I have put so much energy of one kind or another out there, that I get some coming back for me to take up and play with? I've written this before and I feel it profoundly today, this time, so very hard at times, so hard to even take one painful breath, is also full of magic and miracles. In metaphor, it is the starving woman walking through the orchard of ripe peach trees. The peaches alone, without the hunger, are delicious, are gifts from the earth and the gods, but how much more a delight to one who is suffering deprivation in body or soul.

So much for long explanations of nothing!

At least two things to write about, but that will have to wait. Today is about therapy, therapy, morning playdate and meeting, and SNOW!

19 December 2010

Oh gosh, the sadness goes in and out, like the tide. It is probably predictable from the outside, but I don't see it. It sneaks up on my, it side swipes me. And then in a while it is low tide again.

Julia is doing some incredible things these days. Yesterday, when we went to the movies to see the latest Narnia adventure, she was the one to remember to bring the headphones when we got into the car. In the theater, she seemed to enjoy the adventurous parts that were a bit scary, as well as the happy parts. She had not really liked movies with people but this fantastical adventure tickled her. She loves the odd names of some of the characters. And then, she did this fantastic thing: She jiggled my sleeve. I looked at her and she looked at me. And then she turned back to the screen as if she was sharing some feeling and then leading me back to the movie. This is behavior so simple that very, very young babies do it, but kids with autism find it utterly unfathomable. And Julia did it!!

And I sat there, in the darkness, wanting to jump up and down and shout out and tell everyone there.

We bought a small tree yesterday. Very small, shorter than Julia. She protested a little bit. She wanted something bigger. I see over and over as we get ready for Christmas in the very modified way that Julia does miss the way we usually do it. She remembers. She has that history. I don't say much about how this year is different for our celebrations, but I have the distinct feeling that she just knows. Empathy! She did not fight me on the size of the tree.

I will not take out our usual decorations. I bought a few at Michael's yesterday, and we will make some. That will be enough. What I am doing is just enough. Constantly just enough, and always less than usual. But to myself I am promising to give this kid of mine, no, both kids of mine, a grand and glorious Christmas next year or the year after. We will celebrate again. I cannot let go of the optimistic feeling that we will.

For now though, I have been teary all day.

18 December 2010

Visiting Santa

A hug for an old friend.
Julia was so excited to see Santa that she was pretty silly.

And then she had to try to eat just a tiny piece of the giant gingerbread house.
Gonna' clean up before the cleaning lady comes -- Not dirt clutter. Which do we have more of?

Hopefully, we have a full schedule today. Finding a small tree, noodle store lunch (Watched the movie The Ramen Girl and need some good ramen), library, movie, and church. And maybe Santa if we can find an undemanding one. I'd guess we don't get it all done, but I am hoping that Julia has a really lovely day.

She is disappointed that she is vacationing from school -- finally, she likes school, now she seems to way to make up for time.

What a kiddo.

Lots of therapy for her first week of vacation and a little bit of socializing. I am okay. A little sad, but quiet. Very quiet.

17 December 2010

Interesting day. Quiet but with great progress.

This morning Julia wore pjs for pajama day at school today. Before this, she couldn't take such a change of school/home boundaries. But this morning, she quizzed me on whether is was REALLY appropriate to wear pjs to school. When I assured her that it was, she was so excited to show off her cozy clothes and her cookie monster slippers that were passed down from Cheshire. Could not be a better end to this semester!!

I went into school later on to read a story. They had asked parents to volunteer to come in and read. Before I read, I asked the kids who's mother I was, teased a little about looking like Julia, and told them that they had all been speaking English for 8 or 9 years but Julia had only been speaking it for 4 years. Then I read Stella Luna. I didn't know whether it was too young for the 3rd graders, but they were all attentive and I had a great time. Julia saw, just like any other kid, in the clump of kids on the rug and listened. I was so pleased to watch her act more like any one of those kids. Her aide also told me that Julia is doing class work and following more directions without supervision. Dare I dream of a time without full time help for her in a classroom. No, I am not looking to help her but I am hoping for her independence.

This afternoon I listened to a Wiley lecture about Family Centered evaluation, and while the person was speaking, an outline for my final project dawned on me. Right now, I propose continuing my research on trauma and presenting to my class about trauma. Right now, I am believing that my trauma research is not going to be finished this year and I have to continue to make sense of the reading, and pass on what I know to others. I was grateful for the flash of inspiration.

16 December 2010

The cat wakes up from his early morning nap. He stretches, sits, cleans himself a little bit, and looks for all the world like he is wondering just what trouble he can get into. Then, he turns to me and pounces on my typing hands.

Silly DiDi Chi.

I am lazy this week and it is wonderful. I have slept in or taken naps every day -- where do I get the need for all this sleep. The waves of grief comes and go, as do waves of realization that are a bit different. Reality of being along, or sometimes, strength and knowing what I am doing is right.

I am baking this week -- for teacher gifts and for the 3rd grading reading party tomorrow. I am organizing in the house, especially the computer/toy room. Old systems are no longer working. Julia is not cleaning up very well with out a lot of supervision, which is such a drag. She pulls stuff, like paper, out and leaves everything where it falls when she find the piece she is looking for. I know this is not untypical for her age, but such a drag for me.

I had an assignment form Marilyn this week and just have not gotten to it. Oh, being lazy!

On the weekend, I wrote a letter about what I would like to do in China and sent it too about five organizations and to a friend who is in the adoption world. Of the six requests, I have heard from four, all encouraging and all willing to answer questions and give advice. I am hoping to find out more about what I need to know, what I should be learning, and how I can work on supporting myself if I take on the project that I propose. It is quite exciting.

I have had the thought to spear head an all district PTO for parents and teachers of kids with disabilities. I am not looking to put more on my plate than is already there, but there seems to be such a need, and a friend sent me the announcement of a grant that might have some funds for such a project.

Am I spreading myself too thin? If only I was thin.

I have not written this, but last weekend Julia made us hot chocolate on Sunday morning! It was scary when I saw what she did but she did a very good job of it. She used our hot pot to make the boiling water, she gave us very special cups -- which I had no idea she knew about. She put the cups into a large plastic container when she poured the water and then some milk so that the liquid did not make a mess. And when she was finished, she called me downstairs with such a joyful call. She did, however, make sure that I knew that the bigger cup was for her and the smaller for me. Maybe I should have chided her for climbing on a chair to get the cups, using the hot pot, and making a wee bit of mess on the counter, but she was so proud of herself, and I was so pleased with her independence.

It is funny that as Julia loses a bit of her bossiness, and becomes more dependent on me, and wants to please me more, she grows more self-confident and independent. It is a lovely, confusing statement. So happy to be writing it.

14 December 2010

It still amazes me, when I draw a breath and realize that I will not see David again. Still there remains pockets in my heart and mind and soul that expects he will write, will call, will leave me a message, will come home. I am surviving. In a strange, strangled recovery. Recovery from the state of a loving relationship? As I read of trauma these days, I recognize my own. My triggers to heavy grief so elusive that I cannot make sense of them. There is no straight path here but a labyrinth whose center it still hidden. I turn each corner hoping the hope of a cockeyed optimist. I want to cradle and have cradled the broken heart -- mine and his. Mine now. I wish for a fellow traveller but would be bad company for anyone who did not understand me deeply.

Till death do us part -- what kind of paltry relationship is that? I think I did not listen well enough to those vows.
Whew, it has been a long time. I have given myself quite a vacation from writing. I have been doing a little reading, mostly on autism, but a bit on trauma, but I have not felt moved to write in quite a few days and have not pushed myself in the least.

Vacation! I go back to sleep after Julia leaves for school and I wake up like a cat when the sun is in my eyes. I am watching junky movies on Netflix and intend on finding at least one really junky book.

This is the most student-like behavior that I have exhibited all semester. LOL!

I am cooking, baking, and organizing this week. Cooking to eat some good hot meals on these cold night especially when Julia is not finished at clinic until 7 at night. I've been freezing what we cannot eat in one night. My freezer is a bit empty, but I am thankful for all those soups and sauces that I have been using the past months. Baking just for teachers, the holiday party on the last day of Julia's school (this Friday!). I cannot really bring myself to bake for the holidays. I surprise myself at the old fashion-ness of my desires -- my mother and her circle did no celebrating for a year after someone died. I am not intentionally doing this but it does seem to be my behavior. And organizing -- I have not found the best organization of Julia's "stuff" -- toys and art supplies and work. The house is a continual mess. And there is my stuff as well. Research books and articles are piling up without a system. But, to be hones, my mess is a small mound compared to my daughter's mountain.

09 December 2010

My semester ends on Friday after a presentation. Working this week towards that day. Weather: cold. Spirits: Okay. We missed only one day of candle lighting. Sweet. Lots of dreams, remember very few. Transition dreams -- like I need to be reminded. Julia having trouble with the cold, and showing some temper about new ideas. Says right now that she doesn't want to go to NYC for Christmas. I have no feeling for writing at all. Would like to be silent in voice and in finger today -- this week, in fact.

Maybe later.

05 December 2010

Strange thing about snow. When I saw it yesterday, I felt relieved. As if all was right now with the world. It is December. We should have snow and the landscape now looks like it ought. The thought surprised me. Of course I loved snow as a kid, but viewed it as an unfortunate condition of winter as an adult. Living north has taught me that a city and neighbors can take care and keep life going with snow. And the white blanket on all of the garden beds looks so much nicer than they did after the leaf raking. Can three winters in Madison make such a difference?

Maybe it is time to buy some winter sports accessories.

04 December 2010

Two window paintings

This was spring (four seasons themed windows). Yes, it is a dinosaur walking in the rain.
And summer. Dinosaur on a surf board. The colors are a bit off. The yellow was very cheery and bright.
We have to stop at the craft store tomorrow, because next time Ellen comes over (Friday), we'll have winter and holiday windows!
Listening to all those who tell me to take care of myself, I had someone clean the house today. It was a mess and I intended to straightened before she came over. Then, it snowed and I had to retrieve the snowblower from the fix it shop. But by the time I got home with the snow blower, two of my neighbors had shoveled my walk and all I had to do was the drive way (Yes, I live in the best neighborhood!). And so, I also blew another neighbor's walk because . . . well, that's what we do.

Back to the house and cleaning. The cleaner, Sharon, put things in piles -- books, articles, toys, coloring books, pens and pencils, folded laundry, dusted, vacuumed, and mopped. The bathroom is clean, and the floors in the halls are lovely. And she will come back in two weeks.

I wonder, just a bit, of my inability to even do the straightening up before cleaning. I just could not make myself do it. There was/is always something else to do, if only to read to Julia or write here. I usually do this well. I needed this caring. The clean that I did not have to do myself made me feel good.

And she will come back in two weeks.

I scrubbed the windows that Julia and her therapist, Ellen, painted. Since we are just across the street from our school bus stop, I had quite a few parent comments about these windows. Some liked them, some cautioned me that it would be awful to clean, one told me she'd never let her kid make that kind of mess. Well, Julia and Ellen did not make a mess. They painted some beautiful pictures which not hard to clean at all. Oh well, a bit harder than if the pictures were not there but totally work the elbow grease involved. I took pictures of two, only because I had tried to take pictures when they were first painted but the late fall outside washed out the paintings. I thought about a background of snow only after I had cleaned two of the windows and so . . .

Julia, the complete artist, is falling asleep next to me while "hiding" her small sketch book under the comforter. She said she wanted it there so she could draw first thing tomorrow morning. Whether she gets out of bed before she draws is my only question. And she told me that she was hiding the book -- I don't know how it is hidden if we both know about it.

I love that kid.

More often than not, when I come to get her after RE class, she is sitting with Erin, her aide, and a few other kids. I think they are the same kids. At least one is a boy who tells Julia how great her drawings are. And there is a little girl who seems to like Julia.

Please god, let her have friends!

Julia is now using numbers 1 through 20 with ease. Last summer, I worked on 1 through 6 with her, and she didn't always get it. She could count to 10 but did not always use from 6 to 10 practically.

I marvel at the opening of this mind. How much work with how many people, and still I consider it a miracle.

01 December 2010

And so the "nice" shiksa mama lights the Hanukkah candles with her Chinese daughter preserving ancient family traditions. And no, I couldn't find our menorah. Where could it have possibly gone? It is usually with the candles and candle sticks and I can reach for it whenever I need it. Today. Nothing. But I had a full set of Hanukkah candles. Really pretty ones that I had bought for last year, except last year we had enough odds and ends from other years. (we almost never lit candles every night. There was dinner with some friends, or a night out for a movie. Something.) I opened the new box, and put two candles on a glass plate. And some chocolate coins -- gelt. And I said the barukh -- the blessing -- slowly so Julia could repeat it. She will be learning my poor pronunciation. It was a poor rendition of the beginning of the holidays but it was ours.

It is cold outside today. We came out of the front door to a lace of frost on the storm door and a drifting of flakes in the air. The steps are showing white trip in the cracks and crevices. I pull up Julia's hood over her hat and she shoves her mittened hands deep into her pockets. She looks both ways as we cross the street -- she still needs reminders but fewer and she both willing and more accurate at her looking. She is still enthusiastic in her greetings but some of her edge is rounded -- mellow enthusiasm? She announces that she loves the bus because it is warm. She has previously announced inside that her teachers have a hard time waiting for her to come to school in the morning. She tells me to smile and wave at her as the bus leaves and I obey.

Then I chat, very briefly on a cold morning, with the assembled parents, one of whom just started a new job and stands in stockings and heels. I re-cross the street and climb my stairs, open the door and smell the lovely warm remains of Julia bacon and egg breakfast. Warm, warm, and home. And I am thankful for such a precious morning.