Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Test Drive at the Library

James has been fixating on plotting the driving route from Northern to Southern California. He constantly asks which city is next, how we get to So Cal, and what the weather is like at various points. Common fixations are the Altamont Pass. He is also fascinated with the steep So Cal access road, in particular why we call it The Grapevine but it's official title is the Tejon Pass.

James also loves going to the library: computer time!

Put these things together, and you get:

Oh my!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Yin-Yang Holidays

It's been a rather black week, in which I had a day that literally sent me home early to go lie down in bed. A week who's motto should be "getting old is not for sissies." Where the bleak things in life had a party at my house, neighbourhood and family alllllll week long. And then followed me to work and popped up at my church.

So it's been an extreme relief to have a few days off, gather with family for a Thanksgiving together, hug my kids, and go see friends.

It was great to watch the next gen of cousins play together. Except for James, they are all now in their teens. Every time they get together, James asks to play hide and go seek, just about the only social game he knows and loves to play. Every time, they say yes, and then for HOURS they have the best time playing. They are so accepting, it is awesome to watch.


This year was no exception. The new twist is that James' cousin is a hide and seek ninja. Over 15 minutes and they could not find him in the house, which is not that big. Three times in a row.

He is good!


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Angry Birds Metaphor

So it's raining and James and I are talking as we make the one big round of errands so we can stay home later, enjoying a warm, dry afternoon. We wound up discussing Angry Birds, always a favourite theme with James.

He had an interesting insight into the Matilda Bird, whom he has been drawing obsessively. To the point of roping me into a hunt for black paper and a white crayon (yes, we had both squirreled away somewhere) so he could colour her.

James wanted to know if I'd noticed that she is rounder before she drops her egg, and thinner after. I conceded he had a point. Why, he wanted to know? I asked him what he thought. His answer startled me:

"I think she puts the angry into her egg and when she drops it on the piggies, she gets smaller."


What a great metaphor for how you the deflated, de-energized state after an angry outburst.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Freedom of a Friday Night

We felt like celebrating the release from school for a week. Projects got finished at work. James had finished his homework packets and his school had their Stampede event that morning. He raised enough money to proudly wear his t-shirt. We made sure his good tennis shoes were on for the race. I wrote a note to please excuse him from running the event, asking that he be able to jog/walk it. I probably did not need to write the note, but it made James feel better.

After the afternoon pickup from Boys & Girls Club, which was suffused with a gleeful atmosphere, we enjoyed some time at the public library. James likes the library because he can play computer games and check out movies.

The nights are crisp and cold. We agreed that dinner out on the Town Green would be just the thing. So we walked over to KC's Diner and were seated by the fire pit on the patio. That and the waiter were as good as a floor show for James. He took it all in and sat the entire meal in his chair, which is something new for him.

We checked the Warriors game occasionally on the TV monitor, discussed the merits of ketchup and lettuce, and theorized the construction of the fire pit. Chicken strips, spinach salad and fried were consumed, and we were able to relax from weekday routine. The walk back to the car was cheerful and comfortable. James has been scripting the dining experience from the viewpoint of the waiter. It makes a nice change of pace from Spongebob, fractions, and spelling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory

Art Imitating Life

This is a movie that we have seen twice in the theatre. Originally we were invited to a private screening from the Swain Center. James liked it so much that we saw it again last month. I am glad I had a chance to see it again because the first time I missed a lot of the soundtrack.

Not that I would have missed that original showing for the world - oh no. I was in a theatre FULL of parents who got a jolt to the solar plexus along with me, watching Dory's parents worry about what was going to become of her. How could she live a normal life? Trying to stay cheerful when they feel caught in a nightmare; trying very hard not to cry. Because your child cannot do something basic that others can do. Because you see how they could be lost or hurt. That this sweet kid has no idea what is out there and you do. The possible consequences of your child wandering off … Yeah. There were a couple of us gripping the arm rests, vaguely comforted that we were in a room of people who would understand. Some parental tears were shed.

I think many of us saw ourselves also in Marlin's role: caring, exasperated, and in need of pausing now and then to remember what really matters. That the quirky person who can drive us nuts is also a unique, caring, special thing. Because this differently abled character has achievements and strengths. Because real friendships are there. While the accomplishments may seem boring and mundane to others, we, like Dory's parents, can stop and appreciate the victories. We all saw our trial and errors at teaching expected behaviors, coaching speech, communication through singing, and coming up with snippets to help stay on track mirrored in their efforts with her.



Review and Semi Spoilers Alert

As for the movie itself, my impression is that the journeys trumped the story. There were plenty of great new characters, as well as refreshers of familiar ones (stay  through the credits, y'all!).

Hank, the cranky octopus (or septopus) stole my heart. Becky was runner up. The colours are gorgeous and the water and ocean effects are amazing. The kids loved the lively sea creatures, such as the possessive sea lions, fallible whales, and traffic-stopping sea otters.

I greatly enjoyed Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the Oceanographic Institute. As a sometime member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I recognized some onscreen counterparts to the real thing.

There are many chase scenes! Yelling! Sneaky scenes. Rock stealing. Marine science. Disguises aplenty. Breakups and reunions. A continued message of finding the family of your blood and your heart. The favorite for many was the climactic car chase and dramatic conclusion. Even that had a manageable sound level. Every time a scene felt as though it might begin to drag, there was a quick change of pace or comic scene. In short, this is a really nice movie to see with your kids. While not as fantastic as Finding Nemo, it is still a very solid movie.

Four starfish and a recommended movie for kids, families, and the holiday break.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Homework Aikido

Every now and then the homework push overshadows the actual assignments. As a single parent, even the easy assignments James has can be difficult to make time for. James is also recovering from the flu and the persistent head cold that followed. The heat poured back on this afternoon, flirting with breaking 100°. The homework ch'i was wan and lacking. There was stimming and whining.

Time for a change.

I had James pack his backpack. I planned to go to the gym, with its nice lighting, air conditioning, and change of atmosphere, but completely forgot the after work crush that mobs the parking lot. No problem, just down the road was my ace in the hole: the airport:


We knocked off the spelling assignments and most of the read and answer sheets. Helicopters lifted off, passengers deplaned right onto the tarmac near us, and small planes took off into the softening blue sky. James really wanted to go back to the gym, so that is where we finished the last few assignments and then sat out near the pool, feeling the cooling breezes while the sun went down and lit the clouds a la Maxfield Parish.


We came home full of accomplishment and a much better attitude.

Fallready

So summer went like *that* (finger snap) and it is Fall. Already.


I have my autismom calendar of events that confirm the paper Gregorian version in the kitchen:

  • The back to school frustration of not enough communication from the school. 
  • Feeling like the I need Homeland Security Clearance to get his schedule. 
  • Beginning of school year IEP request and meeting, in which I try to understand where James will be physically at which time for each IEP service and what has been changed without telling me since the last IEP team meeting. 
  • School pictures, once again in a red polo shirt. There no other Picture Day shirts. 
  • Newsletters via a different delivery system. 
  • Requests for money from the school. 
  • First days of school missed due to cold AND flu that are "going around". 
  • First homework makeup packet request and turn in. 
  • First meltdown over reading assignment. 
  • First sneaking of Crocs instead of sneakers to school. 
  • Verbal stimming begins over a new teacher's name. 
  • I try to commit a new aide's name to memory. 
  • We set up new routines for homework and find The One Pencil that is tolerable for completing assignments. 
  • Been called by the new school because the out sick message got lost. 
  • Been called to leave work and pick him up because he was distraught. 
  • Three evil bouts with constipation (and calls from the school or aide). 
  • One email skirmish on why he was sent out for making noise / misunderstanding of what happened.
I have some more homework to do before meeting again with his team. After that, I intend to enjoy Fall with James and build up some fortitude before the return from Winter break sets off a new flurry of excitement.