Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dressing Up

Could I love this guy any more?

Well, I suppose so, but it's moments like this that fill my heart with happiness. James will go for weeks just wanting to wear his favourite items (red shirts, tan pants, and his foamy mockCroc "sandals") and then pull out all the stops and try on new and funky things.

And I missed the part where he grabbed a play microphone and announced "sugar ... spikes, and everything nice!" I love our little moments of fun and joy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: I Have A Dream

I visited James' classroom for 100th Day earlier this month. There was a lot to see but one thing really stood out for me. It was the class bulletin board for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A picture of Dr King making his famous "I Have a Dream" speech was prominently featured. Surrounding this were decorated and cutout children that the class had made. Each child put their dreams on their cutout.

This was James'

And I thought how appropriate. James has dreams, but not the words. Some children on the Autism spectrum are nonverbal, but I am sure they have dreams. Dr King's speech about acceptance and living together is a moving and inspiring one. I wonder if we'll have a speech like that some day for all those who have the dreams but no words?

I have a dream that some day we'll know what is cause such high rates of Autism in our children, and how we can prevent it from being so devastating to those who have it and those who love and care for them.

For more great images or to share some of your own, visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sugar in the Morning

James just came up behind me, said "You stay here with me, okay?" and kissed the back of my head before tiptoeing away again.

What a sweet thing to experience as I struggle to wake up this morning!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ever Have A Few "One of Those Days"?

I lost the bag of small candies that were going on some class Valentines, but I found the remote control that's been missing for over a week. It was up in a dish cupboard, hidden in a mixing bowl. Um, Okay ... perque demande perque? It's just a symptom of what's been happening around here lately.

We had a great start to making class Valentines. Then my daughter came down with the flu and James was channeling his Inner Tigger. I had work to do on 2 websites, a report to write, and lots of email to keep things rolling. Thank goodness my husband could take him out for several hours yesterday, school is back in session, and my mom has kindly offered to care for my sick one for a large part of today.

Every 2 minutes, someone was either calling for Mommy or calling on the phone. Every night, I'd get rousted out of sleep an average of 3 times. Which means don't interrupt me as I go on Zombie Mom Autopilot, or we'll be eating socks and sorting mac & cheese ...

I haven't gone to the gym because I've got cuts on my feet (don't ask). My body has seized this opportunity to embrace entropy. So I try getting in some exercise at home and take a shower, only to find out that the showerhead should not be used until it gets cleaned and a new filter installed (no, don't ask about that one either).

I got a lovely new lopper and used it abundantly. Now I need to keep stuffing our green bin for over the next few weeks. Oh, and surprise! Now we're suddenly in Rain Mode for just that time frame. But it does smell good outside. However, because I dropped my son off in all this aquatic renewal (aka: rain), I need to get a different coat and shoes (oh, and pants too) to wear to an advisory board meeting.

As for those candies ... do the kids really need more sugar? Oh wait! Extra individually packaged jellied candies leftover from Christmas! Never mind, I'm good to go.

Magic Marker Monday: Art on the Go

Last week, James' sister began taking group piano lessons after school. It's at James' campus, so I end up doing an hour's loop of school pickups and then back where I started to sit with James in a classroom while his sister learns about the piano and music. Snack time is in the car, and James got antsy watching the group, not understanding completely why he could not be there too (at this point, it's a money thang, we hope he'll get started on the piano soon too).

I ended up sitting with him in a corner of the classroom. Luckily I'd brought a small pad of paper and a pen. We started out practicing numbers and letters:

Then moved on to my drawing pictures. I started labeling them and then James wanted to write their names, writing as I dictated (he requested the fire engine and spent a lot of time on that page). I was so proud of how much he could do -- my guy who could not even write at the beginning of this year!

I love how he's signing his name now too:

For more magic or to join in the fun, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ready To Go ... Well, Some of Us Are

James emerged out of his room at 3:30 this morning and loudly announced that he was ready to go to school today. Oh, don't I wish!

His sister's been sick while I've been trying to help them both finish up Valentines for their classes, do some web work, and finalize an update presentation for another website that I am supposed to present to a Board tomorrow.

Between the two of them, I was routed out of a sound sleep at 11, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:50. It's like they can smell me heading for a work-related deadline with important meetings ahead.

I know the kids can't plan ahead and deliberately get sick just when I really need them not to, but dang -- I am getting tired of this! Seems like it's been the story of my life since we moved up here, 7 years ago. Even though I had to leave my job, there is still work to be done. And in this economy with our income slashed in half, every bit of contract work I can get done is a very good thing for us indeed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Magic Marker Monday: Valentines

We use the boxed valentines from the Dollar Store for classmates at school. For family and close friends, we make out own.

I break out the handy pad o' coloured construction paper, heart cookie cutters, glue, scissors, pencils, markers, and scrapbooking hoogies ...

... and the kids break out the creativity (with a sometimes assist from Mom and candies):

For more creative works and ideas, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Noticing and Playing

Recently, James has been watching less TV (yay), using his Leapster less obsessively (right on), and noticing some of the cool toys he's had lying around for a while. He totally gets into these:

The Thomas Train magnetic book started out with 32 magnetic train stickers. We're down to the last 4, and he's finally using it appropriately, creating distinct voices for each train and making them do tings in a coherent story line. Awesome! He lines them all back up in the stationhouse when he's done.

The CD is full of the alphabet songs that he sings in school. his teacher let me borrow the CD to make a copy for him. He gets the most delighted look on his face when he plays "his" songs. I just love watching him jump, smile, and hearing him sing.

James has a small fleet of trucks. I thought he'd at least spin the tires. Nope. He's ignored them all, until the past two weeks. Now he's a driving convert, with sound effects. Usually screeching tires and vrooming engines. I'm not so sure how much I like those last two, but I am totally supportive of all the playing that goes on. He's even using his construction map/rug in his room as a roadway.

It's really nice seeing James play more with toys in an appropriate way. It doesn't help with the Spring cleaning (more scattered things and what should I not toss becaue he's going to discover it next?), but it is a lot of fun to watch:

Story Boarding Bedtime

This is what our respite care/sitter notes look like for starting bedtime:

This way the sitter has a plan and James gets some reinforcement. I had to do it on the fly because ... well, I haven't gone out at night in a looooooong time!

What do you use?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

100 Days, From a Distance

This week, Jame's school celebrated the 100th day of school. Because his school contains only 1st and 2nd grade classes, they make a huge deal about this. No kidding -- there are signs everywhere, welcoming all to the 100th day of school. Parents are encouraged to volunteer or drop by to share the special day. Classrooms set up to do crafts, games, and activities. The most popular is the goodies gauntlet, where kids get to pick 100 pieces of their favourite snack foods.

I was excited that James was getting to be a part of this, because it made him a part of our community and would have a shared experience that his peers would remember and talk about in later years. I was also hesitant, remembering what happened when I showed up at the Winter Singing Festival.

Sure enough, James was confused as to why I was staying in his room with him, once school started. He started to look anxious and then began to cry. He could not stay seated or still. He kept rocking on his feet or popping out of his chair. He was trying to make sense of it all, asking me things like "Mommy? You stay in in the room?" and "Mommy, is time to go home now?" and even "Mommy, you go outside?" His distress was acute. I could practically see the synapses short-circuiting. Poor guy!

I felt blindsided and isolated yet again by autism/sensitivites. Then I sighed (I do a lot of that) and tried to think about how to handle Right Now. I tried explaining that it was okay, I was just visiting and he'd get to have his whole day at school. No go. It didn't help that his teacher's well-meant urgings to me to "stay in the class, because he will really remember my being here and it will matter to him" added to the confusion. I think his teacher was right, but all the talk and confusion was ramping up both his and my anxieties.

I finally decided to hang out in the background, helping to take pictures for the teachers and assisting the moms with minor clean-up and refills. Every now and then I'd swing close to James, tell him "good work!" and take a picture of him and his classmates before fading back again. Lather, rinse, repeat. And sigh.

Once back home, I tried to review what happened and think about what would have been a better approach and how to do it better Next Time. I thought I should have done a social story about 100 Day at school, so we all could have gone over it in advance. But, I realized, I never thought I'd need one because I'd been with James in a classroom when his SHAPE assistant could not be there, so I could sit by him and help. He used to loved it when that happened. Why has my showing up at school suddenly become a problem? I can only guess that before the school was smaller, quieter, and more structured that his present school and class. Also, James is "waking up" more to his peers and environment. I know he can get over-stimulated, especially when it gets noisy. He is also getting more fixed with his routines than before.

So the best I can come up with is to keep trying to help out in the classroom, largely staying in the background until he gets more comfortable with seeing me there. And do a Social Story for the next time there will be a big school event. Boy, is this frustrating!

I remember my daughter's first 100th Day celebration. I had to come late (because of problems with James' school bus) and by the time I found her, she was off to the side of the room and crying silently to herself. So we sat together in a quiet corner and then worked our way up to doing a few of the activities. She stayed away from the noisy and crowded areas as much as possible and did not want me out of her sight.

I get a little discouraged, you know? Because I see all these other kids just having a ball. I know it's not that simple for everyone, but sometimes it really feels like it is for everyone but us. And here we are again, participating in life, from a distance.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: $quidward

Guess who's been scripting from SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons? All the lines that Squidward usually says at the cash register?

Yeah, it was a long morning. But it was fun to watch and hear him playing!

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Magic Marker Monday: Fridge Art, Kind of

I am one of those Moms who use the fridge as gallery space. Sometimes it's so full that I have to use care when opening the doors or some precious piece of work will fall to the floor because I did not have enough fridge magnets to properly secure it. And I have a scary amount of fridge magnets, but I digress ...

So Monday I was trying to get in some gardening. Retro gardening, in fact. Like 5 years' worth. James and his sister had their afternoon snack and were enjoying a cassette full of Kimba The White Lion (thanks, Aunty Molley!) so I thought this would work (unlike the previous 5 years, when both kids would cry and James would pull an "ELAINE!!!!" from his front bedroom window if I left the house to do gardening in our own yard).

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, in the front yard. About 40 minutes in, James' sister opens the front door and announces that James has Done Something Bad. So I go investigate, sighing mightily. To find out yes and no:

I am glad that it's pencil, not covering existing pictures/art, and not the marker on the couch fiasco of the past. And wow, James is getting really confident about using a pencil and using the proper grip! And I like to think that he drew a gin & tonic for his Mommy, who will be spending some time with him this afternoon, wiping down the fridge.

Notice I had to take pictures of it. That makes it art in my book. Performance/Developmental/Expressive art. May your day have a little free-form fun that hopefully leaves little clean up behind as well!

For more creative works, visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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