Monday, February 27, 2012

Magic Marker Monday: Blossoms

One afternoon last week, James' aide gave me a heads-up that James was bringing home some art projects in his backpack. We took extra special care of the pack and when I opened it at home I got a lovely surprise:

Not only was a nicely done project, it was timely, because the plum trees have started to really blossom this week. For myself, it has a special connection. I too did a similar project when I was in Kindergarten. My mom saved it, and for years I liked looking at it.

Here's James' artwork with it's outdoor relation:
I think I've found another piece to frame!

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Movie Review: Puss in Boots

Please note this is NOT the new Dreamworks movie, rather an ... interesting version from Canal + (among others). The full title is "The True Story of Puss'n Boots."

Oh dear, where to begin?

First, I need to let you know we found this on Netflix and watched it at home in our Bedroom Drive-In, so my experience was very relaxed. If I'd have paid rental or movie ticket money to see this, I would have been much more annoyed with it.

Next, the movie is a European production, which makes for a cultural shift and a different movie experience. Some people might find it interesting, but from the online reviews I've read, most found it to be a combination of bad imitation US animation and creepiness.

It is a mish-mash of genres, IMO. The animation is gorgeous in many places, and this production pulled from a richer background of architecture and art history to come up with a small, unique style and kingdom. The action pacing reminds me of old-fashioned pantomimes, where things happen, but clumsily, and the audience is not expecting a lot of logic. I found myself looking at the Art Nouveau doorways and caught up in the rich palettes, which helped me overlook some of the more annoying (and yes, slightly creepy) characters.

When pulled away from the sets and design, I was confused. Were they trying to imitate Shrek? If so, why did the cat sport a pirate bandana and medallion that was ripped off from Jack Sparrow? And what was the cat doing with William Shatner's voice?

I thought they did a bad job of trying to tell a classic fairy tale with a modern twist. In particular, the Royal Family was incredibly hard to watch. I didn't like any of them. I could not get my head around Ma and Pa Kettle as serious Royalty, who had a daughter of colour (stuck in the 1980s in spandex) who sang in disguise at the inn where everyone knew her identity except the Miller's son, who's in love with her -- what's up with that?). And the Miller's son was not engaging. If anything, he looked half asleep the whole time.

They most lively characters were the Chamberlin (who is really creepy, especially if you don't like evil clowns), the Cat (William Shatner seems to enjoy the heck out of this role and almost carries the movie with his joie de vivre, at times), and the Ogre (who does this weird transformation into Bill Nighy's Davy Jones of the second Pirates' movie).

There are many surreal moments, such as a monkey suddenly appearing and becoming a quasi main character. His weirdest scenes include playing what looks like a Pez organ to calm the Ogre from hulking out into a giant, murderous squid (which pretty much goes contrary to everything I've ever heard about an ogre). I cannot describe the music paired with these scenes, it its bizarre in the extreme. I am sure Dali would have been intrigued. The Ogre's voice, by the way, is a really good imitation of Robby Benson's voice for the Beast.

Our 9 and 7 year olds stayed through the movie, although James (7), had extreme difficulties in sitting still and concentrating after the first 15 minutes. I asked James just now if he liked the movie and he said "yeah." When asked which part he liked best, he said, "The windmill." I rest my case.

My husband and I just had to watch it, it was just that strong a mix of bad with splashes of good. Most reviews give it almost 2 stars, and I agree.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SOOC Saturday: Changeable

James has been really talking socially and describing his thoughts so that even people who don't engage with him often can understand and reciprocate. This is good change! Meanwhile, we've had quite the week for weather. Even had some small earthquakes rumble and jerk their way through our home. It's been a changeable week.

We started out grey, cold, and rainy; then it began to clear and warm:

The flowers and plants loved the shift from winter gloom to hot sunshine:

And by week's end:

I'm participating in the SOOC action at Marvelous Mommy's blog. Come on over to see more or join in!

Friday, February 24, 2012

You Put Your Right Toe In ...

We've hit the high 70s this week, and yesterday I took the kids to the pool at the gym to beat the unseasonable heat.

As long as the wind was quiet, we were fine. Once it kicked up, we were reminded it's still February: brrrrr!

I love this photo of James, testing the water with his flexible toes.
He is refusing to wear the larger suit and shirt. He'll have no choice by the end of the summer!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Aloha Morning

Yes, it's February in inland Northern California. Mornings are cold and crispish, days have been mostly sunny and mild. Spring is just around the corner, but we'd still enjoy a tropical break, or at least pretend we're on one.

Enter Bad Ass Coffee. Yes, it's a naughty name, but their donkey is cute.  Have you been to one? It's like a visit to the islands. The interior features mock tropical trees and plants, grass and bamboo mock roofs, and there are plenty of island tunes to be had.

When we're on our early morning drop-off schedule, the kids and I like to kill our spare 30 minutes hanging out in the wicker furniture with tropically-inspired upholstery. I get my Kona blend coffee and the kids split a croissant and snuggle with me for a bit.

James either takes pictures with my camera or cozies up with his iPad while I brush Big Sister's long hair and style it for the day. Not only are we a bit earlier than usual for our school arrival, we are usually more relaxed as well.

Some day, I hope we can all take a vacation to Hawaii. I admit, getting James through the lines and airport security is my first worry. Getting him to take a plane ride calmly is another. For right now, this is a nice slice of the tropics in the morning. Aloha!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Still Not Tired of This

Washed James' hair this afternoon, and again no screaming. We even had a little water play out in the yard first, to get him in a good mood.

He wasn't happy, but he helped direct how the shampoo and rinse session went. He and I had quite the conversation, establishing that we were going to use a rinsing bowl, not the shower. I promised to not  use the hair dryer. We agreed on the number of rinses and counted them together.

We've warmed up into the high 70s this week, which is bizarre, and I hope to be able to shampoo him later on in the week as well. Tomorrow we're even thinking of going swimming.


Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Seasonal Shift

We haven't had much of a winter this year. Still, Spring is in the air. After the last rainfall, you could tell a difference in the outdoors.

I am looking forward to having the kids spend more time outside -- they are finally ready to enjoy it.

For more images from the heart and to share some of yours,
visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.
5 Minutes for Special Needs

               and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Magic Marker Monday: Heart Makers

I know we're past Valentine's Day, but we had a couple of Life things drop on us (colds, family issues, etc.) and I am just now downloading and uploading photos take over a week ago.

This year, the kids made special Valentines for their grandparents. Big Sister decided that it would be best to use the Homework Desk, and supervised James:

I didn't get a shot of James' but Big Sister's was more elaborate anyway. The red is surprisingly hard for me to photograph:
Hard not to grin at all the Hearts

(P.S: I know it's Tuesday -- shhhhh!)

For more great masterpieces or to share some of your own, visit
5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

          Special Needs Blog           Photobucket

Resource Find: Communication Printables!

We are excited to participate in the CATS Program for a second year. We have another great student who's already made a great connection with James. More on that later!

Right now, I'd like to share a fantastic link to over one hundred free visual communication tools that I found out about through the CATS Program grapevine. The site is Practical Autism Resources and I will have to take a look at this site later. I am too busy drooling over their Downloads page. I've already printed a few great items I can hardly wait to try out, especially now that we are using the great Activities Sign Board the Behaviourist gave us. These tools will mesh well with this board.
James' Activity Board
Screen Shot of Downloads page on Practical Autism Resources site
 As a web designer/developer, their simple, informative, and easy-to-use layout has be excited: someone gets how to present lots of information online so it can be used! As a parent to a son with ASD, verbal delays, and auditory processing issues, I am ecstatic to see so many helpful tools in a comprehensive array of topics. As a Mom in a family that's teetering on the financial brink, I am thankful they are free.

Here are just a few that I've downloaded:
* Worksheet modification stickers / matching.doc
* Picture word cards: Vehicles / buscarpwc.pdf
* Opposites / opposites1.pdf
* Home and Community / communityicons1.pdf, homeroutines.pdf, needsandstates.pdf
* Behavior Punch Cards / behaviorpunchcard.pdf

OMG, they have BINGO sets! They have items in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. Too good to not share. Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Visiting, With Love

Both kids and I went with family members to visit a much-loved person who is gradually saying goodbye and preparing to go Home. I still can't wrap my head around it, even though their health has been fragile for many many years.

I just told the kids we were visiting, I didn't go into details. How much can you tell a 9 year-old and a 7 year-old who is bad with abstract concepts?

I'm still not ready to say a final goodbye, but I am glad we came to tell them they were in our thoughts, with all our love. I am glad my kids got to see this person one more time. I hope they have good memories of them.

As usual, the kids were a bright spot for me. I think it's important for them to be included with important family events, and I loved being able to be close to them and hug them tight for most of the day. It made me feel a little better.

If nothing else, they will remember the fish and parakeets.
James took this picture; I think he likes the ramp.
Spring is on the way.
Not surprisingly, the fountain was fascinating.
James loved splashing ...

And getting clooooose ...

Voila. The kid who hates to get his head wet soaked his bangs. Go figure.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

SOOC Saturday: February in Flashes

How can we already be most of the way through February? I still feels like 2011 to me.
With that in mind, I looked back through the photos I've managed to download to my MacBook Pro, and verified that yes, I was awake and taking photos this month. Here are some of my favourites, just because:

Lemonade! Freshly made from local lemons.
Our daughter is saving up her money to take us all to Hawaii. I love her.
Empty coffee mug. Relaxing after a morning of hard cleaning, while the Molly Maids finished up
for me by dealing with the rugs and kitchen floor. Proof I actually stopped to smell outdoor air.

Outdoor patterns -- I just like 'em:

I can't decide which shot I like the best. These are tea lights after the rain. Which photo do you like best?



A few extras from Science night, right at the end. They made me smile:
Cat, looking for the Milky Way
Full moon rising. Kids love being at school on a full moon night.

That's all from me and my Cannon point-and-shoot for week. One of my goals is to download the rest of my February pics so I'll be ready for next week's SOOC action at Marvelous Mommy's blog. Jump on over to see more great photos or join in!