Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Eclipse 2012

While looking through photos for end-of-school year activities, I found pictures from the Annular Eclipse earlier this month.

While I got all excited about the fluke that let me catch the event via a reflection inside my camera, James and others loved all the eclipse shadows that turned the afternoon into a once-in-a-lifetime event:

Leaves that created the shadows.

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

Pulled Apart

Autism has long been linked to puzzle pieces. What causes it is one of it's biggest puzzles.

However, lately I've been feeling that puzzle paradigm in a new way:
Jame's lovely Mothers' Day portrait, going to pieces.

This is me, being pulled apart by in pieces:
  • end-of school parties
  • input meetings for teachers next year (because it's been me trying to get this done and things not working out for almost a month now)
  • follow-up to get organized for summer school (because that's all on me)
  • prepping for a trip that's perfect timing for the one person who's not traveling
  • all the cleaning and organizing for the trip, plus --
  •  -- catching up from when my daughter was sick for a week (still)
  • dealing with the cherry tree bounty & messes
  • end-of-year cards for teachers& support staff for James (5 of them)
  • trying to work with a new respite aide because --
  • -- our wonderful aide of 3+ years is moving
  • prepping kids for a new aide
  • dealing with a respite care agency that's been turned on it's head and has gone from not calling me to wanting a piece of my time once or twice weekly to do things that never got done or are new state requirements; shot me
  • absentee voting for while I am out of the area on our trip
  • trying to get haircuts for us all (that also got knocked out by daughter's illness)
  • grocery shopping
  • yard work
  • doing everything a week ahead of time so bills and weekly chores don't get skipped while we are out of town
  • trying to finalize trip itinerary
  • still trying to get payment on  invoices for work done and billed last year
  • and: dealing with the fact that I now have an all-electric car and no charging stations in our town; this one's a long story, and responsible for large parts of my right hand falling prey to excema.
And I know I am forgetting stuff.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Party Notes

I was watching James yesterday at a family party and woke up to a few new things I need to think through and help him with.

To my eyes, it was a small group of about 18 people. I come from a large, Irish-Catholic family on my mother's side, and it doesn't start getting sizeable until about 30 or so people show up. 18 is cozy.
   - It's not cozy for James or his sister.

I have over 40 years to learn to schmooze and pass time pleasantly at a party.
  - James hasn't. He's been to maybe a handful of parties like this one,
    which I got to experience larger gatherings at least 3-4 times a year
    at Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and any graduations/communions, etc.

I grew up with 18 first cousins, and too many second cousins to count right now before coffee. We were each others' play dates the whole summer (which was a full 3 months long).
  - My kids have 6 first cousins, 1 of whom is new and we hope to see soon,
    3 we might see once a year, and 2 we see occasionally. While we do meet
    up with second cousins who live near us, it's definitely a much quieter life
    for our kiddos.

My cousins and I were very used to lots of people in a social gathering, and we were fine not knowing everyone (we'd probably heard stories about them, which was good enough). We expected random adults to suddenly zero in on us and ask us questions, and learned how to answer and evade as needed. As children and then young adults, we learned where to go if we wanted more action and less boring grown-up talk.
  - My kids really haven't got a clue when confronted with a group of more
    than, say, 8. I watched them go into "freeze" mode until the part dwindled
    a bit. Then they were fine. They don't talk with me after about who is related
    to whom or why that person was there. So I am reminding myself that now a
    good time to talk about the people we met yesterday and give a bit of family
    history. Because that's important, in so many intangible ways. I can tell them a
    little more about my summers growing up, and maybe give them some more
    chances to talk about social gatherings and what to do at them.
My mother's family lived a kind of Mad Men life on each other's back porches/decks in the summer, with a cocktail happy hour that sometimes was dinner. Us kids got very used to chatting and gnoshing. I love the fact that without cell phones or the internet, everyone along a river and big forested hill just knew whose house was hosting the next happy hour.
  - It's good to see our kids developing some of these same skills,
    but I have to keep remembering that if they're quiet, it doesn't
    necessarily mean they're doing ok -- they might be overwhelmed,
    and in need of a quick touch-base.

I really would like to figure out something to help James. He is a social guy, but while he loves the people and commotion, he doesn't know what to do with himself. I saw him do extreme verbal stimming for the first hour (plus some hand flapping and jumping) and then all kinds of stunts to get attention, one of which almost broke his arm. His breathing became different and the head shaking/banging started, but he kept insisting on being in the middle of people. Again, this got better when the group became smaller and more familiar.

I refuse to bring the iPad. The idea is to get him more relaxed in social situations. Also, the idea of a quiet spot to retreat to seems moot, as he wants to be where the people are. All I can think of now is maybe some social stories about what to do at a party, talking about the party more beforehand and descussing what he can do if he's at loose ends, and normal parenting for when the stimming gets too out of hand.

This is so weird for me. I was not a popular social butterfly growing up -- I am sure I had to learn social behaviours too ... it just seems like it came more naturally (especially in hind sight).

Summers were one big, lazy kaleidoscope of random activities and soaking up social behaviours. I just accepted it as a way of life. I really miss it, looking back now. Even if we'd had more normal lives, I'd be wanting to encourage this with our kids. It's just that with the kids I have, I have to work at it a little more.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

SOOC: Future Farmers of America

A local tradition starts off another summer! The Future Farmers of America Country Fair  kicked off this weekend with their twighlight parade through Healdsburg. James' big sister and I have traveled the parade route on floats twice and I have to tell you, it's a hoot. A real small-town, warm-hearted event that leaves you smiling the rest of the day.

Attending the fair and auction, however, took a while to build up to. Both James and his sister were very anxious and meltdown-prone if they were around outdoor heat, smelly smells, large animals, FLIES, and excessive noise. Yeah, try having a county fair without any of those. And it wasn't as if they hadn't been to Ag Day or our big County Fair ... yeesh! It wasn't until last year that I could get them out there. I promised James we could visit his aide from Kindergarten (whose son was in FFA), and I think that's what finally got his reluctant buy-in.

This year? One of those times I dreamed about for years (with pity party tears on my cheeks). No fuss. Both kids leaping and running to go to the fair, running around to look at all the animals, and enjoying a Saturday morning outdoors. James actually coming to get me, grabbing my hand and calling "Come on, Mommy! Can we go see the circus? I wanna see circus!"

Because they have one, and it's awesome. Hats off to Zippo and Hi-Top; these guys made something great for kids and families when they came up with the Swan Brothers Circus.

Enough with the words! Here are some images from this year's FFA, SOOC:
Decorations for this year's theme "Cowboy Boots & Country Roots!" hung over the pig pens.

Bunnies, in groups of three.


County Fair offices, just off the Livestock Auction area.

Off to see the circus!

Now James wants popcorn. Sassy kid! We got some on our way out.

I saw a lot of kids dancing with funny hats. Made me smile to see them so happy.

Finalist: Most precious smile ever!

With the help of Zippo and my camera's Magic Eye lens, this brave volunteer became a clown!
He had some killer dimples, too.
Trying something new this week by linking up with Murrieta 365 for some SOOC show and share. I am bending the rules a bit with my words and multiple images, but otherwise it's all SOOC.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Magic Marker Monday: Art Outdoors

I know it's the weekend (shhh!), but I wanted to share what my kids and I actually did this past Monday, out in our back yard.

Tools: paper, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, and love of colour.

Unplugged creativity:
There is something exciting about mixing up colours outside. Sorry cat, we commandeered you water bowl.

James had fun, mixing up colours. He talked his way through the whole process.

Definitely more fun outside!

My daughter's masterpiece: our cherry tree, the birds who love the cherries, and a human cherry picker.
We have a very active cherry tree in our back yard!

Lavender from our garden. I felt good to do a little paint sketch again.

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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Getting Ready to Move On

Next week is James' last week of school. Last week of one of our kids going to school at our little neighbourhood school -- the only school that probably both will have both attended (they are now in different school districts).

I shot some pictures of one of our walks home last week. I will really miss these! Not only is is it a fun special time with James and good exercise, it's also one of the few "normal" school things I can do with my kids that I remember from my own childhood.

"Look, Mommy! Is a rock!"

Oh yes, how this guy loves his stop signs!

Nice and colourful, just like James.

Time for me to stock up on Kleenex. I am also burning a CD of all his First Grade class/activity pics for his teacher this weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

SNwRG: Phonetastic!

End of school insanity, plus my usual stress, plus heavy emotional schtuff on a Friday (a 3+ day weekend at that)? Thank heavens it's also Special Needs with Ryan Gosling day. Ryan is a guy who knows how to get it done:

Thanks, Ryan! I wasn't sure they heard me.

No matter how high they've just raised their admissions/APs? You really know what to say to a girl!

Thanks again to Sunday over at Adventures in Extreme Parenting for helping me laugh at things. Head on over to her blog to see how Ryan is making other peoples' day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Special Exposure Weds: Patriotic Pics

So I've told you a bit about the wind-up for Patriotic Day. Every year our local K-1 school puts on an assembly in honour of Memorial Day and those who serve and have served our country. If there is a US veteran in the family, students are encouraged to invite them to be VIPs at the assembly. The entire school salutes and thanks them for their service. I am not wildly patriotic, but every year my heart is warmed and I share my gratitude with the rest of the school.

Here are some pictures from the actual assembly:
The event was in full swing as I walked onto the playground.
Looks like we pretty much all got the memo to show up in red, white, and blue!

I arrived just in time to see and hear James' class perform.
My guy sang his heart out, jumping up and down as he belted out
"Fifty Nifty United States from 13 original co-lo-nies!"

James is pretty chuffed about all this.

After some songs, veterans and their school-aged relatives were recognized.
Then there was a lull before the big finale. Check out James being social!

Waiting for the finale, my gorgeous guy!
I took a video of the finale. It moved many of us moms to tears. James was actually crying by the end of it. He had to come find me and schnuggle with me on my lap for about 10 minutes before he was okay with picking up again and going on with his day. The song? You Raise Me Up.

Oh my heart.

So ends the last assembly for us at our little neighbourhood school.

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

It's Patriotic Day (So Shoot Me)

It's Patriotic Day at James' school this morning. And I saluted it with a 4am rising. Gah.

My fault, I've known it was coming for 2 weeks and spent the last 2 days in a funk. Luckily this morning I was able to kick it into gear and accomplish the following:
  • 1 complete load of laundry for James, so he'd have fresh undies, red shirt, and blue pants to wear to the assembly.
  • A bath for James, who woke up after 5, spend 10 minutes in the bathroom and ....well, you don't want to know the details, suffice to say:
  • (1) he had a bath after that trip to the potty
  • (2) I cleaned the bathroom & made him breakfast while he took his bath & got clean all over
  • (3) his fingernails are now *really clean*
  • Gave my husband a wake-up call.
  • Made breakfast, lunch & dinner for my husband, who took off at 6:45 AM -- we'll see him again sometime around 8PM, after a full day of work & 4+ hours of commuting.
  • Made breakfast for daughter & got her up to eat it; reminded her several times to *finish* eating.
  • Moved James out to the living room to watch Baby Einstein's Baby Neptune. It helps.
  • Made lunch & snacks for James and snack for his sister.
  • Made & baked 2 batches of scones for daughter's end-of-year school lunch party, because all the food needs to have a locally grown component and that's the quickest thing I can make -- love ya, Clover Dairy!
  • Took a shower; can't remember the last time I did that and I did squeeze in a gym workout last night, so it was part hygiene, part community service.
  • Brushed daughter's long tresses (all 3 layers of thick, long honey hair) & pulled it back from her face in a partial pony tail.
  • Got James dressed patriotically and gave him a haircut so his overgrown rooster locks would not be impudently saluting anyone with a camera. I had to follow him, squirming and yelling, scissors and brush in hand, from a chair, to the floor, to my lap, and back to the chair. There were 2 successful pins in there but as his shoulders remained firmly in place above his ears, covering the offending locks, the jury is out on how effective the whole attempt was.
  • Delivered offspring to school early -- bonus points!
But now I need to post and run -- I am running a little late, because I just got responses to 2 of the 3 school-related emails I sent out to  James' teachers (summer school and teacher preferences for next year) and my daughter's school (programs for next year). Oh yeah, I sent those out this morning too.

Saluting as I trot down the street to the school (because I know there's no parking anyway for these events), red-in-the-face, Caucasian mom in blue jeans.

(ETA: I made it! Photos from the assembly are here.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Golden Hour

James has less than two weeks left of First Grade. His sister's last day of Third Grade is this Friday. I am sad to see another school year / grade level / established set of routines come to an end ...

... but there is also freedom from homework. Oh. Yeah.

After cooling down in the house with ice water, yogurt squeeze-ups, and a movie, I moved us all to our back yard. Oh the moaning and "I don't wanna"s -- they lasted all of five minutes. There was so much to explore and distract. James mixed up colours from the basic red, yellow, and blue acrylics. His sister painted rather dainty masterpieces. I actually did a little lavender sketch in paints.

The golden afternoon sun filtered through the leaves of the cherry tree that is squarely in the middle of the yard. Some of the cherries are actually turning red. Yes! Soon we shall have cherries in the morning, fresh off the tree ... but I digress.

James gave the swing set a workout. His sister started raking leaves and watering, in between petting the cat. I actually got quite a bit of gardening done. Man, we have like a zillion little root saplings sprouting up in what used to be the lawn! The blackberries are already plotting to take over the back fence perimeter, and the rose trees need a whole lotta dead-heading. It's nice to be needed.

I enjoyed that time outside together. It was very satisfying.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SNwRG: Trouble, Please Be Kind

I'm late, but Sunday picked a humdinger this week -- it neatly summed up my Thursday and Friday evenings. I still have that sadness hangover. However, girlfriends and Ryan are helping me out.

And a late entry:

How about you? Want to enjoy a creative way to vent some stress and smile? Head on over to  Adventures in Extreme Parenthood's site, grab the photo of the week, create, and share:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Magic Marker Monday: For Me

Both kids have been busy at school. On Mothers' Day I got to see some of what they'd worked on:

From my daughter:

Present inside the bag: Notepad with daughter's photo in it.
Top sheet has a very sweet note.

Picture of me. I love my nails & fancy top!
From James:
Me again. Okay, this one actually weirded me out. I look like Mrs. Jim-Jim: the dog-faced Mom. With bread.
I do like my nice green & gold jewels, hovering over my head.
James also wrote me a card, but I could not take a good picture of it. Very basic, with straggling crayon letters: "Happy Mothers Day. James" I can tell by the writing he was not into the assignment, but heck, he wrote it! Last year, I was thrilled he could write his name.

Then there was that year that I cried because he looked at me and gave me a hug and said "I love you." Because he was *able* to finally do that.

This is a nice progression - I'll take it!

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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