Saturday, June 29, 2013

Monster Play

Feeling better throughout the house this morning, thank goodness.

Instead of moans and sickness, there is rest and recovery. James continues to heal and gain energy. The cat is delighted to have someone else frisking about the place.

So far this morning, James has danced and sang for us. He's walked on the monster feet his O/T brought to the house to encourage movement five years ago. It's taken that long to catch on with him. I think everyone else in the family's had their fun, so it's good to see James confident and playful enough to take his turn on them.

I have a feeling that having seen Monsters University also piqued his interest in the monster feet.

We have Kitty Rodeo on hardwood floors, which is hilarious to watch. The cat loves to chase his toy mice, ribbon, pipe cleaners, and parts of plastic Easter eggs across the room. As he's 9 month old, he's quite the acrobat. I still enjoy watching his front end take off while his back end is still trying to gain traction from the previous maneuver.

On the alert and ready to pounce; there might be dragons!
It's interesting to be an audience for the complex positive/negative magnetic ballet that James and the cat perform. They can't ignore each other, but each freaks the other out. There is a lot of sneaking and run-away break points, with ears flat to the head and loud tattling of things like "Bueller's on the coooooooooouch!"

Then they'l both lie down, curl up, and rest. Before too long they're back up and ready to play, imagination and senses on the alert.

It's good to be inside with the air conditioning. We hit over 100 here today, which is a good 20 above normal. Safer too -- we have monster plum bombs dropping unexpectedly from the tree out back onto the hapless lawn below.

Special Exposure - Wordless Weds: Shades

His future's so bright ...

James had to try on his Nana's shades, last weekend at the cabin on the River!

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

Haiku Fever

It's been a rough two weeks of viruses robbing us of sleep and health. I am somewhat punchy, as a result. This is not how to spend a summer vacation.

I think I have Haiku Fever:

Stabbing pains cause moans
that rip sleep and peace apart
stop, oh stop, oh stop!

Skin burning, eyes red,
run all night like the Undead - 
Mom's a vampire now

Noun, noun - who's got the
noun? Not I, evidently;
try again later

Mt. Washme rises
from the floor in our garage.
No more eruptions!

Housebound, an island
Where is Mindy Roberts now?
Miss her haiku fun

Medicine in white,
so milky, and more desired
than vile fruit punch taste

Summer - is it really?
Seem to spend way too much time
huddled in blankets

Magic Marker Monday: Keeping Busy

We've all been lying low, as there's a bug that keeps going around. Last week it was croup. This week it's a quick but deadly stomach flu. I am a hot, sleep-deprived mess, the kids have been wretched, and my husband's staggering.

Today, James took a turn for the better. He even announced it clearly as he came out of his room at 6:30 this morning, waking his tormented sister. He really was very good, trying to entertain himself like I've never seen before as he had a turn as the most energetic human in the house.

Case in point: he asked for paper and I pointed him in the right direction. A few minutes later, he came back with writing, math, and drawing pages. I am so excited! This was all on his own initiative. I had fun talking them over with him.

All by himself, he spelled "Caillou Book," adding a smile to show he likes it and an arrow.
MUGS is from my other life, where it stood for "Maskmakers' User Group Symposium."
Say that one three times fast!

We went over his math sheet together: 1 + 2 = 3; 1 + 3 = ...
"no, no, Mommy. I crossed it out! It's really 4;"  and 2 + 3 = 5

And my favourite: "The Unicycler!"
How he came up with this, I have no idea.
I am glad that James is keeping busy, and that he can make things that we can use for interactions. I keep looking at the unicycle picture. I am sure there's a story in there somewhere.

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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Friday, June 21, 2013

Spectrum Parenting Tip: Rain With Fireworks

We live in Northern California where, compared to much of the rest of the world, we don't get a lot of Weather. That means that my son on the spectrum and daughter with sensitivity issues have not had to deal with a lot of rowdiness from Mother Nature.

About 10 nights ago, an unusual collision of weather fronts took place, with explosive results overhead (see video above; video courtesy of Michael Matson). I've been through storms like this, but not here, or with my kids. As things ramped up, both kids woke up, afraid. My daughter I could hold, and explain some of the science behind what she was seeing.

My dilemma, how to communicate with James. When he gets anxious, he tends to repeat things blindly and not listen to me. Lately, his innards start churning when he gets too anxious; if that state continues too long, he will become physically ill. Both the repeating and churning were going full force. I desperately was trying to think of a way to get through to him and explain what was going on as well as to reduce his anxiety. Autism ... visual ... concrete, literal understanding ...

Then I thought of something good to try.

"Hey, James - James! Remember Disneyland? Remember the fireworks? The bright lights and loud explosions? This is rain ... with fireworks!"

And it worked. Holy cow!

Boom! From right outside our room at the Letter Q Hotel.

For him, the storm then went from scary to Disneyland fireworks, with rain, right outside his very window. What an strange reason to be glad the kids have been to Disneyland so many times. But I'll take it.

The storm was a good one, by the way. We had lightning strikes a few blocks from our house. Power went out, and the house shook. A few times the bolts and thunder were instantaneous and huge. I was up for a good 2 hours, which is freakishly long for a T-storm in our area.

Both kids went back to bed after an hour, as soon as the main show was over. Even the car alarms going off didn't really bother them. After all, they're used to that after a fireworks show, and that's what they do when on vacation at the Letter Q Hotel, right across from Disneyland.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Hit Me (Again)?

Crumbs. Just dealt with an unexpectedly busy week last week (summer camp in morning, bike camp in afternoon, and finally driving Big Sister to swim lessons after dinner), some brick walls with James' stamina, and a busy weekend on the River/Father's Day/Hot Air Balloon festival ... and we're crashing an burning this week, so to speak.

I've been applying for jobs and trying to catch up with house stuff that got missed while I was one the road so much last week/end. All the emailing and paperwork got my heart racing. Sorting piles of clean laundry periodically felt therapeutic. This week, summer school still takes up James' mornings. Big sister's swim lessons are over for now, but she had a 3-day computer animation class in the middle of the morning. The first day did not go well. Then ...

... she got sick. I got a panicked call from home while I was trying to get out of the house and take a walk (because respite care never showed so I did not get a break as scheduled), and was soon in the car with my daughter, advice nurse on the phone as I tried to figure out what was going on and get her seen by a pediatrician. It's not rocket science and I don't want my daughter suffering but dear Lord, it was one of those times where it feels like life's merry-go-round has taken on a sinister aspect and it's not stopping when I need it to. I just wanted to take a walk, be quiet for an hour, and breathe. Nope - not gonna happen.

Turned out to be croup. Now James has it. As I was driving my husband to an appointment and him to school this morning, he started complaining "I have a throat!" and then had a glorious melt down in the car. Gah! Well, at least I know how to treat this, thanks to the advice nurse and doctor's appointment for Big Sister: "milk" (ibuprofen) to calm his "bubbling throat," steamy time in the bathroom, followed by cool air, and lots of liquids.

Trying to call him in sick to the summer school program, however, was a byzantine labyrinth of voicemail hell across 2 facilities. The one person I actually could reach told me that after signing kids up for summer school she "washed her hands of the whole program." Um, yeah. Thanks for all the help.

Have I mentioned that I've been fighting this virus off? Yeah, that's been going on too.

Oh, and crankiness? Check and triple check.

We did get respite yesterday afternoon. My husband and I saw a movie. I still need more - I can smell my brain short-circuiting. Thank goodness the weekend is soon!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's River Time

My folks rented a house on the River this weekend and invited family and friends, to celebrate a major wedding anniversary. My family used to spend 2-3 months each year on the River; I was so excited to have the chance for a weekend there again. Friday late afternoon, the kids and I packed up the car for a sleepover at the nearby rental. Cousins were going to be there too! James was reluctant, but up for more time with cousins.

He was very anxious about sleeping at this new place, so I had him sleep with me. I told him Hide & Go Seek stories about him and his cousins, which made him feel better. Several times during the night he rolled over and threw himself at me, hugging me tight. The next morning, he was feeling better, eating blueberry muffins on the porch while I had my coffee, listening to birds and watching the sun come up over the River. We heard finches and saw egrets and a great blue heron fishing in the shallows.

Hard to see with poor rez, but the heron is on the right.

Love the River.

Peaceful morning under the redwoods.

James did enjoy playing with his sister and her friend, who had stayed over with us. As the River was chilly until about lunchtime, they all hopped in the hot tub after breakfast and splashed around there.

After that, however, he wandered or played is iPad until after lunch, when it was time to check back in at home base. James was very happy to be home again. The gurglings of anxiety in his stomach quieted down. As a pre-Father's Day treat, we all went out to dinner at Denny's. Safely back at home, he relaxed in his own bed as both parents put him to sleep. After he was down for the night, Big Sister and I drove back to the River and spent another night there.

The next morning, worried that James might wake and freak out because I wasn't there, I snuck out early and checked in back home. Sure enough, James had just got up and started calling for me. So I packed the last of the blueberry muffins, milk, and some coffee in the car and took James with me to watch the hot air balloons launch. More on that later, but it was fun.

It was lovely to be on the River and encourage my kids to play on/in it. It's what my brother, cousins, and I used to do all sumer long when we were young. It's just what I needed to make summer feel real.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Wheeler

Look, mom, no training wheels!!

Big progress! He had the hugest grin on his face.

It was brief but James did it a couple of times yesterday at bike camp. So exciting!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

School: The Preshow

Mornings like this are when I suspect that the high points of James' day may come at the beginning. He continues to be interested in all kinds of things in the air. Aren't we lucky that there's an approachable airport on our morning school route?

Here is what we saw this morning (all pictures taken with cell phone on side of road, parked):

A hot air balloon at the airport!

Down for a landing. Time to look for REACH helicopters.

Only one on the pad today. Found out later there was an early morning transport call for a snake bite victim.

Hey wait - the hot air balloon is up in the air again?

Look! A bird, a plane, a hot air balloon!

Postcard-perfect morning in Sonoma County.

Aaaand down for the landing in a field, right on our route to school!

The hot air balloon festival comes to town tomorrow. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Pirate Chicken

At James' bike camp, all kinds of motivators are used to encourage the kids to keep working at pushing their pedals and keep moving forward. I saw visual boards, dolls, and running buddies used to great effect.

There were other items available for use, which served as distractors for those who were in need of a diversion to discharge before refocusing. James latched onto this little beauty with glee:

What is that thing?

A rubber chicken. A pirate rubber chicken.
It really worked - know why? It squeaks when you squeeze or shake it. Arrrrrrrgh, Matey!

There he goes, off to the right. He had his fun before getting back on the bike.

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, June 11, 2013

Bike Camp = Boy Joy

James loves bikes and being independent. Even though he adores his Christmas bicycle from several years back, he hasn't been riding it as much as we both hoped. There was the matter of escaping me in the park, where we'd gone to ride (and then not wanting to ride back) and the fact that his low muscle tone makes bike riding both a challenge and a safety concern.

Cone Zone for Cycling Without Limits

Lately, he's grown so fast he's probably outgrown his original bike. When he persists in riding it, the training wheels start to bend up, he's so big now. I have to constantly stop him to tighten the bolts. His balance is way off too, and his hand-eye coordination not steady enough to make bike riding really confident. What's a kid (and parent) to do?

Enter Cycling Without Limits, a wonderful summer bike camp program put on at Sonoma State University, in partnership with Dr. Elaine Hughes (Kinesiology Department) and some of her Saturday Sidekicks crew, and Ann Elias from Cerebral Palsy, and some wonderful volunteers who've come up with some truly inventive ways to get special needs kids and adults up and biking.

Specially modified bike for campers

James and I attended the first class yesterday. Oh my heavens, the look of pure joy that lit up his face! As a parent, you live for these moments - they are so worth what it takes to get there.

He had trouble getting started, fighting putting on a helmet and riding a new bike. Before long, however, his team had figured how to get him moving. One buddy the special rear handle to guide him around a track in the large gym while another ran backwards in front of him, calling for him to come catch her. Off her went! After three laps, he was able to start and stop on his own power.

Getting used to things

Look at him go! I had trouble getting him without a blur.
Thank you, thank you! Go, James, go!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

June Mornings

James has summer school for a month. At first, he was not very happy about this. Now, however, we've found an incentive to make going to school a fun affair -- after dropping Daddy off at work, we head down the road to the airport, to look at the planes taking off and see if the REACH helicopters are out on the tarmac.

One of several craft being fixed up by the Air Museum.

Score! They are both there.

On our driving tour of the airfield, we get to pass by all the wonderful aircraft on display at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. It's been a while since we stopped by. We'll add that to our list of summer activities.

Toward the end of next week, we'll see the hot air balloons practicing for the big annual hot air balloon festival. What a lift for summer school!

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Parade

Summer Solstice may be a few weeks away, but for us, summer is here. The weather is warmer, there are lots of free, outdoor activities, Farmers' Market comes twice a week ... and there are parades:


Waving at his teacher friend, who's riding in a fire truck, and just shouted "Look, there's James!"

 Here are some pictures from our local favourite: the Healdsburg Future Farmers Fair and Twilight Parade. James' sister rode the 4-H float.

Thank you, Veterans.

James loved all the cars!

Gotta love the Hometown band!

James' sister's 4-H float.

Ooooh, shiny!


This machine had a lot of moves.
... and James' favourite?

Of course. Cute girls and a hot car.

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