Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Power of Blankets

Every since he was old enough to track familiar things, James has been attached to his Bear Blanket. It was a hand-me-down gift from a cousin. What a wonderful gift it's been!

That Bear Blanket has seen Disneyland, ER rooms up and down the state, traveled through Oregon and Washington and visited the MIND Institute at UC Davis. It has soothed him through many an illness and helped him go to sleep at night at and away from home. It must always be positioned just so, with the red border tucked under his chin at bedtime.

While James does not carry his Bear Blanket around as much as Linus did his, he does like to wrap it around his head, and sometimes drape a chosen person with it for a big hug session.

I know most 8 year-olds don't carry their blankets around anymore. But really, when I see him smile like this, I just don't care.

And you know what? Blankets are awesome. The people behind Project Linus know that. We've made a couple of fleece blankets from a kit for them. Check them out, and spread some comfort and cheer.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Magic Marker Monday: Peace Day

Did you know that September 21 is International Peace Day? I did not. James' sister did.

How did she find out? She was bored and looked at her calendar for something to do. This is what she made, as her part of spreading the message of peace:

Her calendar misinformed her, slightly.

She then took the half dozen messages to all the neighbours we know near our house.

So proud of her!

Yes that was Saturday, but today is Magic Marker Monday.
Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Colour Spectrum

James started stimming again about school tomorrow: "There's no school tomorrow?"

We'll get this about 20 times today. I decided to change things up a bit.

Wish they still sold this t-shirt!
-- Take 1 --
Me: "James, what's school look like?"
He: *Look of "that is a dumb question"*

-- Take 2 --
Me: "James, what colour is school?"
He: "Yellow."
Me: "What colour is your classroom?"
He: "Blue."

-- Tangent --
Me: "What colour am I?"
He: appraising look ... "Silver."
Me: "What colour are you?"
He: "Shiny."

Love it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creative With Spelling

James still does not like to write much. For spelling this year he's having to up his practicing. His aide makes simple flash cards for him, tracing over his pencilled words with a coloured marker, to make them more interesting.

Tonight his assignment was to alphabetize his spelling words and practice writing them. Normally we work from the spelling list, which becomes a battle of wills. James does not deem alphabetizing words to be of general interest.

For the first time I thought to use the cards instead of the list. There were still several sticky moments, with James attempting to balk at finishing the project, but being able to put his finger on the cards at the first letter of each one as we wended our way through the alphabet  and turning over each card as he ordered it seemed to help a bit.

Finally I had James write the words as I read them from the stack of alphabetized cards. Sometimes we talked about what the word meant (progress!) and sometimes I had to work him through a mini melt-down over the spot on the paper ("It's wood pulp, Honey; you'll never be able to get it out - it's part of the paper.").

And for some extra credit, we found ways to use spelling words in during his bedtime story:

James likes George, but he's still a bit scared of dogs and puppies. Hmmm....
We got in cute, ate, made, safe, five, and rule. Not bad!

Magic Marker Monday: "Big" Top

Michelle's post a couple of weeks back reminded me of a great little craft the kids did for Carnival Week at Summer Camp - the Paper Circus!

Paper people and tent parts were coloured and then cut and pasted.

James liked the the tent. He was not that interested in the people. This has me thinking that he'd probably like making a circus train, and maybe a station. Hmmmmm ....

I love how he decorated teh stripes with numbers!

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, September 15, 2013

Outdoor Persuasion

James does not want to leave the house. The hot weather and leaf blowers in outside the front door do not help our efforts to get him outside.

This morning James slept in a little. Then he had breakfast and had some iPad time. He cheerfully got changed out of jammies and into clothes, helped sort and put away his laundry, and finish his math and writing homework. I learned pretty quickly that the alarm on my online timer made him cry. I switched to the microwave's timer and we had no further issues.
So ironic, because I used this website to time my contractions the night before he was born.

He balked at going to the Farmers' Market with his sister and I. We haven't been going much this year because our favourite bakery is no longer there. I figured today was not too hot or crowded, so would be a good, short-ish outing for us all.

Once we got there and bought a tasty sourdough baguette from Costaeux's, he was cheerfully skipping alongside me as we checked out samples of Sonoma County's early Fall Harvest. Let's see - peppers were everywhere; delicious, glowing peppers. Apples are still coming in, as are all varieties of grapes. There were even some nectarines and the peach slice I tried was so fabulous I bought one to share with my husband for dessert.

The crowds were light and mellow, which made walking and people-watching easy and fun. James and I saw on a low wall to catch the live music performance. He loved seeing them play guitar and flute. His sister sucked on a honey stick watched the dogs romp with their owners on the lawn. I bought some of those flavoured straws when I picked up a jar of blackberry honey (which is fantastic tasting and made locally).

You would think this happy event would have mellowed him a bit. But no. First thing James said as we got back home was "I am going to stay Right Here!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tackle It Tuesday: Yard Helpers

This past weekend, as I was struggling to wake up enough to drink my coffee, the kids were pinging off the walls. That's how my daughter wound up making pancake batter from scratch from the first time. It's great that both kids are old enough to learn how to do more things by themselves.

James kept begging me to download yet another Minion App for his iPad.
 - "Not unless you do a chore," I told him. "That app costs money."
 - "Yes!" he cried. "I do a chore! I'm gonna get a Minion app!"

Okey-dokey, time to come up with a chore he can do with minimal supervision ...

I told James he could rake the back lawn, but that he first needed to change out of pjs and into clothes. He took off for his room at warp speed. I took this opportunity to suck down half a cup of coffee.

James' sister, meanwhile, was starting to ask if she could do a chore. She suggested sweeping the back patio and I took her up on her offer, directing her to first change into work clothes.

To make a long story short, we spent over an hour in our backyard, raking, sweeping, and tidying away a whole summer's worth of stuff. During rest periods, we'd drink some water and talk about what we'd tackle next. By 10:30, we'd filled a green garbage bin and learned more about the arts of raking, sweeping, and sorting discarded items among our 3 waste bins.

As the fruit trees' leaves are just starting to turn colour and fall, there will be ample opportunities to become proficient at these tasks.

Tackle It Tuesday MemeDo you have a project or accomplishment to share?  Head on over to....

Monday, September 09, 2013

Smoother Sailing

This came home today in James' backpack:

Such a difference from last week. We are thankful all over again for the wonderful team James is working with at school this year.

James is doing his homework with us at night too with a minimum of fuss. It's modified, but we practice spelling, writing, math, and reading every night. He is choosing his books and asking what the spelling words mean.

Then I saw this wonderful graphic from Lizbeth, over at Four Sea Stars:

I thought about how far we've come since last year. And I am so grateful all over again for the people in our lives who allow us room to be ourselves. And how lucky we are to have some people in our lives that encourage and support us to be even more ourselves.

The Precise Child's Sandwich Recipe

Ran across this over the weekend. Oh my sweet corn. It's still true. This is what I have to go through some days to feed the kids.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Sammiches, per my son)

Recipe (per my daughter):
That Bread that Mme Untel uses and That Cheese that she buys; I don't know what it is, but I think it's yellow or maybe orange. She makes it on a grill and it tastes good! (Note: Mme Untel was our day-care provider for years -- everything is better at her house!)

Chez Nous recipe: Use soft bread -- I can get away with Trader Joe's whole wheat bread ($1.99/loaf) and sliced orange cheddar cheese, as plain as possible. Use real butter (ours is not salted).

(1) Heat pan; melt a small slice of butter, enough to completely coat pan's surface.
(2) Place up to 2 slices of cheese in between bread. Butter the outer top slice.
(3) Using medium-to-low heat, cook sandwich until butter browns and crisps the bottom bread's exterior. (note to self Do NOT attempt to answer email or bread will burn)
(4) Flip sandwich and repeat cooking.
(5) Remove sandwich from pan, slice in half diagonally (this is actually important), and put on plate. (6) Serve warm (or else it's no good).

... and with that, time to pack the school lunches!

Sunday, September 08, 2013


Things are a bit better at school, and I am cautiously optimistic. A couple of longish discussions with his aide about triggers and possible tools to use to encourage better behaviours and choices at school seem to have helped.

It is very true that if you try to shush James (whether with pictures, hand signs, or verbal cues) in a classroom, it's rather akin to throwing gasoline on a fire -- it triggers both anxiety and defiance, rather loudly too. It is true that afternoons are some of his toughest times to hold things together. James also does not function well in unstructured time.

So his aide has created some visual tools to help him understand what activity is coming next, and how much time it will take. James is starting now to want or need things neatly boxed and defined more so than in the past, and this seemed a good thing to try to keep him focused and involved, rather than defiant. I am so glad he has his aide to help him through this tough transition to third grade.

I have noticed over this summer that James has started resisting things more, especially activities outside the house. I used to be able to get him to go swimming in the pool with his sister and I with a minimum of difficuty. Not any more. He used to love going to the grocery store with me. He's become less enthusiastic about coming along and often asks now if he can stay home. How about a trip to the Farmers' Market? No thank you, now.

I'm not giving up on getting him to go out. Today  we were treated to an outing all day at Coppola Winery's pool. "I don't wanna go," was his cry. I bribed him with his iPad and he came. He goofed off and talked incessantly, once we were established under some umbrellas. This made it a little harder for me to relax, but I did enjoy the experience.

James' sister swam like a fish. I got James into his suit and took him into the pool with me, because this year he did not want to go at all. The water was refreshing and helped cool him down. He started to cry, however: he didn't want to get dunked under water, he did not want to be splashed. He clung to me and told me that he had nightmares about his (up until now) favourite Baby Einstein puppet characters.

Ah, so that's why you've been getting me up every house on the hour at night, lately.

So I spoke soothingly to him, and gently rocked him from side to side. He did grow calmer. After we got out, I wrapped him in a couple of towels, to help him dry off. He refused to go in again, though.

James' Dad thinks the resistance and defiance are normal developmental milestones. He's right, but I am always wondering if there isn't also something more going on that is related to autism that I am still trying to decode.