Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More Moments in Song

James has a lot of time on his hands lately, and was rewatching Jack's Big Music Show. He kept showing me this video, asking me if I remembered it. Yes, but the memory is getting fuzzy.

We started getting silly on the sofa, wrapping each other in blankets and making up verses to the song. It made a nice end to a crazy, hectic day. Belonging feels good, especially affirmed with music.

Monday, December 28, 2015

All Over Presents

Predictably, videos and books were the biggest excitements for James, followed closely by a Joe Cool shirt that we can't wait to show off at school. Big sister's keyboard with sound effects, however, was a strong attraction:

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Morning Of ...

James woke up 3 times after 3:00am, asking if it was Christmas. I finally had to tell him Christmas started after 7:00 am. He played a few games while waiting for teen sister to awake. Both kids settled on the sofa to open their stockings over croissants and morning beverages. Then it was present time!

Many rippings and exclamations of excitement later we are enjoying the warm house on a frosty morning. The kids have swapped videos to their satisfaction and James is watching his long-desired Cars DVD -- without scratches! I can hear him jumping up in down int he next room with happiness.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Twas the Afternoon Before ...

After working a half day this morning, I am home with the kids. Friends are over. It is now preparation time. James enjoys making Christmas cookies. It is one of our Christmas traditions, along with trimming the tree, visiting holiday lights around the neighbourhood, and singing.

The paper all over the table in the background? Hello, Triennial IEP (still in progress)!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Falling Into Calm

I saw this article on My Autism Team about how non-verbal children try to communicate with people and all I could think of was "YES!!!"

I remember this, and this, and  this time.  How James adores Wall-e at home, because the robots communicate without words for so much of the story.

Even more, my own connection to the importance of spending chunks of quiet time with both kids. Over the past five years of sad things, frustrating things, falling apart things ... I have learned to "fall into calm." When the kids are hurt, storming, and all my mom plans and attempts at "normal life"stick their figurative tongues out at me and implode, stress levels soaring like a rocket launch, I have found that lowering my voice and imagining grounding images to make myself an anchor of calm is the most effective thing I can do. It also helps me "hear" what they are trying to say.

It makes sense, after all. These hyper sensitive people, whose nervous systems have already gone critical, don't need shouting or scolding. They are immune to embarrassment in this moment -- that's all my own show. Their ability to cope, regroup, and express are different and stuck from what most people know. There is a real person, trapped in there: sad, angry, hurt, frustrated as heck, and alone.

Who is there to model a more effective, socially acceptable behaviour? Well, often, me. And it is so easy to want to hush them and not make a scene. Clean up the messy behaviours. Assume you know what's going on (or worse, you're so tired and burnt out you just want it to stop) ... when I can get myself to stop and spend time with James and his sister, shutting out the Should and Expectations, I always learn something new about them, and realize I have been missing cues from them.

The best quality time experiences are lovely, lazy parcels of just being together and enjoying Right Now. And there are so man ways to open up to each other: playing, touch, drawing, photos, playing in nature, or music. Sometimes the best revelations and connections come from being able to fall into calm while surrounding by messy, howling chaos. Because sometimes this is when the kids most need us to hear what they are trying to say, in their own ways.

And do they appreciate that extra, focused time with them? Yes, they do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Letter to Santa

Oh yes, James still believes.

He has been talking and obsessing over the Cars movies from Pixar. I think I've finally convinced him that the third movie won't get here until 2017.

The closer we get to Christmas, the juniper James gets about Santa and will he bring presents? It get very hard to focus him on homework. He would much rather look at Christmas lights.

Tonight, I got him to write his letter to Santa after math and reading. We posted it at our Town Green. It was a win-win winter evening!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gift Ideas for Kids on the Spectrum

I am "behind" with Christmas, having been overwhelmed with some very un-Chrimassy things.

However, some good news came through late this week, and one of the wonderful, relieving things is that I can relax a bit and enjoy the holiday season more than I thought I could.

I already have some gifts. I can think about getting a tree, baking cookies, and using the Christmas savings for, well, Christmas. So I sat down with James and Amazon, our online virtual encyclopedia of world shopping, and asked him what he thought would make good Christmas presents. Without further ado, here are his choices:

Pictionary Card Set: 
 - J:  "I have not played it before, but I will like to."
 - Me: "You mean, you like to play with pictures?"
 - J: "Yeah!"

Laser Pegs: Helicopter building Set
 - Me: "What do you like about his?"
 - J: "I turn the helicopter on, and it spins around."
 - Me: "Do you like that it lights up too?"
 - J: "Yes!"

Frisbee Ring Flyers:
 - J: "I like these because you get to throw these to someone."
 - Me: "You mean, play with someone?"
 - J: "Yes, outside, with my friend, Penny."

Boy's Sports Watch:
 - J: "I love the watch so much. I have to run and jog all the time, with my friend, Ms Jackie."
 - Me: "How Does it help?"
 - J: "You can hold it for 5 more seconds."
 - Me: "Would you use it at home?"
 - J: "Yes."
 - Me: "Have you ever worn a watch on your wrist?"
 - J: "Yes, when Ms Penny was teaching me how to jog. That's how she showed me."

VTech Call and Chat Learning Phone:
 - Me: "What do you like about this toy?"
 - J: "I like the microphone. I use it to call my friends (writes names with left finger in the air)"
 - Me: "Can you tell me the names of your friends? I am really bad with reading reading names in the air."
 - J: "Junior and Mark!"
 - Me: "Well, I don't think it's a real phone that you can use to call your friends. You can pretend to call them."
 - J: "What is the microphone for? Can I see it? Can we use it?"
 - Me: "Yes, you can use it to talk to the bird. Would you like to do that?"
 - J: " Yes!"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A New Moon

Found a new book for James' reading favourites:

Harold and the Purple Crayon. I loved this book too, when I was in grammar school, and made my own books about how I would use a magic crayon. I can't remember specifics, but mermaids, talking animals, and waterfalls made for exciting flights of fancy.

I can tell James was excited about this book because his reading grew almost as animated as it is for Where the Wild Things Are. I think James also enjoys being able to read a book out loud without too much difficulty. The strong visuals are appealing as well.

Meanwhile, we are down to the last 2 chapters in our Magic School Bus book!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

When Worlds Are Cross-Compatible

I know time is passing: I have kids and a garden. I know technology constantly evolves - I work with it. Sometimes, I am also not paying attention, so I get surprised when sometimes the way I used to do things ... gets replaced by an app.

Our old fax machine stopped working soon after I stopped my telecommuting work almost eight years ago and we never thought to replace it. I was not working so could make copies and take or mail them to where they needed to go.

More places increasingly accept photos that were taken with and emailed from a cell phone. HIPAA means that more records are being shared securely in PDF format.

Over the past year we've had to fax a lot of documents suddenly: applications for financial programs, job hunting, medical records, and school programs. Even though faxes are still needed, it's getting harder to find places to send them.

To keep cash outflow down, I haven't updated my phone since 2011 (which is almost as bad as a flip open phone in the tech industry). My Kindle takes nice pictures, but not PDF-worthy ones. The Kindle does have an app for translating photos into scanned documents, which then upload to the Cloud. Finally, I get Cloud Computing. Tonight I take Tiny Scanner out on the Cloud for a drive.

I really want to Evolution Elves to take away my home office clutter:

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Reading Together

For much of this Fall, I have been lax about reading with James. He has three favourite books he likes to bring out for his homework reading assignments: Where the Wild Things Are, Chicken Noodle Soup With Rice, and The Cat in the Hat.

I tried reading the library books that came home from school with him (that he supposedly picked out): Sharks, American Colonies, and another 5th-grade book about characters based on American history. After two sentences, James became violently bored and it was truly difficult to keep him focused, even sharing turns reading to each other.

So I went to our bookshelves. Goodness knows, there are enough paperbacks in this household, where almost every room sports a bookcase and the garage is a library-in-training. In James' own room, I picked out a Magic School Bus adventure: The Search for the Missing Bones. We've been reading it slowly over the past few weeks. It's just about right for James' reading level and captures his interest so he now gets excited when he sees the book cover.

With the weather getting colder, the kids getting older and tough things happening, it's sometimes hard to put aside the time for reading together for 20 minutes. But I do love our time curled up on the sofa together. Reading. Exploring. Sharing.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Weekend Chores

James is ten, almost eleven. One of the things I have been working with him includes learning skills to live more independently. James is good when self-directed, or working off a chart.

This morning, we worked on gathering laundry and gathering for washing. Laundry takes the longest, but he is getting better at it. I still have to watch him load the washer because sometimes things he throws in his laundry basket should be be added to the washer, such as stray toy building bricks, his jacket, or a plastic bag of dirty clothes (from an outing).

Washing dishes is tougher for James, with the slippery dishes and difficulty he has making one hand grip a cup or plate and the other a sponge to administer a scrubbing. I've found it's best to try with plasticware ... and have a spare shirt and pants handy when he gets his first set splashed with water.

Last weekend we straightened the DVDs and VHS tapes.

Baby steps!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Trader Joe's and Conversations

James and I made our weekly Trader Joe's run this morning. Later than usual, but we got lucky and hit a lull.

The weather is still damp, cold, and grey. Low lying cloud whisps hovered above the vineyards and hugged the bottoms of the foothills. The air was loaded with moisture. Armed with a grocery list, bags, bottle returns, and a reading test with a 100% grade, we took a cart and headed in.

Wow, Trader Joe's has a ton of holiday food and treats. Despite the awful week, I am comforted by the festive packaging and the helpful crew in our local store. James found Schroeder  (he's in the stuffing section today, Santa Rosa folks) and collected his sucker. He helped me get items from our list. He chose a new type of cookies to try in his lunch.

On our way out, he ran into one of his crew friends, and showed off his history test. Even though the crew member was busy, he took a moment to look at the paper and listen to James. He then gave him a high-five for his grade. Guess who got another sucker?

On the way home, I asked James about his music class at school. He told me they were practicing rhythms with sticks. He said he was alone with his aide. After some more questions about why he wasn't with the mainstream class, I understood: a leaf blower was being used outside the music class, so James got to go to a quieter room with his aide and practice.

Then we sang some of out favourite Christmas carols. Small things. They help.

PS: Trader Joe's is running a Customer Choice Awards contest. Nominate your favourites through tomorrow, December 6th.

Friday, December 04, 2015

A Haunting Week

This has been a week that laid me low. James' triennial IEP is still in progress (we started end of October) and no one is going to be really happy about the final result. I am very discouraged about the gap between my perceived service needs for James, the IEP I agreed to last June, and what is now being offered by the district. It seems to be a grey area, as concessions have been made on both sides, nothing is hugely out of compliance in this new version of the IEP, but I am disappointed and have lost faith. This is what happened to James when I agreed to move him out of Full Inclusion and into Special Day Class.

If any on-the-fence parent is reading this, listen to your inner voice: don't move your child out of Full Inclusion if you don't feel right about it.

I do recognize that James got less out of Full Inclusion every year, due to his developmental delays and processing issues. I do recognize his school is giving it their best with what they've got and there are good people trying to work with us. It's just not enough for James.

If I made more money, I'd shell out for outside services and soldier on, grumbling along the way. I don't have that option. I have other issues that are now more important. Big changes in the family (it's coming apart), mental illness issues that desperately need addressing, and extreme financial crisis. Right now it's constant, never-ending, and no resolution or coping schedule in sight.

Then Wednesday, the massacre at a Regional Service Center in our state. Just like the one we go to for James, but in another region. It's gutted me. Not only because an organization that's part of our lives became a target for murderers, or because of the horrible loss of many kind people with families near a big holiday, but because of a worst-case outcome between mental illness, despair, the huge and dangerous (and widening) gaps of haves and have nots, and guns.

The Us is trying to exterminate Them. Think Trump hate, Planned Parenthood attacks and defunding, police shootings, and radical religions of any kind.

Guns are protected more than people. I still cannot believe this.

Our country is ignoring history and turning into a place of fear, hate, and exclusion for those "not like us". I am looking at you, US Governors who want to exclude Syrian refugees. How long before this "Them" turns me and my family into "Them"? It doesn't feel like a large step. So yeah, now I feel threatened too, in my own country. 

And for me, I am not making enough money. Wages in my area are horrible and not what they were, pre-recession. I cannot support my family and it is breaking apart. I feel stranded. I know I am not alone. Not looking to throw a pity party. I do have some help and support. This is how I feel when I am laid low. I am pretty sure it's going to get worse before it gets better. I hope I can take it. I'm pretty sure I can.