Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homework

You may be surprised to know that I am unqualified to assist with sixth grade math homework.  Last year, I was not qualified to help with fifth grade math homework.  So it has been, back through the years to third grade level math.  Although this is the opinion of only one person (as far as I know), it is the very person who happens to be in need of my assistance, incapable though I may be.

Some readers may recall I do have a bit of an anxiety issue when it comes to paper-and-pencil math.  Because of this, when helping anyone with homework, I like to check the book.  Chapter introductions help boost my confidence and reassure me that, at least according to the book, I am equal to the task.  Good to know, since it's only been a year ago that I went through sixth grade math homework with Girlie.  Have I 'topped out' in my math skills?  No, in fact, I happen to be doing just fine helping with seventh grade math homework, thank you very much :-)

Yes, there is a bit of tongue-in-cheek going on here.  My math challenges notwithstanding, Boyo's disrespectful attitude when it comes to homework is hard to deal with calmly, especially right after a piano lesson, where he sits with halo straight and shiny in deference to his instructor.  It does no good to point out that not only did I myself go through sixth grade math, I have also assisted three other children.

This is part of living with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  As the parent who spends the most time with Boyo, I am also the authority figure most often met with hostile, uncooperative behavior.  I've read enough to know how fortunate we are, because through Dearest and I working consistently with Boyo, we will get a conversation that includes an apology after most conflicts.  Sometimes he will interrupt the process to apologize and start over!  For that, even when it's hard, I'll be here for homework help.  Hang on a sec while I read the instructions...



A great photo of Boyo taken by Melinda, friend and fellow Ballet Mom, during the final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker 2011.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Warm and Cozy

It is not uncommon for some people with Asperger’s to shower with water much hotter than most folks could tolerate.  Dearest and I wondered why the paint was peeling off the ceiling in the kids’ bathroom – we learned the reason when Girlie called me to bring her some shampoo while she was showering.  The air was so steamy and hot I could barely breathe, and when I checked the water temperature I couldn’t believe she wasn’t being scalded!  As she got old enough to turn the water on for herself and learned to adjust it, she was taking much hotter showers.

She also likes to sleep completely under all of her blankets, and when I check on her before going to bed she is often soaked in sweat.  Definitely another case of ‘different strokes’, but we’re teaching her to air out her bed every day and change the sheets more often. 

Girlie complains that it’s cold in the house when everyone else is comfortable, and often doesn’t like swimming even in a heated pool because she gets cold.  This all makes sense when you consider that she has an extremely low BMI, with not a bit of extra fat anywhere on her body.  One might think this would limit her outdoor playtime, right?  No; in fact when she is in the mood she often stays out ‘til dusk, no matter the weather.  How, then, is it possible for her to be outside on extremely chilly spring days with short sleeves, and no shoes or jacket; or to wear wet, sandy clothes at the beach for so long when she is looking for rocks? 

Research shows that sensitivity to temperature for people on the spectrum goes from one extreme to the other, and clearly in Girlie’s case that can happen in one person.  There is some suggestion that it may go with along with dyspraxia, which affects people on the spectrum at a higher rate than the neurotypical population.  Discounting the very low body fat and how that affects her perception of cold, it seems like ‘warm’ has to be ‘hot’, and ‘cool’ has to be ‘cold’ before she acknowledges it.  She prefers extremes of temperature, and in-between is uncomfortable.  No matter how it seems to me, I don't comment any more; at nearly fourteen years old she can make her own decisions about how to stay warm.

Adapted from a free DROPS Design sock pattern
knitted with KnitPicks City Tweed DK in Poseidon.

Speaking of warm and cozy, I've had occasional problems with joint pain related to an auto-immune condition for several years.  More recently it’s been exacerbated in my ankles due to an injury a few years ago (the circumstances of which are not discussed, due to the abnormally high ‘stupid factor’ of the incident).  Sometimes even a slight draft of cool air on my right ankle, especially, is very painful.  A little over a year ago the discomfort was so bad I decided to knit some wool legwarmers, and the difference they made was incredible.  I just finished another pair recently and I love that something so simple can improve my comfort level so dramatically.  Wool socks + wool legwarmers = warm and cozy (and almost pain-free!) ankles.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Short Cuts

Girlie loves cutting.  She saves all the ribbons from wrappings and cuts them into tiny bits.  She collects yarn ends from my knitting and cuts them into tiny bits.  I’m not sure how we escaped the predictable haircuts when she was small, but thankfully we did.

Probably her favorite thing to cut is little sticks, so she loves clipping twigs and branches into tiny bits.  Since the snow and ice brought down so many branches, she has been anxiously awaiting the weekend when Dearest would be home so she could help him clear away the debris.  For the last few days, she’s been going out with my pruning clippers and nipping the smaller twigs into six inch pieces – to the tune of three buckets full!

The idea behind this is that she wants Dearest to have an unending supply of kindling so there are no excuses not to have a spur-of-the-moment bonfire.  Girlie has a stronger than average attraction, I think, because she would sit poking at a fire for much longer than any adult wants to supervise said activity.

Today Girlie and Dearest pulled all the big fallen branches away from the trees and cut them up into manageable pieces.  Of course the kids were hoping for a giant bonfire, but I vetoed that in favor of a small fire in our patio pit after they haul a truckload of debris to the drop-off yard down the road.  Weather permitting, there will be a marshmallow roast in the near future.  I'm sure I can put down my knitting long enough to have one S'more  :-)

More S'mores than you can imagine available here!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Matter of Time

Girlie found it a bit difficult to learn to tell time.  Most of the clocks in our home are analog because it’s what Dearest and I prefer, and they are a great help with teaching math concepts.  Girlie admitted yesterday she prefers to look at digital clocks.  It doesn’t really matter, though, because whether she can tell me the time or not, she has no concept of what it really means.  She doesn’t understand the passage of time.

This is another aspect of Girlie I have found very challenging.  Because humans live largely by the clock, (too much, I think, but that’s a different subject) we’re used to giving ourselves time limits and learning to pace ourselves accordingly.  But not Girlie.  She is unable to estimate if something happened 5 minutes or an hour ago; if an event was a week, a month, or a year ago, because she can’t perceive what periods of time feel like.

A nifty little gadget called a Time Timer - an analog timer face with a red disk that disappears with the passage of minutes - helps a little bit, but we can’t have them everywhere.  Girlie's OT has been using them for several years, and we have a wrist model, but Girlie doesn't like wearing it because it's rather large.  We also have a timer that looks like a tape measure; the metal 'tape' is pulled up showing the desired number of minutes, and it lowers back down into the casing as the minutes elapse.  It doesn't matter what they look like; timers are all the same, right?  No; in fact, these timers are different than most because they show a tangible decrease in the size of what is left, rather than just a smaller number.

Another technique we use is showing Girlie, on our huge dining room clock, exactly how many minutes she has to finish her meal or complete her homework.  We do this by pointing to the beginning and end times and using a finger to follow the path the minute hand will take.

It is difficult to know how much is sinking in, or whether Girlie will ever fully understand the concept.  We'll keep at it for however long it takes, though, because when it comes to teaching – or learning – any time is the right time!

The free pattern for this knitted clock can be found here!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Multi-tasking.

Another catchphrase that has garnered a lot of attention over the years, ‘multi-tasking’ was something to be included in résumés and cover letters as a testament to one’s ability to perform as many simultaneous functions and get as much done as possible in the minimum amount of time.  Lately, more people are wondering whether it makes sense to multi-task and if we are truly working to our best abilities.

The way I see it, we have become a society of humans doing, rather than human beings.

One of the most difficult things for me in learning to guide Girlie through daily tasks was slowing down and doing one. thing. at. a. time.  There has been some improvement over the years, but Girlie is largely unable to follow multi-step instructions – to the point where she sometimes becomes distracted before accomplishing even the first step!  Give yourself an example: next time you’re instructing a child how to complete a chore or assignment, listen for how many steps are involved.  Unless one has had training to the contrary or is working with very young or challenged children, it’s pretty likely there are three or more steps to the task.

Sometimes, instructions are too ambiguous and have to be broken down for clarity.  It may sound like one task, but do you know how many steps are implied if you say, “go brush your teeth” or “go take a shower”?  That complicates things, doesn’t it?  Now it has to be taken one step at a time right from the word ‘go’ (Go where? Which bathroom?).  You might be able to imagine why something as seemingly simple as getting ready for school in the morning can take far longer than I would ever have expected.

For me, there is less tension in practicing doing each task mindfully, without thinking of the many other things I want/have/need to do.  Additionally, I can walk Girlie through the steps much more calmly, and that has a very positive effect on her stress level and increases her competency and confidence.

So, have I stopped ‘multi-tasking’?  No, in fact, I still try to pack too many errands into a given amount of time, do too many other things while cooking dinner, or find myself giving too many instructions.  I’m trying to be more mindful about it, though.  With one notable exception: I still knit and listen to audiobooks for the first three-fourths of my time on the treadmill.  I have to fool myself that the knitting and listening is what I’m really doing; the exercise is incidental. :-)

I love the Lion Brand Yarn free ecards!
Obviously knitting while walking is not a new idea,
as evidenced by this image of a painting done by
Swiss artist Albert Anker (1831-1910)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Variations on a Theme

In case you haven’t heard, there are changes afoot in the official wording of Asperger's Disorder, autism spectrum, and PDD-NOS diagnostic codes and definitions.  There has been a lot of concern that the changes could cause at best, an interruption in services and at worst, loss of services for folks on the spectrum.

Author (and Aspergian) John Elder Robison wrote an excellent article recently that helped put my mind at ease.  I decided about a year ago not to get caught up in the excitement because I felt there were advantages to both sides of the argument (and I’m a notorious fence-sitter).  It may be a much larger issue for the folks who are depending on diagnostic codes to determine eligibility for medical and therapeutic treatments, and wording is critical – right down to placements of ‘and’ and ‘or’. 

Will it have any effect on Girlie in the long-term?  No, in fact, we are fortunate not to be in the position of so many other folks who are trying to obtain intensive therapies, many of which are still considered experimental in spite of the documented successes.  Since Girlie’s social skills classes don’t qualify for reimbursement and we aren’t seeking other services, I admit to not educating myself further on the issue.  Additionally, I don’t feel her IEP eligibility will change; if it did we would have to make some adjustments, but she would still qualify for some services under a 504 plan due to her comorbid ADHD.

Speaking of Mr. Robison, I’ll put in a recommendation for his latest book: Be Different: Adventuresof a Free-Range Aspergian.  It offers excellent insight into how folks with Asperger’s Disorder think, and helping me communicate even more effectively with Girlie.  The more I learn about Asperger’s, the more I learn about people in general – and it doesn’t take a genius to know that’s a good thing!

Lion Bran Yarn website offers free wallpapers and ecards!  :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Milestones

I’ve been noticing some changes in Girlie’s behavior lately.  When I noticed this particular event I put it down to a rare occurrence that has been repeated a few times over the years.  When I saw it a second time within several days, I wondered if something new was happening.  The third time, I decided it’s a trend.

Girlie has reached a milestone in her maturity that has given her the ability to be patient and tolerant enough to play with her niece for more than just a few minutes at a time.  Of course, it also has to do with the niece’s maturity level, too, because she’s five years old now.  Madee’s speech is much easier to understand than even a year ago, so that helps, but she still has a big imagination and makes up stories that her Aunt Girlie just didn’t have the patience for even a few months ago.

Over the past several weeks, Girlie has colored with Madee, offered pictures from her favorite coloring books, allowed Madee to play as an equal when Girlie had a friend visiting, and asked her older sister for permission to brush Madee’s hair – which she then proceeded to do very thoroughly and neatly.

Now I’ll go back to the month before I noticed these things.  Girlie’s OT and I have discussed an interesting phenomenon a few times over the years; we’ve noticed that when a breakthrough is made it is usually preceded by difficulty with behaviors that had previously been overcome.  Remember back in November and early December when I mentioned some particularly violent meltdowns?  Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean I can predict which things will be mastered according to which setbacks Girlie is having; there has never been a discernible connection.  It’s all happening inside her brain where we can’t see and possibly, or probably, even Girlie wouldn’t be able to articulate what’s going on.  It doesn’t matter, after the fact; we’re all just happy when progress is made.

Does this mean Girlie will always be able to tolerate being around the younger kids, now?  No; in fact there were a few times during the power outage when folks came over to get warm and Girlie disappeared.  That’s another sign of maturity, though – removing herself from a situation before it stresses her out.  That’s a milestone anyone could be happy about!


Not a milestone I aspire to, but one by which I am very much impressed! This group of folks knitted enough fabric to cover the entire mile-long maze in Saffron Walden, Essex, UK.  Wish I could have seen it in person!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Things to Know!

When the power is out for four-plus days, there is plenty of time to think about things: frivolous gets about the same amount of brain time as useful.  :-)

Sally Hansen Color Quick nail polish is free of formaldehyde and toluene, so is especially nice for kids and sensitive users.  It comes in a pen-type dispenser that is very easy for Girlie to use and dries fast (which is great if someone is trying to sneak in a manicure at bedtime - not mentioning any names).  The color doesn't last long if you only apply a single coat but that makes removal easy, too. With two coats and a clear top coat, I got five days before the polish started wearing at the edges!  Since Girlie is dyspraxic, she has always had a difficult time with nail polish application; it's great when she finds something this simple to use and can polish her own nails very neatly, with no danger of spills.  Especially if she is in her bed.

Karma Organics nail polish remover is amazing.  It not only works very well, it is soy-based and 100% organic.  It doesn't fill the house with chemical odor, and comes in several formulations and unscented - we like the lavender variety.  The KO nail polish, also free of toluene and formaldehyde, is exceptionally long-lasting, too.

You might be surprised at how much fun crossword puzzles can be when the whole family participates - and at how much the kids can contribute!  How is it an eleven year old boy immediately guessed the answer to "where rings are exchanged"?  Yep, it's "altar", but how did he know that?  We only had the first 'A' filled in.

It may not be necessary to throw out everything from the freezer after a power outage.  According to the FDA website, food that still has ice crystals is safe to cook or re-freeze.  We were happy to know that, with about twelve pounds of wild Alaskan cod in the freezer!

Having picnic supplies - paper cups, bowls, plates, plastic cutlery, and wet wipes - on hand during a power outage is a great way to avoid having every single dish dirty in the sink.  It definitely wouldn't have taken all four days for the four of us, with visits from the big kids and grandkids, to go through all the dishes we own!  I know it's not very 'green', but it saves wear and tear on morale and doesn't add as much of a burden to clean-up time after the power comes back on.

Did I miss out on knitting time?  No, in fact, when you use dark knitting needles like KnitPicks Harmony wood needles and pale yarn, it is possible to knit comfortably in very low light conditions.  Thank goodness.

Classic Camel Vest in Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool


Monday, January 23, 2012

Power Play

We were safe and warm during the snow and ice storms, because we have a propane fireplace. We didn't have the ability to use our water or flush our toilets, but at least one couldn't see one's breath inside the house, as was the case for so many other families. It meant we could make bottled water warm for cocoa, coffee, and oatmeal.  It meant we could hang damp clothes in front of the fire to dry. It meant we could knit and read stories of Riki Tiki Tavi and Mowgli by firelight almost as if there weren't huge snow- and ice-covered branches falling with cracks like gunshots all around the neighborhood, dragging more power lines down by the hour.

The kids managed better than expected, but I admit to letting the van run a few times solely for the purpose of charging video games.  It was sitting there snowed in, with a full tank of gas; I thought I could justify the unnecessary emissions in exchange for the time the kids could spend absorbed in their games, not worrying about anything else.

We have a lot to be thankful for; many homes in the area are still without power, and our outage was from Thursday morning 'til Sunday afternoon.  Time to get caught up with laundry and chores, and I'm sure there will be plenty of homework this afternoon!

Thick ice coated everything during the 'silver thaw'

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Holding Pattern

Our section of town is still in the dark.  Crews are out working, and the roads are clear so I was able to go to Tall Boy's house to shower and  post a quick update.  Hopefully we'll be back soon!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snow Days!

Amidst intermittent power outages, shoveling out after the snow plow goes by, and trying to stay caught up with wet boots and mittens, I'm going to take a little break. Well, from writing, anyway...

By the time Saturday comes, after being home with the kids during all this snow, I'll really need a break!  I sure am looking forward to the Yarn Train trip.  I'll be joining a whole train full of knitters with friend Rhondi*, daughter Carey, and a couple more great friends taking the Amtrak to Portland for a day of knitting and shopping and traveling in comfort.  Sounds like just the thing to celebrate the end of a week of cabin fever  :-)

I'll be back soon!

The view out our south window the morning after 13 inches
of new snow fell. Glad I refilled the feeders the day before!
*By the way, thanks, Rhondi, for helping me fix up my peacock feather image to use as my new banner!  :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whiplash

Sometimes the change of direction in mood and feelings in this house is enough to cause emotional whiplash.  It’s probably clear that some posts I write are timely indicators of real life in our family.  Yesterday was a perfect example; it was no accident that I wrote of ODD.  Combine a long holiday weekend with unusual weather, followed by a snow day, and…  So I prepared my blog post as a reassurance that I was doing OK, and reading the linked research article to remind myself how much worse things used to be.

There are times when, five minutes after conflagration, someone shows up with a hug and, “Mom, I love you!” while I’m still shaking with anger, disappointment, and fear that we could lose a child down a black hole of sociopathic behavior.  Sounds like an exaggeration, right?  No; in fact, some of the explanations we’ve heard sound like they’re coming from a kid who inhabits a completely different reality than the one we’re in. Dearest is the one who first referred to that feeling as ‘emotional whiplash’, and it feels like a pretty accurate description.

One of our daily struggles is with music practice, as Speed Racer feels like one run through each piece, in double time, with mistakes in every measure, constitutes ‘practice’.  It isn’t that he doesn’t like to play, he just feels like playing all his music takes a lot longer than the seven actual minutes of playing time he just had – classic ADHD, right there.  His adamant refusal to look at a clock, use a timer, or find some other way to keep track and ensure he is playing each piece at least twice is ODD digging in its heels. 

How ironic, then, that our music teacher called just as I was finishing my post to tell me that Boyo had an exceptionally good lesson on the piano and the trumpet yesterday afternoon.  We spent a few minutes talking about how much progress Boyo has made in the five years with this teacher, and how much he enjoys working with Boyo.  What a great call to receive right at bedtime – and yes, I did go right upstairs to interrupt while Dearest was saying goodnight amidst the jokes and giggles to tell Boyo about the call.  Oh, when those blue eyes are sparkling and the dimples are showing: what a perfect way to end the day.  ♥
Martina Behm's 22.5 Degrees pattern knitted with
Lion Brand 'Amazing' in Olympia and Arcadia colors.
One of the favorite knits from two years ago was this 22.5 Degrees scarf.  Might not protect one from emotional whiplash, but it sure keeps one's neck warm!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brick Wall

Parenting a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is like having an aggressive brick wall in the family.  It doesn't wait for one to accidentally walk into it; this brick wall will go looking to slam into folks.  Dearest and I have spent a large portion of the last eight years or so learning how best to deal with Boyo’s ODD behavior.

My personal library is pretty extensive and includes several books on autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and related issues.  Regarding ODD, there are some books on explosive behaviors and ‘strong-willed’ children, but there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive selection of books on that topic available.

Autism has garnered a lot of media attention in the last several years especially, and whereas, when Girlie was first diagnosed we knew only a few people who had a clue what we were talking about, now it seems most everyone knows of someone on the spectrum.  There are still very few people who are aware of ODD other than thinking it is a nice way to refer to a disobedient kid who has slacker parents. 

What really concerns me about the lack of knowledge is that kids who would otherwise be diagnosed with ODD may slip through the cracks and right into the corrections system.  There is no medication therapy specifically for ODD, but it’s a disorder that tends to be co-morbid with other conditions such as ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAS/FAE).  Now, think about what you know of foster care and the numbers of drug- and alcohol-affected children in that system.  That adds up to a lot of potential for violent, dangerous kids.

I talk about this subject often to friends, teachers, and anyone else who will listen.  It’s important to know what ODD is because counseling and therapy can help teach parents and kids interventions, behavior modifications, and coping methods.  We feel like we at least have a doorway through our brick wall!

'Brick Wall' socks knitted in KnitPicks 'Stroll'

Boyo chose the pattern for the socks he asked me to knit.  Coincidence?  ;-)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Cat and Mouse

Girlie has a beautiful longhaired Ragdoll-Siamese mix cat.  She is predominantly white with pale calico tortoise markings and gorgeous blue eyes.  Peach – as she is called for the pale, peach-colored areas amongst her markings – is extremely tolerant of being picked up and petted, true to the Ragdoll reputation.  She is also an obsessive and very successful hunter.

Peach and her buddy Ian (Pembroke Welsh Corgi)
I suppose most folks who have indoor/outdoor cats have experienced the generosity of their magnanimous feline friend at some point or another.  Personally, I wish Peach were much more selfish.  I could do without her bringing in dead or nearly dead birds, mice, and snakes.  What we really wish is that she wouldn’t bring in perfectly healthy mice and then let them get away from her.  You might think we’d keep her inside, but no; in fact, Dearest and I were both raised in ‘animals belong outside’ homes, so the idea of a litter box is less attractive than indoor wildlife.

Because it happens fairly regularly, we’ve all gotten used to stopping whatever we’re doing until the mouse is located.  Girlie was the first one to perfect the art of catching a mouse herself, by grabbing a little box she had in her room and clapping it quickly down over the mouse as it ran past her.  One thing about Girlie that is to my mind, a bit unusual, is that she is perfectly willing to deal with any of the cat and dog messes you can imagine (and probably some you can’t) with a businesslike, efficient attitude.  How rare is that for a thirteen-year-old girl?

The best part about it is that I realize her lack of concern when it comes to managing the most unpleasant aspects of pet care is a potential job skill!  Since my oldest son’s first official job was as a kennel assistant at our veterinarian’s office, I know how difficult it can be.  Girlie could do it, and she would be good at it!  It just goes to show that it pays to think out of the box when it comes to future employment planning for children with challenges.

We live in a two story house with the bedrooms upstairs, so you can imagine how surprising it would be to open the bedroom door in the morning and see a live snake coiled on the carpet.  Even more surprising to have it happen more than once!  This knitted snake is a quick, fun scarf for those whose winter fashion is a bit more on the wild side.
Little Viper Scarf, knitted for Boyo in 2009

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weather or Not

Today has been about pacing.  Walking back and forth, sighing, repeatedly going to the door and looking outside, coming back in, walking to the other door to look at the thermometer, coming into the living room to flop backwards onto the couch in order to look out the window, sighing, walking back to the front door and looking outside… Are you feeling exasperated yet? 

Since we live in an area that doesn’t get much snow, it’s a bit of a novelty.  A lot of attention is paid to forecasts because folks tend to get excited and worry about driving conditions.  Schools close if there is more than a couple inches of snow on the ground (but to be fair this is probably due in part to the hilly, curvy nature of the roads in this area).  Needless to say, if there is snow in the forecast, it’s all anyone talks about.

Almost anything can become cause for anxiety in this household.  One of the reasons we do not have commercial television is because of newsbreaks and weather reports, since both kids tend to get concerned and perseverate on them.  This means we have repeated conversations about predictions, possibilities, and preparation.  About every ten minutes.

Do we screen the kids from all the weather reports?  No; in fact we do want them to learn the practical and scientific aspects of our local weather, especially since the area is prone to flooding.  It’s a balancing act between giving the kids information with which to prepare and deciding what can be filtered in the name of (everyone’s) inner peace.

Lace cuff anklet socks in KnitPicks Stroll

This photo was taken last February, and the tree is one of my favorite backdrops for photos in any weather.  I'll be surprised if we get more snow than this; we'll see. Seems like it would be a great excuse to sit by the fire and knit...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Living on the Edge

How do I still not put two and two together when Girlie’s edgy, mouthy, bordering-on-belligerent behavior is manifesting the evening before a trip or event?  As the afternoon passes into evening, it’s as if Girlie is watching for Boyo to put a toe out of line; she chastises, lectures, and nags at him – and us!  Dearest and I were talking about plans for the next day, which happens to be a Puppy Raisers event for Girlie and The Pup two hours away, and getting driving directions and phone numbers written down.  All the while, Girlie is criticizing her brother (who thankfully just got home from a late rehearsal and is in a pretty relaxed and tolerant mood!).  After several reminders that she is working herself up to trouble, I finally just left the room, and it hit me (again): she is acting on nerves!

Girlie is doing very well with raising and training this pup for Guide Dogs of America.  She has been going to monthly training events, all of which have been out of town, and had several weeks of obedience training with him.  Girlie is aware that The Pup is leaving, most likely in April, and she does get sad and occasionally weepy when she thinks about it.  The bigger issue, here, is that the event tomorrow involves a long drive in a lot of traffic and it’s way out of her routine and comfort zone.  Would I deal with it any differently if I realized it sooner?  No, in fact, I think the only difference would be that I wouldn’t get so annoyed, but I still wouldn’t let her talk to anyone else the way she was.  

We had a little conversation about anticipation and feeling nervous, and how that can sometimes affect our behavior in negative ways.  Then I complimented her on the manicure she’d given herself (Surprise! Right out of the blue!) because a little bit of ‘girl talk’ can be just the thing to take the edge off.   :-)


The Pup - Labrador Retriever / Golden Retriever cross, 8 months.

Here is The Pup last August - he has a knitted, felted squeaker toy in this mouth.  It was fun for a (very short) while, but he was at the 'grind-y' stage of teething and apparently that thick wool toy was just the thing to take the edge off.  :-)


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Bar

In our family, the ‘bar’ is set very carefully.  Keeping the goals separate and appropriately placed for each child is a tricky business, and I just realized my methods could stand some scrutiny.  For instance, it wasn’t until I heard a random clip of an interview with Temple Grandin that I realized we’d been neglectful in not introducing Girlie to an alarm clock.  Dr. Grandin stated that, for kids on the autism spectrum, instruction of independent living skills should start early to allow more time for repetitious teaching.

Let’s use the example of a neurotypical teen who is used to being awakened by a parent simply because the whole household gets up at the same time.  If a time comes when Mom and Dad are going on a trip, it is reasonable to think a parent could give the teen an alarm clock the day before, show him how to set it, and feel fairly certain the teen will be awakened by the alarm clock the next morning.  Would that work for a kid on the spectrum?  No; in fact, even though there are plenty of higher-functioning kids who, as older teens, are able to be on their own for a day or two, it does not happen without a lot of preparation and practice.  That’s one of the things that make it difficult for parents of kids with challenges to do anything spontaneously; without ample time to prepare and practice, a child can’t adjust to the proposed scenario.

We need to adjust the bar often; sometimes up, sometimes down.  It doesn’t really matter which way, as long our kiddos are eventually getting over the hurdle!

Here they are: my very first pair of completed socks, knitted in April of 2009.  

Knitted with KnitPicks Felici yarn in discontinued 'Gelato' colorway

These are toddler-sized; I originally set out to knit adult socks and had the first one nearly complete before tearing the whole thing out and starting over because I couldn’t live with the mistakes I’d made.  I had tried to add a bit of colorwork in the heel, so when I started over I omitted that part – lowered the bar, if you will.  I can’t even remember what happened on the second attempt, but that one was frogged, as well.  I decided it would be smart to start with Girlie-sized socks so there would be less work to do, or to undo, as the case may be, because I made a mistake on the first one.  At least I was making a different mistake and learning different lessons each time!  Finally, I decided to knit a toddler-sized pair for my granddaughter.  To get this one little pair of socks I knitted the equivalent of three complete pairs.  There was a lot of adjustment to this particular bar, but I finally cleared it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Different Strokes

I completely understand why I should encourage my children to value their individuality.  I know there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fashion, and comfort is sometimes a lot more important.  Having said all that, it’s difficult to know how to communicate to Girlie the importance of making herself less of a target in the middle-school crowd. 

We’ve tried all the tips about encouraging good hair care by buying cute ‘hair pretties’, which she loves, but she still doesn’t want to brush her hair and would be perfectly happy to sit at the table with tangled curls hanging down into her plate.  Since Girlie reached adolescence, she really needs to use deodorant, but doesn’t like it and hasn’t developed the habit yet.  She doesn’t notice or care about body odor, and sometimes I feel like the Pit Police.  Her nails, which grow incredibly fast (given her nutrition level, I don’t understand how she can have nails that would be the envy of many women), are usually not very clean (and I’m trying not to be too graphic, here).  We try to keep her nails clipped, anyway, because it’s dangerous when she’s having a meltdown.

Apparently, it’s another part of my learning curve.  The two older kids were outside the ‘norm’ in the other direction, as they both much preferred to be clean.  The younger two are constantly challenging my olfactory awareness!  If there is a magic formula I hope we find it; otherwise I’ll have to stand at the front door with deodorant and keep some in the van along with the wet wipes.  Is there some sort of badge I can get for that?

Needle felted bookmark made for a friend  (shown in "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett).
Needle felting is definitely a ‘different strokes’ type of thing – I haven’t come across many folks who are familiar with it.  It involves shaping unspun wool (usually, although yarn can be used in some applications of needle felting) with barbed needles so the wool fibers lock together and become permanently felted.  Needle felting can be done with templates (for the leaves I used small cookie cutters meant to cut pie crust), free hand as a three-dimensional object (like the acorn), or to add embellishment or decoration to felted knits.  Check out Laura Lee Burch's blog for some fun and beautiful examples of needle felting, along with tutorials.  There is something satisfying about stabbing barbed needles into bits of fluff and ending up with art that’s just so – different!
 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eat!

One of the most common sources of conflict in this house is over food.  How sad is that?  Over the years I’ve learned a lot and am working hard on letting go of the emotional aspect from my side of the table. 

Girlie has a very short list of acceptable foods.  She is often unable to describe why she doesn’t like a particular food or drink, and there are no allergies or sensitivities we are aware of, so that makes it difficult to identify a reasonable substitute.  It might be less of a concern if she weren’t also very underweight – she isn’t even on the weight-for-height chart and she consistently lost weight in 2011, only finally having gained at the end to break even at the December appointment.  With that in mind, wouldn’t it make sense to let her eat as much of whatever she wants?  No – in fact, her favorite foods are white bread and plain tortillas, and I bet you can guess what happens if you don’t follow those up with enough liquid and fiber.

We know the tricks.  We sneak in calories, vegetables, and fiber whenever and wherever we can.  Girlie can ‘feel’ the difference between whole milk and 2%.  As much as she loves peanut butter, it has to be spread so thin you can see the bread or graham cracker through it.  She only recently began accepting the thinnest layer of butter on bread, pancakes, or waffles.  She doesn’t like most meats, so no bacon or sausage.  This is not a situation that can be remedied by the old standard, "You'll eat it when you get hungry enough".  Like most children with autism-related food issues, she won't.

One of the things Girlie likes best is what she thinks of as tomato soup; actually it is heated V-8 juice.  Before you ask, no; we can’t add cream to boost the fat and calories.  We’re very thankful that she is getting a serving of vegetables out of it, but we can’t let her have it every day because we have a history of the ‘Bread and Jam for Frances’ phenomenon happening with other foods that were either high in nutrition or high in caloric content, which she won’t eat now because we let her have it too often.



There is an added aspect to the challenge: piling the calories and (gasp!) fat into her goes against everything I’ve learned in order to keep my family healthy!  And waste not, want not, don’t you know – so when Dearest stops at the San Francisco Street Bakery and brings home chocolate covered macaroons in a failed effort to tempt her, I feel a certain amount of obligation to step up to the, um… plate.

Ah, well.  Knitting helps; it helps me smooth out the effects of stress and keeps my hands busy, with no desire to add such things as chocolate or cheesy powder into the project.  I suppose I can afford a pickle…

'Christmas Pickle' ornament knitted with KnitPicks Palette

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I don't care...

I am the youngest of the original five children in my family by several years.  You might think my taste in music was far ahead that of my peers, but big families were the norm in my growing-up neighborhood, so most of my peers had several older siblings, too. I could sing all the lyrics to Carole King's 'Tapestry' when I was eight (thanks to my sisters), and I was quite familiar with David Bowie and 'Ziggy Stardust' when I was nine (thanks to my brother and his friends).  I stopped being up-to-the-minute with pop culture music by the time I was out of my teens, though.  Oh, I listened to everything, and sang along, but didn't pay any attention to who was popular and who was falling off the charts.  I like what I like.

I still love Carole King; I believe she has musical genius, and even if she and James Taylor weren't meant to be married, they were meant to be together musically because they express themselves like one soul coming out of two voices and two instruments.  None of that is what I really meant to write about, but there it is.

In 1975, Maurice Sendak and Carole King collaborated on an animated special of Sendak's 1960-62 'Really Rosie'.  I remember it, and parts of it stayed with me always.  Eight years ago I found it on CD and I don't feel the kids have to be around to justify playing it - I like what I like, remember?


Anyone remember the story of 'Pierre'?  That's the boy who didn't care what his parents wanted, he didn't care that a lion came into his house, he didn't care that the lion intended to eat him.  Pierre was clearly oppositional/defiant; he doesn't care about important, or dangerous, or scary things because adults expect him to care.  You will never, ever guess which song is Boyo's favorite on this album.  One might think I'd put the disc away and not let him listen to 'Pierre' eight or nine times in a row.  No, in fact, when we listen to the album together and sing loud and be silly - all the songs, not just 'Pierre' - we have an extended period of closeness and a feeling of calm for a while afterward.

It would likely be that way with any music we both liked, but 'Really Rosie' has that special place in my childish heart, too.  I'd like to think Boyo will eventually have a change of heart like Pierre did before the song ended with the last line, "The moral of Pierre is 'care'".  Think what you like about a grown woman loving children's music so much - I don't care.  :-)

Close up of lion's face from 'The Knitted Tapestry'

Monday, January 9, 2012

Laughter

I could measure wealth by how often I laugh, I think.  So by my standards, I’m filthy rich, because I laugh a lot.  Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure I have to say I’m not always laughing because I think something is funny; I often laugh out of nervousness or awkwardness (which believe me, has created awkward situations more than I care to admit!).  My older kids used to take great delight in making me laugh until I was helpless, and I had to pull off the road on one memorable occasion.

Dearest is more of a chuckler, and he and I exchange witty repartee often.  He enjoys clever puns and making funny recognizable expressions, and does the best Walter Brennan voice of anyone I’ve ever heard who wasn’t actually Walter Brennan.

Boyo is mischievous and always looking for opportunities to set someone up for a prank.  He also has a very quick wit and his sense of humor can seem quite advanced for his age.  Although he is very slim, he’s always had chubby cheeks and dimples, and due to a facial injury when he was young, there is an extra dimple on one side.  Because Boyo always has something on his mind, he is really easy to startle and usually screams at the top of his lungs, and then bursts into giggles; I can’t help joining in when that happens.

Girlie has an extremely expressive face.  Unfortunately, the expressions are often those of displeasure, concern, fear, or sadness.  When she smiles, her face truly lights up, and one can understand how that turn of phrase came about.  And when she laughs – oh! when she laughs – it is a gift you can hold in your heart.  But you have to be looking, or you might miss it.  Girlie giggles or chuckles usually, and getting her to the point of a belly laugh is rare.  Her whole body straightens up out of the usual shoulders-hunched slouch, her eyes open wide, and she shakes with laughter… and doesn't make any noise.

When it happened this evening, it took me by surprise and I just stopped laughing and watched her laugh… I’m still smiling now as I think about it.


This little knitted ear of corn started as a joke that I'm sure has gone way too far and isn't nearly as funny as I think it is.  One of my favorite people in the world is a corn geneticist.  When I obtained this yarn, made entirely of corn fiber, I knew I had to knit an ear of corn for my friend.  I even stuffed it with PLA fiberfill, which is also made of corn.  So I knitted corn, with corn, stuffed with corn.  That's about as silly as it gets, right?  No, in fact a year later, she asked me to knit and felt a gnome hat for her to wear on Halloween, because she loves all things 'gnome'.  While I was knitting the hat for her, I got to thinking about it and decided to knit a tiny red hat, so the ear could be a proper little corn g-nome.  Yes, I am easily amused.  It's a great way to live!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Expect the Unexpected?

That’s ridiculous.  There is no way I would expect that my son would have a meltdown because his new ballet tights are a different brand and different fabric from those he’s been wearing for a year.  Shouldn’t I, by now?  No, in fact; that I can still be surprised is optimism, disguised as ignorance, but manifesting as belief that we are learning more positive and effective ways to deal with anxiety because there have been fewer and less dramatic meltdowns.  I do find myself spotting the behavior earlier and realizing what it is; now if I can just skip the part where I say things that make him dig in his oppositional heels! 

It was one of those days when I just needed to stop talking and let him wind down… Crisis averted.  He will condescend to wear the tights as a back-up pair, and since there was only one pair available and he needs two, I promised we will definitely get the brand with which he is more comfortable.  Boyo will get the tights he prefers, and I’ll try to remember, next time, to just put a sock in it!  Now that would be unexpected! J


Wee tiny sock bookmark I knitted for Dearest

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Square one, again.



Girlie went to social skills class today for the first time in a few months.  It’s been a real help, but the classes are expensive and social skills are not covered by any kind of benefit – strictly cash out of pocket.  The classes are nowhere near as expensive as some types of therapies and treatments, so I’m not complaining very loudly; I know of folks who’ve taken second mortgages to pay for autism-related therapies!  Anyway, Girlie is happy to be back because, not only does she enjoy the teacher and classes, she has a friend who goes there and we were able to arrange for the two girls to be in the same class. 

Boyo has begun rehearsals for two recital pieces; both ballet classes he is in will perform in February.  That means rehearsal time in addition to the regular classes. Seems like we were doing something like this only last month…

Today I began the official process of going back to work outside the home.  I’m fairly confident about this effort because I am known to the agency as I work a few hours a month in an associated organization (but that work is mostly done from home).  At an interview today we discussed working a few hours a week on a volunteer basis and already are hoping to expand the hours as soon as I feel ready.  Who knows, maybe by the time I feel comfortable with being away from home for more hours of the day, a paid position will open.  If nothing else, I’ll be bringing my résumé completely up to date in preparation for future employment prospects. 

So, in many respects, we are back to square one.  We’re all in for an adjustment period but I feel very strongly that I’m making the right choice for myself in consideration of my family. 

In November I went on a special trip with my friend Rhondi and bought some yarn I couldn’t resist.  With no practical thoughts whatsoever, I knitted something that no one I know could use.  First of all, I have suspected for a long time that I am sensitive to mohair if it’s around my face.  Secondly, I don’t wear cowls and I don’t know anyone who does except in the very rare case of severe winter weather.  Did I let that stop me?  No, in fact I allowed myself to be completely pulled in by the yarn, and knitted it anyway.  Photos don’t do it justice, it really was beautiful!
See the glints of sparkle? It's hand-dyed Sparkling Kid Mohair
from Fancy Image Yarn knitted with Cascade 220 Heathers.
I admired the finished cowl for a couple days before ‘frogging’ (unraveling) it and soaking the kinks out of the hank.  Back to square one!  

Notice 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' - that was truly a coincidence.
Clearly I am not wimpy when it comes to unraveling hours
of knitting and hundreds of yards of yarn!  :-)















After winding the yarn into a hank, I put it
to soak for a while to relax the kinks out.














Granddaughter modeling her hat to humor Grandma




After a few days of drying, the yarn was knitted up into something it should have been in the first place: a sparkly, pretty, warm hat in the perfect color for a dark-haired, dark-eyed, (sleepy!) girl. (It looks pretty cute on her mommy, too!)  ♥

Friday, January 6, 2012

Love

Possibly the most often written about subject in history… and for some reason until a few years ago I really didn’t understand it.

The jewelry industry would have us believe that we fall in love and live happily ever after, as long as we continue to buy diamonds.  The candy companies imply that love can best be expressed with chocolate (OK, that is at least partially true, especially if it includes caramel!).  Hallmark seems to think that all mothers are perfect, and everyone knows that red roses symbolize love.  For parents, love is automatic.  Right?

No.  In fact, love is not a feeling and it is not an emotion.  Love is a choice and a commitment that has to be made and reaffirmed, often (as in the case of parenting children with challenges) many more times than one would ever have thought possible. 

Believing this has helped me understand that it’s all right to feel frustrated and angry occasionally.  It’s expected that I might be repulsed by behaviors.  It’s understandable that sometimes I feel like I’ve failed.  Those are the times I need to remember to love myself, and then re-commit to the choice I made to love another.

From time to time I have to re-commit to a knitting project.  Even when I’ve made a good match of yarn and pattern, I get tired of knitting at a particular gauge for a long time and need to switch to working on a project with bigger or smaller needles to prevent repetitive stress injury.  Other times I find I need or want to start a new project before finishing the one I’m knitting.  Either way, a project is languishing through no fault of its own.   I hardly ever have more than three or four ‘live’ projects at a time now, and occasionally I’ll use a new pattern or yarn as incentive to get something finished up.  When I finish this little throw blanket, I’m going to love it.  Unless, of course, it’s August…

KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Bulky on US 9 'Harmony' needles.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Accommodations

1. The act of accommodating or the state of being accommodated; adjustment.
2. Something that meets a need; a convenience.

I’m going to address IEP accommodations purely from a parental point of view.  It’s a word one hears frequently in relation to IEPs and educating kids with special needs.  My familiarity with ‘the system’ stands me in pretty good stead, I think, and we have asked for – and gotten – some great accommodations for Girlie.  However, I think it’s really important to bear in mind that the world, in general, is NOT going to make accommodations for our daughter.

Sadly, I get the impression that Dearest and I are in the minority sometimes when it comes to our involvement in Girlie’s education program.  We do not expect the school district to implement something that would be ideal for Girlie if it would interfere with the education of twenty-five other kids.  We do not expect the teacher to keep her in the classroom if she is a disruption and a distraction (which, thankfully, is rarely the case any more).

It’s important to note that just because IDEA gives us the right to ask for accommodations for our children with challenges, it does not give us the right to demand special treatment that would create a detrimental learning environment for other students.  My responsibility as a parent is to do my best to raise children who are as competent as possible, and prepared to live in a society that, for the most part, expects them to get along as best they can.

Notice the second part of the definition of accommodation: ‘a convenience’.  Yes, there have been times when we could have made some very convenient changes for Girlie’s school day.  What would have been the advantage, in the end?  The most important thing is for her to learn how to make accommodations for the way real life interferes with her needs and expectations, not the other way around.  If Girlie grows up knowing how to be flexible in exercising her rights and practical in asking for accommodations, we will feel very successful!

Merino sheep - Wikipedia

One of the happiest discoveries I’ve made as a knitter is the wonderful accommodating properties of wool.  I don’t know how wool got such a bad rap in the first place; I’m not the only person who automatically thought of itchy wool sweaters, right?  Because there are many varieties of sheep, there are many varieties of wool, and each has its place.  It’s quite true there are some types of wool that are not ideal for sweaters or next-to-the-skin garments; those can be very suitable for outerwear and felted wool items.  There are other varieties, merino probably being best known, that are very soft and fine.  All wool has amazing insulating and moisture wicking abilities, making it my first-choice fiber.  Pointy sticks and wool: doesn't take much to make me happy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resources

Since we recently updated Girlie’s IEP it seems like a good time to talk about resources.  We’re very fortunate to have had plenty of opportunities for educating ourselves, online and in person, to become better advocates for our kids.  If you have a child with an IEP or Section 504 plan, and have not already done so, I strongly recommend reading about what those programs are and are not intended to do.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough, as one’s ability to advocate effectively for a child is directly affected by one’s knowledge of the programs and how they can be used to design a tailor-made plan.  Because you, presumably, are the expert on your child, your input in cooperation with the educational experts is the best way to come up with an optimal plan.  Please do not underestimate the importance of your involvement!

A great website for information and articles related to Asperger’s syndrome, autism, and Pervasive Development Disorder / Not Otherwise Specified (PDD/NOS) and challenges common to both children and adults, OASIS has provided a calm in the midst of my storm on more than one occasion.

CHADD is an excellent source of information for children and adults with ADD/ADHD.

SparkTop has been around for quite a while, and is a great website for ‘kids who learn differently’.  There are games specially designed to meet the needs of different challenges, as well as creative online activities.  The site was originally created by Schwab Learning, a program of the Charles (of the financial world) and Helen Schwab foundation.

Knitting two socks at once, toe up, on two circular needles. Just an example
of the information you can find easily from online tutorials and videos!

Anyone who is looking for knitting help can find assistance from the basics to advanced techniques, with excellent video support, at Knittinghelp.com.  This is the site where my oldest daughter and I spent the most time when we started knitting in 2008.  Of course, my favorite knitting-related time sink now is Ravelry, which is a huge source of free and for-purchase patterns for knitting and crocheting, as well as support for spinners and weavers, and a comprehensive and up-to-date database of yarn.  Not to mention, a fun place to drop into a forum and chat!

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information available, and unsure of the reliability of information you find online, don't hesitate to ask someone who's been there.  Pretty soon, you'll find the information that works the best for your family's needs... and pass it on!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The party's over...

…and I can’t say I’m sorry!  The kids are off to school, back into the routine (with a helpful new aspect in the case of Girlie’s schedule), to the comfortable, dependable rut.  This week will bring the return to piano and ballet for Boyo and social skills classes for Girlie, which she has been out of since the beginning of fall since our schedule gets crazy around The Nutcracker season.

Girlie got a bead weaving loom for Christmas and seems to be enjoying learning a new craft.  This is encouraging, because she doesn’t tend to be interested in doing much, other than reading, coloring, or playing video games.  I’m hoping this might develop into an expandable creative outlet, and we enjoyed looking at beads online and ordering a couple more assortments.  Boyo received more drawing pens and a Zentangle book, which has been holding his attention for several minutes at a time.

Dearest and I are thinking about his upcoming vacation bid and considering what worked and what didn’t, as far as the time off that was scheduled in 2011.  We’re also thinking about arranging for a long-overdue night away from the kids sometime later this winter or in the spring, and I have embraced the notion of going back to work on a part-time basis – most likely in a volunteer capacity, considering the current shortage of available jobs. 

Later this month I’ll be going on a special ‘Seattle to Portland Yarn Train’ trip with my oldest daughter, a few friends, and well over a hundred other like-minded individuals.  It’s a real stretch of my comfort zone but it sounds so inclusive and fun: knitting and visiting with friends on the train, shopping a few great yarn stores in Portland, and a visit to Powell’s Books!

Dearest finally got a heater for his garage and has been going out most evenings to work on restoring a Honda Trail 90; something he has wanted to do for over a year.  The fact that he and I both feel comfortable with the thought of him going out to the garage in the evening is an indication of how stable things are in the house.

All is well, all is well.  We’re feeling pretty grateful right about now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Plugged in...

I tried in vain to resist immersing the two younger kids in unnecessary electronics and technology.  I just kept thinking about traveling with the two older kids and how they would play word games, or look out the window, or actually have conversations with us or each other.  I think I finally gave up and got our first portable DVD player when Boyo was about five, and we were on the verge of refusing to go anywhere more than about 10 miles from home – about as much car trip as he could handle without pushing Girlie to meltdown point, and Dearest and I to the limits of our tolerance.  Occasionally he’d work himself up to being carsick.  Sometimes he even gets too agitated out of a sense of competition when we play ‘I Spy’ for random things we might see along the way!

Of course we don’t know exactly what’s going on in his head, but traveling makes him anxious anyway, and I think seeing all the visual input outside our van is overwhelming.  It’s nice when we can point out something – he loves spotting unusual birds or deer, for instance – but then he can go right back to watching the movie or playing his game and not think about the trip.  Girlie doesn’t have any real difficulties with travel, for the most part, and she’s just as happy to read a book if we’re traveling in daylight.  In fact, it’s only been recently they’ve stopped asking me to read aloud; I read “Kildee House” (Rutherford G. Montgomery, 1949) on the way home from Sacramento in 2009 – about 11 hours of reading with a couple short breaks – and didn’t want to speak for several days afterward.  But what great memories we all have of that trip!

From what I understand, it's common for kids with similar challenges to use games, movies, or mp3 players to help stay calm.  I admit it was a hard thing to come to terms with, maybe especially because I’m an older parent and we didn’t need any of these newfangled things back in my day!  :-) I think when we use the tools carefully, they have their place and serve a great purpose.  During our trips we ‘check in’ with the kids; ask them to pause, have a bit of conversation, point out a landmark or two, answer their questions about where we are and how much longer the trip will last, and then let them get back to being plugged in.  As for me, if I’m not knitting, I’ll just read a book… lemme just make sure it’s fully charged...




My nook color - which I love - in a knitted and felted cover I made, using the framework of a hardback book with about half the pages removed.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beginnings.

Recently, Girlie had her three-year academic re-evaluation and her Individualized Education Program (IEP) was updated at the same time.  There are only two people on her team who’ve been with her since the beginning (10 years, including preschool!): myself and her occupational therapist (who, incidentally, happens to have become a great friend and knitting buddy).  Sometimes during these meetings the OT and I talk about how much progress Girlie has made, and tell stories about past behaviors and challenges.  These anecdotes can be quite surprising to teachers and staff who may have only known Girlie for a few months, or maybe a year.  I think it’s good for them to have some perspective, and maybe help them see Girlie with a more realistic sense of her accomplishments.  I honestly believe there have been teachers who’ve gained respect for her after hearing some of the old tales.

The result of the meeting was quite satisfactory and Girlie will start the new year with what we think will be a less stressful schedule for her, and include a little more help in organizing her school work.  Now if we can just get Boyo to buy in to some of the methods we know will work… it can be so difficult for him to let go of the ODD behavior (even if it sounds like a good idea, it’s coming from parents and must. be. opposed), and his anxiety works against him here because he can be very fearful of change.

So - beginnings, fresh starts, new things, organization: must be talking about the New Year!  I don’t make resolutions because I recognize that, for me, it is likely I will get carried away with a new item/activity/method and then let it slide as soon as the novelty wears off.  True story.  However, I did start walking a couple years ago, and because I have chronic injuries and an autoimmune inflammatory disorder, walking is a great and very ‘do-able’ exercise for me. Family and friends know that knitting is about the only way I can tolerate the treadmill tedium, and due to an injury to both ankles a couple years ago I’m better off walking on the treadmill than on the uneven rural roads where we live.  So, I knit easy things and listen to an audio book while I walk.  Things like dishcloths, washcloths, handwarmers, hats, and the like are perfect projects and I think there are still a few family members who can use an item or two on that list!

Simple handwarmers, perfect for knitting while
on the treadmill, and wearing when I walk outside!

I wish for you that 2012 will be a year of finding wellness in whatever aspect of your life it's needed most!