question of balance

The summer is slipping by. I begin entries and never finish. When I get back to them, they no longer seem interesting or relevant. So this is mostly a catch-up in an attempt to begin again.

The summer’s curriculum seems to be producing progress — borrowing and carrying over seem to be imbedded, counting money up to $2.00 is coming along and she is getting better at our formulaic word problems. Julia continues to graze as she reads. She picks up books that she knows or doesn’t know and thumbs through and reads a page or two. We do read in the more traditional way together, but if she read from beginning to end by herself . . . I don’t know whether to just allow grazing when we are not reading together and hope that she comes round to wanting to know whole stories or to somehow make her change. I have no idea of how so the point might be moot.

Drawing is exploding mostly due to private art lessons with Julia’s Randall art teacher. Kati is amazing. She knows art and what kids do and she knows Julia. It is clear that Julia is ready to learn about her art — how to draw, make prints, layer on color — and I cannot do it. I am so grateful that Kati is in our lives and I hope that we keep collecting wonderful people who can push Julia on.

An example: a few weeks ago, Katie had Julia draw various views of her cello — front, back, side, 3/4 view. They worked on the exercise for two week. The first week, Julia did nothing when Kati wasn’t there, but after the second week, bits of the lesson began appearing in Julia’s day to day drawing. She drew a picture of herself during therapy with Marilyn. Julia has not worked on faces and so is usually not pleased with her work. Her faces are usually full on and make no attempt to capture someone. The picture she worked on that day had her in 3/4 view with her glasses on. She did not quite get the nose and mouth but she had her eyes and glasses right on.

And Julia’s glasses. Oy! She broke the first pair’s side pieces. Not surprising. These are costume glasses and she has worn them everyday since November. We are scheduled for a check up and probably new lens in the fall so I didn’t want to find new frames and have new lens made. I found another costume pair and had the lens fitted in. Those were broken in less than two weeks. When I went to buy a third frame, I realized that her lens, being prisms, have a particular orientation in the frame and she may have found the second pair totally uncomfortable because they were not set correctly. The third pair is in Milwaukee being set by the person who made them to begin with. My take away from this is (1) to move to real frames, probably plastic which can take some wear and tear and (2) to find someone in town to make them up.

We both continue to improve in our knitting. Julia is making a blanket for Lizzy, the dinosaur, and I am making fingerless gloves. Both incredibly easy and straight forward. I am both looking forward to and delaying moving on to more challenging projects.

I attended my first Buddhist retreat. Non-residential and silent, three days of sitting, walking and listening to Sharon Saltzberg. I signed up without really knowing what it was like and was apprehensive the first day. The silence made it easy to begin. No need for small talk or the nervous energy of politeness. I did not realize that the teaching would be about meditation technique — no philosophy for its own sake – which was wonderful! I’ve needed exactly that for a bit less than a year now. Sharon’s emphasis is loving kindness meditation although she’s spent some time talking about mindfulness. It is like being corrected while doing barre work in a ballet class and the days passed quickly.

Once again, Julia did well in swimming lessons at the Shorewood Pool. She learned the butterfly kick and watching her cut through the water reminds me of how much I want to develop a sport for her. We’ve tried horseback riding — too many cancelations due to weather to hold her interest and to keep her progressing — and softball with the challenger league — a bit too much support for her but she is not ready for regular softball. She is a natural at swimming but to really progress, to learn all her strokes, she needs lessons year round. She also needs the lessons to be private. A half hour of working one on one with a teacher is equal to a week of group lessons. I am not sure we can even fit that into our school year calendar and not sure if I can afford it.

It is a question of balance. Where to spend the little bit of time we have? Is it in a real therapeutic setting like IDS where social skills are worked on one step at a time. Or is it in training skills so that a day will come when those skills can be implemented in real life social settings. This fall we will have 2-3 sessions at IDS, attachment therapy and speech therapy. To that I’ve added cello lessons. Now I am thinking of swimming. This does not account for any after school activity that she might like to do — I’ve heard that clubs are a big thing in middle school and she announced today that she would like to be in plays at school. She really enjoyed her experience in the summer music camp.

And there is never a way to ease into anything. I’ve already made speech appointments for most September and IDS has pinned us down to fall semester days. Up to last year, school did not come with much homework and her IDS therapists could always be relied on to do some of it during their sessions. As we’ve changed therapists at IDS due to graduation and attrition, I cannot rely on the newer therapist to do any of the “school” work that Julia comes with. If that continues, we need to set aside more time at home.

The stress of trying to second guess what will work best is an incredible waste of energy. Yet it is not possible to just let things happen. And for heaven’s sake, the kid needs some down time at home to just fool around.

Umm, fooling around. Julia has discovered the Rainbow Loom ( and is now sporting about 10 elastic bracelets on her arms. I have one that she made for me. She is making gifts for her China sisters and wants to learn to make more complicated bracelets. It makes me smile because when her peers were doing things like this, perhaps this very thing, a few years ago, I did not imagine that Julia would ever do it. I thought it was another experience that she would miss. And I think she is still in the general age range for this craft.

On another note, it was interesting to find out how awful I was at following the directions for this craft. I read the printed instructions and watched youtube videos. And was pissed off the whole time. I think I felt exactly that way about learning to knit and crochet when I was a kid. Leading me to believe that I may be creative and artsy but not craftsy. Another kid looked at what Julia was doing wrong (probably do to my instructions) and fixed it. Since the fix, Julia has been successful making her bracelets.

I’ve had my first brush with Child Protection. It was reported during music camp that I hit Julia. A social worker interviewed Julia and came to the house. The experience was filled with stress but ultimately ok. So far, at least. It is also not surprising. For years, Julia has come home from school and told me that a teacher punched or kicked or pushed her. These are not lies exactly, mostly misperceptions. We talked frankly about the consequences of her tellings. She does not fully understand what is appropriate to talk about and when and to whom. Her filters are faulty or not in place. Being taken out of class and talked to by a social worker intent upon drawing information out of her scared/jarred Julia some. For me, it was humiliating — not grossly — I knew it would happen one day. Julia has a way of always addressing any excessive pride and taking me down a peg or two. The build up to the home visit was much more stressful than the visit itself.

There is a certain amount of feeling satisfied with this summer. Tasks, errands, lessons, cooking, gardening, swimming, finally reading (a very junky book). Not much towards any goals apart from borrowing and carrying over. Writing has been manic at times, journal-like self-indulgence (Yes, even more self-indulgent than what I put here.) and then fallow. I know that pace of days will change again when middle school begins for Julia. I aim not to push, to wait for what is coming and at the same time to prepare for it. I feel close to something although close might be in September or two years away.

And finally, we both got hair cuts. A trim for me and nothing special but Julia has bangs! She was not in favor at first but she looks adorable and she knows it. She can brush it in the morning and doesn’t need clips or bands to hold it back. She can even swim and come out of water with hair in her face. I’ve dithered about bangs for her for an entire year. Bangs are a commitment. Bangs take forever to grow out. Bangs might make her look too young. However, on balance, it was a great decision.

One thought on “question of balance

  1. You might still be crafty! Written directions don’t work for lots of people, even when they are well-written. 🙂

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