Our dancin’ dinosaur tee shirts arrived by mail yesterday. Julia was tickled and couldn’t wait to wear one of hers today to school. Lots of friends have ordered shirts and are posting pictures on Facebook. Every picture puts tears in my eyes. Three teachers from Randall posted a picture, all three of them with dino shirts and “I love Julia” scrawled on the board behind them. There are no thank you’s enough. And I pray that this is a beginning, not the highlight. I hope that this incredible talent is yet to be developed and will carry her far.
Who knows what can come, there is no way to capture a moment and keep it close. I ride this small happiness, Julia’s small accomplishment and hold on to hoping that her life will unfold gracefully and with much happiness and independence. I know, I know, it is the same with all kids but it is different when it is not assured that your kid will grow and mature and come into their own. It is different. And hard. And joyful.
This being a mother of a kid on the autism spectrum is not for weaklings and scaredy cats.
Some notes on the first day beginning of middle school that I began last week:
Day one is over and day two begun. Actually today, day seven is almost over.
Julia liked her first day. In her assignment notebook she wrote on the first page that she loved Wright Middle School. This morning she remembered the names of her homeroom teachers (one is her special ed teacher) and her SEA (aide). She ate chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch and also loved them. There was perhaps also an apple that she ate. There is no sign that she is interested in bringing healthy lunches and at least at this point it is not worth any fight on this one.
She continues to like her school and the experience. The first set of challenges are about listening to bells and whistles that start or end classes and activities, and also at moving independently from room to room. At Wright, the sixth graders only move among a very few rooms but it is still very confusing for Julia. I think that part of the confusion is about the new sounds — noise — and stimuli that distract her terribly. If she continues to be confused and unable to move from room to room, I’ll ask for some help there. Although I want her to be independent, I want to her to learn content as well as independence. And I think content should come first.
Julia willingly is willing to get up and dressed in the morning. We have not laid out clothes each night like we did it all last year. This year she wants to pick out her own clothes and pending my approval, she does a pretty good job. Have school begin an hour later than at her elementary school is really golden! I am so much happier to get up at 6:45, than 5:45. At 5:45 I can hardly drag myself out of bed, and I am not effective at dragging someone else.
This morning I dropped her off — a bit later than planned but that was more due to my own confusion about when bells ring than to our morning routine — by the gate of one of the playgrounds. It is probably not called a playground in middle school. Other students were already walking into the building. She very cheerfully hopped out of the car and joined in the throng walking in. She immediately struck up a conversation — perhaps started talking is a better way of saying it — with two girls who were probably not sixth graders. I watched them look at her and then say something that I couldn’t hear. Oh god, I hope there are kind kids in this school! Julia has developed into a very friendly/talkative kid but so much of what she says is border line inappropriate or unintelligible. She needs more listeners who make sense of what she says.
Last week, Julia took the tapes off her cello. Yikes! She was jubilant; I was/am terrified. Her teacher do not really believe in taping cellos. The tapes I’m talking about are very narrow bands of sticky tape on the finger board of the instrument that mark where the first three or four notes are. It is a guide for beginning students and it seems to be quite a security blanket for me. Instead of using the tapes to figure out where the fingers go, Julia (and I) will need to use our ears. At lesson, she took the tapes off and played two tunes better than she ever has played them. Ok, I get it. But I hope it works at home. I am skeptical. I can’t help it. I am not a musician. Her teacher says she has a good ear. I don’t think I do.
While her cello teacher was giving me the rational for removing the tapes, Julia was figuring out the next tune in the Suzuki book, “Go Tell Aunt Roady.” So her teacher assigned the song as long as she memorized the one she has been working on by next week. Julia said, “sure.”
We also may be renting a cello from her teacher instead of from the school. That means that her practice instrument will be a lot better than what she has now. I think she would appreciate that.
I am starting something new on the iPad. Julia wants to play games on it and she also wants to get back to playing with her wii. It dawned on me that game time needs to be reward time. And also limited. I decided to link game to to writing prompts in her iPad journal. I’ve been giving her three: three things she did in school, what she ate for lunch and how she felt after a day at school. I began by sitting with her as she wrote and then correcting grammar and spelling (mostly capitals) when she was finished. This week, it was best when she did it in the car on our way to her therapies. Best because it is close to the end of the school day and she can remember better what she did than if we wait until she gets home close to dinner time. I’m also not looking for a lot of writing. She really can’t do that well and stay on topic. And some of what she is writing is funny. I am sure that her social studies teacher did not mean to emphasize the importance of using shampoo to clean hair. I’m not doubting that he said that, just the importance he put on it. I put her picture from the first day of school on the first page. I want pictures to be a part of the journal, (We used pictures alone last year. ) but I don’t want to burden her teachers with another task until everyone is more settled. For writing, she gets 20 minutes of game time to be used as she likes. Right now, she plays the HP lego game on her iPad.
Fall is always the beginning of a new year for me. Another go at improvement and reinvention. Or at least a refinement of ideas, processes and goals. This year is no different.
Towards the end of the summer, my meditation practice really fell off. Too much Julia time or rather my perception that I had to spend time on addition instead of meditation. Probably a mistake. Immediately correcting that one.
The garden needs attending and I want to seed the lawn. The next few weeks are crucial. The compost needs emptying. I found some great perennial bargains at Builders Square. Also, I have perennials and corms to dig up and divide, as well as an over abundance of hollyhock plants to move from the front to the back.
Interesting thing about my hollyhocks. I love them! And I’ve managed to get quite a good backdrop of them in the front terraced garden bed. But this year for the first time since I planted seeds, I’ve only gotten plants and not flowers. Since hollyhocks are biennials that bloom only in the second year, I usually have some flowers and some plants every year. I am not sure what happened to my flowing two year olds this year. Was it the awful winter? I need to thin the plants and dig up some that are in inappropriate places. Hopefully, next year, I will have flowers in the front AND back gardens.
Contacts have been made and interest pursued. It looks like I may be leading a mindfulness group for caregivers – parents, grandparents, sitters — at IDS. It would be my toe in the waters I want to wade waist deep in. I’ve sent a mock up of a flyer to my contact at IDS and I await the PTB’s approval. Even if I get it, I know that there is a decent chance that no one will sign up for the circle. It happened last year with the Special Ed PEG group. I hope this is different. It would be a lovely way to begin.
Julia and I are moving on with our knitting. She is making a red and yellow scarf. Yes, Gryfindor colors. I am ready to make a hat. It is rather amazing to me that one of my newish friends is a master knitter who is very willing to teach, advise and answer questions. Perhaps others will not see this as amazing but the saying “the teacher appears when the student is ready” keeps running through my mind. I’ve believed in this idea before I ever recognized that it was happening to me. These days, it seems to be happening all the time. Often at least. And I am deeply grateful. I am also struck that I have done so little to merit or deserve or warrant such attention. When another friend called me to urge me to come to a newly formed book club, I felt the same way. How did she know that I really wanted to join a book club even though I had done nothing about looking for one? I have the feelings of being cradled in community.
This feels like a long, overdue letter to a friend who needs to be caught up on every part of life. It needs to be put in its envelope and sent on its way. I’ve promised myself to write every day — just 200 words but write. I am hoping for rebirth.