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4:00 p.m.: I’ve spent the day in the garden beds, digging up the last of the bulbs in the front terrace beds, transplanting ajuga from those same beds to the side in front of the fence.  This is a place where the worst weeds grow. Ugly, ugly, ugly.  I planted ajuga on the fence line last fall.  About a third of it took, so I’m trying again. Cutting back spent bulb plantings and weeding just a tiny bit. I have some mighty incredible weeds after our week of rain.

Julia is working on cover art for a class project while she listens to music. Kid bob mostly with a bit of classic rock mixed in. “I just love ‘Thriller,’” she tells me. How can I not smile indulgently?

For the cover art, Julia sketched the old fashion way and then transferred her drawings to an iPad app for coloring.  When finished, the enhanced drawings will all go into a collage app to be arranged on a background and titles. For a child who stumbles over simple directions, she has figured most of this out by herself. When she’s run into problems and asks me, which surprisingly she is doing with more regularity, she is patient as I figure the problem out and usually fully understands my solution about half way through my explanation.

I hope this bodes well for next year’s computer art class.

We’ve had a few busy weeks and I’ve been writing about them but I haven’t finished any possible blog entry that I’ve begun. I’ve needed processing time, brooding time, reading time and planning time. Either quiet time or talking time. A good deal of eclectic reading — the end of Baraz’s Awakening Joy for the end of his online class, Mare Chapman’s Unshakeable Confidence right after the end of her class, Roz Chast’s Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?: A Memoir, a genius graphic novel, sad, true and laugh out loud funny, and Book one of Spirit Animals, Wild Born which is Julia’s summer reading work. I carry these four books from room to room and throw them all in the car whenever I know I’m going to sit somewhere.

Onto our doings and planning: Last week, Julia auditioned for WYSO (Wisconsin Youth Synphony Orchestra ). We’ve been preparing for almost 6 weeks and after a few weeks of practicing intensively together, she took over practice with gusto. She worked hard. She did well. Not perfect, but it was an audition. Julia was nervous which was lovely to see. She understood the stakes. She was able to play. She only needed to refer to me once and was able to listen and respond to her two judges.

She played her piece, Etude, well and was stopped midway through the doubles.  She stopped as soon as the judges asked her to and later commented to me that she was listening. She messed up the timing on one of the scales and played the other two perfectly. For the C scale, they asked for long bows and Julia was able to do it. She played the assigned piece well and counting.  One of the judges asked her to play it again without counting. She did it just slightly out of rhythm but well. She was able to get all the notes for the sight reading but was shaky on the timing.

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Right after Julia’s audition

At the end, as we were gathering up our stuff Julia asked me if we could go home. I told her that we were and she said with a big sigh, “I’m so glad this is over.” The judges laughed and one of them told Julia that that is how everyone feels. Of course, only Julia would say it but I don’t expect it did any harm.

I was truly beside myself with anxiety, wanting Julia to have a good experience and wanting her to handle herself in front of the judges. (We had to get special permission for her to audition and truthfully, I wanted her to prove herself. Rather foolish, but there it is.) I wasn’t even thinking about her chances of being accepted by the orchestra and did not think to ask when results would be in. If someone had offered me some anxiety relief, I would have jumped at it! I still don’t trust my dear girl to rise to the occasion, even though she does so pretty consistently.  I will learn.

Last weekend, we spent 26 hours in Chicago.  An eye doc visit for Julia and a short shopping stop at IKEA during the day.  And then an evening at the Field Museum’s Members’ Nights during which we wandered around backstage exploring areas normally off-limits to the public to see parts of the Museum’s vast collections that are not on display.  We asked questions of scientists, curators, and exhibition designers, to learn about the work and research that happens at the Museum.  From dinosaur storage to florescent minerals to very large ancient artifacts to ucky, giant (dead) worms and birds and small mammals.  It was geek heaven and we hated leaving at the end of the night.

An aside: this single event is worth the price of membership.  A curious person of any age would be delighted! We will definitely do it again!

The next morning we headed to the American Writers Museum , a museum for those who love words, stories and the people who write them. The museum celebrates writers of children’s and adult literature. Julia had a wonderful time finding writers who she knew and playing on the interactive games and displays.  I really appreciated the number of women and people of color who were included. I imagined that a kid like Julia could believe that we always had a place at the publishing table, and even if that was not always the case, the inclusions offers a promise to young writers.  It was a very sweet, touching space.  And Julia LOVED writing on the typewriters!

The beginning of that week was also full of small catastrophes—I received the report from the March neuropsych evaluation. I had had a wonderful discussion with the evaluator after the testing and I was looking forward to her written recommendations. I expected specific ideas about how to teach Julia to help teachers in her new high school and to help me advocate for her. However, the report only contained two near worthless recommendations, one which began “Since it is difficult to put into words how Julia may best acquire new skills and advance her natural artistic talent” and suggested that teachers call her.  My happy dependence was shattered.

The same day, I found out that Julia was accepted into the Extended Year Schooling for the summer. I expected 6 weeks of mornings or afternoons, 4 or 5 days a week. What she was allocated was 4 hours a week—2 hours a day twice a week. Julia has 2 hours a week of therapy this summer. So, at most I had 6 hours of planned activity for her. It is not easy finding activities for Julia, to look for them in May is crazy making. I was also still grumpy about not traveling this summer and just plain cranky about the idea of planning long weekends or carving a week out to take a driving vacation.

Nothing appealed to me and I complained to almost anyone who would listen.  Two thoughts here: first, my life is really pretty wonderful and complaining about such “problems” is almost embarrassing, and second, I do have wonderful friends who listen and make suggestions. My Tuesday supper companions urged a few ideas and one has taken hold.

A cruise.

Something I’ve never considered but with somewhat peaked interest I googled cruising and autism and found Autism on the Seas, a national organization which develops cruise vacation services to accommodate families living with children with special needs. They are putting together a group for a cruise to Alaska the last week of summer school. The group will be about 100 strong, a small but sizable subgroup on the ship. There is priority boarding and seating at shows, reserved tables for meals, activities and parties for kids and some respite time every day.  I am sold!

I haven’t booked yet, hopefully on Tuesday.  There are more summer plans to make—flights to Seattle and then out east for my niece’s wedding and a visit friends in Maine, and planning, academic and fun, for our weeks at home—but this idea is a grand beginning.

And I am no long grumpy.  (Thank you, Mary and Robert!)

It is close to 5. We are still on the porch. I think the kids bob has mellowed out a bit.  Julia still colors, Muta naps, I’m tapping on the laptop. Birds sing, the sun hides behind clouds, I wonder about a shower. It has been a lovely day and we have nothing at all to do tonight.  We had breakfast on the porch.  Can I manage supper?  When this is finished, I’ll be cracking opening a book or two. For at least this moment, I am filled with gratitude. I’ve found a moment of peace. I am touching some joy.