It is spring! Tulip are on parade. I’ve changed to capris and flip-flops. Around town the Redbud trees are in bloom. They are my favorite spring trees. I “saw” them for the first time as I drove from Bloomington to Indianapolis for my first post-law school job which (as a classmates reminds me on Facebook today) was 26 years ago. I planted a Redbud in my Indianapolis garden and though there is no room to plant one now, I eagerly await their blooming every year. Continue reading
It seems like a long time ago now that we, make that I, reclaimed Christmas. I don’t expect that the winter holidays will always be perfectly smooth but our last Christmas and then New Years cruise seemed to reset my holiday clock better than anything else. Distinct differences and concrete plans worked miracles. Prior to last year, I was not only missing our pre-death holiday ‘routine’ but also missing the friends with whom we shared many thanksgivings and a few Christmases—people and plans I thought would never change. Then there was change. Ah, embracing those Noble Truths.
Last Friday, another holiday clock ‘got’ reset— Passover. David and I enjoyed hosting seders since before we were living together. How many years ago was that? (Only Jan knows.) Our seders evolved and sometimes disappeared while we were in school or traveling. When we lived on Washington Boulevard in Indy, we had room for big parties and we indulged. I don’t remember when David started writing our Haggadahs or when we began expecting Cheshire to play or write something for the celebration. We cooked, many times for days. I think it was the only time I’d take a day off work to get ready. Continue reading
After watching the debates and talking about the election in school, Julia is very much into it. She fished out an old Obama button from some treasure trove and is wearing it along with two new Hillary buttons. Her assignment for Tuesday is to color a map as results come in. She told me that she is going to color the whole thing blue before any results come in. Magical thinking to be sure, but she’s got the right idea. Continue reading
Morning mural painting at Randall School stretch way beyond the scheduled noon ending time. A tryptic on the retaining wall that surrounds the gym equipment that so many of us worked for so long to become a reality. Now, five years (Really, five years?) after the ‘new’ playground equipment was assembled, there will be art behind it.
The day dawned unpromisingly gray and I was so concerned that there would be very few people to paint that I texted Kati, the organizing teacher, that we would be a little late. When we arrived, however, there was a bevy of painters young and old applying color to the walls. It was noisy, frantic and busy. I held my breath as we dove into the fray. Julia has not always been able to handle happy, noisy crowds, no matter how friendly. Continue reading
Julia is sketching about what she sees the last few days and drawing landscapes for the first time. It is clear she lacks training but as usual her eye for design and placement is right on. She fumbles when trying to add color but I continue to encourage her. New learning is exciting. Besides feeding my wanderlust, I travel to open this incredible world to Julia. Continue reading
This is our last full day in Torino and I started it rather grumpy. We have seen many of the sights on my list; we’ve spent time with our friends and enjoyed their company and also enjoyed sharing in some typical life activities–cooking at home, a Pilates class, driving around the city looking at neighborhoods and eating much gelato. They have take us to the country for a slow Sunday dinner of typical food, to their favorite pizza restaurant and to their favorite graniti cafe. And still, I seem to want more. We are staying longer in each place we visit this year and today I still feel like we have just arrived and we are getting ready to leave. The week has gone so by very quickly. It does takes us a long time to settle in, it takes me a long time to recognize streets and places I’ve passed before. Am I too greedy to want to understand and take in more? Continue reading
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 (http://www.rainbowloom.com) 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.
Julia is having her first art lesson.
I planned to write about the rest of the vacation. Perhaps I will write a bit more about it but not now.
Julia is having her first art lesson.
Julia has been drawing for about 7 years now. She was scribbling for a year before that — those big sweeping arcs that two year olds do. She was 6 and then 7. During those days, she was so far behind in everything, she was so hard to put to sleep, her behavior, like those arcs, reminded me of a 2-year old. And we — David and I — were pretty scared. Then one day during first grade — she had the same teacher for Kindergarten and first grade — her teacher, Christy, called me from school. This was not unusual at that time. I got calls at least a few times a week to come into school, if I could, to help with a tantrum. That day, Christy called me and announced that “Julia was drawing!” And she was. There was a dinosaur on the page and some other unidentifiable forms. Every one was carefully made — distinct and clear. Julia had been making forms in clay for awhile by that time but suddenly she was making her forms two dimensional.
About a million pieces of paper later, it is clear to anyone who sees her work that Julia is an artist. Like the artists that I have known, Julia draws all the time. So much all the time that her time drawing needs to be limited sometimes during school or therapy. Drawing has been used as a reward for good work or behavior and a majority of the gifts given to her at any time have something to do with art. And she uses them all. Although I have not kept all of her art work — I take pictures before I discard — I have dozens of sketchbooks that are completely filled. This summer, one of our reading projects is to draw a picture of a part of the day’s reading. This was suggested by her eye doc who does vision therapy with her. For Julia to draw a scene she will have to imagine it, perhaps imagine it in greater depth than she is used to doing. Julia decodes with ease and she reads too quickly to uncover everything in a text. Thus, her comprehension is poor. She has problems with comprehension because it is so hard for her to infer anything that is not on the page but her speed reading makes the hinderance greater. Perhaps by drawing a picture of Mary and Laura running through the prairie, she will eventually infer that the day was sunny or there were little hills that the girls ran up and down. I don’t think that this will happen quickly but Julia loves to read and loves to draw. In the early days of her drawing, we learned about her anger and rage and sadness. It was amazing that after years of drawing dinosaurs fighting and killing each other, she began to draw nests with eggs and tiny dinosaurs hatching, dinosaur weddings and dinosaur families. I imagine that she will learn inference through drawing.
Another summer project is art class with Kati, who has taught her art for the past 4 years. Katie said to me two years ago that she would love to teach Julia but she couldn’t do it while Julia was still a student and anyway, I was not ready to impose lessons in art on Julia. I and the army of support that has surrounded Julia have tried to change so much about Julia. We have all tried to modify behavior, control emotions, speak appropriately, interact gracefully and count and read and do self care. I wanted her art to be just for her. Certainly, she was getting some instruction in school, and without a doubt her art was changing and her eye growing, but it was at her own pace and with her own interests. This summer I want Kati to try to teach her about art. Can Julia change the way she draws when she is being coached?
And this is her first time.
Julia began the lesson, as she always does, refusing to consider doing anything that Kati suggests. (Need I say, Thank the heavens for someone who knows Julia well!!! ) Within an hour, they are both on the floor in the living room drawing various views of Julia’s cello with pencils that smudge. I hear Julia refuse to look up at the cello as she is drawing and Kati telling her that she will set a timer and Julia needs to look up each time. Kati moves the cello and they draw the instrument in 3/4 view and on one side. And she is doing it! And calls for me to look at the work. She complains to Kati that what she is doing is not good and then goes back to work. She is drawing more than one view on a big piece of paper. She asks to color what she has drawn and that gives Kati a change to point out variations in color and shadow and highlights. Julia is not complaining as Kati speaks. She begins with light colors and layers on as Kati advises. Julia usually goes for the dark colors and then tries to layer on the lighter — she goes through a lot of white pencils and crayons.
Yesterday, during attachment therapy, Marilyn asked Julia to draw a picture of the dolphin that she swam with in Mexico. (We do not have pictures of the experience because those pictures were too expensive.) Julia complained that she could not draw a dolphin. She did not know what it looked like. And then she began drawing. She drew two pictures and the one above is the second picture. The girl — Julia — has a life jacket on and she is holding onto the jacket just as she was told to do when the dolphin kissed her. Although Julia drew herself at first with the pigtails that she usually puts on herself, she erased them and drew her hair closer to the way it looks now and with her favorite flower clip. I especially love how happy she looks. To know Julia’s work it is to know that she doesn’t always draw the people or animals that she works on with happy faces. Julia’s happy face is like a double joy.
Julia has been designated as a TAG (Talented and Gifted) art student. Because of that and also because of her IEP, she will have art every semester during middle school. In the world of budget cuts, this is a rare privilege. Talking to the middle school art teacher, Tracy, I think, she plans to have Julia do what the regular art class does for the first semester and then work on individual projects the second semester. And then make plans for seventh grade. These ideas make this summer’s lessons even more important. If Julia is to have school art projects, she needs to accept and learn from a teacher.
If we have departed dear ones who protect and guide us from where ever they are after death, I can almost imagine that my dear friend, Jim Jones, is Julia’s guardian angel. Jim’s work hangs all over our house and sometimes Julia comments about the work and about Jim as if she had known him. She does in a way — she knows his work. Jim was no angel but just perhaps he is hers.