Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Touching The Art 201 Presentation... Happily Ever Afters with Art!

I have been having a delightful time taking an art class taught by Luc Travers!  I gave my final presentation tonight and, aside from getting lost once in my notes, it was as smooth and as smiley and as delightful as could be!

I wanted to share it here too to offer more smiles and to advertise Luc's process of learning to gain even more from art.  He's an amazing teacher!



(This was done as a slide show with me talking.  So, I'll put the pictures in groups.  It's definitely smoother as the slide show with lots of side by side pictures and no bolded directions, but I think this does offer the feel.)

Reading:
A woman is walking in the surf.  She is wearing a creamy gauze dress that falls in soft wrinkles around her body and is tied with a wide belt of the same material.  [cut to just her] It’s an old fashioned dress, so this may be a period piece.  (The sailboat in the distance and the make of the houses could support that idea, but it is unclear.) She has her arms raised about her head [cut to head/face shot] and she is looking dreamily down to the right.  The sun is late afternoon or early morning and it touches the edge of her forearm.  One hand is hovering about to touch her hair and the other is holding it back as if she’s remembering a lovely memory, perhaps a tender touch?  Her hair is brown and glowing in the slanting rays. The rays also hit the left side of her face and show smooth, young skin.  What is her expression? She has the faintest hint of a smile.  [cut back to just her] As she gently walks along the beach, we can see the bottom third of her legs has a lovely tan and her toes are obscured by the white of the surf and the rich, brown sand.  [cut to full picture] The ocean waves are mild so this is likely a harbor or sheltered bay, but the color is a deep blue.  Behind her a three masted sail boat is visible, but the hull is already out of site. [Brief view of the country] To her right and perhaps several hundred feet away is a rock wall with green lawns, trees, and few houses, on the other side of it is the ocean.  [Full image] As she meanders, terns fly above her and we can hear their calls and the sound of the gentle surf.  We can feel that sand, the water, the gentle breeze, and the warmth of the sun that mirrors her inner glow.  






She might be thinking, “The surprise party was everything I wished to achieve.” or “I remember when he first said ‘Ma ma’ and today he took his first step.” or “He could not have proposed more beautifully. I’m so in love.” Whatever lovely memory she is relishing, this is a moment of contemplation.  A person ponders a cherished thought. Her reaction is dreamy delight, but young Christopher Columbus has a different reaction. 

In the full statue, Christopher Columbus sits on the pier piling and though his shoulder dips down, we can see in a closer image, his gaze faces out: 




He responds to his cherished thoughts with an intense longing for a potential future, while Surfside (the title of my painting) is reveling in her thought of something past.  Both come to the situation of pondering an important thought, yet their thoughts and reactions differ. 


We’ll actually be looking at three comparisons to illuminate this painting further.  [Picture of Slipper and Rose montage] I’ve been a hopeless romantic ever since I can remember.   My favorite movie growing up was Slipper and the Rose, a glorious version of the Cinderella story. 


So our second comparison, is in this clip. Cinderella has just left the ball.  She is remembering the wonder and joy of a beautiful moment, just as Surfside is: watch clip 




[Stop at 1:30 and put Beautiful Dreamer on the screen.] 

This is definitely a scene with the same feeling of glorying in a beautiful moment. Finally, like Cinderella and Surfside, this lady, Beautiful Dreamer is glowing in pleasant thoughts. 



Here we see a much more fancy lady looking dreamily down at something in her hand… we can see it better here [clip of her hand].  In this statue, a woman pauses, perhaps from a ball? and takes a moment to enjoy the company of the one she wishes were really there. [side by side of just Surfside lady and Beautiful Dreamer] There is the same look down and feeling of a glowing memory that is consuming the full sensory glory of both women.  While the Cinderella clip and Beautiful Dreamer are clearly romantic moments, Surfside only might be.  There are so many opportunities for reveling in beautiful moments and Surfside could reflect any one of them. 



Personal Connection 
Like Anne of Green Gable’s passion of reveling in glorious memories and “flying up on the wings of anticipation” this joyful approach to relishing the beautiful and the happy speaks to me deeply.  [My ocean pictures] One of my favorite places to do this is the ocean where the natural beauty fills me with delight.  It’s a perfect spot for me to find joy in my experiences of the day, week, or more distant past.  Just this morning, I paused between errands under the Eucalyptus trees and walked to the coast. The pelicans were migrating in silent flocks, gliding so smoothly that they seemed to be gently carried onward along the cliffs.  The smell of the sea weed, the tickle of salt in the air, and the  warmth of the morning sun all welcomed me into that place of glowing appreciation.


(The two pictures below were shown in a slide as coming from a thought bubble from the picture above:)



[Surfside and My ocean picture with the thought bubble: wedding, and kiddo] When I look at Surfside,I feel that glow that I feel when I look at a sparkling ocean.  When I look at Surfside I feel that glow that I feel when I cherish a memory of times with my child, like this impromptu snuggle at the park.  When I look at Surfside I feel that glow that I feel so often with tender touches, living happily ever after with the man of my dreams.  Surfside is the only original oil painting I own. I love the moment of glowing, happy reflection that I see in Surfside and I live it often. I live 20 minutes from the ocean now and I make it part of almost every grocery trip… investing in five minute visits again and again to nourish that appreciation of joyful times.  I recognize and respond to that same joy in Surfside.   Here’s to living and relishing happily-ever-afters of every kind!

[Surfside]

And we have some great happily-ever-after finale music:
Play starting at 1:46



Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Young Man Turns Eleven


I’m sitting on my little upper deck.  The late morning sun is warming me.  Every breeze starts a shower of redwood needles and the bigger breezes sound the wind chimes below too.  Occasionally a Stellar’s Jay rasps or a swallow veers past or an Acorn Woodpecker flaps to the next tree.  Yesterday, my kiddo turned eleven.  As dearest Hagrid would say, “It’s not every day that your young man turns eleven!”  He’s grown so much this year.  Sometimes, he’s still very emotionally young compared to his peers.  But, it’s not a race and I’m so heartened by the times when he’s not stressed or overwhelmed and then I see so many little, thoughtful actions.  My young man is growing in maturity and perspective-taking; when I pause, like I am at this moment, I can just feel such joy and appreciation for this moment, for where he is, and for the pleasure of being there with him as his mom.

His party was a boosting of the usual Friday play date.  Each Friday, I bring foam, pool noodles.  The kids descend upon me, drop their back packs, grab a noodle, and run into the adjacent park howling battle cries.  The parents hang out at the park benches and have some kind of snack ready for rapid refueling when the warriors take their brief breaks.  Yesterday, I had mini pumpkins for them to decorate and helium balloons to attach.  Birthday cake and berries and presents added enjoyment for Cameron, but the pauses from the rambunctious play were still fairly brief.  It was happy and low key and the first party he’s had in years.  Except for last year (two friends coming over for a playdate that happened to include extra sweets), he’s vetoed anything more than family pampering since he was around seven years old.  Yesterday, he was a gracious birthday boy and enjoyed celebrating with both friends and family.  He was ready to find pleasure in that experience and it was delightful to be there with him.  With all the bumps and challenges acknowledged, I do relish this parenting, growing-with-my-child process.  Here’s to Cameron… “Oh, the places you’ll go!"


Park battles


Lining up for the balloons

About to blow out the candles

Checking out presents


Quick pause for Mom to take a picture (blinking some dirt out of the eye)

Dad getting in some noodle play too
... and one from last week's play date.  Tractor-top is just one of the places he'll go.
Here's to Cameron, my spunky, spirited, vivacious, caring son.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Perceptions Log

My spunky kid went away to overnight camp for two weeks!  It's a new one of these special places that could be included in my last post about sparkles.  From the pictures and the few comments he gave, it seems like he had a wonderful time.  Transitioning back home was... bumpy.  He seemed to have lost any interest in being pleasant around others. We couldn't tell if it was just one of those regression zigzags that precede growth or if he actually had forgotten skills.  He almost got kicked out of both chess camp and gymnastics the next week.  He accepted a fellow camper's comment that it was funny to be a troll on an internet forum, and gave it a try himself.  All our previous skills were not working for improving the situation.  We'd have long talks that would seem productive in the moment to all three of us.  Yet, he wasn't remembering them, making us all feel like those hours were wasted.

Finally, we were able to help him unearth two things he had accepted:
being annoying to others is both fun and funny
getting positive attention is harder and full of mistakes

Coupling those discoveries with the new knowledge that long discussions were no longer the awesome tools they had been, we needed to find a new tool to help him.  My brilliant husband came up with the idea of a log and we've refined it into an awesome tool together.  Due to the hyperlexia, my son has always been highly responsive to the written word.  We'd write in the log when our son came across positively and when he came across as annoying.  The positive and negative numbers were measures of how he was coming across to us, data points for him to consider (not evaluations of himself).  There were absolutely no rewards or punishments involved to distract or add anxiety.  He loved it.

He dubbed it his "drama journal" because he got the mostly blank booklet in drama elective at camp.  So... he had a drama journal to record his annoying and pleasant drama throughout the day.  (You couldn't make this stuff up!)  The first day he was going out of his way to do all sorts of helpful things to "make us" write nice things in his book.  Over the last two weeks there have been days where we mostly do our own thing and there are few entries.  There have also been days with no negative entries because he was a pleasant kid to be around... all day!  He was thrilled the first day he accomplished that!  (Of course we're not talking about his feelings, were' talking about the actions he chooses to take.  Feeling cranky, annoyed, angry, or sad at some point, for at least a moment, during each day is normal for everyone.)

At first, he would occasionally try to argue with us about perceptions because he didn't want any negative "points".  We were really clear though that this was just information for him about how he was coming across, intentionally or not.  We also refused to get sucked into a circular discussion in the moment the few times he was upset.  He reads the log to us the next day and we briefly (honestly, really briefly) discuss anything that's still a question, which is rare.  It's been amazing.  He is still going out of his way to be helpful sometimes and is also noticing when something would come across as annoying.

No big surprise, it's not really that fun to be annoying when you love your parents and can succeed with positive attention.  Seeing it in his drama journal has convinced him he can and that it's a lot more fun.  It's been an awesome two weeks for peace in our home.  Tranquility with a kid who finds it fun to be annoying was hard to find... it felt like everything kept getting poisoned.  All our attempts to connect and be close were getting twisted into times of irritation.  So, here's to innovation in parenting.  My general Positive Discipline approach and principles don't change, but there's always a new bend or twist or chasm in the road that I get to figure out.  Here's to reveling in the journey!

We went kayaking as a family today and thoroughly enjoyed each other.  He was thrilled to be dressed all in blue paddle jacket / pants and life vest... posing for a family picture though, not so exciting.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Three Sparkles

I just wanted to note three special-needs programs that have brought extra sparkles to our lives.  After another long day today dealing with my kiddo's sensory seeking challenges, I wanted to write about something that brought smiles and sparkles (not sighs and sadness).

Challenge Air is a program that allows children to actually fly an airplane.  Cameron first did it when he was four years old, but when he was five he really got how special and thrilling an experience it was.  Check out this look of utter glee and excitement and delight:


That's something super precious.  He talked about how he "banked the plane" for years.  I'll admit having your young child holding the controls of a plane when you're way up in the air is a wee bit stressful, but when he looked back at me with this face... the delight and pride and joy he felt was palpable... it lasted, it's priceless.  I use this photo as my phone wallpaper to this day.

Last year, Cameron scuba dove for the first time with this program.  The first thing he told me when getting out of the water was... he was awesome.  He knew how hard it had been to overcome the sensory challenges of using a regulator and he was super proud of himself.  He went again this year and finished off swaggering up the steps and handing me a piece of giant kelp as a present.


Finally, at ten years old, my kiddo didn't know how to ride a bike.  His classmates would zoom by and he'd get that look, but he said he didn't want to learn.  He was willing to attend this day camp  though that focused on helping special-needs kids learn how to ride a bicycle gradually.  We got back last week and he's no longer part of that statistic of 80% of kids with Autism who never learn to ride a bike.  He can head off down the road with his dad, head high.



So, on a rough day, I wanted to celebrate these programs that help add sparkles to the steeper climb of kiddos with additional challenges.  Thank you Challenge Air, Special Kids Scuba, and iCan Bike.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Symptom Diagnoses

One of the things that I think is fundamentally important to understand about Autism is that it is a symptom diagnosis.  Like hypertension or ADHD, what is defined by such diagnoses is a symptom or set of symptoms.  This is very different from diagnoses like Malaria or Sickle Cell Anemia or Down Syndrome where the diagnosis includes the cause, the reason the particular symptoms are seen.  

Thus, a diagnosis of Autism only says that the person displays a certain set of symptoms, but it says nothing about why that is happening.  As understanding grows, I think it highly likely that we'll discover this grouping includes widely disparate causes that do not belong under the same title because they are fundamentally different (and will respond to widely disparate interventions).

For any symptom diagnosis, probing into potential causes can be highly useful.  That doesn't mean that the actions to directly address symptoms are ignored, but it does mean that the diagnosis is a label with a big question mark at the end... why?  Maybe a kid isn't focussing well because he has food/environmental allergies or GI pain or dyslexia or... there are many potential reasons.  Kids are also often unaware or unable to articulate clearly what they're experiencing.

This isn't an admonition to spend every moment probing potential causes as I could easily spend my life reading Autism resources and miss the joys of parenting (along with many others)!  It's just a note to keep in mind that a symptom diagnosis only gives a surface level description and seeking to understand what is underneath in your or your child's particular case can yield great rewards.

Of course, no diagnosis or label defines a kid... you never know when a kiddo with social deficits might surprise you and plunge joyfully into a kid sandwich like mine did two days ago!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Warm Fuzzies

I'm pro warm fuzzies!  I think most people love the warm fuzzy feeling of receiving heart felt compliments / validations.  But, it's not as common to take the extra time to compliment as it is to complain.  I'm not talking about the big moments.  If you're really impressed, grateful, delighted, it's much easier to think of sharing that strong positive with people who have elicited that response.  The same is true of feeling strongly hurt, misled, or used.

When I say that I'm pro warm fuzzies, I mean that I'm for incorporating them as the normal response to the many smaller times we feel esteem for others.  For years now, I've incorporated the idea of sharing three good things each day with my best bud (a practice mentioned here).  It's on the rough days that it's especially valuable to pick out those positive moments and acknowledge them as important.  It's so much easier to notice the problems, what's not working, and focus on the smaller negatives.  Those things are important too as, of course, ignoring reality isn't good for anyone.  But, I think those small positives are equally important and they often get passed by as something that isn't a squeaky wheel, it just works, not worthy of attention.  I think that's an error in giving more weight to the negatives and missing the joy of the present good.  Again, I'm talking about the small stuff, but that small stuff is most of life and it's worth celebrating.

I recently started a thread on a favorite parenting group about acknowledging the parenting strengths we see in other members.  I spent several hours thinking about the particular awesomeness of the parents (or caregivers) that I had seen nurturing kids.  It was a delightful few hours for me and it spread warm fuzzies for the whole group.  I'm also considering adding to my GTD weekly review a to-do action to check for acknowledgements that I can give (dentist, gardener, librarian, waitress... did someone do something well this week that I could acknowledge and make both their and my world better).  So, this is a short post, but it's a vote for taking the time to focus on warm fuzzies every day.  Whether it's a few minutes over coffee to catch one positive and send an email or a daily three-good-things or something else, focusing on the joy in life makes for greater personal happiness and smooths a consistent flow of warm fuzzies... that's something I find worth practicing! :)


Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo Shoot

Playing “don’t take my picture"



Followed immediately by a prolonged photo shoot with requests for more and more pictures










Happy boys at the park... when my battery was about to die, we had 96 pictures.