Saturday, January 05, 2008

Where Was I?

This morning I was still trying to sort through the deep thoughts I have had since my "New Year" Post. I got a lot of concerned comments and responses, and it's taken a lot of sorting of feelings, ideas and theories for me to come around to addressing the issues before us. I rather casually mentioned a theme that we have been coping with quite frequently in the last few months: Max is not having a good school year. Our son has a long and unique history, largely related to Asperger's Syndrome or as we put it, with knowing grins, "Geek Syndrome." We have had such tremendous success helping him socially and academically that it's easy to forget that the underlying issues are still present. Except when he starts to experience difficult passages, developmental challenges, rites of passage that seem to derail his steady progress.

Interestingly, when he was initially, officially, diagnosed, the therapist sympathetically and sincerely hoped we would consider home schooling Max. She thought it would be the most beneficial way to address his needs. We were already immersed in home schooling with both William and Alex. Keeping Max home, teaching him through patient and targeted methods, seemed like the easiest and most prudent solution possible and we were happy to add him to our student body. Max's introduction to school outside of the home came last year and it was highly successful. With some adjustment he found a new and stimulating environment with new friends and interesting topics to explore. This year has not been so easy. He is resisting and unhappy. His frustration lasts well beyond drop-off time and does not abate over the weekend. Other teachers, parents who know him... they all notice his sadness, his withdrawn mood, his lack of interest.

It is confounding and frustrating for us, as his parents, that when he is in a symptomatic-Asperger state, he is extremely difficult to communicate with. He reacts to stress, anxiety and frustration by either shutting us out completely or acting with irrational anger and aggression. Gleaning information, finding clues about his turn around, his waning interest in school and friends has been slow and mostly inconclusive. However, during the break we had some insightful break-throughs and glimpses of our happier, relaxed, confident Max. It seems that time in his home, on familiar ground, with our own rhythms and projects was a benefit to him. We aren't the only ones that noticed the difference in his mood and behavior. It was confirmed that he was a different child by parents from school we met during the break.

Max has a wonderful teacher. Really. I feel so grateful to her, for her concern, for her understanding, for her willingness to approach Max with a tremendous compassion for his way of seeing the world, and she has done a considerable amount of adjusting her program to fit his needs. I could not find a more ideal situation for him, and yet she and I both have been drawing the same conclusion: Max may be better off returning to home school. His teacher thinks he benefitted from what and how he learned at home, and she believes he could continue to benefit from learning at home. Hearing this came as a surprise, and it was a pleasant affirmation. It seems that while he is in a wonderful environment, one that he willingly agrees he wants to return to next year, it is possible that where he is at emotionally, or in his development, requires a different approach.

Knowing that home schooling has been a proven success for Max, I have fewer doubts about bringing him back home. I am less concerned about him missing out on typical grade school experiences, especially when at this time he seems to be regressing and losing academic and social ground, rather than excelling in school. When our children have special needs, we learn so much... so much more about being receptive to finding a different approach, to looking at predicaments with perhaps an unexpected perspective. Whatever concerns or doubts I might have about making a change are negated by the realization that another year of learning at home may preserve his love of learning, his confidence and curiosity, and those are vital and precious to his education. No school or program will be of any use if he continues to doubt his own abilities.

There. I've said it. I am probably leaving out all kinds of details, supporting evidence, anecdotal affirmations etc... but sometimes we just have to see the path and start walking.

While I have been grappling with evidence and options, paths and destinations, and other deep thoughts, I have also been meditating with fabric. Maria's kitchen suffered in our lead paint purge, and I have been meaning to find a fun, creative and acceptable alternative to painted wood food and questionable plastic foods.

Ta-Da! With imagination and fun stitch patterns on interesting fabric, you can have an entire fabric menu! Bacon and eggs, for example. And though I am allergic to soy, you are welcome to imagine those are soy strips! Naturally, the strawberries are organic.

I am looking forward to adding corn, carrots, tortillas, tomatoes and french fries to the line-up. In the meantime, I am happy to report that Maria finds these a happy and very acceptable alternative. Even the "broccoli tree."

One more thought: Thank you. Thank you for sharing your concern, your thoughts and feelings. Feedback and comments are such a wonderful gift, and I really appreciate hearing from you. It helps to face the world with encouragement and other points of view.

What's Happening?

The feedback I've gotten in the last few days has really gone to my head... What I mean is, I am thinking deeply about a lot of things. And thinking deeply, apparently, is so absorbing and consuming that I have not been able to compose words in an intelligble intellagible intellugable smart way.

Clearly, I am not ready to write now either. What I should be doing is rousing drowsy children and getting everyone out the door. We are off to celebrate cousin Nick's 8th birthday! His park party will be moved back to their house since we are enjoying a milder version of the crazy weather that is hammering Northern and Central California

Happy Birthday Ron... all the way in the Great White North of Ontario, Canada. That's where my mom and Ron rang in the New Year.

Still thinking deep thoughts. I should come back later today and sort some of this out.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year

Gee, nothing convinces you it's a new year like the first day back to school. Sigh. I was as ill prepared as Alex and Max. How can our family time, our freedom, our holiday hoopla be over? Wearing their new watches, bathed, and armed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I walked my two boys to their classes. Max is convinced he is not a good student. Alex cannot bear the thought of another *elective* drama class... all of their electives are mandatory. How many days until Summer? The advent of Summer!

Some days in January you might believe it nearly is Summer. The sky is clear, the lawns are green, only a light breeze makes a sweater a comfortable option. We spent the first day of the new year having lunch at a friend's house. Their front yard is a sprawling playground of flower beds and sunny spots that are ideal for chase, coloring, spreading out and reflecting on the ups and downs of life in suburbia. It was a sweet way to spend a lazy, mellow day.

After 3 Kings Day I will put away the very last of our Christmas symbols and memories. I just love seeing the Christmas cards gathered on the living room wall. I will bundle them together with a ribbon and add them to past Christmases. It's supposed to rain tomorrow which is our only indication that it is still winter, otherwise, with decorations packed and the tree turned to mulch, it could be any time of year. Don't you agree we should impose ourselves on someone and show up at their mountain cabin? We need snow! We need a bracing, icy, snowy winter with a sled ride or two, maybe some ski lessons, frosted window panes, ice skating, sleigh bells. Sometimes blogging is merely thinking out loud...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward and Fine Tuning My Game Plan

I am taking notes, getting sparked, finding motivation and feeling ready to clear out the junk that impedes progress, health, creativity and joy. Inspiration is all over, and I am really excited about the new year... whether it began yesterday or starts first thing after midnight tonight. The best part is that I have an internalized drive to shake things-up, re-shape myself, and make things better... not perfect, just better. And hopefully by making these public declarations and really committing out loud to resolutions I will stay committed. I also hope to make the most of the support and encouragement of my friends... so many of us seem to be in similar states of thought and action.

Before I totally discard my former self, I am going to follow Marisa'a lead: She's made a list of ten accomplishments she is glad to have made, and she is inviting others to make their own lists and post them before the new year. I have been thinking about my accomplishments, the things I have done in my lifetime, and one thing I have concluded is that there is no need to completely discard Me... there's some righteous stuff in my composition.
In no particular order... 10 Things I have Done
1. Survived kidney disease.
2. Gave birth to 4 wonderful children.
3. Found, lost, reclaimed the love of my life. It's still a joy.
4. Jumped from The Clam... 3 times!
5. Rapelled in total darkness from Stonewall Peak. In the dark. At night. First time ever. It still freaks me out.
6. Drove an RV from California to Wisconsin, and back! (Ruth and Corm can put this on their list too.)
7. Made quilt(s)... fulfillment of a dream.
8. Brought home chickens... fulfillment of another dream.
9. Every road trip, train trip and our 2000 family cruise
10. Backpacking in the Sierras with family friends when I was 14.

Now, I want to look ahead and think about what else I can accomplish. Kim is making big plans too and I like her thoughts about "habits." Uh-huh. I need to lose some habits and let some good habits take hold of me. And though I squirm and whine at the thought, I know this means introducing myself to Discipline. Hello Discipline. My name is Natalie. I'm flakey, and half-bakey, and I really need you in my life. My new habits will include (again, in public, so I humiliate myself into action:) Exercise, delegating house work, learning new skills, managing my time, spending less, eating less, whining less. That's it, more or less.

Wait! One more thing! I also want to Create in 2008! Tami's Motto for the new year is an awesome one and I totally agree that this year must be dedicated to creativity. And I love how she has incorporated her list of new habits with her creative goals. She has a list of Actions and Benefits, and it's good to see how seemingly unrelated habits, like exercise, actually benefit our creative goals. Very Inspiring! I really want to join her, and I want to make my interests a more respected and intrinsic part of my life... not that Me is the only topic of interest for the new year, but I feel a bit like Jennifer. I want to be a better person in 2008 too. I think it's because I know I am a role model, and if I can make myself better and feel better, then I will have more to offer my children, my husband, my community. The world is looking so hurt and bleak and I can't turn it around by myself, so I will be a teeny-tiny ripple and I hope it can grow and grow, and turn the tide.

This guy is making repairs on a ginormous balloon... it's a ride at The Wild Animal Park. One rope at a time he is ensuring that the balloon is secure and safe. A lot of people are counting on him. His job is probably daunting, a bit unnerving, sometimes tedious, maybe fun? Some people like heights and challenges. I bet it takes a long time to check every segment, to keep track of all those lines. Maybe by the time he is finished, it's really only time to begin again.

Now it's time for me to begin again. I don't know if I will get it right, but I am going to keep trying. Happy New Year! I wish you success. I wish you the will to keep on trying!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

So Far, So Good

I have to thank a lot of people for the birthday love. All of your messages have been bolstering, and they cheer me, and make me laugh... hey, did you all see it's Tracy's birthday too! Go wish her happy birthday before she goes to bed... it's getting late in Norway. So, every comment has been like a birthday gift and I have really enjoyed opening each one, savoring your warm wishes and sharing your kindness. Thank you!

Jennifer, your comment was unbelievable and weird, and totally sweet. I love it when coincidences collide. Serendipity. Magic. Meant to be. Gifts are never late, so let's not be silly and worry about such matters... lol. I read "Superhero Journal's" birthday post and she spoke some good truth. I know I've read her blog before... hmmm, must be getting old... can't remember when or where. Now I have her bookmarked for future insight.

Joan, give your daughter a belated birthday wish from me, and thank you for your thoughtfulness. Anne, I am making the shrimp tonight. Finally. Now you know what's for dinner, and my kids will have to fend for themselves... just kidding. Missy, it is hammer time! I feel like we are training her, so she can help us build our home. Thank you Lesley. Hello Lynne. I am so glad you came by. Thinking about that dog, drinking ice water at 2 a.m. made laugh and shiver! Ahh, Pam, thank you so much for the birthday wish, and send some to your son for me too. I know you do give wonderful gifts... thank you for being so thoughtful. Happy New Year Beverly, and everyone. We did have a wonderful Christmas... it feels like we are still in the midst of it, as the children keep inviting us to play new games and check-out their latest Lego creations. It's so great to make the fun and celebrating last and last. Oiyi, give your sister a "happy birthday" from me, and the quilt WIPs are mine, but the hens are from a larger piece that was hanging in an Oregon quilt shop... shame on me because I cannot find the name of the artist. "Oiyi" is on a very special birth day countdown of her own!

Sister Kim, I got my cake and I am getting treated to love and affection, kindness and clean dishes + I think they will make themselves scarce so I can sew today, which you must admit is an awesome treat!

I am still in my pajamas, and it's... yikes! 1:00 p.m.! Oh well. We ate some of the cake for breakfast, and I opened a few gifts, like the kitchen gadgets my boys chose for me and fabric from my Mommy and my Aloha Mom. I know I have red boots coming too! Hans and Gretchen gave me one of those techie frames that displays digital photographs... aren't they clever, and generous? My sweet Geoff gave me an iPod. It's tiny. Teeny-tiny and it clips to my dress or shirt or tiara and I can groove to my tunes. He knows I love to have a playlist rolling.

This gift from Mom and Corm, may take the prize for Best Fit. I love maps. Love them. I read them like novels. And the only radio station I am even aware of is NPR. Are there other radio stations? So, imagine a gift that can bring together my two passions! It's so cool... That's Californian for: "This gift reflects not only the thoughtfulness of the givers, but also my interests and it brings them together in a creative and very useful manner. Delightful."

And one more thought: What Does Mexíco smell like?

Mexíco smells of market stalls overflowing with fresh cut flowers and the harvests of hundreds of small farms, green onions, cilantro, navel oranges, and mangoes. Mexíco smells of whole cinnamon, chocolate, conchas and empanadas. Mexíco smells of wood burning fires, dust, labor, play, evening walks around the zócalo. Mexíco smells of orchards and plowed fields, river beds, adobe, rebozos, coros in church, riding in the back of a truck, fire crackers. Mexíco smells of fresh cut limes and hot corn tortillas.