Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The music was absolutely wonderful (as long as you don't pay close attention to what they are singing about)! Casting was excellent and all actors played their parts extremely well! There doesn't appear to be anything that Johnny Depp cannot do!
But, back to the short version:
Just don't. Unless you just happen to love movies with entirely too much blood and gore.
Trust me. Get the soundtrack instead, just remember not to listen to the lyrics too closely!
P.S. I knew the premise of the story going into it. I just didn't realize they planned to show it all so clearly. Yuck.
Friday, December 28, 2007
"Mommy, will you please pause your book?"
I laughed a bit, 'paused my book', and helped her with what she was needing! :)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Here they are in front of the fire on Christmas Eve:
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Welcome to Our World
by Chris Rice
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child
Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home
Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world
Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born
So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Dear Family and Friends:
I understand that we will be visiting each other for the holidays this year!
Sometimes these visits can be very hard for me, but here is some information
that might help our visit to be more successful. As you probably know, I am
challenged by a hidden disability called Autism, or what some people refer to as
a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Autism/PDD is a neurodevelopmental
disorder which makes it hard for me to understand the environment around me. I
have barriers in my brain that you can't see, but which make it difficult for me
to adapt to my surroundings.
Sometimes I may seem rude and abrupt, but it is only because I have to try so
hard to understand people and at the same time, make myself understood. People
with autism have different abilities: Some may not speak, some write beautiful
poetry. Others are whizzes in math (Albert Einstein was thought to be autistic),
or may have difficulty making friends. We are all different and need various
degrees of support.
Sometimes when I am touched unexpectedly, it might feel painful and make me want
to run away. I get easily frustrated, too. Being with lots of other people is
like standing next to a moving freight train and trying to decide how and when
to jump aboard. I feel frightened and confused a lot of the time. This is why I
need to have things the same as much as possible. Once I learn how things
happen, I can get by OK. But if something, anything, changes, then I have to
relearn the situation all over again! It is very hard.
When you try to talk to me, I often can't understand what you say because there
is a lot of distraction around. I have to concentrate very hard to hear and
understand one thing at a time. You might think I am ignoring you--I am not.
Rather, I am hearing everything and not knowing what is most important to
Holidays are exceptionally hard because there are so many different people,
places, and things going on that are out of my ordinary realm. This may be fun
and adventurous for most people, but for me, it's very hard work and can be
extremely stressful. I often have to get away from all the commotion to calm
down. It would be great if you had a private place set up to where I could
If I can not sit at the meal table, do not think I am misbehaved or that my
parents have no control over me. Sitting in one place for even five minutes is
often impossible for me. I feel so antsy and overwhelmed by all the smells,
sounds, and people--I just have to get up and move about. Please don't hold up
your meal for me--go on without me, and my parents will handle the situation the
best way they know how.
Eating in general is hard for me. If you understand that autism is a sensory
processing disorder, it's no wonder eating is a problem! Think of all the senses
involved with eating. Sight, smell, taste, touch, AND all the complicated
mechanics that are involved. Chewing and swallowing is something that a lot of
people with autism have trouble with. I am not being picky--I literally cannot
eat certain foods as my sensory system and/or oral motor coordination are
Don't be disappointed If Mom hasn't dressed me in starch and bows. It's because
she knows how much stiff and frilly clothes can drive me buggy! I have to feel
comfortable in my clothes or I will just be miserable. When I go to someone
else's house, I may appear bossy and controlling. In a sense, I am being
controlling, because that is how I try to fit into the world around me (which is
so hard to figure out!) Things have to be done in a way I am familiar with or
else I might get confused and frustrated. It doesn't mean you have to change the
way you are doing things--just please be patient with me, and understanding of
how I have to cope. Mom and Dad have no control over how my autism makes me feel
inside. People with autism often have little things that they do to help
themselves feel more comfortable. The grown ups call it "self regulation," or
"stimming'. I might rock, hum, flick my fingers, or any number of different
things. I am not trying to be disruptive or weird.
Again, I am doing what I have to do for my brain to adapt to your world.
Sometimes I cannot stop myself from talking, singing, or doing an activity I
enjoy. The grown-ups call this "perseverating" which is kinda like self
regulation or stimming. I do this only because I have found something to occupy
myself that makes me feel comfortable. Perseverative behaviors are good to a
certain degree because they help me calm down.
Please be respectful to my Mom and Dad if they let me "stim" for awhile as they
know me best and what helps to calm me. Remember that my Mom and Dad have to
watch me much more closely than the average child. This is for my own safety,
and preservation of your possessions. It hurts my parents' feelings to be
criticized for being over protective, or condemned for not watching me close
enough. They are human and have been given an assignment intended for saints. My
parents are good people and need your support.
Holidays are filled with sights, sounds, and smells. The average household is
turned into a busy, frantic, festive place. Remember that this may be fun for
you, but it's very hard work for me to conform. If I fall apart or act out in a
way that you consider socially inappropriate, please remember that I don't
possess the neurological system that is required to follow some social rules. I
am a unique person--an interesting person. I will find my place at this
Celebration that is comfortable for us all, as long as you'll try to view the
world through my eyes!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Today was our last day of school until January 7th! Yes, that is cheering YOU hear! I am ready for a long break!
Some notable happenings in the late fall at the Black Pearl Academy:
1. Austin has pretty much tackled long division by a single divisor. Sometimes he wakes up forgetting how to do it, but a quick review gets him back on track. He is struggling with grammar still. Since Riley is getting grammar so easily, I'm going to chalk this up to being an autism thing. With middle school looming a few months away, I won't deny being concerned about his progress. If I've learned nothing else, though, it's that I can't rush him. We just keep plugging along, and it will click for him at some point!
2. Riley has been flying through her lessons, and she's doing excellently. She has tackled long division, and though she thinks it's "hard" she has no trouble with it at all! She's also doing excellently with grammar. She's diagramming adjectives and adverbs with ease, and seems to enjoy it! She's an easy child to teach... my struggle with her is that I get aggravated that she takes so long to do things that are so easy for her. And I know it bothers me more because things are so hard for Austin.
3. Reece has really made some great strides in her reading. She no longer sounds out most words by individual letter out loud... she will sound it out silently and then say it out loud. And there are many 3 letter words she knows by sight now. The simple text with pictures allows us alot of opportunity for experience sharing! She still is crazy about math, which cracks me up! I need to work more on her handwriting, though, because she loves to write, and in lieu of me working with her, she's making it up and developing some bad habits! I think it's safe to say that she's ready for Kindergarten now! LOL
I intend to spend the week after New Years making my plans for the remainder of the school year. We have a very busy end-of-winter/early spring coming up, and the more I can get planned now during the break, the less stress it will mean for me later. Here are a few of the areas I know that I need to tackle:
1. I know that I want to add more writing for both Austin and Riley, but I haven't decided exactly how that will look.
2. I need to plan out science... I had purchased books for a human body study before we jumped into CM, and I'm going to go ahead and use those before I purchase anything else. I will probably purchase the Apologia elementary Astronomy book to use during the late spring/summer.
3. I need to plan out some read-alouds for Reece. She did much better with the structure I implemented for her in late November, so I want to keep that structure in place. Her reading is also coming along nicely, so I want to figure out what to have her read once she is finished with the phonics readers she is using now.
4. Both Austin and Riley have asked to resume spelling lessons. Yeah, strange children, I know! We'll pick that up in January.
Assuming those 4 things don't take all week, I would like to outline my plans for next year. I won't be going to the GHEA convention in May like I usually do, so I'll be having to order everything online. I would like to get everything here by the end of June so I can plan it all out in July. It wouldn't be so much of an issue if we didn't have this extremely busy spring coming up! It will start the first of March and not let up until June. :)
But for now, I'm putting all school-related things out of my mind until after the new year! I intend to enjoy the craziness of Christmas, and my family! :)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Here are some videos from Reece's dance parent watch days. There will be 3 video total, once I get them all uploaded!
The first two are from tap class, and I have to say that the more I watch these the more impressed I am with her. This is a child who is extremely sensitive to noises, and she not only goes into this class with 9 other girls, who all have taps on their shoes. She also handles the loud music and the verbal instructions coming from everywhere! (I will say that they added an additional teenage 'teacher' to help out in the class... at no cost to me!) The fact that she can handle all of that is amazing enough! That she hangs in there with the class and holds her own?? That's icing on the cake!
Reece is on the very end... the 2 girls to her right are her 'best friends' in this class, and are both very delightful little girls who tend to mother Reece! :)
This next video is from ballet class. She may appear to you to be a little less 'on' during this video and she is, for good reason. This was the last dance they did in ballet, which was 90 minutes from the beginning of her tap class. They have 30 minutes of ballet, followed by an hour of tap. That's alot for any 5 year old, let alone one with Reece's special needs. But she still does a really good job!
Reece made a really cool creation out of her Lego/Duplo blocks. It took me awhile to figure out what it was, and she had to help me. It is Ariel, the Little Mermaid. If you can get the picture bigger, and look over to the left of Reece, you will see her Little Mermaid ornament that she based it on! Cool, huh? She has been given the 'all clear' on her ears, and she can bathe/shower/swim without ear plugs!
This is a picture from the dress rehearsal for the Christmas singing last Sunday. It was the Adult choir, part of the children's choir, the middle school and high school choirs. It's probably more people than are in some of your churches at all! It was lovely music, despite the fact that Riley and the other sugar plum fairies were hiding during the entire thing. GRRR
Last week, my friend Jan and I went to the Atlanta History Center to see the Festival of Trees with our kids. There were a few nice trees around, but we were surprised to find out that most of the trees had been auctioned off and taken home! LOL Note to self: go to the festival of trees before the 14th of December.
Below is a picture of the kids from Special Time with Santa, sponsored by the Autism Society of GA. It was $20 per family, and you had an appointment and Santa all to yourselves in a classroom. For an additional $5 they took some pictures, which we are supposed to be getting on CD in the mail. There were crafts, snacks, a sensory playroom, and music therapy. Reece absolutely loved the music therapy, and if they were any closer to our home we would definitely try to get her enrolled in a class!
Of course, we had to snap a few pictures! Here I am with Jamberry! :)
Here is Jamberry, with her son Sly, me and the assorted Cooper kids, and in the background you can see her son J-man, who was done with picture taking! :)
My girls and J-man watch a DVD! J-man and Reece also played with the wooden trains! :)
Austin and Sly hit it off very well, and did all manner of 'guy things' like playing tag, wrestling, shooting with the pretend guns, having swordfights with the pretend swords, and other things I'm forgetting!
Here are the two buddies! I couldn't believe how well Austin played with Sly... there were only a few minor struggles during the 6-7 hours they played together! It was very cool!
Jamberry is such a wonderful person, and I felt so comfortable having her over (I am not much for inviting people to the house... hard to explain, but my IRL friends know that I'm such a wimp about having people over LOL)! It's hard to explain to folks sometimes how cyber-friendships can form and be as strong as IRL friendships. And when you share something like autism in common, it is even more pronounced!
I'm so glad they came to visit, and I hope we can meet up with them again very soon! :)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
It is very long, tedious work... something which Riley is not known for. But she finally finished it today! It looks beautiful and I know her teacher will love it!
Here is a closer picture. The ball form is styrofoam, and you put either 3 seed beads or one long bead on a straight pin, followed by a sequin. You use a tassel to make the hanger. Like I said, it's a long process, but it makes for a beautiful ornament!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Robert Pattinson. I looked at the picture on Stephenie Meyer's website and thought 2 things:
1. Hmmm, not who I pictured in my head, but not bad! I think he can pull it off!
2. Why does he look so familiar to me?
I read further on in the announcement and realized why he looks so familiar: he played Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter films! Cool!
All in all, I think he's going to make an excellent Edward! Edward has got to be one of the most demanding roles as far as fan expectation. I might even go so far as to say there has not been a harder role to cast since Frodo or Mr. Darcy! ;) Bella is, of course, a very important role in the books. But Edward has to BE beautiful, perfect even. AND he has to have an air of danger about him as well. AND the actor has to be able to live up to all of the dreams of the fans of the books who read them and immediately fall in love with Edward! :)
So I wish Robert the best of luck in this endeavor... can't wait to see Edward at the movies!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sorry about the colors being all messed up! For some reason, it won't let me change the colors or bolding or underlining from when I copied and pasted it! And I can't get the underlining off of here! LOL
A CHRISTMAS MEME
WRAPPING PAPER OR GIFT BAGS?
Gift bags, for sure. I don't like wrapping presents, because I'm terrible at it.
REAL TREE OR ARTIFICIAL?
This year's tree is artificial, because of the drought. Usually we get a real tree.
WHEN DO YOU PUT UP THE TREE?
With the real tree, we didn't put it up until the middle of December. But with a fake tree, we can have it up longer! We put it up on November 30th, which is the earliest I've ever had a tree up!
WHEN DO YOU TAKE IT DOWN?
We usually take the tree down on New Year's Day, and I think we'll do that again this year.
FAVORITE HOLIDAY THEME?
I don't know what this means! Sorry!
FAVORITE GIFT RECEIVED AS A CHILD?
I can't really think of one particular gift. All of my Christmases were special, and I can't remember ever asking for anything that I didn't get.
DO YOU HAVE A NATIVITY SCENE?
Yep, but I haven't put it up since Reece was a baby! This year I purchased the playmobil nativity set and we have it under the tree.
HARDEST PERSON TO BUY FOR?
My mother. Anything she wants, she can already buy herself!
WHAT IS THE WORST CHRISTMAS GIFT YOU RECEIVED?
A 'pet turd'. I was a little girl and I can't remember who gave it to me, but I remember the feeling of opening the box and seeing a statue shaped as a pile of poo. I cried.
CHRISTMAS CARDS OR EMAIL CARDS?
FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIE?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Diva's Christmas Carol. I also love It's a Wonderful Life, and the original Miracle on 34th Street.
WHEN DO YOU START SHOPPING FOR CHRISTMAS?
Usually the day after Thanksgiving!
HAVE YOU EVER RECYCLED A CHRISTMAS GIFT? .
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO EAT ON CHRISTMAS?
White Madness, a candy I learned to make a couple of years ago.
WHITE LIGHTS OR COLORED LIGHTS ON YOUR TREE? .
Colored lights, but this fake tree came 'pre-lit' with white lights and they aren't too bad. .
FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONGS?
Grown-Up Christmas List
O Holy Night
Christmas Eve by Trans Siberian Orchestra
DO YOU TRAVEL FOR CHRISTMAS OR STAY HOME?
We stay home on Christmas Day, and my parents come here. I never had a Christmas at home growing up, because we always traveled, and I didn't want that for my children. My parents come to us, and we go see dh's mom the Saturday before Christmas.
CAN YOU NAME ALL OF SANTA'S REINDEER?
Yep, I can! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen. And, of course, Rudolph!
ANGEL ON THE TREETOP OR STAR?
We have a star now, but I had an angel on my tree when I was a girl, I still have that angel and it was on our tree for a number of years. She had been chewed up by a family dog when I was little, so she's very beat up, but I love her and I will never get rid of her.
DO YOU OPEN YOUR GIFTS ON CHRISTMAS EVE OR CHRISTMAS DAY?
Christmas Day! The kids usually open one present of their choosing on Christmas Eve.
MOST ANNOYING THING ABOUT THIS TIME OF YEAR?
Too much to do, and I get overwhelmed. The kids also get overwhelmed which makes Christmas hard on all of us.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS TIME OF YEAR....
My kids' faces on Christmas morning. Despite being completely spoiled on Christmas, and through the year really, the first thing they always do is have me open MY present! And that's not because daddy is making them do it, but because they are excited and want to see my face. Last year, they gave me a Captain Jack Sparrow necklace and they were so excited!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Pros: Amazing music, fine acting, Freddie Highmore is amazing in this film!
Cons: The story is emotionally draining so you need lots of tissue, and don't go when you have PMS. People who've given a child up for adoption might have some triggers.
I haven't seen much out there about this movie, so I hope to get the word out! August Rush is an amazing film! I hope to see it again, soon! :)
But our consultant today really spotlighted what some of this new behavior might be telling us: that Reece has a new sense of awareness that she was lacking before. So now, instead of just doing her own thing, being in "Reece World" as we usually call it, she is now more aware of other people, of herself, of things happening around her. Our CIT (consultant-in-training) likened it to a blind person suddenly being able to see - it's wonderful, and totally overwhelming at the same time. Also, Reece has a tendency towards OCD and anxiety, so we're going to probably see these things flare up during the times when she is more vulnerable. Like when we are entering a new stage like this one.
Two things we specifically talked about was Reece's reactions to people leaving her. She is incredibly anxious about people leaving, especially daddy. If she hears our front door open, she runs for it, sobbing, begging for a kiss and a hug and "When will you be home?" She does this even if you prepare her for your leaving. She also wakes up in the middle of the night and comes to our room to see if daddy has left for work yet. She wants to remind him to kiss her goodbye in the morning, which she then never remembers because she was sleeping, so then she gets up shortly after he leaves, crying because she can't remember him kissing her goodbye. It's frustrating for all of us! But this is a new awareness of people's existence, that they go away, they come back most of the time, but sometimes it's longer than other times. And for daddy, he now exists at all! She has never been one to give him much attention, and that is no longer the case! Bottom line: we have separation anxiety in an almost 6 year old! :)
Another thing we talked about was Reece's awareness of danger. She has never had one. I remember walking around the playground when Austin took tennis lessons at a park, and Reece would climb up on the play structure and just walk off the edges of it, despite them being 6-7 feet off the ground. I'd walk around trying to keep up with her to make sure she didn't fall. It was terrible! She would also constantly walk into the street in front of our house, without regard to the fact that I'd take her inside immediately, or that she could get hit by a car. Today we were trying to decide whether or not we could master Reece on this stage 1 objective. I said I was unsure. In some ways, she is showing a good awareness of danger. She doesn't run off like she used to. We can be out in the front yard, something we never could do before because she would run into the street, or into the neighbor's yards. Lately, when we're in stores she wants to walk with us and she will make comments like, "I'm staying with you. When you go, I go. And when you stop, I stop!" I even tested her on this yesterday by stopping without a word, and she immediately stopped and looked back at me and grinned.
One particular episode, though, had me wondering if she has truly mastered this objective. We had been outside playing, and Riley went to see if her friend from across the street could play. I rain inside for a moment to get Reece's sidewalk chalk, and when I came back outside, Reece was across the street going to meet up with Riley to see if the friend could play. I was greatly upset, and I took Reece inside and made her sit on her bed. She kept crying, "But mommy! I looked both ways before I crossed the street!" So I wasn't sure if this episode indicates that she doesn't have a sense of danger since she didn't stay in our yard. Our CIT helped us look up these objectives, and we found a stage 3 objective that connects behavior and awareness of danger with an understanding of negative consequences. Our CIT said that the episode I mentioned indicates mastery of the stage 1 objective but not its stage 3 counterpart.
Then our CIT said something to spotlight the reality of something we never really realized had happened: we don't worry much anymore about Reece's sense of danger. Our CIT said, "When I met you and Reece, you never would have gone inside for a moment without her." That is SO true. Rarely we even went in the front yard because it was so exhausting to try to chase her back into our yard. Now we're out in the front just about every day. Just the other day I was outside working with the leaf blower, all noisy and just taking for granted that Reece would stay in our yard and play. And she did! I can't believe such a big thing has occurred, and I didn't realize it's significance!
After the spotlighting, I was able to really consider everything, and realize there are other instances that demonstrate this has been going on for around 2 months. The last several baseball games, I was paying Riley $3 to babysit Reece so I could watch the game. Before, I followed Reece around to make sure she didn't go into the road, or to another ball field, or to the parking lot. Somehow she has learned to stay near the fields, and I've become comfortable enough to allow Riley the chance to be in charge of her because I have reason to believe she'll stay.
Now, I haven't totally lost my concern over her potentially wandering away, but I am now much more aware of the progress she has made. And if all of this new 'stuff' comes along with the progress, then it makes it much easier to bear. My mom is worried because she feels Reece doesn't seem as happy as she used to seem. And it's true that Reece cries and worries alot more that she used to. But it was because she was in her own world, and while she was happy there, that's not where we want her to stay. She seems to be learning slowly that this world and the people in it have much to offer. But it is overwhelming and scary to her, and she doesn't have the competence and resilience to manage it easily. So we will be able to support her more as she spends more time in the world with us. She does still go into her own world, especially when what is going on in the world is too much for her (like at Riley's musical the other night). She is also old enough that she can shut us all out quite effectively, to protect herself. But as she develops more competence, I think she will want to interact with all of us more and more.
One of the things that is so hard for me is the feeling that I should be pushing her into more independence as she is fast approaching 6 years old. I think that is where the principles of Guided Participation and the Zone of Proximal Development are going to help me most. Because the Zone is where real learning takes place, with the use of Guided Demonstration/Participation ... and not when she is able to do things independently. So I can think less of trying to press her towards independence, and more towards using Guided Participation to draw her in and work on real cognitive and social development.
Well, if I keep typing my fingers are going to fall off. I really mainly wanted to get all this down to help me remember it. It's good encouragement when times are frustrating. It's also good to remember that sometimes, many times, these periods of dysregulation occur because there is underlying progress/development going on. I've been so frustrated with RDI recently because I've felt like we've been making no progress, or worse even, losing ground in her development. This gives me at least enough encouragement and hope to keep plugging away!!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
The fairies passed out programs to the people coming to see the show!