Saturday, November 28, 2009

the thrill of victory!

(photo by Caroline & Doug Prinsen)


This afternoon the Queen's University football team, the Golden Gaels, won the Vanier Cup -- the university football championship for all of Canada.


We're especially proud because our nephew Josh, who is in his first year at Queen's, is a member of the team. Congratulations Josh -- yay, Gaels !!!




Thursday, November 26, 2009

November roses


When we moved into this house in 2000, Audrey planted a rose bush for us in the back yard. The bush needed its regular cutting-back, and I finally got around to doing it earlier this month. There were all these beautiful fresh blossoms at the ends that weren't being enjoyed, since we're no longer out in the back yard; so I made this bouquet from them. Somehow they seem even more beautiful because they bloomed in a month that is usually so dreary.

Help! My computer is haunted!

... or at least that's part of my excuse for not posting in so long. Computers are kind of like cars, as far as I'm concerned: you go happily along, using them on a daily basis, not giving much thought to what goes on inside them or how they work, and then suddenly they don't work and you're completely befuddled. I've taken our computer in to a repair shop three times in the last week and a half. First there was a problem with the power supply: the computer would start up and then immediately shut down. It took several days to locate a replacement part, but they got it working. However, when I took it home, it worked fine except that as soon as it was shut off it would start up again (kind of the opposite of the original problem). I took it back, and they solved that problem -- but then when I got it home again, it started turning on whenever the phone rang, which was completely bizarre. I called the technician and he said he had never heard of that before. I took it back in and he commented that perhaps the computer was possessed. (I suggested we call an exorcist.) Anyway, they were able to locate the glitch and now it is working fine. I have the exorcist on speed-dial just in case, though...

The second-last time I posted, the kids were sick and the school rife with illness. I had a bad cold which lingered a few weeks and plugged my ears and sinuses. But Rich got the worst of it: on Nov. 1 he woke up with the flu and was flat-out for a week, with headaches, fever, and weakness. He started to feel better after about 5 days but then his fever spiked again, so he went to a clinic a couple of days later and was put on antibiotics for pneumonia (he's had that before, but fortunately this time he got the meds early and didn't wait for it to become very severe). After 2 weeks he was back to his normal self and is feeling great, thankfully. Jonathan got so used to Rich being sick that even after he was better Jonathan would say "Daddy nap? Daddy blankets?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

milestone

We had a party to celebrate Mom & Dad's anniversary back in August when we were all in PEI, but today is THE official day. Here is a picture of them on October 28, 1959, at their wedding at Long Creek Baptist Church. Congratulations, Mom & Dad, on this special day. We love you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

say it isn't swine!

The flu season has come early to Kingston. There are so many people sick -- many classes in the kids' school are down to half attendance. H1N1 is widespread in the city right now and I'm just hoping this isn't what the kids have. I don't think it is, I think it's just a bad cold or regular flu. Not fun, though!

Last week Allison missed Monday and Thursday with a stomach bug -- no vomiting, but she was running to the bathroom constantly. In fact they both missed school Thursday because Jonathan came down with an awful cold and cough. Friday was a PA day so they were both home. Allison was better Saturday, but Jonathan was worse and couldn't go to his Extend-a-Family Saturday program. On Sunday Allison had come down with fever and a cough, so neither of them went to church; Rich went alone to the 9am service and then I went to the 11am. Yesterday Allison couldn't go to school (she slept all day for the 2nd day in a row), but Jonathan seemed a bit better so he went. But he had to come home in the afternoon only a half-hour after I'd taken him back to school after lunch. So they are both home again today -- better, but not 100%. The school does not want them back till they've been better for 24 hours. Allison is missing photo day today; fortunately Jonathan got his taken yesterday.

So needless to say it's been a long week. Allison is never any trouble, but when Jonathan is in that almost-better stage he is, by turns, really mischievous (trying to climb on top of Allison while she is lying on the couch) and really whiny (wanting to go out and do all the things he'd do when he's well). Hopefully tomorrow everyone will be feeling better and back to normal; everyone's happier when they're in their regular routine.

Friday, October 02, 2009

postscript

Here's a little p.s. to the post I published a couple of days ago.

Allison's teacher has told us that Allison has been so much happier and more involved in the last couple of days, since my presentation to her class. Group work is going better; other students are talking to her more and showing more interest in her; and she is smiling and laughing more than ever before. Today Jonathan had a morning field trip, so after school I asked Allison what she did instead of playing with him and she said, "Oh, I just played with a couple of girls from my class." In most cases those would be ho-hum, same-old-same-old words; but for Allison this simple thing--playing with girls from her class--is a major step.

Her teacher also told me that she has arranged for a student from the Autism Program at St. Lawrence College to do a placement in their class for a few weeks in the fall and in the spring. This student can not only assist Allison, but provide resources for the teacher and the rest of the school as well.

Good news!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a visit to Grade 6-E

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving a little talk to Allison's class about Asperger Syndrome. Although Allison seems very happy at her new school for the most part, there have been some incidents of her getting very upset over some sort of misunderstanding or unexpected situation. Her teacher has been very helpful and communicative, but I was feeling concerned that these episodes might cause Allison's classmates to distance themselves from her.

As it happened, yesterday Allison had a dentist appointment that would require her to leave school 1/2 an hour early, so Rich went with her to the appointment and I took the opportunity to visit her class (having cleared it with the teacher, of course). I explained a little about Asperger's being in the autism "family" and about some of the strengths people with Asperger's often display; and then I talked about challenges like friendship skills, handling emotions, and difficulty with social rules. Although there were a few kids who seemed less interested, most listened intently and offered good comments and questions. One girl commented on how good Allison is in math. Another said that she had asked Allison what she was reading and Allison said, "You don't need to know"; so we talked about how that might have made the other girl feel bad, and what she might have said in response. Then another girl said, "I actually heard that happen so I told Allison that I'd read that book too and it was funny, and she smiled."

I also asked them how they could be good classmates or friends, and they had many good ideas like "ask her to play" or "ask how her day was" or "put yourself in Allison's shoes." I also mentioned that Allison likes to find her brother at recess and play basketball with him and his EA, "Mr. O", and I suggested that a classmate might want to join her sometimes. And in fact, Mr. O told me today that at morning recess a couple of Allison's classmates did join her for basketball, and they all played together.

Allison's teacher also got quite involved in the classroom discussion, reading some sections from a book on Asperger Syndrome, commending the class on times that they had supported Allison in the classroom, and urging them not to bombard her with attention in a phony way but just to do what came naturally to them. So it was a great half hour of sharing and raising awareness. I enjoyed looking out at all these earnest little faces and seeing how different and interesting all of the kids are.

I realize that there is probably something of an ethical dilemma involved in talking to the class about this without Allison's knowledge; in fact, one of her classmates asked if Allison knew I was coming in to talk to them. But we really felt that doing it without her knowledge was better than not doing it at all, and I knew that she would probably become upset at the suggestion. Judging from the reaction, it seems to have been the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

settling in

The kids now have 3 weeks of school under their belts, so it's safe to say we're getting settled into a routine. Jonathan is very happy in Ms. Mardicis' class, and his EA, Joe ("Mr. O"), is doing great work with him. It is nice to have the same person working with him all day, to keep things consistent and clear. Besides basic "academic" skills like math (sorting, number identification, counting) and language (letter recognition, matching letters), they work on physical, self-help, and social skills. Right now Mr. O is encouraging Jonathan to greet people with "Hi" and their name, rather than identifying them first by a colour or object (Jonathan tends to go up to teachers and say "skirt" or "blue"). One challenge is to channel Jonathan's interests/obsessions into teaching tools: for example, right now he's really into jigsaw puzzles, so Mr. O tries to find puzzles that relate to what the class is doing. Jonathan's also obsessed with shooting baskets, particularly throwing his ball into this thing on the playground that has red, blue, and yellow openings where the ball can fall out. He spends all of his recesses, some time after school, and an hour or so on most weekend days, doing this activity. I'm not sure how this can be translated into an academic activity (!) -- but the physiotherapist did suggest using heavier balls to increase Jonathan's upper body strength. It's neat to see the EA and other team members working together to improve his various skills.

Allison also seems happy in her grade six class. Her teacher, Mrs. Bush, runs a structured, teacher-directed class, and that structure seems to suit Allison. Mrs. Bush says that Allison works hard and participates enthusiastically, but social situations and accepting criticism and direction are still problem areas. However, she really enjoys connecting with Jonathan at recess time, and also comes home for lunch with Jonathan, which is a nice break in her day.

So far things seem to be going well in the world of school.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

super seven


Jonathan turned seven years old today. Here he is sharing a laugh with Grandma (top) and yelling "Cheese!" Happy Birthday Jonathan!!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

off and running

Yesterday was the first day of school; here are Jonathan and Allison all ready to go. For the first time, they are attending the same school, which is really exciting.

Up until a few days ago we assumed Jonathan would go into Grade Two with a new teacher and probably a new EA -- but one thing you learn about the primary grades is that nothing is ever really set in stone. Last week Jonathan and I were at the Rideau playground where he loves to play, and the principal came out to talk to us. She said she would try to let us know in advance who Jonathan's EA would be. On Friday night at 6:30 she phoned us with the good news that not only would Jonathan have "Mr. O" as his EA (Mr. O'Connor worked with him for about 1/4 of the day last year), but they were also going to be forming a grade One-Two class to be taught by his former teacher, Ms. Mardicis -- and Jonathan would be assigned to that class. So yesterday, instead of getting used to a new entrance, new room, and new teacher, he went in the same door to the same room with the same teacher as last year. For some kids, having the same teacher 3 years in a row wouldn't be desirable, but for Jonathan this consistency is great. Ms. M. said that he came right in and sat on the carpet and knew exactly what to do. He is a bit perturbed that his special friend Ms. Beals, who was his EA for the first 3/4 of the day last year, is not with him any more; he sees her on the schoolyard and watches her lovingly, wondering why she isn't coming to take him to class. But he likes Mr. O and I think they're going to have a great time together.

Allison is entering Grade Six and for her, everything is new. She is going from a school of 65 kids to one of 400+, so it's a huge change. But we got a chance to meet her teacher, Mrs. Bush, last week, and she seems very friendly, caring, and enthusiastic. Although it's only been a couple of days, so far Allison seems to be enjoying the experience and seems quite unfazed. So we're really looking forward to a good year at Rideau Public School!



Saturday, August 29, 2009

fantastic fifty

One of the highlights of our recent trip to PEI was celebrating Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary. The actual date isn't until October, but since all of us five kids were home in August we held a party for them last Sunday afternoon, with about 60 family members and friends present.

Above are Mom and Dad with their four grandchildren: Meredith (16), Allison (11), Jonathan (6), and Sadie (4).


... and with the five of us, Lincoln, Errol, Scott, Jeannie, and Alan.

Besides all the above-named, this photo includes daughters-in-law Alycia (back row, 2nd from left), Genny (middle row, left), and Genevieve (middle row, centre); and son-in-law Richard (far right).


Congratulations Mom and Dad!






Thursday, August 06, 2009

summer friends

Today was Jonathan's last day at Extend-a-Family day camp. He attended for 22 days this summer and loved it. Here he is with counsellors Emily and Dana ...

... with leader Matt ...


... and with one of his favourite counsellors, Sam. Sam was quite taken with Jonathan and loved playing basketball with him. Today when I came to pick Jonathan up, Sam said to me, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I wish you weren't here right now!" Jonathan also got along great with another counsellor, Eric, who is away this week so couldn't be photographed. However, one of the leaders told me that Eric had texted her this week to ask how Jonathan was doing, and to say that if we ever need him for child care over the next year he would love to look after Jonathan.
Jonathan truly has a special gift. As his parents we see all sides of him and sometimes his behaviour can be very challenging -- but when he is at a program like this he is always a source of joy for everyone there. Not everyone can say that they have the gift of making people happy, but Jonathan does.



party time!


Last night Allison had a birthday party with six of her friends. They enjoyed 2-and-a-half hours of giggling, squealing, trampoline bouncing, scavenger hunting, mad-libbing, and of course eating! Here they are enjoying some pizza. From left to right are Allison, Anneli, Monica, Hannah, Madison, Maia, and Athena.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

excellent, elegant eleven

Yesterday, August 4, Allison celebrated her eleventh birthday. She is getting to be so grown-up! Happy Birthday to a beautiful, sweet girl.

wonderful weekend

On Aug. 1-2 Rich and I had a wonderful whirlwind weekend away. This is the first time we were ever away overnight from Jonathan (and he's almost 7), so it was very special. Doug and Caroline offered to take the kids overnight, and we went to Toronto with our friends Lori and Ray to enjoy a dinner/theatre/hotel package.

On Saturday afternoon before going to our hotel, we went to the Royal Ontario Museum to see an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was a very interesting display. Besides presenting an overwhelming amount of information about the discovery of the scrolls, the historical context, and the religious significance, there were also many very interesting artifacts such as coins, jars, ossuaries, jewelry, shoe fragments, etc. The exhibit wound around through several rooms, coming closer and closer to the dark, cool, cavelike room where the scroll fragments themselves were displayed. It was quite amazing to look at these little scraps of parchment and realize how earth-shattering and, well, flukey their discovery was. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them so I'm very glad we went.

After viewing that exhibit we drove down to Harbourfront to our hotel, the Westin Harbour Castle. We were booked on floor 17 of a 33-floor hotel tower, and it was definitely the biggest, busiest, and fanciest hotel I've ever been in. We had dinner reservations in the hotel restaurant for 5:30; there was a pre-theatre bill of fare menu to choose from, and the food was delicious. Then at 7:00 we went outside and climbed on a shuttle to take us to the Princess of Wales Theatre to see The Sound of Music. This was the show for which the main role of Maria was selected on that TV reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? It was a wonderful performance: the music was fantastic, and the set design had some amazing elements (if you're planning to see this show and want to be surprised don't read this next bit). After the opening songs by the nuns, the curtains opened and there was a grassy hill with Maria lying on it in the distance, singing The Sound of Music. It almost looked like her image was being projected onto a screen. But as you watched, the background started to move, and what looked like a hill began to flatten and rest on the stage until it was like the top of a mountain, with other peaks in the background, and Maria jumped up and started running over the rocks. I realize I haven't done it justice in my description, but it was fascinating. Then, at the end, when the family decides to head over the mountains, this flat piece of ground rises from the stage at an angle so that as they climb they appear to actually be walking up hills -- and at the very end they appear at the top as if looking over a cliff. It was spectacular!

After the show we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed the sights and sounds of late-night downtown Toronto. The next morning we had a delicious breakfast buffet in the hotel, then went out for a walk down by the water, and then headed back home, arriving in Napanee around 1:30. The kids had had a great time with their aunt and uncle and cousins, and we had had a great, unforgettable getaway!

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Good fences make good neighbours" ...



... or so said Robert Frost. But sometimes good neighbours are just great people, fences or not. That's the case with our dear friends Jonathan and Heather, who have lived in the house behind ours for the past five years and have been a very special part of our family's life. This morning they headed out in their moving truck to Guelph to begin the next stage in their lives. We will miss them!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

author reading (la-di-da)

Yesterday I performed my first-ever "author reading". As I've said on this blog before, I'm in a writers' group (5 women) that has been meeting since May 08. Recently a group member commented that it would be nice to hear each other's completed pieces because each week we just read 3-4 page excerpts. So we decided that every couple of months we would devote a meeting to one of our members reading her work. Yesterday we had our first of those special meetings, and I was the featured writer. We invited a couple of other writer friends to join us, and seven women met on the deck at my house for wine and cheese and stories. I read 4 stories that I have written. What is really most amazing to me is that since May 08 I have actually written 4 stories! (In fact there are 2 I didn't read as well.) It was a great afternoon and I look forward to next time, when I can just sit back and be a listener.

Incidentally, Allison and I are reading the same book series this summer: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Allison has finished book 10 of the 13, and I've finished book 9. I am loving these books! Even though they are about 3 children who have lost their parents in a terrible fire (the first of many "unfortunate events") they're laugh-out-loud funny, page-turningly suspenseful, and totally original. Check them out!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July marches on

Today I'm enjoying another quiet day in which I have not had a conversation with another person except a cashier. I love it!

This morning I dropped Allison off at her day camp and then Jonathan at his. Then I went to Value Village (second trip in a week -- when do you call something an addiction?) and picked up some T-shirts for Allison. (She is growing like crazy this summer. Everything is getting too short for her, especially shirts!) Then I bought gas and groceries. I came home, put away the groceries, threw in a load of laundry (despite the ominous gray sky), and made myself some coffee. Then I checked email and finished marking the assignments on my desk. I love days like this! With both kids' camps running from 9am-4pm, I have more time even than I did when school was in, since Jonathan came home for lunch every day.

The camps are going great for the kids. Allison is attending Quintilian Camp for the second week in a row and having a good time. A girl she met at Friendship Skills Day Camp two years ago is attending the same camp this summer, so they are hanging out together. Also this week a former classmate of Allison's, a boy she got along very well with but who transferred to another school 2 years ago, is attending. So it's neat to see her reconnecting with people.

Jonathan is enjoying his days as well. This is his third week at Extend-a-Family camp; he'll have next week off and then go one more week at the end of July. He has gone to the swimming pool and the beach, to the Buskers Festival, on a canoe trip ... lots of new adventures. He is happiest when his days are full and interesting -- and take it from me: when Jonathan's happy, everyone's happy!

As for me, this summer I've had the experience of leading a worship team at our church. I did lots of this in the past, but not at Bethel; they have lots of excellent musicians and leaders and I was happy just to participate in a team without taking on any leadership. But this summer, with one leader sick and another having just had a baby, I was asked to lead a couple of times. This mainly involves selecting songs, assembling a team of musicians/singers, working with the pastor to put the service together, and of course leading the congregation in singing during the actual worship service. This is something I really enjoy and feel gifted in, so it was a great experience to lead once in June and once in July. I have to say, it is wonderful to be part of a church where people really do work as a team and there are no ego trips or protecting of turf.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

future Harlem Globetrotter??

We recently bought a full-size basketball net for Jonathan and set it up yesterday. He was thrilled when he got home from camp and saw it in the driveway. Here he is trying out his first shots. In spite of the height contrast it is not at all difficult for him to put a lightweight ball through the basket. Note the wrist action!

Now he just has to decide if he is going to be a garbage collector or a basketball player when he grows up. Or maybe both.

Friday, July 03, 2009

the long, quiet days of summer

This has been a really nice, quiet week -- punctuated in the middle with a beautiful Canada Day holiday.

We had hoped to enroll Jonathan in the same program he went to last July, a Summer School offered by the public and Catholic school boards. But we found out less than two weeks ago that the program is now restricted to children in Grade Six and above, so Jonathan would not be able to go.

We decided to contact Extend-a-Family, a local organization we've had some involvement with, which offers summer day camps (as well as year-round activities) for special needs children and adults and their families. Although applications are supposed to be in by the end of May, they still had a couple of openings for three of their camp weeks, so we booked Jonathan for this week, next week, and the last week of July. The camp is held at St. Lawrence College (about a 5-min drive from here) and they do lots of out-trips to the park, swimming pool, beach, etc.

Jonathan has been having a great time at camp! There are about a half-dozen kids in his little group and they have a classroom set up with toys, books, and puzzles (Jonathan is right into puzzles now so that was a great way to get him to settle the first day). He went swimming in a pool for the first time on Tuesday; and yesterday, in keeping with this week's medieval theme, they had a princess come to visit their class -- Cinderella, I believe it was.

So where do the "long, quiet days" come in? Well, that's what we're experiencing here at home. Jonathan is gone from 9-4 and there's no lunch break at home like during the school year, so it's very peaceful. Today Allison and I dropped him off, went to the library and then did a little shopping, and we've just been spending the rest of the day at home. I enjoy the quiet, and it's great knowing that Jonathan is having fun and that there is some structure and sociability to his day. And when 4:00 approaches I can't wait to go and pick him up and find out how he got along.

Next week Allison will also go to a camp offered by Quintilian School, a local private school that offers summer camps; many of their students and campers are children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and there are several girls around Allison's age going next week so it will be a great opportunity for her.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day then and now

The picture above was taken on Canada Day 2008 in Waterloo. The one below was taken today in our front yard. I can't believe how much Allison has grown! It's just a matter of time until I am the shortest one in the family.

Happy Canada Day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

time to celebrate


Audrey




(with 2 of her granddaughters, Cara and Allison)

Last night we had a birthday party for Richard's mom, who turned 75 on June 16. We booked Bethel Church for the evening and gathered for a delicious meal of takeout Greek food and ice-cream cake, followed (and preceded) by lots of fun in the gym. It was a great evening and a perfect opportunity to honour a wonderful lady (who, by the way, surprises many people when they hear her age -- "she just doesn't look it!").
Adding to the specialness of our birthday celebration was our thankfulness for Audrey's health. In early May she had surgery for colon cancer; she recovered very quickly from the operation and found out this week that she doesn't require any further treatment. So we're all very grateful to God for bringing her through this challenge so well.


(Here she is blowing out her candles with granddaughters Kate and Megan)


Below, see the gift we gave her, a photo collage of her kids and grandkids.


- Top left: Richard and Jeannie with Allison and Jonathan
- Top right: Doug and Caroline with Josh, Luke, Corey and Cara
- Bottom left: Ed and Mari
- Bottom right: Mark and Carolyn with Kate, Levi, and Megan.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

one chapter ends, we look forward to the next


Today was Allison's last day at St. Joseph/St. Mary Catholic School. She entered this school for Senior Kindergarten in September 2003. Now she's finished grade five and on to a new, bigger school in September. SJSM has been a wonderful place for her to begin her education because of its small size; its slogan is "The Little School With the Big Heart", which is certainly true.
One of the highlights of Allison's grade five year was that she made a friend. Anneli has been in her school for several years but is one grade lower, so they had never been in the same class before. This year they really clicked: they are both quiet, sweet little girls who really seem to enjoy each other's company. Best of all she lives within a five-minute walk of our house so even though they won't be schoolmates anymore, maybe their friendship can continue.

Congratulations, Allison, on your "graduation" from SJSM!

School may be over, but ...

... but the special memories we have of people who made Jonathan's year great will last forever. Here is Jonathan with Kathy Mardicis, who was his classroom teacher for both Senior Kindergarten and Grade One. Ms. Mardicis has a laid-back personality that really endeared her to all her students. Jonathan never did learn to pronounce her full name -- "Deekies" was as close as he got -- but maybe next year, when he meets her in the hall, he'll surprise her with a perfect pronunciation!

Here's Jonathan with his very special friend, Bonnie Beals, who was his EA for 3/4 of the day. She's a fun-loving person who called him "Funny Guy" and said he was "full of silly beans" -- but still got so excited about all his little accomplishments. They had a great year together.

This is Joe O'Connor, a.k.a. "Mr. O", who was Jonathan's EA for the last quarter of the day and whose arrival each afternoon was a big highlight for Jonathan. Mr. O invariably ended the day by saying "He had a GREAT afternoon!"


Here's Jonathan with Vice Principal Mike Blackburn, who gave us lots of support and set up all meetings and progress reports regarding Jonathan (and who kindly gave Allison a tour of the school since she'll be coming here in September). He is moving on to a new VP posting at another school and we will really miss his friendly support.



Thursday, June 11, 2009

small fish tours big pond

Today I accompanied Allison on a tour of the school she'll be going to this fall, Rideau Public School. Because she'll be moving from a school of 70 students to one of 400+, I thought it would be helpful for her to go in for a visit. So this afternoon we met with Vice Principal Mike Blackburn, who welcomed Allison and showed her the Grade Six classroom, the gym, the library, the office, and other important sites.

I was so proud of Allison and observed how grown-up she is becoming. She looked around at everything with quiet enthusiasm and answered questions so maturely, even though she can often be abrupt or standoffish when addressed directly by people she doesn't know well.

There were a couple of funny moments. We went into the office and met the secretary, Shelley, who is in my opinion the perfect elementary-school secretary: outgoing, kind, calm, and motherly. When we introduced Allison to her she said, "Oh, can I give you a hug?" and came right around the counter and put her arms around Allison. Mr. Blackburn looked at me with a smile and whispered, "Now that might be pushing the envelope," but Allison not only tolerated it, she actually seemed to enjoy it!

The library was of course a must-see for a voracious reader like Allison. We went in quietly because a class was in there watching a movie. Suddenly I heard the words "And on the outside is the penis" -- it was a grade 7/8 class watching a sex ed film (snickers and all). Mr. B and I started laughing, but Allison didn't notice a thing; she was too engrossed in checking out the books!

We also of course had to go and visit Jonathan's current classroom as well as the one he will be in this fall. It will be nice to have them together at the same school in September.

As I walked through the halls I had such a good feeling about the school. There were boys in the hallway outside Allison's "new" classroom (one of whom attends our church), and they were very nice to her and wanted to know if she was going to be going there and what grade she was in, etc. I'm hopeful that her leap into the big pond will be a successful one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do you know your alphabet?

Navigating the school system, especially the special-needs aspect of it, seems to involve a lot of acronyms -- to the point where you sometimes feel as if you're learning a whole new language!
For example:
- IPRC (Identification, Placement & Review Committee)
- IEP (Individual Education Plan
- SERT (Special Education Resource Teacher)
- EA (Educational Assistant)
Yesterday Richard and I attended the annual meeting of Jonathan's IPRC (see above!). This committee consists of his teacher, the vice-principal, the special ed person from the school board, and us his parents, and is mandated to meet at least yearly to review Jonathan's identification as a special needs student and his appropriate placement in school. At Rideau at least, these meetings are always very encouraging because the school is so interested in Jonathan's progress and so proactive in ensuring that his needs are met. The teacher talked about Jonathan's improvements in language skills, familiarity with routines, interest and attentiveness to classroom activity, etc. -- and everyone gushed about what a long way he's come since this time last year. That's very encouraging for us to hear because we aren't always aware of the ways he's progressing. While he is not working at grade level, he has his own IEP (see above!) which establishes goals for him in every area -- academic, social, physical, self-help, etc. -- and his EA works one-on-one with him in all of these areas.

Next year he will be in a regular Grade Two classroom with EA assistance. While he's been fortunate enough to have the same teacher for the past two years, he will have a new one this fall, so that will be a change, but I'm sure he will handle the transition well. It will also be special for him to have Allison at the same school; I think they'll both really enjoy that!

Friday, May 08, 2009

school decision




















This spring we had a significant decision to make: where Allison would go to school this fall. Her school only goes up to grade 5 so we knew this time would come, but when we registered her back in 2003 it seemed so far away!

Our two main choices were Rideau Public School, where Jonathan attends, or St. Thomas More Catholic School, the "sister" school to Allison's current school. We hadn't originally intended to have them in different schools, of course. We had had no problem registering Allison in the Catholic school, but when it came time to register Jonathan it was a different story: they had a large number of kindergarteners registered and our non-Catholic status meant they couldn't give him a spot. So we've gone quite successfully through two years of having them in different places: their current schools are 2 blocks apart and the bell times are staggered, making dropoff and pickup quite easy most days.

There were many advantages to both options for this fall. The Catholic school is smaller (220 students to Rideau's 450); Allison would know some of the kids and staff already; many of the routines (e.g. religious instruction) would be familiar; and there are some activities shared by her current school and the new one (monthly masses, track-and-field, some field trips). The main disadvantages, though, were the location (the Catholic school is in the opposite direction from us to that of Rideau) and the fact that the kids would again be separated.

After much thought we've decided on Rideau. The school has given Jonathan a tremendous amount of support and we are confident they'll do the same for Allison. It will mean only one open-house night, one newsletter, one administration to work with, one dropoff and pickup, etc. The kids will be able to see each other regularly, and if Jonathan continues to come home for lunch Allison can do the same if she wants. The school is large, but she will know a few people already since some kids from our church go there; and she doesn't seem at all fazed by having new classmates and learning the ropes at a new place.

We're relieved to have the decision made, and we look forward to settling her in to grade 6 at Rideau this fall.

The picture above was taken on PEI's north shore last summer. I love it because I always enjoy watching Allison frolicking at the beach (I think of her as a little sandpiper), and this picture captures that sense of her looking off into the future and wondering what's in store.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

45 years young

Happy Birthday greetings to Rich today on his 45th. Here he is running the Kingston Half-Marathon, which he completed in his best time yet (1 hr 35 mins). You're not getting older, you're getting better!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

fun with family





We had a very happy Easter Sunday celebration with Rich's mom and Doug & Caroline's family. Here is Jonathan riding high with Josh, sharing a joke with Cara and enjoying some cake with Cara, Corey, and Luke. (Allison was actually present, but she was more interested in her own quiet pursuits than in being goofy!)



Monday, April 13, 2009

recipe for bees

I've already had a couple of requests for the recipe for Peanut Butter Bumbles (a.k.a. beeta-bees), so here it is:

1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. icing sugar
1 c. graham crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chocolate chips
sliced almonds

Combine peanut butter, icing sugar, crumbs, and butter together in a bowl. Mix with hands to make a soft dough. Shape dough into ovals (the size is up to you; we made them about 2 inches long, which made about 20 bees). Place on cookie sheet (greased or covered with wax paper).

Melt chocolate chips and pour into ziplock bag. Cut tiny hole in corner to squeeze melted chocolate out. Make stripes on bees. We also used the melted chocolate to make dots for eyes (the original recipe said use chocolate chips for eyes, but they were too big for our bees).

Use almond slices to make wings. Place finished bees in fridge or freezer to set. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

beautiful, buzzing beeta-bees

OK, that heading and this photo definitely require some explanation! Allison found a recipe for these Peanut Butter Bumbles in a magazine, so we decided to make them for Easter. The body is a mixture of peanut butter, icing sugar, butter, and graham crumbs; the stripes and eyes are chocolate; and the wings are almond slices. Jonathan's word for peanut butter, since he was about 3 years old, has been "beeta-bee," so of course we had to call these beeta-bees. Cute, aren't they? And yummy too -- one of them fell apart so of course we had to put it out of its misery. Tastes like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Recipe available upon request. :-)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

stations of the cross

Today Allison's grade 4/5 class did a presentation of "Stations of the Cross", and parents, staff, and other students were invited to attend. It was a very impressive performance. The boy who played Jesus was dressed in white, while the others wore dark clothing. Their only props were three large crosses. With dramatic music playing softly in the background, the children would move into position to enact some particular part of the Easter drama (e.g. Simon carrying Jesus' cross, the soldiers pounding the nails, Jesus' followers weeping, etc.), and then they would freeze. At that point the overhead projector was turned on for a few seconds so that the scene was lit up and shadows cast on the wall. Then the projector would be turned off and the children would move into position for the next scene. It was amazing to see how quickly and smoothly they took their positions, how expressive their poses were, and how serious and grave they were in performing.

The whole series of tableaux took only 5-10 minutes. Afterward, Allison's teacher invited members of the audience to ask questions of the characters. It was very interesting to hear the children's answers: one boy, for instance, said that his character didn't really want to crucify Jesus, but "they might kill me if they knew I was on Jesus' team" and "Pilate might fire me and I need my job to support my family." The girl who played Mary said, "I was really sad that they were killing my son, and I was afraid they might kill me too." Allison's character said, "I was sad that Jesus died because my daughter had been sick and Jesus had healed her." On a lighter note, a teacher complimented the students on how well they had stayed in character, and one boy said emphatically, "Well, it wasn't easy!"

I'm very glad I didn't miss this beautiful presentation. I have been to many Good Friday services but this was so simple and touching and the children took it so seriously.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

great group!

For nearly a year now I've been part of a writers' group with three other women: Pam, Lori, and Ann. We meet every second Monday evening for two hours to share our work and give one another feedback. It has been a great experience for many reasons: seeing what others are writing inspires us, getting advice on our own work helps us know how to develop and edit it, and having regular meetings motivates us to keep plugging away at whatever we're writing so as to have something ready to share. And beyond the discussion of each other's writing, we are also able to share our lives in a more personal way, encouraging each other through events like a 65th birthday, cancer treatment, return to school, or new job.

This past month, three of us were able to get appointments with author Helen Humphreys, who is currently writer-in-residence at Queen's, to get feedback on our writing. Her comments were extremely encouraging; she even urged each of us to pursue getting our work published. After meeting three of the four of us she stated emphatically that we had a great writing group. Well, we knew that already!

Last night we met and discussed the euphoric feeling of having a successful, well-known author compliment our work that way. We have come a long way in one year. We are also adding a fifth member, Kate, to our group, so we are growing too. And personally I would never have believed one year ago that I would now have four stories written and another nearing completion. So it has really been a wonderful experience.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

progress reports


This week Jonathan got his second Grade One report card of the year. It is interesting to see all the different ways his teacher is assessing him and how he is doing in these areas. Some of Jonathan's accomplishments are:

- consistently recognizing the letter J

- successfully going to the bathroom

- matching, and usually identifying, numbers 1-5

- naming some of his classmates and all of his teachers

- taking turns in a game

- making a cut in a piece of paper with scissors

When compared with his Grade One peers, who are writing letters and learning about punctuation, Jonathan's achievements may seem small. But for him, they represent big strides in his learning. It is wonderful to see how comfortable and at-home he is at school and to observe many people (kids from other classes, older students, staff) greet him by name. School is really Jonathan's second home and we are very grateful for how happy he is to be there.


This week Jonathan also had a regular checkup with the pediatric neurologist, the first appointment since his seizure and flu in February. He is now on two anticonvulsant medications, and the doctor affirmed that while he may have some breakthrough seizures, the drugs probably lessen the severity of the episodes and help contain the seizure in his brain, rather than it affecting his limbs and the rest of his body (which would explain why, when he had the seizure at school, the teacher did not really observe spasms, just unresponsiveness, eye-rolling, etc.). The doctor also confirmed that the seizure was likely triggered by the illness he had the next day -- she said that on the first day of a virus it is often in the bloodstream and only later does it settle in one area such as the throat or ear or whatever. So it is not surprising that Jonathan's last two seizures (in December and February) each came the day before he came down with a bad illness.


Sometimes we have so many questions about why Jonathan has these seizures, why he's developmentally delayed, whether one caused the other or they are unrelated ... and even the neurologist does not really know the answers to these questions. It is really a challenge to live with the unknown and with the mystery of why things are the way they are, and to be content without definite answers. We can say for sure that Jonathan brings a lot of joy into the lives of the people around him.




Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hooray, it's March Break!
















Wait a minute, you ask: wasn't March Break last week? Well, d-uh! The kids are back at school this week, so this is my March break.

Not that our "official" March Break was not good. The weather was fantastic: we were able to spend many hours outdoors each day. Jonathan spent most of his time shooting baskets, whether at his schoolyard or Rotary Park or in the basement or on the deck or in the driveway. His Little Tikes b-ball net is set up in the basement, and Rich has fastened a regulation-size net to the end of a board so it can be propped up against any wall, allowing for basketball any time, anywhere. And Jonathan has a very high boredom threshold when it comes to basketball; he can literally spend hours taking shots at an adult-height net, even scoring a few baskets now and then.

Allison, meanwhile, enjoyed a trip to the sugarbush with Rich (complete with pancakes outdoors -- mmm!) and lots of library visits to different branches around the city.

This week, though, we are back to the regular routine, and it feels good. Even with all the fun things we could do over the break, it is still very demanding to spend all day, every day with Jonathan and keep him happy and interested in things. Now he has the variety and interest of school to keep him busy, and I am enjoying the quiet time. There is nothing better than spending a whole morning at home and not talking to one other person -- just listening to the clock ticking and the woodpeckers pecking and even the washer going through its cycle. Hmm, I must be an introvert -- as if there was ever any doubt of that!

I have been getting back to my writing after doing nothing last week. Besides plugging away on my third "serious" short story, I have written a humorous children's story -- a good way to prime the creative pump and remind myself that writing does not always have to be work. Tomorrow I am going to have a writing consultation with the author Helen Humphreys, who has written several excellent novels and is the Writer-in-Residence at Queen's this semester. I have given her two of my completed stories to read before our meeting. The opportunity to get some helpful advice and direction from a very successful professional writer is too good to pass up.

I have always enjoyed writing and used to do a lot of it when I was younger, but only in the last few years have I really gotten back to pursuing it. It can be a frustrating process when things don't seem to be going well or when the wonderful ideas in my head don't seem to be translating to paper; but on the other hand there can be great exhilaration and that sense of losing myself in writing, which is wonderful. I feel sometimes that there are many limits on my life, on what we can do as a family, where we can go, what I can be involved in -- but in writing, there are no limits; I'm completely free.

I have also been doing some really good reading, especially novels: I have read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Di Camillo, Home by Marilynne Robinson, and The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb; and I'm currently reading Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey (and have its sequel, What They Wanted, lined up to read next). They are all excellent, but about as different in style as any four books could be. Reading a variety of styles is really helpful to me as a writer; it makes me realize that there's no one "right" way to write well. Mother Teresa said "Pray as you can, not as you can't," and I apply that to writing too: "Write as you can, not as you can't."

It's after 10:00 -- coffee time! So long for now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

kids say the darnedest things

Last week I had a hilarious encounter with a boy who attends Jonathan's school. I was sitting on a bench in the lobby waiting to pick Jonathan up for lunch and was joined by a chunky, jolly fellow named Nathan who was waiting for a bus to take him to another program. Here follows our brief conversation:

Me: So, what grade are you in?
Nathan: Well, I'm really in five but I say I'm in six because I got held back a year.
Me: So are you in Ms. Beckstead's class then?
Nathan: No, I'm in Mrs. Cooper's class. I was in Ms. Beckstead's but my friend [so-and-so] was in the same class.
Me: Oh, and they thought they should separate you?
Nathan: Yeah ... on account of last year I accidentally stabbed him with a pair of scissors.
Me: Really?!
Nathan: Yeah ... we have our ups and downs.

I certainly hope that wasn't one of the ups!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

L-o-o-ng week

Phew, we have had a long week but are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Poor Jonathan had a seizure at school a week ago Thursday (Feb. 5) -- the first time he ever had one that Rich or I was not present. The children in his class were all sitting on the carpet, and Jonathan appeared to lean over and look at the bottom of someone else's shoe (he does have a bit of a shoe fetish!). But in fact he was having a seizure. The teacher handled it beautifully, moving the other kids away from the area and then, after an ambulance was called, taking them to another classroom. Fortunately Richard was at home and, when the school called, was able to get there immediately and the ambulance could be cancelled.

Jonathan spent the rest of the day sleeping it off at home, but then when he woke up the next day he was feverish and had a sore ear, and has missed this entire week of school. Poor little dude -- for most of the week all he could do was lie on the couch and sleep, sitting up only to take his medicines and occasionally look at a book or video. And he could hardly eat or drink anything the whole time, so he has lost some of that roundness in his cheeks (those famous cheeks that, even in utero, were pronounced chubby!).

But finally he is starting to improve. He was able to come to church today and enthusiastically ate a piece of cake at coffee time afterward. So hopefully he will be completely back to himself in a day or two.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

frosty fun







Some things never change, and one of them is how much fun it is to slide down a snowy hill on a sunny winter day. And yes, Jonathan DOES seem to have to bring his ball everywhere!