Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Getting our act together...

...and getting it on the road. Or at least, preparing to. This Friday we leave for 6 days in the wilds of Pennsylvania (literally "Penn's Woods"). C's parents have belonged to a yacht club in western Pennsylvania since the 60's & C grew up there. So every other summer we reserve a cabin in the nearby state park & spend the week sailing & visiting. The cabins are really comfortable, with a kitchen, full bath, 2 bedrooms, & a living room/dining area. We have to bring everything, though, from bedding to pots & pans (not to mention food...), & diversions. This week is, therefore, dedicated to cooking, baking, sorting, organising, & packing. My mind has been very full of what B will need to "survive" our time away from home. Will he want the ball blanket or the body pillow, or both? Which books to bring? Will the HP game (see below) "fit" on my laptop's hard drive? (it did) What will we do for meals, which we eat with B's grandparents, since he's now a confirmed veggie (& they are not)? On top of all this, because it's the week before we go away, the week is also full of appointments, adding some stress to the whole thing. While going through my camping kitchen, I discovered that the non-stick finish is coming off the pots & pans (I had a vague memory of the finish flaking off into the food 2 years ago, so I'm glad I checked), so I think B & I will be heading out tomorrow to get a new one, & maybe do his school supplies shopping as well, since that's not far behind.

Over the weekend B & I finished the blanket we were weaving. It turned out really nicely- so soft & warm. Initially B had been having trouble mastering the rhythm of weaving on the big loom, switching treadles & not mixing up which hand to throw the shuttle with, which frustrated him. I lured him back to the loom with the promise of reading Artemis Fowl to him while he wove & that did the trick :) After a while he got the hang of it, as I knew he would, & now that we've finished he's ready to weave another blanket with me. I am very pleased! He needs all the practise he can get with overcoming his initial frustration with new skills.

One constant "learning experience" for B has been the Harry Potter computer game. I got it when he was little (it's the first one, that came out the same time as the first movie) & he discovered it some months ago. It's very difficult & I am simply too faint-hearted to enjoy it much, so I didn't get very far with it. B's first attempts were so frustrating that we had to make him take a break from it (we said he could try again when he was 10). He has matured enough to successfully complete various parts of the game, but he keeps running into the frustration of the tasks getting harder & harder as the game unfolds. So his elation as completing one part of the game is almost immediately followed by fury at failing at the next. Because he is so keen to play anyway, C & I have decided that forbidding him to play is not the answer. He needs to learn to cope with frustration. So we have found various strategies for helping him play. First, we limit the amount of time he can play. Then, we sit with him when things get hairy, encouraging him to slow down, observe the surroundings, look for cues & clues that he may have missed. Starting a new game & playing the currently difficult parts repeatedly also helps. Occasionally he's had such difficulty that he's completely melted-down. He practically goes into a fetal position of rage, shaking & face contorted, & doesn't want anyone to touch him & doesn't even want to hold Rufus, usually clamped under his right armpit. At these times, we've tried to talk him down, help him figure out what would help him to feel better, try to keep him present (rather than lost in his fury & distress). I usually find myself holding Rufus (since B doesn't want to), cradling him as though he were a baby. It's comforting. When we follow B's lead, & give him time, he eventually recovers, usually ending-up in tears. We take some time to recover & then talk/brainstorm with him about ways to avoid his getting to meltdown point. There have been only 2 meltdowns so far, & they have made it hard to allow him to keep going with the game, but I think that he's learning from the whole experience, so we let him continue... Over the past few days he's progressed quite a bit & I think he's beginning to get more enjoyment than frustration from it. Life-lessons from computer games- go fig.

A nice thing about all the busyness of getting ready for the trip is that B can really help. We made pizza dough this morning, to freeze & take with us, & B measured the flour for it. He then measured & mixed the ingredients for vanilla ice cream so we could use-up the cream we had on hand before going away. We wrote a note to the friends who visited last week, too. Now he's trying to compose a good-bye card for his favourite sitter, C, who's off to college next week. It's going slowly, but I think it's because he's really realised that his buddy will be gone for a while. I've encouraged him to include his address so that they can write to each other. And onward we go...!


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