Thursday, October 25, 2007

A poem by Brendan...

This is what Brendan wrote for this year's curriculum night (open house) at school. We were blown-away when we read it... Our kid digs so deeply when he writes! I am so, so glad that we have made every attempt to make writing easy for him, by not trying to force him to rely on any one way to communicate, or insisting that his handwriting be legible, or trying to teach him cursive writing when all the other kids were doing it. Brendan has been typing, using scribes, & now vioce-activated software, since he was in 3rd grade. The result is a kid who has found his writer's "voice" already (at the age of 11!) and who responds positively to the writing challenges presented by his 6th-grade teacher.

Lately they've been concentrating on "pursuasive writing" & last evening's homework assignment was to imagine you're a pumpkin & try to pursuade someone not to buy you for Halloween. Brendan has been preferring to do homework with Charlie recently, with Charlie as scribe or with them taking turns writing. The giggling that drifted down the stairs yesterday afternoon was infectious. The kids were asked to use "juicy" words in this assignment, & Brendan's were, quite literally, juicy :) His description of his pumpkin insides were so disgusting that I was definitely pursuaded (not to buy!). How lovely to have a kid who loves language & writing so much! The bonuses of not having pushed any particular form of writing on him have been that not only does he find hand-writing coming more fluently these days, but that he pushes himself to do better without relying on anyone else to push him.

All in all, I learned an awful lot about my kid from reading this poem... and it's very good to see him from his point of view for a change!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Moving back into the groove...

Hi All...

Sorry for such a long hiatus! We really are doing well, & I'll elabourate further in a moment... Things just became busier than they've been in a long, long time, hence the blogging break. Right before we left for Japan (last June) I agreed to be on the search team at my church that is going through the process of finding a new minister, ours having left in May to become an army chaplain. The way we Unitarian Universalists do things is to find & call ministers ourselves, the process being facilitated by the denomination with guidelines & an online matching service. I've been a member of my church for nearly 30 years & have observed this process 3 times before, but never been in a life stage where I could participate actively, so I'm really psyched to finally be part of it. It's intense, though. Like having a part-time job... I'm actually anticipating an imminent OS upgrade (like, this evening, I hope...) so that I can use iworks (which I plan to purchase tomorrow) to create & publish the packet we'll be sending to prospective ministers- that's my main responsibility right now (nothing big- ha, ha, ha)... outside of my other church & school activities &, of course, being Jedi mom to Brendan :)

Ahhhh, Brendan! He grew 1 1/2 inches over the summer!!! He's also grown internally in so many ways that are not visible, but are truly wonderful. The school year's gotten off to a great start. He's now one of the 6th graders in his mixed 5th & 6th grade class, & is taking his responsibilty for being one of the "big kids" very seriously. The anxiety management that he learned while in Japan & over the summer have led to a much calmer Brendan, & when the "fleas" do "attack" he can explain them clearly & often requires no intervention in handling them- not even a kekkai (ki) barrier. It's amazing to see him doing it on his own... We've been able to talk through many of his long-time tic-triggers & he's finding creative ways of managing them, such a using imagery, burning incense (we light it for him) to "smudge" the thoughts away, or just burying himself in a book for a while. He's been reading voraciously we've been enjoying discussing the books with him so much! He's worked his way through all of the Charlie Bone books published to date (6 so far) & is on the second of Rick Riordan's series about demi-god kids (it starts with "The Lightning Thief"). I've been pre-reading them so I can really discuss them with him, & enjoying them all very much myself. I also decided to allow him to start reading the manga "Naruto", which was a bit borderline in terms of violence (but no worse than anything you'd see in the LoTR movies- which Brendan has not seen- or even in InuYasha) but is a manga I've been enjoying for a while. I'm so glad I decided to allow him to read Naruto! The basic story is about kids who are training to be ninjas, the protectors of their village & country, & the main character, Naruto, has a very powerful demon sealed within him- a good metaphor for adolescence if there ever was one :) One of the things I like about the story is that the values- looking out for others, finding family in unlikely places, doing your best no matter what- are consistent with my own, & through the manga Brendan is getting these values from yet another source. Also, we've had some interesting discussions about lots of things brought up in the manga, about stereotypes & how they play around with them in Naruto (one of the most powerful ninjas around looks rather like a bimbo...), about how people in the manga feel about fighting (there's quite a lot of ambivalence), about how you can tell how they're feeling by looking at their faces... which is one reason we've been concentrating on reading the manga rather than watching the anime, since the illustrations are static & more easily interpreted by my aspie boy :) One of our more interesting conversations occurred because he was consistantly referring to male characters with long hair as "she"... turns out that he didn't know where to look in order to figure out the gender of the characters, so we talked about the general physical differences between men & women, & how they usually show up in illustrations. A great "teaching moment" :) It probably goes without saying that Brendan will be a ninja for Halloween- he chose the fabric & approved the pattern, so I just have to make it (this week, I fervently hope...).

The bottom line these days is that I have a wholly different kid on my hands! He's clearly moving into adolescence, & doing a fairly graceful job of it (at the moment, at least :). He & Charlie have been spending more & more time together, too, doing dad & son stuff... Brendan re-discovered his interest in sailing about mid-August & took over crewing for Charlie for Sunday racing, even helping him go on to win the summer series. He was dad's only crew for the fall series & they won that one, too :) For the first few weeks of sailing I was having to go down to the club about the time they'd be coming into shore to help "catch" the boat & hold it while Charlie took down the sails & stuff. Brendan just wasn't strong enough to do it... but after about 3 weeks Charlie decided that Brendan could do it- & he did! His hand & arm strength has increased quite a bit & even though he's gotten banged-up a few times (which is just what happens when you race a sailboat, I can testify!) he's hung-in there with it & really enjoys not only the sailing but chatting with the other sailors before & after races. Pretty neat...

I hope to start posting more often, now that we've settled into a routine & I'm getting used to the stress of having the church work on top of the mom work (& figuring out where the Jedi work fits into it all... :). I have started meditating again regularly, which has been a huge help... Mostly it's Brendan's moving to "the next level" that's making life so much fun these days, in spite of the stress. We are getting such a kick out of his insights & his excitement with his accomplishments. Life is very full- I look forward to continuing to share it!

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