Monthly Archives: July 2012

11 Candles

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Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake (Photo credit: Will Clayton)

Today is M’s 11th birthday. He was born at 3:13 pm on Saturday, July 28, 2001.

To quote M: “I can’t believe how the years have gone by.” (yes, he really did say this as he was opening his gifts early today)

My memories of when he was born are crystal clear – I can hear the voices of the nurse and the intern who delivered him (the on-call doctor was on coffee-break – really!); I can feel the light coming in the window beside the bed; and I can see the activity in the room following M’s entry into the world.

Admittedly, my recollection of the next few weeks and months are mostly blurry. But even after 11 years, I remember the moment M came into my life.

M is a bundle of energy; a skinny little package of amazing ideas, silly jokes and more than a little sarcasm. He has a big heart and feels his emotions deeply.  He is incredibly curious and asks questions constantly. He loves to read, especially Archie comments, Garfield comments and mystery/fantasy books. He likes StarWars Lego (the more pieces, the better), Ninjago and Pokemon. His favourite food is candy, but he likes home-made pizza and anything with chocolate chips –  pancakes,  banana mini-muffins or cookies. He will eat raw carrots and frozen corn, but doesn’t much care for any green vegetable. He wakes up early on weekends (6:30 this morning!), but sleeps in on weekdays. He can’t tie his shoes yet, but he can throw a Diablo or flower sticks pretty high in the air and catch them. He loves Top 40 dance music, but finds it embarrassing when I dance around the kitchen (admittedly, I have more enthusiasm than talent). He would play computer games or with his DS all day if he was allowed (he isn’t).

Parenting M is not without some challenges. He doesn’t like to be told what to do, but when asked to do almost anything, his starting position is ‘no’.  if he’s not on board with an idea, there isn’t too much I can say or do to change his mind (candy only works intermittently). His ADHD often makes it hard for him to focus on some activities and his perfectionism sometimes get in the way of getting started on homework.  He worries about lots of things and can act inappropriately when he’s really anxious.

We’ve had some ups and downs over the last few years, but I can certainly see that M is growing up. He is capable of incredible moments of maturity and reason, like when he decided to skip an outdoor concert with one of his favourite groups, in favour of performing well in a tennis tournament. Five minutes later, he can slam down the Wii remote in disgust, because he’s not doing well in the game. He will still hug me or hold my hand, but not in public. He’s a mix of almost adolescent and little kid. Very occasionally, he will ask me to lie down with him when he’s going to sleep or ask me to sit beside him on the sofa, but most nights, he prefers to put himself to bed.  Even though he sometimes gets frustrated, he wants to do most things himself (with the possible exception of cutting his meat).

Some days he drives me so crazy, I want to run away from home and not look back. But when he gives me a hug first thing in the morning, it makes me smile all day.  He is my greatest joy and I treasure every day with him.

Happy birthday M.

M and the attack of the ooze – a measure of how far he’s come

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The bucket, the puddle, and the tree in the puddle

The bucket, the puddle, and the tree in the puddle (Photo credit: johnsam)

 

This morning M fell in big puddle of ooze. He was walking across a field to meet up with his camp group, when he slipped and fell in a huge puddle of a viscous substance that had the texture of jello. Only sticky. It was hidden under a layer of grass and sand, so you didn’t know it was slippery until you were sitting on the ground.

 

Poor M stood up and fell again. Covered from almost head to toe in this disgusting gelatinous goop. There were lots of other kids around and some of them were laughing at him (as he fell the second time, I turned around to a group of girls who were laughing particularly loud and told them to stop, as it wasn’t very nice). I took a couple of steps to avoid stepping in the goo and promptly fell on my butt. I wasn’t quite as gooey as M, but I can vouch for its nastiness.

 

[Turns out the goo was a powder the camp had been using last week to make snow for a “winter camp.”  In the wake of yesterday’s torrential rainfall, the substance turned into something resembling primordial ooze]

 

The remarkable thing about this incident was that M kept his cool. He was upset – understandably, as the stuff was gross. His dad went into the bathroom with him to help M clean up and had to scrap it off his shorts with paper towel. As I discovered when I went to peel it off my socks and shoes, once you got the goo off, your clothes dried quickly and there wasn’t much of a stain. So if you hadn’t witnessed M’s fall(s), you wouldn’t have known he’d been bouncing in gloppy goo.

 

Understandably, M was a little rattled for the first hour or so of camp.

 

But he stayed at camp. He didn’t have to come home with us because he was so upset. He didn’t get into a fight with another child. He participated in the activities, rather than withdrawing and refusing to do what the other kids were doing. Or being disruptive.

 

THIS IS HUGE!!!!

 

Less than 2 months ago, M had a major freak-out at school when I tried to give him his pills – to the extent that I had to take him home. M doesn’t like to be embarrassed or to draw too much attention to himself (certain irony in this, since his behaviour often attracts attention). Falling in a puddle of gooey goop in front of a big group of people has a high embarrassment quotient.

 

If this had happened last summer, the day would have been over before it started. M would have been upset, probably more because other kids were laughing, than over falling. But today, he handled a difficult situation with maturity and grace. It was wonderful to see.

 

I told M that I was very proud of him for keeping his cool. The next time, he gets upset about something, I will remind him how well he handled the attack of the goop.  Progress…definite progress.

 

Picasso and a good cause – an inspiring bead challenge

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ABS July Challenge – final bracelet

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my intent to submit a project to Art Beads Scene’s July Bead Challenge and donate it to 7000 Bracelets for Hope. I had ordered a number of art beads just for this project and I was crossing my fingers that they would arrive in time.

Well, a package of beads arrived in the mail almost every day last week. It was like Christmas!. The beads looked even better than in the photos on Etsy.

I had a design in mind, inspired by Picasso’s Two Harlequins and a Dog. I wanted to use colour and texture to invoke the painting, which has a lot of complexity.

I started by making a wire-wrapped fabric link, embellished with shiny blue seed beads, using a piece of variegated blue ribbon from  – JodyPoesy.

Wire-wrapped ribbon decorated with seed beads

In my original design, the fabric/ribbon section would attach directly to a beaded section, anchored by 6 wonderful blue matte ceramic beads from NKPBeads. But when I started stringing the beads, I realized that even combined with the fabric link, the bracelet would barely go around my wrist, which is quite small. Plus, there was the issue what to for a clasp and the fact that the beaded section would be much heavier than the fabric link.

So I added a small piece of copper chain to the bracelet. I solved the problem of a closure by wiring a lobster clasp on one end of the beaded fabric section and hooking it to the chain.

I spent a fair amount of time playing with arrangements of beads for the beaded section. I finally settled on 4 of the blue ceramic rounds – not only do they have a cool texture but the colour is mottled, making them even more interesting. I added an orange and a light blue enamel round from Gardanne Beads and a sandy beige ceramic bead from Gaea. The Gaea  bead isn’t uniformly round and like the blue matte beads, it also has a mottled look. To finish it off, I added the little round pewter face charm made by Green Girl Studios (via the Bead Lady).

Close-up of bead section of bracelet

The end product is very different from the idea I started out with. But I am happy with the end result. It was an interesting process – I just kept experimenting with beads and components until I had design that worked. It is a little big for my wrist, but I did try it on and it seems very wearable.

Wearing the bracelet – photographed by M

Having met the deadline for the July Art Bead challenge, I will now wrap it up and send it off to 7000 Bracelets for Hope.

I have linked up to the following: Craft Envy – Saturday Spotlight; Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Random acts of craftiness – super easy summer necklace

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My favourite kind of jewelry project is quick and simple. At the same time, I want it to look as good, if not better than something I could buy at a store. This necklace, which features a fabulous resin pendant from Jade Scott, fits both criteria.

All you need for this necklace is a long length of copper chain; a few shorter pieces of chain (preferably not the same, but your choice); 4 copper jump rings; 3 small copper  filigree circles (I got mine at FabBeads on Etsy) and a pendant of your choice (next Jade Scott update is on July 26).

I started off by using 3 jump rings to attach the copper filigree circles  to each other to each other and one end of  at the longest piece of chain. I didn’t want to bother with a clasp, so I used a piece of chain that 26 inches long (big enough to go over my head, with some left over). Add a 4th jump rung to the filigree at the bottom . Attach the chain at the desired – I had a “tail” about 4 inched long.  I cut 3 short lengths of different copper chain and attached them to the jump ring.  Once I was happy with the arrangement of the chain “tassel,” I closed up the jump ring. I tried it on and figured out where I wanted the pendant to hang (admittedly a bit tricky in the car) and attached it with a jump ring. A brand-new necklace.

Filigree circles attached with jump rings to chain

“Tassel” close-up

New necklace (holding camera in one hand)

I estimate it would take 15 minutes (at most) to put the necklace together.  Mine took a little longer as I made it in the car on the way back from the cottage (yes, I was a passenger), While making jewelry in the car helps pass the time, so the trip seem much shorter, it can present some challenges. Inevitably, i end up juggling my tools and supplies in my lap and a critical component or tool disappears, either onto the floor or beside my seat. So count on 30 minutes, if you are making this while on a road trip. If it’s a long trip, bring along some extra supplies and make a couple of extra necklaces. You won’t be bored, and by the end of the trip, you’ll have a whole new wardrobe of necklaces to wear with your favourite summer outfits.

Finished product – close-up

I have linked up to the following: Craft Envy – Saturday Spotlight; Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

Bad chemistry – teaching my kid to deal with people who don’t like him

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Reaction of two people whose personal space ar...

Reaction of two people whose personal space are in conflict. See also http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:PerSpa1.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

M came home from a recent visit to another child’s house, upset about something that had happened between them.  Turns out the child, who M had not previously spent a lot of time with outside of daycare, revealed that he is friends with B.  I don’t know the details, but B and M have a history and M does not like him at all.  M expressed his disapproval  about his friend’s relationship with B.  Didn’t go over very well – the other child locked M out of his house.

We agreed that locking someone out of your house, especially when the other person is visiting, is not very nice.  But sometimes, as I explained to M, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.  Whatever happened to cause M to dislike B happened several years ago.  Since they don’t go to the same school or share the same hobbies, they have little or no contact with each other.  We told M that he had no right to get upset with someone else for being friend’s with B. Moreover, whatever burr he had in his saddle about B, he should just let it go.

Flash forward to a couple of days later… I get a call from the day camp saying that M has had a minor conflict with another child.  Turns out B’s brother was also at the day camp and he and M encountered each other during the day. For whatever reason, a friend of the B’s brother started kicking M. Then the brother got involved.  Apparently, he was upset about M having insulted their dad about 3 or 4 years ago – these kids have memories like elephants. M defended himself with a stick and got mouthy with a counselor when she tried to separate him from the stick. No one was hurt and M spent some time in the office with his favourite counselor.

Like lots of kids with ADHD, interpersonal relationships are often challenging for M.  He doesn’t always get social cues – I’ve seen other kids backing away from him as M keeps on talking. He often gets too close to people by invading their personal space. We know the school is doing their best to help M improve his social skills. But what to do in this situation, when another child seems to be holding a grudge against M and continues to bug hi? Plus, he’s getting his brother and other kids involved in carrying out his “vendetta.”

The sensible parenting approach – encouraging M to let go of whatever was between he and B – wasn’t going to work in this case.  We suggested to M that he should just stay away from B’s brother at camp and if the child insisted on engaging with him, M should run to the nearest counselor. He did cross paths with the brother during the course of the week, but the second time around, they got along.

We’ve all been in this situation:  having to deal with someone who just doesn’t like us. It doesn’t feel very nice, but it’s part of life. maybe we did something, inadvertently or deliberately, to get up the other person’s nose. Sometimes, it’s just bad chemistry – no matter what we do, the other person just doesn’t like the “cut of our jib.”  We aren’t going to like everyone and vice versa. In these situations, the best advice is usually to walk away or avoid the person as much as possible. It is much harder to do if the other person (or their proxy) gets in your grill whenever you see them.

I decided in this case to be as honest with M as I could. I told him that some people are just difficult (I think I used the word “pinhead”. We can’t control their behaviour, but we have to manage ours. Engaging B or his brother and various minions is not productive. In these sorts of situations, walking away really is the best policy. This may also require ignoring what the other person is saying. Neither of these strategies is easy for a 10-year old who struggles with relationships. Dealing with people who don’t like us is hard. But, as I explained to M, it’s a skill we all have to learn.

I’m sure B is a perfectly nice kid. I just hope M gets through the summer without running into him

 

Jewelry for a good cause – 7000 Bracelets for Hope

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Every month, Art Beads Scene has a monthly jewelry-making challenge. Beaders take their inspiration from the selected painting or photo and use art beads (hand-made beads or components) to make a piece of jewelry.  Most of the pieces chosen for the challenge do strike a creative spark with me, but usually not enough to actually make anything.  Unless I already have beads in the required colour palette, I have to order them.  This isn’t a big deal, but it requires being sufficiently inspired and organized to find and order them early in the month, so I get them before the challenge ends.  The planets don’t align enough for this to happen very often.  The one or two times I have gotten to the point of starting a project (with the necessary beads and findings in my stash), I didn’t get it finished before the deadline – my purple beaded bracelet started off as a project for the Art Beads Scene challenge in April.

But this month, there is an added incentive to finally finish a project.  This month, Art Beads Scene is encouraging readers to make a blue-themed bracelet and contribute it to 7000 Bracelets for Hope, an initiative that raises awareness and support for caregivers of children with rare genetic diseases. Given my current fondness for making bracelets, this seemed like a good project for me.

After studying this month’s painting, Picasso’s Two Acrobats with a Dog I let my fingers do some walking on Etsy and ordered a number of beads.  Plus a couple of pewter charms.  While I have a design in mind, none of the beads have arrived yet.  I am pretty tactile when it comes to making jewelry – I can have an idea in my head, but I need to have the materials in front of me in order to really see how the piece will come together.

Here’s a couple of the beads I ordered…

Vintage blue and orange vintage enameled rounds (Gardanne Beads)

Vintage enameled rounds / Blue and orange enamel 7

Blue Matte Ceramic Beads by NKPbeads on Etsy, $2.30

Blue Matte Ceramic Beads by NKPbeads on Etsy, $2.30

Green Girl Studios Tiny Head Charm
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“Tiny Head” charm was created by Green Girl Studios in lead free pewter from Bead Lady

Stay tuned to see the final project later this month. And if the muse strikes you, hop over to Art Beads Scene and see how you can contribute to 7000 Bracelets for Hope.

If only school was like camp

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English: It is good sportsmanship to shake han...

English: It is good sportsmanship to shake hands with your opponent after playing a tennis match, whether or not you have won or lost. Français : Il est d’usage de serrer la main de son adversaire à la fin d’un match de tennis, que l’on soit le gagnant ou le perdant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 9, 2012 – sorry for the very short post yesterday.  I accidentally hit the “publish” button, instead of “draft.”

The last couple of years we have come up with a list of a possible options and let M choose which camp he is most interested in, depending on availability and our vacation schedule. This year, he decided to do 4 weeks of tennis camp and 2 speciality camps at the community centre – circus and magic. This is his 4th year at the same tennis camp, so M’s pretty comfortable with the staff and the routine. Many of the counselors who work at the After School program also work during the summer, so it is also familiar territory.Having two work parents who work full-time means that M spends the a good chunk of the summer at day camp. We are lucky that our neighbourhood offers a number of camp options, within walking/biking distance – drama, gymnastics, and karate. Plus, the community centre where he goes after school runs a full slate of camps throughout the summer.

It is early days, but tennis camp seems to be a big hit this summer. For one thing, M is a pretty fair tennis player. But even more importantly, he does well at the camp. We get very few reports of behavioural problems and he finishes each week feeling good about himself. They also do some sailing during the day and even though M sometimes sits this part out, it’s not a big deal.  There is a different theme for each day and while the school say’s he doesn’t like to take risks, he left the house one morning wearing a blue wig and a crooked tiara in celebration of Crazy Hair day. There is a tournament on the last day of week and while M has won on a number of occasions, he didn’t seem too concerned about winning this time around.

When I asked him why he thinks that he does so well at tennis camp, he told me that it was fun – “school should be like camp.”

So what’s the difference? Obviously, camp is more fun than school. It’s not to say that school is never fun, but there’s a whole set of expectations associated with school.  Camp is more relaxed and the kids are active.  M’s teacher lets the kids in his class move around a fair amount, but there are certain times when they are expected to be quiet or sit in a certain spot. This is hard for lots of kids, including M. Being outdoors and constantly moving around avoids the whole issue of sitting still and paying attention.

A big plus for M is that he knows what to expect at tennis camp.  No matter what week he attends, the schedule will be basically the same – he knows that every Tuesday is Crazy Hair day. This is a big deal for an anxious kid with ADHD. I know M’s teacher works hard to keep the class apprised of the agenda from day-to-day, but changes in the routine are the norm, rather than the exception. The teacher could be absent or there could be a parent in the class for some or part of the day. But the tennis camp has followed roughly the same schedule every summer M’s attended.  While some children might find this tedious and repetitive, M finds it comforting. The more predictability the better.

The other part that works well for M is that the kids earn points for almost everything they do during the week – the team with the most points at the end of the week wins. I don’t think M’s ever been on the #1 team, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. This seemed strange to me, given how much he likes to win. But I realized that it is earning the points that is important to M because it gives his tangible and immediate feedback on his performance. He wears a costume for Super Hero day and he gets points. Looking at it this way, it isn’t a big surprise that he is so willing to dress up almost every day, even if it means wearing a pink tiara. One of the key pillars of M’s school is non-competitiveness, which I fully support in principle. But M is a naturally competitive child. Rather than get over-whelmed by the points system at camp, he seems to thrive on it. The rules are clear and there doesn’t seem to be much deviation (although he was pretty annoyed that the child who beat him out for 1st prize on Crazy Hair day apparently got extra points for wearing a full costume).

Because he is comfortable at tennis camp, M performs really well. The first couple of years, if he lost in the final tournament, he tended to get upset and would yell or throw his racquet (we explained that while John McEnroe used to do this, it was not generally considered good form). But he has become a much better sport, to the point where even if he doesn’t win, he can still cheer on his teammates during their matches. Being a good sport is a life skill that is not always easy to master – by his own admission, M’s dad isn’t always a good sport about losing.  There are also plenty of examples of professional athletes who are paid big bucks but are sore losers. It is also important to learn to win gracefully and avoid hurting anyone else’s feelings. These are not skills that M possesses naturally (really, who does?), but through tennis camp, he is learning about being a winner and accepting when he doesn’t.

Another reason M does well at tennis camp, is that there isn’t much free time, except at the end of the day. They keep the kids pretty busy. Unstructured time is fine for M at home but at school or a large group setting, it is more problematic. Today we got a call from the community centre saying he had a minor conflict with another child after lunch.  Turns out it was during “free time,” which 9 times out of 10 is the most challenging part of the day for M. During these times, the rules of engagement aren’t as clear to him and a simple exchange with another child can quickly escalate.

I don’t expect school to become like camp. What would be the point of camp if that was the case? But looking more closely at what makes camp work from M’s perspective is instructive – structure, clear rules that everyone follows and lots of reinforcement for participating. Something to think about over the summer, before school starts up again.