Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Christmas, and Welcome 2015



This year has flown by, and ended rather well for our little family. After several months of hard work, a company Big A's employers were taking public finally listed. Despite several delays, the buzz was good, and in two days Big A had doubled his investment, earning us a small nest egg at long last.

After years of living hand to mouth, mortgaging our flat to subsidise Little A's education and praying our good health held, it was a relief to relax and take a breath and a break.

While the amount earned might not equal a lottery win, it was enough to pay off the mortgage and set up the beginnings of Little A's trust fund. Big A and I decided not to have another child, for a number of reasons not just financial, and this means we need to think far ahead to our son's future. While we continue to hope he will be able to find gainful employment at the end of his school years, we do want to be prepared so that he can live comfortably.

It seems an uphill challenge, with most people assuming he is an idiot until we explain that not speaking does not mean lack of comprehension, and he surprises them himself with his communication using a keypad. It is disheartening, as we know our child understands far more than even we know.

Our wish then, for the coming year, is that more people become aware, and exhibit understanding rather than skepticism with regard to autism in general. Come on then, 2015, bring it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Elf




All the dress-up opportunities at Little A's school this past term had an end goal - the Christmas concert. Late in November, Little A's teacher handed me a piece of paper with a photo on it of a cartoon elf, and a note explaining that Little A needed to bring a similar outfit to school in a week's time.

November and December are my busiest months at work, when I get very little sleep and skip weekday lunches entirely. Social engagements are grudgingly attended, and usually spent partially on the phone fo work. Naturally I cannot neglect housework in this time, and must also find, purchase, wrap, and deliver about a hundred Christmas presents for friends and family.

Finding an elf costume on top of all that would be nothing short of a Christmas miracle, and the shops I managed to visit had none in stock for seven year olds.

Two days to deadline, I sent a text to my crafter friend, asking her to pretty please make a collar and buttons for me to sew onto Little A's green top, which would be worn with red shorts, a Christmas hat (from several Christmas concerts past) and stripey socks sold by McDonalds for a charity fundraiser.

My crafting friend did even better and produced cuffs and a belt as well, and the end result was perfect. Little A dutifully performed at both the dress rehearsal and the concert, to the delight of his grandparents. Big A and I were on the other side of the island attending a friend's wedding and missed the show, but viewed the videos proudly.

Little A too viewed his videos repeatedly, and tried to make the Au Pair and myself "perform" reenactments. The costume bits remain sewed onto his green  top, to perhaps be used another day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let it Snow



A few days before Little A's end of term Christmas programme, the family went on a weekend trip to the mountains. It was our last for the year, and Little A spent most of it on a horse. We.managed a boat ride and bowling game in between horse rides, and because it was December there was the additional treat of the Christmas Village.

Little A, like his father, adores the Christmas season which in our part of world without winter begins in October and ends just in time for Valentine's Day. Father and son love Christmas trees laden with ornaments, twinkling fairy lights and the accompanying festive accoutrements.

The mountaintop country club we stay at sets up a child size Christmas village of wooden gingerbread houses, churches and castles for the month of December, but so far we have always missed seeing it as we normally visit in September or October and then mid- January.

This year, we finally got to pay a visit. At 6pm, when the gates opened, there we were, and to our great suprise, the lights went on, music started, and "snow" came flying from the tops of the wooden buildings!

This "snow" consisted of soap suds blown through a special machine, and it was quite magical. Little A, who knew that Christmas meant winter and snow, was beside himself with joy.

Upon our return home, he set up his own Christmas land on our sideboard. A train, little houses and shops, toy trees, all the stuffed snowmen he could find, some ornaments off the tree, and of course, "snow". He shook talcum powder over his creation (as well as our entire flat) and added cotton wool balls.

Every winter-themed store display in the shopping centers we visited was examined closely, and when one shopkeeper told us foam snow was available at the craft supply store we bought an entire bag, which Little A delightfully threw everywhere.

Bubble baths have also become a daily feature, as "snow bubbles" must be made at every opportunity until "winter" is over and the holiday season past. We look forward to revisiting the mountaintop snow village in early January.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Sports Day




Most schools hold a family sportsfest once a year, when parents and siblings join in games and friendly competition for trophies and medals. Little A's school has their own version of this, this marking their second year.

Last year, we were horribly late and missed all the fun. This year, despite Big A being out of town on business and both Little A and I down with bad colds, we made it on time and had an amazingly active hour completing six different activities. 

Instead of team sports, the teachers prepared games stations that exercised the students' developmental skills but kept things fun. I was impressed, and Little A acquitted himself brilliantly, trying everything and finishing with plenty of cheers and encouragement. 

This school year is going well for him so far, in terms of trying new things. We look forward to seeing what the second half will bring. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dietary Restrictions



Shortly after Little A was diagnosed five years ago, we decided to try the GFCF diet. Weaning him off his then favourite snack, yogurt, was extremely hard, and he had to give up pasta as well, leaving him with just rice for meals and popcorn for snack time.

Not wanting to limit his diet further and given that popcorn was not allowed in school as it was considered a choking hazard, I tried all sorts of deathly expensive gluten free snacks, nearly all of which he rejected save two - pretzels and corn balls.

The hardest to quit were his cornflakes, the last remaining favourite snack once all other biscuits were given up. It was difficult to find gluten free cornflakes, and we only managed it in the last two or so years, so he has only been truly gluten free that long, though wheat free much longer. 

My main concern with this was that Little A didn't seem any less hyper or more focused by being gluten free, nor did his verbal skills improve markedly, which are the main improvements parents claim the diet brings. Add to this his sensory integration issues, and I was very worried he'd be limited to rice meals for the rest of his life, refusing to try anything new.

Every Sunday evening, Big A orders pizza for our (mine and his) dinner. This has been a tradition for several years now, and recently even the cat has begun to enjoy these meals as there is usually an accompanying portion of fried chicken which he shares with us. 

Little A has lately been showing an interest in the pizza. He opens the box amd takes a sniff, and sometimes carefully licks a slice. Not wanting to deny him new experiences, and knowing how "safe" he is with food choices, we've been putting a slice on a plate for him. It usually remains uneaten - licked maybe once in a small corner, but never bitten. Until tonight.

This evening, Big A went to meet a friend for coffee after dinner. Little A and I had just sat down when he left, and our slices of pizza were on our respective plates. Little A was daring enough to take a bite out of his for the first time. First he just bit it, then he tried chewing a tiny piece. Aided with plenty of water, he tried more small bites, with no prompting from me at all. While he had his plate of rice next to the pizza amd still ate from it, he kept nibbling at his pizza until he had consumed 3/4 of the slice. 

I was amazed, proud, and a little apprehensive. Will this mark the beginning of the "junk food only" stage, or herald the addition, finally, to Little A's food repertoire? More importantly, will he now become even more hyper, less focused and increasingly tantrumic? He has been fairly even tempered lately and I don't want this to change. 

Naturally, all we can do is wait and see. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bicycle



Boys will be boys. Muddy, messy, perpetually sweaty, smelling of sun and the outdoors. Little A, despite his many challenges, is just like his peers that way. Perhaps even more so than the children who refuse to play outside and stay in all weekend glued to screens.

While fine motor skills, social interaction and verbal communication are still his Waterloo, my son's gross motor skills are developing just fine considering his motor planning and sensory integration issues. 

A few months ago, he spent most of his outdoor time on his scooter/skateboard. Recently, he finally decided it was time to learn the mechanics of bicycle riding. 

As a toddler he had a tricycle, but could never master the art of forward pedalling. The trike came with a push bar, so it was essentially a pushchair. His cousins handed down a bicycle with stabilisers that sat on our balcony for well over two years.

Beginning a few weeks ago, he would climb onto that balcony (over some plants and a fence) and try and pull the bicycle out onto the podium. The tyres were flat, so we dissuaded him until they were properly inflated again. 

Once seated, he delighted us by pedalling properly after just a couple of tries. It took him several rounds to get the hang of steering, but he persisted and soon got the hang of it despite the fact that the bike was now too small for him.

Then came the Sunday we were at my best friend's house to celebrate her new daughter's Christening. Little A went for a swim in their shallow lap pool, then spotted my godson's bike and wanted a go. For the first time, he was on a bike that was the right size for him, and he was able to pedal down a proper quiet street. Excited, I told Big A and we decided to get a new bike the following weekend.

Now Little A has his own red bike, and makes the rounds formerly taken in his scooter on two (plus two) wheels. He should manage the transition to two wheels quite quickly, provided we get him a helmet, and he agrees to wear it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tricks and Treats






This year, Little A celebrated Halloween properly. Last year, I was in London on a mini-break (my first since he was born) with my mum and niece, and while my dad did take him candy gathering, Little A couldn't be persuaded to don a costume.

This year though, he had lots of practice, thanks to the numerous dress-up events at school, culminating in their Halloween party to make half-term.

Little A was a scuba diver for that one, in a clever trompe l'oiel pair of pajamas that was fairly accurate, according to his Certified Technical Diver father.

A week later was Halloween proper. While I spent every morning of his half term at work, I made a point of keeping Friday afternoon free to take him to my parents' and his godmother's houses, plus the others around the village that were giving out treats.

Before the grand sweet collection session though, Little A attended the building's Halloween party, where he sat quite well for a fair few minutes, according to the Au Pair. 

For this event he donned a skeleton printed outfit, and gamely wore it throughout the day with minimal fuss. 

While he has yet to eat a piece of candy, the queuing up for it was fun, and so was the dividing up between myself, Big A, and the Au Pair that came afterwards.

Next year, we already have a family costume planned. Let's hope we get the chance to put them on.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

United We Stand



October certainly is shaping up to be "dress up" month at Little A's school. Hot on the heels of Literacy Week and Language Month is United Nations Day, usually celebrated quite close to half-term. This year, Little A's school held it a week before their Halloween event so as to have two chances to come to school in fancy dress.

In the weeks leading up to UN Day, the students did arts and crafts work celebrating different nations - cutting and glueing flags and that sort of thing. For the day itself, they were asked to come to school dressed in costumes from different countries, and Little A came as a Middle Eastern. It was the only costume among the choices at the department store that I know he would wear without much fuss, and luckily he was the only one so garbed among his schoolmates.

A week later was Halloween Day, on the last day before the half-term break. Again, fancy dress, and this time Little A came as a scuba diver in a pair of trompe l'oeil pyjamas. Carrying his pumpkin and standing in line, each of the classes visited the assigned stations at the school to pick up treats.

We have another week until Halloween proper, so I do hope Little A is just as cooperative when it comes to donning a costume again and this time trick or treating around the houses in neighbouring villages. He has a third outfit to put on, one that matches mine and Big A's as we attend a yearly Halloween themed birthday party for a dear friend. There are prizes for best costumes, and this time we aim to take home the family one.  Happy Halloween, all! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Football



By the time Big A and I were ten, we were seriously into competitive sport. He trained with, and swam for, the Philippine national team for about a decade, while I was on my way to a performing arts boarding school with the end goal of dancing professional ballet.

Little A, at 7, has not yet joined a proper sport workshop, though he does swim far better than other kids his age, an amazing feat for a self-taught child.

Still, team sports are something we want him to experience, and the perfect opportunity came up when a local football teaching club recently set up a set of sessions specifically for the kids at Little A's school.

"Auditions"
Before starting classes, the football club spent two full days at school getting to know each of the interested students, and testing their skills with the help of the school nurse/PE teacher and Occupational Therapist. This was done during school hours and I received no feedback on Little A's trial, so when I signed him up for the classes I had no idea what to expect.

Football sessions are held at a covered basketball court near the school, and thankfully near our home as well. We were late for the first one, but only by a few minutes, so I rushed Little A into the middle of the group, but he didn't want to let go of my hand as it was a new environment and a new group of "teachers".

While the drills were nothing he would have difficulty with, I worried about his social integration skills. Thankfully, a friendly coach and the school OT took him in hand midway through, and he joined in the rest of the drills without much complaint.

Lesson one went well, and I was particularly impressed with the coaches, who knew the name of every child upon arrival and both engaged the kids and kept their attention and focus amazingly well for the entire hour.

Team Sport
At the end of Lesson One, I was given a uniform for Little A to don in future sessions. Come the second lesson, he looked almost a proper little footballer, save the socks and shoes which I have not yet purchased, bad mother that I am.

Lesson Two went better than the first, because most of the children knew what to expect and were generally going with the flow. We look forward to seeing their progress in the next couple of months.

While it may just be a pipe dream for most of us that any of our children will turn into the next David Beckham, I think everyone involved is pleased and proud at how children generally perceived to be in their own little worlds willingly come together and develop new skills. I hope things only get better and more fun for them. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Heroes



Teachers' Day is celebrated in September and this year at Little A's school, the theme was "Our Teachers, Our Heroes." I couldn't agree more.

Finland might have the best educational system in the world, but I believe teachers in Third World nations are far more deserving of accolades. Many of them have not had the opportunity of a first-class education, and can easily get jobs that pay much better at big corporations. Third World teachers, whether at public or private schools, are notoriously poorly paid, and to choose to become one is akin to entering into the Holy Orders.

People I have met in the corporate world who started out as teachers, or who still teach on the side, are some of the best people I know. They are good team players, good leaders, visionary and often rise up in the ranks quickly as a result of all this.

The admiration one might have for a regular teacher rachets up  exponentially on meeting a special needs teacher, particularly some of those Little A is fortunate to have at his school.

I was asked to give a brief welcome remarks at the school's Teacher's Day Celebration. I couldn't say much besides a heartfelt thank you to the teachers comprising the "village" that raises my child seven hours a day, five days a week for what will be thirteen years. Words, truly, aren't enough. I think they get the most satisfaction out of seeing results, and the hugs and smiles they get from non-verbal kids like Little A, who can show, without words, how grateful they are.





Saturday, September 27, 2014

Literacy Week



The academic calendar at Little A's school is much fuller than my social one. They have an entire lineup for the year. Language Month, Grandparents' Day, Literacy Week, Halloween, Caregiver's Appreciation Day, and many more.

This week was Literacy Week. A mini book fair by a leading children's publisher took prime place in the school lobby, there were visits by character mascots, storytelling sessions, and Come As Your Favourite Book Character day. 

I worried that Little A would want to be an animal, as some of his most-loved stories feature anthropomorphic creatures. Olivia, Kipper, Animal Orchestra and Ruby the Musical Hamster sit at the foot of his bed for nighttime reading. 

True enough, on costume day, he picked an Animal Orchestra as his favourite book, but wanted to dress in his school uniform trousers. The quick thinking Au Pair grabbed his t-shirt that said "Rock Star", and I handed him a toy ukulele and the book about an imaginative boy who loved music. This was acceptable, and off he went.

At the Costume Parade were Fancy Nancy, Madeline, Tigger, Minnie Mouse and several more. Each took turns standing on stage while the other kids guessed who they were.

Little A stood proudly during his turn, after sitting quietly near the front for the early part. I was very pleased with his behavior, as it has been fairly consistent. 

Just a week prior, we attended a children's party. While Little A couldn't relate to nail art and feather boas the girls enjoyed, he sat in his place during the games without much complaint, and when Big A arrived towards the end of the evening moved to sit with him and his uncles, at the big people's table.

I am glad to see him participating more in group activities, and hope this continues. Next up, Halloween!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Astronaut Training



During the post-session reports after Little A's weekly occupational therapy sessions at school, the therapist always goes on about Astronaut Training. I honestly have no idea what this involves apart from slow, controlled spinning followed by weight bearing exercises, but this week we've been told to start doing it at home every day.

Every night for the past few weeks, I've found Little A hanging upside-down off the side of his bed, doing some sort of reverse sit-ups. I've never seen this done at therapy sessions so figure he must be taking care of some sensory need on his own, or just having fun as kids do.

At any rate, I need to buy a pair of 3 pound dumbells for him. In the meantime, he's been using a very heavy book to serve as his weight, carting it around the flat and lifting it over his head as I instruct him. Whether or not this will serve the same purpose, I've no idea. But it's good to improvise, and books are abundant in our house. 

The spinning part, I would love to know more about. (Though perhaps I could just Google that, because Wikipedia no doubt has something to say about this.) After spinning, a child's eye movements are observed, as neurotypical children get dizzy after such exercise and autistic children, less so. Or maybe it's the other way around. 

In ballet, early on, students are taught to focus on one point as they turn, whipping their head around at the last second to look at the spot again. This keeps us from getting dizzy and therefore allows one to do multiple turns easily. I was terrible at this, to my dismay, and turns were probably my weakest point as a dancer.

Maybe astronaut training would have helped me. Seeing as I'm thinking of signing up for an adult ballet class next month, perhaps I should ask Little A's OT about it. (Or, again, Google.) Who knows, perhaps in my middle age, I'll finally get around to doing those 32 fouettes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Language Month



School has begun, and we snuck in a trip to the mountains during the first holiday weekend. Thankfully, no schooldays have yet been cancelled due to bad weather, something that happened quite frequently last year.

The campus on which Little A's school is situated has expanded to allow for all the new students and the new First Grade classes. He now has some classes upstairs and some in the old wing, downstairs. These days, he has taken to grabbing his backpack every time we go out, even if it's just to the supermarket. He keeps it on his back the entire time, even in the car.

He is also back to wearing school uniform, something that was not required during the summer session. While there are days he prefers the school t-shirt to the one with the collar, he dons the outfit without much complaint, looks at himself in the mirror while waiting for the lift to take us to the car, and carefully points out the school logo on his chest.

I've noted his schedule, the names of his teachers and his classmates. The size of the student body has more than doubled since last year, which is a good thing. There is a group of over a dozen "big|" boys, aged from 10-13, a handful of tiny Junior Preschoolers, half a dozen Kindergarteners and a dozen or so First Graders. Little A's class, for the first time since he started school at 2.5 years old, has more girls in it than boys.

The school's first major event was Language Month, in August. This typically culminates in a Filipino fiesta, when parents bring native foods, and the children dress in national costume.

Bad mum that I am, I didn't read the letter in full, and sent Little A off in regular clothes last Friday. When I saw all the other kids in Filipino costume, I rushed home and put something together for Little A, as the parents were invited to join the lunchtime gathering.

When I pulled Little A into the toilets to change him, I expected some resistance. But he quickly complied and put on his "farmer" outfit the minute I told him he'd need to wear the same thing as the other kids. Then he joined the little parade.

Hooray for small improvements! Next target, getting him into his Halloween costume in two months' time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Party Time



One of the items on Little A's sensory integration checklist is to monitor he behaves at children's parties.

When he was 20 months old, we attended the first birthday party of one of my goddaughters. At the time, we had not yet been to a developmental pediatrician and had no formal ASD diagnosis.

The party was held at a restaurant, and, like most typical Filipino first birthday celebrations, it was crowded and very loud.

Little A was in his stroller, where he screamed and cried and wanted out of the room from the very moment we walked in. He spent about half an hour outside in the heat by the car, only to melt down again when he brought him back into the restaurant.

We ended up leaving that party early, but not before saying goodbye to the birthday family. As I wheeled Little A over to speak to the hosts, the birthday girl's grandmother pointedly remarked in a voice loud enough for me to hear, "That child needs to be assessed by a doctor."

I was insulted at the time, at her matter-of-fact delivery. Perhaps that was my denial stage. At any rate, this grandmother turned out to be right on the mark, as we discovered a few months later.

Fast forward six years and many birthday parties later. Some we attended without Little A, making the excuse that he was napping, or telling the truth that the surroundings and noise would overwhelm him. Some parties he attended, carefully selected ones in an outdoor venue or those without a party host screaming into a microphone. Most times he cried. Sometimes he adjusted after a while.

At his own birthdays he participated minimally, usually just at cake-blowing time. Almost every time, he would cover his ears for the duration of the party.

This year, though, he began leafing through our photo albums and pulling out photos of his birthday parties. He would select books about birthday parties, and watch videos over and over again of children's parties with singing and clapping.

He attended his cousin's party, cried during the noisy bit, but enjoyed after most of the guests had departed. At his party, he cried only when they sang the birthday song.

Party season is coming up as several of our goddaughters have birthdays one after the other, keeping our weekends full for an entire month. So far, he has attended two already without any crying. He doesn't join in the games and dancing, but he has been able to sit with the rest of the kids despite noise and tolerate the events for more than 10 minutes before retreating to a quiet corner. We consider this a huge improvement.

Two down, three to go. I hope that at the end of next month I am able to mark down on the sensory integration checklist that Little A has "mastered" the skill of attending a typical children's party.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

First Grade



In a few days, Little A goes back to school. This will be his second year at his new school, and he will  officially enter the First Grade.

While I worry that the students will be expected to sit still and write for long periods of time, and whether Little A can manage this, the teachers have assured me that the format does not differ much from the current setup of the Preschool class. Little A's Occupational Therapist has also been working on sitting and writing tasks for extended periods of time.

His class will have a maximum of six students, with one teacher and one teaching assistant. I have seen their schoolbooks, and hope he copes with the work.

This year, there will also be a music therapist, so the piano we donated to the school will come in handy. I hope Little A will be ready for piano lessons soon, and that he will fare better at them than I did as a child.

Also, the father of a fellow student runs a football clinic, so they will be working with the school to set up an after-school programme for the children who are interested in and able to participate.

Finally, due to demand from working parents living a fair distance from the school, they will begin a bus service. Little A has long dreamed of riding a proper yellow school bus, so once this service begins, he may start using it a couple of days a week, just to get the full school experience.

Naturally, all this does not come cheap, but we are budgeting for it, and I am hoping to get some additional freelance work in this year.

Onwards then, to the first of twelve required academic years. May Little A learn and apply and succeed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Left Feet



They say things happen in threes. How true this is for my family. For a little while last month, only Big A had full use of all his limbs.

Towards the end of June, the Au Pair began limping about the flat. When I asked what was wrong, she showed me a mean-looking boil on her right leg, just above the knee. She'd scratched it, and it turned nasty. She was trying to self-medicate with leaves from a certain plant to draw out the infection, but when she needed antibiotics, I decided it was time to force her to see a doctor.

The doctor prescribed a much stronger antibiotic and a strict cleaning regiment for the boil, as well as a follow-up visit in a few days. Meanwhile, the Au Pair was unable to chase after Little A or do any work that required much walking or bending of her knee for the next two weeks.

A few days later, at the soft play centre after summer school, Little A and I were having some fun when, horror of horrors, age and general unfitness suddenly caught up with me and I twisted my right foot severely on an uneven padded surface. This ankle had been badly sprained two decades ago during my dancing days, so I expected the same ligaments and tendons were affected.

After hobbling home and managing to get about that evening, the following morning my ankle was very swollen and virtually immobile. I took Little A to school and then took myself to hospital to see an orthopaedic doctor who confirmed a grade 2 sprain, with several affected ligaments.

Two down, and only the men of the house left with full use of both legs then.

Apparently, I spoke too soon. 

Little A has been painting over the summer, and decided one afternoon that a metal sculpture/paperweight of a horse that Big A had on his bookshelf would be his inspiration for the latest abstract work. He placed the object on his easel, where it didn't balance quite right and a few minutes later I heard a thump, a scream, and then Little A hobbled over to me, with his foot hurt.

The iron horse had landed on his big toe. I iced it, applied bruise cream, and made him sit still for a few minutes, but since he is nothing if  not filled with energy (and having that extremely high pain threshold most autistic children do) he was soon mobile again.

I checked his toe and foot periodically, but there was no further swelling beyond the big toe, and it seemed all the joints were moving properly. However, being no stranger to damaged toes myself, (two decades of ballet will do that to you) I figured there would be more to this injury than met the eye.

True enough, over the next few weeks, Little A favoured the foot by rolling his ankle, or clicking his hip. His thigh muscles were affected too, resulting in a constant twitch that got so severe that at a children's party in the soft play centre, he voluntarily stopped playing since it was too hard, or painful, for him to get around an area he normally raced through with no problems.

I took him to the orthopeadic doctor who'd looked at my ankle. Big mistake. Ortho Doc, on finding out Little A was on the spectrum, did not even examine his leg properly, nor ask for any of the history leading to the injury. He quickly wrote a recommendation for a pediatric neurologist, babbled on about seizure activity and Little A needing an EEG and MRI, and threw us out of his office as quickly as he could.

While there is a relationship between autism and seizure disorders and we have been meaning to have those tests done anyway, I really didn't think this leg twitch was caused by that. Mother knows best, they say. 

The day before school was to resume, I took Little A to another clinic - one specialising in rehabilitation and sports injuries. The doctor who attended to him there was amazing, and is now my go-to man for all things related to this field. He asked me the full history, reviewed the video clips I took of Little A at the soft play centre both before and after the foot injury, and proceeded to tell me about how an injured big toe would affect the other areas of the leg in language I understood and could relate with as a former dancer.

Instead of ordering further therapy, he simply told me to let Little A be, as he is an active child and would use the leg himself as much as he could, strengthening it that way, and resting when it hurt. I took my son to the mall nearby, extremely relieved.

True enough, the muscle spasms decreased and then stopped over the next few days. School started, and I didn't even need to tell the nurse or his Occupational Therapist to watch for the thigh twitches. Little A's leg is mending itself.

The Au Pair's boil has gone as well, and my ankle is mending. So all's well once again.






Thursday, July 10, 2014

Splendid Seven



Just five days ago, Little A turned seven. Where did the time go?

First and seventh birthdays are a big thing in our culture, so we knew Little A had to have a party. My parents offered their garden, so I hired a fancy tent, expensive chairs and a caterer while my mum took care of the entertainment - a dozen string musicians who played a mini-concert of Little A's favorite classical pieces.

Before the musical interlude, the dozen children in attendance (children of his godparents, cousins and a couple of schoolmates) sat and painted at mini-easels, as art is another of Little A's current preferred activities. After tea and music there were a couple of rounds of pass the parcel and each child went home with a classical music cd, their artwork, and several items from our little shop.

Little A, for the first time, spent a significant amount of time interacting with his cousins at the piano.  He went swimming instead of painting and had Big A drive him, and a few companions, around the garden in my dad's golf cart during pass the parcel, but on the whole he seemed to enjoy his party, apart from. A few tears during the concert, no doubt in anticipation of the dreaded applause.

He has another small ceremony at school the next day, but unlike last year has not yet had any post-party stress or sleeplessness. Perhaps he is growing up and dealing with his anxiety better. He is seven now, after all, and this is a number he's looked forward to for ages, so will hopefully spend his year wisely and well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Conversations

Little A has started lessons with a new speech therapist recently. This one is trained in what appears to be the newest thing - oral motor therapy.  The first few sessions did serve to make my son more aware of what his mouth can do, as I would see him in front of the mirror making faces, and his sound output increased.

This summer, however, the teacher has shifted to a different tactic. One session Little A was frustrated and couldn't find the words he wanted to use in his communication book. Teacher pulled out is iPad and asked my son to type out what was on his mind. The result was this, with my notes following the dashes:

jump swim nick jr seal

i want watch  nick jr nelvana
-- Teacher told him there was no internet. Later, Little A indicated he wanted to use the toilet so he went, and when he got back to the therapy room the teacher asked him what he did:

i pee
i wash hands
-- Teacher asked what Little A wanted to do next:

ipad

watch watch nickelodeon

-- Teacher said there was still no internet so Little A got mad and spat on the floor (one of the unfortunate side-effects of oral motor exercises, he does this now when he is angry.) He promptly got a tissue, and Teacher asked him what he did next:

wipe

i am angry

i want to see mommy

letis go home

-- Teacher was very pleased to report the outcome of the session to me. I asked him to please email me the transcripts after each session, and questioned him closely about the level of prompting given to Little A in crafting his replies (none to reply, but sometimes Teacher would spell out a word correctly.) I told him Little A could figure it out phoenetically with minimal help.

This seems to be the pattern their sessions will take over the next few weeks. While it may be far from the regular chatty six-year-old conversations, for now, this is enough for us. Let's hope it can be sustained.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Skater Boy



Two Christmases ago, Little A was obsessed with skateboards. There were two skate shops near our flat, and he spent afternoons hanging out with the skaters and watching them practise.

It made sense then, to get him a "training" board for Christmas. I'd been eyeing one at the hardware store, that came with a sturdy handle, making it a scooter of sorts that could later be converted into a proper skateboard. Big A and I managed to get the very last one in the city.

Come Christmas morning, 2012, Little A was more interested in the ribbon tied round his present than the actual scooter/board. He did a few experimental rounds inside the house, but by and large the board was a sitting mat for most of the following year.

In December 2013, however, something must have clicked. One day Little A took interest in his scooter and wanted to try it outside. He practised and practised, and soon got his balance on the board and figured out how to turn and stop. This became an afternoon ritual, on coming home from school, and on weekends. Whenever he needed to take a break from his devices, playing outside usually meant being on the scooter with me or the Au Pair chasing after him.

In a few months he's nearly outgrown the handle, which sadly does not adjust its length the way those Razors do. But he's still enjoying his board, and hopefully will carry on when it turns into a skateboard. Now to buy a helmet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Cat and His Boy



I recently read the most tedious homage to CS Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. It ranked as one of the top young adult sellers on Amazon the year it was released, and I couldn't see why. If it wasn't for my inability to put down a book without finishing it, awful as it may be, this one would have been consigned to the rubbish heap within the first few chapters.

Still, I appreciate how this author was so strongly influenced by Lewis's children's classics, a series I hope Little A enjoys one day.

In the meantime, in the few days of holidays he had before summer school, Little A and his cat had some fun. Once summer school started, he came home and looked for the cat first thing, as he did on waking up, before going to sleep, and countless times in between. He wants the cat to always be within his line of sight, if not arm's reach.

Meanwhile despite having been neutered, Kitty is quite aggressive and fancies himself a dog. He play-attacks people coming into the flat for the first time, and pounces on their belongings. The Au Pair is his especial favourite, followed by myself, and we both bear scars on both legs from scratches. With Little A though, he is never aggressive. I suppose in that relationship, he knows who is the master. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

End of Term, Part 3


Another academic year has ended, Little A's first at the school he will attend for as long as we can afford to send him there.

Less than a month prior to the end of term, the school sent home uniforms for the children to wear. They had been coming to school in casual clothes until then, apart from a t-shirt they were encouraged but not required to wear on Wednesdays, so I don't think I was the only parent who worried about how to coax her child into the new uniform.

Little A has always been picky about fabrics, and has never yet tolerated denim jeans. He resists wearing sweaters and jackets (though this is likely because they are entirely unnecessary in our part of the world) and socks with his shoes.

Big A suggested he remain out of uniform for a week, so he would notice how he was the only one in school still wearing regular clothes. On photo day though, he had no other choice.

The people at school were clever, and allowed for one "rehearsal" day before the two photo days, and I managed to get Little A (crying and whining) into the school shirt for this day. The next day, he put on the trousers as well, to my delight, with minimal complaints, and wore them all day.

I didn't breathe a sigh of relief just yet, as my son has been known to tolerate things for a short term and then refuse them forevermore afterwards. But as the days passed, he put on his school uniform every day without a struggle for the last three weeks of classes. Fridays were kept as plain clothes days, to my delight. (Handwashing those two sets of trousers and shirts thrice a week to get them dry in time for the next day was always a little stressful.)

His official photos are now proudly on display at home, to remind him that come August he will need to don the uniform again every day. I only hope he hasn't outgrown the trousers by then. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bali High

Beach weekends - ahh, bliss. It's been a long time since I was in the presence of sun, sand, and surf together. The last time was when Little A was barely 3. Now I got lucky two weekends in a row.

A few weeks ago, Big A and I were invited by friends to spend a night at a members-only beach resort just 25 minutes away from the city by small plane. We'd visited the place when it was under construction but didn't like the payment package (it's a time share sort of deal) so we didn't have access to the place except by invitation. It was my first time to see the finished resort.

We spent just under 48 hours living the island life. All too soon, it was back to the daily grind. But only for another five days.

The day before we left for the private resort, Big A booked us a trip to Bali for the following weekend on the spur of the moment. We'd never been, and now was as good a time as any since resort prices were heavily discounted. I was busy with Little A's end of term coming up, plus the household chores that needed to be done since we would be gone two weekends in a row - groceries, paying bills, lots of laundry, and pre-cooking food for Little A and the Au Pair that could be easily heated while we were away. So I left the Bali itinerary entirely up to Big A, helped by a dear friend who'd recently spent a week there.

Bali was charming, and made me realise how far the Philippine beach resorts lagged behind, despite being so much better in terms of sand and marine life than their other Asian counterparts. We stayed in Seminyak, an area populated with one-storey boutiques and interesting open-air bars and restaurants. The cocktails were sublime.

While summer is drawing to a close in our part of the world, Little A's holidays are only beginning. With luck, we can squeeze another beach trip into the calendar before the rains come and the new academic year begins.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Market Day


Last week was Market Day at Little A's school. The students had spent several weeks of their arts and crafts time making things to sell - bookmarks, paperweights, rain sticks and trinket boxes. The culmination was to be a shopping day when parents were invited to purchase the merchandise.

Each child had a specific task - showing customers the product catalogue (we would remove a photo of the item/s we wanted and place it/them on a strip, or a virtual shopping basket), finding the correct items (think Jeff Bezos's Amazon warehouse on a minuscule scale, manned entirely by special needs staff), ringing up the sales (with the aid of a calculator), making change (using a fantastic maths chart) and bagging the purchases for delivery (via child-size shopping trolley) to the customers who waited across the room.

One mother described it perfectly when she said it was just like "shopping from an Argos catalogue." We were all delighted to see our children performing "real", functional tasks.

Little A was a bagger. I was amazed at how long he sat still, waiting for items to put in the brown paper sacks. Some of the items were a bit bulky and heavy, resulting in tears to the brown paper, but all ended well.

I know other schools have regular market days, when parents buy or bake and children sell the items for profit, without all the Argos-catalogue assistance. But given the challenges facing Little A and his peers, this was a special achievement for them, one they will now conduct yearly, and have every right to think of with pride. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life of A



One of the traits autistic individuals have is that they lack imagination. In children, this is one of the red flags. Often they mimic, but they have difficulty creating their own play scenes.

Little A fell into that category, and perhaps still does. But that doesn't mean he will remain in that box. Perhaps he is maturing emotionally, perhaps we're doing something right as parents and teachers, but recently he has been more imaginative.

Since he is non-verbal, he can't easily express what is on his mind, but we see it in his play.

Over Easter break, he watched certain parts of Ang Lee's film "Life of Pi" several times. He loves animals and water, and often takes toys into the pool and tub.

I haven't seen the movie in full, though I have read the book, so I was surprised when one day I peeked in on Little A in the tub and saw the bathroom floor covered in water.

As I watched, he filled his plastic bucket carefully, carried it to the edge of the tub, and tipped the water onto the floor. A tiger and several animals floated in the tub. The Au Pair rushed in and said, "You are not Pi!" and came back with a mop.

Apparently there is a scene when the lifeboat needs bailing out, and the main character does this with a bucket. So this was Little A's recreation of the scene. He has also tried, but failed, to get the cat into the tub with him, since he doesn't have a real live tiger.

Then last weekend, he set up his train set - the tunnel is his favorite - and a few days later asked me to help build some of his farm set. He also took out the Sesame Street building that is a modern version of one I had as a child. (Sadly, my aunt and cousins never returned the toys we lent them.) I looked into his room and saw that he had created his own scene. Certainly it wasn't one I'd ever seen in any of his books or shows.

He plays with this little diorama, but is careful to put the toys back in their places, instead of packing away. For now, this is his play land. It might not be what other almost-seven-year olds do, but my eight and a half year old typical godson was playing with the same toys on his last visit, so I don't think Little A is stuck in an earlier developmental play stage. Now to get some dialogue going into the next play scenes. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Burnt Feet


Holy Week is usually the hottest of the year, until May comes around. On Easter Sunday, there is an egg hunt and party in our building for all the kids.

Little A doesn't usually join in the party games as he dislikes loud adults constantly yapping into a microphone, which is a norm at all Filipino children's parties, sadly. So he participated in the egg hunt, did the rounds of the party area before and after the main event, and generally had a decent time.

He spends much of his outdoor time these days zooming around on the scooter/skateboard we got him two Christmases ago. It sat in a corner, ignored, for an entire year, and this January he simply decided one day to learn how to use it. A proper skateboard mounted with a removable handle, it requires more balance work than the average scooter. I have a hard time on it, but my son is young and determined and far more agile than even my former ballerina body once was, so he learnt without any major falls and has mastered turning and stopping.

Like a dancer, he enjoys getting the feel of the floor, and prefers to scoot barefoot. This is fine most of the time, summer being the exception. We chase after him asking him to please wear flip flops while skating because the ground is scorching mid-afternoon.

So hot, in fact, that two days later, Big A noticed red patches on the soles of Little A's feet that turned out to be first degree burns. He'd been back at school a couple of days already, and they are barefoot in the classrooms as well, so I asked his school nurse to keep an eye out and make sure there were no blisters or peeled skin. Burn ointment was applied every night while he slept, and the redness faded within a week.

Little A didn't complain, but he did give up the scooter for a couple of days. And we strictly forbade him from outdoor play between noon and 4pm. This is now his youTube and iPad time.

These days, since he is back at school, scooter time is back to early mornings and late afternoons. And now, finally, he manages to skateboard on hot days while keeping his flip flops on. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hooray for Pigs



Barely a month after returning from their annual pilgrimage to the Spring Buying Fairs in Europe, my parents were off again, this time for a month in the United States, where my sister was scheduled for much-needed heart valve surgery.

As a child, my younger sister tired easily, and was diagnosed with asthma. She was naturally athletic, but couldn't train rigorously in any one sport long enough to participate in national competitions. She got top grades in P.E. classes and was always asked to join varsity teams, but never got to fulfil all of their training requirements.

About a decade ago, her husband noticed that her heartbeat sounded irregular. It turns out she's had a heart condition probably all her life, called mitral valve prolapse. Apparently it's not an uncommon condition, but most cases are mild enough to be left alone. Hers was moderate to severe, with considerable regurgitation of blood in her heart that caused her to tire easily and get short of breath.

This condition can be hereditary, in this case inherited from our paternal grandfather. He had valve repair surgery years ago at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a renowned heart centre. So my sister headed over there too.

On hearing the possible option of replacement with a mechanical valve if repair couldn't' be done, she shelved the operation in favour of having children first. The blood thinners required for life after a valve replacement would mean she couldn't get pregnant. She had two girls in 11 months, but then didn't get pregnant again.

This year, her doctor noticed a marked deterioration in her heart condition, making immediate surgery a necessity. As soon as school ended for the girls, they flew off to Cleveland with my parents, for a month.

This morning the surgery finally took place, after the doctors had changed the schedule several times. Two valves were damaged - one was repaired, and the other replaced with a natural valve which would not require blood thinners, but which will in turn require replacement every 10 - 15 years.  The valve they used was porcine.

A long-time fan of Grey's Anatomy, I never thought my knowledge of random medical facts would come in useful, until now. My sister currently recovers in the ICU, and we continue praying for her complete and quick recovery.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coffe

No, the heading isn't a typo. It's my son's way of spelling "coughing," which is something he's doing now after a low grade fever the other morning.

Summer is upon us, and temperatures have gone from pleasant to torrid in the span on one or two afternoons. Then there were a couple of days of rain. Not surprisingly, everyone is now coming down with what we call "change in the weather flu."

Big A had it last week. He spent a morning in bed, and within two days every tissue in our flat disappeared. Then a couple of mornings ago, Little A came into our bed and cuddled next to me. He was unusually warm, so I kept him at home. He went to school the next day, but the fever returned, slightly higher, that evening.

The next day he stayed home, and typed the word "coffe" repeatedly. I was about to ask if he'd read the coffee labels in the kitchen when he pointed to his chest and coughed, and then typed the word again.

He's becoming aware of synonyms and homonyms because he often points to my wrist and asks for my watch. And then he points to the tv, and waits for me to ask if he wants to watch. As "coffe" and "coughing" sound alike, this is his own version of a synonym.

At any rate, I'm now suffering from the congestion that only comes with sinus pain and a head cold. What a way to spend my birthday weekend. Let's hope this doesn't turn into full blown flu and "coffe".

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Smile



A little over a month after it first started wiggling, Little A's first tooth fell out while I sat in the last workshop of a dozen that took place in the course of a three day seminar.

Now that things are slower at work, and it's nearly tax season, Big A decided my brain may as well get back in shape (and help us earn more money for Little A's breathtaking school tuition rates) by taking the Philippine Stockbrokers' Licensing Exam. We did meet in this industry, after all, so he figures I know the clients, the software, and everything but the actual nitty gritty of the stock market. Never mind that's been over a decade since I left and entered the exhausting world of retail.

Nothing a three-day workshop can't fix! This seminar is the prerequisite to an exam we sit in a month's time. Passing (70% of higher) means I have a broker's license for three years or longer, depending on whether or not I keep it active.

Near the end of three mind-numbing days of lectures in a hall that looked like a bomb shelter (the ceiling was falling in and the windows were covered in black paper for reasons I could not fathom and did not dare ask), I got a text from Little A's teacher informing me that he lost his tooth that day. As any typical parent who missed a child's milestone would, I bombarded her with questions - When and where exactly did it happen? Did he cry? Was the tooth sent safely home?

She replied in the way any mother of a toddler would - completely and without hesitating. He was working in small group when he approached her, tapped her on the arm, and held something out. When she took it, she saw it was his tooth, which had been wobbling precariously the couple of days prior. He opened his mouth and showed her that his gum was bleeding.

They iced the area for ten counts, all Little A would tolerate, and then showed him how to apply pressure with a hand towel. After that he would periodically walk up to them and show them the gap where his tooth used to be, but remained calm the rest of the day.

As I was stuck in the seminar, the Au Pair picked him up from school. She also sent a report - Little A held his tooth carefully in the car all the way home, and that I should expect a call from the other teacher because Little A also bit a younger classmate who stuck his finger in my son's mouth because he was curious about the missing tooth.

Since the biting was a reflex action and not intentional, this was quickly forgiven. As Big A and I had dinner out that evening, I saw my gap-toothed son very briefly, in which time I put his tooth carefully in an envelope. The Au Pair helped him put it under his pillow at bedtime.

When Big A and I got home that evening, I did the first of what will be many furtive exchanges any parent does when they take on the new role of Tooth Fairy. Next morning, I asked Little A where his tooth was, and he checked under the pillow and then promptly waved his money in the air.

One down, nineteen to go! My hope is that the rest come out as painlessly, and the new ones grow in straight. I suffered two painful years of braces after eight of my teeth were extracted from my too-small jaw. I pray my son doesn't need to go through the same. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Zoo, Glorious Zoo



For weeks now, Little A has been begging to return to the Zoo. I first took him last year, on a day when there was no school, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. We returned, with Big A, in January, but it was pollen season and itchy caterpillar weather, so Little A took home a bad rash on his face that lasted nearly two weeks as a souvenir. Still, that didn't deter him from wanting to go back.

The City Zoo has an elephant, two zorses (cross between zebras and horses), and a pair of hippos. This is the total of their wild animal collection.  Not very impressive, but clearly enough to delight a six year old with no expectations.

Given the distance though, and the traffic on a weekend, I opted to take him this time to the petting zoo, which he'd also visited once before, many years ago. We went on a Sunday, right before lunch.

At this children's zoo, little had changed since our last visit. Thankfully, they added some animals - two Humboldt penguins in an air-conditioned enclosure with a shallow paddling pond. Little A loved watching them. He was barely interested in the pair of tigers, the sleeping leopard, the jackals, and the lioness, but the colourful parrot delighted him as well. And when the tortoise was allowed to roam free, he spent a few moments trying to help it move faster by pushing, deciding if it could be ridden, and trying it out as a step stool to better view the penguins.

This visit made me realise how this children's zoo is really not designed for their enjoyment. Apart from the rock-hard concrete floors, the glass-fronted enclosures are designed in such a way that the very visitors for which this place was designed - young children - could not see into them properly. The large fake wood barrier was exactly at their head height. Terribly poor design. We weren't the only visitors who had to take turns holding up our 6.5 year old so he could see into the enclosures.

On the second level are the farm animals - sheep, goats, pygmy pigs, a Shetland pony, and rabbits and guinea pigs. A family of meerkats slept in one enclosure, huddled together. Best of all, as we sat for a snack, and Little A's lunch, a tiny black lamb trip-trapped up to him and made friends.

This morning, when he got dressed, Little A handed me the word card printed "zoo." I told him he had to go to school today, but that I'd speak to the teachers about organising a field trip, and that it would very likely be to the zoo.



Friday, February 28, 2014

Will Write for Food (or, Keeping a Hand In)

Once upon a time, or so it seems, (only a decade ago, really) I was a wedding coordinator. Big A's flatmate's girlfriend ran the business, and when her partner had a high-risk pregnancy she needed someone to fill in. She offered me a chance to earn quite decent extra money working on a Saturday or Sunday about three times a month. I decided to give it a shot, and voila, my weekend career took off.

With my day job in marketing/PR and then account management, this events experience led to other moonlighting opportunities with another colleague who did corporate shindigs and now handles restaurant publicity. The weddings kept my weekends busy until both my boss and I tied the knot ourselves, whereupon she retired from the business. Since Little A came along, I've only done weddings on request - for people I know, or through their recommendations. Other events are accommodated as my schedule allows, particularly since I now manage two shops. It can't hurt to keep a hand in, as you never know who you'll meet and what might come out of it.

Since things returned to a normal pace at work this month, in order to keep from getting too complacent I found myself agreeing to organise a surprise party for our book club's founder, write a press release and assist at a media launch for a high end bakery, and speak at my son's school Open House - all of which took place within the span of five days. I had little choice in that last one, but it wouldn't be a good idea to turn down an invitation to speak when one's son will be attending that school for another decade or so of his academic years.

The party came together thanks to some very talanted and organised individuals in the book club. On seeing what I thought would be a perfect present for the club founder's upcoming birthday, I suggested to some of my fellow members that we share the cost and surprise her, and from there things snowballed quite quickly into a surprise party with a set theme, handcrafted decorations, a cake, goody bags and the completely styled venue. It was quite a success, if the attendees' reactions and the post-event Facebook posts are anything to go by.

On the morning of Party Day, I was slotted to speak at my son's school Open House/Fundraiser. With an email of brief guidelines (3-5 minutes, talk about the IEP programme), I wasn't sure what to speak about or how to prepare for this. I arrived a little early, and sat and wrote a few notes. When the parent testimonials began, however, I quickly realised my three minute bullet point speech wouldn't cut it. So when my turn came, I had to wing it.

As with most spur-of-the-moment speeches, I recall very little of what I actually said, but an assistant headmistress from the international school Little A's teachers came from told me later that I "spoke very well." Two mornings later, Little A's headmaster asked if I would be the official marketing spokesperson for the school, because so many parents had been impressed by my testimonial. That was a nice thing to hear.

On to the writing for cookies bit, my friend took on a PR job with very little time to prepare. Accustomed to delivering under pressure, she asked me to help. Payment would be partly in kind - gift certificates for baked goods. Who could say no to cookies, croissants and delectable eclairs?

Again, that went well, and I was especially thrilled when my press release, corporate profile and post-event release were received without revision requests by the bakery's owners. It gave me a little extra cash (promptly spent on theatre tickets) and an ego boost to realise that time may be flying by, but in terms of professional capabilities, I still haven't lost it. Til the next party, then! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Artist in the Making




A few months ago, Little A started art classes at school, under the care of a young artist I met through my secondhand book supplier. It turns out this artist also works with special needs children, so I gave his number to Little A's school heads and after one interview, he was hired.

Little A has never liked colouring. He has no patience, or desire, to shade in a large space with colour, and his fine motor skills need work, so it requires extra effort for him to hold a crayon for a period of time and move it in repeated strokes. Finger paint makes him gag, as does play dough, and he likes to spread paint on the floor so he can swim in it.

Why then, would I enrol him in art class?

Ever since he was tiny he has had books featuring the work of artists, and loves the bold colours of Van Gogh's art in particular. That much interest can only be positive, and so I am exploiting it as such. Just as his love of instruments will lead to music lessons as soon as I find a teacher, so the love of art has led to this.

At any rate, the art teacher is more of a blessing than I expected. He is working closely with Little A's OT and schoolteachers to work on the hand positions and strokes that need strengthening. They begun with colouring - crayons on paper that increased in size as Little A's tolerance for the activity increased. I was told painting on canvas would be next.

Shortly before Christmas, Art Teacher told me that Little A and his schoolmates would be joining a students' Biennale at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, running for three months. They would collectively produce a painting that would be the school's piece for the fair. In addition, the works the students had done so far would be printed onto Christmas cards for sale to parents.

I proudly bought a pack of cards featuring Little A's coloured Christmas ball ornaments, and sold several packs at my stores in lieu of the charity cards we normally sell. His work on exhibit though, I only saw last week, when I went to the theatre to see "Wicked." Little A will be taken to see his work on display before it comes down, as soon as we get a free day.

Two weeks ago, Art Teacher came out to show me a square canvas with an abstract design on it. It was still wet, but he told me this was Little A's work. I immediately saw the influence of the abstract hanging in our dining room, which Little A has tried to paint over several times.

Since starting with oil on canvas, my son has resisted going back to crayons on paper. Yesterday, at the bookstore, he spotted this rubber "palette" (actually a coaster) and insisted we buy it. He proudly carried it all the way home, and last night tried to paint using it and my makeup brush.

An artist then, is something my son might be. I can totally live with that.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Loose Tooth

Possibly the last photo of his full milk-toothy grin
The moment when a parent realises their child is officially no longer a baby, or even a toddler, is when the first milk tooth begins to wiggle. Usually, this happens around age 5 or 6, just about the time the child enters "big" school.

Little A's milk teeth came in late, with the lower two making an appearance just in time for his first birthday. So I expected he wouldn't lose them as early as other kids, either.

As the "first in, first out" policy seems to apply here, I wasn't surprised when, a week or so ago, Little A showed me his tooth, which had just started to wiggle. I explained that it would get looser and looser and eventually fall out, and then a new tooth would grow. I also told him that other teeth would get loose as well.

Finally, I ordered a book online, which was reviewed as being an excellent resource for parents, particularly those with ASD kids. I hope it turns out as good as the reviews claim, as it will be regularly read from here on in! 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Year of Slow Reading


A few years ago, I joined a book club. Prior to that I'd just been reading, what I wanted and when I wanted. But these book clubbers are serious readers, who note the titles they read in a year, make extensive lists and, in some cases, write detailed reviews that only serve to increase the number of books one wants to read.

I am nothing if not conscientious, so I dutifully started recording my reads. For the two consecutive years I attended the Christmas parties, it turns out I read the most books among the group.

Starting last December, though, my reading pace has slowed drastically as my workload has increased. Since this year has begun, I've barely finished one book, whereas I normally average ten to fifteen a month.

No matter the pace, it's the quality that matters. For the past couple of years I've resolved to read more books by local authors, and this year that looks to be on track, as the first quarter's book discussions and read-along all feature Filipino authored works.

This year, I also resolve to read less of the self-published free books that have mostly turned out disappointing. If I can somehow narrow down my to-be-read pile from the 50 books it's hovered at for the past couple of years down to about two dozen, that would be amazing.

So, on to page turning then.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Matilda Moments



We started the new year with a trip to the mountains, Little A's home away from home. There is a set routine when we are there, places we always visit, activities we do together. One of these is a visit to the public park. There are boats on a man-made mini lake, bicycles for rent, and a large playground.

In the city Little A has few chances to visit parks, as he has a full day at school five days a week. In addition, the weather is usually far too humid. But when we are in the north, he enjoys romping on the climbing frames.

This time, he watched other boys crossing the monkey bars several times, but knew he didn't have the upper body strength to do the same. So he found another way, all on his own. He boosted himself up on his tummy, and moved across the bars from above all the while being careful not to fall through. Once successful, he was very keen to repeat this feat.

Another new thing that happened this trip was that Little A was brave enough to ride a horse. Twice, even. This was something that happened gradually, over several trips. First he would watch them, then pet them, and finally sit on one. Last visit he wasn't ready for the horse to walk, but this time he bounced up and down in the saddle to urge it forward. His first ride, the guide rode behind him and they did a full hour of walking, trotting, and a short trail ride. The second ride was in a gentle circle, and this time he was on his own as the guide led the horse.

Finally, Little A spent a lot of time revisiting his favourite places on the grounds of the country club we stay at every time we are up north. There is an aviary with peacocks, pheasants and various other birds, two reindeer couples in a pen, and a hutch of rabbits next to the strawberry field. We are all quite sad to go back to the city, but needs must, and responsibilities call. This only makes looking forward to our next mountain trip all the sweeter.