Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Almost Perfect Day

"Following the leader, the leader, the leader, following the leader down the rapids!"  When the going got tough, the tough got singing.  I don't even remember why Alex was unhappy, but he started asking where the car was.  This is not a good sign when it is a good two river hours away, with lots of rapids in between.  But that little song turned it around.  Suddenly he was happy to be out in our inflatable kayak, following three friends down a long and twisty rapids.  Perhaps it was having to leave the rope swing behind that we had discovered, and the boys had tested, that got him grumpy.  Jethro, at 11, had done an excellent job climbing the ladder up the bank and swinging out over the river.  Alex got to the first rung and dragged his way in, twice.  Which I thought was great for a little guy who is not even a graduated pollywog.  And he did too.  Jethro was not impressed.  He went higher and higher, and probably would have stayed there all day, but we had to move on so we could get home sometime.  The river was low, low, super low, so it took longer than usual.  But it was stone gorgeous out.  Hot and sunny in mid-September.  The woods starting to turn to fire.  I tried to get our friends with a cata-raft out with their two girls, plus more friends who boat whose son would have fit with Alex, but no luck.  It was just our little crew of five people and four boats.  No dog this time, maybe if Kevin had come along to wrangle and play.  He had to get some work in before we go off to Pittsburgh next week, so I played it safe.  Alex is doing great with the whitewater routine now.  He does not even protest when I clip on his helmet, or stuff him is his wet suit.  He prefers sitting on the bow of the boat, with feet in the water if I let him, and I have to get stern to have him sit near me for big water.  But he sits, and then grins through the whole rapid.  This year he has gotten to paddle with a mini-canoe paddle, next year we may need to upgrade.  For entertainment today Anett rolled with his paddle, after making her boat go in a circle while she was upside down.  They don't have a TV either...  Anyways, between the rope swinging and the singing down rapids and the entertainment, it was another perfect day (except for the parent missing out).  After the first verse that I made up Alex took it over and continued to sing down the river, inventing new phrases as we went.  It was a golden moment.  For a kid who didn't talk much a year ago, we sure have come a long way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Glorious Fall

It has been drop dead gorgeous up North.  75 degrees and sunny.  My tomatoes are finally ripening and the apple tree is packed with Haralreds.  I have been running up on Hawk Ridge regularly, which is up behind our house.  I can leave the house and with a little three block warm up be into a trail through the woods that connects to the Superior Hiking Trial.  Eventually you will be able to get from my house to Canada on foot.  For now I just go about 3km and am very happy winding through the pines and oaks, past the raspberries and thimble berries.  On the ridge our family has seen chipmunks galore, multiple cheeky squirrels, a zillion lbb's (little brown birds), deer a-plenty, hawks, eagles, owls, and even two black bears.  It is a magic place.  Usually I run up with the dog.  It used to be our old dog, and I have named my favorite height Lucky Peak after her.  Jack has not earned a landmark yet, but that will come.  I find running clears my head, gets my blood going, and makes my days better.  I have been at it consistently for three years now and would recommend it to anyone with good joints. 

So, we are now at the end of week two of school for Alex.  It has been a long road, with many twists and turns to get here.  Today he was observed by the Autism specialist, Sheila Merzer, that the school hired for better programming for Alex.  We are going to the annual Harvest Fest tonight for North Shore Community School, so I hope to hear more about the day.  We get a communication notebook home every day, and so far it has all been good news.  Alex is happy in his class, and is fully integrated.  He has not needed to be pulled out once due to meltdown or upset.  He does have a full time aide that he shares with another boy, and I don't know yet how much assistance he has been needing.  I will be checking on that shortly.  So far it has been time to get used to the routine and slot in as much as possible.  The Autism specialist is one of the best in the business, and she will have spotted all the places where it looks like Alex is understanding, but he really isn't.  That is the tricky thing about Autism with Alex.  He learns patterns and how things work in one way, but cannot easily transfer that knowledge.  So we are always trying to vary things and figure out where the knowledge gaps are.  We are going out of state early next week, so this is the last day of school for Alex for a week.  I hope to write a bit more once I hear how things have gone this week.  Overall, from our end, he comes home happy and tired.  He sits with the same little friend on the way to school, Lussi, and plays with her at school too.  He also talks about his new friends Issac and Beourn.  Plus he has started reciting some of the school routines at home, like holding up one finger for quiet, two for stand up, and three for go quietly to the door.  Oh, the bus is here, gotta run!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Summer Review

 Well, I do not know why these photos are so small, must be the formatting and will try to fix it in time.  It has been an excellent summer for camping and outdoor adventures.  We finally got ourselves a used Grumman canoe to go with the 14 kayaks, and that really upped our camping.  Also I pitched a little fit last year when I realized we had not camped AT ALL, and swore this year would be different.
 Jack and Alex both did great in the new canoe- The William B.  Our only trouble was when Kevin was casting from the stern.  I was pretty sure there would be major chaos if he landed a fish.  Luckily this did not happen.  
 Our first real camping trip was up to Indian Lakes Campground at Brimson.  I found the perfect North Shore camping guide by Andrew Slade and we just got amped and started going whenever time and weather permitted.  The first trip was early June.
 Jack turned out to be an excellent camping companion.  He even figured out how to open the tent on his own when he needed out in the middle of the night. 
Mid July the Carlton Kayak Races came along again.  This was our 13th year of putting on the St. Louis River Whitewater Rendezvous.  Always a marvelous time.  Yes, that's me going down the top drop on the Slalom.  Whee!
 Alex's best friend Fraya was in the horse show at our little county fair, so we went to cheer her on.  Alex loved the animal barns this year (previous years he has refused to go in...too loud) and he is getting a taste for rides as well.  It is not summer in the Mid-west without them!
 Our biggest camping trip was a three day to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  On the first night, when we camped in campground on Sawbill Lake, Alex met this big bug.  He thought it was very cool.  On the second night we had some bedtime tears (which never ever happens in our house- we are very fortunate in his sleep habits).  I am not sure if it was because we were out for a second night, or because we were away from the car (at Alton Lake on portage in to the BWCA), or just because he was extra tired.  That was our only autism bump in the road.  Otherwise the usual kid whining occured at times, fixed by strategic snacks and distractions.

Finally in late August and early September the weather was warm enough for more expeditions in our new inflateable kayak.  We now know Alex can fit in it with an adult, and a dog or second little kid.  It is a bit of extra work to add  the dog or another kid, but well worth it.  We started with short trips, then added long trips with snacks on board, and finally cut the snacks to only at rest breaks.  He is taking the whitewater like a champ, and has now been on board for class II+ and III-.   Yeah, it has been a good summer!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hello Again

Well well, it has been quite awhile. Summer goes so fast up here, I can't believe it is already September. As I put Alex on the bus, however, for the first day of Kindergarten, the reality of fall was apparent. It has arrived, wrapped in a summer package. It is 70 and sunny today, time to tend the garden and get a little more sun before the rains set in. This summer was a bit lacking in the good weather department, until this last week. Now it is gorgeous, and all the trees are coloring early to celebrate. I am not sure where to start, or go, with this post, so will ramble for just a bit, then see if I can get some pictures up.

It may not seem it, but I am ecstatic about Alex starting school. I wish I could go to his school, and I hope my wishes will line up with his experience. His school really wants him, and that is great, coming from a system that often treated him more as a burden. Again, from my perspective, and not the individuals that taught him, but the overall system. A few key comments like, "No no, you wont want him in a regular classroom" just before we mainstreamed him in a private preschool, and later from another staffer, "Gee, sounds like he's doing great in regular preschool, but I am sure the best place for him will be back in a special ed classroom next year.", shows that the Duluth school system has one plan and one plan only for a kid on the Autism spectrum. Also, I was recently told by a district insider that, "We are required to graduate our special ed kids (from high school) with an eighth grade education.", and "We shoot for adequate education, no more." Wow. So glad we found the charter school, and that is it's own district, with it's own goals. If all goes well the need for services will drop off as Alex learns and grows, as he integrates into this system that seeks to teach all it's kids strong social skills, as well as the academics. In fact, their hand book says, "We believe that social learning is as important as academics.", which is so true! Where is a kid who graduates from school but can't make friends or work with people? That kid is living in his parents basement forevermore. And what about a kid with no self control? Of course all of this must also be taught and modeled at home, but how perfect to have it as a basis for learning at school too, rather than an after thought. I swear there are still many schools where the principles of The Lord of the Flies still rule.

With that thought, I am off to enjoy the day before I must be off to work for the evening. I have morphed into a new schedule at work, where I will work mostly days, with a few evenings here and there. That way we can have a semi-normal schedule with work during the day, family time in the evening and weekends. And I will try to fit in more blog time too. Cheers!