Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Max Update: Joy and Pain, Like Sunshine and Rain.

I don't write about my daughter Cameron very much. What is there to say? A lot, I suppose. She is incredible, has a huge personality, is talking up a storm (as in, full sentences), and she will be 2 years old in exactly one month and has already earned her "terrible" stripes (times ten). She is cute as a button, has an attitude that is both hilarious and a colossal pain in the ass, and I love her so much I could eat her up. People constantly comment on how smart she is too. For some reason, that really bothers me.

It isn't that I don't think she's smart (please excuse the double negative). I do. She's brilliant. She's gifted and will likely be the Prime Minister of Canada one day (dog help us all). But it feels like an insult to Max, because it is rare for him to be complemented on his intelligence. In my gut, I know that he is brilliant - every bit as smart as his sister. It breaks my heart to think about how frustrating it must be for him to know and understand so much and not be able to express it. It kills me to think he will be overlooked and underestimated, when he works so hard for what comes so easily for regular kids.

Cameron is able to tell me exactly what she wants. She tells Max "feet on floor Max!" (yes, she's already bossy and a tattletale). She asks to have her picture taken when she sees a camera, and makes observations like "daddy cough" and "Max sick!". Scott and I are constantly shaking our heads in amazement. It may be "normal" development, but it's all new to us. Yet as exciting as her rapidly expanding vocabulary is, it still doesn't blow me away as much as Max's breakthroughs.

I took Max to Erinoak this morning for an assessment before he starts his fourth and final block of speech therapy at Erinoak. In the session, his speech therapist, Michelle, was thrilled with the progress he has experienced since she last saw him. (Amazing what having two private speech therapy sessions a week at blueballoon does for a kid.) Michelle was able to get Max to articulate the letter "b" in the word "bye" over 50 times. This is huge as when Max says "bye bye" it usually comes out as "eye eye" because he doesn't use his lips when he speaks. The work he is doing with this speech therapist Amy with horns and straws is strengthening his lips and building awareness. It's one little letter, but it means he can now say "bumble bee" and "Bumpa" and "boat" as clear as a bell. He may not have the vocabulary of his little sister, but one day he'll catch up. Slow and steady, right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jelly Roll Quilt: Avoiding the Obvious.

I have fallen in love with jelly rolls. This jelly roll quilt top came together in no time at all. Plus, it was fun! It was an easy quilt to make, with no stress or worry that there was going to be something I wouldn't know how to do.

Now, I know I haven't finished the Crazy Quilt yet. I am still trying to get in the mood (oh boy) to quilt the damn thing. I swear I could easily become that person who has hundreds of quilt tops, so close to becoming quilts if only I would sit my ass down and complete them. I have committed to quilting both quilt tops before I start another one. That should be the motivation I need (plus I'm bidding on some jelly rolls on ebay, so I need to make room at my sewing machine for my next project(s).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Choose a Daycare For a Child With Autism.

I consider myself an expert on selecting a daycare for a child with Autism. Specifically because Max, who is turning 4 years old in one short month, is now entering his fourth daycare in three years. Hmmm...perhaps what I am actually an expert in is how not to pick a daycare for a child with Autism. If you are interested in the background on Max's daycare saga, I have written about our traumatic adventures here and here. I want to point out that his last daycare was quite good until the ownership changed last spring. Since then the staff turnover has been brutal so I have not only removed Max, but Cameron as well.

It took a few months to find the right childcare setting for Max. It needed to have "integrated spaces" available (meaning it was a centre that Halton Region was working with and had Resource Consultants already in the facility). It needed to be a place that was open to having a child with Autism in its care and was willing to work with us to make it a successful experience for Max. It needed to have a great playground as Max LOVES to be outside. And most important, I needed to know that he would be safe and treated respectfully. For now, Max is only attending two mornings a week. His main IBI therapist, Nicole, has been supporting him for the past month, and helping him learn the routines of the room, and providing support to the teachers so that they understand what expectations they can place on Max. He has a new Resource Consultant at this centre (welcome Liz!), and the centre has received funding from Halton Region for an extra support person in the room when Max is there. As you can imagine having a child with Autism in the room is extra work. This is a very special centre and the teachers are phenomenal to welcome Max so openly.
Max's Resource Consultant took a bunch of photos of Max so that when a transition is coming up, his teachers can show him a picture of what is coming to support their verbal prompt. His receptive language is very strong so he understands what is being said to him, but the photos will help him prepare himself mentally so that it isn't so hard for him to actually follow through with it.
Max has trouble with understanding that when his teachers say "it's time to go outside" that this doesn't actually mean that they are going to open the door and allow all of the children to barrel down the stairs into the great wide open. It's all the in between steps that frustrate him (this centre is quite large, so there are more doors, stairs, waiting as children are counted, and that's all before they have even reached the cloak room to get their coats on!). Add to that when they are coming back in, they are told it's "time for lunch" when in fact, they have to go into the cloak room, go upstairs, wash their hands, and sit for circle, all before they get to eat. I'd find that hard too if I'd been told I was going to get to be fed!
The good news is that the kids in this room are fantastic (one little boy in particular seems to have decided that he is going to be Max's buddy through thick and thin). Max is drinking from a straw at daycare, helping set the tables for lunch, and has even been successful at toileting in his new room. I'm thrilled that he is getting this experience to be social with children his own age who can model appropriate behaviours for him. But I'm over the moon that he is getting the chance to be a kid and have fun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mental Health Monday: What's Old Becomes New.

Lest you think that there is no actual prep work in the Jelly Roll quilt I'm about to embark on, let me tell you, that in fact, there is quite a bit of cutting that needs to be done before you get to sit down at the sewing machine. The photograph shows two of the pieces of fabric (of 32) that needed to be cut into 11, 9.25, 7.5, 5.75, 4, and 2.25 inch lengths. That took an entire episode of Elvis Costello Spectacle (the one with Neko Case and Ron Sexsmith) and 2 glasses of wine to complete.

I'm excited to get started on this next project. The fabric is top notch (high quality that feels fantastic under my fingers) and the colours and designs are modern. I think that is what I truly love about quilting. It is an old art form, but with the textiles available these days, quilters are able to put a completely new spin on patterns that make them relevant in the 21st century. One of the things the owner of the Oakville Sewing Centre said to me when I showed her my Crazy Quilt was that it was more creative than 95% of the quilts she sees in her shop. That got me fired up, and made me want to push myself to try new patterns and use bolder fabrics. I've done my share of traditional quilts - it's time to branch out and let my creativity have full rein. I also want to improve my skills and take some classes to learn new techniques that will allow me to take on more complex patterns and maybe even design my own quilts.

Not to worry... the Crazy Quilt is basted and ready to be finished off...pictures to come. I just need a few hours of quiet to get it done (crossing my fingers for tonight!).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Max Update: My Budding Horn Player.

One of the many challenges that we are working through with Max is not only a delay in his speech, but the fact that he has trouble pronouncing a lot of consonants. Letters like B, M, P, K, G and many others are very difficult for him to say. I have a feeling he is much more advanced in his communication than we understand, because, well, we don't understand him. Max receives Speech Language Therapy twice a week, and also participates in a weekly Music & Language group. His speech goals are also incorporated into his Behaviour Therapy and his Occupational Therapy.
Because of this he is making progress in leaps and bounds. We are finding that when he is communicating successfully, his acting out almost completely disappears. Makes sense, right? If he is able to articulate his needs and we are able to help him achieve what he wants, he is much happier. I completely get it (I tend to behave poorly when I don't get what I want too).

In this video (taped today), Max is not only blowing on a horn with long, full blows, he is using a straw, and blowing bubbles. You may recall, we started working on these goals last June. It took a while to get here (mostly because Max had trouble tolerating having anything touch his mouth, let alone be put in it). Success is indeed sweet. I am so incredibly proud of my Max. He blows me away with how hard he works and his beautiful smile is often what keeps me going. Yay Max! Next up - saxophone lessons?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On a Roll.

Like any good quilter, I'm already starting my next project before I've finished my last one. (I'm just about done my Crazy Quilt - the top is done and I need to buckle down and finish it off). Once it is complete I'll take a bunch of pictures so you can see where I ended up with it. I think it is my best quilt yet.

Anyway, onto my next project - my first ever Jelly Roll Quilt. I will admit ignorance to the entire Jelly Roll phenomenon. I've seen plenty of rolls in quilt shops, but never thought much of them or understood what they were for. Turns out, they are not only a bargain (this one was $60 and has enough fabric for an entire quilt top crammed in there) but they are super easy since the majority of your cutting is already done. Linda, the owner of my new favourite place, The Oakville Sewing Centre helped me pick out my sashing (the brown fabric in the photo) and helped me find a book of Jelly Roll patterns. I picked a fairly modern pattern called "Gi Gi Girl" which will be different than anything I've done before.

I plan on getting started tomorrow, and I think this will be a quilt that comes together quickly. It will be a good diversion when I need a break from finishing up the Crazy Quilt (I hate the actual quilting/finishing part - I'm all about sewing the top together). All this quilting has me feeling very calm and creative - a good place to be since my kids are still on the anti-sleeping kick!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Girl Wants to Party All the Time.

If there was a timestamp on this photo, it would read March 17 2009: 8AM. You got that right. 8AM. Cameron seems to have decided that sleeping during the night is for suckers, and that snoozing while we are in a mad rush trying to get everyone out the door in the morning is a much better time to catch some zzz's. Colour me unimpressed. This girl has a stubborn streak a mile wide (karma biting me in the ass I'm sure) and a set of lungs that would make an opera star proud. The combo is horrible when it comes to bedtime because if we let her scream while Max is trying to fall asleep he gets very upset. But the alternative is that she thinks it's okay to stay up until all hours of the night. I never thought I'd say this, but right now Max's behaviour is easier to manage than hers! Hah. Back to quilting I go...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crazy Quilt Update.

Update: To see the complete process for this quilt, check out: 

In case you think I've been twiddling my thumbs over here chez Fickle Feline, I'll have you know that I have been busy keeping my stircrazy kids entertained and of course, quilting a-go-go. I finished sewing the main part of the quilt together this afternoon:
In addition to sewing the main blocks together, I also sewed 120 border blocks together. I chose to do the border in blue, with yellow centres to balance out the oranges in the big blocks. It takes quite a bit of time to sew 120 blocks!:
Now I need to figure out how to configure the border. Initially I thought I'd have yellow sashing surrounding each border block, but now I'm reconsidering. I think it will look better if they are staggered in two rows, with the outer binding being yellow as well but no sashing in between. Thoughts? Quilters weigh in here and give me your opinion!Also - thanks to my quilting friend Jennifer for telling me about the mom & daughter quilting shop site Alewives Fabrics. I'm already planning a roadtrip to Maine to check these ladies out!

Mental Health Monday: Spring Forward?

Turns out I'm still in the dumps (which is fantastic for my quilting project, but sucks for my blog). The whole raining for days on end business doesn't help either. And this daylight savings time baloney? Thumbs down. My kids were totally not okay with it either. I'm thinking of moving to a place that doesn't recognize it. Or maybe I'll just refuse to change the clocks next year (I'll be late for everything, but really that is the norm anyway so who am I kidding?).

More on the quilt later (today maybe!). It's coming along swimmingly. Now if I could just get my ass in gear and get happy.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I Quilt Therefore, I Am.

Update: To see the complete process for this quilt, check out:

Part 2 - piecing
Part 3 - quilting

I go through periods of intense sadness about Max. It isn't that I feel sorry for myself, but every once in a while, Autism knocks me on my ass. I wish I was stronger, and I feel terribly guilty that my friends and family have to put up with me during these times. So I tend to turtle, try to work through the feelings, and come out on the other side a happier me. When I don't want to over think things (especially if I can't actually "fix" the problem), I bury myself in a project (like a bedroom makeover). This time the project I chose was quilting.

My mom bought me the fabric for this quilt years ago (before I had kids). The quilt is based around the colours in this butterfly fabric. The problem is that I like the fabric so much I have been afraid to cut into it. It seems a waste to not use it though, so I decided what the heck, might as well go for it!The pattern I chose to tackle is called "Crazy Quilt". It seems appropriate given my circumstances. Plus, one of my favourite people in the universe tells me I'm crazy every time we talk (which truth me told, stings a bit), but maybe it's an accurate assessment. I like to think that given what I'm dealing with, I'm the sanest person I know.What I dig about this pattern is that while you are quilting it, everything seems off kilter. You just have to trust that it will turn out okay. In the end what you get is this neat effect of uneven shapes that somehow fit into a perfect square.I enjoy the process of sewing the smaller pieces of fabric together, ironing them flat, pinning them and then repeating the process again and again. I don't have to think, it's relaxing, allows me the time to sit with my feelings, and in the end I have something to show for it.The main blocks are now complete. I still need to sew the smaller border blocks, and then sew the top together, but I put all the squares down on the floor to get a sense of how big it will be. The hard part of actually quilting it together will take me a while (it's a big job for sure). Anyway, that's what I've been up to the last few weeks. I think I'm okay now. Who could stay sad looking at these bright fabrics? Plus the sun is out - gotta love that!