Terminating the UFOs

I started on a tidy up of my sewing/knitting/make anything room yesterday. I cleared possibly 1sqm of space and came up with no less than one dozen unfinished objects.

So I’ve decided that an absolutely necessary part of this clean up will be terminating the UFOs. I made a start last night on my Red Oak jacket – so close to finishing that all I had to do was find the remaining balls of wool, finish the collar and seam. Already up to the seaming!

As part of my return to regular blogging and a motivation to keep tidying up, I’ll post on my terminator progress.

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Like everyone else, we’ve been shocked at the destruction first in Christchurch and now in Japan. We’re pretty strict on not letting the kids watch or hear too much of the news about these kinds of events – it’s too easy for them to be overwhelmed  or to think the event is repeating or will happen to them. We explain what’s happened, what’s being done to help and so forth. We’ll select a news video on YouTube for example, one we’ve already checked, and talk them through that.

There’s usually plenty of questions and we do our best to answer those. A Montessori curriculum helps here – they have an above average general science knowledge – so our discussions can be clear, factual and reassuring. Being on the most geologically stable continent on earth helps since our two our natural worriers.

But yesterday I saw something that I hadn’t seen before. The lass has a self-assemble doll house and she had that set up, full of furniture and her very small pets. A friend was over yesterday and I heard them chatting about the earthquake in Japan. The friends’ mother had been in Japan recently on a business trip and there was talk of ‘I’m glad it didn’t happen while she was there’. I recalled also that I had spoken of Christchurch – I visited during a conference some years ago – and how beautiful it was.

Sometime during the afternoon I realised the dollhouse was a ramshackle mess, missing walls etc. I asked later what had happened. ‘An earthquake’ the lass calmly explained.

I took a closer look later and realised all the inhabitants had been moved out before the earthquake.

 

Of memory

I suspect every major Dutch town has one of these –  a statue in memory of the Nazi Occupation from 1940 – 1945.  Their beauty lies in simplicity. The Amsterdam and Rotterdam ones are singular, evocative figures and like this one in Leiden, the plinth is engraved only with the dates.

I visited the Anne Frank Huis today. It’s something that I wanted to be prepared for, to have time to take it in at my own pace. As a museum it tells a complex story with simplicity and humanity. I read the book as a young teenager – I have to confess my aspie special interest was (and remains) the Holocaust – and to see and move inside the house was a revelation. To have come inside, to be confined, to walk from daylight to rooms with blackout curtains was to understand the enormity of hiding as survival.

Primo Levi, an Italian Holocaust survivor and writer of his experiences, said of the popularity of Anne Frank’s story:

“One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: If we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

I think perhaps that also explains those single figures who stand for the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. That in the singular we each find and share the universal.

A little bit of everything

I was flicking back through last summer’s photographs for something to brighten the place up. I think a bit of pink grevillea will do the trick.

It certainly makes me feel happier than listening to the Mad Monk, aka Tony Rabbit, aka the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But since he and his party seem to be doing a rather nice job of slowly screwing up their chances with the independents, I’m not feeling as ranty as I could’ve been. Indeed, I’ve been rather pleased by the sudden appearance of European-style minimum winning coalitions and the shocking idea that federal politics and government may require cooperation. I suspect a Labor government supported by the independents since that would be the only way to ensure stable government when the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate. At any rate, it’s going to be very interesting for a while to come.

My crafty projects continue at a pleasing rate: reworking the lad’s beanie so it fits – I’ll do a separate post on that because I’ve used some interesting construction techniques to fit his design; my plum jacket is reading for sewing up this weekend; I’ve cast on for Acorns in a lovely heathery foresty green; crocheting away on the flower rug with crescent mesh; and about to pounce on a couple of wristwarmers and berets for myself. The lass’ car rug fails to inspire me so I’m going to see if I can persuade her to change patterns. Stripy treble is not my favourite form of crochet. And sometime next week I will cast on for Red Oak in a chunky burnt orange. There’s another trip to the Netherlands lined up, this time for late October/early November, so I get the fun of more winter knitting.

The lad is having some occupational therapy assessment as part of our Asperger’s management plan. It means another two questionnaires for us and I decided to photocopy one so I could fill it in for myself. It’s all about sensory integration – how we receive and respond to information about our environment through our senses. Typically, aspies have a profile of sensory integration ‘deficits’, particular stimuli that trigger an exaggerated response. The professionals are beginning to understand that if you actually take this sensory profile as a means of understanding the person rather than just a guide to behaviour management (for example, moving away from ‘let’s avoid loud noises so he doesn’t have an aspie meltdown’ to ‘tactile experiences are a really positive way he can learn’) then maybe quite a few difficulties can be resolved.

The lad and I have a few things in common here. Auditory processing difficulties (loud noises, trouble understanding speech in some circumstances etc); high sensitivity to touch – which explains a tendency to wear the same clothes because they feel ‘just right’; strong preferences for certain smells or tastes, that sort of thing. The lad is quite happy to play with icky gel kind of stuff, playdough and what have you. I avoid it like the plague. I refused point blank to ever make playdough for the kids – I hated the smell and feel of it. It’s a good thing my mother stepped into the breach.

But there are other tactile experiences I love – yarn and fabric, clearly. I love the feel of different types of yarn running through my fingers, manipulating fabric for fold and drape. It’s heavenly. When I’m drawing I prefer to use charcoal or pastels, materials I can feel in my fingers, rather than pencils. Embroidery seems to me a fabulous way to draw, getting colour and texture and swirling them around.

Maybe I’ve figured out my sensory profile after all.

Hamburgers

We’ve calmed down a bit in the last few days. Well, I know I have because now I have some textbooks and I’m the kind of person who feels better with a textbook in hand.

In the last few years, the bloke and I have started collecting things called mental illnesses. I was originally signed up for depression and then it turned out six months ago that I should sign up for the bipolar class as well. The bloke took a short detour through depression before going into bipolar in a pretty big way. You sign up for life you know, which takes a bit of getting used to. And then you look back on your life and think, Oh, that’s what it was? Quite a few things get explained that way – what happened in high school, various screw ups, and the good things like hyperfocus and creativity.

Then the kids start growing up and you remember the bit in the textbooks about genetics. And that’s why February was the month from hell. Dyslexia has now faded into the background. Not because it’s insignificant but because it’s defined, has treatment strategies and off you go. Compared to what came after the dyslexia confirmation, it’s easy. Anxiety was clearly a problem and we started reading up and the bloke and I agreed to start a cognitive behaviour management program with the lad based on some really good resources from Macquarie University. We could do that while we waited for the educational psychologist’s report and recommendations.

Then the lad went through a classic bipolar cycle over ten days and is slowly and bumpily recovering. It’s been a long time since I felt such rage and sadness. I don’t want my ten year old son to start sobbing on my shoulder, explaining he doesn’t know why he’s so sad. And I really don’t like sitting in our GP’s rooms as we’re guided through a mental health plan. And I don’t like listening to the ed psychologist gently explaining that dyslexia doesn’t seem to explain everything and that she’s seeing soft signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. And I really don’t like reading through the literature to find out the Asperger’s is usually associated with an underlying mood disorder. And I don’t like reading that textbook on Asperger’s when it describes my inner life as a child, adolescent and adult.

Which is why it’s really, really important for us to get a nickname and start laughing at it as much as we can. We figure the lad probably has plain hamburgers, while it sounds like I have hamburgers with bacon and eggs. The bloke reckons the academic department he works in may as well be a fast food outlet.

Happy Place

Just outside Hepburn Springs last autumn.  The light is gentler, the breeze softer, and the air cooler. We’re over summer with its heat, harsh light and dry winds.

I’ve been feeling a little raw and overexposed for the last few weeks. While the school year is good – a new approach to lunches, a better routine, and kids who think school is cool – other things have shown themselves. An assessment of the lad’s dyslexia led to some observations, some reading, some recognition of something that needs to addressed. A 10 year old lad oughn’t be that worried for so much of the time. And just a little later, another observation that rocked us and sent us to the doctor. You see, it’s not his physical health that worries us. It’s his mental health. We won’t receive a firm diagnosis for awhile but we pretty sure of what we’ve seen. I raged and grieved for a couple of days mostly because the Bloke and I know about this thing. It’s part of us, too. I know something of what life might be for the lad, of the consequences of this kind of diagnosis. And I don’t want it for him. At the moment, it doesn’t make it that much easier knowing that early diagnosis makes a big difference. Or that he is in a family so intimately acquainted with this that we know what to look for, the support he needs, that we can help him manage it purposefully and without shame. It just hurts.

Looking at the happy place will do for now.