Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Ephemerals

   The earliest of the native woodland spring wildflowers are known as ephemerals.  They emerge before the leaves on the deciduous trees begin to open.  We've finally had a couple nice days in a row of spring weather, so I decided to have a look in our backyard.  
   Below are some of the little wonders that I discovered...
Trout Lily
emerging Jack-in-the-Pulpit
blooming Jack-in-the-Pulpit
a look inside Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Rue Anemone
(Technically, these are not ephemerals, but I have always
 been enamored of them, so I had to include them)
a single fiddlehead
fiddleheads from a different kind of fern
fiddleheads from yet another species of fern

Have you ever tried fiddlehead soup?  Its a delicacy in this region and I've heard its delicious.  
a pretty branch
Notice the powder from this catkin (from a birch tree)--
it is one of the the culprits of my son's (and many other people's) spring allergies!
Notice the dusting of pollen that I woke up to on our pick-up truck
   I hope you enjoyed viewing the photos as much as I enjoyed getting out there and taking them!!  (Of course I really have a ton of other stuff that I should be doing, but...)

    I suppose the title of my blog is a little inaccurate at this point... My blog is evolving in an unpredicted way, and I'm just going with the flow of what inspires me.  If you have any suggestions for a more appropriate name, I'm open to hearing them.  But then again if I go and change it, then I might go on a quilting spree-- who knows!

   At any rate, have a great weekend!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April is Autism Awareness Month

   Okay, so I'm a little late in doing this post since April only has thirty days and today is the 28th!  (But that's pretty typical of how I get things done these days: close to the last minute and out of necessity). Truthfully, I didn't think of the idea as a post for this blog until just now.
   My son, Sammy (now 3 1/2 years old) is "on the spectrum."  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it means that my son has autism, as in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Sammy, at 7 months, and Mommy

Did you know that...
- in the U.S., 1 out of every 110 children is diagnosed with autism?
- boys are diagnosed 3-4 times more frequently than girls, bringing that current estimate to 1 out of 70? 

Sammy and older sister Dana;
he has always loved and looked up to her
   I would like to briefly share our story... in the hopes of educating others about autism, and reaching out to anyone who suspects that their child (or the child of someone they know) has it.  Early diagnosis and intervention are key. (I'm sounding preachy here, but its an important point.)
   My son was formally "diagnosed" at the age of 15 months, and since we did not linger in denial and started appropriate therapies right away, he has made tremendous, miraculous progress.  When children are young and developing, they are more "malleable"-- meaning that there is more room for them to make improvements-- and perhaps even overcome-- delays in their development.
For a time, Sammy LOVED his giant Raggedy Ann doll;
we called it his girlfriend
   At Sammy's nine month well-check, our pediatrician noticed that he did not want to bear weight on his legs when pulled up to standing (with support).  The doctor was only slightly concerned, but recommended that we have it checked out by a physical therapist.  Sammy didn't have a lot of the obvious, "classic" social symptoms of autism.  His signs were more subtle: they presented as sensory issues and delays.  I did notice that Sammy was especially sensitive to bright sunlight streaming in through the car window, and would sometimes shake his head back and forth in response.  [ I now know this is an example of repetitive motor behaviors.]  My husband, a child psychiatric nurse practitioner, already had his suspicions while I was blissfully unaware and just totally in love with my baby boy.  
   We began working with a physical therapist twice a week.  At 11 months, Sammy would pull to stand and even cruise a little, but his left foot would always be on tippy-toe, not flat on the floor. 
Sammy doing physical therapy in a bucket or rice for sensory stimulation on his foot
pulling up to stand in the rice
eye contact and mimicking sounds and facial expressions
   The other issue that emerged with Sammy, at around the same time, is that when we started introducing solids and subsequently finger foods, he would make those funny, endearing little faces (see below) that as a parent, makes you crack up and pull out the camera.  
initial reaction to tasting a new food

pretty cute, huh?

You can see in this photo that Sammy is aware and alert and focuses his attention on me when I am taking a picture; some autistic children are described as "being in their own world" and do not make eye contact or respond to their name being called.

    We grew concerned, though, when Sammy did not make progress and continued to spit out all solids at close to a year.  So we began feeding therapy a couple times a week.
    At the recommendation of our pediatrician, we also contacted Birth to Three.  If you are not familiar with this agency, click on the link above.  Every state has one (although some have slightly different names).  Their mission is "to strengthen the capacity of families to meet the developmental and health related needs of their infants and toddlers who have delays or disabilities."  Two trained professionals came to our home to observe and evaluate our concerns about Sammy in a comfortable setting.  (FYI: B23 will also visit a child at a daycare setting, too, if both parents work).
   We learned that Sammy's delays were "global" (not just limited to one area).  With subsequent testing, he scored below average in 3 (of 5 total) domains: gross motor skills, receptive and expressive language and self-help/adaptive skills. 
   When children do not yet have words, they normally indicate their wants with the use of gestures like pointing, grunting or taking a caretaker by the hand to indicate they want "up" or a toy on a shelf or a bottle in fridge, etc.  Sammy wasn't doing that.

Bro & Sis
   We visited a pediatric neurologist, who ruled out neurological issues.  We were also so very lucky to get into a research study at the Infant & Toddlers Developmental Disabilities Clinic at the Yale Child Study Center.  A team of specialists conducted a comprehensive 2-day evaluation with Sammy, my husband and I.  [This type of testing would have cost us c.$7,000 out-of-pocket, but we received a $50 gift certificate to Target for our time!]  At the end, the team gave us a feedback session, explaining Sammy's results, with a diagnosis and recommendations.  (The complete report is a total of 25-30 pages).
    Most of our services were provided by Birth To Three, and all of the therapists we worked with were wonderful.  (This is not always the case for everyone, but if you are unhappy with one of your clinicians, you can request to switch.)  But the beauty of it is that they show you things that you can practice and do with your child on a daily basis when they are not there.
   Sammy finally started walking on his own at the age of 18 months. When we finally made a breakthrough with him starting to eat solids, we then discovered he had some food allergies!  (If it's not one thing, it's another!)  So I now carry Benadryl and an Epi-pen Jr. with me everywhere I go.  When he has a food reaction, Sammy usually just gets hives, so thankfully, we have not had to use the Epi-pen.  [Knock on wood!!]

   At the age of 3 (back in November), Sammy "graduated" from Birth To Three.  Any services that he needs are now provided by our local school system.  However, when the school staff observed him one-on-one and with his peers, they did not see his softer (more subtle) signs (that we see mostly at home when he is tired or off-schedule).  They did not feel special services were necessary at this time.  However, we agreed that if the need arises, we will certainly advocate for services for him.
   Sammy now attends a small preschool program five days a week from 9am-1pm.  He has friends and the social interaction, activities and structure are great for him-- it's exactly what he needs right now.  Most of the parents didn't know Sammy was autistic until I told them.  Thankfully, he's on the milder end now that he has made so much progress.  When he was re-evaluated by the Yale team after his 3rd birthday, they "downgraded" his diagnosis to PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified)-- which is the milder end of the autism spectrum.
   The issues that we see now with Sammy occur mostly at home.  He's very particular (OCD-ish) about certain things (e.g., drawers have to be fully closed-not open even a crack) and he tends to perseverate or get stuck on one thing for a while (e.g. reading the same book or watching the same TV show over and over (and over!).  More recently, he is into superheroes and wants to wear his Batman cape ALLTHE TIME.  When you have to say no or set limits, this can lead to an all out tantrum (which is not all that uncommon among regular 3 year olds anyway).
   But Sammy is my special boy, and I love him unconditionally for who he is, even though he can be stubborn and challenging at times.  (Name one kid who isn't?)

Bottom line: We got help for Sammy early and he has made tremendous strides!!
   We followed the recommendations of our doctor, even though we were scared (or, more accurately, terrified) of what we might learn.  We did research and we asked a lot of questions.  After diagnosis, we educated ourselves and applied what we learned and we networked with parents of other autistic children. 
2nd most important bottom line is that the best interest of the child is what's most important-- not how we [adults] feel about it.  Think about what's best for the kid and get him or her the help s/he needs.
For more information about autism, I'd like to recommend an excellent resource website:  
   Autism Speaks (click here)

    I am more than happy to talk further with anyone who has questions or wants to know more-- by all means, please comment or send me an e-mail!

Have a lovely day!  


Monday, April 25, 2011

"Just One Star" Block

    For this weekend, my highly ambitious quilting goal was to create a "Just One Star" block.  My rather puckered version is pictured above, instructions here.   Moda Fabrics is sponsoring this challenge (coordinated by Marianne Fons) here.  The goal is for participants to contribute 1800 star blocks (medium red or blue stars with a cream background) by May 1, 2011, so that they can be pieced, quilted and bound into 100 quilts using the Quilts of Valor pattern (by Polly Minick & Laurie Simpson).  The finished quilts will be delivered to soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan on Flag Day (June 14th).
   I now realize that I used white instead of cream, so I don't know if it is a valid contribution.  Perhaps I'll make a second one.  The instructions specify that you need to write your name and state in brown pigma pen, which I don't have (but it gives me a good excuse to go to Joann's).
   While I'm at Joann's, I may have to buy the most recent issue of this very inspiring magazine:
   You can see that I have flagged quite a few pages for project and decorating ideas I want to try.  What did I ever do before the invention of Post-It notes??  I also have an Artful Blogging magazine by the same publisher that is equally inspiring (can't find it at the moment, so no photo).
   Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

UP FOR GRABS: These Items Need A Home

   I have a few extra quilting items that I am not using, but I need your help (dear reader) to find them a good home.  Given that I have all of 7 followers (I'm not trying to be famous here), please help spread the word.  If you know of someone (or some organization or guild) that could make good use of these, please just email me (or direct them to me).  You don't have to jump through any hoops for this-- it's not a contest.  Its about simplifying my workspace, and not being wasteful and hastily throwing them out when I know someone else could use them.

   P.S.  I am doing some spring cleaning today, so stay tuned-- I may be adding more items!

   In no particular order, here are the items:  (First come, first served)


I have 2 of these-- only need one (6 1/2" square)

bought on sale; never opened it

current issue;
read cover to cover, but no projects I want to try

November 2010 issue

Left: sulky metallic thread in black
Right: pincushion (or "pumpkin" as my son calls it)

re-gifting this

Assorted threads; some from an estate sale, so the quality of those may have deteriorated over time 
extra olfa 45mm rotary cutter (blade is not new)

just a pretty extra pottery bowl that does not match with my decor
   If you are interested, or want to know more info about any of these items, just e-mail me!  Choose one, or choose them all. 

   If you know of anyone that may be interested, please hook them up to me!   Thanks!!

And now I am off to do spring cleaning around the house-- wish me luck (and productivity!)

Enjoy this wonderful spring day-- my windows will be open :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wonderful Retreat

   No, it wasn't a quilting retreat, but I do hope some day that I will get to attend one of those!

   This was a weekend workshop that I attended at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health located in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.  It is a wonderful, inspiring place in a beautiful setting.

 About a month ago, an aquaintance recommended this book:

   I have read many self-improvement and self-help books in my [45] years, but this one really resonated with me.  I was able to access my deepest, darkest inner wounds that have been buried for years and was too afraid to face.  Avoiding the real issues was causing me to suffer, and in turn, it was affecting my husband and children, too.  The book and workshop helped me embrace and accept the difficult, painful emotions that I've been running away from for so long.

"Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions.  Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance."  (p207)

"The unfaced and unfelt parts of our psyche are the source of all neurosis and suffering" 
      -- Carl Jung (p. 57)

"We can't honestly accept an experience unless we see clearly what we are accepting. ...[C]ompassion is our capacity to relate in a tender and sympathetic way to what we perceive.  Instead of resisting our feelings of fear or grief, we embrace our pain with the kindness of a mother holding her child."  (p. 28)

"... the Buddha nature that is our essence remains intact, no matter how lost we may be.  The very nature of our awareness is to know what is happening.  The very nature of our heart is to care.  Like a boundless sea, we have the capacity to embrace the waves of life as they move through us.  Even when the sea is stirred up by the winds of self-doubt, we can find our way home.  We can discover, in the midst of the waves, our spacious and wakeful awareness."  (p. 30)

a beautiful Elm tree
"... times of great suffering can become times of profound spiritual insight and opening."  (p. 37)

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change"  
     -- Carl Rogers (p. 38)

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which comes the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart 
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole, 
while learning to sing. 

-- Rashani, 1991

If you are interested in learning more about this book and its author (Tara Brach), you can visit her website here. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chicken Fetish

Recipe for my next project:
1)  Start with a fetish for chickens.  Here's my small kitchen collection:

Cute,  folksy pair of ceramic chickens from a crafts fair
Ceramic chicken from T.J. Maxx

Handmade chicken potholder purchased at recent quilt show
Bottle of wine purchased by my Hubster specifically for the chicken label
(It tasted good, too-- I'd buy it again)

2)  Situation:  Need a curtain for Ikea shelves in kitchen to reduce dust and unsightliness of items.

3)  Solution: Curtain project in Anna Maria Horner book

4)  Preliminary fabric selection (with chickens) for proposed project:

These fabrics are from JoAnn Fabrics.
I don't usually buy fabrics at JoAnns, just supplies, but I thought these were cute.

Detail of chickens
Aren't they cute??
What do you think?  I'm not great at coordinating fabrics.  Any suggestions?  Should I add more?  And if so, what colors?

Thanks for your input/feedback!!

Have a great weekend!