Ad naturam 

For the first time, Frances is going to a day camp that isn’t operated by people that she knows.

It’s a big change, but it’s not as big as it could have been–she is also attending with two of her cousins with whom she is very close.

On the first day, there were no tears at separation, but there were many reassuring words and hugs (when she permitted).

It’s a nature-oriented camp that involves activities such as canoeing every day. Pink Cup Dad and I both enjoy canoeing, and we’re happy that Frances is enjoying being on the water (and that she is so closely supervised).

She is surrounded by the outdoors: (animals, dense forestation) with lots of activity (hiking, canoeing, crafting).

She has also met a girl who seems to be very protective and friendly towards her and who enjoys horseback riding, too. This has allayed some of my own fears. This is her new “best friend”. (While she uses this term with everyone with whom she connects, I’ve no doubt that she means it when she says it.)

I signed her up back in February and indicated on the application that she has HF ASD. To my knowledge, she has not required one-to-one support at all and has managed well while just having her cousins there with her.

Next year, perhaps she’ll be ready to attend a camp without her cousins. I can see this happening for her. 

When it’s quiet…

One day, when Frances was about 18 months old, she took hundreds of children’s books off a set of shelves in the living room and stood on top of the haphazard pile to get more.

She sometimes lined the entire house with a path of books that encompassed the dining room table and led back to the front room.

From the time that she was seven months old, she perused books with an unusual intensity and focus.

As a toddler, she would push a book into my abdomen or my neck or my hands and say, “Read!”

By the time she was 2.5 years old, I was reading stacks and stacks of books to her daily (usually 20 but as many as 30 or 40 at times).

At the library, where most parents might be encouraging their children to choose books, I was popping throat lozenges and encouraging her to go play just so that I could give my voice a rest.

She cried if books got damaged in the tiniest way. She protested loudly if anyone had written their name inside a book. If she became angry with me, she would threaten that we would no longer be able to visit my favourite bookstore.

She always had a book in her hand (for comfort, I assume).

The local bookstore knew us so well that Frances was allowed to take a book and read under a table where she wouldn’t be disturbed.

When Frances is reading is pretty much the only time (besides sleeping) that it is quiet in our house — the ONLY TIME.

She’s a nonstop talker with a more-than-average amount of energy and bounce in her running steps.

The other day, after school, there was a prolonged period of quiet (say, five minutes). It was very noticeable which could only mean that she was reading. Then, I heard her say to herself:

“This book is not very instructive on drawing horses.”

I knew that, within a minute or so, the house would be virtually alive again with the sound of her chatter and laughter and objects banging around again as she searched for something that she absolutely needed.

The birthday girl

We celebrated Frances’s 10th birthday this weekend, and there were no meltdowns during the two parties. 

She covered her ears during the “Happy Birthday” song both times, but we kept the numbers very small at both the party for friends and the party for relatives, so she didn’t get overwhelmed in general.

At the party for friends, in addition to a few classmates, she had two friends from horse-riding lessons which was really nice.

Guess what theme predominated the gifts that she received? Horses. She got every manner of horse toy for which a ten-year-old horse-and-doll-loving little girl could have wished, and it was really sweet.

But dinosaurs weren’t pink…Right?

I have two daughters (9 and 13) and the closest I’ve ever come to a non-girly themed celebration was the Backyardigans party that I arranged for Pink Cup Sister’s 4th birthday.

Now Frances, who is obsessed with dolls and horses, has just announced that she wants a dinosaur-themed party to celebrate her 10th birthday!

I’m glad that she has a new area of interest though I strongly suspect we are just going to be seeing dolls of the dinosaur variety.

Well, I almost don’t know how to have a party that isn’t just as pink and as glittery as can be, so this is going to be a challenge for me. (The photo image I’ve done in jest.)

In the past, I would have said that if I ever start blogging about dinosaurs, then I have been taken hostage and I’m crying out for help.

But, here I am arranging a dinosaur party that isn’t pink in any respect.

I will keep you posted.

Possible birthday card?

Chihuahua 

Frances drew this picture yesterday for a friend’s dog — I think it’s really cute. She actually drew pictures for all of the dogs in that family, and this is my favourite.

A horse is a horse, of course

As it turned out, this week, Frances decided to ride another horse (B) for her lesson. She told her instructor that she wanted to try a smaller horse and, actually, she really has wanted to know what riding another horse would be like.

B’s a very responsive, energetic horse who is very much unlike the horse that she has been riding since the start (A). Whereas it would take much effort to get A to move, let alone trot, B required no such work.

For the first time, and quite ahead of my expectations, Frances did her first full jump! She said that, as B trotted, she just leaned forward to hold on and over the full cavaletti she went (under the guidance of her instructor).

In general, B gave Frances a better riding experience than A usually does.

I’d say that B actually inspired confidence in our little equestrian, dear readers, and it was wonderful to see throughout the lesson. (Apparently, it can take anywhere from three months to three years to learn to jump — I’m glad that she felt confident enough to do so at this point.)

Sadly, as Frances went to visit A before leaving the stable, A turned to face the back of the stall. She moved into the adjacent stall to try to pet him, but he then turned his back to her again. So, there is some relationship work to do (much to my surprise).

Frances was disturbed by this turn of events, but I later explained that A has to learn that it’s okay for her to have other horse friends, that she doesn’t like A any less. Next week, she can bring him some carrots and apples. 

Unlike other activities, horse riding doesn’t break for Christmas — so she’ll have lots of opportunity to show A that they’re still good friends even though she wants to switch horses.

The case of the friendly cat

One of the most wonderful things about Frances is that she loves a good mystery: her mind won’t let something go until she has considered it from every angle — and even then, sometimes.

At the park today, a kitten followed us around and played with Frances and her cousin for a long time.

The cat was friendly and enjoyed a good belly rub. She was also clean and well cared for, so we figured that she must have a human family somewhere nearby.

Unfortunately, a little girl, who wasn’t wearing a coat and was about the same age as Frances, came along and promptly took the cat away while claiming that it was hers.

This little girl behaved roughly with the cat and sat her in a baby swing. She picked the cat up quickly and tried hard to keep the cat from escaping her attention.

This did not sit well with Frances and her cousin, and Frances concluded that the cat probably did not belong to the little girl.

She had several reasons why (including the fact that the girl had hesitated when asked for the cat’s name), and asked us many questions at the park.

I told my sister-in-law that Frances would not be able to stop trying to solve the mystery, and I knew that I was right.

A couple hours later, back indoors, Frances could be heard posing her questions about the cat and its supposed owner.

Six hours later, as she was settling to go to sleep, she wanted to tell me the reasons for suspecting that the girl was not the cat’s owner.

Tomorrow, and for some time after, we will go over it all again until Frances is comfortable with the mystery not being solved. 

By then, she will have found a new mystery…

Nature studies 

As I’ve mentioned before, Frances goes to a private school. It’s not a school for children with ASD, but it gives her the small classroom size and the individual attention that she needs. 

No school is perfect, but we really like it for her as it follows our province’s school curriculae yet also heavily emphasizes an appreciation of nature. 

In addition to outdoor studies, the school participates several times a year in a bird conservation program that is very unique.

Over the poles

Frances is now at her 8th week or so of horse riding lessons, and for the last seven weeks or so, I’ve watched her walk or trot the horse over poles.

Last night, I learned that the other riders had been riding for a year before they started walking and trotting over poles in September.

As it turns out, nobody told Frances that only more experienced riders would do it, so, thankfully, she just went ahead and did it as the other girls learned to do so.

That’s great instruction — and I’m so proud of our little equestrian.