. Mostly photos from me this week, text not so much. I came down with a miserable virus the night before we left and am still not completely back to myself. Misery aside we still managed to have a very nice weekend camping at Park Yarden (sorry, no English website) with five other families, all good friends and all with kids around the same ages as ours. You'll have to hunt a bit to find the red this week, but it's in there. All images are clickable (except for the first, I apparently screwed up something with that one. And uploaded the wrong version of the second image too but nevermind. Bygones.). .
Home Sweet Home Tent Sweet Tent
. The view from the tent (yes, the light really did glow like that) .
A tributary of the Jordan River
. Old flour mill (part of the park site) . . Just above the mill .
I really love this old weathered door that I came across in Tel Aviv's decaying but slowly gentrifying Neve Zedek neighborhood. Its age lends itself well to sepia but as I often do I prefer the full color version, it tells us more of the story.
Which one gets your vote? Why? (There is of course no "right" answer, I'm just curious.)
. I have to be honest here, I found this incredibly slow-moving event to be even more boring than watching paint dry (what can I say, I'm a city girl at heart), but my husband was intrigued so while he was watching I grabbed my camera and passed the time my own way - grabbing Ruby Tuesday shots. The subtleties of the sport were completely lost on me (again, that paint drying thing) but I was apparently in the minority, the locals were following the action closely and cheering on their favorites. . All those shiny red tractors did make for some fun images though, no doubt about that, and of course I couldn't ask for a better subject to share with you all for Ruby Tuesday. . .
Loved the umbrella on this one, now that's riding in style -
. So what do you think? Are you an antique tractor pull fan now? I admit that I wasn't converted, but I did enjoy the photo opp, and the chance to share it with you.
. One from the archives from me this week. Between the chaos that is back to school season and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, this weekend, I've barely taken the camera out of its case in weeks. I'm in serious withdrawal, getting the shakes and everything. Thankfully we've got a camping trip planned for this weekend that should offer some great photo opps or else I think I might just rust right away. . Visit Monochrome Weekly for more black and white images from all corners of the globe, and a big thank you to Aileni for including my railway image in this week's highlights. I'm honored to be included in such illustrious company - head over there and check out the collection for yourselves, there are some really wonderful shots there. .
We were so worried about how Maya would adjust to a mainstream classroom this year, but as usual our Miss Mouse has knocked everyone's expectations square on their ass. She has a way of doing that.
School - she's doing beautifully, despite being in a loud, chaotic class of 35. She's having fun, participating appropriately, behaving well (no meltdowns so far! *knocking on everything wooden in the room*), and interacting incredibly well with the staff. Almost too well, her teacher told me the other day that she's quite the little tattletale (is that spelled right? it looks funny), running to her all day long to rat out her classmates. This from the child who didn't say an understandable word to her teacher for nearly a month last year and spent half that month flinging herself to the floor and screaming, and when she finally did begin speaking to them it was only in a whisper. We'll be discussing when it is and isn't appropriate to tattle, but her teacher actually thinks it's hysterical since this way she's got a little informant keeping her apprised of everything in class. She's opened up less to the other children, preferring to be by herself more often, but that's typical Maya and very understandable. It will take her a while longer yet before she's really comfortable with all those new kids, for now she's staying mainly with the few she already knew and a couple of other non-intimidating children. Frankly, I'm surprised she's even doing that much, we really thought the adjustment would put a lot more stress on her, which she normally reacts to by keeping to herself and trying to process it all.
Speech - her speech therapist will be doing a comprehensive evaluation over the next few weeks. Early indications have shown that Maya has actually closed the gap with her peers, both in terms of vocabulary and aural comprehension and memory (she was coming from way behind since she was a non-native speaker with communication issues) and in some categories she's actually advanced for her age. Wow! If the full evaluation backs this up, she will be discharged from speech therapy at that point. This therapist has been amazing and Maya has absolutely blossomed in her care. So much so in fact that she'll be disappointed to stop I think. (I'll be happy to get the time and the extra cash back though.)
Extracurriculars - I've enrolled Maya in a gymastics-type class once a week. She really loved the trial session and immediately asked to come back "a million times" so we went for it. It's some traditional gymnastics combined with basic body skills and awareness stuff, with a healthy dose of music and games thrown in for good measure. The teacher was good, despite having one of the most disruptive children I've ever seen in the class (hopefully he won't stay or will at least settle down a bit). As for Maya, she dove right in - answered the teacher's questions loudly and clearly and then proceeded to express her opinions whenever she felt necessary (i.e. she kept suggesting to the teacher that this or that (non-musical) activity would really be better with music LOL).
I'm in awe. Her conversational skills have exploded, and with them all these typical nearly six year old behaviors that we hadn't seen until now. She's developed a ravenous curiosity about the world around her, she jumps into conversations with suggestions or comments, she tells me all about her day (this is huge), or else tells me that she doesn't want to tell me if she feels like blowing me off, she actively negotiates when she wants something. All these incredible, amazing, utterly typical behaviors. And she's doing them.
If I hadn't seen her progress with my very own eyes I'd never ever believe that this is the same child who used to rage and scream like a wounded animal for an hour (literally) when asked to do something like get dressed.
I keep remembering how I sat in the psychologist's office 18 months ago and she asked me what my goal for Maya was - what did I want most of all. My answer? That I could ask her if she was hungry for dinner and get an answer, not a scream or 20 minutes of quoting an episode of Dora, and that I could do it without having to walk over to her, squat down in front of her, force her to make eye contact, and ask her directly, right in her face, and even then to not get an answer most of the time.
I can call to her from the other room and get an answer like "I'm not ready for dinner yet Mom, I'm in the middle of watching something. When it's over then I'll be ready."
I don't know if you can really understand the magnitude of how very far she's come, we've all come, without having lived through it, but to stop and actually think about it makes me literally gasp out loud. There were times, many many dark times, when I never thought we'd make it half this far.
God I love that girl.
(And my boy, who, even though he continues to get less air (screen) time because life flows so much more easily for him, continues to amaze and astound us even more with each passing day.) .
. When I processed this image into black and white the soft, almost dreamlike, quality of the result seemed to imply that sense of magic and wonder the railroad used to hold far more than the industrial blight it so often connotates today. . What do you think? Is the romance of the railway dead? Did it ever really exist or have our rose-colored glasses exchanged the black coal smoke for the haze of dreams? . Visit Monochrome Weekly for more monochrome images from around the world. .
. So. Here it is. I'm not exactly sure how this happened but suddenly summer is ending and with it Summer Stock Sunday 2009. I don't know about you, but my summer just flew by. It seems like just the other day that temperatures were heating up and we were all beginning to look towards the sun and now here we are watching those hazy lazy crazy days of summer draw to a close. I hope you've all had as much fun with this project, and with your summer, as I have and that Summer Stock has helped you to capture some of those fleeting memories to take out again and warm your soul when the nights are long and you begin to wonder if you'll ever feel the heat again. . Thank you all for taking part all summer long and making my little idea a success. I look forward to seeing everyone's final posts, and even more than that I look forward to welcoming summer back with all of you when we kick off Summer Stock Sunday 2010! . Here's to many more sunny days ahead. .
I love this second story window along Tel Aviv's Allenby Street with its cheeky little round balcony perched on top. Both the neighborhood and the building have clearly seen better days but I think that the structure has a lot of potential, if only someone would come along and give it the TLC it needs. . More windows around the world can be found here. .
On our last day in Maine Jay and I were lucky enough to stumble on a Native American powwow hosted by Metis of Maine. Because it was what they termed an informal powwow rather than a formal religious ceremony the rules were a bit more relaxed than I gather they normally are. With the exception of the smudging ceremony and the first three dances they were allowing visitors to take photographs, but it was obvious that it was still quite a serious event with rules and expectations I couldn't know as an outsider. I asked one of the participants what was acceptable etiquette-wise and she explained that informal "scenes" were fine, but that full-on portraits of anyone should only be taken with their express permission (of course, and I was glad to hear that most of the participants would likely be proud to grant permission). It was over 90 degrees that day and the dancers in particular had to be sweltering in those long deerskin clothes but you would never have known it from the beauty and grace and strong show of reverence they brought to each of the steps and from the haunting notes of the singers' chanting. . These photographs were taken under fairly challenging conditions with scorching mid-day sun, strong shadows, and the lack of a short lense, but most of all I tried to take them discretely, without overstepping my place as an observer or interfering with the powerful actions occuring in the circle in front of me. This meant placing myself further out of the action than I would normally be, far enough away that I was outside the main circle of spectators as well. It does mean the images have a more distant feel than I would have liked, but it was what the circumstances clearly dictated. I hope that those who saw me there agree, or better yet, that they never noticed me intruding on their moment at all. . .
This guy has his eyes closed but he was so impressive looking that I included the photo anyway, I hope he won't mind. .
. This is the lovely woman who with her companion took the time to answer my etiquette questions about who and what were acceptable to photograph and explained a bit to me about what I was seeing and what it meant. I'm so grateful, the added knowledge really enriched my experience. (And isn't her dress gorgeous? Look at all those delicate flowers.) .
Click to enlarge any of these images, and visit Work of the Poet for more photos with a little or a lot of red in them.
. Leora(who seems to not be on my blogroll, how did that happen? Must fix that as soon as this posts.) tagged me the other day for a fun photo meme that's going around - to play, you open your fourth photo folder (gee, you think I could put any more alliteration in there?) and then post the fourth photo you find (see, there are those "fff" sounds again). . I cheated a tiny bit - the fourth folder of my main pictures section was a crappy out of focus barely distinguishable photo of a street performer taken in Victoria, British Columbia a few years ago on my old point and shoot. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't bring myself to post it. Instead, I headed over to the fourth folder of my "photography" section, which is where I put all the photos I take just for photography's sake, as opposed to family snaps, vacations, etc. That time I had better luck - a hibiscus. I think I shot this in the parking lot just outside my building a while back. Wherever it was, it looks a lot better than the oh so blurry snap of Plasterman that popped up the first time. .
Click to enlarge
. I'm not sure who's done this already so if you haven't and you're interested in playing along, consider yourself tagged. Go ahead, try it, it's fun. You never know quite what will pop up when you delve deep into the archives. .
. Nothing says summer in New England like fresh berries, and all the better if you climb a mountain to see a view like this . Click to enlarge any photo
. With a [insert name of large bird] soaring high overhead. (Hawk? I have no idea. Anyone out there have a guess? They seemed to be everywhere we looked on this trip.) .
And then look around the meadow you've stumbled on right there at the top of the mountain to see that all those low bushes
Are full of perfectly ripe wild blueberries, right there for the picking!
. Despite my fervent attempts at stopping time the kids are back in school and summer is rapidly drawing to a close, and suddenly we've only got one more Summer Stock left after this one. Thank you to everyone who participated this summer and helped to make Summer Stock such a success. I hope you've all enjoyed playing as much as I have, and be sure to join us next week as we close up shop until next year.
. This is one of my favorite shots from my recent trip to the States. Being a dyed in the wool night owl (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) I don't get to shoot sunrises very often so I took advantage of the inevitable first morning jetlag-induced O'dark thirty wakeup to grab my gear and walk down to the lake to try and catch the sunrise. It was getting lighter and lighter as I started walking faster and faster, but make it I did, and then shot image after image for the next hour, and what an hour it was. Here's another look at that same dawn, and there will be more to come later. I'm saving a few of my favorites to brighten up the dark winter months ahead. Worth the early morning dash, no? . Visit Skywatch Friday for more skies around this beautiful world of ours. .
The thing about parenting a special needs child, whatever their special need may be, is that you're forced to view the world through special glasses.
Years of struggling to help Maya have done that to us. Yes, she had a long way to come, yes, she still has plenty of twists in the road, both those we can see and those we can't yet imagine, but right here, right now, she is more and more a typical little girl, poised between five and a half and six. She may always struggle more than most with things the rest of us find easy, but more and more she's getting closer to the pack, blending in, acting and growing and developing in an age-appropriate way.
Except when she's not.
Which is why, when she suddenly developed a paralyzing fear of the dark just after we arrived at my parents a month ago, we began looking for causes. Perhaps it's the change of environment? Perhaps the castle curtains on the bunkbed are too restricting? Maybe we should move the nightlight closer? She was completely petrified of sleeping alone in the dark, and reassurances that she was neither alone (both her brother and her cousin were sleeping in the same room) nor in the dark did nothing to quell her fears.
Perhaps it's the jetlag? Maybe she's suddenly so used to having all these people around that it's ramping up her anxiety levels and this is how it's coming out? Maybe it's a deep-seated fear of starting in a new school?
We persuaded, cajoled, examined, reassured, anything we could think of.
Maybe it will get better once we get home.
Nope, it got worse.
Still nothing helped.
Tonight, a full FIVE WEEKS after this all started, Maya was again deep into her litany of how she is scared of the dark when it finally occurred to me to ask her what exactly she was afraid of.
Monsters. She's scared of monsters.
*ding ding ding ding ding ding*
Which movie did she watch over and over and over again on the plane over? Or rather, which movie did she watch only certain scenes of over and over and over again on the plane, deeming the rest too scary? WHICH MOVIE FEATURES MONSTERS TRYING TO SCARE YOUNG CHILDREN SLEEPING PEACEFULLY IN THEIR BEDS???
Yes, blogland, she spent most of the plane ride watching Monsters, Inc. on her little video screen, turning it off after the early scenes every time, never getting to the part where the monsters learn that it's far better to make the children LAUGH than to scare the everloving crap out of them.
Five weeks it took us. Yes, we are idiots. Utter and complete idiots. Fear of kindergarten. Deep seated anxiety over changes in her life. Yeah. The child saw a scary movie and got scared. You'd think it had never happened to anyone before.
My children were incredibly uncooperative this morning when I tried to grab a few quick "first day of school" pictures so I'm going with this instead - the flower that my daughter Maya picked for me as she skipped (or rather make that dashed) off to her first day of school.
She's come a long way my Miss Mouse, from the challenges of years past, to new hope at last year's communications kindergarten, to this year's mainstream just like everybody else regular kindergarten. She's had a tough go of it over the years but she's grown and thrived and reached heights that were barely imaginable just a year ago. I could tell you so much more about how far she's come and how very, very proud I am of her but what I have to say could fill volumes - getting me thrown out of Wordless Wednesday for sure. Suffice it to say that she has the heart of a lion and the spirit of a giant, and she is rushing out to meet the world head on, on her own terms, and succeeding beyond all of our dreams.
And at the end of the day, her first day had been as wonderful as she'd known it would be. I'm so proud I could burst.
Life comes easier to Itai, my third-grader, it always has, but he too is growing and thriving and is one hell of a kid. A world class procrastinator too (unfortunately he comes by that honestly, so am I), but one hell of a terrific kid.