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Aidan climbing at Veteran's Park in Loveland, CO

Becca on the tire swing at Veteran's Park in Loveland, CO

We had a nice break in the weather here for a few days, so I took the kidlets to the park to play. It’s finally getting warm enough to go outside, and they seemed to really enjoy the play time! 🙂

As you know, we’ve been dealing with the flu here in Lovey-dovey-land, CO. We’re finally starting to feel better, so my daughter Becca and I decided to do a girl’s afternoon out. We started at Starbuck’s, where we had some coffee (me) and a “cake pop” (Becca). From there, we went to Macy’s, where Becca was lucky enough to get a “makeover” (a little lip gloss, eye shadow and blush) courtesy of the Estee Lauder counter – they’re wonderful people there! 🙂 She was quick to remind me that, “we girls have to moisturize, Mama” – my little girly-girl! (She picks up on this beauty stuff like a sponge – I don’t know where she gets it, because I hardly wear makeup at all!)

"The Road to Greeley" with power poles and cars

My little boy has autism. He is fascinated by power poles and curves in roads. Driving to Greeley is a treat, because of the curves and power poles – I’d never notice these if it weren’t for him!

Aidan the artist!

Pastry bag sketch #1 - LBL

Pastry bag sketch #1 - LBL


Every weekend, one of my two little munchkins and I go to Starbuck’s here in Loveland. The kiddos take turns, and each of them gets some time alone with Mama every other week – we start off with a little breakfast and drink (chocolate milk for them, coffee for me), and then decide where we’re going to go or what we’re going to do when we’re done.

Becca generally likes to get the fruit cup or the protein plate (is watching your eating genetically engraved in a girl’s psyche? Holy cow – we eat well, but I never TAUGHT her that she couldn’t have an occasional doughnut!) She also usually chooses to go do some shopping of one sort or another. A week and a half ago, she wanted to go to Barnes and Noble, and we lucked into a painting demo for kids that the local art league was doing. Needless to say, this was heaven for both of us!

Last weekened, Aidan went with me, and didn’t really want to go anywhere. He wanted to draw, though, and since I had no paper, I thought we could draw on the little brown paper bags that Starbuck’s puts their pastries in. As I was drawing – ZOT! A really, really cool idea struck me.

Wouldn’t it be fun and cool if we got a bunch of people together who ALL did a small piece of work on the pastry bags? It would be a cool little exhibit for the local Starbuck’s – and great, free advertising as well, a great way for people to get to know each other and for local artists to show off their talent, and just plain have some fun! I’m envisioning something as simple as having markers or small paints availabe up to as complex as having mixed-media materials available as well.

I also used to do book arts – wouldn’t it be REALLY cool to bind all these mini-artworks into a book? We could scan the bags and/or color copy them and bind them so each artist could get a copy, if we did this in a small group. We could also get to know and inspire each other…

There are many really cool, interesting possible iterations of this idea, and I’d like to try it. I’m not sure how to begin – I guess maybe talking to the managers of our local Starbuck’s would be a good place to start…all it would cost them is a stack of the paper bags. Maybe we could even buy one for 50 cents to a dollar, with a percentage of the purchase going to help a local charity – like a homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter?

I’d be interested to know if you all have any other ideas – let me know!

Pastry bag art #2 - flower drawing

Pastry bag art #2 - flower drawing

This is cross-posted from my professional blog, The Other Side of The Couch”

A lot of these exercises come from my various books on Journaling – if I know the source, I’ll let you know:

From: “How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything” (Cheri Huber)
What book, song, or movie best describes your life?
What would it take for you to be truly happy?
What makes you feel insecure, and what makes you feel secure?
What is the most important thing in your life, and why?

Laura’s Ideas:
-“If you could write a story with yourself as the hero, what would the story be about?” Write that story.
-What mythological stories seem to speak to you? Write a myth incorporating the pieces that speak for you, and make yourself the hero/main character. What happens?
-“If there was one thing in the world that symbolized “you” – who you are, what you want to be, where you’ve come from, etc – what would that symbol be? Draw it.
-Create a mandala using your personal symbol
-Create pictures of the positive and negative sides of yourself. If these were masks, what would they look like? Make the mask, if you feel like it.
-Write a poem about something in nature, or about something in the world that you love
-Write a poem about your pain – loneliness, sadness, trauma – use the poem to transform the pain and yourself.
-Create a collage of things you enjoy doing
-Write yourself (or someone else) a note using only cut out letters from magazines and/or papers.
-Doodle with words, for example, outline your hand with your journal entry
-use stickers, ephemera – all that great stuff scrapbookers use. Try to use it in a different way
-Get a template or draw a blank jigsaw puzzle – make a puzzle of you – what are the pieces that make up who you are?
-Use the puzzle template to create poetry – photocopy several of them and print words in each piece. Put the puzzle together different ways for a found poem.

From “One to One” (Christina Baldwin)
-What don’t you give yourself permission to write about? Why? What would it take for you to be able to write about it? Write about it!
-What kind of privacy do you need to write? Is your journal a public work of art? (Some are, some aren’t). How can you/do you keep your private stuff private?
-Write some of the stories of your family and childhood in the third person – as stories. Do you feel any different about them after writing them this way?
-What are you supposed to be like?
-What would your family or friends think if they knew you _______?
-If your life were a fairy tale, what would happen?
-Describe a recent dream and its meaning for you

From “Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest” (Christina Baldwin)
-Write out a prayer to whatever Creator/Supreme Being you believe in
-What were the questions you had about faith when you were a child? What are your questions now? Write them out
-If you didn’t already know who you are, who would you ask? What would you ask them, and what would they say? Write out the conversation
-What is sacred to you?
-How do you let go of control and let in faith/grace/your Higher Power?
-List everything love provides in your life

From “Keeping a Journal You Love” (Sheila Bender)
-Write a letter to someone you love and tell them why you love them. (Laura’s note: Write that letter to yourself and say why you’re worthwhile and deserving of love)
-Tell a story about something that happened during your day- describe the buildings, the environment, the people as well as the event. Use detail, adjectives – bring it to life

From “The Creative Journal” (Lucia Cappachione – this is one of my favorites)
-Draw how you feel
-What do your inner and outer selves look like at this time? How are they different?
-Draw a timeline of your life history
-Draw how you see yourself.
-What do you believe about yourself, about the world, about the people around me?
-What are your beliefs about life in general?
-If some of these are negative, what would it take to change them to a positive view?
-Create a mandala for yourself
-How do you nurture, care for, and/or soother yourself? What keeps you from being able to do that? What would help change it, so that you could take better care of yourself?
-Draw one of your dreams – what symbols seem to come out at you? Draw those and journal about what they mean to you.

These are great ideas – if you have others to share or other resources to share, I’d love to see what you’ve got as well. There are also some great websites out there with journaling prompts – you can google “journaling prompts” to get some of them.

Ok – I worked my tail end off yesterday – syllabus for the class I’ll be teaching this fall (Developmental Psychology), Designing my business cards and brochures, meeting with people about office space…it was a busy, busy day. So, I’m taking a break today.

When I work with clients, I’m always encouraging people to be gentle with themselves. That doesn’t mean not being accountable for your actions, by the way – it does mean if you have to take yourself to task you can do it in a way that’s kind and gentle.

One of my friends recently about how the Golden Rule also means treating yourself the way you’d want to be treated. If you’ll notice, the Golden Rule doesn’t say, “Treat others as you treat yourself,” but rather “as you’d want to be treated.” So, why do we have so much trouble treating OURSELVES the way we’d want to be treated?

How often do we find ourselves chronically putting our needs last? Or ignoring our bodies’ needs for rest and relaxation? How often do we take care of everyone else, leaving no time to do so for ourselves? For women, especially, it’s a chronic issue.

When I work with people who chronically ignore or negate their own needs I used what I call “Healthy Selfishness.” I use this temr for a couple of reasons. One is that “selfishness” has been a label thrown at us likely since we were children, and it has such a negative connotation that reclaiming the word in a different way helps people see that it’s NOT a bad thing to take care of themselves. That’s the “Healthy” piece. It’s healthy to care for ourselves, and to let ourselves enjoy life and things we enjoy.

So, today I’m going to play. I’m getting out my kid’s easel, and we’re going to paint on the porch with bright tempera paint and great, big, chunky kids’ brushes. We’re going to splash in the wading pool, and we may go to the library as well. The point is, I’m going to let me kids teach me to play again.

Somewhere along the way to being a “responsible adult,” I lost that. I was always the “responsible child” so losing play happened pretty early for me. Today, I find myself yearning to let go, to play, to let loose – and I don’t know how. So…I’m going to the best teachers I know – my children.

I do have things I “should” do – I should work more on the development psychology class, I should work more on the paperwork for my private practice…but I also should relax, take care of myself and treat myself the way I’d want to be treated. I should also not judge myself as harshly and punitively as I do. I should treat myself gently, respectfully, and lovingly. And that means paying attention to my need to relax, play, and cut loose a little.

So, this is my attempt to work on those things. I’ll post pictures here next time of our painting adventures – all of us. 🙂

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Hearing my kidlets laugh and playing with them
Helping others
The ocean, the shore, and Connecticut
Beachcombing
Listening to the sound of ocean waves
Traveling to new places
Adventures
Bright, sunny days and cool rainy days
Autumn
Spring
Sun sparkling on untouched snow
The smell of fallen leaves and ripe fruits
The smell of bread baking
Soft blankets and warm quilts
Hot cups of tea
A really good, engrossing book
A clean home
Good humor and jokes
Teaching
Learning – always, always learning!
Working for peace, unity and justice
Playing with art and office supplies
Knitting
Making Art
Photography
Writing and Journaling
Watching football all snuggled up
Swimming
Snuggling!
My spirituality
Learning about new religions and faith traditions
Quiet time
Good music
Appreciating art
Singing
Found and spontaneous art – chalk, PostSecret, guerilla art
Being creative in any way

What makes YOU happy?

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

1) Kids, cars, and hours do not mix well
2) Shake well and serve does NOT work in cars!
3) Your brand new mini-van becomes a “family car” in about 5 minutes
4) French fries find their way into crevices that you never knew existed
5) New crevices are invented the longer you’re on the road.
6) When the kids say, “Are we there yet?” and you haven’t even left the driveway, you know it’s going to be a long day.
7) There really is such a thing as purple dirt
8 ) It’s great to promise kids that we’ll go in the hotel swimming pool – until the weather changes
9) Do NOT allow noise-making toys to come in the car with you. You will lose your sanity within 2 1/2 minutes.
10) Sugar is NOT your friend.
11) Never take toddlers on long trips until they’re completely potty-trained.
12) Even when you leave space for more crap, the crap you get STILL ends up taking more space than you have.
13) When the water coming out of the hotel faucet is brown…worry. Worry a lot.
14) Little kids tag team to annoy, and the sum of the volume of their voices is greater than each one could possibly be alone.
15) Tinkerbell is NOT cute after the DVD has been played over 20 times. In one trip.
16) Your significant other will invariably pack more than s/he will ever use and will insist that it’s all necessary. (Sorry, Matt…)
17) Schedules are made to be broken.
18) Construction delays always occur when your kids are at their crabbiest.
19) The food you ate that morning will inevitably visit again by noon.
20) You will always be one diaper short. Always.
21) Family is…family. ‘Nuff said.
22) Kids always have to go to the bathroom immediately AFTER you pass the rest stop.
23) There is always another souvenir.
24) When going uphill, you’re always behind the truck.
25) You’ll never have enough time or money while on vacation – and they both go too fast.
26) Someone, somewhere WILL throw-up. Usually either in the middle of nowhere in the car or in the hotel room where you can’t escape it. Sigh…

Any more you all want to add? Let’s see what we can come up with?

There are some bright spots today – Aidan, my little 5-year old boy who is autistic, has decided that he wants to wear big-boy pants!!!! Hallelujah, he may not go to school in pull-ups. I’ve been changing his diapers for 5 1/2 years, and I am SO ready to be done with that. I think he got jealous of his 3-year old sister, which is FINE by me. 🙂 That, and the “tooth fairy” left a note for him telling him he had to be a big boy and wear big boy pants, because he’s growing up. ;p

The other bright spot comes from my daughter Rebecca – I’ve never seen a child narrate her life to music the way this little girl does. Everything is something to sing about – “I going to water, water plants…” to “I go to the pot-tay, pot-tay, pot-tay…” to (at the top of her little lungs) “Mommy’s driving, Mommy’s driving cossetrate!” Seeing her sing reminds me of myself at her age…I loved to sing. My mother used to tell me “Laura, you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Well, Becca doesn’t either…and I LOVE to hear her singing. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world to me, next to hearing my kidlets laugh – it shows she’s so happy with her world, that she just breaks out in song.

How much better does it get? 🙂

Aidan and Becca playing "hide from Mommy" at the park - June 2009

My son, Aidan, is autistic. We began to suspect that something was wrong when Aidan didn’t start to walk on time, like other kids. He eventually did walk, at 16 months, and our doctors told us, “Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Now to any other parent, that might sound reassuring – but to me it was extremely frustrating, because I KNEW something wasn’t right. I have the advantage of doctoral training in counseling psychology; one of the many things we learn is how to recognize, assess, and treat developmental disorders in children. And yes, autism is one of those disorders. So, I had an “in” when I started recognizing symptoms.

Aidan is a little different in that he never really regressed, as many children with autism do. Aidan simply stopped. At about 18 months, he had tubes put in his ears for chronic ear infections – we had hoped that he would start catching up when he stopped being sick so much of the time. His second birthday came and went, and he was still delayed. He had trouble eating independently, and didn’t like to be hugged as much as I would have liked to hug him…so, although there were some “red flags,” they weren’t flying high enough to really warrant a lot of attention. Still, at his checkups, I brought up the possibility of autism with our family doctor. Her advice was to “wait and see.”

One thing I should tell you is that I have a really, REALLY good working relationship with my family doctor. She is an incredible, amazing woman that I trust. More importantly, she listened to me and considered my concerns. Again, though – I had an “in” because of my training, and I’m sure that helped.

Aidan’s sister was born a few months after his second birthday, and Aidan didn’t react to her at all in the way you’d expect a toddler to react to a new intruder. He simply didn’t care and actually acted as though she simply didn’t exist. Unlike most toddlers, he wasn’t curious and he wasn’t jealous. He simply…was. Again, I was concerned – after all, I knew what to look for.

Aidan’s 3rd birthday came and went, and he was pretty clearly not meeting the developmental milestones. I’d been keeping track of these since I’d first noticed difficulties early on – and, as I mentioned earlier, he simply “stopped.” He wa stuck at about 2 to 2 1/2 years old. Our doctor listened to my concerns, and again we give it a few more months just to wait and see. Ok…so we did.

At three and half years, she saw him again – she’d wanted to assess his development specificially withing the few months between visits to see if there were any changes. There weren’t…he as still “stuck” in the two year old phase.

Now if any you know, have been around, or have children at this age, you KNOW what fun I’m talking about. Learning the power of “no” is huge at this age – now imagine getting stuck there, and dealing with it for over two and half years. Potty training – the same. Stuck at early two.

After this visit, our doctor decided that it would be a good thing to run a complete evaluation – ironically enough, she recommended my training clinic as the best place to do this. I KNEW what the outcome of the evaluation would be – after all, I’d been tracking symptoms and such for 2 1/2 years. So, off we went to CSU for the evaluation. I remember telling therapist (who again ironically enough was in the same exact position I’d been in three years before) that I thought Aidan had autism and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD; essentially disobeying for the sheer idea of disobeying and argumentation.) She said, “Well, let’s do the tests and we’ll see.”

Guess what? Amazingly enough…he was diagnosed with mild-moderate autism and oppositional defiance disorder. Here’s the thing – even when you’re prepared, even when you know what’s coming – hearing it is a shock. No parent ever wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child. I’d been through this before when my oldest was diagnosed with ADHD. I thought I was prepared.

And on the way home, with Aidan babbling in the back seat of the care, I cried. Partially out of relief – here was the evidence for what I’d known for years – and partially out of a profound grief. There was something very wrong with my baby.

From this point, we entered the world of “services” and “therapy.” I have to say that I’m eternally grateful to the local hospital and therapists – their work in speech and occupational therapy worked wonders. It’s expensive and I’m also glad we had insurance that covered it. AND, I thought about what life would be like if we didn’t have these advantages.

Today, Aidan speaks relatively close to his age group – he’s about 1 year behind. His motor coordination is better, and he interacts with people much more often and appropriately. I thank God every day for that. He has improved immensely, also in part due to the wonderful Head Start program – he had a wonderful classroom staff and was thrilled to be a “big kid” and go to school. He hugs, kisses, shows affection, interacts and even initiates play with other kids – all of these are miracles I’ll never take for granted again.

There are things about Aidan, though, that are noticeably different. He tends to speak in a monotone that sounds intense or pressured – there isn’t much emotion or inflection in his words. He looks a little different too – there is just something about him that seems a little “off.” He’s fascinated with things no other child I know of has ever even noticed: power poles and lines, “red balls,” train tracks (not the trains – the tracks) and signs. One more thing – heaven help me…I’m STILL changing diapers. (Changing poopy diapers for a 5 1/2 year old is NOT fun, either!)

His little sister speaks more clearly and in a more complex manner than he does, and she’s potty-trained now. She’s teaching him some things with language, interacting, and normal pre-school stuff that he needs and can really only get by interacting. He’ll be in a regular kindergarten next year, and I’m worried for him.

We all know how kids treat other kids who are different and how early it starts. My prayer for the other children and for Aidan is that, somehow, they can overcome the differences and help each other.

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror