Monday, December 16th, 2019

The Sad and Sorry Saga of the Shrunken House of Color— or— Good God! Why Can’t People Just Communicate in a Straightforward & Honest Manner & Admit Their Mistakes?

At the end of first grade, the children were sent home for the summer with instructions to clean their crayons. The crayons are high quality and cost about two dollars per crayon. The children were also told to wash their crayon rolls (affectionately called “house of color” in French) gently, by hand, in cold water, and to hang them dry. The crayon rolls were made by a school parent, sold to the school, and paid for with the “materials fee” that we pay to the school.


Iris washed her crayon roll promptly, as directed. The crayon roll shrank. The crayons no longer fit. Her newly cleaned crayons were once again a mess from trying to fit them in a shrunken container. Iris was inconsolable. As the teachers were still in session for one week after the children got out for the summer, I wrote the teacher to ask her to give some words of consolation to Iris that everything would be fixed. The teacher never responded.


All summer, Iris asked what would happen with her crayon roll. I told her that the problem would be resolved when she went back to school. But this was not good enough for Iris. Part of being autistic is that “we will find out later” is a horrible answer. Of course she’ll get that answer plenty later on in life, but right now, a simple response from the teacher would have been lovely. Instead, Iris continued to worry all summer that she had done something horribly wrong. 


I do not speak French, so therefore communication with the teacher is limited. Late summer, a friend found who the maker of the crayon roll was: Marie-Odile. Do you know her? What a lousy woman! The teacher assured my friend that the crayon roll would be replaced. Sadly, this never happened.


Come fall, I reminded the teacher about the crayon roll and asked her what I should do. She said she had not responded to my initial letter because she was on vacation (which was not true), but that I was free to make Iris a new crayon roll or to give her a box.


Meanwhile, I contacted the original maker of the crayon roll, Marie-Odile, to bring the issue to her attention & ask her why she didn’t pre-wash her fabric. I was polite. We exchanged several letters. She offered to sell me another crayon holder. I said I had no intention of giving repeat business to a person who made a faulty product. Finally she said that I was the only person to have this issue (which I knew was not true), that she didn’t wash her fabric because she did not want to iron it (lazy!), and that if I had any issues with her product I should contact the school.


I told her that whenever I have an issue with a product I buy, I contact the maker of the product to discuss the issue before raising a formal complaint with the vendor. Most people seem to prefer an opportunity to correct their mistakes. I said that I had not intended to complain to the school, but if she would like me to, I could complain to the director about her on her behalf. Of course, I did not expect her to write me back.


So Iris began 2nd grade with her crayons piled in a box instead of neatly organized in their house of colors. Not a big deal, really, except that Iris had to be different, and that neither the school nor the teacher nor Marie-Odile, who made the lousy crayon roll, was willing to admit that my time & money were being ill-spent.


The teacher later admitted to my friend that she herself never washed her own children’s crayon rolls. She said that really the parents ought not wash the crayon rolls— even though she specifically told them to do so. She was, in fact, unwilling to admit that she told the children to wash the crayon rolls. But why? Why the drama? Why not honesty?


It didn’t take me too long to come up with a pattern for a crayon roll for Iris & make her a new one, though it did take a lot of calculating and quite a bit of time, as all I had to measure off was a shrunken crayon roll. Iris’s new crayon roll is, beyond a doubt, the most beautiful house of colors in the class, as all the other children have either shrunken wrinkly off-white canvas crayon holders or regular-sized dirty off-white canvas crayon holders. Iris’s is decorated with flowers and stars and embroidered with her name.


Soon thereafter the teacher officially announced that several parents had problems with their crayon rolls shrinking after washing. This, she said, was to be dealt with by the school. I got the slightest acknowledgement of the trouble I had gone through: the teacher complimented Iris’s crayon roll. She said it was so very beautiful and that she herself would love to have one, as she, the teacher, has only a box for her crayons and has no house of colors at all.


The teacher was quite embarrassed that Iris repeated this to me. She said that it had been said jokingly, as a compliment. But, you see, I got the last laugh. For Christmas, I made the teacher a beautiful crayon holder. Now every time she uses her crayons, she will think of Iris and smile. Ha-ha!


Iris’s house of color, in use. She brought it home for me to copy the measurements—




The teacher’s house of color—




What happy ladybugs on the outside!




I even remembered to attach the name tag before sewing the entire thing together.


Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Iris & Akiva read together on the couch.

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Hunt for the Lost Ornament (Single-Use Disposable River Crossing Over Bridgeless Brook, Part II)

Despite the fact that we had nowhere in particular to go, we didn’t manage to leave the house until nearly three in the afternoon. The goal was to find Linda’s missing gift.


We walked through the field, down into the woods to the place where Iris first showed me the ornament. It was not there. We walked to the near side of the river where we had crossed. No ornament. Then, because we could not cross the river— there was more water and less ice— we bushwhacked down the easterly side of the river in search of an alternate crossing.


At the mouth of Bridgeless Brook was a mass of stuff: a large culvert lay perpendicular to the shore with up-rooted trees, ice and rocky mud all in a jumble amid the water flowing into the Coaticook River. We had found a new crossing spot at last! I tried it out myself first. I crossed a jumble of organic matter over sub-freezing water, walked along the culvert, grabbed something long & logish, inched out on a large protruding log & tossed the smaller log so that it lay across the remaining ice and water between me and the far shore.


“You can do it!” I said, and they came. And they did it. With a helping hand here and there and one final toss of the kids over the last bit of river, we all crossed Bridgeless Brook.


Iris & Akiva on the far side of the river crossing—




Where we crossed the river—




Once on the far side of the river, the hunt for the missing ornament continued. We walked to the far side of yesterday’s river crossing. No ornament. We followed our bushwhack back to the washed out concrete bridge. No ornament. There we met a man named Pierre-Luc. He happens to be part owner of the property. We chatted with him for a bit, then walked through the field, across the street, and followed the path to the school. No ornament.


“There’s one final place I really think it might be,” I said as we re-traced our footsteps to the location of last night’s party. And there it was! There it was, hiding shyly in the fading daylight and all soggy in the snow, right near where we had put down our backpacks by the bonfire! Oh, were we happy.

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Single-Use Disposable River Crossing Over Bridgeless Brook


If the brook that used to have a bridge over it had a name, I’d call it by its name. At this point, due to the fact that we visit so frequently, I’m compelled to name it myself. I hereby name the little river that used to have a tiny bridge over it Bridgeless Brook.


After a brief stop for a snack, where Iris showed me the ornament that Linda had made for her and one for each person in the class, we reached Bridgeless Brook between 3:30 & 4:00 in the afternoon. Recently we’ve been crossing just slightly upstream of where the bridge used to be, because the stream is wide and the gravel is not too far from the surface. However, today it was warm. The brook was deep. I crossed the brook on a rope tied between two trees, but this was beyond the ability of my kids.


Up past the regular crossing is an eddy pool. A tree leans out over the eddy pool, growing vertically where once there must have been soil. After crossing the river, I put one foot on the tree’s trunk, wrapped one arm around the trunk, and put my other foot on the ice on the other side, where Iris & Akiva waited.


“I’ll take Akiva first,” I said. He walked out onto the thin ice. With one arm, I swung him across to my side of the river. He climbed the bank.


“And now Iris,” I said. She walked out onto the thin ice. As I swung her across to my side of the river with one arm, the ice under my foot crashed into the river. I pulled myself over to the kids.


“Good thing we’re all on the same side!” I said. “Lets walk upstream to see if there’s a better crossing somewhere.”


We walked upstream, up all the way to where the concrete bridge washed out. We walked up to the road, walked up the steep bank covered in phragmites, went over the river as the road crosses, then went back down through the tall stand of phragmites that covers the bank. We walked along the edge of the field, across the road to the trail to the school, then reached the school about 45 minutes before the second-grade Christmas party was to begin. We hadn’t planned on attending, but someone was just starting a bonfire, so we put down our backpacks and stayed a while. After some sack races, tug-o-war games, singing and dancing, we noticed our bellies grumbling & headed home. Upon arrival, Iris unpacked her backpack. The gift from Linda was nowhere to be found!


to be continued…


Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Paper Blocks

We unpacked the paper blocks! They were last seen in Shelburne, Vermont. Initially disappointed with the number of paper blocks— the kids couldn’t actually build a full-size cabin— they did learn to increase the usable space created by a paper brick house by incorporating existing walls. As you can see, the kids have not yet learned how to stagger their brick walls. That’s the next lesson in Paper Block Home Building 101. Stay tuned!











Saturday, November 16th, 2019

We went for a walk & found the Candy Faerie house.

Someone— either canine or fae— had moved the house a good distance and consumed the candy.


Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I burn scrap wood, contemplate the futility of it, & spend time photographing flame.





















Friday, November 1st, 2019

After Hallowe’en

This year’s house for the Candy Faerie—




is hidden somewhere around here—






Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

Portraits of Iris & Akiva (Watercolor)

Dan came to visit! We don’t have any photos of him because I’m going through a camera-lazy phase, but I did manage to take some photos of artwork produced during his visit. Iris sat first for a portrait (the date on the portrait is incorrect), & then Akiva sat in the same location. Iris, being older, sat for quite some time. Akiva’s ability to sit is a bit wigglier and thus he sat for a much shorter duration of time, but nonetheless he managed to get two portraits painted of himself.


Iris on the couch, illustrated by Dan—




Akiva on the couch, illustrated by Dan—




Akiva on the couch, illustrated by Iris—


Saturday, October 26th, 2019

Girls Jumping the Cord (Jumprope)