Sunday, February 11, 2007

Elegant's full body workout

Earlier in the week I included a link to one of my favorite blogs, the QC Report. Reading about Lulabelle the cat and her feline exercise got me thinking about Elegant's version of exercise.

Elegant has ADHD and she's not medicated, so she has a lot of energy to burn off every day. Interestingly enough, at school she really struggles with the AD part, but at home it's the H part we deal with. I think it's because Elegant works so hard at school to follow the rules, do her work, and generally be a good citizen that when she gets home, she has a lot of steam to blow off.

When Elegant comes home from school, she almost always heads straight for the easel in our study, whereupon she begins the ADHD aerobics. Elegant first warms up with some quick sketches -- stick figures, for example. Physically, she'll add some basic ballet moves, such as an arabesque -- this is a child who vogues a lot in general. Then, as she gets further into her workout, she adds the step portion of her class and begins jumping up and down almost constantly. As the class progresses, Tae Bo is added, thereby really ramping up the energy levels with kicks and lunges. Eventually she tires and slows down for the cool down part of her class.

An observer sees the following: Elegant will draw something, such as a person. She'll be thinking out loud and saying something like, "...and then the fairy saw a rainbow." She'll step back and jump up and down wildly a few times and then step forward and start adding the rainbow. More drawing, more talking, more jumping. As the session progresses, Elegant will be pretty much jumping up and down constantly. She'll still be thinking out loud, but she'll start to breathe heavily so her narrative will not continue quite so fluidly. She'll start to get hot and will strip off layers of clothes. The longer she makes art >>> the more involved the story is >>> the more elaborate her picture becomes. Eventually, she'll not only be jumping up and down but also side to side and back and forth. She'll usually start flapping her hands and even waving her arms. Occasionally she'll knock over a chair or crash into something but always quickly rebounds. This art & aerobics session can go on for a long time; the more she has on her mind, the longer the period of time. Last fall, when she was trying really hard at school and feeling a bit stressed about it, she'd spend easily two or three hours in front of the easel -- from walking in the door until dinner.

Elegant's art is very narrative. A picture is not just of a fairy flying over a garden. Oh no, it's a full-blown story that progresses with each jump. It can take hours for her art to reach its final form and, by the end, the paper is just full of images. Sort of like a first grade version of a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Only, without the torments of Hell.

My office is in the room under Elegant's easel and the thumping is headache-inducing -- and that's even though she's jumping on a thick rug with a thick pad under that. I tend to not work very much once she gets home from school and I certainly don't make business calls during that time if I can help it.

Elegant started this jumping thing last year after she started kindergarten. She would jump just a little bit. As the year progressed, she jumped more. At the time, the easel was put away most of the time, but somehow I got wise and set it up permanently, which has really allowed Elegant to develop both her oeuvre and her workout.

During the summer, she developed the full blown aerobics class -- mostly in front of the easel but also sometimes while drawing at the table or even while playing. As long as she's deep inside her head, she'll jump. Sometimes she'll start playing with some toys and the jumping will start immediately. She only does this at home and I've only seen her do it outside the house once and the teachers have seen it at school only a few times.

Because Elegant is having a very hard time staying focused and on task at school, we have contemplated medicating her, but always resist because we don't want to squash her essential Elegant-ness. This is child who doesn't walk places -- she skips, dances, and twirls. She doesn't just shower -- she vogues because the poses supposedly help her get cleaner. She doesn't just wear clothes -- she color coordinates and accessorizes based on her mood. Hot pink and purple are the foundation colors of her wardrobe. She loves knock knock jokes and pun. She giggles and laughs and chuckles. The word "butt" causes full-on guffaws.

From the moment Elegant wakes up until she drops with exhaustion at the end of the day, she's on the go. And she makes our lives so much richer as a result. Yes, getting her to focus on her homework can be a trip to Dante's seventh circle of Hell. And, yes, dinner can be stressful because she simply cannot sit still. But Elegant's an adorable, endearing, happy, fabulous charming girl who is absolutely worth every overturned chair, every phone call from the teacher, and the countless hours spent thinking of new ways of engaging her in class and getting her to stay on task.

Well, the girls have finished their Sunday morning pancakes and Elegant is headed for the easel.

Let the workout begin.

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