I fell off.
Fell off the earth, I guess, so to speak.
Once you stop writing, the inertia to return is stifling.
I’m sure some of you have experienced this, but ceasing to write has been so odd for me since writing was integrally therapeutic for me. My focus needed to return to saving money, dealing rare books, and finding ways to budget all the while raising the children, the dog, the guinea pig, an ever- expanding giant millipede, one flatulent hedgehog, the dwindling minnow collective/Borg, a stoic Japanese fighting fish, and a now terribly fertile crayfish gleefully adopted from a third grade science class.
“She” gave birth yesterday, so my time has been spent attempting to separate the nearly microscopic offspring into separate tiny habitats (read old Tupperware) before she gobbles her perilous progeny mercilessly.
So today I had a birthday party for Jesus event for Sue’s class and the children immediately flocked to the pantry where all the pets dwell. One of the mothers wandered in there, looked at me in a troubled yet intrigued way, and asked, “So what all kinds of creatures do you breed in here?”
“Breed! What do you mean?” I asked. “I’m a hedge fund manager. These pets are just a hobby.”
She left the pet room and poured herself another cup of decaf in my thrice-used Spode Christmas china.
It’s just a snapshot.
I’ve got more.
Please meet “Lily,” Edward’s new pet Hedgehog.
It all started last Spring when Edward discovered Craigslist and the “Pets” section; he perseverated on various pet possibilities until he decided that the hedgehog was the perfect pet! For the next eight months, he became an expert on hedgehogs, hedgehog breeders, laws related to keeping hedgehogs, etc.
Sorry I’ve been absent for so many days. Just over here imagining the moments ahead….and oh, the moments we’ve had!
Apparently third grade is a grade of projects done in the home. With no further adieu, I bring you the glorious, the spectacular,
BUTTER PAT EYE PIG!
This project is designed to teach proper placement of the continents which renders unfortunate Antarctica as a blue pig scrotum.
Edward told me about this project just as we were going to bed the night before it was due, so he hastily colored the continents and placed them in their respective spots on this pig friend.
Does anyone else find the eyes somewhat creepy? Do you find his smile authentic, or is something far more sinister going on here?
(Mrs. Bear might even find him a tad zombified.)
So the rest of the story finds E running out the door the next morning, gluten-free bagel in hand, casually dripping a swathe of butter right onto the pig’s eye since the all-important project was left in the middle of the kitchen floor. Edward casually wipes off the butter, scoops up the pig, who now boasts a rather rheumy, glowing eye, and runs off to school.
Imagine my horror upon opening his backpack later that afternoon to find the pig crammed inside!
“I did not put him in there! I promise I turned him in!!” a frightened Edward screams.
“Look at his eyes,” Sue chants, “Just look at those eyes!”
At this point, I’m rather miffed. I do not like to be part of continent pig projects period, much less at 8:45 at night only to have them not turned in. Still, Edward swears he has no knowledge of how the pig got back in his backpack.
And I believe him.
I believe we are into week three with our medication trial for Edward, and I had to quote verbatim from the marketing materials for the title of this post! My husband and I have had so much fun mocking the pamphlets and checklists provided by this pharmaceutical company. I’ve never seen such complicated marketing packets and reminder stickers–all in soothing beach-tone colors of blue and light tan.
The medication promises “manageable mornings,” “assignments accomplished,” and “drama-free dinnertime.” The materials encourage us to “notice the little changes, write them down and celebrate the improvements.” There are photographs of a little boy enjoying board games with his sister while his parents smile adoringly. He smiles ingratiatingly at his mother as she prepares his breakfast, his backpack packed and jacket already on–clearly ready for a productive day at school.
We’ve been running around the house for the past three weeks occasionally lapsing into a faux reverie where we claim to be “imagining the moments ahead” when Edward will not interrupt me while I’m talking with a doctor to tell me that hedgehogs are extremely prone to cancer, or when he will actually remember all of his homework materials so I do not have to bribe a custodian to allow me entrance into the school to retrieve them every other day.
All sarcasm aside, we have seen a certain amount of calming in hyperactivity with the use of a very small dose of this medication. Specifically where we used to witness loud, screaming tantrums when the soccer team lost, we now see quiet sobbing. Where once we experienced shrieking and wailing at the threat of turning off a video game, we might see a fist pounded quietly into the carpet and a wry face, but otherwise a rather mild reaction.
It reminds me fondly of a Temple Grandin talk I went to last Spring where she spoke about gifted software developers with Aspergers who would quietly retreat to their cubicle when upset or overwhelmed. Her point was that they had learned how to manage their emotions in a socially appropriate way. I suppose I see this medication helping Edward do just that, and my hope is that this new reaction to adversity will become more ingrained for him and therefore a part of his coping skills.
In the meantime, I will continue my quiet reveries…
We find ourselves well into our second week of school, and I’ll have to say that this year is so much better than last year I can actually breathe! Last year we were living with my brother and his family, homeschooling Edward at my brother’s kitchen table and trying to find a house because we had just left our all of our dear friends in South GA and moved to Middle TN.
What a difference a year makes.
Still, mornings are challenging with our group. We all like to sleep late, drink copious amounts of coffee before we can focus on anything whatsoever, and all require complicatedly different breakfasts with multiple tinctures and vitamins.
Today our morning began with the sighting of an enormous centipede in the middle of the kitchen floor!
Now it’s not like we eschew bugs in any way–we do have a giant pet millipede named “Mills”–but something about waking up to such a large insect prior to the ingestion of a single milligram of caffeine is unholy.
I immediately called for the boys in a loud (and apparently freakish) voice that summoned the whole family from their slumber, and was not the best way to begin a school day. Their frenzied tromping, not surprisingly, frightened the creature and s/he slithered under the toe molding.
We banged, knocked, blew, and shoved makeshift shivs into the space in an effort to coerce the fellow to emerge.
No such luck.
H even grabbed my hair dryer and tried to root him out.
S/he could not be moved.
This did not leave a lot of time for the preparation of gluten-free toast without crusts, soft-scrambled farm eggs or slightly undercooked grits. (One child likes the “grits crunch.”)
Repeatedly running back in to the foyer to see if the ‘pede had emerged was also a time-waster.
Still, we made it to school on time and we should have a topic to write about during journal period. Maybe our writing will even be legible today! Who knows?
It was just a centipede morning.
It’s come to my realization that I’m a “now” kind of Veruca Salt-like person with some weighty patience issues. I want everything fixed NOW! I want my house clean now, my new curtains made now, my dining room carpet ripped up now, and weight loss now.
And I want my child to pack his own backpack now, make eye contact with adults now, finish his homework legibly now, and gracefully lose a soccer game now.
God, however, is not a “now” kind of person. His timing is always perfect, but it’s rarely the timing I would choose at the time I’m assessing the timing.
(How many people have I lost at this point?)
I have been fiddling around with our gluten-free/casein-free/egg-free pancake recipe lately, and have found it hard to attain a lovely golden brown color on the outside while at the same time rendering the inside reasonably fluffy. When I turn the burner on “high,” I get a perfect pancake center with dark, charred-like outside edges.
Yet when I turn down the heat to try a more moderate approach, the pancakes look lovely and golden on the outside, but are runny-raw on the inside.
(At one point my children actually asked me if the liquid part was some kind of “pudding filling.” That just proves how much I have snowed them regarding my own cooking abilities because anyone who knows me remotely well knows I would never be able to carry off such a complicated culinary feat as a “pudding filling.”)
The other day, however, I was attempting to multi-task and craft pancakes at the same time, which only resulted in an equal amount of black-lace pancakes and raw dough ones. I finally turned off the burner and walked away in disgust, leaving the last pancake to languish in the pan.
When I returned, however, lo and behold I found the most perfectly browned, delicately cooked pancake!
OK, obviously many lessons can be learned here. When I leave things alone, quit pushing, and stop trying to control everything I slide over and let God take the driver’s seat.
Below you will find a list of most of the supplements, treatments, tinctures, educational options that we have tried over the years with our sweet Edward. I must confess, that before I started each one of them, I fully believed that this treatment would be the one to help us round the curve, crest the hill, truly make a “night and day” difference.
I would hold dear all the conversations I’d had in waiting rooms with other mothers who “ooowed and awwwed” over this therapy or that intervention that caused their child to finally be verbal, or, gasp, even lose their diagnosis.
Here’s our list:
*Floortime * Homeschooling * Tutoring * Kumon *EMDR * Music Therapy* BrightSpark* Focus Formula* Attend* Memorin* GF/CF Diet * Feingold Diet* The Listening Program * TOMATIS * Interactive Metronome Therapy* Chiropractic * Defeat Autism Now Protocol (DAN) * Occupational Therapy * Physical Therapy * Social Skills Groups & Camps * “How Does Your Engine Run?” Program * Joint Compression *Brushing Therapy * Hippotherapy * Homeopathic Attention Aids *Social Skills Camp *Private School *Public School *Part-time Public School *Swimming *Soccer *Gymnastics *T-Ball *Superflex Social Skills *Model Me Social Skills *
Now I can add *Stimulant and Non-Stimulant Medications* to that list. Yes, I have freaked out for years in fear of all things pharmaceutical for my child. We tried mild stimulants off and on a few times last year with no results, other than 48 hours of wakefulness and lots of stimming and perseveration.
After meeting several times with a new psychiatrist, we have decided to try a different medication that, guess what, takes a rather long time to potentially work. The irony of this is certainly not lost on me.
Am I saying that my child is a slow-cook pancake?
Am I saying that God is teaching me to be more of a slow-cook pancake type of person?
Tomorrow we meet Edward and Joseph’s teachers for the new year.
I NEED MORE TIME!
I said I would go through the Greek and Latin vocabulary book with them over the summer. I even made color-coded index cards.
We learned three words. I hopes these words and their derivations are what my children encounter when they take the PSAT.
Instead or learning Greek and Latin, we:
Fed dead white mice to rather large Caiman crocodiles at a local reptile store.
I intended to organize my house, structure our days and create nifty chore charts.
Learned that it’s not that difficult to sleep in a damp swimsuit and coverup two, or even three, days in a row since then all you have to do is pop up in the morning, brush your teeth, grab a Rice Krispie treat, and head for the pool or beach. Such a time saver!
I planned to lose 12 pounds and finally fit into a two-piece swimsuit for the first time since Edward was born.
Instead, I created a self-portrait of myself at the beach as a “shadow” or “shade.”
I think I look like a Sleestack.
I intended on teaching my children that the most quiet, patient fisherman always catches the most fish.
Instead we learned that sometimes the loudest, most active fisherman catches the only fish…
Like it or not, school looms…
A common frustration of parenting a child on the autism spectrum is the reality that most insurance policies will not cover social skills groups, and those helpful groups are generally quite pricey. Our occupational therapist has wisely combined OT, (which is covered by our insurance), with social skills, and we recently began doing joint sessions with another boy of a similar age and diagnosis.
So the second time we met with this boy, he and Edward were playing contentedly in the waiting room, bandying some kid’s meal car back and forth while the therapist and I discussed the plan for the hour. All of a sudden out of the busy din of waiting room conversation rang a clear, rather piercing question:
“So, do you have Asperger’s like me?”
The little boy glanced sideways at Edward as he asked, almost, but not quite, making eye contact.
Edward looked at him, looked at the car, and continued playing in apparent oblivion.
To his own credit, the boy could not be deterred, and he fired the question again, this time more loudly to the packed waiting room:
“So, Edward, I said, do you have Asperger’s like me?”
Edward met his gaze, and in mildly exasperated tone of voice fired back, “I do not know what you keep talking about, but I do not have that!”
The therapist and I exchanged a troubled glanced with the boy’s father, and the boys were quickly ushered into the OT room.
Later, our therapist told me that she felt it was time to share Edward’s diagnosis with him because it appeared he was ready to understand it to a certain extent and because more and more of his peers knew about their own diagnoses and would be asking him questions about his.
This is not the first time I have heard this particular advice. I have also heard a plethora of advice against sharing a diagnosis with a child this age.
A bit later in the van, I asked Edward what his friend kept talking about. His response? “Yeah, I don’t know what he was talking about. He kept going on and on about ‘ass boogers‘ and I most certainly don’t have those. That sounds kinda gross…”
(insert grin here)
I went on to accurately pronounce the term and describe some of the characteristics of Asperger’s–how it was similar to ADHD, with which he is quite familiar–and how people who fall into that “camp” sometimes have challenges with social skills and making friends, paying attention and sometimes handwriting and a few other things. We also discussed many of the amazing advantages of having a brain structured like his, and how God had created him so uniquely for a specific purpose.
“Oh, well, yes, then I do have that. I absolutely have that Mom. That’s me…”
You could have knocked me over with a hummingbird feather.
Something I had agonized over and fretted over, something that had kept me up countless nights debating and praying over, was as easy as telling a child he needed to use a special pencil grip or might hit a baseball further if he used a lighter weight bat.
Over the past few weeks, we have had occasion to discuss Asperger’s in much greater detail. He now knows that several of his friends bear a similar diagnosis, and that has made him feel like he is most certainly not alone.
Based on a few comments he has made, I believe he is even recognizing how his difficulty reading facial expressions and body language often confuses him about what a friend is trying to do or say, and now he knows that Asperger’s has something to do with that. All of a sudden the social skills classes make more sense to him.
What was before so confusing, now has a name. That name gives meaning to his own feelings and experiences–both those that are challenges and those that are gifts.
I’m sure that in the days and years to come, this conversation will develop further complexities and nuances that are peacefully lost and absent today.
Yet today, I will revel in the simplicity of an eight-year-old who hears this diagnosis and does not cringe, does not question and does not fear.
That’s what I embrace today.
A ten-year-old may ignore the start of stomach troubles and insist on consuming a Number 5 Mexican combo to impress his 11-year-old friend. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, this same boy, might run for the bathroom, sailing over ten feet of carpet and his sister’s giant wooden doll house, yet not making it to the bathroom before a Mexican eruption takes place throughout the room.
(Come to think of it he does look a little peaked here.)
This vesuvius might lead a weary mother to scream into the night, “This will never, ever, ever come out of the carpet! It’ll have to be ripped up! There’s no hope! No amount of steam cleaning can get this up! I don’t know why I ever agreed to buy a house that had carpet again!”
This mother will then need to sheepishly apologize to her ten-year-old for Mexican fest throw-up blame.
The next morning, this same mother may reluctantly rent a steam cleaner and proceed to spend seven full hours steam cleaning not only the upchuck room, but also every other wretchedly carpeted room in her home.
She might overzealously attack the playroom, vacuuming up gallon after gallon of muddy, play dough tinged soup. Exhausted, she may proclaim the entire house spotless, and go to bed at 8 pm.
The next morning, however, she may awaken to a troubling, moldly smell emanating from the playroom. She may rush to Home Depot in a panic, be told that she has soaked the carpet pad and will need to rent an industrial sized dehumidifer as well as several oversized fans in order to have any hope of drying out the carpet pad.
As directed by the Home Depot professionals, she may spray a mold deterrent product all over the carpet and work it feverishly into the carpet pile using her bare hands. She may discover this is an effective way to remove her own fingerprints, and may spend the next several days with band aids covering each raw fingertip.
In a fit of anger over the destruction of a rather complicated artifact out of floam, an irrationally impulsive 8-year-old boy might “accidentally” shove a plastic throw-up bucket on his five-year-old sister’s head. (The bucket was rinsed out, but still!)
(The above is a reenactment.)
If this boy does such a detestable act, he will most likely find himself locked in his room, Mead Composition journal in hand, with a command to write ten legible sentences in cursive detailing why his actions were wrong. He could possibly miss a coveted trip to an agricultural museum and a promise of actual goat milking.
(Below you see this child convincing his sister to push him around on her “princess choo choo” while he simultaneously consumes a Rice Krispie treat and balances a hard wood floor sample piece my husband brought home after I told him the carpet would never come clean.)
While locked in his room, he might write the following:
“I dumped a box that Joseph barfed in on Sue. I’ll never do that again. Now I’m in big trouble and have to write sentences. Right now I am on #4. This is my best handwriting. This is also hard. The words that I am writing are a punishment. I’m missing my lunch. I can’t think about anything else to write. I’m starving. This is my last sentence.”
I haven’t even started writing about the goat milking…..just wait!