Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Old Days?

I'm trying to declutter the house.  We have accumulated an enormous amount of stuff & things.  My basement looks like an overstocked daycare center and it's time to do something about it.  My kids, being 9 and 12, probably don't need their exersaucer anymore.  Or their Duplos.  Or their changing table.

Okay, so I like to hold onto things.  I had become attached to their babyhood items and it's hard to let go because it's like letting go of their younger childhoods.  I'm not really good at goodbyes. 

But seriously, you should see my basement.  So I've been making myself go through things and thin out the toy graveyard in hopes of actually having usable space again.  Enter Craigslist.

I've used it before and always with good results.  I rather prefer eBay but to get rid of larger items that I wouldn't be able to ship, it's Craigslist.  So I recently put up an ad to sell the Little Tikes table and chair set that have been collecting dust for a couple years.  A woman answered the ad and came to pick up the set yesterday.  While perusing the overwhelming junk heap, she spotted an old toy mailbox and said she'd like that as well so she can "send" her little girl letters.  Very cute.  I told her, I used to do the same thing with my son.  I'd write him love letters and draw him pictures so that when he'd open his mailbox, he'd have some mail.  I still do have the letters.
"Oh that makes me want to cry," she said.  Another Mom who laments the growing-up of her children.

But then I remembered again, how, in the words of Billy Joel, "the good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."  While it's so easy to remember the baby days so fondly, conjuring up vivid memories of snuggly babies and Johnson's-scented hair, little onesies, and the awkward gait of a toddler, it's also easy to forget how intensely stressful those days were.

My sweet Aspie boy kept us hopping 24-7, almost literally.  Requiring very little sleep, he rejected bedtimes and spent long hours awake and keeping us awake as well.  Then rising extremely early.  With his multitude of sensory aversions and preferences, things had to be "just so" which often had me exasperated and confused.  Going anywhere was a challenge, as we didn't know how he'd cope, react, or accept a new situation.  We had to be prepared for anything, which meant packing as if we were going to the moon, even for something as simple as a trip to the store or lunch at a restaurant.  Throw in the extremes of emotion, the demanding demeanor, and the massive meltdowns, and you've got a day-in-the-life of Bub, circa 1998-2008ish.

Don't get me wrong, I adore my boy.  It was just difficult.  We did have plenty of loving, peaceful, and dare I say "normal" times as well.  They were just kind of rare.  It was an intense time.  He required a lot and there were times when I wasn't sure I had anything left to give.  There were times when I thought, "He'd be better off with a different mother.  I can't do this."

But the little toys and the tiny clothes in my basement don't come with all those memories, they just evoke "baby."  And baby is sooo sweet. 

Guess what's even sweeter...
Happy boy.  Emotionally stable boy.  12 year old with a smile on his face and the ability to sleep well every night, get his homework done with no help, deal with his sensory issues in a rational manner.  A boy who has learned to share enjoyment, give affection, compliment others, establish friendships.

The good old baby days are gone, but today is even better.  I can only imagine how great his future is going to be!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rant for the Day

I don't like to complain but sometimes you just gotta.  Maybe it's good for the soul.  A type of catharsis.

Here's my complaint topic for the day. Or moment.  "Kids' museums."

If you're going to be a museum for kids and you're charging people their hard-earned money to take their children there, keep up with the maintenance for Pete's sake so that things are actually in proper working order when kids go there.  Is that too much to ask?

Yesterday, I accompanied my daughter and her class to a trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  While it's not a "children's" museum per se, it definitely caters to the younger population and giant throngs of school children on field trips.  It's a very cool place, don't get me wrong - but it's frustrating and disappointing when my little group of 9-year-old girls are pulling each other along, giggling and squealing about the next thing they want to try, only to find that despite pushing all the buttons, nothing happens.

Cases in point:

There's a little "show" area where you go inside a curtain and are supposed to see something, apparently.  They came out the other side befuddled and saying "nothing's happening in there."  One of the other chaperones went through as as well and said, "I have no idea."

There's a hands-on activity that's a like a scale and the object of it is to go down a list of lifestyle things that could lead to heart attack and if you do them or have them, you put a black block on one side of the scale and if you do not, you put a white block on the other side and when you're done with the list, you see how much you are at risk.  My daughter was doing the activity (one black block for family history of heart disease) and the rest white blocks (thank you, Lord), but alas, there were not enough white blocks to complete the list.  What up?

"Make a paper airplane or use one from the table" - (in an activity that shoots your paper airplane across the room for you.  There were none on the table.

Being a softball family, we were psyched to see the sports area where they had a pitching mound that would clock your throw.  However the baseball they provided was ripped and the "softball" was more like an oversized tennis ball that a dog had chewed.   Come on, museum people!  That's our sport!  (I still managed to throw a 51 MPH pitch with the flappy baseball and sweet Matilda (or J-bomb, or Moopy Girl, or whatever you want to call her) threw a 33 MPH windmill pitch with the flying fuzz that was the softball.

This museum is very cool, seriously - these were just a few little bumps in the road but we had a great time. It just reminded me so much of Port Discovery at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, where we've taken the kids a couple times.  This *is* a children's museum, 100%.  There were so many broken and missing items in this place, I was thoroughly disgusted at how much we paid to get in vs. the quality of the displays, from missing decorations (there were supposed to be alligators on the floor, which made it fun to try to get across the "river" but some alligators were missing and in their place were just splotches of paint - not quite as fun) to duct taped padding on the climbing structure, to dirty handles and stuff that looked like it hadn't been cleaned or replaced since 1950.  Again, a very cool place but when they charge you that much to enter, it should be in excellent, if not perfect, working order.

Okay, so that's my beef.  Now, on to more important things, like getting J-bird off to school.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Adventure on the High Seas

Well, we did it.  We survived another family vacation!  I'm pleased to say that as the kids get older, vacations become so much easier.  I'm reminded of the early years when we had to lug along all kinds of equipment, such as strollers, sippy cups, Cheerios, Pull-Ups, wipes, portable cribs...

I do sometimes miss those baby-sweet years but it's easier to kiss them goodbye when I remind myself how much more difficult having an Asperger's child is in the early years.  Bub was a ... challenge... from birth to about age 10.  Now that he's 12, we have seen a huge smoothing-out of his emotions and his ability to adapt has grown profoundly.  We used to have to plan everything out very strategically - from attending family reunions to birthday parties to going out to lunch.  What will we do if he melts down?  What is our exit plan? What if there's nothing that he likes to eat there?  What if he gets too cold?  What will we do, oh Lord, what will we do!?

Bleh!  Those days were rough!

We definitely still have our challenges, but it's nothing like it was.  On this recent family vacation, I didn't have to pack Goldfish crackers in case he wouldn't eat anything (on a cruise!), I didn't worry that our whole trip would be ruined by his inflexibility or demands.  We just...went.  :)

Being that Bub is Bub and will always be Bub, he imposed his own routines on himself and they were fine (though a little exasperating) with us.  I mean, you know cruises are famous for amazing amounts and varieties of foods, right?  Well, this is what Bub ate for

But hey... at least he found something he likes.  You notice his DSi in the background?  I'd say that 75% of the time, he walked around with that in front of his face.  I resisted the urge to nag him to put it down - it was a piece of familiarity that he needed.  And when I did nag him about eating something other than white rice, he responded, "Why? I'm perfectly happy eating this."

And that's when I was reminded that just because *I* wouldn't be happy eating nothing but white rice, doesn't mean he's not happy with it.  Sometimes we have to stop projecting our emotions onto our kids.  They aren't us.  They're themselves.  If he wanted to eat something else, he would have.  He was perfectly happy.

More about this awesome vacation is to come!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Mention It!

My family will be going on vacation soon.  We've been planning a rather big trip for over a year now and my DH (dear husband, for those of you not up on your blog lingo) is like a little kid when it comes to vacations.  For a solid year he has been leafing through travel brochures, pouring over details, pulling up websites with photographs of our destinations, and starting each morning with "Guess how many more days!?"  I recall the answers being "285."
Then "157!"
Then "83!"
and now... we're at "4!" 

This is awesome.  We're all excited.  Excitement can manifest itself in many ways, and this is even more so with an Asperger's kid.  (Everything is MORE SO with an AS kid.)

So Bubba has been absorbing the excitement for over a year now and since we're in the homestretch, he's starting to feel it more.  This has happened before.  Right before Christmas break, or spring break, or summer break.  He gets revved up, as we all do.  However, because Bub has such a deep loathing for school, it becomes harder for him to tolerate it the week before something special occurs.  This week has been no exception.

Bub's Educational Diagnostician, Mrs. H, called.  He was very upset in first period (science) because he completed a worksheet and then was told by the Spec. Ed. teacher (Mr. F) that he completed it incorrectly and would have to redo it.  Oh no, no, no.  Bub will buck like a bronco if told to do the same assignment twice. Once was enough for him, thanks very much.  He will flat out tell you, "I'm not doing it again."  Which he did say.

So he went down to see Mrs. H for a reprieve and in doing that he was missing his 2nd period class (AgScience).  She was trying to get him pulled back together so he could go back to class and was telling him he was now missing his work in AgScience and would have to take both classes classwork home for homework now.  Oh dear. Poke poke poke!  Now we're provoking the raging bronco.

Bub's way of dealing with this was to melt down and enter into perseverative and cyclical thinking.  He got stuck on the fact that it would be illogical to do his AgScience work when he hasn't gotten his science work done yet and could not stop perseverating on that idea.  Mrs. H. had to cut off her phone conversation with me because we weren't getting anywhere in working with his thinking so I wished her luck and waited for the inevitable phone call back.

Later that day, the phone call did come and Mrs. H. explained that she allowed Bub to have time to get himself together, put water on his face, and then return to class and everything was okay after that. 

I am always sure to thank people profusely when they take the time to kindly and patiently work with Bub.  I thanked her for her patience and understanding and she replied, "He's a joy.  And I want to thank YOU because he gives me opportunities every day to practice my skills."

Wow.  Well... you're welcome, I guess!  :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Aren't We All a Little Aspie?

I never knew what Asperger's was until I started researching online to find something that could explain my son, who was then about 5 years old.  When I read about it, things made sense - his need for routine, his extreme difficulties with socialization, his emotional outbursts, obsessive interests, sensory sensitivities, and amazing intellect.  He fit the bill and I was relieved to find that there was a name for his collection of characteristics and that all signs pointed to him being able to overcome most of them.

And as I continued reading and researching and my knowledge of the nuances of AS increased, I began to be able to perceive its presence in varying degrees in other people.  It's kind of like "gaydar" - LOL - I can pick up the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signs of Aspergers in others.  Aspie-dar. 

This has led me to the understanding that a lot of us have a lot of Aspie qualities, especially in families where AS is already diagnosed.  I mean, this kid came from somewhere right?  The apple doesn't fall from the tree...?  Well neither does the Aspie. 

I do not believe I have Aspergers or that I'd be diagnosed with it, either as a child or an adult.  I was a very social kid, had plenty of friends, adjusted well to different situations, and didn't necessarily obsess over anything - okay, wait... maybe Ricky Schroder.  *sigh*

Anyway...although I wouldn't be diagnosed myself, I definitely see AS qualities in both me and my husband.  I'm guessing that Him + Me = Bubba.  Well, obviously, but I mean in the Asperger's way.  My quirks plus hubby's quirk melded into a super-quirky kid, diagnosable with AS. 

Most of my quirks are sensory oriented - though I've grown out of some as I've gotten older, such as foods touching.  That was a big no-no for me in my younger years, though that's pretty commonplace.  In high school I had a bit of a handwriting OCD thing going on where, if I made a letter imperfectly, I would have to try desperately to resist erasing and remaking it.  It made me feel a little crazy. 

I still have some problems with certain clothing items. I don't like button-down blouses because they feel confining when I move my arms forward.  I don't like any shoes that have smooth bottoms because I feel like I will slip and fall, therefore I almost never wear any kind of heels.

I don't like sharing certain things like toothbrushes or even my toothpaste - I need my own. 

When I go to bed, I need tight-fitting pants on, like thermal underwear, otherwise my legs feel crawly against the sheets. 

Sensory stuff.  I have a million of them.

As far as social stuff, I have some of it, but not a ton.  When I was a teen and into my early twenties I was petrified of going anywhere by myself.  Even the store. I wouldn't even get gas in my car unless someone was in the car with me.  I have overcome much of that, but that's not to say I don't get any anxiety about certain situations today.  I definitely do.

Hubby has more of the social stuff.  He is a loner, perfectly happy entertaining himself doing his own thing - mainly sports related games, internet surfing, cooking, etc.  He doesn't have much need for friends or social outlet.  When he's around people, he's very outgoing though, and has a sense of humor that he's well known for. 

But I can see how A + B = C and how it has trickled down in our families as well.  But I'm fine with that.  I think Bubs is really cool the way he is, challenges and all.  And while he feels different from other kids now, I think those differences will fall by the wayside as he gets older and realizes we are all weird in our own ways. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

When Teasing Isn't Teasing

At our last appointment with Dr. A, this past Tuesday, Bub didn't even bring up "the fight."  Instead, what he & Dr. A ended up talking about was teasing, and perception of teasing.  Such an interesting, yet frustrating conversation.  I stayed mostly out of it, just sat and listened.

Bubba has told Dr. A in the past that the gets teased and bullied a lot at school.  She requested that he write down each time something like that happens so she can go over it with him.  Over the past couple weeks, he's written down about 4 instances to share with her.

At the meeting, he shared that as he was running down the hall at school, a group of three 8th grade boys was standing there and one said, "Run, little bastard, run!"  This was extremely upsetting to Bub who takes any profanity as extremely insulting and shocking.  Bub internalized this incident and interpreted it as being bullied.  Dr. A. explained that these boys didn't know him, so he really wasn't being bullied or teased, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and they would have said that to anyone.  She said, "It doesn't matter if you were a squirrel or a dog running by.  It wasn't about you."  Bub had a very hard time understanding that this wasn't personal.  The Aspergers mind has a hard time taking other people's points of view.

Dr. A. explained that if someone else had witnessed the incident occur, who would they have judged? The other boy.  She also did a really good job trying to explain to him that he is not the only one who feels he doesn't fit in.  She said that all kids his age feel that way, and the boy who said "run..." was simply showing that he was trying to fit in with his friends.  It was his own insecurity showing and had nothing to do with Bub personally.

Bub has a lot of work ahead of him.  He has to learn not to take everything so personally and to stop assuming that anything someone says to him is hostile.  Dr. A. tried to explain that "it's the story you tell yourself about what they said that hurts you, not what they said."  For example, if someone says, "I don't like that video game that you like", Bub would take that to mean "I don't like you.  You like stupid things. You aren't cool."  What we need to help him understand is that he could choose that thinking or he could choose to think "Oh, they don't like that video game."

This is going to be difficult, as he is so emotionally rigid about this.  We will have to chip away at this thinking a bit at a time.  I don't want Bub growing up in the role of victim, especially when there is no victimization occurring.

Song: I'll Stand By You

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Fight

Bub's school called earlier today.  It was the ED (Educational Diagnostician) who is pretty much our go-to-girl for all things Bub-related.  She had him in her office and the school psychologist was with them too.  They were on speaker phone and wanted to tell me that Bub's best friend got in a fist fight in their first period class today. 

To give a little background info, Bub is very non-social.  Not ANTI-social, just non-social.  He doesn't connect well or easily to people and has had no lasting friendships until he met Sam.  Sam and Bub hit it off in about 4th grade and then really connected in 5th.  Them both being in the same inclusion classes helped this friendship manifest itself.  I had met Sam a few times in brief forays into their classroom for various things.  He's a quirky kid with a big smile.  Because Bub & Sam became such good friends, I spoke to Sam's mother on occasion and found that Sam also has Asperger's.  This is interesting because I remember reading that kids with Asperger's tend to seek each other out without knowing it. 

Well Sam & Bub have been super tight ever since.  They share a deep, nerdy enjoyment of video games and video game heroes, like Sonic, Pokemon, and the like.  They talk on the phone about their games, listening to each other play their games, sometimes teaming up online to play Little Big Planet or whatever else they cooperatively play via the internet.  It's nice that Bub has made such a good friend.  He has some other acquaintances but no one like Sam. 

So when the school called this morning and told me that Bub was in the office and was "processing what had happened this morning", I was concerned.  Apparently, in science class, Sam had been told to move by another kid and when Sam told the kid to be polite about it, the other kid pushed him.  Sam pushed back and a brawl began.  Bub witnessed Sam and the other kid going at it pretty violently for a few seconds until it was broken up.  Sam had a few minor injuries and was sent home.  Both Sam and the other kid were suspended.  Bub was angry and told me that he wished he had chased the other kid out in the hall and beat him up.  He was upset with himself for not jumping in, but we all informed him that he made the right choice by not getting involved in a physical problem. 

Bub was very upset mostly that Sam was hurt and that this happened to Sam at all.  Bub felt like a bad friend for freezing and not coming to Sam's defense.  I can understand how he'd feel like that.  It was a tough situation.  It was the first time Bub has encountered physical violence and it was against his best friend. :(

We're heading to Dr. A's tonight for our regular session so we'll be going over this.  And for those who think AS kids "don't have empathy", let me be the first to assure you that's a myth.