Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bike Like Excitement

The weather is mild and James wants to ride his new bike. I keep catching him trying to ride it in the house ever couple of days. It's good for us both to get out.

So one day this week after school I brought his bike to school so he could ride it home. It is a cool bike. On the way to the pickup area, one boy skidded to a halt and asked "Woah - is that James' bike?" When I said yes he replied "Wow!" before tearing off again. I have no idea who he was.

Picking up James is normally a great event. He starts to run toward me as soon as he spots me, crying out "Mommy!!!" in tones of delight before trying to leap in my arms and hug me. He's 60 pounds now, so it's a trick to get him airbourne.

He checked in mid run this afternoon and headed instead to his bike, eyes wide and grinning from ear to ear. He even showed it off enthusiastically to his aide. He could not wait to get on it, snap on his helmet and go for a ride on the playground.

He was so proud and happy! He and another boy rode in big vector loops. We rode over to his preschool teacher to show her. He showed off for the preschool aide, pedaling down a ramp and banking a turn.

He took the bike offroad on his usual shortcut path and did not fall off. He mostly rode home, just walking it for a little bit before climbing on again and finishing our trip back home.

And if I needed any more confirmation that his new Christmas bike is one of his most favourite things ever, look what I found in the kitchen, the room he asks most to go to:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Stop, In the Name Of Love

James has a new "thing" -- giving love to stop signs. They have long fascinated him because they are red, spell "go" (little joke, he never gets tired of that one), and just plain speak to him on some mystical sign level.

It's just this month that he's started wanting to hug them. He'll look up and say "Hi, Stop Sign! I give you a hug, 'kay?" before proceeding with a most sincere embrace and finishing up with a "Mmmmmmmm-ah!" kiss that touches only the air. Then he laughs, and I go all mooshy and smile.

PS: There are four stop signs on our route. Yes, he loves them all.

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

It All Went To Pieces

I was excited about yesterday. I had boldly planned to go out with a friend after the kids' dinner, booking respite care. My first at a brief night outing. I should have known it could not be so easy.

First, the regular person could not make the evening time. Then they found a new person. I explained that (1) I don't like leaving the kids alone with someone we've all never met before and (2) I've found it's a much better experience for everyone if a new respite care person comes over and visits for the fist shift, getting an orientation and both of us kind of feeling out if this will work out.

I asked if this new person could possibly come by the house for an hour some time the preceding weekend so we could do this, otherwise, please cancel the request. The care coordinator said he'd check and then get back to me. He never did. I know I should have called to follow up, but frankly, I'm tired of that. So I just assumed it was a no-go. I called my friend to see if getting together at my house would work, with the kids playing in another room and some refreshment here. Sure, she said. Cool, I thought.

Flash forward to yesterday afternoon: I moved up homework in anticipation of a slightly moved-up dinner and set up for the kids' activity. I cleaned the hall bathroom. I was on fire. My friend called. Her child was sick, she was sorry, but had to stay home that night. I was bummed, but hey, we could all relax, and I had a nice red wine. That's always nice to sip. Wait ... who's that at the door?

Oh yes, the respite care person. Evidently the coordinator never called her back to explain about coming by on the weekend or not coming tonight. It gets better. They didn't even brief her that she'd be caring for a child. Never once mentioned autism. We both looked at each other, refraining from rolling our eyes at the ceiling and yanking at our hair in frustration.

Then I invited her inside and asked if she wouldn't mind staying a slightly shorter amount of time and doing a kind of orientation. She was fine with that. She asked some good questions, was calm and friendly with the kids, and took the snafu well.

I am calming down still before calling the respite care coordinator back. Good God, Almighty, how hard is it to give proper info before sending someone out on a job?! I temped for almost 15 years, across a variety of jobs (although not in the health care realm). I do know a bit about being sent out on an assignment.

I am also drafting up a list that I will be hand-walking to these people, so they can staple it on the folder of my son's file. I think I'll put it on screaming yellow paper to boot:

When contacting a new worker to provide respite care for my son, you need to communicate the following:
(1) My son is a child.
(2) He is on the autism spectrum.
(3) While he has challenges communicating verbally, he understands what you tell him, even if it doesn't always look like it.
(4) Because of the above, I need to have a 30-60 minute pre-visit with new respite care provider to give them an overview of how to care for James and to see if the new person is a good fit with the assignment (& vice versa).

So while things mostly worked out, the original plans and evening fell completely to pieces. And I missed out on some good red wine to boot. Okay, now I'm pouting.

Magic Marker Monday: Drawing Numbers

James' urges to play with coloured markers on a large pad of paper have cooled. His new interest is something he called Doing Homework. I know! Go figure.

I am not complaining. It's great that's he's so engaged in doing his classwork. His aide says she uses it both as an incentive to complete tasks while in class and as a focussing activity for the times that he's bouncing around (literally).

What makes me think of Magic Marker Monday is the care James puts into his work. In fact, he calls it Drawing My Numbers. His pencil grip and fine motor coordination have improved immensely since school began.

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Friday, January 21, 2011


Hugging James is like Hugging sunshine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: New Perspectives

A day off from school turned into a foggy outing at the Discovery Museum in Sausalitio. We've been here several times, but this was the first trip that I saw James play with the other kids, and be so confident in exploring all the play spaces and structures. Just when I thought they might be getting too old and jaded for this great place, the kids showed me there was still plenty of wonder and play to experience there.

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Moments of Duality

It may be January, but we're in the middle of a Spring Preview. The daytime temps have risen from in the 40s to the high 60s. You can smell the promise of growing things. We can see the sun set, throwing outrageous displays of colour in the sky and a few high clouds, each day lasting a little longer than the one before. It's quiet in a peaceful way, but you know it's not going to last once the season changes over.

The kids and I seem to be pushing out and growing in a random direction, then pulling in and going out again in a far-off position. We are excited and hopeful, but we know we're not yet back to truly longer days and warmer weather.

James has been verbally pushing to engage with others, inviting play, yet becoming almost fiercly protective when it comes to turn taking. He's asking me to play specific songs on the CD player in the van, but still can't tell me how his day went. He gets extremely frustrated trying to master the Leapster 2 game cartridges, and I've seen him trying to figure out chess by himself on an old clamshell iMac. To say nothing of the toilet training progress and regressions.

This afternoon he went from trying to ride his bike inside the house to crying "NOOOOO!" and hiding under his blanket 20 minutes later when I tried to get him outside to cruise the neighbourhood with his sister on her bike.

He was a little punky, clapping his hands over his ears and doing headstands in the sofa when I tried to get him to clean up his toys. Then a few minutes later he was on my lap, giving me a huge hug and telling me that I was his favourite animal.

I go from a chance to make dinner or read, with the kids playing in a bedroom with the door shut, to the phone ringing while James is calling "Mommyyyyyyyy!" and his sister exclaiming "James, NO!!" After dinner, I juggle cleaning the kitchen, sorting laundry, making sure James is well on his way to sleep, while responding to requests to help my daughter with her homework.

I did get a glorious hour of work in the garden, and within 20 minutes of coming inside I had a morning meeting booked and also made a promise to bring sour cream to a PTA event on Friday. At the end of the day, I watched my daughter pour out her bedtime glass of water. She's still wearing princess jammies, but she is tall and starting to look so grown up. I am trying to write this all down, so I can remember the blurring rush as it happens, and the calm moments when I try to savour them all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Magic Marker Monday: Tattoos

We had some excitement last week. Our gym spent 5 days celebrating 20 years in the business. There were lots of treats and special events. James and his sister spent a little more time than usual in the Kids' Club. All the kids really liked how the staff applied glittery gold, temporary 20th Anniversary tattoos all over themselves.

So James' sister decided she could make up some of her own at home. First, she used her washable Crayola markers to create tattoo designs:

Then, she did some on herself and everyone else in the family who would stay still long enough for application. James was uncharacteristically still for his tattoos:
L-R: blue sunglasses, a car, and a spider.

L-R: a green porpoise, a flower, and Santa Claus (with an interesting grin)

Lots of love on each palm

We had the opportunity to check them out over lunch. I had no idea they'd gotten this enthusiastically carried away. Luckily, they disappeared after swimming in the late afternoon (our weather's been a bit zany):

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday creations!

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Two Steps Back

Hello, constipation, our old nemesis! I got a call on Friday afternoon, with less than an hour to go until the end of school. James was crying and asking to use the bathroom a lot, with more crying as the only product. He was done for the day.

I picked him up, after sighing mightily on the way over; 45 minutes doesn't sound like much of a difference in a day, until it's suddenly gone from my "Me" time, before a 3-day weekend, when I'll have most of the kid duty.

Once home, I asked James about how he was feeling, his tummy in particular. He kept saying "I fine," yet emitted little wails about 20 minutes apart. No fever. Refused food. Mmmm, hmmmm. All stopped up, in more ways than one.

No going out that night, we had to cancel our plans for a Date Night. I felt guilty for getting him off his schedule on Thursday by going to the gym's daycare later than usual. James will use the bathrooms there, but only if he *must,* so it's pretty safe to say that was less than helpful for his digestive process. We were late for the gym because his sister's homework had piled up, in part because no assignments were done on Monday, James' birthday, and it took a while to get all the work finished.

About an hour into our impromptu night home, James become unstopped. I was told they were record-worthy in mass. He relaxed and became his normal, cheery self, which is a relief. However, we've reverted to pull ups at night again. We've had to step up wiping tutorials.

One little thing. Or maybe nothing in particular. And we're set back and our lives get put on hold for a bit. I know in the scope of what's out there that this is small. It doesn't feel like that, right when it happens.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"B" is for Buddy

James is feeling chummy this afternoon. He had a substitute aide today unexpectedly, but weathered it very well. They were good buds by the end of the day. After I picked him up, James asked to play on one of the playground structures with a score of other kids. He climbed confidently all over and took a ride down the slide. When he was done, he came over to me, exclaiming "You're here!"

On the way home, he embraced each and every stop sign that we passed, looking up at the sky and laughing at it. We looked for cats and found our number at the mailbox station, so we could pick up our mail.

Now we are in his room, geeking out together. "Mommy, you come stay here with me?" Of course I will! He's either snuggling next to me or on his Leapster 2; I've got my laptop fired up:

He's sure having fun trying to talk with me:
-- "Deeeear Santa. Whatchyou want for Christmas on the ceiling?"
-- "My Diego Go (game) is here!" and
-- "Mommy, 'b' is for bird bikes."

"B" is also for buddy, whom I love.

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Recharge

James is a totally on or off kind of guy. Usually by the time he's in sleep mode, I am too tired to do more than a final cleanup sweep of the house and shoe-horn his big sister into bed. But he had such a good time on his birthday this week that I could not resist catching him peacefully asleep. Recharging. So he can face tomorrow head-on, with me struggling to keep up with him.

For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday

Monday, January 10, 2011

Birthday Boy

James celebrated his birthday today. For the first time ever, he became excited in advance (as in a month before the event) and kept asking us "Is James' birthday?" We counted down and talked a little about birthdays and what people do on their birthdays.

We practiced social verbal birthday exchanges and responses such as
 -- "How old are you?"
 -- "I'm six!"
 -- "Happy Birthday!"
 -- "Thank you!"

James asked if he could have a cake and picked out the flavours for both cake and frosting for this and the cupcakes to share in his class. He helped me make them as well.

He opened his cards first and looked at them before moving on to presents. "I ripping?" he'd ask us. "Yes, it's okay to rip wrapping paper," we'd assure him. I am glad he checks, because occasionally some items are Destroyed By Ripping.

In some past years, we'd be baffled what to get him. This year, we knew we had some winners:

Happy Birthday, James! And many, many more!

Magic Marker Monday: Dressy Best

I was looking at another Christmas tree ornament that James made at a holiday event this year. It reminded me of how he is growing and becoming more independent, as in putting on clothing correctly.

I know he had some help to get the clothes on the gingerbread person so neatly, but he's been very interested in choosing shirts and pants as well as dressing by himself this school year. I am certain he picked out the foam attire for his creation as well.

There are some days where he decides to be Mr. Goofball and put everything on backward, but mostly he has practiced so that he puts his shirts on correctly and makes sure his pants and underclothing are the right way front (which is a relief -- seeing those tags in front just aggravates the mom in me).

He consistently protests having to put things on his feet by putting the heels of his sox on top of his feet and putting his shoes on the wrong foot.

But for art projects? He does it right!

Visit 5 Minutes for Special Needs for more Magic Marker Monday.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Salad Spinner

James has become increasingly helpful around the house. It's great to have someone willing to fetch and carry things for me and be upbeat about learning to bus his dishes after meals.

While casting about one night for an activity he could do to help prepare dinner, I accidentally stumbled upon a fantastic one -- the salad spinner!
Oooh ... how spinny! And so great for working those muscles in your fingers and hands!

It's going to be hard to top this one. At least I'll be upping my intake of leafy greens!

Friday, January 07, 2011

I Picked Up the Phone

Here's something I've noticed. When things get tough, it become exponentially harder to ask for help.

I don't know if it's depression, the years growing up in a family that says yes to "can you ...." and no to "do you need ...", or the quasi-despair that comes over me when I try to imagine how to frame my request to people who mean well but have a life without autism issues.

Common sense goes right out the window. I feel like I am carrying weights with me and I can feel my forehead creasing like Roman blinds. I stop answering the phone, returning emails, opening letters. I don't care what I'm wearing and I read about 2 dozen books a week. Re-read them, because I don't go out. Going out somehow evolved into Getting Everything Done Just Right, compiling a major To Do list, assembling half a dozen items into a bag so I can take care of things along the way, and needing to lose 15 pounds before I can put on non-funky clothes and go anywhere. Kind of like those dreams where you run and run, and keep missing trains, dropping things, etc.

And it's not like people haven't noticed or try to help. Like a doofus, I just keep saying "no, that's okay, but thanks." I am becoming aware of just how much time has disappeared into this kind of white fog, and it's unnerving.

So I have started to be better about not thinking and jumping outward more. I pick a project a week around the house and focus on that instead of a book. I sit down and play with the kids a little more. I am going to the gym and working out, even if it means that I'm the only one there sweating my stuff in jeans and a t-shirt & ballet flats (because I can't deal with gym bags at the moment). I've been finding things I'd like to do. Me. I. For me. And then doing some of them. I've made inroads into my backpiled emails.

But by far the hardest thing for me to deal with is the phone. Seriously. I freeze when I hear it and wonder if I am going to pick it up or not. I hate returning calls. I cringe at the thought of calling someone. It's like my phone weighs 30,000 pounds, knows all my darkest secrets, and is waiting to blackmail me. Did I mention that common sense has left the building at this point?

So I am pleased to announce that this holiday, facing time with both kids on my hands and cold, wet outdoors, *I picked up the phone* and called a parent of a classmate of James': "What are you doing? Want to go somewhere?" And yes, they did. And we did get together with our kids and had a good time.

I think I'll try stickers next, to make the phone seem even less intimidating. Maybe Zurg. We have some of those around, I just know it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bidding Adieu to Potty Training

We are close! So close I can well, not taste it, but get excited about it.

Oh sure, we've flirted with overnight dryness, but over this past Winter Break, James has decided it's time. Time for no more pull ups. Time for only underpants. His track record over the past few weeks has been impressive. Very impressive!

Not that we're free and clear from working on toilet training matters. I think our last biggest hurdle will be wiping. There's just no delicate way to get around the fact that the proper use of toilet paper has not been mastered. Yet.

But hey, when I think of what we were going through last year, and how toilet training stopped our days and caused many tears (oh. mah. gawd!), and look at how well he's doing right now? I am confident that he'll master this too. And probably much sooner than I think he will.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Special Exposure / Wordless Weds: Playdate!

The Winter Break was tough. I, James, and then his Dad came down with a bad respiratory virus that turned into sinus or ear infection. The weather was cold and it rained continuously. We did get brief breaks when I could take the kids out to the gym or riding their new Christmas bikes, but otherwise we were pretty cooped up.

To cap off the break, James' sister started back to school on Monday, but he was still off. The weather was clear, and I needed an activity for us, so we didn't couch potato some more. I called a parent of James' classmate, and we headed for the Charles Schultz Museum.

Their Museum Monday deal made it easy for us to make our first visit. The museum had the following good points that the boys really liked: it had stairs; there was an outdoor area to explore; it was not large; it was visually engaging; and the hands-on exhibits were fun:

James could not get enough of this crayon/Lite Brite screen. Anytime I missed him, he turned up here.

You can push a button and revel star constellation pictures, but James was interested in writing his name. Once he scribbled a self-portrait face, because his friend's dad drew a nifty cartoon head.

James enjoyed putting on these headphones and watching a short cartoon about baseball and ecology.

What you get when two five year-olds get outside to play.

Eventually they had some parallel play by the holographic water fountains. What's not to love about those?

Zamboni, meet James, your biggest fan!

We had a picnic lunch outside and checked out the ice arena across the street. That was awesome. The boys watched the Zamboni for about 10 minutes, then the all-skate session for another 10, easily. Both go around and around ...


For more great images or to join in the fun, Visit Special Exposure Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

5 Minutes for Special Needs
and ... Wordless Wednesday