Things I Learned This Week

I hesitated to post this because I don’t want to cause anyone stress worrying about me. I decided to go ahead with it because of something I learned last week: I need to hold you all capable of managing your own feelings and responses.

Since my head has learned that, but not yet communicated it to my heart, I’ll add that I’m okay, really. I will be, anyway. So, here goes:

  1. My outsides now mirror my emotional state. I’ve gained 65 pounds in the last 10 months. None of my clothes fit. There are huge dark circles under my eyes. My skin looks like I’m 15 only with an aging disease (I have wrinkles and acne). My hair looks like there are several birds living in there. Big ones.
  2. My car, house, and backyard look kind of like my hair. Or like something exploded inside them. Something filled with toys and graham crackers. A five year old chastised me today for never cleaning my car.
  3. Should is a bad, bad word. Okay, I knew that one already, but it hit home again.
  4. My thyroid levels are within normal limits. I thought they were probably low, so I had my doctor check them last night, but it turns out my thyroid is functioning fine. Good to know.
  5. I’m a lot more depressed than I thought (That’s really the root, isn’t it? Maybe I should have led with that). In discussing adjusting my antidepressant medication with my doctor, I realized I should have done that a while ago. She and I were both surprised by my score on the depression questionnaire she administered. She is starting by increasing my dosage and I’m supposed to check in with her next week – for side-effects only because antidepressants take a few weeks to show effects. She also said that my #1 priority is to regulate my sleep, so I’m going to go do that right now. At 8:30pm. I’m very compliant and I really should have done this several months ago.

I’ll check in with you all next week, too.

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Posted in Musings | 4 Comments

Talking Birthdays

I’m taking a class about the creative work that goes on before you start writing your story. It’s intended to help you quickly immerse yourself in the world of your story, so you can, hopefully, settle right in to the writing each time you sit down to do it.

It’s fun and the homework is fabulous. Stuff like watching TV, reading books, surfing the web, or looking through magazines for pictures for your collage.  No, really, I need to watch this episode of Fringe. It’s homework. That’s so full of awesome.

Anyway, last week in class someone mentioned a book called The Secret Language of Birthdays as a source of ideas for character traits. The authors compiled data from interviews with people who have the same birthday to see what traits they have in common. The result is a book you can read to see what your birthday says about you. Or your spouse. Or your child. Or your nemesis. Or the protagonist in your novel. Or her nemesis. You get the picture. That’s such a fascinating concept to me that I immediately bought the book. I hadn’t considered how huge it would be, the physical book I mean, but I’m pretty sure it would break my foot if I dropped it on it.

So as I’m waiting for BamBam to finish his second swim OT session…he loves them, BTW. Here’s a picture of him in the pool from last week:

Did I mention he called his therapist by name in the locker room after? We danced with glee!

Anyway, as I wait for him to finish up, I’m thinking about some of the things the book had to say about people born on my birthday, January third. Here are the quotes* I’m contemplating:

“Many like to work with their hands and are self-sufficient types who would prefer not to ask for help. They may also have trouble accepting help, however, because they feel it is easier to do things themselves without a lot of verbal to-do.”

I know you’re supposed to take the quotes out if you indent, but I couldn’t make the indent work quite right, so I left them in for clarity.

“…sensible enough to schedule regular dental and medical checkups for themselves. Yet too often they are ready to sacrifice their health and well-being for their work. Consequently it is important that from an early age, habits promoting a nourishing diet, personal hygiene and regular sleep become ingrained. Strenuous physical exercise, not excluding competitive team or one-on-one sports, is highly recommended for those born on this day.”

My work at this point is my boys. One of the reasons I chose to stay home with them was that I didn’t think I was capable of splitting my duty, my sense of fealty, between my family and an outside job. It’s just not in me. Especially not right now, with the demands of driving all over the planet to therapy appointments. I think I can be a writer, though. That way my only responsibility to a boss is to me, and I’m pretty willing to let my employees take off to tend to their families. That may be a problem once I answer to a publisher, but I’ll cross that bridge when and if I come to it.

“…must beware of surrendering too much of their individuality to group endeavors. They should seek a profession in which they are able to put their personal stamp on whatever they do and balance individual freedom with duty in an appropriate ratio.”

“Once a January 3 person commits to a person or project they are in one hundred percent. Their involvement with practically any activity they take on is total, and rarely or ever will they seek to back out or quit.”

“Those born on this day will not shirk their responsibilities because they know that to do so is just to dump their work on someone else, and this will not do.”

It’s almost as if the authors interviewed my friends and family. Not as if they interviewed me, because I most likely would not reveal those things about myself in an interview. Maybe they read my blog, though, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I’ve said (or at least implied) similar things to you all.

*Quotes are from pages 656, 657, and 812 of The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider and Joost Elffers. See? I told you it was a hefty volume.

Posted in Musings, Writing | 3 Comments

Random thoughts

This month has been a little crazy so far. I was so anxious to get into a routine again that I didn’t take into account how full our schedule is and how frazzled I feel until I get used to it. So, since I am currently incapable of organizing a coherent thought, here are some random things I’m thinking about as BamBam and I sit in the car waiting for BeBop to finish his OT session.

Sparky is changing jobs. Still at the same company, but he’ll be moving to a different team and a different product. He’s pretty excited about it. We all are. And I’m really proud of him.

I’m taking an online writing class this month. It’s all about doing creative stuff before you start the meat of the writing to help you access your characters, setting, and story. This week we’re working on collage, which usually fills me with dread. I’m not good at collage. But Lani (that’s my teacher, the wonderfully talented Lani Diane Rich) suggested alternatives to traditional collage, one of which was scrapbooking. Now, I’ve never really scrapbooked before, but I don’t find it nearly as intimidating as traditional collage, so that idea got me pretty excited. I went to Michael’s this morning while BamBam was in therapy. Unfortunately for my wallet, they were having a sale. I went a little crazy with the supplies.

Tomorrow is BamBam’s first OT session in the pool. I’m really excited about it because I think it will be great for him. The kid really loves the water. See?

Swimming by himself in the deep end at 18-months

At the beach this summer, throwing a sand dollar.

BeBop enjoyed the water, too.

We all enjoyed the beach…

Sparky and the boys

Me and the boys

I think I’ve mentioned before that we have arranged a marriage for BeBop. Well, it seems to have happened a little earlier than we intended. Our families were visiting together – BeBop and his intended playing in the hot tub, grownups lounging around in the sun, and BamBam rearranging some gravel – when we noticed that Intended appeared to be arranging BeBop into different poses, one of which looked like they were dancing a waltz. Her father asked what she was doing and she just giggled rather coyly. He asked if they were getting married and, after more giggling, she said yes. For his part, the groom appeared more than a little flabbergasted by the whole thing. Here’s a picture of the “happy” couple:

The ceremony

The "happy" couple

The new in-laws, three of whom managed to get sunburned during the reception.

And speaking of BeBop, here he comes from his therapy session. Have a great week, everyone! I’ll try to be more coherent next time.

*&%$ – It’s now Tuesday morning and I’m preparing to post this, but have something to add. As Sparky was bringing in the trash cans from the curb last night, I heard the front door open and BeBop yell “BamBam’s going outside!” I made it to the door just as BamBam came back in and closed the door behind him, so he didn’t escape very far. This time.

I thought that one of the other boys had left the door open, but BeBop assured me that BamBam had unlocked and opened the door on his own. BeBop gets details wrong sometimes, so I continued to cling to the dream that we’d be able to avoid this at least until BamBam was in junior high. Still, I was able to see through my delusions enough to engage the baby gate last night. Good thing, too, because my hopes were dashed when I saw him open the door to come out of his room this morning. He definitely has the whole knob-turning thing down.

Gah! We’re in deep trouble now! And we need to figure out an alarm system other than BeBop. We have one of the flippy things at the top of the door, but it’s one of the smaller ones and I’m a little afraid he can break through it. After all, he’s broken through baby gates. At the boys’ therapy office, they no longer call safety measures baby-proofing, they call it BamBam-proofing. BC Maven says she has a door chime we can use so at least we’ll know when he’s escaping out the front door. As I’m writing this, I realize that what we really need is a deadbolt high enough on the door that he can’t reach it. Not sure why I didn’t think of that before. Guess it really does help to write this stuff out. Thanks!

Posted in Musings | 2 Comments

First Days…and Not

Today was supposed to be my first day back on The Program; the beginning of hard-core exercise and a few weeks of a very restrictive diet that would give way to a sustainable low-calorie, well-balanced diet. Only yesterday was quite taxing and I didn’t go to bed until 11, which led to turning off my alarm when it went off at 5:15 without waking up enough to realize I’d done it. So, today’s exercise…not so much. I haven’t eaten anything off plan yet today, but I can feel that coming based on my morning.

BeBop turned five in May. He’s not quite ready for kindergarten, but the public schools don’t allow kids who are already five in their developmental preschool program. His old preschool was not an option for various reasons, so he started kindergarten prep at a new school today. It’s a private religious school and we’re not at all religious, so it felt kind of weird. It’s a good school, though, and its primary purpose is education, so we’re good with it. And he’ll already have a friend there because Jack, who we carpooled with to his old school, will be in his class this year as well. The new school is much closer to home, but I’m still excited to continue carpooling.

Plus, all the kids in the new school learn Japanese. How cool is that?

We went to meet his teachers last week and they were very warm and welcoming. I discussed his diagnosis with them and they seem ready to work with us to make this a great year for him. The classroom is fabulous – even has a loft/clubhouse type area in one corner with a ladder and everything. He has to wear a uniform, but he doesn’t seem to mind it. I think part of that is that the optional sweaters are red, his favorite color.

As we were putting on BeBop’s uniform this morning, he said something about Jack telling him to go away. This was not a good omen. He hasn’t even seen Jack for several weeks. It’s something Jack used to say to him sometimes, mainly to rile him, and BeBop just can’t seem to let it go. The kid’s memory is better than mine used to be, and I passed a 400-level modern algebra class by memorizing 4- to 5-page proofs that might appear on the tests. I was not happy to have him bring this up. Breakfast seemed to go well, though, so I thought it had passed.

So, BamBam and I took BeBop to his first day of school this morning.

The best full picture I could get in his uniform.

BeBop and Jack

My favorite pic of the day.

And there he goes...

As we were exiting the car, BeBop spotted Jack in the parking lot and shouted, “You’re not my best friend anymore*, Jack!” Ugh. I don’t think Jack heard that. I really hope not, anyway. He doesn’t need that baggage on his first day of school. I’m sure he has some of his own to carry. I never realized that about kids this age, but I think it’s true. I had a little talk with BeBop before I let him continue out of the car and he seemed fine after that. I hope it will last.

BamBam, however, was another story. He was okay while we were walking from the car to the front of the school. Then there was a lot of milling around of all 100 kids and their families. Not so great for BamBam. He got extremely over stimulated and it only escalated from there. The principal led the school in the school prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. BamBam screamed throughout both and bit me at least twice. I considered asking the principal if she was glad I hadn’t let her talk me into enrolling him in the twos class. Had I known this was the procedure for the first day, I would have done some things to make it better for him. Like bring his headphones. I’m going to send an email to BeBop’s teacher and ask for a heads-up when things like this will happen again. I think I might have gone home and had a drink if I hadn’t had to drive him to speech therapy.

Now I’m sitting in my car waiting for him to finish occupational therapy (after speech for today only) while a woman circles my car talking at full volume into her cell phone and I contemplate running her over. Go sit in your own damn car, lady. Why do you find it necessary to invade my peace? She now has her back to me so she can’t see me giving her the stink eye. I wonder if she’d go away if I started honking.

Ahem.

Anyway, I’m not sure the whole diet thing is going to stick today. I’ve told you before that I eat my stress and I seem to be quite stressed today. Tomorrow is another day. And it’s also a day I get to see my therapist, so that should help a lot.

*On the way home, I asked BeBop who he played with at school and the answer was Jack. He said Jack is his best friend again now.

Posted in Autism/Development, Musings, Weight | 5 Comments

Ouch, Ouch, OUCH!

As many of you know, I fell down the stairs a few days ago. Well, one of my legs fell down while the other foot stayed planted firmly on the original stair. My left knee took the brunt of the fall and is now sprained. Sparky was wonderful about making sure I had time to stay off of it for the first couple of days and it seems to be healing nicely. Still, I haven’t felt much like writing this week. Reading, yes. Writing, not so much.

My parents arrive for a visit this afternoon, so I may not have a post for next week either, but I’ll try. They have agreed to let Sparky and I go away for the weekend without the boys. This will be the first time for us to both be away from the boys since BeBop was born five years ago. I’m so excited! And my knee better cooperate if it knows what’s good for it…

Posted in Musings | 2 Comments

Reading and Inspiration

I had an idea for a blog, but it’s going to have to wait for next week because I can’t seem to put down the book I’m reading. If you like romantic adventure, I highly recommend this one: Making Waves by Tawna Fenske. It’s a very funny and engaging adventure.

Speaking of books, I’m planning to start writing one during November for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. My basic idea involves a research scientist (she’s actually a grad student working on her PhD) who gets involved with some kind of spy/undercover agent (I haven’t decided yet) to stop a series of crimes involving her stolen work. I’ve been trying to think of movies to watch for inspiration, but the only one I came up with was The Saint, which I don’t particularly care for. I posted a request for other movie suggestions on a couple of forums and got great ideas like Red, True Lies, Romancing the Stone, and Knight and Day. Also a TV show called Covert Affairs that I’d never heard of and can’t wait to watch.

Someone asked what kind of inspiration I was looking for: mood (to get me in the mood to write a romantic spy adventure) and character. I want the heroine to be out of her element in the spy world, but I also want the hero to be out of his element in her world, which is where most of the action will take place. At this early stage, I’m thinking of him as a Lloyd Dobler who has grown up to be Martin Blank. He’s isolated himself and encounters a woman who makes him rethink his whole world.

Anyway, I thought I’d throw it out there to you all as well. Any suggestions for movies, books, tv shows, or songs to inspire for a story like that?

Posted in Musings | 4 Comments

Tell Me About It

Several of you have told me (or my mother) in person how much you like the blog. I usually say ‘thank you,’ but I’m too tongue-tied to say much else. It feels narcissistic to ask for elaboration, but I’m dying to know what it was you liked about it. Was there something that really spoke to you? A general topic or a more specific statement? Do you like my writing style or my voice? My mom says some of her friends want me to write a book. Do you mean fiction or do you want a book about my experience with autism?

A friend recently did a blog post around this quote from Ira Glass:

I’m in that spot where I know what’s good and my writing just doesn’t hit the mark. Yet.

I have an upcoming post about embracing the good enough, but I want to talk about this part now. I need to get back to writing every day. Not because I need another thing on my plate, but because my fiction hurts my eyes to look at (or it would if I was writing any) and writing more of it is the only way to get better. And I love writing. I get totally caught up in creating characters and figuring out the plot. I drive Sparky crazy talking plot points out with him. But when I look at what I put down on the page…blech.

I hesitate to post this because it sounds like I need a pep talk to continue writing when I actually don’t. I’ll keep writing. I can’t stop at this point. That’s not what I’m asking for and I’d be incredibly uncomfortable if I got it. What I’m asking for is specifics on what I write that appeals to you individually, though I realize it’s a razor-fine distinction. I think the key is in the specifics.

I also realize that it’s uncomfortable for many of you to comment on the internet. I respect that. I would like to have something written, though. It’s too easy for me to twist what I remember you telling me into something negative or something said to make me feel good. Not that I think you disingenuous, just that I know you are all nice, caring people. So maybe those who aren’t comfortable putting anything in the comments, but do want to say something, could email me at (I’m spelling out the symbols to cut down on spam) destination140 at Live dot com.

So tell me about it. Thank you and goodnight.

Posted in Writing | 7 Comments

PECS

Saturday night, Sparky took BeBop camping in our backyard. They had a great time. He’s such a fabulous dad! See?

BamBam is too young (and roamy) to stay out with them yet, so he just helped Daddy set up the camp:

I gave him extra time in the bath before putting him to bed in his own room. Then I skipped dinner and stayed up past one-thirty making PECS cards for BamBam’s toys and the four foods he eats.

PECS stands for picture exchange communication system. Basically it’s a way to provide functional communication for people with limited verbal communication skills. The person can hand you a picture of what he or she wants or feels. Last week in his co-op preschool, BamBam found the card for bubbles and kept handing it to the teacher, even after she’d done bubbles in response to his request and moved on to something else. He’s very persistent, my boy.

So last night I put a strip of Velcro on the wall in the kitchen and attached the food PECS cards to it. BamBam was very excited about it this morning, but I gradually realized that he was a little too enthusiastic. After a few times of taking a picture and handing it to me to request water or a cracker, he started to take them on and off without discretion. So I decided to take them off and re-introduce them more gradually. Baby steps.

Now (Sunday morning) I’m sitting in Panera having my new weekly me time. For the last few weeks, I’ve spent this time writing my blog post, but I don’t feel like doing it today. So this has become a blog post about how I’m not going to blog this week. 🙂

Posted in Autism/Development | 3 Comments

Fabulous e-books!

One of my very favorite authors, Lani Diane Rich, is re-releasing two of my all-time favorite books in electronic format. And they’re cheap – $2.99. I know the descriptions make them sound a little supernatural, but they’re not really. Nothing wrong with the supernatural genre – I happen to LOVE it – but I know some people are put off by it. These are wonderful stories about healing broken relationships. They are smart, moving, real, and flat-out funny.

We’re trying to get them onto the Amazon best sellers list, so if you are interested, please consider buying one or both of them today. Here are the links:

A Little Ray of Sunshine

and

The Fortune Quilt

I go back and forth trying to decide which is my favorite. Usually depends on which I’ve read most recently.

Also, just FYI, Lani has a new book coming out soon under the name Lucy March. It’s called A Little Night Magic (this one is supernatural, hence the new pen name) and there’s a preview of the first chapter included with the ebook versions of The Fortune Quilt and A Little Ray of Sunshine. SQUEE!

Posted in Musings | 1 Comment

Runner

Yeah, unfortunately this time I’m not talking about me.

A little over a week ago I was telling a friend about information I had found regarding wandering (sometimes called eloping – hello euphemism) in kids with autism. I can’t find the article that gave the percentage of people on the spectrum who wander or bolt, but it was surprisingly high. I had to stop looking for it this morning, however, because I kept coming up with references like this: “In 2008, Danish researchers found that the mortality rate among the autism population is twice as high as the general population. In 2001, a California research team attributed elevated death rates in large part to drowning. Drowning, prolonged exposure, and other wandering-related factors remain among the top causes of death within the autism population.” (http://awaare.org/)

The reason I came across the stuff about wandering is that I was looking for more information on another topic: autism assistance dogs. Those of you who know me will not be surprised that this would be of interest. Autism therapy dogs can be trained to assist with an autistic person’s specific issues, including socialization and safety issues. I was mostly interested in the socialization, but noted that the dogs can be trained to alert you to a wandering child and help bring the child back safely.

Then I forgot to close the gate on Friday night. We don’t usually use the gate on that side of the house, but we had friends over playing in the backyard and we exited through it to take them home.

BamBam with BC Maven's daughter standing in front of the gate that shall not be named.

And I forgot to check to see if it was closed. Saturday morning was nice and sunny, so we let the kids out in the backyard while Sparky and I cleaned up after breakfast, still in our PJs. Our yard’s not huge, but it is L-shaped, with one part of the L extending down the side of the house that we can’t see from the kitchen or back porch.

Our backyard

The boys often like to play on that side of the yard to dig in the dirt. We had the sliding glass door open so we could hear them playing. As I said, we don’t usually use the gate on that side, so we don’t really think too much about it. At least we didn’t until that morning when BeBop came to the sliding glass door and said, “BamBam’s gone.”

“What do you mean he’s gone?” I said as I walked past him into the yard. “Where could he have gone? The gate’s closed.”

“No it’s not.” BeBop said. But he didn’t need to tell me at that point because I had just seen it. I sprinted back through the house – have no idea why I didn’t just go through the open gate. Maybe my adrenaline-fueled brain knew that I’d have trouble navigating the steep hill beyond it at a sprint. Or maybe I had some idea that he had slipped by us into the house and I’d see him before I hit the front door. The only thought I remember having was ‘pond’. Did I mention we live next to a detention pond? And BamBam loves water.

So I ran back through the house, BeBop hot on my heels, and was scanning the pond in record time. I allowed myself a second of relief at not finding him there before I went on to the fresh panic of not seeing him anywhere else either. I started down the path by the pond that leads to the front of our neighborhood. And the main thoroughfare that passes by the front of our neighborhood. And the other pond that is on the way. I was about half-way to the opening to the street that leads to the other pond when my two-and-a-half-year-old little boy who is non-verbal walked around the corner led by a tall man who said, “Is that your mommy?”

I imagine BamBam to have replied, “You mean the crazy lady running at us in her pajamas? Yep, that’s her.”

I blurted an incoherent thank you and something about not knowing the gate was open, scooped up my smiling, serene child and squeezed him until both of our rib cages nearly cracked. We headed back to the house, where I thanked BeBop profusely for telling us that his brother was gone. And there was a sensor on the gate by that afternoon to tell us when it was unlatched.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of BamBam’s route that day:

Path between our house and the pond.

Pond next to our house.

Oh, hello, young wanderer.

Road to the front of our neighborhood.

Other pond toward front of the neighborhood. Both boys like to stand on top of that cement thing and make my heart skip.

Car passing by on the main road that goes by our subdivision.

I spent the next few days trying not to feel like a neglectful parent. I did surprisingly well, considering my tendency to dwell on things like that. I think it helped that he emerged from the experience unscathed.

That happened on Saturday. There were two other times over the next few days where he ran away from me into an empty parking lot or street, but I caught him almost immediately. He’d never done that to me before, then twice over the span of a few days.

And then there was Tuesday night. I left around 6:30 to pick up some friends for our monthly bunko game. On the way, I got this text (which I read at a stoplight – don’t ever text and drive!) from Sparky: “BamBam went out the f#*$ing window and was running around in the street.”

All three boys had been playing solitarily in the living room when BamBam had wandered off into another room. It was quiet for too long, so Sparky sent BeBop to see what his brother was doing. When BeBop didn’t come back, Sparky went to see what had happened. He found BeBop in the front bedroom (our guest room), hanging his head out of the open window that now had no screen. Then he saw BamBam run by in the street in front of our house. Apparently BamBam had pushed the screen out and climbed over the porch swing to his freedom. By the time I got home, there were brackets on all our windows that don’t allow them to open more than a few inches.

Plan B escape route

I’m looking into some ways to make our environment safer for him. BamBam’s speech therapist has some good ideas on how to keep him from wandering more, gross motor games that will meet his sensory needs – she thinks that may be why he pushed out the window screen in the first place. I should be able to talk to you intelligently about what we’re doing, but at the moment, this is all I’ve got:

So we now have another runner in the family. Because we didn’t have enough stress as it was.

P.S.  When I went out to take the pictures above, I forgot to tell Sparky where I was going. Or that I was going. Maybe BamBam’s not the only wanderer in the family.   Sorry Sparky. 😦

Posted in Autism/Development, Musings | 4 Comments