Sleepovers: Spectrum Style

Last Saturday, we invited The Boy’s best friend over for a sleepover.  He is on the spectrum, too, and is in The Boy’s program at school.  They get along really well together, share the same interests, and this boy just seems to get it when The Boy doesn’t answer a question or doesn’t want to do the same thing he does.

The two spent the morning at our Autism Society’s chapter’s “Friends and Fun” party, during which everyone who celebrates a birthday for that month gets to come to a church youth group center and hang out for a couple of hours.  Presents are given by the chapter, and there’re cupcakes, so it is a great way for the kids to get together without the pressure of a formal birthday party (and figuring out whom to invite).

Then I picked them up and brought them to the beach trailer that The Man and I are renovating… Have I told y’all about that?  Not yet?  Another post entirely…

They waited patiently while I put in a new window…

window work

And then The Man, the boys and I walked over to McDonald’s for some lunch and some much needed sweet tea.

Next, I drove the boys up the way a bit to a bowling alley that we had heard also had an arcade.  After getting lost twice (thank you, iPhone!), we found the place and proceeded to spend quarters on slightly beat up machines that didn’t always give us tickets.  The boys had a great time playing foosball and air hockey, and ended up with some fantastic plastic slinky bracelets that promptly broke within the next half hour.  But it was fun ;)

foosball

We stopped at Target to see if the Halloween costumes were out yet, which they weren’t, but we had a good time poking around the legos and stuff, and they were patient with me while I poked around in the office supplies, ogling washi tape.  We picked up a couple of toys for Raphael, too.

On the way back home, we stopped at a Halloween superstore, as The Boy’s friend seems to have an obsession with Halloween and the haunted house he and his parents create in their garage every year.  This superstore actually had a small haunted house setup through which you HAD to walk to get into the store.  The Boy’s friend seemed to like it and be scared by it at the same time, while The Boy was just scared.  We checked out the costumes, and I think The Boy was most traumatized by the fake boobs in one of the aisles.

We headed back to the beach trailer to see The Man’s progress and then headed over to one of the piers with a restaurant (and a great view), ate dinner, and walked out on the pier after dark.

pier at dusk

We headed home and let the boys do their thing with DSs and iPads and computers – oh my!  As The Man and I headed to bed rather early – he tired from the physical work of putting in new sub-floor by himself, and me tired from entertaining two preteens for the past 9 hours.

Let’s just say I’m glad it doesn’t happen every weekend, but I am SO glad The Boy has a friend to be able to do this with.  It’s a small slice of normal for him, and he loves it.

A Wonderful Visit

This post was drafted in August and I realized I hadn’t posted it yet.  :)

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Our one and only Fantastic Babysitter (and her mom and baby) came to visit this past week.  She sacrificed a lot to come, and The Boy was so pleased to have her here, as was I.  We spent a long day at the beach, and worked around the baby’s schedule with relatively little problem, able to eat out a few times, and experience the area, thanks to some wonderful weather.

We walked out on the long fishing pier that extends out to the ocean, and Fantastic Babysitter, being afraid of heights, began to get a little nervous, expressing a wish for a hand to hold as she progressed over the beach and then over the waves.  The Boy slipped up behind her and picked up her hand, impressing everyone with his empathy and sensitivity.

Later, he sat on the couch next to me, and we held the baby.  He began to play with her feet, saying softly, “I’ve got your tootsies,” and then “Am I doing it right?” to me.

I watched him as he took every opportunity to sit next to Fantastic Babysitter, sometimes putting his head on her shoulder, recognizing the beautiful relationship they continue to have, even across the miles.

I was so happy to see them together, and was truly sad to see them go.  On their first night here, he began begging to go “back home,” and I realized that we may have to make that a reality before too long.  A visit next summer may be in order, because there are lots of people there he misses, and some I miss, as well.  We have been so happy here, but this visit brought some strong feelings to the surface, especially on his part.  And I don’t want to ignore those.

Planners Who Need Planners

I succumbed.

A co-worker introduced me to the Erin Condren Life Planner in July.  Suddenly I remembered my undergrad days when a planner was my lifeblood.  I couldn’t function without it, and if someone had ever taken it or I had misplaced it, my world would come to a screeching halt.  As I read reviews and watched the plethora of YouTube posts (it seemed everyone who had ever purchased one had also either done a blog post or a video with a 20-minute “walkthrough”), I suffered from sticker shock, but also a growing need to have one.  How had I gone so long without a planner? I asked myself over and over again.  I had never quite gotten the hang of the digital organization I so wanted to make work: Evernote, SpringPad, even Notes and Reminders on the iPhone just hadn’t quite cut it.  And I thought about the nights where I can’t sleep because my mind is racing with to-dos and ideas, notes and projects, blog posts and emails I need to write.  When those nights pop up, the only, ONLY way to calm my fevered brain is to get up with a pen and a pad of paper and just write everything down.  Good old pen to paper.

I could get my money managed more effectively, and keep track of expenses, I thought.

I could organize my blogging calendar, I thought.

I could have all of The Boy’s school and Autism Society events in one place, I thought.

I could even put events for work in there so I always know what’s going on and when, I thought.

I could include a daily to-do list, I thought.

I could keep our evenings on track between homework and other household chores, I thought.

In the end, I convinced myself to bite the bullet, and give it a shot.  In the whole scheme of things, if it didn’t work, the cost was not that prohibitive.  I ordered my planner and waited about 4 weeks for it to arrive.

When it came, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and again, watched videos and read blog posts on the most effective way to use the planner.  Come to find out, most people’s posts were about how pretty they could make the thing with washi tape and stickers, without any real substance on how to use it.  So I turned to the notes section and made a list of all the things I wanted to keep track of, and began to form my own ideas of just how I would keep track of all of the stuff I mentioned above.

It’s been about two weeks, and it is being used, multiple times a day.  Not only do I plan, but I record expenses (usually first on a sticky note, and if I have time later, with the “proper” label that I have devised), and other things that have happened.

ECLP

But the biggest A-Ha of all is that by having everything recorded, I don’t remind myself six times a day about that one thing I want to remember.  I have a go-to spot for important papers.  I know where stuff is.  And all of these things allow me to 1) relax more, and 2) be more creative.  I have time to think about (and jot down) ideas for blog posts, and even outline my dreams and plans for my own nonprofit which I hope to start someday.

So I guess this is my own obligatory Erin Condren Life Planner blog post.  And I’m not trying to sell you on anything – it’s not for everyone.  But I am glad that I have gone back to paper, because it’s actually allowing my mind to unburden itself of all the small stuff so I have more time to think about the big stuff.

Boys in the Bathroom

The Boy has had his first encounter with bullying at school.  I should say teasing, because bullying is really defined as a repetitive, targeted behavior, and I have no evidence that this has been going on for any length of time.  Truth be told, I was very happy with the way the school personnel handled it, and took some responsibility, as well, because we kind of knew this particular instance might happen.

Let me explain.

When we first moved south, The Man noticed that anytime The Boy went into a public bathroom, he had a tendency to “drop trou” to go pee, meaning he would drop his pants in order to do his business.  Apparently, this is not typical male behavior in a restroom – I would not know that, having never been a part of this particularly male experience.  When The Man told me about it, and explained that he just couldn’t do that, I didn’t have an answer as to how to fix it — this is not something that I am equipped to teach him.  And having hit puberty, The Boy was certainly not going to let me anywhere near him while he was anywhere near peeing.  This was clearly a dad’s job, and you can understand why a step-dad may be less than comfortable with the responsibility.  We ended up urging The Boy to use a stall when possible.

Fast forward to the second week of school, when I got an email from The Boy’s program teacher explaining that The Boy had been teased about doing just this, and talking to others while peeing, as well.  Another group of boys reported the teasing directly to one of his team teachers, for which I am grateful and appreciative, and that teacher actually had another teacher cover his class that same day so that he could take the offenders to the teachers lounge and “read them the riot act” over the incident. “We just don’t tolerate that here,” he explained via email.

I called The Man and we decided The Boy needed a lesson in how to pee in a public bathroom, and that The Man would be the one to do it.  He didn’t balk, he didn’t hem or haw.  That evening, he said, as calm as ever, “Hey, I need to show you how to pee,” and The Boy said, “Alright.”

The Man and I exchanged a look, complete with two pairs of raised eyebrows…

The Man pretended our living room wall had two urinals on it, which The Boy liked, with his toilet obsession and all. The Man then proceeded to break the process into steps. “You put your thumbs here in your waistband, and pull down,” and they practiced as they faced the imaginary urinals on the wall. He explained the whole process, and explained that the reason boys do it that way is so that they don’t show their butt to everyone else, so it can be more private.  The Boy paid attention, and seemed to understand.

The Man and I were relieved that The Boy seemed so willing to take instruction, and we can only hope he is using his new-found knowledge.

In any case, I was proud of them both.  Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Re-training

plannershot1The downside of having a son with autism in secondary school is the sheer numbers of teachers we have to re-train each year.  And I’m only half-joking.  Most of the teachers we have encountered since the Big School Switch of ’13, have been accommodating and flexible, and have fallen in love with The Boy relatively quickly, wanting to do anything in their power to help him succeed.  But here we are at the beginning of a new school year, dealing with stuff that is very clearly spelled out in his IEP, and the teachers are not yet implementing.

One of The Boy’s IEP goals directly relates to his use of the agenda, speaks to his difficulties in this area, yet within the first two weeks of school, we still only had one teacher ensuring he was utilizing it in his class. Then the homework hit the fan this week, when I had no idea two assignments even existed before they were due in science and social studies.

I emailed the teachers last night, basically copying and pasting from last year’s introductory email, explaining The Boy’s need for help with communication, planner use, and the dire need for them to let me know what the hell is going on, but stated in much more genteel language.  And I got some nice responses.  Yet in today’s planner entry, there was clearly still some misunderstanding from whoever-it-was that was writing in the planner (clearly not the teacher – an aide? a substitute? Who IS this person telling me that his assignment wasn’t finished and needed to be finished by tomorrow??).

And then there were the assignments we had busted our butts to make sure he got done, that were returned in his planner this evening without having even been turned in.  Yet another area of difficulty, yet another area in need of training.

After several emails, I finally got some traction and his program teacher has agreed to meet with his teachers tomorrow to review this stuff so we can get him going on the right track before he gets too behind. Thank goodness I don’t have to re-train her every year! She’s worth her weight in gold. :)

Pets and a Big Dose of Mommy Guilt

Thursday, The Man and I decided to rescue a cat that had walked into his worksite as if he owned the place.  In fact, we surmised that the previous renters did abandon him there and he was just too sweet of a cat to leave to the whims of fate.  We struggled for a couple of hours with the idea of the commitment and what it would mean to The Boy, and in the end, I brought him home in the car.

When I went to pick up The Boy, he was overjoyed once he understood what was happening, and was jumping up and down with excitement.  I, too, was excited, as I had missed the thought of a little furball to cuddle with in the evenings, someone to come home to…

We bought the requisite pet stuff, and I caught The Boy laying on the floor with him more than once, just petting him as they lay parallel to each other. It was incredibly sweet.

Raphael

And then yesterday, reality caught up with me, and reminded me why I hadn’t had cats in the house since The Boy was in preschool… My allergies reared up and smacked me in the face. I was miserable. And then to make matters worse, our bedroom overnight was probably in the 80s, temperature-wise, because we have to keep the door closed so the cat won’t be in my face, making it impossible to breathe.  And when the door is closed, the antiquated A/C cannot physically push any cool air into that room.  Miserable upon miserable.

And before you say, “Just get Claritin/Zyrtec/Allegra/whatever-OTC-med-most-people-take-for-allergies,” there’s a funny story about that… I’m allergic to allergy meds.  They make me break out in hives.  Yep, I’ve been on this merry-go-round before and it is not fun.

And I am KICKING myself for getting myself into this all over again because now I have broken The Boy’s heart.

Thank you monthly hormones, for amplifying this crazy mommy-guilt to an inhuman level.  The Boy is actually doing OK with the probability that we will have to find “Raphael” a new home.  He’s processing, but he is not being dramatic and blubbery as I kind of expected.  He’s actually trying to offer solutions, albeit not entirely rational ones.

And I am sad because Raphael really is just the sweetest cat, and he and I could have really gotten along well together if my immune system didn’t believe he was killing me.

Now I just need to find an adult cat a new home (easy, right?) and make things better for my autistic son who obsesses about cats, and has for years (also a no-brainer, right?), while reassuring myself that this situation can’t be helped (while I just *smh* at myself inside my head).

*sigh*