December 29, 2009

Ups and downs

This past weekend was a mixed bag for us. Last week, Moe just wanted to bite everything. Although that seemed to subside a little, Moe seemed to be having a bit of a sensory breakdown, with some pretty manic highs, laughing and running around, and followed by bouts of intense frustration at everything an anything. Nothing in our usual bag of tricks (like deep pressure or a blanket swing) seemed to help. All yesterday morning, he wanted to be in the dark closet, or he would bury his head in my lap or in the couch. We had a 4 day break from ABA sessions, so maybe the change was having an effect on him. I don't know.

Sunday night, Jeff and I had a, ahem, "discussion," about what was going on. I, of course, worry that this was just the first indication of some serious issues we're going to have for the rest of Moe's life, and Jeff takes the view that all two year olds have rough times and that is why they call them the terrible twos. It's a stupid argument to have because no one knows. The night ended with me in bed with a terrible, vision-blurring, nausea-inducing headache which I called a migraine but since I don't really get migraines it was probably a stress headache.

On Monday, Jeff was back to work. We decided to have his OT session at the center where they have swings and stairs and other equipment. As I was telling his therapist about some of his behaviors this weekend, I realized some pretty amazing things happened as well.

First, Moe has really started taking an interest in coloring. He has colored before, but he wasn't really into it. Now, Moe will stand at his easel and draw with crayons or chalk for fifteen minutes or so. He'll pick a color, draw, stand back, admire his work, pick another color. He's very careful about where he's drawing and what colors he's using. It is so cute to watch. I have no idea what's going through his head, but he's clearly thinking about the choices he's making. At the OT session, our therapist watched him color and said his grip is above age level. (I know I shouldn't care about such things, but woo hoo!)

Second, Moe built a tower with LEGO's all by himself. He has never been interested in LEGO's at all. Not even a little bit. And he rarely stacks blocks unless he's almost forced to during a therapy session. But on a whim, I took out the LEGO's and he just stacked a really tall tower. See for yourself. He even put the man on top.

Lego tower

We were all very excited to see developments in those two age-appropriate activities. Like everything with Moe, he doesn't seem to practice things, make mistakes, and eventually be able to do them. He seems to just wake up one day able to do something he couldn't do before. It was like this with crawling and walking too. I wonder if he's been a bit unbalanced because he's going through some big developmental changes.

Finally, we spent some time practicing on stairs. We don't have any at home, so it has been a while since we've had a chance to see how Moe climbs steps. In October, Moe climbed the steps at his grandparents' house by bear crawling up them. More recently, I've had Moe climb steps holding my hand, but had to carry him down. So at the center, he practiced on a set of steps with a kid-height banister and after a bit of encouragement he did them on his own! I like his instinct to reach for a hand, but it was good to see that he could do it solo.

It was a good session and a good day to catch up on his progress. Moe is getting stronger and more coordinated. He is okay with color magic paints now (the consistency of vaseline), but not with shaving cream. He doesn't care much about stickers. I was hoping to get a few more pointers on what to do when Moe is having one of his meltdowns but wrapping him in a blanket seemed to work during session so next time I might try that.

December 25, 2009

Happy Merry Chrismukkah Day

We're not really a Christmas kind of family. I celebrate Chanukkah. And today just happens to be Jeff's birthday.
We wonder what it is going to be like for the kids believing that all the world's children wake up early on Christmas morning to celebrate Daddy's birthday.
So what does a half-Jewish, half-Christmas-birthday family do on Christmas?
We got up early and colored Daddy's card.
Coloring Daddy's card
We baked a Key Lime Cake. Oh my god this was amazing. I sprinkled some lime zest on the top, giving this a much more Christmas-like feel than I had intended.
Key lime cake
We played outside. It was a gorgeous day.
In the playhouse
We tried some new foods.
Avocados? Seriously?
This did not go over so well. But we recovered and Jelly Belly gave us a message of hope for the world as only beautiful babies can.
We put the kids to bed and rounded out the evening with a delicious pea and mushroom risotto and a bottle of Two Mile Sangiovese.
Happy birthday, Daddy. We love you!
Jeff loves cake

December 21, 2009

What's your sign?

Moe is a Gemini. Although I don't know much about astrology, I do know that Gemini comes from comes from the Latin for "twins." I think this is fitting for Moe. His is a toddler, and he has autism. And at any given moment, I'm never sure which Moe I'm seeing.

All toddlers are mysterious twins to some degree. One moment they are perfectly happy and content, and the next they are melting down, unable to express new and more complex emotions, like jealousy. They long to be held like babies but insist on independence. This is what makes the twos so terrible; most parents would take that for granted. I look at every move Moe makes under a microscope. I'm forever trying to tease out from Moe's behaviors what is toddlerhood and what is autism.

For example, Moe has developed this new habit of screeching very loudly when he's excited. He also laughs for no reason at all, or so it seems to me. He doesn't nap anymore (though lord knows I try to get him to). Are these signs of a sensory system in disarray?

Moe has also been going through a phase where he really likes to bite things. He has a toy monkey that he has always liked to chew on, but lately he has wanted to bite everything: the couch, the bed, puzzle pieces, flash cards, even Jeff's shoulder once. It often happens when he's excited. Is this a delayed period of oral exploration? Is he looking for deep pressure sensations?

Moe used to really like to spin, and sometimes he still does. When he first started the center-based program, that was one of the things they pointed out to me as a reason he might require occupational therapy.

When another two year old screams in a restaurant, we tell him to be quiet or use his inside voice. When another kid bites someone, he might get a time out. If he makes himself dizzy, or doesn't like a certain food or lines up his toys or throws a temper tantrum, we don't worry about it. He's just being a toddler. But with Moe, I analyze and strategize and research. I read other blogs by parents of kids with autism to see if this is something their kid does or if it is a sign of worse times to come. It's exhausting and it's stressful. It's unfair, and probably entirely unnecessary.

No matter how hard I look, there's no crystal ball that will tell me Moe's future. Even the best charts won't help me read in the stars the meanings behind each of his behaviors. I know it wouldn't matter anyway, since we'd still be doing what we're doing. But if anyone does happen to discover a magic 8-ball that will tell me what to worry about and what to let go, please let me know.

December 8, 2009

Poop happens

Warning: this post is very mildly scatological in nature. If you'd rather avoid such topics, come back another day.

With all of the serious posts I've been writing, I thought I'd share some of the lighter side of my day yesterday.

Moe doesn't greet me when I get him up in the morning, saying "Mommy" or "good morning." I'm lucky if he even looks at me when I walk in. He's often singing or babbling in his crib, a place he definitely enjoys hanging out. But of course, I always greet him with as much enthusiasm as I can muster at 7am. So yesterday morning, I went to get him up. He looked me straight in the eye, and said: "Poop."

I have no idea why he said it. He had a clean diaper when I got him up. Maybe he had to go and wanted me to leave him alone? Maybe I usually ask him if he has a poopy diaper when I get him up? I don't know but it sure was funny.

That evening, Jeff was on the later side getting home since he had to get Berkeley from doggie day care, and I was starting to get the kids ready for bed. He came in while I was giving Jelly Belly her bottle. He looked in and said "Berkeley was in time-out today. I'll let you read about it." I immediately start to think the worst, that she's getting in fights and they're not going to let us send her anymore. And she has her evaluation for a new place on Thursday, and we want to maybe start sending her 5 days a week, and what will I do if she can't go?

So I finish with Jelly and go take a look at Berkeley's report card. The line says "I was in time out for...eating poop." Super.

And yes, I know. With day care, evaluations, report cards, and time-outs, Berkeley might as well be another child in the house.

December 7, 2009


I've been a little lax about posting lately. It's not that I haven't written anything. It's just that all my posts sounds so whiny. I hate whiners. It is so unhelpful to just complain about things. But that's exactly what I've become these last few weeks: a whiner.

A lot of relatively small, but fairly annoying things have happened in the last few days. Nothing to call home about, but frustrating nonetheless. For example, Saturday was a gloomy day, but we planned to go out to dinner and go see the Festival of Lights in Vasona Park. First, Moe had a major meltdown at lunch, which ended with both of us in frustrated tears. Then he didn't nap, as usual, but around 3:30 he just crashed, falling asleep on the floor in the living room. I moved him to the couch, where he slept until I forced him awake at 5, but we were clearly not going out to dinner. Which meant that I had to make something to feed him and ourselves, and clean up, and there I go again - whining.

Another example: Our doctor's office sent out an email on Sunday announcing that they just received a small supply of H1N1 vaccines and were opening their clinic to all patients 6 months-17 years old, and their caretakers. We rush around to get there, only to find a line out the door and into the parking lot. We left. I didn't want to wait in the line with the two antsy kids only to have them run out of the shots before we got in. Frustrating! Annoying! Who are all these people? Whine, whine, whine.

Final example (though I could go on all day). I've been feeling the need to start exercising again, and this morning was going to be day 1. I got up at 6:30 (after having gotten up to feed the baby at 5:30) to work out with my Wii EA Sports Active. For whatever reason, the game wasn't registering my movements, so I couldn't progress with the program. I had no patience (it was still dark out, after all), and after doing probably 40 lunges trying to get it to register the required number, I gave up. And what did I do? I went to Jeff and whined about it.

I know why I'm whining. I don't like how life is right now. I didn't choose this path. I'm jealous that Jeff gets to go to work everyday and come home to ask "how did it go today?" That, no matter how stressful his job is, he can escape autism for a few hours every day. I'm angry that Moe isn't talking to me, won't communicate with me, and that when he melts down, I can only guess at what is going on.

A few years ago, I had a job that I was really starting to hate and I felt like I had no power to affect any change. When things got bad, Jeff reminded me that I could quit at any time. As soon as I gave myself permission to leave, things immediately felt better. But what do I do now? There's nothing to leave. I can't quit autism (though I desperately want to).

I recognize that giving myself permission to quit was about finding control. Unfortunately, I don't have much control over what is happening in my life right now. But I do still have control over one thing: my attitude. And I firmly believe that attitude is important. I'm not saying I think I can cure autism with positive thinking. But I do know that if you think something is going to suck, it probably will.

So I'm going to do my best to control my attitude. I'd like to be able to wake up in the morning, and really believe that it is going to be a good day. I may have to fake it sometimes, and I'm sure I won't be successful every day. And at the end of the day, even if it wasn't a good day, even if the day was frustrating and exhausting, the Wii didn't work and the kids didn't nap when they were supposed to, at least I can quit whining about it.


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