Tuesday, October 25, 2011

variety is the spice of life, right?

We went to the Santa Fe Place today, which is a quiet mediocre mall. We went there to spend Calder's hard earned quarters which he made by doing some chores around the house. His choices were the little boat, bus and helicopter rides that sadly just go up and down. After riding three, he had one quarter left and being that the rides were 50¢ we were done. But being a kid with a quarter in his pocket we were off to find if and what we could spend our last quarter on.
I spotted an island of brightly colored gumball machines.....maybe these would give us something for our quarter. Since Calder does not like candy, I spotted a few machines that gave out a little trinket. Fun! He gets a rubber bouncy ball that he rather quickly stashed in his pocket without even bouncing it once.

Then came the ubiquitous kid question. Can you guess? "Can I have more money?" Now, I had a dollar bill: my money. I almost started with the white lie, "I don't have any more money". But instead I thought..."hey, maybe I can get him to try tasting a candy". How many Mom's do you hear say that? We made an agreement that if I gave him my money then whatever he chose to get he at least takes a "no thank you" bite. The No Thank You Bite (which I purposely capitalize) is a pretty genius idea we stole from one of Calder's best friends who is 4. A great way to get a kid to take a single bite of food. Sometimes if the kid likes the taste...well you know......

So first he picks the little square multi colored gums. I teach him how to cup his hand to catch all the colorful falling candy. With trepidation written all over his face, he takes his favorite color of the day, green and chews it up. Then he starts gagging. I dig frantically in my bag for something to spit into. Out comes all the little pieces and a whole lot of green spit. Ok, so he doesn't like little colorful gum. "Want another quarter?", I say, pushing my little agenda on my kid. He goes in for a second try. This time, something like a sour smartie: a flat round colorful candy. This time I opt for no chewing and I show him how to lick it. This goes rather well, again lots of green spit, now all over his hand. But he didn't gag. We take turns showing off our colored tongues. Yes, we are in public. No, I don't care. I have one more quarter. Now he chooses the colorful tart candy that is in the shape of fruits. He popped it in so fast I didn't even see what fruit it was. As soon as he chews that up, more gagging.

Who knew that an island of 40 gum ball machines could be cavities for one kid and therapy for another? Not even his nutritionist could get him to try new foods. I say that with a little liberty. She worked mostly with me, helping me with ideas to help my son. Yeah, I know some would argue that candy is not even "food". For us though, it is more about simply trying new things. Calder's repertoire of food is pretty restrictive. If it were up to him he may just eat pasta (only the shell shaped kind....with a white sauce, no red), mashed beans (only pinto beans) cheese sandwiches, fruit, "hexagon" crackers and fake sausage patties (not the real kind) the rest of his life. I know, I know, that wouldn't be so bad. His Grandy has been eating PB&J's for nearly 50 years everyday for lunch.....and still is! No, for some reason I feel like variety is the spice of life and I want Calder to have a little variety, or at least not to be too offended by it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

potty talk, no really....I mean the toilet

When I write, somehow a transformation begins. Something that is difficult seems to have a little less power over me when it's written down. That's the medicine of the process. So I am attempting to write about the frustrations of this morning and why something rather simple can be so difficult and charged for me.

Just like every schoolday morning we get up at 6:30. With minor bumps, Calder eats his oatmeal and gets dressed with the bribe of getting some computer time. Playing the computer is a highly valued activity and I can usually get something out of it. "First get dressed, then you can have computer". So, as well as he ,I too "need" the computer.

Since the computer is such high interest, that is when most accidents happen. As I come over to check on him, I notice he has made an accident. It causes him much grief to tear away from his favorite activity to go finish up in the potty, and this he is very upset over. I think to myself, "this has to be a good experience, if I want him to be able to leave the computer on his own to go potty". I feel my blood pressure start to rise, but I gotta play my cards with a poker face.

The thoughts start in my mind..."he'll have to be able to get back on the computer or this whole stop-to-go-potty-thing will backfire"..."he can be late for school right?"......"wouldn't his teachers rather him make a BM at home, than have another accident at school?"..."let go, let go"...meanwhile he is not having any success. He's hugging me, almost in tears while he is sitting on the potty. Even though I haven't said it, he knows that this will make him late and he is pretty stressed out about it. He doesn't know where to begin...

We then strike a deal and he manages to have a little success. We agree that after he puts on his shoes, he can have 6 more minutes computer. At first it was only 5 minutes, but then I upped the ante with putting on the shoes, so I had to then bargain with 6 minutes. This seemed to work. I followed him to his room and reminded him that he may want to put on socks since it is getting a little cold outside (we walk to school). He chooses no, and I don't fight this one.

6 minutes of computer....check.

I use this time to get the baby ready and put her in her stroller, line up jackets and gloves, etc....
Ding, time is up. We had already discussed that when the timer dings, he does not dilly-dally and moves "moderato"...This means he doesn't go too slow. He loves to discuss speed in musical terms: adagio...moderato....allegro...presto.

Well, he doesn't move "moderato", he moves adagio, VERY adagio. If it were a symphony, it would be a dirge. Trying to hurry him up makes it worse. He does not seem able to process that hurrying will help us get there on time. Hurrying just adds another stressful element that he has trouble regulating. Now, I'm getting really sick of it. It's very hard at this point to "let it go". I still have my poker face, but I bet he can see right through it.

Now he wants his socks. Rather than lecture him on "I already asked you" I just keep it to myself. Is he stalling? Too stressed to figure that one out, I go myself to get his socks, to hasten the time. He knows how to put on his socks, but he asks me to. Again, I do not feel like this is the time to teach him a lesson. I am a Mom with a mission. GET MY KID TO SCHOOL!!! What you don't understand is that we still have to put on the jacket, scarf, hat, gloves and hasn't even begun. Usually I allot time for all this by getting up so early...but the accident threw us all off.

He gets his jacket on, good. Gloves go on rather well, great. I help with the scarf. Pop on his hat. "I need hexagons". Munching on "hexagon" crackers while he walks to school will help calm him down. After a moment of instinctual resistance to his demand, I go get him some hexagons......Sucker you say? Well, you haven't seen how stressful walking past the crossing guard with the loud whistle can sometimes be. I'll do whatever I can to help this go smoothly. I know we are late. I'm trying not to guilt him over it, after all pottytraining is worth being late. But boy am I frustrated! I feel like I am doing this strange ritualistic dance that no one would understand if they saw me, in order to get the planets to align, so we can make it to school without a full blown meltdown.

Were finally on our way! As we walk a few feet past our house Calder stops and says "my backpack!" Oops, in all the scurrying, we had both forgot his backpack. So turning the stroller around we go back to our house and get it. I can almost laugh at this point...but not yet.

Almost to the crossing guard, I wonder if Calder will miss his earplugs. Very often Calder will choose to wear his earplugs as we walk by the crossing guard. This seems to work well for him. But this morning I notince that the earplugs are missing from their usual pocket in his backpack. I don't say anything and Calder chooses to use his hands to cover his ears. Thank GOD. That is another meltdown we diverted!

Once at school. we have to get a late pass from Louise the secretary. I need to make sure this is not fun for Calder, but not too stressful either since this morning he is rather "fragile". I make him stand in the line of late kids when he really just wants to cling to me. Then I make him walk by himself to his class. This he silently does. I wonder what may have been going through his head. I'll know next time we are running late.....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

galleries are not just for grown-ups

Some days are hard, really hard to get through. Some days I wonder how Calder will make it in this world.....then there are days like today. When everything seems perfect.

When I was pregnant with Calder and after we decided to move to this little art hub of a city, I said to myself that I would expose Calder to art by visiting the galleries on Canyon Rd. starting when he was an infant. He could stroll in his stroller or sit in a sling and just look at all the colorful paintings as I would whisk by..... Well, it became apparent early on, that just wasn't going to happen.

Starting early in his first couple of years Calder had a bit of a hangup with doors. At first it was cute how he would open and close them. Then it became a hassle to wait while he opened and closed them over and over. Some places like Trader Joes are awful....where the doors are automatic. Still to this day, if he is with Eric or I and we approach automatic doors, he insists we wait until they close so that HE can make them open. Try doing this on a weekday evening when everyone and their mother are out shopping. Many times, it goes like this: 1- look like a creampuff and give into it, or 2-face a meltdown. What would you pick? Well, I opt for the creampuff.

Today we decided to take the kids up to Canyon Rd. for an open gallery walk. We parked the car on a side street and walked up to the first gallery. Outside we saw large sculptures of animals which is totally fun with kids. We went inside where I noticed there were several tiny doors and steps leading to small rooms with more doors in those rooms. Calder definitely noticed all the doors. One gallery we went into, Calder's first words were "where's the elevator?". All being single-level adobe architecture, I knew there would be no such elevator. For those of you who don't know Calder, lets just say he loves elevators even more than doors. When we take him to Explora in Albuquerque (a children's hands-on science center) his favorite thing, hands down, is the giant red elevator WITH A SOFA INSIDE! I have to agree with him it IS pretty darn cool.

So guess what? No door hangups today, no blocking the flow of onlookers with a melt-to-the-floor-freak-out-puddle, no loud hollaring as we drag him out the serene gallery. No, it was much better than that. Went more like this: "let's discuss the art, which is your favorite?", "yeah nice door huh?....but can you spot the white buffalo? yeah, there it is". When a few folks spoke to him, he didn't run off or cower to the floor or say *and I hate this one*, "I don't like that man". Rather, he spoke with them. He even painted when one of the local gallery artist invited him to paint on his mixed media piece. Holy WOW! I want to say to everyone, you know how big a deal this is? That he is speaking to you and looking at the art? He's 5! He's 5, with autism. I was so proud of him. And you know what? He had fun. I made sure to ask him several times. He definately noticed all the doors, steps, keypads, lighswitches and the lack of any elevator, but he knew that was not why we were there. We were there to look at art.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

cats aren't red, except at our house

It was just this year that Calder has shown an interest in our neighbors. The lady next door to us has a beautiful dog and Calder has also befriended her pooch. Big deal, since Calder thinks he doesn't like dogs. Up until last Halloween he has not been very interested in "dressing up" in a Halloween costume. I think last year I even gently forced him to be a pumpkin. I love Halloween. It is the one time of the year you get to be your secret fantasy, your alter ego, even your own nemesis and no one looks at you like you're crazy. It's perfectly acceptable. Anything goes.

Other than the forced pumpkin costume (premade unlike me) there has not been that much discussion around the words that are associated with Halloween. Calder came home from school the other day saying all kinds of Halloween words, including the word COSTUME. I jumped on the opportunity as I saw the door was wide open. "So, would you like a Halloween costume?" "yes". "What would you like to be?" I named off a few ideas just to make a point: prince, pirate, lion etc...."I want to be a red cat". "A red cat?" A part of me, a very small part of me wanted to say that cats aren't red. They are sometimes orange, but never red. If I make you a RED cat costume, people will mistake you for Elmo. But I held my tongue, knowing that if a red cat is his fantacy then that is purrr-fectly acceptable, even if it misses the reality mark. Hey, it's Halloween, right? My job? to make sure no one thinks he is Elmo.

We went to the fabric store together, agreed on a red fuzzy fabric, came home and began. Every step of the way makes Calder so happy. "this is so exciting!" he says as I am sewing up all the parts. Secretly I too am having a BLAST!

Back to dogs and neighbors.... Another word that he came home saying was Trick or Treat, which I knew he had no idea what it meant. I explained it to him and he said he was game to go Trick or Treating at our neighbors houses (that is 3 people, maybe 4 if he is willing to walk over to the other street). We'll see how this goes, and I'll have to get back to you. But I will say knocking on doors and asking for candy that he doesn't like is not his cup of tea. But you never know when the door of opportunity will open. I have to be paying attention in order to walk right in with him when he's ready.

I am prepared for the actual Halloween night to be a flop. I don't have those expectations. The joy has already been had in the seeing his little face light up when I make his dream a reality.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

from cookies to calamari

Calder loves to bake. If it were up to him he would bake a batch of sugar cookies every day. This is a bit of a problem since I have a serious sweet tooth (and that butter seems to be so pricey). When needed we give the confections away. He doesn't so much like to eat his creations, but rather just likes to bake. I try to support our sweet little baker and extend his love of baking into other things that I am preparing in the kitchen. He will help me prepare meals and generaly just wants to be in the kitchen with me pretending to help out, even if this just means making me a cup of earl grey tea, or a french press pot of coffee while I am cooking his dinner. How far can I take this, how adventurous is my little chef? Well, tonight I was making soup. Not just any simple comfort soup that MAYBE there would be a chance in heck he would maybe cold winter his teen years. was Tom Yum Goong, a Thai hot and sour prawn soup.

In this soup there are many unusual ingrediants that I needed to hunt and seek out, mostly at Pacific Mercantile in Denver, an Asian grocery. You'de think if I was going to go through all this trouble that I would actually follow the's the pathetic part (and yes I am going out on a tangent now), the soup is basically a prawn soup. Prawn meaning shrimp. I have shrimp sitting in our freezer. But they are my last dear two ziploc bags of gulf shrimp that I carried back on the plane from a trip to, I thought I'll just buy some unfrozen shrimp, just enough for the soup. When I got to Whole Foods (the only place I will buy shrimp here in land locked New Mexico) well, the prices were just I opted for calamari......yup, tastless squid. It was only $6.99/lb. Hey squid is seafood. I am infamous for altering recipes and it is almost always a disaster. I had an agreement with myself that I would never alter a recipe again... I am not naturally gifted in the culinary arts and can not create well in the kitchen. Regardless, the soup turned out limey and peppery and that is about it.

But the beautiful thing is I got Calder to help with the slimey strange seafood. I think the only thing that made this possible was that squid when cut makes really neat circle shapes, which Calder loves. As I cut the small circles he would take each one and put it in the soup. Wow, he has come a long way. No he didn't eat it, and probably never will. But touching food is one of the 38 steps it takes to eventually eat food. And he touched it! This is a kid who would gag when just stirring up the ingrediants to make spinach quiche. Some folks may teach their kids not to touch/play with their food, but in our house it is encouraged.

Monday, October 3, 2011

speaking out the spider's web

I remember it very clearly: the day my son began talking in sentences. It was a sunny day and we were all out in the backyard. Therapy with a three year old looks like play. It is play-based: meeting the kid where his interests are. This particular day Calder was enjoying sitting in the wooden slatted landing to his slide. A large swing/slide set his grandparents all pitched in and bought him for Christmas.

Calder wanted so badly to have us give him some colorful plastic balls to roll down the slide, but he didn't know how to ask for them, causing much frustration. Our therapist, Zoe, tried prompting him to say "three balls please". A three-word sentance was a real challenge back's hard to believe. But regardless, at almost 3 years of age, he had few words he could speak. I could see his little brain trying so hard to organize his thoughts and bring them to life, but alas, frustration.

It was then that Zoe decided to use rhythm. She accompanied "three balls please" with three taps on the wooden slats. One tap per board per word. And his eyes lit up! THIS, he could do. I can still see his face now, so happy and relieved. The door opened. Calder then used his own hand and while tapping three times on the wooden slats was able to say "three balls please". We all were so happy for him. We did this over and over again. Each time Calder wanted to ask for three balls he couldn't until he looked over at the slats of wood and tapped his hands on three of them, and each time he did this the words flowed out his mouth easily.

A huge step was made that day. Some children and adults on the spectrum remain non-verbal their whole lives. They are intelligent and have much to say, but their words are trapped in a web of crossed wiring. Like a doomed insect caught in a spider's web. Many things have to take place in the brain for speech function. We take it for granted most of the time that we are able to process incoming and outgoing language. And it all happens effortlessly...for most but not for all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

little boy blue

Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man on the moon.
People often tell me that I am very patient. I try to be. I try to stay in the moment. But often I find myself rushing, especially with Calder. Rushing just to barely keep up. He is still a little boy, full of wonder and discovery. I sometimes feel too rushed to stop in that moment and discover and wonder with him. In his IEP, we have stated that he be given wait time when asked a question but yet I get so frustrated when he doesn't answer me quick enough. When he is so happy and full of boisterous joy I find myself saying shhhh. When he gets so excited he just can't listen anymore I can totally loose my sense of humor and my patience.
I want to laugh more with him. I want to join him in his silly shenanagins. I want to be able to be a kid again, in that moment. I want him to know me as a person with a light heart and gentle tenderness.