Christian had Spring Break this week. Being out of routine is not necessarily easy for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for those on the autism spectrum. We have had our share of difficult “vacations” in the past. Many have consisted of screaming, endless crying, and major “tantrums” about not being able to be at school. It becomes an extraordinarily hard time for EVERYONE in the house. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t concerned how we would handle this long week that laid bare in front of us.

But this week, this week of Spring Break, an entire week with NO school, turned out so different from all of our breaks in the past. I think that it is safe to say that this has been the best break from school that Christian has ever had! No joke!

Here are some things that I have learned during this week…

  • We can survive and thrive during a break. Whew! This makes the thought of summer vacation not quite so scary a thought anymore.
  • There is a Catch-22 to Christian sleeping later into the morning. I have learned this week that if he sleeps past 6am, I will probably end up washing any and everything that was on his bed. As much as I like being able to “sleep-in”, I would prefer to see my boy by 5am.
  • With the help of two of his therapists, Christian learned that being at the Children’s Museum in town with me and Liv is OK. We can have fun together as a family while there. My heart smiles.
  • Christian can walk his service dog, Pixar, really excellently by himself (if he has her on a hands-free leash), as long as I’m not around. Pixar has become too reliant on me. I have to distance myself from her so that she can lean on Christian more.
  • An obsession focus on WordWorld combining with Legos makes for some interesting days. I think I need a Lego intern to move in with us for awhile. (See pictures of our creations at the bottom of this post.)
  • Christian knows his bedtime prayer. He wandered into Olivia’s room when I was putting her to bed last night and started praying along. I was near tears of joy. 🙂
  • Christian spontaneously told Brian that he loves him a few days ago. I melted. Such fantastic words to hear, especially when offered so freely.
  • Christian and I can do a HUGE grocery shopping trip by ourselves with the help of a cart called the “Shop Along.” These carts have a bench seat behind the actual cart. Christian sat awesomely on the bench while I overfilled our cart. 🙂 (I have also learned that pushing an 80+ lb. child in a Shop Along with it overflowing should be considered an Olympic sport. I’m only half kidding. 😉 )
  • Christian is a technology master. One example of that this week — he found a word processing program on Grandma’s computer that she didn’t even know that she had. (He found it so that he could type credits at her house, of course.) He has also been using our “Movie Maker” program to create his own scrolling credits and inserting pictures that are saved on the computer. He can just about type as fast as I can. Incredible! 😀

Our favorite -- "DOG"

Our Cast of WordWorld friends -- "DOG", "FROG", "PIG", and "SHEEP" (We added "DUCK" a little bit later. He hasn't made the leap from the camera to the computer yet. 😉 )

(more…)

We survived Christmas break and finally made it back to the first day of school in 2012 yesterday. Our home was a buzz with electric excitement Monday evening.

However, Tuesday morning was disastrous. Epically disastrous. And pretty much, totally MY fault. I had overslept. When I did wake, I found myself scurrying to get Christian fed and fully dressed in under 5 minutes.

Suddenly, the kids realized that the bus was now sitting in our driveway. Panic ensued.

I shoved medicated toast in Christian’s hands while I attempted get his socks on his feet while he continually ran to the window to make sure that the bus was still there. And then the shoes…

…one shoe…

Pooploops…

the other shoe was NOwhere to be found.

The kids and I searched frantically for what seemed like forever. The bus waited. (Have I mentioned that I LOVE our driver and don’t know what I’ll do when the day comes that she is no longer Christian’s driver?!?)

We looked in EVERY conceivable place. ANY place where Christian’s shoes have hidden before. It was not there.

And then, there is was! Buried under Liv’s winter clothing pile. The lone shoe. I could NOT have been happier!

Christian and I worked teamwork magic to get that shoe on in record time. Awesome. Whew.

And then I opened the door.

My heart dropped through the floor.

The bus was g o n e.

My sweet boy was in tears. Completely and totally heartbroken. I felt like the worst mama in the world because I knew how important that bus ride was to getting back into our happy school year routine and I had blown it. Big time.

My mind started reeling as to how to “fix” it. Well, at least, the best fix that I could offer at the time.

I rushed both kids out the door. Dropped Liv off at her school, thankful for “before-school-care”. And rushed Christian across town to his school.

Yeah, I had this figured out. I would get him there soon enough that he could quickly get on his bus, if even just for a minute, before his teachers came out of the school. Maybe, just maybe, that would right the wrong that started off his first day back.

However, I hadn’t accounted for the driver having a new route. She got there later than usual. Christian did NOT have the chance to climb on his bus and sit in his seat for even a minute. His sadness was overwhelming. I handed him off to his capable teachers, as he cried and dropped and I felt incredibly small.

I waited eagerly to hear how Christian’s day had gone. I wondered and worried and prayed that it had turned around.

When his bus got home, I threw open his backpack looking for any sort of note about his day. This is what I read, “Rough day. Lots of tears.”

I felt horrible. Horrible that I could have made the difference in Christian’s entire day yesterday, but knowing that I had let him down. I vowed that I would make today better. SO MUCH more better. (I know. Not correct English, but I did feel that strongly about it.)

And today, well, today flowed smoothly. Christian was even standing in his coat and ready to go 15 minutes before his bus pulled in this morning. I was relieved. Greatly relieved. Perhaps today would move us smoothly back into our routine of school.

I still felt really bad for how yesterday had gone. I’m still disappointed in myself for letting that happen, but without that happening I would not have received this amazingly moving email from Christian’s teacher this morning. It read…

Last night I was thinking about Christian’s day and although he had a rough day I kept thinking of the positive things I saw.  I thought I would share them with you.

He could tell me exactly why he was upset and what he wanted – “No Bus”, “Mom come in the red car”, “Mom almost done”, “Mom no work”, “Olivia no school”, “No schedule”, “I do my worksheet then Mom come in the red car”,  “I want black blanket” (actually a black bean bag chair), “Go home later”, “Christian sad” “Christian mad”.  I thought it was good that he could express what he was feeling and what he wanted.

A social story about going back to school and work helped.

We used first/then and as long as we did only 1 thing at a time he did well.  He couldn’t handle the whole days schedule.

He really came out of his “funk” when it was free time. He wanted to play with the other kids.

Although he did some crying and at times wanted to be by himself, he did not hit or kick me.  He wanted a hug a few times (not sure if for pressure or for comfort but that doesn’t matter).

At the end of the day he started to cry about you coming to get him but he was easily redirected that it was bus or stay at school with me and not go home.

This is much different than how he would have handled it a year ago. I am glad his language skills have improved and he can tell us things better.  He is able to focus on things other than his obsessions.  He is less aggressive.  All things to celebrate, even on a rough day.

Progress. SO MUCH progress. I guess sometimes we need to have bad days just to see how much progress has been made. For that, I am thankful.

[sigh]  This week is the start of a major change in routine…

We are back from vacation — leaving Olivia bored (since she had so many people to talk to and play with for the last week) and Christian wanting to swim and go for boat rides.  This is the closest that I can offer —

Summer school is over.  Christian has been requesting “school” for the last couple of days and waiting for the bus to show up.  I love that he loves school that much.  🙂 I’m bummed that it doesn’t start again until September.  😦

Therapy schedules have shifted, which is actually good because some of them moved into the morning to make up for time that he was at school, but the shift still throws everyone off a bit.  (And Christian’s having a hard time adjusting to Olivia interferring helping with therapy.

And we are having a family reunion at our house this Sunday.  Awesome that it will be here and we will be in a Christian-proofed 😉 environment.  Just not looking forward to all of the cleaning that lays ahead.  It probably won’t be so bad once I get started.  That “getting started” is the hard part for me.  However, it will be helpful to have Olivia staying with my parents from Friday afternoon ’til Sunday at party time to play with her Arizona cousin.  I found out that she is my big mess maker.  If I can start cleaning after she goes on Friday, it should stay relatively clean until Sunday.  Whew…

Sigh.  This morning a train broke down on the tracks in the middle of our road.  The road that the bus uses to get to our house.  As the train was on its 2nd hour of sitting there, I got a call from the bus company saying that they were not going to be able to make it to our house because of said train.

Sigh.  I figured that much.  Either Christian would miss school or I’d have to drive him in.  I chose to drive him.  I knew this would not be what he wanted, but I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen for the next 1/2-hour.

He happily put on his shoes for me.  He happily walked from the living room through the laundry area and into the garage.  He happily ran outside as I opened the garage door.  Then he saw me unlocking the car.  He screamed like I was torturing him and ran back into the house.  Fine.  I continued to unlock all of the doors, throw in his backpack, and talk Liv into getting into her seat before chasing Christian down.

He was back in the living room taking off his shoes while  giving me the “stink eye” and he let out a ear-deafening scream as I walked towards him.  I did what I had to do — scooped him up, grabbed his shoes, and blocked out all noise and body blows as I hustled to the car.  He grabbed every doorway as we fought through, holding on like his life depended on it.  We were both determined, but with opposite agendas.

After finally getting out the car and Christian buckled into his seat, I started backing out the driveway as Christian attempted an escape.  (Poor Olivia having to endure the decibels in the backseat!! 😦 )  I rebuckled him before getting on the road, but drove with one hand over the release button so that he couldn’t pull a repeat “Houdini.” 

I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, we could get to school before the buses unloaded and that he could get on his bus, sit for a minute, get all of the anger (because of routine changes) out of his system, and go into school with his friends as happy as he is any other morning.

But because of all of the wrestling, we arrived as his bus pulled out of the parking lot.  I opened his door and unbuckled him.  He screamed and tried to rebuckle himself.  I picked him up as he threw his weight around trying to get out of my arms and back into the car.  He repeatedly talked about an “Airplane” and a “Ride.”  Does he want to ride on an airplane???  We scrambled across the parking lot to the building with Olivia following behind as I tried not to drop this flailing body.

We followed his class down the hallway.  He screamed and punched and kicked and dropped and jumped all the way through the school.  My heart broke a little more with every step.

When we finally arrived at his room, he dropped to the floor attempting to bang his head on the ground while trying to put his backpack on and flee back the way we came.  I wanted to cry.  But I couldn’t.  It was not an option in that moment.  I needed to stay calm and reassure him that he would be fine.  As I spoke those words to him, I think I was trying to reassure myself that I would be fine, too.  I said a quick prayer asking for strength, kissed him on the top of his head, and walked out the door while his teachers held him back from running after me.

Liv and I walked back to the car as I realized that I had dropped my keys somewhere between the car and Christian’s classroom.  Sigh.  We continued to walk back towards the parking lot as a man walked in holding a set of keys that he said he had found in the middle of the driveway.  Whew.  That problem solved.

As Liv and I started our drive back home, I lost it.  The tears came flooding and I could not stop them.  This cry was coming from deep inside my heart.  I had 10 minutes to get this out of my system before we got home as I didn’t want to have to explain to Liv why her mommy was crying like that.  (And we were having a playdate at our house this morning and I wanted to get a few more things picked up before they arrived.  KK, I know you would have understood, but I would have been embarrassed.  And thanks for the coffee!!! 🙂 )

We arrived home with me tearless, but emotionally shot.  I still feel that way.

Christian’s teacher was kind enough to give me a call after he was at school for an hour to let me know that he had calmed down after they had taken a walk outside to look for airplanes.  They didn’t find any, but apparently he was hungry for snack time when they came back in.  And he was fine for the rest of the morning.  He was happy to see me when I picked him up.  He was still talking about “airplane ride.”  Perhaps I need to find a pilot in the area who could take him up for 10 minutes.

I sure hope we don’t have any more broken down trains any time soon…

Once upon a time, before my kidney stones, I had decided to take up running.  I had a plan.  I felt motivated.  I was excited…

…and then the stones moved in.  I stopped my routine.  I was in a fair amount of pain and, well, needed to use the bathroom quite a bit (and I was not about to start squatting in the ditch along our country road), so I put my running on the side to pick up again once the stones passed…

…Ah, yes, good intentioned and all, but I never picked it back up.  That bothered me tremendously (especially when I looked in the mirror), but I still never started back up.  Excuses.  Excuses.  There is always one available.

Until today.  Today is hot (especially for May in WI), but Liv was at Grandma’s and Christian was at school, my yardwork was complete, my errand was done, so I laced up my shoes and headed out on the road.  2-miles down — walk/run.  I feel good.  Now, to just stay at it!

Sigh.  Where to start?!?  It’s been awhile since I sat down to write and ponder what’s been going on in our lives, so, I guess, this post will be a bit of a hodgepodge as these last couple of weeks have just rushed on by…

Well, last week was Christian’s spring break.  It was a struggle.  From a former-teacher’s standpoint, I understand the NEED for a spring break.  From Christian’s standpoint, I wish there was NEVER a break from school.  Our routine get SO messed up that it’s hard to get anything done.  It’s hard for Christian to stay dressed.  It’s hard to keep the peace between siblings.  It’s hard to keep my patience and sanity.  It’s hard to find something to do that pleases both kids.  It’s hard to keep up with the toileting issues that always rear their ugly heads anytime a major routine change happens, such as a LONG break from school.  Sigh.  We did manage to move a few of Christian’s therapy shifts earlier to help eat up some of the length of his days.  The kids and I went to visit my parents 45-minutes away and made animals at Build-A-Bear Workshop for their early birthday gifts from Grandma and Grandpa.  Christian was a little overwhelmed with all of the choices at the store, so I started making executive decisions for him, which turned out fine in the end.  (Especially when we got home and I realized that he wasn’t playing with his animal because I had put jammies on it.  Come on, Mama, animals don’t wear jammies!  I took them off the dog and then Christian LOVED his puppy!! 🙂 )  Liv got really shy there.  She refused to interact with the ladies in the store, but she knew what she wanted and found a Hello Kitty and dressed it in Hello Kitty jammies.  Yeah, she LOVED it!  🙂  Liv then stayed at Grandma & Grandpa’s overnight.  Her first night EVER away from us.  She did great!  She did so well in fact that she didn’t want to come home the next day.  😉  Who can blame her???  She had TWO WHOLE people’s undivided attention!  She certainly doesn’t get that around here.  Liv is looking forward to the next time that she gets to do that!  🙂  Oh, and the weather last week was BEAUTIFUL!  I couldn’t have ordered better weather.  It was warm.  It was sunny.  We were able to spend time outside.  🙂  (I just had to keep an eye on my little nudist.  He’d run out there with his clothes on and a minute later he’d be running laps in the yard TOTALLY in the buff, losing his clothes somewhere under the slide all while the neighbors were outside eating their supper.  Sigh.)  Christian started refusing to use his words towards the end of the week making it extremely hard to communicate effectively.  One of Brian’s grandmas broke her leg and ended up needing surgery.  (It went OK.  She is still recovering at the hospital.)  We had an Easter egg hunt with the kids in our living room on Saturday (since we were going to be gone most of the day on Sunday).  They had a blast.  Then we celebrated Liv’s Golden Easter Birthday here on Saturday, too.  She was excited!  🙂  Gifts, pizza, some soda, cake, playing with Neighbor Girl…Liv was a happy girl.  On Sunday, we rushed out the door after Brian was done milking to get to church.  We got there a few minutes late and didn’t get to sit in our usual spot.  Sigh.  Christian did OK, but struggled after 20 minutes.  And as pretty as Easter lilies are, they make me nauseated and headachy as I am very allergic to them.  We ended up leaving the service as communion started as wrestling Christian was getting harder and he was starting to “wet-noodle.”  We wanted to get out before he started his angry screams with hitting.  So, back on the road to my parents for the day.  I brought C’s jammies as I figured was better to have him wearing the jammies than streaking around all day in his underwear (or less).  I was happy that I thought of that before we left the house.  Liv enjoyed playing with her cousins, and celebrating Easter, and being the “Birthday Princess Flower Girl” for the day.  I enjoyed seeing my family and chatting a bit.  And it was nice to have some extra help in the backyard when everyone went out.  I stood on one end of the yard while the other end was guarded by other family members.  Thank you!  We only lost C once when he stealthily snuck through the house without making a sound.  Thankfully I found him hiding in the back of one of the cars in the garage inside of running down the street!  😉  After awhile, C wanted to snuggle with me in the dark, quiet basement, so I obliged.  We fell asleep just before supper, so when Brian woke me we decided to just let Christian sleep since he was tired enough to be napping and couldn’t eat anything that the rest of us were having for supper anyway.  Well, perhaps that was a mistake on my part.  I woke him a 1/2-hour later and then couldn’t get him to settle down once we got back home.  One day I’ll learn my lesson.  😉  I was a little nervous on Monday morning about getting back INTO our routine.  C wrestled me a bit getting into his clothes, but as soon as we pulled into the parking lot at school, he giggled.  He smiled.  He did his happy dance and then ran and galloped while “happy singing” all the way up to the school doors!  Amazing!  He was SO happy to be back!  🙂  (And I couldn’t have been happier for him, either.)  Therapy went well on Monday afternoon.  All back to routine!  🙂  Liv spent most of the day playing-up her Diva attitude while I attempted to pick-up the house and run errands.  Then she and Neighbor Girl played a LOT, which is wonderful, but they were also fighting and Neighbor Girl asks a LOT of questions.  More than Olivia does.  I didn’t know that was humanly possible.  And C went back to having accidents in the basement after his therapist left.  I was a bit frazzled.  (OK, that’s an understatment.)  I was ready to have everyone turn in for the night, so I could have some quiet solitude.  I basked in it before bed.  It was lovely. 🙂  Unfortunately, 1:30 rolled around with a wetting accident in one room, so I immediately started laundry.  2:30 started vomiting in the other, which continued for the next few hours.  5:30 came with a cry about the couch being peed on and then the vomiting started again.  Then I started not to feel so well.  Some of that just stemmed from major sleep-deprivation and having dealt with the middle of the night pukes.  I happily accepted Brian’s offer of taking Olivia to the store with him while he was home over his break.  Yes, I would rest with Christian.  And we did.  For 15 minutes.  Then I heard THAT sound.  Then I was covered in THAT stuff.  Eww…that didn’t help me feel any better.  😦  Poor C.  As I was getting myself out of my icky clothes, my phone rings.  C’s senior therapists.  Yes, we will cancel therapy today.  Thankfully, she was nice enough to come and stay with C for a couple of hours while ran to the store to buy additional carpet cleaning supplies.  I had used a week’s worth in 12 hours!  Oh, and she brought me Starbucks! 🙂  Thank you, AZ!  That really made my day!  🙂  Liv and Brian headed out to a Brewer game with some of his family after milking, which was fine with me.  I really just wanted to rest.  (And so did C.)  And that’s what we did.  I kept Christian home yesterday, too.  He just wasn’t himself yet.  I’m glad I made that decision even though that meant that I had to miss meeting up with a friend.  😦  (SM, I hope we can make it work out sometime soon!)  Liv was bored, but such is life some days, right?!?  But, today…Today Christian was back to his normal Christian-self.  He fought me getting dressed, (I mean, REALLY fought me!) but we finally managed to get out the door, and into the car, and then the kids fought ALL the way to school, BUT as soon as we pulled into the parking lot Christian was happy! 🙂  SO HAPPY!  🙂  And I was glad, as I wasn’t sure how it would go, but he dragged me up to the school building.  Happy screaming.  Happy running.  Happy jumping.  Sigh [of relief!]  I’m so excited that he was happy to be back!  🙂  And now, I should get back to my Liv, who has been hanging on my arm for the last 20-minutes…  😉

Christian LOVES his "Kipper" from Build-A-Bear now that the jammies are off! 🙂

Liv with her "Hello Kitty." Yep, that's what she named it! 😉