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. 😉 )

Yeah, that’s right!  Things have been a bit crazy around here!  I have wanted to blog, but I didn’t.  Then I let myself feel guilty for not blogging, which brought my mood down, which led me to want to write, but not wanting to be a downer, henceforth, I did not write, which led to guilt (and run-on sentences) … vicious, stupid cycle! 😦

Anyway …  we made it through the end of the school year, field trips, concerts, swim/dance lessons, lack of therapists, constant schedule changes, etc. and into the summer, which means many things…

*I have gone back to work at a local produce farm for 4hrs each week.  It’s scheduled time out of the house, working hard, putting fresh, chemical-free produce into our frig on a weekly basis.  I enjoy it and the reminder that it brings me as to where our food comes from and how difficult it is to grow the food and grow it well.  Now if I could only keep our own garden weeded! 😉

*All of Christian’s new therapists are now fully trained! 🙂 Whew!  We might actually have a month where we make all of our required hours for the state! (80+hrs/month)  I feel, again, that our senior therapist has put together a good team who all seem to work well with Christian. (Thanks, BB!) [insert sigh of relief here!] I am thankful to God for bringing these new, wonderful people into Christian’s life (and for those who have been with us for awhile). 🙂

*Olivia is playing t-ball again this summer.  Her first practice/game was cancelled due to stormy weather.  She was disappointed, but now can’t wait for next week to roll around. 🙂  (Read about Christian’s adventures with softball here.)

*The kids have been out fishing with Brian at the nearby ponds a few times already.  Nothing like fresh fish sticks! 😉  (Read about our Father’s Day fishing adventure here.)  There is hope for many more successful fishing expeditions this summer! 🙂

*I’ve been attempting more home-baked goods lately: adding fish to our menu twice/week, homemade granola, crockpot yogurt, banana oatmeal cookies, rhubarb sauce, jam, etc.  Everything seems to taste that much better without the extra junk that is sometimes dumped into mass-produced foods. 🙂  Yum!

*The kids have been enjoying our fresh strawberries.  The berries have been slow going this year because of the cooler weather, but they are delicious and unlike most store-bought berries, are juicy and red ALL the way through! 🙂

*I have become an auntie twice in the last month(ish) to two beautiful nieces. 🙂  I love you, girls!

*I have also received a lesson in lawn tractor driving, so no longer have an excuse not to help keep the lawn under control.  (And I have learned from my mistakes!)

*Christian has fallen in love with Dr. Seuss books on his iPad.  He loves them all, but his favorite is “The Cat in the Hat.” 🙂  He has grown so fond of them that when I put the iPad to bed at night, Christian gets out the actual Dr. Seuss books and reads them instead.  (He has pretty much memorized “The Cat in the Hat” and also often walks about the house saying, “My father can read big words, too.  Like … Constantinople and Timbuktu.” from “Hop on Pop.” 🙂 ) Christian has also taken to dressing like the Cat, often wearing a tall hat and bow tie.  He’s SO cute! 🙂  (Although, yesterday afternoon he came running out of the bathroom wearing only the bow tie.  I was glad that I was the only one home at the time and enjoyed at good laugh 🙂 before I had to deal with the mess that was left behind. 😦 )

Christian as the Cat in the Hat (minus the bow tie)

Christian as the Cat in the Hat, minus his blue bow tie. 😉

*Christian totally misses school and the bus.  Daily.  Then he gets super mad at me when I can’t produce them.  😦  I’m praying that this phase passes soon!

*Christian is also still trying to get his top teeth to poke through his gums.  Painful for him.  Hard on the rest of us.  Sometimes aggression is involved.  Sometimes my food is declared “garbage” and quickly tossed in the trash after just being plated.  We are surviving on lots of deep breaths and silent prayers.  (And gum numb-er, stuff that is even more effective than orajel!)

*Pixar, Christian’s service dog, continues to do well with training at the Compassionate Paws training facility.  (Pixar will come home with us at the end of September!)  Vicki, the trainer, just started a blog about the goings on at the ranch.  You can check it out at http://compassionatepaws.blogspot.com

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I have tapped out my thoughts on this keyboard, but perhaps this post will hold some explanation…

I have been struggling quite a bit lately with emotional problems.  I have been afraid to admit it.  Scared of how others will perceive me, even though I have never thought less of others struggling with such issues.  (I have always actually thought more of them for being so honest about themselves.)

I lived for years with pretty severe PPD (postpartum depression).  I never did anything about it.  Never wanted to admit to it.  Bucked up and pushed through.  The scary thing, though, is that I was always wondering when the day would come when I just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  Yeah, I was that close to losing it.  I never wanted to die.  I never wanted to hurt my children, but I did fantasize about car accidents (when I was out by myself), being injured enough to be in the hospital for awhile, and enjoying having rest.  I was that sleep-deprived.  That emotionally shot.  That afraid of showing my “weakness” by asking for help.

Honestly, I wonder if the PPD ever totally went away.  Or maybe it rolled into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which some studies have found that parents with special children sometimes show signs of.  Or maybe I’m just steps away from being “cuckoo”.  I don’t know.

I have in the past couple of years sought out some help.  Therapy appointments.  Medications.  Vitamins.  Exercise.  I’m not convinced that the right combination has been found yet, but I do know that I need more sleep.  That is something that I will very have to work hard to achieve.  I know that I have to find ways that calm me down when the troubles start mounting.

But more than anything else, I know that I have to give up control.  For when I most try to control my universe, it seems to quickly spiral into chaos.  In steps panic, depression, worthlessness, numbness, frustration, loneliness…

God is teaching me his lesson again.  To trust in him alone, not in myself and my own power.  This is a lesson that I’m sure that I will be studying for the rest of my days. 

God help me.

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…

Christian is getting TOO SMART!  Seriously.  I can’t keep up with this boy!

He has figured out how to unbuckle himself from his 5-point carseat in our car.  Not cool.  Recently, he was obsessed about getting something in the front seat and would continually unbuckle himself and try to climb up front.  I was pulling over every other minute.  Finally, I just reached back and held him in his seat with one arm while I drove with the other.  I just wanted to get home.  And he was glad to get out of the car.

Yesterday, I pulled into our driveway to find him sitting all the way back in the truck.  Nice.  I want to know how he did that SO quickly as 30 seconds before I had seen him sitting buckled in his seat.  Sigh.  The gray hairs are multiplying rapidly!

I guess he has been pulling the same thing on his dear, sweet bus driver.  Last Friday he unbuckled himself and walked to the back of the bus and started fidgeting with the emergency exit door.  Oh, poor bus driver!  Thankfully she found a seatbelt lock at the station and had it on the bus yesterday.  It seemed to do the trick once she got it on the oversized buckles.  I think we’ll need to find one of those for our car.  Soon.

I work at a chemical-free produce farm for 2 hrs. twice/week.  It is hard work, but I am enjoying it tremendously!  My jobs have been mostly weeding and mulching so far.  It is fun to listen to the chickens cluck at each other and the cows moo when the farmer walks by and doesn’t feed them.  It is nice to be out in nature without having to keep an eye on the kids at the same time.  It is also lovely to be doing something out of the house that doesn’t involve running errands, going to appointments, or picking someone up.  Just me.  Out by myself.  Getting something done.  [insert contented sigh here]

But one of the coolest things about this is that once a week from now through the beginning of October, I will be able to pick up a box of veggies, fruits, berries, herbs, etc.  All chemical-free.  All picked and packed with goodness, love, and care.  I get to try new things and learn how to use those things.  Awesome.  🙂

And if not raining, I also get a really GOOD dose of vitamin D!  😉

Some nights I dream about running away (but not long-term).  Not because I don’t love my family because I do.  I love my children.  I love my husband.  But I am tired.  Exhausted.  And I think that much of it stems from having to multi-task constantly.  All day.  Everyday.  (And I seem to do it even while I sleep.  Overachiever.  😉 )

Even while I typed this first paragraph, I have answered the phone, wiped a behind, listened to my child tantrum, gotten out snacks (don’t worry, I washed my hands! 😉 ), listened to my other child sass, given out tape, started supper, added to my list, etc.  I am pulled in so many different directions all of the time…

I know that I’m not the only mom/parent who goes through these emotions and while it’s nice to know that I am not alone in these issues, it doesn’t take the issues away.  I don’t feel any more rested.  I don’t feel any less overwhelmed.  I would like a vacation (without ANY responsibilities), but I don’t see that happening any time soon. (Some day… 😉 )

I guess, what I need is to figure out is how to multi-task more effectively so that I use less energy doing it.  Once upon a time, I was able to do this very well.  If only I could remember how…