Friday, August 31, 2007

Little Charmer

On our way to the supermarket this afternoon, I was playing a CD for my kids. MM has to listen to the same two songs, then I usually get to skip to a song. When Gus is in the car with us, he gets a pick, too. When my song came on, I was singing along, and MM started singing (very loudly) something completely different. I explained to her that it wasn't a very nice thing to do because she doesn't like having her music interrupted. This was the conversation that followed:

I said, jokingly, "What's the matter, you guys don't like Mommy's singing?"

Gus replied, "We's like a lullaby."

"A lullaby," I asked? He normally tells me to be quiet when I start singing.

"Yes," he said, "But more peaceful."

"Well, you're charming!" I said.

If I wasn't driving the car I would have fallen over laughing and then given him the biggest squish!

He and his sister then proceeded to make me want to rip my hair out, but that's a story for another day. I'll choose to focus on the positive for now.


There are nice people in the world. I’ve probably met both of them, but it’s good to know that they do exist.

We took the kids to the lake today, probably for the last time this summer. It wasn’t very crowded: just us and a woman with a brood of girls from ages ranging (I’m guessing) from about six up to perhaps thirteen. Clearly they were not all hers. And they were not all very nice, either (for that whole story read my post in Quite Frankly).

But we’re discussing the nice guys right now, the two lifeguards who had the goodness of heart to be kind to a slightly quirky little boy. My mother-in-law pointed out that Gus is a very likable and sweet child, and of course I agree, but that doesn’t always stop people from giving him looks or ignoring him because they don’t understand his means of communication or being flat out mean because he’s making those engine revving noises between each thought that excites him. Sometimes people are not so compassionate, but the lifeguards were, and I will never forget that kindness.

Gus had decided to take his boogie board into the water for a spell, just after the lifeguards had decided to take a dip. This is very unusual for our lifeguards; we rarely see them in the water. At first, Gus was just hanging out, trying to climb on the board and splashing back into the water. Then he got the idea in his head to strike up a conversation with the lifeguards. Now, I couldn't hear the entire exchange, but I know there was some talk of different Disney movies, and I can extrapolate the rest. Gus probably asked if they'd seen each of the movies that he's seen, probably said that he's seen movies that he hasn't, and more than likely told them all about the upcoming live show at Disney World featuring the Choo-Choo Soul and the Imagination Movers. I'm fairly certain that Gus inquired as to why they were in the water at all as well. Let me just point out that one of the guys is probably going to be a senior in high school in a few days and the other is heading off to college.

Instead of blowing him off to finish their discussion of Halo III or whatever it is that boys their age talk about, they spent no less than an hour hanging out with Gus. After a while the older of the two even started holding the board so that Gus could get on and fling himself off. They totally engaged him and it was just the most awesome thing to watch. There was no impatience, no raised eyebrows or cocked heads when he did the little humming thing he does sometimes. The three of them were like old buddies.

I got in the water after a while so that my father-in-law could keep a closer eye on my daughter, and the boys chatted with me on and off, and didn't push away when Gus tried to interact with them some more.

They really were lovely young men and I wish only good things for them. Some people just deserve it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to School Shopping

We did our back-to-school shopping and I have to say, I was totally floored at how well Gus did in the store. I normally dread taking the kids anywhere near a store alone, but school starts next week and we had nothing better to do, so I tried it. I thought it would give me an idea of how Gus is doing with the sugarless diet. Very well, apparently.

Usually taking the kids to a store means constant squirming, trying to run off, whining, crying - everyone knows the drill. Before we left I ran through the two main rules: stay with mommy, stay in the cart. I repeated it just before we got out of the car. Then we struck gold and found one of those double carts - fun carts, my kids call them. They're much more comfortable for he kids and much easier than having to keep one sitting (usually Gus although he's a little big for the front of a shopping cart) and holding the other's hand. He didn't try to get out of the cart once. I even had to unbuckle him to check the length on some pants and I left him unbuckled for a few seconds while I looked for a different size, and he still didn't go anywhere. That is a MAJOR accomplishment on his part.

His MM started getting antsy before Gus did, but when she started whining and having a fit about not getting something or other that she wanted, he didn't react much. In the past, I would have had a double meltdown on my hands - a triple meltdown once I started to lose it.

As it worked out, she calmed down relatively quickly and we got out of the store without incident.

It's kind of funny that I was reading Whitterer on Autism (another blog and one I highly recommend) earlier and she posted about feeling like her son was a different person after he started taking medication. I'm feeling something similar with Gus. It's odd not to have him running around like a lunatic, not having to struggle with him in a store until my arms want to snap off, or to see him so calm I have to keep asking if he's okay. It's quite surreal. If just removing the sugar from his diet can keep him this level, I sort of wonder what he'd be like on medication. I'm not quite ready to find out, but these have all been very interesting developments.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not enough empathy or too much?

Many babies, at the moment of their birth, come out of the womb with their eyes scrunched or swollen shut. Gus came out with his eyes bulging out of his head hyper-aware of everything going on around him. Then he sort of shut down for about forty-eight hours. We were scared because he wasn't crying or waking up to eat; he just slept.

I've heard it said that kids on the spectrum can be unaware of how others feel, that they can lack empathy. I think that Gus is exactly the opposite. I think he is too aware, at least sometimes, of how people are feeling and maybe that contributes to his shutting down or melting down. Here's a prime, very common example. When MM starts crying dramatically about the injustice of having to eat dinner, and then gets fresh, and then gets sent to her room, Gus deteriorates with each stage of the game. He'll try to tell her to eat her dinner, and when that doesn't work, he'll get the deer-in-headlights look on his face. He knows what's coming. When her tantrum hits its peak, he loses it - not tantruming along with her, but the most heart-wrenching, pitiful, teary-eyed crying that I've ever seen. Sometimes he'll even say he's heartbroken. If one of his classmates gets hurt, Gus cries and frets until he knows they're okay. He's very aware of what other people are feeling even if he doesn't always get what they're saying or what their body language means.

I wonder about his level of empathy and it pains me to think that I'm having a negative effect on him because of my own issues. Since he's been out of school, he's become more and more lethargic. Coincidentally, I've been fighting a mostly losing battle to keep my own depression at bay. It dawned on me that he might be picking up some bad mojo from me now that he's home with me all day. Or maybe that's the depression talking and trying to make me think that something else is to blame on my shortcomings.

Well in the meantime, I suppose I can be glad that I know my children are both sensitive to the needs and emotions of others, and I should be fairly appreciative that he hasn't been tearing up the house since he's been home.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why we are still home on such a beautiful day

This time of year is tough. Lots of people are away on vacation and I've got two kids trapped in the house with me. The sky is clear for a change, the temperature mild, and yet here we three are, stuck in the house together. The obvious thing to do would be to pack some snacks and a couple bottles of water, and take these guys to the beach or to the park or for a hike. When I'm feeling particularly brave, I do that - when I'm at my most alert and energetic and focused. But on days like today, when I'm pretty alert, and more energetic than I was yesterday, but still not feeling very frisky, and not very focused or grounded at all, going out is a scary thought.

No one would understand if they had never gotten the phone call: "Hello, Mrs. _____, this is Officer _____, and let me first assure you that everything is fine...." Except that everything isn't fine, or at least it wasn't always fine or Officer _____ wouldn't be calling.

Gus was lost once. He was with a family member who had taken the kids to the park - MM must have been about two, so Gus had to be four, or about to turn four. The family member picked up MM and then went to return a shovel or some other such thing to a mom, taking his eyes off of Gus for a second. But that was all it took. Gus took off, left the park, and was gone.

Twenty minutes or forty-five minutes - I have no idea how long he was missing. No one called me - not even the family member (which in retrospect, was probably the best thing for his health at the time) called me to tell me that Gus had disappeared. The call came after the police found him and had returned him to his caregiver.

Gus, it seemed, had left the park, walked about a quarter of a mile,or maybe half a mile, had gone into a building garage where someone had apparently just pulled out, and gotten stuck inside when the door closed. Another resident of the building (I hope she's hit lotto by now or has been blessed in some other miraculous way) found him and called the police who were already searching for him. I think we were all being watched by some powerful angels that day.

So now, it is very rare that anyone takes the two children out alone. I've been pretty insistent about a one-to-one ration when the children are out of the house. Even when we had the babysitters this weekend, there were two people here because you just never know with Gus. He just gets these ideas in his head and acts.

This leaves me with a dilemma. I know I watch my kids more carefully than anyone else, but what would happen if Gus were to get one of those impulses and take off? I know my own limitations and I've never been the swiftest at acting reflexively. Do I go after Gus in that instance, or grab MM and hope she's not going to put up a fuss (unlikely) to go and chase after him? I certainly couldn't leave her to go after him.

This is the reason I'm still sitting in the house at noon. We've already had lunch and I'm wracking my brain for the next thing to do. I suppose we'll play a board game. Perhaps if we're very lucky one of the neighbors will come out with their kids. If I see these guys getting really antsy, I may have to go and knock on some doors. It's been a long six hours that we've been awake, and the coming six, until Daddy comes home, are not looking like they're going to go any faster.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another Step Forward

Last night, for the first time ever, we went out and left the kids with non-family babysitters. Yes the plural is intentional; I'm not totally insane. Gus's godfather and his wife came over, had dinner and then put the kids to bed. I am pleased to say that neither of the kids gave them a moment's grief and all was well.

Now, I wouldn't have left them with just anyone. Our friends both have training and lots of experience in dealing with special-needs adults - it's what they do for a living. So I felt confident that if Gus had a meltdown or went into a little hyperactive burst, they wouldn't freak out. As it turned out, Gus did do a bit of climbing and racing through the house crashing into the walls, but they put a stop to it quickly and in a way that I thought was very clever. It wouldn't have worked if I tried it, but that's because I'm Mom and they know me well enough to know what my threshold is. But a new person, well, she might not put up with much, so best not to push her. Kids are just so brilliant.

MM tried to weasel an extra story, but godfather shut that down easily too. She said she needed two people to tell her a story; he replied that he told her two stories so it was the same as two people telling one story each. I think by the time she reasoned that out, she was probably asleep.

I doubt we'll be going out like that again any time soon, but there is a wedding (husband's family) that we'll need babysitting for very soon. So thank goodness we've found someone!!