Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break

Spring break had an... interesting start.  After the last appointment/class/obligation before we could officially declare the start of spring break, the battery in my van failed utterly, leaving me stranded with the kiddos in Olympia.  Could have been worse - Dearest was scheduled to get off work within a few minutes, so he was able to come and save the day, get the van started, and we all got home.  The battery was replaced forthwith, but I can't help feeling a little anxious, as the last three trips or events I have looked forward to have been canceled - one due to a failed ignition coil en route - and I don't want to miss another trip to Hansville!

There is hustle and bustle going on right now: a bit of spring cleaning, reorganizing, and planning.  There is also a lot of 'wet' outside, so that will limit some of what we had planned to do, as it's generally not considered wise to use power tools in the rain. Olympia set a rainfall record for March 29 with 1.98 inches, and our year-to-date is 7.79 inches; more than two inches above normal.

Speaking of an increase in numbers, a USA Today article states the CDC released a report that the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the US is up to 1 in 88 children, which is up 78% from 2002.  This leaves me, like many other folks, with a lot of questions - number one being: Why?  There is also the little matter of funding and coverage for therapies, which is still lacking in spite of the clear and obvious need.

Time to get going on my part of the list of things to do today, but I'll leave you with a little hint of hope for the future :-)

Raindrops on the Flowering Pear buds

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Fever!

We all have it. And it's about time! We had more periods of severe (for us) weather than usual this winter, and spring has finally begun showing up in the buds on my ornamental pear and other flowering trees, the daffodils in full bloom, the decreasing number of birds at our feeders, and the repetitive THWACK! and Sproing! noise of a basketball being dribbled and bounced off the rim in the driveway. Today was beautiful, and I was able to take this shot of tiny purple anenome flowers amongst the relatively giant daffodils. I have to admit I'm pretty impressed with the photo considering grandson Milo, who is now four-and-a-half months old and getting very grabby, 'helped' me take it.

Dearest spent a lot of time turning over the raised beds, and Girlie will be out carefully checking on her 'baby' trees and the volunteer snapdragons she lovingly took out of the vegetable garden last fall and planted in pots. I ponied up for new garden gloves (Costco has packs of SIX PAIRS of nitrile coated gloves for $7.99 - about what you'd pay for two pairs in a hardware store) because I can't stand it when the dirt starts getting caked on the inside of the fingertips. I'm not a habitual gardener, but I do love cleaning out my few bulb and peony planters in the spring, with an earbud playing an audiobook in one ear and birds singing courtship songs in the other.

Sounds like all is right with the world, yes? No. In fact, Girlie will be saying good-bye to The Pup at the end of April after all. He is going back to California early because he is large and smart and needs expert schooling - he has the makings of an exceptional guide dog, but his 'teenage rebellion' is hard to handle in a family setting. Reportedly, at least one of his litter mates is in the same situation. Guide dogs are bred to have initiative, and to show 'intelligent disobedience'. Consider this - if something unexpected is in the road and the blind handler tells the dog to go forward, the dog has to be smart enough to force the handler into a different, safer path. (Not all dogs will do that; some are dropped from the program because they don't have enough initiative to disobey when necessary.) But when that dog is a young upstart with a sassy attitude, he learns very quickly that he can try to boss some of his family members around, and it's clear that he needs a real job before he gets in trouble. 

Our coordinator came to talk with Girlie today and show her a few more tricks to handle The Pup for the next several weeks before he goes. She also asked Girlie to continue with the program even after The Pup leaves, by helping handle the coordinator's new puppy-in-training while she's leading the classes (it's great how the promise of puppy cuddles can take some of the sting out of a problem!). The Pup will still be here to help Girlie celebrate her 14th birthday next month, and they'll get to go on one more training outing together with the group. Girlie will be fine, in the long run, but I'm stocking up on Kleenex because she is already tearing up at random times when she thinks about him leaving. Thankfully it will happen at a time of year when there are so many other things that Girlie loves capturing her attention.

Spring fever affects my knitting, too - who wants to think about winter knits when it's finally warm enough to take my sweater off? I fell in love with this Mini Mania Scarf pattern and decided to knit it as a table runner with all my left over sock yarn. I've never knitted linen stitch before and I absolutely love it; it's repetitive and soothing (that means 'boring' to many knitters), but very fun to see the color development. I always want to keep knitting to see what will happen when I add the next yarn!

300 stitches wide, about 1.5 inches of fabric so far, using 7 different sock yarns.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


1. falterstrugglestallslow down, run into trouble, come unstuck (informal), be in difficulties, hit a bad patch 

Writing is not coming easily these days, because I'm feeling everything we're going through is just more of the same. Life in general is like that - we're just trying to be consistent in the way we're dealing with the current issues; some days it seems more of a grind, and I know that attitude comes across in my writing.

We're in the birthday season, which brings with it more adolescent behavior challenges, and we're approaching spring break. Next week we have half days, and both kids will need to be kept busy with something other than screen time. Dearest has vacation time during spring break and we have plans both for at home and a little trip!

Winter Flounder

If there is a question or topic I can address I'll be happy to do the research. I expect the next two weeks will provide something in the way of inspiration, as well. At the moment, the sun shining in the window over my shoulder is the best reason I can think of not to be writing - Happy Spring!  :-)

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Disappointment, Not a Disaster...

Recently I realized how stuck Girlie can get on the subject of Lost Things (caps used for emphasis because it's a Very Big Deal!). Everyone misplaces things, so this is just a normal event, right? No; in fact, Girlie works herself up to a full-blown meltdown when something is 'lost', and is unable to think rationally.

Twice last week Girlie had major episodes of anxiety because of misplaced items. First, she was convinced that someone threw away a stack of her cards she had set aside to give to a friend. I called to her attention the only other people in the house are family members who are fully aware of how important her Bella Sara cards are, and asked her if she thought anyone would do that. Her logical brain told her it was unlikely, but her irrational self kept taking control. Instead, Girlie kept stating where she had put them, and because the cards weren't there they must be 'gone forever'. Since we were trying to leave the house, I told her the cards were definitely still in the house and we would find them, so it was a disappointment that she couldn't give them to her friend that day, but not a disaster because the cards would be found and she could deliver them next time.

The next incident was in regard to The Pup's leash. This is also a simple thing, since we know we can't leave it somewhere the dog is not, because we have to use it to take him anywhere. Again, Girlie is imagining impossible scenarios: we left it at the training event (not possible, since we had to use it to bring the dog home), or that he ate it (yes, she was serious). I pointed out that even if he could have eaten several feet of leather in addition to all the hardware and the plastic disposal bag dispenser and left no clues, there would definitely be evidence outside. If she couldn't find the leash in time to leave for social skills, The Pup would have to stay home this time; again, a disappointment, but not a disaster.

Both of the items were found in the general area of where she thought she'd left them. My role in these cases is to keep coaching, calmly reminding her to look under things and move other things aside. This isn't something that will be resolved immediately, because Girlie is usually distracted and has a very hard time with the concept of 'a place for everything and everything in its place'. We're going to be working on that for a while, I expect.

None of this seems like a very big deal unless we fast-forward a few years and imagine a different scenario: what if Girlie is in college and can't find a text book for a few days? Even if it's in her tiny dorm room, if she is unable to calm herself and look for it, she will have to deal with what she perceives as a disaster all by herself, possibly missing days of class because she wouldn't know what else to do. These situations may seem like a minor annoyance in most cases, but they serve as a reminder that it isn't enough just to make sure Girlie is doing grade-level math, or keeping up in language arts. We have to make sure she can successfully manage the things neurotypical folks might take for granted.

There is a great article on the subject here. I don't agree that the educational system is failing to prepare our kids (what are families doing about teaching these skills?); but it would be nice if more opportunities could be found in school to teach lifeskills - even a task as simple as giving a child a map of the school and asking him or her to deliver something to a specific classroom in a different building or hall would be a very useful exercise.

In any case, helping Girlie learn to calm down and realize a misplaced item is no more than an inconvenience will go a long way toward helping her to think rationally in the event of a more urgent situation - it's a disappointment, not a disaster.

Here is a great example of a knitting mishap that can be pretty upsetting to knitters. After all, there are many hours of labor in a hand-knitted pair of socks! I figure my time was well spent, even if the socks were to get thrown away, but why not just learn to darn them? So that's what I'll do. It's a disappointment, not a disaster. :-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

You Wouldn't Think It...

It may surprise you to know how very, very powerful I am. Apparently I'm even in control of time, and use it solely for the purpose of making Girlie miserable.  :-(

Honestly, no matter how - or how many times - I explain it, she just isn't understanding that if she does not get out of bed when her alarm sounds, she will run out of time and have to rush to get ready for school. She can't get past being angry about it, and thinks it's my fault if she hasn't finished her breakfast.

Dearest and I have tried to explain the concept of the passage of time in every way we can think of, so I'm hoping to find a new idea. Oh, I think I just got one - really, just in that moment when I finished typing the sentence!

What if we draw the clock face and approach it with a math concept, showing the time as chunks? So, if the alarm goes off at 6:00 and Girlie doesn't get up 'til Dearest calls her again at 6:05, I draw the wedge of time as a triangle from the center of the clock to 6:00 and 6:05, to show her that five minutes are completely gone. That only leaves her with twenty; if she doesn't get up 'til the second time he calls at 6:10, she's down to fifteen, etc.

All right, we have a game plan, so I'll let you know how that works out. Just let me grab my cape...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Working Through It

After days of math misery and a session of after-school help, we've made it through the latest rough patch. Boyo is doing all right for the moment, and so is Girlie. In fact, the midterm reports that came home the other day looked great!

We'll be in the midst of birthday season, shortly, and Dearest and I aren't sure where that will lead us. A time for fun and celebrating, right? So one might hope, but we never know - in fact, the expectations leading up to the day can result in a crash of epic proportions so we try to keep things as low-key as possible. 

It can be difficult to achieve a celebratory feel that is satisfying to a child when the usual birthday party agenda doesn't fit the family. Fortunately, spring break falls between their birthdays and we try to have some very special combined event - this year it may be a trip to the zoo and the beach, since Dearest will be on vacation for the whole week! :-)

I'll leave you with a cartoon that ticks all the boxes for me: knitting, math jokes, and clever word-play. Have a great weekend!

Frazz Comic Strip - 2/25/12

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In The Now

Life is never really 'status quo' for very long, especially when we have children with challenges. Our environment is dynamic, and affected by so many things throughout the day.  Lately, in spite of some conflicts, we are experiencing a notable lack of drama here. I tell folks I'm not superstitious, but truthfully I almost hate to draw attention to our state of being, other than to offer up thanks to the powers that be.

This week, I can say we had a great week of school, an uneventful field trip (the best kind!), attended a fun birthday party, and spent some time in decent weather rollerskating in the driveway. What's not to love about that?

One of my favorite entertaining groups is Audiobody. You may remember them as the group that provided musical accompaniment for the Coke and Mentos videos. The eepybird videos are are fun to watch, but Audiobody are a blast, too.  Anyway, I thought I'd provide an audio-only link to "In the Now", just as a reminder that it's where we all are. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peer Abuse

I have a friend whose daughter is involved in a group called The Phoenix Project, which seeks to raise awareness and empower youth to rise above peer abuse.  They refer to bullying as 'peer abuse' to better describe what it actually is.

Unfortunately, children with challenges are much more likely to be victims of bullying, or peer abuse, than neurotypical kids (as are kids who are gay, transgender, or questioning). An added challenge for our kiddos with Asperger's is that they sometimes don't know how to report aggressive or threatening behavior.

While we are teaching our kids expected social behavior, we must also teach tolerance so our kids know that differences don't matter in the grand scheme of things; it is the ways in which we are alike that are far more important.  All humans have the same basic needs - aside from water, food, and shelter, we need to feel a sense of acceptance and community.

Pay extra attention to your child's behavior, and watch for signs of stress. Ask questions about how he or she feels at school (or anywhere they regularly are away from home, such as on the bus or in extracurricular activities and sports), and whether they have concerns about anyone else. Ask them if they know what to do if they see an act of peer abuse, and make sure they know what it is. Truly, a life may depend on it.

Another Lion Brand yarn free e-card