Archive for February, 2013

Chatty

For those who don’t know, Chloe, my youngest is mostly nonverbal — meaning she doesn’t use spoken language to communicate usually. Instead, she uses sign language, gestures, a communication device, and any other means she comes up with to get her point across.

She’s brilliant. While you and I and the rest of my family easily form the words, create the sentences and spurt it effortlessly out of our mouths, Chloe has to create a way to communicate with the person she’s trying to reach. And she amazes me.

I told you last week about her bargaining for more pudding. Well, she continues to make strides in her communication. These strides come slowly usually since she’s so laid back — usually a good trait, but for her it sorta cheats her out of communication since she’d usually rather just do without than to put forth the effort.

But yesterday before school she made me smile with her communication efforts again. She ate breakfast very very slowly. She was sleepy and moved in slow motion all morning. The result — no time for pudding after breakfast. (What??!! You don’t give pudding as a breakfast dessert to your kids?? Poor things!)

When she asked for pudding after breakfast, I told her that no, there was no time for pudding. And instead of just accepting my answer or throwing something or any number of responses, she said, “Yes! Pudding!”

Oh. my. gosh. She’s arguing with me now! Classic! Am I the first mom of an 11-year-old girl who celebrated the fact that my daughter was arguing with me?

Then this morning … Hmmmmm. Just realizing all of this communication is centered around food — particularly pudding. Seems it’s quite the incentive currently!

This morning, I offered Chloe a pudding that I opened last night. Since it was open, I put it in the fridge overnight. Chloe isn’t accustomed to cold pudding so we discussed the temperature of the pudding while she gulped it down. When it was gone, she signed and vocalized, “More cold pudding.”

Yep, she just communicated a whole sentence, a very direct and specific request, included an adjective, and didn’t say please!!

I love it!

I love my girl!

Advertisements

Crash!

Have you ever been surprised at your own emotion? At your own total breakdown? At your big ol cry?

Yeah, well, that was me today.

I’ve really been struggling lately with discipline, respect, obedience …. I’ve tried everything I know to do. While I can usually laugh and write a funny blog post about the latest adventures and the latest idea I have about training my children, the truth is that living it is very, very difficult sometimes. The truth is it’s hard and feels hopeless.

I decided earlier that I would call in a friend I’ve employed in the past. She has helped us with communication and technology with Chloe in the past. But while she was in our home helping with those things, she always had tons of input and great ideas on everyday life. She is the mom of two adult children with autism, and I have a lot of respect for her. I had decided I would call her in to help me with this impossible discipline situation. With the goal being to make my child likeable … to make him someone I don’t mind being around.

That’s pathetic to admit. But that’s where we are. Ever been in a place of just not enjoying your child? If not, just know it’s a painful place, a desperate place.

I picked him up from school today. He was whining and complaining before the van door was even closed. He repeated his annoying questions. He repeated his complaints. He used a terrible unkind voice. He used a whiny voice. I thought my ears, throat, and eyes would just bleed. It was terrible.

I finally pulled the van over calmly. I instructed him to get out of the van and close the door. Then I wanted him to open the door and get back in so we could just start over. We needed to start over because all he had been doing was trying to make me crazy for the last 10 minutes. While he thought this action was a bit out-there, he didn’t argue because he knew it was true.

He got out and then back in. I greeted him as if it were the first time I’d seen him since going to school this morning.

When I asked him how his day was, he replied, “Ohmygosh!” with such hatred and disgust. And I lost it.

I slammed on the brake (that’s always dramatic, isn’t it??) and turned around and said so very harshly to him through my gritted teeth so as not to just growl in frustration, “Don’t you ever say that to me again. I am so tired of that  and of that horrible disrespect! Yes ma’am??”

And then I peeled out.

Yeah, nice. I know. I lost it. I totally lost it.

On down the road a bit, he said something else. I don’t remember what. But the tears started falling. I fought it like crazy, but I was about to break down and bawl. And Mama doesn’t bawl in front of her kids. Mama doesn’t bawl in front of anyone. And it is not safe to bawl while driving.

I kept drying my eyes and fighting back the belly cry, the heart cry. I don’t experience this whole emotion thing enough to know that when you fight it as hard as I was fighting it, it makes it incredibly difficult to breathe. I tried to drive, wipe tears, keep my face from twitching into awful shapes, and trying now and then to fill my lungs with air. It was surprisingly torturous.

When I got home I asked my oldest if he would get his sister to her room for me, and I ran off to my room and closed the door. I laid on my bed and bawled. I cried the ugly cry. The cries were coming from my toes and choking the air from my lungs. I was crying quietly so my children wouldn’t know I was crying ….

You get the point, yes?

It’s ugly to admit. It’s ugly to talk about. But it’s life. And I want you to know that sometimes when we aren’t laughing about teaching the neighbors curse words or enjoying making Valentine’s, that life is just plain hard. I try my best to hide it. I do my best to pretend to the world that we are just an average everyday family. While a mama breaking down and crying is probably ordinary and normal, it’s experiences like this that really drive home to me that we’re not ordinary and normal. I happen to have a family that has some really unique needs. I happen to be part of a family that struggles and works hard to maintain order and … to just live life.

So, yes, I had a big ugly cry. I had a hard time. I broke down. And I’m feeling desperate to save my boy.

So… what’s for dinner?

…on with life! 😉

Curses!

puppy eyesThere is a little boy who lives on our street. He’s in first or second grade. His eyes … wow, his eyes. They are amazing! Big, brown, puppy-dog eyes. When he smiles, his cheeks fill with adorable dimples. But his eyes never change. Funny thing. He can be mad, sad, scared, hurt, confused, excited, surprised … but his eyes never change. His eyebrows don’t shoot up or scrunch up or furrow. But his eyes are just beautiful.

He’s a sweet, protected little boy. His young mama is good about not letting him stay at a neighbor’s house all day long without checking in. Only recently has he been allowed to come and play at our house unaccompanied by his sweet mama.

Yesterday Zippy was playing with this young neighbor. I walked up to them and heard the young boy say something about cuss words.

“Oh, brother, what is my son up to? And what did he say to this innocent boy?” were my first thoughts.

Zippy asked me as I approached if ‘what the heck?’ is a bad word.

First, I was relieved. Then I answered, explaining that some families consider it a bad word, and other families don’t.

The young neighbor boy said that in his family, it’s definitely a bad word.

I encouraged him and continued to explain to Zippy who seemed a little taken aback that ‘heck’ was a curse word. “Just like c-r-a-p is a cuss word to some families, but other families think it’s okay to say.”

Again, the young neighbor boy said that that word is definitely a bad word at his house, too.

At this point, I was fearful that he was going to run home and tell his sweet little mama that Zippy and his mama cussed him out and had the worst mouths ever. But, of course, his eyes didn’t let on what he was thinking or feeling, they just stayed their normal old puppy dog look.

The young boy then said that he couldn’t play with a certain neighbor anymore  because he said lots of cuss words. He began to list a couple of the potty mouth neighbor boys’ famous curse words. It was an unimpressive list until he announced that the potty mouth neighbor boy says the F word.

Zippy gasped out loud. I screamed and attempted to cover my gaping mouth.

“Seriously??!!”

“Really??!! He does??!!” we needed to know.

Zippy and I stared, gaping, with our eyes wild with wonder and surprise, waiting to hear more.

The little neighbor boy just looked at us with no expression. Those big, brown puppy-dog eyes looking as though we were just discussing scrambled eggs or something just as boring.

Zippy needed details. “You mean F-?-?-K??!!” he spelled the major F bomb outloud to those big brown eyes.

Those big brown eyes just stared at Zippy. Those big brown eyes gave nothing away.

Zippy and I waited, hardly breathing.

I finally realized that the young neighbor boy didn’t know the word that Zippy had just spelled for him. He was waiting for an explanation. Great. We just taught him the worst cuss word on the planet!! The F-Bomb, for crying out loud!

My mind spun quickly, looking for a plan, searching for an excuse or a story or a way out.

And it dawned on me. “You mean F-A-R-T?” I finally asked.

Those big brown eyes shifted to my face, and the little neighbor boy nodded his head slowly.

Oh. My. Word. I am spelling fart like it’s a bad word, and Zippy is spelling the worst word on the planet to the most innocent boy on the planet …. This was getting worse — way worse — really fast.

Zippy and I just looked at each other, our eyes fighting laughter.  Our eyes speaking surprise and awkwardness and saying a thousand things at once. But we just stared at each other, silent. And again not breathing.

“What now?” was the unspoken question between us.

“Alright, you boys go play!” I cheered, changing the tide and sending them on their way.

And I walked back in the house wondering what that sweet, sweet  mama was going to hear about us later and if we would ever be allowed to play with her young boy ever again.

Learned Negotiation

Yesterday, I fed Chloe her lunch and finished it off with a couple of cups of chocolate pudding. When she finished, she asked for more pudding.

I told her, “No. That’s plenty. No more pudding.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know Chloe, let me explain that she is nearly always very laid back. Her most common response to a comment like I made of “that’s plenty” is to just look away, start another activity, and never show any disappointment or reaction to the comment.

She, like a duck, just lets it all roll off her back.

Her second most common response which doesn’t happen a lot, is to show a ton of frustrated emotion by mimicking / mocking the person by screaming angrily with her little squeaky voice the exact words you just spoke. For instance, in this pudding situation, she would scream out, “That’s! Plenty! No! More! Pud! ding!

But yesterday after I told her that she didn’t need any more pudding, she didn’t respond in either of her usual ways. Instead she tried a new tactic.

She stuck up her little pointer finger and verbalized, “One.”

And then she signed and verbalized, “One. One pudding!”

Oh my gosh. She was bargaining with me! I said no to more pudding, and she was arguing, “Please, just one!!??”

Apparently she’s overheard her older brother negotiating for afternoon snacks everyday!! And she has learned the skill for sure!

Just for the record, I laughed at her and acknowledged the amazing communication and the awesome strategy, but I did not give her another pudding– not even just one!

Zippy’s Essay

Zippy does an amazing amount of screaming and yelling and chanting and hooting and hollering in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of us would really prefer a peaceful, quiet house. Seriously EVERY morning he yells and whoops and screeches. And literally EVERY morning, I remind him to quiet down.

I remind him it’s unkind. I remind him it’s annoying. I remind him that he’s making the people he loves the most feel more and more miserable by being so crazy and loud.

Not surprisingly, he doesn’t really seem to care.

Mind you, in the mornings he hasn’t yet had his meds that aid in his judgement. Some of it is out of his control, I’m willing to admit. But a good chunk of it is completely and totally purposeful and controlled.

I’ve tried griping. I’ve tried jumping jacks and laps and push ups. I’ve tried loss of privileges. I’ve tried grounding him. I’ve tried sending him to his room indefinitely. Nothing. works. at. all.

So yesterday I tried the dreaded all-afternoon-long essay threat. And after school, I delivered. I should note that it wouldn’t have taken all afternoon long if Zippy had just hushed and written it. But when you gripe, complain, question, tantrum, scream, and negotiate, it tends to cause the dreaded essay to actually take all afternoon long.

First, I explained the Prewriting section of his essay.

“Prewriting!!?? Why do I have to do prewriting!!??” he wailed and screamed and carried on. Bummer for Zippy, his mama used to be a writing teacher and knows all the steps to writing an essay.

The prewriting consisted of writing the names of his 4 family members who were affected by his actions. He was to list things he liked about each of them, things they each liked, and things they each disliked.

After a long while of freaking out and complaining and acting as though this prewriting assignment was above the realm of cruel and unusual punishment, he finally wrote. But what he brought to me was not things about his family and things they liked and didn’t like. It was one thing he liked about each, one thing they each liked and one thing they each disliked.

“Hmmmmmmmm. Sorry, but you didn’t follow my directions. Let’s try this again,” sympathized the mama.

More screaming and carrying on. More complaining.

Later, he brought me his prewriting:

I like Dad because he’s funny and likes to tell jokes. Dad doesn’t like McDonald’s or Little Ceasars. Dad likes Subway and Chikfila.

I like Mom because she likes to cuddle and give kisses. She doesn’t like Chikfila and Five Guys. She likes McDonalds and Little Ceasars.

I like Chloe because she does what I tell her to do and when I ask her to give me something she always says yes. She doesn’t like peanuts or Chikfila. She likes pudding and jello.

I like Elliot because he plays with me and he’s funny. He likes Chikfila and Little Ceasars. He doesn’t like McDonalds and jalepenos.

Ok, obviously, the above was written by my food-loving son. He was a bit focused on calorie consumption, it seems. Oh well.

I then explained that he needed to take these prewriting thoughts and use them in his essay. I wrote the introduction paragraph for him and the ending paragraph for him. He was to write the family member paragraphs in the middle. He would end up with a 6 paragraph essay.

Again, after some time of freaking out and screaming and acting as though he were in a torture chamber, he set to writing. And later brought me his finished essay. (Notice he used none of his prewriting ideas … odd. All new thoughts, which I guess makes complaining about a prewriting activity make sense. If you’re going to use the ideas you wrote in your finished product, then prewriting makes sense. But if the prewriting assignment is a completely unrelated essay, then maybe it’s worth complaining about! Ha!)

I love my family. I can show them that I love them by respecting them. I can respect them by doing things that bless them and not doing things that bother them.

I like Elliot because he’s a good brother. He helps me with my homework when I need it. He helps me with sports, too.

The thing I like about Chloe is that she is a good sister. She cries when I get an asthma attack.

The thing I like about Mom is that she helps me with asthma and she stays up all night with me if I need to.

The thing I like about Dad is that he breaks the law and lets me sit in shotgun.

I love Mom, Dad, Chloe, and Elliot. I want to bless them and will work hard to be a blessing.

(Ok, so the Dad-breaking-the-law-by-letting-me-sit-in-the-front-seat thing needs to be addressed. Other than that … some sweet thoughts.)

And so ended the essay writing assignment. Mama is certainly willing to use it again real soon — even though a bedroom got destroyed and an entire package of notebook paper got torn up in the process. It’s all part of the learning process, right?

“Hmmmmmmm. Bummer. Now you owe me money so I can replace the notebook paper. Oh, and how sad. Now you have to spend another 30 minutes fixing your bedroom instead of playing outside. Bummer,” recited his sympathetic Mama.

Chloe’s Valentines

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the list of Chloe’s classmates, two boxes of Valentine’s cards, and 3 packages of heart pencils. I had a black Sharpie for me, a red pen for her, and some tape. I ended up having to grab a pair of scissors since some of the Valentine’s card were quite unyielding and stubborn.

We sat in Chloe’s room with our supplies. I personally dread this particular activity every year — having 2 children who really struggle with handwriting having to write their name 22 times in a tiny space … grrrrr.

And I wasn’t sure how Chloe would react to this particular activity this year — she had been ill for a few days and wasn’t feeling up to par.

But I gathered our supplies, pretended to be excited, and we set to work.

I presented Chloe with the list of her classmates and asked her who she wanted to do first. After quickly scanning the page, she picked a name immediately and pointed to it with precision.

The name: Chloe M.

Oh, sheesh. Of course she chose herself! I forget that this precious child still often thinks she’s the only person on the planet. Or at least the only one who matters! 😉 I laughed and crossed out her name, explaining that she would get cards from the other kids tomorrow.

I again encouraged her to pick the name of the person she wanted to do first. She chose a name. She chose the other Chloe in her class. Did she choose it because she particularly likes that girl, or did she simply choose her because she likes her name — that wonderful name — Chloe?? Who knows. Who cares. Let’s just do Chloe’s card.

Chloe chose a Valentine card and a pencil for the other Chloe. I wrote the To section on the card and taped the pencil to the card and instructed Chloe to write her name on the From section of the card.

We went through her whole class list this way. She chose who to do next; she chose a card; she chose a pencil. I taped the pencil to the card, wrote the classmate’s name, and handed it to Chloe for her to sign her name.

She loved it. How do I know she loved it?

Well, you mean besides the fact that she did her Happy Growl the whole time?

I know she liked it because she continued to read that class list every time, and she continued to carefully and deliberately chose a name, a card and a pencil. She loved it. She participated to the very end.

I will add that she lost motivation toward the end. I’m not sure if she was just tired after writing her name 22 million 22 times or if she didn’t have the motivation since these last few classmates were her least favorites, or what.

When we were done, there were 3 Valentine cards left. We made one for her homeroom teacher and one for her aide. She enjoyed making those and acted a little bit like she was disappointed in the selection of cards and pencils for them — maybe she felt like she was giving them the sludge and wanted something better for them, I don’t know.

When we were done with her class and her teachers, there was one Valentine left. I showed the very last Valentine to Chloe and asked her if we should give the last one to Mrs. L (our next door neighbor who loves her very much and takes care of her several times a week) or if we should give the last one to Chloe.

Not surprisingly, she pointed to herself. She was pretty tickled that she was getting one of her own Valentines after all! 🙂

So on the last one, I taped the final pencil and wrote To: Chloe. Then I wrote From: Mom. And I gave it to her.

She was thrilled, let out a Happy Growl, read the card and studied the pencil several times. It was certainly turning  into a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

%d bloggers like this: