Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Storm Brewing

It was a beautiful day. Boo and I had a great morning together. I got the yard mowed, and Boo and The Wiener Dog pretended to be superheroes while the lawn mower played the part of the villain. I had a nice bath and washed the grass off, and only at the very end did Boo attempt to climb in with me and insist on giving me toys. Because, you know, you are being deprived if you have no toys in your bathtub.

We made a quick trip to the local grocery store for a jar of mayo. Boo insisted on staying in the car while I ran inside. When I got back, I found him sitting in his seat with his chin on his chest. I asked him what was wrong. No answer. I asked again. No answer. "Booooo????" A small voice replied "I'm sleeping, stop bothering me." I stifled a giggle, then stage whispered to myself "Darn, I can't give Boo these chicken strips I bought him because he is sleeping." Grocery store chicken strips are one of his favorite things lately. Chin still on his chest, he reached one hand toward me and said with a sigh "I guess I'll take them. They help me to stop sleeping sometimes."

Back at home, Boo got busy playing with toys and imagining all sorts of games. His imaginative play is often structured like a computer game, complete with imaginary buttons he invites you to "click." I knew that the forecast called for storms in the evening. I noted that the clouds had begun to move in. Boo's normal complete inability to be still for two seconds hyperactivity was even more pronounced than usual. Boo's Dad arrived home for the first time in three days. Boo was ecstatic to see his dad. I set to work making a dish to take to the family barbecue later, and listened in to their play. Boo was scripting himself and his dad. He was creating races and had less than usual tolerance for deviation from his idea of how it should go.

Boo: "Dad, do you like car number 2?"
Dad: "Yeah!"
B: "No you don't."
D: "Ok."
B: "Dad, do you like car number 2?"
D: "No."
B: "Why not?"


B: "Ok, Dad, the speed limit is 55, so you can drive that or slower. But not faster."
D: "Ok."
(Boo counts down and starts the race, and dad rockets around the "track" ahead of him.)
B: "NO Dad! You weren't supposed to go that fast!"
D: "I was only going 54."
B: "That's too fast."
D: "You said it was 55 or slower, so I went 54."
B: "No, it's only 5. I changed it."

The longer it went on, the more incessant Boo's chatter became. I was cracking up listening. Mostly because I was in a state of joy that there was another set of ears in the house again and it wasn't directed solely at me. Dad eventually went to attempt a nap before time for the barbecue. Next thing I knew, Boo was running circles around the house at top speed. He was a ball of pure energy, unstoppable and intense. I began to countdown the minutes till the barbecue began, longing for him to be able to run, climb, and pedal his way around the place.

Outside, the wind was picking up and the temperature was beginning to cool. I decided that Boo and I ought to change from shorts to pants. We changed clothes and I started gathering things together to get ready to leave. Boo wanted to take his toy Lightening McQueen with him but couldn't find it. He was screaming and upset, and refusing to go. It seemed like a meltdown was imminent, but suddenly he calmed and decided that rather than taking the plastic toy that had been on his birthday cake when he turned four, he could take the metal one he had been playing with just five minutes earlier. But we couldn't find that one either. It was a downright Lightning emergency. Finally it was located and we all headed out to the car.

For a while after we arrived, everything was perfect. Boo was playing happily. I was enjoying adult conversation. I realized I had forgotten to bring my dish, so I headed back into town to get it. On the way back I photographed this cloud bank moving in.

Shortly after I got back to my dad's house the wind picked up furiously and it started to rain. We moved inside the shop building, said a prayer, and began to fill our plates. Of course, there was nothing there that Boo would even consider eating. I had tried to get him to eat before we left home, but he only had three small strips of garlic cheese bread. He is usually content just to play outside while the rest of us eat but this time he was not happy about being cooped up in the shop. The floor in front of the shop doors was wet from the rain and Boo slipped and fell on the slippery concrete. He cried about his hip hurting, but soon got back up and insisted on walking back and forth in front of the doors repeatedly. After a few more falls I finally insisted that he stop walking in the wet area. So he decided to take up a campaign for going home immediately. He whined and begged the entire time I was trying to eat my meal. The main problem was that the seat of his pants was wet from his repeated falls on the wet concrete. But beyond that, he was simply bored.

I continually suggested that he choose from his selection of toys his grandpa keeps in the shop, but he refused. He decided that he wanted to play darts, and set about making the rounds among the family asking each one in turn if they were finished eating. He finally found someone to play with him and for a while his wet pants were forgotten. Later, as everyone was leaving, he found his tricycle and started riding circles around the shop at top speed, shouting "Look out, train coming through-woo!" I helped with cleaning up the place. But when it was time to leave Boo refused to get off the bike. It took repeated requests, and finally the threat of a swat to get him off the bike. He put it away but refused to leave. After having spent most of the evening annoying the daylights out of me begging to go home, when it was actually time to leave he was begging to stay. I had pulled my car around in front of the shop so we wouldn't have to walk far in the rain.

My husband was gathering our belongings as I attempted to get Boo to go to the car. He dug in his heels and his tantrum began to lean toward a meltdown. My nerves were hanging by a thread. The entire evening felt like a trial instead of a joy. I insisted, and he hit me. I swatted his backside and he hit meltdown status. I picked him up and asked my step mother to open the door for me. I carried him to the car, and had to force him screaming and flailing into his car seat. He was clawing at the seat belt trying to prevent me from buckling it, but I finally got it done. By then my husband was on his way out with both his hands full, so I opened his car door for him. As he sat down, Boo was furiously pummeling the back of the passenger seat with his feet and screaming like a banshee. I snapped at him to knock it off and he stopped kicking. As I walked around to my side of the car my step mom caught my eye from where she stood in the doorway of the shop and she remarked "You know, a wooden spoon works great for that."

I was tired, annoyed, stressed, standing in the rain, and ready to snap like a crocodile. I shot her the nastiest glare I could muster and shouted past her "goodbye Dad." Then I got into the car and drove us home. Boo continued his blood-boiling scream in the backseat for a couple minutes before it began to subside. He had smacked his finger on a table while pretending to be a train and now he suddenly decided this was a terrible injury. We arrived home and I got him settled with an ice pack on his finger and an episode of Spiderman and His Amazing Friends on the TV. He ate a bowl of cheese crackers while the show played, and afterward he happily transitioned to his bedtime routine and fell peacefully and soundly asleep. But the thunder in my mind and heart continued rolling long after the thunder outside faded into the distance.

"As the storm blows on, out of control...deep in her heart, the thunder rolls." 
The Thunder Rolls, Garth Brooks

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bye Bye Binky!

A few months ago, there was a furious exchange of texts between Boos Mom and Mammo. The gist of the conversation was "OMG! Elmo is giving up his binky on Sesame Street!!!" We were especially excited about this because Boo was LONG overdue to give up his binky as well. We had worked our way down to convincing him that he could ONLY use it for bedtime, and only while laying in his bed. No mid-day rest time on the couch, no using it to soothe after a meltdown or injury. I comforted myself with the idea that most of the time, once he fell asleep, the binky would fall out of his mouth, so the amount of damage being done to his mouth/teeth was minimal. Of course, I knew this was a giant load of crap, but it made me feel better. Besides, I was making no inroads at all into the idea of giving up the binky completely, and I knew instinctively that this was not a battle I should choose.

Boo has never been motivated by the idea of being a "big kid" or growing up. (With the exception of being thoroughly convinced that he would gain overnight the ability to beat his classmate in a foot race once he turned five.) I had been unable to find anything that would motivate him at all toward the idea of giving up the binky. I approached all the old standby stuff, the binky fairy, taking it away cold turkey, etc. The only one I didn't do was to cut off the tip, because again, I knew instinctively that doing so would produce a bedtime $%*! storm. So Mammo and I watched him watch Elmo talk about this milestone and chewed our fingernails in hope. We hoped that this song would worm its way into his mind like it did ours, and the idea would start to take root.

After I knew he had seen the segment a few times, I started to introduce the idea that someday he wouldn't need his binky anymore. It was a gentle thing. Never asked him to give it up NOW. But I knew his birthday was coming soon. So when I gave him the bink at bedtime I started to tell him that "one day you will be so big that you won't need this anymore." I left it at that. Then after a while, I mentioned that babies use binkies and big kids don't, and one day he would be big enough not to need it. Every time I used this sort of language I used it while giving him the binky so that he didn't feel that he was being pressured to let it go now. Just trying to get him thinking about it. It's all baby steps! After a while, I tried applying a time stamp to this concept. I suggested that when he turned five he wouldn't need the binky anymore. That's when I started to see resistance, so I backed off a bit. I didn't talk about it every night, but did mention it a few more times. But the resistance got stronger, so I stopped talking about it. The last thing I wanted to do was create anxiety surrounding his birthday and suck the joy out of turning five. So I stopped talking about it.

Then, the night before his birthday, I got ballsy brave. As I handed him the binky, I reminded him that the next day he would be five. I then simply asked him "So what will that mean tomorrow night?" To my astonishment, he replied "I won't need my binky." He was so matter-of-fact about it. I was stunned and proud. But also, I knew better. I knew there was no way it was going to be that easy. The day that he officially turned five was a big and fun day! By bedtime, Boo was exhausted. I took a deep breath, and when he asked for his binky, I reminded him that he was five now, and therefore did not need it. He began to cry and beg, but not as badly as I anticipated. We managed to compromise by allowing him to use it while we read books, and then put it away for sleep. So on his fifth birthday he fell asleep without the binky. He did cry about it a bit, and asked for it several times. He told me repeatedly that his mouth was uncomfortable. But he fell asleep.

The next night, I refused to give it to him during book time. I explained that now that he is a big kid, the bink, which is made for babies, can damage his teeth if he continues to use it. This threw him for a loop. I could see he was really considering that. He did not like the idea of any "damage" to his body. We somehow managed to get through bedtime without much credible resistance. It helped also that once again, it had been a big day, and he was extra tired. Over the next week, his requests for the binky quickly dwindled. It didn't take long for him to quit mentioning it at all. When he did, he insisted that his mouth was uncomfortable, and asked me "what am I going to munch on?" But it never once came to the point of a meltdown, or even a credible threat of one. Not even so much as a tantrum. I was stunned. I made one facebook post about it on the night of his birthday, but other than that I maintained public silence on the issue. I didn't want to press my luck, or to eat my words. I wasn't sure this would hold.

I hid all the binkies in my sock drawer where he would happen to see him and be reminded of them, but where they would be easily accessible in the event of a middle-of-the-night binky emergency. I haven't taken them out since. Every week or so Mammo would tentatively ask me "is he still going to bed without the bink?" Yep! We were both proud and amazed, but also kind of waiting for the other shoe to fall. Well, tonight will be the 25th night in a row that my Boo goes to sleep with nothing in his mouth but what God gave him. I didn't think I would ever see this day happen. I'm so proud of Boo, and so thankful that I was so lucky.

How about you? Did you/your child have difficulties giving up certain aspects of baby-hood? Share your stories with me!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hey Girl...

This is my first time jumping on the Ryan Gosling bandwagon. If you need an explanation, go here.

Update: I just had to add this one:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Boo's First Dentist Appointment!

Boo is extremely orally sensitive. He always has been. Keeping his teeth brushed has always been difficult, and if I am really brutally honest, I haven't always made much of an effort to even try. I know, I know, so don't bother lecturing me. Back when he was almost two I had started the process of finding him a dentist, but before he ever had an appointment I suddenly got laid off from my job and poof, we had no insurance. Fast forward three years and there he is happily jumping away in the bounce house in our back yard at his fifth birthday party. Then suddenly he is wailing and running to me. He had somehow fallen face first into another kid's back and hurt his mouth. He was very upset about it. Later after the excitement was over he again complained about his mouth. When I got a better look, I saw that one of his bottom incisors was missing a big chunk of enamel! Uh oh.

The very next business day I started calling around for referrals. I needed a dentist who "gets it." I wasn't about to just pick someone out of a phone book. I checked out the website of one of the practices that was recommended and fell in love. I called to set an appointment and of course, they had no openings until October. Five months. I took it, and hoped that we wouldn't experience any trouble before then. Monday afternoon I got a phone call. It was the dentist office. They said that they had a cancellation and they would like to offer it to Boo. Great! When? Tomorrow! I had less than 24 hours to prepare my son for his first ever dental visit! But I knew I would be a fool not to take the chance. So Tuesday afternoon Mammo came over and we all got in the car and headed to town, fingers, toes, legs, and eyeballs crossed.

I had showed Boo the website. Showed him the pictures of the reception desk, waiting area, and treatment areas. The home page had a monkey hanging from a tree and brushing its teeth, which Boo found hilarious. I also showed him pictures of the doctor he would be seeing. I told him that if he let the doctor count his teeth, he could choose any reward he wanted. I prepared myself to shell out twenty buck I could ill-afford for the much coveted wall tracks expansion, but Boo announced that for his reward he would like to have reece's pieces. He was thrilled to play in the waiting room, but as soon as his name was called, he morphed into Clingy McScreamerson. I carried him down the hallway to the exam room. Instead of dental chairs, they simply have small beds that lay flat. He refused to even consider sitting on it. He was trying to climb inside my skin. But then he noticed something on the ceiling. A TV was mounted above the exam area, pointing straight down, and on it was playing Despicable Me! How cool is that? He asked about it and the girl showed him a set of wireless earphones. Of course, he refused to even consider wearing them, but I feigned excitement and put them on myself. Hey! I can hear the movie! He still didn't want to wear them so I set them down and pretended to ignore him while I answered questions and discussed his history and my concerns with the assistant. Before I knew it....

He had the headphones on. This, they boy who has literally refused any attempts to put anything on his head (except his hoodies) since birth, was wearing headphones. I pretended that I didn't even notice, and continued talking with the assistant. Next thing you know...

He never really got all the way up on the exam bed, but he was close. He did sit on it at one point. I simply never made a big deal out of it. He then started messing with the buttons on the headphones and soon they weren't working right. I put them on and I was hearing a different movie. I told the girl that they were playing Cars. Boo got excited and asked if he could see Cars instead and she changed the movie to Cars. They chatted a bit about his love of Lightning McQueen, and next thing I knew, she grabbed her tiny microphone hanging from her tiny earpiece (think Hollywood Secret Service), pushed a button, and said "can you get us a bag with a Lightning McQueen toothbrush please." And POOF, another lady appeared in the door and handed over a small bag containing said toothbrush, some toothpaste and some floss. Boo was totally excited by the toothbrush. Then the girl started talking to Boo about all the special tools they use and asked if he wanted to check them out. She presented him with a small dental mirror.

He took it from her, checked it out, and told her "this reflects whatever is in front of it," and then used it to watch Cars on the ceiling. I was equal parts amused and amazed by their exchange. Soon after that the doctor came in. They chatted easily. After she and the assistant conversed briefly, she showed Boo her special glasses with magnifying glasses in them. He was enthralled. She asked if he wanted to try them, and I almost feel out of my chair when he said yes.

He didn't wear it long. As she and I talked at length, Boo noticed the dental light that was hanging down from the ceiling. This what where they REALLY impressed me. They let him play with it to his heart's content, switching it on and off, moving it all around, barely even reacting when he kept shining it directly in the doctor's eyes by accident. This kept him distracted while she discussed his diet and oral hygiene habits with me, recommending some products that could help protect against cavities, and giving me absolutely no pressure about the nature of his eating habits and the rarity of his brushing.

After that, she showed him her blue gloves and let him watch her put them on, and feel the texture of them. Then she showed him her mask, holding it in front of her, then explaining to him as she hooked it over her ears, then pulled it up to cover her mouth and nose. She then put on her glasses again and let him get comfortable with the way she looked.

He never did allow her to touch him, and she never pushed the issue. She gave him a hand-held mirror and asked him to look at his own teeth, and she got as good a look as she could while he did so. I then reminded him of the promised reward, and the dentist mentioned that she had an airplane she could give him when he was done. He zeroed in on that airplane idea. I told him if he wanted to earn his reward he had to let the doctor look at just one of his teeth. He was sitting in my lap facing me, and I turned my back to the doctor so she could see him. I asked him which tooth the doctor could look at. He opened his mouth wide and pointed to one way in the back, which gave her another peek inside the mouth. He then clamped shut and totally shut down, trying to climb inside my skin once again. It was apparent to me that he was done. That was all the cooperation we were going to get out of him that day. To my amazement, it seemed apparent to the doctor as well.

She then told me that she was totally happy to stop at that point and call it a successful appointment, and try to get a little further next time. She said that she had gotten a pretty good look at the chipped tooth and was not concerned about it. She also got a look at some of the molars and said she was happy with them, and didn't see much plaque or anything that concerned her, which astounded me. She also blew me away when she mentioned that they are working on creating a social story for their practice, including pictures of all the areas and pictures of both the doctors in the practice wearing their "gear." We discussed our plan for going forward and decided to try again in three months and see how we do. She also said that they have a lot of parents of "spectrum kids" who simply stop by when they are in the area sometimes, just to have another pressure-free, stress-free point of contact with the kids to build positive experiences and memories. The entire time we were there I felt as though they had all the time in the world for us, and more compassion and understanding than I had ever dreamed.

Boo indeed received his promised toy plane, and though he left the office in tears (because we didn't have time to play in the waiting room some more) once we were on the road and I asked him what he thought of the dentist, he cheerfully announced that it was great! He was looking at the package the plane came in, and it showed six different models. He said he wanted to get a different one next time, and he wanted to get one every time till he has them all. Sounds like a plan to me, little man! I couldn't be prouder!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Field Trip, Boo Style

Tuesday was Boo's big class field trip. As with all his preschool field trips, both the 3-4 year old class and the 4-5 year old class went together, along with parents and siblings, making us quite the noisy and chaotic group. Unlike the other few field trips taken during the school term, this one did not fit withing the time frame of the normal three hour school day. This one included taking a lunch! This is the same trip that we took last year when he was in the 3-4 class, so it helped that he and I both knew what to expect. But what helped most was the fact that I have been able to adjust my expectations with these kinds of events. Now, instead of pushing him to participate in the same way as his classmates for fear he will "miss out" on some vital part of his childhood, I am able to realize that my boy knows his limits. He knows what he can manage and how, and more importantly, he knows what he can't handle. And I have learned to listen. So this time, I was able to relax and allow Boo to have fun and participate in his way, and to experience his childhood. It didn't always look like everyone else's field trip, but that's OK. Because what better gift can we give our children than the permission, freedom, and security to be themselves?

We began by meeting at school and getting our instructions. Then we drove to the local zoo. Since we are a small private preschool, we don't go together in a bus. The teacher drives a van, with any students whose parents couldn't come. The parents either drive themselves or carpool together. So there was a big caravan going down the highway. The entire time, Boo was obsessed with the fact that we were behind Little Britches. He wanted me to hurry up and pass him. He insisted it was a race. Finally, when he learned that still more cars were behind us, he became satisfied with being in fourth place because hey, at least we weren't last! We arrived at the zoo and were waiting in the parking lot for everyone else to arrive. The kids were playing and talking together. A couple other mothers were putting sunblock on their kids since it was a very hot and sunny day. I mentally kicked myself for not thinking of sunblock. One of the moms offered me the stick sunblock for his face. I thanked her and tried to apply it, but he recoiled and screamed at me. I tried to reason with him and show him that his friends were putting it on so they wouldn't get sunburned. He requested to get the spray sunblock like another boy did, and the other mom was kind enough to spray him down. I was shocked that he stood happily still while she sprayed his arms, legs, neck, ears, and then used her fingers to apply some to his face. I made a mental note to attempt to hire her for all future summer-time outings.

With that, we headed toward the zoo entrance. Boo and Little Britches were hand-in-hand of course. Our first stop was the "pavilion" where we attended an animal presentation. This consisted of a series of animals being shown while the zoo keeper talked briefly about them, then gave the kids a chance to touch them. Boo was engaged at first, but as the keeper droned on she quickly lost his attention. Instead of trying to keep him focused on what she was saying, I watched for any signs that he was ready to bolt and just made sure he wasn't disruptive. Because, let's face it, how important is it really that he knows what a woodchuck's favorite food is? Other than chanting a few times about how much wood a woodchuck can chuck, he stayed pretty well settled. He politely declined to touch most of the animals, and I let that one go too. Because it's more important that he have a happy and fun field trip than that I get a picture of him touching a Madagascar hissing cockroach.

When the animal show was over, it was time for the highlight of the entire trip. (At least for Boo) A ride on the zoo train! This is just a small local free zoo, so the train ride isn't elaborate. There are no animals to look at, just some animal statues. But it's an actual train, with a conductor, a whistle, and actual tracks. We even went through a tunnel! (kind of a glorified shed which holds all manor of parts, tools, and supplies. Boo was excited to point out the bottle of Gatorade he saw sitting on a shelf!) After the train ride, we headed in to the zoo. The first stop where the kids gathered was the pond. I gave Boo a quarter to buy fish/bird food from the machine. We got an adult size handful. He insisted on throwing it in one tiny piece at a time. He also insisted on standing precariously close to the edge of the pond and throwing the food will all the force he could muster. I just knew he was going to go in the water before the food was gone, but thankfully he didn't.  However, it took him so ridiculously long to finish that every other member of the class had long since moved on. I reminded myself that it didn't matter if he took his joy in the same activities as his peers.

After the pond, Boo's next stop was the rope web. He remembered it from last year, and was looking forward to climbing on it again. I was thrilled to note how much more coordinated he was on it than he had been last year. And of course, the whole time he was on it, he was pretending to be Spiderman!

After Spiderman finished saving the world from evil villains, he moved on to the play area designed to look like a fossil dig site. While the other kids played in the sand pit, using shovels and brushes to unearth the buried "bones," Boo was climbing back and forth along the wall on the edge of the play area. Again, he was so precariously close to the edge that he made me nervous. But I had to laugh when he announced to a group of girls "I'm your friendly neighborhood Spiderman!" Then, after all his classmates had moved on to the next activity, Boo decided he wanted to get into the sand pit and "find" fossils. I felt bad that he always seemed to be three steps behind his peers at every turn. But he didn't seem to mind.

Spiderman hard at work protecting the playground from the Green Goblin

After a quick walk through the couple animal exhibits that were actually open (there's a lot of construction projects going on that have a part of the zoo closed off), it was time to make our way to the bathrooms for potty breaks and hand washing before lunch. At this point, Boo suddenly became obsessed with the fact that there was sand in his shoes, and between his toes. By the time I had coaxed him to the bathroom, all the other kids and parents had already finished. Boo chose a stall, and I entered it with him, holding my hands over his ears while he used the toilet. Then after he washed his hands, I lifted him up and helped him wash the sand from between his toes. Of course, we had to wash the shoes too, and get everything completely dry. By the time we left the bathroom, everyone else was already out of the zoo and halfway through eating their lunch in the park.

We arrived at the park and Boo took a seat next to Little Britches. While the other moms encouraged their kids to finish their ham and cheese sandwiches and fruit, I was content for Boo to eat his Ritz crackers and giant chocolate muffin. He guzzled his bottle of water then took off for the playground. I chatted with some other moms, then went to snap some more pictures. Soon it was time to leave the park and head for the next part of the day. Boo was very distraught. He wanted to play with the bigger kids from another school that had just arrived. In truth, the real problem was that he was hot and tired and hadn't eaten very well all day. Plus he was already overstimulated by all that we had done so far that day. It was a long walk back to the car and he wasn't interested in walking. So yes, this mama was seen carrying a four foot tall, fifty-two pound boy across the park. Yes, it killed my back. Yes, it was babying him. But hey, no one had to endure a full-on meltdown at the park because I knew better than to push him when he was in that state. I made it to the edge of the parking lot before I felt like I was going to fall over, so I told him that was as far as I could carry him, and I had him walk the rest of the way to the car. This took five times longer than it should because of his newest obsession. You know how they use tar to coat the cracks that appear in a parking lot? Boo must follow along these winding black lines to get across. Woe to the man or woman who tries to stop him!

By the time we got to the car, we were both hot, tired and sweaty. We were already almost the last ones to leave because he had taken so much time, but I knew that we wouldn't make it much longer if I didn't get him something to drink. So we stopped at a convenience store. We had to go a bit out of the route because there really wasn't anyplace that was on the way. So by the time we arrived at the next destination, the greenhouse, the rest of the group was already beginning the tour. They were still standing at the very first stop on the tour, but that didn't matter. Boo was so bothered by the fact that he "missed the beginning of the teaching" that he refused to move up front with the rest of the kids. If he couldn't see the entire tour start to finish, he didn't want to see any. Instead, he insisted on staying in the very back of the group with The Boo Whisperer. She was bringing up the rear because she was pushing her daughter in a stroller. Instead of pushing him and insisting he stay in front with the kids, or worrying about him "missing" something...I let it be. What difference did it make if he learned about vegetables, annuals, perennials, and cacti? I can teach him that at home in our garden. He was happy. And by the time the tour was over, and it was time to "plant" a geranium to take home, he was willing to participate because he hadn't been pressured to do something he was uncomfortable with.

After that, it was time for everyone to head home. So, that was our field trip. It didn't look like everyone else's. We tended to always be two or three steps behind the group. But it was close. We had a ton of fun. Boo was happy. And what else matters? I kind of felt like those old anti-drug campaign commercials. This is your field trip...this is your field trip on Autism. LOL. I was proud of boo for keeping his composure even during some difficult moments. I was proud of myself for not pushing him past his ability to cope, and for letting go of the mentality that says he needs to do what all the other kids do. It may not have looked like everyone else's field trip, but it was perfectly Boo. Fun, happy, beautiful, unique, and just a bit off-center.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So...Um...Yeah. This Was Our Bedtime Discussion.

Boo: "Mom, when are we going to have a baby?"
Me: "A baby?"
"Yeah. A baby that we can keep and take care of. Can we have one?"
"Well, I don't know about that. It takes a long time to get a baby."
"I know. We can get one from Mammo's house. Or Grams's."
"Well, they don't have any babies. Babies are made in their mom's tummy."
"I know that. So I want to have one when we wake up."
"It takes nine months for a baby to grow and be ready to be born! Why do you want us to have a baby?"
"So that we can have another kid."
"Well, that's something that you're going to have to talk to God about. It's up to God to decide if we have any more babies."
"Can you talk to God about that for me right now?"
"Sure. Dear God, thank you for this wonderful day. Thank you for our field trip, and all the fun we had with our friends. And God, Boo would like for our family to have a baby. Will you please let us know if that's something you want us to do? In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. And Boo, you can talk to God yourself too. You can tell him about anything you want. And if you don't want to talk to him out loud, it's OK. You can just think your prayers, and God will hear them."
"He will?"
"Uh huh. He knows every thought you think, and every feeling you feel."
(Boo makes a series of faces, sad, angry, laughing, confused...)
"Did He know what I was thinking Mom? Did He hear me?"
"Yes he did."
(Boo lays quietly, looking serious for a few minutes)
"Mom, who's that girl who died in a car accident?"
"That's your sister. Her name is Sissy."
"I asked God if He would come to the earth and make Sissy be alive again."
"And He will do that someday, we just don't know when. It might be very soon, or it might be when we are very old."

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Mother's Heart

When I picked Boo up from school today, he excitedly told me to get my heart out of his backpack. I looked, and didn't find a heart, but I did see this:

I picked it up, and he said Yes! Open it! I turned it over to see this:
Inside was this:
Page 1:

Page 2:
Page 3:
Page 4:
Page 5:
Page 6:
The next page had a picture of Boo with his cheesed-up fake smile that he always makes when you tell him to smile. On the back, he had written his name. God knew just exactly what I needed to help me pick up the pieces of my heart after the disaster last night. I feel like everything is set right again between me and my Boo. Happy Mother's Day indeed!

The Haircut Post. My Epic Parenting Fail.

"I was looking shaggy, not too good, I'd put it off as long as I could. Lord, I hate to get a haircut out of town." ~Ray Stevens, The Haircut Song

Boo hates haircuts. And I've had so many parents tell me 'oh, I know, my kid hates them too' and I'm like, no. He hates haircuts with an intensity you can't imagine! His sensory difficulties kick into high gear. Although he's never been officially diagnosed with it, I'm fairly certain we are dealing with sensory processing disorder (SPD) along with the autism. Boo absolutely can not tolerate the sensation of the hair falling on him. In fact, he pretty much hates all things to do with hair. Washing, drying, combing. Even the gentlest attempt to comb through it with "tangle spray" applied makes him shriek in pain, saying that I'm pulling his hair. Consequently, we tend to go a looooooong time between haircuts.

But the longer the hair gets, the more difficulty we start to have with the washing and the combing. Plus, we start to get comments from family members. I have been trying to gently broach the subject of needing a haircut for a few weeks. He is adamantly opposed every time it is mentioned. Yesterday I was talking with him about it, tried to get him to sit for one, and he ended up telling me he wanted to do it at night. I knew this was just his tactic to put me off, and that come night he wouldn't actually be so compliant. But we struck a deal, and sealed it with a pinky promise.

Later that evening, I was shocked by his willingness to comply when I told him it was indeed time for the haircut. After a few attempts at stalling, he finally sat on a stool and I placed a sheet over his entire body like a cape. We were ready for a haircut. I knew from experience to save the bangs for last, since once he feels hair on his face he is done. I started by trimming around his right ear. He was watching an episode of Spiderman. I was patting myself on the back that this was going so well. Then I got real stupid. Instead of moving immediately to the left ear, I proceeded to start in the middle of the back of his head. Now, I am no sort of barber. I have been doing most of Boo's haircuts since he started getting them, but it doesn't come out real pretty. Still, he insists he is more comfortable with me doing it than going to the salon, so I hack away. If he can hold halfway still I can do a passable job. But he hates the sensation of the cutting. He hates the wet hair. He hates how it feels on the tiny space of neck that is exposed above the cape. With every snip, he was jerking and writhing, trying to get at his head from under the sheet. Just a couple cuts and he jerked the sheet and pulled it off, spilling hair down the front of himself. At that point, he was done. That was as much cooperation as I was going to get. But he looked ridiculous. One ear long, one trimmed, and a big chunk missing from the back of the head. I coaxed and talked, and he finally agreed to sit back down if I would get a new cape. So I got out another sheet and wrapped it around him.

But he had zero tolerance left in him. I did another couple cuts and he kept screaming and jerking and pulling the sheet off. I offered to "get it done really fast" by using the clippers. As badly as he hates haircuts...he abhors clippers! I tried reasoning. I told him he had to choose between the scissors and the clippers, and I would have to use the clippers if he would not sit still for the scissors. Every time I even turned the clippers on he went ape! He got down from the stool crying, and telling me he was finished. And that's when my brain apparently flew out the window. Because if I'd had an ounce of compassion or true understanding, I'd have left him alone. I'd have recognized his ability to verbalize when he's at his sensory limit, and I'd have respected it.

Instead, I looked at his hair. I looked at the jagged, ridiculous, half cut and I let my focus drift off of my child and his needs. Instead, I was thinking about what others would think. I was thinking about school the next morning. I was thinking of how silly he looked, instead of seeing how terrified he was. I knew better, but I failed to do better. I should have just left him alone, went in to school right behind him, and thumped anyone who had anything snide to say about his hair. But what I did was ugly. It's hard to even admit it in writing, but I've promised to be honest here. I took my precious boy and pulled him into my lap, then wrapped both of my legs around his waist to hold him down. I wrapped my left arm around his arms to hold them down, and I took the clippers in my right hand. And I forced him to endure it. And indeed it took a great deal of force. He is strong. And his adrenaline was pumping. He was screaming like I'd never heard him scream before. It reminded me of the time he had to have stitches in his face when he was a toddler. And while I'm pretty sure that the clippers themselves were physically painful for him...I think it was nothing compared to the physical and emotional pain I caused by restraining him and forcing it on him. He was begging me to stop. He screamed so horribly that my husband came up from the basement to see what was happening. Even with his help, it was all we could do to get the rest of the hair buzzed. I finally declared it good enough and let him go.

There was hair everywhere. Boo and I were both covered head to toe, and it was all over the living room. I quickly stripped him of his clothes, him still wailing because of the feeling of the hair on his skin. I picked him up and ran to the bathroom, promising to wash it off. I started the bath water and stripped my clothes off, while Daddy got him a cup of water and helped him rinse the hair from his mouth. Then I started trying to get him in the tub. But he didn't want to go in. He was just so worked up at this point, he couldn't even process what was happening and he resisted every movement, every word from me. Even as I took him into my arms and stepped into the tub together, he was screaming that he didn't want a bath. I sat with him and took a cup and started rinsing the hair off of him. My husband had to leave the room. I don't know if he was sad, frustrated, angry at me, or just couldn't take any more screaming. I never asked.

It took a long time, but Boo did eventually settle down in the bathtub. We got the hair off of him. We got the hair off of me. Through tears, he told me "Mom, when you were holding my arms and squishing me...I don't allow that." My heart broke. God love my son, he is certainly learn to self-advocate! He wanted to play, but felt he couldn't do so because of the hair in the water. So we drained the water and started again with fresh. We washed up. We played with the tub toys. We laughed and acted silly. I washed his hair and he didn't complain. Mostly because now that the hair was short, I didn't have to pull and scrub to get it clean. We got out of the tub and put on his robe. He went to have some play time with Daddy while I cleaned the hair from the living room. Then it was time for bed.

I cuddled up beside him, tucked him in with his bean bag blanket, and hugged him. A lot. I told him I was sorry for hurting him. He asked me when. I said, "when I cut your hair. I'm so sorry that I hurt you baby." He smiled at me. He told me "that's ok, mom. I forgive you." Then he very quickly drifted off to sleep. I laid beside him in tears. He forgave me. But it will take a lot longer for me to forgive myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Thomas the Tank Engine

Thomas has been a staple in our house for well over three years now. On Boo's second birthday he received a starter set of "trackmaster" tracks and a couple engines. From that point forward most days have found our living room half covered in some configuration of tracks, bridges, tunnels, and stations. We watch the show on TV and we have several videos and books. Boo has memorized pretty much every plot, and most of the dialog. He re-enacts these on his track set. He has most of the major characters, but is willing to substitute one engine for another if necessary. This is one of his major ongoing preservations that ebbs and flows but never really fades.

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given at a nearby medical school campus by the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed Boo. She spoke on the subject of autism. The content was pretty basic, and while I didn't really learn anything new per se, I enjoyed hearing her perspective as a clinician. After the lecture there was time for Q&A and that was really the best part of the whole thing. I remember being struck when she commented that a great many of her autistic patients have a fascination with Thomas. She commented that she found it interesting that these children, who have such difficulty with effectively communicating emotion both receptively and expressively seemed to feel most comfortable with these characters who have faces that do not move. (This was before the popularity of the newer CG version of the Thomas show.)

For some reason, of all the things that were discussed there that day, this one idea stuck with me. I found it interesting, but it just didn't feel correct somehow. I couldn't put a finger on it, but it just stuck. Kind of like a piece of popcorn hull stuck down in your gums. And then a while back it struck me suddenly. I knew why she was wrong. At least for Boo. I can't speak for all the other spectrum kiddos out there who love the little blue engine. But for my Boo, the reason why Thomas is so comfortable for him, so easy to watch and respond to, is because of one simple thing. It's narrated! He doesn't have to work to understand context or implication. He doesn't have to figure out what a character is feeling or thinking, or what motivates his/her actions. The narrator simply tells you all that. He is not left feeling confused about what is happening and why. He doesn't have to ask incessant questions and feel bad when his parents get annoyed. He can just relax and watch and it's all explained to him. I think this is also why he responds so well to Word World.

I watch him play and interact with the world. He narrates everything he does! He talk non-stop. He explains every. little. thing. down to the last detail. Sometimes it can make me crazy. But having an understanding that this is a tool he uses to make sense of his world, to make order of the chaos, helps me know how to help him. And it gives me patience. And I find myself narrating things for him without even thinking about it. Because he does not understand sarcasm, implied humor, or subtlety. So when something happens around him that I know he won't understand intuitively like others do, I tend to explain it before he even has to ask. It helps to limit frustration on both our parts.

What about you? What do you do to help yourself or your child navigate the world a little easier? What are some of your best tools?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Have No Idea What to Title This Post!

I cried in Walmart today.

I've seen other posts that start with this same sentence. In fact, a google search of that phrase netted 33,800,000 results! I suppose it's in part because we all seem to find ourselves in walmart stores more frequently than we imagine. It's also because Walmart is such a cultural icon, such a slice of life, a cross-section if you will, of America. You see everything at Walmart. In fact, Boo got his first tooth at Walmart. (At least, that is where I saw it for the first time.) So it should not have surprised me today when I made a connection with my cashier. But it did.

I was feeling annoyed by the fact that only 3 register lanes were open besides the "speedy checkouts." I chose the shortest line, and was pleased to find that the cashier seemed to be quick and pleasant. She was chatting away with the customer in front of me. She asked the customer "where did you find this shirt?" and then spoke at length about her mother, her stepmother, her mother-in-law, what she wanted to get them for Mother's Day, what she'd gotten them for Mother's Day in the past. I noticed that the customer seemed to take no interest in the conversation, and that this did not slow the cashier down in the least. I felt a moment, just a moment, of frustration. I was in a hurry, and here I'd chosen the line with the chatty cashier. But as she finished up with the other customer and I placed my items on the belt, I saw that she wore a button on her name tag. It was a small thing. A simple thing. It was just a black circle with white letters which read "Respect Others."

It stabbed my conscience. I realised my mistake instantly. I silently chastised myself. I reminded myself that this is precisely what I imagine Boo looking like in adulthood. (Well, maybe not precisely, as I imagine him a man) I think it likely that he will continue to have trouble knowing when others are engaged in conversation with him, and when they are politely uninterested. I imagine him talking incessantly all the time. These are both big challenges for him already. I thought about how I hope that others will respond to him when he is an adult. I thought of how it would pierce my heart to know that random strangers would feel annoyed by Boo simply being himself. I resolved that this woman deserved and would receive my utmost kindness and respect.

As I stepped forward in line she offered me the bubbliest of greetings. I smiled genuinely, glad to be checked out by someone with a positive attitude. We each asked how the other's day was going. She told me that her only complaint was a bout with writer's block. Aha! A fellow writer! A comrade! I asked her what she writes. She offered a lengthy description of the eclectic nature of the genres of her work. I noticed that she wore a necklace with two charms on it. They were both awareness ribbons, one green and one multi-colored puzzle pieces. Now, you can say what you will about the puzzle piece as a symbol of autism, (and I'll tell you my feelings on that matter some other time) but when I saw that necklace, I knew I had met a kindred spirit.

We continued to chat about her writing, and in the course of conversation, she said confidently "I have Aspergers" and proceeded to try to explain to me what that means. I smiled the biggest smile I could muster and told her, "I'm familiar. I have a son with PDD-NOS." Then she smiled a big smile. She continued with her explanation of the challenges that her Aspergers gives her as it relates to her writing. I told her that I understood, and mentioned that I have similar difficulties with my writing. I told her that I write a blog about parenting autism, and that I read several others as well. She was very excited about that, and told me that she was diagnosed at age 5 but only recently came to understand just what the diagnosis really means. She said that she would be interested in reading about it from my perspective as a parent.

By that time, I was finished checking out and it was time for her to help the next customer. I hastily wrote down my facebook address and my blog address for her and we said our goodbyes. As I pushed my cart toward the door, I choked back tears. I know the numbers. I preach the numbers. I'm the first girl to tell you that autistic people are everywhere. That they are already in your life, whether you know it or not. That you meet them in church, at restaurants, in grocery stores, and in schools. Yet when it happens, when I find someone that I really connect with, someone who speaks that esoteric language, someone who gets pulls at my heart. I feel blessed to be reminded of how not alone we really are. I love finding comrades in my every day life.

So to you, Walmart Cashier Friend, if you have made your way to this blog, I want to say welcome. I want to say thank you. Thank you for being so open about your diagnosis. So willing to tell a complete stranger "I have Aspergers" as if it were the most normal thing in the world...because it is. Thank you for being a shining light, for saying, yep, I'm the face of one in 88, this is what it looks like, I'm just like you. Thanks for being your awesome self. And the next time Boo and I are in Walmart, I look forward to finding your line, no matter how long the wait, and finding out how that book you're writing  is coming along.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Boo!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I woke up that morning, just as I did every day: Uncomfortable and tired, my hands numb from pregnancy induced carpel tunnel, but happy as a lark. I was anxious to meet my baby boy in about four weeks...or so I thought. I noticed a slight feeling of "leaking" as I headed to the bathroom, but assumed it was just one of those fun side effects of pregnancy, the leaky bladder. I completed my normal morning routine and went to work. But throughout the day I continued to notice a sensation of "leaking" and I was growing increasingly less certain that my bladder was the source of the leak. Around 2:00 that afternoon, I decided to call my obstetrician's office and inquire, since it would be a long drive back to the city if I waited till after I went back home that night. Of course, the nurse who took my call ordered me to come to the office immediately, if not sooner.

I arrived at the office and was given an extremely brief exam by my doctor. She told me that she could not be certain whether my water had broken, since she didn't see the "tell-tale" signs, but that if she were to bet, she would bet that was what was happening. She sent me across the street to the hospital to have an "amnio-sure" test done. She said this was to test for the presence of amniotic fluid. I dutifully followed her directive and waddled across the sky walk to the hospital, stopping halfway across to stare out the window and try to breathe as I called my husband. I was trying really hard not to sound as freaked out as I felt.

I sat in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity. Finally they put me in a room and gave me a gown. They asked all manor of questions, took bodily fluid samples, and threatened to put in an IV if I didn't start drinking water. It began to feel like they intended to keep me for more than just a quick test. Eventually, they did get around to pulling out the glorified Q-tip and swabbing around. I was told that the test result was a faint positive, but "a positive is a positive!" At that point, I knew I was an inmate patient for a while. My family began to arrive then, and we were told "you won't be leaving this hospital without a baby." I wondered how long that would take.

After that it all sort of blurs. There was a whirlwind of activity for a while. At some point I was informed that they had made the decision to induce labor, since they were assuming my water had been ruptured since 7am when I first noticed the leaky sensation, but I'd never had any contractions. They hooked me up to the IV and the external fetal monitor, and hung the pitocin. It's evil stuff, that pitocin! I was uncomfortable, but determined to do this drug free. I had my husband, my mom, my Grams, and my aunt there to get me through. At midnight, my mom began taking notes of what was happening.

Friday, May 4, 2007
Pit at 28
Midnight-"feeling it", discovered 2nd bag
You see, after I had been there approximately six hours with seemingly little progress, someone decided it was time to do an actual exam, at which point they discovered my membrane still intact. Hmm. Head scratcher. The on-call doc who did the exam explained this away by saying that sometimes there can be a "sac within the sac" and that this was rare, but not unheard of. Later he returned to break my water.

12:40-broke the 2nd bag, put internal monitors in.
The only good thing about the internal monitor was that I wasn't so tied to the bed. The external monitor had been loosing the "signal" practically every time I shifted position. With the new internal one in place, I took advantage of the opportunity to sit in the recliner, which was much more comfortable...for a minute. I remember having a sensation that the contractions were coming in unending waves. I had the thought "isn't there supposed to be some time between the contractions?" and at almost that very moment the door opened and various medical personnel swooped in on me. They whisked me out of the recliner and put me in the bed laying on my left side, and strapped an oxygen mask on me. I wasn't real sure what was going on. My poor mother had chosen that time for a bathroom break, and returned to find the chaotic scene. Her notes convey little of the fear I know she felt upon returning.

1:00-I came back from bathroom
on oxygen, shut pit drip off, pushing fluids to slow things down a bit.
contractions are lasting 1 1/2-2 mins, about 2 mins apart.
They explained that the rapid increase in the pitocin drip had caused exactly what I had thought, the contractions were coming in waves one after another without giving the baby a chance to recover. His heart rate was decreasing and he was showing signs of stress. They stopped the drip to give us both a chance to recover, then started all over again, promising to go slower this time.

2:00-Dad sleeping
2:45-working hard, re-started pit
3:15-pit to 4.0
At this point, I was exhausted. I'd had little rest and no food since lunch. I was beginning to loose my resolve on the issue of meds. I was offered a shot, which to me sounded better than the all-out epidural. I agreed. They came in with a needle and pushed liquid relaxation into my IV. Mom notes:

3:20-first pain med-stadol
3:35-"tell Aunt N that's the good stuff"-resting easier-sleeping!
4:35-2-80-neg 2-pit up to 6.0
5:00-pit to 7.0-shot of nubane
5:30-pit to 8.0
6:00-pit to 10.0-barfing again
6:15-pit to 12
6:50-pit to 14
7:00-feels pressure to pee, but can't
7:30-pit to 16
7:50-3-90-0-ordered more stadol
8:10-sleeping sweetly
8:20-pill for burning feeling
9:00-pit to 20
10:15-dial to 4-wanting drugs-using birthing ball
Now at this point, I have to clarify. I did NOT want drugs. But I was TIRED. And I was SCARED. I didn't have any idea how long I could expect this to go on, or how much worse it would get. Had I had any clue just how close to the finish line it really was, I'd have never allowed the epidural. I actually asked for another shot, but was told I could not have one. They said the med I was given could only be given once. They said they could give me something else, but it wouldn't work as well. So I gave up, gave in, and asked for the epidural.

11:00-Eppie! :) happy and talkative. whole new world! Gets some much needed rest.
Indeed, I got some rest. The anesthesiologist who placed the epidural told me that I should be numb up to my belly button. I was numb to within an inch of that, which he was satisfied with. He warned me to roll over to my other side every 30 minutes because the medication would "pool" in the side on which I was laying, making it more numb than the other. I rolled to my left and drifted into sleepy land. When I awoke, I could see my nurse and my family sitting in the room chatting. I felt like something was not right. I couldn't move. I couldn't talk. I finally managed to squeak out a few words, which brought everyone rushing to my side. Although I'd been laying on my left, my entire right side of my body was so numb I couldn't tell it even existed. I couldn't move even enough to roll over without assistance. I was numb to my chest. It was the oddest sensation I've ever experienced! There was apparently another exam done, because suddenly everyone was scrambling. Doctors, nurses, gowns, equipment, it was a flurry of activity. The neo-natal doctor came in to talk to us about what we could expect with a preemie. I didn't hear a word he said.

1:30-dialated to 10...begin pushing
My husband supported my left leg, while my mom had to literally hold my right leg in place. I couldn't move it, couldn't feel it, couldn't even tell you for sure if it existed. I remember pushing as hard as I could, wondering if I was even doing it right, if I was being the least bit effective, because I could not feel a thing! And then suddenly, the greatest miracle of my life occurred. My entire world was turned upside down in a moment, recorded by my mother with these simple words:

2:01-Boo enters the world

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Three Food Groups

Getting Boo to eat is a struggle.

Correction: getting Boo to eat a halfway balanced, halfway healthy diet is a struggle.

Like many kids on the spectrum, foods are a huge issue for him. The problem seems to be largely a sensory issue. As a baby he would eat literally anything we put on a spoon. We made our own baby foods by steaming and pureeing whatever fruits and veggies were in season. He ate green beans, squash, avocado, pears, peaches, blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin, anything we could make smooth. But when the time came to transition to table food, he abruptly stopped eating. It has been a struggle ever since.

The foods that we do get him to eat have one thing in common. Consistency. As in, the food must be consistent throughout. Every bite having the same flavor and texture as the one before it and the one after it. For instance, he eats yogurt, but only flavors like orange, banana, key lime, and vanilla. If there are chunks of fruit in it, forget it! He likes various kinds of chips and crackers. He likes bread and toast, but only the "right kind, without seeds." (meaning NOT multi-grain) He likes a few kinds of cereals, and he likes milk, but you don't put the milk ON the cereal. For a long time the single source of meat in his diet was McDonald's chicken nuggets. No other kind would do. Thankfully we have recently discovered a love of Banquet brand popcorn chicken. He occasionally likes pizza, but only cheese pizza, and only from certain places. And if the sauce is visible? Forget about it!

I remember once a couple years ago at a church dinner I convinced him to try a baby carrot. At that time I still thought he was just being "picky" and that if I could just expose him to all the great flavors of foods I love, he would learn to love it too. I coaxed him into taking a bite with the promise of a piece of chocolate cake as a reward. He bravely bit off the carrot, chewed, and twisted up his little face as he tried to swallow. But he just couldn't get it past his gag reflex. The texture was too much for him to deal with. He threw up.

At any given time there are maybe 10-12 foods that Boo will eat, most of them not very healthy. Right now he is living on popcorn chicken, "stick pizza" (garlic cheese bread), toast, bacon, graham crackers, cheez-its, goldfish, lucky charms, fruit loops, fruit snacks, popcorn, and chocolate muffins. He will eat these same items, and only these items for MONTHS. Then suddenly he will seem to get tired of them. (who can blame him) He will refuse to eat the foods he loved just the day before, but it will take a couple weeks for him to find something he can put in its place. Those weeks are hell. When he is hungry, his behavior is horrid. But hunger does NOT drive him to eat if he doesn't have a food presented to him that he finds acceptable. Even before his diagnosis, when I would seek help for his "picky" eating habits, well meaning friends would give that sage advice "he won't starve." I wasn't so sure. I'm still not. I think if all he was ever offered to eat was vegetables, whole fruits, rice, and pork chops...he would starve himself. Seriously.

Our best defense in this struggle has been a sort of classification system for his foods. He is highly motivated by sweets. He loves chocolate (as long as it doesn't have something evil like nuts in it) and cake and ice cream and things like that. We try to limit these foods as much as we can. Early on, we began explaining the need for him to eat "healthy" foods in order to grow and be strong. He is not motivated by growing. He will tell you straight up that he prefers to remain a kid. And he insists that he can be strong simply by exercising. So our only successful motivation for him to eat healthy foods, was to reward him with "treat" foods. Now, I would prefer to keep the ratio of healthy foods high compared to the treats, but somehow we have gotten ourselves into a 1:1 rut. If you have a spectrum kid, you know how hard it can be to work your way out of those ruts! So the best I can do right now is to try to increase the portion size of the healthy foods, and decrease the portion size of the treats.

Now what happens when he decides to dig in his heels and refuse the healthy food? Because he has a healthy dose of stubbornness that his father insists he gets from me, but we all know comes from his father. ;) Sometimes he would simply rather starve himself, all the while throwing a loud ugly fit about being hungry, than eat something healthy. This is where the third category comes in: "snack" foods. These are foods that are a sort of compromise. They may not have much nutritional value, but they ease his hunger and help abate the behaviors without filling him full of sugar.

So here's how it ends up working. If he's hungry, I try to get him to eat a healthy. If he eats a healthy, he gets a treat. If he doesn't want to, he can choose a snack food, but a snack will not earn him a treat. It was never a system that was set up intentionally or proactively. We just kind of naturally fell into it from a combination of our terminology and Boo's tendency to categorize the world. But hey, it's working for us. And who cares if strangers look at me like a child abuser when my kid refers to McDonald's "chicken and fries" as healthy food? They just don't speak french.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet My Friend Maple

This is "Maple."

A few weeks ago, while playing at Mammo's house, Boo stumbled upon what has become one of his best coping tools. This simple unassuming character used to be a knee pillow for Mammo. It is made of memory foam, and was originally covered with a removable pillowcase. Boo discovered the zipper on the case, opened it, slipped his hand inside, and fell in love! He oooh'd and ahhh'd and marveled at the feel of it. He quickly removed the pillow case and proclaimed "I like how this feels, Mammo. I could just feel it all day." That evening he brought it home with him, and it has been his companion ever since.

He likes to get it out when he needs a bit of extra sensory input or when he feels particularly upset. He likes to squeeze it, smoosh it, push it into his chin, and hug it. Suddenly this morning, he began doing something new. He suddenly decided to anthropomorphize it! He gave it the name "Maple." He started giving it drinks of his juice and bites of his cereal. He began talking to it. He asked if he could take it to school. Considering the recent difficulties he has had, I thought this would be an excellent idea. I told him that he would have to leave Maple in his cubby during school, but that if he started to feel sad or upset or nervous, he could ask Mrs. K for a few minutes to "squeeze maple." He was excited about this plan.

When we arrived at the classroom, Boo was thrilled to show every classmate, Mrs. K, and several of the other moms his new find. He walked up to each of them and announced "This is my friend Maple. I like to squeeze him when I feel sad or nervous." He then stowed Maple in his cubby and sat down to stretch rubber bands onto a pegboard with his classmates. I was astounded at the change since last Friday! He never once argued with me about going to school. He never gave me a moment of trouble. Apparently he had a bit of trouble following the rules at school, but he didn't seem overly concerned about it. (usually all it takes is one stern word from the teacher to send him home broken hearted and declaring his hatred for school)

Tonight we had our first family BBQ of the season. (My family on my dad's side have a tradition of getting together one night each week during the summer for a BBQ/potluck meal, and it's one of my absolute favorite things about the season!) Boo didn't want to go, of course. He never does, though he always has a great time once we get there. To make matters worse, Dad made the cardinal mistake of starting an episode of one of Boo's favorite shows (Billy the Exterminator)  just before time to leave, without enough time for Boo to finish the episode before we had to leave. Because he was already starting a fit, I figured I'd better toss Maple in the car too.

Surprisingly, I didn't have hardly any trouble from Boo the entire evening. There was one moment, when it was time to eat, that he started to put up a fight. I suggested that he might want to go get Maple out of the car. He said no, then immediately huffed to the car and retrieved it. He then proceeded to introduce it once again to everyone present as "my friend Maple." He then set it on the table, and never again picked it up till we came home. He never gave me another moment of trouble the entire evening. So, while Maple may be a friend to Boo, he has suddenly become MY bff!

Update: A couple days after writing this blog post, I was watching Spiderman and his Amazing Friends with Boo. He watches episodes of this series by himself frequently. The episode we watched had a story of a lonely old man who was accidentally given special powers to make anything happen that he wanted. One of the first things he did was create for himself a friend who would never leave him. The friend was a cat, and it's name was Mable. Light bulb ON!