Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's grosser than gross?

It's when you are cleaning out the pantry and you hear a mouse trap go off in the living room and you go over to throw the carcass away and you see it still twitching in the trap and you wonder briefly if there is some way to end his suffering sooner while looking away and swallowing hard while your heart beats heavy and then going to pick up the trap and when you move it fresh blood oozes out on the hearth and you are so grossed out you actually open PAPER towels to pick it up (instead of fabric that you are sure you'd have to burn afterwards) and throw the whole thing away, trap and all. (And then wonder what to use to clean up the blood.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Realizing Dreams and ADD Coaches

Picking one thing means not picking another. At least at that set of moments in time.

This is why it's difficult for me to choose between projects.

I'm lying in bed on a morning where the chickens (it must be Sophia, the little wanker -- can hens be wankers, or can that only be reserved for roosters?) have woken me before six in the morning. Wanker. I fetched my rain/muck boots with the purpley stripes from the garage. Usually they are kept on the back patio but I'd used them recently working on the restoration of a butterfly meadow at a nearby park. We're working on our spring community service badge through SpiralScouts.

But I digress.

I grab my boots and a canister of organic chicken feed and head outside. The air smells sweet and of newly washed rain. I feed them and check for eggs. None. Stingy bastards. If they're going to wake me before six in the morning, the least they can do is gift me some eggs for my troubles.

I spill some food, swear, scoop poop and then come inside and wash my hands vigorously.

Now what?

The hot tub would be nice, but what if I stay too long and I don't get Aubrey up and ready for school on time. I could go back to bed, but Paul's already up and that cut down on half the incentive to sink back under the covers. I could write in my journal, or read.

Reading sounds too tiring so I sit on the side of the bed and take my thyroid medication and see how it is to be back in bed. Was I too restless to be here? No. My glasses are on now just in case I decide to journal, but I slide back into my sheets.


I close my eyes and snuggle with Humphrey who has gotten onto the bed. Wanker. But I let him, so I can't complain too much.

I don't fall back to sleep. Instead I plan and dream and paint pictures in my head. With purple and blue blobs that flow out of my fingertips and sable brushes. I think of my knitting project I am currently working on (a stripey set of fingerless gloves from left over wool yarn that will match my newly knitted hat), future knitting projects I can't wait to start (a felted bag, socks and an afghan), and the eleven sewing projects I just bought all the fabric and notions and patterns for. Clothes for the kids and me.

I also think of personal projects I'm up against. How to connect to others when they don't want to, or can't for some reason.

There's a friend that isn't so much a friend anymore that I miss. She says she likes me but she has a hard time with my energy -- my creativity she likes, but the rest is too scattered and shaky for her to be around comfortably. I swallow harder when I remember this. It's hard to slough this off when a) it is something that is not likely to change about me, as it's fairly core value stuff we're talking about here and apparently it's my core value she's not digging, and b) that I see her in passing a couple times a week when she drops off her kids at the same school I drop one of mine at.

And people closer still, that I reach out for and am met with love, respect and tenderness, but not closeness.

And then there's the house. You know about my house and how much I feel prisoner to its clutter and chaos. I'm ever trying to corral its mutations and fail miserably. I read an interesting bit of information from a book called something like: ADD-friendly ways to organize your life/home. It's advice was basically you allow yourself your faults and limitations and you hire coaches. You categorize all your needs and assign them Level 1, 2 or 3.

If one of your tasks is a Level I, maybe a weekly email from a friend would suffice for the reminder to do this thing. They're jobs that you can really do yourself, you just need a bit of momentum.

Level 2 tasks require that a coach actually be in your house. They sit with you and drink tea and remind you of what you were doing after you are done with the phone call, or the dog smears muddy paw prints on the wood floor and you rush to wipe them up before they harden. I would need a coach to keep me on track to file paperwork that's accumulated over the years in three rubbermaid totes. Or folding socks.

And Level 3 tasks are pointless. You will not do them. Best just hire a professional to come and do it for you.

Aspects of this book really make sense to me. Therefore, I've enlisted the help of my friend, Kesha, to come and help me de-clutter my house. Officially. Until it's done. I want half the house gone. We simply have too much stuff in the house for it to be all put away. There actually are not places for these things. So they must go.

After Aubrey and Paul leave and I shower, Kesha comes over and we walk around the house with a clipboard and brainstorm things to get rid of, systems that need changing and objects that need purchasing in order to make said systems work.

She's committed to coming over about twice a week to help me accomplish this feat before June 25 -- a quasi-self-imposed deadline for a benefit garage sale for our SpiralScouts circle.

After the house is a cozy, safe haven that all members of the family want to come home to ... Kesha has agreed (though I'm not sure she remembers she agreed to this) to continue on as my "ADD" coach (for lack of a better term). She can help me accomplish my creative goals by just being there and re-focusing me. Mostly this will be done jointly.

For instance, I've had three garbage bags of raw, dirty sheep wool in my garage for almost a year. Yum. Bet you didn't think I'd say that.

I got it free from a farm sanctuary after just teaching myself to knit and discovering how expensive knitting can be. Nice yarn can get spendy.

So my intent was to wash this grubby, sweaty sheep fur (oh, excuse me: fiber) and card it and spin it and knit with it. And if that wasn't enough challenge for me, I could dye it before spinning it, too.

Well, as I've said, it's still in the garage untouched.

So, Kesha totally wants to do this with me. So we'll do this project together and it'll be a win/win situation. She'll get all the raw materials she wants and a friend to do it with her, and I get ... well, the same as her BUT the added benefit of a coach that will keep me on track.

For awhile I couldn't wrap my head around being the kind of person that needed people to tell me what to do. This didn't sit well with me AT ALL. I liked the free-spirit, chaotic neutral, artistic image of myself and being a submissive follower didn't fit into that. But then it occurred to me.

I know what I want. I even know how to get there. I just need help staying on task in order to realize my dreams.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On the Homefront

So I'm really despising my youngest dog right now.
Notice anything about this line of raspberry plants? Like maybe the one in the middle is missing?

And this hole is an example of the three others that used to have three huckleberry plants and one blueberry plant. All those plants were also pulled up by the roots and shredded.

And this feels like the worst of it. This was my sweet little pear tree. As you can see, some animal (most likely Humphrey) pushed the chicken wire down, pushed over the tree, and ripped off all the branches and leaves.

Sigh. I don't know what to do about it. The front yard is for smaller plants and vegetables and flowers. The backyard was allotted for the fruit trees and bushes. Things that wouldn't fit in the front garden. I ache that six fruit bearing plants are gone (right on the cusp of the "landscape artist" that removed about eighty percent of my strawberry plants and all my raspberry canes! because they were invasive) and want to replace them right away. But that will be COSTLY!!! Not to mention that I don't know how to prevent Humphrey (or whatever did this) from striking again.

It's quite depressing actually. But I suppose even small suburban "farms" have losses, so I'll just pick up the pieces and start over on the fruit bearing plants. Again.

On a nicer note: we've acquired three new chickens. With the promise of them being good layers. Two chickens (the allotted amount allowed in the city limits) just wasn't enough to supply the eggs that our six person household uses.

Especially when Hazel starts brooding. Hens don't lay eggs when they are brooding. And she seems prone to it. I have to pull her out of the nesting box a couple times a day just to get her to eat. And when I reach for her she fluffs up huge. Trying to look bigger for predator me, I guess.

This is Sophia. One of the new ladies. She's a screecher. She goes kinda velociraptor in the mornings. I hope the neighbors won't be upset by these new additions.

I broke out the food dehydrator for the first time the other day. My friend Jenny gave this to me after she replaced it with a newer, snazzier model. It was a fun and yummy experience. We had a bowl full of too ripe fruit and I hated the idea of how much food I WAY TOO OFTEN throw away, so Robert and I chopped and sliced up two pears, three apples and three bananas. Yummy!

And Robert is feeling a little more artistic these days with his markers. I try to encourage art as much as possible for him because a) I love art and want my kids to express themselves in this way, too, and b) I sense that he finds it difficult to express his needs, desires and thoughts ... so maybe he could do it through his art. The kicker seems to be that he only wants to use these dry erasers and the wipe-it board. A lesson in impermanence for me! I like saving art work and have a bin in the garage with my favorites through the years. But he isn't creating anything permanent for me to keep. So, I thought I would start taking pictures of his art, thereby making it "permanent" for me. (He's also hating pictures taken of himself. He gets extremely pissed when I sneak in a picture of him.)

This rainbow is the most positive piece of art he's created in a year. He usually draws monsters, fight scenes, people being abducted or possessed by some otherworldly substance ... things like that.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Therapy Solutions for Kids about getting his O.T. started again.

And I have to say, that since Aubrey has been back to school (a private one Paul and I picked out for her: Eugene Waldorf School), she has been ecstatic both at home and at school, AND Robert and I have slipped back into our old snuggly, connecting routine. We read a lot together and play board games.

I'm also having him do some 'school work' in workbooks. He does about five easy math problems once a day during the week (too easy if you ask me -- I know he could do harder stuff and part of me wants to give him harder stuff to challenge him, but I also want him to feel successful and to not associate "school" or "homework" with this awful horrible terrible thing). And the one he hates the most is handwriting. I also have him do a front and back page in a writing workbook. This takes a super long time -- sometimes includes tears, wasting time and general outrage. Sometimes he insults me, too.

I think it is his challenges with fine motor skills that are preventing him from enjoying the experience. So I bought him a couple of ergonomic pens that are supposed to cause less hand strain. I wish there was a pencil alternative.

And I don't know if I'm supposed to be working on printing with him or cursive. Going into fourth grade next year means writing in cursive, but he barely knows how to print legibly.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unidentified Hell

My son, who is nine, does not have autism. (Or Asperger's Syndrome.) He is highly verbal -- sometimes not stopping for breath. He looks you in the eye and desperately wants to be a part of things and to have friends. These are not things that kids with autism do, or feel (as we understand it.)

But, he does: feel like you are stabbing him if you touch him suddenly, and if he doesn't know you well, he doesn't want you touching him at all. Sometimes swimming lessons and tae kwon do classes would end in screaming because of instructors correcting his form. He's ended up in the corner, literally, yelling at the top of his voice when doctor's want to do a physical exam or change the wire on his braces.

One time he threw up because he was getting an impression of his mouth done at the orthodontist's and it took 45 minutes to coax him through the rest of the appointment. Actually, if I remember correctly, we even needed to come back a different day to finish the appointment.

When the doorbell rings and the dogs go barking and charging to the door, Robert covers his ears and yells even louder than them. He used to do this when the coffee grinder, blender or vacuum cleaner would run, too. And he still does it if the vhs tape comes to the end and suddenly shuts off with that loud "snow" before it rewinds. He still refuses to be around the vacuum, and obviously to vacuum his room.
He hates to wear socks and underwear, can't stand pants with buttons or snaps because his fingers have a hard time with the mechanics and he doesn't like to write. (I think the pencil or grip may hurt his hand.)

He wants friends but doesn't understand it when they don't want to play his games. Instead of asking a kid to play at a city pool with him, he'll jump on him in the water. When he hugs you, he often will hang on you -- or "hug you to the ground" -- causing discomfort or pain.

He doesn't understand where he is with his body a lot of the time. He lays on top of his sister -- or his dogs -- when he really wants to snuggle or be close to them to show affection.

He's self-centered. And I mean that not in a rude way. It's just that sometimes he's aware of other people only as it pertains to him in his own universe. For instance, he's hyper-sensitive if you've done something to negatively impact him, like bump into him or ask him to brush his teeth. These will be responded with -- sometimes -- physical retaliation (because it feels to him like your accidental bump was a punch in the arm) or a rageful yell and stomping of his feet. On the other hand, he has absolutely no idea when he negatively impacts you. To the point of blatantly denying that he's just stepped on your hand when there were two witnesses to the action. He didn't realize he'd done it, therefore he didn't do it.
He knows an exorbitant amount of facts about sharks and snakes. He's memorized verbatim, in some cases, several EyeWitness science videos and randomly spouts off facts to us. He's highly intelligent, does math in his head that I can't do (though that's not saying much actually) and excels at chess.

He hates to wear clothes and prefers to be naked, even in the winter. Although, conversely, he loves footy pajamas. He refuses hats and coats and gets belligerent and defiant if you "make" him take one anyway.

He's impulsive. To the extent of randomly leaving school, home or a park without telling anyone where he is going in the space it takes to gather your belongings or turn around and finish your short conversation. Thusly, for years I was terrified to take him in public, crowded areas for fear I would lose him.

He's impulsive less with his hands now. We've spent years working on vocabulary to describe his emotions instead of lashing out with his hands. Unsupervised playdates were (and still are, but for different reasons) an impossibility. Years ago, we had to leave many a birthday party or open gym because of him punching a kid in the stomach. Now I believe it was because he got overly stimulated and felt like the world was exploding around him with lights and sounds and abrasive textures and questions and taunts and people touching him and getting in his space. It was him defending himself. He still does it now, just not as intensely.
He doesn't transition well. If you tell him it's time to stop doing what he's doing and do something else (even if it's something you know he likes), you will meet with either: stony silence (and I haven't decided if he's pretending he doesn't hear you so he can keep going, or doesn't think you mean him even though you say his name, or he just really doesn't know you exist right now because he's hyper-focused on his task and a bomb could go off beside him and he'd only dazedly look up), abject refusal, or tantrum. Though, tantrums don't happen but rarely now, and usually need a good working up to.

If he's caught lying or breaking the rules, he'll tell you it wasn't him, it was his imaginary friends (Punching Boy, Skateboard Boy, Mean Boy, etc.) that did it, or maybe that they told him to do it.

Rather than believing this to be signs of early multiple personalities, psychotic or sociopathic behavior -- thoughts I once upon a time entertained -- I think this was possibly a way of him trying to explain his impulses. He can't stop them. He feels powerless and that he's so far out of control of his behavior when he gets those impulses, it's like he's not even doing them. Someone else is. Because he certainly wouldn't choose to do them. In fact, when he realizes what he's done, sometimes he'll start hitting himself in the head.

One time when I was concerned about his ability to empathize, we were on a playdate and Robert was playing by himself, the girls were playing in a different room and one of my friend's children -- a toddler -- started crying outside on the deck. Robert announced that the boy was crying. After we'd checked that he was alright, my friend pointed out that Robert understood that another being was in distress and sought out help. That was empathetic. But maybe he just didn't like the sound of his crying and needed someone to make it stop. And now I remember that crying babies, especially new little ones, were like the coffee grinder to him. He'd run out of the room when he'd become too anxious.

He hates rice (even rice pudding) because of the texture. He can't stand to have his hair combed, or cut.

He can play in water and sand for hours. He likes to bury things in yarn, clay, silly putty and sand.

He needs to know exactly what will happen in new situations like an orthodontist procedure or playing laser tag for the first time, or he will become agitated.

He is oftentimes inflexible in his mind. If he expects an O.T. session or school interview to go a certain way, and it doesn't, he gets mad and loud and refuses to co-operate. Though I have a theory about this.

When he rants: You can't make me! I'm not doing that! I'll never go to school! etc., I believe he's saying: You can't make me do that yet. I'll never go there yet. I think it is his socially unacceptable way of creating some time for himself to wrap his brain around transitioning to a new thing.

An example: we were talking the other day about trying O.T. (occupational therapy) again and he wanted to do it.

"Even if they ask you to do dumb things?"
"Even if they ask you to do things you don't want to do?"
"Yes." (he's pausing here) "What would they ask me?"
"Maybe they'd ask you to practice writing with a pencil."
(blow up)
"I'll never do that! I'll never go to school! I'm NOT doing that!!!!"
I ignore the outburst. He flops on the couch and I putter in the kitchen.
"Ok. I'll go."
Less than one minute later. He just needed to wrap his head around it and come to it on his terms.

His favorite food is cheese sandwiches. And often doesn't want anything but those. And I've done enough research to know that if your body craves and is "addicted" to a certain type of food, you are often 'allergic' or sensitive to it. He's also constipated a lot. Probably from all the bread and cheese. Gluten and casein.

I've also done enough research to know that every one of the statements I've written here, are also behaviors and symptoms of kids that fall on the autistic spectrum.

It makes me wonder, is all. It keeps me awake at night.

I look back to when he was two or three. He didn't get his vaccines and then suddenly become unresponsive and regress into himself. He looked me in the eye and crawled into my lap to be held and giggled.

But he did line up his cars in straight lines. And when he met Paul's mom (Robert's Nana) for the first four times, he wouldn't make eye contact and refused to acknowledge that she was even in the room.

And somedays it feels as if he's been frustrated and angry since he was four years old.

He's not autistic because he's highly verbal, looks people in the eye and craves interaction, socialization and friendships. But everything else I've listed points to a kid on the spectrum.
So what's going on for him?