Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘shopping

We’re a family that’s big on Christmas. BIG.  B I G. We put up two trees, garland, the family of Christmas teddy bears, wall hangings, nativity sets, candles, snow globes, and that’s all just inside. The outdoor of the house is covered in enough lights to mix us up with an airport, and we’ve got baked goods stocked up to last through New Year’s. Christmas carols play in the car and we have memorized the channel numbers of the Christmas music television radio station. We write lists of things to buy, things to make, and we take time off work to shop and prep. Christmas eve is a routine — read T’was the Night Before Christmas, the Nativity Story, and put out cookies. Then stay up late wrapping presents to surprise everyone with on Christmas morning. Christmas day is a relaxed event, everyone hanging out testing their gifts, snacking, eating, snacking, visiting with drop-in guests, and just having fun with everyone around. It’s not just a day, it’s an event, a whole month preparing for The Big Day, and being thankful for the reason for the day in the first place.

So, imagine our surprise when we move and find that not just sporadic homes put up decorations, but they ALL do. Nary a house can be seen without some type of Christmas decor. The little town we live in is covered with stars and lights and has an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. You hear “Merry Christmas,” not the ridiculous “Happy holidays!” But we’re also surprised with the lack of holiday parties outside of church. Our open house was a success, and the fact we put wine, aka alcohol, out on the counter didn’t seem to offend anyone. (Out here in the South, you either like alcohol, or you hate it. There are people who won’t enter a home if there’s alcohol present…for real.) Good thing we had that party though, it may be the only one we get to attend!

During the open house, BB hid in his room. The entire time. Getting him to come out and say hello was even hard. Luckily, people understood him and no one seemed put off. It’s our house, so we’d have taken care of that anyway, but it’s nice to not even have to worry about it. Doesn’t happen enough! Let’s count that holiday difficult #1. Parties.

Holiday difficulty #2: Santa Claus. BB still believes, but a lot of other kids his age don’t, and some of them have told BB about it. He’s questioned me numerous times, but seems quite content with my responses, though now and then he throws in a “But Santa’s you anyway, Mom.” I still think he believes though, or at least really, really wants to. A couple of families we’ve run into, the children don’t believe and the parents talk about it openly in front of BB. I’ve had to quickly say “Well, Santa still comes to our house..” so the parent gets a mental kick on the backside to watch what they say. (And I really want to just say “duh?” to them but I bite my tongue.)

Another holiday difficulty is illness. We’ll call it #3, #4, and #5. Not only does it mean that they can’t go to school and might therefore go over the allotted days of illness allowed by the school district, but when they are home, it’s an interesting time. It can throw them for a serious loop, and as a result, us, too. Not all cold meds are good for them, tylenol for fevers is not recommended, and they are even more demanding than usual…and you can’t help but cater to them, because they’re sick and soooo darn cute. Your Christmas baking gets put off, your Hallmark holiday movie gets paused, and your hot cocoa gets cold. Nothing else matters.

Holiday difficulty #6 is the chaos. There’s not necessarily a routine. Things pop up, people drop in (well, you hope they do at least…since this move, we’re still not as socially involved as we used to be but we have hopes) and you come up with things to do on the spur of the moment. Without time to prep BB, well, you know the drill. Imagine earlier this week when my younger daughter sang in a Christmas concert. BB was just starting to get sick, and we knew if we told him way in advance, he’d flip. So we chose for the Last Minute Flip. “WHAT??? WE’RE GOING WHERE??? WHEN??? NOW???” Yep, it was pretty. But the promise of the ability to play with his DSi while waiting for it to start, and subsequently through it, as we were front-row and it was loud, won out and he was fine. Yes, fine. Well, he did fuss halfway through but so did dh..the show was long, and I think the teacher somehow mistook the concert for a church service. (I’m sure there were some phonecalls post-concert, I’ll leave it at that.) He ended up making it the whole way. And so did dh!

And let’s not forget #7. I bet this is a favorite amongst many of you. All the holiday crap snacks available. Everywhere we look is a bowl of candy (red dye 41), a box of chocolates (caffeine), a candy cane (high-fructose corn syrup) and more of that red dye 41 as far as the eye can see. Christmas is the month of red, so you can’t leave it out. It’s in coffee, donuts, mashed potatoes..okay, maybe not the mashed potatoes but pretty much everything else. They mine as well just put the big jar of red dye 41 that I actually saw at the IGA out on the counter. Yum. Melatonin, you are blessed amongst over-the-counter supplements.

Autism brings on a lot of difficulties year-round, so I’m sure my list could be a lot longer, but I’m working on — after I get over this nasty sinus/cold I’ve been fighting the last three days — looking beyond the difficulties. It’s Christmas, and there’s a whole lot to be happy about.

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How many of us hear that? (Though maybe I guess the bigger question is: how many of us get that?)

I hear it all the time. While I agree all moms do, especially moms who are blessed with special kids, it’s not all its cracked up to be. Let me tell you.

Yesterday, I was able to attend a training program for my employment. Not counting the long drive due to traffic (we’re talking a 430am alarm) I’m really glad I did it. (And even with traffic, I’m still glad I did it.) Us telecommuters, any drives are a change, but if you throw in 1.5-3 hours one-way, we might go cross-eyed for a second. Anyway, the training program was excellent and I really do think I learned a lot of applicable tips. After training was completed, it was recommended to me by several co-workers who live close by that I hang around in the area for a couple of hours, or I’d just be sitting on the freeway for a couple of hours extra. I chose to hang out. I envisioned myself walking around this beautifully decorated outdoor area, strolling along, having a leisurely dinner…ahhh, sounds nice, eh?

Fast forward to leaving the training. I headed for the Citywalk, with its gorgeous Christmas trees, huge neon sculptures, and loud but perfectly fitting Christmas music. Ahhhh. I wandered through some stores, picked up some souvenirs for the kids, and headed back up the other side to some stores I’d not been in yet. I also was scoping out restaurants for my nice uninterrupted dinner. Then it hit me. Everyone in all those restaurants was either a couple or a family, boisterously enjoying their time together. Couples clanking wine glasses together, kids with sparkles in their eyes (so they were reflections from the Christmas lights everywhere, who cares) and tourists excited about their day. Me, I’m alone. No real shopping bags to speak of, no interest in wine when I’ve got a long drive ahead of me, and <sniff> my little ones at home wishing I was there. Suddenly, having a leisurely dinner really wasn’t as exciting.

So, what do I do? I turn to the next best thing: texting. I’d already called dh earlier, and he told me that bb had an awesome day, with news he wanted to tell me on his own. When he started talking to me, he sounded SO much older than his newly-eight-years age. Sniff. He wanted to tell me that they had their school party today, the prize for those who sold a lot in the fundraiser. He won the grand prize! He also grabbed another $20 in the ‘money blowing around in a phone-booth-type box’ game. It made his day.

I text my oldest dd. That didn’t last long, she had things to do. I text some friends. However, none of it makes up for the fact I’m sitting alone in a Tony Roma’s enjoying a really good salad..alone. Sounds nice, I know, and so did my friends who weren’t as appreciative of my plight. Hmmph. Thirty-five minutes later, because, really, how long can you drag out a salad, and I was on my way to the car. Smooth sailing for all of three minutes, then traffic. Wasn’t this the whole reason for my foray around Citywalk?

In the end, I did get to check out the whole Citywalk and found some amazing things, if it weren’t Christmas and I hadn’t already completed all my shopping and then some. I found some other restaurants I could eat in next time, but I’ll need to bring a book at least. As good as it all was, the best part of my day was the hug when I saw ds that evening….at 8:55pm. Long day, I’m tired, but that hug was the bestest.

If you get time by yourself, take it. Just plan better than me. You need the time, but wasting it feeling lonely or wishing you had more to do detracts from the experience. It’s all in the details.

This last week, my husband and I have been on vacation. In a word? Bliss. I don’t care if every minute is filled with mundane errands and getting up early to get ds to school; just having the time off together, during our own thing, our own schedule, is fantastic. But, the week has flown by and next Monday will come all too quickly.

During this past week, we’ve been away more than we’ve been home. We’ve gotten 80% of our shopping done, with another 15% tomorrow, leaving the last 5% for next week. We, or shall I say I, have gotten most of the baking for this Saturday’s open house done. Meanwhile, my house smells heavenly. (But I’ll leave out the part where I’ll be up all night baking the doughs we put together….all five MORE of them. I already have three bundt cakes of various kinds, and 15 loaves of fancy breads in the freezer.) It’s been a very busy week.

So, getting down to business…ds has had a busy week, too. First, a birthday party update. SUCCESS! Five kids from his class showed, some who hadn’t RSVP’d, but whatever, they were there. Two other kids showed up, and so did our friends we invited, and away we went. Games went well, we played mini-golf, and he had so much fun, presents took a backseat. Expensive, eh, $300 including cake, but we didn’t have to clean our house before or after, and ds had the party he wanted. Add that to the convenience level and we’re happy. (And no meltdowns at the party!)

We spent a day at Disneyland. Accommodations there were, again, amazing. We used our special assistance pass and got on every ride ds wanted within a very reasonable wait time. (And I still kicked everyone’s butt on Toy Story Mania. Ha.) Towards the end of the day, ds was getting a bit overwhelmed and when I expressed my negative opinion about getting knocked down when he pushed his stroller backwards into me as I was crouched on the ground tying my shoe, he refused to talk to me for almost an hour — even though I was the one who ended up on the ground. It happened again later when he refused to stop pinching his sister, but dh stepped in each time and lightened the mood. We visited the Tiki room, and while we sat in the back..in the corner…it was still enjoyable. A shout-out to Rainforest Cafe for their birthday party recognition! Ds has wanted the volcano cake for his birthday for months now, and he was excited for it to finally happen. We attempted to go back to Disney <quickly> to visit Woody’s Roundup, a yearly tradition, but the monorail held us hostage. First, the new cars only hold 15 a person, so one train, which only comes every 10 minutes, only can take about 40 people. Translation: you wait forever. Walk. It’s quicker. We wait though, as by then, we’d already invested so much time, we figured ‘how much longer can it really be?’ Ha. They had more in mind. Little did we know, after they squeeze 16 in our car (did you hear that, Disney? They put 16 in a car made for 15. Isn’t that against some safety regs??) that they were putting a second train on the line, and we’d have to wait while they got it on-line. Sure. Why didn’t you tell us that, or do it, BEFORE you load us into a small little tube? Then, we get 9/10 of the way to the station, 15-20 minutes later, only to hear that the second car had some issues with its windows, so we’d need to wait. AGAIN. Same little tube. Same claustrophobic help-we-have-been-kidnapped-and-are-being-held-hostage feeling.  After a 30-minute ‘quick ride’ to the Tomorrowland station, we got off. It wasn’t without some commentary, where those perfect people who were still in ‘happiest place on earth’ mode weren’t approving of comments of those of us who feel a $90 ticket shouldn’t include being detained. Oh well.

However, the day was completed without further incident. Disneyland’s special assistance pass saved the day. We enjoyed the beautiful Christmas castle and music and were glad to have gotten in our annual Christmas visit.

We also squeezed in a dentist visit. After losing the two teeth (mentioned in a prior blog entry) ds ended up with two shapes on his palate, shapes that looked like teeth coming in. He’d also complained his teeth were painful to brush in some areas. While I could have done without the hygienist smiling at us like we were paranoid craziacs when the xray confirmed it was just his palate being shaped funny, I felt redeemed  (the words “neener-neener” came to mind) when the dentist confirmed that we were right to bring him in just to be safe, as sometimes losing teeth can cause swelling like he had, and apparently infection. One point for the parents who pay high rates for good insurance and want to be sure their child’s mouth is safe. And ds didn’t freak, but that’s due mostly to an excellent dentist who knows how to ease his fears by explaining everything to him, addressing him appropriately, and letting him touch/feel all the tools prior to their use.

Then, today. Awards ceremony at school. Ds got a certificate for his grades, one for turning in homework regularly, and one for passing his health/P.E. requirements. He came into the ceremony SO excited. Smiling, dancing, and chatty. Trouble came when halfway through, a teacher reminded his table to be quiet. Poof. Magic words. That was the end of it. When it came time for his second award, he went to the front with his hood over his face. Our Assistant Principal, an amazing V.P., acknowledged it and tried to help, as did both dh and I, but to no avail. He stood for pictures with no face showing. When his name was called for his third award, he refused to move. He sat at his table, head down, while everyone else went on stage. Prompting from us made no difference. He was so upset by then, he was agitated and we had to leave him alone for fear of a full-out meltdown. (And to the lady who went  “Look!” and pointed at him like he was a rare parading zoo monkey eating a banana while hanging upside down and pottying, I really hope you realized that the child’s parents heard you and watched you. We wish no ill upon your child(ren) but you could stand to learn some manners and compassion.) We picked him up shortly after, and after sticking to the ‘no more negative talk once we get to the car’ credo, the day wasn’t so bad after all.

Tomorrow, we finish our shopping. Then, we take ds and a the girls (other ds won’t be along) to see the infamous Christmas lights a city away. It’s a big event every year, where we walk the entire show (after parking a mile away) and drink coffee purchased from a resident we find along the way. We sing carols along with the music pumped from the fancy homes, and talk with our friends, same homes we see every year but we’re nevertheless amazed. It’s going to get down to 37 degrees tonight. 37. I am jazzed. Christmas weather at last. Now, if I could just figure out how to get ds to wear a jammy top, we’d be golden; good thing he likes to wrap himself up in a special blue blanket every night because it’s soft. Tomorrow night will be cold as well, so Amen to getting Christmas weather on target.

Ds stayed in his bed last night — the WHOLE night. I heard him having a bad dream, but he got back to sleep and stayed there. Good thing, I stayed up late reading the last of the Twilight books. Yes, I am one of “those” moms. So what if a few people think they’re mindless drivel. We don’t all need to read enlightening award-winning literary prizewinners. Some of us like fictional books that don’t take a lot of thought, and these books fit the bill while allowing you to pretend you’re somewhere else for a while, because believe me, these books do put you in a whole new environment. Get a grip if you’re anti-Twilight, and go back to your Pulitzer material, Stephenie Meyer’s raking in the bucks so she’s got my vote.

Now I’m off to get more cookies in the oven, and watch a Nascar race on ds’s new Nascar toy race track the girls got him for his birthday. I can hear him giggling from here, and I need to watch his smile light up his eyes. Merry Christmas, everyone. I got my gift already.

Most autistic children end up with some kind of occupational therapy as they’re growing up, be it in school or via a private provider. One big thing about O.T. is that the parents are also taught what works and doesn’t work in order to keep their child calm(er) and to maintain a sensory diet. Each kid’s ‘diet’ is unique, but most involve some sort of physical movement. Our occupational therapist suggested we take ds to Disneyland frequently — ds had/has rotary nystagmus (abnormal reaction to spinning/movement) and he needs a lot of physical input to keep his system level, and the heavy-duty rides at Disneyland (Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Matterhorn, etc.) give him a lot of input. She also suggested a class in some sport (gymnastics, karate, etc.) that would work on physical input while helping with social skills and learning how to behave in a classroom environment. We knew a team sport wouldn’t work; ds has low muscle tone (functional hypotonia) so we weren’t sure what he would contribute to a team, but even more importantly, we knew he’d have tantrums or meltdowns if he was teased, bumped/roughed up, didn’t get to play the part he wanted or as often as he wanted, and a multitude of other things. So, we went for karate. Ds likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and he thought their skills were cool. We knew of a couple of good studios, but we also didn’t want to sink a huge amount of money into a uniform and classes in a formal studio setting without testing his interest level. We enrolled him in a less formal (e.g. less costly) course and were pleased to see that he took the rules very seriously: be quiet, don’t disrupt the class, and try the moves. The sensei is a wonderful teacher, and pretty strict with those who disrupt. On week two, ds was trying a side-kick, while laying on the ground, and saw a ponytail from a girl next to him. He loves soft things, so he was running his toes through her ponytail. Yes, we wanted him to stop but the sensei is in charge, and sure enough, he saw it. We feared a major meltdown, but ds took the instruction and never once did anything even the slightest bit questionable again. But that doesn’t mean he always paid attention. There were times where we saw the sarcasm/funny/sarcasm talk of the sensei go right over his head, and he’d pay more attention to his belt, his toes, his belly button, you name it, than the sensei’s instruction. This last week, we knew after two or three minutes that it was going to be a long class. Ds had no focus whatsoever, spinning, playing with his hands, and tilting his head the entire time. The sensei must have picked up on it, and decided it was better to let it go, but it never improved. He barely tried what they were instructed to do, and he was always backwards. His eyes were so vacant, and he seemed so out of it, for lack of a better word. If only I’d had a videocamera, it would have been an enlightening movie. I am taking one next time, as that behavior was scary and it displayed a lot of things we really need help with.

On that same note, Christmas shopping. Autistic child. Do you see where I’m going with this? Today I took my son to Target, just for an hour or less, to buy some gifts for his siblings and his dad. I was concerned with how he’d do in such a busy place, but figured with Target, we could find something for everyone on our list. Off we went. First we almost got hit by another car in the parking lot, someone in a hurry, not paying attention, pulling out into oncoming traffic. Then we get into the store, only to find there are no carts. Shopping with ds requires a cart. We wait until someone leaves one, and ds decides that there were cute things in the dollar aisle for everyone, including a book, “Ducky’s Rainbow Delight,” for my 19 yo daughter. After I talked him out of that, the Icee requests started. For the next 45 minutes, “Can I get an Icee? Why can’t I get an Icee? Why is the Icee line so long? Can I get an Icee now? When can I get my Icee? Is the Icee line shorter yet? Why can’t I shop with my Icee? How long is the Icee line now? Is the Icee line shorter yet? Can I get my Icee NOW?” We’d head to one section, look for a minute, and get one or three Icee questions. Section after section, question after question. We finally chose the gifts (easier if you finally say “If you want that Icee, choose. Now.”) and got things I think everyone will really like, and dd headed for the Icee line while ds and I went through the long checkout line. We finished simultaneously, and then the “What kind of Icee should I get? What flavor is green? Why is that one always broken?” questions started. Solve one question, another just pops up. But, I don’t think I’ll need to go back into a store until the day after Christmas, when we just have to go and see what Christmas decorations we can buy at half-price. Maybe.

So other than Christmas shopping, what else changes during the holidays when your child (or your grandchild, niece, nephew, sibling, etc.) is autistic? I’ve got a list of things, but that’s for another blog. I also want to share our story about removing all the toxins from our home in an effort to have a more green, healthier home for our children. If you’ve got children, it’s something you need to consider, even if on a small scale, as every little bit helps. (Mercury isn’t the only thing that doesn’t belong in your home or child.)

The next couple of days are busy. We leave in 30 minutes for a party, then after church tomorrow, another party, so I may not get back on my blog until after Christmas. In case, I want to take some time now to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a joyous celebration with loved ones.


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