by BrianRobinson
Jul 23, 2012 | 6271 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     After a while of being in it constantly, you learn to adjust to being uncertain.  You get better about taking blind guesses, on choosing with little to no input, and always being ready to adjust and adapt.  On the minus side, you're a lot more cautious and careful about new things, ready to take the safe and tried over the new, and holding back at times when going forward is an option
     Xan's been going to ARC camp the past two weeks, and as usual I've been volunteering up there as well.  But we've missed the last couple of days.  He woke up at 3:30 one morning, coughing and sneezing and running a fever, so that call was pretty easy.  He was off and on over the weekend, having his usual vacuum like appetite and being active, but sneezing and being cranky.  No fever, but a tendency to huddle up on the couch now and again, which is almost always a sign of his not feeling good.  Seeming happy one minute, then launching into a fit for some unclear reason the next.
    Then this morning, he was acting off and said 'no camp'.  Still coughing and sneezing a bit too.  As I type this, he's huddled on the couch under his Thomas blanket and kinda talking to himself while one of his shows plays.  But give it a few hours and he may be tearing through the house like the Energizer bunny on an overdose of Red Bull.
     Based on what I knew, what I thought could happen, and past experiences, I kept him home today.  Right call?  Wrong call? 
     I could have sent him in.  He may have been fine, overcome a rough start and had a great time.  I may have done that if he hadn't been sick last week and been off and on over the weekend.  Then again, there was no clear and obvious sign he was sick - no more fever, no throwing up, nothing like that.  So I elected to be safe.
     I may have a tendency to be too safe at times.  I've written about how his teacher pushed me to let him go on a field trip by himself, which I finally did.  Maybe volunteering at camp is also a bit much - it lets me be there if he needs me, but doesn't let him have a chance to work things through himself.  Perhaps I'm trading being there for him for his independence.
     Who knows?
     Every parent out there worthy of the name has wished there was an instruction book for their child that could help them out, giving a 'If-A-Then-B' step by step guide to every situation out there.  Then again, a guide like that would only work for a particularly dull and unexciting robot.  Guesswork may cause ulcers, but it's also a sign your kid is their own unique, difficult and growing person.
     So we shall see if my guess was a good one or not.  As always.
by BrianRobinson
Jun 25, 2012 | 6083 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     Every family has good days and bad days in life.  Some of them will be known by a kind of memory jogger - that day we saw the deer, that night when the car died, that great dinner we had that one time and (for those of you with newborns or, like us, kids who fight sleep and cats who wake early) that night we got to sleep seven hours straight.  A few of them that stand out more don't need any details - when we met, when your child was born.
     Only a few need just one word to describe and remember.
     Given last Sunday, Father's Day, was kind of a mess - literally AND figuratively - I kind of got a redo.  So Saturday, we went up to Jacksonville to visit two of our favorite places - Wake and Bake Pizza and Recollected Books.  Eat some pizza, buy some books, have a time.
     We decided to eat first, since Xan's always hungry.  When we went in, I started to wonder if things were going to get interesting.  They had a band playing on the stage in the back, and they were tuning up and playing around, and Xan immediately covered his ears.  Loud noises, high noises, odd echoes and deep noises can bug him, so I was a little nervous.
     Tracy and I talked and decided to go on and try to eat, guessing if things really began to bother him we could go outside and finish.  Xan still had his fingers in his ears, so I made sure to tell one of the guys in the band - the keyboardist and lead singer - to please not take it personal, explained he was autistic and the loud noise was bothering him.  It wasn't a comment on their music, which was very good.
     The guy was super cool about it, said it was no problem.  Soon after, they stopped playing.  It took me a while to connect the dots, but when I did (I would be the first to admit I'm not a fast thinker...actually, I'd be the fortieth or so.)  (ps - that line comes from Terry Pratchett, an author you really should be reading) I went up to the stage.  The lead singer and the drummer were goofing around very quietly and I asked if they had stopped because of Xan.  They said yes, they were just being considerate.
     I thanked them then, and I thank them now.  I hope somewhere they all have something very nice coming to them for this good deed.
     I also told them to go ahead and play.  Xan has to get used to this kind of stuff.  The whole world won't be as kind as this band was, and sometimes he's just gonna have to accept and adjust.  They got back on stage and started to play some of their songs.
    Xander would take his hands down, bob his head a bit, put them back in his ears.  He began to laugh. He began to LOUDLY laugh, smile, giggle, wave his hands in that 'I'm excited' flap of his, and emit peals of his happy cry: 'Deeeeeeeee!'
     We got done eating and were getting ready to leave.  Xan got up, ran to the stage and began jumping and laughing and twirling and spinning and having one of best times I can remember him having.  The owner of the store knows us - we're probably not one of her regulars, being kind of far away, but Xan makes an impression and she remembered us - and let him do all that.  I stayed close to the stage in case he decided to try and jump on there with them - I could see that - and watched him.  The singer, the one I had talked to, asked his name from the stage, gave him a shout-out.
     They played three or songs, all excellent,  and the singer even gave us a warning when he was going to hit some high notes in case it bothered Xan.  It didn't.
     I asked the owner for their name.  Turns out it was members of two or three bands getting together for a kind of jam session.  From what I heard, they could do this a lot more.
     I bought them all some cookies (which are excellent) as a very tiny payment for one of the best days I can remember.  Xan keened and sang in his own way to himself the rest of the day.
     We will always remember this day as Music Day.
by BrianRobinson
Jun 22, 2012 | 2367 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     There seems to be a cosmic rule for us.
     If it's supposed to be a Big Day, things will go wrong.
     Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving...
     Father's Day.
     I was just going to take it easy, minimize the risk.  Plus, heck, I'm old and tired and it's been a LONG month.  So we were staying in, I was lazing around, eating leftover Mata's pizza and watching soccer.
    And then...

    Parents get specialized antennae as their kids grow up.  We're able to tell the difference between a cry you can let go and a cry that needs immediate attention.  One loud clunk we can just yell 'Stop whatever you're doing and pick it up!' and another kind we're up and breaking the 40 yard dash record to see what happened.  And certain other noises really make jump and bolt. 
     Like a toilet flushing a lot and the sound of running water.
     It's a really bad sign as you dash for the bathroom when you're HOPING that means only the sink is flooding.
     Not so much.
     It was a WATERFALL.  A splashing, running flood.  The floor was about half an inch deep, the water ran down the vent to make a nice sized puddle downstairs, books were drenched and clothes were floating and it was not pretty.
     Another cosmic rule, not just for us: When the toilet overflows, it won't be just liquid.  I'm being genteel here.
     A small bathroom took about three hours to clean up, with sopping up the water and wringing it out, throwing away books and clothes, washing what could be spared, plunging the toilet into usability again and several strong Lysol moppings followed by hot water cleaning, scrubbing every surface we could reach.
     It wasn't the worst thing ever, but it sure wasn't anywhere near my first choice of how to spend a day, let alone one supposedly set aside for me.
     But it was par for the course of the summer to date.
     Xan had been having several bad days.  He wouldn't obey me at all.  I would say don't do A, he did A.  I would say do X, he wouldn't do X.  Constantly.  There was yelling, there was screaming, there were multiple trips to his room for punishment and for me to get a chance to breathe and clean up the most recent mess that he made and wouldn't clean up.
     It got to the point where I was getting afraid he was regressing somehow, losing all the advantages he had, I had bad thoughts of this being the new normal, a constant fight over and over, to where he was helpless and unsuitable for anything but the simplest tasks. 
     It was not happy thoughts.  And I grew pretty depressed, keeping quiet and having no fun at all, inside or outside, drained of energy and emotion.  Sleep - never a steady thing - got even more broken and less restful.  My workout schedule - which had been five days of a Wii workout (MyFitness Coach), jogging every other day, Tae Kwon Do twice a week and forms every day (and I STILL have a belly!), dwindled to nothing as I found myself chugging Diet Coke and sugary snacks hourly for energy to make it through the day.  I even skipped Tae Kwon Do, realizing I was so drained and tired and listless that either I would get hurt or hurt someone else through a combination of exhausted and careless.  As you can see, I've skipped a couple of weeks of blogging, not having any spare energy to type in thoughts and, honestly, no wish to express what was going on with me.   
     As flooded as that bathroom had been, I was flooded with everything that was going on, to the same effect.  And as is my wont, I kinda hated myself for feeling so overwhelmed, since many families take days like those and consider them peaceful holidays.  That didn't help.
     Things have improved.  Xan's doing good in summer school, even starting to write a bit more.  His home attitude has gotten better and he's gotten back to doing what I tell - mostly - and not doing what I forbid - mostly.  After a time of constantly not, mostly so is magnitudes better.  I was able to talk to Tracy about how I was feeling (one word - DOWN) and that helped a lot.  Getting back into exercise slowly. letting my body readjust.  Went back to TKD, was able to hit and be hit and help teach and sweat out some of the stress.
     One thing to keep in mind - no matter how big the mess, it does get clean eventually.
     Here's hoping you are having a good summer.

by BrianRobinson
Jun 04, 2012 | 3694 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     I've always loved to read.  I taught myself to read when I was two and never stopped.  Mom and dad saw my love for it and pretty much cut me loose, to where I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was, I think, four and was buying Stephen King books when I was 10 or so.  I very much remember an incident in 3rd grade when I tried to buy 1984 from Scholastic Reader (they passed out the 8th grade forms to us by accident) and the teacher called my parents to inform them they had made a mistake letting me order it.  Her bad luck had dad answering the phone.
     For anyone who knows my dad, I give you a few minutes to imagine and enjoy his reaction to the call.  It was...multi-syllabic, shall we say.
     This addiction, one of my few, has never stopped.  We have about close to six thousand books and I've read many to most of them.  We've got eight bookcases filled to overflowing; books in straight rows and stacked in piles everywhere there's space.  Books in stacks on the floor downstairs, lining the hall, piled in the front of the nonworking chimney.
     If someone offered me one tenth of a cent per page for all my books...well, they'd really regret it quickly.
     Xan likes books too.  He's often carrying one, or two, or three around and almost always grabs some whenever we get in the car.  Given his druthers, he tends to go for easy ones with big pictures, and we steer him to more challenging ones.  We're pretty sure he reads and understands them to some extent - he's been quizzed in school on books he's read and can name characters, situations and basic things like that. 
     But lots of times he uses them to bang his elbows or knees with - which seems to help him kind of reset his own body; that being a stranger in your own skin feeling I've written about before.  It's hard to get answers from him about less picture-filled books, which may be a lack of understanding the book, the question, or from us in understanding his answers either due to verbal troubles or intellect.  After all, he may be answering more than what we ask, giving us a 10 when we expect a 2.  He reads.  We just don't know how well.
     But how does he read other people?
     This is usually a big problem with autistic people, where they're busy inside their own heads and skin dealing with their own flood of sensory input to understand, or perhaps even notice, what other people are thinking and feeling.  If you have on headphones screaming heavy metal in your ears you aren't be able to catch that whispered question from a person next to you.  Other people may see rudeness where it's more overload.  At best, even with understanding, you'll be tolerated, not accepted.
     He seems to get some things.  When we had to put Casper and Ziggy to sleep, he was kind to mommy, giving her little kisses on the top of her head.  And, sadly, he's very good at noticing when I'm mad at him, which may or may not mean I'm that too much.  But those were and are extremes, clear differences, a boiling ocean or stuttering waterfall where before things were placid and smooth.  Other things...
     I think he gets when I'm in a good mood, because he wants me to play with him when I'm like that, when I'm likely to really get down and tickle him and wrestle him and all that stuff he likes.  Then again, there's been times I've been clearly sick, either with pneumonia or a migraine, and he's either wanted to play or wanted me to do things I pretty clearly wasn't capable of doing.  Was that the usual selfishness kids can show, or was it him not seeing I was in pain?  How well can he read us, the people he's closest to?  (I assume - I can just see me typing out this blog and finding out from his school he's the combination analyst and counselor to his class...)
     This is important to get, of course, because reading other people will at the least let you fit in society a bit better - maybe your particular puzzle piece will have to be pushed in a bit, or maybe there'll be a gap at one segment or another, but you'll still be in the whole.  But if you can't see when some people are happy, sad, mad, sick - you won't fit.  You'll be that square peg in the round hold, or that picture of a cherry in the puzzle of clouds, or that odd checker on the chess board that's meant to be a pawn. 
     It's hard to teach too.  People tend to be separate in their emotions.  Books with the same color cover can be millions of differences inside.  Only way to know is to be able to read them.  Which we don't know how well he can do yet.
by BrianRobinson
May 29, 2012 | 2881 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
     When it came (long LONG ago back in the mists of the past) time to pick a senior quote, I went with one of my own making.  I thought it made me sound a little like a guy who was more fun than people knew, but looking back on it, it kinda made me look like someone who was TRYING to sound like a guy who was more fun etc. etc.  It was 'Trouble isn't trouble unless you're caught.'  You may groan now.
     One of my friends went with a more classic one from Sun Tzu - "Know yourself - in a thousand battles you will never know defeat."  Back then I had problems with that quote, wondering about ambushes, tricks, and just plain old being outmatched.  It was only when I got older and thought about it that I understood it a bit better, and then having Xander really drove it home and showed me it was wrong.
      It means know your limits.  Don't pick fights in areas where you're not strong.  Play to your strengths.  For example, I am not strong in home repair.  Not strong is being kind - I would have to get exponentially better to make it up to not strong.  I'm under court order to not attempt anything more complex than changing a light bulb.  Therefore, when someone is talking about home repair stuff, I shouldn't jump in and act like I know something about it.  Instead, I should perhaps smoothly fake a choking fit and hastily excuse myself.
     When it comes to parenting, and more specifically parenting Xander, I have learned limits very well.  Mine and his.
     Xan has a built-in time limit for work.  Usually around the millisecond mark.  After this short limit is reached he tends to dig in his heels and make learning difficult and frustrating, and I've learned that at some certain point he's done, and pushing him further on with result in yelling, screaming, head-butting and trouble.  He'll act up as well.
     The trick is realizing when that switch flips from 'I don't want to do this but I can' to 'I've had all I can take, for real, and I can't handle anymore'.  It can be hard to tell.  As he used to play his teachers, now he plays us.  We've been told he can do things we didn't think he could, and I prefer that to when it was the teachers he was a small point.
     Maybe someone else could make him do more, or keep him calm, or get him to learn more.  Actually, there's no maybe about that - his teachers do that.  That's one of my limits I don't like - I'm not as good at teaching him.  We tend to meet in the middle when we get impatient with each other and we meet in a crash of egos, which ends with him in his room and me in another, each of us calming down. 
     Because of those times, I tend to be slower and calmer teaching him, giving him plenty of breaks for both of us.  I've seen those limits and what happens when we cross them.
     But still - sometimes I do cross them. 
     Xan is smart.  Xan is probably a genius.  Every professional who has observed him says they believe that.  Which means while he may have limits from his autism, he doesn't have any for his intelligence, and sometimes I push him past where he wants to stop because I know he can do it.  He also gets no slack when he does something wrong that I'm pretty sure he knows better, because as I tell him, "I know you're smart enough to know what you did was wrong," even though this will result in his getting in trouble, getting mad, getting punished and reacting in kind.  Punishments seem to cut two ways in our house.  And when I push past those limits, I know what could happen and that I could lose.
     So sometimes I break my limits, so he can go beyond his and reach more of his potential.
     Sun Tzu was wrong.  I've lost many battles.
     So I can still maybe win the war. 

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