Monthly Archives: August 2013

So That’s What This is Like…

Alex and I worked our volunteer shift at the Toy Lending Library this morning after dropping Mikey at school. It was super busy today, a rainy day at the beginning of the school year. We filled four sign-in sheets in the two hours we were there, so I know there were at minimum fifty children zooming around in there.

I caught a few glimpses of Alex as I checked people in, took their payments, and gave tours to new visitors. Every now and then, I’d spy him playing with some elephants or driving a giraffe around in a bulldozer.

But otherwise, he played by himself for two hours. I kept stopping what I was doing, in panic, because I hadn’t heard anyone screaming. Certain there’d be a disaster, I’d sprint to the other end of the toy library, but there was Alex, just riding a scooter or feeding plastic pears to a baby doll.

Twice he came up to find me at the desk. Once to nurse and another time to read an alphabet book. A few times he found some other wee friends to play with (one helped him get on a scooter, the other “helped” him eat craisins), but I really got a glimpse today of how a child can play independently.

As soon as I stopped feeling unsettled by it, I felt utter relief. I had a few conversations with other parents. I went to the bathroom by myself. I checked a text message on my phone. I can’t do any of these things, still, when Mikey is home. If I’m not worried about his safety awareness (really, his lack of it), I’m reminded of his intensity at every second. Mikey doesn’t just want to play trains–he wants me to observe him playing trains. Not play along with him, mind you, but certainly be close by and utterly focused on his play.

Alex is just totally chill. So very like his father. I had no idea children could be so different, that someone I parent exactly the same way (I think?) could just be soooooo different. Temperament is a big deal, folks.

I try very hard not to compare the children, not to sit and think of Alex’s behavior today as superior to Mikey’s. Because certainly one of the children was easier to take to the toy library than the other–but how much did I miss out on since I didn’t stick right by Alex? I only happened to glimpse him feeding pears to the baby doll. I really have no idea how he spent his time today, whether children snatched toys from him or if he drooled somewhere I should have cleaned up.

I try not to compare them. But I am not yet done marveling at what a difference there is between the personalities of my two children. Each day, I feel more relief and awareness that there was nothing I specifically did or did not do to cause Mikey’s challenging behaviors. I didn’t spoil him or cause his autism or fail to prevent it. He’s just Mikey, the way Alex is just Alex and has been from the moment he arrived.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying these moments taking such a chill kid out in the world while Mikey is in school. The two of us had a grand time this morning. I’m glad I’ll get to hang out with just Alex two days each week this year.

Celebrity

Mikey is hot stuff at school right now, thanks to his new, talking Epi injector. We took the tester along with us to Mikey’s conference and showed his teacher and Montessori tutor how to work the injector. The school nurse left us a voicemail that she wanted to check it out and learn how to use it, too, so we brought it along today for the first day of school.

Well, while we were outside demonstrating, ALL THE MOMS wanted to learn about this. Other teachers have kids with peanut allergies and were taking pictures of the packaging, of the tester, making videos of Mikey ripping off the safety guard with his teeth to fake inject his upper thigh. He was a celebrity.

Mikey’s teacher has a wee nephew who was recently diagnosed with tree nut allergies. She (the teacher) confessed to having a brand new insight and understanding of the situation and also wanted to make a video of the Auvi-Q to show her family. We’re at the cusp of a new trend, I’ll tell you what.

We spent so long demonstrating the new tester that Mikey was a touch late getting into his class, which upset him a wee bit, but was ok because then he just got to demonstrate his tester again. Between that and the box of graham crackers we sent in for snack, I think my son has secured a spot at the top of the social ladder at preschool, at least for the first week.

Fleet

Mikey is quite taken by trucks lately, really vehicles of all sorts. This morning, we were all up early (as usual) and I had committed to embracing the morning, so we were all dressed with teeth brushed by 7:30. They’re paving the cross street a block away, and the boys and I walked over to watch the mighty machines doing their thing.

As they both clapped and squealed at the steam roller, Mikey informed me that when he turns 16, he’s going to get a Hot Rod and use it to deliver Halloween decorations. He and Cody will sit up front while Alex and I are in the back. We’ll deliver both spooky and atumnal decorations…oh! and also Christmas presents!

Along the walk home, his make believe vehicle fleet grew larger with each vehicle we passed. The truck with hoses and water (for the steam roller?) was going to join his fleet. So was the white van filled with carpet rolls. And a pickup truck with a rack in the back.

We aren’t going to hire additional drivers to make deliveries for us, we’ll just keep circling back to our house and hop into new vehicles. He’s got it all worked out.

My uncle is busy remodeling a classic car of some sort and has begun emailing me pictures of the process and of other antique cars. I put these photos on Mikey’s phone–I need to interrupt here to say that Uncle J gave us his old iPhone so Mikey can watch his YouTube and PBS Kids videos using the wifi–and my boy loves to walk around and discuss all these cars. He’s got a fever!

“You see this paint? It’s called black cherry pearl.” My little motorhead.

Alex loves to emulate his big brother, so the two of them sit beside one another with heaps of cars. Alex pushes his in tight circles, making rumbling noises, while Mikey turns them upside down to watch the wheels spin or lines them up in “parking lots.”

I always vowed that just because I had boys, I would not push them toward obsessions with vehicles. I don’t believe this happened consciously, although I certainly noticed them enjoying vehicles and supported this interest. Their father loves cars and trains. Their grandfathers love cars and trains. Their uncles and great-uncles build or rehab cars…we’ve got engine grease all around.

We’re just about in a place where I’ll need to emulate Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny if I want to be able to engage them in meaningful conversation. For now, I feel pretty happy that I can tell my excavators from my payloaders from my mustangs.

Moving the Basket

It might not be the best of ideas, but I’ve been letting the boys play alone in the basement while I do things upstairs–cook dinner, eat chocolate, check facebook…

Usually they just drive trucks around or bang blocks together, and it gets noisy because Alex will disrupt a long ling Mikey has made or else Mikey will snatch a bulldozer from Alex. Oh! The tears! And I ignore them, because if they’re whine-crying it usually means nobody’s injured or doing something naughty.

But sometimes it gets eerily quiet.

Today, it got quiet. Just as I was about to investigate the quiet, Mikey came bolting up the stairs with some news. “Mom!” he said, breathless. “Alex was going to climb into the toilet! And I know he’s not supposed to do that. But I’m not supposed to touch him because you said I’d get a consequence! So I called him away and then I moved the wash basket to block him so he won’t go in the toilet.”

There wasn’t enough praise in my mouth to tell Mikey how proud I felt that he had troubleshot this situation with such mindfulness, keeping all of our family rules in mind all at once and solving this problem so maturely. What a great solution! What a great brother! Sometimes he takes my breath away.

Wizard Camp

Mikey’s been reading Wonderful Land of Oz with us this summer. The first few times we read through, he didn’t retain much, but we’re on at least our 5th time reading it (ugh! Please let this child learn to read soon, right?) and he just loves it. He makes believe he’s Oz, the great and terrible and he likes us to be various characters and inanimate objects from the story.

Sometimes, Alex is supposed to be the cyclone. Which is actually quite fitting if you’ve ever watched the way he plays with his toys.

Earlier this spring, Cody and I won a raffle prize for a free camp session at the Irma Freeman Center for Creative Expression. It’s a really neat new facility near us that offers all sorts of programming. I’m a little sad that I’m too old to take capoeria camp, herbal alchemy, paper making, improv, or “my secret garden.”

We signed Mikey up for Witches and Wizards camp, where he felt certain he’d learn to become Oz THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE. “And mom, I’ll say, ‘who are you and why do you seek me??'”

Of course, it’s not like that at all. He’s prepared some garlic tincture, some sort of lemon balm, made rattles and chewed on licorice roots. He also, because he lacks fine motor skills, seems to opt out of many of the crafts and they’re not really set up there to help him. I’m looking right now at his paper plate with brown marker scribbles and one little chunk ripped out…the other children cut the plate to form a turtle and wrapped the whole thing with yarn.

Often, when I show up to gather him, he’s helping the instructor to brew a potion or use the dust pan (things he really does like to do!) while the other kids play Simon Says. He tells me he doesn’t like simon says, and I wonder if it’s just too many people close by him in a small room or whether it’s the reciprocal nature of the game that’s bothering him.

I think this week is showing me that first, I need to let Mikey set the expectations of camp and let him define what makes it fun. He really does like it there and has been making believe he’s “Mama Ola,” the teacher. She taught the kids some phrases in Swahili and he really likes testing those out on us at dinner time.

They begin their mornings with yoga or zumba taught by someone Mikey recognized from a photo that popped up in my facebook feed–“That’s my yoga teacher! That’s Crystal!” He almost never remembers anyone’s name, so I know that he really likes her.

They also apparently go on walks and when we drive home via their walking route, Mikey amazes me with his astute observations about architecture, construction, or lawn furniture. It’s ok that he doesn’t love doing what the other kids do on these walks or see what the other kids see.

He sometimes doesn’t participate in a new activity because he needs to observe for awhile and digest it on his own terms, often at home long after the activity ended. I’ll sometimes find him in his room testing out a warrior pose, but he stops as soon as I catch him! Already at four!

Sure, I wish he’d had some more support so I could have felt he made an informed choice not to make the turtle craft. The second thing I’m really taking away from this week is that he’s really not like other kids at all, and even if that’s a little uncomfortable for me it’s okay, too.

New Epi Injector

Mikey has a peanut allergy, as do many kids on the autism spectrum. We knew about the peanut allergy long before we knew about the autism…

A few times a year, we acquire a prescription for an Epinephrine injector, which we carry around with us all the time. For some reason, the pharmacy always sticks us with one that expires in 6 months. I had no idea until recently the prescription was supposed to be good for a year. We’d just been dutifully paying our $50 co-pay twice annually. I digress!Auvi-Q injector

I feel pretty confident in my personal vigilance with Mikey in the wide world. I’m a nut job! See what I did there? And if I slip up and he has an exposure, I know from experience that I’m equipped to handle it. I might freak out and scream and claw the peanut butter crackers from his mouth as I dangle him upside-down in the playground, but I keep him alive, dammit.

I’m less confident in his school, for the following reasons:

  1. the school nurse called to clarify whether Mikey could eat peanut butter or did he need to avoid all peanut products?
  2. he’s not supposed to take his injector with him to the cafeteria, where the food is, but instead leave it in his classroom
  3. the nurse is only in the building a few days per week (budget cuts!) and the other staff members aren’t legally allowed to administer the pen

There’s been all sorts of news coverage about this troublesome law–cafeteria aides can’t inject kids. They’re supposed to rely on the kids to do it or stand by and watch the kids asphyxiate. You can google it. It’s heart breaking.

A typical work-around for this rule is that staff will place the injector in the kid’s hand, place the adult hand over the kid’s hand, and “assist” the child in injecting himself. Mikey’s classroom tutor sits right by him at lunch and I know she’d do this and have complete confidence in her–she’s a smart lady.

Still, when I read about this new injector on the market, I liked it a lot better than the Epi Pen Jr. It’s smaller (so it might fit in the cargo pocket of Mikey’s “red fluffy pants”…or Cody might agree to carry it with him, since he hates the bulky EpiPen Jr. marker-shaped thingies). But the best part is that it offers voice instructions.

The last thing someone needs in a moment of panic when a kid eats a peanut is confusion. The Auvi-Q will talk grownups through the process of injecting it into Mikey if he has an exposure at school. I like it.

I stopped by my pharmacy today to ask about it and was elated to learn my insurance fully covers it! Not even a co-pay. I’m pumped to have this new injector for Mikey to take along with him at school. We’ll keep using our old Epi pens at home, since like I said I know how to use them and I just keep them in all my purses and the backpack.

We’ve actually never had to use any of the injectors for Mikey–Benadryl has always gotten us through his exposures. But it’s good to know we have options.

*I have not been compensated or even contacted by Auvi-Q. I’m just excited about this new option.

Worker

Mikey is obsessed lately with the notion of working. He loves to make believe he is working–any work will do, but he’s particularly fond of manual labor. When his Uncle J was in town, Mikey insisted on playing “worker” all day, referring to Uncle J simply as “worker,” and not batting an eyelash when Uncle J responded, “Yes, Comrade?”

“Worker” involves Uncle J spraying sunblock on the carpeted basement stairs and then scraping it off with a make believe Sponge Bob razor.

Ever aware of how young he is, Mikey loves to ask me how old he needs to be to perform certain tasks. How old to drive a garbage truck? How old to push back carts at the grocery store? How old to pump gas? How old to help Daddy pump gas????

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Usually, we tell him he needs to be 15 for working papers and 16 to drive any vehicle, though we explain that some vehicles require extra training.

This past weekend we were on a road trip and at rest stops, we’re always looking for ways to keep Mikey content while I’m nursing Alex. This time, Cody offered to let Mikey help pump gas. It was as if we offered Mikey an iPad. He swiped the credit card and pressed the fuel grade. I was surprised that Cody let Mikey hold the gas handle, but he did and it seemed to be going well.

Until it wasn’t! That handle is darn difficult to squeeze and hold still for a long time and eventually, it slipped from his little hand until he was spraying gas all over his shorts, new Vans, and brand new number shirt. Number shirts are very important to my Mikey…

I was impressed with how calm we all remained. I hopped out and got Mikey some fresh clothes from the packed car, Cody finished pumping the gas, Mikey cried that he had to get back in his car seat with no pants on (we were being hurried by the impatient asshole in the car behind us at the pump, who cared not that a little boy was covered in gasoline while she was in a hurry).

I cannot get the gas smell out of the clothes, which I had shoved in a plastic bag with our wet swim stuff and later added Alex’s carsick spitup clothes. So we’ve got a life lesson learned–no pumping gas until age 16, like the pump suggests!–and a basement filled with stinky, barfy clothes.

The Internet suggests either ammonia, blue Dawn, or baby oil will take out the odor. Of those three, I’m choosing to try blue Dawn first. Mikey’s next worker game will be washer-woman.