Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why God Didn't Make Eggs Blue

I was in a funk this morning. I decided to snap out of it and have a [somewhat] fun day with Jack. I declared it "BLUE" day. Everything would be blue.

We started with a blue bath.

We wore all blue clothes (including underwear).

We moved on to watching Blue's Clues.

We played with blue shaving cream on the table.

We had a blue lunch. (Unfortunately, this was the only thing I took a picture of. I think the title of this post speaks for itself when you see the pictures below.)

We had 4 blue M&Ms.

BLUE soy milk, BLUE noodles, BLUEberries, and BLUE scrambled eggs (looked so gross).

"I really am not too sure about this."

"I suppose I'll give it a try."

"Can I have my M&Ms now?"

That's pretty much where BLUE day ended. Jack took a nap (HOLY COW!) and was in a really rotten mood after he woke up. He really had fun with the blue theme, though. I definitely think there will be more days like this in the future.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Overwhelmed Mommy

Today I am feeling slightly overwhelmed. I think I've been reading too many blogs. It's the overwhelming feeling that comes with the desire to "do it all." I know that a lot of moms struggle with the feeling that they need to be "Super Mom" and be an expert in all areas of life. No offense to anyone who's big on these things...there's absolutely nothing "wrong" with any of these things. But, here's a small list of what is plaguing me today:

**Couponing. Cut coupons. Lots of the them. Get great deals at the stores. If you're not saving 80-90% on your grocery bill, then you're wasting money. Cut, cut, cut. Use coupons for everything.

**"Green." Make sure you don't use any non-green cleaners in your house. Make sure everything's organic. Healthy, healthy, healthy.

**Make all your food from scratch. Forget coupons...to really save money, you need to make every bit of your family's food from scratch. Since you're a stay-at-home-mom, you should have the time to be in the kitchen all day!

**A perfectly organized/clean house. Develop systems for picking up and organizing your house. It should be "ready for show" at any time of the day. De-clutter. Keep your sink empty. Do certain things on certain days. Spread it out throughout the week.

**A busy mom/a busy kid. Enroll your kid in lots of activities. Make sure they have something to do every day of the week. When they're at home, make sure you're constantly involving them in different things. Make games. Spend all of your free time with them. No TV. Flashcards. Arts and crafts. Lots of reading. Engage, engage, engage.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

I was given this handout today by Jack's preschool teacher and thought that it was SO informative. It's always a good reminder to view things through Jack's eyes and remember that the way he sees the world is different from the way we see it.

It is written by Ellen Notbohm, author of the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.

1. I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily "autistic."
My autism is only one aspect of my total character. It does not define me as a person. Are you a person with thoughts, feelings and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight), myopic (wear glasses) or klutzy (uncoordinated, not good at sports)? Those may be things that I see first when I meet you, but they are not necessarily what you are all about.

As an adult, you have some control over how you define yourself. If you want to single out a single characteristic, you can make that known. As a child, I am still unfolding. Neither you nor I yet know what I may be capable of. Defining me by one characteristic runs the danger of setting up an expectation that may be too low. And if I get a sense that you don't think I "can do it," my natural response will be: Why try?

2. My sensory perceptions are disordered. Sensory integration may be the most difficult aspect of autism to understand, but it is arguably the most critical. It his means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me. The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile. I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you but I am really just trying to defend myself. Here is why a "simple" trip to the grocery store may be hell for me:

My hearing may be hyper-acute. Dozens of people are talking at once. The loudspeaker booms today's special. Musak whines from the sound system. Cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain can't filter all the input and I'm in overload!

My sense of smell may be highly sensitive. The fish at the meat counter isn't quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn't showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they're mopping up pickles on aisle 3 with ammonia….I can't sort it all out. I am dangerously nauseated.

Because I am visually oriented (see more on this below), this may be my first sense to become overstimulated. The fluorescent light is not only too bright, it buzzes and hums. The room seems to pulsate and it hurts my eyes. The pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing -- the space seems to be constantly changing. There's glare from windows, too many items for me to be able to focus (I may compensate with "tunnel vision"), moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion. All this affects my vestibular and proprioceptive senses, and now I can't even tell where my body is in space.

3. Please remember to distinguish between won't (I choose not to) and can't (I am not able to). Receptive and expressive language and vocabulary can be major challenges for me. It isn't that I don't listen to instructions. It's that I can't understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is what I hear: "*&^%$#@, Billy. #$%…" Instead, come speak directly to me in plain words: "Please put your book in your desk, Billy. It's time to go to lunch." This tells me what you want me to do and what is going to happen next. Now it is much easier for me to comply.

4. I am a concrete thinker. This means I interpret language very literally. It's very confusing for me when you say, "Hold your horses, cowboy!" when what you really mean is "Please stop running." Don't tell me something is a "piece of cake" when there is no dessert in sight and what you really mean is "this will be easy for you to do." When you say "Jamie really burned up the track," I see a kid playing with matches. Please just tell me "Jamie ran very fast."

Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres, inference, metaphors, allusions and sarcasm are lost on me.

5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. It's hard for me to tell you what I need when I don't know the words to describe my feelings. I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened or confused but right now those words are beyond my ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation or other signs that something is wrong.

Or, there's a flip side to this: I may sound like a "little professor" or movie star, rattling off words or whole scripts well beyond my developmental age. These are messages I have memorized from the world around me to compensate for my language deficits because I know I am expected to respond when spoken to. They may come from books, TV, the speech of other people. It is called "echolalia." I don't necessarily understand the context or the terminology I'm using. I just know that it gets me off the hook for coming up with a reply.

6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me. And please be prepared to show me many times. Lots of consistent repetition helps me learn.

A visual schedule is extremely helpful as I move through my day. Like your PDA or day-timer, it relieves me of the stress of having to remember what comes next, makes for smooth transition between activities, helps me manage my time and meet your expectations.

I won't lose the need for a visual schedule as I get older, but my "level of representation" may change. Before I can read, I need a visual schedule with photographs or simple drawings. As I get older, a combination of words and pictures may work, and later still, just words.

7. Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do. Like any other human, I can't learn in an environment where I'm constantly made to feel that I'm not good enough and that I need "fixing." Trying anything new when I am almost sure to be met with criticism, however "constructive," becomes something to be avoided. Look for my strengths and you will find them. There is more than one "right" way to do most things.

8. Please help me with social interactions. It may look like I don't want to play with the other kids on the playground, but sometimes it's just that I simply do not know how to start a conversation or enter a play situation. If you can encourage other children to invite me to join them at kickball or shooting baskets, it may be that I'm delighted to be included.

I do best in structured play activities that have a clear beginning and end. I don't know how to "read" facial expressions, body language or the emotions of others, so I appreciate ongoing coaching in proper social responses. For example, if I laugh when Emily falls off the slide, it's not that I think it's funny. It's that I don't know the proper response. Teach me to say "Are you OK?"

9. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns. Meltdowns, blow-ups, tantrums or whatever you want to call them are even more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented. Keep a log noting times, settings, people, activities. A pattern may emerge.

Try to remember that all behavior is a form of communication. It tells you, when my words cannot, how I perceive something that is happening in my environment.

Parents, keep in mind as well: persistent behavior may have an underlying medical cause. Food allergies and sensitivities, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems can all have profound effects on behavior.

10. Love me unconditionally. Banish thoughts like, "If he would just……" and "Why can't she….." You did not fulfill every last expectation your parents had for you and you wouldn't like being constantly reminded of it. I did not choose to have autism. But remember that it is happening to me, not you. Without your support, my chances of successful, self-reliant adulthood are slim. With your support and guidance, the possibilities are broader than you might think. I promise you – I am worth it.

And finally, three words: Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I'm not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don't lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people? Also true that I probably won't be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.

They may have had autism too.

The answer to Alzheimer's, the enigma of extraterrestrial life -- what future achievements from today's children with autism, children like me, lie ahead?

All that I might become won't happen without you as my foundation. Be my advocate, be my friend, and we'll see just how far I can go.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday!

It's been awhile! I am giving myself a challenge this week - use the crockpot for all 7 nights of the week. I am excited to do it! I need something to help motivate me to cook at home. We have been eating out WAY too much, so everything is going to be eaten at home this week. I even have our breakfasts/lunches/snacks planned out. I can SO do this!

Breakfast: Rice Krispies, yogurt
Lunch: PB&J/Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken & Dumplings with frozen veggies

Breakfast: Granola with yogurt
Lunch: Grilled cheese with soup
Dinner: Hash Brown Casserole w/fruit

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (and maybe cereal)
Lunch: PB&J/Tuna sandwiches
Dinner: Cranberry Chicken w/salad (Jack will have pasta with butter and parmesan)

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Quesadillas
Dinner: Meatloaf w/pasta salad

Breakfast: Frozen waffles
Lunch: PB&J/Egg salad sandwiches
Dinner: Hot & Sour Soup w/frozen eggrolls (Jack will have Mac & Cheese)

Breakfast: Pancakes w/eggs and sausage
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Teriyaki Chicken w/rice

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: PB&J
Dinner: Leftovers!

Don't forget to check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for HUNDREDS of menu plans!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

22 Questions with Jack

I've seen these questions floating around and I thought it would be fun to ask them of Jack. He was watching Blue's Clues while I was asking the questions, but he responded surprisingly well. I was impressed!

  1. What is something mom always says to you?

Help (I think I say it more like this - HELP!!!!!!)

2. What makes mom happy?
The Stroller (???)

3. What makes mom sad?
The Mater (from the movie “Cars.” He doesn’t make me sad.)

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Did I go to McDonald’s? (I don’t know what McDonald’s has to do with a child.)

6. How old is your mom?

7. How tall is your mom?

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Play with you

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Play with you

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Playing (I’m starting to see a theme here.)

11. What is your mom really good at?
Rhode Island (Hmmm???)

12. What is your mom not very good at?
At Rhode Island

13. What does your mom do for a job?
Joe (uh, OK)

14.What is your mom's favorite food?

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
I make you so happy

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Fred (from Blue’s Clues – that’s what he is watching as I ask questions)

17. What do you and your mom do together?
My puzzle

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Zook (no clue)

19. How are you and your mom different?
Zooks (again, no clue)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Play with you (I think he wants me to play with him)

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
Sad of daddy (???)

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
In the car!!!