Wednesday 31 July 2013

Kids Come 1st

Last night was the annual Kids Come 1st golf tournament.  They've supported our family for the last four years.

This is an unofficial charity which has been growing substantially for over a decade.  It began as a way to help one family pay the massive costs of private therapy.  Now, a lot of people would have said thank you and counted their blessings.  But this family decided to share their good fortune with other Ottawa families struggling with autism.

They decided not to incorporate as an official charity, although that would have given them tax benefits.  They wanted to stay flexible and keep the red tape to a minimum.  If a family needed help paying the mortgage, they wanted to be able to help with that rather than having to say "that's not an officially sanctioned autism expense."  (Trust me, it's a more common issue than you'd think.  We get an incontinence grant because neither of the boys are toilet trained.  Diapers are approved but not wipes or extra laundry costs.  Because apparently we only need diapers.)

Their son has continued to progress but they've recently had to accept that he will likely need long term institutionalization.  They began to investigate the options and discovered there is a 12 year waiting list for private group homes.  (That's not a typo: twelve years.)

The terrifying unacceptability of that number cannot be fully expressed in words.

They've decided to branch out and will be starting to look at constructing and running group homes for adults with autism.  I, quite selfishly, wish them luck.  Early intervention is great but there's a real lack of services for adults with autism and families dealing with adults with autism.

I've heard of other families banding together to create unofficial group homes.  One family buys a house and serves as the landlord.  Then the other families pay rent and everyone takes turns checking up on the occupants (making sure there are groceries, bills are paid, etc.)  Some go together and hire a live-in aide to manage day to day work of preparing meals and cleaning.

Placing the financial burden on families throughout their lives is just not okay.  The government is supposed to be in the business of providing services which are not hugely profitable but are still necessary.  (Like safety, quality health care and garbage pickup.)

I know several families which have already accepted that retirement will simply never be an option.  They will always need income to support their children.  And that doesn't even begin to go into the terrifying world of what happens when a parent's health fails and there's no one left to privately look after an adult with autism who needs constant support.

I'm glad Kids Come 1st is starting to tackle this area.  Maybe we can get lucky and shame the government into helping once a framework is established.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Help Wanted

For the past couple months, I've been trying to find a reliable teenager to come and help me out with after-school care for the boys.  I was hoping to get someone via word of mouth but so far, the mom network has had a surprising dearth of candidates.  The reliable teenagers all seem to have jobs.

So I'm moving on to direct advertising in the neighbourhood.  I'm a little uncomfortable with this approach since it gets rid of the reference safety net.  But at the end of the day, I need someone to start in September.

I'm fairly certain this is my internal paranoia making me nervous.  Rational thinking tells me there are lots of pleasant, reliable people out there who are looking for work and I should have a good shot at finding one of them.  But my mind is saturated with Criminal Minds and Law and Order and thus immediately begins worrying about picking the one budding psychopath in the lot.

Thus I will have to repeat my little mantra that life is not a TV show and that my most-likely "worst" result is simply hiring someone who is not as reliable as I would have wished.

I'm hoping I can find a good personality match for the boys.  And someone whose hand isn't glued to their phone would be a nice touch as well. 

Maybe I should start checking the skies for Julie Andrews floating down on an umbrella.

It could happen.

Monday 29 July 2013

Hitting the Halfway Mark

We've all said it to ourselves.  When we were little, summer stretched out like a glorious, endless parade of fun and opportunity.  Now that I'm grown, it sometimes seems spent before Canada Day.

We're halfway through the summer and thus far, things have gone well.  My hip cost us a few excursions but we've still managed weekly swimming and playdates.  It's been a good blend of enough activity to satisfy but not so much as to exhaust.  And there's been the leisure to take advantage of opportunities as they arose (like going to the circus or a spontaneous visit to friends).

Now I have to stop thinking like a child and start thinking like an adult again.  There are things I want to accomplish before September and there are tasks which have to be completed as well. 

I want to paint our main upper hall and the entryway.  We've been living in this house for over ten years and it still has the nasty primer paint the builder sprayed onto the walls.  It's time for some colour.  Specifically, two shades of blue which remind me of summer skies and Mediterranean waters.  (I love bold, strong colours and the rest of my house shows it.)

I need to get things ready for school next year.  The usual mundane chores of buying school supplies and clothes which will fit my children after their summer growth spurts.  We have to get new shoes for everyone, both indoor and outdoor. 

I also need to make sure that I have everything in place for Nathan's new teacher before I request a meeting.  I want to have no more than four basic recommendations for her on how to accommodate him and help him adjust to the new routine of grade 1.  The teachers and principals will be back the last week of August and I need to make sure I know what I'm going to ask for.

Thus far, this is my list:
- have the teacher write down any assignments or homework in his agenda so that I can make sure he does them
- give him specific time during the day to be creative with stories or jokes.  That way he can focus and know he'll still have time.
- give him a visual or written schedule of the day's activities
- let her know that shame can be an over-the-top feeling for him, so criticism has to be carefully done so that he can learn

I'm sure I'll think of more.  Now is the time to debate and consider with myself so that I don't end up regretting my list.

I've enjoyed living summer like a child again.  But no matter how much I want to believe I'm still a kid, it's time to pull myself up by my big girl panties and step into my grown up shoes again.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Nathan Quote of the Week

It's been awhile but I have a knee-slapper for you all to start the week.

On the weekend, I went to see a friend of mine.  Nathan wanted to know who she was and I explained that she was my friend but that she had also been my doula, which meant that she helped me when Nathan was born.

Nathan replied: No, she didn't.

Me: She was there, honey.  She helped to make sure everything was okay when you came out of Mommy.

Nathan pauses for thought: Oh.  Okay.  Tell her she did a good job.

Friday 26 July 2013

Sensory Friendly Smurfs 2 (August 10)

For those interested, the second Smurfs movie will be part of the sensory friendly package.

Where: Empire Theatre, Centrum (Kanata)
When: August 10th, 10am

The doors open about 10 minutes beforehand, which doesn't give a lot of time collect tickets and popcorn before the movie starts.

Thursday 25 July 2013

More Toileting Updates

It's time for yet another update in our continuing struggle for a diaper-free world.

Looking back, I think we may have tried to push our youngest too far, too fast in the transitional steps.  Lots of kids may be able to make the jump from reward for voiding to a reward for voiding in the toilet but as all families with autism know, sometimes we have to break things down into smaller steps.

So we're trying some baby steps.  Here's a recap of our steps so far:

Step one: reward him for pooping.  Doesn't matter where.  The point is to associate a BM with the reward, make it into something positive rather than something negative.  So every time he did a poop, he got a treat.

Step two: bigger treats.  We had a bit of a stall with the reward.  He still wasn't telling us when he had gone most of the time.  So we made the reward bigger and more important to him.  This ended up motivating him to start telling us rather than us having to check him.  It made life a little harder on us since we made the reward his screen time (TV, iPad, computer) which meant no electronic babysitters at our convenience.

Step three: a compromise.  We were having trouble with reserving the screen time so we decided on a compromise.  He could have 20 minutes each at breakfast and lunch and he could earn an extra 20 minutes by drinking extra fluids in the morning (to help keep things moving smoothly and avoid unpleasant associations).

And now we come to the next stage in our plan: upping the requirement for the reward.  Now he has to tell us right away if he's pooped.  And then he has to sit on the toilet for five minutes (with the iPad ... how did people toilet train before Apple?).  If he hasn't told us right away, then he still doesn't get his screen time.

I'm hoping I can use this stage to make him even more aware of his body's signals.  If he's paying attention and catches himself pooping, then I have a chance to get him on the toilet and make a big deal about him finishing there.

Thus far, I at least know that I haven't made the step too big.  He's having a reasonable success rate.  Tip: you rarely want the success rate to be below 75% for whatever you're trying to teach your child with autism.  Or at least, we haven't been able to teach our kids a skill if they can't make that basic level at the start.

This is all going to take longer than I'd like.  I'd really hoped to have this dealt with before school started in September.  I'm terrified about him having an accident at school and it becoming one of those scarring life events.  But if I push too fast, I'll lose.  Better slow and steady and done, no matter how much my impulses shout at me to speed things up.

Maybe we'll be lucky enough to be done by Christmas.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Going To The Circus

I got my hands on a pair of Cirque de Soleil tickets and took Nathan to see their Totem show.

I've been a huge fan of Cirque for a long time but their tickets are so expensive that I've never quite been able to justify going to myself.  There's always been something else we were saving for.

Nathan was quite excited about the idea of going to the circus, although I tried to caution him that there wouldn't be any animals.  It would be all acrobats and dancers and musicians.

We arrived at the big tent and got ourselves some cotton candy.  We found our seats and sat down to watch the clowns warming up the show.  There was a ringmaster all done up in red and he had some kind of LED inside his top hat.  Every time he took off the hat, he had his own personal spotlight. 

He came up to a spot near our seats and spotted Nathan looking all around with eyes as wide as saucers.  He smiled at him and tipped his hat.

Nathan's eyes got even wider.  "Mommy, he has a light in his hat!"

The ringmaster put his finger to his lips and winked at Nathan before moving on.

Nathan announced at the top of his lungs:  "Mommy, he has a light in his hat.  But, shhh, don't tell anyone.  It's a secret."

It was an amazing performance but a long one for a little guy.  Especially since I don't think he quite shares my amazement of acrobatics.  (I could watch people who push their bodies to the limits all day: b-boys, dancers, acrobats, freejumpers, martial artists.)  Nathan wanted to go home at intermission but revived with a little popcorn.

I'm glad we went.  I think Nathan enjoyed himself but I suspect it will be like going to the zoo.  I love going to zoos.  The kids can enjoy a zoo ... for awhile.  I've learned to pack it in long before I'm ready so that I can end things while they're still having fun.  Maybe Nathan will want to go back another day, maybe not.  Either way, I'm glad to have shared it with him.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Drugs Are Our Friends

It turns out that the whimper-inducing pain in my hip was actually the result of a fluid build-up around the joint.  As more fluid crept in, the pain increased, mobility decreased and I became crankier.  This explains why any pressure on it could literally bring me to my knees.  (And trust me, going onto your knees when rolling over in bed is exceptionally challenging even when motivated by pain.)

Luckily, I live in a country and era where I have access to as many pharmaceuticals as my little heart could desire.  Actually, to significantly more than any organ of mine could ever want but that's precisely my point.  I go to the doctor and do my Pakled impression:

I am broken.  Make me go.

And she writes me up a prescription for a vial full of little pills which turn my stomach into a churning maelstrom but which are gradually making the pain in my hip go away.

Three cheers for modern medicine. 

I'm not generally a drug endorser.  I'm a stubborn control-freak with a suspicion of anyone who wants to sell me things (looking at you, Big Pharma).  But there is a time and a place for chemical intervention and I'm very glad I have it as an option.  Natural healing processes will only get you so far and when they aren't working, I'm not so proud as to suffer needlessly.

The kids are happy with my increased mobility as well.  I think Nathan was worried about my health after seeing me spend several days on the couch.  He turned down a sleepover at his grandparents' to come home and keep an eye on me.  Now things like swimming and going to the park are back on the schedule.  And that's what summer is supposed to be about.

Monday 22 July 2013

Welcome to Baby Royal

Today, for those living under a rock, the latest heir to the British Empire arrived.  A little boy, name as yet unknown, happy and healthy.

Congratulations to the proud parents.

I'm not generally a fan of Royal-watching.  Or any celebrity-watching actually.  Personally, I think they should have the right to live their lives without the rest of us butting in like know-it-all neighbours from a 50's sitcom.  I'm not that interested in knowing where they shop, what they had for lunch or what stupid idea has crossed their mind of late.

But a new baby is a new baby and, newborn-junkie that I am, that's worth noting.

I hope this child can grow up healthy and grounded.  I hope the media circus of Twitter, YouTube and all the rest doesn't end up distorting his childhood.  (Childhood and adolescence suck badly enough when your dates can't look up how "adorable" you looked dressed as a pirate with a click of a mouse.)

I hope William and Kate have really thought about the impact the media could potentially have on him and have a plan in place.

And now that I've given my unasked-for two-cents' worth, like any good wacky neighbour, I'm off to enjoy the hilarity which will ensue after Kate leaves William to deal with the diapers by himself.  <cut to commercial>

Sunday 21 July 2013

Sharing Our Feelings

This weekend, I asked Alex how he was feeling.

He thought about it for a minute and then said: Happy.

This is the first time Alex has ever shared an unprompted emotion with me.  Most of the time, his language is very functional: I want this, I don't want that.

I've been working on teaching him to express his feelings with words (rather than aggression or tantrums) but it's tricky in that I can't always be sure that I'm accurately reading his emotional state.  It's easy enough to tell he's upset but is he feeling frustrated?  Hurt?  Frightened?  Or the most likely option, a combination?

When I've felt it was fairly obvious what he was feeling, I've prompted him to tell me.  I ask: How do you feel, Alex?, give him a moment to respond and then prompt: I feel <happy, sad, tired, etc>.  He'll repeat the phrase after me and then I praise him for his answer.

This weekend was the first time he responded without the prompt.

Which makes me pretty happy myself.

Friday 19 July 2013

Special Needs Blues

I had one of my on-the-outside-looking-in-autism moments the other day.

I ran into an old friend and her three year old daughter.  We haven't seen much of each other over the last five or six years but our kids were happily playing nearby, so we got a chance to catch up a bit.

It was nice to get to see her.  But there was a bit where she was talking about dealing with her daughter's anxiety and how she hoped to have it dealt with before an event coming up in August.

My first reaction was that there was no way she'd be able to get the anxiety under control with gentle exposure in that time.  And then I realized, maybe she will.  Because her child isn't autistic and thus is likely to respond faster.

These are the little moments that leave me feeling isolated and bring my unusual circumstances into sharp focus.  (I like fuzzy focus, it's easier to pretend it's not there.)  My children do have special needs, no matter how much I like to throw that phrase in quotes and pretend it's more semantics than reality.

They need the extra help just to achieve a level playing field.  They don't get an advantage from it, especially not an unfair one.  Sometimes I need to be reminded of that fact, no matter how much I don't like the feelings which come with such reminders.

I hope my friend's daughter is able to overcome her anxiety quickly.  Being afraid sucks, no matter how irrational it is.  And even children know when they're being irrationally afraid.  I've always gone with: the feeling is real no matter how I personally feel about the trigger.  I genuinely believe that's the only way to help someone overcome anxiety.  The feeling must be respected and then gentle exposure can help to reduce the fear.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Broke the Barrier

Last time I talked about my writing, I was complaining about the difficulty of writing any kind of steamy scene with children running around.  My own are bad enough but other people's kids at the library were even more of a deterrent.

I found a solution, of sorts.  I found myself a local fast food restaurant (which, thankfully, wasn't that busy), got myself a light meal and then proceeded to hog a table in the corner for more than two hours.

I got my critical scenes nailed down (and before you get annoyed at the pun, there's almost no metaphor I could use which wouldn't have a nudge-nudge, wink-wink factor).  Which means I can move back to the library while Alex has his speech therapy camp.  It also means I'm closer to three-quarters than two-thirds done for my first draft.

Fingers crossed but maybe I can have it ready for revisions by the time September rolls around.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Hips Don't Lie

And mine are telling me that I'm not as young or in shape as I used to be.

With the boys home for the summer, I've been more active than I traditionally am.  We're swimming a couple of times a week and going for walks and to the park.  And to make matters worse (or better), as part of my resolve to get heart-healthier, I signed up for karate classes once a week.

Kicking has always been my natural comfort zone for martial arts.  One of my proudest moments is when I managed to get past my sensei's guard and tap him lightly on the face.  As such, I actually get used in a lot of the kicking technique demonstrations. 

Last time, I had myself balanced and good to go with my leg extended up above waist level when all of a sudden I got a massive ABORT warning from my hip.  I tapped out and tried to stretch out the pain but it's been continuing to give me trouble since then.  Perhaps it was the two hour swim earlier in the day on top of the karate lesson, but my body was clearly not happy with me.

I'm hoping the pain will eventually subside and stretch out but it's a reminder that the mental image in my head is getting further and further apart from my actual body's capabilities.

At least the belly dancing techniques are coming in handy for stretching the hip joint. 

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Sears Delivered!

I was all ready to write a scathing post about unreliability and lying about delivery dates to secure sales but Sears actually got our new washer to us on the day it was supposed to be here.

Bonus to us.  Especially since the old one was getting worse and worse about doing its job.

They called to give us roughly an hour's warning before showing up.  Then they came, carted away the old washer and hooked up the new one.  In and out with minimal fuss.

I've run a few small loads in it to see how it works.  It's much louder than our old one, which means no more popping a load in right before bedtime (we have a second floor wash/dry area, right outside the master bedroom).  And it makes funky videogame noises when the power is turned on. 

But overall, it seems to be doing the work of getting rid of the dirt and other unpleasantness on our clothes, which is what I want it to do.

It would be awesome if it washed, dried and then folded and put away the clothes, but I can't afford that level of model yet.

Monday 15 July 2013

Despicable Me 2 (spoilers)

I really enjoyed this movie.  I was a little disappointed with Monsters University but Despicable Me 2 made up for it.

Maybe because I identify more with the role of a parent trying to keep their kids happy.  Or maybe because I wish I had hundreds of quirky yellow minions to handle the daily chores.  Pick your reasons.

Spoiler time. 

I absolutely loved when Gru became the Fairy Princess for Agnes' birthday party.  (Although I was a little disturbed when I realized he must have had the costume on hand ... on the other hand, the minions cross dress frequently and hey, what's wrong with a little cosplay?)  That is the act of a devoted parent, risking public humiliation rather than disappointing a little one.  (We've all done it, fess up!)  And his response to the kid who asked why he was fat was brilliant: "Because my house is made of candy and sometimes I eat instead of facing my problems."

My second favourite moment was when Gru froze El Macho's son after the little twerp dumped Margo for a little Latina dancer.  If I was a supervillian, I would totally freeze anyone who broke my little boy's heart.  It was completely predictable, yet still satisfying.  He leads Margo away and then pops back in to nonchalantly freeze the twerp.

Nathan loved the minions.  He's been watching clips non-stop on YouTube.  They really do steal the show for the most part.  The only bit that frightened him was when the purple mutant minions attacked the girls. 

Alex enjoyed the show but I don't think his heart was really in it.  Maybe because it had been just two weeks since Monsters University.  But he protested and complained a lot more than he did with the last one.

This is the end of the expected summer children's films (or at least, the ones I wanted to see), so it'll likely be awhile before we head back to the theatre.

I've always loved going to the movies.  Before I had kids and still had lots of disposable income, my friends and I would meet to go to a 5 pm show on Tuesday every single week.  We saw all sorts of things and I got to enjoy some stuff that I might not have otherwise chosen.  I miss getting to do that.

But I love getting to share the experience with my kids.  The darkened theatre, massive screen and sound, all of it help you to lose yourself in an imaginary world for a little while.  I'm glad the corporations found a way for them to participate.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Bring In Da Noise

I think Nathan might be developing a sound sensitivity.

He's been complaining for over a month that things are too loud and hurt his ears.  I've been slow to react since it never seems to bother him to shriek at earsplitting decibel levels and his ears mostly seem to hurt when he doesn't like what's going on around him.

But it's been going on rather consistently, especially since he's not getting much of a reward for it.  I'm having to accept that maybe it is a combination of actual sensitivity and stress over lack of control.  Although I try not to be too gullible, I also don't want to make the dangerous assumption that my children are lying to me.

Thus I've come up with something of a compromise.  We have a set of ear protection headphones and I've given them to him to use.  If it's too loud, he can put on the headphones and get a respite.  If this is actually a control tactic, he'll find another way around it.  Either way, it's teaching him that he can't expect the world to adapt completely to his needs.  He has to find middle ground.

I sent them with him to camp today and the supervisor said they worked perfectly.  Nathan brought them with him to circle and when things got too loud, he put them on and joined in quite happily.

It's early yet to think about it but this may be an effective tactic at school as well if the sensitivity continues.  It gives him control over something which bothers him, which can only help his confidence in new situations.

Meanwhile, he sure does look adorable in the big headset.

Friday 12 July 2013

Battling the Red Queen

I'm a Lewis Carroll fan so, to me, the inference is obvious.  But for the rest of the world who actually have lives, this is how it worked.

The Red Queen is a character from Through The Looking Glass.  She grabs Alice and has her run as fast as she can.  After awhile, Alice asks where they're going in such a hurry.  The Red Queen replies that they're not going anywhere, they have to run as fast as they can just to stay where they are.

Evolutionary theory uses this as a shorthand for predator-prey evolution.  Each of them is constantly evolving to outfox the other but they just end up in roughly the same balance.  Michael Crichton referred to it in Jurassic Park but it never made it into the movie.

Our lives can also use the Red Queen as a shorthand.  Alex is continually finding ways around our precautions and preventions, forcing us to up our game.

The other night, he managed to rip the stuffing out from around the solid foam core of one of our couch cushions while Dave and I were in the other room.  In retrospect, natural target.  It shreds nicely into long fibres, there's the fun of pulling it out of the cushion, it makes an impressive looking pile.

So I spent this morning sewing the zippers shut on our couch cushions.  I took an upholstery needle and heavy-duty thread and pinched the fabric closed over the zipper for all the cushions.  It took me one Sherlock episode, one Babylon 5 episode and one Primeval episode.  (This being able to watch TV on the iPad is fabulous and makes long, tedious tasks much more bearable.)  I suppose I could have just watched two Sherlock episodes but I find I don't enjoy it as much without some space to breathe in between.

I'm sure Alex will either find a way around the seams or move on to something else.  It's just part of life around here.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Equal Opportunity Moving

A similar situation has played out in two of the shows I watch: Castle and The Glades.  The main character's female interest has had to choose between the relationship and her career.

Kate Beckett, Castle's girlfriend, was offered a job in the upper echelons of federal security but would have to move from New York to Washington.

Callie, Longworth's girlfriend, was working in Atlanta at a hospital with a good chance of using her connections there to complete her medical degree.  But Longworth lives in Palm Glades, Florida.

We haven't heard Beckett's answer yet, but the odds are good she'll choose Castle over her career.  (The show is, after all, named after him.)  Callie quit her job and moved back to Florida, despite not having a job there.

Choosing love over career doesn't bother me.  I'm a romance writer, I love a romantic resolution.

What irritates me is that there was never once a mention of the man relocating so that the girlfriend didn't have to make the choice.  Castle is a writer and that means he could crank out bestsellers from anywhere.  Longworth is a police officer and I'm pretty sure they need those in Atlanta just as much as in Palm Glades.

Now, there's a reason why neither one could actually move.  Both shows would lose all their supporting characters and effectively have to start over.  But they could have pretended there was some kind of impediment.  It could have at least been discussed or offered.

The fact that it never seems to have entered into the writers' minds bothers me.  Especially with Castle, who is prone to big gestures.  I honestly expected him to tell Beckett that he would go anywhere with her and then have the whole thing fall through because he wouldn't be able to be her unofficial partner in investigations any more.

This is also the reason why I don't like Kate and Leopold despite it starring the ever scrumptious Hugh Jackman.  It never even occurs to him to stay in the future and support her.  There was even an easy narrative "out" with the time travel, he had to return or else create a paradox.  But he never even mentioned it.

Maybe it's expecting too much, but I do hate it when writers miss obvious solutions.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

A Thank You to My Mom

My mother and I don't always agree on things but I have never doubted her devotion and love for my kids.

We're both alpha control freaks, which means we butt heads on any number of issues.  Neither of us is particularly good at compromise.

However, I was watching some Babylon 5 and the writer, JMS, has always been fantastic at recognizing the rich depths of the parent-child relationship.  How it can encompass both frustration and love in equal measure.

No one can infuriate you like a parent.  In some ways, I don't think people ever lose that unconscious hope and expectation that their parents are omniscient and omnipotent.  When you are a child, it's true.  Your parents can do and be and accomplish anything.  As you get older, we start to recognize them as individuals, flawed and with limitations.

But it doesn't change the other side of the coin. 

I love my mom (Dad too, but I'm keeping my focus for this post).  I respect her opinions.  I'm in awe of how she has wrestled the world into agreeing with her about the importance of early intervention.  She created a charity, Quickstart, when everyone else just accepted the status quo.

I cannot remember which comic writer said this but the true mark of a hero is someone who does not accept the world as it is.  Instead, they see the world as it could be and take the steps to make it happen, no matter the personal cost.

I may not always agree with you, Mom, and I know you don't always agree with my choices, either.  But we can accept each other as the people we are and, personally, I think those people are both impressive.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

A Lovely Afternoon

Last week, Nathan went to spend some time with his grandparents, leaving me and Alex to enjoy an afternoon together.

He's had a rough time over the last month or so (as have we).  Every time he finds something he enjoys, we figure out a way to stop him from doing it. (lousy parents won't let him destroy things for fun and ... well, fun.)  He's been under almost constant supervision.  It's been one of the reasons I haven't been as regular in posting as I'd like to be.

Despite the challenges, I try very hard to never lose sight of the funny and clever little boy hiding behind the behaviours.  Alex is an amazing kid with his ability to remember thousands of songs and identify dozens of different car types at a glance.  He loves drive-thrus and has the most infectious genuine laugh I've ever heard.  At nine, he still plays like a toddler, full-tilt and without pretension or self-consciousness.

I know we have now reached a point where his autism is no longer "invisible" to the public.  His behaviour is radically different from other children his age, drawing immediate attention wherever we go.  In some ways, this is a relief.  It means he is less likely to be labeled as "bad" and be the subject of discipline attempts.  On the other hand, it means he has fewer opportunities to interact with neurotypical children.  Quite simply, they are now living in an almost entirely different world than the one he occupies.

It doesn't preclude us from having our own fun, though.  We went swimming at a local pool, just the two of us.  I didn't have to divide my attention between two children and Alex could pretty much follow his own agenda.

He had a great time cannonballing off the pool steps.  I would stand at the bottom at keep watch for other swimmers, letting him know when it was safe.  He was fairly good at listening, only a few miscues.  Luckily, there were only a few other people in the pool.

For the last twenty minutes, we had the pool completely to ourselves.  Which meant that I got to indulge in some swimming rather than standing in the shallow end and keeping an eye out. 

Alex was thrilled.  He swam over me while I swam underwater.  He swam underwater while I floated on top.  We raced across the pool.  His laugh echoed off the ceiling like infectious faery bells.  It was an amazing interactive experience.  I don't get those very often with Alex, so I treasure them.

At the end, he got out of the pool and hopped into the shower, without being asked.  I asked him if we were all done swimming and he said "All done.  Time to go home."  Usually you couldn't pry this kid out of the pool short of setting it on fire, but for that day, he'd had enough (over two hours, so perhaps not surprising).

When we got home, he wanted to sit and cuddle, watching some TV.  It's one of the best afternoons we've had together in awhile.

Monday 8 July 2013

Nathan Quote of the Week

It's been awhile but I didn't want to put any pressure on him to perform.

My mother switched to her summer sheets, which are pale with lace trimmings.  When Nathan went over to her house, he ran out of her room eager to tell her:

"Your bed is getting married!"

Sunday 7 July 2013

Lies of Extended Warranties

As those who read this regularly know, we recently purchased a new washer from Sears.  We're still waiting to see if they'll keep their word on delivery times.

As with most purchases these days, the store offered me an extended warranty.  I automatically turned it down but the guy did try to persuade me to give it a try by pointing out that if there were no service calls, I could apply for a complete refund.

For a little while, I was flummoxed.  How does this work to make the company money?  After all, they started offering the extended warranties as a money grab.  The majority of people won't have to call and the company makes a tidy profit.

Then I figured it out.  Aside from the fact that most people won't both applying for a refund for a machine they bought three to five years ago, the company gets an interest-free loan for those three to five years.

I still said no.  I'll play the odds that the machine will work fine and if it doesn't, it's likely to fail straightaway.

It bothers me that corporations try and salestalk people into scams.  It's a multibillion corporation, surely it doesn't need to play on petty nickel and dime stuff.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if companies simply strove to produce quality goods at reasonable prices and sold those goods on their merits rather than through tricks?  A pipe dream, I'm sure.  We can't even manage politics on merit instead of soundbytes.  Actual consumerism is probably a lost cause.

Saturday 6 July 2013

July 13 - Despicable Me 2 Sensory Friendly

Another sensory friendly film coming up at Empire Theatres in Kanata.

Despicable Me 2
10am on July 13th

Thursday 4 July 2013

Starting the Summer Writing Program

Those who have been following my writing drama know that I had hoped to have a first draft of my novel ready by June 1st.

I missed that deadline.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through and have hit a rather difficult point.

It's a romance novel.  Therefore, my hero and heroine have to get physical at some point. (or else why was I bothering to write the thing in the first place?)

Writing a steamy scene while surrounded by squabbling children and Wiggles music doesn't work for me.  I get worried about them spotting words and phrases on the screen and trying them out.

Okay, I thought to myself.  During the summer, I'll be writing out of the house.  That should work.

Not so much.

Holed up in the local library, I'm even more paranoid.  Now it's not even my children who are there.  As I imagine a parent shrieking in dismay or sniggering teenagers, my concentration is shot.

So I worked around it.  I focused on the before and after plotline.  Which works but still leaves me with a giant hole in my story.  (Well, two giant holes, to be accurate.)  I'll have to find some alone time at home to sit down and write these scenes.

It's all part of discovering my process.  And so far, apparently, I'm shy in front of witnesses.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Feeling Creeped Out

I'm paranoid.  I admit it.

And something happened tonight which has that paranoia on full alert.

The doorbell rang impatiently but as soon as I came around the corner to answer it, the guy peering into the window jumped back and ran away as if I was his own personal demon come to collect his soul for an eternity of torment (possibly watching endless reruns of Survivor).

Now, maybe he was embarassed to realize he had the wrong house ... except for the part where he didn't stop at any of the neighbours' houses either.

Or maybe he was looking to break in and assumed no one was home.  It's possible, I don't bother with a lot of lights so the house can look deserted.

This is one of those moments where I will give in to my paranoia.  Odds are good, he was harmless.  But just in case he isn't, I put the alarm on early.

I watched Gavin de Becker (author The Gift of Fear) when he was on Oprah and he pointed out that fear is a survival instinct.  One we humans have taught ourselves to override.  No animal on earth will get into a cage with something it considers a predator but we put ourselves in elevators with people who make us feel creepy on a regular basis.

He said that no antelope ever worried about looking like an idiot on the Serengeti for running away from reeds rustling in the wind.  No antelope ever worried about hurting another animal's feelings by assuming the worst.

I don't know what was going on with my visitor.  I'm not crazy enough to have gone chasing him down the block demanding an explanation.  But I will take extra steps to protect myself.

Maybe it's the wind.

And maybe it's a lion.

Either way, I'm running.