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It’s back to school time, kids! Most parents I know just feel like this:

I love that commercial.

Sorry. I needed a minute.

The truth is, yesterday was Max’s first day of KINDERGARTEN! I cried a little, I’m not going to lie. But the rest of the time. Oh, the rest of the time, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

That’s not true either. I made lists. Lots and lots of lists. Lists of monthly goals around the house. A list for the week for work. A list for the week for household stuff. A list of phone calls to make. All day long, more items kept popping into my head.

But that is all of what I could do versus what I was doing this summer, which was basically keeping both Max and Andy fully occupied as much as possible so they didn’t kill, harm, violate or scar one another. Many people in my real life have asked me how I do it, which is often short for, “How do you do it all?”

The truth is, during the school year, it’s not super difficult. My office is a gated off corner of the playroom, so whatever child historically has been with me during the day has an area to play while I work sort of normal hours while I occasionally get interrupted by a little person who has gotten stuck in the jumpy gym. Coworkers.

This is my cute planner. I realize I should add something to this cover.

This is my cute planner. I realize I should add something to this cover.

So in the spirit of lists and helpfulness, here are some of my tips and tricks and wisdoms for those stay at home working moms. Or outside working moms. Or moms. (Basically, all ya’ll.)

Be a morning person. Okay, not really. I am NOT a morning person. But morning is the best time to get stuff done. Partially because Andy is still napping in the afternoon, and partially because morning is when energy is better. In the summer, I’d work very early in the morning before breaking to get everyone clean and dressed. If we didn’t have an activity to get to, I’d work again while they played, as much as I could, until lunch.

Be mobile. This means if you have a laptop, take it wherever. I often worked outside this summer, while the boys rode their big wheel and pushed their toys up and down the driveway. If you have a project, take it where the kids are, as best you can.

My office for most of the summer.

My office for most of the summer.

Be ready for a working lunch. And dinner. And breakfast. Think about it. The children are occupied with food, and hopefully sitting. There is a table perfect for a laptop. You’ve got at least half an hour (or if you’re the parent of Andrew, an hour. That kid is a sloooooow eater.)

Be a planner. As in, during the summer I planned an activity every day. Park, play outside, zoo, lunch with dad, playdate, trip to store. Whatever, just something that occupied them and got some energy out before lunchtime. In the afternoon, I would plan something close to home for Max while Alex napped. Again, with play outside, work on a puzzle, bake some muffins.

Now that Max is in school that has shifted a bit. I still plan something for Andy to do every day, but not as elaborate. I get more one-on-one time with each child. It’s kind of nice.

Be a lister. So yes, plan an activity, but don’t schedule out every moment of your day. You will just end up disappointed, I promise! Children make you go with the flow, so I prefer a list. I have a monthly list of things to get done (usually house related things), and then a weekly list I make each Monday. (I also will do a daily list for work, or another task I have a deadline for). I will cross off as I go. And yes, I totally will do the dishes, go back to my list, write it down, and cross it off!

Ah, my list. As you can see, my plot to create this blog on Tuesday failed, as it's Thursday. :)

Ah, my list. As you can see, my plot to create this blog on Tuesday failed, as it’s Thursday.🙂

Be prepared for interruptions. Unless you’re on a call, you can and will have your concentration broken. Andy fell. Max stole a toy. The sun is too bright. Whatever these two throw at me. It takes time to mentally shift your work mindset to “it’s okay. The work is still there. I can go back to it in ten minutes.” Some days I still totally lose my shit, though. I have been known to lock myself in my bathroom to finish an e-mail. Maybe.

Be accepting. As in, cut yourself some slack. There is not always going to be balance. Sometimes your children will not get the attention they want. Sometimes your client is going to wait a few hours before you respond to their requests. Almost always, your house is not perfectly clean (unless you hire a service). It’s okay. Everyone is still growing and breathing and happy.

So there you go! I hope this was helpful.

Sum, Sum, Summertime

I am going to make a confession.

I hate summer.

*ducks*

Perhaps I have confessed that before on this blog, and certainly those in my life are well aware of this fact. I’m just of Eastern European stock, man. I need icicles. I just do not fare well in the heat. I wilt a little. It’s terrible for my curly hair. And nobody wants details on how my stomach reacts to the indoor/outdoor cold/hot, cold/hot of a summer party. Blech.

I’m still kind of amazed that I lived in Florida for seven years. I was indoors most of the time.

But I digress … .

Like most parents, my life is now more about my children, and since 50% of the children in my household are now in school full time (Max), and didn’t qualify for ESY (Extended School Year), I decided back in the spring that we’d keep ourselves as busy as possible this summer. I’d try to … oh goodness, “embrace” it.

An oh, are we ever. I found one summer camp in all of Northern Virginia that would take an ASD kid his age. We did two weeks in June, and it was amazing. We had to drive for almost an hour to get there, and there was a mall about fifteen minutes away. So Andy and I would head to the indoor play park, ride the carousel and have a grand time while we waited. (It brought back great memories of my years in retail.) We’d pick up Maxamillion, go have lunch, and go home and crash for the afternoon.

After camp ended we did Ohio trip number one of the summer, where we landed around the Fourth of July. We had a barbeque, went to the beach, went to the pool, went to the zoo, visited friends on their new farm (Max loved the pigs, Andy rode a backhoe), saw all of our family and lots of friends. I even spent half a day in a salon. Amazing, this trip.

That baby was crazy for the elephants. He was hugging the stuffed one I paid $1,585,404.68 for today.

That baby was crazy for the elephants. He was hugging the stuffed one I paid $1,585,404.68 for today.

They were doing some kind of weird reindeer call with their lips. Boys.

They were doing some kind of weird reindeer call with their lips. Boys.

Who can resist boys and sand? Totally immersed. This was seriously our most relaxing day this summer. And I hate the beach!

Who can resist boys and sand? Totally immersed. This was seriously our most relaxing day this summer. And I hate the beach!

 

Now at my mom’s house, Max sleeps upstairs and either my mom (if Ned/Thor/Gunnar is with us) sleeps upstairs, or I do. But Andy, historically, has slept in the spare bedroom in a crib or a pack-n-play.

Until this trip, when he was having none of that, I had to compromise and that left us with a pack-n-play wedged between the dresser and bed in my mom’s room, me in my mom’s bed and my mom in the spare room upstairs with Mikey. Goodness.

Good thing Nana loves them. Who else would help them water the driveway?

Good thing Nana loves them. Who else would help them water the driveway?

Then we get home and it’s a week with Andy of sitting in his room for an hour while he cries himself to sleep, busting out the serious crib toy with bubbles and fishies and music and lights, and crossing my fingers he doesn’t jump out of the crib. Again.

Eventually sleep became sleep and we continued our summer ’o fun. I survived a pool playdate without anyone drowning or injuring themselves. We have made returns to the animal park where despite the mud and dirt and well, lots of animal saliva (yuck) and super amounts of sunshine, the boys have … fun. FUN! Remember fun?

This sloth sees right into my soul.

This sloth sees right into my soul.

 

This sloth can see into my soul. And so can the llama.

And so can the llama.

Speaking of pigs …

That boy loved them pigs. That mud loved them shoes too.

That boy loved them pigs. That mud loved them shoes too.

Seriously. Max luuuuuuved the pigs.

So now we’re plotting another Ohio/New York trip combo, a week to chill back at home and then our big annual birthday trip to celebrate Andy’s second birthday and Max’s *gulp* FIFTH birthday.

And for the first time IN MY LIFE I’m kind of almost a little bit sad for summer to be rushing by so fast. I mean, I like the idea of embracing, of going of doing (that’s the Gemini in me). But to not wish away summer for a delicious pumpkin spice latte? Blashphemy!

This morning it happened again.

It’s 10:48 a.m. The phone rings. It’s Max’s school. I know who it is before I answer.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mrs. Lynford, this is Ann, the nurse at Plainwood Elementary.”

“Great. What happened?”

At school, it’s just insane. Max climbs onto the bus at 7:00 a.m. He’s at school by 8:00, and at any point in time after that if the phone rings, I cringe a little. As soon as I see the school name on the caller ID, I know. He’s bitten someone.

It’s random throughout the day. Fighting over a toy, wanting a child to move out of his way, wanting to gain access to something. Instead of using words, he uses his teeth. Today it happened because another child was sitting at the bottom of a slide when Max slid down it. Last week it was because he was having a tantrum, and he reached for the nearest arm. And the time before that, because a student was sitting on something Max wanted to play with. His teacher glanced over at him and his mouth was on the boy’s shoulder.

I’m kinda wishing they made one of these for kids:

duck-muzzle-for-dogs

Yes, this is for real.

Now, I’ve written about his biting before, when he was two. But that was him biting me (or NTG) during a tantrum. This is staking out a peer, and hurting them.

There’s a little boy at school named Marcus. Max likes Marcus, he’s told me so. Marcus likes trains, which is why I suspect Max likes him. Max is a car guy. Less competition.

Last week, before said tantrum bite, I was getting they boys ready for bed. Max started praying about a year ago, using a little prayer bear he stole from his brother. (I know. He’s since given it back.) Now the prayer has deconstructed into less a organized “Now I lay me down to sleep” and is more like a list of thank-yous. “Thank you for Mommy. Thank you for Daddy. Thank you for Max/Andy/Nana/Auntie Gina. Thank you for new puzzles/new car/water/soccer ball.”

So this particular night I have to prompt him, and I ask if there’s anything else. He thinks about it for a minute and says, “Thank you for Marcus.”

I thought it was so sweet, the next morning, I emailed his teacher to tell him about it. It was probably at that very moment he was sinking his teeth into Marcus’s little wrist.

I feel horrible for the parents of the bitten child. If I was one of those parents, I’d be pissed that my child was not protected. I’d be worried that my child would be bitten every day.

A home, it’s not much different. He and Andy are pushing tow trucks on all the furniture. Andy decides he’s done, drops the truck, and moves on to the next shiny thing. Max is NOT done playing trucks, and wants Andy to play with him. He tries to force a truck into Andy’s hand, and little man is not having it. If he retaliates, Max grabs his arm and bites. If Andy loses a toy to Max, and he tries to get it back, Max grabs and bites. Right now Andy is sporting three bite marks on his arm. Doesn’t matter if I’m in the room, or not. Doesn’t matter if he gets punished, or talked to or forced to say he’s sorry. Biting is the go to.

We’re working on getting an ABA therapist in this summer, and looking for a new psychiatrist in general. But dammit, kid. QUIT BITING! Seriously. No one is going to be your friend if you keep biting everybody.

This has been going on for months now, and it has made me wonder what is going on in his little boy brain. And until last week, I hadn’t really occurred to me that the biting was upsetting for him too.

After the Marcus bite, Max came home off the bus in a full-on tantrum. Like, we came in the door and he screamed and flopped around on the floor for a good ten minutes. I finally sat with him and asked him about what happened that day (I already knew), and I asked him finally, “Did you bite someone today?”

“Yes,” he said, in the most pathetic voice possible.

“Who did you bite?”

“Don’t bite … We don’t bite Marcus or Manny.” He started to cry.

I talked to him for awhile about why biting is not nice, which is something I do ad nauseum these days. It makes me wonder now what the answer is—duck-billed muzzles aside—that can allow him to translate his anger into something else. Or how many steps there to get him from expressing himself verbally instead of physically.

I hope someone out there can help us.

Happy Mother’s Day?

I woke up on Mother’s Day at 6:41 a.m. Just woke up. No child screaming. No cat screaming. Just my clock, the biological one. Technically, I slept in by twenty minutes—weekdays 6:20 is my start.

I pee. The baby is up. The cat hears me and begins his morning song for food. I go feed the cat and decide to sneak a load of laundry from the washer into the dryer, grab Andy and then head downstairs before he wakes anyone up.

But Max. Max.

Max has been dealing with some anxiety lately. He’ll be looking for a toy and will full on yell at us, “Where’s the blue car!!!!” over and over again until we point it out to him. Sometimes even then he won’t go pick it up, he screams at us to get it. (We don’t, btw. He can pick up his own damn car.)

So I’m midway between my laundry task when Max bursts out of his room and full on yells, “It’s happy time! It’s happy time!” I’m like, “Okay.” He continues, “Mommy! It’s HAPPY TIME!”

“Okay, buddy, you don’t have to yell.”

“It’s happy time. IT’S HAPPY TIME, MOMMY!”

Keep in mind that this is full-on, Tori Amos’ Tear In Your Hand kind of scenario. Fonts and capitalization don’t do it justice. He is saying the word happy in a voice that is not. In a voice that says, If you don’t give me what I want I’m going to throw myself down on the floor and wake everyone in the neighborhood.

I say, “Okay, buddy. Let Mommy finish and we’ll go downstairs in five minutes.” (Five minutes is our standard countdown time for anything: five minutes to potty, five minutes to tubby, five mintutes to go bye-bye.)

“MOMMY! Happy time, MOMMY!”

“Yes, dude, I get it. Mommy has to finish this and then get Alex, okay.”

“Get Alex … HAPPY TIME MOMMY IT’S HAPPY TIME!!! Get Alex, Mommy, GET ALEX!”

“Go ahead, go get him. Open the door.”

“IT’SHAPPYTIMEMOOOOMMMYY! IT’SHAPPEEEEEYTIIIIIIIMMEEE!”

Good times at what is now like, 6:50 a.m. My mother graciously appears in the doorway of her room to find out what Mikey wants while I shove the clothes into the dryer. I tell her, “I have no idea. It’s happy time.”

“Oh,” my mom says.

“What?”

“I was trying to teach him Happy Mother’s Day yesterday. I was telling him, ‘Tomorrow we’ll tell Mommy: Happy Mother’s Day.’ Is that what you’re trying to say, Max? Tell Mommy.”

He looks at me and says, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!”

God love him.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.

Flowers from Ned/Thor/Gunnar and the boys.

Oh, the sickness!

It’s a little ridiculous at this point. I know I’m preaching to the choir. It seems like the entire country is fallen ill: colds, flu, fevers, bronchitis … you name it.

I’m over it.

I currently own four bottles of children’s cold meds (with acetaminophen and without, nighttime and daytime formulas), at least a pair of acetaminophen and ibuprofen bottles for both kiddos, and I’m pretty sure I now own stock in Kleenex. And Puffs. Waaa!!

This is not a paid advertisement. Pinky swear.

This is not a paid advertisement. Pinky swear.

The sickness entered our house in September, when school started up for Max. (He’s there five days a week, so he gets maximum germ exposure I guess.) One or both children have been sick since then, with no more than a one-week break between viruses. I don’t exaggerate (I say that only because as a writer, I tend to exaggerate). We canceled a Thanksgiving trip to Ohio because of fever and colds (first Max, then Andy). Max spent Christmas with a fever and cold. We rescheduled our trip for New Year’s—and as Max got over his week-long fever, Andy picked it up. My mom came to visit instead and we celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year in VA.

At the end of January, we were supposed to leave Virginia and head to Ohio for my mom’s birthday. And … Andy ended up with a sinus infection. Technically, he never really got over his NYE cold, it just morphed into the need for a ten day stint on Amoxicillin.

Next week I’m attempting a Valentine’s Day trip to Ohio. I supposed I’m playing with the Universe at this point (historically, NTG and I have not spent many V-Days together). My sister isn’t returning my calls because she totally doesn’t believe we’re coming. I’m going for it anyway.

But what to do to stave off future sickness? We all know washing hands. Vitamins. But what else? Essential oils? Rubber gloves? OJ every day? I’m at my wits end, and ready to send Max to school with a face mask on. I’m not kidding.

Yes I am.

Well, sort of.

It doesn’t help that in an ASD household, staving off colds has other challenges. I cannot explain to Max how to not touch his face or exchange fluids with other classmates, because the kid still sticks his fingers up his nose on a regular basis, and stims near his face daily. And he has sensory issues when it comes to water, so I don’t think they get him to wash his hands at school often, and here, he flat out refuses (I wipe, and hand sanitize a lot).

I have tricked him into gummy bear vitamins—and I know lots of folks freak out about dyes and such, but I have to think of the trade off.

And this week, the news comes out that the Brits may have saved us. In the meantime, maybe Mother Nature will keep giving us snow so the kiddos don’t have school until March.😉

Merry Half-Christmas

This blog is being brough to you by my very new computer, purchased in a hasty click last week while I watched the last 20 minutes of my old computer’s battery die like a kind of horrible NYE ball drop. Dammit.

That’s the kind of holiday season we’ve been having around here. I ordered the wrong photos for our Christmas card. We got our tree two weeks late because of child illness and rain (and the post-rain mud put a little damper on things). Said late tree is crooked, and so about 1/3 of the ornaments are not on it. And at least half of our decorations for the house are still in boxes. The most festive part of our home is the outside–and that is because Ned/Thor/Gunnar put effort in to put up lights.

We’re celebrating a half Christmas.

Some years are like this, I know. The year Max was born, I told my friends and family that I would not be making Christmas cookies that year. There were some long faces. But what can you do? I got to the point this season where I wanted to just cancel putting up a tree.  I was missing the spirit. I looked at all the elfing I had to do and all I saw was work.

I partially blame Thanksgiving. It came too late. But this still doesn’t make me want to start the holiday season on Labor Day. I mean, c’mon. There were just too many deadlines and not enough time. Even though I cut back and even though I did most of my shopping online. The boys kept getting sick. It seemed like any moment I was able to stop and look around, all I wished I could do was take a nap.

I wonder if my mother felt this way. I know we never baked Christmas cookies together. She worked a crazy amount over the holiday season (she was the breadwinner) and didn’t have the time. She would stay up until 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Even to get the presents wrapped and if we were hosting, cleaning the house getting ready for company the next day. I wonder if she only put out half the decorations and skipped sending cards.

More than anything, I miss that luxury of being able to enjoy the holiday. To watch a Christmas movie all the way through, or spend an entire day shopping for gifts, or even being able to attend a church service. (We live in the country. Our church has one service at 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve … it’ll be a few years before they’ll stay up for that one.)

Moon-600So now the sick little man Max is in bed, feverish but still I think, sweet as pie as he falls asleep under his new moon nightlight. And little bug Andrew is protesting in his crib that Christmas is over. I think, in the end, we try and re-create our own childhood memories of Christmas. And often fail. But to them, it was perfect. This was an awesome day.

 

The “A” Word

 

Autism.

There. It. Is.

It’s like a sentence all its own. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has a child that is autistic. Everybody that knows somebody feels relief and sadness when they hear this news. I feel so sorry for them. I’m so glad it’s not my child.

It has taken me awhile to write about it. I think because when we first got the official diagnosis for Max, we were shocked. He made eye contact at home with us. He spoke, although he could not tell us what he wanted. He was very affectionate. He was not rocking himself to sleep in a corner.

But there it was. Like some horrible end-of-the-world kind of sentence.

Autism.

We didn’t tell many people. There’s a good amount of fear in the judgment and reaction from others about this diagnosis. And, we wanted to wait and see.

We began what we need to begin, which you can read more about on A is for Autism on this site. We were able to get an IEP, and he’s been in a specialized classroom since March of this year. He is beginning to really talk and vocalize his wants and needs. He loves his private speech therapist. He loves going to school, and riding on the bus. In many ways, he is a happy and healthy kid.

And yet.

I suppose I also put off writing about it because I didn’t know where this was going to end up. I had nothing but questions and no answers. And as a writer, and even as an editor, I’m a research-y, fact-checking kind of girl. I like my ducks in a row. And ASD is not a duck-in-a-row kind of thing.

I tried the one and only online forum I knew of, and lasted approximately one post before I decided to not go there again. (The moms were too … intense there.) It was too much information for me to process, and way too many acronyms. I left feeling overwhelmed and unprepared.

I tried just reading posts to glean information I could apply to my son, but that’s the tricky thing about autism. Each kid is completely different. No kid was just like my kid. It was frustrating. One issue could be addressed by going to XYZ organization that was local to that mom’s state. My son may have the same issue, but my state doesn’t have such a service. You get the gist.

Being in rural VA has not helped. I know one mom who has a son that is also autistic, and in Max’s class. There is one parent organization that covers ALL of northern Virginia, which spans four huge counties. I often will drive over an hour to attend a seminar or event.

And yet.

Max has meltdowns. Beyond tantrums. The kind of event that has me following him around the house for an hour to stop him from breaking something or hurling a toy through a window or biting his brother or banging his head against the floor. He will hit, kick, slap, bite, and even head-butt me to express his anger when given an opportunity.

He is sensory-seeking, which means we have gone through the following phases as he looks for sensory input: stimming (stimulating) an object close to his eyes usually while humming a noise; sticking his hand down the back of his pants (and yes, often coming up with something, and wiping it on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows); sticking his fingers up his nose and wiping that on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows (I buy a lot of Windex); and spitting—on his brother, on the floor, the couch, the walls, the windows.

For a parent, it is not fun. It often is hard to remember why you love your child. It most certainly, at times, is difficult to enjoy your child. Many times you miss out on the “normal” milestones in his life. It is often hard to remember not to yell. Or spank or even punch a wall yourself. There are days where all you do is correct your kid, yell and try time out, hoping it doesn’t turn into another meltdown.

So from time to time, I may share some of the tidbits and tricks I have learned in parenting an autistic child. I may vent about his behavior. I may cry that he’s never going to reach “normal.” But I’m finally ready to talk about our journey, and hope that it helps.