Thursday, January 31, 2013

Missing Garbage

Last night, I thought I had seen Middle Son take the garbage out of the kitchen trash.  But then I couldn't find the bag anywhere.

This afternoon, my nanny found it.  It was under the bed in Middle's room.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Questioning Homework

I was discussing the challenges of getting Oldest Son to do his homework with someone yesterday.  He suggested that I try using a more Socratic approach, and ask Oldest to tell me how he's going to figure out a problem, or how he's going to get his homework done if he doesn't work on it now.

I tried it last night, and it worked pretty well.  Then I tried it again tonight, and it didn't go so well.  He was having trouble with a math problem, and he didn't like the way that I solved it.  He was absolutely convinced that I was wrong, and that he knew the correct way to do it.  So I had him try to solve it his way.  He couldn't get the right answer.  I showed him my way, and that I could get the right answer.  He still insisted that I was doing it wrong.  He got really worked up.  We locked horns for a while, then I managed to disengage.

I said that I wanted him to show me tomorrow night how his teacher told him to solve it.  By this time he was so worn out that he went to bed, around 8:30.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Answers About Homework

Oldest Son, just as we had agreed, talked to his teacher.  He found out what the web site was and he emailed it to me and to MomC.

MomC had not been in on the conversation, so she responded by asking why Oldest was sending this email. She already had the web site saved in her phone.  I responded that this was what I'd asked Oldest to do, and said to Oldest that I was very pleased that he carried out agreement.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Questions About Homework

Oldest Son wasn't sure exactly what his math homework assignment was tonight.  There is a web page that has all the details, including the problems.  I wanted him to email his teacher and get the web page address.  He didn't want to.  He told me he wouldn't forget.  I said he has a history of forgetting those kinds of things.

We went around and around multiple times.  Finally he agreed that he would ask tomorrow during class and email me the answer.  If I haven't heard by 1:00, I will email his math teacher.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good Dog

Willow, Middle Son's service dog, can be a major pain in the neck sometimes.  Other times, she is very sweet.  My nanny texted me a picture this afternoon.  Willow was standing at the front window, waiting for Middle to get off the school bus and come inside.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Big Trouble with Toilets

Last night, I got a call from MomC about 9:45.  She said she was having major plumbing problems--every drain in the house was backed up, toilets, sinks, shower, tub, etc.  She couldn't figure out how to tell Middle Son not to use the toilet and wanted to know if he could spend the night at my house.  I agreed to take him.

I called her tonight for an update.  She had a plumber come out and he said the main line is blocked.  He quoted her $2800 to fix it.  She told him she couldn't afford that.  They called back and offered to knock $600 off, said they don't like to leave someone without working plumbing.

She told me that the max she can afford to spend is about $500.  And she doesn't know what she's going to do this weekend (it's her turn to have the boys) if she doesn't have working plumbing.  She didn't ask me to do anything.  I'm not going to offer.  And if she asks me, I will agree to swap a weekend and take the boys.

The problem was almost certainly caused by something that Middle flushed down the toilet.  Tonight he was grabbing paper towels to flush.  I'm trying to come up with other things to keep him busy.  We've put laundry in, and now we're going to clean the kitchen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Received from Oldest Son's history teacher today:  
(Oldest) gave an amazing presentation this morning, and I am so impressed by his written report. He went into a depth of analysis that far surpassed any of my other students. Please congratulate him!

Monday, January 21, 2013


As I've discussed the "alternate" pants that Middle Son has been wearing lately, I've had a couple of people suggest that I try putting him in a kilt.  Which is sort of an interesting idea.  If he could be convinced to wear underwear under it and keep it on, it would be a possibility.

MomC got some UnderArmor boxer-briefs for him.  She says that he seems to like them, but he wants to wear them as pants, not underwear.  Which doesn't really fly out in the world. But if he'd wear them under a kilt...that might work.

I think I'm going to have to give the idea serious consideration.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One By One

I'm trying to spend more time actively engaged with Middle Son, and less time screwing around on the internet while he is here.  That's good for both of us.

Yesterday I came up with a new idea.  We were doing laundry.  Middle usually helps with loading and unloading the machines, and sometimes I have him help with the folding.  This time, I had him fold each garment.  I had to help him hand-over-hand, it's the sort of activity he's not very good at.  After folding it, we carried it to my room and put it away.  Then we went back to the washer, took the next garment out of the basket, and repeated the process.  It took 25 or 30 minutes to put the whole load away.

On the one had, it seems inefficient to do it that way.  On the other hand, what is the correct definition of efficiency here?  I am trying to minimize the amount of time spent on chores?  That seems like a reasonable goal, but what do I do with the "saved" time?  If I spend it playing games on Facebook and Middle spends it shredding toilet paper into the toilet, is that actually a good thing?  I think it is not.

This way, Middle was engaged in a useful task that helps him learn a practical skill as well as improving his fine-motor abilities.  I get off my rear end and spend 25 minutes walking around the house--a worthwhile endeavor for my out of shape, overweight self.

And most important, the two of us spend 25 minutes interacting.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Alternate Pants

For some reason Middle Son has started wearing clothes other than pants as if they are pants.  He just came out of his room wearing a t-shirt as if it were a skirt.

More Escape

I now officially have Serious Problem with the dog.  The last times I've let her outside without putting her on a line, she has escaped.  The last time, about 30 minutes ago, she jumped over the front fence, which she hasn't done before.  She came back quickly, but now I can't let her outside without putting her on the line.

She barks constantly on the line and it's not long enough for her to run around, so she's getting really jittery.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Willow, Middle Son's service dog, who I got to keep Middle Son from escaping the yard, has escaped twice herself in the last 24 hours.

The irony is killing me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Everything in Its Place

I was thinking today about the way Middle Son wants everything to be Just So.

As a toddler he would drink a bottle before we put him to sleep.  He noticed that we always put the bottle in the sink when he was done.  So he started putting it in the sink himself.  Even when he was so tired he could barely stand up, he would still get up, run over to the sink, and toss the bottle in. Sometimes he would drop the bottle and it would roll under the TV where he couldn't reach it.  Then all hell would break loose as he tried to grab it and couldn't.

I have magnetic child-proof locks on my kitchen cabinets, and I have four magnets that go with them.  After I use a magnet to unlock a cabinet, I stick it to the hinge of the cabinet.

Then Middle comes in, grabs the magnets, and lines them all up in a perfect vertical row on the side of the refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Underwear

I was getting Middle Son ready for school this morning.  We were running a little let, so I got him dressed, then went to start breakfast.  The school bus arrived.  I went to get Middle to put him on the bus.  I found him lying on his bed.  He was pulling his pants back up, and his underwear was lying on the floor.  I didn't have time to re-dress him, so he went to school sans underwear.


Sunday, January 13, 2013


I was eating in the food court at the Costco near my house today.  It's outdoors.  Today, as there often are, there were a couple of birds flying around.

They reminded me of a trip to Costco with Middle Son.  On that visit, we got lunch and sat in the food court to eat.  There were birds flying around.  Middle was FASCINATED with the birds.  He ran around chasing them and giggling.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Endless Trash

Last night, I did not have Middle Son take the trash out before he went to bed.  This morning, I woke up about 6 a.m. to the sound of a Muppet Show DVD playing it's "please pick a track" loop.  I got up and turned it off.

Then I noticed that Middle Son had tended to the trash again.  He had taken the trash bag out of the can under the kitchen sink, and stuffed it into the trash can that holds the recycling.

Dealing with trash is a new skill to Middle.  It seems to be REALLY IMPORTANT to him.  Tuesday of this week I took Middle to see the neurologist.  He suggested that Middle may be experiencing anxiety about the trash.  Now that he understands what is supposed to happen with trash (it leaves the house) he might be getting really agitated about the fact that there is trash inside the house.  Hence the flushing and other unusual activities.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Yet Another Trip to School

I got a call from Middle Son's school psychologist this morning.  They've finish their "adaptive assessment" for updating his IEP, and need us to come in, go over it, and sign the paperwork.

We will get yet another copy of the safeguards and procedures document.  I've gotten enough copies of that (and of HIPPA releases) to wallpaper my entire house.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pillow Pants

On Saturday, I told Middle Son that he needed to get dressed so we could go to the store.  A few minutes later I went into his room. He was lying on his bed.  He had his feet inside a king-sized pillow sham, and was trying to pull them up.  I told him that wasn't going to work, and gave him a pair of pants from his drawer.

I was talking to my nanny when I got home tonight.  She said she had told Middle to get dressed so they could go pick Youngest up from MomC's.  He was in his room longer than usual, so she went in to check on him.  He was struggling with his pants and seemed very upset.  She said he was on the verge of tears.  She asked him if he needed some help, and his face lit up.

She went to help him, and discovered that he was trying to pull up a pillow case.

Plunger and Puppet

Oldest Son wore a puppet on his left hand to preschool every day.  I remember it being a raccoon.  I was talking to MomC about it recently, and she said that she thought it was a rat.  At any rate, he called it Cute.

I drove him to preschool on Valentines day, and he told me that Cute would get Valentines, because he was a member of the class.  I told the teachers that and they set up a bag for Cute and put Valentines in it.

The other unusual item that Oldest took to preschool was a toilet plunger.  He took it for show and tell.  He had been interested in our plunger so we bought him one that he could play with.  When I stopped to think about it, it was kind of fun--a plunger is basically a giant suction cup.

The day that he took it for show and tell I walked him up to the teacher so I could talk to her.  The handle was sticking out of his backpack.  She asked what he had in there, and I said "oh, you'll never guess.  He's got a toilet plunger in there."  She cracked up laughing.  I told her that it was a "virgin" plunger that we'd bought him to play with.  I remember later seeing pictures of him showing it to his classmates.  He had stuck it to the floor and was pulling on it with all his might.

Some book that I read about autism said that low-function children live in a world of their own, but high-function kids live their own way in our world.  My own experiences bear that out.  Middle Son lives very much in his own world.  I sometimes describe him as being at right-angles to consensual reality.

Oldest son lives in the same world as the rest of us.  And sometimes, in preschool as today, he does things very much his own way.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I was reading a story in the New York Times about the strains Hurricane Sandy has put on the mental health care system in New York.  A system that was already shaky has lost a lot of capacity.  Group homes, out-patient clinics, hospital wards, even emergency rooms have been put out of commission.

I burst into tears when I read this part:
In the confusion, some patients lost contact with their families and caseworkers. At Community Access, the same case managers who struggled to get hospital treatment for the young woman with the meat cleaver had to hunt for an elderly female tenant who had been taken to Bellevue by the police before the storm. The police had picked up the older woman for public urination near a schoolyard. 
But two weeks after the storm, which knocked out Internet access and telephone service at the apartment building, neither the staff nor her sister could find her.
Dorca Rosa, the elderly woman’s case manager, eventually found her at Gracie Square Hospital on the Upper East Side, behind several locked doors. 
“I cried when I saw her,” Ms. Rosa said. “I found her in horrible conditions. She was lying in her own feces, she had a fractured leg and the provider could not explain how her leg was fractured.” 
It's not hard for me to imagine something like that happening to Middle Son.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Try at Trash

Once again, Middle Son was up last night playing with trash and flushing paper down the toilet.  About 4:00 this morning I put the trash cans in the bathroom and locked the door behind me, keeping Middle out of the bathroom and the trash.

I was talking with my nanny about it when I got home tonight.  She had an interesting suggestion.  She thought I should try having Middle take the garbage out just before bedtime.  That way there won't be any trash in the middle of the night.

We'll try it tonight and see how it goes.


My parents went back home to Texas after spending 10 days with me and my boys. As they were leaving, my dad told me that they are constantly impressed at my ability to cope with all the crazy and bizarre things that my children with autism throw at me.

I told that them that both the problems and my own ability to cope are an endless surprise to me too.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Black Nails

When MomC brought Youngest Son over this morning, one of his fingernails had been painted black.  He told me that he got some black nail polish for Christmas because black is his favorite color.

Impulse and Stability

I ran across this quote on a board that I was reading today.  It was in reference to the revisited marshmallow study on impulse control.
If there is any basis for impulsivity, the study seems to hint, it is affected by the exposure of the child to unreliable circumstances, adults not following through, or otherwise not being able to deliver on what is promised.
It got me to thinking about MomC.  And about my children.  MomC has a strain of impulsive behavior.  Her father was mentally ill.  She's said that he was diagnosed as bi-polar, but she now wonders if he was schizophrenic.  He had delusions, and committed suicide when she was about 10.  So she definitely grow up with an unreliable parent who didn't follow through.

One of my major goals is to give my boys a consistent, reliable, stable home.  I think I'm succeeding.

When I told Oldest Son this summer that I had a girlfriend, he was very upset.  My nanny related a conversation that she had with him about it.  She commented that it would probably be hard for him if his mom had a boyfriend, and he told her no, that wouldn't bother him, but he didn't like me having a girlfriend.

I remember talking with my psychiatrist about it.  He asked me how that made sense to me.  What occurred to me was that my home was a point of stability for Oldest.  And change at my house was scarier than change at mom's.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Again with the Trash

Middle Son is now getting obsessive about emptying the trash.  It's about 1 in the afternoon, and so far he has tried to take the trash out three times.

I've seen this dynamic before.  Middle learns some new skill, and he REALLY wants to use it.  Over, and over, and over.  I think he enjoys doing something useful, being helpful.  On the one hand, I want to encourage it when he does something that is helpful and appropriate.  On the other hand, I'm running out of trash bags.

This last time I intercepted him as he was coming into the kitchen with the empty trash bag.  He looked really excited.  He got really upset when I told him to put it back.  So I got the windex out and had clean the outside of the microwave.  Then while I was writing this, he got the windex out again, sprayed an small area of the kitchen table, wiped it off, and put the windex away.

I've gotta find more jobs for that boy!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trouble with Trash

Middle Son was up in the middle of night last night.  I looked at the clock when I first heard him.  It was about 3:45.  He does this sometimes, so I wasn't too concerned.

He made a lot of noise.  I heard banging sounds, and the toilet flushing, and him giggling and screeching.  Eventually I got up to see what was going on.  I looked at the clock and was surprised to see that it was 5 a.m.

Middle was taking used napkins, paper towels, and kleenex out of the kitchen trash and flushing them down the toilet.  And cackling with glee.

I stuck the trashcan in the bathroom, locked the door, and sent him back to bed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I got a reminder today that even though Middle Son no longer poops his pants, there are still some "areas for growth" regarding the toileting process.  

I gave Middle a bath last night.  After the bath he still smelled.  I couldn't figure out why.  When we went into the living room I sniffed him again, and he smelled fine.

This morning after taking a shower, I grabbed a towel to dry off.  I discovered that the towel was crusted with poop.  Apparently Middle wiped his rear on the towel last night.  Now I know why he smelled bad in the bathroom but fine in the living room.

The smell was coming from the towel instead of from him.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

More Trash

Yesterday Middle Son brought me a trash bag.  Then he went and stood by the kitchen trash can.  Sure enough, it was full.

Apparently he has decided that the trash is his chore.


Two years ago I sent Middle Son to summer Camp Stand By Me, a camp for children with disabilities run by Easter Seals of Washington.  Last year I didn't get him signed up in time.

I was filling out the forms on line to send him this year.  It auto-populates with information from your last registration.  I got really excited when I got to the section about toileting.  Two years ago Middle Son was not fully toilet trained-the note that I put in was that he was bladder trained but not bowel trained.

This time I got to check the box for full control of bladder and bowel!  Woo-hoo!