Thursday, March 28, 2013

School

Oldest Son is once again having major problems with homework.  He has IEP accommodations  and I don't think they are all being met.  The special ed teacher doesn't seem very concerned.  I've formally requested an IEP team meeting.  Either his goals need to be changed, or the supports for achieving them need to be changed, because he's not meeting them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Love

I was talking to MomC last night.  We were discussing all the issues we're running into the Middle Son and the bathroom.  If you leave toilet paper out, he flushes the entire roll down the toilet.  If you don't leave it out, he wipes his rear end with towels.  If there are no towels, he just uses his fingers.  I have a fingernail brush that I use on him several times a day to get poop out from under his nails.

As we were talking, MomC said "wow, your fiancee must REALLY love you if she's willing to come live in the midst of all this."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Taxes

I met with my accountant this morning.  In addition to my 2012 taxes, we had to go over 2011 materials again.  The IRS has asked me to "provide verification" of my medical and alimony expenses in 2011.  I spent a big chunk of my weekend getting all the papers together.

I had a stack about 5 inches tall that weighed 4.3 pounds.  Most of it was Explanation of Benefits forms.  I had itemized deductions in 2011 of about half my salary.  The bulk was medical expenses for Middle Son.  Most of the rest was alimony.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Catching My Breath

I was listening to the new Kelly Clarkson song "Catching My Breath", and was struck by the chorus:
Catching my breath, letting it go,
Turning my cheek for the sake of the show
Now that you know, this is my life,
I won't be told what's supposed to be right
It reminds me a bit of my relationship with MomC.  I spending a lot of time letting it go when I deal with her.

And I turn my cheek a lot, although for the sake of the boys rather than the sake of the show.
 
 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Doctor

I took Middle Son to the doctor this afternoon.  He's going to an Easter Seals weekend respite camp in a couple of weeks, and I needed to have a doctor fill out the medical form.  The examination wasn't too bad.  We didn't get a blood pressure, but we didn't try too hard.

He needed a tetanus booster.  That was hard.  The doctor went out, and came back with four nurses to help.  I managed to get Middle to lie down on the exam table.  But he rolled away from us, and with the struggle we couldn't get a clear line-up for the needle.  Then he got up.  We almost got him pinned up against the door.  Then we all took a break.  He sat down in a chair up against the wall.  I sat down on top of him and pinned him into the chair.  Then I got him in a headlock.  Two people held his arm, and the third nurse was able to give him the injection.

After that was all done, I asked for a prescription for Valium for the next time I cut his hair.  Last time, Middle, my helper, and I all had bruises and there was a hole in the wall by the time we were done.

When I asked the neurologist for that a couple of months ago, he refused.  The pediatrician gave me the prescription.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Metropolis

Youngest Son told me that he wants to move to Metropolis so that he might have a chance to meet a real Superhero.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stories

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned something about Middle Son in an email thread at work.  The thread revolved around a problem that had come up and taken longer to resolve than seemed appropriate/reasonable.  One of my colleagues come up with a timeline showing that we had multiple pieces of information pointing to the problem, but no one was actively monitoring them.  Someone responded with a Russian folk saying--"seven babysitters have a child with one eye."

I responded by telling them about a trip I took with Middle a couple of years ago.  He and I went to visit my relatives in Austin over Thanksgiving.  I was worried about him wandering off when the adults were talking among themselves.  I made up a badge that said "I'm watching Middle" in big black letters.  The entire time we were in Austin, someone was wearing that badge.  That way there was never any question about who was keeping track of him.

Several days latter, I was talking with my colleague again about the problem.  We had made some tweaks to the notification system so that these kinds of failures would be called out specifically to the people running the project.  My colleague said that he wanted to make sure that he was watching Middle.  I startled a bit.  He said that my story had really hit home for him.

I got a kick out of that.  I told him about the talk that I'd been to, and the woman who had said sharing our stories is an important part of coping with the demands of parenting special-needs children.  And now he was sharing my story.

Schedules

I got an email from MomC a couple of days ago.  She said that now that she is working full-time, she thinks she should have equal (free) time on the weekends.  The parenting plan says that on her weekend she keeps them overnight on Sunday, but on my weekend they go back to her house at 7 p.m. on Sunday.  When we wrote it, we put in provisions for some things to change after she started working full time (I know the spring break schedule is different).  But the weekend schedule isn't one of them.

After some consideration, I responded that I'm not willing to change the weekend schedule at this time.  There are a lot of changes going on in both households.  I think that is enough for the boys to deal with, we shouldn't put a schedule change on top of that.

I've been checking my email, waiting for a response.  I'm anticipating something hostile.  Maybe I'm wrong, and her response won't be hostile.  There have been times in the past when I expected a hostile response and didn't get it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Moved In

My Beloved Fiancee, her two daughters, and their dog and cat are now officially residents of our household. They moved in on Saturday.

So far, things are going reasonably well.  Youngest Son is _very_ fond of their dog.  I had to pull him aside a couple of times and explain that Jack (the dog) needed a break so he was going to have to find something to do besides chasing the dog all over the house.

My Beloved asked at one point of Youngest is always this active.  I said "He's five.  This is what five year olds do."  She said "No it's not!"  So I amended my statement: "This is what five year old boys do."

Oldest Son seemed kind of agitated about Jack.  During meals Jack runs around under the table.  Oldest found this very distressing.  Willow doesn't run around under the table.  She can't--she's taller than the table.

The two girls are on their best behavior and acting like guests rather than residents.  I'm enjoying it for now and assuming that it won't last.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Trash

I was playing catch-ball-bounce-throw with Youngest Son, when I heard a suspicious noise from the front of the house.  It sounded like a cabinet door.  Lately Middle Son has been overly interested in the trash again, and I was afraid that was what I had heard.

I get to the kitchen and discover that I am correct.  Middle had taken the trash out from under the sink, dumped the contents into the sink, then put a new bag in the can.

It took a long time to get him to put all the trash back into the can.

Friday, March 15, 2013

No Shed

Oldest Son has now decided that he doesn't want to move out into the shed.  He wanted to know if that was ok with me.  I said it was fine.  And if he changes his mind later, that would be fine too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Shed

This week Oldest Son and I have been talking a lot about the impending arrival of My Beloved Fiancee, her two daughters, dog, and cat in our household.

Last night he told me that he wants to move out into the shed in the back yard.  My first inclination was to dismiss the idea and tell him no, that's not going to happen.  Then I remembered the talk I was at on Monday and the woman he said her son lived in a tree house in the backyard for years.  She said she's convinced it's the only thing that enabled him to finish high school.

So I told him it is a possibility.  The shed is not insulated at all, so it's going to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

We went out and looked at it tonight.  There is a fair amount of stuff in it currently.  Lots of it is mine, but some belongs to the landlord.  It does have electricity.  There are two overhead lights and two electrical outlets.  He wants to try living in it.  I told him that getting it set up  for habitation is not going to be a top priority the next few weeks, but we can work on it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Many Feet

In the car tonight, Youngest Son asked me "How many medium feet tall am I?"

I told him he is about three feet tall.  He responded that he is "four small feet tall, and 100 teeny feet tall."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ring the Bell

I was just looking at videos from the Ring the Bell campaign to stop violence against women.  Very powerful stuff.  I'm going to show them to Oldest Son so that we can discuss them.

Talk

I went to a talk tonight at Ryther, the organization that does the social skills groups that Oldest Son attends.  They had two different speakers.  One was focused on transitions for kids from high school to college or work.  The other was more focused on parents, the things we may run into during our children's transitions, and how we can cope with all the things that happen.

At many points I found myself thinking "that would make a good blog post."

I'm going to list a bunch of them now, so that I don't forget.

From the one who spoke about parents.
Survival kit for parents:

  • self-compassion
  • connection
  • practice gratitude
  • share your stories
  • humor
  • activism
I could probably do a post on each of these.

She talked about how parents are silenced, silenced in IEP meetings, doctors offices, and many other forums.  I have a couple of stories about that.

She mentioned a couple of books, including Far From the Tree, which I've been slowly working through.

She showed lists of strengths that she made for each of her three children, all of whom have learning differences.

From the one who spoke about kids and transitions:

Good social skills means being able to adapt when people don't behave the way you are expecting them to behave.  It does not mean being "nice" or polite in all circumstances.

Becoming a responsible adult means learning to be comfortable with discomfort.

The "polite" rules when teach younger kids in social skills need to be untaught as they get older.  Eye contact (which is often stressed with younger kids on the autism spectrum) can be creepy on a date.

They need to learn how to follow the thread of a conversation rather than trying to stick to the topic or stay on script.

She talked about kids she works with googling how to get a girlfriend or how to flirt with a guy and the iffy nature of what they find.  She referred to Sheldon on the Big Bang, which I got a kick out of.

She talked about the basics of independence, learning to:
  • get enough sleep
  • eat a reasonably nutritious diet
  • tend to personal hygiene
  • organize the things you need to do
  • do things you don't particularly want to do but need to be done
And once those are taken care of
  • learn new things
I talked a little to Oldest Son about that list tonight.  He agreed that it would be worth talking about and figuring out what areas he needs to work on from that list.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trash in the Sink

As I have noted in prior posts, Middle Son is very interested in the trash, and making sure it gets taken out.  Tonight, I watched him walk into the kitchen, take the trash can out, and up-end over the sink.  He shook it to make sure he got everything out.

I was perplexed.  This is a new wrinkle Middle's behavior.  I had him come back in the kitchen and put the trash back into the can.  My best guess as to what happened is that Middle wanted to take the trash out, but the door was locked so he couldn't.  Dumping it into the sink the was the next best option.

UPDATE: The front door was not locked, so that explanation doesn't hold up.  I have no idea what motivated this particular action.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Ball

Youngest Son is still very excited about his new room.  We were playing catch-ball-bounce-throw again.

My Beloved Fiancee called after dinner.  Youngest recognized her name while I was talking to her.  He asked if we were getting married because we love each other.  Which I thought was very sweet.  I said yes, we love each other and we want to be together for the rest of our lives.  That's why we are getting married.

Not About Information Exchange

I was listening in on a coaching class by Bob Dunham today, and heard something that struck a chord for me.
"Communication is not about exchange of information, it is about creating a shared future."
I was thinking about how this applies to Middle Son.  When we communicate, very little information passes from him to me--I have a really hard time figuring out what he is trying to tell me.  It looks like he has less trouble with that.  More often than not he seems to understand what I'm trying to tell him.  It works best when I am trying to get clear, concrete information to him.  I don't know how much abstract communication really makes sense to him.

When Middle communicates with me, it tends to be about a very near-term shared future that he wants to create.  A future in which he is eating a cookie.  A future in which I am tickling him.  A future in which the Muppet Show is playing in the DVD player.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Catch Ball Bounce Throw

As we prepare for My Beloved Fiancee and her daughters to move in, I got a loft bed for Youngest Son.  We got it fully assembled this weekend.  He loves it.

It also seemed to inspire him to want to play in his room.  We spent a good deal of time tossing a big ball around.  First we were both down on the floor.  He threw me the ball and said "Daddy, we're playing catch-ball-bounce-throw!"  Then a little later he started bouncing it off his head and we were playing head-ball-bounce-throw, then chin-ball-bounce-throw.

Then he climbed up on top of his bed.  Now, for some reason, it became a three word game, catch-bounce-throw, or catch-throw-bounce.  I asked if we were still playing catch-ball-bounce-throw and he said no, now it's a three thing game, not a four thing game.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Efficient vs. Brave

I was struck by a post I read to day from Seth Godin.
"It's possible that your next frontier isn't to get more efficient, it's to get more brave."
I've been thinking lately about efficiency.  A while back when I was doing laundry, I hit on the idea of having Middle Son fold the laundry and carry each garment individually to the bedroom to put it away, rather than stack them all in the laundry basket and carry them in one trip.

It doesn't seem efficient--we walk back and forth to the bedroom 30 or 40 times, and it takes 5 times longer for him to fold the laundry that it does for me to do it.  If I folded it and he carried the full laundry basket, he'd spend the other 20 minutes shredding toilet paper.  And I'd probably spend it screwing around on Facebook.

By doing it this way, I keep Middle engaged with me for 20 minutes.  Godin writes a lot about emotional labor and emotional courage.  I think when he says brave, he means engaging with the people around you, engaging with their fears, and engaging with your fears.

In a small way, that's what I'm doing when we put the laundry away.  I'm engaging with Middle, with his fears/challenges around tasks, and my fears of his future given his inability to care for himself and make his way in the world.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Toilet Paper

Middle Son has a weird fixation (actually, he has LOTS of weird fixations, but I'm going to write about one in particular) with toilet tanks.  He loves to shred paper or grass into the tank of the toilet.  I've had to replace two toilets in the past three years because of this.  The channels inside the porcelain get clogged and you can't clear them.

Grass is the killer.  Toilet paper sometimes causes a problem, and other times it doesn't.  The first time he did it he dumped handfuls of shredded grass into the toilets of both bathrooms.  By the end of the weekend, I couldn't flush either one without a bucket.  They both had to be replaced.  My landlord made me pay for it.  I couldn't argue.

One I had the new toilets, I needed to keep Middle out of them.  I can't afford to replace the toilets every two weeks.  My first attempt at keeping him was tying rope around the tank.  That was an abject failure, couldn't get it tight enough.  Within 30 seconds he had a big enough gap that he was able to slip some toilet paper inside.  The next was duct tape.  Many turns around the lid, then a couple around the tank.  That worked.

I followed him into the bathroom.  He looked at it, realized that he wouldn't be able to get it open, and he face sank.  He looked like someone had just run over his dog (or rather, like someone who really cares about their dog would look if their dog was run over).

My current house, which I moved into a little over a year ago, has two bathrooms, a master bath en suite and the main bathroom.  The toilet in the main bath has a cargo strap wrapped around the tank so that he can't get the lid off.  That's the third method I've used to keep him out.  It's worked, although occasionally I have to tighten it up.  It looks a little classier (or maybe a little less white-trash) than the duct tape.  I found a strap that matched the colors in the shower curtain.

Since the master bath is off my bedroom, I decided not to put a strap on it.  I keep the door to my room locked, so he can't get in.  Most of the time this works.  He's gotten in a couple of times and put some toilet paper in the tank.  It doesn't flush quite as well as it used to, but it still works.

Tonight, I caught Middle at the door to my room.  It wasn't locked.  When he saw me he quickly stepped back.  I thought that I'd caught him on his way in.  Later in the evening, I went into my bathroom, and discovered that I was wrong.  I'd caught him on the way out.  There was what looked like an entire roll of toilet paper in the tank.  So far the toilet still works.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Was Too Asleep

Youngest Son fell asleep in the living room tonight.  I woke him up to go to bed.  He tried to convince me that he hadn't really been asleep, so he didn't need to go to bed.  I was not convinced.