Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Joseph Recommends...

He started early..

One of the most fun things of the summer for me, has been 'working' with Joseph.  Yes, I used air quotes, because it doesn't feel like working.  Except when he is in a mood and doesn't want to do anything, because then it feels like a lot of work telling him "I don't care.  This is your job." This usually happens when we talk about cleaning up his room.  Like mother, like son?
Just making things clear before we start, Joseph is NOT studying this whole summer.  We spend half an hour to an hour per day, most often in two segments, working on a summer bridge book.  The rest of the time is for free play, crafting, running around like a loon, playing with balloons, doing flying sock monster, making cards, talking, Lego's, museums, and so on.  A lot of Joseph's ideas of fun are quite like his mommy: he loves to read (a lot, especially at night) and he is enthralled by his new robot set.  
After he graduated Kindergarten he got a reward: his brand new, first library card. Joseph and the library have a complex relationship. He LOVES the library.  However he hates to return the books.  If it was up to him, he would keep any book he likes. I feel more sympathy now for my own mother in trying to keep up with my voracious reading habit, though it is strange to think that at Joseph's age, I was barely be able to read more than a primer.

At my advice Joseph went to the library with a list.  When he was younger, I told him that Libraries are magic and that Librarians are magicians.  Whatever he wants to know more about, a librarian will be able to find him a book.  I will admit he gave them a challenge this time.  A book about Dinosaurs would have been pretty easy, but he wanted to know why trains run on tracks, how planes stay in the air, and one or two things about numbers.  He came home with ten books.  The dinosaur book got lost in the shuffle at the library, but there were two books about the history of trains.   They were not very successful. Or as Joseph just said himself: "I just got lost in the number books."  He certainly did.  There was a book about forces.  How a push or a pull is a force.  How moving an object means a force is applied.  What friction is, etc.  With experiments to match (like bowing a pebble, a cotton ball and a car and see which moves easiest) the book was interesting and easy to grasp, and he liked it.  But his absolute favorites were the 'number books'.   When I asked him which books he wanted to recommend, he brought these three down:

"On beyond a million.  An Amazing Math Journey." by David M. Schwartz.  We will definitely be looking for more of this author.  Joseph loves it because "it teaches you about really huge numbers"  It deals with exponents, and numbers beyond a million.  It also teaches you that Gazillion is not a real number but just a fun way of saying lots and lots, that you can never count to infinity and that there are always bigger numbers.

"Can you count to a Googol" by Robert E. Wells is another favorite. It deals with much the same subject but is a little bit more easy and there is nothing mentioned about exponents.  Just really big numbers.

"Big Numbers and pictures that show just how BIG they are." by Edward Packard is also about really big numbers.  It's written very easily but it does include the very basics of what exponents are.  

I did encourage Joseph to get one book down as well, which he has also enjoyed very much, called "That's a possibility.  A book about what might happen." By Bruce Goldstone.  It starts out very easy about the meaning of possible and impossible, but then delves further into probable, improbable and even in odds.  It's a really good beginner's book for analyzing chances on the most basic level.

So there you have it. Joseph recommends.. if you have kids to read these books with them.  If you don't have kids.. sneak in the library and read them yourself.  That's my recommendation, because he's right.  These books are FUN.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A bit of an update.  I am still alive and life goes on.  It's different than our pre autism life.  We have to work harder for every, single thing, and the sleep deprivation at times is enough to drive you to near insanity. Autism and sleep problems often go hand in hand.  At times I still look around and think "this isn't fair.  Why do we have to work hard for what happens by itself for everyone else?"  But I guess asking why does not help, and instead we try to be glad that while it is hard work, we are seeing results.  Michael is doing better and better.  More speech, more self control, more spontaneous play, more emotions.. more everything and we have hope that with a whole load of work, Michael will be happy and independent and "all he can be."

In the mean time here are some pictures:

Her is Joseph after his most recent ballet recital. Joseph is.. overly intelligent and overly charming. He's miles ahead of most in intellectual development, but at the same time, he is still mamma's snugly boy and he knows my most favorite time of the whole day is reading to him in bed.

Joseph's first lapbook.  With the summer vacation nearing, I am trying to find things to keep him occupied somewhat independently.  A lot of my time goes to tend to Michael and work with therapists, but I do not want Joseph to feel left out.

I joined the SCA, the society of medieval anachronism: a medieval recreation organization that I had heard about for a long time. It's been a sanity saviour to escape now and again in the medieval world, plus I am learning some skills: I have sewn this dress all by myself!  It's extremely basic, but.. I am getting better each time.

We caught this picture of Michael this Easter.  There is just something about boys in a seersucker suit!!  Michael loves trains, is learning to speak more fluently and more elaborately. He loves books, at four years old knows all his letters and is working on sounds.  He works very hard to overcome the symptoms of his autism that might get in his way.

That's me, this Easter.  I wore a hat instead of veil to Church because it went so well with my outfit.  I am trying to loose a few of the pounds I gained by stress eating these last two years, but I really liked my happy Easter outfit.

My handsome boy charming.  He loves to have his picture taken, loves to perform, loves to talk, loves to learn and just loves! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You probably have noticed that this blog has been idle.  I am not here to announce that that is done for now. Truth is, with the new challenges for our family, it will probably be idle for a bit longer.  There are seasons in life, and this is not the season to try and keep up with a blogging rhythm.  This is a season to further Michael's speech, his social interactions and his health.  To find the way to let that high intelligence break through the communication barriers and frustrations.  That involves a lot of hands on work.  A lot of prayer.  And a lot of tears.  All of them are needed.  And when I cry, I try to remember (usually afterwards) that I was just watering his soul, and mine in the process.

So...  you will see the occasional post here.  A lunchbox that was too cute not to share, or an accomplishment of either of my boys. But I am not going to try and be a regular blogger for now.  Instead, I am working and sewing in the hope of a bountiful harvest.  In the mean time, when I come to your mind, I would appreciate every prayer you have that in my weakness, I might be enough still for my youngest to find all the help he needs from me.That my oldest son will not be neglected and that he knows how much he is loved.  That my husband will find in me someone to stand beside him as we work and pray for our family.  And that God may have mercy on me as He only can, giving His answers to my prayers in His time, in His way.

If anyone wants a more regular contact, please give me a message and I will give you my name on facebook.

Be loved and blessed,

Thursday, November 8, 2012


My oldest son is weird.  No, really.  I mean, yes, I know I am weird too, but at least I hated homework.  Like a regular kid. Joseph LOVES homework.  He gets extra homework because the homework that the rest of the class gets is too easy.   So today was the first day of 'extra homework'.  He was enthusiast! He did his regular homework (write the letter F, capital, small, words and a sentence)  first and then was extatic to find  out there was more.  It's kindergarden homework, while he is in pre K.  The intention is to read the instructions and then follow them: colour the third sock red, colour the ninth sock blue, colour the seventh sock purple. It did not pose any problems.  Except for once.  While I was stirring soup, he asked me to hand him a purple crayon.  And I did.  After starting to colour the appropriate sock... he stopped and declared that this was the wrong crayon.  I looked at it.  It looked fine to me.  He asked then why I had handed him a  'blue vi.. vi.. " crayon.  "Ohh.. well, it's called blue violet.  But that IS a kind of purple."  He was not to be persuaded.  A crayon that said blue violet was not right for this sock.  I had to go look for another one.  Three other blue violet crayons turned up.  It is a popular colour for Crayola it seems.  Luckily I found some CraZart, jumbo crayons I had bought for Michael.  One of them said 'purple'.  After inspecting the word, he was satisfied and coloured the appropriate sock.

A few minutes later he declared he was finished.  I looked over and told him there was another page.  "Oh, I didn't realize that."  He said with perfect inflection, then turned to the next page, colouring the right shapes in the right colour and then putting them on a graph.   Ten minutes ago, he asked for more homework.....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One month later

We are now several months into this autism thing.  And let me tell you.. it is work.  It nearly broke me in the beginning, especially since it coincided with Michael going to school.  OR that was the theory.  Like most children who start preschool, he picked up every germ there was to find, and therefor was almost constantly sick.  And being sick, the autism 'manifested' doubly bad.  He would just.. zone out completely, lay on the floor and move a car back and forth.  I was so... so scared.

I am still scared, but thank heavens (and with some help from the doctor, it got that bad) I am past the panic.     Things are going the right way.  Michael is getting therapy and Bill and I know more what to do.  Nobody can predict the future, but unless things change drastically.. we should not have to worry about the long term future.  There is every chance that Michael will later on go to a normal school, have friends, go to college.. chose a life for himself.  But it is the short term that makes things hard.  I was at the point where the practical things in life were just about to get easier.  And now.. they've become well.. harder.  Therapies, worries, appointments, and endless phonecalls with voice automated services...

I do realize we are lucky.  We saw the signs very early, within just the first.. weeks of things becoming visible.  We managed to find the right services very quickly and bright start, the early intervention coordinator is helping so much in finding us a way through the maze of services.  On top of that we have insurance that actually covers autism therapy and evaluation.  Because we are still working towards getting the actual medical diagnosis.  Still.. we are set to get that within the next two months.  That is.. incredibly quick I have learned.

I am tired, and most especially tired of all the extra hard work. Children are a lot of love and also a lot of work. But an autistic child (or I believe any special needs child) is even more.  One of the most important things to do, and something of which we see clear results, is to engage Michael almost constantly, working on his language, challenging him.  This makes me feel guilty, because it leaves so much less time for Joseph.  The fact that Joseph is in school more than Michael takes a bit of that pressure off, plus the fact that he loves his brother and understands that there is something wrong for which Michael needs help. In fact, he tries to help.  And I think over time that will be an enormous asset.

I am more.. positive as I look towards the future, but I am still.. exhausted.  I thank God for my husband who pulled me through those first three months.  I am praying the rosary, because that is the only prayer I have energy for.  I am not ready yet to see how and where this may fit into God's plan for me.  I am not ready to delve too deep into anything spiritually.. or even practically to read up much more about other people's experiences with autism.  I am.. extremely selective in what I read and only read as much as is needed to help Michael.  I know people who pour themselves into research.  I can not do that.  It overwhelms me like an avalanche all that there is still to do, all that will be involved just to get him the chances and social interaction and the life.. that other children take for granted.

I am tired mostly, of the extra burdens and feel overwhelmed as well.  But I am at least at the point where I can function and struggle on, and treasure the good moments as well as the progress that is being made.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thank you, and prayers needed

I want to thank everyone who is replying for their prayers.  I know my blog has become one.. mindless rant against this autism thing in the last few posts, but there are just.. no words to express how hard it is to have a child that you could play and communicate with and then to find that contact fading.  We are on the path of therapies but so far each meeting has been about paperwork and questions and 'next time we will start'.  I want to see some results.  I want to see that lovely awareness dawn in his eyes again.  I want him to communicate with me.  I want to know that in 10 years from now he will be entering highschool, with some challenges but aware and happy, and ABLE.
And I want to be able to sit down and play blocks with him fir 10-15 minutes.  On top of everything Michael is teething and having a cold.  We (hope) that the light fever is what is making him worse, unable to focus and just... running around like a hyperactive drunk.   But we do not know.
I want to skip the next five years till we are in a less "I do not know" period.  I have been looking forward with such longing to this age where I would finally be able to communicate with my boy and now instead of things getting easier, it is just getting harder and harder.  I had some hopes that a few weeks in things would.. settle.  My emotions, his behaviour.  That it would get better.  I am a wreck, emotionally and I need it to stop because autistic or not, he needs me.  My oldest son needs me, to be a bridge between both of them.  But I hate the endless repeat of words without sense, of scripts from books and television.  I want to hear him talk.  I want to.. interact with him.   Please pray that something of the therapies will start and start working soon.  And that he will be getting better, leading a self sufficient life eventually and be happy. And that I can be happy again.  It has been so long now since I have seen some happiness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

At least the transition to school goes well.. right?

Michael went to school twice already.  In theory those mornings would be for me to relax and recover.  That was the plan even before we faced the autism.  Just two weeks, with three mornings each, for me.  Now it had become even more important to get that time.  To not have someone around that you need to constantly engage, constantly be watchful for, with no communication unless for his wants.
I would get a small amount of time to load up my batteries and do all that again as soon as he was home.  Day one at school, he did not react at all to a stranger leading him out of the car and into the classroom.  I hoped and prayed that this was not total apathy, but just the fact that he had seen Joseph being lead in the same way a hundred times.

Day two.. some small protesting that was finished already by the time he was past the car.  This reassured me.  A normal separation reaction, and then a day of fun.  When I picked him up, he didn't want to leave. That hurt, but was reassuring as well.

Day three: he starts screaming the moment he sees the teacher.  She wonders if he is warm.  I say he MIGHT be teething to stave off the inevitable conclusions of illness or whatever. Michael does have trouble teething. What does Michael NOT have trouble with?   I am so tired of Michael and trouble.  I want Michael and effortless.  Effortless SOMETHING.

35 minutes later, just as I am about to lay down for a nap, because for some unfathomable reason Joseph had to get out of bed four times last night and I have my very first class to teach this night...  the bell rings.  They really think he is teething so badly. He is crying.  They can't distract him.  Can I come and get him.  I step in the car and drive, trying not to cry. He is crying.  The moment he is in the car seat it starts settling.  The moment I drive away, he stops. I go to target and pick up some cola.  I will need caffeine to get through this day, and to stop myself from screaming at the students how God is playing some cruel game with my life that I can not figure out.

I drive home, and have a hysterical fit the moment I drive into the garage.  I want my life back.  I wanted, needed those hours.  I can not have somethign else go wrong. This transition to school  must work. Please God, have mercy.  End my misery.
I am home, typing away at the computer, in the background is the incessant chatter of a little boy, making no sense.  I need more.  I can not live like this.  It needs to get better.  Now.