Thursday, December 16, 2010

Questions for David

Why do you insist on having the oven set at 300 degrees (or "three year-o year-o" in your language)? Do you know that no recipe known to man actually calls for anything to cook at 300?

Why does it bother you so much to have the microwave timer counting down the minutes? What type of radar do you have that tells you it is set anyway? How long will it take me to remember that I have to set the timer on the stove instead of the microwave because you cannot reach it? How many dozen cookies have I undercooked because I had no clue how long they had been cooking and was afraid of burning them?

Having just subscribed to XM satellite radio in part because I enjoy being able to see the name of the song and the artist so that I can write it down on a scrap of paper and hope not to lose it just in case some day I may have some time to add some songs to my iPod, why do you insist on having the clock on the display instead of the audio information? What difference does it make to you and how do you see it from the backseat anyway?

Do you watch the clock continuously or is it a coincidence that you often announce the time, precisely on the hour, like the family town crier, "seven year-o year-o." Okay, so maybe I just discovered my answer to the previous question.

Why, after being excited about watching your cousin play basketball in the city tournament, do you want to leave the minute the buzzer sounds? Does the sound actually hurt you?

Why did you cry this morning when I told you that you had presents to give to your teacher and the two class paraprofessionals and then cry again at school as you passed them out?

Why, after four months or walking backward to the bus every single day did you suddenly decide to walk forward?

Today wasn't exactly a trying day, but a confusing one. David and I sometimes have difficulty communicating the most basic wants and needs so I know he cannot answer these questions for me. What I do know—some days I feel like I am full of answers and other days, like today, only questions.

P.S. I sat down while waiting for Andrew's Winter Concert to begin, fully intending to finish writing my annual Christmas letter, but this post is what came spilling out. For those of you on my Christmas card list, I apologize for the delay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tis the Season

I usually reserve this space for stories about David. After all, he is the one with autism. I also tell stories about our older son, Andrew, but usually in the role of a supporting character to the main character David. It has been more than three years since David was diagnosed (yes, I need to rewrite my profile) and I have finally learned that our life does not have to revolve around autism. So, today the story is all Andrew, the main event because he, too, makes me smile, shake my head, laugh, cry and often exhibits wisdom beyond his years.

Last Saturday, Michael was headed out the door to pick Andrew up from a sleep over and as he grabbed his keys, he asked me if he should stop on the way home to get me a mocha. He had a knowing smile on his face because he already knew the answer to that question, but I stopped cleaning long enough to answer in the affirmative.

Apparently, the line at the Starbucks was pretty long by the time they arrived and Michael momentarily considered skipping it altogether until, I am sure, he pictured my disappointed face when I learned that I would not have the benefit of a sudden surge of caffeine to help me race through the house, picking up and cleaning, addressing Christmas cards, wrapping presents and making candied pecans. The drive-through lane was already full, so Michael waited on the access road leading up to the drive through as people often do. When a spot in the lane opened, the woman in the car behind Michael drove around him and into the open spot. Of course, Michael was annoyed, but when it happened a second time, I think he was bordering on enraged. According to Andrew, Michael pulled into the lane almost bumper to bumper behind that woman. He wanted to make sure she "understood" that he, too, had been waiting to pull in, Michael later explained to me.

Andrew sometimes gets uptight and certainly sounded that way when he called me from the car. "I think Dad is going to HIT someone," he told me. "With his fist?" I asked, which would be totally uncharacteristic of my husband.

I am sure that Michael did not even hear the click, click, click, click as Andrew searched for a song on his iPod, which was plugged into the car speakers. I am sure he did not notice when Andrew found the song he had been looking for, or pay attention to the familiar notes as the piano melody began. I am not even sure how long it took him to realize that the song Andrew had chosen was "Let it Be" by the Beatles.

It doesn't really matter what holiday you are celebrating this time of year, Andrew's advice is probably sound. We all could do a better job of letting it be--not getting annoyed when the line is long, not getting so involved in the hustle and bustle, that we forget about the season itself. Now, if you will forgive me I have to go wrap some presents.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Random Thoughts

The topic for the "Special Needs Blog Hop" is "random thoughts" and it would seem so many of my thoughts are random these days that it is hard to choose. I have been thinking, however randomly, about the interesting dichotomy that autism has created in David. His great difficulty in communicating makes him extremely dependent. Although he is increasingly able to make his needs and wants known and recently has even begun to make unsolicited comments, he still is extremely reliant on us to communicate for him especially when we are out in public.

The interesting contradiction, however, is that David's difficulty in communicating, the very same issue that causes him to rely so heavily on us, has also made him exceptionally independent in other areas. Because of the late development of his language, he has become a pretty clever and enterprising young boy, a problem solver in his own right. He continually amazes me with his ability to assess a situation and often develop his own solution rather than asking for help, which would be considerably more difficult for him.

For example, David recently finished eating a piece of cinnamon toast—you know, the kind Mom used to make you with butter and cinnamon sugar melted on the toast, but made considerably more healthy, I am sure, by swapping the butter with Brummel and Brown—and I could tell he was not happy by the amount of cinnamon sugar still left on the plate when he had finished eating the toast. I watched him consider the situation for a brief moment before he raised the plate to his face and started to blow all of the sugar into a pile against the far lip of the plate, essentially a human leaf blower, making it much easier to lick the leftover cinnamon sugar. That's my boy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Holiday Tradition

Every family creates their own holiday traditions and one of my favorites growing up was shared with my Mom and older sister. After the first of December, we would scour the television listings, occasionally even allowed to splurge and buy the holiday issue of TV Guide that listed all of the Christmas specials. What we were looking for was a classic Christmas movie like It's a Wonderful Life or Holiday Inn, but the most watched by far was White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. We would make popcorn, get out the sleeping bags and have a slumber party. My sister and I would sleep on the floor of the family room, Mom got the couch and we would leave the Christmas tree lights on all night--except that really Mom would wake up in the middle of the night and turn them off so we didn't burn the house down, which if you know my Mom will make sense to you even though the artificial tree that we had inherited from my Grandparents was made of those green branches resembling toilet brushes that could in all likelihood have survived a nuclear disaster.

I have continued this tradition with my older son, although please don't tell his friends. The movie selection, of course, has shifted. It still must have a holiday setting, but with added testosterone more along the lines of one of the Home Alone movies or The Santa Clause. I still watch White Christmas every year, but usually late at night while everyone else is asleep and I am wrapping presents. I grew tired of the heckling that I received from my family while watching and they grew tired of hearing me sing every word to every song. Yes, I know them all.

I wonder sometimes what kind of traditions David will have with his family. Will he stay up late to watch his Christmas favorites with his kids? I am somewhat skeptical because David's all-time favorite Christmas movie is a little bit unusual. Care to take a guess? It is The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and no, I am not kidding. Could I make that up? Would I make that up? There has been many an unsuspecting visitor to our house who has been subjected to David's rendition of the spectacular because, much like I know every word to the songs of my favorite Christmas movie, David knows each kick and every tap of his. And he performs the steps with such earnestness that it is difficult to keep from laughing out loud. There is nothing more exciting to him than when he times it just right so that he manages to slide down the side of the sofa and plop onto the ground at exactly the same time as the collapsing soldiers in the famous parade of the wooden soldiers. The problem is that, even with his many hours of practice, David is not a Rockette. David's high kicks more closely resemble Clever Hans the counting horse tapping out numbers with his hoof than a graceful long legged Rockette. And then there have been the couple of occasions where David has gotten side tracked dancing to the Rockettes on the way to his bath and performed his own sort of male burlesque show, to put it politely. Everyone in my extended family, with a whopping three copies between us, has seen the DVD so many times we have considered petitioning the Rockettes to release an Easter Extravaganza or even a Groundhog Day Gala. Please?

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes
No offense to the Rockettes, but I think this is one Christmas tradition I probably will not try to foster with David. And someday I expect his kids to thank me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Composer

Andrew started middle school this year and was given a choice of music classes. Because he does not play an instrument, he had two choices--general/vocal music, or he could participate in chorus. He has always enjoyed singing and had also been selected to participate in a district wide select choral group for 5th to 8th grade students, so he chose chorus.

To his surprise, music class is now more than just singing as he is beginning to learn music theory. He is studying composers and the vocabulary and terminology of music and it has been interesting to see him sometimes thinking in musical terms.

Raymond Briggs' The Snowman
A few days ago, Andrew was watching David. "Hey Mom," he said, "Don't you think David is a composer?" I am not sure how I answered him. I didn't really even know what he was talking about, so I paused for a moment to go see what David was doing. He had been watching "The Snowman," a DVD based on David Briggs' book about a small boy whose snowman comes to life. The book is simply a series of illustrations and aside from a short narrative at the beginning, the DVD also has no words. But it has music--magical, fanciful music that David adores and he was dancing around the family room as the music played. I probably watched for two full minutes before I saw it. Woven into his wide, sweeping arm movements, he was using sign language. Snow. Wind. Stars. Night. He was signing as his way of singing—adding his own words to the music and it really was strikingly beautiful.

Composer. There have been many, many terms and labels attached to David, but composer is not one of them until now. Interesting how Andrew's observations about David almost always focus on one of his strengths. Composer. Add that one to the list.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Home by Another Way

We are still in the process of putting up our Christmas decorations, an activity which seems to last until I throw up my hands in exasperation and decide that enough is enough and the rest of the decorations should just go into the garage sale pile. David, however, was smitten the minute he saw the lights on our tree and actually, for the first time, participated in some of the decorating. I even allowed multiple ornaments to be hung on a single branch—oh, the horror--and have kept the rearranging to a minimum.

Packed in one of the seemingly endless boxes were some Fisher Price figurines, a feeble attempt to give little hands something festive to play with that is not fragile or a family heirloom. The set had originally been purchased for my niece (now in college) and is actually the remainder of a Christmas train, complete with the usual cast of characters—Santa, elves, reindeer, a tree and snowman, and a complete nativity set all thrown into the same box.

Interestingly, David has taken the time to separate the pieces. He has summarily rejected the Santa, his Christmas train and all of his cohorts, which is interesting because you would think he would be fascinated that the man gets to wear red from head to toe. But, since David does not really like to open presents and does not like new toys, I suppose he doesn't really see the need. Instead, he has been playing constantly with the nativity scene, plus the snowman and the fully decorated Christmas tree figurine thrown in just for kicks.

When you have such a severe communication gap with your child, it is difficult to know what they understand. At six, I would hope that David understands the difference between the commercial Christmas and the religious holiday, but I didn't really believe that he did. We are still working on yes/no questions in speech therapy and have not graduated to discussions of the secular versus the religious. His actions with the figurines made me hopeful, however. Maybe he really does "get it." Maybe he absorbs more than I give him credit for. And then I saw this

The whole cast of characters apparently left the scene of the nativity and hopped a ride on the nearest school bus. Sorry to quote James Taylor again, but we just bought tickets to his upcoming concert and I am reminded of his song "Home by Another Way" from the Never Die Young album:    
     Those magic men the Magi
     Some people call them wise
      Or Oriental, even kings
     Well anyway, those guys
     They visited with Jesus
     They sure enjoyed their stay
     Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme
     They went home by another way.

So, did David imagine them all lining up in an orderly fashion and walking (backward, of course because David still walks backward) to the big yellow school bus? He always chooses the same wise man to be the driver, which is itself a miracle since his hands are full of gold (or frankincense or myrrh—I cannot tell because it is still in the box). The rest of the crew is just haphazardly thrown into the bus because, as you know, seatbelts are still not required on school buses, but I am sure they can make good time. I think they can take Santa and his Christmas train any day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Belated Thanksgiving

I have always really considered November a month to be endured, listed in my own personal ranking of months almost dead last--only above February and at that, by just the slimmest of margins especially considering that February is shorter.

If I have to justify my statement, I guess I will start with the weather. By November, fall's splendor is over and usually we have not yet seen the beauty of a wonderful winter day, filled with snow days and snowball fights, sledding and cinnamon rolls.

It also doesn't help that David was diagnosed in November, a fact which is recognized each year by my dear friend, who always remembers the occasion with a note, a phone call, or a card—always altered because, strangely enough, Hallmark does not have a section of cards to mark the anniversary of your child's diagnosis with a developmental disorder, so sometimes she has to get creative.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit my aversion to November, especially since I have just spent some time reading what others have so eloquently written about Thanksgiving. I do not mean to imply that I am not thankful, because I most certainly am.

So in the final hours of the month of giving thinks, I must add my little list. Taking for granted the usual laundry list of family and friends, health and home, in the land of autism, I am thankful for every word that David utters—every single one. Even when they come out in a jumble, like the consistently used sentence, "I get shut door me." Even when they might be annoying or embarrassing, such as this past Sunday, when the seemingly rhetorical question was repeated during the sermon a third time for emphasis, "What time is it?" and David answered, "Time to go home!"

I am thankful that when David has managed to finagle his way into our bed, I always feel his little bare foot inch his way toward me until he is touching my leg, his way of being connected to me--a comfort to him even in sleep.

I am thankful that David has adjusted so well to Kindergarten, in spite of the fact that I have a hard time finding elastic waist pants to fit his extremely tall, but very lean frame and so he has, on more than one occasion, accidentally flashed his SpongeBob underpants to everyone on the playground.

I am thankful that David has been blessed with a big brother who, even at a young age, protects him and worries about his future. Most recently, Andrew told me that if David is not able to have a job when he "grows up" that David and his wife will have to move into his house. Andrew decided that he would then quit his job to take care of David. When I asked him who would be earning the money in this scenario, he answered without hesitation and in all sincerity, "the girls."

I do have plenty to be thankful for and I am, but not the least of which is that November has finally come to an end.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bubbles in the Bathtub

For a long time, David was almost completely non-verbal, functionally mute, or whatever other terrible term you might want to use. During that time, I ached to hear his voice. I wondered what it sounded like.

I try to take every opportunity to promote language and to prompt a response and thankfully, his language has begun to develop. For years, I have driven around town, pushed the grocery cart, walked to the park talking—seemingly to myself, trying to encourage David to talk. I am sure that, on some occasions, David has grown tired of hearing me chatter on endlessly because I know I have. And my family has shown great patience as I sometimes forget to turn my babble button off as in "Would you like more potatoes, Michael…yes or no?"

Recently, David has begun to utter multiple word phrases, without prompting, totally spontaneously. A few nights ago, while David was in the bathtub, I saw the bubbles rise to the surface. David looked directly at me, smiled and without any kind of prompting from me said, "I passed yatz. Scuse me." Has any mother ever heard sweeter words?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I didn't used to be a worrier.

Did that sound convincing? In all honesty, I have always worried, but not like I do today. Like most parents, much of my worrying centers on David's (and Andrew's) future...and the present…and the guilty worries about things that I should have done differently in the past. Okay, just STOP. And please don't notice that my left eye has been twitching for about the last three months.

So, I was shopping at an undisclosed discount store a few weeks ago (undisclosed for reasons which will be disclosed later) and one of the employees commented on my purchases. I am usually philosophically opposed to people making remarks about what I am buying at the store, probably because I always read too much into what was meant to be a simple observation. "Looks like you have a fun weekend planned." What about a mega pack of baby wipes and a bottle of wine says fun weekend to you?

Anyway on this particular occasion, I realized from this person's comment that not everyone buys every red shirt that they (the people at this unnamed store) stock for the upcoming season. I explained that my son has autism and really only likes to wear red.

We talked for a few more minutes and, as I was swiping my credit card, she told me that she has Asperger's Syndrome. I guess it is the first time that I have met an adult "on the spectrum" who wasn't being introduced at the autism conference, or on a panel, or being interviewed on television. There she was, living her life. She has a job and had mentioned that she has a daughter. And then she told me that her co-workers do not know—hence the veil of secrecy. I almost blurted out, "Are you happy?"

I guess all of my little auxiliary worries (if I were to put them on a worry scale similar to the Scoville scale for peppers and no I am not obsessed) are really just the jalapenos of worries. Does it matter whether or not David goes to college, or has a wife or family? Not really. Those are the things that I used to think were necessary for happiness. Really, my habanero of worries centers on whether or not my boys are happy. And right now, most of the time, David is the happiest kid I know. So I guess my eye can stop twitching for the moment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about David's love of music. I recently found something I had written last spring on the same topic. So, without further ado….

David has always been moved by music. He loved musical toys as a baby and as his language has continued to develop he has spent a great deal of time singing to himself as he plays. I can usually tell what he is singing, but for the past several weeks he has been singing a song that I just couldn't place.

I was talking to my sister on the phone when David started to sing again. Over the phone line, it became suddenly clear to her as I snuck up behind him so that she could hear him singing earnestly, "Ah ni, ah ni. E choohoo uh ah ni. Ah ni, ah ni. E choohoo uh ah ni."

He then plunged into the rest of the song as he ran his toy car along the sofa cushion.

My sister had taken my older son, Andrew, to a concert at her church and purchased a CD for him. One day when she was driving David to school, the CD happened to be playing in her car and David became enamored with the first two tracks on the album. Three times a week as she drives him to school, they listen to each of the songs twice at David's request. The artist, she told me, is Peder Eide, a contemporary Christian singer and the song David had been repeating over and over again is called "As Is." She told me that she had given me a copy of the CD and that I should listen to it. By some stroke of luck, I was able to find the CD in the rack that David loves to rearrange for me. I opened the inner sleeve to glance at the lyrics as I waited for the CD to load in the kitchen. Here are the words to the refrain that David had been repeating over and over again.

    As is

    As is
    He chooses us as His    

    As His
    As His
    Infuses us as is
    With never ending
    Love transcending
    All our weaknesses
    No excuses
    He uses us as is

These are the words that David had been singing to me, to my family, to anyone who would listen. I just had to stop for a moment to hear him. As his mother, I have been pushing David since before his diagnosis. Pushing him to communicate, to work harder, to catch up to his peers--appreciative but rarely satisfied with the progress that he has made. I have been focused on his developmental delay, his deficit. Here in his gentle way, David unknowingly reminded me that I, too, should stop for a moment to appreciate him "as is."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Halloween Parade

This was my very first glimpse of David in his Halloween costume.
Oh wait—this is not David, but my nephew who is slightly bigger and eight years older than David showing him that costumes really aren't so bad. On second thought, maybe David was somewhat traumatized by the sausage casing look. I need to give Thomas a great deal of credit, though, because extracating himself from the costume without ripping it was nothing short of a Houdini move.

So, this was my first glimpse of David at the Halloween parade and, as you can tell, he already doesn't look too thrilled. Please note the red shirt peeking out from under SpongeBob because, as you know, we cannot be without our favorite color. His left arm has begun to creep back into the costume to allow for a quick escape from SpongeBob's clutches if given the opportunity.

The parade begins and he's walking, although it is difficult to get a good picture when he is hiding from the camera like a criminal on his way to the pokey.

He's still walking...and still hiding.

And he's made his escape. There it is, Ladies and Gentlemen, he spied his family cheering in the crowd, decided that we had seen enough and he'd had enough. Now there is some strut in that step.

Let's see, I spent $12 for the costume, which averages to about fifty cents a second of wear time. I think that sets a new record for David.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Change of Seasons

I am not the kind of person who would enjoy living in a temperate climate, sunny during the day, a cool breeze at night, flowers blooming continually. (Okay, maybe it would have appeal during the month of February. I hate February.) Call me crazy, but I love having four distinct seasons. Living in Nebraska, we certainly have weather extremes—sometimes all in a single day.

David, however, hates the change of seasons. I guess I shouldn't presume that. To be more accurate, David hates change—seasons or otherwise—and the change of clothes that accompanies a change of seasons can sometimes throw us into a tailspin.

Getting David to switch from sandals to tennis shoes or shorts to jeans is somewhat comparable to the Middle East peace negotiations. To get David to try something new, there is usually some coaxing, some compromise, a great deal of consternation, then a confrontation followed by a conflagration, but in the end we usually have to resort to flat out bribery.

The weather has gotten cooler and I was trying to prepare David for winter coat season. Of course, we had a coat for him to wear that had been Andrew's, but it was not the favored red, so I caved—I guess that is the compromise part—and bought a brand new red one to make the transition easier. So, on Monday we gave David a choice. If he wanted to go to swimming lessons, he had to be decked in his red and gray puffer coat from Target. Well, let's just say that he wore the coat, but not without a fight. And he was still so annoyed about it when he got home, that he ripped it off and threw it on the floor of the garage as soon as Michael had stopped the car.

Tuesday, I bought David his Halloween costume--nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? David does not like to wear costumes, surprise, surprise, but it was SpongeBob Squarepants, one of his favorite characters. I knew that he needed to see it and hopefully try it on before the big day, so I pulled out all the stops. First I had Andrew parade around in it and then (please HOLD for the bribery part) I told him that if he put it on, we would go get an ice cream cone. He abandoned the costume, left the room and I thought that he had made the decision to stay home until he quickly returned wearing his new red winter coat zipped up to the chin, looking like a puffy red cherub. It was like introducing the SpongeBob costume into David's wardrobe had pushed the red coat one notch up the tolerance totem pole. David still hated the coat, but not as much as he hated the costume.

One of my wise advisors, who in this case just happens to be my 13-year-old nephew, has suggested that I should always just be a season ahead. Tomorrow, I should introduce David to his Christmas sweater, so that he will wear his SpongeBob costume on Halloween. Then by the time I am ready to get David dressed to take Christmas card pictures, I can break out the Easter outfit. By the way, when does Target begin stocking their Easter clothes?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

He Ain’t Heavy

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, I am intimately familiar with the famous quote, "He ain't heavy, Father, he's my brother." It was chosen by Father Flanagan to be the motto of Boys Town, a home for troubled boys that he founded in Omaha in 1917 and later made famous in a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.

When David was diagnosed, it was like my world shifted course. For a long time, I couldn't think of anything else. Obviously now, almost three years later, I can think of other things. I have to think of other things, but not a day goes by that I do not think of autism, even though that thought may not evoke the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that it did originally.

When David was diagnosed, our older son was seven years old. We did think about the ramifications that David's diagnosis would have for Andrew as an adult. Would he need to care for David? Would they live in the same town? Would Andrew need to support David? What we did not originally consider, however, was that Andrew would feel the impact immediately. At the first autism conference I attended, I heard a developmental pediatrician discuss the effect of autism on siblings. The worries that he had heard expressed by siblings of children with autism as young as six, seven, eight or nine years old were startling.

RulesAndrew is an extremely tender-hearted boy, so I knew that he worried about his brother. Last week it all came spilling out. He had just finished reading the book Rules by Cynthia Lord. It is written from the perspective of an older sister, ironically, with a brother named David who has autism. To quote the back cover of the book, "That's where I keep all the RULES I'm teaching David so if my someday-he'll-wake-up-a-regular-brother wish doesn't ever come true, at least he'll know how the world works, and I won't have to keep explaining things."

Andrew is required to read every day for school, and on this particular day he read an extra 11 minutes because he wanted to finish this book. An extra 11 minutes that were so moving to him that he came into my bedroom sobbing. The flood of emotions could not be stopped. All of his fears came tumbling out. "What if David never can be understood by other people? What if David gets lost? What if he cannot be found even with an Amber Alert? What will he do if I die first? Who will take care of him?"

I could not tell him not to worry because, he informed me, he worries about it every day. He worries every single day. Just like me.

What I learned from this experience is that Andrew has wisdom beyond his years. I cannot pat him on the head and tell him everything is going to be okay. I cannot tell him not to worry. I cannot tell a joke and take his mind off of it, coax him out of his concern. He wants to be a partner in this process. He is a partner in this process and he is smart enough to realize that at some point, he may be solely responsible for David. Do I wish that this was not the case? Yes, but I know that Andrew loves his brother unconditionally. Andrew accepts David's autism, even celebrates David's autism as an integral part of who he is. He has often remarked that he would not take away David's autism if he could. So, do I believe that Andrew is up to the task? Absolutely. In fact, we may have a difficult time convincing Andrew that David and (hopefully) his wife and kids do not really want to live with him. Maybe just next door.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Double Standard

Until he started full-day Kindergarten, David stayed at my parents' house on the three days a week that I work. Because my parents have a relatively new coffee table—especially when compared to any of the furniture that I own—my Mom used to cover it with a blanket when David came over to stay for the day. Obviously, she was trying to protect the table from sticky fingers, matchbox cars, spilled milk or any manner of injury that David can inflict. In David's mind, however, it was like she had wrapped it just for him, creating a blank canvas, a platform on which to run his train, assemble a puzzle or line up his DVDs. Soon, David could not be in the house for five minutes without carefully lifting everything off of the table—remote control, magazines, potted mum plant—and then requesting help in covering the table.

Last Friday, David had a day off from school and spent the whole day at Granny camp, as it has come to be known. As soon as we arrived home from the land of the veiled table, he apparently decided that it was a practice that needed to be implemented at home. Did he carefully remove all of my precious treasures off of the table to prepare for the draping of the blanket? Of course not. Instead, he lifted one end of the table and watched with delight as everything slid off the other end into a pile on the floor. Talk about a double standard.

So, last week I also had David's first school conference of the year. I was a little bit nervous just because I have not known this teacher for very long and I wasn't really sure how David was doing in her class. Well, she told me that David has made huge progress. His handwriting is improving. He is doing well with his Touch Math and he is reading above grade level. Stop the presses. David READS? He certainly will not read for me at home. Essentially, David will do everything at school that he respectfully declines to do at home. Once again, the double standard. David performs better for his teacher, than he does for me at home and it couldn't have made me happier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In a Line

David loves to listen to music and it can be a very moving experience for him. Because he is not very verbal, the lyrics are not the important part of the song to him. When he starts to sing, he will frequently repeat the same word or sound over and over again—whether or not it was part of the original lyrics. Often this word is "goodnight" and I will hear David singing, "Goodnight, goodnight, gooooodni-i-ight" stretching the syllables to make his word match the melody—using his own words for filler, because he likes the way they sound.

I have long been a fan of James Taylor's music. I am sure that there are people out there who can tell you the meaning or the backstory to every song he has ever written. To me, however, it would seem that sometimes he puts words together not necessarily because of their meaning, but because to him, like David, that particular combination of words—of sounds—seems to work.

For the past several days, I have been humming the James Taylor song "Sun on the Moon" from the Never Die Young album. I liked the song even before David was born, but now it reminds me of him because of a part of the lyrics:
    In line, in line, it's all in line
    My ducks are all in a row
    They do not change, they do not move
    They have nowhere to go

Not surprisingly as a kid with autism, David sometimes likes to order things, to line them up. I try to be patient with this behavior, but by about the tenth time that I saw that my perfectly ripe Pottery Barn pears had escaped from the antique dough trough in the dining room and looked like this

I decided that it was time to put them away for a while.

On Sunday, David's item of choice was Bounty paper towels. Michael had just returned from Costco and one of the items purchased was paper towels. I had seen David playing with them, lining them up on the table which seemed harmless enough especially since the packages were individually wrapped. A few minutes later, I looked up from the kitchen table and discovered David had included himself in his little linear display. There he was, eyes gleaming, incredibly proud of himself like he had just completed his very first performance art exhibition.
With that, words escaped me, so to borrow the words of James Taylor, "Bow wow wow, honk your horn."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Stranger Among Us

We have decided to take advantage of the extremely low mortgage rates and refinance. We had an appointment on Saturday morning with an appraiser to come take photographs and measurements in advance of our closing date. So, first thing Saturday morning, Michael and I spent some time making the house look presentable.

I guess we rarely have people in our house who are not aware of David's diagnosis. Of course, our family and friends understand why we have a mini trampoline in the corner of our family room, or a huge calendar on our front door. No explanation is necessary. I always wonder, though, what someone new coming into our house will think.

We got the house picked up and we waited, and waited, and waited until it became apparent that the appraiser had forgotten our appointment. A call to his cell phone confirmed our suspicions and he told us that he would be over in 45 minutes. Not surprisingly, I was annoyed. With David, there is a pretty narrow window where you can keep the house picked up before he, for example, steals the desk chair from his brother's room, manages to get it down the stairs (it's a pretty heavy chair) and proceeds to give five hand towels collected from every bathroom in our house a ride.

Short of stopping the space time continuum—or rendering David unconscious—there really is no way to prevent this from happening and by the time the appraiser arrived, the towels were neatly arranged, in a perfect row, of course, across the family room carpet. Michael quickly explained that David has autism and our visitor couldn't have been nicer. David said hello to him and offered him one of the hand towels in the manner of a miniature bathroom attendant. It was like we were distributing some sort of strange party favors.
When the tour arrived at our main floor bathroom, Michael must have realized that most people do not have a 9 inch television with built in VCR in the corner of the room—especially a bathroom the size of a postage stamp as ours is. He was quick to comment, "We have a TV in there because sometimes David likes to watch TV while he's…." At that comment, the appraiser smiled, bent down, looked David in the eye and said "That's okay, I like to read in there." With that one comment, that moment of kindness to David, all irritation at his tardiness was forgiven.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Change of Perspective

David is our second child. I know that is it not unusual for parents to be more relaxed with the second child, more lenient with rules, less structured with the routine. When you add autism into the mix, at least in my experience, it makes you have a totally different perspective.

I hesitated, although only for a moment, before writing Thursday's post about David stepping on a piece of glass. I momentarily felt like I should justify why he was outside without shoes—or maybe even rationalize it in my own mind. I never allowed Andrew outside without shoes, but with David it is a different story. Honestly, he did not ask my permission before he bolted out of the kitchen door, but I have not been strict about his footwear anyway. For a long time, David had sensory issues and would not have considered going barefoot. He would not even walk through the grass with sandals on because he could still feel the grass on his feet—one of the reasons why some kids with autism toe walk. So, the fact that he will walk on the deck, on a sidewalk, in the grass without shoes is, for David, a milestone.

I was reminded of my paradigm shift last night at bedtime as I rounded the corner into my bathroom to discover David, smiling as always especially when he thinks he might be about to get into trouble, using his leftover toothpaste to write his name on our mirror in a lovely shade of Kids Crest. Had it been Andrew, I would have grabbed the toothbrush, put it back in the drawer and hurried him off to bed. If I had been in mean Mommy mode, I may have even made him clean the mirror.

But this was David. David who rarely, willingly at least, puts a pencil to paper, marker to dry erase board, crayon to coloring book. So, when I caught him in the act, I did grab his hand, but instead of scolding him, I found myself saying "Here, let's make an A." I have to say that I still have some scruples. I may have stopped him if he had been using mascara. I certainly would not have allowed nail polish, but if I had thought of it last night, I probably would have handed him a tube of my lipstick.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Emergency, Emergency

Earlier this week, I wrote about David's quest to find the perfect bed at my sister's house. He thought that he had found it, but within 24 hours it was only a distant memory. My nephew, Thomas' bed, had quickly been replaced in David's catalog of supremely comfy beds.

In retrospect, it would have been better if David had just stayed in Thomas' bed that night. In fact, I think that Michael and I did try to tiptoe out of the house because it is sometimes extremely difficult to get David to fall asleep. It would have been a luxury to skip the nighttime routine, but clever Annie noticed the 55 pound five-year-old lump in the bed and sent David packing.

I say it would have been better if David had stayed because shortly after I brought him home from school the next day, I heard him outside screaming. His language has developed very slowly, but he is now able to tell me "I churt" and where it hurts, which is a great relief. But, on this occasion, he had "churt" himself so badly that all language was gone and by the time I got to him, he was a bloody mess. At first I could not tell where it was coming from because he had blood all over his hands and feet.

Let's backtrack for a minute and say that there are a few reasons why I chose English Literature as my major and did not enter the medical profession, not the least of which is BLOOD. I cannot handle blood. The sight of blood alternately makes me want to faint or vomit. Or vomit and then faint. You read stories about mothers and the rush of adrenaline that allows them to perform herculean feats to save their children—like lifting a car, for example. Well, my rush of adrenaline did allow me to carry David into the house avoiding all carpeted areas, clean him up enough to see that the blood was coming from his foot, bandage him, get him to the car and make the appropriate phone calls, all without screaming…or fainting…or vomiting, although I may have had a stab at hyperventilating, I am not sure.

David was a real trooper. By the time we got to the car, he had stopped crying and my husband, who had just come home from work, wondered what all the fuss was about. We arrived at the hospital and were greeted at the door by a nurse with a wheelchair. I quickly realized by the size that the chair was not for me, although I could have used it. David was hesitant, but then when he saw the hospital bed, he was in love. Of course, if you think about it, what boy (or grown man) wouldn't be? Built-in remote control and call button, head, foot and height adjustment and David's favorite feature—the side rails.

The diagnosis—David had cut his foot on a piece of glass. We don't routinely keep glass on our deck—think dinner party, umbrella lights, windy day and umbrella comes down, add one barefoot boy and you have the recipe for a cut close to the artery, which explains all the blood. The treatment—three stitches for David and a large glass of wine for me (or maybe two if I am being completely honest). The prognosis—good.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Beds

We recently had dinner at my sister's house. David had been missing in action for quite some time and I thought it was probably prudent to go looking for him. You see, my sister has actually decorated her house—with nice things—and does not practice my style of decorating previously referred to as autistic eclectic, which essentially means stripped bare with the exception of whatever David's items of the week may be, currently five empty Kleenex boxes in varying sizes which is another story for a different day. Suffice it to say that visitors to my house in need of a tissue have to pull them out of a Ziploc baggie because David is not currently tolerating full tissue boxes in our house.

At my sister's house, however, in addition to a decadent number of Kleenex boxes with those little tissues still all neatly stacked, she actually has decorative items on her tables and in her bookcases that she has to dust around (or under, as the case may be) and I could only imagine which antique toy or oilcloth books that might have taken David's fancy.

Well, I found him upstairs and although he had made a mess it was really quite benign. Before leaving for dinner, we had bathed David and dressed him in his favorite p.j.s and he apparently was on a quest to find the perfect bed. First, he tried the guest bed and that was TOO SMALL. Then, he tried Annie and John's bed and that was TOO LUMPY, but when he got to Thomas' bed, it was JUST RIGHT, which is not surprising as Thomas recently pushed his twin beds together to form a king sized bed, the largest bed in the house, which is adorned with red bedding. David had tucked himself right in the middle of the bed and had his arms draped over the pillows in playboy fashion. When he noticed me standing in the doorway, he smiled and asked me to bring him a movie to watch—while lounging in bed. It was a scene reminiscent of, I don't know…Goldilocks? Hugh Hefner?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I’m Not a Teacher, but I Play One on TV

The checker at Staples said to me, "Teacher, right?" Well, no, but I could see why he might be confused. In my cart I had three dry erase boards with the handwriting lines preprinted on them, dry erase markers and an eraser, flashcards and alphabet markers. My Mom and my sister both taught kindergarten, but I knew from a very young age that I did not want to be a teacher—especially of young children. I do not have the patience. I do not feel like I would ever be qualified. I didn't even really like babysitting. And then there is the fact that teaching Sunday school nearly paralyzes me.

David started Kindergarten this year in an ACP classroom (I know—another acronym which stands for Alternate Curriculum Program, formerly known as Special Education). It didn't take me long to realize how far behind he is. He has many skills—he recognizes his shapes and colors, numbers and letters. He can count past twenty if you can understand what he is saying. But, because his language developed so late (or is still developing), he has a great deal of trouble with many skills like answering 'wh' questions. He can tell you that you are holding a pencil, but would have trouble if you ask him what you write with. He has a very short attention span and is absolutely terrible at writing, tracing, drawing and cutting. Did I mention he has a short attention span?

Couple these issues with the fact that they now expect kindergarteners to know how to read by about the second day of school and we are in trouble. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I can do this. I know how to do research and I can learn how to teach David—in my spare time. I will help his teacher get him caught up.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this, right? Right? Hellooooo? Anybody out there?

I just need to rely on my strengths. So, what did I do first? I bought school supplies, one of my very favorite things to do. I am actually quite good at the buying school supplies part. I moved a Little Tykes work table into my kitchen and David and I got to work. Or, more accurately, I got to work and David munched on marshmallows from Lucky Charms cereal—his treat for sitting down to work. At this point, I am just pleased if he sits for any length of time and has any type of writing instrument in his hand.

I also try to sneak work into the day at other times. When I know that there is something David really wants to do, I try to make him work for it. We were going to my sister's house for dinner on Sunday and everyone in my house had to sign out. I had written everyone's name on a dry erase board and before we could leave, each person had to copy their name—something David hates to do. We had all made a big production out of signing our names, but when it came to David's turn, he was not at all pleased. I explained that he could not leave until he had signed out, so he grabbed the marker and wrote very deliberately, D……a……D. I had told him he needed to sign out, but I had not told him he had to sign his own name, so he had signed just as Michael had "Dad." I guess I still have some learning to do, too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Call It Therapy

I recently wrote about the fact that David has given up watching the garage door close. While it may seem like a remarkable achievement, he has certainly not abandoned his fascination with doors altogether. In fact, on a recent trip to the zoo, he managed to find every retractable gate, elevator and automatic door. Who, besides David and possibly every other kid on the spectrum, knew that there were so many doors at the zoo of all places?

And while on the subject of quirky behavior, David is still walking backward to the bus. He has not missed a day of walking backward since the first day he rode the bus. I really don't know why he does it. Is he making a statement or is he just teasing me? I do know that he has gotten very proficient at it and can walk very quickly. I read recently that walking backward is actually quite good for you. You expend more energy walking backward and it reduces strain on the knees. There is also evidence that backward walking, also called retropedaling for short (yes, it is two characters shorter, I counted), is really good for the brain. I won't bore you with the details because, frankly, I don't remember any more of the details, so you will have to take my word for it. Just know that David has developed his own backward-walking therapy. I have not seen it on any list of recommended therapies for autism, but anything that exercises the brain is worth a shot—especially something that David devised all by himself.

I am glad that David has not given up all of his behaviors—not all at once, at least. For now, they are part of what make David, David. And I must say that I cannot suppress my smile as I walk with him to the bus, although I choose to walk the old fashioned way. I have noticed that the surly bus driver refuses to crack a smile and pretends not to notice. Just give him time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Learning the Language

With all of the reading we have been doing, can you guess the word that has taken David's fancy? The word that he practices when we read his books while waiting for the bus? The one word that David has mastered? Of course you cannot guess, so I will tell you. It is "cock-a-doodle-doo." I am sure that will be helpful someday in cocktail party conversation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cold Turkey

About ten days ago, David stopped watching the garage door close. He did not push the button on the way into the house and wait in the doorway until it closed completely. He did not come screaming through the kitchen when Michael came home from work, pushing him out of the way to get to the button, which if you have seen my husband, is quite an impressive feat. He just came home from school one day last week and marched straight into the house without even a backward glance. It was amazing to me because we have not been working to "extinguish" this behavior (really we have bigger things to worry about.) He just quit on his own—cold turkey.

Now, David has been the sole operator of the garage door for more than half of his little life. For three plus years, I have patiently (or not so patiently) waited at the door for David and now—no more waiting. So, how did I react to this development? I just stood at the door. It was like my garage-door-button-pushing muscle had atrophied. Like I had let my operator's license expire. Like I had some vague recollection that there used to be a way to get the door to come down, but I couldn't quite remember. I stood there until Andrew came to the door to see what was taking me so long, slapped the button with his open hand and asked me to make him some popcorn.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Fan is Born

I mentioned earlier that we had some relatives from Boston visiting over the weekend. Apparently, they must be in the group of approximately ten avid readers that I have, because when they arrived they presented David with a shirt--not just any shirt, but a red Boston Red Sox shirt, having read about how David, if given the choice and most of the time even when not given the choice, wears a red shirt.

I have written several times about our summer trip to Chicago to see a Cubs game and how Andrew became a Cubs fan in part because of the Cubs gear that we were given by a friend. Now, David has his first Red Sox shirt and I cannot but wonder if a fan has been born. It would make sense that David will have to cheer for teams that have red as one of their colors so that he is able to wear the apparel. We live in Nebraska, so for college football the Nebraska Cornhuskers are the obvious choice. Because we lack professional sports teams in Omaha, many people in our area root for the Kansas City Chiefs, who have red jerseys—check. And now for baseball, we have the Boston Red Sox.

So, when David is 10 years old and we take him on a pilgrimage to see his team, the Boston Red Sox, in their home stadium at least we will have a place to stay.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost Tooth

David lost his second tooth today. When I say he "lost" the tooth, I do not mean that it came out and is now safely tucked under his pillow waiting for the tooth fairy to bring him a special surprise. I mean that it is lost—literally. Apparently, it came out much like his first tooth did, with no crying, no fanfare and I have absolutely no idea where it is. How is that for taking the expression "lose a tooth" literally?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Book Basket

Last year, David's school participated in the Pizza Hut Book It reading incentive program. I was an English Literature major in college and I obviously understand the importance of reading, so I reluctantly signed David up for this program. I did it grudgingly because David really did not enjoy sitting and listening to books and would voice his displeasure almost every time I would try to read with him, but what kind of Mom would I be if I didn't at least sign him up? Plus how could I possibly deny myself that guilty feeling as I tossed the log book in the garbage each month after realizing that we had not met the goal?

This year, it is a different story (pardon the pun). David will sit with me for 20 minutes or more while I read to him, he will bring me books to read, and spends time 'reading' books to himself. Each morning while we wait for the bus, we sit on the front porch with our basket of books and read. He has developed several favorites and, needless to say, we read them over and over. And over and over and over.

So, here are the books in David's book basket—a book review of sorts. I can assure you that this will not be the first in a series of installments, because unless you are no longer in charge of your faculties or suffering from amnesia, you will quickly lose interest as our selection of books probably will not change for several weeks or even months.

The first book on the list would be
Hey! Wake Up!
And if you read this book, then you cannot go on to another selection until you have read everything in that genre, namely every book in the basket by Sandra Boynton, which include all six of the selections pictured on the back cover of each of the books. As you finish them, you will need to line them up—in order—sometimes with the back page left open because, I don't know, we may have forgotten how they end?

Next comes one of my personal favorites
Bear Snores On
Now, here are the rules for this book. You can make the "achoo" sound when the bear sneezes, but please under no circumstances are you allowed to make a snoring sound. Maybe David has grown tired of hearing that sound after nearly six years of listening to his father, sorry Michael, but since the book is about the bear snoring his way through a party at his place, you will have to ignore several snoring opportunities.

The remaining books include several selections by Eric Carle—who knew that ladybugs, caterpillars, spiders, crickets and fireflies could be so grouchy, hungry, busy, quiet and lonely?
Very Hungry Caterpillar
Fortunately, I do manage to rotate three of four other selections through the basket or you would probably find me shoeless by the side of the road someday muttering something under my breath about a "neigh and a moo and a COCKADOODLEDOO, another little promenade two by two."

If given the opportunity to sign up for the Book It program this year I will sign my name with a flourish. I am confident that we can meet the reading goal and I certainly am anxious to earn that free mini pizza that Mr. Picky Eater will not even consider eating.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The time at the tone is…

The Menards home improvement store near U.S. R...Image via Wikipedia
Andrew, our typically developing 10-year old, has always been a very precise person. He chooses his words very carefully. He is very good at math and has been able to subtract easily for many years, so you don't tell him that the carpool will arrive in 15 minutes, when in actuality the time is 13 minutes. Sometimes I think that Andrew really believes that his parents are pretty daft and that his sole purpose in life is to act as our fact checker and our editor, making sure that we continually strive for accuracy.

I can remember a time when Andrew was young, either three or four years old and we were running errands when he suddenly asked me, "Mom, can I say shut up?" When I answered "no," he immediately responded, "Yes I can. Shut Up." Of course, he was right. He was physically able to say the phrase, but what I meant with my response was that he should not. Now I would just turn up the radio and mentally declare Andrew the winner of that round, but at the time I was a first time mother with what seemed like boundless energy so I naively looked at the conversation as an opportunity, a teaching moment. I explained to Andrew that, of course, he was able to say "shut up" but if he did say it, he would upset people and his friends might not want to play with him. He paused for only a moment and then responded by asking if instead of saying "shut up" he could say "Save big money at Menards," the tagline of a Midwestern chain of home improvement stores. How was I supposed to answer that? If you are keeping score it is now Andrew two, Mom zero.

We had some relatives visiting from Boston over the weekend and had a nice dinner at my parents' house last night. It got to be pretty late and David had declared that it was "time to go" so Michael took him home. As Michael was tucking him into bed, he told David "It is 9:30, so you need to go right to sleep." David looked at his digital clock and with perfect clarity said, "nine twenty-seven" and as the clock immediately changed he announced again, "nine twenty-eight." Michael just smiled and shook his head, but had I been there I may have been tempted to respond, "Save big money at Menards."

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Lesson Learned

Andrew started middle school a few weeks ago, and we have had several of his friends over to play—oops sorry, "hang out" after school. I always ask Andrew's friends if they know that David has autism and explain that he may not talk very much, or if he does, he may be difficult to understand. Without exception, Andrew has told them about David and it always seems to be no big deal. Telling one of Andrew's friends about David having autism is like telling them that he has blue eyes, or blond hair. And it certainly is not nearly as impressive as the fact that he is allowed to have a trampoline in the middle of our family room or that he can score the Super-Mega-Bonus combo on the SpongeBob Squarepants Battle for Bikini Bottom game for the Playstation2.

I guess I should not really be surprised by the fact that Andrew's friends do not see autism as something that defines David and seem to regard it with a certain nonchalance, as just one of his many traits, a single piece of a complicated puzzle. Who would have thought that we would all have something to learn from 10-year-old boys?

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Monday, September 6, 2010

To Pee or not to Pee, That is the Question

StallsImage by quinn.anya via Flickr
I have already told the tale about how choosey David is when it comes to using the bathroom. Our whole summer vacation, David selected two satisfactory places, our hotel room and the Chicago Children's Museum—both fine places, I assure you, but it made the 7½ hour drive to and from Chicago somewhat stressful.

We spent Labor Day weekend with my sister-in-law and her family, a 4½ hour drive from our house. This time, I was not at all worried about David's bathroom misgivings because I thought we would probably stop once for lunch and if the facilities did not meet David's very specific criteria—not too loud, not too bright, not too crowded, to name a few—it didn't matter because Goldilocks could certainly make it the rest of the way without a visit to the bathroom. Well, David went from picky to prolific in the pee department. It was as if he felt compelled to break that Guinness World Record for public restroom urination in a three state area.

The final tally was four times, four times in a 4½ hour drive adds about an hour to the trip. And, of course, each time you run into that fast food restaurant, you feel compelled to buy something "medium diet Coke, please." And did you know that a medium diet Coke must now be at least 96 ounces? And while you wouldn't guess it by looking at his 6'4" frame, my husband seems to have a bladder the size of a peanut. Do you see where I am going with this? It is a vicious cycle and I am only thankful we didn't have a longer drive. David seems to have mastered a new skill. He has made profound pee progress and although he may not have surpassed that world record, it still makes his Mama very proud.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

It seems with our schedule that I am constantly struggling to get the boys out of the house on time because I hate being late. I spend a great deal of my day, hurrying from one place to the next, clutching my calendar to try to insure that I know where I am supposed to be and do not miss an appointment or, heaven forbid, forget to pick up a boy and leave him stranded someplace.

There are some things, however, I do not like to rush. A delicious meal with family or friends on a special occasion. A glass of vintage tawny port. A cup of coffee with real cream and sugar added. Please try not to notice that I have included only food and drink items and not some amazing athletic endeavor like crossing the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Sectional-type overhead garage doors in the st...
David's list, however, would be very different from mine. I am happy to report that it would not include the glass of port or even the cup of coffee, but it would most certainly include the opening and closing of the garage door. Don't make the mistake of trying to close the door to the house before David has had the opportunity to watch the garage door close completely every…single…time. If you press the button for David before he is ready for his observation, he will make the door go back up so that he can watch it descend in its entirety. It doesn't matter if it is 12 degrees outside, or 112 degrees. It doesn't matter if there is a swarm of mosquitoes charging toward the open door—or rabid dogs, for that matter. We are going to wait until the last ray of light has been blotted from view, and then we can close the door to the house.

Also, you cannot rush David when he is putting gas into the car. You don't need to make a quick call to DCFS. I don't really make David hop out of the car to purchase gas, which, by the way, is a confusing enough topic because when I tell David we are going to stop for gas, his reply is usually, "I passed gas; excuse me." For a period of time, however, he would pretend to put gas in the car every time we parked in the garage. Now, of course we want to encourage pretend play and it was really cute the first time he did it, and the seventh time, but by the 77th time with an armload of groceries, some of the novelty had worn off.

As soon as David could get out of the car, he would grab a bungee cord that hangs from a shelf in the garage. And, of course he never would choose the bungee cord with the plastic hook, he would invariably choose the one with the metal hook, partly because it had a black rubber cord that more closely resembled the gas hose and partly because of the extremely satisfying clicking sound that it made as it removed tiny flecks of paint--I mean as he tapped it repeatedly on the door leading to the gas tank. Then there would be two taps with his open hand on the side of the car, then came the whooshing noise of the gas going into the tank, "SHHHHHHHHHHH."

Now, we are almost done, but don't drive away from the pump yet. The improvised gas hose goes back on the pump and we must wait for the receipt to print. "Eeeee. Eeeee. Eeeeeeeeeee." Now it is safe to enter the house, but don't forget about the garage door.

I try to be patient, but there are times that I really have to call on my yoga breathing to calm myself. (No, I don't really practice yoga, but I needed something to counterbalance all of the earlier food comments.) I have learned with David that I cannot rush the process. It is like waiting for water to boil, repeatedly pressing the elevator button, or waiting for the "fasten seatbelts" sign to turn off on an airplane. "DING. You are now free to move about the cabin."

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