Saturday, July 31, 2010

Snaggletooth Smile

David has lost his first tooth. There was no fanfare, no day filled with wiggling, no agonizing over how to get it to come out, and no trips back and forth to the mirror. Andrew just happened to notice at bedtime a few nights ago that it was gone. We do not even know what happened to the tooth. It really could be anywhere. I assume he probably swallowed it, but it could be stuck in the pizza crust of any of the four different slices of Godfather's original crust, hamburger pizza that David tasted because much like Goldilocks, we had a very difficult time finding the piece that was "just right."

We have passed another milestone. Truthfully, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about these milestones, and even more time pushing David over the next hurdle. It makes me smile to think that we have met a developmental milestone ahead of schedule. It probably would not have been the one I would have chosen, but I will take it. Plus David's snaggletooth smile makes me grin every time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Go Cubs

Closeup of the red sign that adorns Wrigley Fi...Image via Wikipedia

It always sounds like a good idea—a family vacation. Somehow, with a three month break from school comes the obligatory feeling that we need to get away, to take the boys somewhere exciting. Last year, we ventured a whopping nine miles to spend a couple of nights at a hotel in a newly redeveloped part of Omaha and David had a pretty difficult time with that.

For some reason, it took us a long time to decide what to do about a family vacation this year. I kept using the excuse that David and Andrew had kept us busy with swimming lessons, therapy sessions, summer school and golf, but I think the real reason was that I was dreading it.

Andrew had a laundry list of places he really wanted to visit and we picked the closest—Chicago. We had taken him to Chicago before, but this time he had his sights set on seeing Wrigley Field and attending a Cubs game. Andrew always seems to be a champion of the underdog, which frankly is a trait that we like to nurture as David's older brother. He has been a fan of the Cubs for as long as he can remember.

I am not sure how Andrew's fascination with the Chicago Cubs started, but I know that it was fostered in part by the fact that my sister has a friend with a son a few years older than Andrew who has kindly passed clothes down to us. And included in the numerous sacks of clothes that we have received over the years was Cubs gear in all shapes and sizes.

I am extremely thankful for all of the clothes that we have received, especially since we also have David who will have a chance to wear them as well, but I must admit in planning our vacation, I did wonder, "Why couldn't they have been fans of the Kansas City Royals?" Kansas City, of course, would be a much more manageable distance from Omaha.

So, we bought tickets for Michael and Andrew to attend a last Saturday's game, and off we went. Overall, the vacation went pretty smoothly and miraculously the Cubs beat the rival St. Louis Cardinals 6 to 5. Hooray for the underdog. Go Cubs!

Go David!
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Baby Talk

David has made giant strides with his speech in the last year, but he still is far from the typical five-year-old. I can understand much of what he says, but it sounds a lot like baby talk. Last year at this time, he really had very few words, so we are extremely thankful for his progress and as long as he keeps progressing, I really do not care how far behind he is.

SpongeBob SquarePants (character)
Of course, I always try to model the correct pronunciation of a word, but there are a few words that he says that make me smile every time and I must admit that I will be a little sad when he is able to pronounce them correctly. He does have a unique name for every member of our family; mine, for example, is Mom Mom. He calls his brother An-roo, which is too cute. Perhaps my favorite, however, is that fact that he has recently changed his name for my nephew Thomas. He has had a great deal of difficulty with his full name, so we encouraged David to just call him T, which he did for a long time. Just in the past few months, though, he has altered his name to Tommy. No one else calls him Tommy and no one else would probably be allowed to refer to the 5 foot 10 inch, 13 year-old that way. But when David says it to Thomas, he just smiles.

I have a few other favorites. Every morning when he gets up, I ask him if he had a good sleep, to which he always replies, "a good peep." Each night, when I tuck him in and tell him I love him, he always answers, "Woo-hoo, too."

One of David's favorite characters is SpongeBob Squarepants. He doesn't really watch the show too much, but he has a SpongeBob game that he loves to play. Originally, he called him something that sounded like "Uh-nob" which eventually evolved into "Buh-bob" and then the last name was added "Peepants." SpongeBob Peepants. Have you ever looked at SpongeBob's silly grin? Maybe in this case David's mispronunciation is really more like a theory.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Calm After the Storm

Yesterday evening, we had a pretty significant thunderstorm so Andrew, David and I had to spend some time in the basement. When we finally emerged, we were greeted by a spectacular rainbow in the sky. When I say spectacular, it really was the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen, both in the intensity of color and the fact that I could see both ends of the rainbow on the horizon. What made it an even more amazing experience, however, was how much enjoyment both Andrew and David got from seeing it.

Like many kids with autism, it used to be difficult to call David's attention to anything. For a long time, he would not even seem to notice things like the life flight helicopter that would occasionally be landing at the medical center, practically on top of us as we were walking to therapy. So, I was delighted when he not only saw the rainbow, but pointed to it, and kept looking at me to see my reaction—a skill known as joint attention. I grabbed my camera to take some pictures. We couldn't have been outside long when I turned back to David to see if he was ready to go back inside and discovered that he was gone. David, who at one time was not even aware of my reactions, had taken advantage of my momentary distraction to sneak back inside and get what he would call "Coo-hee, coo-hee, coo-hee" or three cookies. Maybe next time my clever boy will choose something other than Oreos—his secret quickly revealed by his chocolaty grin.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christmas in July

At our house, it is Christmas in July. Not because we have decided to punctuate the summer with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but because David decided it is so. About a week ago, he kept asking for the "tree with ornaments" and like any good mother, I ignored the request. I knew exactly what he wanted; it is a green felt advent calendar in the shape of a Christmas tree that I bought at Hallmark several years ago. You count the days until Christmas by matching the number on the colorful felt ornament with the number on the tree. David was totally enamored with it last Christmas and insisted on carrying it around. Because the ornaments attach to the tree with a magnet sewn inside, we were constantly leaving ornaments in our wake. And because David had his favorite ornaments, which included all of the circle ornaments, the package, the snowman with sunglasses and the star with a stocking hat, we were constantly searching for the missing piece.

There were nights when David would be tucked safely in bed—or, more accurately, tucked safely on bed since he refuses to sleep under the covers—and he would start to yell, "Eighteen…eighteen." My husband would look at me and ask me what he wanted and I would tell him that David was missing the number 18 from the tree. Michael would start to ask me how he could possibly know and then stop short. Of course, he knows.
I had finally managed to locate all of the ornaments and hide the tree by about February, but now for whatever reason, David had remembered and asked for it again. I finally relented and the tree hangs alongside our Fourth of July decorations in a strange salute to holidays.

Cover of
Now, in order to enhance our Christmas experience, David has added repeated viewings of Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas to the mix. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the Wiggles, but it is a tired VHS tape that has begun to stretch and the warped version of "Feliz Navidad" is about to send me over the edge. At least Andrew is now old enough that he no longer repeats the question he used to ask when David was originally fascinated with this tape. "Hey Mom, who is Felix Navidad, anyway?"

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Weary Warriors

Recently, Good Morning America had a feature called "Be Inspired." Each of anchors had a story that described the person who had somehow made a difference in the world. For weather anchor, Sam Champion, his inspirational person was his older sister Teresa. Apparently, Sam's nephew has autism and Teresa gave up a successful career as an attorney to become a tireless advocate for her son, and for other children and young adults with autism. There was one part of the interview in particular that moved me. Sam asked his sister, "You've become this person who is…advocate lady, but where are you someplace inside there?" His sister responded, "I don't know because honestly I don't know what you're asking me." So, Sam asked her again if there wasn't a time that she thought to herself, "I get to just be me" and she shook her head slowly and started to cry.

In the weeks and months leading up to David's diagnosis, I worried about labeling him. What if they say he has autism and it turns out not to be the case? Would we ever be able to remove that label from him? What I did not consider, however, was the label that would forever be attached to me, as well.

I have not read Jenny McCarthy's new book, Mother Warriors, and I am really not sure who originally coined this term to describe autism Moms, but I find the subtitle of the book interesting, A nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds. Warrior mother—the term certainly does paint a vivid picture of a tireless woman, decorated with war paint and equipped with every possible tool and intervention, clawing her way through the world of autism to "heal" her child. But, what about all of the mothers who set aside their own lives, who make sacrifices on a daily basis like having coffee with friends, the chance to take a walk in the park, to have time to themselves? They may give up a lucrative career, or even a happy marriage to do everything in their power, use all of their resources to "heal" their children, but what if their children are not "healed" of their autism?

For awhile after David was diagnosed, I started wearing my college class ring again. I am not really sure what I was trying to prove, except that I went to a pretty competitive university and the ring was a symbol of my first big solo accomplishment. Maybe I was looking for a reminder that I had faced challenges in the past. Maybe I wanted to remind myself that I had an identity before children. Maybe I was just delirious from lack of sleep. I do know that my delight at the combination of being able to find my class ring and slip it easily onto my finger was quickly tempered by the realization that I would not be able to get it back off of my finger without the aid of butter or Vaseline.

Of all the people Sam Champion has met during his career and could have chosen to profile, he picked his sister as his inspiration. I have never met his sister, Teresa, but I bet she would say she is not trying to inspire, just doing what she feels compelled to do for her son and for other children with autism--like so many mothers out there who do not feel like warriors, just occasionally weary.
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stuck Inside the Gloom

Last week, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Actually, I think I had been working up to it for several weeks. I have been tired. I have not felt like cooking or working in the garden. I have not wanted to read anything for pleasure and I have not been writing—all activities that I usually enjoy. But last week, my sulkiness reached new heights.

I must reference the lyrics of John Mayer's song "Why Georgia" which keep rewinding in my head.

I am driving 85 in the
kind of morning that lasts all afternoon
just stuck inside the gloom.

Four more exits to my apartment but
I am tempted to keep the car in drive
and leave it all behind.

Now I am not implying that I was actually considering leaving it all behind, but I suppose with the right enticement I might consider it temporarily—a spa vacation, a trip to visit my best friend from college, watching the perfect romantic comedy, or even just a few hours to myself.

So, early last week I actually made the official pronouncement to family and friends. "I am stuck inside the gloom." My mood was largely precipitated by the fact that we had just made the difficult decision to discontinue one of David's therapies when he starts back to school in the fall. I know that it is probably the right decision, but it is very tempting to imagine the worst. What if David stops progressing? What if this particular therapy was the one thing that was helping him? How can I ever know what progress he would have made if we had continued the therapy? And, of course, the little tiny voice in the back of my head that asks, "Are you giving up on him?"

I could not imagine what would make me snap out of my sour mood and the answer came as a complete surprise. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I was driving--although not 85, like John Mayer. In fact, I was stopped at a light on my way to take Andrew to golf lessons, then back home to pick up dip that I had made for a co-worker's birthday, then to drop David at therapy, then to work to drop off the dip and work for about an hour, then back to pick up David and then Andrew. And that was just the morning schedule. I was actually quite proud of myself that, on that particular day, I did not have to rely on my family to do any of the driving—a common occurrence with David's busy schedule. Well, a 16-year-old in a Suburban—which should be illegal, by the way, to allow 16-year-olds behind the wheel of a Suburban—totally oblivious to the red light, or my car, or the car in front of me, slammed into the back of my car, pushing me into the next car.

Apparently, I uttered an expletive, which Andrew later reported to my sister, who incidentally beat both the police officer and the county sheriff to the scene of the accident by careening down the shoulder of the road. My father arrived from the other direction almost simultaneously, also without the benefit of lights and sirens. They quickly whisked my boys to safety and my sister fed them assorted pastries. I lost count after Burger King CiniMinis and Panera Muffies, but did take note that each boy got his favorite breakfast.

We were all scared and shaken, but unhurt, thanks to our seatbelts. Ironically, David had insisted on buckling both of his favorite frog stuffed animals into the car that morning, so they were unscathed as well. My parents made all the calls to cancel the morning schedule, my sister kept the boys and my niece did the afternoon running--so much for giving my family the day off. I went home to spend the rest of the morning calling insurance companies. I sipped a mocha, had a good cry and ate leftover Chinese food for lunch, all in my extremely quiet house. I then proceeded to spend the afternoon lounging on the sofa, snoozing and watching home improvement shows on HGTV. I guess it took more than two tons of twisted metal to knock me out of my gloom. It may not have been a spa vacation, but I did get my few hours to myself.