Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Red Dress

My sister appeared at my house with a red dress--a beautifully made, sleeveless (oh no, strike one) red (strike two) dress with a ruffle at the collar. She had found it on the sale rack of an upscale department store and thought of me, so she bought it so that I could try it on, fortunately in the privacy of my own home. Wait a minute, she saw a red dress and she thought of me? Me? I thought my red dress wearing days were over.

It hung on the hook in my closet for several days, hiding behind the plastic garment bag until I decided to try it on. I pulled it over my head, trying to silence the little voice asking questions like, "Where could you possibly wear it?" Too dressy for church—too red for a wedding (I know, but I am still old fashioned that way). I had just about convinced myself that the dress wasn't going to work, when I actually zipped it up and saw that it fit perfectly. Maybe, it was worth consideration.

I walked into the bedroom just as Andrew (age almost 11) was coming up the stairs. I met him at the top of the stairs, struck a pose and said, "Hey, Andrew, what do you think?" I received the anticipated response. "WOW. Mom, that's great." And then the kicker, "Except you need pants to go with it."

Pants?!? I thought to myself, before I actually said, "Andrew, pants? It's a dress."

His answer? "Well, pants—or some really high socks."

I am quite certain that it was not a comment about my bare—pasty white, middle of March in Nebraska legs. I have very fair skin and am not really capable of tanning, so at best pasty white turns to an only slightly more pleasant shade of ivory. It did occur to me, however, that Andrew probably does not remember seeing me wear a dress. I spent almost a decade in a very conservative job, wearing only suits or skirts, high heels and stockings, occasionally dressy wool pants always paired with a jacket, but Andrew is too young to remember. My Talbots wardrobe has been replaced.

Not surprisingly, the red dress has been returned to the store. I've had my red dress days, but for now I can't handle David's hijinks in high heels, so I traded my stockings for sneakers. Sounds like a good trade to me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Whistle Blower

David has recently taken to wearing a lanyard around his neck. When Andrew noticed he was using the metal nametag clip as a makeshift whistle, of course we had to find a whistle for him to attach.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me first say that this particular lanyard was "borrowed" from our church after the service a few weeks ago. David had removed and discarded the nametag, but would not leave the building without the blue lanyard around his neck. I would guess that it is really on permanent loan from the All Saints lanyard collection, because it doesn't seem prudent to allow a lanyard back into church with a whistle attached and, in all likelihood, David is not going to tolerate the lanyard going back into the building without it.

I am not sure why David is so enamored with his orange whistle because originally he would not even touch it to his lips; he would just purse his lips about an inch away from the whistle and blow air in that general direction, but usually with enough force to emit a steady sound. (Who knows where that whistle has been, anyway?) Plus, the rules according to David stipulate that it cannot be blown too loudly because, "That's too scary."

Just a few days ago, David added a second lanyard with three keys attached—front and back storm door keys that have been rarely used, usually only to keep David from hyper-extending the doors when we are outside playing. I have no idea where he acquired that second lanyard, although I must confess that it is strangely similar to the first one.

I really think David is enjoying pretending, but exactly what he is pretending to be is up for debate. Andrew thinks he is imitating the P.E. teacher, but I can't quite put my finger on it. He waves his arms, but uses very crisp staccato motions that are part basketball coach, part air traffic controller, and part traffic cop assuming that particular police officer learned to direct traffic at a school for mimes.

I also think that the whistle makes David feel in control. He will hold up his hands, get everyone's attention and we will wait, like musicians in anticipation for the first downbeat from the conductor. It would seem that he has developed signals for different activities—three short toots means that we are excused and can go about our business, or that we are released from the car and can open the car doors. Great, in addition to an iPad, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and sign language, David has developed his own communication system, a type of whistling Morse code.

Toot. Toot. Toot.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


David's language has come a long way, but I still look forward to the day when he is able explain things to me. I do not understand why he seems to be annoyed at my niece, Katie, his first and only babysitter, a second mother (or maybe third or fourth behind Granny and Annie) who has been away at college. You would think he would be glad to see her, but instead it is as if he is upset at being abandoned by her and spent most of her Spring Break visits to our house announcing that it was time for her to go in four minutes, which in David- speak is the generic term for a short time. And then, when Katie had not yet left at David's appointed hour of departure, he would start counting down, "Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…."

Crocs Crocband Clog (Toddler/Little Kid),Navy,10-11 M US Toddler
I would like to understand why change is so difficult. When Katie and her brother, Thomas, showed up at our house with a darling new pair of Crocs for David—allegedly found on the clearance rack—David would have nothing to do with them and threw them down the basement stairs. He would only begin wearing them when the rest of the shoes had been hidden and the choice was stay home and be barefoot, or wear the Crocs and go to Granny's house. After a short stand-off, David made his choice, but also got his revenge by kicking a shoe under the car on his way into his booster seat.

I would like to know why seemingly routine activities can make David agitated. We trade off having dinner with some neighbors and they have gone out of their way to make David feel comfortable in their house—even sending their dog away while we are there. David has always loved to go to their house, but for some reason last night he did not want to go. He did not want to go; he did not want to stay when we got there and when his first attempt to escape was thwarted, he made a second attempt just as we were getting ready to sit down for dinner. Like them or not, he made tracks with the new Crocs because he had crossed the street, run the half block to our house and was punching the code in the outside garage remote to open the door by the time Michael caught him and at that point, there was no going back.

As always, with David it takes a village and even if David doesn't always show it, we are thankful for friends and family including a niece who babysits, a sister who springs for new Crocs (real Crocs, not the Target knock-offs that David is accustomed to) and good friends who understand and even offer carry-out service.

Friday, March 25, 2011


There was a time in my life when the word "spontaneous" evoked images of weekend adventures, last minute dinner plans, spur of the moment get-togethers with friends. Now, when I think "spontaneous" I almost always think of it in terms of communication as in unprompted, unscripted, spontaneous utterances from David.

David and I both had the stomach flu this past week. It has been a long week filled with laundry and Lysol, saltines and 7-UP. I am sure that I was short on patience because I felt lousy, David was grumpy and Andrew was simply trying to fly under the radar (or perhaps below the germs), occasionally inquiring whether or not I was planning to feed him ever again and what parts of the house had been disinfected. Michael was—wait for it—leaving town on a business trip.

When you have a baby, you realize that there will be a time when you have to play super sleuth to figure out where it hurts, but by the time you have a six-year-old, you do not expect to still be guessing. For six years, I have been waiting for the time that David could tell me what was wrong, where it hurts while I race after him, looking for the source of the bleeding, or waiting for a peek in his throat, or trying to stem the traveling tidal wave of vomit.

But, this time I actually heard the words. For the very first time, David looked at me and without any kind of questioning from me said spontaneously, "My tummy churts." Sweet music to my ears—wait, grab the bucket. And then, when I later discovered he had not quite made it to the bathroom on time, he looked at me with tears in his big blue eyes and said, again totally unprompted, "Mom-mom, I horry." Two simple, spontaneous phrases that were more exciting for me than a weekend get-away.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Today I have reached a milestone, one hundred posts. I have written one hundred posts in slightly more than one year. I really didn't expect to reach this milestone when I started this adventure last February. In fact, for the first several weeks of my blog's existence, I had it password protected and gave the password to a very small number of people—namely, me. Yes, I put posts out in cyberspace, but I was not convinced that I wanted anyone else to read them because they can be intensely personal.

I have found the writing to be therapeutic, but I must admit that some of the stories have benefited from the passage of time because it sometimes takes a little bit of distance to find humor in the situations. I guess I just want people to know that there is life after a diagnosis of autism--sometimes I still need to remind myself of that fact.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I am having my first ever giveaway. Everyone who comments on this post will be entered to win some "butterfly moments" of their own—a full 24 hours with David, who comes equipped with his own translator and brother extraordinaire, Andrew.

Don't be shy, just leave a comment for your chance to win, and Michael and I might enjoy a dinner out featuring an appetizer other than Pepcid, a meal without Mr. Meticulous, who decides that the crumbs cannot rest on the floor until the end of the meal and must be sucked into the dust buster immediately. A meal without watching in horror as Mr. Helper pulls out the top rack of the dishwasher, aims the water from the spray nozzle of the sink in that general direction in an attempt to "help" clean the dishes. A meal without saying grace multiple times, punctuated by clapping and an emphatic "AMEN." A meal that, frankly, while enjoyable is beginning to sound slightly stuffy and boring.

Good luck to all who enter—and really, really good luck to the winner.

Disclaimer: No purchase is necessary to enter "Butterfly Moments" sweepstakes. Contest is open to all readers, 18 years of age and older—or really responsible people 14 – 18—or 12-14 year olds capable of dialing 9-1-1 in case of emergency. Contest sponsor is not liable for damage caused by unattended coffee-making, runaway garden carts or taxes, title and licensing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Race to the Finish

David almost always has an item or items that capture his attention for several days. These objects usually accompany us on errands, rest on the bathroom counter while bathing, and join David in bed at night. Yes, he has slept with, to name just a few, a coffee filter basket, cowboy boots, all 25 felt ornaments from his favorite Christmas tree, a guitar and even a garden cart.

Please allow me to state that it was a clean garden cart, purchased at Target in the fleeting hope that I might have a garden cart to use while, you guessed it, gardening. David had commandeered the original cart to pull around the back yard and he would rarely allow me to sit on it, or to commit the even more atrocious sin of hauling something.

So last year I purchased a second cart, which pleased David because in his opinion God must have given him two hands so he could pull a garden cart with each one. After all, it is much more fun to watch two carts race down the hill and it didn't take David and Andrew very long to discover the thrill of riding the cart, resulting in a large bare spot in the grass.

Sometimes David can teach me a thing or two and I have come to appreciate how he can find such joy in everyday ordinary items. Sometimes his enthusiasm is contagious, which might explain how a family dinner party spilled out onto our deck with everyone enjoying a glass of wine and cheering from above as my nephew challenged my brother-in-law to the ultimate garden cart showdown.

I don't think I will purchase another cart this season, although it would certainly be interesting to see how David would put it to use--or which of our dinner guests might be coaxed into participating in cart races this season.  David is ready, whistle in hand.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Self Expression

The first terms I learned in the evaluation process with David were receptive and expressive language. At the time that I learned these terms, I also learned how very far behind David was in both types of language. He was described as being years behind his peers and when your child is three years old, "years behind" means a significant delay.

David did not have school today, but had to ride with me as I drove Andrew's carpool. We then stopped for gas and were headed home when I decided to make a detour for a mocha at Starbucks. I needed to work from home while juggling David's needs, so I could rationalize that I needed the extra caffeine.

I was taking a sip of my coffee as I turned from the drive-through lane too abruptly. My back tire went up on the curb ever so slightly, causing David to announce, "That's too scary." I was sure that I must have misunderstood, but when I questioned him, he offered a confirmation. "Yetz. That's too scary. Slow down."

Driving critique—is there a scale that tells you when language has become too expressive?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

When Andrew was about David's age, we stopped by the local TCBY for a cool treat on an especially warm evening. We pulled up to the window, gave our order and were waiting for the cones to appear when Andrew announced from the back seat, "She's HOT."

After the realization that Andrew was taking about the fit, sun-kissed, teenager with blond hair pulled back into a pony tail who had taken our order and not me, his beloved (and, if I do say so myself, extremely cute) Mother, I was quick to scold him. I am not sure why I reacted the way I did. I suppose I was just surprised that, at such a tender young age, Andrew had learned to use that adjective, the same one I typically reserve for describing temperature, to describe members of the opposite sex. To hear my husband tell the story, I shot an accusing glance his way before I launched into a speech about more polite ways to describe people as attractive.

Michael Phelps was the male swimmer of the yea...Image via Wikipedia
David is currently enrolled in his third session of adaptive swimming lessons. All the kids in the class have some sort of disability and the objective is simply to teach them how to swim back to the side of the pool safely. They are not trying to find the next Michael Phelps in the group, just preparing them for a time when they might find themselves in water over their heads. I must admit I haven't yet given up on the idea of David winning Olympic swimming medals, but I guess we need to take first things first.

Michael has been taking David to all of the lessons this session because of the locker room dilemma. At six, David is past the age when he can come into the women's locker room with me and I obviously cannot go into the men's—nor would I want to. I haven't been in a men's locker room since I accidentally wandered through the wrong door at the YMCA after my swimming lesson years ago and I am still traumatized by the experience.

Anyway, since it is so cold and David cannot come out to the car wearing his suit, Michael currently has swim lesson duty. I had been feeling sorry for him having to take David to all of the lessons until he happened to mention, in passing, like it was no big deal and he had most certainly mentioned it before, that David's swim teacher this session wears a bikini.

I often wonder what David is thinking. His language has certainly come a long way, but there still is an incredible gap in our ability to communicate with each other. Does he, like his brother did at the same age, look at this fit, attractive, bikini-clad woman and think to himself, "She's HOT." He loves to go to the pool and asks about it almost every day. By all accounts, he gleefully buckles the belt to his Aqua Jogger Junior before he paddles all over the pool for the entire 30 minutes. And as for the question of being able to make it back to the side of the pool safely, I am confident the odds would increase exponentially if his teacher were standing on the pool deck, cheering him on.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stir Crazy

I have long been a fan of the month of March. Maybe it stems from a fascination with the grade-school description that it "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." March brings the promise of spring and if not daffodils peeking up through ground, certainly at least the grocery store variety popping up on the shelves in the produce section of a supermarket near you. Plus, a March snow will never stay on the ground long (though you may need to remind me of my optimism on Wednesday night after our as of yet unpredictable "significant snow event.")

David does not share my appreciation for the month, however. We have a calendar hanging on the inside of our front door (doesn't everyone?) and each morning as we are waiting for the bus we talk about the weather and what day it is, a part of our routine since school started in August. David has gladly tolerated every month until March when he expressed his disdain on the very first day of the month. In David's opinion, the tag for March has no place on our calendar. After his initial attempts to destroy the label were thwarted by yours truly, he now allows me to hold it up to the calendar until we are finished, at which point he proclaims, "I put it away" and slides it back onto the hallway bookshelf.

Maybe David, too, is tired of winter. It is putting it mildly to say that he is not the easiest person to take on errands, so he spends many of his weekend hours cooped up in the house. That must be difficult for him after his highly scheduled weekdays, especially when it is too cold to don his dinosaur galoshes and troop around the backyard racing my garden carts down the hill.

He finally hit his breaking point yesterday. When he put his clothes on for the day he asked me, "Go get a haircut?" At the time, I laughed and thought that he must be desperate because although it is a frequent Saturday morning activity, it is certainly not his favorite thing to do. After I reminded him to go to the bathroom, he asked, "Go to church?" and later in the morning decided to go for broke, "Go Cago?" which is his name for Chicago, last summer's vacation destination.

Not having received the affirmative answer he was anticipating, David decided to take matters into his own hands and I later looked up to find him ready to go, wearing his pool shoes without socks, coat zipped up to the chin, which is still a difficult task for him. With his hat perched on top of his head, he said goodbye to me. When I asked him where he was going, he answered, "I going to Granny's houch."

I think he would have walked the more than three miles to my parents' house if I had let him, but instead I called them to see if we could come over for lunch. They had been out running errands and were headed to a nice lunch downtown, but when I told them about David's pronouncement, I think I heard the tires squealing from one-hundred blocks away as they made the U-turn and sped back to the house.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sentence Structure

I have said before that I appreciate every word that David utters because for quite a time I was not sure I would ever hear his voice. I am certainly not going to backpedal from that remark; it is still and will always be true.

I must admit, however, that there are certain combinations of words that I do find troubling. I take great delight in hearing David string words together to make longer and longer sentences, but sometimes words in a certain sequence, while eloquently spoken, can make my heart skip a beat.

For example, Michael and I were preparing for a rare night out when I realized that it was strangely quiet in our house. I hastily finished putting on my makeup, grabbed my shoes and started down the stairs looking for David. When I did not immediately find him in the family room, I called his name with that questioning tone that mothers have that, all at once says, "Child, where are you and what are you doing because if you are up to something you better have it cleaned up / finished / hidden / repaired by the time I find you or there is going to be trouble."

Incidentally, in spite of his autism, David does understand this tone and his answer was as immediate as it was gleeful, "I making the coffee!"

A four word sentence is a big accomplishment for David and, taken individually, the words are certainly benign enough, but in combination….

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Confession Time

Heather over at The A-Word tagged me in a meme. I know it sounds painful, but having just googled the expression—again—I find that I am still not at all certain what it means. My Dad always used to tell me that it was great that my high school friends would ask me for help with their math homework because, he would say, your ability to explain something to someone else is a good test of whether or not you truly understand it yourself.

Consequently, CONFESSION NUMBER ONE—I do not understand what a meme is and am not going to try to explain it to you, but feel free to google it yourself and see if you can make sense of it. Here are the rules to this particular meme as Heather has outlined them.

1) Take a pic of the books you are reading currently and add them to your post. 2) Describe the books and if you are enjoying them. Why or why not? 3) For every book you are reading, you have to tag one person. 4) Leave that person a comment, letting them know you tagged them.

That leads me to CONFESSION NUMBER TWO, I am not reading anything at the moment. There, I said it. I was an English Literature major in college and I love to read, but sometimes I go through periods where I just don't seem to have the energy. My time for reading is after everyone else in the house is asleep and often I don't feel like opening a book at 10:37 p.m. Sometimes, it seems like too much effort to even pick out a book.

Now, Heather actually tagged me a few days ago and I briefly considered finding some books to put on my nightstand. But, that would mean that I might actually have to dust the nightstand first and then decide what to choose. There would have to be one classic, one bestselling but well written novel, and at least one book about autism—that would be well-rounded, wouldn't it? I even considered going to the local bookstore and just taking a picture of some books there, but that seemed ridiculous.

Marcelo In The Real WorldI actually attended my book club last Thursday and had to admit that, not only had I not finished the agreed-upon book, I had not started it because I did not at any time in the last month even have it in my possession. I could not even remember the title of the book, but here is what I did remember--the main character of the book was a kid with Asperger's Syndrome. I was not sure if I could stomach reading another book about autism. I made my sister read it first to see if it was "safe" for me. After I made my admission to the book club, it was in fact pronounced "safe" and so it will be the next book that I read.

You will note that I have chosen to link to this book on Amazon rather than photograph it on my nightstand. I wouldn't want to be forced to dust.