Thursday, December 29, 2011

GFCF Hot Chocolate and other Winter Break Wonders

Well, it finally snowed in Michigan, and here we are in New York.  Luckily (?) there is some snow here, and we had the opportunity to kick Isaac outside and let him run around in it today.  He came in to request hot chocolate.  It's his Pavlovian response to playing in the snow.  Grandma Chambers just happened to have some cocoa powder for baking in the cupboard, and I just happened to over pack for our travels.  So Isaac got his hot chocolate, and I got to take a million cute pictures of him modeling his chocolate mustache.

GFCF Hot Chocolate:
Fill normal sized mug with Original Coconut Milk (I only fill it half-way for Isaac)
Heat in Microwave for about a minute.
Stir in a heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder (the kind for baking)
Stir in a small squirt of Agave Nectar.
Double everything I just said if you want a full mug.
Tada! GFCF low-sugar hot chocolate.

In other news, we've had a pretty good visit here in NY.  Isaac finally warmed up to my Aunt Sue- who until recently he would never look at, never mind play with for a whole evening.  Everyone was surprised and happy with his progress, but best of all memories were made.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Break: Day 1

Don't get me wrong, I love my little guy.  I love spending time with him, really I do.  But long breaks from school don't always bring out the best in either of us.  I'm sitting at my desk right now trying to convince myself that obsessively cleaning my kitchen is a better choice than having two pieces of apple pie for lunch.  I think I need to sit here a little bit longer.  I have patience for a lot of things when it comes to Isaac, but it's when he gets the shrieking bossy tone with me that makes me crazy.  We had just pulled into the garage, and I had hit the garage door button closed and started opening my door to get out when- "No, mommy! Close your door!  I have to undo my seatbelt!"  I somewhat calmly explained that I have to get out of the car in order to open his door for him and that he doesn't need to yell like that.  He starts screaming again when I go to open my door and my head did this funny thing, maybe similar to the girl from The Exorcist (I blame demons that I don't believe in unless convenient for me to do so.) and it yelled "STOOOOP!"  He, of course, started crying and I took him out of the car and put him up in his bed all the while explaining why he did not need to yell at me... when I just yelled at him.  Lovely.  Where's that pie?

Why can't winter break always be like last night when we sat on the floor and made a necklace together?  Hey, who says you  need daughters in order to make jewelry?  This is better.   He helps string a really long necklace (great for fine motor skills, patterns, and counting), and I get to keep it.  Win/win!  We laughed and joked the whole time... it was magical.  Today it's arguing, mini meltdowns, and time outs for both of us.  I guess it's true what they say: too much togetherness isn't always a good thing.  Is my eye twitching?

This is the necklace.  Note the TV on in the background.  It's rest time for Isaac and writing for mommy.  We're planning to salvage the rest of the afternoon.  Tonight I'm going to brush up on the blogs of better moms- moms with patience and craft skills.  Check out  This woman is my winter break hero.  I'm hoping some of her ideas will come to the rescue for us this week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The cure for being puked on

You would think that someone who spent 5 months throwing up between 6 and 20 times a day would be immune to the grossness that is puke.  Nope.  Not the case.  Now, I'm not the kind of person who suffers from the domino affect- throwing up as the result of someone else throwing up.  But it definitely turns my stomach.  Isaac threw up a few times this weekend due to a stomach bug, and 40ish hours later I thought we were in the clear.  So, being the health conscious mother that I am, I thought gfcf pizza would be a fine choice for dinner.  Oh, and let's wash that down with carrot juice.  Nutritious, and so colorful!

An hour later, Isaac and I were playing in the basement when he started coughing.  I braced myself for the inevitable.  I even yelled out the suggestion, "Puke in the Halloween pumpkin!"  In denial that he is obviously still sick, Isaac walks toward me instead and yacks all over me.  My only instinct was to hold out my hands to try to catch it before it landed on the carpet.  Why?  I'm still asking myself that question.  (Pause.)  Hold on, this whole paragraph is making me a little queasy.  I apologize if it is doing the same for you.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little grumpy between the never-ending laundry, steam cleaning, disinfecting, etc.  The only time I've been out of the house recently was to drive around one or the other member of my family, and to grocery shop.  The combination of these things can make you feel like you're stuck in a prison, an orange-colored Puke Prison.  How do you break out of the hell that is your current domestic circumstance?  I suggest the following:

1) Download that new album you want- go head!  It's only $7.99.

2) Pick up a few health and beauty extras while at the grocery store.  Think hair dye and a new lipstick... and blush, and eyeliner.  Heck, isn't your foundation running low?  Yes, yes it is.

3) Pick one productive thing to do while your helpful spouse (wink, wink) reads bedtime stories to the puke monster.  I mean, your beloved child.  Put on your headphones with the aforementioned new album and go to work on that sink full of dishes.  I promise, it'll feel good.  Try not to hate whoever interrupts you right at the best part of every song.  This might be harder than cleaning up puke right after dinner, but try.  Remember that you love them, maybe less than that song in that moment, but when the song ends, love them again.

4)  Put puke monster to bed.

5)  Dye and dry your hair.  Put on all of your new make-up even though your evening plans involve facebook and an old running t-shirt.  Enjoy feeling like a human being again, rather than a landing pad for someone else's dinner.

6) Cancel any plans you had for tomorrow- including that annual exam you've had scheduled for the past six months.  Your kid is clearly still sick, but you have found the cure for being puked on.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy seasonal thoughts about legos

My four year old is up in his room playing with legos right now.  Big boy legos.  The tiny, choking hazard kind.  But I don't have to worry about him putting them in his mouth as he's four and quite frankly too busy building machines and cars to try to chew on them.  He's dangerously close to being too cool for Thomas the train and his wooden track downstairs, and that stirs all sorts of mixed emotions for this mom.  I'm trying desperately not to glob memories onto objects and to get excited about his new interests, but it's all just flying by me.  Plus, that little blue engine did a lot for us.  He signaled some warning signs about Isaac's behavior (pre-diagnosis), gave us something to do somewhat together when Isaac was otherwise in his own little world, and was the first "big" gift we, as young parents, could afford to give him.  I think I just betrayed some deep seeded hoarding genes with that sentence.  Yep, Thomas is getting a time limit, and then is being evicted.  Maybe Grandma Karen will keep him and his buddies at her house for when other grand-kids come along... (I hope she's reading this.)

Isaac's Christmas gifts this year only confirm that we are, in fact, harvesting a future nerd.  Legos, a V-tech learning laptop, and educational videos and books will be under the tree.  Oh, and a model air craft in the stocking for he and my husband to make together.  Future engineer? Could be, but Isaac has informed us that he wants to drive construction trucks when he grows up.  Sounds like a plan to me.  I'm pretty sure vocational school is more in our budget, and a practical choice when looking at the job market these days.  I'm all about practical- which reminds me... Does anyone have suggestions for organizing and storing all these damn legos?  Thomas the train never made this kind of mess!

In other news, I'm fighting the urge to quit everything for the winter to hibernate.  Maybe I could develop an interest in legos and join the sweat box upstairs- churning out little vehicles and spaceships.  Or... I could just go for a run, stop procrastinating when it comes to cleaning the house, writing up a bonus lesson for my Sunday school class, and working on pre-school things with Isaac.  Yep.  That would be the grown up thing to do.  And I dislike legos just enough to maybe do that.  Maybe.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mixing business with pleasure

Twas the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... because we were all at work!  All three of us.  Through some juggling act I managed to book two cleaning jobs, a random act of kindness, and the arrival of my in-laws for the same day.  Oh, and I had Isaac with me for all of it.  If my child needs help being more "flexible" in his routine, it did not show this day.  I swept him through morning chores to my first cleaning job, to lunch in the car, to my second cleaning job, to Walmart, and to a nursing home all in one morning and afternoon.  He went along with my rushing with good temper.  He enjoyed a dance party with my client's 11 year old daughter at my second cleaning job.  Yes, I was scrubbing a toilet and he was getting his groove on to remixes of 80s songs.  I was all business, he was all pleasure. 

All was moving smoothly for us to deliver our homemade Thanksgiving cards to a nursing home before meeting grandma and grandpa at home until some less than smooth motorskills and a too full glass of water caused us to make a side trip to Walmart for a dry shirt and socks before heading onto our good-deed destination.  To this day Isaac will demand his shirt off if the tiniest drop of water lands on it.  I got to be the mom in Walmart with the kid with no shirt on under his winter coat, and putting said shirt on him in the parking lot.  Hitting my head on the ceiling of the car and swearing under my breath- all because I said to myself that morning "Nah, he won't need an extra set of clothes... It'll be fine."  Fun!  But  I was not going to lose momentum by stopping home for these items.  We were on a mission!  The saddest part is that we lost Isaac's favorite and famous pair of red sunglasses somewhere between the socks and the shirts. = (  He handled it without tears, though.  And on we went to deliver these:

This post is titled "mixing business with pleasure" because we did just that.  The business was that I was making my Sunday school class do one random act of kindness that week, and I will never ask a teenager to do something I wouldn't do myself so Isaac and I made these cards for some folks at the nursing home near us.  In every card I had Isaac write "Happy Thanksgiving" and sign his name.  I would tell him how to spell it and he would write it- great practice for writing, spelling, coloring, and pasting skills.  The pleasure part was delivering them.  We crashed an unsuspecting Bingo game at the nursing home and Isaac handed one to each table and said "Happy Thanksgiving!"  I think we all loved it.  We'll definitely be doing this again closer to Christmas.

The same day we made the cards, Isaac also made these turkey decorations:

He drew, colored, and cut them out.  Mixing some motor-skill business with a little festive fun!  I hope your Thanksgiving was just as fun.  Stay tuned for any more rare and wonderful super-mom days in the future.  I think I get one per year.  This was definitely it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Bloggerversary To Me

Today marks one year since starting this blog.  I want to say thank you to everyone who actually takes the time to read my ramblings, complaints, and blessings.  It really means a lot to me.  I started the blog as an outlet during a tough time after Isaac's official diagnosis and as a way of letting others in on our journey with pdd-nos.  Since then, I've been blessed with many emails, private messages, and comments from family, friends, and strangers giving their support or seeking some resulting in a bigger community or "village" than I ever thought possible to raise Isaac in.  This has been the biggest highlight of all. 

Other highlights include author Kim Stagliano commenting on a post or two. Hey- a girl likes to rub keyboards with an actual published writer now and again!  Also, being asked to participate in the S-O-S Best of the Best was very flattering.  But what I love most about this blog is being able to look back to see how far we've come since Isaac's diagnosis.  I'm grateful for that and for all of you.  Here's to another year of blogging and making progress with my love, Isaac.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's the little things

A night where Isaac helps make, tries, and likes a new food (mashed potatoes)? Check.  This happens once every six months- maybe less.  I'm a firm believer in re-trying things, because even though it might take awhile (or years) my picky eater eventually acquires new foods.  Extra points for it being a vegetable.

Eating cooked rather than demanding raw broccoli? Check.  Sure he waited until it was ice cold to eat it, but that still counts, right?

Sleeping through the night after a night of night terrors? Check.  Packed the protein in yesterday and he had a much better night of sleep.

Making it through Sam's Club with the terrible lights and TONS of people without a meltdown? Check.

Reading a couple of sentences from a book to his grandparents over Skype and making this mom really proud? Check.

What little things are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Night terrors, bug bites, and other Friday night fun

It's not quite 11pm and the count of night terror episodes is already up to two for the night.  We've been waiting for a night like this since Isaac started a round of Amoxicillin earlier this week for a rogue bug bite.  Rogue meaning that it had the start of cellulitis.  Bad reactions to bug bites are a fun thing he inherited from me.  Aren't genetics grand?  Amoxicillin seems like a pretty low-key medication.  I mean it's one of the few prescriptions that pharmacies hand out for free.  They even flavor it and slap some red dye in it to make it more kid friendly, and for most kids it's probably just fine.  But for a kid with a funky gut it's both helpful and harmful.  Being on Amoxicillin means that Isaac cannot take his daily dose of probiotics that help keep his gut yeast under control.  I've been trying to be good about giving him more fat and protein to help with this during this time, but it's pretty inevitable that about half way through a round of Amoxicillin the yeast monster rears it's ugly head and the red dye catches up with him which results in a night of my little boy screaming, crying, and rolling around his bed off and on in his sleep.  We've learned that it's near impossible and not helpful to wake him during these night terror episodes.  I have to say that I have a really hard time seeing him like that- it makes me want to cry.  Luckily, Andrew is in tune with the sensory side of Isaac's issues and comes to the rescue right when I feel pretty helpless.  Tonight he tried applying pressure (kind of like joint compressions- for those with OTs)  to Isaac's back and torso and calmly shhhhhh-ing him repeatedly.  After a few minutes of this Isaac eased back into quiet sleep.  It's nights like these when I wish we had a weighted blanket.  Instead I laid my rice pack on his back for some consistent pressure/weight.  It's like battening down the hatches before a storm- except there are no Johnny Depp looking pirates around to swab my floors.  That would make this Friday night a little more fun.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Going Granola: Managing without medication

There are no absolutes.  These aren't just the words of a liberal blogger- they are truth to anyone living life outside of a bubble.  These words are especially true of those living on the autism spectrum.  Our experience with pdd-nos and our son will not be a carbon copy of yours.  I can and will only speak from our own experience.  I guess that's the preface I want to put down while participating in  S-O-S Best of the Best, Edition 12: Medications and Their Use with Special Needs Kids.  I am honored to have been asked to contribute to such a helpful site. 

To begin, I might as well come right out and say it; we don't use medications to treat any of Isaac's issues in relation to being on the spectrum.  So far, thanks to his diet, we haven't had to, and I have to say I'm glad.  While I'm not so "crunchy" that I won't eat at McDonald's, I am someone who opted for a tubal ligation over being on birth control.  I'm just not a fan of side effects- known or unknown.  Trust me, I went the biomedical route for Isaac with skepticism, and continue on it occasionally grieving the easy days of just sending him on his way with a cup of Goldfish Crackers like any other warm blooded American kid.  However, The Diet is our anti-drug.  And as my husband so delicately puts it, "the only side effect of a gluten free/dairy free/ Feingold diet is that it's a pain in the ass."  I know his angst is rooted in the cost, preparation, and availability of food for Isaac's very tailored diet.  He's almost over wanting to crawl under the table while I grill unsuspecting servers about ingredients and how food is prepared when we are out to dinner.  Almost.  But the reality is that changing Isaac's diet has kept us from an almost certain need for medication to treat hyperactivity, extreme mood swings, night terrors/seizure-like episodes, and sleeplessness.  Not to mention all the skin and digestive issues he used to have.

Not everyone has this experience, and I can definitely see where medication would be necessary and helpful for many kids with special needs.  For our son, removing dairy, then gluten, then certain fruits, vegetables, and dyes from his diet almost immediately remedied the problems listed above.  Adding a probiotic powder to the regiment is the closest thing to daily medication that Isaac receives.  The best part of a diet versus medication for us is that we get to tweak and adjust it immediately and according to his needs.  There is no waiting for a doctor, psychiatrist, or any one else.  When I notice that Isaac is "off" for days in a row I know it is time to adjust his diet to get him back on track.  Somehow, someway, we were paired with an occupational therapist who was also a trained nutritionist when Isaac was receiving services from Early On, and she stocked us with the information we needed to go granola. Today we're not only managing his pdd-nos, sensory processing disorder, etc. without medication- we're thriving.  And for that, I'm grateful.

If you would like to know more about our journey without medication, please visit the posts below:

For a basic overview of our dos and do nots with food:

Our experience and approach with removing dairy:

Our experience and approach with removing gluten:

About yeast issues: 

An article I wrote about the pros and cons of a gfcf diet:

An article I wrote introducing the Feingold diet:

Monday, November 7, 2011

A parent/teacher conference story

You know those credit card commercials in which they list "priceless" things?  Well, I got one: A parent/teacher conference that doesn't make you want to slide under the desk and buy a box of doughnuts and bottle of wine on the way home?  Priceless.

I think what made this conference tolerable to begin with is that it was with the two people from school that know Isaac best; his teacher and his social worker.  No OT, speech therapist, or weird old guy there to whisper amongst themselves while I was sitting right there.  No feeling like I had to defend my son to people who only see him once or twice a week.  In fact, the three of us had a good laugh over some of Isaac's trademark antics.  The boy is stubborn when it comes to doing things his way, but is slooooowly becoming more flexible.  He likes to argue with Miss Minda about what comes next in the schedule, but will double check his picture schedule and backhandedly admit that she was right.  "Music IS next, Minda!"  "Yes, I was right then, wasn't I?"  Isaac scowls and will not fully admit that she was right.  I wonder which parent he inherited this trait from.

I loved hearing the words, "I have no concerns about your son academically."  Apparently there are two books in the classroom that he can read cover to cover.  Also, they use in the classroom just as we do at home.  Miss Minda is making sure she keeps feeding his interest in learning to read.  They have "book boxes" that they share with one other student.  They take turns carrying their box to a comfy spot to read basic beginner books together.  "A is for apple" type books.  Isaac is currently sharing a book box with Austin- the boy is his class that is pre-verbal, and to my eye- more classically autistic.  Minda told me that Isaac is excellent with Austin- which was my favorite part of the meeting, the news that made me most proud of my little boy. We've talked a lot about being nice and trying to help Austin when he is upset and crying.  I'm glad our talks are transferring to the classroom.  I will take my sometimes socially awkward, but very kind kid over a bully any day.  Flexibility in routine, some motor skill/writing issues, and social quirks are the wrinkles to be ironed out over the next year before kindergarten.  Compared to last year's list I'd say that's a fairy tale of a parent/teacher conference.

The End.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grateful and obsessing as usual

There is a trend on facebook right now where people post things they are thankful for every day.  I have to say that it's been neat to see people really striving toward gratefulness every day- even if it is only on facebook.  While I have yet to take part in this trend, I would like to mention a few things that I'm thankful for here.  Today Isaac went down for the children's message at church without me accompanying him for the first time, and he sat and did fine.  The service itself was unusually long as today is All Saints Day, and I found myself growing antsy after the hour had come and gone without the service ending.  Isaac did as well as any four year old could in that situation, and I'm grateful for the people sitting near us that took his fidgeting in stride.  I'm thankful that last year's anxiousness about him starting Sunday school and leaving the church nursery has proven unnecessary so far.  He's really growing up.

There is a situation, however, that has Andrew and I scratching our heads lately.  Every time Isaac is approached by someone unfamiliar he becomes silly, won't make eye contact, and talks in a high cartoonish voice- refusing to answer any questions or to say anything that makes any sense at all.  No amount of coaxing or guiding gets him to act as expected in these situations.  I even gave him the option of looking at the highest point on a friend at church's shirt today instead of at his face, but I think by that point he was already overstimulated and ready to go home.  In fact, I know he was.  He even turned down going to Five Guys Burgers and Fries after church- saying that he just wanted to go home.  Still, this situation occurs a lot.  Last weekend we ran into one of Isaac's parapros at Target.  She was with her kids and introduced them.  Isaac immediately stopped behaving and started running around the racks- refusing to say hi or answer questions for a woman he sees 5 days a week.  I'm going to go ahead and just say that I know that this is pay back for my childhood.  If I were Isaac in that situation I probably would have said some smart ass remark that would have been far worse than any hyper activity he displayed that day.  I'm pretty sure I would have said something like, "You look too old to have kids that young.  Are you sure you aren't their grandma?"  Because that's the kind of kid I was.

As comforting as it is that remarks like that don't typically cross Isaac's mind, the obvious lack of social skills here has been the topic of discussion more than once in the past week.  The only thing I can think of is sitting down and writing a social story for him- it worked for teaching him to answer how old he is when asked.  I wonder what the chances of getting Andrew to draw the pictures this time are...

In other news, I found this book today,

 and am thinking of purchasing a copy for our family doctor as a reference book.  I honestly think she'd be interested.  I would also like to buy a copy for everyone that rolls their eyes at me about Isaac's diet.  I'm sending snotty mental waves to all of you- you know who you are.  It looks to be the most comprehensive and highly rated book about the topic of dietary interventions.  I know that a change of diet does not help everyone on the spectrum, but it did help Isaac.  Anyway, if you're interested in learning more about the food land we live in, or even just eliminating un-helpful foods, this looks like a good place to start.  In the meantime, I hope you aren't getting sick of my usual cocktail of obsession and gloating as you'll most likely be seeing another post after tomorrow's parent/teacher conference.  Hooray!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A year later

It's been a year since Isaac was officially diagnosed as being on the spectrum.  Looking back, I'm glad that days like these are no longer the norm.  There is always a lot to work on when you have a kid with special needs, though.  And when you think about that to-do list as a whole it can be a bit overwhelming- as in, holy crap how am I not getting a salary for this job- overwhelming.  IEPs and parent/teacher conferences bring that list to the forefront of your mind and you are either energized or feel really, really deflated- depending on the day.  There is a temptation toward perfection, which seems really silly when you're dealing with special needs kids, especially young ones.  But as a parent you want to do everything right, right now.  You want to be consistent 100% of the time.  You don't want to let one teachable moment squeak by, and you end up driving yourself crazy.  You think that every one else's kids are perfect and that you're the only one dealing with what you're dealing with.  You feel isolated.  Or maybe that's just me on a bad day.

On a good day, I remember that I need to pick my battles and let Isaac be four.  And on good days I remember that I don't need to "fix" everything all at once, but that if I just take one day at a time and work on our to-do list we will still make progress.  What that's looked like for the past couple of weeks is that we pick ONE thing to intentionally work on each day.  Some days that means that daddy takes 10-15 minutes to do scissor work with Isaac.  That went smoothly once I reminded him that our son is right handed, not left handed.  Some days it might mean that we get on and work on phonics stuff- or pop in a video on sight words.  Today it meant getting out a sticker workbook to practice our crayon and pencil grasp and coloring inside the lines.  My eye is still twitching.   You know you have a kid with motor skill issues when you would rather work on math than coloring.  Half way through I was reminding myself that there is a breakfast stout with my name on it Thursday night when I go out with a friend of mine.  By the end of it I was the one who needed some time in the bean box for some sensory therapy.  So we did that.  Tomorrow I think I'm going to take a field trip to Office Max to find some pencil grips, because I really don't think I can make it to Christmas coloring with Isaac without them.

One day at a time, one skill at a time is how we've come so far in a year.  I have to remind myself of that and be grateful.  Here's to another year of working on life with my love.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A few of our favorite things: Holiday Edition

I can't believe it's almost November.  Wasn't it just July?  What do you mean some states have snow?  We haven't even finished picking up our leaves yet.  Our supply of firewood has a good dent in it already, though.  What can I say?  I'm a fan of a crackling fire on cold, windy nights.  You know what else I'm a fan of?  Free super saver shipping on  As a single-income, constantly budgeting family, I've already begun, or may I say, half finished with Christmas shopping.  We've found it to be less painful when we spread it out over a few months, and I can't resist an afternoon of sipping coffee, sitting in sweatpants, and shopping from the comfort of my couch.  Anyway, in the spirit of my fondness of spending other people's money, I thought I'd put together a list of our favorite sensory and development gifts of the past and present for those of you looking for some ideas.  Enjoy!

Big gifts:
Nest Swing:  This is $30 cheaper than what I paid for one of these last year from Magic Cabin, and it comes in more color choices.  Isaac loves to hide, spin, and sometimes fall asleep in this swing.  It's calming for him when he's feeling out of sorts, and my skinny husband claims that it's comfortable to read in.  Bonus: It's machine washable.

Mini folding trampoline.  You can find these almost anywhere.  We scored ours at a mom to mom sale for $40.  Amazon puts them on sale occasionally.  Totally worth it for energy burning, vestibular sensory stimulation, and gross motor skills.

Educational Gifts:

The Learning Journey Match It! spelling and math puzzle cards have really helped things click for Isaac in these departments.  There is something about the physical act of putting a puzzle together while saying the letters/numbers that works in his brain.  They also make sequencing, sight reading, rhyming, and upper case/lower case matching puzzles.

The Meet the Sight Words DVDs 1-3 will be under the tree at our house this year, along with the first pack of easy-reader books made by this company.  There is nothing particularly special about these DVDs other than that they work for my visual learner.  Now he'll get to watch them on the 9 hour car trip to grandpa and grandma's house so that he'll be good and indoctrinated in sight words by the time we get there.  If I wasn't so sick of it, I'd also suggest buying the LeapFrog letter sounds dvd, but I just can't do that to you people.  I love you too much and the dvd works too well with it's catchy songs and memorable animations.  Good Lord, yes the B says BUH!

We have the Imaginarium Deluxe Marble Maze pictured to your left, but any marble maze will do.  We've found it to be not only fun, but a good toy to work on problem solving, fine motor skills, and challenging our not always flexible little boy when it comes to mixing colors, taking turns, etc.

Stocking Stuffers:
For aid in writing I'm really thinking I'm going to order the following for Isaac.

Pencil grips

The HandiWriter helps fix grasp issues.

And because we can't get enough of it:

Playing "Blink" the card game correctly would probably be over Isaac's head, but Andrew used this deck of cards to work on sorting colors, shapes, and numbers with Isaac tonight.  There are endless games to be made up with this deck.  Bonus: it's a great two player game when played the right way too.

Happy shopping!

Halloween update

So far our candy-free Halloween has been going according to plan.  Isaac had his party at school yesterday and I sent in gfcf pumpkin shaped sugar cookies, gfcf frosting, and gfcf chocolate chips to decorate them with.  In all honestly I thought it was going to be a huge pain in the butt to do this, but it ended up being fine.  I used the Cherrybrook Kitchen sugar cookie mix and vanilla frosting.  I dyed the frosting orange with organic carrot juice (as suggested by a friend.  Thanks, Tiffany!), and discovered that Isaac likes to drink carrot juice and does well with it since it is not fruit juice.  Win!  The second to best part?  They were a hit.  The BEST part?  It made Isaac's day and sparked a really long conversation with him before bed about school.  Sometimes the extra effort makes more of a ripple than I expect.  I knew he'd love the cookies, but I didn't know it was going to get him to tell me about his day in more detail than ever before.  He was very proud to get to share his cookies with his friends and it showed.  Side note:  Isaac has shared two stories with me this week about trying to play with and share with two different classmates.  One hit him and one pushed him.  Gee, I wonder why he has a hard time playing reciprocally at school?  I am making my snotty, eyebrows in the air, always-right face right now- in case you were wondering.

Last night we carved a pumpkin.  By "we" I mean Isaac drew a face on the pumpkin, Andrew carved it, and I took pictures.  Here is my favorite:

 His face clearly says, "There is no way I'm touching pumpkin guts.  Give me the knife!"

Last week Isaac made a gfcf caramel pear at our friend, Michelle's house during play group since we don't do apples. She was awesome enough to make caramel he could eat.

Today we trick or treated at the fire station and Isaac got to climb in the trucks.  Super fun!  We'll be doing this next year.  Best part?  They gave us a bag with a glow stick in it, not candy.

We're having a lot of fun and Halloween isn't even over yet.  More to come!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Any parent who's ever had to do an IEP for their child or sit through a parent/teacher conference can tell you that it's humbling, frustrating, and encouraging all at once.  I left today's IEP unsure if I felt good about how it went.  Can I just start by being less than discrete, mature, and Jesus-following and say who the heck put some gray haired good 'ol boy in charge of special education?  Looks like I just did.  I don't know what his role was in that meeting other than making "cute" comments about Isaac's sunglasses, but he might as well have been a pair of glasses on a rock with a southern drawl sitting in that chair for all he offered.  I might be biased based on seeing him in action while the kids were getting ready to leave, and from hearing some stories of him via a friend who tried to get her son into Isaac's class, but HOLY COW please retire.  Tomorrow.  OK, rant over?  Maybe not.

I guess if I had the chance I would want all teachers and staff- especially those in special ed field to know that it's just as difficult for us to trust you as it is for you to work with our kid.  I'm putting my precious little boy  (into whom I've put so much love and work) into your care and trusting that you will do your best by him.  I hope that you're using your words more than you are escorting him from A to B in a frustrated rush.  I hope that you are thinking about and researching creative ways to help him learn different things.  Secretly, I hope that you really do care as much as I do.  The reality is that no program is perfect just as no parents are perfect.  It's a balance between having realistic expectations for a program and knowing when to say, "OK, let me tell you something about my kid..."  Luckily Isaac's program at school seems to be working well enough for him- minus the out of touch guy that oversees his teacher.  But I can't help but feel a little conflicted after an IEP.  I think it is because I'm getting the story but not seeing it and because there's some pride wrapped up in raising a kid and making sure they succeed to the best of their abilities.

My conclusion is that I think it's time for us to finally schedule a day to observe Isaac's class from behind the mirror.  I think I've been putting this off for over a year because I'm afraid that seeing all that goes on during the school will burst my picturesque idea of it.  I know how that sounds, but when you don't have a lot of options you generally want to try to see the good in the options you do have.  Does that make sense?  All in all, Isaac is doing way better than last year.  So why does the IEP make me feel so depressed?  Maybe it's the fresh reminder that my kid is in a special education classroom for a reason.  Either way, the goal is still mainstreaming him for kindergarten next year.  Wish us luck.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold weather daydreams

I am one of many adults that cannot decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I bounce between a few ideas from time to time; writer (my grammar just isn't up to speed), hairdresser (more school loans? eh.), and someone who spends your money for you.  Let me explain!  Every year for the past couple of years when it gets cold out my inner occupational therapist starts brainstorming, well, at least on days that I'm not hibernating.  I start shopping around and gathering ideas for the perfect indoor play space or sensory room.  The problem is that we already have a pretty kick butt sensory room that doesn't get enough use as it is now that Isaac has mellowed out a lot.  So sometimes I daydream about creating a business that designs sensory rooms for people based on their child's needs and how much they want to spend.  Today is one of those days as I was drooling over the indoor active toys on  I might have a problem, but let me know if you'd like me to search for an inexpensive indoor swing or used mini trampoline for you!  I've got the bug.  In the meantime, I think I'll be ushering my child to the basement for part of today.  Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doctor Dilemma Part 2

If you are one of those unfortunate enough to be my facebook friend, then you may or may not know the drama we've had with Isaac's pediatrician office.  In fact, I was about to switch many months ago after a disheartening visit.  See  For the sake of trying to be a mature adult, I will not relay the somewhat snide apology I received in the mail from Isaac's former pediatrician today in full detail and drag his name through the mud any more than I already have.  However, if you are a close friend I have no scruples about reading it to you in person. Ha!  Let's just say it was the nail on the coffin after our failed attempt at a check up earlier this week.

I switched Isaac to our family doctor immediately afterward, and I'm happy to say that we had a great experience at Dr. Marinas' office today (only two days later).  She did not roll her eyes at Isaac's special diet, rather she asked if we worked with a nutritionist (which earned her bonus points in my book).  She did not drill me with condescending questions when I said that we don't do the influenza or flu vaccines.  She did not PUSH when I said I'd like to only get two shots done today, and wait on the ones that aren't recommended for when a child is already not feeling well (Isaac has a cough)- rather she agreed with me.  She asked intelligent questions about where he is developmentally, and was warm and understanding at Isaac's nervous behaviors and ticklishness.  She thought to give him a tongue depressor and Dixie cup so that he had something in each hand and could repetitively "stir" his pretend cake mix while she examined him.  You can tell this woman is a mother, and I like that.  Also, it is worth noting that there were the same amount of patients present in this office as in our previous one, less nurses and less doctors, and we still only waited for 5 minutes to get into the room and then 5 more after the nurse left before the doctor came in.  Just sayin'...  I wish I switched back in February, but glad we're in the right place now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'll take it

This morning started off a little rough.  Isaac was melting down at play group, flinching from friends when they got too close, not listening, and demanding help with things that he's perfectly capable of doing himself.  At home I had a moment of Exorcist mommy.  My head spun around, my voice changed and said, "sit on those steps and take your shoes off right now!"  Spit might have flown from between my teeth.  Might have.  What does he mean "MOMMY help me with my shoes" with the whiny voice!?  Since when does this kid not know how to take his shoes off?  He's always taking them off- at church, in the car, and basically anywhere I don't want him to.  Is it time for school yet? 

A few moments later...

Oh, he likes my new musical obsession, The Civil Wars, and actually wants me to play another song?  Maybe we can forget the shoe incident.  What's that?  You got into your craft drawer and pulled out a pre-school work book and would like to cuddle with me in the reading chair and show me how smart you are?  OK!

Isaac ran into school without any coaxing and came bouncing out of school when I picked him up- excited about his day and with a good daily report in tow.  "We worked on shapes today.  Isaac even knows what an octagon is," said the note from his teacher.  Yep, I know.  I was just enjoying my swelling pride when I heard a burst of sobs from the backseat.  Seriously?  Again?  "What happened?"  He's holding his eye.  "Did you poke your eye with your sunglasses?"'s not even CLOSE to sunny today.  I poke my head around to check.  "No!  Don't look at me!  Look at daddy!"  Do little boys get p.m.s.?

We spent most of the evening decompressing- which is a fancy way of saying we didn't do much of anything.  Then Isaac demonstrated his undeniable lack of skill at hide and seek, his impressive skill at making robots out of wooden shapes, and his usual infectious charm.  We read our new library books, and Isaac decided to tell us about the boy from one of the books that wanted a dragon for a pet.  "I can't like a dragon for a pet.  I like a dog for a pet.  I like Shiloh."  "Why DON'T (emphasis on don't instead of can't) you want a dragon for a pet?"  "Because a dragon would burn my house down."  "When did you get so smart?"  No, seriously.  I have a four year old- like a real, live four year old.  
During bedtime routine we sang our usual  "You are my sunshine" and "Twinkle, Twinkle".  Then Isaac started singing the months of the year.  "Where did you learn the months of the year?"  "At school."  Then he requested that I sing the Abc song and he pretended to play a trombone- even making the sound with his mouth.  Who is this kid?  He might not be the suavest in social settings, he might try my patience, he might insist on wearing sunglasses on rainy days, he might use 'can't' when he should use 'don't', but Isaac Loucks surprises me every day with what he does well.  I'll take it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ode to play group

It's that time of year again; the time of year when I become a zombie.  Not because it's almost Halloween, but because it's fall.  For some reason I have the biological clock of a black bear.  If I could hibernate from October to February you better believe I would.  All the berries I can eat before hand?  I'm in.  I can already feel the laziness creeping in- a little too much TV here and an extra hour of computer games there for Isaac.  I develop an unhealthy dependence on carbs, coffee,, and leave whole words out of sentences.  It goes without saying that I am less than June Cleaver in the mothering department during hibernation, but we survive it with a little help from our friends.  Cue youtube video: 
See what I mean?

I honestly think belonging to a good play group is the key to sanity when you're a stay at home parent.  Emphasis on good.  I'm not talking about a group of moms (or dads) eager to show off their Martha Stewart skills or Desperate Housewives wardrobe.  I'm talking about a group of women who parent similarly enough to you that you don't want to slap them, who silently encourage you to wear something other than sweatpants, but secretly love you all the more when you do wear them.  I'm talking about women who make the terrible twos bearable on the worst of weeks, and getting out for some exercise contagious.  Women who can keep a secret when you need them to, and who take joy in your accomplishments.  They are women that buy snacks your crazy diet kid can eat.  They are women that watch craigstlist for a used version of whatever expensive whim you have that week.  They will babysit in a pinch, and make you a meal when you magically acquire more children.  And for me, play group and pre-school are sometimes the only two things that get this black bear to leave her den and do something beneficial for her child in winter.  And for that, I'm grateful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re-working tradition

It strikes me how every major holiday in the United States is centered around food.  This just doesn't fly with a gfcf/feingold/low sugar kid, and I'm kind of glad it doesn't.  We've had to find creative ways to celebrate holidays like Halloween, because let's face it, sugar and Isaac Loucks don't really mix.  So far he seems appeased with his Halloween party at school, doing a corn maze, going to a friend's hay ride party, and carving pumpkins.  I tend to be the meaner parent, so you won't catch me feeling guilty over the obvious lack of candy in my child's diet when I know kids that lack food altogether.  However, my suburban born and raised husband has what we'll call "twinges" of guilt.  Can I just say that you might be an over-privileged-first-world country person when you have guilt that a child can't eat the same proteins (gluten and casein) or copious amounts of sugar as other kids?  Rant over.

Still, I want holidays to be special for him and just as memorable.  We made our own decorations this year out of construction paper.  He has voiced that he would like to hand out candy on Halloween and I think we'll let him trick or treat to our two immediate neighbors houses.  Last year our sweet neighbors handed him a book instead of candy.  I love that!  This year I picked up some gfcf graham crackers and marshmallows and might start a Halloween s'mores without chocolate tradition.  Hey, I'm not completely heartless.  In the meantime,  I've loved Isaac's excitement over his bumblebee costume and that he told me what his friends at school planned on dressing up as for Halloween.  I've loved that he ANSWERS questions like that now.  I've loved that life is feeling a bit more normal, gfcf diet and all.  And I love knowing that Isaac will appreciate those s'mores just as much as a whole pile of candy.  Happy Fall!  I hope you are savoring your traditions, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two thumbs and a smile

Who has two thumbs, a smile, and tickets to the Fleet Foxes for tomorrow night?
This girl.
I originally bought the tickets because I felt I owed the band something after suggesting (read stalking and begging) they play a date in Michigan, and because they are my favorite band and I'm in the middle of an early life crisis.  I even used the concert as an excuse to buy new dark wash skinny jeans (if they can still be called skinny in my size), a flannel plaid tunic, and a sack purse.  I'm also taking the opportunity to wear a vintage owl necklace that doesn't get enough showtime.  But since Isaac has been doing exceptionally well in school this year, I'm also using the night out as a celebration of all our hard work.  Isaac has had perfect daily reports sheets every day this week, a note from his substitute teacher in which she referred to him as a "role model to other students", and it's still SEPTEMBER- the beginning of the year.  I'm beyond proud of him, and I have to say that I finally feel like I can take a deep breath and have some fun.  I'll be doing just that tomorrow night with my good friend, Erin.  Hipster for a night, and then back to mommy on Friday.  It's been a good month, and I'm- you guessed it- grateful.  To all my other dedicated mommies out there; don't forget to take some time for yourself this week.  Do something rash- even if your version of rash, like mine, means planning months in advance. 
Now I better get some sleep if I'm going to be up past 11pm tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sensory before Behavioral

I think I take for granted that I ended up with one of the best occupational therapists around when Isaac was in Early On.  She gave me such a thorough basis of what was going on with my kid that it made the research road a lot smoother.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Once I understood that not all of Isaac's "behaviors" were just maturity or discipline issues, we started getting somewhere.  The fact is, if you have a quirky kid, you can discipline til your blue in the face with little results because those quirks aren't what you think they are.  Ask me how I know.  Why, experience and gray hair, of course.

Isaac used to throw a tantrum, was restless, cranky, or just plain crazy every time we went to the grocery store.  It got to the point where Andrew and I were playing rock, paper, scissors to see who had to take him to the grocery store.  Restaurants weren't much better.  We had been taking Isaac to restaurants since he was born, but once he hit that toddler stage it was nightmarish.  The rules hadn't changed, but he had.  We would have to take turns entertaining him, taking him for a walk outside, etc.  We would look at people who expected us to go out to dinner with them and him like they had three heads.  We would leave our nice, relaxing dinner out exhausted.  We had no idea why taking him to either place was such a fight- UNTIL our OT shed some light on these behaviors.  The kid was overstimulated and we were giving him no tools to deal with these sensory issues.

Of course, the diet helped big time. We also have some tricks up our sleeve for these situations:

1) The sunglasses.  Isaac is known for his red sunglasses and/or super cute hats.  It's not a coincidence.  These items help block out weird fluorescent or super bright sun light that observation has told us he is really sensitive to.  We do not make Isaac take his sunglasses off in the store, restaurant, or church unless he wants to, because they help him filter over-stimulus.  They let him take a break from making complete eye contact with strangers/crowds without looking rude.  In fact, he looks down right adorable in them.

2) Pack a distraction.  My newest trick is to go to the library right before grocery shopping with Isaac.  This way we get a few "new" books for him to look at in the cart while we shop.  He gets to intensely focus on the pictures instead of all the people, etc.  It also gives him something other than echos and jargon to talk about when he's feeling overwhelmed.  I also keep a Leap Frog Text and Learn toy in my car as an option.

3) Pack a sensory option.  Some parents keep sensory chews on hand for some sensory stimulation.  We keep these at home and hand them out when we notice Isaac chewing on his fingers or straws.  Our favorite quiet sensory toy to have on hand for places like church is play foam.  It's not messy or sticky, but gives out a ton of sensory input, is quiet, and helps Isaac sit and listen rather than run for the door.  A young woman with autism also suggested a hard piece of wax to me for the church setting.  She said her mom used to give her a piece and it would take her the whole service of rubbing it in her hands to get it soft.

Once we started addressing the sensory issues, a lot of the "behavior" issues went away.  It was easier for him to function and listen.  When you're dealing with a quirky kid, you can't fix everything with good old fashioned discipline.  You have to get creative.  What you think is rudeness or naughtiness might just be a little kid trying to feel balanced and deal with their surroundings.  Observe and the patterns will emerge.  Soon you'll know what your child needs to be successful in public.  Do I sound like a know-it-all?  Maybe a little, but my kid just got a PERFECT report sheet home from school yesterday.  Oh, now that's bragging., I guess I'm just super proud of him and incredibly grateful for how well school is going this year and I want to spread the joy!  Yes, that's it.  = )

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adventures in echolalia

Perhaps it is a bit immature to use your son's echolalia as a punishment for one's spouse, but I may have been guilty of that this past weekend.  In my defense I had been listening to Isaac echo his letter sounds incessantly for days- to and from school, during meals, bath time, ALL THE TIME.  My eye was starting to twitch and a bout of normal spousal annoyance caused me to suggest to Isaac that he tell daddy what sound every letter makes while raspberry picking, but that he had to wait until we got to the u-pick farm and was helping daddy.  Only daddy.  "OK," he said, innocent of my malice.  Isaac was feeling a little "off" that day due to some not great food choices and so the echoing was kicked up a few notches- something that spectrum kids do to self-regulate.  Am I horrible person or just a mom desperate for a break and some empathy?  You decide.  Quietly.  To yourself.  I don't care.

The echoing is always with us, although it is sometimes less obvious.  Like on the way home from school on Monday- Isaac proceeded to tell me that so & so was "big and fat".  Now, my kid is not prone to noticing physical differences in people, and since he's used this phrase to affectionately describe his grandfather I can say with confidence that he is echoing the part of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that says "He wasn't a little caterpillar anymore.  He was a big, FAT caterpillar."  Either way, we had a conversation about calling people fat not being nice.  He apologized.  This was the same day that Isaac hopped out of school echoing letter sounds and his very nice teacher said, "He does that all day, it's so cute."  "Oh, Kara...," I said, "if it ever gets old, just redirect him."  On the way home I was asking Isaac about his day and rather than answer me he would use his repetitive jargon as filler, as an ANSWER.  "Ticka ticka".  After 4 tries of this I lost my patience.  I "may" have raised my voice:
"Isaac, when I'm asking you a question you need to answer me.  Not say ticka ticka.  Only YOU know what ticka ticka means.  Say yes or no!"
"Thank you."
"Mommy, don't yell."
"I'm sorry, but you know how to talk and you aren't and that makes me frustrated."  Just goes to show that you gotta know how to pick your battles.  Sometimes it's self-regulating and sometimes it's filler.  Use clues and context and before you know it you too can be yelling at your cute four year old in the car. : (

As we stepped onto the porch to leave for school this afternoon we heard a bird chirping loudly somewhere up in the trees.  "Mommy, what's that sound?"  "It's a bird chirping."  Dramatic pause.  "It's an animal in trouble!  We have to help him!"  Thanks, Wonder Pets.  "Nope, no we don't.  You need to walk to the car. We're going to be late for school."

Stay tuned for the next edition of Adventures in Echolalia.
~The End~

Monday, September 12, 2011

Progress report

I'm having a hard time being productive with my domestic duties right now, which usually means that I need to sit down and write.  Luck you.  I'm sure you were just thinking that you could do with a little over-sharing from Libby Loucks.  Well, let me indulge you.  I'm drinking my third cup of coffee today and listening to the one and only Ray LaMontagne- pretending to be one of his back up singers/future ex wives.  I'm thinking about the mountain of laundry on my bed that needs to be folded, my floors that need to be swept and mopped, dishes that need to be done- you get the idea.

I'm also thinking about Isaac and wondering how he is doing at school.  I'm thinking about all the progress he's made in a very short period of time.  He went to his first Sunday school class yesterday and did just fine.  I wondered if he actually grasped anything from it, but then we were reading last night and I pulled out one of our children's bibles and he said, "Um, how about the God one next?"  Then he requested certain stories, pointed out Jesus, etc.  Apparently he does listen, even when that doesn't appear to be the case.  I tried having him sit in the church service with me afterward, but forgot to pack any sensory toys (i.e. play foam) and so half way through he had enough.  But as he was doodling during church he correctly wrote 'I' 'S' 'A' of his name.  Take that kindergarten doubts!  He's been going around talking about how 'o' is for 'ox' and pointing out letters in words and trying to sound them out or spell them.  Quite a different story from two weeks ago.  I would, again, like to thank the Resource Fairy (who on my more openly Christian days I call God) for helping me find the things that clicked for Isaac.  Thank you.

Now if you could just motivate me to write a few more social stories for Isaac dealing with answering questions, social skills, etc. that would be great.  Because after a weekend of house projects, starting back to school, and being a selfish human being I just really want to pretend that he doesn't need to work on those things.  I want to pretend that they will just magically come together the way that they do for other kids.  Maybe a little more Ray LaMontagne will do the trick.  At any rate, progress is progress and I'm grateful.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Resources for the weekend

First, let me say that school is going really well so far.  Isaac has adjusted swimmingly to being in the afternoon class and having a substitute teacher.  He keeps telling people that there are "lots of kids in my school."  He's one of 6 boys in his class.  There are only two girls in his class again this year.  I'm sure he'll be flirting with both simultaneously in no time.  He came home yesterday in an incredibly good mood- so much so that trying to ask him questions was like trying to make sense out of someone who thinks happy hour starts at 4pm and ends with a spoonful of sugar and speed.  I did manage to find out that they colored pumpkins, ran around, and that a boy in his class was mad and crying when his mom left.  We talked about being nice to classmates that aren't used to school yet, making sure we try to play with them, etc.  I'm telling myself that he remembers that conversation, but I really think he was on too much of a school high. 

I think afternoons are working well for him because we don't have to rush around in the morning to get ready.  If he has a hard time getting to sleep at night it's not a big deal because we have alllllll day to get ready to go to school.  You know what that means?  Morning chores, play group, helping me at the grocery store, going to the library, and always going to school bathed and teeth brushed.  Yes, I think this will be a fine year.

In the meantime I wanted to pass along some recent resources that have worked well for us:

1) was suggested to us by my blogger friend, Christen.  It's a very simple website dedicated to helping kids learn to read from the bottom up.  Isaac, with his new mouse skills, can operate the ABC section by himself and loves it.  (Oh, and with those same mouse skills managed to call his grandmother on Skype all by himself while I was out of the room the other day.)  Thanks for this, Christen.

2) I know I already mentioned the Leap Frog Letter Factory dvd in a previous post, but let me warn you about how affective it is for those of you with children prone to echolalia. If you don't want to be listening to this almost every moment of every day, don't rent it from the library.  Crap, he just caught me linking the video and it is now sparking a fresh onset of echoing.  In all honesty, this video has really helped him learn his letter sounds in a very short period of time- not just echo them.

3) Next, I highly suggest the Meet the Sight Words 1 dvd.  Our library has it, but it's at our house right now so you'll have to wait.  Eh, they probably have more than one copy (or  Anyway, this paired with pointing out and spelling/sounding out sight words while reading books to Isaac has helped spark some new phonics skills.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Isaac in his bubbly happiness was taking forever to eat his eggs this morning- apparently not aware that we were in a time crunch to make it to play group before my appointment this morning.  I set the timer.  He ended up eating half his eggs.  My husband commented that sometimes he feels bad rushing him when he's in such an innocently happy-distracted mood, because he's happy in a way that you aren't ever again when you're an adult.  He's ignorant of time and all the things that we think need to get done today.  He's ignorant of the fact that mommy and daddy are exhausted and are starting to look like trolls to each other.  He doesn't know that mommy sees a therapist when she leaves the house by herself for an hour.  Yes, we're at that point in suburban life- therapists and all- and he's ignorant of all it.  And he's happy.  He's truly a happy kid.  He'll go to school and come home and not care that the house is in less than perfect order.  He won't pick up on the bags under my eyes.  He'll play his ABC game, he'll read library books, play with remote controlled cars, eat dinner, take a bath, get a good night's sleep, and do it all again tomorrow.  What a blessing that my child has this life.  May it last longer than it should- even if this ignorant bliss is partially due to his PDD-NOS.  May it last longer than it should.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Orientation orneriness

I should clarify that Isaac wasn't ornery about going to school today at all.  In fact, he was down right jovial while getting ready for pre-school orientation today.  He recited all the things he should remember on the way to school.
"I can't want to hit, mommy.  I want to share with my friends and play with them." 
"Right.  And where do you put your hat, coat, and backpack when you get to school?"
"In my cubby."
"Yep, that's right.  You're not going to throw them on the floor.  And you're going to answer when people ask you questions, right?"

Well, he didn't answer questions, but he did everything else.  I think he was a little overwhelmed at the new faces also there for orientation.  As was I.  Looking around I first saw two other children- both significantly younger than Isaac in every way.  I overheard a few conversations about diapers.  Isaac's been potty trained since before he turned three, and these children are to be in the morning class with him.  One wasn't even three yet.  "Where's Kara?" he asked.  It didn't help that the substitute teacher he will have for the first four weeks of school is also named Kara, but with a little clarification I think he understood that his Kara wasn't there and might not even be in his class this year.  I made passing chit chat with who was there of Isaac's teaching team as was all that could be done with the chaos of new students.  I tried to express the level of progress Isaac has made this summer, but it probably was hard to believe when the child would barely say two words to any of his teachers/helpers.  He did, however, manage to try to reciprocally play with almost every child there.  He sought them out to take part in what they were doing, but it's hard to take turns with two and three year olds with no school experience and a classically autistic pre-verbal 4.5 year old when you are four and have spent a whole summer playing just fine with developmentally typical peers.  For the record, I know I sound a bit snooty right now.

Red flags shot up for this mom who has worked pretty darn hard this summer to bring this kid up to speed.  Sure, at first I was thrilled that he would be in the morning class for routine reasons, but now I'm really concerned that being with virtually non-verbal and diaper-clad kids is not the right fit for Isaac this year.  The child is working on simple math and spelling.  He learned his letter sounds in less than a week.  He's been running around playing firemen, made-up spaceship games, and doctor with his friends all summer.  While I don't think he's ready for regular school yet, I know that I don't want to back track by placing him in the wrong special ed class.  So I sent an email to his social worker at school requesting that she call me to discuss this very thing.  I honestly feel so strongly about it that if they deny me the afternoon class I might pull him from the a.m. class and continue working on things at home and doing play group.  However, I know that they based their decision on where Isaac was in June so I don't blame them for putting him in the a.m. class.  It's just that three months later he's in a totally different place, and that's not momentum I want to lose.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  Needless to say I'm feeling a little ornery right now.  It did not help that Foods For Living and Meijer had practically no gfcf food on sale.  A bag of pretzels should never cost $8- no matter how good they taste while stress-eating on a park bench after pre-school orientation.  Yes, I was the mom in the gfcf aisle loudly remarking that "there goes your college fund, Isaac" while throwing a bag of Glutino pretzels into the cart today.  Sigh... more iced coffee, please.

The social worker just called knowing that I wanted to switch.  She agreed that it was a good idea so Isaac will be in the afternoon class tomorrow.  That was way easier than I thought it was going to be.  Apologies for any and all drama.  I'm still drinking too much coffee today, though.

Monday, September 5, 2011

We're ready

All of us.  Mommy, daddy, and Isaac are all ready for school to start.  My God, how slow can Labor Day go by?  I will miss summer and all of our fun family and play group trips and activities.  I will likely be griping about snow and wanting to slit my wrists to see some color in February.  But right now the cool air feels like a nice break from the air conditioning constantly running and making me sneeze.  It makes me want to break out my most obnoxious smelling Yankee candles, brew some hot tea, and sit down with a good book in our soon to be QUIET house.  I have all my usual back to school good intentions rolling around in my head- a diet and exercise plan, scrubbing my bathroom floors, painting my bedroom a color that doesn't make me feel trapped in a school bus, crafts, and more writing, of course.  I'm doubting any of these will happen, but I'll keep you posted nonetheless.

I'm feeling good about what we've accomplished this summer.  Isaac kissed the sippy cup goodbye, started consistently dressing himself and putting his shoes on, learned his letter sounds in less than a week, started spelling and simple math, and is getting better at conversation.  I'll take it.  I'll also take three hours a day to myself while my very bored only child gets some much needed structure, stimulation, and socialization.  It's funny how we went from worrying about a speech delay to listening to incessant talking.  I am grateful albeit tired.  With that I say bring on the school year and the falling leaves!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Phonics fixes and why I love the library

Every parent has the desire to help their child learn, but when your kid is a little quirky that desire is kicked up a notch to obsessive (or, in my not-so-humble opinion, it should be).  The clock is ticking.  No, not the biological clock.  If it is, I'm choosing to ignore it, because the KINDERGARTEN clock is ticking.  This is our year to tattoo Isaac's pre-school learnin' into his brain with the tap, tap, tap of repetition.  Right now you are probably picturing my poor child glued to a wooden school desk in our kitchen reciting the alphabet, it's sounds, and writing his name for hours while I stir gluten free gruel over the stove- sweat on my brow and apron stained.  Fortunately, I'm a little more fun than that.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I've noticed a few holes in Isaac's understanding of basic phonics.  Like that he thinks most letters make the k-sound, and doesn't always recognize the lower case version of letters.  And here we were, working on spelling simple words.  I don't know if you can sense it where you are, but I'm rolling my eyes at myself right now. Anyway, the resource fairy, God, the stars, or whatever you want to call it has, as usual, sent help to this mom to find some fun ways to work on these things.  First, I would like to thank Moose and Zee for coming out with a new game on right when we needed some lower case learning. The game is called Little Letter Playground, and specifically works on matching the upper case to the lower case letters.  Isaac loved it, and I could tell that it was helping him grasp things better.  Every time you press "play again" a new set of letters is brought out.  Try it, you'll love it.

Next, I would like to thank the other spectrum moms out there who leave reviews on products on to help guide the rest of us wandering sheep to quick yet informed decisions about purchasing things that "just might work" for our kids.  I was looking for a dvd that would help Isaac with letter sounds since videos draw him in.  Thanks to a spectrum mom's review we found the Leap Fog Letter Factory dvd.  Not wanting to spend any more money during an already indulgent birthday month, I checked the library and sure enough they had this and several other educational dvds I've been tempted to buy lately.  Two fun phonics fixes in one week that cost nothing?  Yes, please.

I will never cheat on you again, Okemos Public Library.  I am officially committed to you now that I've finally paid my overdue fines from last year.  Love, Libby Loucks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For the name's sake

It occurred to me tonight that this blog is titled Grateful for the Good Days, and that I should probably share some of my good days instead of just my unsolicited advice and thinly veiled complaints about life.  Today was a good day- though it did not start that way.  Isaac and I were supposed to go to a children's museum with play group friends, but that didn't happen.  I had to wake him up to get ready with my fingers crossed that yesterday's under-the-weatherness had passed.  He was in the bath when the melting down started.  Nope, not happening.  I was not risking a meltdown an hour and a half from home without my own vehicle to escape with.  The fact is, the past couple of weeks have been super busy and I think we Loucks are a bit run down.  We've made it the WHOLE summer with no more than allergies, so we were due for a little post nasal malaise.  So Isaac and I had a lazy snuggle day.  We even managed to work on lower case letters and letter sounds, etc.  But the whole day was filled with rest and fluids with the hope of this passing before grandma and grandpa Chambers get here on Thursday.  I think it worked.

By far the best part of the day was bed time- when Isaac decided to show that clever and very cute side of himself that makes me happy and hopeful.  This is the story I shared to my facebook friends, but thought I'd post here lest I start sounding like the troll that guards the bridge to the land of happiness.  I truly am grateful for this little boy and this very four year old moment:
Tonight while putting Isaac to bed Andrew came in and gave him a kiss. To me, "Daddy gave me a kiss. It had spikes." "Oh, yeah he probably needs to shave, huh?"  "Yes, then he'll be a BEAUTIFUL daddy! (insert hand flourish)" 
A few minutes later I asked Isaac what kind of dinosaur he would be if he could be any dinosaur in the world. "A T-Rex. Rawwrrrr!"  "Oh. Would you eat meat, then?"  "Yes."  I ask him what kind of meat he would eat. The answer: "Triceratops meat.  And mommy, you could be a spinosaurus and then you would eat triceratops meat too." I love bed time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Mantras

I will never understand the kind of pride that prolongs struggle in any form.  Yet we all take part in it.  The longer it takes to admit to a problem, the longer it takes to arrive at a solution.  As I've been setting aside some time each day to work on pre-k stuff with Isaac, I've noticed more than a few holes in his understanding of phonics.  There is always a temptation as a parent to believe your child is perfect.  And to me Isaac is perfect.  He just needs a little, or may I say, a lot of help with grasping certain things.  Like letter sounds.  How did we skip to working on spelling simple words without him understanding letter sounds or recognizing all lower case letters?  I'm guessing a little pride on the parenting side.  "We're fine! We're catching up!  Nothing to see here..." 

So I'm thinking I need to add another mantra to my growing list of ones that work for us, which already includes "You're four now...(insert expected behavior here)." And the soon to start again, "Remember, no matter who opens the number 9 door (at school), you still have to go in."  There is the always-helpful, "Remember, no matter how much fun you have, when I pick you up it's time to go home." The classic, "Use your words."  I need to add this one for myself,  "He's four.  He doesn't get X. We will now work on X before moving onto Y.  We will not get discouraged.  We will not feel guilty.  We will not compare.  But we WILL work on it.  Consistently."

End of story.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shoe team

The race to re-solidify our routines, social, and self care skills is on as school starts up in a few weeks.  It has been a baptism by fire of underwear untwisting, shoe putting on, button snapping, pre-k curriculum, and brushing up on our manners.  This year's campaign shall be built on the platform "you're four years old now".  I plan on milking that phrase from now until next August.  It under-girds every task we're working on with Isaac.  As in,  "You're four years old.  You can untwist your own underwear and put on your pants."  Or  "Four year olds use their words."  Or  "Four year olds put on their shoes or they don't get to go to the park." It's not that I haven't been working on these things with him all summer, but the urgency for consistency on my part has officially set in.  We have just under three weeks to take as much time as needed during the day to get him to get his shoes on by himself.  Preparing to leave for the library today meant three shoe tries before he got it right- only because he thought putting them on opposite feet was funny.  Twice.

At some moments, I think the words "I can't" might send me to my mosquito infested back yard to voluntarily sign up for the West Nile Virus.  But then the humbling words of my dad come back to me.  Those words are "shoe team".  I was a developmentally typical child and yet I had a "shoe team" every morning well into high school. The shoe team was made up of my parents tying my shoes while I sat on the stairs lethargically brushing my teeth.  I knew how to tie my shoes, but I was ALWAYS a sprint away from missing the bus in the morning.  The shoe team let me really spoiled.  Either way, memories of shoe team make me simultaneously less worried and more consistent in honing Isaac's self-care habits.

For the sake of consistency, the egg timer is back in our routine.  The egg timer has an authority that I somehow lack with my son.  I can tell him literally 12 times to do something and he'll still be dancing in his own little world- pretending lego men are bumble bees.  But if the EGG TIMER OF DOOM is set along with a not-empty threat about the consequences (no TV) of not being dressed by time it rings, he focuses as if he's dismantling a bomb.  Every tick-tock makes him less likely to say "I can't" and more likely to try to squeeze on his almost too small socks.  Which reminds me...       OK socks are now on my shopping list.

Social and pre-school prep are also on the menu over the next few weeks.  We are hitting up play group like it's our job, cruising the train table at the library for peer conversation, and flexing our educational muscles.  I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE the pre-school prep games on .  Among our favorites are:

I have to admit that these are a lot more fun and somewhat more effective than sitting down with a pre-school workbook for Isaac.  I secretly hope you all are scurrying to get ready for school, too.  I just don't want to show up with a lack of a sippy cup as our only summer accomplishment.  It might be pride, but even members of the shoe team can have a little pride, can't they?  Happy end of summer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Almost Four

I keep thinking that I want Isaac to be three forever.  He's at a point now where he is developmentally on par with his peers, but he is so innocent.  So sweet.  He's also just a couple weeks from turning four.  I know that as more time passes he will be less innocent.  He'll learn to be mean on purpose- like the rest of us did.  He won't be as fascinated by nature or the comfort of his teddy and turtle.  He'll experience ugly things and remember them.  He'll know that people die and that mommy isn't perfect and that our family is every bit as dysfunctional as the next.  He'll be disappointed with his birthday.  God willing, he'll watch us age and feel time move too fast.  And that is life.  Maybe he'll grow up and think that he is a little different and what that means.  Maybe he won't be so different after all.  Who knows?

In the meantime,  I'm going to stop watching Mad Men on Netflix because it's not so different from facebook.  And that's depressing.  If you've seen it, then you know what I'm talking about.  You're basically watching people's lives fall apart.  I'm going to FINISH Jane Austen's Emma and be very happy about the gfcf dinosaur cupcakes I'll be making soon and the four candles that will sit on top.  I'm going to relish the smile it brings to his face, and the knowledge that he will be excited for whatever we give him as a gift.  I'm going to be grateful for every innocent moment and the fact that my son isn't growing up nearly as fast as I did- even if part of it is due to his pdd-nos.  And I'm sure I'll be referring to this post as a reminder to myself of all my intentions of gratefulness and goodwill when he wakes me up much too early tomorrow morning, before coffee, and before facebook ruins any hope for humanity and happy endings.  Here's to another year of my little boy waking me up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reflections of vacation

Does this look like a picture of a kid with sensory processing issues?  Two years ago, Isaac freaked out on play ground equipment, looking very unbalanced.  While kids younger than him zoomed across the rickety bridge he stood in place frozen with fear and holding on as if experiencing an earthquake.  Last week Isaac went tubing behind his grandpa's boat.  This is a picture of him after he pushed his dad and uncle off the tube because he wanted to do it all by himself.  The water, noise of the boat, speed, wind, and rocking of the tube did not bother him in the least.  He loved every minute of his Lake Wallenpaupack experience, and so did this mom as I reflected on how different Isaac is today from the boy he was two years ago.

Also, every night before bed Isaac would go around my in-law's house and give everyone a hug good night.  This is the boy who would barely make eye contact, never mind initiate affection to a house full with relatives he hasn't seen in a very long time.  This almost four year old boy is everything I could have hoped for.  I'm proud of how far he has come.