Welcome To The Weekend

What am I going to do if my son is still having tantrums when he’s full grown?

Today he threw a suitcase into the air, hit himself repeatedly, screamed, whined, shook, knocked over chairs and basically destroyed our front room.

I screamed at the top of my lungs too and now my throat hurts.  And of course, I feel like a failure as a mother because I lost my cool and couldn’t stop his behavior.

He made a weekend schedule yesterday.  This morning, he couldn’t find it.  That was the cause of the tantrum.

He doesn’t care about the ease of scribbling out a new schedule.  He doesn’t care that he is able to tell you everything that he wants to do today.  He wants the paper he made.  He is devastated that it’s gone.

Devastated, yes.

The aggravation for me is that he won’t look for it.  He reduces to tears, then escalates to rage, be cause I can’t find it.

It makes absolutely no difference to him that I have never seen it.  I don’t know what color it is or how big it is, and I certainly have no idea where he last put it.  He is just beside himself with anger and grief because I can’t produce it the moment he asks.

I turned his room upside down, looked in the bathroom and sifted through the piles and piles of his papers downstairs.  All of that and nothing.  No schedule.  No end to his meltdown.

It’s only 7:20 a.m. and I am already exhausted.

How is your week going?

P.S.  This was our Tuesday:

♣♣

Back Again

There were words missing from the word search in the little boy’s homework packet this week.

The words were listed on the bottom of the sheet, but they didn’t appear in the grid of letters above.  And the word “built” was backwards.

My son couldn’t handle that.  “No backwards!  No backwards built!”

He gasped that out through lumpy-throated, head-shaking moans.  Then he flew into a raging tantrum like I haven’t seen in a long time.

He ripped the paper into six pieces, wadded up the bits and threw them to the floor with a scream.

Next, he reached for the pencil bucket.

He used both hands to send bunches of sharpened projectiles into the air over his head.

Most of them rained down on the china hutch and computers behind him.  His scissors and the hole punch landed halfway up the stairs.

I snapped at him to pick up immediately.  He didn’t.

Instead, he up-ended a basket of his school papers and sent them sliding to the floor too.

I was mad and I yelled.  Nine years, and I still instantly feel like such a rookie in the face of his upsets.

I fought for calm and grabbed a piece of paper.  I drew a scale – one to ten – and tried to make him understand that the missing words on the homework sheet were just a “level 2 frustration” and not the “level 10 mad” he had just displayed.

He stared at me, a little catatonic, but with a spark of understanding.  I actually think he knew what I meant.  He watched in stillness as I taped the word search back together.

I talked to him quietly about his homework.  I told him we would put it away for now and try again tomorrow – maybe even make our own word search.  He seemed okay or, at least, distracted from his rage.

I stood up and I told him I was going to make dinner for daddy.  He had started drawing, so I left him at the table.

In the kitchen, I put on gloves to peel and slice some garlic.  I should have predicted it wasn’t the best night to do that.  He interrupted me on the third of ten cloves.

“I want to take a bath.”

It was a routine, even-tempered, and perfectly articulated announcement, but it was much earlier than usual and I wasn’t ready to go upstairs with him.

I showed him my gloves and knife and the cutting board too.  I even told him to smell the garlic, so he would know my fingers were too stinky to touch the shower curtain or the faucet, much less the shampoo bottle or his hair.

I reminded him that last night we talked about what a big nine-year-old boy he is and how he can take a shower by himself now.

He looked at me and started to shake.

Clearly, this was not the time to begin a new independence.  I cut the garlic faster and told him to wait a few minutes.  He couldn’t.

He started looking around for something to throw.  He used his arm to clear a binder and some loose papers off of the new glass topped dresser in the kitchen.  He looked at me and then turned back to the dresser and tried to push it over and the glass off too.

That was the final straw for me.

I yelled at him to stop, I pulled off my garlicky gloves and I followed him out of the room.  I was defeated and he had begun whining, slapping himself and flailing his arms back and forth.

He wanted me to come with him upstairs, but he was so mad and I was too.

I am embarrassed to confess that I lectured him all the way to the tub.  It really didn’t help or make either of us feel any better.  I am an ogre.

He got in, turned on the water and yanked the curtain shut.  I left the bathroom and went back downstairs to cry and finish the damned garlic.

I knew I had only ten minutes until he emerged from the shower, failed to dry off, and came dripping downstairs, expecting me to get pajamas for him.

That time limit made me cry even harder and chop even faster.

Sure enough, he came into the kitchen, naked and damp, just as expected.  I kept chopping.

He said nothing and left the room.  I heard the laundry doors open and could hear his little whisper voice talking about something in the hall.

I was weighted by his tantrum and couldn’t even muster a smile, but I had finished the garlic, so I washed my hands and went to get him the pajamas.

Much to my surprise, he was already in them!

Miracle.

He was even wearing a pair of shorts that he typically rejects.  He did it himself and he made a compromise too.  I was speechless.  Something sunk in…and it kind of melted me.

In the day’s sea of frustration and tears, my smart little boy extracted some useful tidbit and took a step toward more independence.

It may seem like a teeny step, but it’s big enough for me.

Happy Tuesday, indeed.

Good little boy.  😀

God, I’m tired.

Sigh.

P.S.  Look at the new hibiscus now…so pretty.  Thanks, husband.  🙂

♥♥

Right Back Where We Were

The little boy had a meltdown last night.

I didn’t plan our afternoon very well and we all paid for it.

I scheduled our contractor to come over around 4:00 to finish up the baseboards in the boy’s bathroom.

I knew he would probably call and say he was running late.  I was right.

Even when he told me he would get here at 5:00, I knew it might not be until 6:00 that the doorbell rang.

That’s just how home repairs go.  Everything takes longer than you think and if you’re the last stop of the day, you’re at the mercy of the delays in the job before you.

I get it, but none of it means anything to the little boy.  He just wanted to take his bath at the same time he always takes his bath.

But he couldn’t, because I wouldn’t let him go upstairs with the nails and broken boards and the man in there doing work.

I couldn’t let my kid strip to his birthday suit and take a steamy shower in the room where this guy was cutting and nailing and putting epoxy.

My son’s lips got twisty, his eyes filled with tears, and he started to knock things over.  First the little trampoline, then a foot locker in the front room.

Upstairs, the contractor was sweating away and probably hearing all of it, including my own deteriorating demeanor.

The whole situation kind of sucked.

Husband finally managed to get the boy interested in the bathtub in our room, but it was dusty and had to be cleaned because we never use it.

Once husband had wiped the whole thing out and filled it with clean soapy water, the little boy stepped in.

But he never sat down.  He had bubbles and water up to his knees, but the tears kept coming and he just didn’t enjoy the experience.

After a couple of minutes, he stepped back out and just stood there.  He was still very upset.

It was around 8:00 p.m. when our contractor finally left.  I walked him outside and apologized for what he witnessed as he worked.  He was gracious about it and even apologized right back for coming so late.

Back in the house, the little boy was finally settled into his evening computer time.  He was mostly over the disappointment of the bath issue, but his mood was volatile until time for bed.

I was already at the end of my emotional rope.  Today, I feel kind of numb from it all.  I went for a walk to clear my head this morning, but I really just muddied it further.

There is too much to do, no one to help me, and I am tired.

The boy’s upsets take everything out of me and leave me defeated sometimes, especially when there is anything else dragging me down.

My lovely Pasadena weekend seems like such a distant memory.

♣♣

Routine No, Tantrum Yes

At the peak of a tantrum, the little boy slapped my husband across the face this morning.  Not good.  He hasn’t hit either of us like that in quite a while.  One step forward, two steps back.

Our routine is upset this month.  Valentine’s Day, my illness and injured eye, changes at school, pressures at husband’s work, personal finance issues, all of that has left us on edge.

Our son is craving structure that just isn’t there.  We’re all craving structure that just isn’t there.

Amazingly, the little boy did actually go to school today.  We got there late and we should have joined the line of tardy students waiting outside the office for admission slips, but we didn’t.

My kid can’t handle waiting in a line, so I took him straight to the classroom.  I opened the door, kissed him goodbye and pretty much just shoved him inside.

They had already started music time, so naturally he began his school day with yet another tantrum.  I watched through the window as he flailed his arms and made it perfectly clear he was mad at anybody and everybody who would listen or look.  I walked away.

I took a big load of guilt with me and paraded it in front of my friend as we had breakfast, shopped a bit and sat for coffee this afternoon.  My friend was very sympathetic – about the boy, about my puffy red eye, about all of it.

Now I’m home for a few minutes before I have to go get the boy again and my body is caving in to the pressure of the melancholia I’ve been fighting since 8:00 a.m.  I dread whatever the aide will surely tell me about my son today.  It can’t be good.

At least there’s only one more day before we get a long weekend.  We need that time to put some order into our house, our routine, our laundry, our dishes, and maybe even our diets.  All of it needs an overhaul.  Good old fashioned spring cleaning, that’s what’s we need, for our closets and our psyches.

I’ll let you know if we manage to do it.

Happy Wednesday.

P.S.  Husband got a new car.  We’re a completely Nissan family now.  No more Mazda lemons on our tree and that is a very good thing.

♥♥

Today Started Well

We got up, ate breakfast, dressed, packed a lunch and left the house in plenty of time to stop by Vons for our daily visit to the light bulb aisle.  The little boy was happy, cooperative, bouncy and singing.

Things were good.

Or rather, they were good until we left the store for the remaining mile and a half drive to the school.

We were behind a bus, we couldn’t see well, the fog was thick, and the traffic lights weren’t working.  None of the left turn arrows ever went green, so we were delayed much longer than usual.  Cars were backed up all the way down the street and some of the drivers ran the lights in frustration.

In a word, it was chaos – thick and foggy, aggravating chaos.

And inside the car, it was growing even worse.

On a normal day, the little boy has issues in traffic.  He starts to shake when I slow for a light, and if I stop, he has a meltdown.  I’ve written about all this before, but today was the worst of all.

He was so distressed that I could feel his pain on my body.

He threw everything in his reach.  He kicked and he shook.  He screamed, he moaned and his burning red face was wet with sweat and tears.  He was like a small animal in the clutches of a predator, writhing to get free, crying in agony.  It was unbearable to witness.

And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do, because a week ago, I got that stupid ticket and now I have 450 fat dollars trumping my survival instincts.  So I sat, and watched the other drivers go.

My child was tortured by that mile of delay, absolutely tortured.

The bus finally pulled ahead enough to allow us an exit to the other lane.  I took the chance and altered our route.  That upset the little boy even more.

By the time we finally arrived at the school, I think he was in shock.  I just don’t think he could cope with such a hopeless lack of control over his environment.  It damaged him.

I shut off the car and climbed into the back seat to give him a hug.  At first he wouldn’t let me, then he relinquished and even seemed to need it.

It took almost thirty minutes for him to recover and it became painfully clear in that time that school was off our agenda for the day.  Just an hour before, he had been excited about seeing his friends, and now, he wanted nothing to do with them.  There was no convincing him.  I have learned better than to waste my energy with that battle.

I was really at a loss for what to do at that point.  I didn’t want to suggest we return home because I knew he’d never leave the house again and I’d be trapped all day, hopelessly out of control of my environment.

Luckily, a good friend called to remind me that we had agreed to have coffee today.  She was wondering where I was.  I told her the quick and distracted version, but said I would be there shortly, with the little boy in tow.  Her eight-year-old son is autistic too, so she gets it.

When I told the little boy where we were headed, he actually seemed relieved.  A new destination had perked him up.  He had no issue with any light in the three miles to the coffee shop, but I didn’t bother to revisit the possibility of returning to school.  That ship had sailed and isn’t due back until tomorrow.

Coffee was pleasant.  My friend gave the boy two quarters to buy fish food from the vending machine.  He happily threw the food into the pond, bopped back and forth across the little bridge, and entertained himself quietly while we chatted.  When my friend and I began comparing notes on homework and curriculum in the boys’ classes, he even seemed proud to show her how well he has learned to “borrow the one” in subtraction.

The change in his demeanor was miraculous.  My friend is always surprised when I tell her how bad things get at home or in the car or in other places and situations that she doesn’t see.  He’s a dreamy little angel when we’re with her.

The rest of the day went fine, but I do have to share a few other autism behavior highlights for your reading pleasure.

After coffee, we went next door to Borders.  The store is closing and everything inside is on sale, even the fixtures.  Since I’ve been wanting a world map for the bathroom wall, this seemed like a good day to get one.  Sure enough, it was only three dollars.

I carried the long roll with me to the front of the store and got in line to pay. To hold the boy’s interest and keep him from wandering, I lightly tapped him on the head with the map and made a ringing sound.  He giggled and snatched the map from my hand.  I moved to protest, but he charmed me with a sweet little smile.  I smiled back as he imitated my gesture and tapped me on the head.  Except it wasn’t really a tap.  It was more like a whack.  And then he took a step forward and did it to the woman next to me too.  😯  😕  😳

Before we bought the map, we breezed through the children’s section to see what was left.  The short answer to that question is “not much,” but we spent a few minutes there anyway.  When I reached for my son’s hand to lead him toward the other side of the store, I found his fingers occupied by a small silver kaleidoscope.  In the other hand, he held a glittery plastic recorder and a rubber rainbow ball.  Clearly, I had not seen him reach into the mark-down toy bin.

A little baffled by the sudden appearance of these items, I told him to choose one and put the others back.  (I’m such a softy.)  He chucked the ball.  Then he put the recorder to his lips and blew a note.  I thought he would keep it and toss the kaleidoscope, but he dumped them both and walked away.  Maybe this is a comment about my behavior more than his.  I didn’t go back to clean the recorder and I wasn’t going to buy it if he didn’t want it.  We already have three others.  So, if you buy a plastic recorder from Borders, you might want to give it a little bleach bath before you give it to your kid.  Not that my son is germy.  I’m just saying he’s probably not the only one who did that, right?  Yuck.  French-kissing strangers.  That’s just like French-kissing strangers.

As we headed away from the kids’ stuff, another mom came in with her toddler son.  My little boy seemed fascinated with hers and that fascinated me.  Though separated by a foot and a half of height, they locked eyes and seemed almost to be dancing as they made room for each other in the aisle.  They circled one another and smiled.  When the toddler peeled his gaze away and searched again for his mommy’s familiar face, my son’s eyes followed him to the end of the shelf.  I wish I knew what my kid was thinking as he whirled around to watch the little one leave.  So curious.  Like many children on the autism spectrum, my son isn’t often so comfortable making eye contact.  In fact, he frequently prefers to stand behind the people around him and it’s clear he does so to avoid their glances.  This open, engaged interest in facial expression and body language from a younger child was encouraging to me.

Of course, it was tempered by the map thing.  😐  Although truly, even whacking that stranger’s forehead is sort of a good sign, right?  He’s getting more social.  No?  Am I reaching?

We ended our outing at Carl’s Jr.  Not my choice, but when the little boy craves a certain food, I pretty much get it for him.  He had eight chicken stars.  That’s a lot for him.  A lot.

Today started well.  And then it stopped.  And then it went again.  I’m still thinking about how it ended.

Here is your daily dose of the evil deed doers.  And by evil deed, I mean rot.  Squash rot, don’t you know?  The most amusing part of today’s photographic tour?  The fact that there are pumpkin plants sprouting three feet from the dying Jacks.  I can’t remember if we sprinkled this year’s seeds in that spot or if these are late sprouters from last year’s uglies.  Either way, it cracked me up to see them there.  Because I know how much you all love my pumpkins.
Enjoy!

And please, leave me a comment why don’t you?  🙂  Nothing delights me more than a message informing me that someone cares enough to write.

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Happy Thursday!

P.S.  It occurs to me as I wrap up this post that I neglected to express how disheartened I am that our neighborhood can’t support Borders enough to see it survive.  Certainly, we have Barnes & Noble and a Goodwill Used Bookstore close by as well, but my heart tells me this is a sign that the world is moving too quickly away from the printed word.  While I am all for technology and how far it goes to bring literature to those who might not otherwise have it, I remain convinced that there is a magic to reading actual books that can’t be had from a cold hard gadget.  There’s just something about the way that the book paper feels in your hands that is different and more charming than a Kindle (or whatever). Just my humble opinion.

P.P.S. WordPress doesn’t yet have a method for excluding individual photos from a slideshow or gallery, so that foggy bus pic is everywhere.  My apologies.

P.P.P.S  WordPress formatting options suck today.  😦  Weird alignment bugs me.

♥♥