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A New Experiment

As I’ve noted before, I often feel like I’m conducting experiments in  how I raise my child.  Connor is not typical, nor is there any clear way to treat autism.  Thus much of how I parent is based on trial and error, collecting data, and performing experiments.

The new experiment for this summer is trying out a typical preschool.

Observation: Connor has entered a stage in his development in which he is mimicking classmates and other children he comes into contact with.

Problem: Given that Connor spends the majority of his time with other special needs children, he has begun to mimic symptoms and problematic behaviors of these other children.  His language also stopped developing, keeping it on par with classmates.  Connor has displayed frustration and displeasure in attending his regular special day class.

Hypothesis: Being around neurotypical children will encourage Connor to use more language and develop typical social skills, while reducing problematic behaviors.

Proposed Method of Research: Connor will attend a typical preschool, with a developmental program, two days per week.  Connor will also engage in extra curricular activities with typical peers, such as swimming lessons, play dates, and unstructured social environments (ie playing with unknown children at parks, beaches, etc.).  Connor will continue to attend special day class two days per week, as well as participate in a reduced ABA schedule, regular speech therapy, therapeutic horseback riding, and physical therapy/gymnastics.

Findings: TBA

Obviously when I was mulling over the problems and possible solutions in my head, my reasoning was not so clear and scientific.  In fact, I distinctly remember telling Connor’s psychologist that a large part of why I wanted to conduct this experiment during the summer was that I had “a gut feeling” that this was the right thing to do for him.  I’m hoping the science will back me up!

For the most part, at least in the most current research, the benefits of inclusion seem to outweigh the possible problems, but there are still causes for concern, still reasons to worry.  The recent research encourages me that this is right move for Connor, who is on the high functioning end of the spectrum.  And so far, Connor seems to be loving his new school! In class he isn’t speaking to much, and he has had a few frustrations, but at home I can already see some positive effects.  Just in the week since he’s started, Connor is using full sentences and spontaneous language more often than before.

Now maybe this is just a conincidence, and maybe it’s not.  Only time will tell.

Here are some articles on the benefits of inclusion:

Why Inclusion Benefits all Kids:

http://www.parents.com/blogs/to-the-max/2012/11/06/uncategorized/why-inclusion-in-classrooms-benefits-all-kids/

Benefits of Inclusion:

http://www.ehow.com/info_8656410_benefits-inclusion-preschool-children.html

Maryland Department of Education list of Inclusion Benefits:

http://olms.cte.jhu.edu/olms2/3841

 

The Conception Game

Similar to the dating game, the conception game appears to take a lot of preparation, but in the end, it’s just a guess.

Or at least it is for me.

My cycle is not what anyone would call regular.  It never has been.  That’s why I was on birth control for 14 years!  The only other time I’ve willingly gone off birth control was with Connor’s surprise conception….while I was on birth control.

Also like the dating game, this conception game feels very awkward.  I spent so many years trying to avoid getting pregnant that it seems now counter-intuitive to attempt conception!  Sure it’s what we want and what we’ve planned for and our lives are in a very good state right now to have a baby, but there’s this little voice inside me that keeps screaming “NO! Think of all the things you’ll be missing for the next 10 months!!! Think of all that wine waiting for you!”

I do love wine.

But the bigger part of me wants a baby.  The louder, larger voice sends up dozens of prayers each day asking for a baby, any kind of baby, just one for me.  I bargain, I plead, I try humbleness, but really it’s all just prayers for the same thing: a baby.

So I’m charting.  I monitor my cycle with the intensity of micro-biology engineers.  I also run through various symptoms every day: are my boobs bigger? is there any cramping? any food aversions? nausea? unnatural tiredness? overly frequent urination?

But on any given day I seem to have all of these! My boobs appear to be larger, but then they seem larger every month when I near the end of my cycle.  And yes there is cramping, but I also have cramping during PMS.  I am tired, nauseous and peeing frequently on any given day, pregnant or not! I have a 4-year-old who drags home every disease known to man on a regular basis.  So I could be pregnant or I could have the flu.  I could be pregnant or it could be PMS.  I could be pregnant or I just worked out after getting 4 hours of sleep due to my tossing and turning preschooler.

All that amounts to is that the symptoms don’t tell me anything.  I have to test.  So I start testing 10 days out, then 7, now 5, and still nothing.  With every test my hope rises to an apex, only to crash back to earth.  I have wasted more tests in the last two weeks than in the rest of my life combined!  Hope keeps me going, fear keeps me from testing today.  I’m afraid of being disappointed again, despite the fact that my rational mind knows that it’s still a little early to test, that I might not know for certain until the day my cycle is actually set to end.

But screw my rational mind! Seriously, I hate being rational.  I just want to have a positive test today.  Stupid game!!!

Le sigh….

Ok, I’ll try rational again now.  Here are the facts I remind myself of when I feel like marching into the Doctor’s office and demanding daily blood tests:

1. I’ve only been trying to conceive for two months.  Two months! That’ s nothing.  That’s just peanuts to the universe.

2. I already conceived once without even trying, so the chances of a second conception are good.

3. I haven’t reached the end of my menstrual cycle yet so I need to cool it.

4. It’s summer and if I wasn’t pregnant that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing what with 4th of July and BBQs and baseball games, etc.  Not a bad thing at all.  In fact it would be nice to enjoy some sushi and Kirin on a warm night, something I couldn’t do if pregnant.

5. I have my hands full with my ASD son.  Adding a possibly difficult pregnancy (if my last one was anything to go on) and a baby to the mix will be a challenge.   So there’s really no rush.

But like the dating game, I can choose to ignore the good candidates, the ones with reasonable answers and polite tones, and go for the bad boy with the attitude who makes no rational sense whatsoever.  I’ll try to pick one of those nice guys and stay on the stress-free side for a while, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Warmth

When I was awoken today by a warm stream of pee in my face, I tried not to take it as an omen.  I really, really tried to rationally accept that these things happen and not view it as the cherry on top of an incredibly challenging week.

As a mother I have been peed on in the past, of course, as all parents have been at some point.  There was the infant pee that decorated my clothing, the toddler pee that sprang out when diapers were pulled off, and of course preschooler potty training pee.  All of these I accepted as part of my training as a parent.  They were stories I shared with millions of other parents.  There were badges of honor…almost.

But this morning, when I was awoken from a deep disturbing dream about Connor’s therapist confessing he wasn’t sure about the choices he’d made in his life (my subconscious is confusing), I just couldn’t accept this pee with the same nonchalance.

Some time around 3 am, Connor crawled into bed with me and began taking his pajamas off.  I sleepily (and wrongly) assumed this was because he had perhaps wet himself or just finished using the bathroom.  I didn’t really care, honestly, I just wanted to go back to sleep.  Connor’s nudity doesn’t phase me as it’s his prefered state of being.  He wanted to be naked in bed?  Fine.  Just let me go back to sleep.

In the three hours between then and 6 am Connor managed to work his way up the bed so that his body was wedged between the pillows and his head was pressed against the headboard.  At just after 6 this morning, Connor’s little penis was aimed perfectly at my face just in time for him to pee on my left eye, cheek, and nose.

Thankfully my subconscious didn’t translate this peeing into something in my dream like a warm shower or a squirt gun fight, but alerted me right away and allowed me raise my hand to block that warm steady stream after just a few seconds.  However, in my opinion, that was a few seconds too many.

Considering how I’d awoken, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the morning that followed.  After I got out of bed to wash my face, I decided it was safer to go sleep in the guest room where, although the sheets were cold, the bed was dry.  I wanted to catch just a few more minutes of sleep before wrestling Connor into the school routine after a two-week absence.  But Connor sensed my absence and came looking for me.  Apparently walking naked around the cold house was enough to wake him up, since he proceeded to climb in bed with me and snap the straps of my camisole while I tried to sleep.  Awesome.

But you know what, I got him out of the house and on the bus.  I’ve walked the dogs already.  Now I get to spend my day doing laundry in silence and watching reruns of Law and Order, while Connor struggles through his first day of school in 2013.

It may not be very nice or parent-like to say this, but neener neener neener!

Conducting the Home Orchestra

On days like today I always feel like being a stay-at-home mom is something like conducting an orchestra.

When I was a full-time working single mom (which according to Romney might drive Connor to engage in gun violence–sorry for the politics, but come on! that’s funny!) at the library and Connor was at day care I didn’t so much conduct as scramble.  Every day was a challenge to get things done.  And many days things just didn’t get finished.  Laundry piled up, dinner was composed of various take out orders, the household disarray grew larger daily, to-do lists grew longer instead of shorter.

Now that I’m stay at home I try to keep on top of everything.  The laundry is done when the bins are full.  The pantry is always well stocked.   Home-made food fills our fridge.  Being at home full-time with Connor in school full-time actually gives me time for projects of my own…sometimes.

After saying all that I want to clarify that things don’t always go so well.  Having an autistic preschooler means that there is a lot (A LOT) of chaos in my life.  Whether it’s getting no sleep from anxiety fueled nightmares or having to constantly rearrange our daily schedule to fit in all of the ABA therapy sessions, speech therapy, mandated parent education, etc.; life is still pretty hectic.  Plus I volunteered to be Connor’s room-mom and I spend way too much time on Pinterest late at night, meaning I think being room-mom=being Martha Stewart (if only!).  That’s all on top of trying to run the house like it’s my job, because well it is my job!

I’m a librarian who is currently a stay-at-home mom.  If I’m not making sure my house is being run darn near perfect, then I feel like I’m failing at my job.  I don’t earn a paycheck so I feel like I have to earn my keep by running this house like it’s going to be in Better Homes and Gardens next month.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  Mostly because my house is older than I am and has never been remodeled.  I don’t think Better Homes and Gardens is going to do a piece on my nearly counter-less kitchen and ancient oven!

But I digress….

In order to achieve my goal of having my home run like a well-oiled machine I need to do a lot of work.  Gardeners, housekeepers, handymen, all need to be directed to fix/clean/maintain various aspects of the house.  Errands and chores have to be coordinated to maximize efficiency.  Meals are planned way ahead of time, recipes researched, preschoolers duped into eating healthy things (sometimes).  Dogs are walked, fed, cared for.  Fiances are well fed, well dressed, well-loved.

So sometimes I feel like I’m conducting like this:

Good days

Like today! I coordinated a new housekeeper, discussed winter and spring plans with my gardener, met with a sprinkler inspection, dropped off 12 pumpkins, 12 trick or treat buckets, and 12 glow sticks for a preschool project, and managed to get some shopping done!  Boom baby!

Other days tend to go like this: they start out well but somehow slip out of control and you’re just happy to be at one piece at the end!

Here’s hoping we have more well conducted days than days like Merlin!

 

Bad Day Made Better

Last night was yet another night of nightmares, anxiety outpourings, and early morning wakeups.  Since returning from vacation Connor has been plagued by bad dreams.  Though he can’t communicate to me what these dreams are about, the fact that he clings to me, crying, whimpering my name clearly communicates that these dreams focus on my leaving him again.  It breaks my heart.

So this morning is not going well.  I’m exhausted.  I have a headache.  I’m downing enough caffeinated beverages to replace my blood stream.

But there is no amount of Tylenol and Diet Coke that can help me be the mommy I need to be.  I just have to muscle through and keep my unraveling patience in check.

To make this bad day better I’m taking a little me time, just a little.  In between doing the dishes, folding laundry, replacing burned out lightbulbs (which is oddly one of my least favorite chores, I don’t know why, but I really hate it), and various other household tasks, I’m taking a few minutes to sort myself out.

Here are my top three treats for today:

 

I ordered this dress on sale about a week ago and it came today.  Yay!  It’s a little dressy for running errands, picking up Connor from preschool, and sitting through therapy, but it makes me happy.

I bought the new Jason Aldean record.  It literally came out today.  It’s a little predictable, a little run-of the mill, but it’s familiar like slipping on an old sweatshirt.  I’ve been listening to it on repeat.  Country music makes me smile.

I booked a ticket to Chicago to see my little baby nephew, Baby N!  And because I had a voucher from American for screwing up my vacation, I could afford to book my return flight in first class.  FIRST CLASS!!  Oh yeah!

Well, my alone time is almost done now, so I’m off to get my baby boy and enter the whirlwind of preschool emotions.  But I already feel better.  And I know we’ll survive today.

Off And Away

Well last week was just awful. I managed to contract one of the worst flu viruses I’ve ever had. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for two days. The rest of the week I managed to pull myself around in order to do some bare bones mothering, but other than that I was in a serious, committed relationship with my bed.
And when I say one of the worst flus ever, I’m not exaggerating. I had fever hallucinations! For a short amount of time I came alive in the book I had been reading. It was horrifying! Thankfully that lasted only a few hours. I joyfully returned to my horrible state of illness to escape those terrible visions. The rest of the time I was simply miserable.
Neither Connor nor I would have survived without my mother and the fiance. Though Connor would have been happy enough to skip school all week, he would have been upset trying to feed himself for those days.
And then it was my birthday.
I was so sick all week that I forgot it was even my birthday a few times. I normally love my birthday and get very excited making plans. This year I barely mustered enough energy to go to dinner.  I appreciated everyone’s kind birthday wishes, as well as the gifts from family and friends. And then I happily slept for 12 hours. Best. gift. ever.
Now it’s the day after my birthday and I’m heading to Grenada in a few hours. So, yeah, I’m exhausted but excited. There is a ton of stuff to attend to that fell to the wayside this past week that will simply have to wait a little bit longer. I’m off to recuperate on a tropical island.
Maybe when I return it’ll actually feel like fall around here. I’ll rescue my super-mom cape from the bottom of the sewing pile and life will get back to normal, or at least as normal as we get.

Sickness

Nothing quite says back to school like getting sick.  For whatever reason, Connor seems especially susceptible to the various germs flying rapidly around the preschool.  I’ve been told that preschool is the worst because it’s their first time in school, surrounded by other children, essentially changing the classroom into a cesspool.

And I don’t know about any other mothers out there but I feel especially guilty (I saw especially because I seem to have a pretty consistent level of guilt running through me at all times) when the school nurse calls me to pick Connor up from school.  This has happened three or four times since he entered school last April.  The call always starts with whatever is wrong with Connor, which immediately terrifies me, and then manages to somehow imply that perhaps this illness/rash/horrible diarrhea was happening before I sent Connor to school that morning.  I am then racked by self-doubt.  WAS IT??  Did I simply miss the signs????  Or even worse, did I ignore them????  AM I THE WORLD’S WORST MOTHER?!?!

(Granted Connor’s autism makes it impossible for him to tell me if he’s feeling sick, but that never factors into my guilt level.)

I always end up driving like a bat out of hell to get to school, plagued by the belief that I purposefully sent my sick child to school and therefore imparted a miserable day on everyone involved with him.  I curse any red lights or pedestrians that get in my way! I silently stew over the injustice of traffic laws!  I wonder if the nurse is timing me in my trip to school…Am I being judged on the amount of time that passes between phone call and pick up?  And before you say anything, just because it’s paranoid, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I usually jog across the parking lot, trying not to look like the hot mess that I feel.  Bursting into the office, the school secretary has to remind me every single time to sign Connor out of school.  Every time!  I’m sure this makes me look even crazier.  The signing in process is also time stamped, just one more reminder that it took me eons to get there.

By the time I get back to the nurses office, I’m frantic.  But every time I find him there, Connor is sitting placidly in a tiny blue chair, playing with trains, and waiting for me.  Sweeping him up into my arms, the nurse begins to tell me what is wrong, what happened, etc.  I usually only hear about a third of what she says as I’m too busy looking over my boy to pay attention.  I nod me head, mutter uh huh a couple of times, and make a bee line for the door.

My raging guilt provides Connor with whatever entertainment he desires.  My poor child is sick and I, his monstrous mother, forced him to go to school.  I’ll make it up to him with endless episodes of My Little Pony and popsicles.

The aftermath of these sick from school days is always a lingering self-doubt.  He seems fine, do I send him to school?  Am I capable of judging at this point?  To assuage my guilt-doubt combo and please my little boy, I keep him home.  Sure, he’s tired and cranky, and maybe there are some lingering symptoms, or maybe they’re all in my head.  I just don’t know.  I JUST DON’T KNOW!!!

At this point if the fiance hadn’t stepped in and announced that Connor needed to go back to school, I think I may have just kept him home indefinitely.  Finally someone with a clear head and an even emotional keel made a decision.  I was only too happy to abide by it.

And wouldn’t you know it, when I dropped Connor off at school this morning, there were no tears, no whining, no trembling lip.  He simply walked up to his classroom aid, took her hand, and waved goodbye.

I’m pretty sure that if motherhood doesn’t drive my crazy in the next few years, nothing ever will.