Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lullabye and good night, already..before I lock you in a closet*

I used to have alone time. It was wonderful. Nine o' clock rolled around and my kids were in bed. Oops, sorry! You have five minutes until bedtime. No I can't help it, that's the rule. As though it wasn't within my control. And they bought it. Never questioned it, it was a House Rule, and they would obediently trot off to bed. I was blessed. Until this year.

My oldest daughter, at 16, thinks she can stay up as late as she wants. There are times I go to bed in exasperation, telling her to lock up when she's done. Mostly, she stays out of our way, so out of sight is out of mind. Mostly. Now my son, He Who Used to Sleep by 9, is up past 10 as well. Puberty may be striking, and it is playing havoc with his sleep schedule. He used to be up with the sun, now he actually sleeps in a few days a week. But he is also not tired at bedtime, and too busy to follow the slumber rules. Trying to get him off of video games or to stop reading a book is damn near impossible. And when I do finally get him to go to bed (tonight was quite after 11) he gets up at least five times.

Tonight was no exception. I was being tag-teamed by the both of them.Finally, after medicine to help JBug's bug bites, a question or three, she finally left us alone enough to get through the television show we had on DVR.(Doctor Who, thank you very much). By that time, it was midnight. AND…the dog needed to go out. Pause the show, again. Then JBear showed up,with a broken fingernail, and needed a bandaid. And shortly after that, he needed Advil because his legs hurt. And a bit after that, he needed a drink. And then the bathroom. And, of course, each time, we paused the show and waited.

I don't know about you, but my Mom Sense just cannot relax as long as I have a kid who isn't tucked in for the night. Call it obsessive, call it anxiety-prone, if you'd like. I call it being on duty, 24/7. And I cannot let go. I have tried. But Mama Bear just stays at the ready. Once the little cubs are safe in their dens, I relent, breathe deeply, and have a martini. Of course, if they don't get into bed before midnight… no cocktails for me. And no cocktails makes for a very unhappy mama.

And, as the old adage goes, "If mama ain't happy, well you can just get your butt back to bed or so help me God, I won't be responsible for what happens next." Or something along those lines. I could be paraphrasing, but that's how I remember it, anyway.

*I am only kidding about that last part. Mostly.

How about you? How do you get your "alone time?"Click and tell me in comments

T, who is up way too late in order to get some time to herself

Monday, June 28, 2010

When the whole world watches, you need to be fascinating

T, who probably fails, but tries real gosh darn hard

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What to do when you have a rigid kid

High-Functioning Autism can be a challenge in a lot of ways, but none so much as ridigity. The decision to support a cause or idea, beyond what would seem normal is familiar territory for parents of those with autism. Kids can be downright unreasonable. And of course, kids can be somewhat rigid. This is especially true of kids on the autism spectrum.

Some Examples of Autism Rigidity:

* interests or hobbies

* clothes they wear

* foods they eat or refuse to eat

* sensory sensitivities, such as noise, and textures

* unreasonable fears

Often when it occurs, a parent may feel blind-sided, since it feels as though it came out of nowhere. How perseveration gets started is one of Life's Great Mysteries. What causes a casual interest to become an all-encompassing quest? Why does a compliant child suddenly plant her feet and refuse to budge? Is it an internal dialogue? Is it media influence? Is it the cereal she had for breakfast? Whatever it is, parents are hard-pressed to stop the train once it starts. Sometimes, the rigidity comes from changes in the child's perceived schedule. This s very common in a child who otherwise isn't particular about their environment. A family member travelling; plans that change; a situation outside the realm of the child's "script." These are all opportunities for parents to practice their coping skills. Kids with autism simply don't bend well. It's true. They lock on to whatever is important to them at the time, and they will defend that position until either, you give in, or you deescalate the situation. In the case of clothes, a child may decide to only get dressed if one particular outfit is available. You have some choices then:

* You can find the outift, figure what the heck and live to fight another day

* You can cancel plans and let her sit around in her pajamas all day

* You can try to reason with her... and grow old in the process

* You can strongarm her and force her to bend to your will

Some days, it is easier to retreat. And in the grand scheme of things, it is often the best thing to do. No one wins a power struggle. If you force a child to sit down, she's still standing up in her head. It is easier to cooperate and find a solution than it is to force anyone to do anything. There will be time for teaching...in fact it is necessary. But the middle of a conflict is not the time to try to teach. They aren't listening, anyway.

Flexibility is Key

The point here is that by being flexible, even after the fact, you can frequently manage to bring a difficult situation back under control. Often with autism, the plan you make is the one that you have to break. Or, rather, rethink. If the plan is stone-cold, rigid, it will break, and it's not pretty when it does. Be open to change. Model the behavior you want to see in the child. Show the child, who cannot, at that moment, disengage, HOW to back down, and how to find a solution that everyone can live with. Change your plan.

It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that plans change. Kids with autism really like structure. They like to know that things are arranged the way they want (and often need) them to be. But, as the adult, it is much easier for your to be flexible than it is for them. The plans change because you get that the need is for a different plan. By tweaking the agenda, you can often avoid a greater meltdown. And isn't that what we all really want?

How about you? What have you found that works to "unlock" a stuck kid? Click here to share your wisdom!

T, who knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The only morning action I get is a hairy drooler

So it's 6:30 in the morning. I have just been awakened (rather rudely, I might add!) by a giant dog who just ka-thumped her paws on the bed to remind me that she has needs, too, ya know! Right now, her need is to pee. She ka-thumps back down, and waits, as patiently as a giant 5 month old puppy can while I wipe the sleep from my eyes and reach for my glasses. (and I was having such a good dream, too! Guess Johnny Depp will have to wait for another day). I trudge out to the front door, clad in my purple plaid flannel pajamas, dog in tow. And we grab the treats, (for after she "gets busy") her booda bone rope toy (in case she decides to chew on the leash) and the breath spray (in case the rope toy doesn't work) so that she can do her business.

In that short time, on our moderately busy residential side street, a few cars go by, beginning their morning commute. I am standing out in my front yard, my pajama-clad butt and flip-flops for all the world to see. But priorities are important, and mine is sleep. I don't care if people see at that time in the morning.Once she's done, we trudge back in, and being the absolute non-morning person that I am, we go back to bed. (Vampires? They learned to fear mornings from me.)

Fast forward to 8:30 a.m. or midnight… I kind of care. I care enough to want to wear jeans, but wow, how uncomfortable are they for just lounging around the house? I guess I could wear yoga pants, but the cotton gets kind of breezy, especially with our cool summer nights. Very much a first world problem, I know. Still, trying to find a solution has been frustrating. When the dog has to go, she has to go!


pajama jeans! Completely affordable, yet look snazzy.

These amazing pants that I wear the hell out of (no really, I am wearing them RIGHT NOW) are a lightweight pull on low-rise spandex jean. They have no zippers, and no seams, and I totally know what you are thinking, because so did I: retirement early-bird diner specials, right? But they don't look like your mother's jeans…they are stylish. And they are comfortable, feeling a lot like a pair of work out pants. Except? I can run to Target or Fresh & Easy and not look like I just stepped out of the gym. No schlubbiness here! I can even throw on some heels and head to dinner! But first, no doubt I will have to walk the dog.

T, who wishes mornings came LATER

I wasn't paid to write this,no one told me I had to, but was given a great pair of these jeans, that I really DO wear the hell out of, or I wouldn't review. I promise. AND? they are totally affordable, at only $39.95. WITH a bonus t-shirt!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And you thought it was only funny in 140 characters

When I am not here, on twitter or facebook, the other place that I hide is tumblr. You may not have heard of tumblr, but it's a micro-blogging site. Think: twitter, but with no character limit. You can post pictures, video, quotes, text, whatever your little heart desires. It is a neat system. But that's not why I stay. I stay because it is home to some pretty neat and creative people. People who make things. And this is one of the things they made. It is well-executed. It is funny. It is inspired. Watch and tell me what you think.

What if twitter came to life? Reenactments of favorite tweets. PG-13 for some words and subject matter. If you want to watch the second one first, knock yourself out. The second one is a bit better, I think.

Twitter: The Criterion Collection from sween on Vimeo.

And, because once was not enough:

Twitter: The Criterion Collection, Vol II from Jen Oslislo on Vimeo.

T, who wishes I was this creative

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Space: Mom's Final Frontier

I am starting a new "thing" here at Send Chocolate Now... vlogging! Yes, I, your intrepid hostie will be regaling you with my vim, vigor and viciousness silliness about once a week. Or so. If the kids cooperate. Or something.

Without further ado... Sweet Bits.

These are the voyages of the Mom. Her lifelong mission: to explore some time to herself. To seek out some peace and some quiet. To boldly do things alone.

Are you in?

Oh, and before I forget...what do you think of my new banner? I maded it all by myself. [insert praise here]

Sweet Bits vlog: Space, Mom's Final Frontier from sendchocolate on Vimeo.

T, who is new to this, so go easy on me

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to talk to a child with Asperger's without pulling your hair out...or theirs! (Part 2)

Continuation of Part 1, yesterday's post on how to talk to a kid with autism.

  • 3. Be HONEST. Just tell him you can't talk about that right now. That you are busy, maybe later you can discuss it. He probably won't be hurt by it, he will appreciate your candor. But if you tell him this, know he has the memory of an elephant and long after you have forgotten? He will find you.
  • 4. Play a game. I Spy, "I'm Thinking of a Word..." "When I Go To the Moon I'm Bringing..." these are all good choices. But don't be surprised if he kicks your butt. The kid has an amazing attention to detail and his memory will blow you away.
  • 5. Engage in an activity you both enjoy. Go to a ball game. Do a craft. Find time for one-on-one. Just know we are working on good sportsmanship to board games and video games...win or lose, he will shake your hand and say, "Good game!" Be prepared.
  • 6. If all else fails, shoot me a look. I will rescue you both. Under no circumstances be unkind to him...he will remember it. as will I

Remember that he is a work in progress. He is really trying. If he is having a hard day, let me handle it. Please don't judge my parenting, or question my decisions. I know my son, I know what helps him calm and what triggers him to fall apart. And realize that just because yesterday he had a conversation with you about physics doesn't mean he can do it again today. He may be able to...in fact, he probably can.

But, the difficult thing with autism is that it is different everyday. I continue to teach him, and he continues to grow. And really, that growth is all we can really ask of anyone. Get to know my son...or any kid with autism. I would bet you will find a great kid with a really unique way of looking at things.

Aspergers truly makes the world go around. Silicon Valley? High population of Aspergers Syndrome. Computer engineers? Electrical engineers? Scientists? Maybe one day that will be my son, because he can hyperfocus. (his father is a software engineer, you connect the dots)

My son brings a lot of joy to my life, simply because he looks at things so much differently than I do. If I kept him at home, you would miss the chance to experience this. And really, diversity, neuro or otherwise, really does make the world go around. See you on the plane. Or in the grocery store. Maybe at the library...

So this was what we did a couple of years ago...what do you think? What works in YOUR house?

T, who learned this all the hard way

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How to talk to a child with Asperger's without pulling your hair out...or theirs!

In an ongoing series, I have been posting some of my older posts, for new readers who have recently found me. (ok, you got me, I am just pressed for time. ;oD) In all seriousness, this is one of my favorite posts...written almost three years ago. hope you enjoy it.

The biggest hurdle that we face with my son's autism is that he looks so normal. There is an expectation for his behavior that sometimes he just flat cannot meet. But you can't see what is wrong with him at first glance. He isn't in a wheel chair. He hasn't lost his sight. Most of the time, he hears what you say. But he has a disability. I hate calling it that, but that is what it is. Yes, he has autism. That's not the disability, though. His disability, you ask? Peoples' attitudes. Judgmental women at the grocery store, and anyone who thinks he "should" know how to behave and that he is just the product of over-indulgent parents.

He deals with the attitudes of other children. Kids can be, if not cruel, just not understanding. They think he is weird. He talks funny, with more of a drone than other kids. Sometimes, especially when he is excited, he doesn't enunciate well. His topics go on and on. Frankly, many of his peers don't know what to do with him. It's hard. But you know what? He exists. He has a right to live a full life. I am not going to keep him at home because he might be a little strange in his talk about movie characters. He needs to learn how to interact with others, and some need to learn to be more tolerant. They can help each other.

The hardest thing for me to watch as a mother is to watch my son struggling socially to fit in. He tries so hard, is very gregarious, wants to engage people and interact. He just... isn't very good at it. Autism isn't a very good friend. Granted, I would imagine I am more tuned into his social gaffes than others may be. In fact, others seem to enjoy him. I am concerned when he is around other adults that he will talk their ear off and then get his feelings hurt. It worries me. I really try not to be, but I verge on being hyper-vigilant when he is talking to others, especially adults. (his favorite people to interact with). They talk about how sweet he is, and kind. And yes, he is all of those things. But he's also annoying as hell.

I have talked with him about possible conversational approaches he could take. We have worked and role-played in order to figure out the give and take of conversations and how they can be approached. We discuss non-verbal cues that show you someone has grown weary of the interaction and is ready to move on. But he just doesn't get it. It absolutely isn't his fault, and I cannot blame him. It is the way he is wired. Lessons, especially social lessons, must be gone over in depth. We have to work out possible responses. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. He will talk to me, and we have a great talk about science, or the weather or whatever we are discussing. But as soon as he is around someone other than me or his father, it all goes out the window.

In his quest to enjoy someone else's company, to connect with them socially, he forgets everything we have discussed and goes to one of three subjects: Video games (namely the new Indy Wii game which he will describe for you, in detail all the way to the 7th level, if you let him.) What? You don't have quite that much time? Well, of course, my son won't figure that out...that's where I come in.

He also will discuss Lego, the rabbit from Monty Python (and no he has not seen the movie, just a few YouTube clips) and whatever he is into that month as well. Guaranteed to make your eyes glaze over and have you thinking to yourself, "Just look at the time!" But, give the kid a break, he really does try. And he wants to interact with you. He genuinely likes you and he is likable, too.

Here are a few suggestions to make it less painful for you both:

How to Interact With a Kid Who Has Autism
  • 1. ask questions about things you are interested in. Get him to talk about what you want... lead the conversation. If he starts in on Indiana Jones, change the subject...make it something related. "Yes, Indy was a really cool movie, but what did you think of Wall-E?" "Really? What did you like about it?" If you steer the conversation, it will go more smoothly.
  • 2. bring someone else into the conversation, and throw my son a bone...er, rather, a thread of conversation that he and the other person has in common. Once he is talking to the other person, escape! Yes, I am mostly kidding with this one! Besides, he would just catch you...
Tomorrow...Part 2
how about you? What works in your house? Talk about it the comments.

T, who hopes this helps you with autism

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Friday, June 04, 2010

How To Show You Mean Business (Vote with your MONEY)

In 1989, an Exxon tanker, known as the Valdez ran aground in Alaska. The resulting disaster was one of the worst the U.S. had ever seen. Consumers were outraged. They cut their Exxon credit cards in two and sent them to the company. A week or two later, the C.E.O. Lawrence Rawl said, "In ten years, you'll see nothing." And in response to consumer outrage, he said that we would forget. He was half right. The effects on the Alaskan tundra are very much still felt today.

But Exxon didn't fold over it…the conglomerate is still in business. Exxon bought Mobil and is stronger than ever. But me? I didn't forget. I haven't bought gas at an Exxon since the day the oil was spilled. It wasn't that the spill happened, I get that "accidents happen." It was the half-assed way the company went about cleaning it, and the years-long litigation in trying to get the damages reduced. For over 20 years now, they have been taking it back to court, and reducing what was awarded in order to avoid being held financially responsible for the mess they made. Most of America forgot. But I did not. No Exxon, no Mobil.

Enter BP and the ongoing cluster!@#$ taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. Continually downplaying the amount of oil being spewed, BP has been pussy-footing around this mess since it happened. Executives are as distant as they can be. They claim they can't stop the oil that is gushing from the pipeline. And maybe not. But until we see the BP big-wigs standing knee-deep in muck with a toothbrush in one hand, and a bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid in the other, I will not believe they are, "Doing all we can." And as such, I choose to vote with my dollars, yet again. I am not buying gas from ARCO. I will not be patronizing AM/PM and I will steer clear of Castrol motor oil. All of these are owned by British Petroleum.

BP is known for over 8,000 disasters in the last twenty years. And what has been done about it? Isn't it time to say NO to profits over people? I think so.

Will it make a difference to BP? Perhaps not. But it makes a difference to me. Almost 20 years ago, George W. Bush made a mess of handling the Exxon oil spill. This time, President Obama will hold the perpetrators accountable. And so will I.

How about you?

T, who figures it should mean something

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Send Chocolate Now but not to my dog

Today found me, at 5:30 in the morning, lying sleepless, waiting for my dog to die. I listened to her breathe, and prayed it wasn't Parvo. For those who don't know, Parvo is an extremely serious disease in puppies. Attacking the digestive system, it causes bloody diarrhea and vomiting. It hits hard, it hits fast, and it has about a 70% survival rate. Puppies that are unvaccinated mostly die. Puppies that are vaccinated can still get it; Poppy is finished with her vaccinations. There is no cure, once the dog develops the disease. Hospitalization, I.V. hydration and antibiotics are about all that can be done. Then nature takes its course.

I remember when I was a kid, my brother had an amazing boxer puppy my dad brought home from a friend. The pup was about 5 months old, and developed parvo. It was horrific. He couldn't stand, he was shaking, bloody poop and vomiting a foul brown liquid. He was gone within 12 hours. So, with Parvo, time is of the essence, and I was panicked, waiting for the vet to open. I didn't want to overreact, but I was concerned. Earlier in the night, Poppy had very loose poops. On the kitchen floor. Then, the pup who has been sleeping through the night woke up twice, once at 3:30 a.m. to poop and again at 5:30 a.m. She didn't make it outside that time, she just couldn't hold it. Lethargic and not very hungry, she just laid on the floor.

At one point, she was sleeping so soundly that she didn't look like she was alive. I revisited that moment of horror I used to feel when I brought my newborn home for the first time, would wake up and think, in a blind panic, "The baby is not breathing!" Crib death was a huge fear for me. The fact that I had a friend with a newborn who died of S.I.D.S. made the possibility even more real to me. But, of course, they baby was always breathing, it was just hard to tell sometimes.

Enter today. I called my puppy's name, and she didn't respond. I fought nausea and panic, and shook her, and she slowly raised her head, looking at me blearily.

I called the vet, as soon as they were open, and we headed down there. It's a bit of a trip from here, but at that point, Poppy had perked up a bit, and I wasn't quite as worried. The vet did a test for parvo, for gardia (a parasite) and for cocchia. She was negative for parvo, and for gardia. Still waiting to hear about cocchia. In the meantime, we are resting her digestive system and she isn't happy with me, because she isn't able to eat. I gave her some of the broad-spectrum antibiotic that the vet gave us for her, and she seems to be doing a lot better.

I questioned what caused her stomach upset: new foods, a trip to the dog park, stress.

The mystery was solved when JBear found a small, finger-sized bag of mini m&m's that were mostly gone. Aha! Chocolate is anathema to dogs. It is toxic, due to the theobromine in it. They can get very sick, and even die from getting into chocolate. And I had been soooo careful, but we think she found this bag wedged in between the cushions of the chair. We have no idea when she would have eaten it, because she is watched constantly. But eat it, she did.

While I recognize that I probably seemed like a paranoid first time mama, I am still glad I took her in. Absolutely better safe than sorry when it comes to puppies. She is feeling better, still a bit droopy. And.. $250 later, that was one expensive bag of m&m's.

And how was your day?

T, who has all chocolate up high on a shelf

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Some Days Just Work

Today I:


  • a pinch collar for the puppy. (she does really well on walks, but every once in a while will pull quite hard, so I want to train her to stop doing that, it hurts)

  • a training lead, gives longer line for teaching the pup to come when called

  • a tie-out, for when we are in the front yard, so the pup can be with us, too

  • 3 birds of paradise, 5 asiatic lilies and some poppy seeds, some gloves, a kid's wheelbarrow, a dirt hauler, some gloves, a shovel.

  • a mission-style, glider bench for outdoors

  • a bbq grill, with and for JNerd.


  • two really good walks with the dog...training, she did well with the collar
  • a beauteous yard. No! Really, I did. I know, I have a brown thumb, but I am trying. Getting better!

  • a calming space with the assembly of the gliding rocker bench.
  • dinner. Or rather, I soaked the corn and dressed the sausages once JNerd finished grilling them.

  • three very-satisfied and relaxed children, courtesy of said bench. JBean was almost rocked to sleep on it. JBug used it to calm herself, and JBear sat outside tonight and read for a while.

I don't especially like the manual labor of gardening, but I surely like the results. And just looking at the yard now lowers my blood pressure. I didn't grow up with parents who had a green thumb. My mother worked full time and really didn't have the time to garden. Our yard was a horse pasture with...well, horses. In the summertime, the mustard plants would grow waist-high and my brother and I were charged with pulling the weeds that absolutely took over. It was back-breaking work, and I hated it. So, gardening left a sour taste in my mouth. Add to that, the fact that I was known for killing succulents, and I wasn't impressed with my gardening ability. It would appear, though, that I am getting better. Maybe.

Job well-done.

How about you?

T, who had a very productive weekend

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