Waking up to Chaos

Some days I wonder what it must be like to wake up slowly, to smell coffee brewing, to stretch my limbs and welcome the new day with open arms, to spend a peaceful morning nursing a cappuccino and reading a book.

Instead, I get this: SLAM!!!  BANG!!  I awaken with a jar, heart pounding, and sit upright.  Then I flop back down and peer with bleary eyes at the clock.  6 am.  Peter is awake. Time to hit the ground running!

That’s Peter.  It’s all or nothing with him.  When he wakes up in the morning, he may lay in bed for maybe five minutes, but then he is like a hurricane scattering noise and debris across his path.  There are no quiet mornings in our house.  Like EVER. 

This particular morning was no different.  Except that I was tired, having stayed up late painting rocks for my new Etsy shop, Alleluia Rocks.  I’m having a super time with this new endeavor, but I find myself staying up later and later, and that’s not a good thing when you have a Peter in your life.

So this morning I was in a bad mood.  Stayed that way until I got to work and looked at the photos scattered around my office.  I focused particularly on the ones with Peter as a newborn.  I couldn’t help it; my heart melted.

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He was such a precious baby, and his brothers loved him at first sight.  We had no clue, of course, what lay ahead for him and for our family.  The developmental delays, the autism diagnosis, the therapies, the adjustments, the uncertainty of the future.  The LOUD MORNINGS.  Back then, it was simple.  Three boys.  Mommy and Daddy.  That’s it.

So I adjusted my mood and remembered that I am blessed.  Yes, I still wish for those carefree days.  I still wish for a peaceful morning every once in awhile.  I always will.

But I still have my 3 boys.  Mommy and Daddy are still together.  And we even have Athena The Dog now!

Who needs silence to enjoy a cappuccino anyhow?

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Here we are last Saturday when we marched in the Columbia Christmas Parade with the local Adopt-A-Greyhound group!

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Top 10 Stress-Inducing Phrases You Hear in Our House

You will often hear some pretty crazy things in our household. We say things we never thought we would ever utter!  Some of the exclamations induce immediate stress. Here are the Top 10:

10.  “He’s naked again!”

Peter likes to take his clothes off when he is hot.  Who can blame him?  He does not have a care in the world if anyone sees him naked.  I envy such freedom!  (Not that I’d prance around the house naked, but… you know what I mean!)

9.   “Hurricane Peter has struck again!”

This could mean any number of things, all of which serve to induce stress.  The bedding and mattress all over the floor.  Fluff all over the floor.  Books and ripped out pages from books all over the place.  Drawer knobs unscrewed and hidden within black holes throughout the universe.  Socks as well.  You get the picture.

8.  “Don’t chew on that!”

Yeah, we need one of those push-button thingies that automatically yells “Don’t chew on that!” when we need it.  Because it gets old saying it again and again.  As in, about 133 times a day.  Peter will chew on pretty much anything that should NOT be chewed.  Clothing.  Toys.  Books.  Drawer pulls.  Window blind strings.  You name it.  Luckily, he does not swallow these things but rather leaves them around the house in various states of pulpy chewed-up-ness.  Very nice.

7.  “Uh oh.  Is the pantry locked?!”

This is always a concern when most of us are upstairs and Peter is “playing” downstairs.  He seems to have a sixth sense about being alone downstairs.  He makes a beeline for the fridge or the pantry and stealthily grabs snacks, takes them into the guest room, and proceeds to produce an alarming amount of crumbs on the guest room bedspread.  Which leads to the next stress-inducing phrase:

6.  “Get the vacuum cleaner!”

This one is self-explanatory.

5.  “Where is Peter?  It’s too quiet.”

If you realize you can’t hear Peter’s noises (iPad mixed with happy/unhappy vocal sounds), you are in trouble.  As with the sneaky pantry behavior, if Peter is quiet, he is doing something BAD!

4.  “Oh, my gosh!  When was the last time we took Peter to the potty?!?!”

Also self-explanatory.

3. “Why do I hear the bathtub running?!”

At odd times, Peter makes his way into the bathroom, gets into the tub (fully clothed) and turns on the tap.  Why will he not get himself naked for that?!

2.  “Peter!!  What the heck did you do NOW?!?!?”

Yeah.  This one is heard way too often.  Just when you think all is well with the world, someone in the family yells this.  Mostly you don’t what to know what he did.

And the NUMBER 1 stress-inducing phrase (said by a device, not a person):

1.  “No Internet Connection.”

If you see this on Peter’s iPad, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

 

Words from Peter – Holidays PART 1: HALLOWEEN

NOTE: This is the first of a series of insights on the holidays from Peter’s point of view.  It’s what I imagine Peter may be thinking during the hustle and bustle of a season that normally brings peace and joy. I am hoping this helps people to understand the problems autism families face during family celebrations and community events.

Last week I had to wear a spider shirt to Academy.  Mommy tried to put a hat on me and a different shirt and pants but I didn’t like those.  Hats make my head feel funny and I do not want anything on my head.  She said, “This is a doctor costume, Peter, it’s fun! You should wear it!”  But I don’t know what is a Costume and it was no fun and I did not want it.  Also I do not like doctors.  They have scary silver things they stick in your ears and mouth.  I did not want to have on a doctor shirt.

At Academy my friends and teachers all looked different.  I did not like it and I wanted to run out the front door.  I said “All Done” on my Talker but nobody listened.  My teachers looked wrong with scary shirts and funny colors and one person even had a tail!  People do not have tails.  That is not right.  I do not like monster faces either.  People should not have monster faces.  I do not like it.  We walked around to different rooms and my teacher told me to say “Trick or Treat” on my Talker but I don’t know what Trick is and I did not want to say it.  But I got a chocolate candy so that was happy.  I did a jump.

Mommy says that tomorrow is Halloween.  I think I remember that word.  I do not like it.  Everything is strange and different.  Mommy and Daddy try to put scratchy different clothes on me and I do not like it.  People have bad faces and there are scary noises and it’s dark outside.  I ride in the wagon and I want my iPad but Mommy and Daddy don’t let me have my iPad and I have to get out and walk up stairs and ring doorbells.  I do not understand why we do this.  Why do I have to ring a doorbell?  I do not want to say “Trick or Treat.”  What is a trick?  I like some treats but only if they feel good in my mouth and I do not like new treats.

Why can’t I go inside the houses when they open the door?  I don’t understand.  I want to see inside.  I see stairs and kitchens and TVs but they don’t let me go inside.  I want to go home and play with my iPad.  But we have to go up and down outside in the dark on our street.  Other people walk too, but I can’t see them good and I’m scared.  This is not right.  I do not like this.  This is different.  I do not like different.

Mommy will give me a chocolate so that is one happy thing.  But one happy thing is not like many, many scary and different things.

I do not like Halloween.

This is the last costume/hat that Peter tolerated for any length of time.  He was 2 years old.

Locked Out!

NOTE: Having just read Bridget Jones’s Diary, I shall write post in manner of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

October 26, 2017. 

Number of times have rung doorbell: 5,322 times. V. Bad

Number of rocks painted: Nil. 

3:15 pm:  Have just picked up Peter from Academy and shall head straight home as Thomas must stay after school for Student Council.  Husband will pick Thomas up later.  This is V.G.  Chance to have nice quiet afternoon painting rocks in manner of Buddhist Monk. 

3:17 pm: Realize “nice quiet afternoon” does not exist in household so must amend expectations. Will plan to give Peter bath and start dinner before painting rocks in manner of Buddhist Monk. 

3:45 pm:  Arrive home, get out of car, and hear dog whimpering inside.  Dog must need to go to potty.  As Peter also needs to go to potty, hurry to carry various items from car into house, get Peter out of car, hurry back inside, and let dog out back door.

3:47 pm: Standing on back deck watching dog, I hear SLAM! CLICK!  Pray I have mis-heard ominous sounds and turn slowly to look at back door.  Back door is closed.  Back door is locked.  AGH! V. Bad!

3:48 pm: Panic sets in as scenarios race through brain.  Peter needs to go potty.  Peter is alone in house.  Pantry is unlocked.  All room doors are unlocked!  MUST GET INSIDE NOW! Rattle door knob frantically and shout “Peter, open the door!” quite loudly, in manner of Drill Sergeant.

3:49 pm:  Dog has returned to deck with expectant look at door.  Peer in door window.  Can see Peter sitting on living room chair.  He looks at me.  He looks at dog.  He looks at iPad.  Ignores my shouts to unlock door.  I look down at dog.  She looks at door.  Peter looks at us both.  Ignores us.  GAAAAHHHH!

3:52 pm:  Okay, must stay calm.  Calm.  Deep breaths.  Am calm like zen Buddha.  Think of options.  Garage is closed.  No windows are open.  Do not have phone as phone is inside on kitchen counter.  Do not know if neighbors are home.  Even if neighbors are home, do not remember any important phone numbers as numbers are stored on phone.  Which do not have.

3:55 pm: Decide to try going to front door and ringing doorbell.  Peter does not like doorbell, so have hope he will want to stop annoying sound.  Make way to side gate to head to front of house and STOP.  Side gate is padlocked.  Padlocked?!  Why?  WHY?!  Why is back gate padlocked? GAAAHHH!!!  Does husband think padlock on 5-foot fence will stop burglars?  Does husband think padlock will keep greyhound from jumping 5-foot fence?  What is POINT of padlock?!

3:59 pm:  As do not know combination to padlock, have decided to leap over fence in single bound.  Or get chair from deck and climb over fence in manner of clumsy awkward clown.  Hope there are no neighbors watching antics.

4:01 pm: At front door.  No sight of boy.  Proceed to ring doorbell 5,322 times while yelling “Peter!  Open the door!  PETER!!!”  Might have mumbled curse word or two.  Or five.

4:06 pm: Am just about to head to neighbor’s house when see Peter coming down stairs.  He looks at me.  He looks at iPad.  He looks at me.

4:07 pm: Have inspiration.  “Peter, do you want a cookie?!” I yell.  EUREKA!  Peter comes to door and fiddles with lock.

4:10 pm:  Peter cannot turn lock.  Are you kidding me?  He is Houdini Boy.  He has unlocked all child-proof locks in existence.  Now cannot turn bolt lock?!!  GAAAHHH!!

4:12 pm:  “Turn the lock HARD, Peter! Turn it HARD!”  Am beyond caring if heard by neighbors.  Have turned into sweaty mess.

4:15 pm:  CLICK!  Hurrah!  Hurrah!  Peter has unlocked door!  Rush inside, hug him, and say, “You did it!  You unlocked the door!”  Then yell at him for locking door in first place.  Then hug him again.  Then yell again.  Now must…OOH! Telephone. 

4:30 pm: Was husband. Hung up phone after quite long rant beginning with “Do you know what YOUR SON did to me?!” Realized did not ask husband why he called. Also forgot to ask PURPOSE of PADLOCK. V. Bad. 

10:33 pm: Did not have quiet afternoon painting rocks in manner of Buddhist Monk. Never have quiet afternoon painting rocks in manner of Buddhist Monk. Am painting rocks, though, finally.  Is a start.  V.G.

 

The Autism Parent: An Untapped Resource for the F.B.I.

Considering the amount of time it took me to find the source of the fluff in Peter’s bedroom (2 weeks), we can safely conclude that I fail at the art of investigation.  However, it has recently occurred to me that there is a skill set, heretofore unpublicized and sorely underutilized, that falls within the repertoire of virtually every autism parent that I’ve ever met.

“Huh?” you ask, quite intelligently.  “What skill set?”

“STRATEGIC, OPERATIONAL, AND TACTICAL LOGISTICS,” I answer.

It’s true.  While every parent has some level of logistical skills, the autism parent learns (real fast!) to develop those skills to military level.

I shall describe what I mean below:

Continue reading “The Autism Parent: An Untapped Resource for the F.B.I.”

The Case of the Reappearing Fluffballs

Yesterday I spied on my son.  Turns out I’m no Nancy Drew, because I did NOT solve the mystery.  Back to Spy school I go!

Let me explain.  Peter’s room is basically the only “Peter safe” room in the house.  My dear Dad turned the bedroom door into a barn door, whereby we can lock the bottom half and leave the top half open.  In essence, we are able to lock Peter in his room for short periods of time (don’t judge) and still be able to hear what he is doing.  Mostly.

You may note that I put quotation marks around the words “Peter safe,” above.  This is because as soon as you think you have a room Peter-proofed, he immediately proves you wrong.  It’s his talent.  Case in point: Last week he discovered his window shades and proceeded to gnaw on the little wooden knobs attached to the ends of the cords.  So I cut them off.  This week he has discovered the joy in lifting and dropping the shades with the cords, over and over.  Slam!  Shades down.  Whoosh!  Shades up.  You get the picture.

Continue reading “The Case of the Reappearing Fluffballs”

That’s When it Hit Me

Scene Heading: The First Time I Realized My Son’s Disability Was Obvious to Others

The Setting:  A Christmas party at my sister’s house 4 years ago.  It is late in the evening.   The party is magical, as it always is whenever my sister is hosting.  The atmosphere is festive, jovial, full of the spirit of the holidays. 

Peter, at age 4, is scurrying about “doing his thing,” playing with his iPad, jumping up and down with excitement, making happy sounds, eating his favorite chips and pretzels.

I am standing in the kitchen, smiling at my son’s obvious happiness, when I notice a woman – a stranger – staring at Peter.

The Dialogue:

Me:  Hello.  I’m Laura, Maria’s sister.

Woman:  I figured that out.

(a beat)

Woman: What’s HIS problem? (nodding towards Peter).

Continue reading “That’s When it Hit Me”

Just One of Those Days

A few days ago I had a conversation with a tennis friend about the troubles she has been having with one of her children.  Later, she texted me to apologize.  “I’m sorry I was so negative,” she said.  “I know that in the scheme of things, this is minor… sometimes it just feels big.”  I told her she didn’t need to apologize, and that we all have good days and bad days.

I know what she was feeling, though.  Probably guilty for complaining, for not being perfect.  I know, because yesterday this is what I posted on FaceBook shortly before falling into bed with exhaustion:

Continue reading “Just One of Those Days”

The Tracker Jacker

This post has nothing to do with the dreadful, genetically-modified tracker bees in The Hunger Games.  Instead, it’s all about a tracking device that Peter wears on his ankle that we call his “Tracker Jacker.”  We think it sounds cool.

I’ve written about this before in my blog post about safety.  But I wanted to place special emphasis on this particular safeguard, in light of so many recent articles about kids with autism going missing.

Continue reading “The Tracker Jacker”

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