Am I A Drug Addict?

Our oldest son has health class in elementary school.  Each year the topic of drugs is included in the agenda for a week.  You know, the rah rah “just say no” and “drugs are bad” bit.  They even have a spirit week built around it where each day they wear something that reinforces the anti-drugs messaging – like wearing sweatpants for “It’s no sweat to be drug-free” day and wearing crazy socks for “sock it to drugs” day.  Fun stuff all around.

Don’t get me wrong… I am all for the anti-drug messages and I agree that they need to be integrated into the elementary school health classrooms.

But guess what was included in the list last year…

Yep… some things you would expect, like heroin and cigarettes…  These are definitely the easier messages.  Easy to reinforce.  Things that are clearly avoided in our household  Not a problem.  Alcohol?  While it was on the list and I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, it isn’t a constant thing, so it didn’t raise any eyebrows from my fourth grader.

Of course, with this generation, they’ve included prescription drug abuse.  This is a less easy item around which to demonstrate support, since we do have prescription drugs in the house and some are taken on continuous schedules.  You can imagine the discussions…

“Mom, you take that every day.  That means you are addicted.  My brother takes his meds every morning, so he is a drug addict too.”   

“Son, the doctor prescribes this for me so I can take care of my body.  It is a good thing.  It doesn’t mean that I am a drug addict.  Your brother’s doctor prescribes that med for him because it helps his body deal with some specific issues.  We take these for the right reasons.”   

Are you sure?  My teacher says…” and on it goes.  In fourth grade the world is black and white.  Shades of gray are tough to explain.  This drug abuse dialogue is particularly fun when my son starts it in the grocery store and strangers hear me trying to defend my drug use to my son.  Eyebrows raise.  Fun all around.

But guess what else is on the list?

Caffeine!  Coffee!!!  My beloved morning beverage has made the fourth grade health class black list!  Can you imagine the dialogue heard in our household?

“Mom, you drink that every day.  That means you are addicted.” 

“Son, I am not addicted to coffee.  I enjoy coffee in the morning.  That’s why I drink it.” 

“That’s what my teacher says.  People abuse drugs because they enjoy them so much they can’t stop.” 

Son, I can stop when I want to.”   I shudder as I recognize this oft used phrase.  It sounds hollow even to me, the caffeine user.   Wait.  Now I am thinking of myself as a user?!?  Then he tosses out the stinger.

“My teacher says that’s what drug addicts say when they are really addicted and don’t want to admit it.” 

Pause. 

Longer pause.

“What is your teacher’s email address again?”

Luckily my other son screamd for bathroom assistance at that moment (not in those words of course but I will spare you that Autism dialogue altogether).  It gave me some time to figure out how to resolve my fourh grader’s inquiries in a way that supported the anti-drug messages yet protected my precious beverage of choice. 

Oh yeah… and get another cup of coffee.

That’s So Old School

Recently my older son had a sleep over.  As his buddies were munching on pancakes the next morning they were “talkin trash” and comparing notes on a variety of topics–homework (boring), Brian Urlacher (totally cool), and girls (hot).  They were so funny (except for the “hot” comments – which strode somewhere between hilarious and nervewracking) – spouting opinions about this and that.  I just listened and kept making pancakes while they chattered away.

At one point a lull in the converstaion came.  To break the silence my older son said “Remember when we used to play Guitar Hero?”  This is the Wii game that has been all the rage for the last year, in case you haven’t heard of it (i.e. live under a rock).  It involves “playing” a guitar along with a band on screen – if you get the hand movements right along with the chosen song you get cheered on by the crowd, your band fees go up, and you get to go on tours.  If you don’t do so well parts of the song fade out, you get boo-ed, and you don’t make money with your band.  There are multiple versions of it now available.

I resisted the urge to break in with “You mean like 3 days ago?” while I poured batter on to the hot griddle.  I kept quiet to see what would be said next.  I wasn’t disappointed.

“Yeah” answered one of his guests.

“Yeah,” my son said, “that’s so old school!”  He shoved another big forkload of syrupy pancake into his mouth while his buddies nodded their agreement.

I couldn’t resist any more.  I put down my spatula and leaned against the counter.  “Son, what do you mean by ‘old school’?”

He looked up at me with his sweet freckled face and said “You know, Mom… been there ,done that…”

“Oh.  I see.”  I turned around and tried to stifle my laughter.  Where do they come up with this stuff?  This feined ennui and sophisticated boredom – at ten?  Heaven help us!

Pride In His Work

My youngest son has recently joined Cub Scouts.  Wolf Scouts to be specific.  He is thrilled to join the den and I am thrilled that he has an avenue through which he may make some friends outside of Occupational therapy sessions.

He loves the Cub Scout uniform shirt, he loves the idea of camping, but he is especially fascinated with the idea of earning badges (I guess this ties in pretty well with all of those behavioral positive reinforcement charts we’ve had over the years).  So, every couple of nights we look through the Wolf book and complete a few of the badge requirements. 

“Let’s go to my work now, Mommy.”

     “Your work, Sweetie?”

“My Wolf work, Mommy.  I need some badges!”

So we work on earning some badges.  The first was the “Family Fun” badge, then the “Duty to God” badge.  Accomplishing these requirements is a source of great pride for my son.  In a world where he is usually labeled as “behind” and “delayed”, where play dates are superceded by therapy sessions, and where he is starting to realize that there are significant differences between him and his typical peers, he has found a place where he can earn tokens of accomplishment just like other kids.  Tokens that mean something to his typical peers.  Tokens that show he can participate in their world.  These are a big deal, my friend.  They are proof that he belongs.  

As we mark off each item, he supervises my signature on each line to make sure I get it right.  “Very good letters, Mommy,” he says, repeating the phrase that we parrot night after night, encouraging him to mind his handwriting while he does his school homework.

The night that he finished these two badge requirements he made sure he included a report in his bedtime prayers… “I earned two badges God!  I did (what were they Mommy?)… I did the Fun badge and my Duty to you badge!  Are you proud of me, God?”

I think my son is proud of his work… and God is proud of HIS work, too.

The Exhibitionist and the First Communion Class

My youngest has been showing a great deal of interest in church communion lately.  He’s asking lots of questions, holding his hands out while the bread is distributed, and asking “but WHY can’t I have snacks too?” as we walk back toward our pew.

We’ve been talking with him about the Last Supper, what communion means, the Passover meal, etc.  He’s always full of questions and particularly likes to talk about Moses (one of his favorite people in the bible) and blood – how it gets into the cup for communion and all that.  Needless to say, he keeps us jumping!

Many of the kids his age at church have recently completed their First Communion class.  We had decided that this was not going to be the most effective forum for our son to learn about communion.  Instead a dear friend (Saint Beth) offered to conduct a custom class just for our son.  She developed the materials our church currently uses and knows our son pretty well.  She has a gift for working with children that just astounds me – and patience like you wouldn’t believe.  And she VOLUNTEERED (wow!).

So Saint Beth, our son, and I met at the church last weekend to talk about communion.  Early on we talked about history and Moses.  Frustratingly (for me), my son at first acted as if he’d never heard of Moses.  Then he decided he couldn’t hold back any longer about his favorite bible superhero and told us about God talking to him in the burning bush, the staff that was thrown to the ground and turned into a snake…  He was thrilled to be talking about these amazing feats and happenings.  Saint Beth followed his lead and they happily exchanged stories and observations.

AT some point Saint B asked my son if he had any questions.  Pleased with this adult who encouraged him to talk about the bits and pieces of the stories that HE found interesting, my son decided to introduce a new topic that was dear to his heart.

“Do you want to see my underpants?”

Saint Beth gently smiled, not sure where this was going but fairly certain that we were moving away from anything having to do with communion, gently answered “No.”

Hoping to entice her, my son said “They’re Go Diego Go.”  He didn’t add that they were his particular favorite pair AND had a glow in the dark design.

Saint Beth cocked her head to one side, smiled a bit broader now, and said “I don’t think so, but thank you for offering.”

My son, my sweet funny adorable child, frowned for the briefest second.  Then his face lit up as he thought of perhaps a viable alternative.  “Wanna see my Tushie?”

We couldn’t hold back the giggles.

Thank you Saint Beth!!!!  We love you and know that God is in us and with us all the time!

Crazy Elephant Stories

My younger son receives Occupational Therapy (OT) in school each week.  He has alot of sensory issues, gross and fine motor skills to develop, and of course tons of energy.  His school OT is a good professional and very creative.  She makes him work hard too – which he doesn’t always appreciate 🙂 .

At the last IEP meeting, the OT tells us the following story…

The OT, in preparation for our son’s session, “messes up” her room, turning chairs over, moving desks, taking books off the shelves and putting them on the floor.  She does this so that she can ask our son to put everything back when he first gets to the room.  This gives him some deeper sensory stimulation and helps him calm and focus himself for the work ahead.

Our son, walking into the room, says “What happened!  Why is the room so messy?”

The OT tells him that an elephant came through the room and moved all sorts of things around – she needs his help to clean up.  Our son, suspicious that an elephant didn’t reallycome through her room, but willing to play along, gives her a look and then starts to put things back where they belong.  After half-a-minute he stops, cocks his head, and says “I have something to tell you about the elephant and how he came to school to mess up your room.”  Clearly he has concocted a story to help explain this strange occurance.

The OT, wise to my son’s story telling stalling techniques, tells him that now is not the time to tell stories, now is the time to work.  My son tries again with no success.  Eventually the room is put back to rights and they begin a more traditional exercise.  My son is a bit perturbed but settles in.

At the end of the session my son is preparing to leave the room to go back to his regular classroom when he turns at the door.  “I want to tell you a story,” he tries again.  He is determined to tell a story!

“What about?” she asks.

He pauses for dramatic effect then raises his eyebrows.  “About the CRAZYOT,” and placing hand on hip he grins and says “and YOU are the OT!”  Satisfied that he has made his point he flounces out of the room (as best as a first grade boy can flounce) and makes his way back to his classroom.  At this point in the story we all laugh, shake our heads, and agree that our son has quite a personality and flair for the dramatic.

Thank you to all of the crazy OTs and STs and PTs who work with our crazy kids and us crazy parents.  We couldn’t get through this without you.  Thanks for pushing us a little farther so that we can all achieve our best – especially when the elephants charge through our lives.

Hallmark Untaps New Market? – Autism Greeting Cards

Ever walk through the greeting card section in your local mega mart and wonder…  With Autism diagnosis rates increasing, could there be a new angle for the greeting card industry?  Shouldn’t there be greeting cards to reflect this significant part of our lives?

Sympathy cards: I’m so sorry your child was just diagnosed with autism…

I Love You: I love you, Mom, even though I’ve never been able to tell you in words…

Anniversary cards: It’s been a heckofa year since your child was first diagnosed…

New Year’s cards:

– Another year, and your kid is still autistic???…

– Another year, and your kid still isn’t potty trained???…

IEP Thank you cards: Thank you for all of the double-talk, confusion, and aggravation from our last IEP meeting…

Congratulations cards:

– Now that you’ve spent your life savings on therapies and are entering bankruptcy we didn’t want this important milestone to pass without saying congratulations on destroying your credit rating…

– Congratulations on sleeping through the night!

Thinking of you cards: I know you never get to go out with your friends anymore, but we’ve been thinking of you and wish you were here…

Extreme Makeover cards: You and your life are so totally different now that you have a child with Autism… what a makeover!

Alas, none of these would take away the pain that comes with a diagnosis, but I sure could use these once in a while!  What other ideas are there for a new line of greeting cards?

What is Dinah Doing?

You know how you can get song lyrics wrong?  You know how funny it is when someone else does it?  Take my younger son, who insisted that this little ditty was the “correct” set of lyrics to a section of the kiddy classic “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”… 

“I’ve been workin on a railroad, all the livin day!

I’ve been workin on a railroad, jus a bass a dime away!

Can ya hear a wiffle owin, aye uh a eary ih a born!

um a uh uh uh uh uh dah, Dinah bow ya born!

Dinah Warsh and Blow,

Dinah Warsh and Blow,

Di – nah Warsh and Blo – o – ow!”

Rather than working on the railroad, I think Dinah opened the west’s first Cut’n’Curl Beauty Salon… but that is a whole other post.  Peace to all out there!