Every household has rules.  Kids and adults need rules – to give us boundaries, define how we will interact with each other, and thereby provide a comfortable environment to live in.

Families with Autism, if they are anything like THIS family with Autism, likely have more rules… and certainly more interesting rules… than the families without Autism.  Our kids with Autism structure their worlds differently and so the rules must accomodate that… accomodate their perspective… and that can make for some weird strange unexpected interesting rules.  Rules that sometimes must be repeated again and again and again.

Some of the more interesting rules from the last month include:

(from me, after Christmas pageant practice at church) “Here’s a rule.  This is very important.  You do not sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in mouse language at the top of your lungs while everyone else is singing “Silent Night.”

(from me, while holding onto the dashboard in the car) “No one is to smell Daddy’s armpit while he is driving!  Do you understand?  NO ONE!”

(from our younger son (with Autism) while giving his order to a waiter in a restaurant) “Here’s a rule.  It is very important.  The chef must stir sugar into the recipe but NOT the poison!”

I particularly like that last one.  Any other “interesting” family rules out there?


God’s Bacon… or Bakery?

People often assume that my younger son (with Autism) is lost in his own world, not paying attention, and unreachable.  They make the mistake of dismissing him, ignoring him, and/or underestimating him.

Eventually he proves them wrong, often with hilarious results. 

Especially in church.

This last sunday our Pastor was at the pulpit, delivering a sermon around God’s plan for each of us.  I was in the choir loft, listening to Pastor (of course!) and watching my family sitting in the second pew from the front (right in front of the Pastor).  My husband and older son were sitting face forward, eyes up toward the pulpit, feet still, mouths closed.  Pretty typical sermon-listening posture.

My younger son was next to them, sprawled out on the pew, legs akimbo, fingers busy with a paperclip, eyes focused on who-knows-what on the floor, feet gently kicking the kneeler in front of him, lips and mouth working at some sort of silent exercise.  This is not typical sermon-listening posture.  But then, my son is not typical in many respects.

So Pastor is talking about God’s plan for us.  He says that God has our lives planned out.  That we need to trust in God.  His voice gets louder as he makes his points.  His hand gestures become broader.  He explains how this does not relieve us of all responsibility (“God’s plan, our hands”).  He gets louder and even more animated.  He goes on to say that we humans often feel such a need to control our destiny that people “sometimes … rush in thinking they need to save God’s bacon!” (gotta love Southernisms)

My younger son quickly and loudly pipes up with “WHAT?  WE NEED TO SAVE GOD’S BAKERY?”

Pastor quickly recovered from his surprise and said “Yes!  Can you believe some people think they need to do that?” and went on with his prepared text.  For a moment however he lost his audience.  Everyone else was laughing and twittering about my son’s cute outburst, asking each other if that was set up by Pastor, and amazed that a little boy was actually paying attention, much less THIS little boy who doesn’t look like he pays attention to ANYTHING.

Let me tell you now – he pays attention – and he picks up on a heck of a lot more than you think he does.

… and those gigles heard from the choir loft?  Those were from a proud mama who loves her baby very much and couldn’t help wondering if God’s bakery serves egg and bacon biscuits past 11 am.

Old Tummy

Recently I had an appointment with the doctor and I had to bring my youngest son with me.  While we were waiting (not so patiently) in the examination room, I leaned back on the examination table and my son (who of course insisted on sitting right next to me on the examination table) flopped across my middle and then lifted my shirt up to reveal my tummy.

     “No zerberts,” I told him, hoping to avoid the obnoxious raspberry sounds.

“Mommy,” he said as he looked up to my face. “Your tummy is old.”  He ran his fingers over my stretch marks.  “You have wrinkles on your belly!”  His face was all amazement and wonder.

     “Yes,” I said “I got those when I carried you in my belly, silly.” 

He appeared to consider this for a moment, then asked… “Do they hurt?”

     I sighed.  “Only when you talk about them.”

Here’s to all of the Moms out there with stretch marks and “old” bellies.  You wear badges of honor, ladies!!!

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 Folk School

OK – I have something to confess.  I love to prowl craft fairs and look at all of the beautiful handcrafted items.  Wooden spoons, needlepointed rugs, felted purses, paintings, corcheted Christmas ornaments, stained glass windows, knitted sweaters…  I dream of these things in my home, gracing my table, worn around my shoulders, feeling the wonderful textures… I admit it – I am a crafts junkie.

I also like to make stuff.  I especially like to feel like I accomplished something.  I MADE something.  Something with my hands.  That is so COOL!  Look what I did!  I need a creative outlet to help me feel balanced, especially after marathon doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions, IEP meetings and support group debates.  It helps me keep my sense of humor.

But I don’t really know how to do much that is “crafty”.  I can knit and crochet a little…  I can sew patches onto my son’s knee-holed jeans and turn pants into shorts (what is it with little boys and wearing out the knees in all their pants?).  I can do needlepoint.  I’ve sewn curtains and lined drapes and pillows.  I can hot glue felt onto a mask for a Halloween costume… but something of significant quality?  Not really.

But soon I’ll be able to say “Look what I did… and some people charge $500 for something like this.”

My friend Ms L and I are enrolled in a December weekend class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.  The Folk School “offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.”  How cool is that?  We are going to learn how to make a “Rug in a Tub” – a felted wool rug made using a wading pool or bathtub.  We are like little kids waiting for Christmas – so excited and full of great expectations.  What sort of design should we create?  Colors?  Where will we use our rugs? 

I can’t wait to share pictures of our adventures – and our rugs! 

Meanwhile, check it out–I’ve put a link to the Folk School under “Food, Entertaining, Crafts…” in the sidebar.  Lots of classes to choose from!  I’ve also put in a link to another friend’s blog (“Felt Like Knitting…”) – one who can really do some beautiful needlework.  She makes me jealous!

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!

Spring Break Musings 2

While on spring break on St Simon’s Island, we took to the beach one night to search out the sand crabs.  The two adults in our party who had grown up on the island swore that after the sun went down we would see so many crabs on the beach at high tide – we just needed to take a big flash light so we could see the crabs in the dark and avoid stepping on them.  We thought the kids would love it.

We strolled along the beach, sweeping the light to and fro, searching for the elusive crabs.  We kept walking… and walking… and walking.

“Where are the crabs?” one little girl cried.  “Why can’t we find the crabs?” whined one of my sons.  “Where are the @#% crabs?” asked a parent.

“I thought you said there would be hundreds of crabs out here,” a wife said to her used-to-be-an-islander husband.

“There are, there are, we just haven’t gotten to them yet,” he said.  The rest of us adults just rolled our eyes in the dark and kept walking while the children jumped and leapt with excitement.

Further on, one of the “former residents” stopped the light on a dark mass (which turned out to be a piece of wood) and the children huddled around it.  Out of the corner of my eye I spied something to the side of the crowd… could it be?  I stared hard, willing my eyes to sharpen their focus in the dark.  “Hey!  Over here.  I think I found a crab.”  They shone the light on my discovery and sure enough, it was a CRAB!  The children danced and the adults high-fived while one gingerly picked up the crab and put him in a large beach bag (we released him at the end of our walk).  We whooped and hollered (as us Southerners do when thrilled with life in general) and exulted in our success the rest of our walk.  We likely scared off all other crab wildlife (although we found a dead horseshoe crab, but being dead he didn’t seem to mind our noisemaking) as we didn’t see nary a one after that.

My children were so proud that THEIR mommy was the celebrated crab finder, that they felt the need to tell all others we encoutered the good news. 

My youngest shouted “My Mommy got crabs!” in the condo courtyard as we made our way back from the beach.  Some whooping and hollering came back in response from the late-night revelers on their balconies.

My husband, trying to cover his laughter, told my younger son that we should say instead “Mommy found a crab on the beach,” as this was more correct.  He told my older son that saying “Mommy had crabs,” wasn’t a nice thing to say – he would explain later.

We left our friends at their condo and I felt secure that the proud announcements and strange looks were over.  I was wrong.

The next morning at breakfast my younger son told his Grandma (who didn’t come with us on our beach adventure) that Mommy was on the beach and got crabs and that Daddy was trying to hush him because it wasn’t nice to say but that he thought it was really cool that Mommy had crabs.  He ignored our efforts to shush him as he proudly offered this up to his Grandma.  Once finished with his proclamation he beamed at me, pride spilling over in his eyes.

My mother-in-law raised an eyebrow and gave me a look as if to say “I suspected as much all along, missy.”