Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oh, Hi! I Didn't See You There

Like I do at the beginning and end of just about every semester, I disappeared there for a bit. You know the drill--I'll tell you I'm sorry (I am) and that I'll try not to let it happen again (even though we all know it will).

ANYWAY, for today's post, I present a little photo essay I call: "Life at the MOE House in Four Pictures."

Picture #1

You know, once we got out of that infant diaper stage, I thought we'd never buy another tube or tub of Aquaphor ever again. I mean, there's petroleum jelly and coconut oil, not to mention all sorts of organic and natural remedies for irritated skin. Besides, the kids have all developed those tough outer layers that come from summer days playing in the sun and sand and winter days in the snow and cold. But then we experienced the Great Chapped-lip Extravaganza of 2014-15. So, after months of trying just about everything with limited success, in an act of total desperation, I dug out a tiny long-forgotten tube of this stuff from the bottom of Stow's old diaper bag and gave it to Sky. 

It worked immediately. 

I guess this just goes to show you that A) if it works on a baby's butt, it will work on lips (eeeww), and B) sometimes it really IS better not to clean out the diaper bag (but, other times it's not, so I am totally leaving that decision up to you).

Picture #2

One of the things you learn when you have a kid on the autism spectrum is that sometimes lining toys up can be a bad thing. Every parent questionairre we answered about Sky asked us if we'd noticed such behavior. We hadn't, of course, because we hadn't suspected autism or known that such behavior can indicate lack of flexibility, inability to adapt, or poor imitative play skills. Now we know, though, so every time Stow comes up with one of these lines of toys, I panic just a smidge. The crummy part is that all toddler/preschoolers put their toys in a line from time to time, so it's difficult to tell. We're pretty sure Stow's just making an emergency vehicle parade here. I mean, the kid has some awesome creative play skills and our walls have enough dings in them to attest to his tendency to drive these cars and trucks all over the house. My heart still skips a beat every time I come upon a scene like this, though. 

Picture #2.5
In my defense, here's a comparison from Sky (with his Lego mini-figures circa 2011). Of course, we just kinda thought he liked to look at them all (which was true), but it turns out that these are in a specific order, and back then, if you moved them, he would insist on "fixing it." I didn't pick up on this AT ALL until one day when the OT working with Sky rearranged a couple of these guys when Sky wasn't looking. While he didn't freak out, Sky did nonchalantly put them back in the exact same order no matter how many times the OT moved them. Later, the OT asked Sky to close his eyes and tell him which guy was where in the line. Sky promptly listed the guys in order, by set, based on the date they entered our household.

So, yeah, I'll be happy when Stow outgrows this particular toy-lining phase.

Picture #3

If you've been reading this blog much at all, you know that we are always and continually on a quest for a system of reward that is intriguing enough to motivate the kids, flexible enough to meet our varying disciplinary needs, and simple enough that I don't completely fall off the wagon by the third day. A friend introduced the marble jar idea to me. I mean, I've heard of marble jars before, but this one is different. This is our family marble jar. Each of us has a different color. Good choices earn marbles. Bad choices lose them. When we hit the goal line, we'll decide on a shared activity to do in celebration. Here's why I like this (and why I think it's working so darn well): the kids have to work together to reach the goal. Instead of getting on each other's nerves and egging each other on, they have started to help each other earn marbles. The marble jar has even motivated them to look for the good in each other (in hopes of scoring a marble on their sib's behalf). Because Ren and I can also earn (or lose) marbles, they have started to think about (and understand for the first time) the ways he and I help out, too. It's pretty awesome, and I hope their enthusiasm lasts until the end even though that milk bottle is A LOT bigger than it seems.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Ren earns most of his marbles by refraining from farting during dinner. I'm thinking of having t-shirts made: THE MOE FAMILY: Keeping it Classy So You Don't Have To.

Picture #4

Speaking of classy. This is a picture of Ren's Saturday-morning breakfast. Notice the Ghiardelli mint-filled dark chocolate on top? When I saw this, I knew that he had finally crossed over to the dark side. I mean, I can't imagine any other Japanese person I know eating this for breakfast. I'm not sure whether I should be proud or just a tad disturbed. 

An interesting but totally relevant side note: I moved this scrumptious-looking bowl of food up into the cabinet so that our resident human vacuum/ninja child wouldn't get his hands on it. Ren didn't find it until a few days later. When he did, he ate it, though. Maybe that's the part that should disturb me....


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On a Scale from 1 to 10...

One of the ways that being on the autism spectrum impacts Sky's life (and therefore the rest of our lives) is that it is much harder for him to figure out what to do with his emotions. Whether he's feeling good or bad, it's easy for him to slip into the extremes. So, one moment he can be gnashing his teeth questioning his very existence and the next jumping giddily around the house. Regulating  emotions can be difficult for any kid, but for Sky, it's an active daily struggle to keep it together and to behave "appropriately." I've written about his meltdowns in the past (here, here, and here among other posts), and he can still fall apart like no one's business. But, lately he's become much more interested in trying to figure out how to get a handle on this.

For about 9 months now, we have been working with a play-based behavioral therapist who turns out to be a perfect fit for Sky. Her willingness to work with all of us to understand how his challenges impact the whole family paired with Sky's increased motivation to make things better have yielded some amazing results.

In their last session, they came up with this.

Click on the picture to enlarge it. Trust me, you'll want to get the full effect.
This is a visual cue chart that Sky created to help him be more in tune with his feelings. In making it, he had to think about how to articulate and graph his various emotional states. Now that he has this poster, he's trying to use it to keep himself aware of where he is on the scale and to think about different strategies for avoiding going above level 6 (and what to do if he does). The first night, of course, that meant that every two minutes he told me what number he was "just so [I] would know." Admittedly his verbal play-by-play got a little annoying, but, as time passes the goal is for him to shift from extrinsic control mechanisms (i.e. other people helping him manage his emotions) to intrinsic ones (i.e. he recognizes when he's getting into the hot zone and makes the necessary adjustments on his own). The first step is this chart, which will hopefully become a go-to tool to help him cope with the wide-range of emotions we experience in everyday life. 

In case you can't read it, here's how the chart breaks down (and my commentary because I just couldn't resist):

1-3 Great, controlled, fine. These faces make me laugh because I'm pretty sure they are direct copies of the pain chart he saw on the wall at the pediatrician's office the last time we were in. 
4-5 Mad, controlled, angry. By number 5, Sky is moving away from his pain chart inspiration and into unchartered ground. 
6 Freaked out, controlled, keeping feelings inside. You guys, I love number 6. This is where Sky finds himself a lot. The good news is that he really does try hard to keep his growing frustration inside. The bad news is that it's still really hard for him to do that, so sometimes this stage lasts for about a millisecond before he slips into 7-10. 
7-10 Totally lost it, hitting, yelling, etc. These pictures speak for themselves, but I do want to note that 90% of the time Sky hits levels 7 through 10 either his sister is bugging him or he thinks his dad or I don't understand what he's trying to say. On the bright side, this means we know exactly where we still need to do some work!
Sky was thrilled when I asked him if I could show this to you guys. "I love it when I can tell people what it's like to be me!" he said, grinning. He really does love to help.

Me? I love it that he tries so hard and that he keeps fighting the good fight--kinda like a superhero. This has been our theme song lately. Between the back and the allergies and the autism, maybe these kids ARE superheroes. Either way, I think I'll keep them!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Resolutions are for Sissies

New Year's resolutions are for sissies. At least, that's what I am telling myself so I don't feel quite so guilty about being SUCH A TERRIBLE BLOGGER!

Suddenly weeks have passed, and I have failed to write about ANY of the things I could have written about. Of course, the thought of trying to catch everyone up makes me panic to the point of becoming unable to write anything at all which leads, in turn, to the guilt of failing to entertain you with my witty stories about (let's be honest here) practically nothing. To avoid all of that, this year I have decided to use bullet points to give you a list of the things that might have been worth writing about had I actually had my act together for two seconds.

  • The kids got pictures with Santa not once but TWICE this year (which is good because we completely failed to pull that off last year, and because this year the FIRST time they saw him Ren FORGOT TO TURN ON THE AUTOFOCUS ON HIS CAMERA EVEN THOUGH I'M PRETTY SURE THAT'S WHY WE BOUGHT THAT CAMERA TO BEGIN WITH).
  • When Santa asked Sky what he wanted for Christmas, he replied, and I quote: "That's okay. I'm gooooood."
  • It turns out that being ten at our house means you don't want anything from Santa, you're old enough to stay up late on Christmas Eve and work like a proper elf, AND you're finally tall enough to shovel snow effectively. Who knew?
  • Pink got a dollhouse for Christmas. It is taller than she is and probably should have been put together first, when we were all still fresh and full of energy from Santa's cookies (and not last, after midnight well after we'd come crashing off of our sugar high). Maybe next time I will look at the specs before ordering. It WAS on sale, so there's that.
  • Hiding mini cupcakes on top of the refrigerator in the back behind the gallon of distilled water and the cast iron tea pot STILL doesn't prevent our resident three-year-old night crawler (well, technically 4:30-in-the-dang-morning crawler) from finding and consuming them, leaving crumbs all over the house AND causing himself to have both a rash AND diarrhea.
  • Stow constantly and consistently makes the antics of his brother and sisters pale in comparison to the things he does when given 30 seconds of no one watching.

  • Pink managed to lose both top front teeth in time for Christmas which led to a morning of watching this video over and over again. There's something oddly but satisfyingly addictive about this. Though I couldn't tell you what.
  • It's our second winter up north, and I still haven't figured out how to use the snow blower without blowing 90% of the snow right back into my face and onto the path I've just cleared. Every time I finish doing the driveway, I look a lot like this guy:

Image credit: http://www.wayfair.com

  • I'm thinking about starting a gofundme campaign for one of these snow thrower cabs. Who's in?

Okay, I'm sure there was more, but that's what I've got for now. Happy New Year, you guys! Here's hoping for better blogging in 2015.