Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
So I have been a little lost lately. Well, more like a LOT lost but it's all due to a good reason: Farming! I have been growing tons of grapes, artichokes and now flowers but the best of it all is that I am rocking the cattle, horses, chickens and even the elephant business! I do have a few blog entries that I will eventually finish and post with a fake date since they actually took place during the summer months - hey, I was too busy with the farm, you know? Sure, virtual farming might not be as good as writing, at least for feeding the intellect, but it sure has been tons of fun! When things got a little hard with Frankie after our trip to Miami in the summer and there was no way I could produce any deep, insightful (or funny) entries for this blog the Farmville at Facebook helped me cope. Once the school year started, bringing about more changes and adjustments for all of us, my blog got smaller and my Farm got bigger!
So I am not saying I am giving up farming all together but I am back to my blog; perhaps I can work on my inspiration while picking some apples :-)
Sunday, September 27, 2009
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Sunday, July 5, 2009
So we do crazy stuff with our kids. We've always taken them along to everything we do, at any time in any place and we've decided to do the same with Frankie too - no matter what. Personally, in my saga to prove a point, I've always faced the chance of the experience falling apart rather than avoiding it because of Frankie being in the spectrum. Granted, sometimes we have failed but we would rather say that we've tried and failed than to have missed the chance for our kids to experience life. Now, there is a fine line between taking a plunge "cold turkey" style and simply not being "prepared" for it. I learned the difference last Saturday, thanks to my new friend "Teacher Erin."
We were invited to celebrate the 4th of July with our new friend and her family in a very different way than we had had done it in the past. We were going to a demolition derby with fireworks at the end. OK, that was a new thing and we always, always, always go for the new stuff, for sure. I figured the boys like cars, races and all things boyish so we can't go wrong with that - now, Rebecca might attend under protest but thank God Erin has a daughter who is Rebecca's age so those two could cancel each other out together! The plan was finalized and we were on our way to tons of fun, noise and fireworks. Did I mention noise? Yes, it did raise a flag in the back on my head that it might be a little noisy for the kids but I dismissed it right away. I deemed my "flag" to be a form of panic for the infamous "sensory" word that's always dangling on top of my head when I think of Autism. I don't believe Frankie has any sensory issues at this time but there is always the fear that one day I would find out he does. Well, after witnessing the kind of noise in this place, I think ANY three year old would develop sensory issues there!
There I was, at the stadium, hugging my three year old who in turn was covering his ears with both hands just as "The Beast" - a supersonic aerodynamic race car- almost broke the sound barrier as an opening to the show. All the stories, all the You Tube videos we watched, all the talks before the event went to waste once the noise started. The noise. Why didn't I think of fixing that BEFORE we got there. I know why. Because using anything (and I mean anything) as a crutch to help my kid is like failing to me. I know it's dumb because I don't have any issues with life vests in the pool or training wheels in a bicycle but I see those as a means to an end. Providing Frankie with "accessories" to cope is something that I dismiss immediately, almost always not as a conscious decision. I know I can be very stupid when it comes to missing the "fine line" between being tough and just plain ignorant...Luckily, there is always an angel in my path and Ms Erin came to my rescue!
During those long five minutes I spent holding Frankie and trying to figure out if I should call it a day and get back to the van, I noticed Erin asking her sister to go to the store at the stadium to get us some ear plugs for Frankie. Ear plugs...what a concept! Then she explained there were not only ear plugs, she was getting him BIG ear muffs and that he should be OK with them on...boy, she was not kidding. Ten minutes and $13 later I felt like volunteering for one of those Master Card commercials. The words out of my mouth when I saw the "magical" big, black ear muffs was: Priceless! Yes, priceless is the opportunity to have my kids enjoy something new without fear. Priceless is to turn a scary situation into an awesome experience. Priceless is a friend who helps you without judging you. Priceless is a lesson learned and never to be forgotten. I have learned that I don't have to be tough on my kids all the time for all things....sometimes, it's OK to let them use training wheels...indefinitely.
By the way, Victor didn't want any "ear muffs" and Rebecca actually had a good time with Robyn. I guess things do have a way to work out!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Things have changed for me (apparently!) since we moved to Seattle. Hey, I'm the one without a job (yeah, right!), so it's assumed that I'm the one going on the field trips with the kids....besides, I'm a "stay at home mom" so I have nothing better to do and apparently no other choice either! Well, my take on the field trip experience has changed a bit (still have nightmares) because the nature, and I say NATURE again, of the trips here are related to nature (parks, beaches, lakes) and are in nature, well, a learning experience for children and adults alike. In the past year and 1/2 I've been to a water processing plant, observed birds in the wild, pulled blackberry plants out of a field, visited a pumpkin farm, played at the park (s), visited an "urban pond" and checked out the low tide at the nearby beach. For a city girl, this is quiet a record for "nature" encounters. Let's not forget also the very evolved experience of watching the Nutcracker Ballet with a preschool class (at a real theater) - impressive!
On that note, let me clarify that Victor IS, by far, the king of field trips - not only does he go once but twice sometimes (he is in the same classroom with two different groups - loooong story) - and he leads the way for the rest of us in enthusiasm and excitement over the adventures each trip represents for him. Of course, Frankie tags along to most of Victor's field trip and he's become the "class mascot" at this point. He went from being Victor's little brother to being recognized as Frankie by both classes. They welcome him to join the group and actually expect his company. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that the tables turned and it was Victor who joined Frankie on a field trip with his preschool class. Frankie was delighted to bring his brother along and show him his teachers and his friends. Victor became "Frankie's Big Brother" to Frankie's classmates and he did act like such, following Frankie around and making sure he stayed out of trouble. We played in the playground and had lunch together and at the end of the field trip these two were now on equal terms - Frankie had allowed Victor to join HIS adventure and it was a fun experience for all.....including me.
Victor and Frankie playing at the park during Frankie's recent field trip.
Friday, June 19, 2009
He was talking about a Pucca episode he had watched earlier. I don't even like this cartoon...my head hurts when I try to make sense of it and it's beyond me why my kids enjoy it at all. Well, the story goes something like "the lady and the tramp" (figures!) but they eat noodles, not spaghetti. Then there is the thing about the "super married" as opposed as to just "normal married" and it has to do with the full moon. Victor made sure to tell me not to worry, I was not super married to dad, we were just "normal married" but this is BETTER! See, we have not been affected by the full moon at all and that's a positive.....this is the funny stuff I would have probably missed if I would be in a office from 9-5; I find it hard to believe that I would have given Victor the time of day with some crazy story about the moon, noodles and married people. There you have it, the conversations at lunch time with the kids are just priceless to me. I might have missed their first steps, their first smile and many "firsts" but life has given me another chance at it and I am now appreciating what it brings along.
I will be sure to let Raci know not to worry about the moon affecting our marriage and making it a "super" one - we are just normal married and that's just fine....
The good news is that we don't need to eat noodles for kissing!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
More than milk and eggs and cheese, Capri Sun juice is a "staple" at our house. We can run out of bread but not of Capri Sun bags, no way! Capri Sun bags go into lunch boxes, come along in picnics, go to the beach and to the drive-in movies, and pretty much are the snack of choice in our afternoons along with some cheeze-it too! Those handy-dandy juice bags have helped us make the transition out of the "sippy cup" stage and have given our kids the freedom and independence to help themselves to a drink (out of the fridge), without the help of mom or dad. Furthermore, they have empowered them to make choices without prompts or coaching, enabling us to see the fruit of our labors. Thanks to a bag of Capri Sun, delivered by our youngest, to his big brother, we had the chance to confirm that our kids care for one another. Frankie didn't ask Victor if he was thirsty, instead he figured if he was thirsty, chances were his brother was thirsty too. He marched to the fridge, got a bag of juice and went back to watch TV. Before he got back to the family room, he stopped, as if he was remembering something and then turned back and grabbed another bag and then offered it to his brother. All those times we taught him to offer, to share, to ask his playmates (therapists) if they wanted to share his snack or would like to have a drink, I thought we were teaching him to be polite, to fit in this society but I never pretended that he would learn something else along the way: true caring. We have always thought that Frankie is lucky to have older siblings that would be there for him, once we are gone, to care for him and to watch out for anything the future might bring for Frankie. Now, I'm sure that Frankie's older siblings are lucky too because Frankie will also be there to take care of them as well.
Caring is a two way street in our family and I trust that Capri Sun bags will be exchanged among us for many more years to come!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
For a moment there, I thought Frankie was talking to me but then I followed his angry gaze and noticed a lady near by who was as surprised as I was to hear the kid's words. We were at Target, shopping around and waiting fore Rebecca near the fitting room. I was so embarrassed for Frankie's words that I just attempted to apologize to the lady (profusely!) and hardly had time to digest the meaning of such statement. My son was using his words - very clearly by the way - to express how he felt about someone looking at him...nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, he was breaking one of the most basic society rules: "don't blur out what you really, really, think." Granted, I know that Frankie's Autism doesn't make him very social, but I was expecting shyness, not blunt honesty!
After the lady walked away, I looked at Frankie and talked to him about what had just happened and here is where the real funny part happened. While I was talking to him I was using all of my "training" and newly acquired skills to help him substitute an inappropriate behavior with a socially accepted one (thanks UW team!). Well, that didn't work. I told Frankie that when people looked at him, he should look back and say "hello" - no can't do, he said he didn't like people to look at him. Then I said, he could just look away if he didn't feel comfortable but that didn't fly either - he said "No" again and with a very annoyed expression, he repeated really slowly: " I... don't....like.....people.....looking.....at.....me! and that was the end of it for me and I dropped the subject.
Later on that afternoon we met up with Raci and Victor for lunch at the mall and I started to share with Raci what had happened earlier; I had not finished my first sentence when Frankie interrupted me and said "I don't like people looking at me!" I couldn't stop laughing and that was probably the wrong thing to do but I couldn't help but to recall how many times I didn't really like people looking at me either! What exactly was wrong with that, anyway? Yes, yes, it's wrong because it's rude. BINGO! that was the ticket, I told Frankie that saying things like that hurts people's feelings and they get sad. He listened. I didn't get the same answer I was getting before and it felt like he was truly taking the time to process that piece of information I had just given him. I trust that in the future he learns to comply with this basic social rule but I'm sure he will do it, not because he agrees with it but because he doesn't want to hurt people's feelings. That's just how he rolls......
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Here is a riddle for you:
What do you get if you cross a star wars fighter space ship with a character from the movie Cars? This is what you get:
Now, just to refresh your memory, THIS is what a "real" star wars fighter looked like:
Now, do you get the resemblance?
Well, not to worry, I didn't see it either! But if you are Frankie, they are pretty much the same thing! As long as Victor shares his opinion and plays along with him, Frankie does not care if anybody else agrees with his "creation." Of course, Victor is the biggest fan of Frankie's creation, since he is, without a doubt, his little brother's mentor. In our family, we have gotten accustomed to Victor's contraptions and original costumes - we are not surprised with anything he comes up with but with Frankie, well, that's a different story. See, being in the Autism Spectrum prevents Frankie from naturally playing pretend games or "pretending" that toys are things that they are not. This is why, creating a car that has supersonic abilities to fly and shoot in space was off the charts for him! Clearly we have taken the Star Wars frenzy a little too far in our household ever since the Christmas arrival of "the helmet," the light sabers and later on "the gun" for Victor's birthday...if you add the movie watching marathon, I believe we have ruined the boys forever....Well, I do believe that as long as the famous Lucas' films allow our kids (ALL of our kids) to dream, to create and to enjoy their fantasy world, May the Force be with them!