Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for July 2011

American Girl and Boy

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“I have survived the American Girl store experience. I am bloodied but unbowed.”

My husband’s Facebook status yesterday evening.

American Girl

After a month of earning tokens, Pudding finally got to bring her Kelly doll home.  As one last treat, we’d arranged her to have dinner at the American Girl Bistro.  We’d used a velcro calendar system to count down the days, and by the time it came around, Pudding was buzzing with excitement (and with her very own little cocktail of autism and ADHD).

I told the kids that the day had finally arrived and we were going to go to American Girl.  Cubby immediately announced that he wanted to go to American BOY!

Now once upon a time, back when I was an Idealist, I’d have been horrified at such entrenched gender stereotypes as my children were displaying.  I would buy books and blocks for Pudding, steer her away from Barbies and other dolls.  But every time we went for a play date, she would gravitate towards dolls.  From the first day she could state her preference, she announced pink was her favourite colour.  She would wear dresses only.  She loved princesses.  She was a girlie girl, despite my best efforts.  Like many things, I soon learned that I couldn’t steer this child- I was along for the ride.

American Boy

Her apparent femininity was sometimes at odds with her personality.  She was always hyperactive, and she loved running and climbing.  She loved chaotic environments, and being with other kids.  She was also the toughest kid I ever met.  She would fall a lot, but rarely cry.  I didn’t know at the time that this hypo-sensitivity was a symptom of her autism.  I was just bemused by this tomboy-meets-princess.

And then along came Cubby.  I assumed that growing up in such a girlie environment, he’d play with the dolls and princesses too.   But very early on he expressed an interest in firetrucks and trains.  And unlike his tough cookie sister, Cubby overreacted to most sensory input.  He seemed delicate and fragile; preferring peace and quiet, he shied away from other kids.  Thanks to early intervention, he is far less defensive these days, but most days he is still the polar opposite of his big sister.

Nothing teaches you about gender stereotypes like actually spending time with young children.  By the time we learned how difficult it could be to engage them, we were happy to use any and all interests to play with them both.  I let them choose what those interests are.  I let them choose who they are, even if that doesn’t quite match with all those good notions of parenting I had before I was actually a parent.

Armed with a train set for Cubby, we reached American Girl with a prancing Pudding.  She galloped around the store with her new doll, smothering her in hugs and kisses.  The wait for the table was excruciating.  She was excited by the doll having its own special chair and cup and saucer.  She was excited by all the pink.  She was excited by all the girls and dolls.  Naturally, she was too excited to actually eat.  She hummed with pleasure.

When the server made an announcement for us to sing Happy Birthday to another girl there, Pudding wanted to join them for cake, and we had to explain that we can’t sit with people we don’t know.  To her credit, she returned to her seat.  We ate as quickly as we could in the face of imminent sensory overload.  Though she was dazzled by her surroundings, she made every effort to follow the rules for dining out.  We were bloodied, but unbowed.

To the average observer, they looked like just another American Girl and Boy, but forgive me for thinking they are so much more (they’re English too!).

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July 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

Wordless Wednesday 27 July 11

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Pudding's last ride on the school bus.

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July 27, 2011 at 7:10 am

Newton’s Law

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“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction:

or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.”

Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

I would say that, as a rule, my life is governed by Murphy’s Law.  As we are in the process of moving, however, I can’t help but think of Newton’s Law- possibly the only thing from studying physics almost twenty years ago that my tiny little brain still remembers.  For me to write a post that even refers to physics is ridiculous- together with the other sciences and mathematics, these are definite areas of weakness for me.

We are currently staying in temporary accommodation, and there is no kettle here (the horror!).  To make tea, I had to boil water in a saucepan, but then the lid was stuck.  Spectrummy Daddy couldn’t remove it either.  He is similarly challenged in these areas, and between the two of us we couldn’t decide on the best course of action.  We are not great systemizers, for parents of a child on the autism spectrum.

He thought we needed to boil it again to heat and expand the metal; I felt it needed to be cooled to shrink it.  And my interpretation of Newton’s Law means my way makes sense.  And Spectrummy Daddy’s interpretation of his wife is to go along with whatever I think until I prove myself wrong.  It is cooling in the fridge as I write.

But really, I’m not talking about a pan lid.  I’m talking about Pudding.  You see, I feel like I know my girl well.  I have a conceited notion that I can predict how she will react to a given action.  Having lived in the same house for two years, surrounded by her favourite things, I thought she would have  a very emotional reaction to leaving her home.

Moreover, I felt that she would also react negatively to our temporary quarters.  For those of you keeping track, this is where we stayed two years ago, and I wrote about it here and there.

Even before I stepped into the room, the smell of the cleaning products was unmistakably familiar.  Had I been blindfolded, I’d have known where I was.  And the same layout, and similar (updated) furnishings intensified the memories. I know she remembers the place, so I’ve been on high alert for any sign of anxiety, but none came.  She danced and pranced around the rooms.  She was giddy and giggly.

After staying the night, we needed to return to our house on Sunday to finish sorting things ready for the packers to come.  And there it was: an equal and opposite reaction.  Instead of having problems leaving her home, she doesn’t want to leave the temporary accommodation.  The meltdown I’d been anticipating came, but for a completely different reason.  Whereas I’m the one stuck and struggling with the past, she is ready to move on.

The forces on our two bodies are equally strong, but pushing us in opposite directions.   Newton’s Law.

I just went to the fridge and tried to take the lid off again, and it still won’t budge.  I think we can safely say that I’m as baffled by physics as I am my girl at times.  But unlike a subject I’ve avoided ever since leaving school, I’ll spend the rest of my life striving to understand the mysterious, perplexing and incredible Pudding.

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July 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

Ikea and Quaaky

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Logo of Ikea. Drawn by Mysid on a PNG original...

Image via Wikipedia

When Pudding was about 6 or 7 months old, and making quite typical sounds in her language development, we asked her what she wanted to do that day.  And with Spectrummy Daddy as my witness, she said “Ikea.”

We went, because in August in Luxembourg there wasn’t a whole lot else to do, and popping over the border to Belgium seemed just as good an idea as anything else.  Plus, we liked the waffles there, and Pudding seemed strangely at home in the chaos and over-stimulation of the place.

We kept going, and as Pudding got older, she became more interested in the kids play area they had there, though only kids aged three and older were allowed to enter.

Some time later, we found a place called “Quaaky”*, and I quickly fell in love.  Quaaky was a creche/play area hybrid for kids two and up.  You had to sign all kinds of indemnity agreements, but then you could leave your child fully supervised with qualified workers, as long as you stayed in the shopping centre, and responded quickly to the pager.  Because most kids were already in some kind of child care, it was usually pretty quiet, and there were more attendants than kids.  They had a huge soft play area, reading nook, and craft corner, as well as the regular kid toys.  Pudding loved it, and I loved the hour or so I got to myself.  I’d sit in a cafe with my big belly and a hot chocolate.  Yes, and a pastry too- why deny it?

Because I was pregnant with Cubby and pretty worn out from my hyperactive toddler, I began going once a week.  She always had a good time, and would tell me that she “had a good time with boys and girls.”  I didn’t realize back then that is was a script, nor did I think too much about the fact that she didn’t play with the others.  I was just impressed at my two year-old speaking in sentences.  The other kids typically spoke French, German, or Luxembourgish, so that explained why she never spoke to the other kids.  Of course, we know differently now.

Then one time I was beeped.  She’d tried to open the gate, and was redirected by the staff.  So she tried again, and again, until she had a meltdown, and they paged me to get her. Once she realized she didn’t have control, she never wanted to go again.

Back to present day, and back to Ikea.  We’ve gone there a couple of times over the last couple of years.  Pudding always wants to go to the play area, and against my better judgement I allow her.  Every single time I’m beeped a few minutes later when she gets overwhelmed.  The first couple of times I’d explained to the staff that she had autism, but I soon found there was no need.  The second she showed any discomfort, they’d page me.  One time only three minutes had passed before she wanted me to come back.

It isn’t worth it to me, for Pudding to become so upset when it is so much easier to keep her with me .We have to walk past the play area to enter, and even though I try to dissuade her, she wants to go every time.  Saturday was no exception.  I reluctantly agreed to her request, knowing that I’d be traipsing back through the maze that is Ikea before I knew it.

We sprinted over to find the Smörgfaast we needed, and we actually managed to find them and had time to decide they weren’t for us.  I checked my beeper- nothing.  We found some Mjerkling and Djarrbörg instead, and went to pay for them.  We made it through the checkout- still no beeps.  There is a 30 minute time limit anyway, so I made my way over to find her happy and holding hands with one of the members of staff.  She’d even made a craft during her time there.  Of course, she only gets comfortable when we are about to leave the country!  She told me she had “fun with the boys and girls”, but this time I let myself believe she meant it.

On Wednesday we were in the car and she found the craft she’d made on Saturday.  I asked her about it and she said she’d made it at “Ikea- like Quaaky.”  It is still incredible to me that she remembers things from over two years ago.  But that memory of hers is one of the things that gives me hope.  So many times she had wanted, and tried to have this experience, but she just wasn’t ready.  Now she did it, and I hope that accomplishment makes a permanent impression.

So instead of looking at it as over two years of failed attempts for just one successful visit, I know this was as many times as my girl needed to get comfortable and keep challenging herself.  And I know that with a little time, and a lot of patience, she’ll do anything that she sets her mind to, including having fun with boys and girls.  If I’m very lucky there’ll even be a hot chocolate or a waffle in it for me too!

*Apparently the sound a Luxembourgish frog makes, which is weird, but then so is “ribbit.”

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July 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

Wordless Wednesday 20 Jul 11

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We can never pass by one of these without drinking from it.

Happy Wordless Wednesday Everyone!

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July 20, 2011 at 7:19 am

Lapped (at Hopeful Parents)

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This post was originally published here at Hopeful Parents.

July 19th.  A year to the day from when I started blogging.  My 12th Hopeful Parents post.  Two years this week from Pudding seeing a Speech Language Pathologist, and the dawning realization that autism was part of our life.

Time is on my mind lately, with just twelve days left in this country, it is impossible to think of anything else.

I should be in a frantic rush of panic and organizing, but the urgency just isn’t there.  I can’t bring myself to think of time as running out, time is just going round.  I’m constantly hit with déjà-vu, I’ve seen this before.  I’ve done this already.  We were past this point, weren’t we?

Just as we are revisiting and reinforcing the concept of time at home with Pudding, so her teacher does the same at school.  Every day we add the date to her velcro calendar, and every day talk about how many days left.  But it hasn’t sunk in with me, so I can’t believe it has for her either.  Regardless, time ismoving on.

It dawns on me that this isn’t a straight race to the finish line, I’m doing laps.  Two years have brought incredible change, and yet some things appear entirely the same as they were.  But they’re not.  We have changed, learned and grown, even as we see there is much further to go on this course than we realized.

This track is a series of bends from paper cuts and straights with sweet rewards.  There are days when I feel like we’re gaining ground, and other times where I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels.  Yet even on those tough days, I still have my two reasons to be hopeful.

And 12 posts on, a year on, two years in- that is still good enough.  I’m ready to go for another lap on a different course.  Care to come along for the ride?

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July 19, 2011 at 5:27 am

The Grass is always Greener

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I don’t know how many times in the last couple of years I’ve watched my husband leave for work with a twinge of envy.

Don’t get me wrong, it is my choice to stay at home with the kids, and I’m grateful to be able to make that choice, but some days that choice feels like more of a necessity.  Engaging and playing with children is hard work when it doesn’t come naturally to them.  When conversation is a rare treat, I miss office banter.  And of course, this job goes unpaid and without leave.  It is only natural I’d be envious at times.  Some days I’d just like to do something different, use my brain and step outside of these walls.

Today and tomorrow, I get to do just that.

I have a mandatory seminar for two days about security overseas.  I am looking forward to moving and our new life in Johannesburg, but it would be foolish to deny the real safety concerns about living there.  It is considered a critical post for crime, something I hadn’t given too much thought about until I had to do my homework for the seminar.  Reading about all the potential threats, I’m nervous.  Of course, when I mentioned this to Spectrummy Daddy, he wisely pointed out that the only way to assuage my worry was to go to the seminar and learns strategies for maintaining our security.

So I should be thrilled that I get to go tomorrow.  But I’m not.  Partly because I just plain old have too much to do.  We move out at the end of this week, and mini-crisis after mini-crisis means I’m way behind in what needs to be done.  I’ll have to miss the only appointment we could get with Pudding’s psychiatrist before we leave.

Then there is the other side of it.

I don’t know what to wear.  I’m so out of step with doing anything buy my current role as a spectrummy mummy, I find it weird to do anything else; even if it is just for two days, even if all I need to do is show up and sit there.  I’m going to find it hard to keep my mind from being here instead of there, particularly when it seems to be crammed so full at the moment.

I know I should just enjoy the break, but this isn’t a time when I would have asked for a break.  This is a time when I feel strongly that I need to be on hand, every day, every hour, every minute.  Pudding’s separation anxiety is at an all-time high, and she is thrown by this new upset.  Just two days to us, is more uncertainty and anxiety for her, at a time when she just doesn’t need more.  When none of us need any more.

Still, Spectrummy Daddy will be here to take over, and I know they’ll be in safe hands.  I’m not so vain as to think the whole world will turn upside-down if I’m not the one taking charge for a couple of days.  Maybe it will be good for all of us to change things up a little, and experience things a little differently.

And what stay-at-home parent doesn’t want to show their other half just what is involved with staying at home?  And how many working parents have wanted to demonstrate the challenge of having to be apart when your family needs you at home?  We’ll get to learn something about how our family would operate if things changed for us.

I wonder how many times over the last couple of years Spectrummy Daddy has left for work with a twinge of envy at not being able to stay home.  Maybe two days are what we both need to learn if the grass is just as green as it appears on the other side.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 18, 2011 at 6:02 am