Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘moving

Comic Relief

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I still feel guilty about not adequately preparing Pudding the last time we moved.  Oh, I know what you’ll say: how could you?  You didn’t know how!  Thank you, friend.  Now I do, and in some ways it is worse.  I’m more responsible this time around.  Somehow I have to make her ready for this move.  The problem is, I don’t know for certain that things won’t change.  We’re still putting her program together, and it looks increasingly likely that we can’t do many things until we’re over there.

The one thing we know for certain, that won’t suddenly change on us, is our housing.  We have been assigned a house, and requested photos so that I can show them to Pudding.  She is delighted with the photos.  She has already assigned everybody their bedrooms, though she does insist she’ll be sleeping in Cubby’s room.  It has a small swimming pool, and a nice garden, so she is very excited about it.  Too excited.  She looks at the photos daily on her iPad.  She asks to go there all the time.

Here is our problem.  Pudding still has a fuzzy sense of time.  We think she understands “now”.  She seems to appropriately use “later”.  She knows her days of the week and months of the year, but just as words, not concepts.  She knows she goes swimming on Sundays, for instance, but doesn’t know when Sunday is in relation to other days.  She tends to insist it is Sunday so she can get to go that day.

We don’t leave until the beginning of August.  While the remaining time is just a flash in the pan for we grown-ups who have things to do, it is an inconceivable amount of time to Pudding.  She wants to go to Africa (we dropped the South part for brevity’s sake) and she wants to go today.  When we tell her we aren’t going today, she just tries harder, convinced she will hit upon the right approach sooner or later.  After all, this works whenever she wants to go to the park.

When our friends were here, we were discussing what we might do for the day.  Pudding wanted to go to Africa, of course.  I explained for the umpteenth time that we weren’t, and she seemed to get it.  It was time to get going, so I asked her to go to the bathroom first.

“Potty for Africa!”  She grinned as she closed the bathroom door behind her.

The Potty for…technique was the reason we had to stop rewarding her for going to the bathroom during potty training.  The little wheeler-dealer would hold it until she extorted a cookie, or preferred treat every time.

We all laughed.  I was reminded of a telethon with an unconventional method for raising money for developing countries.  It sounds like a charity movement, I said.

Don’t worry, everybody here groaned too.  True comic relief.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 26, 2011 at 7:23 am

Moving On (at Hopeful Parents)

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This post was originally published here at Hopeful Parents.

We are now 75 days from moving.  A very big move.  I’m starting to think about packing, but there is much to do before then.  We have too much stuff to pack, far too many things accumulated over the last almost two years.  Much of it we no longer have a use for, but is good enough to be reused or recycled.  I’ve spent much of this month dividing up our belongings this way, and my house is messier than ever.  I crave the piece of mind that an organized house would bring, but there is never going to be enough time for that.

For now, I’m thinking about what needs to be cleared out, and what I need to keep to take with us.

When we moved in, I had a freshly diagnosed on the autism spectrum 2 year-old, and a baby.  Most of our belongings had been shipped ahead to the Panama Canal, waiting for us in a life that wasn’t meant to be.  Friends came to our rescue with with loaned baby equipment and toddler toys.  We bought things too, unable to wait for our belongings and trying to establish a home, little realizing that finances were about to get so difficult.  Everything seemed justified at the time, each new toy or piece of therapeutic equipment seemed so vital, but really, it was just stuff.  Stuff that has been outgrown, or no longer serves its purpose.

There were other things I brought into the house too.  Things that aren’t bought, but cost us dearly.  Like fear, worry, anger, and guilt.  They carry too much weight.  I’d love to throw them out.  I know nobody else has any use for them either, and I certainly don’t need to take them on to the next phase in our lives.   I’m going to at least try, and say that I’m moving on.  Perhaps it will work.

If only we could jettison that extra baggage.  We’d be able to free up space for the things we need to take with us.

The good stuff.  Things I’ve learned along the way that have proved valuable, invaluable even.  Awareness, insight, and education.  I’d love to pass these items on.  I’d like to be able to hand them over to another family like us who could make good use of them.  Gently used, but still in very good condition.  Things that should never be scrapped.

But there are many more things I also need to pack up to take with us.  I can’t live without hope.  I wouldn’t be able to make the move without being able to laugh at myself.  I wouldn’t go anywhere without the understanding that has been two years in the making, but it still unfinished.

And then the big one: support.  It might come in the form of a friend’s email telling me she understands.  It could come from my husband’s arms after a challenging day.  Almost every day I’m fortunate to get a comment from someone telling me they live it too, propping me up when times are tough, and sharing the thousand little celebrations of this journey.  It can’t fit into a packing case, but it comes with me, and I can’t express how grateful I am for it.

These are the things that life me up so I’m ready to take off.

Whether your adventure takes place in your hometown, or the other side of the globe, I hope you only live it with the things you need.  Let me know if you find a way of clearing out the unwanted things for good.  I don’t want to keep accumulating junk.

I don’t need 75 days, and I don’t need to go anywhere.  I’m ready to move on right now.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

The next Post

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South Africa (orthographic projection)

Image via Wikipedia

Today we got official confirmation that we will be moving to South Africa this summer.  It will be a huge change for us, a completely different experience.  It will be a lot of change: a new home, new school, new country, new continent.  Three years of our lives.  There are times I feel confident in the tools we have to explain moving to the kids, and there are times I feel like nothing could possibly prepare them for such monumental change.

The biggest challenge is going to be putting together an appropriate program from a distance.  We have a number of options, so now we have to work out which will be the most appropriate.  Pudding’s teacher has offered to liaise with her new educators, reminding me of what an asset we’ll be leaving behind.  We’ve scheduled evaluations for both kids to make sure we fully understand where they need extra support, and how we can best provide it.   I need to find therapists to continue the work we’ve been doing, but also we’ll have the opportunity to try some different approaches, such as hippotherapy, that have been out of our range here.  Broadening our horizons is different ways.

When we’ve worked out the details, we’ll move on to preparation.  There’ll be the mother of all social stories to write, there’ll be role-plays about moving, there’ll be books, and photos, web sites, and videos.  Preparing for the unknown.  There’ll be talking, so many words trying to explain, hoping that they’ll be understood.

There is so much to be done.  But for right now, there is breathing.   Inhaling, exhaling.  I’ve been holding my breath for so long, it feels like a sigh of relief.  A flutter of anticipation.  Johannesburg, here we come!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Goals

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AutismLearningFelt

I’m joining in the Special Needs Blog Hop, and this week we’re talking about goals for the year.  The very word “resolution” brings out my rebellious side, so I’m hoping that I can stick to goals instead.

1.  The biggest thing is that in the summer we will move to a different continent.  Things still aren’t official yet, but hopefully they will be soon.  It will definitely be a change for us.  It will also be the first time we global nomads have braved this since Pudding’s diagnosis.  I’ve got a few months to research schools and therapists and put together a program we’re happy with.  No mean feat from thousands of miles away.  Ensuring that everybody is happy with that move is going to be the real challenge!

2. Take care of myself.  I’ve been very run down this winter.  Every other week I’ve had a bad cold, and when I feel unwell, I comfort myself with things that don’t help me out.  On days when I exercise, I do much better, so I’m going to try to do a work out every day, which is easier said than done with two little ones.  I need to be on top of my game for all the other things to come together this year.

3. Work on Cubby’s separation anxiety.  It would be nice to go to the bathroom alone, and to go one night where he doesn’t end up in our bed.  We did it with his sister, so I’ve just got to get him to the same point.  If I’m successful, it will lead me to my next goal….

4. Return to work.  We’re a family who desperately needs a second income.  I’ve really enjoyed the last few years being at home with the kids, so this last one will be hard for me.  We’ll see what happens after we move.

5. Blogging!  I’ve really enjoyed the last six months, and I know it is going to be a challenge to keep it going when things get crazy this year.  There are also a couple of other fellow bloggers I plan to meet up with before we leave.  That all should keep me pretty busy, I think!

How about you?  What are your goals for the coming year?

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 7, 2011 at 7:23 am

Holding Pattern

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East End of Main Runway (Near runway 24)

Image by Storm Crypt via Flickr

We’re still in a holding pattern here at Spectrummy House.  In fact, it is going to take longer than we anticipated before things will get finalized.  We had our hopes set on going to one of two hardship (differential) posts, and we were just waiting for the handshake*.  As you can imagine, there aren’t a huge number of posts with the facilities we need for the kids with available positions for Spectrummy Daddy, so we were pretty pleased with the two we’d found.  All either of them had to do was stick their hand out, and we’d have grasped it, as simple as that.

Damn, I said simple, didn’t I?  Remember how I said nothing was simple with us?  So, both of those posts went to other people.  We have to wait and see if we are first choice with the other differential posts on our list.  If we are, we go there.  If not, we can apply for a waiver to go to a non-differential post.  This means a whole lot more paperwork and waiting.  I really hate waiting.  I’m not so patient. I want to find good schools, and therapists, and doctors, and get on it quickly- but that is not meant to be.

Here is the weird thing, we know where we’re likely to go.  We have accepted a handshake from a non-differential post.  We’re excited, it will be a great experience for our family, but we can’t count on it, in case we don’t end up there.  We really want to go there, not only are the schools great, English is the first language, there are plenty of good therapists, we could easily manage the allergies, and there is also decent health care.  There is nothing like kids who can’t tell you something is wrong to make you terrified of tropical diseases.  So, yes, this post would be exactly what we need for the next 3 years.  I’m caught between the excitement and anticipation of our next move, and fear that it won’t happen.  And in that case, where will we end up?

Our holding pattern continues.  The plane is sitting on the runway, and I’m inside, frantically checking my documents, rearranging the overhead cabin**, and tightening and loosening my seat belt.***  I don’t know if we’ll get to our destination.  We have to put our trust in the air traffic controllers to let us take off soon.  I really hope that soon I’ll be able to make an in-flight announcement about the final destination.

If we are forced to deplane, you will hear my screams over the roar of the engines.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 9, 2010 at 7:17 am

Places

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“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) Dr. Seuss.  Random House; Reprint Edition.

I don’t write much about being a diplowife, spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, or trailing spouse (vomit) as I’m sometimes referred to, but as we are going through the bidding process, this part of my life is very much on my mind.  We are still in a holding pattern, but it looks like we’ll be going to one of three posts, all of which are on new continents for me.  Eek.  Life will be different, but then, life has been different for a while, it will just be in a new place.

Last week I  submitted my Wordless Wednesday photo for the weekly State Dept Round Up . It is sort of a blog-hop for diplobloggers- go check it out.  I kind of cheated on the theme of where we are now, because I’m lazy developmentally we’re in a new place and I’m excited by it.

The Round Up this week was quite the experience for me.  Some of the places I’d never been to, but were interesting to look at.  Other places I had.  I taught English in Paris for a year during university, and I can’t look at photos without feeling the pang for my soul-place.  It just gives me sweet, sentimental memories though, and renew my vow to spend my 40th birthday there, having just as good a time as my 30th.  Just looking at the Eiffel Tower made me happy.  I’m English by birth, American by marriage, became a mother in Luxembourg, but I’m Parisienne at heart.

One of the bloggers posted pics of another place we’d been.  It was the temporary quarters we’d stayed in when Spectrummy Daddy had language training in between our move from Europe to Bolivia.  We never got there, of course, because it was while I was staying there that we noticed Pudding’s differences.  Even though the apartments have been remodeled, it was so painfully familiar.  Looking at the pictures was like being hit with grief all over again.  That was where I mourned for my little girl’s future, feared for her interactions with this world, and was terrified that autism would make her distant from me.  Somehow those feelings are tied up in that physical place, and I’ve moved on both literally and figuratively.  The remarkable thing is that while these apartments are just a couple of miles away from our rental home, emotionally it is very far away.

This brings me to this week’s Round Up theme, which is about what I never knew before Foreign Service life.  I guess that what I never realized before is that when you live a nomadic life, you begin to feel very passionately about places.  I knew when I got married into this lifestyle that I’d miss my family and friends, but I had no idea that a place could hurt so much, or make me smile like an old friend.  I didn’t know I’d care more for England as an ex-pat than in all the time I lived there.  I think that this might be why many third culture kids frequently move into careers in conservation.  You can feel as much for the environment as you do people.  And a location can truly make an impression, for better or for worse.  Places can hurt or heal.

We’re ready to find out where we’ll move to next.

Oh, the places we will go!

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 25, 2010 at 6:41 am

Wordless Wednesday Sep 21 2010

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She's bringing sassy back!

We were at the local playground on Sunday, and Pudding was singing songs and having fun.  Spectrummy Daddy remarked that Pudding was back.  The anxiety that seemed to have claimed residence for over at year is at bay, and it feels like the carefree girl we used to know is back with us.  I took this shot of her, and the cheeky smile and the glint in her eye reminds me of my Pudding before the move, the anxiety, and the autism spectrum diagnosis.  I hope she sticks around, because there is a little more upheaval on the horizon for her.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 22, 2010 at 6:42 am

Bend, but don’t break

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I’ve been writing recently about little bits of progress here and there that Pudding has been making.  I’m not entirely sure why this is happening, just natural development, or because of different therapies and accommodations we’re trying.  For instance, with Pudding’s allergies, she is by default eating a gluten-free, casein-free diet, which may (or may not) be helpful for those with autism spectrum disorders.  We finally found speech and occupational therapists who accept our health insurance, so she is back to having regular sessions.  She just completed her third round of a home-based program to help with her auditory processing.  Finally, she has been out of school, and spending more time playing with her brother and I.

At the same time, though, we have seen some regression in certain areas.  Relative to her diagnosis, Pudding has generally been quite flexible, but that has changed recently.  We even abandoned visual schedules (helpful for most ASD children) because she just didn’t seem to require a set routine, and was okay about not knowing what was coming next.  It seems though, without intending too, we’d established a couple of routines.  And once those routines were established, Pudding didn’t want to let go of them.  At the mall, we’d go window-shopping, visit the play area, then go get something to eat.  On Friday night when we we headed straight to the restaurant instead, we ended up dining with a very miserable Pudding.  We went to the play area afterwards, and equilibrium was restored, but getting through the meal was much tougher than usual.

Also this weekend when she rode the carousel at her favourite playground, she didn’t get to ride the horse she specifically wanted, and sobbed the whole way round.

Somehow, she has determined that I’m the only person allowed to put her to bed, and mandates every night that Daddy will put Cubby to bed so that this remains the case.  She also has to wear a princess nightgown, and a full-blown meltdown will ensue if she can’t find one.  We go along with it, because bedtimes are a battle, and we’re weary of the fight.  The happier she is upon getting into bed, the sooner she’ll go to sleep.

None of these instances are especially bad.  In fact, some of you are probably reading this and wondering what I’m making a fuss about, that we have it so easy  by comparison.  We do, of course.  Yet once we had a little girl who just would get excited about things happening in the moment.  I miss that.  She loved flying, so she was excited to go on a plane.  She loved children, so she was happy to be around them.  Increasingly I’m seeing more conditions being set, and order established to how events should occur.  She is losing her flexibility.  This scares me, not only because social interactions demand a certain amount of give and take, but also because we will be moving next year.  Moving to a different country is going to require that she bends a great deal without breaking.  We have to move, but now I’m concerned that she isn’t going to be resilient enough.

Developmentally, a lot can happen in a year.  I know that two years ago I’d never have believed you if you’d said she had autism, or that she would be rigid or inflexible.  There never seemed a child better suited to the Foreign Service lifestyle than Pudding, who loved the excitement of new places.  Now I’m less certain.  I don’t yet know where we’ll be living this time next year, but we might have a way to go before we get there.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 30, 2010 at 7:21 am

The List

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One week ago today we got the list of overseas positions that will be vacant next year. For the most part, it came as no surprise to us. We have been researching overseas schools for a while now, to find ones that will accept Pudding as a student, and provide the services she needs. Unlike here in the US, international schools are under no legal obligation to take on Pudding as a pupil. The ones that would don’t always have English speaking staff and therapists, or the class sizes are so big that Pudding would get overwhelmed, overlooked, and overloaded.

It is our turn to do a “hardship” or “differential” posting, which means the quality of life is measurably poorer than that of the US. This could be due to crime, political violence, war, famine, poor medical care etc. This reduces considerably the number of places we are able to go. The good news is that Pudding’s Asperger’s diagnosis means that she will not be medically cleared to go to any country that can’t provide the services she needs. This is the reason why we didn’t go to Bolivia.

To further complicate matters, those currently serving in certain hardship posts can get linked in to their choice of follow-on assignment. Put this all together, and your guess is as good as mine as to where we’ll be living this time next year.  But, hey, we all know the journey is more important than the destination, right?

From our initial work, we have found 6 posts that are differential, and a further 9 non-differential posts which we believe have quality schools for Pudding. As we aren’t able to visit these schools in person, we don’t know for sure what there programs are like. Fortunately, there is a bureau whose job is to do just that. We send our list of fifteen best guesses to them, and sooner or later we find out if we need to discard any from our list, or proceed.

It is daunting, and even with all this planning, things can still go wrong. Teachers can leave, schools lose their accreditation, therapists retire or relocate. Some families choose to home school, hiring their own tutor, teacher or therapist as needed. I can definitely see the benefit to this one-on-one approach, and the flexibility it would provide. For us though, we think Pudding needs to spend more of her time interacting with other children.  School it is.

I’m not letting myself think too much about any of those fifteen places. We’ve decided not to tell anyone what is on our list. We learned a year ago that all the plans you’ve made can be swept away in an instant. What we are left with afterwards is what is meant to be. We’ll find somewhere new to live sooner or later, and wherever we are together will be our Home.  You’re welcome to join us on that journey though!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 10, 2010 at 7:16 am

Life’s a blur

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Yes, I deliberately chose this photo

I made Pudding a dress this weekend. Yes, truly I am a domestic goddess. She of course wanted to wear it the instant it was finished, and I of course had to take a photograph of her in it. This is one of the hundreds, thousands even of photos I’ve taken of her that usually get instantly scrapped. Because unless you’re prepared for it, and have a tripod, and a decent flash, it is almost impossible to get a picture of her without the blur. She is in perpetual motion, almost never still. Our bundle of kinetic energy.

It has often been said that people with Asperger’s are emotionless automatons. It may be true that some individuals find it harder to express their feelings, the way they feel is not easily visible in their facial expressions. Then there are others on the spectrum, such as Pudding, who simply cannot contain how they feel. When she is happy or excited, she is champagne froth fizzing everywhere, and just as intoxicating. She bounces, she flaps, she runs around. You can see it. Of course, when she is angry or scared, you can see that too, much as you might not want to.  She feels everything with every one of her senses.

Then there are times when she just can’t be still. I call those mealtimes. She is in and out of her chair, under the table, onto the couch, galloping around and around. There are days when I question her calorific intake. She can’t possibly take in more than she expends. And yet, she continues to grow. Even when the food is something she really enjoys, and she tries to sit down for it, she can’t do it. She will fall out of the chair, at least once a day. Have you ever fallen out of a chair? Not while leaning back, but when all four feet are on the ground? It is almost impossible to do. Mealtimes are like watching a slapstick comedy. This is not deliberate though, and it stopped being funny a long time ago. This is a faulty proprioceptive sense. It is just one of the many (way more than five, whoever taught me that!) senses that are a little off in our girl.

Proprioception is how the nervous system maps out where the body is in space, and controls the use of limbs. For most of us fortunate souls, this works so automatically that we don’t know it is at work. I don’t have to look down at my fingers to know they are on the keyboard (I just have to look down because I can’t touch-type). I know I’m sitting on a chair because I can feel it. Pudding’s brain doesn’t get the feedback from her body that it needs, which leads to both fine and gross motor skills problems. It is one of the reasons why we need to see an occupational therapist. If you can’t figure out what your fingers are doing, you’ll find it impossible to hold a pen correctly, and then you’ll struggle to learn how to write. On a side note: what is the occupation of a 3 year-old? Playing. Yes, it is weird that play requires therapy, but after a while on our world, the weird makes sense. It is the normal that we question these days.

Pudding craves this sense in a way that is impossible for me to understand. I’ve read several books on sensory processing dysfunction, and talked to her occupational therapists, but I just might never get it. I imagine it as the feeling that an astronaut in space for a considerable amount of time might get just missing gravity. We know that deep pressure feels good to her. She likes sitting in her bean bag chair, and hates the smoothness of our dining table chairs.

Yesterday I finally got around to ordering a special seat pad, which provides tactile feedback that just might help her stay in the chair throughout an entire meal…

…And long enough for me to take a better picture, of course.