Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Official

I Hate Summer Vacation!!!!!

  When I was a kid, summer was the ultimate. I could be in the pool from the moment I woke up until bedtime, excepting only the occasional meal time. Or possibly, there were great movies on cable or a mountain of books to read. My family always had one big and several small camping trips, which for the record, at the time, I hated. They were halcyon days that lasted forever, until the summer before eighth grade ruined it for me. That was the year our big six state trip took place at the end of summer and we were going to be cutting it close to get me back to be registered on time (we actually had to go to my school before going home when we got back). Looking at the calendar, I counted out the weeks until the trip and school registration and my heart broke a little. Summer didn't last forever. It only lasted twelve weeks. That summer and every summer after, flew by at break neck speed with school always coming back just a little earlier each year. Once I was out of school I didn't pay much attention to summer. My time was now spent with a work schedule that varied week to week, but never took the seasons into account. Summer was just the time of year when it sucked to be outside because it was so hot. Then my baby started school.

 I never looked forward to summer more than that first summer after kindergarten. It signaled the end of a truly hellacious year. Lian's teacher even started it early by giving him the last day off because it wasn't necessary and she just couldn't handle him back in the classroom. Personally, I was glad that the fight to get the boy out the door each morning amid tears was over. We had already decided that we would be doing anything we could to not send him back to that school, for both their sakes. Summer was going to be a huge relief. 

 We had just become acquainted with the concept of Aspergers Syndrome and I still hadn't grasped just what that meant. I should have been prepared. The three long holiday breaks during the school year were trying times for us. The super long Winter break was difficult to begin and even more difficult to end. In the crush of everything else going on it never occurred to us to ask why. Of course he was misbehaving, he was decompressing from the stress of school. Of course he didn't want to go back, he hated school. It never occurred to us that the drastic and sudden change in routine was causing problems for our little one. Summer that year was the worst break of all. The entire three months was one meltdown after another. It wouldn't be until the next summer that that would make sense to me.

 By the next summer, I was better educated as to why my son behaves the way he does. Summer doesn't mean fun to him. It is this gaping chasm of indeterminate time, where daily routines change daily, television plays different shows than he is used to and the sun and heat wreak havoc with his overactive senses. Plus, if that wasn't enough, at the end, he faces a new teacher, in a new class, and new, as yet undefined, challenges in his new grade. Summer, to put it lightly, is purgatory for him.

 As we get older and hopefully wiser, we have learned to change up his routine as little as possible during the summer. It is a learning curve. It is a battle between doing what is necessary and letting Lian be as much like other kids as he can. This summer it has meant summer school lessons, structured walks and timed sessions in the pool, and stricter than usual rules about television consumption. Still, that doesn't completely fill the void of missing hours in the usual school routine. I keep him as busy as I can with projects for his blog. It has worked moderately well so far, but as the first two thirds of summer comes to a close, school and a normal routine is just too far in the distance.

 It is made worse by the fact that Dad is also on Summer Break. For all the same reasons it is just as hard for him. Being an adult he has, over the years, learned to cope with the changes in routine that life throws at him, but that doesn't mean they are easy for him. Then just to be difficult, not only does he have to change up everything for the summer but he has all the grown up issues of everyday life to contend with. Quite frankly by this time each summer, it's like a powder keg around here. Both my guys have had just about much as they can take. This should be the point where a new routine falls into place and life moves forward more smoothly. However, since they both know that at the end of August the routine changes up again, this period turns into one of limbo. Putting as Aspie into limbo is just plain cruel. Just to throw some more gas on the fire, I have stepped up my attempts to either get an outside job or go back to school myself. That anticipation of my not being there like always has Lian filled with anxiety and having to work around a new schedule has added stress to Dad's life.

Connections Academy has the kids going back a week earlier this year. School is going to be a huge relief. Since we already have the books and the printed lesson plans, I will be gradually gearing school back into place over the next month, so the transition back to a full school day (which usually takes several weeks) hopefully won't be as difficult this year.  I still have four weeks of summer to get through. I really need a vacation from summer vacation. I long for the days when summer lasted forever and it was a good thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"You can fight aliens with space ships!"

Connections Academy tweeted a really great question this week. 

Classic lit is getting modernized through video games! Which books would you like to become playable?

 My response was predictable. I said any of the Oz books, Huck Finn, or Swiss Family Robinson, maybe not in that order though. I thought I would ask my family what books they thought would make a good video game. Morgan was no surprise, Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and any of Asimov's Foundation books.

 Lian wasn't so easy. I fully expected him to mention The Magic Tree House Books, or Encyclopedia Brown (both would make excellent games I think) or any of the Beverly Cleary books he has been trying to read lately. He surprised me with Anne McCaffrey's Freedom/Catteni Series.  While the books are a little old for him and he only knows about them because he has heard his parents discussing them, he is, of course, absolutely correct. That series of books would make an excellent video game. It has the possibility of good action sequences and plenty of intellectual stimulation. It might be fun to set up a new world and overthrow alien oppressors from it. Lian was going for the action game angle though.  His quote is classic.

"It has everything. You can fight aliens. You can fight space ships. You can fight aliens with space ships!"

I think I would prefer my Facebook games to  be a bit more cerebral, but I can't fault his choice. Just goes to show that even though my kid hates reading, he loves a great story. I am also pleased to know that his story choices extend past Marvel comics.

(disclaimer: for the record I have no issue with comic books. Reading is reading and I will take it in any book I can get from.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Not In A Day

I think my son is trying to tell me something. 

He dragged out the Wii Fit board this afternoon. Last year we were all about the Wii Fit as a family and he loved doing the body tests. We gradually moved toward the EA Sports Active fitness game (I love the boxing), other sports oriented games and then, of course, more outside activities. I was shocked to discover that I hadn't weighed in on Wii for 355 days. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about what the silly talking Wii board would say. I couldn't remember what I weighed a year ago.

I have been really stepping things up this spring and summer as far as activity. I am tired of not being able to keep up with rest of my family. I am actually tired of stepping things up. It seems like no matter how hard I work I am not seeing much in the way of dividends. The weight stays the same. I have lost a inch or so around my hips and butt, yet all I really notice is that I am exhausted all the time and I hurt everywhere more than anywhere else.  Morgan says that he sees I have more agility and stamina and I suppose I agree with him, to a point. He reminds me that Rome wasn't built in a day and it has taken decades to put myself in this horrid condition.  Frankly, most days I just want to crawl into bed and stay there and flame it all. I have been on this current ride to "healthy" for 547 days and I don't seem to be getting anywhere healthier.

I was pleasantly surprised that I weighed in at 11 pounds less today than a year ago.  That makes 19 pounds lost since the beginning.  It's not much progress considering what my goal is, but at least it is forward motion.

So, my son was trying to tell me something this afternoon. That it would be fun to weigh in and play a game or two. He was right. It was fun.

My goal for the end of this summer is to see this in person. Lian will be the reason I get there.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Find- Online Timer

One of Lian's most frustrating idiosyncrasies is his inability to recognize the passage of time. Five minutes or five hours will stretch eternally for him. We discovered pretty early on that time outs would induce a melt down that eclipsed whatever infraction warranted the punishment. He just couldn't see the end of if it and it terrified him. Timed tests are impossible. He is caught between the possibility that the time will last forever and the fear that it will end at any moment. That kind of uncertainty doesn't make for optimum testing conditions.

Over the years we have had great success with the use of alarms. A bell signals the beginning and end of school, playtime or the end of an impatient wait. For some situations we a standard kitchen timer, however a visual timer is what works best for him. Something he can look at and see how much time is left. We have looked for years to find a good visual timer to buy. There are some nice ones out there (ex., though they can get pricey. 

With as much time as we spend on the computer, it makes sense to have a timer on the computer. A couple of computers ago I had a great desktop gadget to help us out. Sadly most of these great gadgets have been eliminated and our timer went bye bye. This week, I was excited to find, on Pinterest,  a great website for online classroom timers.

Not only does it offer several fun options for a timer that will appeal to any classroom situation. There are also many other timer tools available including stop watches and even a metronome. Already in the few days we have been using the timers on this site, life is so much easier for the boy, or at least a little more fun. He prefers any of the timers that explode. My favorite is the simple hour glass.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year

 This time of year always reminds me of the old office supplies commercial in which Mom and Dad are gleefully shopping aisle after aisle of school supplies while young Brother and Sister glumly follow behind. Back to school is coming soon. 

We don't go back until the end of August but I just got two emails from Connections Academy saying that supplies have been shipped. The house is buzzing with excitement. My grumpy son who will announce loud and rude how much he detests school of any sort is excited to see his new books. He has an extra social studies course this semester and he can't wait to see what his course book will be. I remember last summer, which devolved into tears and lamenting over a loss of summer due to extensive tutoring.  I was sad that his summer couldn't be school free but his lack of grade level work demanded extra help. He was ready to drop out  completely before third grade. Still, when his third grade books arrived he couldn't wait to shoot a video for his blog bragging that he had graduated to a big kid bound math text instead of the rip out work books he had used since kindergarten (I love Connections Academy!). He had already bookmarked all the best maps in his social study book before he had it an hour. This summer I expect will be much the same. While he hasn't been exactly volunteering to do his summer tutoring, he has been doing it every day with minimal whining and stellar retention. I have no doubt that he will be better prepared to  meet this school year and I know he will have all the best parts of text books picked out long before the semester begins.

  For the first time since before kindergarten, we are both actually looking forward to the new school year. More proof, if any were actually needed, that we made the correct choice in enrolling Lian into this virtual school.  He is ready to face the challenges the new school year will bring. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Super Power is...

... Mind Reading!

I wish, I wish.
It is bad enough being a neuro-typical island in a sea of Aspergers. My husband and, even more so, my son, already don't think like me.  Still there are days when I wish I could have a window into the thought processes around me. 

Forget thought processes. I just want to know what is happening inside my child's mind.

Today, as far days go, was a pretty good day. There was only one real melt down and Dad helped him recover fairly quickly. The subject was, unusually, done and over and everyone moved on.  We also spent a good part of the day outside, swimming twice and going for a walk. We got his blog posts up to date with what was for him very little fuss and made our plans for his blog in the upcoming week. I don' t remember getting angry with him. He spent most of the day doing his own thing, having gotten his responsibilities dispensed pretty early in the day.

 Still as he was falling asleep he insisted on cuddling with me. Not in the "I love you Mommy, let me be close" kind of way. It was more of what I associate with the end of a high maintenance/high anxiety kind of day. When I wouldn't let him use me for a body pillow, which in this heat is not conducive to restful sleep for anyone, he fell asleep petting my arm, the way he has always done when he was feeling stressful. So here I am at midnight, wondering why today of all days he was feeling stressed enough to need a constant human connection as he fell asleep. 

I used to envy other moms, wondering what I was doing wrong when they would explain how they could calm their children with just a touch or soothe them to sleep with a caress of gentle fingers. It was years before I was finally able to figure out that I wasn't a bad mom because my touch would infuriate my son. It was because the sensation of touch was just so magnified for him, I might as well be slapping as caressing him. That realization made me all the more aware of the times he would clutch and want to cuddle. He touches on his own terms, when he has a need to be met. I once assumed that like most toddlers, my son enjoyed being rocked to sleep. I learned that, really, he was using my touch to decompress from his anxiety ridden days. Those were the days before we understood why he was the way he was, why he never slept. Once he began to sleep normal patterns, once we were able to make allowances for his seemingly off the wall behavior, he stopped turning to me to touch him to sleep, except on really bad days. I would like to think I am overreacting now but as I write this I hear him moving around in bed grinding his teeth. Another mainstay of his stressful toddler years but not heard very often these days, except on bad days. Days unlike today in almost every way.

Lian's favorite 'what if' question for me is, "If you had a super power, what would it be?".

My answer is nearly always super speed or the power to stop time. I think I don't think that answer through all the way. What I really need is the power to see inside a child's mind and learn what dragons need slaying. He has a beautiful vocabulary but he lacks the ability to articulate specifics. He can tell me that he can't find the words tell me what he is feeling and he can even tell me that it frustrates him that he can't because he feels he should be able to. It worries me that all too often he doesn't know TO tell me when something is bothering him. I need to find a way to let him know that even if he can't actually touch me, my love surrounds him always, that he is safe and adored.

And... if it's not too much trouble, while we're doing up the super power thing, that insight into his thought processes could be really helpful sometimes.

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