Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The hearing test and slides

Nikko had a hearing test today at Lutheran General Hospital. Because he woke up from a short nap in the car I carried him into the Yacktman Pavillion wing. He was curious about his surroundings and I had to stop in the rennovated lobby to tie my shoe. I put him on the ground to walk and he immediately had a spring in his step. That is, until we reached the elevator. We went inside and he immediately reached up for me to pick him up, which I did. Our wait wasn't long and soon we were walking into a ramped room into the soundproof booth. There was only one lady present, which made me nervous at first because last time they told me there are usually two people present. I wondered if we would have a hard time like last time, but hoped for the best. Nikko and I were in a tiny room with a chair, some toy furniture, but no other toys, while the doctor was on the other side of a dark window. The sounds beeped and a lighted, spinning toy appeared in either corner before us. Nikko wasn't distracted this time around by any toys; he sat on my lap and looked around curiously when there was a beep or tone. I think this helped his chances of passing greatly. We were done in less than ten minutes, probably even fewer than that, and he had passed with flying colors! Yea! He tromped down the ramp and had a lot of energy, so I mused over the idea of taking him to a park on the way home to let out some steam. I drove to a park on Owen Street, opposite of the park that we had the boys' birthday parties. This one had some pretty good playground equipment and lots of slides. Nikko had a blast in the short time we were there. I watched him explore the slides and how to get to the top of them. He ventured easily over ascending stairs but stayed away from ladders. There were some "wobbly" bridges that he took tentative steps, but later on I nudged him over the bridge so he wouldn't have time to second guess himself. On another slide his butt got wet from leftover water, but that didn't stop him. I also noticed that as he climbed the stairs faster to get to the slide, he started taking each step one foot at a time instead of placing two feet on a step. He looked like a little boy taking big boy steps. Aw! When I gave him a few warnings that it was "Last call for slides", he hurried his pace and tried to go down the slide a few more times. I think he is learning that an activity is coming to a close whenever I give that warning. Therefore, when it was time to scoop him up, he didn't struggle against me. He did look back at the park and vocally wanted to go back, but he didn't wriggle out of my grip. I think it's just awesome to see Nikko try to figure out the apparatus in these parks. I want to show him how to climb a ladder, but there's probably some skill involved that needs some practice. After all, he just learned how to jump and needs to learn how to jump on command, so I should give him some slack. But just a little.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Backyard thoughts

I was actually away from the boys for a big chunk of the day because I took Audrey to Daisy Orquiola's baby shower in Elgin. As I was getting ready to leave, Nikko could see that I had changed my clothes and was preparing my things, so he started to get whiny and tried to hang onto me. This time he wasn't going with me. So when I left, there were big time cries from both boys. I still walked out the door. I was gone for about 4 hours and when I returned, I saw Denis shoveling snow while Nikko and Ronin ran back and forth along the driveway. They were both happy to see me, and Ronin was doubly excited to be outside. I don't think he's ever actually run in the snow; not only did he run in it but he fell several times. I wonder how he felt when his hands were submerged in the snow! It didn't seem to deter his energy, however. Ronin protested loudly when it was time to go inside, but Nikko didn't struggle. The rest of the evening was pretty calm until bath time. I won an Ebay auction for a Little Tikes Cube Climber, just like the one they have in Nikko's playgroup. I'm still debating whether to keep it outside or use it in the basement. I want the boys to have some outdoor equipment in the backyard so they will have the desire to stay there and play, but currently the swingsets/slides are so expensive. I'm still trolling around for used ones, but I really think we will need "things" in the backyard now. We've got the turtle wading pool that needs a cleaning. The sandbox needs new sand in it. That's it. A swingset or slide combo would be great. I'll just have to keep looking. Tomorrow Nikko is having another hearing test at Lutheran Hospital. Denis is going to stay with Ronin and Audrey while I take Nikko. I really hope this time there are two people present and that he passes!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Little things on a blah day

Nothing very exciting happened today. I hate blogging about a boring day where Nikko didn't seem to do anything extraordinary, but there were just little things that he did that were typical of himself, still worth writing about. We ran out of bananas for breakfast so we gave him a bowl of blueberry yogurt. He enjoys that and can eat it with a spoon. It's messy, of course, and he tends to dip his fingers in it (like with his mashed potatoes) and then wipe them on the sides of his onesie as well as on his sweatpants. But the fact that he uses a spoon at all is something to commend him on. This morning I noticed for the first time that he was taking a Cheerio and dipping it into the yogurt with his thumb and index finger and then eating it. I praised him for that because I had read in a developmental book that kids love to dip their food in sauces... and this is something I had never seen Nikko do. He doesn't dip his nuggets in ketchup, and he never eats crudites much less dip them in ranch dressing. The end result was a goopy mess of Cheerios in his bowl, but I was happy to see him do this skill nonetheless.

Another thing he is getting good at is jumping. For the past week he's been jumping like a frog, especially when I start singing the Jump Jump Jump song from Hi-5. This evening I noticed that he got up on the couch and wasn't just running along the cushions, he was also jumping from square to square. This is great because maybe we can get him to jump on the trampoline. I guess I won't return it right away. One more thing he did this afternoon: to my dismay, he trekked back into the living room carrying a clear plastic bin of soft-plastic colored mosh pit balls that I had hid in the nursery. My Sherlock Holmes found them. He urged me to take off the lid and then he promptly turned it upside down over his head to let all the balls fall over him and all over the floor. He dove on top of them as if he were swimming. This is typical of Nikko. What I noticed later on was that he took the lid of the bin and put it on an angle against the striped ottoman. He sat at the top and slid down as if it were a slide. Then he ran two steps back to set it up again and slide down. He really loves to slide nowadays as I've seen him do at each park we've went to. Therefore, I've GOT to win the auctions I have going on Ebay right now... there are two Little Tikes Cube Climbers that I'm bidding on, with local pick-ups if I win the auctions. Now I have to play it safe to avoid any snipers!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Observing the observer / Velcro Man

On some mornings Nikko is pretty good about eating his bananas, but this morning he didn't show any interest in it. I had to fork-feed him a few, but even then he refused (unless I enticed him with his Ovaltine). By lunchtime he was hungry and gobbled up all the dino nuggets on his plate. After lunch I took the kids into the basement to run off steam before naptime. I've been surveying the basement to see what toys I can change up or if I should lay out things differently. I took down some Thomas tracks and a new Percy train. What a mistake! Although the boys waited somewhat patiently and curiously for me to break it out of the box, they both wanted Percy and were fighting for it. Ronin would get it and would start screaming and running away from Nikko who pursued him. Ronin would careen right into my lap still screaming. I tried to be diplomatic but I couldn't convince Nikko to take turns with Ronin, or that the Thomas train was better than Percy anyway. It definitely forced me later on to look up some articles on autistic children and their siblings. Audrey was also wailing around this time, so I felt like the entire mood was spoiled and I roared to everyone that we were going upstairs NOW. Nikko could tell how mad I was and he scurried ahead up the stairs. Ronin was holding Percy and screaming for the heck of it, but followed me up the stairs regardless. Nikko was watching me as I ranted to them about not knowing how to share and being so loud and crying over nothing, watched me throw cars back into their bins and throw blocks back into containers. I stopped myself after a minute because this is exactly the type of behavior Ronin probably copies. Also, I could see that Nikko was really watching my actions and could tell from my mood that I was angry. He looked kind of worried, so I had to take things down a few notches. It was Ronin's naptime anyway so that helped me put one bezerk child to sleep.

Later in the evening we went to the in-laws for dinner. Nikko was Velcro Man when we first got there, but once I had the nuggets on the table he was surprisingly compliant and not surprisingly hungry. A handful of grapes kept him in his chair, too. After dinner he came to me and tried to lift his shirt as if he wanted to take it off but didn' t know how. I helped him take the sleeves off and he assisted me in yanking it over his head. Then he was let loose to run around. Nikko seemed happy running around the living room and crashing to the carpeted floor. I was watching him from a corner and felt kind of sad that he was in his own little world for a bit. Ronin and Rex were running nearby and sometimes Nikko would weave between them, almost clipping them. He'd do his little swagger and sashay as he'd round a chair, again in his own world. But just as I'd think he was totally gone, he'd come running up to me where I sat and look at me straight in the face, smiling. I'd pet his head and he'd lean in affectionately before taking off again. When we got home, Denis put Ronin to bed this time and I sat with Nikko for just a little bit. I didn't lay down and sleep with him, just kneeled at the side of his bed while he lay tummy down and he listened to me sing the Good Night song from the Good Night Show on the Sprout channel. His head was in his burp cloth, but he'd turn and look at me from the corner of his eye. I saw him smile sometimes, too. He raised his head twice when I was giving him good night kisses and leaned in so that I could kiss him. It's so sweet because he looks me straight in the eye with no fear or embarassment and leans forward to kiss me... but he doesn't purse his lips, he just leans in. Sometimes I kiss his lips, sometimes I kiss his cheek, but it's very sweet just the same. He didn't protest when I left the room, so hopefully he was easing himself into a nice sleep.

I think Nikko might be displaying awareness of my feelings. He watched me getting angry in the basement and I could see him getting upset with that. He has tried to scale the toy parking garage in the living room and he hears me call a stop to it, pauses, and then stops climbing (unlike Ronin, who proceeds to climb after I've told him to stop). Reading joy on my face is the easy part, but when I'm sad, or angry, I think Nikko is aware of it. Unfortunately, he can also tell when I'm anxious and I think that's when he turns into Velcro Man on me. I think he senses that I am going to leave for somewhere and then attaches himself to my leg. When he is Velcro Man, I get very frustrated and flustered. I don't want to yell at him, or squash his hopes, or pick him up if I'm in the middle of something, or ignore him either. He doesn't understand me when I rationalize with him, so sometimes I just keep on going and he gets upset. Kneeling down and giving him comforting hugs doesn't quite cut it. But sometimes he just up and runs away in the middle of a tirade. I haven't figured it out yet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Better Playgroup Day

I went to bed way too late last night so that made getting around today much harder. Chinny came over around 9 and I had to get Nikko and Audrey ready to go to playgroup. Nikko was Velcro Man again, really whining and clinging to my leg while I tried to get our stuff together. I was frustrated, but tried to keep calm since there was no point in getting mad. I had a headache that unfortunately didn't go away all day. Playgroup was a full house and Nikko happily got involved with the toys, the fake vegetables, a big plastic play cube, and he even took some time to explore a green box that held maracas, clappers and jingly bells. Nikko picked up each one and examined it. One clapper was in the shape of a ship captain; another was orange and green and he flapped it back and forth. We sat at the table and tried to do a flower petal on paper plate craft, but he wasn't that interested in it. He tried to infiltrate the snack bin but met resistance. He also played at the bean table again but for a shorter period of time. Audrey was awake the entire time and I held her on my lap. She fell asleep in the car because her naptime was grossly overdue by the end of playgroup. Shelly was in the parking lot when we exited and I found out that she was sick with a sore throat and fever. Of course I wasn't going to insist that we have OT later in the afternoon with those kind of symptoms. I didn't want to boys to get sick. That meant we would just have DT at noon with Bo. We got home and I gave a quick lunch to Nikko while Ronin and Audrey ate with Chinny. Bo came and we used the corner by our couch for our therapy session. Audrey ended up next to me because she's still getting used to Chinny and Audrey wouldn't eat when I left the room. (sigh) It was a relatively good session given that he's only met Bo once. Nikko did try to leave the corner a few times but he didn't struggle too hard. At least he still engaged in whatever toys Bo brought out, unlike with Gloria, Nikko would resist and wriggle and refuse to participate in any game she put in front of him. Nikko played with some cars and a car carrier, he did some farm animal puzzle, a book, a peg game, and then Bo brought out some bubbles. Nikko took the wand and opened his mouth as if he could blow bubbles, but he can't. I suppose it was a mimic. Most of his play seemed rather purposeful, but he turned into Noodleman a few times. Bo is a really nice DT. She tends to refer back to her own son when comparing Nikko's development. At first she thought that Nikko was just a sensory kid, but after today she saw that he had autistic symptoms, one being the repetitious circling he demonstrated with a Thomas train and tracks, as well as with a toy car where he continually opened and closed the car doors. I think initially she was not a supporter of the autism diagnosis under 3 years old, but now she probably is in Nikko.

After therapy I tried to feed Nikko again, but it pretty much rolled into the kids' naptime. Things got quiet after that, but Nikko didn't sleep at the same time as Ronin and Audrey. He fell asleep around 5:30 and I woke him up an hour later. Denis came home an hour after that while the kids were having dinner, and then we all ran around downstairs until it was time for Audrey's bath. I've got to stop sleeping at 2:30am so that I can be more functional during the day. Seriously.


Today we spent most of the afternoon at my mom's house. The morning was quiet and uneventful because we didn't have any therapies today. Lunchtime rolled around and usually after lunch I take the kids into the basement to run around so they get tired for their afternoon nap. Timing was of the essence today because when we go to my mom's house I try to leave by 2:00pm. This is so that Ronin can take a nap in the car. Audrey's nap coincides with this time as well, so that's a two-fer. It's always a challenge to go get the Pilot when all the kids are in the kitchen; I usually have to take one kid and leave the other. This time, however, I wanted to try taking both boys outside to run toward the garage and wait for me to open it and load them in. I opened the door and let Nikko out first. As I was carrying Ronin over the threshold, his Croc came off. I bent down to put it on his foot and then Nikko started to run down the driveway. I shouted at him to stop; he turned to look at me, laughed, and then proceeded to run down the driveway. I had to quickly put Ronin inside (he protested loudly) and then I ran after Nikko. He was running at full speed and I finally caught up to him in front of the twins' house. He laughed and thought it was a game. I scooped him up and trekked back home, and luckily he didn't put up a fight. Then I dumped him into his carseat and put on the train DVD. I thought Nikko was over his temptation to run haphazard down the driveway, but I think his recent forays at the school playground has given him more courage. Very dangerous for me because now I can't trust that if I set him down outside that he will stay in the vicinity of the driveway or the garage. Unless someone else is with me, I don't think I can put both boys in the driveway. Ronin hasn't learned his boundaries yet, either. He doesn't know that he's not supposed to run into the street. Boy, am I in trouble.

The rest of the afternoon was ok. Nikko watched Thomas and Hi-5 of course, but also took some time to wander around mom's house. Before we left, I saw him standing in front of Rory watching her eat a chocolate biscotti. Rory looked at me apprehensively and I said not to worry because the biscotti were wrapped in plastic. A minute later I called Nikko over to put on his Crocs and coat, and he came up to me nibbling on the center of a chocolate biscotti, the plastic ripped in half. He had figured out a way to get to it, of course. I could have taken it entirely away from him, but I didn't want to start a fight. I broke off 1/4 of it and gave it to him to gnaw on, which he held and nibbled on the entire way home. We had a late dinner because Nikko didn't really have an appetite, and then it was American Idol before their bathtime. Nikko has been picking up the book Green Eggs and Ham and flipping through the pages. I haven't seen him pause on any particular page, although Ronin has come over and fawned over the cars in the book. I tried to read GE&H to Nikko but he didn't sit still for it. He also hasn't tried to tear the pages in the book, which are normal pages vs. a board book. I wonder how long that will last.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Visual Schedule

On babycenter.com there is a community that has posts with questions and topics that are category specific. Of course, I subscribe to the autism posts. I have seen some good stuff there, but other stuff like the dietary stuff, DAN! doctors and gluten free stuff doesn't interest me. There was a post today talking about the brushing and joint compression techniques (Wilburger protocol, fyi). Shelly does it on Nikko, but I don't see that it's very effective on him. I just see him squirming to get out of her grip. Today there was a post from an article written by an autistic person who listed ten things every child with autism wishes you knew:

1.) I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily "autistic." Don't just use labels; Nikko is still a person with many facets to his personality.
2.) My sensory perceptions are disordered. Nikko can have a difficult time trying to process all the sensory things around him, and can get overloaded.
3.) Please remember to distinguish between won't (I choose not to) and can't (I am not able to). It isn't that he doesn't listen to instructions. It's that he can't understand you. Don't yell across the room, come speak directly to him in plain words.
4.) I am a concrete thinker. Language is interpreted very literally.
5.) Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. The words are beyond Nikko's ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation or other signs that something is wrong.
6.) Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Show Nikko how to do something rather than just telling him, and repeat it many, many times. Lots of consistent repetition helps him learn. This bullet point also mentioned that a visual schedule is extremely helpful. It relieves him of the stress of having to remember what comes next, makes for smooth transition between activities. It is a good suggestion, and something both Shelly and Gloria mentioned to me before. I have to start planning to put that in action.
7.) Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do.
8.) Please help me with social interactions.
9.) Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns. If I can figure out why Nikko's meltdowns occur, they can be prevented.
10.) If you are a family member, please love me unconditionally.

These are all good points, but what really got me thinking was the visual schedule. I have taken some pictures for Nikko for PECS, but I really should put together what his daily schedule is like. In fact, since we have playgroup and different therapies on different days, I should make something to reflect all that. PLUS I have to get the whole "choice" thing going, where Nikko should be picking between two objects or two activities. When the heck am I going to get this going??

As for today, it was day one of Chinny coming to help me out with the boys, in lieu of Brianna. She was late this morning, but luckily it wasn't dire. Gloria doesn't like Ronin to be around during Nikko's therapy because she thinks he gets way to distracted. But Chinny arrived and took him downstairs where he remained rather compliant. Nikko had a good session, according to Gloria. He played appropriately with a toy airplane and car, did some puzzle matching, and some fishing with felt pieces. Nikko did seem focused today, but had some moments of being Noodleman. When I had to leave with Audrey for the chiro, Nikko was going bezerk. He didn't want me to leave, and I had to tell Chinny to carry him off into the other room. He definitely threw a fit, but according to Chinny, after I left he was mad but ran to the living room and calmed down, acted like nothing was the matter. That's good! He even took a nap on the armrest of the couch. For dinner I had the old Dino nuggets instead of the Disney nuggets and Nikko wolfed them down. I was surprised about that because he's been on a Disney nugget hiatus unless I cram it into his mouth. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be another nugget strike.

At bedtime he had started to lift up his head and lean in to let me kiss him good night. I encourage him to kiss Denis too, which he allows. He's been going to bed without a fuss lately, so that's also good.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are we plateauing?

The sitter is fired. Or let go, to be nicer. Besides Audrey's crying and all 3 kids being so young, she had mentioned Nikko's autism as something else she just wasn't experienced in. Ironically, he was the reason she took the job with us, so she told me back in the day. I think she learned stuff about autism, especially from the therapy sessions. But I also know that he made her nervous because she didn't know when he would have a tantrum, and what she should do in the event he has a tantrum. I think there isn't really anything special to do if he does tantrum; he's having them just like a normal 2 year old, with kicking and screaming and some flinging of things. All I do is give him big hugs, strokes on the back and arms, and try to be calming. It's not like he's going into an epileptic seizure, so there's nothing really to fear. What I end up wondering is how long it will last, and what can I do to make it shorter i.e. transitioning with something else attractive like food or a toy. Sure it's natural to worry about an outburst in a public place, but she was always at home with him. OK, I'm going to let this go and not take it personally. It wasn't a good fit in the long run, we were probably too unorganized and unstructured for her anyway.

The day kinda flew. Nikko even managed to fall asleep between 4-5pm. The minute he did, I went to hunt for the checkbook in the Pilot and found it wedged deep between the middle console and the seat. Thank you, GOD! Before naptimes I took the kids into the basement. I'm going to have to change up the toys because they could be better entertained down there. We played some tickle games tonight. I'm going to have to find more finger play songs for him, so we don't beat the Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Wheels on the Bus to death.

A little worried because Blue Cross Blue Shield is giving Gloris the ST a hard time with the billing. I don't know why she's not getting paid like she should; we are receiving the EOBs so what's the deal? I put an inquiry into Mary Leonard our coordinator to see if there's anything I should be doing. It will get really difficult if we have to start paying out of pocket for ST.

OH YEAH, I had posted the sitter situation on Facebook today, and I got a message from Rupak Parikh, the brother of an old classmate of mine. He saw that I mentioned I had an autistic son and he recommended a pediatric psychiatrist in case I didn't already have one. I was floored that that info came out of the blue, and I thanked him for it. I'll do some info gathering on her, a doctor from Marianjoy Rehab. I know I still have that long application for St. Alexian, but hadn't sent it in yet coz they are asking for all this paperwork from all the therapists. I think it might be in Nikko's best interests to have someone overseeing his autism, someone who knows how to deal with it. I wonder if Nikko is plateauing right now... What can I do to keep encouraging his imitation skills, and increase his comprehension? Finally, we have noticed that Nikko's appetite hasn't really been there lately. I wonder if it's just from being 2.5 years old, not always eating. He's not eating his chicken nuggets, and he ate 3/4 of his mac cheese but not all of it. Wondering what's going on with his appetite. Going to have to change up his meals, too.

Hands-free stim

This will be short because it's 3am and I still can't find where I put the checkbook. I have an inkling that the boys took it and it's in the house somewhere. I have to tear apart the house tomorrow.

We went to a boy Ty's 2nd bday at his house in Streamwood. Nikko did pretty well. There was a racing car track that spun on its own, so I'd wager that Nikko was in stim heaven. He didn't have to move a thing, the track spun the cars for him! All was well until cake time. It was ice cream and chocolate cake, and Nikko had his eyes on it from the minute it appeared. We did feed him, but then he wanted to go play outside. It was time to GO! On the way home we stopped by a park to take the boys and Audrey for a walk, but they wanted to go on the playground equipment. We didn't stay long because it was c-c-cold. Finally, the rest of the night went well without much activity. Nikko didn't eat his nuggets but when I made some mac & cheese he inhaled it. He also let me kiss him before going to bed. Nite nite!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Emerging Imitation

Today we ventured out west about 2 hours for cousin Ziggy's birthday party. It's obviously hard on the kids to sit in their car seats for a long haul. Luckily we had to pick up Denis at his parents' house and had lunch before leaving. While we were getting diapers changed, Nikko picked up the teasing comb I had used on my hair and ran around with it. I hoped he didn't put it in his mouth because there's product still on it. Instead, Denis told me that Nikko had put the comb up to Denis' hair (or poked at his 'fro with the tines at the end). It was awesome to see because he imitated what I had done to my hair. Imitation is one of those emerging skills that he lacked for such a long time and that he's now catching up on. YEA!

For the most part, Nikko was pretty good in the car. It was Ronin that got antsy and started crying. My main objective was to get in the house, say our hellos, and get the boys into the backyard to play on their swing/slide apparatus. That's exactly what happened. The boys loved being outside, and although they didn't use the slide as much as I'd have liked (because it was too hard to climb up the rock side or the holes on the other side posed too much a task challenge), they ran around the gated grass area, hovered near the swings (I caught the tail end of Nikko getting clocked in the back of the head by the infant swing. Uh-oh.) and by the end of our stay they both discovered the sand box under the slide. It's the first time Ronin has had the pleasure of being in a sand box. I wouldn't let him before because he'd instinctively eat the sand and probably rub his eyes right away. Yowch! We tried to put both boys in the basement as well because Ollie had some great toys down there. I saw a Radio Flyer tricycle that was the perfect size for Nikko. He resisted the basement at first because being outside was more fun, but Denis hauled him downstairs and refused to open the upstairs door for him. Nikko did relent and sat on the tricycle. He liked it. Yea! The day ended with Nikko throwing a big kicking and screaming tantrum because he didn't want to leave the sandbox or their backyard. I hauled him to the Pilot and strapped him in, and he managed to calm down when I put on Hi-5. In fact I made sure we watched that on the way there and back because I did some driving and wouldn't stay awake to train sounds.

When we got home, which was pretty late, we all unwound in the living room for a bit. I opened the goodie bags that Ollie packed with us and they contained water guns, compasses, flashlights, and toy binoculars. I showed Ronin how to look through one and told him to go show his daddy. I stayed in the kitchen to help Audrey finish her bottle. I heard Denis from the living room tell me that Nikko, after observing Ronin, took the binoculars from him (typical) and was putting them up to Denis' eyes. I was surprised to hear that, because I didn't show Nikko how to use them. He must have watched Ronin do it. That's VERY cool.

I've read that since many autisic kids have vocal challenges, especially the ones who have no words, they really focus on the other senses and watch EVERYTHING you do. Your expressions, how fast or slow you act/talk, your emotions, everything. So I'll bet now is a critical time to show him some happy things and not the bad stuff. Gotta finish reading my book on being happy.

TGIF? Um, not really.

This morning Cyndi came to chitchat with me while the kids played circles around us. She's very calming and she's a good ear. I told her all about the sitter situation and summarized that we will survive it, it's only for a few more months. What she told me next totally shocked me, even though it probably shouldn't have. I told her how I thought it was important for someone else to watch Ronin and ultimately Audrey too, so I could be present for Nikko's therapies. She said that some parents don't even watch the therapies, they just leave.

"You mean they don't sit in on every session?" I asked.
"No. Sometimes the therapist comes and the parents look at it like babysitting."

I was absolutely floored. So much that I actually called Shelly while the kids were napping and asked her if this was true. Shelly paused for half a second and said, "Yeah. It's true. Some parents see it as a break. I have a young mother who's 19 and she uses it to take a smoke break or to run an errand. Other mothers just get bored watching the therapists play with their kid. I have another young mother with a kid with cerebal palsy and sometimes we're just brushing her and the mom gets bored. Again, some need the break."

"But I'm not looking for a break from Nikko. I'm there to watch and learn so I can help him get better."

"Melissa," Shelly replied, " You guys are more involved with Nikko. And I don't mind if the parents leave, it actually shows me they trust me enough to be with their kid. And as long as I see that the kid is improving, it's fine. But if the parents aren't doing anything with the kid and treating him bad, then I tell them it's time to step it up."

I told Shelly I wasn't trying to put myself on a pedestal as the model mother or anything, I was truly shocked because I thought it was an explicit understanding (and in the paperwork) that the parent be present during all therapy sessions. I figured that if I or Denis wasn't there, how would we see Nikko improve, or how would we learn techniques to use on him during the week? I guess it also depends on what developmental delay is going on with the child, since not all the kids at Clearbrook have autism. This doesn't mean that I'm going to become all lax and not be present for Nikko, or disappear during the sessions, or make it ok to step out and care for Ronin and Audrey thinking Gloria or Bo or Shelly won't mind. I would mind. And I don't think it's fair to Nikko. I am just surprised that not being present was ever an option. Shelly did remind me that the cases she cited were young mothers, and I was older and nurturing in a different way.

Denis had a haircut appointment today so after we dropped him off (in Clarendon Hills) I drove a short ways and found a great park behind a school called Prospect. There were two parks behind the school but I think I chose the one with more age-appropriate apparatus. It was REALLY challenging for me because I was alone with the 3 kids and I didn't have a bunting outfit for Audrey. I had to keep her in the car seat in the stroller and let the other two run rampant. Nikko discovered a duo slide where one was corrrugated with ridges while the other had speed bumps. I guess it was a sensory kid's heaven. Ronin was exploring his surroundings and even took off toward a fence and the parking lot, so I had to chase him down. He was playing with the wood chips and dirt as if it were water, so I had to use wipes on them when we got into the car. Audrey was just not happy in her car seat so I had to keep rocking the stroller. I worred about putting them back in the car, and I noticed some guy walking his dog across the street staring at us because Audrey was non-stop screaming while I packed the boys away. I gave her a bottle when I was all set and that calme her down. It was feeding time for her anyway. As the boys are getting older and more mobile, there is almost no way I can take them all to the park without any help. I can't sit by the stroller while Ronin goes off in one direction and Nikko in the other. In hindsight, if one of them went toward the street and the other went toward the lake then I would have really put us all in danger.

This evening we were supposed to go to the in-laws for dinner, but found out that they were in Israel. Denis' sister graciously invited us over for dinner with the rest of the Umali clan. When we were getting ready to leave, I walked around bellowing, "SOCK AND SHOES! SOCKS AND SHOES! IT'S TIME TO PUT ON OUR SOCKS AND SHOES!" It's something I always say to alert the boys that we are getting outta here. When I got to the kitchen, Nikko had just put his two shoes neatly on the floor in front of me. I was surprised and happy, and loudly praised him for doing such a big boy job. He didn't help me put ON the shoes, but the fact that he brought them out was awesome.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Looking for a nanny again

What a tough day. A lot of things need ruminating about. First and foremost, I will probably have to let Brianna, our sitter, go. She is just not comfortable taking care of 5-month old Audrey. She doesn't know how to soothe her when she goes ballistic and it has visibly shaken her. Last week after I went to the chiro I walked into the door and she said, "Thank GOD you're back!" This was because Audrey woke up from a nap and didn't take her bottle well. She cried hysterically and Brianna didn't know how to calm her. Audrey cried herself back to sleep, so maybe she just needed a longer nap. The second, telling incident happened today, unfortunately. Nikko and I went to playgroup between 9:45-11:15, back by 11:30. When I walked in the door, Brianna didn't look so hot. She said that Audrey had acted up again, she didn't know what to do, and was so annoyed by the crying that she had to call her mom to talk to her. Eventually Audrey cried herself into her nap in the pack n' play coz Brianna didn't know how else to calm her. This made the rest of the day kind of uncomfortable for me, and when I broached it at the end of the day to see if she had any ideas how we could make this a win-win situation (as Shelly put it) Brianna said that she was plagued all day w/problems w/her parents and hadn't thought about the Audrey situation at all. That wasn't comforting to me, but I let it drop and told myself that this situation will have to get resolved before next week. I can't have someone working for me that probably fears coming to my house, or doesn't like taking care of one of my kids, or doesn't have the patience to care for the screaming baby. I realize that I, myself, am often at my wit's end when I hear Audrey screaming and both boys are whining and tugging at my pantleg, but I have to deal with it because they are my kids. I could REALLY use earplugs! It's hard on anybody to take care of all three kids when they are acting up, but that is why I was paying her... plus, she only had 2 kids for 1.5 hours. It's just that one of them was the screaming one. I need to find someone with more experience, as Luisa told me.

This is all relevant because it now affects how I am going to handle therapies through searching for another babysitter/temporary nanny. If I let Brianna go now, I will basically have no guaranteed help during Nikko's therapies until I can find help or get it covered by someone capable. I need:
- someone to watch Ronin while Nikko and I are going through his therapy sessions
- that someone to also, if possible, watch Audrey during this time
- make sure that the person can be flexible and meet on our designated therapy days, and possibly add time for a playgroup session
- help me take the kids to the park or outdoors in general
- go with us to the store, or go to the store in lieu of myself
- if necessary, be aware of Nikko's condition and be sensitive to it, interacting with him by playing games, reading books, puzzles, or being physically active

I started looking at an agency called allbestnannies.com, but I also have a person or two on sittercity that might be possible. I'm working on it.

As for Nikko, he started out the day being extremely velcro-like. He didn't want to leave my side, same as last week. I wonder if he stays inside for a week does he get stir-crazy in 7 days? I'd be surprised because he had opportunities to play outside lately. Guess he just wanted more comfort from me, as usual. Once we got to playgroup, however, he forgot I was there. He had a pretty good session, playing with different objects and attending to drawing with a green marker on a craft. He did it for quite a long time. But he did get antsy about 10 minutes away from snacktime. We went home and then met Bo (Bogumila Wolska), our new DT. She was very nice and was observing how Nikko played. I was not 100% sold on her, but she has good potential. Next week we will start the session by sitting at the table, then transition to the corner, instead of free play like what happened today. Finally, we had OT with Shelly. I was able to be with just Shelly and Nikko and Audrey while Ronin slept in the car with Brianna at the front. I lamented to Shelly about my situation above. Meanwhile, Nikko had some good moments and not great ones; the transitions were hard but he was able to recover from toy removal as long as Shelly replaced it with something of equal or greater value. She was happy to hear from me that Nikko seems to enjoy riding a tricycle. He has taken the tricycle in the garage and has sat on it, even put his feet into the pedals, but ends up pushing it with his feet. It's still great to see him play on it. Today, Nikko also really put his face close to mind, was touching my cheekbones and seemed to lean in to kiss me. He let me do that after prayers again. I think it's becoming purposeful now, and I think he watches when Ronin comes to give me kisses, or gives Audrey kisses.

Ok, I'm back to being stressed out now. I've got to shut down here and wash the floor so that I can get some sleep.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wooden apparatus as obstacle course?

I kept my calm with Nikko for most of the day. If he started whining about something I got down on his level and tried to give him hugs. It was Ronin that was pushing my buttons today. This afternoon we went to my mom's house to hang out until it was dinnertime for my brother's 30th, my sister's 40th, and my niece's 5th. The weather was much cooler than yesterday, but I still wanted to take the boys to the park at the school half a block up. Luckily, Audrey went down for a nap around 5:15p so my sister kept an eye on her as we joined my bro and nieces at the park. I'm so glad we went! Nikko was running everywhere at first, but he got interested in the ramps of the big wooden apparatus. After he ran across the wobbly bridge a few times, he discovered the curved slide and went down it. He must have enjoyed it immensely because he hopped off and ran all the way around the apparatus to enter it via a ramp, over the wobbly bridge, and over other platforms to get to the top of the slide. I tried to show him there were ladders nearby for shortcuts, but Nikko hasn't mastered using a ladder yet. He doesn't understand how to climb it. So, he hightailed it back to the ramp. He would run at full speed and as quickly as his legs would churn. I almost dreaded having to leave the park, but luckily after giving him fair warning I scooped him up after a few last slides and he didn't fight me to get strapped into the stroller. He was breathing hard, but seemed happy. Back at mom's house he pretty much sat in front of the TV watching Hi-5 and eating. I wonder if his running back to the beginning of the course was because he had to, or did it contribute to a stim behavior. I've seen it in OT when Nikko would be doing something obstacle-related, but he would start doing it automatically so it didn't seem as challenging as it had. But running and climbing and teetering on the wobbl bridge seemed like it was challenging each time because he did have to think about what he was doing to get to the next level. I'll have to ask Shelly about it tomorrow.

It was such a balancing act to get the kids bathed and out of the house into the Pilot headed home, but my family helped since Denis wasn't there. Nikko was tired all right, but didn't fall asleep right away. Tomorrow will be another busy day for us with playgroup, then meeting the new DT at noon, and finally going to OT in the afternoon. I might try to make a Costco/Jewel run if necessary. I will have to skip chiro tomorrow and possibly next Thursday until I can fit it in.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to write about this: Ronin was really challenging my patience today, so much that I had to sit down on the floor and put my head in my hands. I sat there looking really, really sad because I felt like a failure for not being able to get my 1 year old to follow me. Nikko came up to me and was worried that I was angry at him. I could tell because he sported a worried look on his face and started to whine a little. I told him I wasn't mad at him, and gave him some hugs. My point is that while I sat on the floor looking despondent, Nikko seemed to try to give me some comfort, or was at least aware that I felt sad or some kind of downer emotion. He acted sympathetic. That's my point.

Staying in today

This morning Nikko was clingy as usual, especially after Brianna arrived. Ronin saw her and started whining, probably thinking I was going away. Little did he know that HE would be the one to go outside w/Brianna for a walk while Nikko had speech therapy. Audrey sat beside us while Nikko worked on puzzles, threading, barnyard stuff, pushed a truck through a gate, and used a big mirror. Therapy was ok today. When Gloria was working with Nikko, she was talking a little bit louder than usual, plus she used a hand under his chin and turned his head to look up at her several times. She hadn't done that before so I wonder why she did it now. Gloria told me that when Nikko has a runny nose I should give him the tissue and see if he will wipe his nose. I can help him, but I should do this so that he will learn to associate that when his nose is runny or eyes are teary, he uses a tissue to wipe them. Makes sense. Ronin gets it, as he leans into the tissue when I wipe his nose, but I think Nikko isn't 100% on it yet. After therapy we basically served lunch and then went into the basement to run the kids around until it was naptime. Ronin was extremely tired from his outing but we wouldn't let him sleep in the highchair. Nikko, meanwhile, had lots of energy and didn't nap until I was gone. Unfortunately Audrey had another meltdown while I was at the chiropractor, so getting texted by Brianna to come home as soon as possible wasn't fun to see. Lucky for me I turned off my phone. When I got back, I asked how Nikko reacted when I left. She said that when he realized that I wasn't around he ran around the house to look for me. But instead of crying or whining, which we both thought he'd do, he went to the toy bin, unloaded some big cars and trains, and lined then up across the floor. Then he went back to watching Hi-5. I wonder if that was his way to cope with my absence. Nikko had swim class tonight and Denis said that during class they sang Wheels on the Bus. Nikko started doing his hand motion, but when they gave him a plastic ring to use as a steering wheel, he was confused. I guess he learned it one way and figured that WE were all wrong! Nikko was tired at bedtime so after prayers I leaned in and he looked up at me to kiss me g'nite. I am sorry that Nikko did not get to go outside to enjoy the weather today. I'm glad Ronin was able to go outside, even play with sidewalk chalk at the park. But with our tight timeframe today, plus the chiro visit I was not going to miss, I had to sacrifice his outdoor time today. Luckily he got to play in the park with me over the weekend, so it wasn't a total loss. There will be other summer days, I'm sure! I had to make a conscious effort not to stress out about this decision.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Going to the park 2

Today was a much better day for Nikko overall. In the mornings I don't barge in on him; I wait until I can hear him babbling to himself, then I go in, grab a diaper and welcome him to the day. He had a fairly good morning, not excessively clingy. We made it through lunch and I decided that we should go into the basement until it was naptime for Audrey and Ronin. The kids romped around for a little bit until I went on the computer and played a Hi-5 song over the speakers. Both boys froze and looked over to the big screen where nothing was showing. Nikko started to whine because he wanted to see the episode so I turned on the TV and put one on. Nikko sat comfortably on the couch watching Hi-5, but I felt regretful because I wanted the kids to run around, not sit around. Next time I'll keep the TV off! We moved back upstairs so I could put the babies to sleep. Unfortunately, Nikko didn't take a nap all day. Denis came home and then we got a visit from Eric and Leslie, who were in town for Eric's bday, and later on Atz and her girls came for dinner. When Eric and Leslie arrived we all went to the park at the school again. It's much easier to watch the kids when there are more reliable eyes around. I also got re-acquainted with our neighbors behind our house, Mike and Kristin and their son John who is slightly younger than Nikko, December bday. It got a little weird when Kristin asked me where Nikko will go for preschool because Nikko won't go to a regular preschool. I guess this is a glimpse of future conversations regarding preschool. I told her Nikko is on the Autism spectrum and he'd go to a special preschool because he doesn't even have any words yet. I wasn't sure what I wanted to tell her exactly, so this is something I should give some thought. It won't be the last time this comes up, and I don't want anyone to pity him or me.

Anyway, both Nikko and Ronin had a blast at the park. They ran around freely on the apparatus and even used the shorter slides. They got huge praise from all of us when they went down the slide correctly, and Nikko would scramble around to climb back up the stairs to repeat it. Leslie was able to take some pictures of us, including me, since I am practically never in any pictures being the one who is taking all of them. Eric is very good at being with the kids because he also has a childlike mind (thinks as a child would act, is what I mean). I noticed later in the evening that when Audrey was going bezerk in the exersaucer, it was Eric who was able to briefly placate her until I could get back to her. When it was time to leave the park it was very difficult for Nikko, of course. He protested all the way back, but Denis was able to charm him back into smiles by instigating a chasing game. I'm really glad he walked back into the house in smiles instead of tears.

Dinnertime was pretty chaotic with all these different people milling back and forth from the kitchen to living room, but Nikko and Ronin were stable in their high chairs. I could tell that Nikko was starting to get tired because he wouldn't even finish the brownie I put in front of him, and he started laying on the floor to play with a Curious George toy. It was obvious that Ronin was tired because he whined and screamed and tried to velcro himself to my leg while I put Audrey down. Needless to say, they both went to bed and it's quiet right now. Thanks very much to Eric and Leslie for hanging with us at the park!

Nikko has gotten better at doing some imitation. He is really getting good at doing The Wheels on the Bus in that he can request it by motioning, can mimic the Wheels, Doors, Wipers, Horn, Up & Down, crying babies, and [sort of] making a heart for the parents. He tries to put his hands on mine, as if to do HOH on me, but I stop him and make HIM do the motions. I'm not the one who needs the therapy for this! The eye contact for these finger plays is pretty good. He watches me like a hawk sometimes. Nikko is also practicing jumping more, and while he won't do it on command, he recognizes when I tell him to jump. I've got to try letting him drink from an open cup during mealtimes. I've also got to get another hanging coat rack on the wall so he can start hanging up his own jacket or backpack.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Going to the Park

I used my thought of popping the anxious bubble only once today, some time in the morning when Nikko was being whiny about something. I visualized the bubble coming up a tube and then popping it. I made some "Pop, pop, pop!" noises too, to see if the kids would notice. No one did amid the whining. But it worked, I didn't lose my temper except once today. That happened around 2:10pm after I had put Ronin down for a nap (which he resisted again for possibly a half hour, but ended up sleeping for an hour. Yea!) and went to check on Audrey. I decided that since Denis was home we should take Nikko out to play while the weather was good. Unfortunately, Nikko had some kind of freak-out moment while I was checking on Audrey and it woke her up. I was pissed that she was crying when she should have been sleeping longer, and I could hear Ronin crying in his crib. I wanted Nikko to JUST WAIT so I could change, put on my socks and get him ready to go outside, but he couldn't just wait. He wanted me, and NOW. I was so frustrated and I barked at Denis to get Nikko's socks and shoes on. I wasn't mad at Denis, I was mad at Nikko for not being quiet. And Nikko just stood in the kitchen and howled away. Once I got him outside, I kneeled down and stopped to make sure he was calm (he was, now that we were outside) and I gave him some hugs so that he would see I wasn't mad at him. And off to the park at the school we went.

Nikko was very excited when we saw where we were headed. He even galloped a bit. There were many little kids at the park and a basketball game in progress. Nikko spent most of the time on the rampways of the climbing apparatus, but I managed to take him down on a few slides as well. He would run down the ramp into a cement clearing and start doing a little spin or a dance. He'd turn and sashay up the ramp again, or break into a full run. A mom with her daughter and husband nearby gave him a look and then said to me, "I always worry about the ones that run full speed. They never look where they are going." I don't remember if I said anything back to her, but I definitely held my tongue and didn't apologize for Nikko's running. I think she feared he would bump into her daughter, but I was always nearby and didn't want to tell her that Nikko was an expert at running full speed and not bumping into anything or anyone. I wanted to tell her that her daughter was more likely to bump into someone than Nikko, but I didn't even go there. After 40 minutes of fun, I had to haul Nikko back home and he protested the entire way. My coaxing of juice and cookies or any snack didn't work this time, and I had to carry him home. Thank God my back wasn't hurting, but my ankle took a beating today from running after/with Nikko. Nikko was pretty mad at home, but I sat with him on the couch in front of Hi-5 and he fell asleep for an hour.

We went to Fuddrucker's for Luisa's birthday/Tristan's confirmation celebration. I worried that Nikko wouldn't want to sit down like at Tita Marina's 60th party, and sure enough he got restless early in his high chair. But I gave him fries on top of his nuggets and for some reason he became the picture of goodness the entire time we were there. It was Audrey that had a bad crying spell, and then Ronin got antsy and wanted to wander around the joint. We got out in one piece, but the bedtime routine was a little skewed since Audrey had a late bottle. Nikko wanted to jump in the tub with Ronin, but it wasn't going to happen tonight. When we finally ended up in Nikko's room for stories, he seemed tired but he didn't fall asleep right away. After the prayers, I leaned in to kiss him good night and he looked at me and leaned forward as if to kiss me, again. :) Don't know if that's really what he intended to do, but I'll take it.

The Anxious Bubble

Remember how I said I wanted to treat Nikko in a calming way and be strong for him? Let's just say it totally went out the window somehow today. I don't know why it was so hard for me to be patient with him, but I am going to have to dig all the way to China to get a bucket of patience for him. It's not like he's asking for the impossible: he's just asking to be by my side ALL THE TIME. Sometimes at the breakfast table he will go scurry after me when I leave the room to get Audrey. He'll bolt out of his chair if he hears the closet/pantry door open or close. Maybe he thinks it sounds like the basement door and wonders if I'm going to disappear. When I'm at the changing table with Ronin or at the sink washing dishes he will wedge himself between me and the counter. Ronin does this too, but Nikko is much stronger and often succeeds in interrupting my progress. I can't get him OR Ronin to understand the concept of "Wait" or "Wait a minute". I'm sure it doesn't exist for anyone under 4 years old, but man it is frustrating. I don't even know if we got past breakfast before I felt like I had yelled my head off for Nikko to stop crying. I have got to find a way to get past this irritation. What makes things worse is when Audrey is crying in the background and then Nikko is whining for me. It seems to get my adrenaline pumping and I get really anxious. I don't think it's a caffeine thing (I could be in denial about that one). I don't know if thinking calming thoughts is going to help. What might really help are earplugs!!! It's not that I don't want to meet my kids' needs. I do. But I would really like to just tune out the crying and the whining so I can get stuff done. I'm not getting any sympathy for my mom since she raised six kids and reminds me that I was the whiny one who kept clinging to her pant legs almost pulling off her pants. Yes, that happens to me nowadays too. Almost daily. I realize that Nikko and Ronin are going through a clingy stage and that I should try to foster independence from them both. I don't think I am over-coddling either of them. But I do think I have to be nicer when I am feeling that anxious bubble rising in my throat. Will taking deep breaths help when the anxious bubble rises? NO. I've got to come up with a thought that will squelch the anxious bubble in mid-flight. Guess I need a visual. No cute or cuddly animals. When I think about animals I think about pets and how I don't want them because they cause me stress to take care of them with the babies around and what germy things they will eat off the floor that the pets (aka DOG) walked over... ok, that didn't work. Maybe I should visualize popping the anxious bubble as it comes up the pipeline. Sounds stupid, but maybe.

Nikko had a big meltdown when we left for mom's house today. I don't know exactly what was the trigger. He woke up from his nap all right, although I had to change his diaper and clothes, but he was in a decent mood because I didn't force these things upon him. I started leaving the room and he went bezerk. In the car he kicked off his shoe and was trying to rip off his sock. I helped him out with both feet, but I wouldn't let him take off his jacket. He was much calmer at mom's house because I told Denis to take him to East Prairie School to go play. It was cold, but he needed the play time. Denis told me he protested every step of the way back, but it was getting cold. No doubt!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today was much calmer than yesterday. Nikko was still pretty clingy but there were no terrible tantrums. I didn't say there were no tantrums, just not terrible ones. Nikko even managed to fall asleep on the couch right before Ronin's nap, which I've been noticing is a slight pattern lately. This isn't to say that he will adopt an official naptime around 2pm as Ronin is supposed to, but it's possible that he's getting tired around that time as well. I have given up trying to put Nikko down for a nap because he refuses to be still, to lie down or be sequestered in a room during a daytime nap. It's not worth the trouble, really, since he will sleep when he's tired during the day. It is at nighttime that we enforce him going to bed in his room. The weather looked good today but I couldn't take the kids outside. It was still chilly and I don't have the manpower to supervise all three kids yet, with two of them mobile. I humored the thought of taking them all for a walk, but I know deep down that Nikko and Ronin don't want to be in the stroller watching things go by. They want to get out of the stroller and explore and run around. So, I'll have to wait until I can get a third party to help me out. That's just how it is.

One thing I accomplished today was to give both the boys a haircut. I sat them in the kitchen in front of the laptop playing one of their favorite train DVDs, and put juice and crackers in front as well. A booster seat with a seat belt didn't hurt either. Finally, the vacuum was nearby to clean things up pronto. I think this haircut garnered less mess than usual. Nikko didn't like the clippers near his ears and was less tolerant than last time. I think if I had hauled out a Milano cookie he wouldn't have cared if I were dying his hair yellow. Note to self: next time use chocolate cookies. I used a #5 and #7 blade on his hair. Ronin was antsy at the end, too, but I just had to hurry around his smaller head. Now he looks like Caesar Augustus. #5 and #7 on him, too.

We had the opportunity to go into the basement twice today, once with me and then later with Denis and me. Nikko was doing some jumping like a little frog, but he's not doing it on command just yet. It is nice to see him jump off the ground with two feet instead of stepping off on one. I noticed that he was also galloping around the room. Not skipping, but using a gallop. Don't know where he picked that up, but it looked good. Finally, I have noticed that he hasn't been finishing his meals lately. I don't know if he is not hungry or going through a phase, but it's a little disconcerting.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Ultimate Meltdown

So many little things happened in this packed, busy Thursday. It started out with Nikko being ultra-clingy. He was like velcro at my side, wanting to sit in my lap even before we sat down to breakfast. I couldn't leave the room without him racing after me. It annoyed me because I was going to be taking him to playgroup within the hour so he'd be with me anyway. Of course he didn't know that. When we got there, Bethanne and Jim were waiting for the triplets, who ended up being a no-show. That meant that Nikko got solo time with them. It was cool in one way, but bad in another because it's good for him to be around other kids, even if he doesn't pay attention to them. He needs to pseudo-socialize and he can't do that if the triplets don't show up or Jason is sick. I thought it was important for him to go to playgroup because we've been in the house all week and it's good for him to get out of the house to be around other people. He might have been going stir-crazy at home, and that might have also increased his clinginess to me.

When he entered the room, he went straight to the play kitchen and showed interest in all the plastic green vegetables. Bethanne made everthing in the room green-ish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, which I think we'll do again next week since Nikko was solo. Nikko also played with some green airplanes and sorted some green trains and yellow cars before going into the bean table. Bethanne remarked that Nikko was incredibly focused today, focused on each area that he visited and every object that he held. Even the green balloons captured his attention, albeit brief. Something I noticed him doing in playgroup that I also noticed him doing in the kitchen this morning was that he held up his right arm bent at the elbow and was flapping his wrist. Only the right arm. I wondered why he did this and hope it's not going to be something he'll do for a long time. It looks like it's on the verge of flapping. I really hope he forgets how to do that. Suddenly Shelly the OT appeared and said that she had a cancellation so if we wanted to segue into Nikko's OT session she's open now. I called Brianna to make sure that the babies were ok, and she said Audrey was napping. After the parachute game, which Nikko loves because he runs beneath the big tarp and it envelopes him at the end, we went across the hall to the OT clinic. Nikko ran around quite a bit at first before briefly trying out the swing and then settling down to use the paintbrush and shaving cream on the mirror. It was a calming activity and Shelly liked that Nikko remembered how to utilize the components with some foam blocks. We finished out the session with Nikko on a mini-tricycle and he did great! This time we put his feet on the pedals and he purposefully pushed them to make the bike go. He didn't immediately remove his feet from the pedals as he has in the past. He looked like a little boy enjoying a tricycle. Loved it! I changed Nikko's diaper in the bathroom before going home and I ran into JV Syfu's wife Shirley, who is also a DT and is going to run the playgroup on Mondays when Bethanne is finished on Thursdays. I wish I could move to the Monday playgroup but Brianna doesn't work on Mondays. She works for her other family. I am screwed on that one. :(

We passed by McD's on the way home because I knew I'd need to bait him with fries so I could get out the door to go to the chiropractor. When I got home, Audrey was going bezerk and Brianna said, "Thank God you're back!" That's not a good sign when your sitter says something like that. To gloss over lunchtime, I took Audrey with me to the chiro and then to Target for quick errands. When I got back, Brianna and Ronin were in the nursery cleaning up toys and Nikko was asleep on the couch. After he woke up for a snack, I sent Brianna to Costco for me because I felt that Nikko and Ronin needed some extra attention and it might be better to stay at home than to cram everyone into the Pilot to go to Costco this time. Other times are fine, but with Nikko's clinginess I felt we should stay home. After she left us for the day and Audrey was napping, I took the boys into the basement and played with them on the foof chairs, bounced from foof to foof, and colored a bit. When Audrey woke up we all went back upstairs.

Right before dinner, Nikko was playing with a Thomas train, the Chinese dragon, and a James train on some tracks. He became frustrated that the wheels didn't quite fit so he kept coming to me for help. I tried to help fit the wheels back on using HOH, but he wasn't paying attention most of the time, just looking at the TV. So, I turned off Hi-5. That sent him into an uproar. I was even more stern that he wasn't paying attention so I turned off the TV entirely and said it was time to go to dinner. Nikko flew into a rage and started throwing himself into the couch and on the floor, screaming bloody murder. I didn't say anything and just sat there with my back to him so that he couldn't accidentally fall onto Audrey. But when Nikko lashed out at me by running into my back on purpose, I turned around and picked him up firmly, then plopped him down also firmly onto the mat by the crook of the couch and I looked him angrily into his eyes, pointed my finger and told him to never hit me. NEVER. He looked at me surprised, but I think he knew I was absolutely serious because he continued to scream at the very top of his lungs and he avoided crashing into me again. This was by far the worst tantrum I have ever seen Nikko have. He screamed and screamed, pounded his fists into the floor, kicked wildly and kept crashing into the couch and then slamming into the floor. I tried not to watch him so that he wouldn't think he was gaining any power from me, but I did keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't slam into other furniture and hurt himself or hurt Ronin. Nikko's eyes were bloodshot and his face was so red, but he got to a point where he seemed to forget why he was screaming at all. And for once I didn't raise my voice at him to stop. I spoke pretty calmly and tried to reach out to him, telling him that we should go get dinner. I proceeded to heat up food and put Audrey safely away. After that I was able to give Nikko big hugs and back strokes, and I tried to have him help me make his dinner. It was a total lesson in calming him. For some reason I felt my approach tonight was different for me. I wasn't mad at him for tantruming, I wasn't annoyed like I was this morning. I just felt very bad for Nikko that he probably had all these pent-up frustrations and couldn't communicate himself, so all he could do was throw a huge tantrum. I felt very bad that he was so angry, so I felt like being a calming force for him. I think it helped. The rest of dinner was calm, even though he didn't finish his food, and at the end when Denis came through the door during Nikko's crashing, Nikko even started doing a little jumping like a frog. That means he was jumping with two feet off the ground. I praised him, got up and started jumping with him, which I think he liked. I am going to get this kid to jump with two feet off the ground somehow!

I am tired. I am emotionally drained from today. It started with Nikko clingy and ended with a little more of the same. But I am thinking about my approach to the tantrum and I'd like to see if I can recreate some kind of calm when I am feeling annoyed, which is quite often lately.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jen's last day

Jen's last day as our DT was today. Nikko did all right in therapy. He had only a few moments where he wanted to leave the corner, but he interacted for the most part. He sorted colored shapes into baskets, but when she gave him a whole handful of them he seemed overwhelmed. He did the memory card game again, the construction vehicle puzzle and some finger plays. She pulled out monkeys in a barrel and that was different. There was also a wooden toy where you put a square over a peg (each square had a little hole on one side to fit over the peg) and then you matched colored circles below each square. I loved how Nikko figured out how to locate the little hole and then tried to fit it on each peg. At the end of the session, Jen was kind enough to chitchat with me about hanging in there in general. She reminded me that things will be hard but to keep forging forward. And then she was gone. I think Jen had the most awesome pair of black Coach winter boots I had ever seen. :) Chinny had come over to sit with Ronin while therapy went on, and they did fine in the basement. Ronin had slept in his highchair at the beginning of therapy, but that was short-lived. She stayed the afternoon and then left for work at 4:30p.

Later in the afternoon, when Denis came home around 5p, I let the kiddies go in the basement and run around a lot. They climbed the foof chairs and "jumped" from them to the couch while I sat with Audrey. I could feel a little temperature coming on, but wasn't sure until dinnertime. She had 4 shots yesterday so the temperature was forthcoming. Although Nikko has been very emotional and clingy to me lately, he has been a joy to be around. He is relatively happy and smiles up at me. He is listening to me when I tell him to come finish his meals, although he might not follow what I'm saying. We make a little game of changing his diaper, which makes it more fun for both of us. He is getting better at the Wheels on the Bus song and when he hears that title he immediately makes his hands go round and round. He doesn't always mimic the rest of the motions but he is listening and is aware.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good ST today

Speech therapy went surprisingly well for Nikko. He didn't try to escape the corner once I placed him in it. If he got up it was to sit in my lap. He engaged in threading animal shapes on a stick, a fish-peg game, bubbles, the magna doodle and finger play songs. There was probably something else but it escapes me right now. Gloria said he did very well, especially good with eye contact today, and after 45 minutes of straight play he started getting antsy and that's a good thing. He seemed more relaxed and easier to engage. His transitions between activites were smoother and I even noticed that his breathing seemed heavier and relaxed. Good signs. I totally thought it was going to be a wrestling session. At the end, Gloria and I were lamenting on Jen's inevitable departure. Boo hiss.

I had to leave for chiro after lunch and when I did, Nikko went ballistic according to Brianna. He was not a happy camper and I could even hear his wails as I walked toward the car. When I came back he was really happy to see me and climbed into my lap any chance he got. Brianna told me he fell asleep after crying himself out, but the fact that he was able to calm himself eventually is a good sign. Poor lil man. His whining and crabbiness carried over into bedtime, but Denis said that he fell asleep fairly quickly so he was tried.

This evening was Nikko's swim class at the Rec Plex. I tried to get a detailed report, but Denis said he did fine, that he cried before and after the pool. Nikko loves the water so I can understand how he probably didn't want to leave the pool. Ever. I'll bet the water has a calming and stimming effect on him. Although Ronin napped this afternoon, he cried for a half hour before going to sleep. I don't know why except maybe he wasn't tired enough to sleep. That mixed with just wanted to be up and with me. I will have to try to tire both him and Nikko out before the night's end, but it's hard to do with Audrey on me, too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Details, details

This afternoon was Nikko's annual evaluation with the Clearbrook therapists as well as a representative from Mount Prospect School District 57. This was the first of a few meetings we'll have to determine if Nikko will qualify for the Early Childhood Special Education preschool program or for regular preschool. It's a pretty safe bet that he will qualify for Special Ed - - he has zero words, he has cognitive delays, and he has social challenges. Autistic signs to a tee. All the people evaluating him agreed that Nikko is a sweet boy who has improved a lot since he first started in Early Intervention, but he has a long way to go between now and when he starts preschool.


May, June and July will be months of important meetings, vision/auditory/physical exams and making sure we follow a timeline to see preschools and get evaluated properly... The three big meetings to come are the Consent Meeting in May, the Evaluation Meeting and the IEP Meeting in June. It is totally possible that if Nikko meets all the related criteria, he could be enrolled in preschool for the fall semester. Amazing. Oh, and Jen the DT threw me a big blow by saying that she will not be his DT anymore after this week because there are other demands in the groups she works with. Luckily, she found us a new DT to replace her and that person can probably work on Tuesdays or Thursdays at noon. That works out better for our schedules, but I AM COMPLETELY BUMMED that Jen will no longer work with Nikko. Denis told me that if he had an unlimited supply of money he would hire Jen to be Nikko's private therapist who would handle everything he needed. But that is not the case. Jen is an amazing therapist and the one that garnered the most respect from Nikko. I am bereft that we won't be working with her anymore. I can only hope that the new DT will have a solid commitment to help Nikko in this area of delay.

For some reason Nikko did not have an easy time going to sleep tonight. I don't know if running around in the basement wound him up too much to sleep easily, but he protested when Denis left the room and continued to cry for at least a good 10-15 minutes afterward. Tomorrow we have a busy day, Speech at 10a, my chiro at 1:30, Audrey has a doctor appointment at 2:20, and Nikko is starting a swim class at the Rec Plex with Denis at 7p. Gotta make sure he is ready to go by 6:30, so I'll probably serve him a light dinner around 5:45. We'll have to see how the day goes. Brianna should be around during the day, too. It's supposed to rain like hell tomorrow so we'll have to find things for the boys to do. I have to warn her that the basement might have seepage, too... how are we going to handle this, with Denis not being around? I think I'm going to have to empty those window wells if they fill up. Before he goes to work in the morning he's going to have to show me how to do it. :(

Finally, this evening/morning I was reading some posts on Babycenter.com related to autism and I was interested in two topics: one person wrote about routines and if they were important to their kid. It isn't necessarily the routine expectation of doing the same thing at the same time every day, but it is about order; doing this first, then this, then that. The importance to the kid is that he knows what is going to happen next. I try to do this with Nikko already. I try to warn him in advance when I am going to change his diaper so he isn't protesting all the way. Or I tell him in advance that I am going to change his clothes, or wipe his face, or give him a snack, so that he can see it coming and not be thrown off-guard. The second interesting post was from a mom who was in denial at first, that felt in her gut that her kid has autism but was refused by many pediatricians for an autism referral. I am surprised to read that kind of thing. At Arlington Pediatrics they have autism screening and they were great to refer us to Clearbrook's EI program. I can't imagine a pediatrician looking at a potentiall autistic kid and saying there is nothing wrong with the kid. How can that be??

Monday, March 9, 2009


Today we went to ABT to get a new DVD player because the old one was broken by the boys. They had put some Thomas trains behind the DVD and DVR players; I believe the magnets in the trains caused the DVD player to go weird and it started producing a reddish-pink static screen instead of a colored screen. The DVR was starting to go on the fritz as well, but I think I saw the trains in time. Denis was able to reprogram the DVR so it still works.

We put the sleeping kids in the double stroller and Ronin went into the umbrella stroller. Nikko woke up upon transport, which is unusual because he is usually able to conk out from car to stroller wherever we go. Ronin, on the other hand, conked out completely (ironically it was his naptime at home, the one he has refused to take at 2pm every day this week, and cried the entire naptime at home). When we walked into ABT, some guy gave me a hat for the kids (they missed Denis' stroller because he was inundated by customers). It was a navy hat with an emblem of a hand that says, "for autistic kids". Their website is forautistickids.org and I think I'll check it out soon. I thought it was cool, but didn't proclaim to anyone that I have an autistic kid. ABT was packed with customers because there was a sale going on and it was a rainy Sunday. We made our way to the DVD players and Nikko was surprisingly in a good mood and compliant. He didn't freak out with the swarm of people in front of him. He remained quite calm, and when he started to look antsy I pulled out the animal crackers and juice. Winner! But overall I was able to stand or crouch next to Nikko in the stroller and just be coolio with him. That was nice. Denis told me he fell asleep quickly this evening. I wonder if it was because his nap was so short. I have observed him over a few weeks and I have decided that if he falls asleep for a nap during the day, the nap can last no longer than one hour. This is because sleeping longer will inhibit him from falling asleep at bedtime. I wish I could say the same about Ronin, who will probably resist his 2pm naptime for the rest of this coming week!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Emotional Roller Coaster

Today had the makings of a long day. Denis had a martial arts seminar for most of the day and it was gloomy and raining outside. Our morning routine was the same, not eventful. During breakfast I watched Nikko standing in front of the fridge doing some spins. They look like how a ballerina will spin on one leg with her head focused on one thing, then whips quickly to catch up with her body and refocused on that one thing again, probably in an effort not to get dizzy. Nikko's head was whipping around quickly just like that. We just chilled out in the living room in the morning as I tried to keep Audrey happy before she'd nap. Oh yeah, Nikko was pretty upset during breakfast when I left the room to attend to the other kids. He was wailing and following me from room to room. I don't understand why he gets so clingy. He was also trying to communicate with me for something in the kitchen. He dragged me to the middle of the room and signed More Please. The problem is that I really had no idea what he might want: juice, chocolate milk, cashews, banana? I'm sure it was frustrating for him, but no words will come. He just communicates with rough gestures and his eyes. Poor thing.

The afternoon also had a moment when, during Ronin's diaper change, Nikko flung himself at my leg and was face down on the ground. I was surprised and told him he'd have to wait since Ronin waited until after Nikko's change to bug me. When I was finished and hauled Nikko up into my lap, I saw that he had uncontrollable sobs and tears escaping from his body. I examined him to see if he had burned himself in the kitchen when I wasn't there, or cut himself, or had any bodily harm. Negative. He was just sobbing and wanted to put his head on my leg and be on the floor. I didn't understand what was going on and I wondered if this was an instance where instead of seeing something that set him off, perhaps he remembered something that happened earlier and it made him incredibly sad. Or angry. I just couldn't tell and I felt so helpless that I couldn't comfort him, even by joking, or by hugs. We basically had to let the moment pass and he cried himself into exhaustion. It probably helped because he sat on the couch silently until he fell asleep for an hour nap. This is not the first time he had some kind of an emotional outburst, but it was the first of this magnitude. The other bursts just had him with a quivering lower lip and fat tears rolling down his cheeks. This one was more involved. I really don't know how to diagnose this.

After Denis came home I was going to take Nikko with me to Costco and Jewel, but he seemed to want to stay home. I took Ronin instead because he was eager to go with me wherever I went. He ended up falling asleep in the car between stores and slept through all of Jewel. This is because he cried for the entire hour that was supposed to be his naptime. I don't know why he is resisting his nap and not just realizing that instead of crying, he should just lie down and sleep it off because I am NOT coming back into his room until the hour is over. Seriously.

Finally, toward the end of the night, I was putting the kids on the blue exercise ball and wobbling them back and forth. Hard to take turns, but I tried. I also sat Nikko on it and tried to balance him using his core muscles. He may be built like a truck and very strong, but all the therapists say that his muscle tone is poor. I couldn't understand how that could be, until I saw it for myself: one day outside of the clinic I wanted Nikko to push the OPEN button for the automatic door. He stood in front of it and didn't know what to do, so I took his hand and put it on the button, telling him to push it. His hand and arm was like a limp noodle so I had to push his arm forward to press the button. When I told Shelly about it, she pointed out the poor muscle tone and cited that he needs to build up his core muscles (by using the swing, by climbing and pulling/pushing things) so that the core will help push his arm, which will help push his hand and fingers forward with enough force to push a simple button. I never realized the importance of the core until then. Geez, I have to work on my own core, that's for sure. But I didn't know that kids can be a true Noodleman if they don't build up their muscle strength.

Pre-talk about preschool

We didn't have anything on the calendar at first, but then Cyndi the social services coordinator called to say she was on the way. I always seem to forget that she comes every other week. I don't mind her visits at all, they are kind of welcome since we weren't going out until later in the evening. When she came, Audrey was about to go into a nap. This got ruined by both Ronin and Nikko, who were fighting over one of the vehicle puzzles she brought. Nikko ran screeching down the hall because he was looking for me to complain to. That woke up Audrey so I had to bring her into the living room and keep her awake for another 30 minutes. We talked about preschool and how Nikko will really benefit from it. She mentioned that it could be every day, and that's a scary concept! Right now I have no idea how Nikko could be away from home for a few hours without knowing a single soul around him. That sounds so scary. Granted he's autistic, but he is a bit more emotional than your typical autistic kid who isn't supposed to be attached to other people. I sure hope there will be a good integration process into preschool. I'm also wondering how he will learn to handle mealtimes since he tends to get up from the table and start running around. I will have to institute that no-snacking-between-meals rule pretty soon. I don't want him to be a failure in preschool. Something else I have to do is review those milestones chartst that Shelly gave me, in order to help write his IEP (Individualized Education Program) with the school people and the therapists. I'll try to fill out that workout they provided. I guess I should figure out what I'd like Nikko to accomplish in the next year. The thing is that I'm not exactly sure what he's supposed to know vs. what I'd like him to know. I'd like him to be able to SPEAK and use words, of course. But also be able to understand abstract concepts, or even simple concepts. Respond to his name. Follow commands. These kind of abilities are different from wanting him to be able to learn how to jump, how to use a scissors, how to cross the street safely. I'm almost through reading the packets of info they gave me to review, but it's taking so much time because the kiddies are always up in my business so I don't really get a good chance to read unless Audrey is down for a nap and out of my arms. This is butting heads with me trying to make progress in The Sneak Chef book, also an important read so I can get some nutrition into these chicken nugget eaters. But since the Transition meeting is on Monday at 3pm, those school packets take priority.

We went to the in-laws tonight. Nikko and Ronin slept in the car on the way. Nikko didn't have a nap all day so I didn't mind his zzzz's. Ronin on the other hand had protested for most of his 2pm naptime and got only 10 minutes from it. Total rebellion. It doesn't matter, because I am sticking to this 2ish naptime for him. He needs a nap, this is how he's going to get it! Nikko was incredibly clingy when he woke up after the car ride, and both he and Ronin were inconsolable while I was trying to get the food ready. I knew that I had to get Ronin situated in his chair with food and drink ready before I could turn my attention to Nikko and calm him down. So that's what I did. After cutting up Ronin's nuggets I was able to turn to Nikko, sit him on my lap and feed him his nuggets while talking to him in a calming voice. He got much better as the evening wore on, and ran around the living room happily playing with an empty water jug. Novel toy there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Playground

Thursdays are very busy days for us. Nikko has a playgroup in the morning from 9:45-11:15, then I have a chiro appointment at 1:30, then we ship out to OT at the clinic by 3. Today I also decided that we will visit the playground behind the Rolling Meadows Park District where we have OT since the weather today was gorgeous except for it being very windy. It was still balmy. Nikko and I were late to the playgroup because the sitter had overslept, but I definitely wanted to take advantage of at least part of the playgroup. The triplets weren't there today, but there was a new little boy named Jason who has some speech delays. He's Albanian and had a few English words in his repetoire. I don't think Nikko paid him too much/any attention. Nikko was into the bean box, a ball game, didn't make a craft for me, had a good snack and loved the parachute of course. He was being Noodleman again when Bethanne was trying to get him to sit down at the table. I watched Jason run back and forth delivering plastic pizza to each of us, as well as a cup of "water". He is a few weeks older than Nikko but is a little shorter and thinner. His mom kept remarking how weak Jason looked, but I didn't pay too much attention to his deficits. I was just thrilled to hear him use his words. Nikko didn't use any words, but jargoned a little bit at the bean box. These playgroups are supposed to help him foster socialization, but Nikko is still very content to play by himself despite the people in his surroundings. Like I said, he didn't pay any attention to Jason. I think it's not really going to hurt us too much if we have to drop the playgroup when Bethanne goes on maternity leave, but it is nice for Nikko to get out of the house and into a different surrounding. I just don't know how we'll be able to get him into another group if it is being moved to Mondays, and that ST/OT group will be on Wednesdays. We don't have Brianna on those days, so I have no childcare. What to do?

Nikko and I came home after playgroup and got lunch rolling. Then I rolled out the door with Audrey to go to the chiro. When I came back, Ronin was resisting a nap and Nikko had fallen asleep downstairs. He only slept for 15 minutes or so, but he didn't fight me when I picked him up and brought him to the living room for a diaper change. He also didn't fall asleep again until bedtime. That was surprising because he was so active today. The other surprising thing was that Ronin resisted his nap at home and didn't fall asleep for the rest of the afternoon. He was finally drifting off in the car on our way home from everything, but that was for only 5 minutes or so. He was extremely tired by bedtime. Nikko had a decent session during OT. It was better than the last two weeks, according to Shelly. I don't know if I saw much improvement this time around; he didn't want to do the obstacle course she conjured up for him. He sat in front of the mirror with the paintbrush and shaving cream and foam blocks, so that was interesting. He didn't interact with bean bag games or the swing, but he did enjoy scooting around on the tricycle. Shelly had pictures of the trampoline, wedges and bean bag chairs for him to pick what he wanted to do. He held onto a picture for a while, but I don't know if he actively chose what he wanted to do or if he recognized that the picture was a representation of the real item.

After OT, I took everyone to a playground around the Rollng Meadows Park District Senior Center, where the clinic is located. It was 3/4 fenced in, but the opening had a retaining wall that served somewhat as a doorway. The playground itself was very kid-friendly, although I got nervous every time Nikko ran toward the swings. Ronin also caused me to worry when he approached the swings. But for the most part, Brianna followed Nikko around as he climbed in and out of the equipment. He liked the slides and a wall that had spinning wheels and discs. Meanwhile, Ronin was running off to explore the other corners of the playground. He found a rocking tractor and more things to spin. But when he looked over one of the fenced he stood in awe at the sight of these huge fir trees that swayed and bobbed in the wind. He squealed in delight every time he looked up at the trees, and looked at them every time I identified them. I guess it was their sheer size that he found fascinating. I had hoped that after the playground the boys would be even more tired, but we came home and no one was dragging for a nap (except for Ronin's brief 5 minute zonk-out). I decided to serve dinner early and get the kids to bed early to make up for the lost hour/s. It's currently 10:15p and they were all in bed by 8:45p. I hope they stay in bed and stay sleeping! During nighttime prayers and songs, Nikko sat in Denis' lap and mimicked the wheels on the bus song. He made his fingers pointy and made them go 'round and 'round. He also liked the spider song. I sat across from him and sang the songs loudly and animated, which is why I think he was interested in watching me. I like to think that being animated is helping him find the songs interesting. It was a precious sight.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Today's DT session went well, or as Jen said, much better than the last two we've had. Nikko didn't really try to escape as much, but he ended up in my lap and being Noodleman for a lot of the session (Noodleman comes out when he flops on the floor and doesn't use any muscles to support himself). Audrey was awake the entire session and had a period of fussiness but still managed to survive without a major meltdown. Nikko played with a thead-the-apple-with-worm toy, then moved on to memory cards. He also played with a baby doll. He knows that shoes go on the doll's feet and that a brush is used in the hair, but he's not completely set on how to feed with a bottle and/or a spoon and bowl. Jen suggested that I pretend to feed a baby doll during our regular mealtime so he can see how it works, do it for a few minutes, then put the doll away. He also did some bubbles but wasn't really into it, and finished with a car puzzle. We also sang some finger play songs to keep him alert. Nikko didn't really seem with it and I worried that perhaps he is getting tired during that time of day. After DT, I put Audrey down for a nap, then Ronin was put in his room (he cried for 30 minutes before settling down for a 40 minute nap). Nikko did not fall asleep right away, but did finally sleep around 3:15p and did so for almost two hours. I'm thinking, however, that one hour might be enough of a nap for him. Reason why is because we just put him down tonight, perhaps 25 minutes ago, and I can hear that he is still awake in the bedroom with Denis. Perhaps two hours in the middle of the day is too much. I'll have to make sure to tell Brianna that we'll let him sleep 1 hour max during a nap.

Denis took the boys in the basement for a romp before dinner and I think that helps them get some energy out. But Nikko didn't have a big appetite for dinner. Bedtime was normal, but he went Noodleman on Denis when getting ready for the bath and Nikko's arm got pulled in the wrong direction. I think he's ok, however, because he can still move it.

I told Jen that for the past few days Nikko has been uber-clingy to me, but today he climbed up into my lap and really peered into my face. Not wanting to waste the moment (and quite honestly I was getting irriated with him in my face but I had to dial it back a few notches because there was eye contact, which is a good thing, and I really shouldn't be getting annoyed just because my son wants to look at me. What annoyed me was Audrey wailing in the background because she wanted to be picked up and wasn't getting her wants met), I started pointing to my nose and back at his, pointed to my eyes and back at his, pointed to my mouth and back at his. If he's going to look into my face, I might as well name body parts so he'll pick up on something. I also noticed while changing Audrey's diaper in the bedroom that Nikko walked by the closet full-length mirror and looked at himself. He left the room and came back immediately while watching his reflection. When he got out of view he pivoted and watched himself walk by again. Luckily he didn't bump into the door frame, but I noted that this probably shows his self-awareness is increasing. All of it is a good thing.

Note to Self...

Nikko did well in Speech Therapy today. I don't mean that he spoke, although he did make sounds and a little jargoning, but that he interacted well with Gloria. He played with her toys, a barnyard game, a magna doodle (he spent a long time drawing circles on it), stringing animals on a flexible base, shape sorting and bubbles. Gloria had a cool new bottle where you squeeze the bottle and the wand kind of pops out. You can blow bubbles without getting your hands messy. Awesome! Nikko also liked a picture book that had touch and feel stuff, like fur for an elephant ear or a fuzzy patch for duck feathers. I made a mental note to dig up any board books I had stored in the nursery, and to look around at Targer or Costco for any board books that seem cool. Gloria mentioned going to the library and I always cringe just a little bit when that's suggested. The library is a great place for books, no doubt, but my kids have a tendency to end up trashing sturdy board books. Imagine if we borrowed one and returned it all taped up! Also, it's too much for me to handle hauling all three kids to the library where they will want to run around and make noise. I can't police them like that. I can only bring them if Brianna comes along, and even then I'll have to see if I can handle wearing Audrey plus one boy.

Nikko's eye contact was really good today during therapy when it came to looking at the objects she placed in front of him. Nikko often looks away, almost on purpose, when you put something in front of his eyes. I have had to put a hand on his chin and make him look at me directly at times. He didn't really look at Gloria that much, but when she put a picture on a coin in front of him, he took a second to examine the coin, recognize the picture, and match up the picture to something else. This is akin to the memory card game that Jen plays with Nikko. Note to self: buy memory card game!! That's why I really want to revisit Constructive Playthings so I can browse what they have. There's a website, but I get overwhelmed with all the searchable features that ironically I can't find what I'd like.

According to Brianna, Nikko fell asleep not long after I left for the chiropractor, and he slept for two hours. He seemed rested, but I don't know if he fell asleep quickly this evening or not (gotta check w/Denis). I want to know if a two-hour nap was too much, even though it was early in the day. The rest of the day went well, but Nikko has been extremely clingy to me lately. Like glue. He also peers into my face a lot lately. He doesn't try to touch my face or explore my features like Ronin does, but he puts his face within centimeters of mine and just peers at me. I don't mind looking back at him, but I do wonder, as I seem to do every day, what goes on in that head of his.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Music in his head?

Nikko started the day in a good mood. He didn't resist diaper changes or mealtimes and didn't ask for things he couldn't have. I watched him again during lunchtime, after he ate his chicken nuggets and mac cheese. He was doing that weird dance in the middle of the kitchen again. This time I did see some stimming behavior, some shaking of his head back and forth, but as I watched him he did seem like he was doing a dance to some music in his head. Audrey was entertained by his dancing in her exersaucer nearby. During Ronin's nap I took Audrey and Nikko downstairs where he ran about and was crawling over the foof chairs. There was a period of time where he wedged himself between a trampoline and the A/V console. I thought he was looking for a quiet place to poo, but he was poo-free so perhaps he just liked the tight spot. He tends to like tunnels (but never used to crawl in them) or tunnel-like spaces, especially close to the floor.

Later in the day, Nikko took a nap and when he woke up he was incredibly clingy to me. Those are hard times because Audrey is usually bawling and Nikko wants me all to himself. I give him some firm hugs, but coaxing him off me is very hard. And for some reason tonight, Nikko did not eat his dinner (at least didn't finish most of it in front of me). I don't know why, I didn't think he was full from the snack he had around 4:30. He had pudding, and that wasn't enough to fill him up. Sometimes I just don't know what goes on in his head. Tomorrow he has speech therapy and I wonder if I'll be wrestling with him again since he hasn't seen Gloria in two weeks. Brianna will be here to take Ronin downstairs, and she'll watch the boys in the afternoon while I go to the chiropractor. I hope she can interact with him a bit more, but his attention span is so short that she also seems distant toward him.