Monday, June 29, 2009

JAX part 2

I decided that we should get some lunch, even though I had zero appetite. There was a Sbarro next to an airy seating area so we ate pizza while watching a construction demo of a terminal take place. Nikko was interested and it was better than watching a construction DVD. After he ate his fill Nikko got comfy on the floor while watching plane activity. I didn't finish my pizza. Blechhh. We waited for Denis to pick us up in the Southwest Departures terminal. Nikko was running behind some chairs and there was just enough room for me to run alongside him. He put his hands forward like the roller coaster song from Hi-5 so I did the same and started a chase game with him. He giggled happily and I was only too eager to tire him out. Denis came, got a car seat for the rental, and we checked into our hotel at the Courtyard Marriott. We had a quick dinner at Panera, offering Nikko some grilled cheese which he tasted but didn't finish. He did, however, drink his chocolate milk. Before heading back to our room we took Nikko to the dark beach and took a walk in the waves. Nikko couldn't see well (neither could I) and he was curious about the water, not scared. He took a second to bend down and touch the sand. I was excited to see how he would react to being on the beach the next day!

Saturday we went to a place called Marineland to look at some dolphins. It was a huge dolphin habitat that seemed promising, but only if you paid more money to pet/swim/feed the dolphins. Nikko wasn't impressed with the dolphins. Instead, he found a set of four benches and ran back and forth along the edges. He didn't want to stop and protested really loudly when we dragged him back to the car. He fell asleep in the car and didn't wake up until we got to a place called Al's Pizza for lunch. He started tantruming when he woke up and was probably a scary sight to our waitress, who seemed to hesitate before approaching our table. It took a while for him to calm down, but he finally did. It wasn't until much later in the evening that I noticed a blood blister on one of Nikko's fingers and I wondered if that was what set him off in the afternoon. We survived lunch, rested in the hotel room for a bit, and then headed down to the beach. Yea!

Nikko loved the beach and I loved it for him. He wasn't afraid to go into the water and he learned quickly how to stand against each wave to prevent being pushed over. Denis was by his side the whole time. Nikko put his hands over his ears, possibly because the roar of the waves was loud, but I think it was to amplify the sounds. [SIDENOTE: Nikko has a tendency to put his hands over his ears as if to imply that something is too loud for him. I have seen him do this, however, when there are no loud sounds in the room at all. I think, as stated before, that he may be doing this to amplify the current sounds, the opposite of what one would normally do.] Nikko ran around the beach for a while, then plopped down next to a wet mound of sand, started taking handfuls of it and throwing it aside. I think his beach experience went very well, considering he's been looking at it from our balcony for a whole day.

We rinsed off and went into the hotel swimming pool where the water was considerably warmer than the ocean. We stayed on the shallow end where there were three steps that led down into the pool. Nikko would walk down the steps and on the final one we'd have to hold him up because it was deeper than his head. He seemed content on the stair when Denis remarked something about our room. I looked up toward our room and counted up four floors. Each balcony looked the same. I turned back and saw Nikko's head submerged and his fingers over his head, barely above the water. I gasped and made a move for Nikko, and Denis turned quickly to scoop Nikko up by his armpits. Nikko didn't cough up water or anything, but I wiped the water from his face and held him really tight anyway, fighting off my tears. Denis and I both looked at each other, shaken. I took my eyes off of Nikko for maybe three seconds to look at the building, but I think Nikko was under for perhaps two seconds. He probably didn't inhale any water because nothing came out of his nose and he wasn't coughing, and he probably wasn't holding his breath because he doesn't know how to do that, but in any case it scared the hell out of me. Never, never again am I going to take my eyes off Nikko when he's in any water that's over his head.

We get cleaned up and go to dinner at a Beachfront restaurant that had two girls that reminded me of Sookie Stackhouse and her best friend Tara (to any True Blood watchers out there). The food took a long time coming, and I'm glad I brought the DVD player to entertain Nikko. I watched him watching the DVD and for the first time since he signed Eat, I saw him copying some signs: Bread, Cookie and Cracker. WOW!!! He did it really well, too! The signs might not have any meaning to him yet, but the fact that he picked it up from the DVD shows me that he's coming along. Great imitation!

Sunday morning was an early one straight to the airport. We had to catch a 9:55 flight via standby so there were no morning activities with Denis. This leg back was rougher. Nikko didn't want to sit still and the flight attendants weren't as accommodating to let him sit in my lap, especially in Philadelphia. Booooo! The DVD helped keep him occupied, and it was the Signing Time DVDs that carried us through. I was feeling sick on our descent into Chicago, but I tried to stay positive for Nikko as I have been throughout this entire trip. We went to Mom's house where there was a fish fry in honor of her upcoming birthday. I thanked her profusely for taking care of Ronin and Audrey, and I thanked Atz as well for helping Mom out. I could tell over the phone it was rough taking care of Audrey because she wouldn't go nicely with anyone. Ronin was better at socializing with the others, I'm sure. I gave the kids a bath at Mom's, then took them all home.

Today I tried to get us back on schedule, but Audrey woke up at 6:30a and that caused everyone to wake up soon after. Nikko woke up early, didn't nap all day, and ended up crashing around 8pm. I tried to wake him up for a bath but gave up and put him in his bed instead. Since he didn't spring up the minute I put him down, I figured that he's really zonked and left him sleeping. Ronin's not having the easiest night, having swallowed some bath water that probably irritated his throat. He's woken up already, crying, and I anticipate it might happen again tonight. I've got lots of dishes to wash and a house to straighten tonight after blogging. My day was difficult because I went back from having one kid for a few days to having all three. I got frustrated quite a few times by the crying and whining. Audrey is increasingly more difficult to calculate and her crying adds fuel to my anxiety. I think I have to recall my image of the anxious bubble again. I took the kids outside for an hour around 5pm so they could enjoy the weather, and it was indeed beautifully cool. A mosquito kept bothering me so I got some bug spray and put some on the kids as well. Nikko did this over our trip, but I think he has shaken off the Fruit Snack habit. On Saturday he wasn't placated by any FS to calm him down, and this rang true on Sunday as well. Unfortunately he's turned his attention back to the vitamins in the cabinet and he gave me a battle of wills today. I had already given him two earlier this morning, but after dinner he kept pulling me over to the cabinet for more. I gave him one more and a big warning that there was NO MORE so don't ask me for any. True to his word, he started pulling me back after I gave him the third gummi-vite. I said No firmly, and then ignored him. I went about my business in the kitchen, and it hurt me to have him try to drag me, pull off my fingers and to bury his head in my side, but I was not going to give him anything. I told him we'd go turn on the TV and he went with me, still crying. I dried his tears and put on a Signing Time DVD. This tired him all out and he fell asleep before 8pm. I really wanted to give him a bath to wash off the bug spray from earlier, but I'll just bathe him tomorrow and throw the sheets in the wash.

Tomorrow Denis is coming home! Ronin and Audrey haven't seen him in over a week. I'm going to be glad because it's really lonely here without him at night. He's a big help in putting Nikko to bed, too, but without him here for our night time routine feels very empty. Nikko was still able to connect with Denis even though he hadn't seen him in a few days, which was a good sign for me. While it was a good experience for Nikko to travel and see different people and places, I don't think we are going to travel via plane for a LONG time. At least I don't want to! Many thanks to Eric for giving us the two buddy passes to make our trip possible, and for being our guardian flight angel. :)

JAX part 1

Summary: Nikko and I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, to spend time with Denis who is in Brunswick, Georgia doing some work-related training. We were standby flyers on Southwest and spent a lot of time in the airports. The best part of the trip was being on the actual beach by the ocean. Nikko loved it. He also enjoyed the warm hotel pool. Coming back was rough, but we survived.

The Details:
I scooped up Nikko at 5:50am, put him in the car and drove off to Midway Airport. I was nervous and sick to my stomach because I hadn't been to Midway in a long time. I feared getting lost and I feared that we wouldn't get on a flight. Both fears were unfounded when we arrived in one piece, on time, and got in line for our boarding passes with no events. I told them Nikko was a special needs child and they gave us a preboarding pass for disabilities. You could say it was our golden ticket to sitting next to each other. One little unfortunate incident that happened at the gate was that Nikko unexpectedly grabbed the cane of a blind man who was walking nearby. We were sitting on the floor watching our DVD player but Nikko's hand came out of nowhere. The man was startled and said something after I apologized. I don't remember what he said, but I'm sure he wasn't thrilled. The funny part was that after it all happened, he decided to sit down in the seat next to us. Glutton for punishment? I had to restrain Nikko from going for his cane again. Our plane was headed to Indianapolis and then to Jacksonville. It was already delayed by 50 minutes, but then after we boarded there was some mechanical malfunction and we had to go to another gate to switch planes. That was a lot of hard work. And all the while I still felt like puking. Nikko was awake to Indianapolis, but slept all the way to Jacksonville.

BTW, I'll probably continue this tomorrow because I'm dead tired right now, it's 2:30ish again and I need some sleep. I took notes, anyway.......

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Park in lieu of OT

Ok, the one complaint I have about this laptop is that the word processing on this blog doesn't have a "recover" or back feature if you lose a whole paragraph of stuff. I don't know if my wrist waved over some phantom button but I just lost a whole lot of stuff. GRRRRR.....

Instead of going to OT today, I took my family to meet up with the Alogs and the Penepackers at a park in The Glen. It had a splash pad with water shooting all over the place, playground area and sandbox (I avoided sand at all costs). Originally I was planning on going to OT but the timeframe between meeting up with the fam, leaving and then going to the clinic was so small. We wouldn't have enough time to enjoy anything. I called Shelly to cancel and she sounded slightly relieved, said she wasn't feeling well anyway. I think she was being a touch lazy, but that's typical of Shelly. I rationalized that Nikko would probably benefit more from being around our relatives, all the little cousins, the other kids in the splash pad, the water and playground, and being outdoors. That's exactly what happened. Nikko (and Ronin) had a blast. So much that when I wanted to go, Nikko ran away from me and hid on the other side of the splash pad. Even fruit snacks didn't lure him away, which dumbfounded me. I got a towel and approached him from behind. I enveloped him in it and carried him away, but not before a big stream of water shot up toward my head. Got drenched despite my best efforts. I wonder if anyone thought I was kidnapping Nikko by using that towel, and no one stopped me. What if someone came up to a kid, wrapped him in a blanket or rug, threw him in a van and drove away? Horrors!

All kids slept on the ride home. Not me, the driver. Strangely, no one wanted to finish their dinner and I don't know why. Ronin must have sensed something when I was putting him down to sleep because for the first time in a few months he cried and cried after I left the room. I went back to him once, and he complied when I put him down, but when I left he cried for another 20 minutes. I couldn't keep going back in there, I had way too much to do.

I won't be able to blog for the next 3 days, not until Sunday night, but I'll take notes each day. Wish me luck in getting to Midway!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An FS lesson

An uneventful day at home with no therapies on the calendar. We were possibly going poolside with Atz, Sabrina and Allie but a thunderstorm cut that off, along with Atz getting busy with other things. Since we had been inside all day, and with Nikko waking up from a two-hour nap, I decided to get the kids outdoors for just a little bit before dinner. It was HOT today, and unfortunately it was still around 89 degrees and humid at 6pm. I put Audrey on a banig (straw mat for sitting on grass), put up the baby gate, took out the cozy coupe and tricycle, and fired up the bubble machine. Ronin was fine, running around, and even took a tumble on the ground, scuffing his forehead on the pavement. Ouch! Audrey sat on the mat and wasn't thrilled about being outside, but didn't get antsy until the end. Nikko started out on the tricycle but seemed bored outside. He put some sticks through the grating over the window well, ran underneath the picnic table as if it were a tunnel, and enjoyed the bubbles for a little bit, but he seemed mellow and sullen. After a half hour of being out in the sticky heat I figured that the kids were probably more uncomfortable than I so I rounded everyone back into the cool house. Aaaaaaahhhhh...

The only other noteworthy action today had to do with FS again. Around 2:40 Nikko must have decided that he hadn't seen any FS for a while so he took my hand and started dragging me toward the hall closet where he saw me grab a few bags when we had speech on Tuesday. I knew where we were going and I flatly refused to go there, refused to budge from the chair I sat in and refused to give him my hands. I didn't want to give in to the FS again. He was very upset, screamed and cried and tried to pry my hands free. He wasn't letting up so I figured I could see if I could get him to point again. I felt a little defeated that I was giving FS, but convinced myself that I was going through a training session. I let him lead me to the closet and pretended that I didn't know which door he wanted. I pretended not to know what he wanted by pointing into our bedroom and the bathroom. I asked him many times what did Nikko want? He looked away a lot. But after five minutes of guessing and guessing, I saw his hand flicker with a finger toward the door. It wasn't prominent enough for me so I asked him firmly what did Nikko want and he finally did point toward the door. I squealed my approval and opened the door. He looked up at the shelf with the fruit snacks and I continued to be positive by asking him what he wanted. Ronin came by and immediately pointed up toward the box, but this was Nikko's show so I kept at him. Nikko finally did point upward and I rewarded him happily with the hard-earned FS. I guess if I don't want him to eat them all the time, the least I should do if the situation looks perilous is make him work for it, right? I think that's what a therapist would tell me. He still acts like he doesn't hear what I'm saying, but at the same time I can tell that he understands what I am saying. This afternoon he was trouncing around the living room and being reckless, and put a hand on the rubber mats on the floor as if to pick up a square. I immediately said NO and told Nikko not to lift them up, to leave them alone. He looked at me, hesitated, and then let his hand drop. He clearly heard me say no, and understood it. On that same note, Ronin ran over and started peeling a rubber mat away from the others. I said NO quite sternly, he looked at me and continued to peel away. When I went over to haul him away he scrambled and tried to pull faster. I was incredulous at him! But that is how he functions, challenging me even though he's not trying to be bad. He's just being an almost tw0-year old. Oy.

Tomorrow we only have OT at 3pm. I've got to remember to take back the trampoline and the inflatable runner since they are not ours. Fran wants to have a picnic at 12:30p and Atz suggested having it at The Glen in Glenview, which is supposed to be very kid-friendly. I'll give it a try, but will have to leave by 2:30 no matter what. They have a splash pad over there and I dread things just a bit because I'll have to change the boys over there and then take them to OT, but I'll just bring spare clothes and diapers, swim and regular. Gotta get some more towels. The more we venture out to water parks and facilities, the better experience I get at packing for these outings.

Fruit Snacks to the rescue/poolside with Jovy

This morning's speech therapy puzzled me. When Gloria walked through the door, Nikko went into retreat mode. He avoided the mirrored corner and dragged me to the DVD player. He wasn't satisfied with me handing him the Signing Time DVD, he wanted me to put it on. I definitely had to refuse him and then he started tantruming. We decided to make the DVD disappear and the tantrum increased tenfold. I struggled with him for a minute or two, and then at the same time Gloria suggested (as did I) that maybe we try soothing him with fruit snacks and working with them through the session. I got them and instantly Nikko calmed down. I encouraged him to sit down and when he did I gave him a FS. Gloria took out some Play Doh and we coaxed Nikko into playing with it via FS. He complied, picked up the green stuff and let Gloria help him shape it in squeezable tubes or cut it with cookie cutters. Then she segued into these foam stickers of Noah's ark animals. Each colored piece had a white paper backing with adhesive on the back. Nikko would (with hand over hand) peel the paper and stick the white ark or green cloud or yellow giraffe or blue hippo onto a piece of paper. He'd get praised and then get a FS. Then came stringing wooden shapes onto a shoelace. He'd do a few and then get a FS. I told Gloria that we did this exact same FS strategy during last week's OT session to get Nikko to work. I voiced to Gloria that while it seemed to work, I didn't want to rely on FS to get Nikko to do something, in the same vein as the ABA way of working with autistic kids (I've discussed this in an earlier but more recent post). I didn't want Nikko to be robotic in his actions. Gloria agreed, but also said that if FS is what is working for us right now, she would recommend sticking to it. While I don't want to get Nikko hooked on FS to get something done, things will definitely change in preschool. He might welcome the structure and routine of their program. The FS, according to Gloria seem to be working by helping him to focus and do what I ask, while keeping me from going insane. Things are going to change all over again in preschool, so working hard to change things again now are probably just going to stress us all out. I agree, and will proceed with caution. Case in point, later in the afternoon we were at Target and Costco, and at both places Nikko signed More for FS. I wanted him to behave but I didn't want to be feeding him constantly so I tried to hold off on the FS. Well, more so at Costco than at Target, Nikko was melting down until he got some FS. I feel defeated when I have to break open a bag and give it to him, but right now I don't have another solution except to let him cry and scream and wriggle out of the shopping cart, unless I have some other distraction that will work. Explaining to him that he has to wait until we are in the store, or out of the store, or until we get to the car does not calm him in the least.

We got a very kind invitation from Anna and Pat to have the kids over at their house around 5ish to play in the backyard with Jovy in the wading pool. After running our errands with Chinny, we headed to their house. I wondered if I could stand the heat because in my opinion it was quite oppressive, but since we don't get to play with cousin Jovy that much I saw it as an opportunity for socialization and water play. I also like how spacious their house is and think their patio is the envy of all patios, with luxurious 3-person covered swing, nice patio table and chairs, paver bricks on the ground, grill, play hut and slide, garden and green grass like a thick carpet. My brother did all that work, what a dad! :) Garden is Anna's handiwork, even while she's 6 months pregnant. After an early dinner (Nikko ate pizza, thank goodness, and Ronin ate lots of rice with a few nuggets) we ventured outside where the boys and Jovy got to stomp around in the kiddie pool, run through a circular sprinkler and enjoy the bubble machine. We have one at home, too, which they like to put their fingers through, but it might destroy the machine so I had to turn it off. Whereas on Father's Day Nikko didn't venture near the kiddie pool, today he was the first one to literally get his feet wet by putting his Croc'ed foot into the pool. Later he was taking a kiddie hoe and scooping water into the air for an unexpected shower. The sprinkler was a hit as all the kids put their faces into the streams of water and tried to drink up the droplets. Meanwhile, Audrey was not really appreciating all this aquatic access. She did tolerate sitting in the grass, however, until her plastic pizza slice slid out of reach. She was a crankypants for a while and I wondered if she were hungry. On the way home I realized that she needed a nap and wasn't getting one when she wanted it. I had showered the boys at Anna's, and Mr. Ronin the Curious yanked on a corner shower caddy and it unhinged itself into the tub. Nikko seemed unfazed by all the activity, and was mellow at home after I put on Signing Time Disc 3 per his urgent request. I'll make sure to pack along all 3 DVDs when we go to Florida since we'll have to wait in the airport for a few hours until Denis gets off work and comes to pick us up. I'll look for a wall that has an outlet and set up shop for us. I'll also make a safety ID for Nikko and clip it to the back of his shorts in the event that we get separated at the airport.

We don't have any therapies tomorrow and the weather is supposed to be sunny and hot. If I can keep us indoors and cool, I will. But if the opportunity arises that we can play outside without me fainting, (drama queen, I know) I'll take that, too. I'll call over to Mom's house to see if anything's going on with Fran and his fam.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OCD with brick blocks

I got us to playgroup only slightly late this time, by about five minutes instead of ten or fifteen. Nikko was not totally uncooperative today, but he didn't do as much as I wanted him to. He paid minimal attention during circle time; I had to wrangle him in place and put my back up against a cupboard that had musical instruments that he wanted. He didn't play with any toys except for the toy airplane and a little of the bean box. Instead he ran back and forth across the room and used some drumsticks. He didn't really participate in the craft, but certainly sat still for snack time. There's a new kid named Brandon who only speaks Spanish. I don't know if the language thing is the only reason he's there, but he seems pretty normal, sharp and polite. We came home from playgroup so that Ronin could have speech with Peter. Nikko was lining up the brick blocks and was very obsessed with keeping them in a straight line. A little OCD for sure. Throughout the day he seemed rather mellow, but when I put the Signing Time DVD on he was all smiles. With Denis out of town I had to do bath and bedtime by myself. I started early with Audrey because she seemed crankiest. She hated having a bath in the little bathtub, but it's harder to wash her in the sink nowadays because she's getting heavy. The boys were next after she went to sleep. I put Ronin down first, and then lay with Nikko. I know he likes having me nearby, but I wonder if that kept him from falling asleep faster. He did take a nap today between 4:30 and 6p so perhaps the nap kept him up later. We have speech tomorrow but I don't have anything planned outdoors officially because it's going to be a scorcher. Still, I should try to get these kids outdoors or take them to Costco at the least.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Real Pointing

Happy Father's Day! It was low-key, but our ultimate destination was Pat's house with the whole Alog clan (and Mr. Mil). I think Nikko was a little tired from the pool yesterday. He fell asleep on the armrest right before I had to change everyone to go out. I think that short nap was all he needed, however, since he looked really tired at bedtime but didn't fall asleep right away, to our chagrin. There were a few little tidbits today that were noteworthy:

Nikko followed me into the nursery and was eyeing the brick blocks in the rubbermaid. He was pulling me toward them and I was trying to avoid giving in because I didn't want the mess. I got down to his level and asked him what he wanted. His eyes were roaming but since we were standing in the block vicinity I knew what he wanted. Still I hemmed and asked again what he wanted. He grabbed my hand and was pulling it toward the blocks but I pulled it back. "Show me. You do it," I said to him, not looking directly at the blocks. He let go of my hand and pointed at the brick blocks. I was amazed and praised him loudly, took the rubbermaid, ushered him into the living room and opened the lid for him. Nikko doesn't point at things, which is why this is such a big deal. It may have sounded like I prompted him easily, but believe me it was tedious and hard work while it was happening. I didn't really expect him to point, but he did and the reward was immediate. Later in the kitchen, some time after lunch he was dragging me toward the vitamin cabinet again. I pulled away from him and he grabbed my arm to haul me over again. I pulled out a stool, sat down and started asking Nikko what he wanted. Did he want the towel on the drawer? The toy on the countertop? The fork? Denis at the sink doing dishes? I told him I didn't see anything he might want, so could he please show me? He was whining and crying loudly for me to read his mind, but I wanted him to work for it. It took a few minutes of this whining exchange but I didn't ease up asking him What Does Nikko Want? I tried pointing up toward the cabinet but he didn't imitate me. I decided to pick him up and put him level with the cabinet. Immediately he was smiling and surveying the countertops, enjoying the view. I let him do this for a minute, but then asked what he wanted again. He looked like he forgot himself, so I told him I'd put him down because he was heavy. Then he pointed straight at the cabinet where the vitamins and the fruit snacks were hidden. I was so happy he pointed after such a long exchanged that I praised him and then opened the cabinet door to reveal a bag of fruit snacks. That was his reward. I was also worn out from the constant battle of words and trying to be encouraging at the same time. I don't think the pointing will be consistent in the short run, but these two exchanges were really good ones to me.

At Patrick's house, I was very surprised that when the kids were let outside to play, he didn't step into the kiddie pool filled with water. Nikko is usually a magnet to water, but today he didn't go in or even touch it. I wonder if he was all watered out from the pool day yesterday. Ronin went in and did some splashing but after a short while he, too, wasn't interested in the pool. During dinner, Nikko didn't seem very hungry as usual but he did try some hot dog that Denis was sharing to Ronin. I heated up some mac cheese from home and Nikko didn't eat much at first. After he had been sitting/standing at the table for a good 15 minutes he finally decided to eat the rest of the mac cheese. And then there was dessert, which he has not dropped from his list of rejected foods. Nikko loves sweets, of course. He ate peach cobbler with ice cream for a time and then switched to strawberry cake. The whole time he was there Nikko didn't really interact with anybody else. He kept to himself and held onto a toy car or looked out the window. I had to coax him off of an ice chest so he could join us for dinner, but he seemed content to sit on my lap and, later on, stand on a chair next to me. When we came home and I lifted him out of the Pilot he started thrashing and protesting. I think he wanted to play outside. That wasn't going to happen so I hauled him inside, took off his Crocs and enticed him to come into the living room to rest and watch TV. He complied and remained there until I finished Audrey's bath and bed. I think in the week ahead I'm going to bring up the kiddie tub and try to give Audrey a bath in it. This poses the risk that the boys will want to play with the kiddie tub during their bath, but I'll try to avoid this. I'm also going to have to start Audrey's bath time around 8:15 if I'm going to finish getting the boys ready for bed by around 9p. If we go to Mom's house to hang out with Fran and his fam, I wonder if our bath and bed times will be screwed up for a few days like it has been already. Ronin's been falling asleep in the high chair for a week now and so he hasn't been taking his 2pm nap at all. He's not going to like getting back to that schedule. I'll probably let this next week slide if it does and then go back to our regularly scheduled program the following week.

Flick Park

Atz saved the day and invited us to join them and Fran's two eldest girls at poolside at Flick Park in Glenview. There was a toddler pool amid the adult ones that the boys would enjoy. I committed to going, looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. The part I dread is the packing and the dressing at the pool, but once that's all done I thoroughly enjoy watching the boys have a great time. Even with all the running around I did to get the kids' clothes and diapers all in one bag, I still forgot to pack Nikko a proper pair of swim trunks. Luckily I had some basketball shorts that could double for trunks. Also had to pack a food bag and make sure I could be firm if one of the park district guys told me I couldn't bring in food. I'd refer to my food allergic son and whip out the Epi-pen if need be. Once I got everyone changed into their swim diapers and swim clothes, with Atz's help, the boys were in the pool and they loved it, of course. Ronin wasn't clingy to me at all, hardly even noticed that I wasn't next to him. Atz's Dennis initially took Nikko to the big kid slides. I caught up with them a little bit later and Nikko was standing in the middle of some crazy slide/spraying water apparatus just looking up at all the water falling around him. He didn't look scared, mostly curious. When he recognized me, he approached me and stood by me. I took him back to the toddler pool where we could all be around each other and he could swim/float by the sprayers and bubbly fountains that were more his size and speed. Nikko spent a great deal of time on his tummy with his head above water, crawling around like an alligator, looking at the water and the sky and no one in particular. He would look at other people at times but kept mostly to himself and didn't seek anyone's company. Nikko was having a good time, no doubt. As for Ronin, you simply had to look at him once to see that he was having a great time. Splashed, crawled, laughed and finally discovering the big frog water slide, Ronin wore himself out by the end. Nikko had also tried the frog slide once, but didn't visit it again. That surprised me. When Ronin found another kid's blue truck, played with it in the water and then had a total meltdown when we gave it back to the kid, I knew it was time to go. 2.5 hours in the water seemed enough for Nikko as well because I found him standing outside the pool when it was time to go. He wasn't doing anything but standing on the grills where water drained. He looked like his time was up and didn't resist leaving. The rest of our evening was pretty calm, and Nikko fell asleep during bedtime stories. I hope they both sleep like rocks. And Audrey through all this? She was a champ. She had a little pink swimsuit on and wore a brown floppy hat. She didn't dislike the water and tolerated sitting in it a bit, but preferred to be held. Surprisingly, the only time she napped was when Atz fed her a bottle, but it was a short nap. I could tell Audrey was tired, too, but she held out until bedtime.

Nikko was very quiet throughout the day, wanted to add. He jargoned a little bit during Flick Park, and was probably talking to himself a lot because he was being a loner in the pool anyway, but I didn't see anything overly showy or unusual.

Another interesting tidbit a la Nikko is that I've seen him take Ronin's Aero Chamber he breathes in for his asthma, put it to his own nose/mouth and breathe from it. He's seen Ronin do it every day that he's finally copied it down to the deep breathing. I applauded him for that, and was glad that he didn't know how to depress the inhaler attached to it. Nikko wouldn't suffer from the Flovent, but he doesn't need it either.

Tomorrow is Father's Day and we'll end up at Pat's house with all the families. I hope the weather will be kind to us so that the boys can play outside with Jovy and her cool backyard setup.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The quiet before the storm

Nikko was eerily quiet today. This is not to say that he didn't have his moments where he didn't babble or crash, because he did do those things. It was when he wasn't doing those things that he seemed rather mellow, slightly pensive, but mostly he looked like his mind was on pause. I can't quite put a finger on it. I think he's been going through a stage change, which might explain all the resistance in therapies or clinginess to me, but this is all speculation. I had complained to Shelly that we might be at another plateau and I didn't know what to do about it. I'm not blaming it on Shelly or anyone. She's been great about trying to up his input on the swing and giving him some challenging crafts like the scissors. I just have a feeling that we have reached another plateau and I wish I could think of something to jumpstart it. Preschool is on the horizon, but that's still months away. One thing that I think will have a big factor on his behavior is being outdoors. I've noticed that while he initially used to enjoy running back and forth, stimming off the fences and telephone lines, nowadays he also likes to explore. He likes to ride his tricycle. And if I can make things more challenging for him, I'd like to see if he could experience cool things outside. Bubbles is fun, but getting the kiddie pools cleaned and running would be awesome. And ultimately getting that swingset up would be the best thing for both boys. So when is that happening? Good question.

I gave the boys haircuts in the kitchen. I forgot to time it. This time I didn't use any food to keep them sitting still. Instead, I put in the Signing Time DVD and that kept Nikko in the chair. Ronin also watched, but moved around a lot more. And unfortunately when I was changing Ronin standing up, he peed A LOT on the floor. More to clean up. I snacked the kids around 4-ish, and then got the call from Denis that he'd meet us there instead of coming home first. Off and on today were the fiercest thunderstorms and tornado warnings, so it was dark a lot of the day with patches of light. I drove us down to the in-laws and one of the storms hit us when we were passing through Oakbrook. The winds were so strong that it was making the Pilot wobble back and forth. When we got there, the in-laws lost power so it was hot and humid. The boys initially refused to eat anything at dinner so that wasn't fun juggling. Ronin relented, however, so I got him to sit down and eat rice. Nikko flat out refused, didn't even take the bread and butter I brought, and refused anything I offered him. But later on, when Denis was eating, Nikko came over to him to mooch off his plate and he ate some tater tots. I wonder why he didn't eat with me. Wasn't hungry at that point in time? We got home late, gave baths and bed late. But that won't stop Audrey from waking up early, probably before 7am.

I don't have anything specific planned tomorrow other than making a trip to Costco to get something for the Father's Day get-together at Pat's and possibly getting something for all the dads. Gift cards? Then I'd have to go to Jewel with the 3, and I have no idea how I'd do that without a shopping cart given right to me. I'd like to see if I can engage Nikko in something productive. I worry more about the days when we don't have something planned because I feel like Nikko will be at a standstill.

Friday, June 19, 2009

ABA, and photo shoot

I'd say that DT was a disaster today. Bo came earlier today because she had a cancellation. That was fine with me. But minutes before she arrived, Nikko came to me and dragged me toward the brick blocks rubbermaid. I cringed because I didn't want him to be obsessed with them, and wondered if I refused to give them to him would he be obstinate for the entire session. I gave them to him and immediately he lined some up. When Bo came in I warned her that Nikko was into the blocks. He was kicking and crying while we tried to wrangle him into the circle and involve him in an activity. So, we were already in the red even before the session began. I'm not sure how long it took to calm him down, maybe 15-20 minutes, before he was too tired from wrestling and actually did a puzzle with Bo. I think the pegs and peg board were next, but he was still pushing them away and slapping her hand. Nikko pulled out her little clear backpack of dishes and plates and motioned that he wanted her to open it. We thought it might be productive play, but Bo remembered that Nikko always liked a plastic slice of watermelon in the backpack, but it wasn't there today. I felt kind of defeated that our last session with Bo for the next month was a bust. We haven't had a good session in almost a month, and this is not just with Bo but with Gloria too. Shelly still gets good gross motor out of Nikko, but we do have to settle down to get to the fine motor stuff.

Chinny showed up to help us go to OT. Nikko seemed eager to run around when we got there and Ronin stayed with us for 30 minutes running about. Then I felt like we should lessen the distractions and I asked Chinny to take Ronin into the second room; we'd just be left with Audrey, who was hanging out nearby on some mats playing with koosh balls. Shelly tried to slow Nikko down with scissors and paper, but he didn't want to be pinned down. She tried having him draw with chalk but he wouldn't sit in a chair. He started coming to me for fruit snacks and I really didn't want to get into giving him food during therapy, but since Shelly and I were talking about ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis - like the Pavlovian way to learn something) we decide to try rewarding his actions with fruit snacks. Using the stringing beads we had him string a few, then get a fruit snack, then a few more, fruit snack, and so on. That's the basis of ABA. Nikko is highly food motivated so he did well with it. Real ABA therapy is much more intense and also involves paperwork that keeps track of how many times he will attempt an action or get rewarded (called Trials). It sounds like a good kind of therapy, but the flipside to ABA is that it is perceived as mechanical and emotionless -- that a child learns to perform a command, initially gets rewarded with something, which then gets phased out, and finally the child performs an action because it was taught to him. "Robotic." The desired way for many to teach a child is to do it by self-motivation, because the child wants to perform the action, not because he learned it by rote. I have toyed with the idea of ABA therapy, but don't know if it's something to pursue. It can be expensive and I don't know if BCBS covers it. It's also a program that demands a strong commitment, and it's hard for me to do right now with Ronin and Audrey in the mix. I'm hoping that after a few months of preschool, perhaps someone like Kathy Winters could see his progress and make that kind of suggestion (or the OT, Jean Imbruglia).

We went to Costco after OT, and then Chinny went to class while I went to Atz's house where all the Alog grandchildren were going to meet to take a picture, per Mom's request. I imagined that the picture itself would be challenging, but let's just say the biggest drama was happening when I got all my kids unloaded. Since they had been in the car for so long, they had all fallen asleep after Costco. This is probably because I stopped to snack everyone at Costco since we went straight to OT in the afternoon and didn't stop for a snack. I forgot that Nikko ate an entire churro, so that should explain why he wasn't hungry at dinnertime despite my best efforts to encourage him to eat. Ronin had some Triscuts but still didn't finish his nuggets. When we got to Atz's house, the kids were still sleeping and she wasn't home yet so I let them sleep until 7p. Atz's Dennis came out to help unload the kids and Ronin had already woken up and was crying really hard. When Dennis came to carry him out, Ronin was soaking wet because he leaked all the juice he drank earlier. He also started screaming bloody murder because he had to wait inside until we were finished unloading all the kids. I took Nikko and Ronin upstairs to their hallway to change diapers, and asked Dennis to bring Audrey nearby so she could hang out and not be crying downstairs. When he brought her up to the landing she was also screaming bloody murder. Nikko, who was standing beside me with a hand on my shoulder as I was changing Ronin, started to cry because he was upset with waking up and being somewhere different, and probably didn't want to be left out in the crying game. My dear nieces arrived and were so helpful; they tried to distract Ronin and even carry Audrey, but no one would be placated. With Nikko crying and the little two screaming their tonsils out, I would normally have blown a few gaskets, the anxious bubble would have burst all over the place, and I would have felt stressed out to the ultimate max. The screaming was THAT loud and THAT BAD. But for some reason I felt calm on the inside, even laughed when Atz went into her room, closed the door, opened it to look back on us and the screaming, and closed it again. It seemed so comical. I can hardly believe I wasn't yelling or screaming back at the kids. In my mind I was telling myself to get Ronin changed, put Audrey sitting next to me to calm her (it didn't; she kept screaming), and get Nikko changed so we could get downstairs. I was determined and goal-driven. It's too bad that Audrey wasn't just crying. Her cries were deep screams, and Ronin's screams came and went as Dennis came and went, sorry to say. Nikko was incredibly clingy to me, of course, but I didn't get annoyed at him. I just hurried to get us downstairs where the girls could play with Ronin, I could settle on the floor with Audrey, and give Nikko some deep hugs that he probably needed very much from me. The actual photo shoot was ok. I had to use the fruit snacks as bait, but that was expected. I don't know how the picture turned out but I'm sure Atz will let us know. When I finally asked the time, it was 8:39pm. I was shocked, although I shouldn't have been. We started late anyway, but I got nervous because it was going to be another late night for the kiddies. Dinner was stressful because Nikko wouldn't eat (see notes above regarding Costco snacking), but I got us out of there as soon as I could. Things are just going to be late while my brother is in town, and we'll go with the flow as much as I can handle it.

On a side note, we have two Leap Frog alphabet magnetic toys on the fridge that play the alphabet song when you push a button, and say the name of a letter that you put into it. They are both on the fridge and Nikko has figured out that if you push the alphabet song button on each of them at the same time, they will sing the same song at the same speed. He started by pushing them randomly, arm's length apart, but then he'd push the buttons and the music was in sync with each other. I think he's started doing this on purpose. Very interesting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Good, not the Bad

No therapies today. Nikko had chocolate milk for breakfast, but I also attempted to make him half a peanut butter and banana sandwich, like his dad eats. I cut off the crusts and sliced 4 bite-size rectangles for him. I saw that he nibbled on two of them but didn't finish any. After breakfast was our regular round of diaper changes and play time in front of Play With Me Sesame on TV. Nikko came up to me later and dragged me to the nursery to open the rubbermaid that had the brick blocks inside. They have been at the edge of the crib for a few weeks and I wondered when Nikko would notice them and want to play with them. My living room has been block-free for almost a month. No longer. Ronin and Nikko had to duke it out a few times because Ronin wanted to walk on top of the pathway that Nikko had built, and play cars on top of it, and wreck it as well. I threatened to clean up everything, but I figured as long as they weren't hitting each other I should let them figure it out. Nikko started pushing Ronin off his brick path, so I had to intervene on Ronin's behalf. No pushing. Then I'd scoop Ronin away and try to divert him. Didn't always work. Denis took the boys outside after dinner, while he finished mowing and cleaning up the yard. I think they both enjoyed being outside because they hadn't gone out all day. I put sleeves on them both and sprayed their legs with bug spray before releasing them. It was Nikko who was watching Denis outside the window, who ran up to me and dragged me to the door so he could go out. I told him we'd put on his shoes (really his Crocs) and he got excited about it.

I took a shower this evening and while I was blow drying my hair I thought about Nikko's preschool. I really hope being in a structured environment will make some positive changes in him. My brother Fran asked me yesterday, "So is he getting better?" I stopped to think about that question before answering it. Lately I hadn't seen much progress, but if Shelly or Gloria were standing there they'd remind me that Nikko has improved a lot since they first started working with him over a year ago. I was able to answer Fran with "A little. He's making improvements." But as I stood in the bathroom tonight I wondered aloud about Early Intervention. Did it really help him/is it helping him? I certainly think so. I think had we not gone through Early Intervention, Nikko's life right now would be totally different and I think I would be in way worse shape. Ironically, after the shower I went online to check the forum boards on, which I subscribe to, and one of the autism posts said to take a moment to list any accomplishments/improvements your child has made recently. I read lots of moms' posts and envied the ones that had their 3 year old saying sentences, or any kid that could talk. It made me stop and think about the positive things about Nikko right now. It's so hard not to focus on the "bad" things (eating only bread and butter, wanting fruit snacks all the time), but Nikko has improved greatly over the course of a year:

Improved eye contact overall.
Jargons and babbles when he's happy or content.
Smiles and laughs.
Sleeps 10 hours a night.
Stays in his room overnight and doesn't try to escape.
Has had a dry diaper maybe 3 out of 4 times I've changed him in the a.m. (should I try sitting him on the potty?)
Will settle down and let me change his diaper laying down/ doesn't refuse so that I have to change him standing up (a real pain in the butt, no pun intended!).
Can sign 3 things, mostly upon request but definitely if he is highly motivated: EAT, MORE, PLEASE.
Can jump off the ground using two feet.
Can complete some puzzles if they interest him.
Shows curiosity for the novel.
Likes to turn pages in some books.
Improved fine motor skills, and tried using kid scissors recently.
Improved self-awareness, loves to look at himself in the mirror.
Beginning to imitate people doing actions he sees on TV (Karla from Hi-5, Rachel from Signing Time).
Can give High Fives.
Recognizes familiar songs and can anticipate the next action/word of a familiar song.
Drags me to get him want he wants (at least he can communicate a want this way).
Grabs my hand to point at something (can see what he wants, but doesn't point himself).
Expresses joy and doesn't always try to squirm away from my hugs and affection.
Tolerates his brother and doesn't portray aggression toward him unless Ronin instigates it.
Tolerates his sister, may even pat her on the head while he zooms past her during a living room crashing phase.

So that's my brag list right now, and probably a lot of little things I haven't noted. There are gains, and the therapists don't fail to point these out to me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poor speech therapy session

Nikko's speech therapy was pretty much downhill today, despite not having Ronin in the picture. Nikko wanted to be by me almost the entire time, and refused to cooperate during the activities. He got attached to a spatula and then battled us when we took it away. He did a little bit with the plastic food, but really didn't accomplish much. I mentioned to Gloria about the talking machine that Shelly suggested to me during OT, but Gloria said that she wasn't too familiar with the apparatus and that Nikko would need to comprehend more in order to use it. You have to push a button to get the machine to say a word. Nikko doesn't push buttons on demand. And to understand that getting a machine to say a word for him, well, I don't think that concept is even a possibility for him. Gloria said that Nikko was probably just having a bad day, but I don't think so. He wasn't combative for the rest of the day, just really Velcro Man with me as usual. Gloria also noted that it seems many kids can tell that the end of therapies is near, which is when they act out, tantrum more or even regress. I really wish he wouldn't. I am definitely looking forward to preschool for Nikko in that hopefully they can help him make stronger gains, but I have a feeling I shouldn't bank on it entirely. Something I'd like to do some research on is the concept of Focus. Nikko is so unfocused, flits from thing to thing, easily distracted. Is it because there's so much visual clutter? If I took it all away would he go batty with nothing to look at? Or would he really focus on the few things left behind? How can I help Nikko focus better in everyday life, and not as if he is in a science experiment by taking away a few variables? I'm looking for a long-term answer.

We went to Mom's house again for dinner, and will do that tomorrow as well, but won't do it Thursday or Friday. The boys were ok, but Ronin kept screaming and crying every time Nikko took away the semi-truck Ronin was playing with. I had to contend with placating Ronin or getting Nikko away from the scene so that Mom could calm Ronin. I'm sure everyone's ears were ringing thanks to Ronin. Nikko is very comfortable in the sunroom, but has already broken one of Mom's flowers. He can be in a room without me for an unspecified amount of time, but he does start looking for me and begins to wail if I can't be found in the next room. His dinner was bread and butter again. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thomas lures Nikko downstairs

More banana eating this morning, and then I coerced him into finishing them so he could eat some gummi vites. He went back to bread and butter, but I noticed that while he didn't eat mac cheese shells, he did show a little interest in the regular noodle mac cheese. Short-order cooking is not my thing! Nikko was also extremely clingy again today. Giving him more affection and big hugs are always things I like to do for him, but he's not getting less clingy from it. Even at Mom's house today he followed me around a lot, but refused to follow me downstairs despite the lure of a ton of Thomas the Tank Engine toys laying around for my brother Fran's kids to play with. Nikko eventually came down, curious by the Thomas DVD playing on TV. Fran tried to interact with Nikko, and Nikko did look at him, but started avoiding Fran's eye contact and reacting slightly to Fran's friendly tickling pokes. I think Nikko will warm up to Fran by the end of the week if Fran keeps it up. Fran noted that Nikko seems to need more socialization and interaction to improve, and I agree. That's why preschool will be very good for him. I hope. We didn't have playgroup today because Shirley was in the Dells with her family. Ronin had speech, however, and he didn't have as stellar a session as he did last week. Seems like he wanted to show off in front of Peter instead of talk for us. Tomorrow Nikko has speech and I really hope Chinny comes to take Ronin downstairs for a bit. I think Ronin is hampering Nikko's ability to focus. On the way home from Mom's house, Nikko didn't sleep in the car like the other two. He didn't seem as cashed out as they were. I heard him say "No" to himself again and wondered if there's a specific part of the train DVD that he's watching that prompts him to say that.

Monday, June 15, 2009


This morning was business as usual, except that Nikko actually ate some of the banana slices that I offered him. He hasn't done that for almost two weeks now, so I was careful in pacing myself with the fork and the slices. While he finally did refuse to accept them from me, he did finish off what was left on his plate before he departed for the living room. Unfortunately, all meals after that were based on bread and butter.

The only other significant thing that happened today was in the Pilot on the way home from Woodfield Mall. I had just looked over my left shoulder at nothing, really, when I heard a little voice say, "No." It sounded like Ronin, but it came over my left shoulder. I turned my head and said, "Did you say No, Nikko?" He didn't look at me, and continued to look up at the trains on the DVD screen. I swear it was Nikko, probably said it randomly, but it was a crystal clear No to me. I asked aloud if Nikko said it, and a little voice over my right shoulder squeaked, "No!" Now that was Ronin. He squeaked it again and again like a smiling parrot, but I was smiling and laughing because I knew that the one No I heard was from Nikko. He may never say it again, but I really hope he will.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pen Picture

Now that I think about it, perhaps Nikko's hunger strike isn't exactly a hunger strike. He's still eating; he's just not eating many different things or the things I want him to eat. I called the Mickey Mouse nuggets my "go-to" food, but in reality that's the major thing he wanted to eat and wouldn't deviate from it much. He would eat some red kidney beans on the side, or mashed potatoes, or creamed spinach from Boston Market, but he wouldn't exactly eat my spaghetti or chicken soup. The nuggets were a staple on his plate. But for the past two weeks he hasn't been eating much besides mac & cheese (inconsistently, too) and Rhodes white dinner rolls with (fake) butter spread on it. The bread and butter have become the chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, it's not the healthiest or most sustainable choice. He does, however, try pizza if we put it in front of him. I bought ingredients to make a pizza, so I'll try that tomorrow or the next day. I better brace myself, because he may not necessarily eat my homemade pizza, but will eat store-bought pizza. I hate to cook already, so this is all very vexing for me.

The only event today was that while the boys played outside with Denis in the garage, I took Audrey to Costco and Jewel. I was actually able to go to Jewel because I wasn't saddled with three kids, just one this time. She was a champ, no problemo. The boys were upset when I left, and when I drove up the driveway to return they were happy to see me and tried to run through the baby gate. I saw tears in Nikko's eyes. Wah! Unfortunately, Nikko wanted to go outside right after dinner and I definitely wasn't going outside. He was crying and insistent, and I was adamant about not going. Denis said he'd take Nikko outside and I told him fine, go do it, but stay outside longer than five minutes or Nikko will be worse when he comes back in. So Nikko got his outside fix and I got Audrey ready for bed, while Ronin chilled out in front of the TV.

During the day, Nikko was mostly silent, walking among the toys in the living room, going to the picture window often. He tends to carry things around, like the Signing Time DVD or a fabric toy lipstick, but today when I was sorting through my photographs to see if Nikko could choose whatever he was wanting at the time, his eyes fell upon a picture of a pen from a martial arts gym called Counterstrike MMA. For some reason he selected this picture and started carrying it around, getting it dog-eared and almost taking it into the bath with him. A pen is linear, sure, and definitely something to stim on, but the pen was positioned at an angle in this picture, from corner to corner, so it wasn't exactly parallel to the picture borders. It didn't matter to Nikko. He went to bed with it, so I wonder what shape it will be in tomorrow.

Velcro Man Extreme

Atz came over with her youngests, Sabrina and Alicia, while I went to the dentist. According to her, they didn't seem to mind that I was gone. Perhaps the girls kept them occupied. When I came back, however, Nikko was very clingy to me the rest of the day. I'm sure that's justifiably so, but I was admittedly annoyed. Everyone was going outside and I had to straighten up before joining them with Audrey, but Nikko refused to go unless I went outside with him. I told him he'd have to wait until I was ready because I had to clean up the mess he made from the ice cream sammy he ate, but he cranked on his whining and no explanation would placate him. It frustrated me because I know he loves to go outside and I kept encouraging him to just go, but he was Velcro Man Extreme and I could hear myself barking louder at him to go outside, get off me, go away! I feel bad about it now, in hindsight. That anxious bubble is coming back, but this time it's Audrey that's causing my anxiety, not Ronin. She's starting to demand my attention more, be picked up more and just have me hold her more. Ronin sits right next to her whining as well. And there's Nikko. If he is fine, he'll be quiet, but if he wants something and they're all going at it, my anxiety is flying sky high. Sometimes when he's silent and the other two are going at it, I can see Nikko covering his ears as if the noise is too much for him, too.

After playing outside in the afternoon, we headed to Mom's house to greet them back from the Philippines. One of our neighbors, Mrs. Jaffee, was watering a bush by her front door. Nikko saw the stream of water and headed toward her, but I stopped him. Last year when she had a sprinkler out, he made a beeline for that and got a nice shower. Mom got them some Ferrari cars and Thomas shirts. Ronin liked the cars, especially because they made sounds if you revved them up. Nikko didn't show interest in the cars. Instead, he liked one of the plants in the sunroom that had red petals and a yellow stamen. We got home around 8:15p and the boys weren't as rambunctious as they usually are at night before bath time. I wonder if they were tired from the day's activities. I would like to hit the reset button on how I talked to Nikko today. I don't like talking to him as if I think he's an annoyance. He's such a sweet kid who just can't seem to express what he wants to say or sort his emotions.

Friday, June 12, 2009

High Fives w/Mr. Potato Head

I've been encouraging Nikko to drink his milk in the morning by putting chocolate Quik into it. He's not eating much breakfast as of late. He's not eating bananas, not even the cheerios or cocoa krispies I'd put on the side for him, and not even the chocolate chip eggo waffle. It's kind of baffling. But he did eat some dinner roll and (fake) butter. I'm not too worried as long as he eats something like my bagel. I think back to when I was younger, how I didn't like to eat breakfast and all I'd eat was a bowl of krispies with milk and bananas. That doesn't sound like a bad breakfast, so I'm trying not to worry if that's what Nikko will eat. The morning went ok, but Audrey might be giving up her morning nap. She didn't go to sleep around 10:45-11a as usual, and was fighting me the whole time. I gave up and decided that she'll sleep during Nikko's DT session when I give her a bottle (which is exactly what happened). Ronin was all up in our business again during therapy. Nikko did not want to work along with us. He didn't play with the dishes or use them to feed Elmo. He got stubborn with a piece of plastic watermelon, and when Bo made it disappear he got obsessed with Elmo pieces. We did some HOH with a few different puzzles and tried to go fishing with the magnetic fish puzzle, but again it wasn't as productive session as I've seen before. Bo used a Mr. Potato Head to show Nikko how to piece it together and she spent some time giving one of the hands High Fives. Nikko caught on to this and started doing High Fives to the plastic hand. The palm was open and facing up, and when Bo gave him the opposite plastic hand with a clenched fist Nikko tried to pry the fist open. Because it wouldn't open, he wouldn't give it a High Five. Clever.

After a rushed lunch, I got the kids in the car and had to make a stop at Westbrook to drop off preschool applications. Then we got to OT by 3pm because Shelly had another kid at 4:30. Our session was good, not great, but good. Nikko liked the obstacle course, of course. He was on the swing for a little bit, not long, but long enough for him to look at himself in the mirror and for Shelly to give him pushes from all angles. He started hauling out those graduating benches that are also used as mini tables for play-doh. We had to put them away without him seeing, so Shelly put them in the other room while I dragged Nikko to the mirror to jump. He wanted to see what was going on, so when she was finished and dragged out a blue tunnel with a long bumpy foam slab in it, Nikko spun around and was intrigued right away. He didn't even miss those benches. He liked the tunnel for a while, and then he went back to the obstacle course and started to move other wedges around so that they mirrored each other on both ends. At the end of the session, Shelly slowed things down by bringing out mega blocks. Nikko built just a little bit, but didn't seem very interested. On the way home I tried to stall because both boys didn't have naps and I wanted Ronin to at least have a snooze, but they were staunchly staying awake. I got some fries on the way home and that enticed them to come right inside instead of play outside today. The boys were relatively good while I folded laundry and tried to get some house things done before dinner. After dinner was also smooth. Nikko continued to watch himself in the mirror while prancing and jumping off furniture. He was really tired by night's end.

Tomorrow I have a visit to the dentist at 10am and the Penepackers will be here for the better part of the day to help start assembling the swing set. Atz will go pick up the folks at the airport (Mom, Dad and Chinny went there for 2.5 weeks) while I take the rest of my kids and hers to the house to welcome them back. I hope the boys enjoy the Penepacker kids' company. I know I'll appreciate the respite and the socialization they will both get!

By the way, for those newly reading this blog (welcome! thanks for the interest! I write it as it happens in my head, nothing fancy) I wanted to point out two names that you may wonder who the heck they are. Chinny is the nickname for my little sister Cynthia. She comes and helps watch Ronin twice a week during Nikko's therapy sessions, and I drag her to OT on Thursdays and any opportunity to go to the grocery. Atz is the slang for Ate, pronounced AH-te, which is a Filipino term used for "older sister" or "older female relative that's still close in age". We call my older sister Luisa by the name Atz. Growing up, she was just called Ate, and she was the oldest sister and girl relative around us. There wasn't anyone else to call Ate. Call it evolution or time efficiency, as we got older it was easier to yell, "Hey Atz!" instead of a two-syllable name. Note that our family names are short: Atz, Fran, Mich, Pat, Eric, Chinny. Ok, the younger two have two syllables, but they came later in life when things weren't so hectic. Hope this clarifies some of the players in my life!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pre-mac cheese Nikko is back

For once I'm starting a blog during the day, but it's rare. Ronin and Audrey are napping (but not for long) and Nikko is watching the Signing Time DVD. I'm hoping he'll sleep but there's no sense in betting on it. He's got a smile on his face and periodically gets up from the couch to stand in front of the mirror in the corner and raise his arms straight out to his sides like an airplane. He's also taking a step off the ottoman and landing onto the floor, sometimes on one leg, sometimes on two. I think the big boom on the floor will wake up Ronin very soon. He's been walking around the living room and tripping over a lot of things on the floor. I can't say he's being clumsy, when I should just have a blank floor. I'll be putting the exersaucer away later because I don't think Audrey is interested in sitting in it anymore, after all those many, many pictures I've taken of her in it. She'd rather be on the floor amongst toys or sitting with me. Similar to the boys, she often wants me to pick her up or she'll be placated as long as she has a hand on my leg. Velcro Girl is starting early. (sigh) I've noticed that when we watch Blues Clues and I rewind the part where they sing The Mail song, Nikko looks back at me at the end of the song to see if I'm going to rewind it. I think he knows that when I point the remote to the TV, the show will rewind The Mail song. Just a random thought. Anyway, I just tried to give Nikko some input by jumping with him on the mat, and holding his hands while he jumped on the sofa, but it didn't stop him from continuing to jump from the ottoman to the floor in a loud BOOM. I guess if Ronin will wake up, he just will. Every time Nikko lands with a BOOM, he's turning to look at my reaction. I keep giving him a worried look, a furrowed brow and gritted teeth but it's not stopping him. I'm also not reprimanding him to stop because I guess if he needs this input, I don't want to deny it to him. One other good thing I have to say is that he had organic mac cheese for lunch and he ate quite a bit. His fingers and mouth were also coated in orange. No guarantees that he'll be satisfied with leftovers for dinner, but I'm hoping so. I'm going to have to start a meal plan for him so I can keep ideas fresh to prepare. If he doesn't go for the mac cheese I'll have to make some ravioli again.

So it's late at night now. I don't know what happens but if I opt to digress from the post-kiddie bedtime routine, time slips by and it gets late. After the kids went down I spent a little time putting some clothing items together for Amvets, and that set me back from washing the dishes. I was annoyed by that, so I was looking up portable dishwashers. Our neighbors used to own one but have since upgraded. There are some good models out there, and I'd like to pay a visit to Abt in the near future to see if we can't really make it happen. For the $$ we'd spend on it, I think I would get back hours and hours of sleep and productivity. Honestly.

Denis had come home slightly early and the boys were awake but Audrey was still napping. I took that opportunity to slip out of the house to Walgreens and get some loose filling filler. It's a pain to apply, I must say. Still haven't got it on correctly. I think the boys did notice I was gone because when I came back they both toddled up to me. Nikko especially gave me some long, happy looks. After Audrey woke up and was fed, I made it a point to get the boys outside while Denis mowed the lawn. I took out our bubble machine and the boys went crazy. They loved walking through the bubbles, chasing them around and shifting their running patterns as the wind shifted the bubbles in different directions. Nikko really enjoyed them, even more so than Ronin. Dinner was fast approaching so I got the two littler kids inside and started feeding them because Nikko didn't want to come in right away. He was busy playing on his tricycle, digging his fingers into the dirt under the front door floor mat (yuck) and then Denis opened the sand box for him while he mowed the backyard. Nikko worked on his leftovers just a little bit, and favored the dinner roll with butter instead. For someone who didn't nap all day again, Nikko was in a relatively good mood. He didn't have any arguments with Ronin that lasted very long and he didn't have many glitches with me while trying to communicate. He kept pulling me directly to the side of the fridge where the dinner rolls were, then would run back to his chair expecting them to arrive on his plate coated in (fake) butter. Later in the evening, while I was rocking Audrey to sleep, he kept coming over and leaning his face into my face with a smile. This is the temperament of Nikko that I am happy to see, so whatever happened last week with his mood, I am glad it is gone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The IEP Meeting

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I have huge respect for teachers, especially after today's IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting for Nikko's qualification and goal setting for preschool. I know it's their job to work with students, teach them and follow a curriculum, but at this preschool level it boggles my mind that there are people who have buckets full of patience to deal with kids that aren't even theirs. Nikko can't even talk yet, would rather not give you the time of day and will become Noodleman if you pick him up against his will, but these teachers help put a plan in place with measurable goals and a gosh darn upbeat attitude to meet those goals for Nikko. There's a lot of paperwork to read, things to fill out, doctor appointments to make (and for me, too. Cracked a filling on macadamia nuts.) and deadlines to drop off stuff. I'm excited for Nikko. These are the goals that were outlined in our meeting:

Nikko will sort a variety of preacademic functional objects (i.e. colors, shapes, familiar objects, animals) into a field of 3, in 4/5 trials by June 2010.

Nikko will participate appropriately in routine structured small group activities with no more than 2 verbal/picture cues, for 6 minutes, in 4/5 trials by June 2010.

In the classroom setting, Nikko will follow 10 different 1-step directions in 4/5 trials by June 2010. (i.e. wave hi/bye to peers, follow commands like Sit Down, Stop)

In the classroom setting, Nikko will independently use signs, gestures, pictures and/or words to express wants/needs in 8/10 trials by June 2010.

In the classroom setting, when given an individual picture schedule, Nikko will independently transition between activities 75% of the time by June 2010.

In the classroom setting, Nikko will demonstrate the following 2/2 of the following skills 1) respond to his name (turn, look) 2) respond appropriately to greetings from peers or adult independently in 4/5 trials by June 2010.

Upon arrival to the classroom with visual cues as needed, Nikko will take off his coat and backpack and place them in the appropriate locations on 4 out of 5 opportunities by June 2010.

In the classroom at small group center time, Nikko will be able to perform the following skills in 4 out of 5 trials by June 2010: 1) complete a 6 to 8 insert puzzle 2) string 5 beads 3) color with approximation a simple picture with 60% coverage.

Amazing! To think that these teachers think Nikko might be able to accomplish some of these things in a year! That they are going to help him do these things is even more amazing. Humbles me, truly. During the meeting Nikko was quietly lining up toy cars on the table. I started pushing a few sideways when his back was turned and he simply fixed them, or filled in the gaps with new cars. Everyone at the table was watching but weren't surprised. One teacher even remarked that his behavior is very typical of autistic kids, so they are not unfamiliar with the behaviors. Kathy Winters, the speech therapist and co-teacher, really likes Nikko and thinks he's so cute she wants to eat him up. I think that helped put him in her favor to be in her classroom along with Miss McCarthy, because there were 3 possible classrooms he'd end up with. I hoped he'd be with those two because he's familiar with them and their classroom setting. When I asked how Nikko ended up with them, they both kind of looked around and said something about class sizes and it's just how it ended up. I'm thinking there was a little clout going on that they wanted Nikko to be in their class, and I HOPE SO! I am really glad I went online last night to look up some sample IEPs so I had an idea of the verbiage that they would use. I jotted down some tasks and milestones that Nikko needed to work on, and worried about how they would be addressed in the meeting. I didn't have to worry because Miss Winters laid out the plan as they saw it during their observations, and I was comfortable with it because it touched on a few key areas I hoped Nikko would improve upon: speech, responding to his name, usage of Picture Communication System, and attention span/focus. These are big areas of improvement for him and if a team of teachers are going to help him achieve these goals, then I'll add them to the list of people for whom I am eternally grateful.

Luisa and Dennis took on Ronin and Audrey during all this so we went to pick them up, very beholden to them for babysitting. Everything else was pretty normal at home, except for some increased fighting over a little silver plane that was abducted from the Penepacker's house. Also, Nikko didn't eat much dinner at all. He didn't go for the leftover quesadilla or the pasta ravioli. I'll have to make more organic mac & cheese, but will also need to buy more from either Whole Foods or see what the organic section @ Jewel looks like in this arena. At bedtime Nikko was hauling around a lot of things to bed: two burp cloths, Signing Time DVD and two airplanes, one silver and one red. I wonder if the activities of today are causing him to crash more or seek comfort in familiar items. Tomorrow we don't have anything on the calendar, but I need to move forward on those school forms. I hope the boys stay in a good mood so that I can open up the play tent in the living room. It's been awhile since they've sat in it. Can't say Audrey will like it.