Friday, July 31, 2009

Blue Rubber Gloves

I stayed up late last night to organize our pantry and empty some freestanding cabinets to make room for the two highchairs in our kitchen that now sit next to the portable dishwasher. Nikko's seat remains in the booster at the kitchen table. I tried putting Ronin in a booster a few months ago but he didn't like it and he still tends to fall asleep in the highchair. Since he's so skinny and light I figured I should just leave him in there a bit longer. Why not? I'm on a semi-organizing kick and I made a two-column sheet that I plan to put up on the wall to remind me about the things I need to work on with Nikko. The left column is about actual skills to work on like imitation, turn-taking and hygiene. The right column is a repost of the "10 things I can do right now to help [Nikko]."

Today Ronin had speech at 9:30. He was much more compliant than last week. Nikko didn't stay by himself during the session; instead he continued to stand on the hippo stepstool and jump off while looking at himself in the mirror. The catch was that the stepstool was right next to Peter and Ronin as they played with plastic food, but it didn't deter Nikko from jumping aside their play or poking at Peter or for pushing Ronin out of his way. Audrey was also trying to get into whatever Ronin was doing so we were being ambushed on two sides. After therapy Nikko dragged me to the kitchen and stood in front of the food cabinet. I knelt down and asked what he wanted. Does Nikko want More Bread? I signed More Bread and looked at Nikko. He signed More Cracker. I gave him a big smile and rewarded him with a pile of crackers. I'm so happy because I didn't prompt him with the Cracker sign so he didn't imitate Cracker. This time he chose it on his own. YEA!

Denis came home a bit early from the range so I felt a little comfortable taking the boys outside while Audrey took a nap. I led them into the backyard and opened the sand box for them. Say what?? I had a master plan, to take one of the kiddie pools, rinse it out and let the boys play in it. I had my dishwashing soap, brush and rubber gloves all ready. I fumbled with the hose a bit and Nikko was right at my ankles trying to play with the water. I got down to business and the boys abandoned the sand box to get in my way while I hosed down and scrubbed the pool. The fruits of my efforts were worth it, however, because the boys splashed in their Crocs and seemed to enjoy the water. They did a little sitting but not as much as usual, probably because the water was cold. It was only 78 degrees outside, not a hot 85. Nikko saw my blue rubber gloves laying on the grass and investigated them. He pulled one on and needed help pulling on the other. They went up to his biceps and didn't fit his fingers at all, but Nikko didn't mind. He wore them in the pool and was very content with them. I didn't mind this at all, but made sure that when we went inside I made those gloves disappear. After all, I used them to clean up the dirty, muddy pool. I took the boys inside after their interest in the pool waned and gave them a bath. I was pretty tired after dressing them both in the bathroom and dealing with Ronin's whining and crying because he only had a half-nap today before lunch. He didn't sleep at 2pm because he already napped, and there wasn't another nap in the late afternoon so Mr. Cranky was out in full force. Nikko hadn't slept all day and so at 6:30ish he slept sitting up on the couch. I woke him up for dinner around 7:15p and he was cranky, too. In fact, he didn't properly eat his dinner until later when Denis came home from class. I hope he fell asleep well later on at bedtime. Going all day without a nap is a looooong day, but he seems to be able to sustain it. That doesn't mean I encourage it, it's just what happens.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Cracker

Bo came over for Nikko's 1st of 4 DT makeup sessions. Chinny was also here, while Audrey and Ronin were initially out with a nap, but they both woke up halfway through the session so she helped keep Audrey out of the way. Before DT, I was watching Nikko and he didn't seem to be in a good mood. He appeared slightly sullen and didn't want to interact with me. I worried that his session would go poorly. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. Nikko was more attentive than in sessions past, participated in the activities and even gave us some eye contact between commands to see what was the next step or for assistance. There were not great moments, especially when he was going Noodleman on me and not lifting his body off the floor like a jellyfish out of water, but I felt like the good outweighed the bad. Nikko didn't do color sorting with pegs, but he built upward with them. He helped put together Elmo using the arms and legs appropriately. That's big, because in the past he's been putting the legs where he wanted them to go, in the neck or in the arm sockets. When handed the feet, he knew that they went on the end of the long legs. He also took a turn in feeding Elmo with a spoon and banana. There was a colored toy with pegs that he put on the appropriate bars for the first time in a long time. Nikko was helpful in putting each activity away, and looked up at Bo when she requested him to open or close a bag as if asking for help. I was very happy with the session today.

During lunch, Nikko was pulling me toward the fridge and looking up at the box of crackers. I asked him if he wanted more of something, More Milk? More Bread? More Crackers? and I'd sign More, then sign Crackers. He imitated what I signed, so I rewarded him. There was one other time at the table when he spontaneously signed Crackers so I gave him some. Much later in the day, he came up to me with a little picture board book of shapes. I asked him what he wanted and he put the book in my hands, and pointed to the page of squares, where in the upper left corner was a picture of a cracker. I was surprised and asked him if he wanted a cracker, and he smiled. Of course I went to give him some! A few other times later he brought me the book asking for crackers. IS THAT COOL OR WHAT?? If this is truly a realization of a picture of a cracker, then we must be going on the right path and I need to break out all the pictures I have that I am not using. Nikko was in good spirits for the rest of the evening from what I could tell. Sure, he'd try to push me off of the ottoman if I were in his way of the mirror, but I'd tickle him to stop him from being so serious and from looping into this routine. Tomorrow, since we don't have any therapies, if the weather is good, I will probably take the kids to mom's house since Ronin hasn't been out of the house for two days.

Working up a sweat

Ronin had a fever yesterday that went down, but went back up today. He is in decent spirits, although he ususally starts the day sluggish and I have been trying to give him extra attention because he feels bad. Because of this, I didn't put going outside on our agenda for today. However, when Audrey and Ronin were down for naps around 2:30 I seized the moment and told Nikko we would go play outside. He has been in the living room with us, stepping up onto the purple hippo stepstool facing the mirror wall, spreading out his arms, and jumping off. He'd do variations of this, but he would do it so much that he would be all sweaty. For the better part of the day I'd say he had a sweat going along his hairline. Now that I think about it, it's probably another form of stimming, like his crashing, but it seems a tad more complex because it involves him looking at his reflection, climbing up onto the stool, and then jumping & landing with arms spread out. The crashing is mindless and is just back and forth. I haven't tried to stop him from the stepstool activity on purpose, but I have laid in his path and he simply alters his way to the mirror.

I took Nikko outside and opened the garage. He did a bit of wandering, but then I hauled out the sidewalk chalk and started drawing a runway for him. He sat down and took some chalk to draw lines on the paver bricks, and even made a crude circle around himself. I made some paw prints "walking" toward the lawn and he ran alongside them. When I took out the bubble machine I knew that Nikko wouldn't want to do anything else. He enjoyed putting his face up to the machine, turning his back so the bubbles popped along the back of his neck. I wondered if I'd have trouble prying him away from all this, but then Audrey cried through the baby monitor so I had to close up shop anyway. Inside, Nikko went back to his mirror activity, but paused every so often to sit on the couch armrest with a truck book or look out the picture window. Hi-5 was on the telly, and while I was in a dozing state I swear I heard "Hi" come from Nikko's mouth. I looked up at him watching TV but couldn't tell if I had been dreaming or really did hear "Hi". It was probably involuntary, or possibly the kids on TV, but I'd like to think it came out nonetheless. I felt bad for Nikko the rest of the day because he wasn't tired enough to take a nap. Of course, he got tired during dinner and was starting to droop. I let him sleep for 30 minutes on the couch but woke him up because I didn't want him to go to bed too late. Sometimes we'll put him to bed, Denis will leave the room and Nikko will still be awake, jabbering to himself or, on very rare occasions, walking around the room. He was awake for a half hour after we put him to bed last night.

Bo the DT called me today, back from Poland, and ready to do some make-up sessions with us. She'll be here tomorrow around 10:30, for possibly the next 3 or 4 Tuesdays. Nikko hasn't seen her in over a month so I don't know how he'll react to her again. Still, she'll try.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Socialization Saturday

This morning we raced out the door to get down to the Hinsdale Fil-Am Church for their Sabbath School. Denis thought this would be a good idea to expose the kids to some socialization. Indeed, their children's program is very involved. There were a lot of little kids running amok in the church because they are a close community. Everyone knows everyone else. We are infrequent visitors because we live up in Mount Prospect and it's a 45 minute drive to Hinsdale. It's also harder to get out the door on time with the three little ones. I have to tack on an hour before I go somewhere, and make it 1.5 hours if it includes a mealtime. We started out in a classroom that had kids under 3. The church members were also the teachers and someone was leading the activities which were pretty interactive. Plastic tools came out of a toolbox to simulate building a temple, then musical instruments came out for song time. Crayons and paper came out for another activity. Ronin wasn't pleased to be cooped up in the room at all and expressed his disdain. Nikko was ok with his surroundings and even found a foam crown with a pipe cleaner ban that he tried to wear. It was too small for his head but he decided that he wanted it. And he kept it for the entire day until he lost it outside later in the evening. Audrey was a very good baby today. She was curious about the room and the other babies, who were all around her age. Audrey was the fairest of them all! Literally! I'm really glad that her skin was free of any eczema or blemishes from baby food today. She was also very good with my MIL when she came to take her and carry her around, probably to display Audrey to her friends in the other part of the church. Audrey went without a fight. That left us to deal with the boys, which were a handful already. Somehow Nikko and I ended up in another room where they were doing crafts, and later joined by Denis and Ronin. The subject was tracing butterflies and flower and suspending them with string. Nikko wasn't interested in the craft but didn't mind fiddling with the construction paper. He was content to wear the crown. Nikko sat/crouched in his chair but was observing the other kids too. He got up and stood in the middle of a crowd that was doing an imitative dance (like the electric slide except to a bible song) and didn't mind being surrounded by other kids. I guess the socialization aspect was a very good thing for him, as I concluded that it was probably a good idea from Shelly for Nikko to be involved with the playgroup on Mondays even if he didn't directly interact with the other kids. By the time church was over the halls were filled with people. We had to wait for my MIL to get the house keys and the boys were both trying to escape my grasp so they could go outside. I tried to distract with songs in the beginning but in the end I think I must have looked harried to the other churchgoers. Finally we left and had lunch at my in-law's house. Nikko must have been really hungry because he ate the chicken nuggets we put in front of him without an argument. I brought shell mac & cheese just in case I'd have to cook it, but he surprised me. We got home some time after 3pm and chilled out for a bit. Denis talked to the Creens and told me that we were going to meet them at the Mount Prospect Block Party in downtown Mount Prospect. It was another opportunity to socialize so I mentioned it to Pat in case they didn't have anything going on. While at home, Nikko was walking around with that red sleeved shirt around his waist, but I somehow dug up the rest of a Superman costume I had, the cape and the yellow buckled red belt. I showed it to Nikko, tied the belt around his waist and the cape around his neck. He was intrigued. Nikko flitted in front of the mirror and fiddled with the cape, but before we left the house I noticed that he ditched the cape and only wore the belt. He got really attached to the belt, and I don't know why. We got to downtown Mount Prospect past 6:30 and it was jam packed with people, kids, baby strollers, tents of food, bands playing music blasting over the loudspeakers, and an area of kids' activities like balloon animals, an air bouncer, a huge inflated slide, a mini-ferris wheel, a spinning strawberry ride, pony rides, racing car rink, and a mini-train that could ride a few families twice around the parking lot. Pat, Anna and Jovy met up with us and it was nice to hang out with the kids while eating. Jovy got a new purse and she was proud to show it off. Ronin and Jovy seemed to click together, making faces at each other and laughing at nothing in particular, bopping around the sidewalk and ending up on their bottoms. I unleashed Nikko so he could eat some pizza, and when he was done he was zipping up and down the sidewalk. I kept an eye on him the entire time because I didn't want him to venture too far down the sidewalk. He challenged me at times by going quite a distance, maybe 60 yards in either direction, but he didn't stray out of my sight and stayed on the sidewalk. I worried a bit later because he wasn't looking where he was running and was weaving between people who were walking on the sidewalk. Nikko was a pretty happy guy, so he must not have been thinking when he put his arms out and possibly grabbed the butt of a lady walking by. She gasped unexpectedly and looked down at Nikko. I was embarrassed and ran over to reign him in, but she was friendly and said, "Oh MY!" The Creens met up with us while we ate and after the food was ingested we walked toward the rides just to watch. Nikko was still very much interested in his surroundings and didn't try to escape the stroller. Ronin was visibly tired, so as it got darker and windier, we decided to go home. Nikko insisted on wearing the belt to bed, which I tied around his waist. The fact that Nikko is becoming more open to wearing hats (er, crowns) or other costume items could mean that his imagination is beginning to build. That's what Denis speculated, and I would agree. Ronin could not keep his eyes open during prayers and so he went to bed zonked out. A rather successful day, I'd say.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Botched Friday plans

Friday didn't turn out the way it was supposed to either. It started with breakfast. Nikko was drinking chocolate milk and wandering around in the kitchen, his usual M.O. He dragged the stool to the countertop and I wondered if he'd ask for FS or vitamins. Instead, he was looking around the clutter and spotted a Tootise Roll lollipop behind the formula canister. He brought it out and I groaned. It would be a battle to wrestle it away from him and say NO. Instead, I let him have it and he was happy as a clam. He also allowed me to feed him some banana slices in addition to the lollipop. Eww! Ronin was aghast that Nikko was having candy so he wanted some too. I found another little DumDum and let Ronin have it. He didn't finish it, which was fine by me. Lollipops for breakfast. Grrr. Another anomaly was that Audrey went down around 10:45a for a nap and didn't surface until three hours later. Geez! If I knew she'd be out that long I would have planned a project! So typical. The weather wasn't looking so great for a swimming venture; in fact, the weather services kept hinting that some heavy thunderstorms were going to happen in the evening. We postponed our plans, and of course it didn't rain until well after 10pm. :/ It's a good thing that I decided to make a Costco outing, and then have the kids play in the backyard when we got home. Costco was supposed to be a fast trip, but Nikko started whining for FS soon after we came in. I tried to give him raisins but he took them fast and then started trying to get out of the cart. I put him on the ground and could feel him trying to break away, meaning he was intent on running away. I didn't want that to happen in the store so I dug through my bag and looked for FS. Instead, I came upon a lollipop and fished that out for Nikko. He immediately took it, and allowed me to put him back into the cart without a fight. Ronin, on the other hand, balked again at Nikko's candy so I gave Ronin his juice and a few FS, which he eats much slower than Nikko so it's easier to make them last. I really hurried through Costco before the boys finished their stuff, and felt like rewarding my efforts with #2 Meal w/o cheese from McDonald's. I got extra fries to share with the boys. We got home, I unloaded, and then spread out the banig mat for Audrey while hooking the boys up with a snack. They played, roamed, and when I got to a good spot I chased them around and around a tree, tackling them on the banig and having a grand old time. Didn't rain on us at all, but looked cloudy and was humid. I got everyone inside, finally, and we chilled out until Denis came home. After dinner he announced that he was going downstairs, and the boys should follow. Ronin did, but Nikko didn't want to go unless I did. I didn't want to go because Audrey had a poop and I wanted to give her a bath on time, but I knew that if I didn't go downstairs I'd be depriving Nikko of play time with the others, so I went down begrudgingly. It was a good thing because they all had fun chasing each other in circles, doing log rolls, and getting all sweaty. Nikko's hair was drenched. We ended our play session doing the parachute game, like in playgroup. I'm glad I got the same kind of parachute, on sale at Target. I really hope we tired the boys out for a good night's sleep!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Botched Thursday plans

Today didn't turn out like I had hoped. The morning was ok, with Peter arriving at 9:20 for Ronin's speech therapy. He sat trying to entice Ronin to play with something other than the Percy train on the parking garage, but Ronin was pretty engrossed in it. Ronin was able to step away and point at some pictures in a book, or interact with some play food, but he kept going back to Percy. Nikko didn't get involved, but showed some curiosity at some of the open picture books. Audrey kept creeping over and wanted to climb up on the parking garage, but I had to keep hauling her back. Peter mentioned that Ronin seemed to be perseverating on the Percy train... and wasn't that an autistic trait? I stopped to think about what he said for a second and said, "I don't think Ronin is perseverating [which means stimming, running his train back and forth to satisfy a visual need, almost mindlessly], not like how Nikko perseverates." Peter sort of agreed, but said I might want to get Ronin off of Percy so he doesn't keep perseverating. Honestly, my first internal reaction was defensive. Ronin shows no autistic tendencies at all. I felt that he was just very much into Percy today and liked carrying him around, kept trying to ram Percy through a narrow opening in the parking garage and just wouldn't let up. When he mentioned the autistic trait, I think my voice even got tinged with defense. But I let it roll off my shoulder and put it away until I could blog about it later. When I've seen Ronin do any crashing, he's usually just copying Nikko. Sure, I'm watching Ronin and Audrey for any signs of autism, but I truly don't see it. There's lots of eye contact, speech (for Ronin) and communication for both.

Nikko must have been hungry early because it was 11:30 when he dragged me to the kitchen to eat some mac cheese. It was around 1:30 when all the kids were done with eating. I mused over the idea of going to Costco just then, but Ronin hadn't had a nap yet. I decided to have an outing after naptime. Unfortunately, when all kids were awake and snack time was done, I started some final diaper changes and noticed that it was raining outside. That crushed any hopes I had for the kids to play outside when we got back. I was still planning on going to Costco, and perhaps even nixing that to take the kids to the play area at Woodfield Mall, but then Nikko had fallen asleep on the couch. That decided that. Audrey was soon to follow so I was left with Ronin for half an hour. Funny, Nikko didn't seem to notice that his red sleeved shirt was in the wash. Well, I take that back for a second... this morning I approached him to change his diaper and had a red onesie in hand. He saw it and tried to put it over his head. I helped him, but obviously didn't tie anything around his waist; he accepted that. Throughout the day, Nikko was doing his own thing, looking at picture books and watching tv. I'd come over and point at some things, flowers, baby, shoes. He would point at some of the same things, too. He would come to me and take my hand to entice me to have a tickle game with him. He would also come up to me, put his face into mine and smile until I acknowledged him back. Pretty nice interactions with Nikko. I don't know what tomorrow will hold for us. Denis mentioned possibly swimming after work but the weather might not hold. The weather's been changing a lot, lately. I also thought about visiting Dad to see how his eye is doing... he had a corneal abrasion yesterday while working with the lilies in the backyard. He's recovering for 4 days, can't drive because he can't see well out of one of them. I also might try Costco again, since I do need to get some diapers very soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Last night during the bedtime routine, Nikko was incredibly giggly. He started laughing heartily, but we have no idea what about. He's done this before, but it's been awhile since I've seen this. In the morning, when I greeted him, he also started some laughing as well. Perhaps some angel on his shoulder told him a really funny joke?

I was so frustrated this morning regarding discipline and these boys. I opened some kind of shape activity that had big, colored sheets of paper that were a Rectangle, Square, Diamond, Triangle, Heart, Star, Oval and Circle. For some reason, Ronin wanted the Circle and Nikko wouldn't give it up. It got really ugly, they were dragging it between the two of them. I tried to distract Ronin but he wouldn't give up. I told him that he wouldn't win against Nikko right now, give it up. Ronin wouldn't budge and kept crying and screaming. It got to the point where I picked up Ronin and put him in his room as a time-out. Ronin was screaming, pounding the door and putting his fingers under the door to claw his way out. I was so rattled by Ronin's crying that I went in and sat in the rocking chair waiting for him to calm down. Closed the door behind me. Ronin was wildly trying to get out, running back into my legs, on the floor. I put him in the crib [can't say I wasn't shouting at him to calm down. I did try to soothe him and put him in the chair but he wrangled out of it] and kept telling him to calm down. He tried to climb out, crying, screaming, and then the coughing began. Of course, Ronin threw up some rice milk from breakfast. He also threw up on the floor. I gave up, opened the door and let him out while I stormed to the kitchen for paper towels and some Fantastic. I cleaned up, yelling all the while how they both don't listen to me. After I finished, I came back into the living room and Ronin was crying, trying to pry the circle away from Nikko again. I think I screamed out my frustration and ran into the kitchen away from them all. I don't know if there's something chemically wrong with me; I get so stressed out over things like this that are not supposed to be so stressful. Other than caffeine, I shouldn't be having any hormonal problems, but I let things get to me so bad. I felt so bad with all the yelling and screaming I did to Ronin that I had to apologize.

We ventured outside for maybe an hour. I broke out a new bubble machine because I think the motor went kaput on the first one, and probably because the boys kept putting their fingers into the machine. Nikko likes bubbles a lot, and put his face into the stream of bubbles. Ronin did it, too, but he left and went to play with his car. Nikko had bubble goop on his chin and was as proud of it as he has been proud of that red long-sleeved shirt tied around his waist all day. I had to usher everyone inside again, but offered them snack. I gave them a choice between graham crackers, veggie sticks and oreo cookies. Ronin easily said Cookie, but it was Nikko who surprised me by signing Please, Cookie. OF COURSE I gave him some cookies, which he repeated a few more times. Wow! Later, Nikko took a two-hour nap, and then after dinner they joined Denis outside to play for a little bit. Audrey and I went outside to hang out just a little bit, then it was bedtime for all.

Raisins, the new FS

We had a quiet day, as the days before preschool will probably go. Denis came home from work early and we made a trip out to Costco. Nikko was really giving me a hard time for some FS until I suggested that we pick up some raisins and open the bag in the store. Nikko seemed to accept this instead of FS, so perhaps raisins will be my go-to snack for him. I HOPE! The only problem is I can tell he doesn't love them as much as he loves FS. Guess I better keep a small arsenal of them handy for future outings. When we came home, the boys wanted to play outside so I put Audrey down in her crib for a minute and joined the boys at the swingset. Nikko doesn't always go down the slide. He liked to walk in between the poles near the swing or to venture by the monkey bars. Ronin is crazy about the monkey bars and wants us to hold him up all the time. Nikko sees this and wants to be held up too, but he can't hang on as long as Ronin can. Nikko would be holding almost 40 lbs, so it's no wonder he lets go! He gives me great eye contact when I try to hold him up to reach the bars. Before dinner, Denis went to martial arts class so I hung out with everyone until it was around 7p. Audrey got a bottle while I fed Ronin some pancit and Nikko some leftover pizza. He actually didn't finish it so I gave him mac cheese which he ate just fine. Before I knew it, both boys were falling asleep in their seats! I didn't want them to, but it was incredibly hard trying to wake them up so I let them sleep until 8p. Luckily, they didn't have problems going to bed after baths. I guess Ronin's nap was disjointed this afternoon (probably didn't sleep when I left him in the room) and Nikko didn't nap all day, but I'm surprised that they were tired enough to sleep since the only excitement was going to Costco. And the backyard after that.

Nikko has a red long sleeved shirt that he saw in the clean clothes basket. He carried it around and was trying to step into it like a pair of pants. No amount of reasoning with him was making him deter from putting them on, so instead I took the sleeves, wrapped them around his waist and tied them. For some reason, Nikko looked down, patted the shirt that was snug around his waist, and seemed to accept that this was an OK form of wearing that shirt. He continued to wear it this way for the Costco run and into the evening, repeatedly coming up to me to retie it if it became undone. Nikko's got some idiosyncrasies that I hope will pass as time passes. On the verbal route, we're still at zero words. But I'm really interested to see what happens if I can keep moving forward with pictures. When Nikko sees a banana in another picture, he'll either point it out to me and wait for me to say Banana or he'll bring it right up to my face and wait. This recognition is a good thing, but I wonder what other pictures he'll begin to associate with the real thing. His shoes, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Keeping this short. Nikko's birthday was very nice for him. He sustained a good mood the entire day. We went to mom's house in the early afternoon to blow candles while dad was around before he went to work. Mom got him a lot of gifts, all of which Ronin commandeered as his own. Semi-trucks, Cars markers and book, sand shovel, fish movie. When we got home, Denis was there and we played outside for a while. Dinner was Tortorice's pizza since Nikko eats pizza, and another cake, strawberry torte which Nikko ate as well. Ronin had a dairy-free ice cream sandwich. Nikko went to bed peacefully. A good day for him. And now he's three.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Millennium Park

Yesterday (Saturday) we had a playdate with the Hannum kids (Maya and Rex) and Pat & Anna's daughter Jovy. The swingset/slide was the focus and every kid climbed up onto it at some point. Everyone seemed to get along. Nikko tolerated Maya on the seesaw swing with him, but also opted to run around the backyard exploring on his own. Right before we went outside, my package of 5 dinosaurs that I bid for and won on eBay arrived. I was so excited to finally get the Allosaurus I had been hunting. Nikko seemed to like the pterodactyl and carried it around for most of the day. We had lunch outside (until it started drizzling) and after everyone left we had a bit of downtime inside before the boys were raring to go outside all over again.

Today Denis and I planned a trip to Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. I had not been back to the park since 2003 when we got engaged at the very edge of the park. I have never seen Cloud Gate a.k.a The Bean. We had to get a bunch of gear together, including the triple stroller, plus a picnic lunch, drinks, snacks for the kiddies, toys to keep them at bay if needed, changes of clothes in case they went into The Fountain (an interactive display of faces with a water feature) and a beach towel. We finally got out of the house before noon! Our first stop was a farmer's market in the Pilsen neighborhood where we got to meet a woman named Patricia who went to high school with Denis. She has a bakery and had some yummy muffins to share with us which we took to the park as our dessert. The kids were getting really hungry and loud so we left there and went to Denis' work garage where we parked, unloaded and make a small hike to Millennium Park. There was a Chinese Festival going on at the same time so we saw some Chinese dragons in the distance and heard drums and singing. We picked a spot on the big lawn to spread out the banig and have lunch. The boys surprisingly stayed nearby but loved the freedom of running around on the grass. Ronin seems to love running and diving/falling flat onto the grass. Nikko looked skeptical of his surroundings at first, but he started twirling and dancing around so he must have warmed up to the situation. We put the kids back in the stroller and walked around toward The Bean but couldn't get nearer because of the performers. Eventually we got our chance to go up to see our reflections in The Bean. The kids looked at it but didn't really know what to make of it. There were lots of people around and Nikko was getting antsy in the stroller. I thought we could let him free and that he'd stay near us at The Bean, but when I let him free he ran out of the Bean and did some running up and down the open area in front of The Bean. Denis was back underneath The Bean while I stayed near Nikko. He made me nervous because he wasn't paying attention to where he was running. Nikko wouldn't listen to me when I tried to pull him aside. In fact, he was running away from me. I shadowed him as he ran, however, because I didn't want people to think no one was looking after him. Suddenly, Nikko pivoted and ran completely away from me and toward a huge crowd under The Bean. I panicked because he ran faster than I could keep up with him and he started weaving in between people. I began weaving, too, and then I lost sight of his red onesie. I think I pushed someone aside trying to look between people but didn't catch a flash of red anywhere. I almost started to call his name when I saw that Nikko had run back to the stroller where Denis was. I sighed internally but was a tiny bit shaken that I had lost him for two or three seconds in the melee of people. We strapped him in and headed out. Nikko had seen a wrapper on the ground that looked like it was for FS so he started to whine for them. I was getting anxious because of the whining, also because I was mad at myself for losing sight of him in a large crowd. I instructed Denis to navigate us out of the park and head home, but I forgot that Crown Fountain was the last stop of the day. Meanwhile, Nikko was getting louder and more impatient. I think he wanted FS from the food bag, but he was squirming so much I thought maybe he would walk alongside of us. I took him out of the stroller and he started wailing and refusing to walk. He struggled against me when I tried to pick him up. I could see people walking past, trying not to walk into his swinging legs, and I thought they might be wondering why I couldn't placate my struggling boy. I picked him up as he wriggled in my arms, put him in the stroller and whipped out a lollipop. That calmed him, but I felt like crying. We continued to Crown Fountain and I put Crocs on the boys. Audrey fell asleep in the stroller but we kept it close by as the boys were allowed to run and trounce around in the water at the base of Crown Fountain. The boys loved it, almost didn't want to go. Denis and I stood on either side of the area they were splashing, but I really didn't want them to venture into the bigger area of the fountain because there were so many people there. I knew that I couldn't watch Ronin and keep an eye out on Nikko while Audrey. All the kids slept on the way home. Once inside the house, however, the boys melted down and I'm still not sure why. I think Nikko wanted to stay outside, and quite possibly he just wanted more FS. I was able to placate him with pizza, which told me he was very hungry, and then mac cheese when he started up again. Ronin wanted crackers galore and I ended up heating up some nuggets and just serving an early dinner.

Tomorrow [today] is Nikko's 3rd birthday! We're going to mom's house around lunch so that Dad can be around to celebrate. Then we'll go home and wait for Denis to come home. If the weather is good, we'll play outside, then hopefully have cake after dinner.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Power struggles X2

I have been dealing with power struggles between both boys for quite a few days. Ronin picks the times when Audrey is taking a nap to demand crackers when it's not an official mealtime. Nikko is right along with him when it comes to crackers. This morning Nikko dragged me to the fridge, implying that he wanted crackers. I've been encouraging him to point upward, but also to sign More Crackers Please or a variation of the 3 words. When I prompt him with a sign and a question, sometimes he doesn't seem to feel like signing back. I say, "All done, then!" and wave my hands horizontally. He balks and then verbally protests, so I prompt him again with a sign and a question. This could go on for a while; the tide changes when he's reached his limit on how badly he wants the food. After verbally sparring with him over the crackers, he finally gave me a More so I praised him and led him back to the chair so I could reward him with crackers. *whew!* These matches are exhausting and many times I am drained from them.

After lunch I was preparing myself mentally to take all three kids to Target by myself. I really wanted to get a dishwasher basket for the little valves and baby bottle pieces that might fly around in the dishwasher. I've also never tested myself alone with the three at Target. Costco, yes, but not Target where the shopping carts seat one kid. They have some new ones where two kids can sit in a bulky, attached seat with seatbelts, sitting sideways, but I don't think either of the boys have the capacity to sit very still right now. I was getting down to the wire, about to do final diaper changes, when Chinny called me and asked if I needed help going to Target. I only questioned it once, but jumped at the opportunity to have help. She came, and it was a good thing because all three kids were awake and Ronin was incredibly crabby. I don't know if I would have gotten all the items on my list while keeping an eye on Ronin while the others would be in the stroller. Having both Nikko and Ronin free to run around would probably be suicide. What was I thinking?? I guess maybe we're not ready yet to go out solo + kids. I joked on Facebook that I wish I could leash the boys to the cart like sled dogs, but I'd probably get dirty looks from other moms. Before we left the house, I announced Socks and Shoes time. Nikko saw the socks in the living room and brought them to me. He even attempted to put his on, but I helped everyone. When we got back from our trip, Ronin was being fussy and when I pulled Nikko from his car seat he wriggled fiercely against me. I put him on the ground and he took off for the swingset. I told Chinny to let Ronin go and he did the same. I sighed heavily and told Chinny she could go to class. The boys obviously wanted to play outside and I shouldn't keep them from it. I put a fleece on Audrey, put sleeves on the boys, and sat on the banig with Audrey while the boys played. Unfortunately, they both started lifting the lid to the sand box. I really didn't want to deal with sandy kids, especially because I'd have to bring them in by myself and give them baths immediately by myself, but Ronin was screaming in protest while Nikko was deftly getting his fingers under the lid. I gave up and in seconds they were both sitting in the sand. UGH. I think I gave total outdoor time 20 minutes until I remembered that Audrey was kind of sniffly and the chilly winds weren't helping. I put her inside and fixed her up with a bottle, then went back to fetch Ronin, take off his sandy gear and put him inside with his juice, then picked up Nikko (said bye bye sandbox!) and did the same thing until they were both in the tub. It was during the pre-dinner prep that both boys were fighting over getting up on the stool to see what was going on over the countertop. I was trying to cook a cheese pizza for Nikko and heat up nuggets and meatballs for Ronin, but they were squawking and fighting. Audrey was sitting on the floor and also started squawking because she wanted to get picked up. I was getting so irritated by all the pushing and pulling! Nikko was getting upset because I kept brushing him off me, and pushing him away from the hot oven. I had to stop and hug him really tight because I didn't want to raise my voice at him anymore. Near the oven he was relentless in his crying and prodding, so much that I knelt down and put a clenched hand on my face. Nikko was crying and bending down to peer at my covered face, but I stayed down until I could regain my composure. I did, and continued to get plates ready without getting more angry. Audrey was screaming bloody murder and I finally got to pick her up, wipe up her face and settle her into the high chair with sweet potato stars. I really wasn't in the mood to be happy for a while after that! Since the boys already had a bath, the nighttime routine was brushing teeth, reading, song, prayers and bed. I couldn't wait for it to happen soon enough!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last day of OT

Today was Nikko's last day of OT. Chinny came over and we shuffled down to the clinic. Shelly still had to set up for us so that gave me a few minutes to go across the hall to chat with Tracy Hellner, the autism coordinator for the resource room. She gave me a bunch of velcro, some folders and some picture schedules to try out with Nikko. We had a quick chat about some available resources. I asked how she came about this position and she said she has an 8 year old son with autism. After he was settled in an autism academy in Northbrook it freed up her time to do work. I asked her if she did the GFCF diet and the supplements, and she said no. She knows all about how to do it, knows lots of families that do it and have had success, but knows an equal amount of people who don't do it. I breathed a sigh of relief, honestly, because I felt that she wasn't going to judge me if I wasn't doing the diet. Tracy said it's really a personal choice. Shelly agreed with this later, and also said she thought that Nikko was too young, in her opinion, to do all that crazy stuff, even ABA therapy might be too much for him at this age. "What are you trying to accomplish with ABA? Do you want him to improve his learning skills educationally? Are you trying to change his behavior?" When she asked me those questions, I didn't stop to think WHY I would be doing ABA other than it seemed the route to take if I wanted Nikko to improve overall in his behavior. Obviously, there's much more to ABA than that. I have a lot to learn.

After chatting with Tracy we went back to see Shelly. Nikko didn't readily start her obstacle course because he was waking up from a nap he fell into. He was groggy, and when he came to he decided that he wanted FS from the food bag. I didn't want to give him any FS so early in the session so we tried to divert him to an activity. Shelly brought out some grainy clay and mushed it into a cookie cutter shape of a castle. Nikko seemed to like poking at this sand for a while, later using a fork and other tools to poke at it. When he tired of it, he went back to demanding FS, went so far as to try to drag the food bag to me (it was heavy). Again, we diverted him to another activity, the obstacle course or the swing. I was able to get him to crawl into the tunnel lined with the bumpy foamy thing, and he enjoyed that. We got him interested in the foam soap on the mirror. All the while I talked to Shelly about Nikko's progress. Of the goals that she had set for him way back when, the one that wasn't met was getting Nikko to stop and start activities. He wasn't doing these things on command, but he will pause when I check him verbally. I read over Shelly's assessment of Nikko and she states that his play is becoming more complex, although he prefers gross motor dynamic activities. Still lines up, despite the brushing techniques. Can tolerate swings now, but lengthening the swing time or the direction hasn't increased purposeful play or language as hoped. His eye contact and interactive play with adults has shown progress in length and complexity. All this, in 16 months of Speech, Developmental and Occupational Therapy.

We drove to Ikea, where Chinny stayed with the kids while I ran inside for an under-the-sink kitchen drawer system. When I got back, Nikko had been bawling because I left. Audrey was awake, and Ronin was out stone cold. Tomorrow I am going to try to brave taking the kids to Target by myself. I've got to get some things and can't wait much longer!

One more thing to note today... Ronin and Nikko have been clamoring for crackers most of the day. Nikko has been taking my hand and pulling me to the kitchen whenever he wants something, and pulls me to the fridge area to retrieve the crackers on top of the fridge. This time, however, he pulled me there and I pretended not to know what he wanted. He pointed and motioned to the top of the fridge, but I remembered that I had a picture of the box somewhere. I got a picture of the box of crackers and a picture of chicken nuggets and held them up to Nikko. "Which one does Nikko want?" I asked him. Nikko looked at the crackers and took that picture out of my hand. I praised him loudly and met him at his chair with crackers for him. Nikko has never, NEVER chosen between two pictures purposefully. But he did today. This is a good sign of good things to come. I guess I have my homework in the few weeks before school starts, despite our therapies being over!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Behavioral reflections

We were home for the morning and early afternoon, and then geared up to go to mom's house for a few hours. We got back by dinnertime, and then bed for them. That's our day in a nutshell. :)

Nikko wasn't carting around the watermelon slice again. Perhaps he is tired of it. He's been spending lots of time poised near the armrest of the couch, peering into the mirror and stretching his arms out, kicking back a leg, or jumping off the ottoman into that pile of pillows he positioned two feet away from the TV. When we get ready to leave the house, I announce that it's time for Socks and Shoes. I've begun to place the socks in the kitchen and put the shoes on the floor. Either boy may pick up their socks to try them on, but they both try to slip their feet into their shoes without much success unless it's their Crocs. Ronin has this down, except he doesn't know which is the left or right. I gave Ronin his orange baseball cap to wear, and he put it on for a bit but it fell to the floor because he got distracted. Nikko picked it up and put it on backwards, showing no resistance at all to it. I was surprised and praised him greatly. He also did this at mom's house, put on the hat and patted it in place, almost looking around for a mirror to check himself out (there wasn't one around). Too bad! Lately, when Nikko is in a not-so-great mood and is on the verge of not cooperating with me, I tend to give him some tickles. It seems like laughing from tickling perks him up, and he gives me great eye contact when anticipating when those tickles are coming. When we got back from mom's house, I had a hard time getting the kids into the house. Ronin was refusing to leave his cozy coupe car and Nikko was dragging around an umbrella from mom's house that we are now borrowing. I started doing some tickle pokes to keep the boys away from the neighbor's yard, which they were heading to, and then I lured them even closer to the house by taking away Nikko's umbrella and prompting him to chase me. This caused Ronin to want to be chased. I started singing a Limbo Stick song from Hi-5 while we chased and that added some familiarity to our game. I was able to scoop Nikko up and carry him into the house once he "caught" me and the Limbo Stick. Ronin followed us in without resistance. Whew!

Denis pointed out to me that Nikko hasn't really been crashing lately. I stopped to think about it and it's somewhat true. His crashing has been greatly reduced as of the last two weeks. I recall complaining about it to Shelly for the last month and a half! But today during lunch Nikko did do some crashing in the kitchen. He hasn't been as Velcro-Man-y to me over the past week, to be honest. He's been tantruming a bit more than usual, but I see the tantrums as communication blocks. Something is definitely going on with Nikko lately, in the direction of GOOD. He's making small steps and the outlet to the achievements is probably the tantruming. Tomorrow is his last day of OT. Wah!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Last Speech Day

Right now as I'm typing I'm listening to the chug-chug-churn of our new portable dishwasher. It came today, and it's a relief to know that I won't have to stand in front of the sink for a long time, washing dishes while my back is aching. I'll have to reorganize the layout around here to make it feasible to work around this dishwasher, which is on casters, because it isn't part of the countertops/cabinet layout. This house didn't have one. Doesn't have a 2nd bathroom either, but we'll work on that in the years to come.

Nikko's speech therapy technically wasn't very productive because he roamed around the room and didn't really participate in our activities. Gloria thought he looked rather content when he chilled out in my lap, or on the sofa looking at a photo album. She didn't want to bother his contentedness, so perhaps this session was kind of a waste. She took out her pictures of bread, banana, hot dog and toaster, and Nikko immediately recognized them and lined them up. He has an affinity for the banana picture overall. Later, he was making some gestures in the mirror such as eat, ball, more, sleep.

It wasn't a very eventful day, unfortunately, because we didn't get a chance to go outside (we had to wait for the ABT guys to deliver the dishwasher between 4-7p). I didn't want to be playing outside with the boys when the dishwasher arrived because I'd have to leave them unattended to get the washer situated, or they might roll over one of the boys. It was a Hi-5 day instead. Chinny was around too, so I sent her to Costco and Jewel for me, which was a really big help for me. Our window to play outside was so small, and it was cloudy today. Inside, Nikko was really interested in watching Hi-5. He wasn't always sitting still; he'd venture to the window, or run to the kitchen, and mostly danced in place in front of the mirrored corner. He would move his hands in front of him like Superman, or put his arms straight out to the sides and lift up one leg like a figure skater, or do some random signs. The way he was making signs to himself looked like mute gibberish; he had some words but they were jumbled in his head/hands. Nikko and Ronin coexist, but Ronin pushes Nikko around a lot. Sometimes Nikko is in his way, but other times Ronin just starts pushing Nikko and I warn him to stop because whatever Ronin is doing doesn't look very fair. Nikko could also squash him like a bug if he wanted to. Gloria and I had talked a lot about Nikko today, of course, and she thinks that Nikko is really starting to come around, he's thinking and exploring much more. His understanding of pictures in general is emerging, and Gloria thinks that he'll get the hang of PECs once he gets the idea of pictures. She noted that he seems to like pictures a lot. He likes carting the pictures I've taken of things around, even lining them up, so she encouraged me to continue taking pictures. I didn't tell her that I've got a slew of pictures, just haven't put them out in an organized fashion yet because it's all so daunting. Gloria said that she thinks Nikko will do fine; it's ME that she's worried about, hopes that I will make time for myself and that I won't stress too much about Nikko. She definitely thinks I should take advantage of respite care. I know that Clearbrook offers that, but wonder how Nikko would be around strangers for a long period of time. Well, preschool will answer that, I'm sure! Nikko came up to me many times today to look into my face, to let a part of my face touch his nose or his lips, and probably just to connect with me. When I checked on him in the late afternoon he had taken a bunch of pillows, blankets, and the Boppy pillows and made a comfy seat for himself in the middle of the floor to better watch Hi-5. He had no meltdowns today, and I'm glad it was peaceful for him.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The watermelon slice

Denis surprised us by taking the day off so he could go with us to Nikko's last day of playgroup. We got to the clinic on time and dropped a crying Ronin off in the daycare. Then we turned the double stroller around and went into the playgroup room. The kids today were Nikko, Andrew, Brandon and a girl Reagan. Overall, Nikko wasn't very attentive during playgroup today, probably because it was his last day and maybe because Denis' presence was different. Niko didn't sit very well during circle time, but he was able to hold a tambourine and tap it with his hands somewhat to the beat of the circle time song. He didn't sit for the hats or the story book, and maybe we were running late so Shirley omitted the Wiggles song about body parts. Nikko bopped around the bean table a bit but he didn't really play with anything substantial except for holding a plastic banana and using the phone on the play kitchen. He took the banana and held it up to Denis, waiting for him to identify it. I was impressed because he does that with the picture of the banana, too. He hasn't done that with any other pictures yet. During craft table time, Nikko was still struggling against me to sit in the chair but I managed to get his attention by giving him a bottle of glue and HOH squirted glue onto a half-moon shaped green paper. We then put red slices of "watermelon" on it, dotted seeds with black marker, and made a watermelon slice. For some reason, Nikko became attached to this slice ALL DAY. He rarely let it go out of his sight. Even later on, at home, when Ronin tore it from his hands and ripped it, I got some scotch tape and taped up the tear. Luckily, Nikko was satisfied with the patch job. Back to playgroup, Nikko refused the fresh watermelon slices for snack time but welcomed the Cheetos. Before parachute time Shirley gave Nikko a certificate of completion and he sat long enough to take a picture. He sat looking confused as we sang Happy Birthday to him because that's the song I usually sing to the boys while brushing their teeth. I sing it 3 times so that's how long the toothbrush stays on their pearly whites. Generally. We picked up Ronin from daycare and headed home where Peter met us and we started Ronin's speech therapy. Denis took Nikko downstairs and that was the end for Ronin. He wanted to go too, it was 11:45a and he was cranky as all hell, and he did NOT cooperate with us. Speech was a bust for Ronin.

Some time after lunch we all went outside to play. The weather was perfect, sunny and cool. Too bad we can't get it this cool inside our house w/o using the air conditioner. The boys saw Denis on top of the roof cleaning out the gutters and they were impressed. We (I) drew on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. I think I enjoy it more than the boys do, since I'm the one who ended up drawing the sun, airplane, tree, helicopter, watermelon slice and a street. Nikko didn't go into the swingset, but opted to hold his watermelon craft and chill out on the plastic table benches. Later he joined Audrey and me on the banig mat, until Denis came out with some snacks. We went inside to have a formal snack time around 4p. The Disney movie Cars was on TV and I wanted the boys to watch it since we haven't seen it yet. Ronin was very interested, but Nikko fell asleep. When he woke up from his nap, Nikko was crying really hard during a diaper change. I was asking him what was wrong for the longest time, but he couldn't tell me. I saw him turning the watermelon craft over and over and figured that it might have gotten bent in the middle. He pulled me toward the nursery, knew it was the wrong room, and redirected me to his room where I originally got the scotch tape and patched up the slice earlier in the day. I got more tape to put on it, and he was briefly satisfied. He soon plied me for even more tape and I got agitated because there was nothing wrong with the slice. Finally I gave up and tore a few pieces for him to add to the slice to his liking, then announced that the tape ran out so no more tape. I finally got to a level which was acceptable to him and he left. Nikko's getting frantic about certain things and it's worrying me. Kind of OCD-ish. Tomorrow is the last day of speech therapy with Gloria. I'm not looking for a miracle, I just hope he has a good session.

Something I forgot to note: Nikko has been showing more aggressive behavior during some of his tantrums. He's been pounding his chest, stomping his feet, and occasionally throwing himself onto the ground. Obviously he's frustrated that we're not giving him what he wants and that he can't express what he wants as well. He's also been figuring things out around the house to get what he wants, by dragging the ottoman over to the TV stands to retrieve a Hi-5 DVD or dragging the kitchen stool over to the counter to get something he shouldn't. That brain is working, I swear!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Audrey's Baptism

Today we survived the event that was Audrey's baptism. I had been planning this for weeks and wondered if we would execute on all cylinders. We did!

I got frazzled at Denis when we were trying to get out the door. I apologized for barking at him, but mentioned that I have been stressed out about things since the night before as I prepared the bags. I was so stressed out about being late to the church because the baptism was going to be part of the mass. I had FS and some Dum Dum lollipops in a food bag in case of meltdowns, but Denis opted to have Nikko chomp on Gerber stars because they had less sugar. Unfortunately, in a setting such as a church, I didn't want to try new therapeutic tricks out on Nikko so I went with the flow. Mom took Ronin for the entire Mass because he was getting rowdy and showed that he wasn't able to sit still at all. Apparently they went outside, as well as near the kid room. Nikko stayed with us in the pew and wasn't disruptive at all. He looked around, played with the reserved seating placards, looked at the truck book and the photo albums I brought along in my toy bag, and then snarfed on stars. When we stood up at the baptismal font, Nikko originally stayed in the pew but soon came out to join us while the priest baptized Audrey. The priest even bent down and handed Nikko the LIT candle to blow out. Um, YIKES!!! Denis took it and I told him to save Nikko the trouble and blow it out. (sigh) After the baptism, in which Audrey behaved and looked like a little angel, we took family pictures which Ronin refused to cooperate in. Denis and I needed to pit stop at home for diaper changes. On the way to Stir Crazy in Woodfield, Ronin fell asleep so I think all his crabbiness meant that he was tired. Nikko had some bouts where he was looking for FS, but we tried to weather them and not even break open a bag. Playing the Signing Time DVD in the Pilot helped, but in the restaurant the DVD player didn't hold his attention for once. Nikko spent a lot of time gathering castoff chopsticks from people's tables, bringing them back to our table and lining them up. He also tended to run to Ollie's/the Penepacker table and seemed to just look at the other kids. I wonder if he was curious about them. Nikko didn't quite eat his nuggets (probably full on stars) but it still didn't diminish his appetite for crackers, MORE stars, and later on, cake. Of course. He didn't stay sitting in his high chair and preferred to be more mobile. I didn't demand he sit still; in fact, I was rather accommodating to him and have come to accept those facts for now. I wonder how preschool will change his inability to sit still.

After lunch, where we had a good time despite the craziness of 35 or so people in a secluded but somewhat cramped seating area, we headed home around 4:45pm. It felt like the day literally flew by and that we were starting all over. We chilled for a bit at home before taking everyone outside to play. I finished driving stakes into the ground and drilling them to the swingset while Audrey sat on a banig mat and the boys unfortunately discovered the sand box. I thought Nikko was starting to tire of it since he didn't sit down in the sand like Ronin did, but eventually he found his way into the sand as well. We had to give the boys baths before dinner, and later this evening I had to clean the tub from the sand and grit. The boys are in bed and we'll have our last playgroup session tomorrow.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


After lunch I was boiling some potatoes for Audrey (who was still napping). Nikko had dragged the stool over and stood up, surveying the pot. I stood beside him and said, "Nikko, don't touch! It's hot. It's too hot." He turned to me, put his hand over his mouth and then whisked it away, in the sign for Hot. "Yes, Nikko, Hot!" He smiled and then hopped off the stool. I was thrilled to see him sign, but I am confused as to whether our communication was a real exchange. Did he understand that Hot was a dangerous word, that heat could burn his fingers if he touched something hot? Or did he hear the word Hot and responded in kind with a sign, which is what he can imitate from watching the DVD? Oh, I'm so glad he imitated a sign, and if prompted to sign by hearing the word Hot, that makes me feel really happy for Nikko. But I have to make sure down the road that there is comprehension as well. I saw a few other signs today that he made while looking at his reflection in the mirror: Eat, Cookie, Hot. He also gave himself a big hug.

Much later in the day, after the boys played outside for a half hour, we took everyone to Costco for provisions. Nikko was not happy to leave the dirt pile he was getting into, which probably set the tone for the outing. He was whiny and irritable in Costco, seeking FS constantly. Ronin added to the stress by also wanting FS (I had only two bags left so I prodded Ronin with crackers) and crying out whenever Nikko did. After Costco, we went to a drive-through car wash. Ronin was in awe, but unfortunately Nikko fell asleep on the way in. The rest of the night was calm, thank goodness. Tomorrow is Audrey's baptism and I am nervous, of course, because I have to get us out the door by 11am (shooting for that), get the diaper bag ready with changes of clothes and extra diapers, figure out what the boys are going to wear to church, assemble the food bag with extra drinks and heat up nuggets for the boys' lunch, assemble a toy bag for Audrey and one for the boys, figure out what I can wear....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cindy's last session/Family pool outing

Another pretty calm day. It was Cindy the Social Services Lady's last session with us and it went pretty quickly. The boys played with the toys she brought while we chatted. Nikko was engrossed in block builders that he also used in OT yesterday. He lined them up, but also did it coordinating them by color. Interesting observation. I thanked Cindy for everything she's done for us with an gift card. I have learned a lot from her, some good tips regarding behaviors, educational information and inspiration. She was a sounding board for me, and I even appreciated the electronic snowman that lit up with rotating colors that she brought to us during the holidays.

In the afternoon, after I put Ronin down for a nap, I was sitting with Audrey and watching Nikko run back and forth in front of the mirrored corner. He was doing some some running back and forth in front of the mirrored corner along with some jumping off the ottoman. I really don't know what he was doing, but when I looked closely at him his hair was wet with sweat. He gave himself a big workout in such a small space! He seemed fine but it struck me odd that he was so sweaty. We didn't have any big tantrums during the day. Nikko found himself in the window equally as much as he was on the couch. I also caught him flipping through a truck book. And he seems to have gotten his taste for chicken nuggets back. He ate three whole ones during lunch and dinner.

When Denis came home, we headed out to Meadows Park to their zero-depth pool. We met up with the Creens and made it an aquatic family outing. Nikko enjoyed his pool time, skimming the bottom of the pool like a crocodile. Ronin was really happy, trouncing around and venturing as far deep as Denis could take him before I got all nervous. And Audrey was very content to be in my lap, slapping at the water, reaching for the little bubbling fountains and watching other babies in the pool. It was a successful outing. Nikko hadn't had a nap all day and was asleep before Denis finished saying the nighttime prayers.

I know these entries are short, but when I don't get out much, there's not much to report. I am trying to see what kind of activities we can do during these summer days and now that the swingset is up I hope to get us in the backyard more. I still need to get the kiddie pools cleaned out so we can have an aquatic backyard experience. It's still hard because Audrey isn't walking yet, but I'm trying to work around it. I'm also doing some reading on the side whenever I can. Cindy lent us (and I ultimately bought) another behavioral therapy-based autism book that seems useful, and I also got a book about quick stories and tips compiled by families of kids with autism. Reading a bunch of shorter stories is making it easier to get through this book. So far, the most useful information I got from it is that I should try very hard to get into a support group or find other mothers who have been in/are in similiar situations such as ours, to exchange stories and so that I can learn from them. Tracy Hellner, the autism coordinator at Clearbrook, got in touch with me yesterday and told me about a mom who's son is in preschool right now and might be a good resource. She said she'd try to connect us. Tracy also warned me that during the summer, many groups close down so I might not get lucky in that arena.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Swingset is up!

Our morning was not unusual. The kids were all awake by 7:30a and ready to run around the living room by 9am. They got hungry around 11:30, which seems to be the newer, earlier lunchtime so that's when I got crackin'. Nikko had shown a little interest in Ronin's nuggets last night so this time I gave him 3 whole Mickey Mouse nuggets without cutting them. He seemed very interested in eating them like that, so I don't think I'll cut them for him anymore. Ronin, on the other hand, tries to stuff as much of it in his mouth as he can, so giving him bigger pieces backfires. I still need to give him bite-sized nuggets. Chinny arrived soonafter and I had the kids in the Pilot headed to OT by 1:45p. I wanted an earlier OT session so that we could play in the backyard on the newly assembled swingset ASAP.

OT seemed to go by really fast. Nikko started out on the platform swing and then went through the obstacle course briefly. Suddenly he wanted some FS so Shelly turned his attention toward some building blocks and Play Doh, then mirror markers and shaving cream. He did have one big tantrum when we tried to transition him away from the blocks to something else. We didn't use the FS like I thought we would, which was fine by me. Shelly explained that rewarding him as he was acting up wasn't a good thing. Once he calmed down and was engaged in an activity, Shelly said that would have been the time to reward him with a FS. Our time was up and we went home. Ronin fell asleep on the way home and since he hadn't napped yet all day I decided to let him finish his nap and then we'd go outside to play. In no time the kids were exploring the swingest/seesaw swing/fort/slide/monkey bars. It's a really nice swingset, but I don't think the cedar wood will hold me up in some areas like in the back where there is a picnic table area. I better not try to sit on it, 150 or so lbs. may crush the wood! I guess 40 lbs more or less is a better fit. Surprisingly, the boys didn't stay on it the entire time. I forget that they are both still very young so they won't be playing pretend kitchen or dining in there anytime soon. They started playing with branches of leaves at the base of a tree, their tricycles, and cozy coupe car. I forgot to mention that when it was time to put on their Crocs, Nikko attempted to step into his own pair by himself. AW!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The screwdriver

Denis' Dad and worker Abe came over to start putting up the swing set. During speech Denis took Ronin outside while Nikko was in the living room with Gloria, Audrey and me. Nikko wasn't very cooperative in the beginning, wanting to go outside as well, but I wanted him to work. He took Gloria's pictures of Hot Dog, Banana, Toaster and Bread and lined them up. He seemed more interested in lining them up than in putting the plastic banana or hot dog on top of their respective pictures, but this is exactly the kind of exercise we need to do with him to get him to see that they are the same thing. Yesterday morning before playgroup Nikko had taken a picture I had of crackers, and a banana picture, and toted them around. I took real crackers and put them on top of the picture so he could see they were the same thing. So, in essence, I've been doing Gloria's job. Ha ha ha. Gloria says if Nikko can nail down this picture/object concept, he'll do much better with PECs in preschool. Kinda makes me want to tell Gloria that she should have incorporated these picture/object exercises months and months ago, instead of doing a final push with them these last weeks of ST. Grrrrrr.

The rest of the day passed by weirdly because we mostly watched the memorial service for Michael Jackson. The kids didn't argue for us to turn the channel, and Audrey was the most fidgety for attention. We did get another chance to take Nikko outside while the two babies napped. I wanted to help put together the slide at least because I had read the directions and knew it could be assembled while the others worked on the structure. Nikko was watching Denis and me drill screws into the slide to secure it. He took a long flathead screwdriver and put it into a screw hole, turning and twisting it as if to get that screw deeper into the hole. I think he was imitating us, or maybe even imitating my father-in-law because I was using a drill, not a screwdriver. It was cool to see Nikko acting like he was helping fix the slide and I said to Denis that we should get him some play power tools. Denis remembers the toy tool set Shelly brought to OT once, and at the time I figured that Nikko would just stim off the screwdriver or use the drill in a stim way. But the more Nikko becomes exploratory, the more I'm going to have to take more risks and expose him to more things, not just automatically assume that he will revert to old ways. This is both true and untrue, as I recall the fish pond vs. water table incident. Or with safety issues, he may still be a magnet to swings and possibly get knocked out. Regarding the power tools, I should try them on him again and see if he will be more purposeful in his play. Not much else happened tonight unfortunately. Tomorrow we don't have anything on the calendar, but Denis' dad will come back to finish the swingset so I've been told. It's supposed to rain, so I hope it will still be workable conditions. It's not finished yet but when it will be, oh joy the boys will have! I've got to look for some wood stain to protect the finish.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The bean/water table

We made it to play group this morning, but not on time. Ronin got dropped off at the daycare with resistance and I ran us back to Shirley's group. The bean table had been emptied of beans and turned into a *gasp* water table. Ooooooh greeeeeeeat. "You didn't know? Oh, you weren't here last week," I was told, "otherwise we would have told you to bring a change of clothes for Nikko." Luckily I usually have a spare change for him, which I needed to haul out after he was done drenching his tummy on the edge of the water table. I watched his feet carefully because sooner or later I'd probably see a gym shoe leave the floor and try to climb into the table. Yeah, that happened. Nikko was happy to splash and move some boats around. He started dipping his elbows in, and would have put his face in the water had we not restrained him. Andrew, the other autistic boy, already got the front of his hair wet so he got ushered away to the trampoline. I had to struggle holding Nikko in place during circle time, let him run away and wander back, but he managed to pick a red fire helmet to wear for a short period of time in front of the mirror. He didn't sit at all for the story book. Then it was back to the water table. I had to drag him away from it during craft time, which he also resisted, but during craft time I explained to him that snack time was next. I think he caught the words "snack time" because he then allowed me to clean his hands and he voluntarily climbed back into his seat waiting for Cheetos. I mentioned to Shirley that next week is his last session and did I need to bring anything? She suggested a camera. One other boy had brought some treats during snack time, so I wonder if I should do the same. On another note, I need to get a gift for Shelly and for Gloria, and later for Bo, for all their work with Nikko. I'm going to be venturing into that realm of Teacher Gift ideas. I'll ask Atz since she's had the most experience here. Lakeshore Learning gift cards?

We came home and it was speech time for Ronin, who did well using two-word combos (Hi car, hi train, up high, hi bike, hi ball, all done). After that, we had a nice visit from Regina and two of her four kids, Emma and Roman. Nikko didn't pay them too much attention and retreated to his spot at the picture window. Ronin was getting into Roman's way alot and messing up the play food for Emma. Naptime would soon follow for Ronin, then Audrey would follow. Nikko fell asleep in the afternoon as well, sitting up on the couch watching Hi-5. I couldn't catch a nap myself because each time a kid went down, another was up and demanding food or a diaper change or I was trying to clean up the kitchen. Denis called and proposed that we go to Lions Park to listen to a band play (classical music) and play on the playground. The Creens were going to be there, so I called up Pat and left a message about it. Eric and Leslie were in town as well and they were such dolls to meet us up there for a short time. I think the boys are more comfortable seeing their faces off and on in their lives because they didn't cry or freak out at them. Nikko even tolerated Eric picking him off the swings and bringing him back to the stroller. Forgot to mention that before we even left the house to go to the park, Ronin was acting so incredibly crabby and we didn't know what he wanted. He was kicking and screaming, and I stated, "But you're the one who even had a nap!!!" Nikko joined in and Audrey was fussy too. It was bloody hell getting out the door. Once we got to the park, however, the boys saw the jungle gym and they took off. I covered them in bug spray, too. There may have been a point where Nikko got tired of the jungle gym because as we all stood around chit chatting he started running up and down the sidewalk between us, running and stopping by my side, then taking off again. We tried not to get home too late, but Audrey's bedtime was still past 9:30 due to a late bath, and the boys were down after 10pm. I went to the grocery to get milk and came out with a whole lot of other stuff, of course.

One more thing before I forget... regarding Nikko's OC behavior, it's hard to predict but sometimes he sees something and returns to its rightful place. On more than one occasion while I've been doing dishes he'd run in, place a cup on the countertop (that erroneously made its way into the living room) and run away. He ran in, put a Cheerio on the table, and ran away. I saw this Cheerio on the living room rug earlier and was too lazy to pick it up and throw away. He could have eaten the Cheerio, or stomped on it, but it wasn't where it was supposed to be. Too bad he doesn't automatically clean up things in the living room, but there's hope, right?