Thursday, September 30, 2010

A simple, good day

Nikko's School Report:
Bathroom - Nikko was dry and he went potty. (This surprises me because he had peaches after breakfast, again, thanks to Audrey's yapping. That usually garners a lot of pee.)
Speech - vocabulary, teacher names. He was requesting picture magnets to put in book. "I want the ______." A few times he added the color - red hat!
OT - Body awareness activities - then put body floor puzzle together.1st time needed lots of help, 2nd time did it independently. Also worked on cutting. Was able to cut sort lines independently.

I gave the boys haircuts today before lunch. I put them in front of the laptop in the kitchen and replayed Monster Truck Mater on After tat, the one yellow and one green monster trucks in the house became hot commodities. Nikko had therapy after school, and Jenna said he did very well throughout the entire session. I honestly didn't hear any whining coming from the basement either. Finally, after dinner and before the boys' bath times, I had given Audrey a bath before Denis came home and then I had to go to my first Zumba class. Nikko didn't freak out or whine. He let me kiss him good night and good bye, watched me leave from the window, but there were no tears according to Denis. Maybe he was too tired by day's end, but I was grateful.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I feel compelled to write about pain tonight.

I am in physical pain right now because I went to a Zumba (Latin dance) class tonight, one of the first times I've had proper exercise in the last four years. I've done some circuit machines and running, very little actually, plus the pilates class last month, but today was a full body workout and my lower back is paying the price. I was three minutes into the class, doing the warm-up dances, and my muscles were on fire. I wondered how I would last the next 45 minutes doing such intense movements. I prevailed, however, once I got over my threshold for pain. I felt clumsy and was learning the steps by watching the girl in front of me, who was 10 years and 30 pounds lighter than me. I will do better next week, but I wish I didn't have such a barrel-like form. Thanks, kids. :P

In the news, a woman stood up and testified against two other women who hired three teenagers to throw sulfuric acid at her, beat her with a bat and steal her purse as a ruse. There are pictures of the woman, scarred on her arms, chest, and her entire face from two months of skin grafts. That woman went through a medicine-induced coma because the skin grafts were going to be so painful. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to have acid burning on my skin, not being able to get it off, wanting to protect my face and feel it being melted off. The two conspirators were convicted today, don't know for how long, but probably not long enough. It was over jealousy.

And on my ASD online forum, I read the thread about a very well-liked and respected mom whose child had a a rough academic and social year last year. He ultimately went on meds for his angry, aggressive behavior, and then the mom discovered that his teacher had literally blacklisted him among the class without his knowledge. She was a two-faced teacher who seemed to contribute to the child's difficult school year, and had the audacity to tell other children not to play with the child because "he was not nice." She also inked out his name on the class list that went home to all families, without the knowledge of the mom, thereby excluding him from interacting with his peers, being contacted for playdates or birthday parties. When I read this thread, I felt so sick to my stomach. I felt an ocean of sadness for the mom and her child. I was filled with rage against the teacher and remorse for all the lost opportunities the child could have had to socialize with his peers, in the school and outside of it. The teacher had doomed the child to fail. My blood boils when I think how this could happen to Nikko one day. I absolutely adore Nikko's preschool teachers. Even on stressful days, I never hear them bad-mouthing the students. It makes me wonder why, if you are a teacher, you ARE a teacher. If a teacher finds no joy in teaching students anymore, can those people do everyone a favor and leave the teaching profession? We trust our children in the care of teachers, and blindly assume that they care back. Can the teachers that really, truly care about children and their futures please stay in the system, be compensated accordingly, and just keep on being fantastic? The evil teacher caused insurmountable pain for the mom, a regression in the child, and a disdain for ignorant people on a very active ASD board. I feel so much pain and sadness for the mom. If Nikko was purposely blacklisted by his teacher I think I would be in complete shock above all. I hate to think of the fight this mom is about to take up, possibly involving legal action against the teacher and/or the school district, if there is enough of a case. I really feel for her. I wish I could tell her something more comforting than "I'm sorry," but I can't find the right words. It's a completely painful situation, through and through.

Swim lessons

School Report. Bathroom - Nikko was wet today but also peed a lot in the toilet!
Speech - body parts - liked sticking out his tongue. :) Worked on 1-step directions, vocab & object function.

I********TMI ALERT*********
It's only been two days and Nikko was straining uncomfortably again. I felt so bad for him, hunched over the kitchen table. He put his head in my lap and seemed upset. I had to help him again, and his poop wasn't terribly hard but was big to pass. He did a second dump that looked like the rest of the blockage. I will put him back on MiraLAX, just enough to cover the bottom of the cap, once a day starting tomorrow. Something else I started with him was putting him in pull-ups. It's kind of frustrating because he is peeing in them like usual. I have to establish the routine at home first. This morning I fully intended to put him on the toilet after Ronin, and I did, but Ronin's process took so long, then Denis needed to start getting ready for work, so by the time I got Nikko on the toilet he had already peed in his diaper. He also peed mid-morning when he was wearing pull-ups and before I had to "help" him with a bowel movement. Then after breakfast he ate a ton of peaches. That is always going to result in lots of pee later, and sure enough his school report above stated as much. I am really not looking forward to cleaning up the poop smears that are going to happen as a result of the MiraLAX, especially if they get messy in his pull-up. Yuck.

After the boys came home from school, and Denis came home from work, we took Nikko to his first-ever swim lesson. Denis found a class run by the NWSRA (Northwest Special Recreation Association, that offered individual lessons at the Kirk School in Palatine. This is the same organization that provided Nikko an aide (Melisa) for his park district camp class, so they offer programs for special needs kids. We took all the kids with us to check out the facilities as well as to scout whether or not Nikko could have lessons and then keep the other kids busy doing something else. Um, well, NO. It isn't going to work out that way. Reason being, Ronin was quite awful about not having a swim class. He was so upset about not being able to swim in the pool. He whined and cried and was so sour that I was getting mightily irritated at him. When we reached the Kirk School and located the therapy pool, Ronin wanted to go in the water and I had to haul him into the hallway, seriously considering putting the kids in the car and leaving for half and hour. A maintenance lady walked by and mentioned the playground in the back. "I have grandkids," she said knowingly and unlocked an outer door that led to the biggest playground apparatus I had ever seen. Needless to say, Ronin and Audrey were loving running up and down the equipment, going down the slides, and fidgeting with the equipment extras like musical bells and steering wheels. But when the half hour was up and we went inside, the kids became ballistic again once we went into the pool area to check on Nikko. Audrey was trying to kick off her shoes and Ronin was being restrained by Denis while Nikko was watching us from the pool, holding onto a boogie board and his instructor, Connie. I brought Audrey into the hallway screaming (Audrey, not me) and had to wait a few minutes until she calmed down enough to eat a graham cracker. There was an ocean mural on the wall that I pointed out to distract both Ronin and Audery. After Nikko's lesson was over, we left the building and I vowed never to take the little ones there again. Nikko, on the other hand, was wriggly and wanted to do his own thing in the water. Connie seemed to take his behavior in stride and tried putting him on his back for some kicks. We'll have to keep trying to see how these lessons progress, but if anything Nikko will be doing something, and maybe learning, in an environment that he absolutely loves.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Team Meeting

Denis woke me up for the Team Meeting. My cell phone alarm went off and I totally didn't hear it. I had 15 minutes before leaving the house. Nikko was awake but the other two were still sleeping. Denis suggested I take Nikko along and leave the other two, and that turned out to be a prudent idea. At the school, Nikko was sitting in a chair next to mine and at one point I told him to go play. He slid off his chair and went to the toy shelf, picking out a school bus. He took it to the road-patterned carpet, lay down on the rug and started running the bus along a road. It was very appropriate play, despite his face being mere centimeters away from the bus windows, studying the perspective through the bus windows.

I took some notes during the meeting, didn't capture everything, but this is what I jotted down:
Nikko will trace his name and try to spell it.
Body parts identification - still working on it
Stacking blocks - Did well, now needs to keep building w/blocks sideways or some variation of that.
Follows 1-step direction - mastered. HOORAY!
Can identify actions in pictures - now, make him identify the actions.
Shapes - mastered. HOORAY!
Say Yes/No. Do you want this? Yes, or no.
Function of objects - still working on it
Scissors - continue cutting vertical lines on index cards
Maze - still working on it
Numbers - NEW. Count in sequence (using number strip) and then add an object per number so he can learn to identify.
Faces - can make them, but seems to want to be done with the book
Imitate actions with objects - success!
Pretend with Nikko how to drink, how to be a snake.
Answering to Name - - still working on this. Ask "Who are you? What's your name?" Try to do this without prompting.
Different place - NEW.

Conclusions: Nikko has these isolated words; we have to help make them meaningful. Give him more objects and picture choices (PECs).

The meeting lasted an hour and was really good. Another thing I learned was that Nikko has been going to the bathroom, and actually peeing in the potty this past week. That's awesome! They also suggested that I put Nikko in pull-ups and sweats because it is harder for him to pull down his jeans. I guess I'll start his formal PT'ing tomorrow, give him an opportunity to pee on the toilet after Ronin, perhaps. My only problem is that Nikko is coming off some constipation problems and that stuff is messy during a diaper change. Imagine the pull-up change... Maria did mention the velcro-sides so perhaps when he poops I can lay him down vs. struggle on the toilet.

The rest of the day was uneventful until after lunch, when I got the kids in the Pilot and headed to Meijer. I wanted to get some grocery things but started us in the toy section where Ronin frustrated me with his wanting everything he came across. Nikko didn't seem entirely tied to one toy, except when we came across things in the Handy Manny section. Ronin ended up with a Thomas train called Diesel 10, and Audrey got a purple foam ball. She loves it, for some odd reason.

I have a lot of things to do for Nikko, including get a family picture schedule together. That's a left-over goal from the retreat, actually.

This evening I read a blog entry from a woman who had an IEP meeting today for her little man. The teachers had low expectations for him, even asked the parents, "What do you want him to do.... fail?" I was aghast. And I also felt so very lucky that Nikko's teachers are awesome. That they care enough about wanting Nikko to succeed that we could all convene this morning and collaborate on his goals [for his home ABA program] speaks volumes. We ARE lucky.

Monday, September 27, 2010


After yesterday's festivities, it was a calm day for us. I found myself outside with the boys while Audrey was napping. Ronin was busy motoring around on the tricycle and the Tykes car, but for a while Nikko was simply standing alone, not doing anything but occasionally waving a hand in the air, or talking to himself. I had a push broom and was cleaning moss from between the brick pavers while I watched Nikko, then decided to give him a tricycle so he could stay moving. He didn't want to use the pedals but managed to stay sitting on it and slowly cruising along the driveway, never far from me. Our neighbor Brianna came along and Ronin perked up immediately. Soon we found us in their front yard and was joined by her mom, Rachel. Brianna was doing cartwheels and Ronin was trying to copy her but looked like he was doing body slams into the grass instead. The interesting part was that Nikko got up off the tricycle, laughing, and tried to copy her doing cartwheels too. He would start running, then put his hands on the ground and hop his legs over, ending up on his butt. We praised him for his efforts regardless and he was happy as a clam. We went into their backyard for a short time and all three kids enjoyed their long family swing. Nikko sat serenely because he could see himself in the reflection of their car. I think it was very kind-hearted of the neighbors to be so great to us. Rachel always thinks about our boys when she's cleaning out her house because her son Alex doesn't need toddler things anymore. Today we scored a Thomas electric train and another set, but I haven't let the boys see it yet.

One thing to point out is that this morning, after changing his diaper, Nikko said to me, "Watch Thomas?" I complied, and wondered if he would be able to expand his requesting for wants. He can say the word he wants, but rarely phrases it into a question unless I prompt him.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Enchanted Castle

9/24/10 Bathroom notes - Nikko has been doing well going to the bathroom this week. Today he was dry and went right into the bathroom without a prompt.

Maria came over to do an evaluation of Nikko before our Monday 8am meeting. She said that Nikko has really improved since the beginning of the summer and that he showed mastery of many skills. He still had some bouts of whining but overall he did great. The kids had lunch and went to school. I took Audrey with me to meet up with an old high school friend who did the play Anne Frank with me. We breezed past Target to get a birthday present for a party the next day, made it back home to wait for the boys, fed them snack, and then got loaded up into the Pilot to go to the in-laws for dinner.

On Saturday we had a full day planned. We were going to a birthday party for 8 year-old Ozzie, held at an entertainment center called The Enchanted Castle. Prior to that, we attempted to stop by the local Mount Prospect Fire Station because they were having an open house. Ronin seemed really intimidated by the fire trucks and didn't cooperate. A demonstration was about to take place but we would be really late to the party so we opted to leave after a few pictures with a fire truck. Nikko was in a good mood, walking next to us without bolting and without holding onto anyone's hand. I had to direct him closer to us while crossing the parking lot but overall he didn't stray like he used to. We arrived at The Enchanted Castle on time and I braced myself for the sensory overloaded experience we were about to have, ensconced in the flashing lights from arcade games and kids running around galore. There were so many interesting things to look at and Ronin was becoming overwhelmed. Nikko was excited and surprisingly didn't get obsessed with one particular location. Our destination was a bounce area. The kids quickly warmed up to the bouncy houses, the smaller one for toddlers and then the bigger one, and finally the one with a huge slide that had Audrey flying down and flipping onto her face while I stood at the bottom ready to catch her should she bounce off the slide. Nikko easily maneuvered himself through the mazes and sea of kids, and I was proud of Ronin for overcoming any fears he had by climbing through all the obstacles his little body could handle -- with a push from me to help him up. There were toddler-sized rides that were a perfect fit for Audrey and Ronin. Nikko found this video game called Jet Rider that had a wide headrest and screen. He laid back and watched the scenes of riding in a mine shaft or simulating a roller coaster. And he was totally ok with it, looking almost serene. When Denis put a token in to try the simulator, Nikko covered his ears because the sound was slightly amplified. When the ride was over and the volume went back down, Nikko relaxed again and would have sat there all day if we let him.

We got back home and had only a little time left before I had to go to a function at St. Lambert's. Ronin had been coughing throughout the day and was being temperamental so I decided that he should stay with Denis while I took Audrey and Nikko. It was another opportunity for Nikko to experience being in a crowd of people but in a controlled environment. We sat at some round tables along with Pat and his family. Nikko didn't eat much, if any, of the dinner in front of him while Audrey went to town on the watermelon and the pancit noodles. During the dance program, there was an ice cream cart featured where they gave out real ice cream. The other church members ran around the room giving ice cream bars to the kids. Nikko and Audrey lucked out while I handed the sticky mess, and realized that it was a good thing Ronin wasn't there in case he got upset that he couldn't have any ice cream. The day ended with baths and bed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weekend consequences

I love getting written notes on Nikko's school reports.
Speech - Where ?'s, greetings in the office, requesting.
OT - Body awareness and deep pressure inputs. At table - worked on drawing closed O's & T's [crosses]. Making progress on this.

********TMI ALERT*********
Did I call it yesterday or what? After the kids came home from school, I noticed that Nikko was indeed straining. Even though I had stopped the MiraLAX for about 3 days, I was still giving him Benefiber at each meal. But over the weekend he had none of the above, plus his diet was worse than usual, eating M&Ms out of a snack mix for most of the night Saturday into Sunday morning. I got my gear together and decided to help Nikko have his poo. He was upset, of course, and with a suppository he expelled two blockages, the 2nd one bigger than the other. I examined the poop before wrapping it up and noted that it was kind of pliable, like clay that has been sitting on the counter for a few hours and no longer soft out of the can. It shouldn't have been too difficult to pass these, but I have no idea how to assess the strength of his muscles to do the deed. I have already started up with his Benefiber again and may season it with MiraLAX if he doesn't have a movement some time tomorrow.

Nikko's team meeting is set for Monday morning the 27th at 8:00am. I hope all the kids will be agreeable that early in the morning and not try to show off too much. We'll meet upstairs in the living room if it's not too chaotic.

Oh, and Nikko was ravenous today for some strange reason. He was asking for pizza by 9:30a and so I made him a cheese pizza from Tony's (no rising crust this time) and he devoured half of it in an hour. Kind of unusual for him to eat so much pizza. He picks OFF the cheese from the top, too. Bizarre.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Subtle observations

Speech notes from Nikko's school report: Good job answering what ?'s by pointing to pictures! Went to office to practice greetings. Worked on directions. Good on body parts!

I have to remember to go over shapes and colors and body parts with Nikko. I've heard that he can identify these things in ABA, too. Since we've gotten back from our trip, Nikko seems quieter to me. He's not singing a whole bunch of songs under his breath all the time. I still hear snippets, but not nearly as much. I don't necessarily think something is wrong, but something feels different. Over the past weekend I didn't bring any MiraLAX, nor did I put any Benefiber in his juice. Yesterday I noticed him straining a bit and I almost prepared myself to do an extraction, but was bewildered by the necessity because during the day his poop was peanut buttery, smearish. Before the end of the night he had a poop that was solid as opposed to smeary, the first in a long time. I think I had better dump more Benefiber in his juice because I fear another constipation battle is forthcoming.

Poor little Ronin today was coughing so much at school that the nurse called me and we ultimately decided that he should go home. His cough was barky, like an asthma cough according to Pam the nurse. I agreed with her, and later in the afternoon I gave him an albuterol treatment. His breathing isn't labored or wheezy, but I think it will turn into exactly that, unfortunately. I hope the coughing gets better before school tomorrow. Pam noted that it's possible the weather change could have aggravated his allergies/asthma, and I am inclined to agree with her. We've had cool weather for most of the week and all weekend, but today it was in the upper 80's and terribly humid. Ronin was ok all weekend, even up until he went to school there was no evidence of a cough. I don't know what provoked it at school. He's fine now.

I shouldn't even be awake anymore tonight. We watched the season premiere of Glee, and then watched Boardwalk Empire, a new series with Steve Buscemi. Whenever I elect to watch a TV program that will eat away an hour of my life, it becomes the risk I have to take in order to be in tuned with what's on TV. I'm going to write in the other blog about Ronin's potty training.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Camp Henry Horner

There is so much I need to write about that I think this will be a monster entry. I'll try to break it down into two parts: logistics, then reflections.

We had the most generous opportunity given to us by MGB Services, the company that runs Nikko's ABA home program. We had the chance to attend their Family Retreat Camp this past weekend at Camp Henry Horner in Ingleside, IL. Not knowing what to expect, we packed items from a suggested list and prepared for a camping adventure (not tents, but a lodge-like environment). I was pretty frantic by 5p Friday afternoon because we had to get there before 7p and there was going to be traffic. It took us an hour. We arrived at a camp ground that is past Lake Zurich, toward Baxter (the pharmaceutical company) and the Volo Car Museum in Volo, IL. There was a dinner in the dining hall and then time to go back and unload the Pilot. We had a LOT of stuff to bring inside our room and the staff was great in pitching in.

Saturday was an extremely busy day. The weather was cloudy and resulted in rain that put a damper on some early outdoor activities. We went to a rec hall where floor hockey was attempted. Our kids and a few others opted to play with some balls and cones in an adjoining room since the hustle and bustle of floor hockey was a bit much for my younger kiddos. We headed back to the main lodge (our headquarters) and the kids were ushered to do activities, arts & crafts, and play some sports while we convened with the adults for some speakers regarding special needs, finding quality/"me" time, and improving communication/relationships. After lunch we walked to the lakefront and the kids played in the sand while others went out on boats or canoes. Nikko and Ronin ultimately went on a rowboat with Denis and a helper named Adam while Audrey and I stayed on land. We came back, got the kids cleaned up, and then headed out to another kid-based activity and kids' dinner. The adults, meanwhile, were invited to an adults-only dinner,then later rejoined our kids at a campfire near the lakeshore with songs and smores.

The final day, Sunday, had the kids doing more arts and crafts while the adults got a chance to pack up. Then the families went on a short hike, played some soccer/basketball, and had a barbecue lunch together before gathering our things and heading home. That was our trip in a nutshell. We got to do a lot of walking down paths around the camp site. We also had to carry Audrey a lot, and sometimes Ronin because I feared his asthma would flare up trying to keep up the pace. The weather wasn't totally warm, mostly cool, sometimes wet. We were with other families with SN (special needs) and NT (neurotypical) kids so hearing Nikko whine and cry loudly wasn't a surprise to anyone. This was basically a mini-vacation for a weekend and I will always be so grateful for it.

"Expect the unexpected."
That was straight from Linda H.'s talk during one of our adult workshops this weekend. I have never been put so out of my element before. There were two (plus some smaller) incidents where I had to give things up and roll with the punches, even if I didn't want to. The first incident happened the moment we got to the camp. We drove into the compound and parked at the end of a long row of SUV's. Leibow Lodge was at the other end of a grassy field. Ronin recognized Melisa, one of our former therapists, so he ran over to say hello. I exited the Pilot with just my purse. No diaper bag. No food bag. My first error. We were led to the lodge where Maria from MGB Services checked us in, gave name tags, and gave us the weekend agenda. We arrived just in time to start walking to the dining hall with everyone else. Thinking that it wasn't that far from the lodge we started walking down a gravel path that gradually got dimmer. Denis had his flashlight as well as others, but the further away from the lodge we walked, I knew that going back to the car for our food bag would leave us screwed. We had to roll with it and hope we could find something for Ronin to eat at dinner. The dining hall had eight long tables set up for families and we took up one table. We were also assigned Melisa and a girl named Sarah to help us out this weekend. When the family-style dinner was open for us to bring food to the table, I saw that there were hamburger buns for the chicken patties. That would be Ronin's dinner. There was also some grilled chicken that Denis cut into a few pieces for Ronin to eat. I saw no signs of redness on Ronin's face so ultimately we were in the clear. But I felt so stressed out not knowing what food would be available. I noted that a microwave was sitting on a table with the coffee and that eased my fears of not knowing where we'd zap chicken nuggets for future meals. As a group, we walked back up to the lodge and were set to put our kids to bed. A bevy of volunteered helped Denis go back to the car to haul all our stuff back into the lodge. Meanwhile, I took the kids to our room, #3. Inside it had THREE bunk beds. And a garbage can. Can you imagine how big the room was? I pegged it at 10 x 13 (minus the cathedral ceiling). Pretty small for a family of five, three of which would not be allowed on the top bunks, but it was nine o'clock so getting settled and readying the kids for sleep was the priority. The communal bathrooms had three sinks, three toilet stalls, and three shower stalls. No tub. Our kids would have to be showered, unbeknownst to them. I was so incredibly anxious (and when I get anxious I get crabby, snappy and stressed out) that I felt like I was at deafcon one trying to figure out who would shower first, would they go peacefully (um, definitely NO), and how the heck would these kids fall asleep in a strange place? A text from my sister helped calm me down when she said to reread books and sing songs, show the kids that going on vacation is not unpleasant. That doesn't mean I immediately became serene and happy, but it put things into perspective. If I was panicked, the kids would feel my panic. After Audrey was showered, I announced it was time for stories, song and sleepy time. We had brought the pack-and-play for Audrey to sleep in, thinking she may fall off the bed if not in a secure spot. Thankfully she saw her blanket and [new] pillow and didn't fight being in a portable crib. I read a few stories and prayers, sang the good night song, and did my little exit ritual with Nikko so that he would know sleep was next. I lay next to Nikko while Denis parked next to Ronin. Audrey was at the foot of Ronin's bed. Ronin was the last kid to fall asleep.

I went to the lobby later to relax away from the sleeping kids, but bumped into Maria in the bathroom. I told her that I looked at our schedule and noticed that there were kid activities and some adult free time. "If you guys are going to separate the kids from us, I have NO idea how you're going to do it," I said to her fearfully. Maria grinned, patted my arm and said, "They're going to be all right." I was truly baffled. Nikko may become a puddle of screams. Audrey wasn't even two years old yet. And Ronin? His mood could turn on a dime. How would we be able to go to the adult workshop without the kids?

The next morning after breakfast (every meal happened in the dining hall), it was raining so a planned hike was a fail. Instead, we went to a rec hall where the kids were given a hockey stick and an aide. Ronin seemed genuinely proud and excited to hold a hockey stick. Nikko was accompanied by Melisa and seemed to giggle and laugh when they ran with the stick to hit a red ball. The floor of activity was crowded, but the helpers opened a second room next door where the smaller kids could safely play, and feel safe as well. Ronin seemed angry and frustrated that he couldn't get to the ball with his stick so he abandoned his stick and joined us with rubber balls, floor cones and bean bags. After the hockey, all the families convened in the lodge lobby (about eight families). Maria read the agenda, the aides and helpers started grabbing the kids' hands, and the masses started walking out the door. Nikko turned back to us with some slight hesitation, but Melisa took his hand and kept ushering him out with her. The kids kept walking forward. No protesting, not even Audrey. Denis and I kept watching through the lobby window at the kids walking off with the aides, expecting someone to bolt back toward us. It didn't happen. No one called on the radio to say the Umali kids were coming back. We were stunned and happy at the same time. We sat in the lobby while Linda H. gave a talk, followed by another speaker. The adult free time left us wondering what we should do with an hour+, but we just talked more about future plans. We talked about picture schedules and how that could really help plan the entire family's day. I hope to make a better stab at putting one together that would show what the kids should expect throughout the day. I'll start with a PEC of mealtimes, like breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Then I'll fill up the holes with activity PECS.

The kids came back and joined us for lunch. It was after lunch that some activities were scheduled to take place at the lakefront, activities such as canoeing, boating and fishing. Immediately I knew that I wasn't going to ride a boat mainly because I get seasick, and when I feel dizzy and nauseous then my mood falls apart. We walked/hiked to the lakefront and my heart sank. At the end of the grass was a big stretch of sand, and beyond that were the row boats and canoes. Guides were handing out life jackets and preservers, stating that the kids could only go so far up the sand without having to need to wear the life jackets. Would Nikko just want to splash in the water? Would he want to go swimming? What about Ronin and Audrey? What was killing me even more was that I didn't have a change of clothes for these kids if they decided to go into the water. I didn't even have a towel in my backpack. This excursion was totally unexpected to me and I was grossly unprepared. Water-type activities had appeared on the schedule, but with the up-and-down weather I had erred on the side of Plan B, not taking seriously the notion that our kids would participate in water activities. I was on high alert and could feel stress coursing through my blood. I didn't want the kids to get wet and I wasn't thrilled that they would be covered in sand, but there were few options other than turning around and walking away from the scene. We were here to participate and have a good time, and perhaps my family wanted to try out the boats. Begrudgingly I announced to Denis that the kids could play in the sand (damp due to the rain). Do you think the kids hesitated? Nope! They quickly congregated around a large metal bowl filled with shovels and scoopers and began to dig. We took off the kids' socks and shoes and rolled up their jean cuffs. I had some orange pylons and made a perimeter around us. If the kids went near the water, they were required to wear life vests. And since my kids love the water, they didn't stay in the sand for very long. We had to put life vests on each one. Then they started dipping their toes in the water beyond the seaweed on the shore. My internal alarms were ringing like mad because I didn't want these kids to attempt to swim, especially Nikko. Toes turned into knees and suddenly all three kids were wading in the water, jeans cuffed at the knee getting wet. I tried to carry Audrey up to the sand but she started screaming and raced back into the water. I put my hands futilely on top of my head and made an "AAARRRRRRGGHHHH!" sound while looking up at the heavens. It was a moment that I had to give up all my power and just let things fall where they may. Expect the unexpected. Could have been a cathartic moment if I weren't already stressed out watching the kids so they didn't fall into the water. Nikko and Ronin expressed an interest in going into a row boat so Denis and an aide named Adam got a row boat for their eager crew. And they were fearless. I thought Nikko might want to wriggle out of the boat so he could swim in the water but it didn't happen. I thought Ronin would start to balk in the middle of the lake that he wanted to go home, but it didn't happen. When they came back to shore, Nikko started strumming the water with his hands, edging a little deeper. Adam, who was a trained therapist, rolled up his jeans and played with Nikko in the water. Bless his heart! When it was time to leave the lakefront, there was a hose near a grassy clearing that we were able to use to wash little feet and hands. I felt bad that the kids had to walk all the way back to the lodge with wet jeans, but it couldn't be helped. Lucky Audrey started whining that she wanted "up!" so she got to be carried. We got to change the kids and reassemble them before the kids were whisked off to another arts and crafts project. We started doing some packing. The kids were also having a separate dinner from the parents so that at 6:15p all the adults sat around a candlelit table in the dining hall and enjoyed the last night without kids. It was a lovely touch.

Back at the lodge we met up with the kids and I found out that the last event of the evening was a campfire and s'mores at...the lakefront. I wondered if I'd have to bring a towel and change of clothes again! It was really dark so the kids couldn't even see the water. However, there was now a fire pit to contend with. The kids were good about hanging back with us on some benches. Tambourines and maracas were passed around and campfire songs were sung. Sticks were passed around to roast marshmallows and press into chocolate on graham crackers. The aides helped Nikko and Ronin with their marshmallows but they still turned out undercooked. Ronin's s'more was just cracker with marshmallow, no chocolate since it could have dairy in it. When we were all back in our rooms, we gave the kids much-needed showers. There were no protests this time around and each kid fell asleep pretty quickly. Denis and I were able to convene in the lodge lobby with some other parents and reflect on our times.

The next morning, our last, was another arts and crafts time for the kids and final packing for us. We had time for an all-family hike, some sports time to kick around soccer balls and play on a basketball court, and then the final barbecue lunch. Before we left, Maria made sure that we got all the arts and crafts that the kids made, including decorated flower pots, pine cones, a picture frame, and tie-dye t-shirts. What I loved about these activities was that the kids got to do something new and different instead of sitting around the house watching TV all day. On our way home, all three kids fell asleep.

I am so grateful to MGB Services for having us at this camp retreat. I was shocked to hear that it was their first one. I thought it was their sixth annual camp retreat because everything ran so smoothly. Jenna was supposed to be another aide at the retreat but she left the first day, sick. I heard that she had done a lot of the planning, so it's a shame that she wasn't part of the event. There were about eight families that attended but we had the youngest children. Still, the staff was able to be flexible in order to accommodate even Audrey. I was so proud of my kids because they went willingly, for the most part, whenever they were led away to do "arts and crafts." They were real troopers and were able to go with the flow. It taught me that maybe I keep the kids inside the house too much. :/

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stretching attention

From Nikko's 9/15 school report:
OT - Lots of sensory activities - then worked at table - drawing O's, snipping with scissors & squeezing toys.
I forgot how important having OT was for Nikko last year. They would pull Nikko during the first few minutes of class and do scooter stuff in the hallway, the swing, fine motor threading and lacing and dot markers. I lamented the end of school because I didn't know if I could keep up with home OT. Now that Nikko is getting some kind of input, from school in general and especially with OT, I feel a bit more at ease.

That being said... Nikko is fully into a whiny mode that makes me want to stab my eyeballs and tear my hair out. It is very bad. He started out the morning this way, whining in a high-pitched squeal. I asked him repeatedly what he wanted and it took six or seven tries before he said, "Pop tart?" The whining dotted the morning landscape and ceased when Kathy came for therapy. He had a good session and she told me that he only started whining at the end when they were cleaning up the play doh. School came and went. When I went out to meet the bus, both Nikko and Ronin were awake in their seats for once, both grinning when they saw me wave at them. Inside, Nikko started his whining once again, for things that he shouldn't have: cheese puffs (I gave him some for snack), ice cream sandwiches, pizza (it wasn't cooked yet). I really wish I didn't have to start my day with Nikko's whining and end it as well with Nikko's whining. Encouraging him to Use His Words doesn't stop his whining. Shrieking back at him doesn't make him stop to wonder what the heck I'm doing. If it's a maturity thing, I really hope he grows out of it quickly. I think giving him more vocabulary will help, so I fully intend to bestow more flashcards on him. I bought a rather expensive set of word cards from Lakeshore Learning that is waiting to be opened, but I'm not looking forward to Audrey coming up and grabbing at the colorful cards, bending some in half, getting them greasy. I also feel like the small window of attention from Nikko closes so quickly. It's hard to grasp his focus if he is not holding the object or looking right at me, and even when he is, the moment is fleeting within seconds. Sustaining his attention and focus is a big concern of mine for him. I was just thinking that singing songs helps because he would have to remember words and the tune together, like the ABC's or 123's. I know he's capable of singing a long song because he was able to sing the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, including the middle part where they name each train (Thomas, he's the cheeky one....).

Tomorrow we are going to a family retreat sponsored by MGB Services. I have lots of packing to do, and wonder how the kids will be able to sleep in a totally different environment. It will be an adventure, but we'll know from this how adaptable the kids will/will not be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No, not swing...

Ronin, let's go pee pee in the potty.
No, I don't want to.
Why not, Ronin?
I'm scared.
What are you scared of?
I'm scared of the poo poo/I'm scared of the red bucket/I'm scared of the toilet.
I'll be with you the whole time. There's nothing to be scared of.
I don't want to pee pee.
C'mon, Ronin, it will take two seconds. Let's go pee pee in the potty.
I don't want to.
Ronin, I don't want to clean up the floor. If you pee pee in your underwear then I have to clean up the floor because you will leak. Let's go pee pee in the potty.
NO. I don't want to.

You see the pattern here? Ronin does not want to use the potty. I enticed him with stickers, and even resorted to offering him an Oreo. He refused. BUT... before getting ready for school today he trotted alongside me to the potty and he peed, proclaiming that now he gets a sticker AND an Oreo. I praised him heavily, sang the Pee Pee Song, and after washing up I dutifully gave him an Oreo. Five minutes later he was in the bathroom, naked from the waist down, trying to sit on the toilet so he could get another Oreo. But he couldn't make himself pee or poop! Well, no pee/poop, no Oreo. He was pissed.

Oh, and for the past two days, Nikko has been "obsessed" with his "thing thing." We sit him on the toilet while Ronin gets a bath. Sometimes I keep Nikko company, other times I try to get a jump start on the dishes. It's not an unfamiliar thing to him at all, but for the past two days he's really been studying himself down there, poking and pushing it at all different angles. Last night he stood in the tub while Denis bathed him and would arch his back. I almost expect to hear the word, "SCHWING!" like in the movie Wayne's World. I suppose I should be congratulating him on another stage of self-awareness, but even while I was changing his diaper a few times today Nikko was attempting a from-the-ground schwing. The topper was that in between kid baths, Nikko was running around with his hand down the front of his diaper. I'd turn to see him and shout, "Nikko! No hands in pants!" He'd retract and then run away. I know this is all probably quite normal behavior, but it's doubly hard to explain what is happening to him if he can't communicate back with questions, or even process what the heck we'e describing. I dutifully put this ball in Denis' court, for the meantime.

Where's that hole puncher?

I've been really stressed out lately, mainly over Ronin's potty training issues. Then there's Nikko's constipation issues. Getting the kids to the bus on time. Waiting to see if the bus company has figured out their routine for coming home (4:20-25, looks like. Except Fridays are supposed to be 4:30, she told me last week). Audrey's attitude. It came to a head today when I stood in Nikko's room looking for the handheld hole puncher and I couldn't find it. I searched a few drawers in my room and ended up staring at the bookcase in Nikko's room that was crammed with STUFF. I started pulling out construction paper, glue sticks and pens, and told myself that if I had put all the school supplies in one box then I would know where the hole puncher was. But I didn't. And I got overwhelmed. I think I got meaner and more impatient, bellowing at Audrey for getting in my way and not listening to anything I told her (ordered her) to do. Nikko had peaches for snack and kept asking me for more, beyond 5pm and I was getting distraught because dinner was supposed to be at 6pm. I refused him and tried to distract him but he was so damned relentless that I ripped open a snack pack of peaches and left it for him while I ran to his room to stare hopelessly at the bookcase again. I broke down, which hasn't happened in probably a month, and lamented on how I couldn't get things in order. I had a pity party for a few minutes, but pulled myself together and started putting school supplies in a box. I still haven't found that hole puncher.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clay observations

There is no school for the kids on Mondays so today we were homebound. With Ronin's potty training in progress I don't really want to leave the house for an extended period of time, without a travel potty seat (I just ordered one, will get here by Thursday). The kids were getting used to the living room with no floor mats. I'm always so fearful that someone will fall backwards and hit their heads on the floor. There was definitely some roughhousing, but nothing that drew blood. At one point after lunch, the kids were sitting at the kid table playing with clay. I took out the camera and filmed a few minutes of their interaction because Nikko was babbling to himself. In a small, twisted way I wanted to capture some of Nikko's current mannerisms against the backdrop of Ronin and Audrey's NT behavior, with the hopes that in the [near] future Nikko will NOT be exhibiting these mannerisms. Nikko was hunched over his mound of clay, sticking little clay toys into it, but also babbling to himself, looking up at the ceiling, shaking his head slightly, and twisting his body for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, Ronin was proclaiming that the green clay he pushed into a blue car mold was "dirty." Audrey was the parrot that mirrored his proclamations. A cute scene, but skewed because Nikko was there - - but not. Throughout the day Nikko would request "Tickle" from me, whether or not I was in the mood. He was also about 30 minutes early for each meal, asking for a cheese sandwich. Finally, during snack time he glanced past me in the fridge and saw some peaches in plastic cups, the kind he got during summer school. He wanted some, then his siblings wanted some, so everyone was enjoying a sticky mess for snack. Nikko wanted more than his siblings, however, and even though I announced that snack was finished and there would be ABSOLUTELY NO MORE, Nikko was able to ask me verbally and using sign language, "I. Want. Peaches. Please?" OK, he had four, maybe five cups. At least it was fruit. Right?

Ronin had one accident today, after breakfast. He announced, "Mommy, I have a poo-poo." I groaned and quickly ran to the living room to scoop up Ronin and bring him to the bathroom. Luckily, there was no puddle or anything leaking from his shorts. But he did have a solid poop in his underwear that I dumped into the toilet. I told him he shouldn't get his underwear dirty and to tell us before he actually poops (or pees, for that matter) so we can help him go to the potty. That's what I'll be repeating again and again for a long time, I'm sure. Ronin had no accidents the rest of the day. I would tell him at hour-ish intervals that it's time to go to the potty. Let's hurry up, it will only take two minutes, then he can go back and play! My debate now is whether or not to put him in underwear for school. He will be gone for 3.25 hours. They will take him to the potty once. I'll make him go right before school. Will it be enough? Should I send him in a pull up instead?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Whine?

When Ronin whines, he sounds like, "Moooooooooom meeeeeeeeeeeee!"
When Nikko whines, he sounds like, "Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" and it's at a very high-pitched frequency and it grates on my nerves. I just wanted to make this distinction because Nikko's whining is different from Ronin's. He also does it when he can't communicate well. This morning Nikko was automatically whining once we got into the living room after waking up. I tried to stay calm and ask him what he wanted. "What do you want? What does Nikko want?" I asked him this over and over, sternly or lightly, didn't matter. Nikko kept whining. Gaaaaaaaaa...

And then, very quickly, he said, "Watch Thomas?" and went back to Gaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

I immediately praised him for vocalizing something and put in the Misty Island Rescue DVD, a new one I got in the event that the kids melted down (they did, last night). This made him happy and quiet for the duration of the movie. Until it was time to eat breakfast, that is. I'm really at a loss for why he is whining so much. Is it the pop tarts? Could it be his diet again, even though the only dairy he's getting is in his cheese sandwiches?

P.S. I don't even want to jinx us, but today Ronin wore underwear. No pull up, no diaper. He was incredibly resistant to using the bathroom at first. We wanted to pull out our hair. But by lunchtime he was more compliant. He didn't have any accidents UNTIL after dinner and before bedtime. I went too long without taking him to the bathroom and he had an accident on the mats in the living room. Tonight, I took out all the mats (will clean them tomorrow) and we're hardwood floor again. I do NOT want to go back to diapers with Ronin. We'll see how it goes.....

Oh, and today he pedaled on a tricycle for the first time. Great firsts for Ronin today!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Birthday party @ Kohl's

Today was Jovy and Max's birthday party at the Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview. Ronin and Nikko were excited to go to the Car room, but Ronin got attached to a little fire engine and was not willing to share it. Nikko was whiny from the minute we stepped into the museum altogether. We had to walk past the Car Room to get to the party room way at the end of a hall and Nikko was pulling at me hard to go back to the Car room. The boys enjoyed racing cars along a race track while Audrey puttered around the room with no real destination in mind. Nikko and Audrey were interested in the walk-in car wash for its flashy lights, roaring motor sounds and whooshing air ducts. We headed back to the party room in time for the birthday cake blowing. Nikko was easy to please with a piece of cake or a cupcake as long as it had frosting on the top. He was also receptive to potato chips. After the guests dispersed we hung around just a little bit longer to push some buttons and turn some gears. I spotted and ran into a good friend of mine from college, Ginny. She was there with her husband and two boys and we chatted briefly but happily. She's the kind of person I wish I got to see more often, or lived nearby, or just plain old hung around with. We returned home and I tended to the kids for a short while before getting ready to hang out with my girlfriends for our GNO. The kids didn't make a big scene when I left, but I heard from Denis that they were pretty bratty with each other and did lots of crying.

My girlfriends and I went to The Capital Grille, a wine and steak place in Oak Brook. Wendie called it a five star restaurant with a five star price. Still, we had dinner there and followed it up with a chat at Barnes and Noble. When the girls dispersed for home, Dinah was willing to stay out longer and hang out with me. I suggested we go to a hotel bar/lounge so I motioned to The Marriott across the street. We discovered a cute lounge with blue sofas and mounted flat screen TVs on the wall. Dinah and I had some great conversation, and I also listened to her incredible survival story regarding her cervical cancer battle. We talked about her holistic doctor and how to save by using coupons. Yes, exciting topics. I'll elaborate more tomorrow, but for now I'm BEAT!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


When Kathy was leaving our house yesterday, I remember saying in an offhand manner, "I have NO idea why Nikko is acting this way, and that's pretty sad coming from the person that is supposed to know him the best." It saddens me to think that I can't figure out why Nikko is having these emotional roller coasters. I feel really helpless when Nikko throws himself onto the floor and drags a pillow over his head, or puts his head into a storage bin. He's been having these moments again this past week. The odd thing is after lunch today I saw him getting sleepy on the couch. This was alarming because we were 20 minutes away from putting on shoes and waiting for the school bus. I put Audrey down for a nap and went back to check on Nikko. He was drowsy, hunched over and crying. I wondered if he had a tummy ache, but he didn't push me away when I pressed on his stomach. He seemed distressed, upset that he wasn't able to fall completely asleep, and anxious. I wrote a quick note to his teachers that Nikko wasn't quite himself today. When the bus came trundling down the street, Ronin and I ran to the driveway but Nikko ambled slowly on the brick pavers. He was also slow getting into his seat, but no tears. Nikko was fine getting off the bus at the end of the day. Both boys had fallen asleep on the bus and I don't blame them since the ride is long. The school is actually ten minutes away, but when the kids ride the bus it takes them an average 25 minutes. In the evening we had dinner at the in-laws and all the kids had fun playing with their cousins. Nikko ate some of the chicken nuggets at dinner but only ate the breaded coating. Ronin had been running around a lot after dinner and I feared that he might throw up his dinner if he continued to climb the furniture and run around recklessly. Denis got a big purple bowl and put it nearby in case Ronin had to throw up. Nikko immediately adopted the bowl and started putting his face into it, much like how he put his head in a storage bin under the kitchen table at home. He abandoned it for a while and Audrey and Maya picked it up, pretending to eat cereal from it. After Nikko took a bath, he commandeered the bowl back and wouldn't return it to Lola. We didn't fight him to return it so it's currently in the back of our Pilot.

Friday, September 10, 2010

iFuture, more moodiness

I have noticed that a lot of moms with ASD kids have iPhones or DS Lites (or an iPad) and they let their kid use it to watch Youtube videos or play games or even use educational-based apps, to keep them occupied when things are crazy around them or as a reward for being good. Nikko's not at that stage yet, but I wonder if this is a direction that we will have to take in his future. Or is it a technology gimmick that will prevent Nikko from actually behaving in public of his own recognizance? Or is it a necessary tool because Nikko just can't seem to be able to calm down his anxieties or keep from obsessively wanting lollipops when we're at the store?

From the get go this morning Nikko was in full whiny mode and I don't know why. He was whining for a cheese sandwich for breakfast and just. Did. Not. Stop. He continued to whine throughout the morning. I heard him whine and cry with Kathy during ABA. We discussed his behavior and I wondered if he was slightly constipated. Yesterday he had some pb (pb = peanut butter)smears but nothing huge. For the past three days I have lessened the MiraLAX to just a coating at the bottom of a cap. A few times today I came into the living room and thought Nikko may have been straining. I'd also smell poop, but when I checked on Nikko there was nothing. I wondered if he was feeling uncomfortable again and was the poop starting to back up. I increased the MiraLAX in his lunch juice after talking to Kathy and it may have helped him push out some poop later in the afternoon. Am I doomed, then, to this smeary pb poop until he matures a little more in age? Dr. Santiago didn't seem to mind that we were using MiraLAX and even encouraged it over using a suppository. I wonder if Nikko's whininess is correlated to getting constipated again. I hate this vicious circle.

Audrey napped in the afternoon and when she woke up, I snacked everyone and got us ready to run errands. My plan was to go to Costco and Target. We arrived at Costco and everyone seemed to start out on the right foot. Suddenly, Audrey said, "Lollipop?" I told her I didn't have anymore, sorry. She continued to ask for a lollipop and I kept refusing her lightly. Then Nikko entered whine mode and was tugging at my purse. He was also pushing the cart astray. Meanwhile, Audrey was getting angrier that I wasn't giving her anything so her cries for lollipop got louder and LOUDER. Coupled with Nikko's screechy whining, I think we were making a lot of noise and I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up. Audrey's screams for a lollipop were not lessening despite me giving her the evil eye and hissing for her to be quiet. I managed to get us through the self-checkout line but saw that Nikko was walking on the side of the cart that faced the cafeteria. He was going to want to eat there, no matter how quickly I was pushing the cart away. Nikko started whining loudly again as we flew past the cafeteria seating. I got to the guy who checks our receipts on the way out and Nikko was violently pushing the cart sideways in anger. We walked outside and Nikko started to give some strong, blood-curdling screams. Thankfully he kept walking besides the cart and didn't bolt back toward the store. I put him in his seat first, dried his eyes and tried to give him a little compassion. Audrey stopped screaming for lollipops when she looked up at the TV screen and saw Hi-5. Throughout this whole ordeal, Ronin was my well-behaved angel. Once in the Pilot he started saying that we were going to Target. I told Ronin no, I don't think we're going to Target because I can't handle Nikko and Audrey's screaming anymore. It would be too much. We were going home. Ronin was starting to get whiny, not wanting to go home, when I suggested that we go for a walk to look for trains instead. That idea helped. After unloading the groceries, we walked to our train spot and started - well, trainspotting. Later, dinner was uncomplicated and it was bath and bedtime.

Tomorrow I have a dental appointment at 8:30a, but it won't be until the boys are at school that I attempt to return to Target. I also have to go to the bank to straighten out a dormant checking account, then register for the Passport To Fitness pass at the Rec Plexx, and THEN go to Target.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Nikko's OT report - Obstacle Course, followed sequence well. Pounding tee's for strengthening. Then worked on cutting with regular scissors. At the end was able to open scissors & snip.

It looks like from his report, Nikko is going over shapes, and that's good because Jenna tells me that he is good at shapes during ABA. The kids are also learning about cleaning up. At home, we're trying to get the kids into a routine of cleaning up before bath time. It's just hard to enforce it when it gets really close to bath time. When the boys were off to school today and Audrey was napping, I started rummaging around the house for items to contribute to Tristan's garage sale sponsored by the Glenbrook South High School Marching Band. I ended up including a big rocking horse on springs (from the neighbors), a ride-on horse toy that I kept bumping into every time I rounded a corner, thus scraping the skin off my toes, two booster chairs, two baby walkers, a rubbermaid full of preschool toys, a bottle warmer, bottle dishrack, portable booster chair, and a water fountain feature. Despite all the things that I got packed into the back of the Pilot, it STILL didn't look like I made a dent in this house. I went to Atz's house after my pilates class. At home, the kids romped around with Denis but Ronin's tummy wasn't having a great night so he upchucked his dinner downstairs. He had an early night along with Audrey. Tomorrow there is no school, but Nikko will have ABA at 10a.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day weekend wrap-up

Saturday was chilly but it didn't stop us from packing up lunch and going to Graue Mill in Oak Brook for a little hike. There was a civil war demonstration taking place but we didn't stop to peruse the displays. The kids enjoyed looking at the river which ran parallel to our path. We left to go have a picnic at the Oak Brook Park District Park, which had a vast array of playground areas and soccer fields. We were there for three hours, finishing lunch and then taking a few kites out for a sail. The kids were able to amuse themselves by running around the fields, getting tangled in the soccer goal nets, and running back and forth along benches. The kids were conked out in the car on the way home. Our dinner plans were to celebrate Chinny and Denis' birthday at Fuddrucker's. The kids were happy to hang out with their cousins, although Nikko shadowed me every time I left the vicinity. He didn't have any anxious meltdowns, however. It was a fun time and I actually got to eat a little more dinner than I usually do when we go out.

Sunday was warmer but the excursions from yesterday left us slightly drained and not as energetic to leave the house in the morning. We were also anticipating the afternoon when Tristan would come over to mow the lawn, and then we would all go to the Penepacker's house so the kids could stay and play/eat while Denis and I went to a movie and dinner to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. I heard that Nikko cried for two minutes when we left, but when the Penepackers told him they were going to the park, he was suddenly agreeable. The kids all played in the sand and got baths afterward. When we returned from dinner, all three kids were in the basement watching Disney's Cars and in good moods. The only caveat was that Ronin and Audrey were scared of the dogs. Otherwise, it was a very successful night and I am so beholden to my sister and her family for their generous offer of time.

Monday was Labor Day and to cap off the good weather we took the kids to another off-the-beaten-path park that was next door to a Menard's. The playground apparatus seemed to be connected into one giant obstacle course which challenged the gross motor skills of all the kids. We also brought along a frisbee and played a little Monkey In The Middle with the kids.

Tuesday [today] school was on the agenda again. I had been dreading the putting on of socks and shoes because Nikko had refused to wear the new gym shoes I got for him. I had frantically searched online for an identical pair of orange-and-navy shoes from Target but they no longer carry it in his size. But for some reason before bathtime, Nikko let me put on his new shoes (the tongue had lights that flashed when you stepped hard on the ground) and he seemed pleased enough to go look at his shoes in a mirror in our dark bedroom. On Tuesday morning he was just a little confused when it was time to put on socks and shoes but again he allowed the new shoes to be worn and I was just plain old relieved. His size 11's were really getting worn out so a size 12 was in order. If only it were going to be this easy when it's time to get his winter boots on. Nikko was in a good mood during therapy with Kathy today but did have a few mood swings again. I expected a better performance because it was at 10a instead of 4:45p, like it will be tomorrow. Nikko has also been getting whiny with me for not giving him snacks that he requests. I literally have to show him the last bits of snack and then the empty box as a result in order for him to understand that there is no more.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Not *as* late / behavior watch

Today the bus was only fifteen minutes late arriving at our house. We boarded the bus and there were three adults total again: the driver, a lady in the front seat, and one flanking the back of the bus. She came up and ushered us to a seat on the right side of the bus (facing the back). Nikko instantly started to whine and refused to get in because he is used to sitting on the left side of the bus near the window. Thankfully the lady didn't object to me suggesting that the boys take a left side seat. I buckled Nikko next to the window while Ronin sat waiting for his turn and yelling in my ear, "Good bye, Daddy!" while waving frantically out the window. Once the boys were off, the rest of us went to Woodfield Mall to browse while Denis was getting the oil changed in the Pilot. I remarked to Denis that this was the first time we travelled alone with Audrey in the back, like having one kid all over again. Audrey was talkative until she fell asleep, then woke up completely when we got to Macy's. Overall, she was a good sport during our trip to the mall. Unfortunately, the car wasn't quite ready by 3:30 so I had to take a cab home in order to meet the boys when the bus dropped them off. The bus was fifteen minutes late, a 50% improvement from yesterday. When I got on the bus, Nikko was asleep but Ronin was awake. After we came inside I noticed that Ronin had scraped his right leg below the knee. It looked like he got a little mauled and unfortunately he couldn't quite tell me when it happened. "It happened in the driveway," was all I really got from him. I didn't know if it happened at school, but after considering the options and leaving an email for his teacher, I figured that he may have scraped his leg when stepping off the bus. There was no dirt or debris in the cuts, and the lines were parallel, similar to the grid of the bus steps. I felt really bad because he didn't cry out in pain, or if he did then I totally missed it. I put Neosporin on the cuts and will continue for a few days.

I'm keeping an eye on Nikko's behavior. He hasn't totally been under the kitchen table the last two days as he has in the last two weeks, but he's still pretty whiny. I wonder if he is this whiny at school when he can't communicate what he wants. He also hasn't had any emotional outbursts (that weren't provoked by Ronin pushing him, or me getting irritated at him in a mean tone of voice, sorry to say) so I wonder if going back to school is impacting his behavior. I can tell that school is impacting Ronin's behavior, however, because the past two nights after he came home he's been a mixture of happy and bossy and easily irritable. Tonight was a prime example of Ronin sounding tired and cranky, refusing to eat anything but grapes for dinner, refusing to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instead of Blues Clues, refusing to let Nikko read his Roadwork book. I've heard that many kids need to decompress after coming home from school, or that at school they spend the time in a somewhat anxious state, expending energy to be obedient, sit still and learn, and then when they come home they will let all hell break loose. Well, that's what's happening with Ronin. We were watching Thomas after their snack and I thought that was pretty calming, but the attitude came around dinnertime. Tomorrow we will be going on an outing to a nature center at Ty Warner Park. We'll bring a picnic lunch again, but this time there will be jeans and sleeves on the kids because the temperatures will be in the high 60's. It's a drastic change from the 80's/90's of last week. Then we'll meet up with the rest of the Alog family to celebrate Chinny and Denis' birthdays.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1st Day of School

Wednesday - This was the Westbrook Garden Walk aka open house. I had planned to leave the house early to pick up some forms from the ped's office but somehow my cushion of time got eaten away with longer diaper changes and me forgetting the tuition check so I had to turn around. Grrr. I pulled up to the school right at 2:30p and luckily Denis had already arrived from work and came over to help unload the kids. We picked up some papers in the office and headed to Nikko's classroom but had to stop by the transportation table first. It was a new bus company called Grand Transit that was handling the routes this year. We had to fit Nikko with a harness in the event that his bus did not have five-point harnesses built into the seats (an older bus). Walking into Nikko's classroom was like a sigh of relief and I enjoyed seeing his teachers and their aides. Much like last year, Nikko would not look up long enough to have his picture taken and we spent a while trying to coax him. After signing up for November's parent/teacher conference we had to shuffle next door to meet Ronin's teachers, Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Hirsch. Ronin was playing with some trucks and the other two kids were wandering while I discussed Ronin's allergy plan with Mrs. Hirsch. More forms, another P/T conference date, and we were good to go. Ronin didn't seem too talkative and Nikko didn't act like he recognized any of his teachers. Audrey was very explorative and didn't complain one bit. Everything seemed to be in place except for the bus situation. The supervisor told me that they would call us in the evening for our route # and time of pickup. At 9pm I was told that the route was #18 and pickup time was 1:00p. I worked on a to-do list while filling out forms and fact sheets on the boys including putting diapers, labelled changes of clothing, and snacks for Ronin into their backpacks.

Thursday - 1st Day of School
My routine today, and every Tuesday-Friday will be this:
11:30 - Lunch
12:30 - Change clothes and diapers, and put Audrey down for a nap
12:50 - Socks & shoes, backpacks
12:55 - Go outside for bus
1:00 - Bus!

At 12:55 as we were about to walk out the door I glanced at the coat hooks and saw Nikko's harness sitting there. I scrambled to get it and started to put it on Nikko. He was angry and tried to slip his hands across his chest to get it off. I zipped it up the back and was getting frustrated with Nikko for trying to defeat the harness. While keeping an eye on the door I quickly snapped some pictures of the boys and then shoved us out into the remnant rain. Denis came home, thankfully again, and he kept us company. The twins apparently changed to the afternoon schedule as well, so their mom walked over to us and joined us on our wait for the bus at our driveway. The bus was 20 minutes late and I expected it to be. The supervisor came out to greet us. I asked her about Nikko's harness and she told me he didn't have to wear it on the bus so I eagerly stripped it off him. Ronin got on with Denis' help and we followed them. I put Nikko next to the window just like last year, buckled him in, and then Ronin was placed next to him. Ronin didn't seem to mind being near the aisle. I was even able to take a picture of them while the twins' mom was buckling them in. There were absolutely no tears from either kid. When I got off the bus I was giving high fives to Denis and the twins' mom, doing a silly happy dance that the seats had five-point harnesses so Nikko didn't have to wear the medieval one, and that Ronin did not have a meltdown once he sat on the bus. I almost didn't care that the bus was late except for the fact that the boys would start school late. After the bus left I went out to run errands since Audrey was napping and Denis was home. I went to the ped office to drop off yet another round of forms, these in particular regarding permission for Ronin to receive Benadryl or an Epi-Pen in the event of a reaction. I went to Target to get a cubby system for the kids' shoes, to clear our foyer just a bit. Then I ran to Costco for other provisions. While checking out of Costco the ped office called to say the paperwork was ready. Great! But I wasn't ready, it was already 3:30 and too tight to pick it up before the boys came home. Too bad I didn't know ahead of time that the bus would be 35 minutes late in dropping off the kids. When I got on the bus, I introduced myself to the bus driver, whose name was Veronica. She started telling me about how the bus was going to be late these first few days, but I told her I figured it would. I think she was reacting on the safe side because the twin's mom was furious that the bus was late. Nikko and Ronin had fallen asleep, heads lurched forward and dripping with sweat because there were only a few windows open. They woke up and were slow to get off the bus, but were relatively happy. I couldn't pry much information from Ronin because he just didn't reiterate how his day went. The communication sheet was missing from Ronin's backpack so I didn't know what they did. But Nikko's sheet was there and it said: Nikko had a great day! I will send pictures later today. And they did. I am so very relieved that Ronin didn't have any separation anxiety, wasn't scared of climbing onto the bus for the first time ever, and didn't complain about school. He stated that he had Triscuts for snack and was pretty thrilled. I put a box of it in his backpack since I have to supply his snacktime food. I'm sure the busses will be late again tomorrow, but I just hope they will be "less" late than today. I noticed in the three pictures emailed to me that in Nikko's class I saw two kids from his morning session, Dougyoung and Sofie. I'm glad that there are some familiar faces in the afternoon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pool and Thomas

I didn't have plans to leave the house today until Denis called to suggest that we meet up with the Creens after work at Meadows Pool for a 6-8p family swim. That ended up being the highlight of the kids' day. Nikko was ecstatic, holding two plastic fishes that he brought from home, and lunging into the water leading with his head. Unfortunately the lifeguard blew his/her whistle at me three separate times for silly infractions: we brought plastic buckets to fill with water, like last time, but today they said it wasn't allowed. I was swinging Audrey back and forth in the water and the lifeguard said it was too high. Finally, Ronin and Audrey were standing on a cement block on the lawn waiting for me to finish packing up our gear when a lifeguard blew the whistle for them to get off. Geez! Three-peat offender!

I handled one thing this morning that could have gone sour. Nikko approached me at 7:15a with the Thomas DVD. I really don't like turning on the TV before breakfast, since it's on most of the day afterward, so I told Nikko to wait. Of course he didn't want to and kept pushing and whining at me to move toward the TV. I turned the tables on him and made it an exercise in asking for permission. I wanted him to ask, "I want to watch Thomas please" or "I want watch Thomas" or any derivative thereof. Nikko caught on that I was trying to make him ask properly and staunchly refused at first. He was screaming and whining, thrashing on the floor and throwing himself into a pillow on the couch because he didn't want to obey my request. He could see that I was unrelenting and he must have really wanted to watch Thomas because he rushed saying, "I want Thomas please" and dove screaming into the couch. I didn't have as much success when I tried to get him to say, "Thomas is on TV" so I accepted what he told me and put on the movie. Instantly, calm. Go figure. I tried so hard not to lose my temper this morning and it paid off.