Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How a home improvement is like raising a child with autism ...

We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen.  By "in" the process, I mean the planning portion of the process.  My goal would be to have it done by the end of spring.  DH would like it done before fall.  Clearly we have different expectations!

However, the overall process of a major house remodeling project is so similar to raising special needs children that I thought it was funny. 

It all starts with someone noticing a deficit.  Like autism, one of us (in both cases, me) saw a problem a bit before the other.  I've been wanting to redo the kitchen for years but over the last few years, DH has (albeit reluctantly) come to the same conclusion.

So first you start looking for options.  You exhaust the internet for any and all sources of information.  What kind of cabinets do you want?  What kinds of therapies or treatments are out there?  Who do you want to do the installation?  What is the best school?

Then you start asking your friends about their experiences.  A neighbor who recently remodeled will warrant a visit.  A friend whose child was diagnosed a few years ago will get a phone call or an e-mail.

Then you wonder about trends.  Everyone else is getting stainless steel appliances.  Should you still get them because they look nice or should you go with your gut and get black because you know you won't clean them often enough and they will always look dirty to you?  Many people have had such great results with the GFCF diet but your child will make your life a living hell if you try to eliminate all sources of gluten and casein.

And there is the unwelcome advise.  We haven't gone to every kitchen store within a hundred miles and we haven't tried every treatment ever invented.  That isn't the way we operate.  We find what we like and will make the most of it.

Then there are the parts that haven't happened yet where I can see similarities.  I remember all too well the "revolving door" of home ABA.  It helped Joe so much but I hated the lack of privacy.  Yep, that would be the installation.

Then there is all the time that we will have to either eat out or get very creative with eating in.  That is a lot like the holidays with Alan.

I won't get into the economic similarities but it is safe to say that both will be pretty expensive.

But despite my opening paragraph, DH and I are in sync for this project like we are for raising the boyz.  We each compromise on a few things but overall find we like most of the same things.  And like autism there are pros and cons. 

And like autism it is sometimes very hard to imagine the end result in the early stages ...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Joe's new toy

For Christmas this year we told Joe that we weren't buying him a lot of things, but rather one expensive thing.  We asked him if he would rather have some sort of tablet or a smart phone.  Since he is really into movies, we thought he would pick the tablet.  But not for the first time, he surprised us and asked for a smart phone because he really wanted a camera.

The phone he got is certainly not "high end".  But considering that for 4 years all he has had is a "pay as you go" flip phone, this was a huge step up in technology for Joe.

Unlike most teenagers, technology does not come naturally to Joe.  We had to have his cousin (who is three years older than him) come over to visit to teach him how to text.  She did a great job and for years he would keep in touch with us via text.  But so many times we had bizarre communications that might have been cleared up with a picture so I was secretly pretty happy that he picked the smart phone.

The conversation that sticks in my mind is when he called me to ask me what flavor of whipped cream I wanted.  Um, flavor?  Yeah they have blueberry and strawberry.  Really?  Turns out they have different fruit pictured on the regular and low-fat versions.  Wow.  The things you do not notice until they are described to you by a very literal person.

So while many parents of teenagers probably hate when their offspring are obsessed with their phones, I am (not so secretly) pleased.  It is so "normal" to see Joe reach for his phone first thing in the morning to see what is up.  Of course responding to people (especially his aunts, uncles and grandparents) would be a real plus, but any step forward in communication is still a step forward.  He loves that his calendar is on there and that he doesn't have to write himself reminders anymore.

Last weekend he was texting with two different girls (both "friends") and he joked that he was "Mr. Popular".  Oh my.  DH's response? "I wish I'd had that problem when I was his age ..."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My new craft room

I always felt like we let Alan take our basement hostage.  We have a HUGE basement and except for two small areas that were closed off and capable of being locked (one used as storage, the other as our work room) we've always let him have the run of the place.  In Our Redneck Home Improvement we blocked his access to all the piping, wiring and ducts.  (Of course he's spent almost no time down there since the ceiling was installed, but that is another story ...)  Stage two of the project was to give me a craft room and give DH back his work space.

This is where I used to work.  OK, it is messy but even when it was organized, it was tight on space especially once Joe joined me in that back room.


So we took this space, moved the pool table,

and turned it into this ...

Now I have a table to keep my sewing machine out all the time so hopefully I'll actually complete my sewing repairs in a timely fashion while Alan is still wearing the same size clothing.

There is even space for Joe to work on his models.  

And best of all .. DH got his work room back AND now has space to play his games.  Now we just have to get Alan back down there with the rest of the family ...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Snow and Snuggling

Like much of the midwest, we have been snowed in a lot over the last week.  
Alan climbing up the cardiac hill ...
Really, all things considered, Alan has been pretty good.  The roughest day was Sunday because that was the day we actually had dense, driving snow all day and we didn't go anywhere.  Starting on Monday we have been back to at least going out to lunch and then going sledding at least once a day.

We back to a big hill that is common ground.  Alan loves sledding and for the most part can do it independently (thank goodness as one or two trips up that hill would be enough to give this out of shape 40+ lady cardiac arrest!) but it is yet another time when I feel his differences keenly.  After all, how many parents of 15 year olds are sitting outside watching them sled??  I could probably watch from inside the house, but by the time I would realize there is a crisis, get my snow gear on and get out to intervene, things would probably have reached a crisis point.

Naturally, his favorite way to sled is headfirst on his back.
Mostly I just have to explain to the other kids why Alan is ignoring them.  (After saying "Hi!" five times in a minute wouldn't you think a kid would give up?)  Occasionally I also have to remind Alan that he can't sit at the bottom of the hill and finish reciting his latest script when the other kids want to sled.  His OCD and need to finish the scripting seems to be worse, but that might be due to the fact that he has now been off school for three full weeks and mom just can't do structure like school can!

On the bright side, cold weather brings out Alan's cuddly side.  He is really quite a "snuggle-bug".  Alan's nickname since he was a baby has been "bug".  His real name (like his middle name, Alan) sounds dumb with a "-y" at the end so that has never been a nickname for him.  And hence, he has always been "Bug".  When the weather is cold, he likes to remind us frequently how much he likes to snuggle.

The last picture (taken by Joe) was done at my request.  He made sure to take it with my camera (instead of his new smart phone camera) because "snuggling like that is a baby thing to do" (according to Joe).  Huh.  He is still struggling to understand what is and isn't age appropriate.  I told him that there was nothing wrong with snuggling but he wasn't buying it.

Oh well.  On the bright side, at least one of my boyz still likes to snuggle!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our Redneck Home Improvement or How I Spent My Christmas Break

I sit here late on New Year's Day and I am exhausted but it is the good kind of exhausted that comes from accomplishment.  DH and I got so much accomplished during the last 3 days it isn't even funny.

First off, a little background.  I haven't blogged in ages.  Prepping for Christmas, Alan off school and just the day to day challenges have left me with little time and no inspiration.  We had a good Christmas -- very simple -- and there were no meltdowns.  Historically, holidays are tough on the boyz and more than a few have been memorable in a bad way. 

But that isn't to say that Christmas was "incident-free".  We were sitting at dinner and we heard a loud crash from the basement.  When we went down there, we discovered that Alan had toppled the old kitchen table we had sitting down there.  Naturally there was a recently watered plan on top of it and all our hats and gloves from the recent snow were scattered all over and it was all a HUGE mess.  Yuck.  When DH looked closer (he is good about that!) he discovered that one of the wires for our internet was down and mostly stripped.  Sigh.

This is our basement last year. On the right is the  climbing platform that DH built for Alan a few years ago.
Alan was thrilled that Dad had put the climbing bars back up!
Our basement is unfinished.  With the rate that Alan wrecks things, that always seemed the best route.  DH had covered most major duct work, piping and wiring with plywood to limit Alan's access but somehow the little sneak kept finding new things to wreck.  With both of us being engineers, we are way too practical to finish our basement ceiling with drywall (this gives you no access to critical stuff) and a drop ceiling is completely impractical since Alan would dismantle that faster than we could install it!

It was Joe's birthday but we kept the kid busy!
Of course, he is a typical boy -- playing with power tools is fun!
DH had a great idea and said "Let's cover the whole ceiling with plywood.  We can still take down sheets if we need access but it will be more uniform and block Alan's access to all the critical stuff."  He proposed this on Friday.  On Saturday we sketched out the basement and figured out how much lumber and plywood we would need and I went out to the hardware store to place the order.  We had plans all day Sunday.  The lumber showed up late Monday morning and by Wednesday evening we had 3/4 of the basement ceiling covered. 

All this in less than a week! 
Mostly done.  I like it.  It reminds me a bit of a cabin in the woods -- but that paneling has GOT to go!

I can never complain about DH being one of "those" husbands -- the kind that starts a million project and never finishes one, or worse, the kind that only dreams but never does any kind of home improvements.  It may not be a fancy basement -- far from it!  But it is useable, practical and mostly complete!