Thursday, July 31, 2014

TBT -- More Monkey Pictures

Welcome to Throwback Thursday -- blog style!  This post originally ran on December 13, 2012.  Here you can see why we finished our basement the way we did!

More Monkey Pictures

As promised ... more Alan monkey pictures!

See the plywood on the left side?  That is to protect
wires and copper tubing that he was trying to
use to climb.  Thank goodness DH is handy!

scaling the support pole ...
the kid has "monkey toes"

Climbing up the basement banister
Note it is now a 2"x4" because he
broke the original banister

I love that he does this with a DVD box in
his hand.  He can go all the way from
the basement to the main floor without
touching the actual stairs!
trying to climb through the deck stairs
... he didn't fit!

Squeezing into a cubby in the basement
Another tree he likes to climb at his
aunt's house ... several people
observed that the statue is probably
watching over him!
The kid's flexibility is amazing!

My BIL commented that he looks like the
vulture on Snoopy's doghouse!

More balance beam work

High up in the tree

He had been trying to climb the shelves in his closet.
Note: the bottom left clothes bar has already been
removed ... so have the closet doors but that was
years before!
Somehow he managed to shimmy up on the shelf

crawling across for variety

not sure how he got up there in the first place

oh, maybe like this!

Doesn't everyone relax on top of the monkey bars?
just hanging out

Inside he also resorts to bed burrowing

Stair diving ... headfirst on his back!

Hiding in "the tunnel" as he calls it

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What have I done?

Alan is going away to camp next week.  It will be for FIVE days.  I am having a minor panic attack about it.  The only time Alan has been away without family overnight was one camp weekend.  Every other time, at least Joe was with him.

What have I done?

He can't tell me if he's miserable.  He can't tell me if they mistreat him.  He can't tell me if he's having the time of his life and wants to go every week next summer.  He can't tell me anything about it.  Oh and he's three hours away from home -- his weekend camp is 30 minutes away.

What have I done?

I know the camp has a good reputation.  Lots of kids go each week (about 150) and they've been in operation for years.  He will get to be outside and probably climb trees to his heart's content.  But what if they won't let him climb trees?  How will he communicate his problems?  Heck, half the time I have no clue why he's upset.  How the heck is a stranger going to figure out the problem?

Well, he's gone to assorted schools since he was 3.  I was never there.  He did just fine.  Most of the dedicated professionals who have worked with him have been fantastic.  They aren't in this field for the money.  They are in it for the kiddos.  Of course the bad apples get all the press so that is what has me stressed.

In reality he will probably have a blast.

I am looking forward to painting his room (it has been probably 8 years since I painted it!) and maybe just having a little "me" time.

Joe is counting the days until little brother leaves.

DH will take a a day or two of vacation and we have some fun evenings planned.

We are all looking forward to five straight nights of sleeping through the night!

What have I done?

I've arranged for a week away for all of us.  As Thomas the Tank Engine says, "Sometimes a change is as good as a rest." 

Here's to a week of change!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Not a typo

I just went for a jog.  Amazingly, that sentence is not a typo.  Anyone that knows me well, knows that the words "Julie" and "jog" are never used in the same sentence unless there is a negative in there as well.  (i.e., "Julie never jogs unless she is chasing Alan.")

I have been trying to get back in shape since my stupid foot surgeries.  Unfortunately, as I age that is harder and harder (as opposed to my belly which is softer and softer ...)

This morning was one of those rare beautiful mornings in the midwest.  It was cool and slightly cloudy (so I didn't need sunglasses) and just perfect running weather.  (Once again, anyone that knows me knows that "perfect" and "running" are not ever used in the same sentence.)

Hm, is it possible I will keep up with my exercising this time?

Oooooo, I have mini kits to complete ... and here's the first one!

Probably not.  But still better one day than none, right?

 photo FF_zpsc6f74f35.jpg

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TBT - My Monkey

Here is my Throwback Thursday blog post -- My Monkey -- which originally ran on December 12, 2012 (when I'm pretty sure I had zero readers!)  Enjoy the pictures!

My Monkey 

Several times I have referred to the fact that Alan climbs EVERYTHING, but as they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I would share a few favorites ...

Doesn't everyone climb monkey bars like this?
Or this?
Love the hands in the pockets!  Mr. Cool!
The tree is popular too!

He learned how to shimmy
up the side of the A-frame
Although watching him balance
on the top was the most
nerve wracking!

Playground equipment is fun, too!

Who needs stairs when you can
climb through the banister?
Once again, the hands are in the pockets.
The neighbors all love to watch him.
These are all from 2011.  Tomorrow I will post some from this year and they are even funnier.  That kid!

Monday, July 21, 2014

NAME National Convention

I just spent the most amazing week at my first ever NAME (National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts) Convention in St. Louis, MO.  I am exhausted, but so glad I participated.  The theme was "Rollin' on the River" and the gifts were amazing!!  I got this little beauty at a lunch seminar all about 3D printing.

Although I had been sort of thinking of getting a 3D printer some time (or a laser cutter, they look fun, too!) I pretty much ruled out a 3D printer any time in the next 10 years.  Wow.  You need to be way too "techie" to own one!  Still, the things they can do are pretty amazing.  This little gem was made entirely on a 3D printer (except the pictures) and then painted.  The whole thing is about 2.25" square.  WOW!!

Although the entrance fee seemed high to me, I discovered why after attending.  You get so many amazing gifts at every event!   This picture is all the goodies that I got just in my tote bag for attending.  Yowza!

I took several classes and they were pretty interesting as well.  I learned how to make "wrought iron" out of quilling paper.  I can't wait to use some of these techniques in my townhouse!

I also took a class from Ginger Landon-Siegal and made this adorable little Paris street scene.  The whole thing is about 7" long. 

On Friday I made this little table of "apple pie in the making".  I still haven't figured out what will be going in that one corner, but I loved how it turned out anyway!

Saturday night was the banquet with a lot of the folks dressing up in costumes.  It was great for people watching.

I completely fell in love with the tinier scales this last week and picked up several more kits. 

I want to finish my existing 1" scale projects and move on to exclusively 1/4" scale and the 1/144th scale.  Of course I have three rather large 1" scale projects that I have to finish before I can move on.  On the other hand, I am so freaking ADD when it comes to miniatures that who knows how that will turn out. 

Oh look, squirrel ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TBT - Driving Julie Crazy

Happy Throwback Thursday - Blog Style!  Since I am once more in the middle of driving Alan to camp every day, it seemed appropriate to re-run this post from last year.  Although I no longer have a "new" car, everything else is still appropriate!

Driving Julie Crazy

Someone once gave me a small plaque that said "Whoever said you only go around once in life, never had carpool duty."

The funny thing is, I didn't really mind carpool duty most of the time.  When Joe was in grade school we found another family with whom we meshed perfectly.  I didn't mind driving in the morning, but really did not like waiting in the after school carpool line.  The other mom didn't like getting up in the morning but didn't mind the after school drive.  It was a good fit.  We continued to carpool through two kids each and two schools and it always worked out well.

Unfortunately not all carpooling is so pleasant.  And when you throw special needs into the equation, things can get VERY interesting!

I had the kid that wanted to listen to his choice of music in the morning.  Sorry, kid, you want a happy driver and I get very edgy when I don't have my tunes.

I had the time that Alan was going to school a half hour away from home (and then I had to drop Joe off) before I could go home.  Naturally, as soon as I pulled into the school parking lot, Alan sprayed his breakfast all over the back seat.  Yuck!!

I had the little girl who would only listen to certain songs (and I had a limited number of them on my CDs).  I got to hear Lady Gaga's Just Dance song four times one morning because that was how long it took to get to school.  Thank goodness that was a close school!

I had the child wearing so much scented body lotion, I felt like I was attempting to walk through the department store perfume department.  Have I mentioned that I'm very olfactory sensitive??
I had the time that a police officer pulled me over and I was so happy that I had FOUR children with varying degrees of autism that were all sitting quietly and correctly wearing their seat belts that in never occurred to me that I might get a ticket.  He did give me one for "improper lane usage" (I got in the turn lane a little before it technically started) and it was all I could do not to ask him who pissed in his Cheerios that morning.

I had the child that used to insult Alan (although never when I was driving).  

I had the kid that unbuckled himself and leaned over the back of my seat to try to turn off my radio because he was going through a "silence" phase.

I had the time Alan's OCD required him to jump in and out of the open car door at least five times before he would get in or out to stay.  Naturally the other ASD boy we were driving decided he would do the same thing.

Then there was the time Alan sat ON another kid.  Luckily he had a sister who was at a similar functioning level and he just calmly said, "Alan, you need to get up."  He repeated himself several times but didn't get angry or upset.

Of course when Alan tried that with another boy, he shoved Alan out the door.

Nowadays I do a lot less driving of Joe so it is just Alan.  Camp started this week so I have been dealing with the afternoon parking lot crazies.  It is probably worse for me this year because I have a new car.  I am so worried I will end up like this!

Between buses that do not slow down when going through VERY narrow openings to the nutty parents and the pokey kids, it is enough to make me wonder if a medicine increase for the summer is in order.  That would be mine, not Alan's.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My brown thumb

I used to kill houseplants at a ridiculous pace.  I would always forget to water them.  My mom couldn't believe that was possible.  Her advice?  "Just water them each week when you clean."  Um, Mom, that might be the problem.  I don't clean every week!

Fast forward several years and I got a PDA.  Dang, that was the best thing ever invented.  Now I had something that flashed at me every 5 days reminding me to check my poor plants.  Wonderful.  I started doing better.  Not good, mind you, but better.  Of course that morphed into an app on my phone, but it still comes up on my to-do list every 5 days and I ended up with a handful of plants that actually looked OK.

Outside is another story.  I've always hated the heat so even if I put something on my to-do list every other day, I'm sure I would find some excuse not to water.  Luckily DH is phenomenal (anal retentive?) about that and keeps our outside plants looking attractive.

Last year I got smart and decided to make a miniature garden/greenhouse.  Those flowers always look fantastic and I NEVER have to water them!  Win-win!

But I was so excited by my garden window when we redid the kitchen.  It was gorgeous and plenty large enough to keep a wide assortment of plants close at hand so I could remember to water them.  I decided to give houseplants another go.  I even foolishly got a seed starter kit for herbs.  After a few weeks this is what I had growing.

Wow.  Talk about dismal.  (Oh and check out the poor daisy behind the herbs ... deader than the proverbial door nail!)

So I did what any self respecting home owner would do.  I went out and bought replacement herbs.  Hey, at least they look healthy now.

OK, I might have cheated a bit and bought a few other plants as well. 

The garden window looks great and there will be a few spares when they start getting neglected.

Maybe I should stick to miniature flowers.  I can't kill those!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

TBT - What Might Have Been

Here is my version of Throw Back Thursday -- blog style!  (Or TBT-BS as I like to call it!)

This post originally appeared January 8, 2013 and it is still true today.

What Might Have Been

Most of the time I do not have an inferiority complex about staying home.  I have a college degree and I always thought I would go back to work in my chosen field after Alan was in school.  That said, both DH and I really wanted one of us to stay home when the boys were young.  As I had worked fewer years than DH and made less money there was never any debate about which of us would stay home.  I have never felt that DH looks down on me for staying home.  On the contrary, he has always been very supportive and occasionally jealous.  Sometimes I get jealous that he "gets" to go to work because the boys can stress me out but other days, I realize I am lucky because I get to work on my hobbies or go out to lunch with friends or whatever.  So overall we have a good balance, I think.

Then something happens ... in this case my Dad invited me to join LinkedIn.  This is a professional network and as I am not working in a profession I resisted for a long time. Then a fellow hobbyist invited me to join her professional network and I accepted.  So naturally I was curious as to what had happened to my fellow classmates.  OK, now I have a bit of an inferiority complex.  Actually it is less that than the jealousy of how my life might have been.  If I hadn't had two special needs kids would I now be manager of this or senior director of that?  Maybe.  But I might also be divorced as the boys' problems have definitely brought DH and I much closer.  We really have to pull together at times in order to survive.

I read this blog recently (Autism Strains Yet Strengthens a Marriage) and totally understood it.  Yet while reading all the comments below the article I was appalled.  People actually made comments that hinted that these people were living in Hollywood.  They never said their marriage was perfect and nor would I say that about mine.  But the title alone says a lot.  Raising special needs children is a strain but if you work together it can also strengthen a marriage.  But (and this is huge) it takes two people who are committed to making it work.  It can be hard work but with a sense of humor and a heck of a lot of stubbornness, it can happen. 

Sometimes DH and I like to joke that we could never get divorced because we would spend way too much money in a custody battle -- only in our case we would be fighting to give custody to the other person!  A lot of marriages do end in divorce especially when there are special needs kids involved.  Sometimes one parent or the other cannot deal with the special needs and that is really unfortunate.  In general I think parenting is easier when you can tag team and that is even more critical when the children are high maintenance.  

So today while I might wonder what it would be like to be a big shot in the working world, I am also thankful that I don't have to be out there trying to do it all alone.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Awareness, Acceptance, Accommodations and ....

Autism Awareness ... Acceptance ... Accommodations ... and

I was recently reading a great blog post by Meriah Nichols called Coming to Terms with Disability in my Life and it got me thinking about all the buzz in the autism community about whether we should be trying for "Autism Awareness" or "Autism Acceptance".  Personally I have always said "both" but after reading this blog post, I got to thinking that we need to add at least another one -- "Autism Accommodations".

First off, we DO need to be aware that autism is out there.  Despite all the fanfare and promotions that Autism Speaks provides (personally I have some issues with them, but still think that they have done some good) there are still a LOT of people out there that are not aware what autism looks like or how different all those folks are from each other.

For this reason, I do not think promoting Autism Awareness is wrong.  I think it is still necessary.

And yet, so many higher functioning folks out there just need to be accepted as they are.  They have learned to cope with their brain wiring.  Temple Grandin has said that she would not get rid of her autism if she could.  I don't blame her.  She has come a long way and accomplished so much with her gifts.  For her, autism has been a gift.  Albeit she had some serious difficulties to overcome, but she did overcome them.  Why should she change?  She should be accepted as she is.

For this reason, I applaud the Autism Acceptance folks. 

I still think a lot of the neuro-diversity (ND) movement is inherently wrong.  I don't think that just having autism insures that you are "gifted".  For every Temple out there, there is at least one Joe (who struggles to find a minimum wage job with a coach just so he can have a modicum of independence) and probably one Alan (someone who will never be able to live independently and will need round the clock care from someone or most likely several someones).

For this reason, I think we need to add Autism Accommodation into the mix.

Joe needs accommodations.  For him, this will most likely mean a coach to help him get the hang of a menial job.  But once he gets the hang of this job, he will probably do it happily and without assistance for years to come.  We need menial labor.  Like it or not, a society that is composed entirely of college graduates unwilling to do menial labor will not survive. 

Even if ever single one of those college students works as a dishwasher/busboy/waiter/clerk/bagger during school, there will not be enough.  And there will always be those that financially do not need to do the work or are unwilling or unable to work in those type of jobs while in school.

But what about the Alans out there?  What about those kiddos that cannot hope to live independently?  Can we hope for more than accommodation for them?  Is it so selfish on my part that I still want a "cure" for Alan. 

  • Note that I use the term "cure" in quotes.  I do not believe he is diseased, but I do firmly believe that there is some fundamental bad wiring in his brain.  I use the term "cure" because it is easier than typing out "correcting whatever is wrong with Alan's brain through whatever medical or therapeutic or pharmacological means become available in his lifetime" every time I want to express this feeling!!
What can we use for a buzzword for the Alans out there?  We need something for them too.  They are the ones that suffer the most with autism.  But because they can't get online and blog about how they feel when they can't express themselves, adult autistics assume the Alans of the world feel as they felt growing up.  How can they be sure?  I am pretty sure Joe doesn't think about his autism the same way Alan thinks about his.  I can't be positive of course, but considering that I think about my childhood differently than my siblings and we were all "neuro-typical", I think it is safe to say that two boyz with similar but not identical diagnoses will think about things differently. 

So why are folks in the ND movement convinced that they know what my child is thinking better than I do?  I am the first to admit, I have no clue what Alan is thinking most of the time.  I know that he is thinking.  I know he is processing his environment and trying to adapt it to accommodate his wants and needs. 

There is so much that needs to be changed to accommodate him that I can't help but think it would be easier to change him.  Not to mention, even if we could change every aspect of his environment to accommodate him, it still wouldn't be enough.  He cannot live alone and I can't help but think that is a very lonely way to grow up.  If that means that ND folks think I am trying to change the essence of him, then so be it.  I don't completely understand why the ND folks are so convinced that because I want to "cure" him, it means I don't love him.