Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Glimpse of the Faint Line

It is past time to start dinner and I realize that lunch has yet to be cleaned up. I decide to enlist some help so that I can kill two birds with one stone. “Paul, I need you to do dishes now.” Paul looks from the computer and grunts. Five minutes later “Paul, I need you to clean the kitchen NOW.” Paul looks up “You said I had to do dishes last time, not clean the kitchen!” Me “Paul they are the same thing.” “They are not the SAME thing, Mom” Paul is getting agitated. I changed my tactics ”Paul, you’re right that was not very specific. Next time I will say ‘ Clean the kitchen’. Since I told you to do dishes first we’ll stick with that this time.” Paul drags his feet into the kitchen and starts unloading the dishwasher. I sigh inwardly and am glad that we did not degrade into a meltdown this time. Five minutes later Paul has unloaded three dishes and is now petting the cat. “Paul, put the cat down, wash your hands and DO the dishes” I’m trying very hard not to sound frustrated but I am frustrated. I just want the dishes done. Paul starts to cry. My husband then decides it is time to switch pitchers, maybe he can get through where I can’t. “Paul stop crying, dishes are a job not something to get emotional about. Now listen to your mother and do the dishes.” Paul begins shuffling his feet and slowly unloading the dishwasher. I’ve seen snails move at a faster pace, seriously;) Hubby tries to give him instruction on how to make this job faster and easier. "If you stack the bowls you can bring them all to the cabinet at once rather than one at a time. Organizing your work space will help you work more efficiently. Paul completely freezes up, will not move and is crying hysterically. We have now past the point of no return. We are now in an autistic meltdown, no dishes will be done by Paul tonight. The barest amount of pressure applied and we have lost an opportunity of instruction and growing. The character issues of disobedience and responsibility can no longer be addressed at this point because during a meltdown my boys are completely shut down and can not hear a thing I say. First priority now becomes managing the melt down.

As a mom of spectrum kids, one of my main struggles is determining the line where character training ends and autism begins. This sounds like it should be quite easy, right? If the kids is rocking in the corner and screaming, it is an autistic meltdown. If he is giving you lip about doing dishes, it is a character issue that needs addressing. Oh, if only it were that simple! the scenario above is something that happened at my house just two days ago. Is there a degree of manipulation involved? Absolutely! Are there some serious character issues that need addressing? Of course! Can I just push through the tantrum and move forward like I would with my non autistic child? No, I can’t because it doesn’t matter HOW we got to the meltdown once we are in one. All that matters once we have crossed that line is de-escalating and protecting my child and those around them.
Let me be clear, Paul does his chores without this kind of response most of the time. However, three things went wrong in the above scenario. Three things that are Paul’s known triggers and had I been more focused on Paul and less on getting the dishes done I would have realized immediately that this was not going to end well. Trigger 1) Paul was hungry. Paul is WAY more likely to melt down over nothing if he is hungry. Keeping my kids blood sugar balanced is a very important part of our daily routine in management of our spectrum kids. Trigger 2) I changed my directions to him mid assignment. I KNOW better than this. Paul NEEDS the specifics and only hears what you say. He does not read between the lines at all. This was guaranteed to start working him up. Trigger 3) Hubby gave Paul NEW information mid -assignment. Paul needs time to process information. If you are going to give him new information you have to do it at a time he is expecting it and is not in the middle of something. Having these three triggers combined is explosive every, single time!
The true key to knowing where that faint line exists is knowing your child and being observant of what is going on around them. As the above story illustrates, I am not always perfect at this. There are times I’m so focused on what I need to do that I lose focus of the important things around me.
Friends, this week I am going to endeavour to spend more time focusing on the important things rather than just the necessary things. The necessary things, such as doing the dishes, do need to be done and are, well, necessary; but the important things, like focusing on my children and their states of being are, not to be redundant, they are important. If I focus my time and attention on these things, I will spend less time and energy fighting to get the necessary things done and my son will not end up standing at the kitchen sink in a complete meltdown.
I pray each of you has a fabulous next week. I love and appreciate each of you.-Kristine

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Glimpse of Running Away

I remember when I was about seven years old ,I ran away from home. It was a warm, sunny day at our tiny cabin in West Virginia. My siblings and I were industrious, busy bees doing spring cleaning. I was so excited because I had been chosen to spray the Woolite carpet cleaner on the carpet of our family van. I waited eagerly for the time when I got to spray that magical foam all over (I know the excitement would have been to much for you too;) I went for a short walk because I had been told to wait a few minutes. When I returned home I found my opportunist sister had swooped in and stolen my Woolite opportunity. The whole interior of the van was sprayed and gloriously foamy. I was furious with my parents. How dare they?!? I was the one they had promised that job to but they obviously loved my sister more than me. So I jumped on my pink bike with its white wicker basket and headed for parts unknown. It turned out parts unknown were well known to my father. He found me an hour or so later, crying and dejected, sitting barefoot on my bike (for future reference peddling barefoot is uncomfortable) at the pond a quarter mile from our house. He hugged me, loaded me into the car, and brought me home. That night he taught me how to make fried chicken in the kitchen of our tiny, two room cabin in the woods of West Virginia. To this day that evening is one of my favorite childhood memories and cooking with my Dad is still one of my favorite things in the world to do (and I can make some mean fried chicken;).
This past Thursday I desperately wanted to run away again. It was a day from hell, and I mean the actual hell. The catalyst for my break down was the fact I forgot to eat all day. Since I am borderline hypoglycemic, I have to eat or I get a little crazy. However, although the catalyst, my lack of daily nourishment was not the reason for my breakdown. To be honest there were several "reasons" but when you boil them all down they came down to the fact that I am human and not Wonder Woman. Sometimes I forget this. I push on through life, trying to carry burdens for all those that depend on me, ignoring the bruises that life sometimes deals, trying to navigate the stressful white waters of our lives. Then one day that one extra straw falls on this camels back and I break down under the strain of it all. I want to take my bruised, battered self and run away for parts unknown so that I can lick my wounds. I want some one to come and find me, hug me and make me feel special all over again. I long to be that seven year old girl for just a little while.
It is in days like these that God gently reminds me that these burdens were never mine to carry, that I need to abide in Him and He will abide in me, that I am loved and important and protected. On these days God tenderly hits the reset button of my soul and tenderly refocuses my eyes on Him (where they should have been all along). He soothes the troubled waters of my heart, cleans and heals my bruised soul.
I never did run away Thursday but the good news is that I didn’t need to. God is so faithful to me in my times of greatest need. He met my needs right here in the midst of my chaos.
Friends, I don’t know if any of you were falling apart this week, carrying the weight of burdens that you were never meant to carry. If you ,like me, find yourself wanting to run away I encourage you instead to run to Him. God can soothe your troubled waters and heal you’re battered soul so much better than anything else can. I am praying for a better week this week. A week where I keep my focus on him instead of the craziness of life around me. I pray the same for you. Lots of love- Kristine

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Glimpse of Literature

I have a deep and abiding love for words. I know some would say this is pretty evident in the sheer volume that proceed from my mouth;) I won't deny that I have the gift of gab but that is not what I'm speaking of right now. I love language, I love the rhythm and meter of a well constructed sentence, I love that the entire emotional experience of a piece can be changed by altering just one single word. I have been known to have goosebumps and get giddy simply over the way a sentence reads. This may make me a bit eccentric....maybe even crazy to some. However, I still love the English language; thus I love literature. I don't mean I have a passing fancy for, or a slight crush on, or a brief love affair with; no I am passionate about the reading all kinds of literature, especially the classics.
My love affair began as a child. We did not have a television until I was 14 years old, so my major form of entertainment was reading. I was so different than other kids my age, the proverbial square peg that could not be jammed into a round hole. My books were not just my entertainment, they were my escape. In them I found the friends I lacked at school, in them I was beautiful and brave, in them I could count on happily ever after or at the very least a hauntingly beautiful tragic end.
It has been very important to me that I pass on my love of literature to my boys. Not just a love of reading (which is definitely a first step) but an understanding and appreciation for classic literature (even if we can't get to the big L love I have for it). My job has been infinitely complicated by two things. 1) I have all BOYS. It's not that boys can't love literature but as a whole they would much rather blow something up in a video game or toss a ball around than sit still and read some "Sappy books". 2) 4 of my BOYS are on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a communications disorder. When my boys read anything they go straight for a literal interpretation. The moon being a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas (we'll get back to this in a minute) just about blows their brain gaskets.
Honestly, my boys can't escape the classics. I often just go around quoting some tidbit, not because I'm all that smart but because I just love the way the words of Shakespeare or Keats or Longfellow sound as they trip lightly off the tongue. However, since I have begun homeschooling I have made it a point to quote a little more often. My boys never know when I'll just break into verse. I keep it funny and add all kinds of crazy dramatization but none the less they are being exposed to the classics.
Today my son, Alex, was being a bit overly dramatic about the mention of cleaning. I just started quoting Hamlet's soliloquy to him off the cuff, adding his name in silly spots to grab his attention. After my impromptu performance Alex groaned and said "Mom, stop using Shakespeare against me!!" First, I was delighted that he recognized the piece as Shakespeare (granted it is one of the best known pieces of Hamlet but still I was pleased) but I also never want them to associate literature to something that is forced. I decided that right then and there was a great time for a sneaky literature lesson. After a few minutes, giving them time to move past Shakespeare, I began to recite Alfred Noyes The Highwayman in my most dramatic fashion (Anne Shirley would have been know Anne from Anne of Green Gables:) At first, they were all busily doing their own thing but three lines in I had a captive audience. They sat and listened to the whole piece, even Benny (my youngest who doesn't sit through anything more than 3.5 seconds long;).
I was bombarded by questions at the end "Why did he call the moon a ghostly galleon when ,everyone knows, the moon is made of rock and orbits the earth and in no way resembles a galleon?" "BTW what is a galleon?" "Why did the highwayman go back and die?" This question Jamie answered with his own commentary "It was to teach you a lesson Benny." Benny asked "What lesson" Jamie shrugs his shoulders " don't know". Alex pipes in "Obviously he was trying to teach you that men do CRAZY things for love!" Thus we had a full fifteen minutes of discussion on Alfred Noyes' poem. I don't think I could have been half as happy if I were dissecting it with experts and peers in a college literature class. My heart was nearly bursting with excitement, so much so I came and immediately penned this blog. After some pretty discouraging weeks in homeschooling and autism departments, it was fabulous to see a glimpse of my hard work paying off. It is these little glimpses that keep me going when at times I feel like giving up and finding a different school option. The road map of our lives is never unfolded all at once. All one can do is walk the path in front of them and wait to catch a glimpse of what is to come. Today's slight glimpse gave me hope. In leaving I give Alfred Noyes classic The Highway Man (it's one of my favorites). Lots of love friends-Kristine

The Highwayman



THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.


Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—


"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."


He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.



He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.


They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.


They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .


Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!


Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.


He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.


Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *


And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just for Laughs

It is no secret that Skiffland runs low in the estrogen department. In a kingdom of 7 people and 2 cats, I am the sole female....yes that's right, even the cats are male!! To say that I am outnumbered would be a bit of an understatement.
A family of mostly males has its own unique issues. For example, I prepare to clean bathrooms as if I'm engaging in chemical warfare. This is a dangerous mission that is not for the faint of heart. I know the odds are that I will go in and never come out or more terrifyingly likely, I will be transformed by the toxic fumes into a deformed super villain. If you ever notice that my eyes are glowing orange or my hair has a green tint, just have me admitted. Please grab the straight jacket I bedazzled just for this scenario. It's hanging next to my wedding gown in my closet. ;)
Another thing that is different in our house is that my boys are pretty much oblivious to the differences between girls and boys (for now at least;) Asperger's and Autism only magnify this oblivion. Once when asked how to tell a boy cat from a girl cat my oldest replied "That's easy! A boy cat will always have a scar next to its right eye." Like I said, oblivious (and don't ask me where he came up with that answer because I have no idea).
Thursday I was sitting down doing school with some of the boys when my youngest, Benny (7), tapped me on the shoulder. He was standing next to me, shirtless. This is the conversation that ensued. Warning: Uncontrollable laughter is likely to occur. Please do not read while at work, in a library or most importantly, during your child's nap time.

Benny: Mom what are these things on my chest? (he was pointing at his nipples)
Me: Those are nipples.
Benny: What do they do?
Me: On Boys they don't do much but on girls they feed babies.
Benny (looks down at my shirt): On girls they are HUGE! I'm glad I'm a boy!! Hey guys, (and he runs off to share his new found knowledge with his brothers)

I love my guys. They make me laugh all the time. I hope you enjoyed this laugh as much as I did. I pray a great week for each of you. Lots of love-Kristine

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