Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Trip to the Salon

Natalie had her first hair cut when she was only four months old. She couldn't even sit up on her own but her full head of long hair needed trimming. She's had a couple of other at-home trims since, but yesterday was her first salon experience.

We decided to try Fantastic Sam's since a friend had mentioned that a shampoo was included with the cut. There are few things Natalie despises more than getting her hair washed but I thought the special sink would make it a fun experience. Though she was a bit frightened, she did enjoy it.

She sat as still as any two-year-old can and watched the hairdresser cut about three inches off the ends.

The lollipop treat is the best part! Too bad they don't include a style with that shampoo and cut deal. It seemed so funny to walk out of a hair salon with wet, unstyled hair. By the time we got home it had that half air-dried look but after a couple quick pony tails, she looked pretty cute.

Today we tried some curls.
Through my mommy goggles, she's cute enough that any 'do will do!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Partner in Crime

Natalie and Emma are two-year old buddies. The girls were born exactly four weeks apart and since Emma lives just three doors away, they have grown up together. Emma is small in stature, has a shy demeanor and distinguishing red curls. Natalie, a tall, spunky social butterfly with big brown eyes, is quite different. They are both beginning to spread their wings of independence and have recently made the transition from parallel to interactive play. We still deal with the occasional brawl over that toy or the other but their hugs and smiles are proof that they are quite fond of one another.

The other day, Emma came over to play. The girls pushed toy strollers around the house and made an occasional stop at the play kitchen to prepare an imaginary meal for their babies. After quite some time, I heard the door open and the girls ventured out for what I assumed was a walk down to Emma’s house where their older sisters and brothers were playing. I didn’t think another second about it and soon became occupied in a phone conversation with Jon.

I was upstairs, in my room, when I heard Natalie say, “She’s in here.” Then I could hear the voice of an adult woman but was unable to make out what she was saying. I walked quickly to the landing and looked down.


It was a strange woman standing in my hallway, looking up at me. She had entered my house through my open garage, continued past my unkempt laundry room and came down the hall to the base of the stairs. She explained that these two girlfriends had been playing in the street, waving to cars as they drove by. This twenty-something lady was evidently concerned enough for their safety that she did not hesitate to enter my home uninvited. After a brief conversation, she left the same way she had entered, past the most disheveled parts of my house. There is a reason that laundry rooms are not located by the front door. Shouldn’t laundry rooms be considered part of our personal space?

The girls and I watched her leave through the window of the girls' bedroom. A second woman waited in a cherry red VW bug. It was clear that the two had stopped to pick up a flyer for the house that is for sale across the street when they were met by these cute little girls. Jon, meanwhile, remained on the line, urging me to fill him in but I was too shocked to form my emotions into words. I felt embarrassed that I appeared a negligent parent, stunned that a complete stranger had just come in the house and relieved that the girls were safe.

It looks like we need to have a talk about staying on the sidewalk. Well, and a little more attentive mother might help, too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Adventures in Rigidity

A few days ago, I bought some new laundry baskets. The kids had outgrown the baskets I purchased when they were babies and I was tired of seeing the overflow of clothes on the floor. I was also fed up with giving reminders to pick up pajamas and underwear off the bathroom floor. The three-piece basket set from Sam’s Club seemed a perfect solution.

The girls were thrilled with their new basket and the one in the bathroom proved the answer to the long-standing pajama problem. Caleb, on the other hand, resisted the change. While most children cope quite easily with such a non-event as a new hamper, even the smallest changes in routine bother our boy. He argued with me telling me he liked the old one just fine and didn’t want a new basket. I presented all the logical reasons to love the new one but Caleb held firm in his resistance. I finally acknowledged the discomfort of the change but informed him that he did not have a choice.

First thing the next morning, Caleb expressed that he had come up with a great idea. (Evidently he’d been thinking long and hard about this new situation.) He proposed that he make use of both baskets; he’d fill the old one to capacity and then transfer its contents to the larger one. I hope he didn’t lose too much sleep over it because I maintained my position that the new basket was going to be the only one used for laundry. I told him the smaller one could be kept in the closet and used to store his stuffed animals. Though he has occasionally commented about the sadness caused by this change, he handled the disappointment fairly well.

Rigidity is a trait common to all children with Asperger’s syndrome. It is a coping strategy used to deal with the anxiety, intensity and sensory processing issues they face every day. It has taken me years to understand how real these feelings are and I still struggle to have patience with them. Caleb has to be taught to be flexible as he is constantly forced out of the comforts of his own little world and into the world the rest of us live in. He understands his world, he’s created his own rules and it’s simply more comfortable there. When something as trivial as a laundry basket is removed from his world, it causes anxiety.

For me, the challenge is deciding which rigid behaviors are acceptable and which are battles worth fighting. The need to have a lot of ice in every drink, even if it is directly out of the fridge, or having a particular straw when drinking a smoothie are manifestations of anxiety and Caleb-created rules in which I allow him to indulge. These behaviors don’t bother anyone else or violate any real world rules. However, the issues of food temperature and texture are some I find quite bothersome. Some days I’m just a whole lot more understanding than others. Other times, like yesterday morning, I don’t react appropriately and we both end up feeling terrible.

Caleb has very specific ideas about his toast. He likes it dark in color and piping hot. He often makes it himself but I did it for him yesterday morning. While he was busy drinking hot cocoa, his toast sat cooling on a plate. I was busy making lunches and when I noticed that he hadn’t started eating yet, gave him a blunt reminder. He tapped the bread carefully with one finger and announced that he wasn’t going to eat it because it was too cold. I lost it. I ranted about his ridiculous standards but since I didn’t want him going to school hungry, I begrudgingly put the toast back in the toaster to reheat it. We were now running late but I continued to rant about how this would be handled the next time as he finished his toast while putting on his shoes, coat and backpack all at the same time. He went off to school in a sour mood and I was left feeling guilty.

Later that afternoon, I went to the school to volunteer. As I was leaving Caleb’s class, his teacher explained that he had been struggling with an obsession to use only very sharp pencils. I had noticed the same behavior at home; he always sharpens his pencil before beginning homework. (And if working with a packet of paper, the sheet on which he is writing must be placed directly on the table.) But this pencil obsession is clearly a distraction at school and a habit that needs addressing. I like his teacher, I think there are many good things about her, but I do feel that she sometimes enables Caleb’s rigid actions. She explained that her solution was to make sure she placed a freshly sharpened pencil on his desk at each recess. I appreciate her concern for my son’s anxiety but I told her I would think about it and get back to her with a plan. My experience has taught me that a better solution is to establish rules for how many times a day a pencil can be sharpened or exchanged, clearly explain the consequences and then leave the responsibility on Caleb to act for himself.

This morning, I was determined not to repeat the same breakfast mistakes so I came to the kitchen armed with a plan. First, he would make his own toast and second, he was going to abide by the rule that the toast would be consumed right away and if it was allowed to cool, it would have to be eaten cold. He needed to know ahead of time that he was in charge of his choice but that reheating the toast was not one of them. It was a successful morning complete with good-bye kisses and pleasant farewells.

This is just a sampling of the adventures we encounter every day. Dealing with Caleb’s rigidity can be very frustrating and tiresome. We are each uncomfortable with the rules of the other’s world. We just have to remember to celebrate even the smallest of victories as we grow in our understanding of one other. Caleb is a good hearted boy with many delightful qualities. He has taught me much about patience and sympathy. We are both works in progress.

Friday, January 18, 2008


This month's Cub Scout pack meeting activity was the Cub-anapolis. Caleb's favorite race car driver is Kyle Busch so of course that is what he wanted. You take a regular card board box and make it into a car that you put yourself in and race around the track.

Caleb doing his part to make his car.

The finished product.

I served as his pit crew. The first lap I had to "clean the windshield". (Spray his face with water)
Second lap was a refueling stop. (Drink a dixie cup of water)
Third lap was to change tires. (take your shoes off and put them back on).

The also had a siblings race.

A Dad's race.

And the final race of the night was for the Mom's.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Neglected and Naughty

Two words to describe Natalie this week.

We arrived home from church on Sunday feeling spiritually uplifted from a wonderful Stake Conference over which Elder Bednar presided. Jon had been battling a headache so he immediately went in search of some medicine while I rushed to the kitchen to heat up some left-overs for lunch. After some time I noticed that Natalie was missing and wondered aloud at her whereabouts. I figured she had gone upstairs to play or was perhaps watching a show in my room. A few minutes later Alyssa announced that she was going to look for her sister. She returned shortly to tell me that she could not find Natalie. I didn't immediately panic but instead began my own search. Alyssa followed me upstairs and we looked together. I felt a sudden impression to check the garage and told Alyssa to go there while I looked under the girls' beds.

Sure enough, she was in the garage. She remained strapped in her carseat, gasping for breath through her frantic sobs. I couldn't get her out fast enough or hold her close enough as the guilty tears welled up in my own eyes. We spent the rest of the day reassuring her of our love and making sure she would be able to forgive us for our neglect. The poor thing had been left in the car for over 30 minutes!

This evening, I again noticed an air void of Natalie noise and after a quick search of the house, I went to the garage. There she was, this time unrestrained, turning my food storage containers into her own personal sandbox.

The wheat, which we don't use since we have yet to purchase a wheat grinder, was left unscathed but scoops of it were mixed with my often-used and perfectly good supply of flour and sugar. Ugh!

The garage is not the place for Natalie. But we do love her, we really do.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

In Like a Lion

The New Year arrived in the midst of a difficult time for our family. My dad was hospitalized for a couple of days which presented many concerns, stresses and heartbreaks. I’ll save details and personal emotions for a more private forum but will suffice it to say that it was very challenging.

We have started down the road to recovery. My dad is doing better every day and while the road will be much longer for both of my parents, it is a relief to be travelling toward that end. I am hopeful.

Jon has always been the calm in my storm. He has a way of smoothing my ruffled feathers while the water runs readily over his. My extended family has always loved him but his invaluable help and support through this trial has earned him hero status. There were also many small and grand ways in which I could see the hand of the Lord seeing us through. I’m grateful for these blessings and for countless answered prayers.

In addition to all the time spent assisting my parents, Jon also had to perform his first wedding and is currently preparing for his first funeral as Bishop. The wedding took place Saturday afternoon and later that same evening, he received news that a sweet sister in our ward suffered a stroke. He went quickly to the hospital, met with her children and gave her a blessing. She passed away on Tuesday.

Jon’s coworkers are astonished by all that he is able to do while keeping up with his career. His manager at work has been supportive of his calling and even expressed that he sees it as valuable experience which developments his management skills. The flexible schedule that has come with his job in recent months has been an enormous blessing. We actually found it quite humorous that Jon’s what-I-did-this-weekend conversation at the office included joining a couple as man and wife. He gave us some good laughs as he rehearsed the ceremony at home but he assures me that he didn’t (I wasn’t at the ceremony) include his famous dance moves when he performed the real thing. We needed some good laughs. Leave it to Hero Jon to provide them.

This may not be how we imagined welcoming the New Year but we will count our blessings and look forward to more tranquil months ahead. It may have come in like a lion, but I know that 2008 will have its share of lambs.