Sunday, November 20, 2011

note to self: all-matching clothes next year

Before kindergarten every day, I remind Claire what she has to do to earn her after-school treat. Last week it was "be polite and raise your hand to answer questions at least three times."

Claire: "I'll just raise my middle finger." Then she demonstrated by giving me the flipper [edited-for-TV version of The Matrix, anyone? That's my favorite scene, after all the ones with gratuitous violence, of course].

Me: "Well, that's considered rude. Better raise your hand."

Clare: "I'll just raise all five fingers, then."

Me: "That's a good idea. Now, you're zebra-stripe pants look a little wild with your polka-dot shirt, 'cause it's brown and your pants are black and white. We should change one of them. Should I get your brown pants or your shirt with the zebra on it?"

Claire: "But the stripes are white and the polka-dots are white. I want them to match!" (getting a little upset)

Me: "OK, I won't make you change if you don't want to. Are you sure you want to wear this?"

Claire: "Yes."

And I decided to be happy that she at least wouldn't be flipping off the teacher. Gotta choose your battles.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Here are the kids after their first few weeks in school. Some parents take pictures the first day of school, and some wait until they can find the camera batteries, they remember, and their kids are all wearing something presentable.


Our first visitors were my high school physics/algebra/pre-cal teacher and his wife. They are retired, were making a cross-country trip, and were kind enough to stop by. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them. If you know Virginia, you could get some pictures of us and the way we live from her. When they arrived, I was picking the kids up from school. I'd told them earlier on the phone to just come in--I'd leave the door unlocked. So, while I was gone, Byron and Virginia came in and Viriginia took pictures of the house for my mom. Sadly, the house was in it's natural state, namely, a disaster area. I'd decided to make a cake for their visit rather than clean the house. You can't do everything, people. And Claire's program has worn away my sense of shame, with tutors coming and going 4-6 days a week. In the beginning I tried hard to make them (the tutors, I mean) believe I kept an immaculate house. That lasted less than a week. It was too exhausting. If you have 3+ kids and know how to keep a clean, tidy house, make meals, do laundry, shower daily, and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, please let me know how you do it. I'd really like to know. Whoa, tangent. Anyway, in spite of the house, we had a really nice visit. Maybe clean houses are over-rated. Enough with the house!! I thought my sense of shame was gone, but maybe it's not. Back to the visit--Byron and Virginia are so sweet, and interesting! Did you know Virginia was Homecoming Queen in college her junior year? And Byron is mapping pioneer trails in Idaho, along with collecting antique looms and making tapestries! They should have a blog. Oh, and my cake was really good. Thank you, Food Nanny.

Two days ago my cousin Clayton, his wife Marianne, daughter Eleanor and son Winston dropped by--they live in the middle of the mitten, I think. We're more at the bottom left corner. That's Michigan-speak, folks, if you don't follow. See, I did get some pictures them.

Is it me, or are all the cutest kids in the world my relatives? Sorry, people who aren't in my family. Too bad Winston was asleep by the time I got the camera out. He's like his sister-- sweet and full of smiles. I thought Clayton and Marianne were all right, too, until they thumped me and Jake in pool. (Have I mentioned our house came with a pool table?!) I'm not sure if they're welcome here anymore. Kidding! You guys are always welcome. As long you lose next time.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


When we were little we had these really great baby-sitters named Jennifer and Jill. My sister's name is Lynsey, and Jennifer taught us this silly rhyme:

Lynsey Lou from Kalamazoo
Went to the zoo and got the flu.
Went to bed with Fred,
and when she woke up, she was wed.

One of my brothers changed 'wed' to 'wet her pants,' which was funnier and made more sense to us because one of us had a bedwetting problem. I'm not going to mention any names, but it wasn't me, and it wasn't one of my brothers.

Anyway, what brought all this to mind is this: Kalamazoo is a real place. It's in Michigan, and the kids and I are moving there next month. Jake is already there. He starts his new job (same company, different plant) tomorrow. The kids and I are just waiting for our house to close (yes, we're buying a house! knock on wood and cross your fingers! It seems too good to be true! Or too awful to be true, depending on whether you're talking to me or Jake), and then we'll join him.

The kids are finally starting to come around. Today they seemed almost excited. Until this morning, there have been a lot of tears. We're close to grandparents here, live in a great neighborhood, and those will be tough to leave. But, I feel strongly this is the right move. Wish us luck!

Claire had a birthday

Shout hurray! She hit her own pinata! She welcomed her birthday guests! Her cake wasn't burnt to a tough cardboard texture like Anne's was! She's excited to be 6! I'm too lazy to upload video footage of the party, so you'll have to content with the lame picture I took--the one on top was taken by a friend of mine the same day.

Body Art

Damon used washable (thank Heaven!) markers to make Anne a sabre tooth tiger and Claire an alien.
I used to get nervous whenever the house was too quiet--it meant the kid were in to something they shouldn't be. Now if it sounds like they're having too much fun, I know it's time to find out what they're up to. Then reinforce the naughty behavior by taking a picture.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Swimming Lessons

This is the safety float: Damon and Claire have it mastered (though you wouldn't know it to hear Claire--she usually screamed, "Teacher, grab me!" while doing it). Anne can do it for 5 seconds or so.

Fairly Recent Quotes

Claire: "If you don't make Anne do a session [that's what we call Claire's 2-hr therapy blocks] I'm going to be jealous of her for the rest of my life!"

A few weeks after that she said, while crying: "Why am I the only one who has to do sessions?"

She used to love her sessions. Once school got out, she didn't like them so much. The tutors have been focussing on making therapy more fun and less work since she said the above, and it has made a difference. However, she is pretty excited if a tutor calls in sick.

Damon, while trying to make an airplane out of cardboard: "This is hard because some of the parts I just don't know how to make because I've never had an engineering class." (This was news to me: last I heard, he could make a space shuttle easily if he just had the right stuff.)

Anne: "When I was born my mom forgot to name me Jessica, because that is a more beautiful name."

Memorial Day Weekend

We went south to visit Grandma and Grandpa H, Matt, and Brett and Rachel and their family. They were the reason we went, and naturally I forgot to take pictures of them. Here are the pictures I did take:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meet Janet

She's the one on the right. She was Whitney last week, and Annie (not Anne) before that. But I'll still refer to her as Anne.

Quoth she as we walked to school to pick up Claire and saw a man walking toward us:

"Who is that human?"

I didn't know, but was glad she clarified. For a second there I thought she was talking about a car or tree.

When we were in the bathroom brushing her hair:

"Anne, do you want to grow your hair out?" I asked.

"No, I just want jewels."

Whenever she helps me find or make something I say, "Anne, what would I do without you?"

She says, "Uh, panic."

Friday, May 20, 2011

whining time

"Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like."
~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

1. Making Claire's tutors' schedules
2. Primary secretary work
3. Claire's therapy
4. Trying (and so far failing) to get our insurance to cover Claire's physical therapy
5. Paying bills
6. Seeing piles of stuff (papers, clothes, etc)
7. Putting away piles of stuff

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anne turned 4!

Get that pinata, Anne!

The joke that never gets old.

I need a new camera--this one doesn't do justice the expression on Anne's face. She's got some killer instinct.


Maybe I'm misremembering, but isn't that skirt I'm wearing an exact replica of the skirt Frauline Maria wore on her way to meet the Von Trapp family? When they all told her how ugly her clothes were? In the mirror, I swear the skirt looked cute. This is one reason I hate pictures. From now on, I am not going to be in any more pictures. Then it won't bother me that pictures are being taken. But look at my hair: thanks to our camera's poor resolution (it was on clearance 10 years ago) you can hardly tell I've been cutting it myself for 8 months.

New topic: I discovered recently, a site where you can download audiobooks for free or volunteer to read them into the public domain yourself. I listened to their rendition of Wives and Daughters. Some of the chapters were read by people whose voices were pleasant to listen to; some chapters were read by people whose monotone made me wonder if they were somehow making recordings postmortem. Anyway, back when I had a baby to hold (which was wonderful, don't get me wrong) I would sometimes fantasize about the days when all my kids would be grown and out of the house and how nice it would be. Then I blinked and my son was getting baptized and my youngest was four, and I realized I wasn't in such a hurry for my kids to grow up. And I started getting worried about what I would do with myself when they were. Now I know: I'm going to record books for librivox. Sure, my voice is nasally and maybe I've got no future in radio. But you should see how captivated my kids are when I read stories to them. I think there must be some talent there.

A Good Day

Damon got baptized! He's a good boy and I'm proud of him.

One of these days my hatred for taking pictures is going to finally be conquered by my desire to have pictures. I wish I had taken a picture of these fine folk who were there that day: Grandma Ethel Mae F.; Grandma and Grandpa F.; Lex and Justin; Julie, Scott and Ayda; Lynsey, Marcus, Zannah, and Max; Jen W; Rayna and Mo H; Brothers P and B from the bishopric...Lynsey, you can tell me if I missed anyone.

If you're wondering

A month or three ago, I stopped being angry and bitter about Claire having Asperger's. I was talking with a dear lady on the phone who also has a child with disabilities, and something she said, I can't remember what, finished the 6+ month long process of healing my heart. I still am astounded sometimes when I see a large family with no non-typical children, but I don't curse them and wonder what they did right and I did wrong. I still feel worn down by Claire's therapy, but I'm not angry about it. I feel happy. I accept. I'm grateful to the powers and mercies of Heaven for that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

solutions to slip-n-slide concrete

Our landlord just had the stamped concrete around our house resealed. It's treacherous when wet. But as we slip and maime ourselves on it, we find comfort knowing it's protected from the elements.

Anne and Damon were outside playing on it today after a rainstorm today. The water had beaded into puddles all over.

"Mom!" called Damon. "Anne's naked!"

Sure enough, there she was in the front yard, stark naked. You really shouldn't take your eyes off your kids for a second; that's all the time it takes for them to strip in front of the neighbors.

I took her in the house. "Anne, why did you take your clothes off?"

"Because I would slip and have to change my clothes and slip and have to change my clothes and slip and have to change my clothes..."

So it was easier just to be naked than to have to take wet clothes off over and over again, or find somewhere else to play. Wearing wet clothes was apparently not an option, either.

Fortunately we discovered that if she wore rubber-soled shoes, she wouldn't slip, and therefore could wear clothing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What the...

Why can't I put paragraphs in my blog posts lately? See below. Very annoying.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

blah blah blah blah blah

Last I wrote, Claire had support at school three days a week: me on Mondays while Anne went to my neighbor's house, and Jessie (one of her three tutors) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It wasn't enough. On Wednesdays and Fridays Claire spent most of her time at school zoned out, so we put Anne in the local Montessori pre-school on Mondays and Wednesdays so I could go to school with Claire both those days. On Fridays, Anne and I go to her class for ten minutes. During that time, Anne plays quietly in the back of the classroom (bless her!) playing with toys while I sit by Claire and let her earn as many stickers as she can in 10 minutes. To earn a sticker she: follows directions as well as her classmates, raises her hand to answer questions, and participates in group singing/counting, etc. After I leave, her teacher takes away a sticker whenever Claire is zoning out. If Claire comes home with three stickers, then she gets a reward. It's going well so far, exept it wears me out. Drum roll please....Claire is back on gluten!!! A wise woman (Catherine) suggested maybe we had re-introduced gluten too much too fast, and that could have been what caused the bloating. So, we tried again more slowly, and Claire did fine! Hurray! We can eat good things again! She's still off dairy, mostly: last weekend Anne secretly slipped her Reese's peanut butter cups and Claire belched continuously for the next four days. Dairy is much easier to live without than wheat, though, so we're not complaining. Anne is doing okay in pre-school. To quote one of her teachers, "She was made for Montessori." And for the first week or so, Anne loved it. But then the newness wore off. When I would pick her up those first few days, she would be sitting in isolation at a table eating her lunch while all the other kids sat with each other at the other tables. It was pretty sad. Then I guess the teachers noticed the horrified look on my face, and they started making the other kids leave room for her at their tables. I hoped she'd be happier after that, but she cries most mornings as Jake takes her. On the bright side, she seems like she's had fun by the time I pick her up, and one of the teachers said she's made a bosom friend. Damon took Jr. Jazz basketball last month (I think. The days and months all run together). Now he's taking soccer. And guess who got roped into being his soccer coach? Me, the person who didn't know there were no time-outs in soccer. The rec center lady who gave me this sob story about nobody else being able to coach was clearly lying: it's astonishing how many parents sit around and gab while I'm holding practice. Oh, well. I'm better at yelling at kids than anyone I know, so I might as well put my talents to use. Back to ABA program news: one of our tutors is going on a mission [I think her true mission should be helping our child], so we've got to hire a new one. College undergrads looking for work aren't hard to find, but it's a pain to have to train someone new. Not to be ungrateful. Claire has made great progress, and we're grateful to have found good people to help her. Time to sign off and see if the kiddos brushed teeth and used the potty so they can have a bedtime story.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rare recorded dialogue between the Tooth Fairy and her Assistant

[Can't Damon and Anne just give me a nice normal smile?

He lost his top right front tooth. You might notice that the permanant tooth is already half-way in. Damon doesn't pull his teeth out. He let's them come out on they're own. That's how much he hates pain. Or maybe his lame Tooth Fairy doesn't give him enough incentive.]

Tooth Fairy: "How much to we pay for teeth? Fifty cents?"

Assitant: "I don't know. Should we give him a dollar?"

Tooth Fairy, after checking wallets: "We don't have a dollar."

Assistant: "I saw one in the other room."

Tooth Fairy: "That's his dollar. Your parents sent it to him."

Assistant: "So? He won't know the difference."

Tooth Fairy: "You want to give him his own dollar for his tooth."

Assistant: "Yeah. Why not?"

Tooth Fairy: "Well...we'll pay him back, so I guess it doesn't matter..."

Assitant: "Why would we pay him back? He'll never know."

He was kidding. Of course we'll pay him back. As soon as we get a dollar.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The world is too much with us...

and I can't decide if it's funny or disturbing. A week or two ago Anne woke up, beautified herself with a hat, bracelet, her favorite mismatched socks (with blue masking tape around one for extra beauty), and a washcloth tied around her leg. It was cute, so I got out the camera to take a picture, and she strikes a pose. She's three years old, people. And MY (I'm the person children sometimes mistake for a boy) daughter.

I've been letting the kids watch those old Scooby-Doo reruns: maybe Daphne is a bad influence. Or maybe it's the Kohl's ads: I didn't think she was studying the models because she always fixated on the jewelry pages, but maybe she was. I'll have to ban both.
Now check out this:
Unlike Claire and Damon, who only care about comfort, Anne doesn't wear things unless she likes the way they look. Even though we practically live in the arctic circle, she's been wearing purple water shoes because the hand-me-downs from Damon weren't 'beautiful enough.' So I finally decided I'd better take her shoe shopping. Naturally, the only shoes she was interested in were those ones up there, which, because they weren't already gaudy enough, also light up. Going anywhere with her is like walking next to a fireworks display.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

going to school with Claire and experimenting with yoga

Last semester Claire had her tutor Joseph going to school with her 3 days a week. This semester, her tutors' class schedules have not been as accomadating. Jessie is able to go with her Tuesday and Thursday, and since our consultant (Steve) says Claire isn't ready to have less help at school, I go with her on Mondays while Anne goes to our neighbor's house to play.
Yesterday was my first day. Wow, was I depressed after the first half-hour. Claire acted like she was partially deaf or maybe on drugs. Apparently her classmates and teachers were used to it: her friend Cecily took her by the hand and took her where she was supposed to go (Claire almost never responded to instructions on her own) and the music teacher said, "Thanks, Cecily, for helping Claire." !!!!! Claire is perfectly capable of doing what she's asked to do--she does it all the time at home. I've got to read some books by people with Asperger's so I can understand what it is about being in large groups that shuts them down. Or maybe it's just Claire. I don't know. Does anyone know?! Tell me! Gah!
On top of that, Claire's personality was totally absent. At home she laughs at jokes and silliness all the time. At school, I didn't see a single smile. The teacher read this poem to the class:
I made myself a snowball
Just as perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me
I gave it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then, last night it ran away,
But first . . . .it wet the bed!

The other kids were cracking up and yelling out, "It didn't run away, it melted!" Claire stared straight ahead with a blank expression on her face. I was ready to cry.

After school we got in the van, picked up Anne, and went to the grocery store. And back came the Claire I know, laughing and talking...I read her that snowball poem at home, and she giggled. "Did the snowball really wet the bed?" I asked. "No, it melted," Claire said.
When we got home I remembered a suggestion Steve made at our workshop last week, and today Jessie put it in action: whenever Claire does what she's told to do at the same speed the other kids are doing it, she gets a sticker. If she earns 5 stickers in one day, she gets to go to the toy store after school and pick out a prize. Lo and behold, it worked! Here she is with her new toy, Squishy:
Now we increase the number of stickers she has to earn before she gets a prize until it gets to be a habit and she doesn't need rewards anymore. One thing that worries me is she doesn't have a tutor on Wednesdays and Fridays. We'll have to be even more blessed and lucky than we already are to get her to listen and obey on those days. What we need is a tutor with her every day at school...we'll see how things go, and if she's not progressing, we'll just have to find a tutor for those other two days.

I don't know how we'll get her to be the giggly, talkative girl she is at home at school, but one bridge at a time, folks.

Another area Claire is literally weak in is gross motor skills. She doesn't have much muscle tone or coordination. I think that's pretty common among kids with Asperger's. Every day during her therapy sessions at home, her tutors spend 10 minutes working on gross motor skills. Jessie introduced Claire to yoga, and Claire got a kick out of it. Maybe it was just the names of the exercises (downward dog, or something?). Anyway, I decided maybe I should look into yoga for the first time in my life. I always wrote it off as something for new age hippies and people from California (no offense, Jamie H--you know I love you and Bonnie). But we've all seen Madonna's arms, and Claire could use some of that muscle tone. So this morning I turned on Exercise TV and tried yoga. It's a good workout. If I can get Claire doing that regularly, she'll have Gollum arms in no time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

diet update

Anne, speaking to Claire about the gum they were chewing: "Mine has artificial colors in it, and so does yours. Mine isn't good for me."

Claire: "And neither is mine." But they chew it very happily.

Over the Christmas break we reintroduced gluten into Claire's diet. For the first few days, everything seemed fine, but toward the end of the week, Claire's stomach was pretty bloated. Her behavior seemed less stable, which might have been the gluten, but was probably just the less routine nature of the holidays.

So now Claire's back off gluten, her stomach looks better, and I'm just going to have to resign myself to a gluten-free lifestyle and fend off insanity as best I can. I don't know why gluten makes her bloated--her bowel movements were normal, and she never complained of a stomach ache...I wish we had a good DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor around here, but we don't, so we'll muddle through as best we can on our own.

We haven't reintroduced dairy, and probably never will, because we know it makes her constipated, regardless of how much fiber she eats. I am letting her have soy, and I'm letting her chew gum, hence the dialogue about artificial colors above. If you know of an all natural chewing gum that kids would like, let me know.

She's still on her supplement regimen: a HUGE thanks to Scott J. for the fish oil and probiotics he donates to the cause.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year

Is there anything quite like hearing the angelic giggles of little girls "playing so well together!" downstairs?

Is there anything quite like finding the bathroom covered in water that didn't come from the sink and a Barbie in the toilet when you go down to see what's so funny? "But Mom," said Claire, "Rapunzel was only trying to get her shoes back," (which Anne flushed down a few months ago).

And that pink dress is sopping wet. Apparently swimming in the buff was an afterthought.