He’s Back

I”ve mentioned an uptick in Little Man’s anxiety as the end of the school year approaches. Much as we know it’s coming, the expected change in routine, the difference between scheduled and unscheduled, and even the differences at school as all the end-of-year activities come up throw him off. His anxiety shows in different ways – he’s harder on himself, he cries more easily, his outbursts are more frequent. He’s much better than he used to be, but the anxiety is part of him, part of who he is, and all his triggers are in play this time of year.

It’s been months since he’s come into our room during the night and snuck into our bed. He’s been sleeping better for a long time, and I contribute that to a growth spurt and hormone change. He’s also been in a much better, more relaxed and confident place this year. Whatever the causes, better sleep for him is better sleep for everyone.

He’s been in our bed, or tried to get in our bed, four nights in the last week. I woke at 3:30 this morning to a clicking sound. I initially thought it was Spouse getting a drink of water. Then I realized it was the familiar sound of teeth grinding and jaw-clicking. Spouse does not grind his teeth, and in my middle-of-the-night stupor, it took me a minute to figure out it was Little Man in our bed, grinding his teeth away. Sigh…in my bed, and grinding his teeth – a sure sign his anxiety is at a high level.

He has 10 more school days. We will have the inevitable fallout of him adjusting to the summer routine/non-routine, so I figure I have about a month of him crawling into my bed most nights. I’d just gotten used to him staying in his own room and sleeping soundly all night. That anxiety-fueled, teeth-grinding, flop-around-on-the-bed insomniac is back. Dang it all anyways.

Your Guess

It’s been pretty quiet on the autism front in the Herd household this year, thank the good Lord. I said it earlier this year, but it’s worth saying again….we desperately needed a quiet, drama-free year for our Little Man. Last year was dreadful, draining, overwhelming, awful. But you know in the wonderful world of autism, there are lots and lots of roadblocks, speed bumps, dips, turns, and storms. They’re not unexpected, but still disappointing when they happen.

Little Man has almost five weeks left of school. Good golly – that just sucks, especially as the bigs are out in two weeks. He knows the end is near. They’re in the middle of the standardized testing. He wants it over with quickly. Routine has been busted a bit at school because of the testing, but he’s also aware the end of the year is coming,  which means an even bigger routine bust. He does not do well with changes in, nor lack of, routine. I see his anxiety levels rising. I see some old behaviors returning. I see less tolerance and patience from him.

I’ve had a couple emails from his SAI at school letting me know he’s pushing back on work, he’s spending more time out of the classroom again, he’s pacing, his breathing is elevated. She wanted to know if I had any clue why this  might be happening. Uh, nope. Your guess is as good as mine. I could point to any number of things, but there doesn’t seem to be one thing we can say, “Yes, that’s what’s making him behave this way right now.”

We keep reminding him of his tools. We keep reminding him what he’s capable of. We keep reminding him the many successes he’s had this year. None of that changes whatever’s going on in his head, nor how he deals with life. So we do what we can at home. They do what they can at school. We pray this is just a blip and not a sign of long-term struggles.

I know better than to borrow trouble, but next year is his last year of middle school. There’s a new building with classrooms for the 8th graders. They will do things a bit differently for 8th grade than he has in sixth and seventh. He will have to participate in his IEP meetings. And the transition to high school will start. He knows it’s coming. I can’t help but think that may be hanging over him a bit, even though it’s in the distance. I know it’s hanging over me.

So we hang on for the ride the remainder of this school year, hoping this is just a temporary dip. But as for what the root cause is of this particular dip, your guess is as good as mine. And thus goes life on autism street.

One. More. Day.

Little Man starts school on Wednesday – yes, a full ten days after his siblings started. Let me tell ya, it’s been a LONG eight days. He thought it would be so cool to still have a week and a half left of summer. Yeah, not so much. By day two, he was crying by early afternoon, wanting his brother and sister home. It didn’t help I was busy with work and couldn’t cater to him all day. Blessedly, his besties have still been on summer as well. He figured out quickly it isn’t awesome being the only one home all day.

I’m ready for him to go back. Yes, I dread the fact they’re all three growing  up so quickly, and I miss the early days of preschool and school. But he needs structure back. I need those six-point-five hours a day to maintain my own sanity. I love summer – beach trips, vacations, time with family, the break from routine, the lack of homework battles, the later, relaxed nights. But I know I am a bit better mom when we all have some time away from each other during the day.

Little Man has been struggling the last week or so. Impending routine change will always do that, and I don’t know why I always forget that  until we’re well into the tears, meltdowns, and outbursts. All of the sudden, a lightbulb will go off in my mind, and I think, “Oh, yeah, routine change is coming, which means anxiety and stress for him.” As much as I knew I needed to warn his teachers towards the end of the school year, I needed my own warning towards the end of summer.

We have one more day. He will do okay the first few days, maybe the first two weeks. Then the wheels will fall off, until he’s fully adjusted back to the school routine. Every year I pray it will be different. Who knows….maybe this will be that year. But we have one more day to get through first. And trust me, tomorrow will totally suck.  Sleep will not come easily tomorrow night. There will be battles and tears most of the day. And once I drop him off Wednesday morning, he and I will both breath a short-lived sigh of relief.

Those consistent good days

I realized the other day I’ve reached a point in this school year I’m able to take good days with Little Man for granted. I no longer hold my phone anxiously in my hand the entire 6.5 hours he’s at school. I don’t cringe when my phone rings. Emails from his special ed teacher don’t give me anxiety. He’s in a good place. He has good friends. He’s in class more than he’s out of it. He even participated in a full session of PE, willingly. Can I get an amen?

I love this place. It’s freeing. I’m trying to enjoy the heck of it, because, well, we know how this dance goes, right?

We have 5 weeks and two days left in the school year, minus Memorial Day and the Friday after their last day. That’s 25 school days…TWENTY-FIVE!!!! Five plus weeks of racing to the finish line, complete with Open House, sports banquets, awards ceremonies, and project presentations. It will be busy.

A new routine is looming, followed by a year with a new teacher, in a new classroom. Out-of-the-norm activities, extra-business, coming routine change….those add up to anxiety for Little Man, which leads to wheels breaking down, if not falling off. I’m trying to not think about that possibility.  I’m trying to just relax in this good place we’re in. It’s hard to do when we’ve been down this particular road so  many times before, and the same thing has happened  every single year. It’s a delicate balance of living in the moment, and preparing for what’s to come.

That’s where we are. Some part of me can’t help hoping maybe this time, the end of the school year will be different, less fraught. Hang on for the ride, my friends. This is life in our autism-land.

Why I’m always afraid to say it

Little Man had a meds check-in with his psychiatrist last week. We haven’t seen her since August, right after school started and before the proverbial sh#@ hit the fan.  She asked, of course, how things have been going. We told her all the challenges during the first few months of school, and then I said the fateful words, “but  he seems to have settled in and found his groove.” I inwardly cringed. Do you ever experience this? Every time we get to a good place, and I actually verbally acknowledge we’re in a good place, things have settled down, he’s relatively calm and bouncing back quickly when he isn’t, the wheels WILL come off. We will go from sunshine to disaster within days of my  mentioning how well he’s doing.

So, yeah, his appointment was last Tuesday evening. I’m still waiting for the storm to hit. He did pretty well with his party, with only two little glitches. One, he had his own agenda, which was to open his gifts immediately. We, his parents, had a different agenda, particularly as the boys arrived at 6pm and were all hungry. Dinner first. He didn’t freak out, but every 30 seconds, he was moving towards his gifts. We finally gave him a set time. He settled down a little bit after that.

The second glitch came at 6:15 the next morning. There had been candy, punch, and little sleep. Little Man apparently had a sugar overload, along with a severe lack of sleep, which brought on puke-fest 2016.  It’s not fabulous to have pink puke all over your floor, a mere 2 feet from the bathroom, especially at 6:15 in the morning. He was totally fine as soon as he got it all out. The boys were not the least bit bothered by it.  Amen. I, however, took a bit longer to recover, and I looked at him like he’d lost my mind when he asked me to go get them donuts within minutes of throwing up. Um, no. I made them pancakes instead.

The time change can be another disaster in the works. He went to bed without a struggle last night, although hauling out of bed this morning, in the pitch dark, was a challenge.  They started state testing at school this week, and he apparently gave them some push-back. He detests routine changes, and testing is definitely a routine change. They’re being patient with him, giving him time and space, but also making it clear he doesn’t have a choice in actually doing the tests. It must be done.

I’m still sitting over here holding my breath, because I know it’s coming. Every. Single.Time I tell ya – it happens. Whenever I talk about how well things are going, a crash is imminent. The fact we’ve made it almost a week is miraculous.

When Momma Travels

Part of the joy of having a child on the spectrum is the extreme need for structure, routine, consistency.  Guess what doesn’t happen in real life? Stuff happens. Glitches throw wrenches into the works. Things get cancelled. Plans change. And sometimes, Momma decides it’s  time for her to have a weekend away (usually to go scrapbooking, or to a conference where she will spend the entire weekend talking about her babies).

This weekend, I’m away on one of my bi-annual scrapbooking weekends. Little Man is not thrilled with me. The routine is messed up. He’s not going home with whom he normally goes home from school. Daddy doesn’t do things exactly the same way Momma does. Momma is not there to make sure he has what he likes, what he needs. He will survive, but Wednesday night was not without tears.

I put him to bed Wednesday night, quietly tucking him in, wiping tears from his face, giving him extra squeezes.  He has the logistics printed out, they’re written on the board in his room, and on the calendar in the kitchen too. I walked him back through everything verbally as well. He just doesn’t like it when I leave.

Every time I travel we go through this. I have to let him know exactly what is happening, when, to the best of my ability, multiple times. We post it all over the house. We walk him through each day repeatedly.  Even then, he will text me at least once a day asking again what the agenda is. This is by far one of the most difficult parts of traveling without my babies.

He’s fine. He’s in good hands. Will things be done the way I do them? Nope. Will he have some stress? Totally. Will he survive? Most definitely.  Is it good for him and his daddy? Oh yeah.

Just a note: I am supposed to be scrapbooking right now. My friend is glaring at me over the top of my laptop screen, knowing I’m doing what I said I wasn’t going to do – blogging and getting a little work done. So, no Friday Favorites today. And next Friday, I’ll be at competition with the Princess. If you see some awesome posts while you’re reading today, send them my way.

Happy Weekend!

Giving ourselves grace

I am a perfectionist. I have been as long as I can remember. And I’m not patient with myself. Throw a little OCD in there (self-diagnosed…lol), and there ya go. That’s me.

So, I started that new job two-plus weeks ago. I officially took over last week. I did train with the last person to hold the position and she has been a HUGE help. But it’s on me now. There’s a learning curve. It’s basically a new language for me. I do feel a tiny bit overwhelmed, a wee bit lost. I’m afraid there are balls up there I’m going to drop because I’m not completely aware of their existence.

I texted the Spouse yesterday and told him I suck. He laughed at me. I’ve made a few (that I’m aware of…I’m sure there are likely more I’m unaware of at this moment in time) simple, small mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless, this week. Stupid mistakes from trying to be ultra-efficient and moving quickly. They’re making me crazy. I’ve been beating myself up for two days. I am of the firm belief they’re going to see me as a totally incompetent lackwit.

But why is that? Why can I not give myself some grace? Why would I afford more allowance to my friends who have started new jobs, and not for myself? It’s weird working again. It’s all new all over again. There’s a lot to take in, new routines to develop, new systems to learn. That’s not going to happen overnight, and yet I won’t allow myself the grace of a little time to settle in and not be perfect right out of the gate.

I do need to remind myself to slow down. I’m so used to doing what I do quickly, but then, I know what I’m doing. I have this part down. With something  new, I need to remember to take it more slowly, be efficient, but be thorough, ask for help when I  need it. I put it on the white board above my computer until I get it through my thick head…”Give yourself grace.”  I think it’s a good reminder for all of us.