Duck!

I’m not talking about duck as in a bird. Nor am I telling you to duck. You know what autocorrect does to a certain word? Yeah, that.

I wrote about the kids laughing at Little Man last week.  He’s been reluctant to go back to science class since. I’ve seen the return of all his aversion techniques…going to the nurse’s office, leaving class to go to his quiet space, outbursts, tears, meltdowns. Friday, the nurse called about an hour after school started. He was in her office with a headache that wasn’t getting better. He had fallen and hit his head on the ground at soccer practice Wednesday night, and although he’d had no symptoms since then, she didn’t want to take any chances. I brought him home.  He was fine all weekend, outside of a meltdown Saturday  morning over getting woken up to get ready for his soccer game. It wasn’t pretty, and lasted about twenty minutes, but then he was perfectly fine at his game as well as the rest of the day.  He was great on Sunday – no meltdowns, no outbursts, no physical complaints.

An hour into the school day Monday, the nurse called me again. He was back in her office with another headache, and would I bring him some ibuprofen so we could try to get him through the day. So I took him some ibuprofen. Two hours later, I got another call. He was back again, the headache wasn’t any better, would I come pick him up. Back to school for the third time that day, and I brought him home early.  Yesterday, he made it the entire day (I’d told him that morning I wasn’t coming to get him early at all), but when  I picked him up, he told me he’d “freaked out” at recess, that kids were laughing at him, but he couldn’t tell me what the situation actually entailed, nor what had happened before or when the kids started laughing. He could not talk about it without getting really upset.

I emailed his team last night. Something is going on, and it’s affecting him intensely. His SAI let me know they’re aware something is happening and they’re looking into it.

Today, Little Man called me. I was in the middle of work, and asked him to ride it out for a bit, see if his headache got better. He called twenty minutes later. I took him ibuprofen again, and, as I had to leave town for work, told him he’d have to call Dad if anything else happened. Not to make it sound like I put work ahead of him…..I’d never do that if I believed in that moment he was dreadfully sick or really needed me, and only me, to come get him.

My phone rang while I was driving. It was the school counselor. Little Man had spent much of the day with her, most of that in tears. He’s unable to verbalize to her what’s happening when the kids are laughing at him. And he told her it would be better if he weren’t alive anymore. Dear Lord. My breath caught. I explained we do take him seriously, every time he says this. We can’t not take him seriously, but we also know he learned those words are a ticket out of whatever situation he doesn’t want to be in. It’s a very fine line to walk. I ducking HATE this. I hate it. I hate that he hurts. I hate he can’t tell us why. I hate we can’t just snap our fingers and make it better. I hate the anxiety, the social deficits that make him reach this point. Duck! DUCK! DUCK! DUCK!

I did ask if we could add speech therapy back to his repertoire. I feel he needs help with pragmatics again, as social situations and dynamics have shifted over the last two years. His peers are in an entirely different place, and they are very aware his issues, which are once again much more obvious. And we know how very mature thirteen year olds are. We’re also going to call his old outside therapist and see if he can have some sessions with her. The problem with that is he doesn’t want to talk when he’s supposed to talk. Does that make sense? If it’s on his terms, he *might* talk. If it’s a scheduled thing, he’s more likely to push back and shut down. DUCK!!!

I’m exhausted. I’m fearful for my boy. I’m emotionally tapped. I feel I have to be with him all the time, have to be on my guard all the time, have to utilize everything I have in me on him. Which then leaves the question, what do I have left for Spouse, for his siblings, for my friends, for my job? How is it fair to any of  us, much less Little Man. DUCK!

My heart just ducking hurts.

What made us ask?

The Princess asked awhile back what made us start having Little Man evaluated for autism. It’s all so ingrained in my mind….the horrific summer we had between his first and second grade years….the micro-managing, the meltdowns, the worry that maybe I just wasn’t being a good parent to him/not hard enough. I remember being SO offended when my sister, who is a para, suggested we have him evaluated.

That summer was so miserable. I was exhausted trying to keep him from falling apart and/or lashing out every  minute of every day. We knew to do countdowns before we left for anywhere or changed activities. We knew he didn’t like unexpected loud noises. We knew certain things kept him comforted. But I lived from minute-to-minute, never knowing what disaster would come next. By the time school started, we knew we were dealing with ADHD at the very least. I was in denial about anything else. At his parent/teacher conference six weeks into the school year, I asked his teacher what she thought. She legally couldn’t really say anything, but when I said we were considering having him evaluated, she just nodded her head and said she thought that was a good plan of action. We’d known her for a few years already – I was comfortable enough with her to be honest about my fears and concerns. She’d had enough time to get to know him in the classroom setting. We all knew something wasn’t quite the same as other kids for my Little.

When my sister made the suggestion, I immediately texted my BFF – who happens to have a daughter on the spectrum. She’d spent some time with Little Man over the years of our friendship, and knew the summer we’d experienced. She said to me, “You know, she might be right.” I had an A-Ha moment of epic proportions. Appointment with the pediatrician scheduled the next day, which earned us ADHD eval paperwork and a referral to a child psych specializing in ASD. Within a month,  we knew he was ADHD, hyper type, and autistic.

I cried the day we got his official diagnosis. In so many ways, it felt like a life-sentence. I didn’t know what to do, how we would manage, what life would look like now. Then another friend with a son on the spectrum reminded me that Little Man was still Little Man. A diagnosis hadn’t changed him from one day to the next. That diagnosis would just get him the help he needed, and it helped describe him, but it did not define him, nor us as a family. It is part of who he is, who we are, but it is not all.

There have been some pretty dark days since Diagnosis Day six years ago. Some of those days have left us scarred. And autism does not go away, ever. What started us down that road? Well, it was just a realization that he wasn’t just an immature youngest child who was behaviorally challenging to us…..a realization there was something more, something deeper, and that we all needed help.  It was the complete understanding there was something different about him, that we weren’t just horrible parents and he wasn’t just a horrible, misbehaving child. That “more” was the impetus. And so, here we are, six years later…..he’s still autistic, but he’s still my Little Man. Nothing about that has changed.

Rollin

Holy wow – After that ridiculously long countdown to real summer, we have just two weeks before the Herd heads back to school. (insert bad words here) Where in the ever lovin where did summer go?

We’ve had an incredibly busy, super fun summer, but it has flown by. We’ve rolled from one thing right into the next, or at least I have. School finally ended for Little Man. The following Monday, he started tech camp. Big Man and the Princess were never really “off” as – I may have mentioned this before – high school sports continue to practice through summer. The last day of tech camp, we went to the showcase presentation, and then hit the road for Palm Springs. We spent four glorious days poolside, hanging out with our friends and neighbors who joined us, eating, drinking, sunbathing, reading, playing games, and golfing.  It was HOT, but we don’t care when we’re there. We’re in or right next to the pool all day long.

I was home for 1.5 days, then left for my summer scrapbooking retreat in  Big Bear. In four days there, I managed to finish my 2015 book, as well as our Spring Break Utah trip book. (pats self on back) It was much-needed momma time with friends. We walked by the lake each morning, talked, ate, laughed, and scrapbooked. The only bummer was our usual massage therapist wasn’t able to be there due to injury. I’d so been looking forward to that 90-minute massage. Sigh….other than that, it was a beautiful weekend.

After Big Bear, I spent three days running around like a crazed person, getting the house ready for a cousin invasion. Nine of them began arriving on Wednesday. They trickled in until Saturday, when we had everyone here. Did I mention that was also recital weekend? Yeah, that. We had five fun-filled, busy days. Oh, I won’t lie – we did take plenty of time to sit in or next to our pool, but we were definitely on the go for much of the time.

The day after cousins left, my bestie and her four teens arrived for a week-long visit. We didn’t really stop from the minute they arrived, but oh my…..so much fun! We forget how awesome our city is until people are here and we’re taking them all over. We hit Mission Beach, they kayaked La Jolla Cove, we went to the movies, spent a day in Coronado (on the beach and at the beach bar at the Hotel Del where there was a Norman Reedus (aka Daryl from Walking Dead) sighting (it was ComiCon weekend in San Diego and a bunch of stars were staying at the Hotel), watched the ponies race in Del Mar, golfed our club (K and I rode along while our spouses golfed), went wine tasting in Ramona (you get premium service when your FIL is the President of the Ramona Valley Vintner Association), and took in a Padres game. Yes, all of that. The day they left, I had a work event. I got home that evening and absolutely crashed.

This is the longest break we’ve had all summer……and I leave tomorrow for five days in Chicago. More fun…..a day a Lollapalooza, some beach time if the weather permits, and a Cubs game, not to mention more time (sans children this visit) with the bestie! Then I’ll be home for two days before we leave for a long weekend at my parents’ in Phoenix. We’re home from that trip for two days and the kids go back to school.

Are you tired? Cuz I’m tired. We’ve blasted through this summer, rollin from one fun thing to the next. I think I need a summer to recover from this summer. We’ve had pool time, bbq’s, baseball games, beach days, and movies. We’ve spent time with family and friends. We’ve soaked it all in, taking full advantage of every minute. I can’t believe it’s ending in two weeks, and we’ll be in for another long haul of a school year. I’ll put the pool towels and basket of sunscreen away, tuck the beach chairs onto their hooks in the garage, stow the cornhole game in its case, and say goodbye to summer 2017.

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.

Finished

Finished – that word applies to so many things today. It’s been the word on my mind most the last few days. Finished. We are finished, we have finished, we will finish, we have yet to finish. Sigh….I’m in a funky place.

Big Man and P finished their school year Friday. P said she actually didn’t want the year to end. Wait, what? From my point of view, it’s been an exhausting, mentally and emotionally draining, dragged out, up-and-down/high-and-low year. I was not sad to see the door close on this one for them.

I am proud of Big Man – he pulled it together enough to have an almost-respectable GPA for the semester. It was a near-miracle, considering how deep a hole he’d dug himself. But he did it. We did have to push, and check in almost hourly to make sure he was doing what needed to be done, but he did it. Oh trust me, his final report card for the year wasn’t amazing, but it was nearly as ugly as it had been. For that, we say “Thank you Jesus!”, and heave a sigh of relief. Pray God he’s figured it out and we won’t have to face these same issues next  year.

After a long season of training (for me anyways  – Big Man didn’t really train at all), we ran the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon yesterday morning. I was really worried about this one, as my training was cut short due to various injuries. My last 11-mile run was five weeks ago. My last run of any significant distance was three weeks ago. My last run was a week and a half before race day, and that just 4 miles. I spent 10 days gently stretching, icing, heating, and praying it would come together and I’d be able to push through. I had a 2-hour massage. I went to the chiropractor. I faithfully used my foam roller.

Race morning arrived. There was a LOT of frustration early – parking was an unmitigated disaster. It took us nearly an hour to get into the lot from the time we arrived downtown, then we had a mile walk to the shuttle busses. We got on our bus at the time we should have been arriving at our corral. We were in the bathroom line when our corral started, and ended up crossing the start with a corral 9 behind our assigned corral. I’d decided with my training partner to just push for the goal we’d trained for – a 2-hour finish. I knew 2 miles in I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace – the three weeks without any significant running had killed me. I slowed to my old half marathon pace and regrouped. Three miles later, my IT bands started tightening and my knees started to hurt. I pushed on, with short stretches of walking, until I hit mile 7 when I knew I’d have to just let go of this race. It became a matter of finishing, and nothing else. I walked when I needed to – which was quite a bit – and ran when I could. There was a downhill at 9.7 that almost did me in. But I pressed on. My training partner finished (I was getting texts for her and for Big Man) – I was at mile 10 I think. Then  Big Man finished. I was closing in on mile 11. I was frustrated, in pain, tired, and so disappointed. At mile 12, I started running again, determined to finish the race running. I knew there was nothing structurally wrong with my body – just IT bands that like to knot up and make it feel like there are knives going into the side of each knee – and so I pushed, and crossed the finish at 2:41 – my worst half marathon time ever, by 16 minutes. I headed to the medical tent and had my knees wrapped in ice.

My training partner had a PR, under 2 hours. Big Man didn’t meet his time from last year of 1:58, but he really didn’t train at all (oh to be 16!). He finished at 2:09. But we finished. The race is more about the culmination of training – a cap to a season. I’m trying to let it go, the disappointment of a bad race. Training had been going so well. I’m trying hard to focus on the fact I ran my 8th half marathon and not everyone gets to say that. I am so proud of Big Man – there were 114 boys on the course in his division. He finished 51st of those 114. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Out of 30,000+ people running (between the full, half, and half-relay), only 114 15-17 year old boys were running, and one of them was my son. I love that I got to share yesterday with him. What’s really fun  is being able to talk about it with him, remembering miles and sections like a football player will remember a play, a golfer will remember each hole on a course, a pitcher what pitch got launched out of the ballpark by which hitter. I love that shared experience. I’m proud of the fact he fought when things started to hurt; he didn’t give in when the course got rough, when he knew he wasn’t going to match his time from last year, when he got tired and wanted to quit. He finished. We finished.

Eleven more school days for Little Man. Then we will be finished completely with this school year. He’s hanging in there. He has had some increased anxiety – it’s so typical of this time of year for him. We will fight through, and then breathe another sigh of relief. It is so weird to manage two out of school and one still in, especially for the significant amount of time 2.5 weeks is. We’re almost finished.

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.

Just when I thought I was done with all that

I quit working full-time just before Big Man started Kindergarten. I wanted to be involved at my kids’ school….working in classrooms, being part of PTA, going on field trips, dropping off and picking up….It was important to me. And so I was. I helped in all three classrooms, almost weekly. I was on the PTA. I ran three book fairs, assisted one, and worked the rest. I went on more field trips than I can count. We went to art festivals, performances, band concerts, Back to School nights, and Open Houses. I felt like we lived there, but it mattered that we were involved. I knew the kids my kids were with every day. I knew a lot of those kids’ parents. I  knew the teachers, the staff.

As my kids entered middle school, I began backing away. They needed some space to become independent. I needed to not be quite as involved. I did volunteer for some things, and we still went to all the awards, concerts, and presentations. But I wasn’t in classrooms every week. I went on one field trip. I helped with one book fair. Even with Little Man’s school being more of an extended elementary, I’ve still held back from being involved. I’ve been burnt out (although that doesn’t mean I regret for one second all we did when the kids were in elementary school). Plus, my kids don’t need me hovering, constantly in their space.

I’ve always been one who struggled to say no, though. So I’ve recently felt myself being sucked back in. It started innocently enough – hosting a team building dinner for cheer last Fall. But then you start talking to this coach, or that parent, and suddenly you’re a team mom, and on the board of the Athletics Boosters Club (true story). Yeah. That. At the high school no less. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to help, and be involved. I just thought I was done with all of that.

I’m not quite sure how my kids feel about it. I haven’t invaded their space much, yet. But I’m starting to know people, things that are going on at their school, coaches, teachers.  I’m hoping to not be on campus while they’re on campus, and trust me, I won’t be chaperoning any dances, or field trips.

I think it’s important for our kids to see us involved, taking an active role in their education, including extra-curriculars. I think it’s more important now than an  in elementary to know the all the key players, to remain aware. They might be pushing to become independent, which they of course need to do, but that doesn’t mean I get to check out. So I’ll be a team mom, and I’ll be an Athletics Booster board member. I’ll jump back in to being an actively involved parent. And they’ll like it, darn it.