Friday, December 18, 2009

Visiting with Santa and a new job

Yesterday was Nathan's Christmas party at preschool. He was doing very well with the crowd and the entertainment. We did have a bit of a problem in that the group doing the entertainment was obviously not used to very young children and one of them shouted at Nathan for touching one of the props. (For the record, it was sitting right in front of him and had been just left there). Nathan crumpled into tears thinking that he was in trouble. He settled fairly quickly with a hug from Mommy and the guy obviously felt bad and gave him a special set of sticks to bang on for the show.

Nathan was having lots of fun playing with the other children. In fact, he was having so much fun that he was very resistant to coming to see Santa and get his present. Ah well, he wasn't the only one in tears on seeing the big red man. :) Overall, I think he had a good time but it was definitely a little overwhelming and stressful for him. He's been doing very well with all the other Christmas preparations. Tonight we're going to try decorating a gingerbread house. I'll let you all know how it goes.

I've begun a new job which has me working some late nights. So far, I'm doing okay with it. I've discovered I'm still a natural night person and have no trouble with the staying up. It's the getting up the next morning that's a challenge. But that's why the gods invented caffeine. The boys are a little anxious about the change. Alex especially seems to miss me, which makes sense. I spend a lot of time with Nathan during the day and he goes to bed shortly after I leave. Alex is in therapy all day and then has a couple of hours after I leave. I miss them both but it is good to have some extra money coming in.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hello, here we go, it's the Wiggles' Show!

We had an awesome time on Friday taking the boys to see the Wiggles in concert. They tend to do international tours every two to three years and so the timing worked out perfectly where both the boys love the show right now. We had three adults to take care of the two boys and I'll admit that I was nervous about the whole thing. Yes, they love the Wiggles and their music but would they get overwhelmed in the arena? Would they be willing to stay in their seats (as opposed to wanting to run on the stairs or try and get on stage)? Would Alex get upset if they played a song he didn't like? There were a lot of unknown factors but I decided it was worth it to give a try.

I could not be happier with how things went. They were a little bored with waiting but we let them wander around the arena, which made them happy. Nathan made several circuits, including right up to the stage. Avi bought them each a lightstick to wave around and a little plush Big Red Car. (The BRC was a big hit with Alex, he cuddled it throughout the entire concert.)

Once the first notes of "Toot, toot, chugga, chugga" started, Alex's face just lit up and he started jumping up and down in front of his seat with a huge grin on his face. He was singing along and dancing and it was just so wonderful to see. Nathan was a little more uncertain but he was just as excited. Both of them looked a little confused at first that the Wiggles were right there (as opposed to being confined to the TV screen). But they got over that pretty quickly.

The show was fantastic, a lot of acrobatics and they covered a lot of their classic favourites. My personal favourite moment (other than toot, toot) was when they did Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and dimmed all the lights and had the kids waving their lightsticks and adults waving cell phones and a dim blue light sparkling around from a disco ball in the ceiling. It looked really beautiful and wonderful. I only have two very minor complaints. They didn't do a lot from the "Go Bananas" album, which is the newest one and has some real favourites of the boys. And when Murray and Sam came into the audience to say hi to the kids, they both were one aisle over from where we were, so the boys didn't get to say hi.

Alex actually watched Murray the entire time, tracking him with a hopeful grin. We had to hold on to both boys to keep them from running out to tackle the man. I feel a little guilty because at first he stopped at a large open area on the floor and several children approached him. I didn't let the boys go down because I thought he would come up right past us.

You can tell from watching them that they all really love kids and really love what they do. Everyone was having a good time. They took the time to read all of the signs that kids made and collected cards and flowers and pointed out the kids in costume. It really touched me to see how devoted they all are. And it was nice to see them doing some improvisation around the few mistakes that were made. It was very relaxed, very fun.

I made Wiggles' shirts for the boys, which delighted them both. I hand copied the Wiggles' logo onto construction paper and coloured it in. Then Mom sewed the paper to red turtlenecks that I had (I ran out of time so she graciously agreed to do it). The boys were very excited when they saw them. Alex immediately wanted to put on his "Wiggle shirt". He even asked for it again today but the paper didn't survive the night. I'll have to see about making some iron-on decals for them. Nathan even let us change his shirt without a protest. It's the first time in months that's happened.

I'm so proud of them and I'm so glad they had a good time. I know that there's a good chance that Alex will actually remember this. I hope so. Right now, I know that I'm the best Mom in the world in their eyes. And I think that it counts as their best day ever.

Alex asked today to go to the Wiggly concert and I had to tell him no, that it was just one day, a special occasion. They've both been singing the music all day and dancing around.

I don't know if I can express how much of an achievement this is. How badly this could have gone. It gives me a lot of hope and frankly, it was a rare occasion to share something that they truly love. A rare opportunity to make them happy. The sort of blissful happy joy that children are supposed to experience. This was a huge, huge deal and it means a lot to all of us.

The boys were getting a little bored by the end. Nathan kept asking to go on stage and looking at me with grave disappointment when I stopped him. His expression was almost "But my audience needs me!" Alex asked to go play during the final few songs but settled fairly happily when I told him that he had to wait until after the concert.

Another memorably cute moment was when Avi came with nachos. Immediately Nathan got up and switched seats to sit next to his grandfather, all big smiles. Avi graciously offered him some chips and showed him how to dip them in the plasticheese. Nathan wasn't impressed with the cheese but happily munched on the chips. Avi paused at one point to look around and Nathan stealthily took the chip right out of his hand.

I am so glad that we all had a good time. It's a memory that I'm going to treasure for a long time. And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Anthony, Murray, Sam, Jeff, Paul, Greg and the rest of the Wiggles team. You have created something that delights my boys as few other things do. You put on an amazing show and it was our privilege to attend. Thank you all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cute Moment

I came in last night and Nathan was curled up sound asleep with his arms wrapped around the book "I Wish That I Had Duck Feet." It's been his favourite the last few weeks and he's taken to cuddling up with it just like a teddy bear.

I think I have myself a reader. :)

Newspaper Article and Walkathon

As some of you know, our family was profiled in the local newspaper. The article was very well done and presented a fair perspective. We were interviewed because of the difference in how early each of our sons was diagnosed and the differences it made. With Alex, there was such a lengthly period between first thinking something might be wrong and actually getting the diagnosis and then again before we could actually begin treatment (especially the publicly-funded treatment). I think that in some ways we lost some good chances, but at the same time, I know that we did the best that we could with the resources and information we had. Nathan got the benefit of our education with Alex. Now, to be fair, he also seems to have fewer challenges, especially on a sensory level. But he also had less time to retreat into himself and set patterns of behaviour. His progress has been much faster than Alex's. The article focused on that difference and was promoting a new clinic that promises diagnosis and treatment information much faster.

In other news, Nathan's preschool had a walkathon this weekend. It was quite cute to see all of the little ones, some in their school t-shirts over heavy winter coats and others in their Hallowe'en costumes. We met at a local park and walked around the duck pond. Nathan made three circuits, which I think is quite impressive for a little guy who isn't quite three yet. Dave took some pictures so hopefully we'll get some up on here so that everyone can see. Alex also joined us (it was the least he could do since he's an alumni of the same preschool) and he did a long walk along the outer circuit of the park with his aide. I had to stay put at the meeting place to collect people's pledge forms. I don't know how much money we raised but it was certainly a thick sheaf of paper, enough to fill both my pockets! I'm sure we did very well. It was pretty cold, below zero in the wind and ice on the smaller streams, so the boys only stayed for about forty minutes before Dave took them home. Then they came to collect their somewhat frozen mother a few hours later. Overall, I think it was a good success. The kids had fun, no huge tantrums or tearbursts. The adults seemed to enjoy themselves, too. A few even showed up in costume (Bob the Builder, a bunny and Merlin getting my personal thumbs-up). There was even an adorable little miniature fluffy dog wearing a little cap with horns.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daddy's Guilt Trip

On Monday, Dave had the day off and we had a good day with the boys. Alex did very well at kindergarten and had a fantastic speech therapy session. We were playing outside on the playstructure and the boys were having a good time when we got a call from Dave's boss, who was locked out of their office. Dave being the closest to the actual building, was the first called.

Dave asks the boys if either of them would like to go with him. Both of them just kept playing, so he went ahead inside. At that point, Alex decided he wanted to go and Dave took him into the car.

When the garage door opened, Nathan decided he wanted to go, too. He ran around the house just in time to see Dave pulling out of the driveway. I ran after him, shouting and waving and hoping to get Dave's attention. But no luck.

Nathan ran after the car for almost 300 metres, until the first major intersection, where I stopped him. He was perfectly happy, shouting "Daddy! Daddy!" like he thought Dave was playing some game of tag or hide and seek. I'm waving and jumping, still hoping to catch Dave's attention, but he disappeared around the corner.

Luckily I was able to distract Nathan so he didn't get upset. We played around at the bottom of the street for awhile before heading back to our own backyard. There was no real distress on his part, just excitement.

When Dave got back, I told him what happened and as expected, he felt bad about having ditched his little boy. But on the other hand, it's a good lesson for both boys that when someone asks if you want to go, you have to speak up quickly. Since Nathan wasn't upset at all, I'm inclined to think the whole thing was funny. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Alex's First All Nighter

Or at least, the first deliberate one. We had to keep him up all night in order to do a sleep-deprived EEG at the hospital to test to see if his little 'tuning out' episodes were actually seizures.

Keeping a five year old up all night. Piece of cake. Right?

Actually, we did all right. We sent Nathan over to his grandparents' for the night so that he would get a decent night's sleep at least. Then we took Alex out on the town, taking a long tour of Wal-mart, then a visit to his grandmother's and finishing off by getting ice cream at McDonald's at 11:30 at night. Alex was just thrilled. He kept looking at us with a little furrowed brow, as if he was wondering why we weren't telling him to go to bed but he wasn't going to remind us.

From midnight until about 6 am, we played Wii. We borrowed the console and Wii Resort so that we would have something new and active to engage him with. His favourite games are the island flyover, where he likes to make the plane crash and see the little Mii shoot up with a parachute, and the Frisbee dog catch. We are now experts at Wii Frisbee. He also insisted that we could only use Daddy's Mii.

We had a lull around 2:30 until about 4 am where we had to keep shaking him awake. But we gave him a couple of lollipops which got him over the hump. He also got a lot of water and ricemeal to help keep him going.

At 6 am, he decided he wasn't having fun anymore. But at that point we knew that if he napped, he would get enough energy to make the whole exercise a waste of time. So despite how awful it felt to keep on waking him up and having him cry, we kept going (thank the gods for caffeine). He even asked us "Alex sleep?" and it was so hard to tell him that he had to stay awake.

I am pleased that despite being exhausted ourselves, there was no point where either of us came close to losing our tempers. And this despite the fact that we each have a few bruises from where he tried to stop us from holding him up.

We got him to the hospital for a 10:30 appointment without letting him sleep in the car. He tried to fight the electrodes again but didn't have the strength to really push it. About halfway through the test, he fell asleep.

We haven't gotten the official results from the test yet but the preliminary readings suggest that there is no evidence of seizures or epilepsy. The suggestion is that he's just daydreaming and, being autistic, it's harder to pull him out of it than one might expect. That is very good news and a definite relief. One less thing to worry about.

You Might Be A Redneck If . . .

You've spent the day assembling a playstructure for your children.

I got a little sunburned behind the ears. We got it from another family whose children had outgrown it. It's always nice when people are willing to pass on things that are still in good condition.

The instructions say that it should take 1 hour to put together. It took me and my Dad over 5 hours, including a two hour trip to Home Depot to get new screws. (Don't ask, there was much debate.) But we finally got it all together.

The boys absolutely love it. And that makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Day of Preschool

Nathan had his first day of preschool today and it went wonderfully. There were two things I was worried about. Would he be okay with having shoes on instead of crocs? And was he going to be anxious about being left alone? He did protest about his shoes but eventually accepted them on his feet and left them on in the car and wore them all day without a problem. And he had no problem with being left alone. He just walked into the classroom and sat down and started playing. Even when I said goodbye, there was hardly a blink on his part.

I've heard from the teachers that he had a fantastic time. He sat on his own for snack and poured his own juice and enjoyed his crackers and grapes. He sat for the entire circle and listened to the songs and stories. He took turns on his own initiative with another child when playing with a toy. There was a brief temper tantrum when Nathan wanted to leave the class and wasn't allowed to. Another little boy noticed and asked the teacher "Is Nathan sad?" to which the teacher replied "No, he's mad that he can't leave." The little boy then went over to Nathan and began building a block tower nearby. Nathan got interested and joined in the play, tantrum forgotten. The little boy then told the teacher: "See, he's happy now that he can play."

I forsee great things for that little boy. Such compassion is rare enough in adults and I hope that he stays as sweet and insightful as he is now.

Nathan also had a great time outside at the park and didn't want to come home. But when he saw me, he was all smiles and happiness. I got a big hug and he said "Bye-bye" to all the other waiting parents. We're even recognizing some familiar faces from other playgroups and from when Alex was at the preschool. It's like a little mini-reunion.

I am so proud of Nathan and how he's done. And I am very happy with the preschool. They've been accepting and wonderful and you can tell that they're genuinely pleased to have him in the class. He's going to do great there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Day of School - the Results

The results are in and, as anyone could have expected, they are mixed.

Alex did very well. Having a visual schedule helped him a lot in moving between activities. The main issue was in some last minute changes to his schedule. We'd spent a lot of time preparing him for what was going to happen but they changed some key points, like which door he was supposed to go in. He did very well on the tour of the school, not participating too much but not complaining and sticking with the group, which is a big deal for him.

I think there may be some challenges with integrating him into the classroom. Some of the other kids are distracted by the fact that he gets to hold a toy and can move around. However, personally, I think that's something that just needs to be handled honestly and frankly with them. Kids can accept a lot if it's presented in a matter of fact kind of way. With a little understanding and flexibility, I think he'll end up doing very well.

He's not that difficult a kid to deal with (although I'll admit that I'm biased). He has certain needs for how information should be presented to him, but once those needs are met, he's very flexible in dealing with his surroundings.

We'll see how things progress over the year. I'm still not entirely over my anxiety but it's good to have that first day over with.

First Day of School

Today is Alex's first day in an integrated school program. He's starting senior kindergarten today. If all goes according to plan, he'll be in SK one morning a week and then in his behaviour therapy program four days a week.

When I first had children, I expected that the first day of school would be emotional. A sense of loss that my little boy was growing up. A sense of pride that he was doing well. And perhaps a little guilty sense of relief at having some time to myself.

I didn't expect to have to feel anxiety. To be wondering if he's going to be able to make it in kindergarten. I find myself wondering if his teacher and peers will like him or if he'll be so disruptive that he'll be politely asked to leave. There are dozens of horror stories about children with autism having trouble in an integrated program. The mildest versions are the ones where they're ignored and left to do their own thing. The worst are the ones of children who are locked up in "autism rooms" all day and kept isolated.

However, I should be clear. The school so far has been very eager on the subject of integration and his teacher has a great deal of experience. But in our experience, that hasn't always translated into a positive experience for Alex.

I think that's the hardest part. Knowing that I have done everything I can at this point and it is now out of my hands. He's got to succeed or fail on his own and it would be counterproductive for me to try and stand between him and any obstacles. The point of this whole exercise is to see if he can integrate into a regular classroom. If I'm right there, that's not going to help us find that out.

But I still think that this is going to be a very long three hours until he's home and I know how it went.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lots of updates

It's been awhile since I posted anything so forgive me if I leave anything out.

The boys had an amazing time at the cottage with my parents. Alex swam two or three times every day and would have lived in the pool if a) we let him and b) it was warmer. He also got to go on lots of long walks with his grandfather, who is delighted to finally have someone in the family who is interested in nature walks too. We were told he crashed out just about every night and woke up ready to go the next day. Nathan enjoyed himself, too, discovering a whole new bunch of foods that he enjoys (such as bananas, more on that later) and a new bunch of people to appreciate his charm. Nathan is much more cautious in the pool than Alex, but greatly enjoyed wading in the lake. Now for the banana story. We have tried for a long time to get him to eat bananas but he always refused. But apparently he's more than happy to eat them if you leave it in the peel. He makes happy monkey sounds and eats away. It's quite cute to see.

The boys have found a new passion in their lives. The television show The Wiggles. It's the only one they both enjoy watching. (Alex has been wanting to watch Mythbusters and nature shows on Discovery, Nathan still likes Elmo and Sesame and neither likes the others' programs.) But they are both loving the Wiggles, dancing and singing along with the music. We've even invested in a few DVDs and they are getting well used. We're actually going to try and take the boys to see them in person when they come to Ottawa in the fall. It just seems like too much of an opportunity to pass up. It's so rare that we get opportunities at the same time that they're actually interested in something. So cross your fingers for us. I'll let you all know what happens at the show.

Alex's therapy team is changing. We're losing his lead therapist to another position. We wish her well but we're going to miss her. She's been a favourite of Alex's to work with and he often asks for her by name. She is that rare combination of balanced enthusiasm and professionalism and she is probably responsible for a lot of the progress Alex has made since beginning his program, coaxing him to try new things. He'll be beginning kindergarten in a few weeks and I'm a little nervous to see how things are going to go.

Nathan's therapy team is also changing. Since he'll be starting preschool two mornings a week, we had to shift some of his sessions to the afternoon which means we get someone new. Again, we'll miss the previous therapist. She's been very pleasant to work with. But I'm excited about him starting preschool. I think he's really going to love it and it's going to be great for him to interact with other children his own age.

I think that just about covers everything for now.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vacation Days

Alex is officially off to the cottage with his grandparents for a week. This is the third year he's gone and he always has a great time. It looks like he'll get some good weather, too. My guess is that he'll spend most of his time in the pool and on the playground.

This means that Nathan gets some quality two-on-one time with his parents. This morning, we were able to go out to the park. It was nice and almost relaxing. The slides were all very wet from last night's rain but that didn't stop Nathan from enjoying himself. At first, I tried to stop him from going through the puddle but then I realized I was spoiling his fun. A little water and dirt wasn't going to hurt him. So I relaxed and he had a fantastic time, even though water was occasionally dripping from his shorts.

He's definitely more adventurous than the other kids his age. We must have hit the right time for two-year olds at the park. Usually it's mostly older kids but this time we had about five different children, all around two years old. Nathan was very social, saying hi to the other children when I prompted him and even being surprisingly patient about waiting in line. But he was the only child to climb the big ladder by himself and certainly the most fearless when it came to going down the big slides.

I have to say that I'm really encouraged by how well he was interacting with the other children. One of the things I love about our neighbourhood is how multi-cultural it is and this morning was definitely a multicultural experience. We heard Arabic, Chinese and Russian (I'm guessing a little, so apologies if I've gotten it wrong). Nathan seemed quite intrigued by all the different languages.

He decided when he'd had enough and told me "All done." I asked him if he wanted to go home and he repeated "Go home. All done." Then he took off down the path to go home. But he did stop and wave good-bye to everyone when I prompted him.

All in all, a good first day of vacation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nathan Summer Camp and Alex's Evaluation

Today was Nathan's first day at summer camp. It's only a week and run by his therapists for the children who are most advanced socially. They use it to practice social skills between the children.

I admit I was worried. He's been so attached to me lately that I wasn't sure he was going to be able to relax and have fun. But he handled it beautifully. Dave dropped him off in the morning and tells me that once Nathan saw the toys, there was no more fuss. I picked him up and while he was happy to see me, he wasn't desperate. And I saw him playing on the slide, so I know he wasn't sitting and waiting for me. The staff tell me that he had a great time, with only a little fussiness before snack.

When I picked him up, he waved goodbye to all the staff and gave them all kisses. That's my little charming flirt at work. I'll bet that it won't be long before he's the favourite, if he's not already.

Last week, Alex had his annual psychological review for his ABA program. This is to evaluate his progress and see how he's learning to generalize the skills they're teaching him. They got a very productive forty-five minutes out of him but unfortunately it was an hour and a half test. I personally think he did very well since last year he was barely able to follow any of the instructions. It isn't that he doesn't know how to do what's being asked, it's that he still has trouble with the concept of doing things when he isn't particularly interested.

We'll get the report in another couple of weeks. I'm not terribly worried about them but it will be interesting to see how it compares with last year.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Canada Day

Okay, now we have something to write about!

Our family had an excellent Canada Day, very low key for the most part. We went for a drive in the morning, which the boys always seem to enjoy. We drove out into cottage country and got to see some of the lovely picturesque little towns outside of Ottawa. Nathan drifted off for the last little bit, but Alex seemed quite alert and interested throughout. Then we had a nice lunch and took the boys out for a walk to the park. They were enjoying themselves quite a bit, although I had the thought that we looked like a divorced family, one parent and one kid each, well separated at all times. :) Nathan started to fade after a bit so I brought him back home to nap but Dave and Alex stayed out for well over an hour.

The boys got their supper at their usual time, but neither of them were inclined to settle down so Dave and I decided that we would let them stay up until the fireworks. We'd planned to wake them up to go, but if they weren't sleepy, there didn't seem to be much point in putting them in their rooms. Dave actually did most of the labour on our supper, a very traditional Canadian dish: Old El Paso tacos. :) Nathan surprised us by sitting down at table with us and helping himself to meat, cheese and tortilla chips. He ate a fairly decent second supper and was chatting away with us the whole time. Alex is still quite disgusted at the sight of us eating and spent the time watching his favourite shows without his brother to annoy him.

The fireworks were lots of fun. We're lucky enough to have found a good spot to watch the Kanata display that isn't too crowded (mainly because it seems to be a major mosquito breeding ground). We arrived ten minutes before the show and were home twenty minutes after it finished. And there was plenty of room for the boys to run around and still have a good view. We brought some glowsticks, which Alex loved. He collected them from all of us, although we stopped him from taking all of Nathan's. When the fireworks started, Alex was jumping up and down and shrieking with laughter and excitment; Nathan was so startled that he sat down on the ground with his mouth open, staring at the sky. But pretty soon Nathan was dancing in place and giggling just like his brother. Alex lost interest halfway through but was very interested in the reflection of his glowsticks in a nearby car window.

Both boys are cranky today from lack of sleep, but I still count it as a good experience. They had a lot of fun, got to spend time with both parents and most importantly, we kept expectations light. It doesn't matter to me if they ran around and weren't looking at the fireworks the whole time. There was a family next to us where Mom was obviously at the end of her rope and threatened to take the whole family home if anyone else complained about the wait. I can't judge, but my thought is that kids aren't perfect and yelling at them only taints the positive aspects of the day. At the end of the day, they had fun. That's the important part.

Oh and one more completely unrelated note. Dave got Seasons 1 and 2 of Titus, an old Fox TV sitcom. Often you watch these things and they aren't as good as you remember. Well, this one isn't as good as I remember, it's better. Kudos to you, Christopher Titus (writer and star). Well done.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Update

It's been awhile since we posted. It's been fairly hectic here but we're slowly starting to slow down.

Nathan is doing very well with his therapy, making good progress on his language and social skills. Alex has also been doing well and seems to be enjoying his therapy.

There's not a whole lot to report. Life continues its grind. We're starting to realize that the trip in November is coming more quickly than we realized and it's time to start making more plans and making sure we have what we need.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starfield for Nathan

We've always felt bad that Nathan didn't have a special touch to his room the way Alex has with his mural. So Jenn got the idea to put stars up for Nathan. Originally we were going to paint something, based on the color and speckle layout on the back of one of Alex's toys, but getting that together never happened. While out last week, Jenn found some glow-in-the-dark stars and planets, and we figured we would give that a try. To get a reasonable layout, we used his Star Turtle, a light-projector which projects pseudo-constellations and gives a good density (click pictures to enbiggen):

These pictures were taken with our mini camera, which performed way better than I expected it would. Naturally, long-shutter photography inspires play with an available laser pointer:

But one quick trip back to the mall to pick up a small number of stars to fill out the ceiling a bit more, and we get the result:

There are around 120 stars plus some planets up on his walls and ceiling now. We hope he likes it. I think it turned out really well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Our latest trip to Toronto for the sibling study went quite well. Memee kept Nathan awake through the morning and early afternoon, so he crashed almost as soon as he was strapped into the car. And he woke up about ten minutes before we reached the McDonald's Playplace that I was planning to stop for dinner. It's been a long time since I had McDonald's and I think it'll be a long time again, but Nathan enjoyed it. He very carefully helped himself to all the little ketchup cups and grabbed my milkshake. He still doesn't know how to drink from a straw but he made a good try of it. And he got to have a good run around which made him much happier to get back in the car for the second half of the trip.

Nathan did a lot better staying in the hotel with me. I think he liked having my undivided attention. And being able to fall asleep in front of the TV. Nathan had a grand old time running around the room, playing with his toys. And eventually he climbed up on the bed and snuggled up until he fell asleep.

He woke up bright and early the next morning. Unfortunately, he didn't like the French toast that I ordered him for breakfast so his birthday breakfast was a bottle of milk and a cup full of Cheerios. But he was a real hit with all the hotel staff. They made faces at him and he just lapped up the attention.

His assessment went well. I think having the appointment in the morning and a reasonable night's sleep the night before helped a lot. He still ended up falling asleep in my lap two thirds of the way through. They saw a lot of improvement in his eye contact and verbal skills. His receptive language has gone from an 11 month level to a 15 month level in the last three months.

The trip home went fairly well. Nathan didn't sleep so we took more frequent breaks. He is definitely the darling of the roadside Tim Hortons along the 401. Once they found out it was his birthday, he got a free chocolate chip cookie at one place, a free Timbit in another and a free bag of pretzels in another. All in all, I think he had a good experience. And so did I.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pictures From The Road

Two photos from Nathan's Birthday roadtrip to Toronto:

Click the photos to see the larger version.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Troubling news

Alex had an appointment with a neurologist at CHEO and it turns out that there is something going on in that little brain. Alex has always been prone to "tuning out" periodically, which we've chalked up to the autism or even just thinking. However, there is a chance that what we've been seeing is in fact something called "absence seizures" where the brain simply stops talking to the body for a brief period. However, they can't say for certain because he fought the EEG so much that most of the scan ended up simply being noise. They did see enough to say that there is something unusual going on though.

The plan now is to try a sleep-deprived EEG, which is where we keep Alex up the night before in the hopes that he'll fall asleep with the apparatus on so that we don't get any movement problems. If that doesn't work, they would need to move to an MRI, which would require a general anesthetic. They don't seem to be in a hurry to book the next EEG, which I'm taking as a good sign of lack of concern.

We'll keep everyone posted as we know more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Birthday Madness Wish Lists

Hey everyone,

Birthday month is almost here and we have a few unusual requests for this year. We've been looking over the accumulation of toys and such, trying to come up with a wish list and we've come to a surprising conclusion.

There's nothing that the boys would really want.

The stuff that they play with, they have plenty of (blocks, cars, lego). So we don't really need any more of it. But what we could use are some opportunities to get out of the house and do things as a family. So we're asking for gift certificates or donations towards a couple of specific goals:

- a membership to Cosmic Adventures
- memberships to the Museum of Civilization or Science and Technology

I'll be blunt with all of you and admit that money is really tight, so we can't afford to go out as often as we'd like. So this would be really helpful. If you'd like to get them a little something, then a Hot Wheels car or a bouncy ball would be popular (the balls shouldn't be smaller than a golf ball, or else they're a choking hazard for Nathan).

For Dave and I, here are some suggestions:

Gift cards:
HBC, Sears
Addition Elle

V for Vendetta
Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (this one is just for me, I'm missing one of the disks)
Titus, Season 1 and 2
Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

Let him eat cake!

Sometimes my boys are just too cute for words.

We were having dinner over at my folks and Nathan dutifully ate his steak and broccoli and baked potato, without much enthusiasm but without much of a protest either. But clearly it wasn't quite enough. My mom got up to get something else from the kitchen and in a movement worthy of one of the cats, Nathan stands up on his high chair and grabs the half finished steak off her plate and crams it all into his mouth. It was over almost before any of us realized what had happened. He gave us a great big grin full of meat.

We have a bit of a chuckle over that and my mom offers to give him a piece of cake for dessert. "Since he's obviously still hungry."

Nathan gets a small slice of chocolate cake and his eyes light up. He digs into it with real enthusiasm and it vanishes almost instantaneously. He gets a second small slice and it vanishes a little slower but still fairly promptly. I, being the mean mother that I am, call a halt on the refills and conversation continues around the table. Nathan is despondently picking through the crumbs of chocolate and dabs of icing on his plate and casting longing glances at the cake across the room.

About now, my father, who is sitting next to Nathan, finishes up his dinner and puts aside his plate for the dessert one with a large slice of cake already there and waiting.

Nathan's eyes light up and his mouth forms a tiny "o" of surprise. He very carefully lifts up his plate and places it on top of my mother's empty dessert plate. Then he reaches over and slides Dad's plate in front of him. Dad takes it back with a bemused grin and Nathan reaches right back on over and takes it again. This time, he takes the precaution of grabbing a big handful out of it and cramming it into his mouth. I am trying desperately not to laugh and encourage him but he's staring up at Dad with huge eyes and a mouth full of chocolate with an expression that says "Am I really going to get away with this?"

Dad starts to laugh and that's enough for Nathan to relax and grin. The two of them share the piece of cake amid many shared giggles.

I know it's not good that my son is a food-thief and it's something I'll have to work on. But as far as I'm concerned, it's still an adorable story.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

End of an Era

The crib has been officially packed up and put away and my baby is sleeping in a big boy bed now.

It's a mixed-emotion moment. I'm glad and excited about him growing up, but also a little sad at how big and independent my little one is getting.

Last night was the first night and he did fairly well. It took him a couple of hours to settle, along with a lot of visits from Mom. But eventually he fell asleep and he even did it in the bed, with his head on the pillow and the duvet tucked up around him. Unlike his brother, who celebrated his first night of freedom by falling asleep in front of the door. And his second, and third . . . lots of nights in front of the door.

Nathan woke up a few times in the night but was quickly reassured and went back to sleep fairly easily.

Naptime today went considerably better (him being tired definitely helped). A few mumbly protests and he was asleep in under twenty minutes. Tonight he crashed out practically before Dad was finished reading the story. So I think we can count it as a successful transition.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Minor Miracles

Sometimes, the gods do nice things for us. Like today. We went to Walmart to pick up bedding for Nathan's new bed (he's finally outgrowing the crib) along with a few other necessities. Nathan brought a few toys, a plastic pig and a small plastic Muppet Babies Kermit. These two are his current favourites, they go along pretty much everywhere.

I wasn't paying as much attention as I probably should have, trying to remember everything we needed to pick up. I was feeling rather satisfied when we got to the checkout counter and suddenly I realize that we have a disaster in the making.

Kermit is missing.

Nathan is looking at me expectantly, as if he's waiting for me to pull Kermit out of the various articles in the cart and give him back. The clerk is looking at me as if I might be mildly crazy as I start searching through everything. No luck. The frog is definitely gone. Lost somewhere in a major box store that we've just wandered through.

Not good.

I pay for our purchases and start to retrace our steps with the sinking certainty that there is no real chance that we're going to find Kermit again. I can't even go out and get a replacement Kermit because this is one that I got in a Happy Meal from McDonald's when I was six or seven. Nathan is beginning to get upset that I am not producing his favourite toy and the staff and other customers are starting to get the same expression as the clerk as I wheel down the aisles, staring at the ground, searching for a little green figure.

After double checking all of the places we visited and spending a fair amount of brainpower to remember just which aisles we walked down while going between those places, I give up. I bravely tell my two year old that his toy is gone, vanished into the ether. I try to spin the story that maybe some other child picked it up and now Kermit will go to make that family happy. Yeah, Nathan didn't buy that one either. But he's handling it pretty well and I resign myself to leaving the store, frog-less, when I spot something.

A little green figure standing on a shelf with a wide grin. Our very own Kermit.

Nathan was very happy to get his friend back, offering him big hugs and several smacking kisses. I take a moment to thank the gods for kindly guiding me to that particular shelf.

Everyone who has lost a toy, or had a child who has lost a toy, knows the astronomical odds against finding a two inch figurine in a department store. So thank you to whoever was listening. Kermit is now safely back at home and shoved under the couch where he belongs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bad Weekend

You know, we've gone through weekends where both kids were sick and we weren't feeling too good ourselves and I thought those were bad. But now I have a new winner.

Both adults feeling flat-out, horribly sick. Kids, absolutely fine.

When our kids are sick, usually they're quiet, happy to cuddle and watch TV. When they're well, they don't understand why Mommy and Daddy only want to lie down and groan. They want to play which is so sweet and heartbreaking when you're exhausted and in pain.

Ah well, now we're on the road to recovery and so far (knock on wood) the kids are still healthy. Thankfully the grandparents were willing to help and I'm very grateful to my mom for taking on both children on Monday so that I could get a chance to sleep and recuperate.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

And the "It's A Small World" award goes to . . . .

Turns out that one of the other moms at Alex's IBI program used to babysit me back when I was six.

And then I get a cookie. :)

Nathan got his immunizations this week and he did very well. He only cried a little but then he was clinging to me and asking for a "cookie" (one of the few words he's using reliably these days). Our doctor's office is beside a grocery store, so I decided to go in and see if I could get something fresh from the bakery to give him. When we got to the counter, all I could see were boxes of about a dozen cookies, so I asked the woman if I could buy a single cookie for my son, explaining that he'd just had a shot. She replied, "Oh, poor thing. He's being so good." And she gave us a free chocolate chip cookie, which perked Nathan right up. He smiled at her and even managed a credible "Tanku" (thank you).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Valentine's Day Gift

Okay, this is a little out of date due to some technical difficulties on posting the picture. But I still want to share the lovely gift my son gave me for Valentine's Day.

We get a lot of craft stuff every week from Alex's program and while we oooh and aaah over it, we know that for the most part, it has been fashioned by his therapist with a little enforced help from Alex. This time, however, we got a note that told us that Alex picked out all the pieces himself and strung them all together himself. And he handed it over to me himself (okay, with a little prompting, but that's still huge).

I wore this necklace very proudly for the whole day and Alex seemed quite intrigued by that. He kept coming up to look at it and finger it. After I wore it, I tucked it away in his special momentos box where it will stay safe.

Thank you, Alex. Happy Valentine's.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Texas Holding Them

Daddy can tell without looking that he's holding King-Jack because those are his two favorite cards. Oddly enough, he hates the Ace of spades so much he'll remove it from the deck if he finds it...

Face Paint

Bored Mommy plus markers plus little boy equals...

Friday, February 13, 2009

ASD Diagnosis

Yesterday, Nathan had his assessment and the verdict is in, he is definitely on the autism spectrum.

Now that we have an official diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, we can start getting him the help that he needs. We're looking into the options and right now, we're thinking speech therapy along with some play-oriented IBI (Intensive Behavioural Intervention). It's fairly clear to us at this point, that he's going to be higher-functioning than his brother since he has much less severe issues, so it'll be a matter of finding the right option for his age and level. Most children aren't diagnosed for another two to three years, so there will definitely be a challenge.

No matter how much we prepared for this, it was still hard to hear. I love both my children and I know that they're going to do all right but I can't help but be angry that this has happened to them. In the race of life, they've been handed a backpack full of heavy stones and told to compete. They can still reach all the goalposts as anyone else, but it's going to be harder and take more work. It doesn't seem fair that they've been handed this extra challenge.

I will do whatever I have to in order to give them the best possible chance in life. That is my promise to both of them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sleigh Ride and Newfound Literacy

This weekend we took Alex for a sleigh ride at Smithvale Farms on Carling. It was very pleasant, the staff was friendly and accomodating.

We were the only people on the sleigh and Alex was a little uncertain at first but after awhile he got quite interested. He went to stand up beside the driver, fascinated by watching the horses. The driver even let him "drive" by holding the reins. Alex was very excited by that, jumping up and down and squealing. Fairly soon, he was singing, which we explained was a sign that he was enjoying himself. The driver said he was just grateful it wasn't "Jingle Bells." Alex was getting a little cold towards the end of the drive and wanted to cuddle with me. Which was a nice end to the day.

The other interesting point over the weekend was that Alex took some of his letters from his alphabet puzzles and spelled out "jump" and then had the toy frogs jumping up and down next to it. He's showing more and more signs that he recognizes written words. I think my little boy is learning to read.

All in all, a very good weekend.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Discoveries and Cuteness

We've made an interesting discovery. Nathan sleepwalks.

We were pretty sure he talked in his sleep but the other night, I went in and not only was he babbling up a storm, he was standing up in his crib, sound asleep. His eyelids were drooping and his eyes were flipping around, a sign I remember well from my sister's sleepwalking incidents.

This will make things interesting when he outgrows the crib in a few more weeks.

But the more interesting news is what he did yesterday while we were out on a playdate. We were getting close to the time to go when Nathan brought me his coat and asked: "Go?" Then he dumped the coat in my lap, walked over to our hostess and babbled: "Ge-a-babba-dar-na. Bye-bye." Then he waved at her and leaned in to give her a hug and a kiss.

I'm so proud of my little boy.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Bit of a rough weekend. Alex did one of the classic small child self-injury actions. He burned his fingers on the stove.

We were cooking dinner on Saturday night and he just came up to the stove and tried to touch the glowing element. He yanked it back so quickly that, at first, I was hopeful that I'd managed to startle him before he could actually touch it. But the first howls of pain put the lie to that hope. We managed to get it under cold water fairly promptly but he's got a blister on the pad of every finger on his right hand. The worst one is on his index finger, the blister covers almost the entire pad.

According to Telehealth, he should be fine as long as he keeps the blisters intact and he doesn't get an infection. He's protecting that hand fairly fiercely, keeping it curled up in a fist for the most part, so fingers crossed on that front, everyone.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank the nurse at Telehealth. She was very understanding and quickly grasped the difficulties that Alex's autism presents. An excellent professional assessment and I only regret that I didn't catch her name. Thank you.

He's doing very well with using his left hand for everything and aside from not using that right hand, he's pretty much back to normal.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Favourite Toy

I just have to share about this because it is too cute and too funny.

On Sunday, Alex went to the grocery store with his Dad. They went right past the toys and balloons without a whimper but when they went down the paper goods aisle, he got quite excited and demanded "Toilet paper!" We needed to pick some up so Dave got an eight pack and gave it to him.

Well, Alex hugged that pack to him all through the grocery store. And in the car. And once he got home. He even ended up taking it to bed with him. We snuck it out of his room and put it away in the closet.

When he got up on Monday, he demanded it right away. "Toilet paper!" I told him it had been put away and tried to distract him with other toys but no luck. He was absolutely insistent. He even dragged a chair over to the closet and tried to reach it himself. Eventually, I gave in and let him haul it around again. To give you an idea on how popular it's been, his second favourite toys have been a pair of yellow balloons. Nathan took one and Alex howled and tried to get it back, dropping the toilet paper in the process. Nathan, crafty little soul that he is, dropped the balloon and grabbed the toilet paper. Alex immediately abandoned the balloon and went to rescue the toilet paper, leaving Nathan to enjoy the balloons.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holiday Finale

It's all over now. The decorations have been packed away for yet another eleven months and tucked into their corner of the basement. Overall it's been a good holiday but I think we're all looking forward to getting back into the routine.

On other notes, Alex has been having a lot of trouble going to sleep lately. Although he's been going to bed at the regular time, it was starting to be normal occurrence that he was still awake after eleven and sometimes even midnight. Dave made a great observation that maybe it was the overhead light keeping him awake (Alex is tall enough to manipulate the switch himself and often turns it back on after we turn it off). So we removed the bulbs from the lamp and left a dim nightlight on a high shelf so that he had a little light.

He was asleep within fifteen minutes.

And today he's been sweet and attentive without the usual tantrums. The big test will come tonight to see if he goes to sleep again. Fingers crossed.