May 2009

I usually try to dissect the curious events of our day for their meaning, deep or otherwise. But I just got nothin’ for you on this one.

The J-Man’s Preschool Class of Autistic Wonderment joined the older grades from the ‘regular’ classrooms for a school assembly of sorts where some cover band (who I assume cater to the elementary school crowd) did a cappella versions of familiar songs. Note, though, that this is the kind of a cappella group where many of the singers are acting as the instruments, which can be both loud and rather sensory-overloading.

Anyway, they did covers of Rihanna (I’m so uncool that I had to look up how to spell her name) and the Jonas Brothers (no comments on the strange irony of this from those of you with inside knowledge) to what I’m sure were the grating squeals of dozens of little girls, along with a bunch of other songs. The older kids sang along, but for nearly all the songs, the J-Man had his head buried in his teacher’s lap – a.k.a. the ostrich defense.

But for one, he perked right up and started having a great fun time. I really tried to find a way to cleverly lead into this, but to no avail. Just listen and see.

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Like I said, I just got nothin’ for ya here.

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It continues to be barely-organized bedlam here at the Flashlight house. The J-Man has expressed scant opinion of his little brother, however, though in a gesture of uncertain motive, he did take the diaper changing mat off of the changing pad and dropped it over the baby while he was sleeping. It managed to land in an appropriate, blanket-like position, but it could just as easily have been a byproduct of the J-Man’s dislike of cloth/paper/similarly-thin items being anywhere but on the floor or in a container.

So we continue to attempt to discern his mood about Baby Brother with little luck. However, I did see him complete this fine piece of work as part of what has turned into his regular meditation through building blocks. I’ll let you ponder what I think it resembles.


OK, I’ll spare you the pondering. Is he giving us a big, two-foot-tall, multi-colored middle finger about life in general right now? We report, you decide. :-)

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The VERY LONG birth story of E. Normous

by Mary on May 22, 2009

10 lb 2.1 oz, 22 1/4 inches, 1:53 PM, May 5, 2009:

When I went to my appointment on Monday (40 weeks, 1 day), the doctor mentioned that they wanted to put me on the induction list for the next week if I didn’t have the baby during that week. OK, I’m cool with that. They said, “we don’t have any induction openings until at least next Tuesday” so I figured I would have the baby before then anyway. UNTIL… they did a size check, and estimated him to be 10lb 6oz. Boy howdy did the doctors/nurses start burning up the phone lines to the hospital then! They wanted me on the “cancellation list” NOW for an induction. We made it home after the appointment, and sat down to eat… and the phone rang telling me that we would go in the next morning for induction! The hospital was supposed to call between 6 and 8 AM. So, on Tuesday morning at 5:30 AM, our phone rang, and the hospital asked us to be there at 6:45 AM for induction. We had gone to bed at about 12:30…

My parents had come up the night before so they could be with the J-man during the day. They got him dressed and to school while we were at the hospital. They seemed OK with our incredibly specific instructions, although Grammy is often determined to do things the “Grammy way!”

So we got to the hospital, and our awesome doula Elly got there, and they started the saline bag… and we waited… and waited… and finally about 8 AM, the doctor came in and ordered the pitocin and the penicillin (GBS +). (This is the part where I had complained for an hour – I could have SLEPT LONGER!) They hooked up the 2 monitors on my belly, and they kept moving! All this technology, and nobody can come up with monitors better than these?

[click to continue…]

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I just realized it’s been a week since we last posted. Yikes!

The last few days have felt rather like survival mode. Little E has awful reflux, so none of us are sleeping. We’re on our third medication now, which had to be compounded and the only compounding pharmacy is 30-40 minutes away. That doesn’t sound like much, but at rush hour and being so tired that I’m not even sure I’m driving in an actual lane, that was a real struggle. We just feel terrible that he’s having to suffer through this, and we also feel like less-than-great parents for not being able to fix it.

In the meantime, the J-Man has been showing some signs of realization that this whole brother thing is a permanent condition. He hasn’t had any negative behavior toward the baby at all. He is starting some attention-seeking stuff, which is completely understandable. It just makes me feel bad when I’m trying to soothe a miserable baby by walking him lap after lap around the house with the J-Man following behind me and looking sad like we’re all in this sort of ‘blah’ parade around the downstairs.

He had a unusually prolonged tantrum this morning about not getting his cookie (which he doesn’t eat, just carries it around until it’s mush) until he had breakfast. (“First breakfast, then cookie!” – didn’t work…) That was no fun on so little sleep. It’s rather odd that our traditionally poor sleeper is the only one in the house actually getting any sleep at night.

He’s also been doing more of the running back and forth and hollering thing, which is a bit like a cross between ‘I’m overloaded’ and his full-body, whirling dervish, stim-fest. I don’t think it’s at a worrisome level, just something we monitor to get a better sense of his overall mood. He continues to do great at school. If things deteriorated there, I’d start to worry that things were heading south on us. If he struggles within all that structure, that’s not a great sign.

Interestingly enough, all these changes seem to be bringing about improvements in his communication. It’s almost like he feels he needs to try harder to get his point across with the baby around. At one level, this makes me a little sad that perhaps he feels he’s being left out, but the communication itself is a positive thing. We’ve also been able to change a few other routines (like bath time) without much incident. So we’ve seen a lot of positives, even if perhaps they are born out of a lot of stress for him.

Of course, all it takes is for our kids to express one of their frequent moments of cuteness to soothe our tired selves and keep us going until one of these days we finally get some sleep and everything hopefully returns to some sort of equilibrium. Until then we have cute kids and coffee!

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Yesterday afternoon was bleak. We’ve begun the gradual process of car seat rearranging so the J-Man will end up behind the driver seat and Little E behind the passenger seat so the driver can better see him and stick a hand back there if need be.

We didn’t want the J-Man to think his little brother had suddenly displaced him, so we decided to move his seat before we installed E’s seat and went somewhere in the car together. The plan was to get J-Man comfortable on that side and then put them both in the car and go to the store or something.

So, Day 1 of moving the car seat? Complete and utter disaster.

Let’s put this on a scale. We measure meltdowns in Dentist Units – where 1.0 D.U. is the worst meltdown possible, which we can gauge from our visits to the dentist. Haircuts have historically peaked at about 0.9 D.U. Typical tantrums are about 0.1 – 0.2 D.U. I think electrocution or the sudden loss of three or more body parts would be about 1.1 D.U. to give you some idea.

This car seat debacle was up around 0.95 D.U. He went into a complete panic and fought like he was drowning, which may be what it felt like. I tried to remain as calm as possible, or as calm as one can be when you feel muscle pulling and maybe tearing in your shoulder. After some number of minutes of chaos, I finally got him in and we went home with no real issues.

The woman in the car next to us during all this (this was in the school parking lot) was kind and understanding since she has two autistic kids and has been through this all before. For about 0.2 seconds, I thought about what the other parents in the parking lot might be thinking, but beyond that, the only things in my brain primarily focused on just survival. But I do appreciate the kindness and understanding of others like that mom who’ve walked in these same shoes. They don’t really have to say anything, just nod and radiate their knowing and their compassion.

The good news – this morning was pretty much normal, and he got in his seat on the new side like it wasn’t a big deal. So I guess the moral of the story is, little changes can bring about incredible stresses and meltdowns in our kids, but they can prove more resilient than we give them credit for. Small steps, patience, understanding, and a lot of ice.

Speaking of which, I’m still icing my shoulder, but I think this is part of the lesson too. It’s difficult, it’s a physical and emotional challenge for everyone – autistic or not – but things will heal up and we’ll keep moving forward.

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Well, we’ve been home from the hospital since Friday afternoon, and as you might expect, things have been a wee bit chaotic around the Flashlight house. However, I think overall things are going pretty well.

For what they’re worth, here are some of my random observations of our first few days of Parenting x2.

* Things have gone pretty smoothly, relatively speaking of course. In the day-to-day chaos of our lives, anticipatory anxiety is mostly a waste of time. The hundred things that do happen are almost completely different than what you worried would happen. That appears to apply here too.

* We suspect that the J-Man thinks that the baby is just visiting and will go away at some point. I also suspect that this evening he started to get this sinking feeling that this is a permanent situation.

* So far, we haven’t seen any real regressive behaviors or any signs of abnormally high stress in the J-Man. Yay! We’ll take that as a huge positive. He was quite clingy this evening and needed some serious Daddy time, which is why I began to suspect that he’s clueing in to the permanence of this. All that said, though, he’s hanging with the routine pretty well and is probably coping as well as anybody.

* Getting to hang out in the recliner with a son on each side should be in the dictionary as one of the definitions of ‘perfect contentment’. You enjoy that minute before your wiggly toddler gets up and runs off as completely as you can while it lasts. It makes you feel like all this is going to turn out fine.

* I feel a lot less like my attention is divided between the two of them (which I feared) and more that I focus on making every minute with each of them count.

* Having the routine and structure of school has been a godsend for him and for us. It’s amazing how much better he handles life when he’s in school.

* When your baby is the least little bit of ‘a sleeper’, life goes a lot, lot easier. It really helps when he is largely uncaring about loud noises when you have the Stimmy Sound Machine running around the house.

* On a related note, you spend a lot of time comparing random things about what your older kid was like as a baby. The J-Man was never a sleeper, so that definitely not-so-random thing is a big topic of conversation. It’s not like Little E is a big night sleeper at this point, but getting sleep at all is still a relative improvement. He slept 4 1/2 hours straight the other night and we worried that he was dead. J-Man didn’t do that for months.

* I forgot about all the billion random, administrative tasks that have to be done when a child is born. I want to be spending time with my kids, not filling out some damn piece of paper again.

* I think most parents plan and obsess way less with their second child. I think those of us who simply don’t have time to plan anything do so even less. I didn’t even bother to relearn hardly any of the normal ‘what to do with a new baby’ instructions. Stuff does come back to you, though you do get this sense of dread when you realize that you should know something but don’t remember how – like swaddling or how to deal with crap exploding out at the speed of sound while you’re changing your baby’s diaper.

* Two things of major consequence have to happen when we have a baby. One must be weather related, the other must be house related, but neither must be related to each other. With the J-Man, it was Hurricane Katrina and an exploded sewer pipe in our yard. With Little E, it was a tornado warning all around us and a dead freezer full of food in our garage.

* When you have an autistic child, you can’t help but at least occasionally watch for signs of it in your baby. It’s way too early but – rational, fair, or not – it’s there in the back of your mind; might as well be honest about it. I think it’s just one way to try to be prepared for the future.

* Love really does expand so you can love two kids just as wholly and completely as you loved one. As a matter of fact, it both expands and multiplies. I accepted this as one of the truths of existence, but I never really got it at anything beyond a cerebral level until now.

* I’m married to the most awesome woman in the world (no offense to anyone in our audience) and I have two wonderful, beautiful, perfect sons. My God, how great is it to be me!

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Baby Pictures!

May 7, 2009

Here you go! We know he’s wonderful and adorable, but you can still feel free to tell us so!

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It’s Baby de Mayo!

May 6, 2009

We are overjoyed to announce the birth of the 4th member of the Flashlight clan! He arrived yesterday (Cinco de Mayo!) by c-section at 1:53PM. He was (neither of these are typos) 10 lbs 2 oz and 22 1/4 inches! He was born having outgrown whole bunches of clothes and diapers. He is, of course, […]

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