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Mighty Bear

Jan. 29th, 2017

12:49 pm - Just parenting things . . .

Today, as I was tidying the kitchen, I chided Connor for making the dog anxious. He was pretending he was going to sit on her. He explained to me "I am just teaching her not to be stressed!"

I said "Oh, I see! That's a good idea!", and turned to get a steak knife from the drawer. "Come here, Connor . . . you can use a little less stress in your life, too!", I said, grinning with an evil glint in my eye.

He started laughing and said "NOPE!"

I said "No, really, this is a super idea! We can work on your anxiety! Come over here!"

He doubled over with laughter and still, for some reason, didn't want to come over to me.

So I explained that we shouldn't waste this opportunity, and began moving towards him. He explained that he was busy at the moment, and, still laughing (I promise), began miming running away in slow motion, with everything obstructing his way.

It's in moments like these that I marvel at the situations I find myself in - chasing my son around with a sharp knife - and being pleased at how the object lesson went.

Don't worry, no children were harmed in the making of this story. Although I wonder how this will read to his therapist, years from now =P

Jan. 4th, 2017

10:29 am - Well, apparently not EVERYTHING

We have been eating a lot of hard boiled eggs thanks to the new Instant Pot. My kids aren't fans of the yolks, though (just as I am not - texture thing, mainly.)
But I love deviled eggs, so today after Chase made a batch I told him I'd devil the eggs for him to see if I could get him to eat some yoke.
I did, and he was hugely impressed - ate them up, yum!
I said "Do you know who makes great deviled eggs?"
He said "Who??"
I said "JoJo!" (Mark's aunt.)
He said "Oh. I was ready for you to say Uncle Jason. He does great everything, according to you."
I guess Chase's illusions are dashed, now. Jason can't be the best at EVERYTHING. =)

10:28 am - Buggy Tea Kettles

Connor told me recently that the tea kettle "broke." I asked what had happened to it, and he said he didn't know, but it no longer whistles when water is boiling.

I thought this seemed implausible, given the simple nature of the device, but didn't think much of it.

So next time I went to boil water, I noticed the kettle was filled to the brim with water already, and realized that was the source of his problem.

Today Connor decided to boil some water. I heard the kettle heating up and went in to share my theory with him. He was amazed. "OHHHHH! That explains a -LOT- of my problems."

So maybe a lot of his problems will now resolve! I can only hope.

Dec. 2nd, 2016

08:31 am - Connor's style . . .

Connor is wearing the same shirt he wore yesterday, and possibly the day before. I asked if he maybe wanted to change it. He said "It's not like anyone noticed it yesterday!"

I said "So does this mean you're going to wear it until you get a comment on it?"

He said, exasperated "YES, I want people to notice my shirt!"

So I guess, if he is going to wear clothes until people comment on them, at least I'll have a lot less laundry to do. =P

Nov. 21st, 2016

06:50 am - Connor, Chapter 3

Ah, what an adventure it’s been, raising this kid. It’s definitely time for an update, since we’ve definitely seen some changes with him. Also, it may help some of you understand why I have withdrawn from life quite a bit in the past couple of years.

Thinking back on it, I have to break Connor’s life up into three-ish chapters (so far)

Chapter One:The Age Before Kids Have Long Term Responsibilities
Connor is hyper and self-centered, but in elementary school, for the most part, kids aren’t expected to do anything beyond the moment. In 5th grade he had a token project or two, but because it didn’t count for the bulk of his grade, he could coast by on sloppy classwork and great test grades.

From a parenting standpoint, Connor is an aggravation, serious at times, but it’s tolerable. He had bursts of anger which would result in very inappropriate behavior. I’d assign consequences to those behaviors, and at times, he would refuse THOSE, which of course resulted in more consequences, and sometimes things got out of hand, sometimes for as long as a couple of weeks.

The times when he was NOT blowing up, though, he was bright and charming and funny and helpful.

Around 5th grade, he developed more of a fixation on computers than he’d had before (and what he’d had before was significant, so that much of my parenting energies was spent on controlling screen time.)

And this brings us to . . .

My efforts to help Connor grow up, evidence some self-control, be responsible enough to be in school and sleep reasonable hours resulted in more conflicts between us, more outbursts from him, and more consequences.

By the time the summer between elementary school and middle school came around, I had one wish for his behavior. . . . that he not stay up all night. I figured if I could get him sleeping on a normal schedule, the rest would fall into place.

So I told him that over the summer, his solitary job was to wake up by 8:30. If that happened, he’d get anything he wanted. Computer time all day, we’d go out and have fun, have friends over, get treats all day, go swimming - whatever. If he didn’t get up by 8:30, he’d have to work on his handwriting and write a few sentences about the importance of waking up on time, the number of repetitions increased depending on how much later he woke up. After writing the sentences, he would be allowed to play on the computer for a couple of hours.

You may be able to tell how desperate I was at this point. =P

My hope was that the reward would be so attractive to him that he would at LEAST force himself to wake up in the morning, even if he was exhausted all day. That would make it easy for him to fall asleep at night and then get him on a reasonable schedule.

Instead what happened was that he just refused. He did not like the writing at all, so spent all day on “the torture mat” at my feet, where I spent every waking minute of every day trying to get him to just get his consequence over with so he could move on to play time and his 2 hours. He basically would waste his whole day protesting this, and it eventually got to the point where he had so much to write (thanks to waking late and consequences for not doing his writing) that it was impossible for him to do it all.

Over an entire summer, he woke up on time all of three days. The rest of the summer he spent torturing ME for the audacity I had, trying to make him do something he didn’t want to do. And also coming up with fiendish clever ways to get on the computer after we went to bed.

Chapter Two-Point-Five: Middle School
I wrote a long rant about this at some point, I believe. I did a reboot with the consequences and told him his job was to maintain B’s in his classes, with as much of my help as I could offer. I communicated with his poor teachers a lot, I monitored his web pages, I checked his homework and projects.

For his part, he developed fiendish ways to make it look like he’d done his homework, perfected the art of lying, and came up with even more fiendish ways to get on a device or stay up late doing what he wanted. In classes he was impossible. If he was bored, he would create a scene. If he didn’t want to do work, he simply didn’t. End of story. What could the teachers do? They can’t touch him . . .

I met with teachers and administration at the school a LOT. Out of the thousands of kids they’d seen, there was never one quite like Connor, I was told =P

At home, I tried to offer rewards enough and supply consequences enough for his bad behaviors that he should have been happy to spend the few minutes a day doing the dumb things he needed to do, but no luck. It got to a point where he was destroying my house, because he could. I had no way of making him reimburse me, and when I tried to get him to help repair or clean up his messes, he would go on to make more and more spectacular messes. Oh, we have SO many holes in my walls and damaged cabinetry =P

At this stage, my life was a never ending battle of wits and wills with him. Both of us were miserable and angry all the time. Connor always claiming that his behavior was out of his control, and me thinking “Bulls***, you had to spend a lot of time coming up with these plans to get computer access while I was asleep, for one thing, you little ass” (I was beyond using polite language in my thoughts at this point!)

Thinking about Connor’s temperament, I honestly could not envision a future that did not end in death or jail for him. We tried all different psychologists, various psychiatric help, social classes, reward and punishment systems, and it was all for nothing.

Chapter Three: All Praise Psychiatry and Parenting Flexibility!
Around the time I was asking Connor’s psychiatrist who I could call to get legal advice on what I was allowed to do to this kid (I was wondering if I could handcuff him to me while he should be sleeping, no kidding) she suggested that we try drugging him to sleep at night, more or less.

I felt very weird about doing that, for some reason. Looking back, I wish I’d started it a lot earlier.

We started giving him pills at night that would make him very drowsy. He could still fight sleep, but he could only fight it so long, and so he started going to bed at a reasonable hour, therefore waking at a reasonable hour, getting enough sleep, feeling generally better about things, and basically everything started to turn around, here.

Not long after this, we also got a diagnosis from a neuropsychologist that verified that he is on the Autism spectrum. This didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. (I mean, ALL of us are on the spectrum, because it’s a spectrum) But somehow, between the official diagnosis and his newfound ability to not stay up all night basically NOT SLEEPING, I was able to make myself accept some things about him.

Connor is something like The Incredible Hulk, only (thank god) without the superpowers that go along with the transformation.

A few times a day, something will frustrate or enrage him. I’ve asked him to pick his socks up off the floor, or come to dinner, or other traumas along those lines . . .


Now, old me would have Mom-Hulked out, because SERIOUSLY?? This level of response over something so silly? So I would sternly chide him, and he would scream back at me, and the cycle (hours to weeks long) would begin.

But now I just let him scream, and when he’s gotten it out, repeat what I said. I say it very calmly, or even with a joke. He might whine at this point, or he might scream again. In any case, I just calmly wait, and say it again.

Eventually, he just transforms back into Connor and does what he’s supposed to do. What’s weird is that he’s very chipper and cute about it at this point, as if all that other stuff didn’t happen. He always apologizes, and it seems sincere.

Because we are not constantly at each other’s throats, his general attitude is a LOT better with me. He wants to help out around the house. He wants to get his school work done (maybe, sometimes) because he enjoys the praise he gets for doing okay. (Also, I’ve promised him that if he ever gets perfect grades, I’ll get him a VR system, so that might be helping. =P)

So I just had to a) get him sleeping so he could actually function and b) realize that he really CAN’T control these outbursts, and leverage the fact that he CAN and DOES recover from his rage very very quickly, and still does what he needs to do.

Life is SO much better with him. I can now picture a decent future for him. I can now enjoy time with him (a lot, actually.) He’s making B’s in all his classes. He’s very affectionate with the family.

I still have trouble imagining him functioning on his own, but I’m told he may just be emotionally delayed, and will grow out of his Hulkiness at some point. I’m also told that the fact that we are not hating each other always is the most important factor in his chances for future success, because often kids in his shoes DO mature, but at that point, their familial relationships are so damaged at that point that the kids turn their new skills towards revenge.

We do have a great relationship. He is making decent grades at school, with a lot of help from me on keeping on top of things and studying. He is on the computer a lot more than is healthy for a kid his age, but at least he’s doing the dumb things he needs to do, and I have come to terms with that. You pick your battles.

My only personal complaint is that even after things have gotten so much better with him, with my newfound parenting technique of not flipping out, is that the emotional energy required to *not* flip out is still astronomical for me. So several times a day, at unpredictable times, he will start shrieking about something absurd, and it’s my job to be calm and not strangle him. ;)

So while things are so much better for Connor, and everyone else in his life by extension, *I* feel like I’m part of some awful experiment where I go about my day, and at any random time, I might get painfully shocked, and it’s completely out of my control. I am in a high state of anxiety all the time, but I have to remain calm. The randomness is so incredibly draining and stressful.

But he’s my son, and I see a light at the end of the tunnel, and so I will make it through the next few years. I hope =)

Wish me luck!

Jul. 14th, 2016

11:27 am - Chase's wisdom

Heh. Going out school-supply shopping for the boys. Chase groaned, "Why do I have to go?"

I retorted "Well, why do *I* have to go?" and then braced myself for the completely predictable response of "Because I can't drive and don't have a way to pay?"

I had my response to THAT planned out already, as this kind of thing comes up fairly often with Connor.

But my wise son instead said "Okay. -.-"

Boy, some kids are easier than others!

Jul. 7th, 2016

01:16 pm - Connor's schemes

Because Connor has a lot of trouble with self-regulation, it's the rule in our house that we keep a decent sleep schedule. To help with this, I've instituted a rule where the kids are allowed to play computer un-interrupted until 9:30 AM. For the most part, Connor's been up and dressed so that he can play every day.

However, some days he gets it into his head that he needs quite a bit more screen time than the 6 or 8 hours I allow daily. Yesterday was one such day.

I became suspicious when he asked me if he could have his iPad so that he could meditate with Muse. It wasn't the request that was suspicious, more the "And when I'm done, I will bring my iPad right back to you and not bring it to my room," with the angelically-fluttering eyelashes, accompanying the request.

I said "Mm hmm," and filed the suspicious behavior away for later.

Fast forward to that evening. Mark and I are trying to watch a half hour show, which of course entails about 17 interruptions. One such interruption is Connor announcing, at 8pm, that he is tired and he is going to get to sleep.

In the interest of getting to watch the rest of the show, I say "Okay, sure, night!"

The show ends, and I ask Mark to go get the iPad from Connor's room. Definitely not allowed.

Mark opens the door to find Connor in a suspiciously frantic posture. From under the covers, Connor immediately begins shrieking that his iPad is out on his computer desk and that he doesn't have it. Mark is still skeptical, however, and discovers Connor hiding an emergency back-up iPad that he must have pilfered when he retrieved his own iPad for Muse-ing.

Connor screams over and over again that he wasn't on HIS iPad, so he should clearly not be in any trouble.

At this stage, engaging with him or coming down like a truck on him (which is definitely my first inclination, for what amounts to lying and cheating) has proven to be counter-effective, so I just say in a resigned manner, "Good night, Connor," over and over again.

Connor is sitting on the floor blubbering that he doesn't know why he does such things, and that he needs help reforming. All of this is completely beyond his control, and he doesn't know why he's so stupid.

Connor eventually goes to his room crying and shrieking, and works himself into a panic attack. Then it passes, and he comes out and announces in a normal voice that he's been getting up very early lately, and has had to force himself back to sleep at 4:30 am. He believes that his body is now just used to not needing as much sleep!

I said "That's great. Must be nice not to need sleep. But I would like you to give me your alarm clock, since you're now naturally getting up so early." He totally is NOT, by the way. I am up at that hour and he is not. And if he forces himself up TOO early, he ends up passing out during the day, which again gets him into a bad sleep schedule.

He is not happy with this. Not only am I taking away his means of getting hours on the computer in the early morning, but also the light he reads by when all device-related staying-up-late schemes fail.

One of his tricks when he's not getting his way is to make sure no one else is happy either, and in this case it takes the form of him demanding that we shout the time into him periodically so that he knows what time it is, and that we buy him a digital wall clock since we're not willing to do THAT.

My eyes are rolling out of my head at the problems we've caused for ourselves with this unreasonable parenting, and I wave him off, and start getting ready for bed.

Then I hear the tell-tale pop of a can of soda opening, yet another forbidden fruit! I again send in Mark-the-Enforcer to take it from him.

This produces another fit of screaming and crying. This time his reasoning was that back when he had the iPad, he needed the caffeine so that he could stay up all night. And when Dad took away the iPad, he left the soda temptingly in its hiding place, and of course, Connor cannot control himself in the face of temptation.

Mark struggles to not kill Connor, which I sympathize with, because I spend all day every day biting my tongue with him. ;)

But in the end, I guess Connor felt really bad, because after Mark took the soda away, he came out himself with yet another, unopened soda, which was to be used for further staying-up-late purposes.

Somehow this kid can plan ahead when it comes to the things he wants ;)

It's a shame he wants nothing of real life. ARGH! =)

Jun. 28th, 2016

10:25 am - Chase's Poem "Blood Sugar"

Go to sleep,
Stop the pain,
Eating will not make it wane . . .

May. 12th, 2016

10:39 am - WOW, said the kids

It turns out Chase's experimentation with cooking Spaghetti-O's in-can ruined the microwave after all. We got a new one, and Chase was reading the instructions out loud as Connor was fooling around with it. I was only half-listening to them.

Chase got to a part of the instructions and seemed excited. Connor asked him to read the section again, and then the two of them marveled at how far technology has come. What an amazing feature! Brilliant!

Of course, I wanted to hear the feature that so amazed the children. Chase read it to me. And then I had to ask him to read it again, because I am shocked that my children can still surprise me after all these years with their odd-selves.

This microwave allows you to program multiple stages of cooking, so you could heat at 50% for 5 minutes, then go full power for 2 minutes if you like.

However, that is not the feature of amazingness. What the kids marveled over was that if you started to program in cooking stages and then got distracted, after 6 minutes, the microwave AUTO CLEARS the partial program so that the next person coming to use the microwave is not confused.

Literal quotes from Connor upon hearing this:
"How long was it again? Six minutes! OK, Six minutes. Good to know"

"WOW, Really? It automatically cancels? Because that's clever - probably if you go away for that long you forgot about it! Mom, it automatically cancels any cooking program after 6 minutes if you don't use it!"

It's something new every day.

May. 3rd, 2016

02:53 pm - Connor's world

Connor was out shopping with me, and we came to a display of kitchen knives. He says "Hmmm. Mom, which of these knives do you think looks most like a murder knife?"

I pointed out a large, pointy meat-slicer. He said "OH. I thought it would be a smaller one, because if you're creeping up to murder someone, you don't want to be obviously carrying a huge knife." I told him he needed to be more specific about how sneaky the murder had to be, next time.

Then we come to another knife display, and he asks the same context-less question! Some people never learn.

In other news, I discovered that when my kids ask questions such as these, I spend more energy trying to pick the best murder-knife than wondering if I should be worried about such a question.

Then he told me that the (saintly) woman in the middle school clinic was chatting about Cinco de Mayo and wondered aloud what Mexican dish she might prepare for the special day. Connor thought that was funny, because there can only be one answer to that question - Del Taco! Of course. I'm sure she appreciated the idea.

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