1 month ago

Emmett Things

I still hesitate to write about Emmett. I don’t write as specifically about his brothers. But his brothers are neurotypically normal. Emmett is the mystery who we are just finally getting to know. I hesitate because while I have come to see that the world needs to know more about what Autism is, I also understand that Emmett remains a human person, with his own precious dignity.  I fear that writing about how he navigates the world with a disability in some way objectifies his personhood. I don’t think I do that, but I don’t know. Maybe my word choice somehow does. Maybe using the word “disability” is harmful. He can read what I’m writing, right now. He’s standing here, reading what I type out loud. He laughs when I type funny things. He laughed as he watched me write this story.

I have read numerous times from autistic bloggers that the day they realized there was a name for why they were the way they were was the most liberating day of their lives. In the many moments when Emmett and I are reading together, I have found gentle ways to talk about Autism with him. I don’t know how much he understands, but I hope that eventually he will get it and find peace in it. The same peace I felt when I was told I have AS: Ah, there’s a reason for all of this, I’m not just mad. I continue to write about him, to share to the eyes that will read, but also to Emmett.

You’re my heart, little Bear.

Property of C. Svellinger

Emmett turned 6 just before Christmas and in these short weeks since, his conversational development has noticeably picked up speed.
He still has trouble finding the words to express himself. For example, we were at my brother’s house, celebrating the Epiphany, and there were a number of families there which we did not know. A little boy sat down at the table next to Emmett and engaged him in conversation:

“What’s your name?” He asked.  Emmett covered his ears and said “NO.” So I explained to our new friend that Emmett likes to meet new people but has a hard time finding the right words to say, because, as a matter of fact, he loves words, and aren’t there so many to choose from? I asked the boy his name, and the boy, instead of saying his name, spelled it. “T A D!”  Emmett enjoyed that. He had been sitting with us, his hands hovering over his hears as he listened to us talk. He looked Tad in the face as I asked him to say hello.

“HI TAD!” Emmett exclaimed with a flourish of his hands.  He was excited to say this. The moment passed, and Emmett seemed very pleased with this very small social interaction.

Property of C. Svellinger
At home, we do a lot of practicing. Emmett takes lines from every movie he’s ever seen, and he appropriately inserts them into his daily obstacles. Below are a few of my favorite most recent ones. Comment below if you can pick out the movie Emmett uses to speak from. :)  (sometimes he uses multiple movie quotes to piece together a sentence)

*****
Jude was crying, and it was time for his nap. I was trying to finish a school lesson with Lexington. Emmett was sitting in the room with us, seemingly ignoring the whole scene when he spoke up, “It’s alright, Judie, you’ll be okay.”

I stopped mid sentence to watch. Jude threw himself on the floor and wailed louder. Emmett sighed, “Welcome to the club, toots.” and left the room.

***

Emmett in frustration to Lexington while playing Nintendo: “Watch where you’re going, sir!”

***

Emmett in frustration to Collin and Lexington while playing with LEGOs:  “You insolents!”

***

Emmett refusing to eat a cooked carrot Craig was offering him during dinner: “It’s the trash bags, Dad.”

***

To me while I handed him his lunch: “Doctor, you’ve done it!”

***

And finally, my favorite:

This week, Emmett caught strep throat from me. A sick kid with autism is a completely different world than a regular sick kid. Instead of laying lethargically on the couch, complaining that his “neck hurts”, it’s literally the opposite. I knew something was wrong the morning Emmett slept an hour later, but came downstairs and immediately began running laps in the living room, bouncing off the couches and rebounding from the walls. He was asking for food more frequently than usual when I noticed the telltale swollen glands protruding from his neck. He allowed me a glimpse of his throat and yep, tonsils the size of golf balls.

From what I understand, this kind of behavior is generally typical for someone who has a different reception of pain and difficulty explaining it to others.

I got him to a doctor asap, got him started on some medication, and finished out our day in our pajamas. It’s been a few years since Emmett has been ill with more than a cold, but I remember well enough that bed time doesn’t come easy when he’s sick.  And sure enough, after we’d put the boys to bed, Craig and I listened as Emmett loudly jumped around the room bellowing the Toy Story song “Strange Things [Are Happening To Me].”

I can tell you right now without a doubt, that song choice was not an accident.
That’s all for now.

1 month ago

I SAW A SHAWL! {a digital short story, illustrated by C...

***I drove myself to the doctor this morning, with my kids, and got a positive for strep throat. The boys had no idea what was going on and kept asking me “Mom, who is sick?” So that’s fun. I wrote this post out over the weekend, enjoy.***

If you’re not the creative sort, it’s okay because in truth, I am not the creative sort. Ideas don’t come to me easy. I always fall back on using obnoxiously cliche things to practice drawing or lettering.

I bounce around to other projects during my times of creative stagnation. I do a lot of knitting or crocheting because it’s easy, it gives my hands something to do instead of sitting there going “What should I draw?”.  I’m supposed to say I give my hands work by folding laundry and washing dishes, or cleaning my husband’s beard trimmings from around the bathroom sink, but for some reason, I’m still immature and all that rot.

Creating relieves stress, cleaning piles it on.  Creating is a stolen sanctuary in a busy day, cleaning is the Barney song that never ends. The purple dinosaur, Barney. …I actually just drew a complete blank on what the Barney song sounds like because I’m delirious and have strep throat. Help. -No, wait. Don’t help, I don’t want to know, because tomorrow, now that I’ve written this, I’ll be going about, wincing as I swallow with my enormous, sick tonsils, scrubbing the dishes, and I’ll think of this paragraph and if you’ve helped me remember the song, then it’ll get going in my head and I’m already cleaning, and cleaning IS the never ending Barney song, and on top of that I’m sick, so it’s Hell thrice over! NO!

ANYWAY. I started knitting my first shawl in December.  Picking a variegated color palette always results in decorative war and tragedy, so I chose a safe, slightly heathered, Thicket Green.

It occurred to me sometime around Christmas that I’d never raked Instagram to find fellow knitters for inspiration.  Lo and behold, there is quite a posse there, and little did I know there exists some very cool yarn makers who sell the loveliest yarns, in the loveliest colors. And then, a small creative inkling hit me, and I went back to my drawing board. Literally. And digitally.

I now present my first digital illustration/story:

*****

 I SAW A SHAWL. 

By C. Svellinger

*****



As you know, I started my shawl. But here’s what you might not know so much about my personality. When I have something I want to do for the first time, I Pinterest, and Google, and YouTube, and Skillshare that thing to find out every way it can be made.  I go ahead and learn how to top-down knit a shawl just in case I decide that’s how I want to do it so that I’m already familiar with it when I actually begin. But I decide against it. I screenshot colors and toss them together in a random app to see how they look laying together and I confirm that still, no, I am not good at making colors friends, even though that group seemed like it should make total sense! And then, sometimes I get sidetracked and learn how to knit socks because after this I want to learn to knit socks and it helps if I’m already a little familiar with the process.

Yeah, she’s a funny bird.

So, there I am, after my extensive shawl recon,  beginning to knit with cozy thoughts of wrapping myself in this carefully planned masterpiece during these cold months. Basically, it was going to be my adult lovey. I chose what I thought was a lovely deep green, fingering weight, Pima cotton yarn. Like, boy, hi. This was gonna be the best little thing ever.
That’s when I got on Instagram to look for inspiration.

And I realized there’s this, like, wave of trendy knitters. Which is very cool. Truly it is! Like: you, also, like to sit and let your anxieties flush out of you in repetitive finger movements, to the small clicking of two needles, mostly in silence? YES. Come. Let us sit in the same room and not really talk much, and we can knit our lovies and we can be friends, and sit separately in our coziness.

So that’s a fun discovery. But then I saw it.  Down the cushy hole of the Instagram knitting thread, I SAW A SHAWL: the one I would have picked to make, had I seen it 200 rows ago. T’was a goddess of a shawl, and beams shot out from its stitches, and its asymmetrical elegance gave a lofty hair-tossing when it caught my eye.

It was VERY MUCH cooler than my poopy thicket green shawl I’d been garter-knitting my brains off. I looked at my work and now, it felt like I was making something a peasant would only begrudgingly choose from the basket’s bottom when all the other shawls were taken.
BUT WHATEVER. IT’S FINE.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years that I would go back and tell my ridiculous 22 year old self, it is this:

Follow through. Finish it. You’ll only regret the unfinished.

Don’t wait for it to be perfect before you start because it never will be, and then you never will, and then you’ll be standing there 10 years later wondering WHAT in the world you were actually fussing over that kept you from just finishing it. Stop over analyzing and trying to learn all the things before picking the most rational route, just start, and then, DO THE TASK AT HAND.

So in my case, in this instance, I MUST. FINISH. my Thicket Green shawl, and I will love it because I’ll actually have something to show for it.

Plus, I paid $40 for the yarn.

:)

Goddess shawl, I see you, and one day, I’ll try my hand at you. But not this day, lass.

I don’t know where that turned Irish, but there it is. Bye.

**PS. If you’re interested, the goddess shawl is actually called the Find Your Fade Shawl by Andrea Mowry.  Here’s her pattern on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/find-your-fade It’s so lovely!

2 months ago

Christmas 2016 Svell year-in-review

Heyyy. Thought I’d do a final post for 2016. Maybe throw in a Christmas card. A digital card, of course. I’m still wallowing in turmoil over postage and paper waste by sending a physical card via the actual USPS. Which is ludicrous because 1. I use disposable diapers. and 2. the recycle truck can’t even make it out to our area so what am I even trifling about. But that’s how I do things: micro.

Lord Business and all that.

K, so year in review?

To sum up (apologies for using Instagram as my photo crutch):

1. I got sick and couldn’t walk/sleep/do much. 

2. Was temporarily cured for one week with a dose of steroids and pain medication that coincided with our first family vacation.

3. Emmett, our sweet 5 year old with autism,  learned to go potty ON the potty and is now completely self sufficient. Something we did not think would happen for a very long time.

4. Craig and I welcomed our nephew and first Godson to the world. (My baby brother and his wife Jenn had their first baby).

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

5. We began year two of homeschool.

6.  I was diagnosed with a funny-sounding degenerative autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis. (more about that in this post)

7. We chose a medication path that has totally turned my symptoms around, and now I can run, if I have to, but more importantly, I can carry my children again. 6 months ago, I had to be carried up the stairs.

 

8. I opened my own business on Etsy selling prints of my hand drawn/painted illustrations and lettering. I am overwhelmed at the warmth I have received from everyone’s encouragement and sharing on social media.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

9. Craig got more handsome, if that’s even possible. He did, guys.

Photo by Corynne Olivia Photography
Photo by Corynne Olivia Photography

So, yeah. All of that, and then Trump blew my brains and guts everywhere by winning the presidency. It’s fine, guys. Sorry! Political turnoffs! I don’t know what I thought would happen, because I didn’t favor either party, but boy, that was …exciting? As with every president who serves our nation, prayers abound for our leader, everyone on the team, and our beautiful America.

Photo by Corynne Olivia Photo, graphics by Brass & Mint Co.
Photo by Corynne Olivia Photo, lettering by Brass & Mint Co.

 

I hope everyone has a magical Christmas in a warm, hearth-y place, and I wish every single one of you –yes, even you there– a happy new 2017.

Talk soon!

5 months ago

7qt october 2016

7 quick (ish) takes of the life of a Svell this Friday:

–1–


We are well into year 2 of homeschooling and IT. IS. NOT. EASY.  The difficult parts, however, aren’t in the educating of my boys, but in working around the wailings/climbings/needings of Jude and then of Collin (who is mostly a happy participant, but sometimes not.).

 Jude is cutting his naps down to one 30 minute snooze, and then waking up to continue his day in a cranky manner –and it’s bullcrap, Jude!

 It’s enough time for me to come downstairs and blink vexedly at my cold cup of coffee with three dead gnats floating in it and that’s it. The day lives or dies based on whether Jude naps, so I’ve got to recalibrate because I am just not pleasant, and even Jude knows it: he has learned from observation how to frown and will now do it on command.  

Damage managed. 

–2–

I know that signing my boys up for regular school wouldn’t be better. It’d be worse for me, in my opinion. Not only would I have to maintain a set schedule, I’d have to adhere to it with the wailings/climbings/needings of Jude and Collin. And THEN! I’d have to talk! to teachers! and deal!! with fundraisers and unnecessary soul-sucking!!! activities!!!! which aren’t made in consideration of a family of more than one or two kids, nor of a child with special needs, nor of a mom suffering health ailments. And then they’d get home …with homework of all things! and there we’d be again. 

So. It’s just a phase. It will be over soon. Yeah, it’s just a–

 P H A  S  E.

–3–

I can officially say that Emmett is fully potty trained. I cancelled his last diaper shipment early September and his remaining half pack of diapers is still untouched. 

The first day of autumn came and I was struck with a vague prayer memory which I had mentally barked out to God while scrubbing the carpet one early spring day; I’d prayed in a frustrated desperation to have him out of diapers by the end of the summer, knowing for sure it wasn’t going to happen. Telling myself it could be years. I found it easier to cope with by preparing for a really long haul. 

We have been gradually working with Emmett for probably a year or more, but started strongly encouraging him by the spring. It has not been easy– I say again, N O T.  E A S Y. 

For weeks, the days consisted of multiple daily baths for Emmett. Lots of scrubbing clothes in scalding hot water.  We’d go through three or four outfits in a day even with a larger sized diaper which by then I had an auto-ship subscription from Amazon. 

And then Emmett suddenly understood what he was supposed to do, but didn’t like to sit on the toilet, and also didn’t like to go in his diaper. So he was holding it in all day –I’m not exaggerating. We worried, knowing surely Emmett was suffering stomach aches and a bulging bladder.  We went through a brief enough accident trial– the one a parent typically experiences with their 3 year old, except Emmett is five and a half and holding it in for up to 12 hours renders the accident worse in every way one might imagine. We managed a road trip to Florida in the middle of potty training, and our family got a dose of one of the accidents right in the middle of the kitchen. 

–BUT it’s done, and I can’t believe it, and glory to God, the One who listens to half-hearted prayer-barkings from a tired mother, and instead of saying “you didn’t say please” bestows His mercy.  

–4–

I only have one diaper wearing person in the house now! It’s been 6 years since I’ve had that pleasure. Where’s my plaque? 

         -DIAPERING –

      7 YEARS STRONG

…or something far wittier than that -I can’t do it all!

–5–

I tried stitchfix for the first time last week. I opened the box in excitement, examined each article in devastation and then burst into tears, promptly stuffing everything into the return bag and feeling ridiculous about crying about it. 

I am %100 sure this reaction is actually a result of the few weeks of parenting fun I’ve been having, plus I am still having trouble with my AS. The dumb looming phantom of the year. 

It’s true, the clothes were all made completely of rayon (I specified cotton! B*tchy first-world-problems voice!) and though they looked like they were pulled from the racks of Target with a teenager in mind (I linked to my Pinterest board!), they were priced triple the amount. (No exaggeration. TRIPLE. $80 for something I might pay $20 for.)

I’ll just stick to Target prices and online shopping, then, thanks. Or maybe I’ll try Stitckfix another time, when I’m not so emotionally prickly and hinging my happiness on a mystery bag of clothes. 

–6–


Even before we suspected Autism in Emmett, we recognized his love for music. Before he said his first sentence, maybe even before he said his first word, he was singing. 

Fast forward to today and currently Emmett is enamored with Coldplay. And I won’t tell you I’m not in love with that because it’s a life goal of mine to get to another concert before the group stops touring. Their concerts are nothing other than magical. 

Emmett tinkers on the piano and I’ve shown him some pathetic attempts to play simple chords along to some of his favorite Coldplay songs which I’ve learned via YouTube. 

Craig and I believe there’s a chance Emmett would absolutely explode in creative expression if given the right instruction musically– neither of us are educated on the subject. Maybe Craig is a little more than I. I know what I do from YouTube University. 

It’s only just occurred to me to allow Emmett to watch people making music –and something other than nursery rhymes. Why do they think we all like nursery rhymes!? We’ve been letting him listen, and then we’ve been sitting with him at the piano, we started formal lessons with him last week. 

But connect the two, you idiot! 

For some reason I find videos of live performances really annoying.  And that’s probably why I never thought about it until now. 

–7–


Monday, I sat with him and said, “Emmett.  Let’s watch Coldplay. This is Chris Martin. Hi Chris Martin! Chris Martin sings your songs, Emmett. Chris Martin sings your Coldplay songs. Chris Martin makes your songs with a piano”

(When introducing a new concept, I rearrange sentences in verbal communication a few different ways for Emmett to get a grasp on the message, and give him a prolonged moment to think about what I’ve just told him.)

I played Emmett’s recent favorite Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall from a concert in Paris on YouTube. As it began, I watched Emmett closely. 

Here’s the link if you’re interested: [ Coldplay Paris ] It’s actually pretty moving viewing it after the Paris attack.

He smiled. 

When the camera focused in on Chris Martin, and there was no doubt that the sounds coming from his mouth were the lyrics and that this was in fact the voice Emmett knows and loves so much, his excitement was a heartbreaking loveliness to me. 

Emmett smiled as Martin played the piano to a song he goes to sleep humming, and wakes up with -still on his lips. 

“Chris Martin! Chris Martin sings it! It’s COLDPLAY!” Emmett burst out, thrusting his hands in the air with his signature stimming expression. 

I couldn’t even sing along at this point, I was so choked up, but I listened, completely taken by the privilege of watching this connection happening. 

I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere beyond simply enjoying good music, for Emmett. Maybe he’ll pick up piano, maybe not. 

 I am so so so happy that he has a wonderful thing to enjoy in his life, something that we can share with him in enjoyment. 
And right there, folks, is where that good stuff lies. Not in a bag of new clothes.