Hi. Still here! New year, man, it’s been a fun few months.
Guys, I kid you not, with the exception of about one week, I have been sick since I wrote my last post. I fully blame my medication which makes me (apparently) extremely susceptible to catching everything. I actually had to stop taking my immune-suppressing arthritis meds for a full month so that I can get better. As of today, I’m dealing with a lingering cough, and it loves me and never wants to let me go. BUT, a cough and a little phlegm is much better than what it was.
I actually lost my voice for about a week, which is hilarious because I have a natural stage voice which has always cut through any illness that could potentially interfere with it’s being heard. So, having only the power to whisper (I couldn’t even muster a scream-whisper!) for a week, was –well I’d like to have deep reflections about it in relation to peaceful parenting, but I don’t. It was frustrating.
Jude’s super proud about pillaging the house at all hours and has perfected his technique of getting into something really bad that needs big cleanups, and then darting to something even worse.
At one point he got a hold of a secret stash of hyper pigmented MAGENTA water color and poured the entire bottle onto himself and the carpet (I HATE CARPET WHY DOES CARPET EXIST.)
To give you an idea of the damage one bottle will do: I only need one DROP from a dropper to use for an entire work.
So as I’m scrubbing the carpet with soap and water, it was like that terrible shampoo prank I’ve seen floating around, where a guy hangs out just above someone using a public beach shower, perpetually pouring shampoo unbeknownst to the showering guy, and the suds just get worse and worse until the guy is basically crying.
An hour of scrubbing and carpet shampooing later, I gave up— mostly because by then, Jude has also turned to emptying the fridge of all the yogurts and peeling the lids off of every one, and then tossing whole rolls of tp into each toilet. He also enjoys pouring cups of water into the trash can. And finding my old makeup and spreading what he can on all surfaces. And drowning my potted plants. And getting into my 20lb Costco bag of rice. And the eggs. And he shattered our TV screen. GUYS, HAVE KIDS!
We also endured two losses- my beloved Aunt Suzie, and my childhood parish priest.
Emmett suffered a concussion. It was terrifying. He has an extremely high pain tolerance. I’ve seen the kid run giddily through the house with splinters in the bottoms of each foot.
So when he slipped and fell in the kitchen a few weeks ago, he was instantly crying, and I knew it was a bad one. I held him for a while, and let him go, thinking he was okay, but within minutes he came to me saying, “Do you want to fix the Emmett?” and next thing I know, I’m holding him as he grows pale and lethargic– and begins vomiting nonstop. To the hospital we went.
Lexington was instrumental in being helpful in that event. He called Craig while I was holding Emmett over the sink vomiting to tell him what was happening. Lexington also got Collin and Jude buckled into their carseats while I carried Emmett to the car, and he reassured everyone– Even Emmett while he continued to vomit during the car ride to the hospital, that the doctors will help “fix the Emmett.”
Emmett is fine. He’s had lots of resting time, and seems to be back to himself. Though, he does pay more mind when I remind him not to run through the house as he always does.
And lest you stop reading here (or maybe you stopped a many paragraphs back) thinking I love reciting my litanies of woe, I truly have felt that while there have been individual life frustrations and difficult times in the last few weeks, it still isn’t truly bad, and I actually feel more blessed and loved by our Creator. I’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time with family. My sister-in-law drove the 50 minutes from her job, all the way here, in the middle of the week, to relieve my Dad who was watching Lexington, Collin, and Jude, prepared to stay the night with the boys so that Craig and I could be with Emmett in the hospital.
My extended family from Cali flew to Cincinnati for my aunt’s funeral, and being with them is always such a life-breathing renewal. Lexington being brave and knowing how to help in a stressful situation– my heart bursts with pride over him. Craig is a strong support, and a loving encourager of visiting with my family, taking time for myself, and of working to create more for my Etsy shop– these people showing their love and sacrifice during tough times is God speaking to me.. “you are loved.”
I endeavor to be that as well for my family.
– I completed my Thicket Green shawl (I’m wearing it as a scarf two pictures above), and BEGAN! the goddess shawl I droned on about a few posts back.
– I have announcements! To make! New prints for Etsy! Projects! Events! To come. later. This post is too long.
love to you, friend. Thanks for hanging around the svell blog.
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.
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.
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.
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?
7 YEARS STRONG
…or something far wittier than that -I can’t do it all!
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.
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.
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.
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.
So we didn’t send him. Emmett did not continue with the state funded special needs program.
This post is part II about our ever changing journey with our son, Emmett, who is 4 years old and was diagnosed with Autism December 10, 2013, just before he turned 3. Part I can be found here.
So far, I’ve been left breathless too many times to count due to many of Emmett’s astounding -and oftentimes frightening- actions.
There was the one summer we discovered that Autism and wandering go hand in hand, when I turned around to look for my 2 year old who had been playing at my feet mere seconds before, but now was not there, was not anywhere, and it took three adults and 4 other small children to find him… yards away from a pond. You can read more about that incident here.
2 particular times I looked at Emmett and was left speechless in a more positive light. I’ve been waiting 2 years to write this out.
Why? Why the waiting?
I’m a parent, I kept telling myself. I know all parents (as they should) believe their children have special gifts (which they do), but I was trying not to fall into the category of moms who believe their child is “gifted” and needs to be enrolled into Hogwarts because of their magical abilities. Emmett is delayed in many, many, many ways. He’ll be 5 this Christmas and we have only recently broached the topic of sitting on the toilet and actually producing something. (SUCH a triumph, by the way.)
The day that opened the world to us for Emmett, it was Spring. We were visiting my mother in law at her house. Emmett’s brother’s were playing outside with Craig.
Emmett has almost always preferred to stay inside. He likes movies, but when the movie credits rolled, that was his favorite part. Which, of course, we always thought odd, but whatever. For me at the time, I counted it as a blessing because it was one of the few times of the day he wasn’t screaming or thrashing about something we couldn’t figure out anyway. Remember, Emmett was/is nonverbal. Until only this year, he never was able to tell us if something was wrong, he’d never bring us the thing which caused distress, and he never used gestures to point or show us what the problem was. He’d just cry and scream and let spit fly.
But with movies, Emmett calmed down. Emmett would actually repeat the lines from certain movies which stood out to him. This became the way we could hear him speak. He would sing the songs from his favorite Disneys. Emmett took a intense interest in the scene in Wall-E; where Eve meets Wall-E and they learn to communicate to and introduce themselves to each other.
Emmett used to repeat that scene tirelessly, and it didn’t matter where we were. If you’ve ever attended Mass where the Svellingers are present, you might have heard the words “DIRECTIVE? CLASSIFIED!” echoing off the walls. You might also have heard bellowing, “I DON’T WANT TO SURVIVE, I WANT TO LIVE!” Or, (from Mr. Peabody & Sherman) “MR. PEABODY, WHAT SHOULD I DO!?” as my husband carried him out to the foyer.
We noticed a pattern: that Emmett recited the lines from movies when he felt a similar sense in the goings on of his own world that may have reflected those scenes from the movies he knew.
So we used that.
We took lines from movies to let him know it was time to change his diaper, go to bed, eat dinner, go somewhere. I sang the Doc McStuffins “I feel better” tune after we did something he found to be unpleasant. And it helped- it changed our world, actually.
And here’s the thing about that! We were told by one of the therapists who saw Emmett that “scripting” is a bad thing. That we should try to keep Emmett from doing that!
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.
Yes! Let’s take away the one medium my three year old has found to use as a form of communication. Yes, so smart. Such modern medicine. So therapy.
So– back to my mother in law’s house, to that day where Emmett was laying in the living room playing with foam bath toy letters. Just kind of lining them up on the floor. The Disney movie Frozen had recently come out on DVD and we’d just watched it, the credits were rolling now. I looked down and read the letters arranged in front of Emmett; a chill ran down my spine:
Had Craig spelled that before he went out to play with Lexington and Collin? I asked him. No.
I asked my mother in law if she’d done it. Nope.
None of the adults in the house had put those letters there.
I mixed up the letters, sat back, and watched Emmett come over and put them together. FROZEN. It was him.
Letters. He likes letters.
We ran with it. Emmett lit up in a way we’d never seen when we worked with him on letters. He loved sitting with us while we read to him. In fact, now that I thought of it, Emmett has always liked letters. I had taken a picture of him staring at the credits as they rolled after watching a Disney movie. Only I didn’t notice then that he was actually looking at the credits. At the time I took the picture, I was frustrated that he wouldn’t look at me as I called his name for a picture.
So we did what any curious parent would do: enabled closed captions on every single thing we watched.
Emmett’s response was instant. And positive.
We noticed that Emmett gravitated to any thing with letters or numbers on it- toys, or otherwise.
As one might imagine, we built up a hefty reserve of blocks, magnets, books and toys with letters on them. It’s where Emmett’s interest was, and where he seemed to enjoy it with the greatest peace. Finally, some peace at home.
One windy, Summer day a few months after the FROZEN day, my parents were visiting. My Dad had taken the boys out back to scribble with sidewalk chalk. I stood in the kitchen with my mom, putting dishes away.
My Dad stuck his head in, “Emmett’s writing. Did you know he could do that?”
I stopped in front of the sink, bowl in my hand, “Like… writing…words?”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
I grabbed my phone and stumbled out of the house, turned the corner and what I saw wrought chills down my spine and tears to my eyes.
Those words were written, along with letters and attempted other words all over the pavement, covering the pavement so thickly that the chalk dust was billowing around. The scene was a strange sort of eerie: Emmett had written one word, and then three more on top of it so that I couldn’t tell without looking very long and hard what he’d written. Had I not the obsessive compulsion of over-photographing everything with my iPhone, I never would have believed I wasn’t exaggerating.
That was the second time the world of Emmett was opened to us.
And then it struck me to look back on some photographs I’d taken of his scribblings only a few weeks previous. Below is the progression, I’ve discovered of Emmett’s learning to write:
I bought a sketch book and gave it to Emmett. At three years old, having no previous instruction on how to trace a letter, Emmett filled his sketchbook with words he’d never spoken before.
At first, we believed he was simply writing the letters he’d memorized from a book or a movie- you know, like a photographic memory or something- surely he didn’t know what he was writing, but only that he’d seen it before. But after a short while, I’d watch Emmett write out a word, and in the midst of his sweet, nonsensical mutterings my ears would decipher the word he’d just written. It struck me that he knew exactly what he was writing.
Emmett liked to play a game where I draw the thing, and he writes what it is. His favorite, for some time, was recreating the foods that the Very Hungry Caterpillar eats.
Since then, we’ve added more letter toys, more books, and more avenues for Emmett to learn to read and write better. His favorite thing is to sit at the desktop and “play W” which is simply typing on Microsoft Word in whichever colors or fonts he chooses at a font size of 200.
The funny thing is, I feel like I’ve hardly taught him a thing. It’s like starting kindergarten with a kid who already knows how to read. I mean, that’s exactly what it is, I guess. Only, attach autism to that. From sun up, to sun down –I mean I’m not kidding, he has a night light we keep on his side of the bed and he sits up and reads until he falls asleep on top of his books, every night–that boy is reading, writing, and learning.
It was sometime a few months ago when I stumbled through the rabbit hole of Pinterest, searching for autism resources for reading and writing that I found the term Hyperlexia. I found a blogging mother whose son is hyperlexic. I combed through Dyan’s posts with butterflies in my stomach as I discovered that this letter thing is a thing! There are other kids out there who love letters and can read at a crazy early age (some with autism, some without)! Her blog is here, and boy is she good with the information. I tracked her down on Instagram and was amazed at the photo trail of her gifted son, who writes adorable lists of things he wants to do for the day in chalk on their driveway.
It is our hope that Emmett will be able to write in a way which helps him tell us what he wants and needs. Slowly we are finding it’s working.
We take notebooks with us, especially to Mass where it’s important to be quiet, and we use it to allow Emmett to have a sense of calm. We use it to communicate to him that one of us is taking his brother to the bathroom, because otherwise Emmett will become upset [read: screaming & bellowing] at the fact that some of us are leaving, and some of us are still sitting in the pew.
We have a little pocket sized prayer book which Emmett likes to read from especially during Mass. Now, instead of hearing him bellow random movie lines, you’re likely to hear him bellow the Hail Mary, which I like to tell myself is more acceptable. Right? I can hardly be annoyed in Mass at a loud kid who’s just trying to pray. ;)
There are other ways.
“So, are you sending Emmett to school?” I am asked sometimes.
We don’t know. Right now, we are finding that we’ve gained more headway as his advocates than any of the outside help has offered. So far, we’ve found that we feel pressured to sign the dotted line so that the school system can obtain their government paycheck. So far, we feel (in our local area anyway) that the concern isn’t for Emmett but, to put it crudely, for the sale.
The therapist named Lyssa has been the only person who felt like an advocate for Emmett. And even she seemed tied up by her place of employment to feel she could speak freely about Emmett’s options outside of the local public special needs program.
I was worried about our local programs. I waited. We kept Emmett home.
I’m relieved to hear positive accounts from many parents from elsewhere, but where we are, over the two years that we have waited, I’ve heard from more than one person, aside from our own experiences, of negative, unsupportive happenings and staff. Craig and I are glad we have waited. We are thankful that we have been able to learn about autism, hyperlexia, and most importantly, that we have been given time to learn from Emmett.
We don’t know what’s next. Maybe a school for Emmett. Maybe not. Maybe an unschool-type of homeschool will work brilliantly. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting children (outside of imminent health concerns), it’s to wait.
That’s what I’ve wanted to write for the past 2 years. Emmett’s letter exploration is chronicled mostly through my Instagram, if you’re so inclined.
Believe it or not, after I posted about Collin’s grand front teeth busting, and everyone getting sick, both Collin and myself got sick– again. For 2. more. weeks. So that was fun. And I’m gathering from my social media outlets that 90% of America and their children were sickly too, so I hope everyone else is on the mend.
This past weekend was the first time we exited the house as a family and the sensory overload sucked the life out of me, so I spent all of Sunday like an 80 year old woman bent over her yarn and crochet hook. You can bet Mass was extra exciting for everyone sitting near us. I’m a really fun person, I promise, but mostly when I’m not in the third trimester, and more when I’m at Hobby Lobby in the pen and ink aisle, alone.
Aside from wishing I could take off my legs and put them somewhere until I give birth in April (Maybe Easter Sunday!), everything’s looking good, baby-wise. I’m in the irritated feral cat phase, and being pleasant is just hard to come by. My children want in my personal space and I’m like GERROFFME!
It’s a great spiritual failing on my end and when I try to read some of the lovely, uplifting Christian books and posts on focusing on Christ, and contemplating Mary’s journey through her pregnancy, my eyes pretty much roll out of my head, up the street into a body of stagnant, muddy water because the fluffiness is too unreal for me to glaze over. I usually settle for some to-the-point Peter Kreeft because feral, irritated cats DON’T WANT TO READ METAPHORS ABOUT DEEP VALLEYS AND ROLLING FLOWERY HILLS AND DOWNY PILLOWS. Feel sorry for Craig, guys.
She distracted me to think about times when I’ve tried to avoid my own, authentic self in attempts to fill what I perceived was the ideal Christian woman, wife, mother, or PERSON in general; and of course after failing to fill those ideals, I’d become frustrated and perhaps bitter or resentful towards those who look like the sun shines from their every pore –and they’ve got checklists and goals and cute little knick-knacks hand-made for every milestone, hour, and quarter-birthday that each of her 27 children celebrate each week (Total made-up person, fyi. I don’t know anyone with 27 kids.). Jen Fulwiler reminds us in her talk that without the diversity of each person, the Church would not be perfect. That when we stop and look in the mirror and accept that this reflection could be just like Mary, the mother of God in the world today, we only need to choose how to move forward embracing our own unique gifts and talents, we are fulfilling precisely what the ideal Christian woman should be: YOU. ME. Such a powerful talk- and boy, the weight of feeling like I have to fit into plastic pants is totally removed. Shew. Here’s her 30 minute talk, if you’re interested: Girl on Fire
That’s it. I’ve been working on a mountain of a post about Emmett (just turned 4, a year after he was diagnosed with Autism), but it’s so long, no one but my own mother will read it, so I’ve got to figure out how to break it up and make it readable. And yes, he put these words together without seeing them somewhere else in the room, and without my help.
Until then, happy days to you. OH! Also, if you’re looking for new blogs of varying styles to read, go visit Bonnie right now. She’s got a wonderful list of Catholic bloggers (and a few non-Catholic) that I delight in exploring every year. It’s also kind of a blogger award thing, too. And you can vote if you see my blog listed and are feeling nice. If not, no hard feelings- I’ll never know, and I’ll keep on clacking away at my keyboard regardless :)