Love. Listen/Observe/Read. Act. Repeat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harry Potter hits the core

This weekend the kids and I went to see the penultimate movie in the Harry Potter saga.

We are all big fans of the books. When Michael was young, he wanted to dress up like Harry Potter for Halloween -- and some other days, too -- long before the first movie ever came out. I went straight to our local costume shop, Rose's Costume, where owner Judy Smith and her astute crew had already assembled Harry Potter costume kits from old graduation robes, round-framed glasses and brooms to go.

So, Michael, of course, had already seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 twice, including a midnight opener, by the time all four of us were able to take it in over the holiday.

Sam had warned me that he thought he might not be able to sit through the most challenging scenes. This was a first. I didn't understand it, until the movie was underway. Even I had to close my eyes during some of those torture and fight scenes. I felt badly that we didn't sit somewhere to make it easier for him to escape, or to have Michael help prepare him.

Sam didn't feel like he could stay put and just look down. I understand that -- the movie theater experience is about going all in with the story. Still, he said he was ok, and he stuck with it the entire film, just in and out for two hours. He said he ought to be able to tolerate it once we have it at home on DVD.

What is it about the big screen that just pushes the story's emotional core right to your own?

Oh, and by the way, if you saw it at Northpark, along with those balony anti-vaccination ads that I've heard were running then, please do all of us in the autism world a favor and complain. What is with these anti-vaccination people?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #43

(exhausted on Sunday morning, after a marathon weekend hanging Christmas lights)

Sam: Mom, I still can't find those white LEDs I bought. They're not in the truck.
Peggy: (long, rambling mumble about receipts and empty boxes and cleaning up the staging area on the back porch). Wait, Sam, we wrapped them around the metal wreath frame.
Sam: Ok, Mom you just knocked me totally back into my senses.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Royalty check

Before anyone thinks you automatically get rich writing books, let's just say my latest royalty check for "See Sam Run" would not quite cover the cost to fill the tank next time I'm at the gas station.

But I was thrilled to see it on the plus side, rather than the other way around (deficit for returns). The book is still selling, which says something.

Plus, I sleep well at night knowing this kind of royalty isn't my take in a zero-sum game.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Road trip

I've been experimenting with leaving Sam on his own for a couple of days, just to see how he holds up. Dishes get washed, and animals get fed, house stays clean. He even went to the post office and picked up the mail and collected all the newspapers. This is good.

We shop before I go so that he can cook for himself, but he doesn't. This time, I made a pile of sausage kolaches before I left. That was supposed to be breakfast. He just told me that was pretty much what he ate while we were gone -- he made neither the spaghetti nor the pizza -- both of which he's made many times on his own for family meals.

When your toddler has autism, sometimes it's hard to discern which is which. For example, was that temper tantrum the sign of something that needs to be addressed, or was it just your run-of-the-mill hissy fit?

I feel like I'm right back there again. Do I worry that this is a sign of self-help skills that need shoring up, or is he just being a bachelor?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #42

Sam: I think it's time to build a fire.
Peggy: You're ready for me to build a fire in the wood stove? First fire of the year.
Sam: Yes, summer is finally over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Best. Autism. Blog. Ever.

Autism News Beat -- bringing together the two things I care about most. Autism. And sound, scientific journalism.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emotional IQ

Sam and I had the most amazing exchange this morning, one that belongs in some kind of magazine about how mature people should deal with powerful emotions.

First, you've got to set a stage for two people completely, utterly and totally misunderstanding each other. We'd both just gotten up -- and neither of us are morning people. Plus, I had had only a sip or two of the morning joe, so that's two strikes against me.

Sam was opening a vitamin jar to get a tablet out and suddenly it just flew from his hand and rolled on the floor. I didn't see any of this. I just heard him yell "OH!" so loud adrenaline rushed to my nerve endings, so full and fast that it hurt my fingertips.

I thought my reaction was amazingly calm, considering. I turned around, puzzled that nothing seemed to be wrong, and said, "Don't yell so loud in the house."

That upset Sam terribly. He left the room.

A few minutes later, he told me that my comment made him feel like a little kid again and brought back bad childhood memories. That brought tears to my eyes. I tried to apologize for the comment, but Sam said we shouldn't talk about it anymore, since it was about to make me cry.

I told him no, please, I welcomed the chance to say I'm sorry not only for hurting his feelings today, but also for any bad childhood memories and we could talk a little more if he wanted.

Sam said he remembered misbehaving, and it was in the past and it could stay in the past. I told him I thought that was very mature.

Then I said, you know, I didn't know why you yelled so loud. I thought I needed to call 911 or something. He explained what happened, I told him I understood now why he yelled, and then he said he understood why I felt like I needed to say something about the yelling.

What Sam brought to the conversation that was so amazing was believing me when I said I loved him and never wanted to hurt him. That was part of my apology. I told him that it's important to me to stick up for myself, and I've noticed that when someone sticks up for themselves, it can be hard to do without hurting the other person sometimes.

The whole conversation took all of 10 minutes and brought me such a sense of wonderment. I'm still trying to figure out where this supposed lack of social understanding comes from in people with autism. Sam is so clear-eyed and clear-headed. His father and I could not have had such a conversation early in our marriage. Even later in our marriage, it would take two hours to wade through all the emotional thicket to get to the same place.

I think it's the opposite. I think the rest of us lack emotional intelligence. We play stupid mental games with each other, and we don't trust each other.

When Sam doesn't trust someone, he just doesn't deal with them at all. How smart is that?

Any girl would be lucky to have him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #41

(sound of scampering from the front of the wraparound porch to the back)
Peggy: The chicken is chasing the cat.
Sam: The chicken is chasing the cat? Silly goose.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #40

Sam: I haven't been able to eat peanut-butter-and-jelly for a long time.
Peggy: Really? We have all kinds of them (opening refrigerator to show) -- fig, apricot, pear, lemon. (pause, realizing he doesn't like any of those). I've been meaning to make more raspberry jam.
Sam: I know. But you've been taking a really long time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Life is full of meetings and partings

Some people do spend their whole lives together.
And some homes are forever homes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #39

(coming soon to an office near you ... hardware tech superman)

Sam: How hard is it to work with MIDI devices?
Peggy: What?
Sam: I figured out how to load the Apple DLS sound font with SimpleSynth.
Peggy: What?

Wisdom matters

There's been chatter among researchers about the benefit of wisdom in their work -- the balancing of your own interests, with the interests of others, and the interests of the community (even God, or the environment).

I think it's kind of funny that the new thing isn't the latest, greatest technique or protocol, but this old thing called wisdom.

Now that I'm 50, of course, I understand the implications much more than when I was a desperate young mom of 27. Creativity matters still, but I've learned to fold other considerations when figuring out what it takes to solve a problem or make progress on a project.

Especially when it comes to supporting my kids as they launch their own lives.

I'm not talking about a "been there, done that" attitude, or excess skepticism, either, but a vigorous way of seeing things fresh, without throwing away all that you've learned so far. There really is no place to stand except on the shoulders of the people who've come before you.

What wisdom can I give Sam and his support team as he makes this transition from school-to-work? Much of that wisdom is already his, perhaps its better for me to help him see it in himself. Really, how is it different than the support Michael needs, or Paige for that matter? Except that Sam might have a little more trouble than most of us at deciphering the social codes of the "job hunt."

I think it's time to pick up a fresh edition of What Color is Your Parachute? and reacquaint myself with that old wisdom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #37

Sam: What does that search say? "Bubbly"? That's a funny name for somebody.
Peggy: No, it says Bobby.
Sam: I thought it said "bubbly." It made me think of a Green Day song.
Peggy: Really? Which song is that?

Inch worm

Yesterday, at Walk Now for Autism Speaks, I was able to introduce a lot of people to Texas Parent-to-Parent, and that was very gratifying. More gratifying was that some people had heard of TxP2P already. Our concerted outreach effort is making progress.

Most gratifying was that some people already knew about my book. That wasn't part of the promo package yesterday, but when people would ask about the play-dough, I'd direct them to the recipe (in anticipation of the question I'd already posted it, just a bit lower on this blog) and the book would come up.

Just like raising Sam, progress is made inch by inch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More recipes for kid stuff

Two ways to make finger paints:

Mix liquid starch, 1-2 tablespoons soap flakes, and food coloring in a bowl, whip with a beater. Fill small containers with mixture and add more food coloring to brighten.

Mix 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch together and add 2 cups cold water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until well blended. Divide among four or five small cups, add drops of food coloring to color and a pinch of detergent to facilitate clean-up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An old family recipe

This week the Wolfe house is busy with the making of play-dough on the stove top. The DFW team for Texas Parent-to-Parent will have a booth at the Autism Speaks Walk this Saturday at the Ballpark in Arlington and we plan on giving the kids at the event a super experience for their senses.

I've dusted off an old family recipe that was a big hit with Sam when he was little. He was consumed with making sense of the world through his challenged senses. We made this dough, and then added a secret ingredient -- a package of unsweetened Kool-Aid to match the color with a flavor "scent." He loved it.

To wit, put these ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until it's thick:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil.

Remove from the heat and as soon as you can work the dough with your hands, make a well in the middle and add 1/2 teaspoon of food coloring to match the Kool-Aid flavor. For example -- purple and grape; green and lime; red and strawberry; yellow and lemon; and, of course, orange orange and blue blueberry.

The dough keeps for a few days in a rubber keeper or airtight bag. Plus, if your little one takes a bite, you don't have to worry about any mystery ingredients.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #36

Sam: Let's go vote.
Peggy: You're ready? Ok. Let's go.
Sam: It's the last day.

A better idea

Sometimes we look askance at parents who put their baby's name on a waiting list for a prestigious preschool before they are even born.

As if the path to adult success is really that narrow.

Yet, if your child is born with a lifelong condition that will affect their ability to care for themselves, such as Down's syndrome or autism, parents are encouraged to "guess" what services they might need later in life and put them on a waiting list for services. Those lists, in Texas, are DECADES long.

And recently, Texas created pilot projects for MORE waiting lists for services.

The whole thing is a farce.

Last weekend, at the Njoy Foundation conference, Resources for Parents, I learned about a statewide group that is trying to change the model for Texas. With a bad budget year, they have a mighty, uphill battle.

But it's got to happen. Last year, 53 people died in state institutions of preventable causes, including one person at the Lubbock facility who was suffocated while being restrained. Of course, nearly every one knows about the notorious "fight clubs" organized by some of the staff at the Corpus Christi facility because one of them recorded the fights on a cellphone.

The Department of Justice has been monitoring Texas facilities for rampant civil rights violations.

To learn more about this group that's promoting inclusive communities -- which means the money follows the client rather than the other way around -- visit their website: