Monday, December 27, 2010

The End of the World

The tree is gone.  Ryan is devastated.

We started removing ornaments yesterday afternoon, and finished the job while Ryan was asleep.  When he walked into the living room this morning, he stared at the naked tree in absolute horror.  "Back on da tree!  Back on da tree!" he screeched. 

"I know, it's sad," I replied.  "I get sad, too, when it's time to get rid of the Christmas tree.

He found the nearest box of ornaments and started hanging glass balls at his eye level on the comically-bare branches.  I managed to distract him from the Charlie Brown tree with a little pine needle clean-up.

This evening, it was time to take the tree down to the curb; Ryan is now in mourning.  Fortunately, the pine needles strewn around the apartment will provide us constant reminders of our tree for months to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cleaning Up for Christmas

Ryan totally cleaned up for Christmas.  Sure, he walked away with a ton of toys, but mostly, he vacuumed up lots and lots of pine needles. 

His favorite pastime this holiday season has involved my dragging out the big vacuum cleaner and him using the hose to suck up the needles that have fallen under the tree.  He will also vacuum individual needles from his fingertips, and occasionally see how much of his shirt will fit in the hose. 

When there are no needles left on the floor, Ryan shakes the tree until enough needles have fallen to satisfy his vacuuming needs. 

Consequently, the top 2/3 of my tree is green and lovely, and the bottom part is dead and bare and looks like it's been eaten by reindeer.

But it's been a wonderful holiday season.

We ended up with TWO chairs in our tree!  Thanks to Marcia for the one on the right.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

With Blue Sprinkles On Top

Those of you who have been following the adventures of Captain Awesome for a while might remember last year's gingerbread house.  Ryan was into it.  Really into it. It seemed obvious that this would need to become an annual tradition.

This year's gingerbread house is not as richly decorated, but it has provided us with hours of cleaning fun.

I started things off on Sunday by baking a gluten-free house.  Gluten is what generally gives baked goods their structure; this house was structure-free. 

The best parts were the green sugar sprinkles 
and the gingerbread man cookie cutters - far more interesting than the cookie house.  The Little Gingerbread Boy, of course, had to go in the house.
The walls kept caving in, which frustrated Ryan so much he melted down into a tearful, screechy pile on the kitchen floor, demanding I "Fix da gingerbread house, fix da gingerbread house."  I assured him I would try again the next day, but this was thoroughly unacceptable to him at that moment.

Monday, I found another recipe and baked another house.  This one cooked up far more solid - I credit copious amounts of butter.  I glued the walls together with royal icing and imagined the messy fun ahead.

"Hey Ryan, wanna decorate the gingerbread house?"

Once again, the cookie cutters commanded his attention.

I coaxed him into making a half-hearted attempt to stick something - anything - on the house.  He chose toothpicks.
(BTW, re: Cherry Cordial M&Ms: don't waste your calories.  Stick to Pretzel M&Ms.)
Things were coming along slowly and without enthusiasm. And then Ryan found the blue sugar sprinkles. He gleefully went to work on the gingerbread house.

Then he turned his blue sugary attention to the rest of the kitchen. The windowsill. The floor. The counter. The bowl where I was keeping some onions and garlic. The radiator. The chairs.  Everything.

For those of you who are considering redecorating your homes, I can tell you that 2.25 ounces of sugar sprinkles is enough to fully cover one medium-sized room.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Passing for Typical

"I think that's one of ours."  Stu points out a boy in the audience of a Starfish concert wearing large noise-canceling headphones. 

"Maybe," I reply. 

We play this game a lot: try to spot the kids with autism in whatever public space we find ourselves in.  Some kids are easy to pick out - obvious stimming, toe-walking, telltale speech patterns.  I assume we don't spot them all - hopefully some, or most, are able to blend into a crowd.

While playing this game, I try to observe Ryan objectively.  Does he stand out?  Would another mother of a child with autism be able to tag him as "one of ours?"  Can he pass for neurotypical?

Before the concert began, I sized up the kiddie crowd.  Dozens of kids age six and under.  Most of them were standing at the foot of the stage, staring at the lights, talking to each other.  Some were stomping up and down the stairs, or sitting on laps.  Ryan was walking around the theater, taking it all in.  He didn't strike me as unusual; I wondered if others thought the same.

When the band took the stage, Ryan joined the other children standing in the orchestra.  He was in total rapture staring at the lights; actually, he looked a little stoned. (Dude! The colors!)  He alternated between watching the musicians intently and turning his back on them.  The casual observer might think he was checking out the audience behind him, but I know he likes to briefly look away from what he's paying attention to.  I don't know why he does this; I think he enjoys playing with his peripheral vision.

The typical kids were dancing, holding hands, jumping around in a mini mosh pit.  Ryan mostly stood still, taking it all in, too cool to dance, for a couple of songs.  He was blending in pretty well.

Then he started crawling.

He dropped to his hands and knees and crawled through the other children, away from us, until he was intercepted by my cousin Stephanie, who got him to stand up and dance with her for a moment.  He ran a few laps up the center aisle , down the steps, around the seating area, and back to the mosh pit. 

He had me pick him up for a song, then he sat on Stu's shoulders for a song, then danced for ten seconds, then crawled back into my arms and rested his head on my face.  I wondered if this looked within the realm of typical - if sleepy - kid behavior. 

Then he threw himself on the floor and begged us to open the emergency exit.

We took him for a walk outside.  He found ten square feet of trees, which he happily treated like a forest.  I don't (much) care if he may have tripped someone else's AutDar - I was very pleased that he had been able to tell us he needed to get out of there. 

And we later decided that the boy with the headphones was not one of ours; he and his brother - also in headphones - were just typical kids whose father wanted to protect their eardrums from overly-amplified music, and didn't care if he had to make his kids stand out to do it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas With A Monkey

I am a Jew, and I love Christmas.  I make no apologies for this.  I was not raised celebrating Chanukah, and I feel no attachment to this holiday; I never even learned the prayers you're supposed to sing when you light the menorah.  As far as I'm concerned, Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday that has been hyped up to compete with Christmas, and there is no comparison.  Christmas is pretty, with beautiful decorations and fun traditions and music that ranges from silly to sublime; Chanukah has some candles that you can't blow out and a boring gambling game involving a little top. 

As I've said before, I grew up celebrating the pagan Christmas traditions, and I love to share the joys of secular Christmas with Ryan.  I've shown him my favorite Christmas movie - Christmas Eve on Sesame Street - but it seems dated to him, because the characters have changed over the last 30 years (back then, Maria was dating David!  And Mr. Hooper was alive!).

Ryan's favorite Christmas movie is Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas.  I have to admit it's adorable, and the music is so catchy that we both walk around singing the opening number.  For the last month, one of Ryan's preferred activities is a sort of reenactment of the scene where George decorates his tree.  Ryan will instruct me to draw the outline of a Christmas tree on the largest paper we have.  Before he colors it and covers it with stickers while singing the appropriate song, he insists I make the picture look like Curious George's tree: I must top the tree with a large red ribbon and a chair.

See, in the movie, George picks out a tree at the farm stand - a tree with a red ribbon on top - but he accidentally knocks over all the pre-cut trees, and Bill's folding chair gets stuck on the top of the tree George wants.  The Man with the Yellow Hat can not get the folding chair off the tree, and George will accept no substitute trees, so they go home with the tree as-is.

When Ryan and I went tree shopping this year, it was clear that we would need to get a big red ribbon to go with it.  And as I feared, Ryan has also requested a chair.  I refuse to put a real, full-size folding chair on our tree, so I've been searching for several weeks for a doll-size wooden chair, or a chair ornament, or something small and reasonably chair-like.  I've come up with nothing so far.  I thought between toy stores and craft shops this wouldn't be much of an issue.  I might have an old toy chair floating around my parents' basement somewhere, but I haven't checked there yet.  And I could make one out of balsa wood scraps, but I have not yet hit that level of desperation.

I have to say, Ryan has been pretty relaxed about this whole no-chair-in-the-tree situation.  I expected him to be far more insistent about having a chair, but it seems to be something he'd like to have but doesn't need to have.  This seems incredibly mature of him.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back to our regularly scheduled program?

I'm pleased to announce that the bastard has calmed down a little.  I still don't know what made him so cranky - could be his teeth, could be some invisible illness, could be growing pains - but he has stopped throwing himself on the floor at school, and has become somewhat more cooperative at home.

I'm hoping the past few weeks have been one of those steps backward before he takes a big leap forward; that sort of thing happens a lot here, but it rarely lasts more than a few days.  This week, Ryan has done a few new things that give me hope that this is what's going on.  Lately, when a train rumbles past our building, Ryan will actually go to the window and look at the train - he's noticing something that's happening in the world and paying attention to it.  I've tried to build on this by asking "Which way is the train going?" but he hasn't answered yet.

And yesterday, he did something truly unprecedented: he announced, "I gotta pee."  He has never, ever informed me that he needed to go to the bathroom.  This is huge.  This is a call-Stu-at-work sort of event.

So maybe we've just been experiencing the storm before the calm.  Let's hope.  Because now that my derby league is on hiatus for two months, I can't just hit people at the end of a stressful day.  Any more of Evil Ryan and things could get really ugly around here. 

PS - thank you all for your suggestions on how to deal with the Bastard Behavior.  Wine and earplugs are a mom's best friends.