Thursday, September 30, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?

When I was looking for inspiration for a blog header, I Googled around for communist or socialist era art because I really like that style.  I came upon this image and, I don't know exactly why, but I was immediately fascinated by it:

I have been mildly obsessed with it ever since.  And once Sherri worked her magic and created my blog header, I figured I was even more invested in it.  I started wondering:  Who is that woman?  What is she saying?  What was this advertisement or propaganda promoting exactly?  What if I've based my beloved new header on some commie-pinko yelling "Long Live Stalin!" or "ABA Coverage for All!"  Was that a call from the State Department that I just screened?

After some research, I found out that the portrait was done in 1924 by Alexander Rodchenko, and that the subject is a woman named Lilya Brik.  Lilya was renown for her great beauty and, although married to Mr. Brik, was also famously the lover and muse of a Russian poet who may or may not have commit suicide over her.  It's enough to make me wish that I shared more with ol' Lilya besides just bogarting her portrait.

Lilya's husband and her poet-lover co-founded a journal called Leftist Front of Arts and this artwork was on one of its covers.  Wikipedia teasingly stops short of translating what the text says.  I don't know anyone who reads Russian, and after briefly considering jumping in the car and heading to the Yakov Smirnoff Theater in Branson, Missouri, I opted instead to post the question to WikiAnswers.

Within 24 hours, I had a response from my new friend Andrey who provided the following translation:
    "Books. You can learn from them a lot!"

I'm a little in love with Andrey for that translation.  Can't you just picture him saying it like that Russian guy in the DirecTV commercial.  On second thought, I think I'd better shake Andrey before he starts telling me about his "pay-kitch".

And how's that for a lefty radical message?  I didn't think that I could feel any better about my header (hee hee...I made a funny), but now I'm extree extree loving it.  "Autism Army Mom.  I am like the books that you can read and make benefit from very much."  Is nice.  I like.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Pet Shop of Horrors

Audrey is obsessed with the pet store lately.  Hmmm...wonder how that happened.  I'm looking at you Lauren.  I took my eye off the ball for a second, and the next thing I knew we had a goldfish, a fancy tank, and all of the accessories necessary to keep it alive.  None of which I have used, but somehow it persists in living.

We all know that goldfish are just gateway pets.  Next thing you know you've got a hermit crab, a hamster, then a guinea pig or rabbit, and so on all the way up to the big dog...a dog.  Or a cat.  Audrey would take either, and in fact told her teachers last week that we were coming home from the pet store with one of each.  I don't know where she got that idea.

I'm not a big animal lover.  They kinda gross me out.  That whole "their mouths are cleaner than humans" is easily debunked with a trip to the pet store.  I personally witnessed almost all of the animals with their mouths somewhere that mine's never been.  But even my cold, dead heart felt just a little bit bad for these doggies kept in captivity.  Just not bad enough to take one of them home.

Wanton butt-sniffing
Because I know you just thought
to yourself "You know what I'd like?  I'd
really like to see more butt-sniffing

Dog fight!  Please no wagering.
Why I oughta.....

Every email that I ever get from Aunt Carol  (hi Aunt Carol!)

I'm pretty sure she wasn't
supposed to be doing that.

In my desperation to get out of the store, I told Audrey that she should ask Santa Claus for a pet.  I don't suppose that she'll forget that between now and Christmas.  Now I have to decide just how badly I don't want a pet.  Bad enough that on Christmas morning I'll tell her that Santa must not have thought that she was a good enough girl? 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I've Been "Clawed"!

I'm being interviewed today over at The Claw, which is the blog of the fab-o-luss Sherri who designed my kickin' new header and button.  This is her inaugural interview in a series that she is planning on various bloggers in the bloggedy blog-blog world.  P.S.'re under no obligation to use the "You've Been Clawed" tag line.  Too Ashton Kutcher? 

Anyway, go check it out.  It includes more cute pics of Audrey and some background information of our autism journey that I've never even shared here.  Thanks so much to Sherri for taking an interest in special needs parents and for lending me her forum for some autism awareness!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sh*t My Daughter Says

Said when we were on our way out to a carnival:

"I gotta wear my carnival shoes."

Her two new favorite doggies are Shadow and Dash.

Audrey:  "Shadow's middle name is Ann."
Me:  "Oh really?  Shadow Ann Kingston.  I like it.  What's Dash's middle name?"
Audrey:  "Shadow."


"I'm upset about my nerves"
I think she's mimicking someone saying, "You're getting on my nerves."  I have no idea who.


And lastly, just FYI:

"March is a funny month."  And....

"The moon's favorite letter is L."

Huh.  I did not know that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alpha Sigma Delta Sorority Sisters

Audrey had the day off from school on Friday, and we got together with one of her classmates, Grace Anne, and her mother Aimee.  Aimee is one of the few readers of this blog who doesn't have a blog of her own, but I'm trying to change that.  She makes comments that are funnier than most of my posts, and I even gave her a golden title, but still she resists. 
In the meantime, I'm happy to use the ample material from our get-togethers for my blog.  For our inaugural outing, we met up at the Rainforest Cafe.  I wasn't sure how Audrey would react because sometimes she gets out-of-sorts if she sees someone out of their usual context.  But she was completely fine...after all, she and Grace Anne spend nearly as much time together as she and I do.

Grace Anne is awesome and has all of the characteristics of our favorite autism peeps.  She is beautiful and endearing, and frequently has what I like to call that "Who farted?"-furrowed-brow look on her face, like there is just so much that needs to be figured out.    

Before lunch we put them together in a photo booth.  They chose the tree frog motif, which was appropriate because those two in a photo booth was about the equivalent of a sack of frogs:

After lunch, we hit the mall:
Mauling Build-A-Bears that we didn't buy

You love escalators?  Me too!




Christmas trees in September, the morbidly obese,
and a big bag of red dye #40...ah, the mall
Ta-ta til next time!  AS-Delts Forever!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Grand Re-Opening! Less Graceful! Less Hinged! More Flava!

Welcome to my blog's new with less skeez and more floss, yo!  How does it look?  I L-O-V-E love it!  I have a cool new header, and finally a blog button as well that you can snatch and grab.  It's over there in my sidebar to the grab away!

All of this is brought to you by the fabulous Sherri at Headers For Hire.  She also has a pretty bangin' blog at The Claw.  If you need any work done, blog-wise that is, she is your girl.  When I spitballed an idea that was a cross between communist propaganda art, Shepard Fairey's Hope poster, and an image that I'd snagged of this hollering, babushka'd Soviet lady, did she give me the cyber equivalent of a slow backing-away from the crazy lady?  Hells no!  She knew exactly what I was talking about and created just what I wanted.  Get in touch with Sherri.  Do it.  Now.

I was reticent to include a photo of myself and wrestled with selecting amongst various expressions.  This photo was called "Happy"  -- there was also "Screamy" and "A-scaredy".  I was thinking of alternating amongst them based on my mood or the tenor of my most recent post -- sort of like the Homeland Security threat level -- but decided that was way too much work.  I put it out for a vote amongst friends and most voted for Happy.  Only select special needs peeps voted for Screamy.  Coincidence?

So, welcome one and all!  As a one-time Grand Re-Opening special, you can read the entirety of my blog for FREE.  Get it while it lasts!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Tonight was the first night of the fall session of horseback riding.  Audrey did the same program last's offered through the special needs arm of our park district.  Lots of people say that they see great benefits from therapeutic riding, including physical and motor (improved balance and trunk strength) and in terms of calming and regulation.  The blurb in the park district catalog promises no less than this:
"Riders develop balance and rhythm as they feel the movement of the horse and embrace the ageless goal of lightness and harmony with one's equine partner."
I don't think that that lofty goal was quite achieved tonight, but it's only day one.  Audrey was actually a little more scaredy cat than she was a year ago.  Which sort of annoyed me at first, until I remembered that in the meantime she'd broken her arm falling off of monkey bars and smashed her face in falling off a swing

But she got on her horse, Lizzie, just fine and was perfectly calm after a few minutes.  They don't do much the first day...they just walked her around and asked her to say "whoa" and "walk on".  Even with all of these beautiful half-ton animals galloping around, Audrey was mainly concerned with the stable cats and if they were watching her.

Sadly, they were not...

Totally uninterested in
human-feline bonding

The stables also have a small petting zoo area with ducks, chickens, and goats. 

This encounter with this
chicken resulted in...
Lawsuit! I'm chokin' that
chicken for all it's worth!

Six more weeks to go...are we feeling the oneness and harmony with nature yet?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Old Man Autism

I have some news that is going to come as something of a shock, but it must be said.  My child with autism is more than likely going to become an adult with autism.  For precisely 99.679% of the time, I manage to push this thought out of my brain.  But this week, it's been coming at me relentlessly.

First there was 20-year old Chad on World of Jenks.  Then my sister called me to tell me that she'd heard something on NPR about special needs trusts.  Speaking of 99.679% of the time, that would also represent the portion of the total calls that I get from my sister when she's telling me about something that she heard on NPR.

Then there was this article in the Atlantic about Donald Triplett, the first person ever diagnosed with autism who is still alive and stimming kicking at 77 years old.  The article's teaser ponders what will happen to the approximately 500,000 autistic children that will become adults in this decade alone, and ends with this:  "(Donald's) long, happy, surprising life may hold some answers."  Tell me.  Tell. me. the. answer.  Tellmetellmetellmetellmetellmetellme. 

I'll spare you the lengthy read to get to the Holy Grail.  Here's your answer:  Donald is very high-functioning, perhaps even Aspergers, his parents had a pile of old money, and he lives in Forest, Mississippi, where centuries of inbreeding have created such a population of nutters that he's practically running the place.  Hey, I didn't say of the local townspeople did:
“In a small southern town, if you’re odd and poor, you’re crazy; if you’re odd and rich, all you are is a little eccentric.”
And if you're a poor, odd Yankee?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meet the Therapists: Melanie

For my third installment of "Meet the Therapists", I'd like to introduce you to Melanie who is another member of our home ABA team.  I have to admit that it's harder to come up with material about Melanie compared to the first two therapists that I've featured.  She doesn't have a loony-bird smile like Lauren, or try to make people think that she's African-American like Raven.  She only just keeps her head down and works her ass off for the benefit of my daughter.  Melanie has a work ethic that from my experience is not typical of her generation.  She is the type of person who listens to all of my bull-roar when she arrives for a session and then tacks on time at the end to make up for it.  Which I do not recommend because it just encourages me.

When we first initiated a program of conversation questions, one of them was "What's your favorite TV show?"  Thanks to Melanie, Audrey went around school telling everyone that her favorite TV shows were  The Bachelor and something that sounded like "Mary Adamle" which we later figured out was Grey's Anatomy.

In Audrey's quest to give everyone a goofy name, e.g.: Lorraine for Lauren; Ravine/Ravinia for Raven, she calls Melanie either Mel-AH-nie or Mel-ini.  So Melanie started calling her Audrini in return, and then expanded it to "Audrini Postini the Bicycle Queenie" because of their frequent bike-riding practice sessions.

The Bicycle Queenies

Audrey liked that name and started drawing renderings of herself on a bike with the name Audrini Postini (not her actual last name) above the picture.   Then next thing I know, she's bringing worksheets home from school filled out as follows:

I expect that this will be brought up this Friday at the first parent-teacher conference of the year.  I'm going to tell them that she was going for a dark and edgy alter ego but Sasha Fierce was already taken.

I'm sorry to say that Audrey holds some long-standing grudges against Melanie.  About a year and a half ago, Audrey felt that she was made to draw a picture of a truck by Melanie.  None of us really remembers this incident, but Audrey has never forgotten it.  Whenever she gets mad at Melanie, she never fails to throw it up in her face.  I asked Audrey to favor me with a song about Melanie on the piano, thinking it would be cute to add a video of it to this post.  Her repertoire of made-up songs has expanded and she now sets them to tunes other than "Love Me Tender".  But in this case, she reverted back to the tried and true and pounded out, "I WON'T DRAW.  I WON'T DRAW.  I WON'T DRAW A TRUCK!"  OK sister, it's time to let it go.

Notwithstanding the truck-drawing incident, Audrey loves Melanie and we are so lucky to have her on our team.  Thanks for everything Melanie!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

World Of Jenks | Ep. 2 | Can't Make Me Be

Y'all have got to watch this if you haven't already.  A new show on MTV called World of Jenks where a 20 year old filmmaker makes mini-documentaries about other people his age in various walks of life.  In this episode, he spends a few days with a guy on the spectrum named Chad. 

Chad likes maps, flags, his sand collection, photographs, and Grand Theft Auto.  Chad does not like honking car horns, the sound of the school bell, or moody chicks.  I think I may have just gotten a window into my future, especially when I saw his going-to-bed routine.

It's just 20 minutes long and so worth enduring the multiple Always commercials showing a feminine hygiene pad riding a mechanical bull.  What the?

World Of Jenks Ep. 2 Can't Make Me Be

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You Talkin' To Me?

I've been tagged for a meme by Heather at Acting Balanced.  You know the drill.  8 questions, 8 batshit answers:

1. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
I hardly read anything but blogs anymore.  The last two books that I read were Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay and Naptime Is The New Happy Hour.  I read them for a series of posts that I wrote making fun of whiny typical parents juxtaposing the challenges of raising typical children versus special needs children.  I would not recommend either, especially if you have access to a sniper rifle and/or a clock tower.

2. How often do you post on your blog? Do you have a schedule?
Whenever I have material.  No schedule.

3. What is your favorite blog topic?
My beautiful, amazing, sweet, gorgeous, funny, lovable little Audrey.

4. What did you have for lunch today?
I haven't had lunch yet today, but yesterday I had what had to be one of the top 5 lunches that I've had all year.  Lamb sandwich and eggplant fries on the terrace of the restaurant in the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago with two of the nicer people on the face of the earth, my friends Michelle and Stacy.  It was a supremely gorgeous day and we overlooked Millennium Park and had a great view of our beautiful skyline.  No pictures of us...I can't seem to master that outstretched-arm-to-take-picture-of-self maneuver.

5. Where do you get your news?
The Chicago Tribune.  Local TV news.  Audrey's scripts.

6. How do you handle stress?
Overeat, go crazy, climb clock towers.

7. What is your all time favorite movie? Why?
I always answer Taxi Driver so that whoever asked will nervously walk away and leave me alone.  But Heather is super sweet so I will say Lost In Translation.  Because it was great and I love Bill Murray...and I saw it when I was pregnant and associate it with a happy time in my life.  
On a related note, I'll add a question that I was not asked:  What perfectly fine movies do you hate because you associate them with a miserable time in your life:  Capote and Walk the Line which I saw right after realizing that Audrey had autism.

8. What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I do not actually condone violence towards the parents of typical children. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Huffington Post

Should I be concerned that this is how my daughter looks everyday when she gets home from school?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Do List: Clean Out My iPhone Contacts

An unforeseen downside of Audrey's texting hobby is her firing off messages to oldy moldy contacts that are still in my iPhone.  Because they are still in Yahoo, from which I have never erased anything for going on 15 years.  Audrey has more than once started a dialogue with someone that I really wasn't looking to re-kindle a friendship with.  And before anyone gets all neurotic that I'm talking about them, it's not anyone that would read this blog.  Unless somehow Kristin from the spin class that I took in the early 2000's has tracked me down and is lurking amongst my readers.  Hi Kristin!  I really, really need to clean out my contact list. 

One time the kid that cuts our lawn showed up for the second time in a week.  I found him in my text list, but the messages were erased so I couldn't see what she'd said.  I'm thinking that she may have given him her stock "I got mad when I had to say goodbye to the roses at the funeral home" and he took this as some sort of veiled, landscaping-related threat.

Yesterday, Audrey started up a conversation with an ABA therapist that we had ended on sort of shaky terms with.  She was super smokin' hot and had a perpetually Snooki-caliber tan.  She was a big beach-goer as well as a golfer.  During the time that she was on our team, I would always check the weather forecast for the day of her session, and if it was to be a nice day I could count on her calling in sick.  She even called off on what was to be our very last session, and blew off a final goodbye with us.  Fine by me, because I owed her money and was holding the American Girl bed that she had lent us hostage.  In addition to all of the other reasons for hating her, you can add to the list that she was young enough to have played with American Girl dolls herself.

She had been off of our team for more than a year when we heard through the grapevine that she was pregnant and due in July.  HA!  I'm guessing that she didn't get much golf in this summer.  So Audrey's opener to her, after not speaking for more than a year:

"Heather has a baby right now"

I was driving and Audrey was in the back seat mumbling about Heather and playing with my iPhone.  I figured out pretty quick what she was doing.  So I went with it, and told Audrey to ask her if she'd had a boy or a girl.  She feverishly typed away, but then wouldn't tell me if Heather had answered.  When we finally got home, I saw that she also had a text convo going with Lauren and had asked Lauren "Did you have a boy or a girl" in between scheduling visitation time with her kitties and asking her what her favorite planet was.

Later on, I looked up Heather on Facebook and saw that her profile pic was of her and her new baby, who appeared to be a boy.  Meaning that I've gained at least a couple more years before we have to commence hostage negotiations over a doll bed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Don't Sh*t Where You Eat

For those of you starting your Christmas shopping early, here's a toy that could be a risky one for a child with autism.

This is Barbie and her dog Tanner.  The playset comes with little brown pellets that represent both Tanner's food and his poo.  When you pull Tanner's tail up, his mouth opens for you to feed him.  When you pull his tail down, the same pellet drops out of his bunghole.  When you've gone through all of the food, you start all over again.  Just pick up that pile of poop and stick it back in his dog dish. 

At first I was concerned that Audrey would learn the wrong lesson from this toy.  I thought that, because of her literal-ness, I'd find her fishing around the toilet bowl for an afternoon snack.  But then I was reminded of a visit we made to a pet store once...on second thought, I guess Mattel isn't actually that far off the mark.  Now if they could just make Barbie's waist bigger than her head...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beware: Child With Autism At Large

I received an email yesterday from one of the autism sites that I subscribe was offering a free pdf that you could print out to make cards (see above) to pass out to people when your autistic child is doing whatever it is they are doing to make them stare at him/her. 

There is a lot of stuff like this out there -- tags, buttons, zipper pulls, t-shirts -- that identifies your child as autistic, because....why?  Because otherwise they might be mistaken for someone who just doesn't give shit what you think?  Because otherwise a police officer might beat her with a Paddy whacker if she doesn't listen when he tells her to stop disturbing the peace with her incessant arm pumping?  I'll take my chances.

I can't imagine handing out cards to strangers at the mall, no matter how blatantly they are staring at Audrey.  Just wordlessly walking over to them, handing them a card, and skulking back to my bench in the play area.  How pitiful is that?  Poor little girl is not only autistic but she has a mute for a mother.   

I think it would be much better to have Audrey hand out cards.  So here's another Top 10 list...Top 10 options for pre-printed "bidness" cards for Audrey to hand out to strangers in public: 

10)  Person with autism.  Give me money for my therapy fund or I will eat your children.

9)  Here's a card for douchebag.  Here's a card for an a-hooooole.  C'mon, am I the only one who saw Kanye on the VMA's last night?  Uh uh...go Kan, go Kan!

8)  Yeah, I have autism, but why do I have to obey the commands of complete strangers when all of the typical kids are taught that they should not do exactly that?
7)  Will dance for absolutely nothing in return.

6)  Why don't you take a picture?  It'll last longer.  Oh yeah, I totally cut you low.

5)  Feel free to smile and say hi to me.  Or not.  I won't notice either way.

4)   Please don't offer to help my mother.  If you do, she will make a far bigger spectacle than I am making right now.

3)  Yeah, I got mad dance moves...jealous?

2)  If you ever went to college, I'm sure you've done far worse in public than this.

And the #1 option for Audrey's calling cards:
1)  Call the police. I've been abducted by the crazy lady over there who's  rocking and singing some whacked-out lyrics to "Love Me Tender".

The voting is now open.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Warning: Don't Read While Eating

This beautiful Sunday morning was greeted at 4:00am in this household by Audrey puking all over my bed.  Just how old does a kid have to be before they trot their sorry, nauseous ass into the bathroom to puke?    I would accept just about any receptacle in the bathroom:  toilet, sink, bathtub, garbage can, shower stall.  Even hurling onto the tiled floor would be a vast improvement over my bed

Audrey beelines it to my bed as if that is precisely where she is supposed to go.  She does that hand-over-her-mouth-barely-holding-it-in move until she's right over my bed.  Talk about a rude awakening.  Dinner last night was lamb roast and Swiss chard, which actually made for not that gross of a pukefest because:
1) She didn't eat that much of it.  Because it was lamb roast and Swiss chard.
2) When she's not crazy about a meal, she kind of swallows bites without it comes up almost exactly as it looked on her plate. 

It's now just past noon and I'm on my 18th load of laundry.  I feel like total shit, but she's running around feeling just swell. And Lauren was awakened to this text, which would seem sort of accusatory if you didn't know Audrey:

"You puked in Lynn Hudobas bed"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things That I Am Not

I realize that I have been remiss in not accepting a blogger award that was bestowed upon me weeks ago by Dani at I'm Just That Way and That's Just Me

Dani accepted the award by listing 5 things that she is not...just to shake things up from the usual "tell us about yourself".  I was reminded of her list this week when I realized one big whopping thing that I am not (I'll get back to you on the other 4).

I am not a risk taker.

See, I was gonna enter this essay contest over at Real Simple magazine.  It's called the Life Lessons Contest and you have to write an essay finishing the sentence, "I never thought I'd..."  Easy peasy, right?  I can wring a few more drops out of the old autism crying towel with both eyes crossed and one hand up my....wait, what? 
Have you ever taken a huge, surprising risk? Did you climb a mountain? Go back to school? Get married (again)? Tell us about it: Enter Real Simple’s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest.
Oh, snap.  They're talking about doing something that you never thought you'd do by choice.  As you can see from the title of my blog, I've been an unwilling participant in my current gambit.  Sure, I never thought I'd be where I am today, but not because I rolled the dice.

Hmmm...there must be something I could write about.  Let's see if their examples jog anything for me.  Climbed a mountain?  Yeah, I did an 11,000-footer in California.  I cried for the last 2,000 feet.  Or five hours if you want to put it in those terms.  "I CAN'T DO-OO-OO IT.  DON'T MAKE ME DO-OO-OO IT.  OH GOD TAKE ME NOW-OH-OH."  Then we attempted Mount Shasta (14K) and I got the AMS at 10,000 feet.  Acute Mountain Sickness.  I was flat on my back and I'm told that I woke the entire camp in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder.  I don't remember anything after I sharted my North Face thermals with the five Chocolate Buzz energy shots that it took to get me that high.    

Go back to school?  Dude, I barely made it through the first time without having a nervous breakdown.
Get married again?  See above.

I'd have to dig deep to come up with something on this topic.  Well, there was that one time when I took a chance on using an expired Dunkin' Donuts coupon.  And they let me too.  Man, when I think of what could have happened.  They could have totally....made me pay full price.  Swish!  Yeah, I could definitely get 1,500 words out of that.

Don't let my awesomeness deter you from entering the contest yourself.  C'mon, who's in?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Daily Downers

So I started a second blog a few weeks ago.  It's meant to be more locally-oriented and is part of a website called ChicagoNow, which is the bloggy arm of the Chicago Tribune.  They were looking for suburban bloggers, but I wasn't able to have them host this blog because they wanted it to specifically cover happenings around my town and even required that I work the name of my town into the blog title.  I live in Downers Grove, Illinois, so it was a bit of a challenge. The best I could come up with was Daily Downers, which I'm not crazy about but at least it does reflect my prevailing mood.  Hopefully I can do right by our founders, old Jebediah Downer and his wife Debbie, and further depress the shit out of everyone in this town.

Anyway, I haven't promoted that blog in this blog because:
1) most people that read this blog aren't from these parts and so, for instance, wouldn't be able to join me in my boycott of the local toy store that rearranged all of their stock to put Audrey's favorite stim toys out of reach on 8-foot high shelves, and
2) so far all of the posts on the new blog have been using "re-purposed" content from this one. 

The post that I most recently copied over was the homage to Lauren, which I felt was necessary since I'd already mentioned her so much in the locally-flavored posts about ballet, camp, etc.  I have not promoted Daily Downers Twitter, no Facebook, no arm-twisting emails to friends and family.  I've never once copied a link to it and pasted it anywhere.  So imagine my surprise when this came across my Twitter feed:

I have one of my TweetDeck columns permanently set to search #autism, otherwise I would have never seen this.  I expected the link to take me to a porn site, but it actually took me to my Daily Downers post on ChicagoNow. 

Can anyone explain this to me?  Anyone?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Audrey the Media Socialite

Or should that be social media-ite?  I've already well-documented Audrey's love of texting and her outreach efforts to include both kitties and cats in the social-media-osphere.  But texting isn't the only social media that she's dabbled in.

A while ago, she took to posting entries to my Facebook page...mostly random links to strange cartoons.  I didn't discover her posts until well after the fact, and thought it was awesome that none of my friends had commented.  They were just sitting there meeting radio silence.  C'mon, not even one "like"?  Once I let everyone know that they were Audrey's posts, she finally got some Facebook love:

Then this week I caught her composing a tweet on my Twitter page...
on tuesday i have fun at school again today and i said goodbye to the tv and at the funeral home i said goodbye to the roses this time and i said bye to everything
She's big on bitching about "goodbyes" lately, where goodbye = transition that I did not want to make.  Only Audrey would not want to say goodbye to a funeral home.  Hell, only Audrey could even spell funeral home.  It was over 140 characters though, so it would have to be truncated to this...
on tuesday i have fun at school again today and i said goodbye to the tv and at the funeral home i said goodbye to the roses this time and i
...which would have just made no sense at all.  She didn't hit the send button, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.  For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I hope that you will be able to differentiate between Audrey's bitter airing of grievances vs. my bitter airing of grievances.

Speaking of which, Audrey has been learning about identifying her emotions in a new ABA program.  She's being encouraged to write in a journal (= type in a Word document) when she is feeling irritated or mad about something.  So far there are just two entries:

It makes me irritated when I have to play with the chords (= don't nag me to practice the piano)
It makes me irritated when lauren Johnson get the birthday cake match ( = I don't care if I win the matching game, I just always have to get the match with the pictures of birthday cakes)
I'm thinking this journal could be the beginning of her blogging career...the Autism Army Brat Tells All.  Uh oh.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Robots as Autism Therapists? What Could Possibly Go Wrong...

My friend Kathy sent me a link to this post about Notre Dame researchers using robots for autism therapies.  I had heard about something similar to this a few months back, and I wrote a post at that time that is still one of my favorites.  I'm pretty sure that no one read it, so I'm going to take the opportunity to re-post it. 

Computer scientists at the University of Southern California are in the process of developing a robot named Bandit for therapeutic use with children who have autism.  I don't know how to feel about this. The theory is that robots would draw autistic kids into social interactions because they "respond more naturally to machines than they do to people". Well, yes, but that is sort of the problem...and the reason that we are bankrupting ourselves paying for therapy with humans. Unless the plot of every science-fiction-action movie comes true and the planet is taken over by a superior race of androids, Audrey is going to have to learn to interact with and relate to human beings.

One of the stated goals of the project is for these robots to eventually sell for the price of a laptop, and while that would admittedly solve our financial problems, I'm not sure that I would be comfortable with a team of robots replacing my ABA therapists. Unless they could also be programmed to scrub my moldy shower grout and give me a pedi, I'm not sure it's worth it. The upkeep alone would probably quickly offset any benefits. Just who are you going to call when they go haywire and start dry humping the dishwasher? The Geek Squad?

But I do have to admit that as robots go, Bandit is pretty cute...

Bandit shows his school spirit
and enjoys a refreshing beverage.

Uh oh. Bandit MAD.

Bandit feel better now.
Bandit want hug.

Audrey 20 years from now laughing
 a little too hard at her date's joke.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sh*t My Daughter Says

"My brownie's back!  It's still alive!"

Said when she excavated an old brownie from the back seat of the car.  Hey, it was in a Ziploc bag and was under a month not even close to the worst thing that she's popped into her mouth off of the floor of the car.


"I can handle this."

Her therapists are teaching her to recognize emotions beyond happy, sad, and mad.  She's learning about more nuanced emotions like nervous and irritated, which are harder to explain and identify, but which will surely come in handy since they cover about 90% of what she feels during any given day.  They were also explaining to her how to deal with the emotions and somewhere in the course of that someone used this phrase.  Had they consulted me, I would have gone with "I can dig it."


Mom:  "Audrey, eat your hamburger.  Don't just eat the....  Don't just eat the....  The....  The....
Audrey:  "Ketchup."
Mom:  "Yes.  Thank you."

It was the first time that she finished one of my sentences.  I'm feeling a little bit better about about growing old and senile with her...a process that we are well into by now.

"I go in the tulip bathroom.  I don't go in the seashell bathroom."

Audrey's school moved within the office park that they are located, and it's rocked her world more than I had anticipated.  The kids are now all together in one space, whereas they had been separated into two before.  She enters through a different door, has a new classroom, lunchroom, etc.  But of all the changes, the only thing that she has commented on is the bathroom situation.  Whenever I ask her anything about how her day was, what's going on at school, etc., she comes back with this. 

I had a chance to tour the new digs last week, and I was the only mother who asked to see the bathrooms.  And I was definitely the only mother taking pictures of them.

The "tulip" bathroom
The seashell bathroom

I thought maybe she had developed a queer eye for bathroom decor, but I dunno...they seem equally offensive to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Love the Piano

When she's not mortally afraid of the piano, Audrey loves her piano to the point of obsession.  Do I even need to type those last 5 words anymore?  Where there is love, there is obsession.  She gets stuck on certain songs and we'll hear nothing else until she gets stuck on a different one and so on and so on.  Two of her most recent favorites are a couple of old folk songs:  "Aura Lee" and "Go Tell Aunt Rhody". 

You would recognize the former as the melody to "Love Me Tender", which Audrey knows the lyrics to because we have a picture book that uses them as its text.  The pictures in that book tell the story of the relationship between a little girl and her father.  So I had a little fantasy after my father passed away that Audrey would play "Love Me Tender" at his wake, because I now so associate it with that father/daughter picture book. 

And indeed there was a piano in the room where my father was waked.  But I knew that Audrey would never have played on cue, or if she did she'd bust out some inappropriate improv'd lyrics or, even worse, launch into "Aunt Rhody" which concludes with the line "Go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead".  Put a stake through that fantasy.

Speaking of making up lyrics, after playing these songs eleventy million times even Audrey got bored with them and started customizing them.  She alternately recaps her day, airs grievances, noodles over her turn-ons/offs, and tells her therapists where they can go.

This little ditty is called "What Do I Like?".  Spoiler alert!  She likes kitties.

This one is exactly the same completely different, and is called "There's No Pink But Purple".  I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Hate the Piano

Audrey's been taking piano lessons for a couple of years now, and you might say that she has a love/hate relationship with it.  There have been so many ups and downs and I would have given up long ago, but she really has musical ability and I think it's good for her brain. 

We waited until she had been taking lessons for almost a year before we bothered to buy a keyboard for her to practice on at home.  Once we bought one, she was completely obsessed with it for like 3 months.  Then she broke her arm.  Which was followed by her refusing to play with said arm long after the cast was off.  After she got over that, she then decided that some of the lower octaves were mortally terrifying, which limited us to playing songs exclusively in the Chipmunk range.  Then she started this tic where she couldn't have both of her hands resting on the keyboard.  She would peck out a note and then pull her hand away like she had just touched something scalding hot. 

Honest to Christ, everything with this kid feels like a 1/4 of a step up and 10 steps back.  The piano is a good example of her non-linear progression in learning anything.  Every time we hit one of these walls, I have to send out the bat signal, convene the team to brainstorm ideas, write social stories, make a video model, create a new ABA program....aaaaaarrrgggghhhhh.  Can't anything just go from point A to B to C without requiring a fucking 12-step intervention?

I can't wait to see what irrational fear/tic crops up next.  Blackkeyophobia?  Using nothing but her tongue for middle C?  Refusing to play out of The Sound of Music book?  Oh no, I know you did not just disrespect The Sound of Music.

Coming tomorrow:  I Love the Piano.