When Is She Leaving?

Aaron often exhibits the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome listed on the O.A.S.I.S. website in an article entitled Understanding the Student with Asperger’s Syndrome:  Guidelines for Teachers.   I’ve referenced this article through the years that I home schooled Aaron after his Asperger’s diagnosis.  I look back at it now as his mother.  The seven main characteristics that are listed, and then the further traits under each main characteristic, are helpful reminders at times about what makes Aaron tick.  Maybe, though, I should change the title to:  Understanding Our Son With Asperger’s Syndrome:  Lifelines for Parents. 

Under the heading titled “Restricted Range of Interests” one of the traits listed is the tendency to have “eccentric preoccupations, or odd, intense fixations.”  Check. 

Aaron loves movies that are, in my opinion, odd.  He gets quite a kick out of anything that’s genetically altered in order to make it huge and hungry.  Rats, bats, spiders, zombies, aliens – he’s not picky.  If they are out to destroy mankind, then Aaron is happy.  He even loves the movies with huge tornadoes (see my Mother of the Year blog)  or other end-of-the-world weather events.  I’ve endured watching erupting volcanoes, roaring fires, enormous hailstones, city-engulfing earthquakes – you name it, I’ve endured it.  Quality and acting ability are lost on Aaron as long as the action is fairly non-stop and the human population is dropping like flies.

So it’s no wonder that once Aaron became aware of the classic movie, Sharktopus, he has become preoccupied and fixated – completely.  As he said, “Mom!! Sharktopus is about a fish creature that’s part shark and part octopus.  It was created by some evil navy men!!”  This sharktopus eats any unfortunate people who are anywhere in or near the water, of course.  And from what I can tell, that’s the entire plot of this amazing movie.  Which is more than enough for Aaron.

He wants me to find this movie, and will leave no stone unturned until I do just that.  To convince me that this movie is worth all this effort, he has been desperate for me to watch the trailer.  Yesterday on the way to his group he talked and talked about it.  I reminded him that when he got home from Paradigm, I might have a friend at the house for a visit and so he would have to wait.  I was NOT going to watch the Sharktopus trailer when my friend was there, pleasant as that might be.

Terri and I were visiting over coffee in the late afternoon when I heard our garage door open.  I told Terri to get ready because Aaron was home.  Terri recently retired from teaching and has worked for years with special needs, plus she’s met Aaron, so I knew she had a good understanding.  Still……..

Aaron burst in the door and said, “Mom!!  Guess what we did today?”  He then proceeded to tell me about going to Wal-Mart, buying a Cheddar Pasta Salad, two more boxes of rolls (read my Rolls blog from the past and know why I sighed), and then………………”I looked for Sharktopus and they don’t have it!  Can we go to CD Tradepost?  Can you take me later?”  I told Aaron no to the CD Tradepost idea and then reminded him that I had a friend there, saying, “Aaron, do you remember Terri?”  He offered the obligatory, mumbled “Hi” and went right back to Sharktopus.  “Mom!  Can you watch the Sharktopus trailer?”

I gave Aaron that look that told him he needed to be quiet as I reminded him that my friend and I were visiting, and IF I looked at a trailer it would be later.  Aaron reluctantly agreed and went on his way, thumping upstairs to his room.  However, in only a few minutes there he came, clomping down the stairs and into the family room where Terri and I sat.  He had on his flannel pajama pants with his pajama shirt tucked in and his pants pulled up at least 6 inches above his waist.  Terri handled the shock of that very well, I thought.

As he turned to me and started talking about the Sharktopus trailer again, I firmly told him that there would be no more discussion as long as I was visiting with my friend.  Aaron marched off to put his dirty clothes away, and as he returned to the family room he looked at Terri, then at me, and asked, “So when is she leaving?” 

AARON!!!!! 

Yes, there it is – under “Impairment in Social Interaction.”  Persons with AS “are insensitive and lack tact.”  And I would add that Mom’s of persons with AS “are often red-faced and frustrated!”

And thankful for understanding friends, for sure!

A Manicure?

Aaron has always been extremely fascinated by the nail salon inside of Wal-Mart.  He wonders what those people do in there; why it smells strange; and WHO gets their nails done.  And of course, invariably he will ask me, “Mom, can I get my nails done in there?” 

No, Aaron, you cannot get your nails done.  And his next question is, “Why?”

So I try to explain that guys don’t typically have their nails done…………..although I know that’s not really always the case in this day and age.  Andrea just came home recently from the nail salon with a story of a very, well, unique “man” who was getting a manicure while she was having one.  We decided that she should NOT tell Aaron about this!

I cut Aaron’s nails for him because he has terrible manual dexterity.  For his safety and for the preservation of his fingertips it’s just better if Gary and I take care of that for him.  I remind Aaron that when I cut his nails, he usually gets impatient or grouchy……………so why does he want to pay money to someone to do what I do at home and pay for something that makes him grouchy? 

It doesn’t register.  He still would love to experience the nail salon.

Yesterday he had his annual eye exam, and then after our Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat lunch buffet……….where I had to put a stop to all that Aaron could eat……………he and I stopped at Wal-Mart for a few items.  In the check-out line he asked his usual question.  “Mom, can I go sit on that bench and wait while you check out?” 

I said yes, with my usual reminders to him……………don’t run, Aaron; please don’t clap while you’re sitting there; don’t make any weird noises; and stay right there until I come. 

I unloaded the cart and took care of paying, etc.  When I pushed the cart away and looked toward the bench…………..there was no Aaron.  Then I saw him – standing in the doorway of the nail salon.  My dear somewhat big and somewhat unusual Aaron, just standing in the doorway observing all the action of the intriguing nail salon.  I could only imagine what the employees and the patrons thought of this man standing there just watching them. 

I rescued the women from this uncomfortable situation and Aaron chattered on the way to the van about how he likes the nail salon and why can’t he get his nails done, etc., etc.

At supper Aaron was excited to tell Gary about his little escapade and how he nearly entered the forbidden salon.  “Dad, while Mom paid at Wal-Mart, I stood in the door of that nail place!” 

And what did you do, Aaron?  “Well, I read the sign that gave the prices.  And then one of those nail-filer ladies asked me if she could help me.” 

And there it was – another of Aaron’s priceless descriptions of people.  A nail-filer lady.  Don’t you just love it?  Gary turned his head away so Aaron wouldn’t see his smile, and he and I stifled our desire to laugh loudly.  Aaron went on to describe how the nail-filer lady took the woman’s finger and filed it, and used a little drill to buff it.  He was fascinated even more by what he saw and is more sure than ever that he needs to experience whatever it is that those “nail-filer ladies” are doing in there. 

And I’m sure that I will never be classified as a prestigious “nail-filer lady.”  I’m just annoying Mom who makes him pause in his day to have his nails cut.  Maybe if I bought a little drill? 

The Monitor

Aaron loves knowing what the structure of each of his days will be like.  He’s doing very well with flexibility, though, and that’s great progress for him.  His day group has helped with that as they have some days that are fairly routine, such as going bowling every Monday, a movie every Friday, etc.  Other days are open for the group to decide what to do and so Aaron has learned to be open to change.

Here at home there are some aspects of Aaron’s day that he wants clarified.  Every day.  EVERY day.  Did I make that clear?  These things that Aaron wants to know about and fit into his scheduled day are:   

1.  What’s for supper?
2.  Can we play Skip-Bo?
3.  If not Skip-Bo, can we tickle each other’s backs?
4.  What will the weather be like?

He often begins asking the above questions the night before as I tell him goodnight in his room.  “Mom, tomorrow do you think we can play Skip-Bo or maybe do each other’s backs?”   Or it might be:  “Mom, what’s for supper tomorrow night?”  And/or:  “Mom, is it going to rain tomorrow?  Is it going to be cold?” 

If I’ve told him that I want to watch a movie with him, then he’ll throw that question in as well.  The other day I told him that I’d like to watch Rango with him so now I get that question every day and will until we finally watch it.  At least there’s a little variety in his questioning.

When he returns home from his day group in the late afternoon, he will usually begin immediately telling me about his day.  Soon, though, he’ll announce that he’s going up to his room…………..but before he walks away he’ll begin the questioning.   “Mom, so what’s for supper?”    “Mom, do you think we can play Skip-Bo or do our backs?”    “Is it going to rain tonight?” 

He’ll go upstairs and then soon I’ll hear him thumping down again.  “Mom, you come and get me if you want to play Skip-Bo or maybe do our backs, OK?”    And on and on the evening goes, as he reaffirms the questioning and my responses.  At least he’s getting some good exercise as he lumbers up and down the stairs over and over again.

Since Aaron’s seizures are nocturnal now,  we keep a monitor by our bed at night.  I also usually have it with me in the early mornings before Aaron gets up, just in case he has a seizure before he wakes up.  We’ve heard some pretty humorous things at night, either before he goes to sleep or during his sleep.  Some of his noises are funny…………..some are annoying if they wake us up as we try to go to sleep………and of course the seizures can be alarming in the middle of the night. 

Sometimes Aaron laughs in his sleep.  That’s so funny to us and we always wonder what he’s dreaming about that makes him have that laughter.  At other times Aaron talks in his sleep.  That’s what happened this morning.  I was listening to his steady breathing as he slept and I had my quiet time, with the monitor beside me.  And then I heard his question, spoken in his sleep:

“What are we doing for supper?”

HaHaHa!!!  He has just proven my theory to be fact!!  I’ve said many times before that I bet Aaron asks in his sleep the same questions that he asks during the day – and he DID!! 

Oh, Aaron – predictable even in your sleep! 

Modern Art and Taco Bell

Aaron had a doctor appointment this afternoon, so we had some time together – which is always an adventure in one way or another.  The adventure is usually wrapped around Aaron’s conversations, either to me personally or what he intends to share with me personally but is spoken in his loud, monotone voice in a very public setting.  This makes his words anything but personal, and no amount of sshhhhing on my part deters him.  He may lower his voice a minuscule amount but not enough, and as he talks the level goes up again quickly, so I just give up and try to redirect the conversation if it’s something way off the wall. 

Such was the case in Great Clips.  I decided to leave early for his appointment so we could stop to get his hair cut.  I always hope that no one else will be in there when we arrive so that Aaron doesn’t have to wait.  I ‘ve learned that waiting rooms can be areas of great embarrassment for me because Aaron takes that time when I am his captive audience to, of course, talk – about whatever comes to his mind.  We get enough looks as it is when he marches in to Great Clips and loudly asks, “Do we have to wait?!”  So I tell him to hush and let’s see what the stylist says and wait our turn, etc.  But the interest level among the other patrons has already hit the ceiling as they quickly look up to see who has blustered in and demanded to know if he has to wait.  Oh great!  Aaron asks that question so abruptly because I’ve told him before we enter that if there’s a long wait then we will have to leave.  No one knows or understands that background, of course, so everyone looks and I smile to set them at ease and Aaron and I eventually sit down and he begins talking.

About DNA.  Yes, today Aaron wanted to talk about DNA.  And not just  any old DNA, but crime scene DNA.  My shushing and redirection didn’t work, really, so we talked about DNA and how similar relatives’ DNA is to each other, and what “forensics people” have to know to be a “forensics person” and how Aaron would like to be a “forensics person” to solve crimes and how he’d have to know science and how that might stop him for becoming a “forensics person”……………..and I was very happy when the stylist called the name “Aaron.”  Why DNA today?  I don’t know………………I don’t usually know…………..and I’m sure the other patrons wanted to ask that same question, among many others.

Hair cut and goatee trimmed, we drove to Taco Bell for his favorite part of any day out and that’s eating out.  Eating out and talking to a captive crowd are two of his very most favorite things.  Today was turning into a winner for Aaron!  He decided he wanted a number four as long as it was something big, and of course he had to start asking questions about how the Mexican Pizza was put together while I was trying to pay, so I moved him on and settled our bill.  He was busy getting about 53 napkins and several sets of plastic silverware for us, but at least it kept him quiet. 

As we ate, he was observing the pictures hung on the walls around us.  Finally he said, “Mom, I don’t like those pictures that are on the walls.  They don’t make sense.” 


I told him these pictures were modern art and he replied, “Well, not to me!  They’re nasty paintings!”  Then he pointed to a Taco Bell picture of a taco and said, “Now, that’s a real picture!”  Well, of course he loves the taco picture – it’s food, and he can certainly relate to that! 

So I asked him what kind of pictures he would like hung in his bedroom and he declared, “NORMAL pictures!”  As I studied the picture hanging above our table, I could see why Aaron didn’t like it.  The jumbled designs and colors would really drive him to distraction, as they were doing there as we ate.  His mind isn’t geared to jumbled anything, even when he seems random to us.  He’s connecting dots that make sense to him and modern art certainly doesn’t fit that bill. 

This doctor visit is one we make only once a year now, for the Asperger’s, and Aaron had a good time sitting on the couch telling the doctor all about his ER visit for the “Cellulite”  and how he had a couple seizures the other morning and maybe it was because he stayed up too late the night before and how his Aunt Sandra came for Christmas and on and on. 

On the drive home he asked me if I like Red Lobster and then informed me that he does NOT like Red Lobster because, as he puts it, “I don’t like to eat fish food!”  I don’t remember seeing fish food on the menu but decided not to go down that path.  We talked about bright digital signs and parking garages, and then he excitedly pointed to Lawrence Dumont Stadium to inform me, “Mom, that’s the baseball playing area!” 

Yes, Aaron, the stadium.  “Yeah, where they play baseball!”  Which to him makes it a baseball playing area…………….which makes sense, really. 

The day ended perfectly with a stop for his weekend Mike and Ikes, an attempt to grab a coffee bean from the grinder so he could sniff it, and the kind act he performed of rolling a loose kid’s cart back to the store without being asked. 

Never a dull or quiet moment with Aaron.  I’d worry if there was!

The Fruit With Spines

I’ve mentioned before how Aaron is very fascinated with unique fruits or vegetables that we sometimes see in the produce section of grocery stores.  One of his favorite to talk about and to eat is fresh pineapple.  I guess I need to buy one again because tonight at supper he couldn’t seem to remember the name of that fruit.  He asked, “Mom, what’s the thing that has that stuff that grows up on top of it?” 

An artichoke, Aaron?  And don’t laugh!  He’s very intrigued by artichokes and we haven’t looked at one in ages, so I figured that’s the “thing” he was talking about.   I mean, surely he’d remember the name “pineapple!”

“No,”  Aaron replied, “not an artichoke.  You know, it has that long stuff growing on top.  And it has spines on it.” 

Well, of course – you mean a pineapple. 

“Yes!”  Aaron answered, “a pineapple!”  Then he asked how a pineapple grows.  Well, none of us was totally positive about that.  I said tree……..Gary said bush………….Andrew didn’t know and didn’t really care……….so I told Aaron to google it.  That’s my standard answer for “we don’t really know and why are even asking us this question anyway, Aaron?” 

But Aaron wasn’t ready to give up this stimulating discussion yet.  He continued, “I bet it grows on the ground like corn!” 

Aaron, corn doesn’t grow on the ground. 

“Well, I bet it grows like some of the other stuff in our garden that grows on the ground………like carrots.”

Uh, Aaron – carrots grow UNDER the ground. 

“Well, some of that other stuff that grows on the ground.”

Cucumbers, maybe?

“Yeah!  Cucumbers!”

I guess I can’t expect him to know how pineapples grow when he doesn’t even know how the “stuff” that we raise in our back-yard vegetable garden grows! 

This summer, we begin Gardening 101. 

Lessons From the Brown Pine

I’ve been observing the large pine tree way out back for some time now. Months, really. I look at it out of the kitchen window when I’m at the sink; stare at it while I’m watering flowers out back; glance at it when I pass an upstairs window. Now I know that my first inclinations were true. Our huge pine tree does indeed have Pine Wilt. At first there were only a few brown needles that started presenting themselves among the pretty evergreen. Pines sometimes do that and so there was no reason to overreact. It’s just that our history here has taught us that this might spell trouble. In the 12 years that we’ve lived at this house, we’ve cut close to 40 pine trees because of Pine Wilt. Some were small trees that were crowded into our back tree line and haven’t been missed. Others, like this current pine, are huge and beautiful and leave a hole when they are gone.

 

It’s amazing how Pine Wilt occurs. It’s a disease that’s caused by a small nematode laid by a beetle. This nematode buries itself into the trunk and limbs of the pine tree and begins to eat away at the heart of the wood. No one can see the nematode so there is no way to observe it doing its dirty work inside the tree. A few brown needles begin to appear but sometimes even then we’re not fully sure of the danger within. Some trees continue to live and seemingly thrive despite a few brown patches. However, one day we notice a distinct difference in the tree as the brown begins to overtake the branches rapidly. By the time this occurs, the end has already come and the tree needs to be cut. Actually, when the nematode is deposited inside the tree it spells the end of the tree because there is no way to be rid of this destroyer. The outward evidence only demonstrates the death that has been inside the tree for many months.

I know that in my walk with the Lord for these many years there are nematodes of various sorts that are deposited in my soul if I am not careful. How easy it is to let down my guard during the busy days of this life; during the stresses of living in this world; during the peaceful, carefree days. I may feel that I have a handle on spiritual issues and don’t need to spend so much time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Stress can create all sorts of dangers that eat away at my inner being. Worry, fear of the unknown, bitterness towards those who have hurt me, anger at others or at God for my lot in life – the list goes on and on. Even such disagreeable but unseen “smaller” nematodes can eat away at my effectiveness and joy. How often do I envy someone else’s house, figure, or bank account? How many hours do I spend worrying about my children instead of praying? We all have issues that can eat away at our core and make us brittle, unhappy believers. And sooner or later those inner eaters of our joy will start showing outwardly. The brown and ugly attitudes will overtake the pretty green of growing in grace. Our lack of joy and peace and other fruits of the Spirit will be evident to all. Through God’s grace it’s not too late for any of us to say along with David in Psalm 139:23 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way.” I don’t want to turn brown and useless. I want to, with God’s grace and strength, let His hand rid me of the inner destroyers of my life and testimony. I want to be evergreen and full of life for His glory!