Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Conversation with Hope and Liam

The other day, I was driving in the van with Hope and a friend of hers, Liam, who had come over for a playdate. Anna was at another friend's house for a playdate. Hope, her friend, and I were on our way to go pick up Josh at his summer day camp.

Liam had never met Josh so I realized that I should probably interpret a bit about who Josh was so that he wouldn't be surprised, confused or scared upon meeting him. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Liam, do you know what it means to have special needs?
Liam: No
Me: It means that some people's bodies or brains don't work the way that most people's do. Have you ever seen people like that?
Liam: Yeah. Some of the kids at my school are like that. They don't talk.
Me: Yes! I just wanted to let you know that Hope's brother is like that. His brain doesnt work as well as yours does. For example, he doesnt know how to speak very well yet. Josh is a little different from other kids his age. I just wanted to tell you that, okay Liam?
Liam: Ok.

(After a few minutes . . .)

Liam: Hope, does your brother annoy you?
Hope: No. My sister does but my brother never does.
Liam: Why not?
Hope: Because I love him the most. First is God, then Jesus, then my brother. Do you know about God?
Liam: Yes, I go to the Unitarian Universalist church where we have helping hands and healthy hearts. I go to the yellow room.
Hope: Well, I am in the big kids church now but my sister with the little kids. Want some gum?
Liam: I love gum. Sometimes I eat a whole bunch of it and I think about when I am going to poop it out.

Treasures within the conversations of kids are so easy to miss because they fly by so quickly and there is always so much going on. I just had to capture this one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Daughter Called Me a Sinner Today

Nothing makes my five year old daughter, Hope, more angry than when Mommy yells at her brother Josh. Today, when I did not get Joshua's beloved frozen mangos for him fast enough (uh, because I was dealing with an OVERFLOWING TOILET!) Josh took a bowl full of bread crusts and crumbs from breakfast and threw it all over our living room rug.

"No Josh!" I yelled, loudly, . . . and then I took the Lord's name in vain. Yep. Completely lost it. I know he's got an intellectual disability and everything but, he did it on purpose and he did it to make me mad. He was successful. I went in full on "Oh no you don't" mode. I put the plunger away then I grabbed his hand and made him pick up every bread crust and crumb on that rug. Then I made him take a time out in his room where continued to scream his head off.

All the while, Hope was seething. I had told her that I could not deal with her until I was done with her brother. In fact, I think I actually had said, "Put yourself on hold, Hope. I'm dealing with your brother right now!" To my surprise, she did. Finally, after I got Josh into his room, I took her into her room to give her some focused attention. I took her in my lap, held her tight and then I told her that I could see that she was mad but that I was proud of her for having self control and not losing it as well.

Then she looked at me and said, "Mommy, you're a sinner."

Can you believe that? I mean, yes, I am and I totally was being a sinner but I didn't even know she knew that word. We don't do a lot of talking about being "sinners" with them, even though I do believe in the theological concept. We are more likely to talk about "needing God's help"or "not being able to be good on our own" etc. It was like a slap in the face (albeit from a small, five year old hand) to be called a "sinner".

Hope went on to tell me that she loved Josh most in the world (after Jesus and God) and that I was hurting someone who she loved very much. "I hate it when you hurt Joshie, Mommy. You were being mean! You should clean that stuff up yourself!"

Oh man. Just kill me, why don't ya? She's worse than my own conscience.

I regrouped and said, "Hope, you're right. I shouldn't have yelled at Josh like that. That was wrong and it probably scared everyone. Will you forgive me?" She nodded her head without looking at me.

I continued, "But Hope, Josh also needs to learn that doing things like that is not ok."

"Why, Mommy?"

"Well, Hope, I don't let you and your sister throw food on the carpet. Josh needs to learn that too. He needs to learn the rules too."

Hope thought about that for a minute.

Her reply, "Well, why can't those people who come to work with him from school do that for him?"

"Sweetie, he needs to learn to be independent. He can't have aides or his Mommy do everything for him. Everyone needs to know that there are some things that you can do and that you can't do. It's part of growing up, even for him."

That seemed to make enough sense for her. She scampered off my lap to play with her sister. I sat in that rocking chair for a few more minutes, reflecting on what I had just said to her. Oh, man. How am I going to teach my son what is ok and not ok to do? Lately, he's been venturing into new realms of sneaky or inappropriate behavior, like hoarding food in his room or unrolling and eating toilet paper. How do I teach Joshua to have appropriate behavior and that there are consequences for his inappropriate actions?

One thing I do know is that yelling is not the way. Just as with typically developing children, when I yell, all Josh can do is get upset and react to the fact that I am mad at him. I don't often lose it with Josh but when I do, he always responds by lots of crying and hitting himself. My adrenaline is surging and so is everyone else's. This is not a good formula for teaching life lessons.

The problem is that Hope is so right. I am a sinner. I may have better social skills or cognitive abilities but, ultimately, I am no more able to control my impulses on my own than Joshua is. Today I am very aware of my need for God's help and my inability to be good on my own.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Joshua woke up this morning with a vision. He wanted to go out and sit in the car in the driveway. Nothing I could do would deter him from his goal; no video, no food, not the offer of snuggling. He wanted to go sit in the car. I even told him that I couldn't put music on in the car because that's been draining my car battery. No matter. The kid just wanted to sit in the car. He even eventually gave up on trying to drag me out there by pulling me by my hand and said, "I want to go to the car." Fine. I try to give him what he wants when he uses his words.

Now I am sitting in my front yard in my pajamas with an amazingly great, dark cup of coffee and my laptop. Joshua is experimenting with loud noises and gurgling sounds of different pitches. He is very, very happy. The loud noises and gurgling sounds are punctutated with bursts of uproarious laughter.

When Josh is happy, he is exceedingly happy. He is not trying to be happy. He is not putting on any act of being happy. He is not being happy in order to have any effect on anyone else. Sometimes, I think I experience being happy because I think I should or because I feel the need to be happy to balance out being sad. It's not that complicated for my son. He just is happy. I rarely know why. When something amuses or tickles him, he's just in it. And it comes out of him loudly. It feels simple and pure to me.

Here are a few pictures of Josh being happy. We often sit alone in the baby cry room during the Sunday service at church. I let him listen to music on my phone while I try to listen to the sermon on the video feed. At this particular moment, listening to the Black Eyed Peas is making Josh very happy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Kid is Such a Weirdo! (I can say this because I'm his Mom)

(Warning, this post is a little bit gross. Yes, again.)

OK. I know that life with this kid is going to be . . . different. I get it -- he's on a different journey, different wavelength, different perspective etc. But you know what? Sometimes I just get a wave of feeling like, "My kid is so weird!"

For example, Josh likes to nibble on books, just the corners. When he's bored sitting on the toilet, he's been known to chew on a big wad of toilet paper. Strange, right? Recently, he's been throwing up, randomly. I know, in my mother's heart, that he isn't sick. He just throws up and seems fine afterward. He's also quite constipated.

Tonight, he and his dad were coming home early from a family picnic at our local park. He clearly has to go to the bathroom so they go straight to the bathroom. As they walk in, before Alex can do anything, Josh puts his hands down the back of his pants and pulls out (among other stuff) a long piece of videotape. I am not kidding you. It's a miracle that this boy is not dead. I mean, is the body really able to deal with stuff like this?

When I get home, Alex tells me this story and I'm just floored.

Seriously? My kid eats (and poops) video tape. Thomas the tank engine, specifically. I know because Alex recently found a destroyed VHS tape cassette thing and threw it away. Stranger still, Josh has been obsessed with asking to watch the Thomas video. It's taking everything in me to not say to him, "No, buddy, you can't watch Thomas BECAUSE YOU ATE IT!"

OK. Take deep breath, Susan. Life is strange and gross and unbelievable sometimes. Life with Josh is especially so.