Monday, October 20, 2014

31 for 21: Worth A Listen

Last year, Christer & I had the chance to see Temple Grandin speak.  The University's auditorium was packed, and it was a diverse audience.  The usual crowd of college faculty & students were there (including more than a few students in the line to prove their attendance).  Then there were people on the autism spectrum there, and their families.  There were special education teachers and other professionals that work in the disability community.  And then there was a whole separate set of folks who knew of Grandin from her work -- folks interested in animal behavior and agriculture.  And then there were the animal activist types, curious about this woman who's work has led to more humane treatment of animals on their way to be slaughtered.

Temple Grandin owned that audience.  Her presentation was unlike any other lecture I have ever attended.  It was obvious that she is not a linear thinker -- I had to work hard to keep up with her tangents and loops.  She was straightforward when describing the importance of her work, abrupt in answering questions, and blunt when scolding the tech booth for messing up her slides.  And the audience was with her through it all -- sometimes in quiet concentration, sometimes in slightly uneasy laughter, sometimes with enthusiastic applause.

The audience was excited to see Temple Grandin, and was willing to enter her space in order to hear what she had to say.  We were rewarded by seeing the topics of her talk through her eyes for a few moments.  We were rewarded by seeing both the scientific accomplishments she has made, and the ways that her autism gave her a view of the world that made those accomplishments possible.

This is what I want for Max.  Not from a packed auditorium, necessarily, but from his friends, and coworkers, and from the teller at the bank.  I want people to be so genuinely interested in him that they are willing to take a step into his space in order to really hear what he has to say.

And, if I'm honest, this is also what I hope for myself.  Look, it's tough really listening to people.  I have hard enough time staying present with the folks closest to me in my life.  When someone comes along who is challenging (a bully in the workplace, an over-dramatic friend, a five year old child living in my house...) it is easier to shut down, to walk away, to disengage.  It's tempting, when someone doesn't act the way I would like them to, to ascribe my own reasons for their behavior instead of paying attention long enough to understand where they are coming from.

I'm going to mess this up along the way.  I'm going to miss out on things that Max is trying to tell me.  Heck, I've missed out on few key messages from both of my children already.  But months after Temple Grandin's speech, the whole experience -- hearing her, watching the audience, and being a part of the audience -- it all sticks with me.  There are models out there for how to connect across differences.  There will be places where Max is appreciated and understood.  And, if I'm lucky, I'll get to step inside his space, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

31 for 21: More Halloween

 I think this might be the money shot -- both boys, in costume, smiling:

Toby wanted to be Pikachu, so we made Max a little jacket and hat so he could be Ash (pikachu's human handler).  Pikachu got lots of love, especially from excited teenagers.  I'm not sure anyone recognized Ash, though.

And after all the photos I forced on the boys, Toby was pleased to get a chance to take this one of the grown-ups.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 for 21: Dance

I tried to stand Max on the dance floor.  He isn't standing on his own yet, but he's usually happy to put some weight on his feet if you'll keep him balanced.  But not tonight.  I'd put him down, and he'd swing his legs up to his ears.  I tried several times, and then gave up and plopped him sitting on the floor.  As soon as I let go, he started busting a move--and the telltale giggles of half a dozen onlookers let me know that the whole scene had an audience.

Max loves dancing right now.  Toes thumping, arms waving, head bobbing, he's got his own set of moves.  So we sat in the corner of the dance floor at the community's Halloween dance tonight.  (His brother was on the other side of the room mixing up a batch of "zombie snot" courtesy of the science museum.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

31 for 21: Fall Break

After a dreary, wet week, we finally got some sunshine, and I finally got some new photos for the blog!  Yay!

Today was Toby's one-day Fall Break.  We celebrated with a pajama morning.  Kindergarten has taken a big bite out of the time spent in pajamas around here.  The whole transition to Kindergarten is taking a bit longer than I'd anticipated.  Two months into the school year, it still seems like a very long time for our 5-year-old to keep focused, get along with his friends & teachers, and generally behave himself.  He comes home tired, and ready to have some time to himself without anyone telling him what to do.

So we spent the morning in pajamas, and the boys spent most of the morning in a big pile of pillows and blankets.

When we did get outside, we were greeted with one of the last short-sleeve days of the year.  We found Christer at work for lunch, played with the ice cream machine in the cafeteria, and checked out the toys in the Physics supply closet.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the park, and brought home two tired boys.  It was nice to have a slow day today before jumping into a busy weekend.  Tomorrow the Halloween festivities begin!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 for 21: Down Syndrome Awareness Month

I figure that at least once this month I should post a link to the 15 minute video "Just Like You."  It's the best intro-to-Down-syndrome I've found for kids (I'm guessing it would play well with elementary through high school aged students).  Three sets of teens, answering basic questions about Down syndrome, asking the silly questions so that you don't have to.  So if you haven't seen it already, go, take a look.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 for 21: Wednesdays

Wednesdays are our busiest day right now.  A busy morning with Max, a busy afternoon of after-school activities for Toby, and then an evening at church.  Wednesday dinner at church just might be my favorite part of the week.  It's a crazy bustling scene--catching up with friends, herding kids, checking in with my Sunday school teachers, getting different family members to their separate nursery/choir/bible studies.  Getting everyone where they need to be a bit late because we spent too much time chatting around the table.

Which means that by the time I get home and get the kids to bed, I don't have much left to say. So please enjoy this photo of a baby making faces with his spoon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 for 21: A Toddler

This fall, we've moved from having a baby to having a toddler.

I think it started at the beginning of the school year, when I decided it was time to take him to Toddler Storytime at the library instead of Baby Storytime.  It just seemed like he was the biggest kid in the class, and it was time.  And he loved it.  He loved the energy of all the toddlers running around and making lots of noise.  

Then there's been the trouble with his appetite.  Our little baby Max once gobbled up every spoonful that came his way.  Many days we were certain he was eating more than Toby.  And then it stopped.  Along with his pincer grasp came the ability to carefully pick up food from his tray and drop it onto the ground.  Not surprisingly, this change was accompanied by a drop in weight, so now we are reduced to begging him to eat.  I might have spent tonight's dinner singing, because the only time he would open his mouth was on the "wash" part of "wash the spider down."

And in the last few weeks, we've seen the attitude.  Screeching when he's bored.  Yanking toys away from other toddlers.  Refusing to give away contraband cords, legos and lint without a fight.  Bursting into tears when he hears the word "no."  Pivoting around so that his back is facing his therapists when he's done playing their games, and doing so with a big grin on his face.  He is still a remarkably easygoing little boy -- but he's getting opinions.

So I've been calling him a toddler lately, mostly without apology.  Actual toddling will come when it will, we have a toddler in the house.