One day he’s “normal.” One day he’s “on the spectrum.” Then he’s normal again. The next day he’s “stubborn.”

One of the ladies from ChildFind came to observe Jack in the classroom yesterday, and although he was typical Jack, preliminary reports from unamed sources suggest that he probably won’t qualify for services. Apparently, according to this source, ChildFind only cares about cognitive ability until the child is in the public school system. Then they will address social problems. And Jack has passed all the cognitive tests with flying colors. And the observer thinks that Jack may just be “stubborn,” which seems to me like a specious diagnosis.

So no matter that he won’t talk to another child, unless it happens to be his brother, and that this will almost certainly affect his schooling, and no matter that these exact same ChildFind people seemed genuinely concerned about him not too long ago at his assessment, and no matter that his pediatrician told me two days ago that he will need services to teach him about social integration…

Granted, I haven’t gotten their report yet nor have we had our IEP meeting, which I am really starting to dread&#8212and it hasn’t even been scheduled yet&#8212so who knows what’s going to happen.

For the most part Jack does all right and I have caught him a few times lately getting pulled into play or conversation with another child, so I’m not as freaked out as I was a month or two ago, but I’m still worried about making sure he gets what he needs. I’ll keep you posted.

Autism and Constipation. They Could Be a Band.

Today was well-child doctor’s visit day for Jack and Quinn. A cool mom from my preschool took Sam home with her after school for a playdate so that I wouldn’t have to deal with him at the appointment, which was awesome, because we were there for two hours, and I can’t quite imagine how antsy Sam would have gotten. Jack and Quinn were bad enough. By the time the doctor was done with us, Jack went running out of the office looking for a sticker and Quinn took that opportunity to try to escape wearing only a diaper and sandals.

I really like my pediatrician, but I pretty much assume that if my appointment is at 2:15, the doctor won’t roll in until 3:15. Which was the case today. But that gave us plenty of time to read and re-read and re-read the three books in the tiny exam room. And it also gave my children time to briefly wear the paper gowns the nurse offered them before discarding them after about four minutes.

The doctor and I chatted about Jack and his issues, as I call them. I like his attitude about it, and I really feel like he will help me figure out what I need to do to help Jack, no matter what the ChildFind people have to say. His take was that it is possible that Jack is on the spectrum, even after I told him that the ChildFind psychologist said that he wasn’t. He also mentioned (for the third time in as many conversations) that many people say that Bill Gates has Asperger’s and that he seems to have done well for himself. And, nerd-factor aside, that’s not an upsetting comparison. Hopefully Jack will grow up to have a cooler haircut though.

Anyway, the doctor had lots of positive things to say about Jack and the way he dealt with different situations at the appointment, which led him to believe that he’s doing all right, but will still need therapy and help dealing with social situations. But I felt better walking out of that room than walking out of the ChildFind evaluation.

Quinn is fine too. Except for… Any guesses? Yep, except for his poop issues. Long story short: The boy has to poop more often. So I dragged all of my kids to the store to buy a mountain of suppositories, enemas, fiber wafers, Fiber One cereal and fiberous cereal bars.

At home, the daunting-looking liquid glycerin suppository worked in about six minutes, much to Quinn’s chagrin. After his diaper change, he laid on my lap for probably ten minutes with a dazed expression on his face. I could only imagine all the little endorphins running through his system.

Oh, today was also my anniversary, which both my loving husband and my mom remembered. And which I did not. I had an idea that it was at some nebulous time in the future. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t expect it to show up so soon. I’m sorry, my love. Happy Anniversary.

Tales From the Road, Prologue

Hello, blogosphere, I’ve missed you.

We got back from a whirlwind trip to the Cleveland area last night. We were able to see family, take care of some things, and, most importantly, Alex and his family were able to say goodbye to his grandfather.

You’ll see a lot of posts go up today. If you don’t care about the minutiae of traveling by car from Maryland to Ohio with three kids and a dog, feel free to skip them. I do tell you though, this trip may have changed our minds about driving to Wisconsin for vacation this year.

Tales From the Road, Chapter Three


Alex’s mom reports that at about 7 a.m. a sound-asleep Sam shouts “Pirates!” from his slumber. I told you there were stories about pirates in there.

Because Quinn still doesn’t feel well, I stay home with him to let him sleep and the rest of the family goes to breakfast. Alex neglects to bring me home anything to eat, so I have to resort to leftover spinach ravioli for breakfast.

While watching TV, a car commercial comes on (no TiVo at grandpa’s house) and Sam says, “The news is on; I don’t want to watch the news.” Because in Sam’s head there are two kinds of TV: stuff that he likes and the news.

We decide to go out for ice cream because Quinn is feeling better. The ice cream shack has soft serve ice cream and outside seating in the warm sun. Not a good combo if you’re Jack and your ice cream is melting faster that you can eat it. Compounded by the fact that there are sprinkles on it and he is trying desperately to eat the sprinkles off of his hand, the table, and (dear God, Alex and I are awesome parents) the ground before they get away. At some point he drops his entire cone on the ground. Without a word, Alex gives it back to him. (Like I said: awesome!) Then he starts eating it from the bottom of the cone.

Sam does a little better, and when he has eaten all he wants, Quinn trades his almost-finished vanilla cone for Sam’s larger vanilla and chocolate cone with sprinkles. Good trade, little man, good trade.

Later, after a trip to the estate lawyer, dinner, and dropping Grandma at the airport, Sam tries to figure out the differences in age, height, and speed between Alex and his mom, who recently had hip surgery. After figuring out that Grandma is older than Dad, but Dad is taller, Sam decides that speed can be the tiebreaker: “Someday, when Grandma’s hip is better, I want to see you guys race.”

On the way back to the house, after a lot of screaming in the backseat (Sam) and a little screaming from the front seat (Alex), I put the DVD player down again. I have some major philosophical issues with DVD players in cars, but oh dear God, I have some even more major practical reasons to love it. We watch Baby Einstein while Sam admonishes Jack, “I told you to laugh in your head.”

The evening winds to a close as Sam and Jack find some strange objects in the bedroom. (No, not that, you dirty mind.) Sam picks up two paddles apparently used for some terrible 20th-century hazing rituals and asks what they’re for. My list of acceptable answers would have included, “They’re miniature oars,” or “They’re decorations,” or even, “I don’t know.” Alex’s answer? “They’re from my dad’s fraternity to hit people in the butt.” About five minutes later, Sam emerges from the room to ask, “Dad, someday can we hit people in the butt with these?”

Tales From the Road, Chapter Two


After a somewhat difficult bedtime late the night before, at which time we’d given up on making Quinn sleep in the playpen and let him sleep with us, we wake up to find Sam sleeping contentedly in said crib.

We decided to go out for breakfast, and when Jack grimaced and whimpered when we tried to force his tiny shoes onto his giant feet, we decided that we’d go buy him some shoes too. We found a Target only to have Jack find the only pair of shoes he wanted. In a size 11 and a half. And although that would have given us a good couple of years before we had to buy him more shoes, we decided it would work out better if we got the nine or nine and a half he really needed. Of course, he didn’t like any of those shoes. And when you try to force something Jack doesn’t like onto Jack… Well, the whole store heard about it. We finally found a nice pair of all black sneakers that he decided was adequate.

Onward to the next shoe debacle. For his birthday, my mom had given Quinn a pair of Crocs that were, unfortunately, a size too small. We had brought them with us in hopes of finding a Hallmark store at which we could exchange them for the right size. While the mall in Sandusky, Ohio, does have a play area for the kids to play in, the Hallmark store does not carry Crocs. But the Macy’s there does. A short walk and a tiny bit of fraud later and Quinn’s red size 6-7s were exchanged for a navy blue pair of 7-8s. Or so I thought. When I got back to the play area, I discovered that the shoes were size 8-9 and HUGE. So I went back. Fortunately, this time I had a receipt! Unfortunately it seems that size 7-8 Crocs don’t exist. So I exchanged the navy blue ones for some bright orange 8-9s. And then I finally left the nicest clerk at the Sandusky Macy’s in peace. (No matter the size, Quinn adores the shoes, telling strangers, “Orange ones! Orange ones!”)

Alex’s mom, who missed her flight to Cleveland, called us at 11:15 a.m. to tell us that she had just arrived at the Chicago airport. Unfortunately, her flight from Chicago had landed in Cleveland 45 minutes earlier at 10:30. We were, however, able to collect her in time for the 3 p.m. memorial service.

We got to the funeral home just after 2 p.m. When he walked in, an awed Jack looked at the grandiose setting and the flower-patterned carpet and exclaimed, “It’s Mystery Manor!” All semblance of decorum fell to the wayside as Sam and Jack (and copycat Quinn) set about wrestling in and running around what they saw as The Backyardigans’ haunt.

The service itself was really nice with many of the people there standing up to say nice things about Alex’s grandfather. Alex talked about what his grandfather had meant to him, and after her last-second arrival, Alex’s mom read a very touching speech about him that she had written. His nephew spoke, friends spoke, former co-workers spoke, even his former real estate agent had cared enough to come and speak. This man was definitely someone who knew how to make friends, something Alex pointed out in his talk.

The children were not super well-behaved, but a very nice woman who worked at the funeral home took care of them for much of the service, and several people commented on how it was nice to see them there regardless. Because if there was one thing Alex’s grandfather loved, it was his family: Alex, Sam, Jack, Quinn; his nephew and his wife, who lived nearby and spent a lot of time with him; and his brother, who lives in Virginia.

As Alex is the executor of the estate and had to deal with a lot of the difficult logistical things, the memorial service was a really nice time for him to be able to put all that aside and remember his grandfather, whom he loved very much.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and letting the kids enjoy their grandma, who had brought cake and toys. Perhaps most excitingly, she had brought toy tongs with little lights in them that were meant to pick up gummy caterpillars and make them glow. The kids LOVED them, but I’m afraid the people who buy that condo next will be finding little yellow and red gummies for months.

Oh, and the heretofore unobjectionable dog? Yeah, she escaped. Seeing as how we were in Ohio, I was convinced that we would never see her again. Yet somehow she made her way back all by herself. Then all I had to do was track Alex down and relieve him of his dog-hunting duties.

Shortly thereafter, Quinn started to puke and laundry ensued.

Tales From the Road, Chapter One


After a flurry of activity, and a morning of school for Sam and Jack, we piled into the car at 1:42 pm to leave for Ohio direct from picking the kids up from class. Some highlights:

12:45 p.m. Mere seconds after putting Quinn and Cassidy (the dog) in the car to pick up the bigger kids, Quinn, who rarely sees the dog in the car, comments, “Cassidy funny.” He repeats this ad nauseum for the next hour.

3:14 p.m. Our first rest stop. Jack walks directly up to a strange man sitting by himself at a rest stop and engages him in conversation. That’s my little Jack. He’s been doing this since he could walk. No ideas of stranger danger there.

3:17 p.m. Sam sees a tattooed man in a straw western hat at the same rest stop and asks, “Does that cowboy have a gun?”

3:39 p.m. Sam announces, with great certainty, “Russia is the largest state. I am correct.”

4:00 p.m. I put my pillow up against the window and try to take a nap.

4:01 p.m. Quinn starts repeating, “Wake up, Mama. Wake up. Mama. Wake up, Mama.” I wake up.

4:24 p.m. I see a billboard that says, “Hire me! I will work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.” I comment that it is a weird thing for somebody to put on a billboard. Alex points out that the billboard company wants people to put their signs up there. “It’s called advertising.” All I can come back with is, “My business is not doing well.”

5:53 p.m. Jack wants Sam’s help with something and I ask him to assist. Sam says, “But he has to learn.” Jack replies, “But I doesn’t want to learn.”

6:32 p.m. While Quinn douses broccoli in sour cream to eat it at our dinner stop, Sam inspects an elderly man with sunglasses, jeans, longish white hair, and a red bandanna. “I think I see a pirate,” he comments.

7:00 p.m. We use our minivan’s built-in DVD player to turn on the copy of Happy Feet that Alex bought at 7-11 right before we left Maryland.

7:30 p.m. Sam SCREAMS and jumps as high as his seatbelt will allow when a seal jumps out of the onscreen water in an attempt to eat the penguin hero, Mumble.

8:43 p.m. Sam and Jack beg for pennies from a stranger at a truck stop. After the man in front of us in line drops a penny, Jack says, “I need a coin.” The man kindly gives it to him only to be rewarded with Sam insisting that he needs money too. The man graciously digs a cent out of his pocket to give to my greedy children.

Tales From the Road, Chapter Four


Saturday morning we packed the car, and took care of things regarding Alex’s grandfather’s estate, including packing up sentimental items as well as papers and documents to bring home.

We decide to take the guys back to the mall play area so they can get some energy out of their system before we drag them back on the road. They play happily until a boy in an orange shirt pulls Sam’s hair. Instead of physically retaliating (good boy, Sam!) he comes to talk to Alex. Sam says he wants to tell the boy that he won’t play with him anymore. We say that sounds like a good way to deal with the situation, but he doesn’t get a chance. That chance does come, however, about fifteen minutes later when we’re walking out of the mall and Quinn loses one of his giant Crocs. Orange-shirt is walking with his parents, who I believe to be unaware of the whole hair-pulling incident. The boy’s mother stops us to tell us that Quinn lost his shoe, after which Sam chases them down and announces, “I don’t like you!” A flabbergasted Alex is not given a chance to explain as the family walks off, no doubt amazed by what they must imagine to be our incredibly rude little boy.

Jack, our child prodigy, counts to 100 on the way back to the house. Okay, maybe not a prodigy. He did leave out 80 to 89,

At 5 p.m. we hit the road, one hour later than intended, and with a lot more stuff than we came with. Cassidy’s personal space is severely hampered.

Shortly thereafter I discover on my ankle my first mosquito bite of the season. “That’s the itchiest,” Alex comments.

Both of us at the end of our collective rope by this time, our good-natured bickering culminates in Alex comparing being married to me with being married to a porcupine for the second time in as many days.

At an evening rest stop, I ironically am forced to bum a penny from a strange man at a truck stop after my order comes to $4.01.

At precisely 8:18 p.m. the car hits 30,000 miles. Alex is almost embarrassingly excited about this.

At 10 p.m. Alex takes something close to sixteen years to get coffee and go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Quinn sobs hysterically the whole time. When he gets back, he leans on the car and starts to do some stretches. I honk. Twice.

All told, I spend about five hours sitting in the passenger seat holding Quinn’s hand in the seat directly behind me. See, on long drives, Quinn cries if someone I don’t hold his hand every second that he is awake.

At 11:45 p.m. we finally get back home. We’re all relieved, but the dog seems happier than anyone.