How It Lingers

My sister is visiting us, here in Costa Rica, with her two daughters:  Mandy, who is Martin’s age, and Julie, who is about to turn two years old.

Sunday we took a day trip to a nearby beach town. When we arrived, the kids got fruit smoothies. Then we hit the beach. The waves were pretty strong. We adults (my sister, my brother Eddie, and I) took turns going into the surf with the kids. I try to get Martin as much salt-water time as possible. I consider the ocean a health spa.

Martin had already had several solid days with Mandy. She attended camp with him. The two of them fussed and played for hours each afternoon. They put together evening concerts: Mandy wrote an emcee script for Martin to perform, and then, using five-pound dumbbells for microphones, the two sang Uptown Funk!, A Million Dreams, even a jazzy version of Happy Birthday to send to Adrian, who’s in New York. The songs were accompanied by the kids’ original choreography, which resembled running crisscross while high-fiving each other at each pass.

And now, Sunday, everyone was having a great time, as far as I could tell, even if Martin did start to get anxious as lunchtime neared.

We left the beach to walk to an outdoor fresh-preparation food stand (everything gluten- and dairy-free! pura vida!). Along the way we stopped at a souvenir shop, where Martin selected an inexpensive carved frog. I spoke to the proprietor in Spanish. Martin refused to look at the man. Instead he put his face near mine and whispered, “Mommy, pretend you don’t know a word of English!” Martin’s picked up an odd obsession lately: He tries to dictate who can speak which languages, and when. He even manages to impart his angst into the topic. If he finds out we are going out to dinner, he demands to know in advance whether I plan to speak Spanish or English to the waiter and tells me to guess whether he plans to do the same. In the souvenir shop, I said, “Martin, that’s silly. He can tell I have a North American accent. Why don’t you say hi?” The proprietor then greeted Martin, in Spanish, and asked how he was doing. Martin turned away as if he hadn’t heard. Covering, I apologized and said that my son does speak Spanish but is shy about doing so.

As soon as Martin and I were back on the sidewalk—Mandy and the others had wandered to another shop—Martin started to meltdown. His meltdowns are so infrequent these days that I don’t anticipate them like I used to, and this one caught me of guard. Martin asked, “Why did you do that? Why did you tell him I speak Spanish?” His words quickened as he said, “Why did you try to make me say hi? I didn’t want to do that. Why are you so mean? You’re the meanest mom in the whole world.” He was crying as he descended into nonsensical opposite-talk: “I hate you. I don’t love you. I wish you weren’t my mom. I don’t speak English anymore. I’m never speaking English again. New rule: I have to talk to everyone we meet!” He thrust his jaw forward (that old trick again!), clenched his fists, and motioned as if to punch me, though he did not make contact. (He never does, thank heavens.)

I stood by him and let the meltdown run its course. When the opposite-talk subsided, I tested the waters. “Martin, were those the things you really wanted to say?”

Still not in control, he answered, “Sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean it. I did mean it! I hate you!” He air-punched again, then hugged me, sobbing.

Mandy approached, accompanied by my sister and Julie. Mandy asked, “Why is Martin crying?” Her question pained me, for two reasons. First, the obvious reason: Especially in the moment, I have no effective means to convey to a nine-year-old that her cousin is crying because anxiety has been collecting inside him until a random, almost undetectable social pressure knocked him into a netherworld of confusion. Second, the less obvious, more painful reason: In visits past, Mandy tended to ask mequestions about Martin. “Does Martin like watermelon?” “What time does Martin get up?” I would have to remind her that she could ask Martin, even if he didn’t always answer immediately. This visit, until the meltdown, had been different. Mandy had been asking all her Martin questions—even questions about food allergies and what he can eat—to Martin, and he’d been answering. As he returned to meltdown mode, however, she stopped relying on his ability to speak for himself.

I said, “He’s having a tough time right now. Why don’t we walk to lunch?”

Cheerfully, my sister said, “Great idea! Let’s walk.”

We continued to the lunch joint, Mandy casting suspicious glances at Martin as he tried to get himself under control. By the time we sat at a picnic table, Martin had stopped crying enough to manipulate me. He said, “I think what would help me calm down is your iPhone.”

Adrian and I don’t usually allow screen-time at meals. Nevertheless, I gave in. I wanted to distract Martin from whatever was bothering him before Mandy witnessed any additional meltdown.

A day trip with his favorite cousin, to a beach he knows and enjoys, with the promise of lunch at a food stand he likes, and then, pow!, a meltdown. The frustration! Sometimes it feels like no much Martin’s health and behavior improve, the remnants of autism hide inside him, ready to interrupt paradise with their ugly ways.

My survival tactic is to remember to look for the silver lining. Sunday, allowing Martin to play with the iPhone did the trick. By the time our food arrived (25 long minutes later, pura vida), Martin was ready for limited participation in lunchtime discussion about the waves and fun we’d had in the ocean. On the drive home, strapped into the third row of our SUV, he beatboxed with Mandy. Almost as soon as we arrived back at our rental house, a brother and sister showed up for a play date (these arrangements were Mandy’s doing), and Martin participated decently. Mostly he followed the brother around spouting Minecraft strategies—but hey, that’s a form of socializing.

Martin melted down.

He bounced back.

I take what I can get.

Martin and Mandy, in the waves.

Del Sur, Interrumpido: Siempre Alguien Hace Leña del Árbol Caido

Monday, last week, was abysmal. Something—a supplement, or an allergen, or another environmental factor, or . . . still trying to figure out—was causing Martin to be anxious and contrarian. He argued every statement, contradicted every request, had trouble holding himself together. Mondays I pick him up from school, we go to the natural-foods market, and I take him to personal training. Last Monday we had to break that routine and replace the natural-foods market with visiting the optician to fit Martin’s new glasses. That was bad enough. Then we spent too long at the optician and ended up late for personal training. Oh. My. Huge. Anxiety.

When we pulled into the gym parking lot, Martin was perseverating on our tardiness, demanding to go home, and trying not to cry. I knew I had work to do before we could enter the gym.

Monday also happened to be windy. Very windy. As I began to open my door, a gust blew it into the Volkswagen Beetle next to me. Just a tap—my door’s plastic rim hit the Beetle’s side panel. I withdrew the door and checked the other car for damage. The Beetle had enough nicks and scrapes that I needed a second to confirm where my door made contact. At that spot, I saw no damage.

Just my luck: A woman was sitting in the Beetle’s driver seat, texting or something. She thrust her head through her open sunroof and, glaring at me, contorted her face into a grimace.

I said, “Sorry The wind got hold of my door. Thank goodness it didn’t leave a mark.”

My mind, at that moment, was occupied about 2% with my car door, and about 98% with Martin’s potential meltdown, so I started to exit in order to deal with Martin.

The other woman’s mind, by contrast, seemed 100% occupied by the fact that my door had tapped her Volkswagen. She scowled, and yelled, “You’ve got to be more careful!”

“Yeah, sorry,” I repeated as I walked around my car to retrieve Martin. I helped him down from his seat and walked him to the back of my SUV, where I had enough space to kneel and take his hands in mine while reassuring him. This position, me kneeling in front of Martin, holding his hands and available for a hug if necessary, is our best defense to a meltdown. Martin was alternating among might-cry face, a few tears, and deep belly breaths to gather his composure. After 15 or 20 seconds, we were starting to get the potential meltdown under control. I was able to use one hand to wipe tears from Martin’s quivering cheek.

And then—VW Beetle chick decided she had found an appropriate time to address the non-existent injury to her jalopy. (Pardon my attitude. I believe it justifiable.) She exited the driver seat, walked around to the side panel my door had tapped, which was also close to me and Martin, and commenced a conspicuous inspection. The inspection involved leaning very close to her car, flashing me an angry expression, slurping diet soda, waiting for a response from me, and upon receiving no such response, repeating the entire process. At any other time, the situation would have been laughable. At this moment, as I sit here writing, the situation is laughable. Last Monday, on the other hand, in the midst of Martin’s anxiety, I felt my blood begin to rise. Seriously, lady? Seriously? I am—literally—on my knees in a gym parking lot, imploring my angst-ridden seven-year-old to hold his s*&t together, and you’ve found the perfect time to confront me for accidentally bumping the side panel of your car? I perceived a change inside me. Country-raised, uniformly polite suburban mom spirit was leaving my body. In her stead came chip-on-the-shoulder city girl. I started to stand. I was about to get up in this woman’s face, and not a little bit. I was about to be inches from VW chick’s nose.

And then—Martin’s chest heaved, and tears came. Instantly, I knew that Martin knew that I was on the verge of getting into it with another adult. I returned to my knees, reclaimed his trembling hands, and told him softly not to worry. I smiled. I reassured him that I had texted the personal trainer that we were coming late, so it was no big deal. I said how cool his new glasses looked, and that we were having his favorite lentils for dinner later, and that I might even make rice.

I would rather report that the VW driver realized her timing was off, that she said something like, “I can see you’re busy. Would you mind finding me in the gym after your son calms down?”, and then departed with only a glance at my license plate to ensure honesty.

She didn’t. She started the Beetle inspection routine anew. When she reached the part about slurping diet soda and waiting for a response from me, I raised my left hand to block her from my view. I actually gestured, “Tell it to the hand, because the mama ain’t listening,” and concentrated instead on Martin’s needs. I held my hand aloft, ignored the idiotic car inspection, and comforted my son.

Finally, VW chick aspirated a noise somewhere between grunt and sigh, as if she just couldn’t believe my nerve, and stormed into the gym. Our confrontation skipped climax and proceeded directly to denouement. Here’s the denouement: I was shaken. I was shaken because this woman had been so oblivious to Martin’s plight. I was shaken because I’d let her get to me. I was shaken because, if there is one thing I try to impart to Martin, it’s that his mom is in control, and he’d just witnessed me almost lose control.

When Martin and I were ready to head into the gym, I took another look at the Beatle and noticed fresh flowers in the dashboard vase.

That driver didn’t deserve fresh flowers.

There are two more posts coming in the Del Sur series. I interrupted, again, to report that someone will always kick you when you’re down.

Curse the Night

Christmas Day, 1:30 am.

I lie, awake, next to Martin, in his bed. He too is awake. Christmas Eve he went to bed about 8:30 pm, eager to get to sleep so that Santa could come, and dropped off immediately. Adrian was seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my father and brothers, so I had time to finish wrapping gifts and even bake some ginger spice cookies, which turned out terrific. I thought about updating my Facebook status with some ditty about the peace and tranquility of Christmas Eve.

At 11:40 pm, just as Adrian and I had gone to bed, Martin woke. Night waking, like bedwetting, is so rare nowadays that I can’t remember the last time it happened. Martin can still take a while to fall asleep, but once he does, he’s out till morning. Tonight, he called out, saying he thought he saw it getting light outside, and asking whether Santa had come. I told him that it wasn’t even midnight yet, and that he could go back to sleep.

He hasn’t gone back to sleep. He is so concerned with getting back to sleep for Santa Claus that he’s worked himself into an anxiety attack, crying and wheezing. Adrian spent some time trying to comfort him, to no avail. Since 1:15 am, I’ve been here, in Martin’s bed, soothing him, hoping for sleep of my own, wondering what Christmas Day will be like when I’m exhausted.

Here’s the thing about being awake in the middle of the night: When I’m lying in the darkness, all my fears grow. Every single fear. From work deadlines to household finances to body image—they get worse. Problems loom insurmountable. I think about this issue and that issue, this concern and that concern, until finally I crash into the unmentionable fear: that if Martin never recovers fully, this will be my life forever. Autism will be my life forever. There will never be a time when my child achieves independence. There will never be a time when I can turn back to my non-Martin goals, to what I want to achieve for me.

Why do I call that fear “unmentionable”? Because it is selfish. Because it borders on blaming Martin for my own shortcomings. Because it affixes my personal journey to factors that depend on Martin but over which he has no control. Because my official position is that Martin will recover fully, and it’s only in the wee hours that doubt makes inroads. It’s only when I want to be sleeping, or reading, or writing, or even working, or anything other than lying next to a boy who can’t stop fidgeting, crying, laughing—only then do I think, “What if he’s done getting better? What if this is as good as it gets?”

It’s just better not to mention it.

Christmas Day, noon.

I must have dozed off, in Martin’s bed, sometime after 2:00 am. I woke at 3:50 am to find him asleep, finally, and then I returned to my own bed.

I woke again at 7:45 am, to the breathtaking melody of Martin, down the hall, conversing with my father, who is visiting. (Yes. Conversing. Answering questions and asking them in turn. How old are you, Poppa? That’s old. I’m seven. What year was it when you were seven? Grandma was already born then. Are you older than Grandma?) We had left one special gift unwrapped by the tree, and Martin played with that until everyone was up and ready to open gifts. Once all the gifts were unwrapped, Martin asked:

“Is there another gift to me from Santa?”

I realized right away what he wanted. The trombone. When he’d made his Christmas list, he’d included a trombone. At the time, the trombone seemed no more desired than the other gifts, most of which he received. In the day or two before Christmas, long after all gifts had been purchased, the trombone acquired new gravitas. Martin began to speak frequently of the trombone Santa was bringing him, and how he planned to learn to play the trombone, and how he would become good enough to play in a marching band by high school. Trombone, trombone, trombone. But seriously, I was not going to interrupt all other plans to procure a toy trombone.

“No, honey. I think that’s all that Santa brought you.”

Martin started to cry. “‘You get what you get?’ You just get what you get?” He was quoting our pastor, who upon assigning parts for the Christmas pageant had told the kids, “No complaining. You get what you get.”

I conveyed to Adrian why Martin was upset—I mimed playing the trombone—and Adrian moved in to comfort him, explaining that Santa might have thought that he is still too young to learn the trombone and needs to wait another year.

And then—Martin pulled it together. He was still upset, but he stopped the tears and moved to pouting and whining instead. No full-blown meltdown. No screaming. He asked, “Santa thinks I’m too young? Maybe next year?” All in all, the response seemed more age-appropriate than autism-indicative.

It’s noon now. Everyone has eaten a special Christmas breakfast, which was gluten-free French toast with cranberry compote. Martin played with his new gifts (he’s favoring a set of Beatles figures, and also a “play the trombone” app I downloaded hastily to his iPad) and then accompanied Adrian to the gym. My brothers are playing backgammon. My father is napping. The house is quiet. I’m starting to prepare Christmas dinner: cannellini-bean latkes, roasted Brussels sprouts leaves, and quinoa pilaf. Last night’s fears are last night’s fears.

I’m thinking about updating my Facebook status with some ditty about the peace and tranquility of Christmas Day.

Passing Storm

Last Wednesday, my brother Rudy and I took Martin to Disney in Anaheim. Rudy and I talked the day up: the characters we would see, the rides we would ride. Because one of Martin’s current interests is marching bands, and Martin always has enjoyed live music, Rudy mentioned that we might see a marching band too.

When Martin woke on Wednesday morning, at my brother’s home in Laguna Beach, he seemed—okay. Not great. Not particularly enthusiastic about the daytrip to Disney. Just okay. I fed him Treeline cashew cheese on flax-seed crackers for breakfast, and then we stopped for second breakfast at the Penguin Cafe, where Martin ordered a hamburger patty, fruit, and “bubbly water.” He ate slowly and seemed distracted. His voice modulation was subpar. “Indoor voice, bunny rabbit!” I reminded as he shouted his order at the waitress. “Use your indoor voice!”

The real trouble started in the parking lot when we got to Anaheim. “I don’t want to go to Disney,” Martin said when we exited the car. “I just want to go back to Uncle Rudy’s.” I wasn’t sure how seriously to take his words; Martin often reverses what he wants to do and doesn’t want to do, and his hesitations can be fleeting. I persuaded him to get on the shuttle from the parking lot to the park. On the shuttle Rudy engaged some kids who presented themselves as experienced Disneygoers and gave advice on rides and performances. Martin sat silently. He opened his mouth only to answer, with additional prompting, when someone asked him how old he was.

On the plaza outside the park, Rudy picked up a schedule of events and, trying to rouse excitement, told Martin that he would be able see a marching band (parade) at 4:30. Martin completely freaked. He did not want to see a marching band. He did not want to go to a park with a marching band. I took him to the restroom, had him sit on the plaza with Rudy, and finally negotiated an agreement that we would enter California Adventure, Disneyland Park’s companion. We would not see a marching band, I said. We would not enter Disneyland.

We made it inside California Adventure. I headed straight to the “Chamber of Commerce” to request a special-needs speed pass. The agent who helped us with the pass also put us on a list for the Monsters, Inc. ride ten minutes later. We didn’t make it, because Martin panicked at the idea of attending any attraction. He was full of anxiety. He walked aimlessly, crying and not crying and crying again. He couldn’t stop asking about the marching band, whether we would hear the band, whether we would go to the other Disney park. He fixated on 4:30, the time when Rudy had said the marching band would play (in the other theme park). He didn’t want this. He didn’t want that.

“Hey, I’m happy just to be here, walking around with you guys,” said Rudy, who had taken the day off work to accompany us. “Let’s go with it. Maybe he’ll find something he wants to do.”

Alas, Martin didn’t find anything he wanted to do, at least not then. I bought him a black coffee, hoping that might help. Nope. I bought him a box of organic apple juice as a treat, hoping that might help. Nope. Martin couldn’t bear to be still, couldn’t be held. He moved, whined, and panicked. As the situation became ever more challenging—“Mommy, will we see the marching band? Mommy, what time is it? Mommy, I don’t want to go to the Disney park. Mommy, can we hear the marching band? Mommy, is it 4:30?”—I considered throwing in the towel. I wondered if I should return to the “Chamber of Commerce,” explain that my usually stable son was having anxiety meltdowns that precluded our enjoyment of the park, and ask to return and use our $300 tickets the next day. Finally, when I ran out of ideas, Rudy saw openings at a nice in-park restaurant, asked about special-diet options, and guided us inside.

Martin managed to listen to the food options and order, interspersed with getting up to run around. Then he sat long enough to eat an entire order of boiled calamari, followed by a plate of gluten-free pasta with clams. (It was barely noon. Remember, he’d had two full breakfasts before we left Laguna Beach.) Rudy and I drank wine with our lunches. By then, alcohol was necessary.

By the end of lunch, Martin seemed a little better. He still was having trouble sitting still, but the crying eased. He went to the men’s room by himself. He didn’t get upset when I couldn’t find a dessert that he could eat.

After lunch he asked to enter one of the eight million stores. Thinking that something to clutch would ease the anxiety, I told him he could pick out a stuffed animal, and he chose an eight-inch Donald Duck. When we exited the store, Martin seemed calmer. He looked at a ride, a kiddie attraction with jellyfish that rise into the air. I asked if he’d like to go on the ride, and to my surprise, he agreed.

From then on, the situation turned. The anxiety didn’t disappear completely, but Martin asked about the marching band only every 10 or 20 minutes. The restlessness decreased. He tried half a dozen rides, including the Goofy’s Sky School roller coaster, despite his professed dislike of roller coasters. He asked to enter a courtyard and listen to a Raggae-style band. Rudy and I exchanged what-on-earth-is-happening? glances, and when Martin was out of earshot, verbalized those glances. In the end, we stayed at California Adventure until nearly 7:00 pm, and finished off the day waiting patiently in a long line, at Martin’s request, to meet Minnie Mouse. Once we were headed back to Laguna Beach, Martin skillfully introduced Donald Duck to his friend Chicago Bear, who had spent the afternoon guarding Rudy’s car.

We had one kind of morning, and a different kind of afternoon.

I’ve asked myself repeatedly what could have caused Martin to have such a disastrous morning. The full moon? Traveling? Lack of sleep because of jet lag? A nasty insect bite on his foot that’s had me worried? A healing reaction?

I suppose I will never know, which is unnerving. I’m glad it didn’t last.

When Martin, feeling better, said he doesn’t want to go back to Disney anymore, I decided to honor his wishes.

Turn and Face the Strange

Sorry for my lack of blogging these two weeks. Circumstances got in the way.

Let’s start with last week. I have two fabulous women who assist with Martin’s care. On Tuesday afternoons, Janine—four years ago, she was one of Martin’s EI providers, and she’s been with us ever since—accompanies Martin to our church’s kids’ club and facilitates his participation, then brings him home and does dinner and bedtime. I use the time to write. On game days, I take my notebook computer to a pub to watch the Rangers play. Other days, the computer and I hole up at the town diner or the pizza joint. (When we lived in the City, I wrote at a wine bar. Suburbs change everything.)

Thursdays and Fridays, Martin’s nanny Samara comes. Thursday is “my night out.” I meet a girlfriend for drinks or dinner, or I write. Friday is date night, reserved for Adrian.

Last Tuesday, Janine had a migraine, so Martin and I were on our own. On Thursday, Samara’s husband came down with the flu. She wanted to take care of her husband, and also didn’t want to share the virus, so she stayed home and Martin and I were on our own again. And when I say “on our own,” I mean it. Adrian was skiing in California. You’re welcome, Adrian.

What about the daytime? you ask. Why didn’t I blog while Martin was at school?

Well, on Monday the dishwasher went kaput. That might not sound all-encompassing, so keep this in mind—on an average day, I run the dishwasher three times, and every load is full. That’s right. Around 9:00 a.m., I run the dishwasher with the breakfast dishes, any pans leftover from the previous evening, coffee tools, cat dishes, and whatever bowls I’ve used to assemble quick snacks. Mid-afternoon I pack the appliance with the utensils I’ve used to prep dinner (1:00-3:00 are my sous-chef hours) and assemble Adrian’s lunch for the next day, my own lunchwares, more cat dishes, gym water bottles, and the et cetera that clutters my counters, like flower vases, kombucha vats, gym water bottles, juicer parts, and (every second or third day) broth pots. Before bed I load the thing again, this time with dinner cooking vessels, dinner dishes, the bowls and utensils I send to school with Martin, more cat dishes, bakeware from muffins and grain-free breads, and glass storage containers emptied from the fridge, which are many because I will not waste food given by an animal.

If that array makes your head spin, then picture me washing it all by hand. So there went last week.

And this week? A blizzard hit our area. For sure, it wasn’t half the blizzard the weather folks forewarned. But it was enough to get the schools released early on Monday, cancelled on Tuesday, and delayed on Wednesday. Let’s just say that Martin and I got to spend ample time together, which is not conducive to writing. Meanwhile, Adrian, fresh from the airport, appeared at home Sunday evening for a dinner party we threw, then departed again Monday morning (pre-“blizzard”) for the Midwest, and my good friend Coleen (you’ve met her before) was staying with me, to cater the aforementioned dinner party. Because of the weather, Coleen couldn’t go home to Upstate New York, Adrian couldn’t return from the Midwest, and Martin and I endured a continually evolving schedule.

I accomplished nothing.

Actually, Coleen and I washed a lot of dishes, by hand. Other than that, I accomplished nothing.

That’s a lot about me, right? No worries. I’m about to circle this post back to Martin.

Because guess what? Martin has had a tough couple weeks. Yeast flare, discomfort, blah blah blah. And yet—he did fine. Confronted with change upon change, he held steady. Nary a meltdown. When Janine couldn’t come, Martin had to skip the church kids’ club and run errands with me instead. He complained, like a six-year-old. He didn’t cry. We survived. When Samara couldn’t come, Martin said he was sad, and then spent too much time on his iPad. We survived.

I’m not ready, yet, to relegate meltdowns to the “so far gone” list. They still happen, or “kinda” happen. This morning, for example, Martin didn’t finish his breakfast in time to choose which dishes and utensils I would send for his school lunch. (We love incentives! If breakfast is done by 7:30 a.m., the choice is his. If he dawdles until after 7:30, I pick.) Upon learning that he had missed his deadline, Martin started to cry. I said, “I don’t think you have anything to cry about. Cut that out, and let’s get ready for school.” And then he was done.

Not long ago, if Martin said he wanted to change the radio station in the car, I had to undertake this analysis: “If I change the station, I’m giving into his rigidity, against my RDI instincts. If I don’t, he’ll have a meltdown, and I’ll have crying and distress on my hands.” Not anymore. Now I ponder something more like, “He wants a different station. How much do I like this song? Should I just change it, or should I listen to this song and let him choose the next?” That’s a world of difference.

There was a time when last week and this week would have been nightmares. We’ve come far enough that, now, they were just pains in the neck.

This morning the dishwasher was repaired. Right now, the Rangers are playing the Canadiens.

So here I sit. Writing.

Happy.

From Crappy to Happy

Remember the post about really crappy days?

Today is a really crappy day!

Stick with me, though. This isn’t going to be an unhappy post. I’ve been doing too much frustration posting lately, like when I used to do too much middle-of-the-night posting. It’s just not healthy. So today, in this post, I’m going to write myself back to happy.

First: the background. A couple weeks ago, Martin wasn’t himself. If you read this blog regularly, you know that. Here’s an excerpt of an email I sent Martin’s biomed doctor March 13:

Most nights he’s taking two hours or more to fall asleep, and waking two or three times between midnight and 5:00 a.m. He is tired all the time. He’s also “floppy” again. He is extremely hyperactive; charcoal tablets, salt/baking soda baths, and clay baths haven’t helped. His teachers have been telling me that he’s inattentive in class and not responding to his name. He had a pee accident at school this week. Sunday afternoon he had a meltdown so severe that my husband was unable to get him out of the car.

We’ve been on nystatin two weeks, and the yeast hasn’t responded, as far as I can tell. Martin remains itchy.

In general, I have an unhappy kid right now, and I feel horrible about it. Obviously, we need to make changes.

Things have got better since I sent that email. I took Martin off nystatin, switched him to full GAPS diet (more on that in a later post), and on the advice of his homeopath, increased some of his “support” drops (Inflamma-Tone and Liver-Tone, among others). He took a turn for the better, in terms of increased awareness, and some reduction in time to fall asleep, and less itchiness.

This past Tuesday afternoon, he got sick. The school nurse called me to retrieve him, and I ended up having to keep him home the rest of the week. If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted much this week, try being housebound with Martin. While sick, Martin had good language and connection, but he slept poorly and was crabby.

Second: this day. Adrian’s alarm woke us at 7:00. Adrian and I got home last night at 11:00 pm from the City. I had to feed the cats and strain Martin’s chicken broth, so it was 12:15 am when I got to bed and 12:40 when I got to sleep. Martin woke three times between then and 7:00 am. He was never up long. Still, each time I had to get up, tuck him back in, and then get myself back to sleep. Figuring 30 minutes for those diversions, I got just under six hours’ sleep, interrupted. This was after a week when I was exhausted from his night waking and unable to nap because he was home with me.

Martin was still sleeping at 7:00 am. I would have preferred to get at least 30-to-45 more minutes myself. Not possible: Adrian had scheduled an early gym visit, because his trainer had something else to do later today. So up we were. I had Adrian fed and out the door before Martin left his bed.

I tried to convince Martin to dress himself. He did, eventually, but required 15 minutes of crying and whining to reach that point, and even then didn’t make it to the socks. He declared breakfast—chicken broth, salmon sausage, and a bit of banana—to be “all things I like!” Still, he dawdled. We ended up rushing to get out the door for his 10:00 am special-ed reading program at the public library. Amidst the hurry, Martin had a meltdown because it was too warm to wear his heavy knit “dog” hat.

We drove to the library. Martin had another meltdown because I said, as I do whenever Curious George comes along, that Curious George had to wait in the car. I delivered Martin, still teary-eyed, to the reading program. Then I walked to FedEx to ship my kid’s stool samples to a lab (biomed parents know that ritual) and proceeded to a coffee shop, where I sat alone, missing the easy camaraderie of the parents from Martin’s old Saturday-morning playgroup in the City.

When I returned to retrieve Martin, he had a meltdown because I hadn’t brought Curious George into the library with me. I suggested that we go to the car, where Curious George was waiting. Martin screamed. In the library. My suggestion, it turns out, was wholly unacceptable because Martin wanted Curious George to “play with him” in the library.

By the time we got home, I could feel myself coming down with whatever’s had Martin sick this week. I told Adrian I needed to lie down for 20 minutes. I climbed in bed and shut my eyes. Within five minutes I opened them again. Martin was running around the house yelling, “Mommy! Mommmm-eeeeee!” I could hear Adrian in his home office, on a call. Not wanting his call disturbed, I said, “Martin, I’m in the bedroom.” Martin ran into the bedroom and jumped on me. I got up. I took ibuprofen for my head, which ached.

For lunch I prepared raw carrots and broccoli florets with avocado-and-fermented-garlic dip. I called Adrian from his home office to come eat with Martin. Because the meal, which I named “dippin’ plate,” was new, I wanted Martin to see that Adrian was eating the same. Martin, however, claimed he needed the potty. He disappeared for 10 minutes, during which Adrian finished his own dippin’ plate and returned to his home office. So much for eating what Daddy is eating.

After I finally got Martin back to the table, he left repeatedly, running to our bedroom, the farthest point in the house, and laughing. It may go without saying that we ended up in a rush to get to his afternoon social program at the JCC, and that I left the kitchen a disaster, and that I didn’t get a chance to feed myself much, and that I was feeling worse by the minute.

When Martin and I finally were at the door, ready to leave, Adrian showed up. He asked, “Why do you seem grouchy today?”

On the way to the JCC, Martin peed himself and lied about it.

Which brings us to this moment. I’m in the JCC library, blogging while Martin enjoys his social program.

Third: the happy. Let’s review this day—

Martin took 15 minutes of crying and whining to get dressed. This was partly my fault. I broke routine by asking him to dress himself as soon as he woke, before he even went to the bathroom or ran around. And yet he still got managed the task. As a bonus, when I asked him to pull his arms inside his shirt, he looked down and said, “Oh, it’s on backwards,” and then cooperated fully.

I’m tired from a long week with Martin at home, plus I’m starting to get his illness. Having unexpected sick days is a hassle. The other days, however, Martin gets to attend a fantastic kindergarten. Adrian and I could hardly be more satisfied with Martin’s special-needs school and his academic progress. I make this point because I’ve seen from autism parenting forums how many families need to consider homeschooling because they have no appropriate placement. We are lucky

Speaking of Martin’s (and now my…?) illness, Martin had a fever! It was the second time he’s had a fever since we moved last summer. Fever is good. Fever is healing. Fever indicates that Martin’s immune system is responding appropriately to illness. That’s progress.

Martin had repeated meltdowns today. There’s a pretty good explanation: He too is tired, and not feeling so hot. (Lest you think I’m dragging a sick kid around town, it was Martin who insisted that he felt better and could go to the library this morning.) Plus, the meltdowns didn’t last long. When he wanted the dog hat, we talked, and he agreed to get Curious George instead. When he screamed in the library, I asked, “Remember last week when you screamed at church and we had to leave?” He took the hint and calmed himself down in exchange for extra playtime at the library. I offered five minutes playtime. He bargained me up to seven minutes. That works.

Martin didn’t eat with Adrian, and then ran away from the table. Each time, I kept my cool. I went to the bedroom where he’d run, took his upper arm, and walked him back to the table without a word. After a couple tries and not getting the attention he wanted, Martin settled down. In the end, he ate the dippin’ plate. The GAPS diet isn’t easy, especially when it comes to packing for school. If Martin accepts a dippin’ plate once or twice more at home, I’ll give it a go for school lunch. Hurray for new stuff.

Martin peed on the way to the JCC. My fault. In our rush to leave home, I didn’t have him sit on the potty. I figured he had just gone during lunch, and I didn’t want to be later than we already were. In the car I could tell he needed to go. When I asked him, he said he could hold it till we got to the JCC. That never works. At least I had spare pants and underwear in his backpack, so the afternoon wasn’t ruined.

I’m getting sick. But the ibuprofen has kicked in.

One of my March Madness brackets is doing fantastic in Adrian’s office pool, with all 16 of its Sweet picks intact. My favorite team plays tonight.

My son is recovering.

And now I’ve written myself happy again.

Martin, sick but managing his iPad.

Martin, sick but managing his iPad.

Curious George lending Martin a hand to recover from illness.

Curious George lending Martin a hand to recover from illness.