Archive for January, 2011

Steven and His Reptiles

     Steven has always been fascinated by reptiles, especially snakes and alligators.  He has obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, and Aspergers Syndrome, a type of high functioning autism which has an obsession and great knowledge of one subject.  His talent lie in everything there is to know about reptiles,

     Growing up, Steven was the biggest fan of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Every Halloween he would dress like him in a safari suit and hat, and carry around a 4 foot long stuffed alligator. He made a really cute Crocodile Hunter!

     Once, while our family was having a picnic in the woods, Steven spotted a snake in the rocks.  He got down on his haunches and said “Crikey, ain’t she a beaut!”  A crowd of kids circled around him as he crawled along with his arms out holding a long stick.  Knowing it was a common garden snake, and not some boa constrictor, did not dampen his enthusiasm.  He put on a real Steve Irwin show for the crowd, and when he did catch the snake on the stick, the audience screamed and backed away.  He then started giving them details about the lovely snake.  It took some doing to get him to replace the snake back in the rocks. He finally did because he did not want to take it away from its “natural habitat.” 

     Since the age of 12, he has regularly volunteered at a shelter for rescued reptiles.  He knows everything there is to know about every reptile, the temperature they need in their tank, whether they needed a wet (rain forest) tank or a dry (desert) tank. He knows what each and every one eats, if it sleeps at night or during the day, and whether it is dangerous.  Because he knows which ones are dangerous, he has been instructed to NEVER bring home a dangerous reptile. He has, however, brought home many of them and set them up on shelves in his basement bedroom.  He keeps a lock on each cage for my own sense of safety, even though he says the locks aren’t necessary.  At first I was scared of the snakes, but he first brought home small ones and, as our comfort level rose, the snakes became larger and larger.  The last snake he had was a 20 foot long Albino boa constrictor.  I wasn’t afraid!  Of course, I had to stay away when he fed it large rats to eat.  He indicated it was up to the guinea pig/rabbit stage, but I said there was no way in the world he was going to do that in my house.  Rats are useless to me.  Guinea pigs and bunnies are way too cute and cuddly!

     Anyway, this snake managed to have eggs on Easter morning!!!  (I thought maybe it was a little thank you from the Easter bunny for not eating his comrades.)  We all watched in amazement as this snake squeezed its body and squeezed its body and an egg came out.  Then more squeezing, another egg.  By the end of the morning it had delivered 28 eggs!  Its body was almost entirely flat by this point, having discharged the bulk of the eggs from the length of its body. As much as I am not a reptile lover, watching this sight was fascinating.  Steven then took the eggs to the hatchery at the rescue shelter, and 24 little baby boa constrictors hatched.  (A few, sadly, didn’t make it.)

     Now, at age 17, Steven continues to have his share of reptiles.  The most he has had at one time were 24, a variety if lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and even several alligators.  Today, he has limited his collection so he would have more room in his bedroom to sleep.  (He’s grown to 6 foot 3, so a small single bed no longer “cuts it”.)  He still has a tarantula, an alligator, and a gorgeous chameleon.  He volunteers a few hours a week at the reptile shelter, but not as many as before.  He is a TEENAGER now, you know, so he has found time for other interests.

     I have never discouraged Steven’s interest in reptiles (I’ve only discouraged him bringing home dangerous ones.)   It is his hobby which calms him down.  He feels knowledgeable and smart.  This is the one area he excels in life and I could never take that away from him.

Pain is In the Eye of the Beholder…Part 1

(Because this post is too long,  I am going to split it into 2 parts, one now and one in a few days. I don’t want anyone out there reading to get bored, you know!  If you want to be sure to read the second part, please click on “E-mail Subscription” on the side of this post and put in your e-mail.  Then, the 2nd part will be delivered right to your front door, like a newspaper!)

I happen to be blessed (?) with two sons who do not feel pain normally.  It took me a while to figure this out.  I  knew when I took them to the playground when they were three, four and five years old, they would run around, fall, trip and bang into things as much as the other kiddos did, but they never came up to me crying, like the others did to their moms.  I actually thought how lucky I was that they weren’t “whiney” like the other little ones, whom I considered to be “wimpy”.  As the boys have aged and accidents have happened, I have learned that the fact that they never came crying to me over little hurts and bruises was a sign that they did not FEEL the little hurts and bruises!

Steven, who was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, has always had “wiring” that is abnormal.  He has had a lot of diagnosis; ADHD, OCD, ODD, BPD, autism, Asperger’s, and sensory integration deficit, but to me it all boils down to the fact that his nervous system/brain developed in the embryonic fog of a drug addicted, alcoholic birth mother.  Like many children diagnosed with autism, he has severe sensory integration deficit.  When he was younger, he would throw himself on the floor, cry and bang his head if there were a tag on his shirt or if the seam in his sock were crooked. Light touch actually HURT him.  I remember taking him in the grocery store with him sitting in the baby seat when he was about 2 years old.  If I absent-mindedly gently rubbed his little arm, he would scream and yell “STOP HURTING ME!” (to which I would slink away hoping no one in the store heard or noticed…)

Steven cannot tolerate being touched gently, but he loves deep, hard hugs, BEAR hugs.  These feel good to him.  This “wiring problem” (as I affectionately call it,) impairs his ability to realize if he is hurt.  The best example of this was one summer day when we were cleaning out the freezer.  It was one of those old fashioned freezers where frost had built up all around the inside.  After I scraped it out, we took the slush outside and thought it would be fun to make snowballs out of it.  There we stood in the front lawn, throwing snowballs at each other in the 80 degree heat!  Steven got hit in the eye with one, but quickly brushed it aside and threw another one back. We had great fun, playing until the “snow” had melted.

The next morning, Steven woke up and his eye was bright red and swollen.  He did not complain of any pain, but I still  I quickly called an eye doctor whisked him off for an exam.  While at the counter registering, the receptionist asked me how it happened.  I told her he got hit in they eye with a snowball.  She stared at me for a long time, so I gave her the cleaning out the fridge story.  Again in the examining room, the assistant asked me how it happened.  Snowball again.  She wrote it in his chart.  “Hit in eye with snowball.”  It was August, and it was pretty funny.  When the doctor examined his eye, he was incredulous that Steven was not shrieking in pain.  It seems that a piece of ice had scratched off pieces of his cornea!  It is supposedly very painful, but did not faze Steven in the least.  He was sent home with cream to put in his eye every several hours and he healed up fine.

Angel, on the other hand, does not feel pain because he has Dissociative Identity Disorder.  In layman’s terms, this disorder developed because he was so badly abused as an infant and toddler that in order to protect himself, his brain split off into “parts”, with one “part” absorbing the pain of the abuse to keep the other “parts” safe. This was a coping mechanism he developed in order to survive.  (Of course, when he was younger, we were unaware of this diagnosis.)  One day, when he was about four years old, I went to pick him up at pre-school.  The teacher told me he had been pushed off the top of the jungle gym by another child and that he may have hurt his hand because he was holding it a little funny.  He was not crying and did not complain of any pain, but I decided to zip him over to the emergency room anyway to have it checked out. He smiled at the doctor who examined him, and seemed to enjoy the attention.  When the doctor examined his hand, it was obvious that the problem was not his hand, it was his entire shoulder and arm.  They did an xray, and we learned he had broken his shoulder!  Again, the doctor questioned how he could possibly not be screaming in paid, and especially how he could have managed to spend the day in preschool!  At the time, I did not know how it was possible either!

These are just 2 instances where Steven and Angel were hurt and did not acknowledge the pain, but I was able to witness this phenomena several more times, episodes which I will share with you in Pain is All Relative, Part 2!

The Turtle was TTTTTHHHHHHIIIIIIISSSSSSS Big! (Another Fish Story)

My son, Steven, has autism, later diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome.  He has always had accompanying obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sensory integration deficit.  Our house is on a little lake, and one of Steven’s quirks is that he will not touch the water.  This is very ironic because his Asperger’s obsession is with reptiles, turtles and fish.  He often spends the entire day in our backyard catching fish and turtles.  Often, he takes the canoe out and paddle around, trolling for fish as he goes. He will never step in the water, though.

Our family has many get-togethers in our backyard.  With a paddleboat, canoe, kayak, rowboat, sailboat and raft, there is always plenty for the children to do.  While Steven likes to play on the raft with his friends, he always paddles out there in the kayak, again never putting a toe in the water.  He would often scare his friends, siblings and cousins with tales of HUGE turtles which lurk under the surface.

One afternoon a few years ago, while I was taking a nap, (one of my favorite activities,) I heard Steven screaming at the top of his lungs.  I’d never heard him scream like that before.  (I’d only heard tantrum screaming, nothing like this blood curdling sound.)  I leapt up out of bed and ran outside to see what I assumed would be a tragedy awaiting me.  There was Steven, in the canoe, holding his very large fish net which he often used to catch fish.  In the bottom of the canoe were 2 of the largest turtles I have ever seen anywhere!!!  They were more than 2 1/2 feet across!  He was standing on the seat screaming and I started screaming also.  I learned that he had caught them in his net while they were “stuck together” (ie mating.)  I’m looking at these 2 huge snapping turtles thinking there is no way they belong in our little lake…they should be in a zoo somewhere!  While I am thinking, one of the turtles casually climbs over the side of the canoe and falls back into the water!  After much wariness, but a sense of what would be the right thing to do, I suggest Steven flip the other one back into the water with the oar.  As he tries to do so, the turtle snaps at the oar breaking it, but not before gaining enough momentum to slip over the side of the canoe into the water.  Steven looked at me and said “I  TOLD you there were big turtles in the lake!”  This sighting definitely put a crimp on swimming for the rest of the summer…

As a follow up to this story, last summer one of the huge turtles was found dead on our beach.  Its legs and head were bloated and it looked awful.  I called the city’s animal rescue league and asked them to come get the dead turtle.  The woman who answered the phone obviously thought I was demented.  “Just THROW it back into the LAKE, ” she said several times.  I told her several times it was too BIG to just throw back into the lake, and she reluctantly agreed to send “someone” out to take a look.   The gentleman came in a city pick=up truck.  He ambled out of the truck in our front yard, put on gloves, and swaggered into our backyard, anxious to see this “huge turtle.”  As he got closer, he let out a loud “HOLY SH*T!”  Then he called for back-up. It took 2 men to carry this thing and plop it in the back of the pick-up truck!

Ever since first finding the turtles, for some odd reason, the children are not so anxious to go swimming…

I Smell a Skunk

When Francis was three years old, his teacher in pre-school told the story about how her dog had been sprayed by a skunk and they had to give it a bath in tomato juice.  Francis thought this was the worst thing ever because he HATED tomato juice.

With both a severe vision impairment (legally blind) and obsessive compulsive disorder, Francis began to worry about getting sprayed by a skunk.  Obviously, taking a bath in tomato juice would be the most horrible thing ever.  He refused to go outside to play in our backyard because he was so afraid he would step on a skunk which he couldn’t see. We put up a chicken wire fence to keep the skunks out.  (Up until this point, we had never seen a skunk in our yard, but Francis was sure there was a skunk out there just waiting to rush up to him to spray him!)  He was still leery about going out and had a few more questions.

“What happens if the skunk jumps over the fence?” he asked, and we reassured him that skunks don’t jump that high.  (I don’t know if this is a fact, but it served the purpose of reassuring him a skunk would jump.)

“What happens if a skunk digs under the fence” he asked, and again we reassured him that skunks don’t dig under fences. (?)  It would have to be one motivated skunk to go through all of that work just to spray Francis!

His next question sealed his fate.  “What happens if the skunk sprays me THROUGH THE HOLES IN THE FENCE?”  I had no answer except to say that that was absurd, which would not do anything to allay his fears!  I gave up.  He didn’t go outside to play for the rest of the summer!

Dinosaurs, Diet Coke, and Driving ‘Round in Circles

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday, so as treat, I took him on a trip to the Museum of Science.  My brother turned 51 years old, (while I am not admitting my age, I can’t deny that I am older.)  For those new to my blog, Curtis is legally blind, profoundly deaf, and severely developmentally delayed.  He can also be a joy to be around!  He is fun loving and enjoys just about anything.

My son Angel came with me on this adventure.  I picked Curtis up in the afternoon and he was so excited about the trip that he actually came dancing out of his group home, wearing a non-stop grin that was contagious.  We drove to suburban area of the city where the museum is with the plan to take the Metro into the city the next morning.  Before we went to the hotel, we stopped at a mall for dinner. Curtis’ LOVES malls, especially the food court, where we all had our choice for dinner.  After eating, Curtis wanted to walk around the mall independently.  I gave him $20 to spend and agreed we could meet back at the food court in an hour.  Off he happily went, thinking he was alone.  All the while, Angel played “spy” and followed him.  He thought he was on his own, and we didn’t want to spoil that illusion.  Off he went to, predictably, get a diet coke.  He pointed to the diet coke sign and handed the cashier his $20 bill.  She handed him his soda and his change, which he attempted to put in his pocket, (with half of it falling out on the floor.)  As he turned away to sit at a table, Angel scooped down and picked up his change to give back to him later.  Angel sat a few tables away so he could keep an eye on Curtis.  After finishing his soda, Curtis was up and moving…with his nephew as a tailgater.  Curtis then started his quest to fine every single elevator in the mall.  He knows that stores like Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Sears. and Lord & Taylor have elevators and he has the nose to sniff them all out.  In his mind, the elevators are transporters, taking him to level of the space station on Star Trek.  He has a mission to complete, to find every elevator in the mall, and after he completes his mission he can get another diet coke.

After the mall, we went to the hotel and checked in.  Curtis was so excited that he didn’t sleep well.  Every hour, ON the hour, he woke me up to see if it is time to to get up. (He learned this hourly ritual from my mother, who used to beg him to let her sleep “just one more hour”.)  I awoke at 7:30 to see him wide awake in the next bed, waiting for 8:00 am so he could wake me up and ask me if it is time to get up!  I moved to get out of bed and my movement announced that it is time to get up.  Curtis jumped up happily. He had all of his clothes on for the day. (He must have dressed during the night.)

After a quick breakfast of yogurt and bananas that I had brought, we drove the car to the parking garage for the Metro.  This happens to be his favorite parking garage in the whole world:  it has a spiral driveway all the way to the top.  As we drove, we sang and sway back and forth.  “Around and around and around and around” all the way to the top floor.  We then made our way onto the subway, which he also loves.  He asked me where we were going, as I had kept it a surprise.  Having recently lost his hearing completely, he does not yet understand that he cannot hear, so the conversation goes something like this:

C: “Where are we going?”

Me: “To see the dinosaurs.’

C:  “The aquarium?”

Me:  “No, the DINOSAURS!”

C:  “The movies?”

ME:  “NO THE DINOSAURS!!!!”

C:  “You’re taking me back home?” he said as his body melted in disappointment.

ME:  “NO!!!  WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE DINOSAURS!!!”

Realizing I was not going to get anywhere with telling him, I grabbed a piece of paper and drew a large picture of what I think was a pretty good imitation of a dinosaur.  “Oh!” he said happily, “we’re going to see Fred Flintstone?”  I sigh and shook my head yes…

I am the type of person who can sleep anywhere, any time.  Exhausted after being woken up all night long, I curled out across 3 seats in the back of the subway car, and Angel and Curtis sat across from me. It is about an hour’s ride into the city and I asked Angel to wake me up when we got closer to the city and it started to get crowded.  I was sure people would NOT appreciate me taking up 3 seats.  I fell fast asleep.  I woke up only when Angel was tugging on my sleeve because we were at our stop.  I was MORTIFIED!  I looked like a homeless person! I have “bed head” and drool coming down the side of my mouth. The subway car is full of people, many people standing up.  “I told you to WAKE me,” I reprimanded him.  At least it sounded like I was scolding him for the sake of the people standing up.  Secretly, I was grateful I was able to get an hour’s sleep in.

We had to change from the Red Line to the Green Line.  The seats in the car we entered were completely full, so Angel and I each grabbed a vertical pole and Curtis grabbed the horizontal pole above him and was kind of hanging like a monkey.  Angel and I put our arms around his waist to steady him.  The car swayed back and forth and we swayed back and forth.  Curtis thought our fingers were tickling him on purpose, so he started to laugh.  Angel and I started to laugh, and pretty soon the 3 of us were laughing hysterically.  Several of the passengers offered their seats as they could tell our predicament was precarious.  “No, thank you,” I said, “We are the adventuresome type.”

When we get to the museum, Angel, true to his nature, went to check out the museum store.  (One of his female “peeps” is a shopaholic who believes in the “shop til you drop” motto.) Curtis, true to HIS nature, wanted to eat first.   It’s not so much that he wanted to eat as he wanted to get a soda.  He is obsessed with soda.  We went through the cafeteria line and he picked out macaroni and cheese and I picked out a chicken caesar salad.  With him hanging on my arm, we payed and I looked for a seat. It was very very crowded. I was trying to do sighted guide technique with him on one arm, carrying the tray with the other, and steering him towards the one empty table I saw all the way across the room.  He spotted the sign for Diet Coke.  He wouldn’t move, just pointed at the sign.  I tried to tell him that first we needed to get a seat, that I couldn’t possibly stop for soda with a tray full of food and him on my arm, but of course he couldn’t hear me.  He continues to point at the Diet Coke sign like ET pointed to home.  He kept trying to drag me closer to the soda machine and I pulled him towards the table. The tray of food was unbalanced, and I was afraid our $35 lunch was going to drop on the floor, or, worst yet, on top of the head of one of the many children in strollers nearby. Finally I won the tug of war and we reached the empty table where I plopped the tray down, grabbed the soda cups and headed with him back in the direction of his  beloved soda. His face immediately burst into a smile as he realized what we were doing.   He was a happy camper!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the museum.  The dinosaurs were  big enough for him to see, and he really enjoyed them, although he did keep asking where Fred Flintstone was.  (The Flintstones were our favorite cartoon when we were growing up.  Every Friday night.  Channel 6.  8:00 pm.)  When we finished with the exhibits, Curtis bought another soda “for the ride home” .  He perked up again when we got to the parking garage and had to go “around and around and around and around” in the car to get out.

Bringing him back to the group home was uneventful.  When the staff asked how his weekend was, he answered “GREAT!  I had diet coke and we got to drive around and around in circles.”  He didn’t even mention the hotel or the mall or the subway or the dinosaurs.  The next time I take him, I think I’ll save the money and just park at the Metro parking garage and buy him all the diet cokes he wants.  It would sure save me money, (and anyone who has read my blog before KNOWS that I like to save money!)

Stay Away from Me With That Umbrella

It happened again this morning.  It was pouring rain out.  I have to walk about 4 blocks from the parking garage to where I work.  It had been raining a LOT lately.  I had on boots and my jacket with a hood pulled over my hair to keep it from getting wet.  Several people walking near me kindly offered to share their umbrellas with me.  I politely declined.  You see, I have a real phobia about umbrellas.  Not much in this world scares me, (I have 5 kids after all.)  I was not afraid of sharks after seeing Jaws.  I was not afraid of snakes after seeing Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane. But put an umbrella near me and my knees begin to shake and I go pale. (I hate the video of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain!)

This fear dates back to my childhood.  I don’t know how or why, but I got the fear that I was going to be poked in the eye with one of those little knobby things on the spokes at the end of the umbrella.  Getting wet in the harshest downpour could not compare to the fear of getting poked in the eye, so I would never use an umbrella.  Of course, as I grew, I have realized that this fear is slightly irrational.

When my son, Francis, was going to Cambridge University in England, he took my mother and me on a guided tour of London.  Being London, it was raining of course.  Francis and my mom had umbrellas, I chose to get wet.  No big deal.  What’s a little water?  Anyway, we were in front of Buckingham Palace and Francis wanted to get a picture of my mom and me.  She and I put our arms around each other and smiled for the picture.  He took the picture JUST as SHE POKED ME IN THE EYE with her UMBRELLA!  It is incredible to have my worst fear captured in a picture.  The good news is, my eye stayed intact in my eye socket and didn’t really get poked out. The bad news is, I still have my fear of umbrellas….

The Easter Bunny Goes Pee…

My 13 year old daughter who is deaf still believes in the Easter Bunny.  I think it has something to do with her not being able to hear people all around her talking about it!  She still believes he brings eggs and an Easter basket, (which, of course, we worn out-THIRTEEN YEARS OLD-parents still provide.)  Well, yesterday she had PROOF that the Easter Bunny exists.  She went with her dad to the local mall and she went into the ladies room.  As she was coming in, the Easter Bunny, (who MUST be a “she” because “she” used the ladies’ rest room,) came out of the handicapped stall.  Now, I’m guessing she was using the handicapped stall so there would be enough room to take the costume down to use the toilet.  Had Marie walked in 5 minutes sooner she would have seen what would have looked like a dead Easter Bunny sprawled on the bathroom floor!   But, NOOOOO, she walks in as the Easter Bunny comes strutting out of the stall and waves to Marie.  She is thrilled, of course!  Then she stops and thinks.  She yells after the Easter Bunny to come back, she forgot to wash her paws!!!!!!

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,015 other followers