The Last September Morning

That's Fine by Eric Flexyourhead

The sky this morning was incredible. In the north it was azure – the color of a Caribbean sea. In the south thick heavy clouds were pasted above the trees. They looked disapprovingly at the clear patches as if they were considering engulfing them in one smooth sweep. But in the end the clouds relented and blew off to the south to drop their rain on a more worthy area.

The sky, so pleased with its victory turned an even deeper blue, so pure it almost hurt to look at. Around its edges the remnants of the impotent storm framed the last September morning with feathery white lace.

“The last September morning.” Sounds like an old folk song doesn’t it? You know what else it sounds like? Panic. Because if today is the last day of September, that means it’s only one month until NaNoWriMo starts!

For those of you not familiar with NaNo, here’s a bit about it. The summary is you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Yes 50K. 5 with four 0s after it. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s actually what got me started writing as more than a thing I did sometimes and never finished. I wrote 80,000 in my first NaNo, which turned into about 1-1/4 books of my series. Even if you don’t win NaNo, it’s a great way to get in the habit of writing every day.

Now technically you’re supposed to start something brand new, and only work on it for the whole month. I’ve not done that since the first year. Usually what I do is work on something I’ve started instead. I’m not sure what I’m working on this year, but I’m going to do my best to win. I’ll update you all once I figure it out. At the moment it will either be rewrites of my first book or continuing a YA story about a boy that finds dragons.

Anyone else doing NaNo this year? What will you be working on? Whatever it is, I wish you good luck and happy writing!

Title image by Eric Flexyourhead.

Wet With A Chance of Caterpillars

Spiderweb at Daybreak by Erina68

I never should have mentioned how nice the weather has been for my walks. I should know better by now.

Today the relative humidity was probably around 98%. And that’s being generous. Just getting the kids ready for school this morning made me breakout in a sweat. If there hadn’t been a breeze, I would have been drench by the time I got home from my walk. On the plus side my legs didn’t hurt when I finished, so I think my body is starting to get the hang of this. Yay!

In more exciting news (to me anyway) I caught a huge caterpillar on Friday afternoon! And when I say huge, I mean I saw it crawling across my driveway when I went to get a drink from the kitchen! It turned out to be an imperial moth caterpillar. I kept it in a box on my desk till my kids got home, and then we released it on the lawn.

Caterpillar

This type of caterpillar doesn’t make a cocoon; instead it burrows into the ground and changes there in the spring. Almost as soon as we released him, he found a nice spot in the grass and dug a little hole to hide in. My kids decided to name him Pointy Leaf William, which I think is the greatest caterpillar name ever.

While we were watching him disappear into the grass, my youngest caught a butterfly. It was a very exciting afternoon! At least if you like bugs.

Butterfly

It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look around. There could be a whole world of wonders right outside your front door. :)

In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss:

From there to here,
From here to there,
Funny things are everywhere.

See you tomorrow!

Title image by Erina68.

Writing and Walking – Fall Is Here

Autumn Leaf on Vintage Book by EmeraldCut

I’m bad at blogging regularly.

Wait, let me rephrase. I’m terrible at blogging regularly.

At least until now, that is. I’ve decided I need to spend more time writing. And while in a perfect world that writing would always be related to my books, any writing is better than no writing. And since right now I’m working on plotting out an outline and reorg-ing the entire beginning of the book, I thought doing a daily blog post would be a good way to keep my writing skills sharp. It also ties into something else I’ve just started doing: walking.

I am not the healthiest person at present. I’ve never been big into exercise and while I know the proper way to eat, I’m not great at it. So last week I decided I would walk a mile every morning after the kids went to school. It’s been working really well! But since I’m out of shape, I need a cool down period when I get home. And what better way to cool down my body than to spend some time sharpening my mind.

Every week day, I’m going to try to write a post. It’s probably going to deal with what’s going on in my life and writing, and maybe even about random thoughts I have while walking. The weekends are currently “off” days, since the kids are home and I usually get walking in Saturday with my cousin Amber. Granted it’s in craft stores or the mall, but I figure that counts. Sundays, I’ve decided should be actual off days. At least until I’m more used to walking. My feet and calves were really sore at the beginning of the week. The day off on Sunday made a big difference. That may be temporary though. We’ll see.

Hopefully it will be interesting, but I can’t promise anything. So here we go. Day nine of walking. Day one of writing. Enjoy!

- – -

Today the sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and the leaves all made a satisfying crunch when stepped on. This is my second week of walking in the morning. Every day I’ve gone has been beautiful – the perfect day for a walk. And out of the nine days I’ve been walking, I’ve only missed one. Not because it rained, as I would have loved to hear the drops drumming on my umbrella, but because the kids had a day off from school. Taking three boys walking in the rain, while fun, would not have been as peaceful or relaxing in any way shape or form.

My walks this week have been dedicated to working out how I’m going to rewrite the beginning of my book. I’m shifting the focus from one character to another, but that involves me knowing a lot of backstory I didn’t think I needed to get into quite yet. Wednesday I figured out how to start the chapter. Today I figured out all the events that led up to it. My plan is to write a rough outline either this afternoon before the kids get home or tonight after everyone’s in bed.

After having the kids home for the summer (well part of the summer) it’s nice to have some quiet time to just think. The walks have been great for this. We’ll see how I feel about it when the weather starts getting cold. But I plan on sticking with this as long as I can. Hopefully blogging about it will give me that extra push I need to stay on track with my health and my story.

Until Monday everyone! Happy writing!

Title image by EmeraldCut.

The Boys’ First Trip To The Movies

The LEGO Movie (poster)

A friend on Twitter asked about how people get autistic kids to try new things and specifically how to get them to the movie theater. It just happens that last week we took our boys to the movies for the first time. So I thought I would share our experience. Hope it helps some of you in trying new things with your kids, whether they are on the spectrum or not. :)

We’d been thinking about going to the movies with the kids for awhile, but after my husband and I saw The LEGO Movie, and my parents invited us to go see it again, we decided this would be a good one to try out with them.

Now taking three autistic boys to a movie for the first time did not sound like the greatest idea in the world, so we decided that we would take them one at a time. The challenges we faced were similar for all three boys:

- dislike of loud noises
– fear/dislike of the dark
– inability to sit still for long periods of time
– dislike of new things/experiences
– focus on what normal activities they would be missing if they went to the movie instead
– trouble using ‘inside voices’/being quiet for long periods of time
– dislike of ‘bad things happening’/conflict in movies and TV shows

Based on that list I’m sure you’re wondering why we would ever try to take them to the movies in the first place. I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t 100% positive it would work, but trying new things is an important part of growing up. And with autistic kids it’s important to expose them to new things so they can learn how to cope with the real world.

The first step was deciding whether or not they were ready to face this many issues/fears at once. The best way for us to do that was to have a movie night at home. We picked a movie that was slightly more intense than what we’d watched up to this point, but one that we knew they would like – we picked Labyrinth.

We made popcorn, piled on the couch with all the lights off, and watched the movie. All of them sat very well, were relatively quiet and didn’t seem to mind the dark of the room or the ‘scary’ parts of the movie as long as we were right there to reassure them. The test run was a success!

Over the next week we hyped up the idea of doing a special day for each boy. Each of them would get a day to eat lunch in a restaurant (McDonald’s) with just mommy or daddy. Then we would go to the movie theater buy popcorn AND a bag of candy. Then go in and watch the movie on the big screen!

During the week leading up to the movie trip they all alternated from being excited to not wanting to go, which is very typical for my boys. To tip the scales over to excited, we watched The LEGO Movie trailer a bunch of times and listened to “Everything Is Awesome” (the theme song for the movie) which I’d downloaded onto my iTunes. We also watched a social story about going to the movies on YouTube. By the time it was the day for the first boy to go, he was more excited than nervous.

The trip for each boy was identical, well except for their reactions to the trip (I’ll get to that part in a minute). We went to McDonald’s and got a happy meal which we ate inside “like a real restaurant”. While there we talked about how fun it was going to be to see the movie and if they wanted to get candy or popcorn or BOTH! When we were done we drove to the theater. On the way over, we talked about what the theater would look like, if/what they were nervous about, and how everything would be okay and a lot of fun. :)

How did the boys’ first trip to the movies go?

Well the results were mixed.

Kid #3 (my youngest) went first. His trip actually went the best. He was slightly concerned when it got dark, but adjusted fine once the actually movie started and the previews were over. He had to be reminded a couple times not to talk, but overall he was good. He did get antsy during a couple of the slower parts, but whenever that happened I would give him some Skittles and he would sit contently until the next slow part. Overall he had a great time.

Kid #1 (the oldest twin) was next. He has the most severe/classic autism symptoms (though he is still very high functioning). He LOVED going to McDonald’s and was probably the most excited to see the movie. However, he was also the one who was the most antsy during our home movie night and ended up having the hardest time sitting through the movie at the theater. He decided he was bored about 30 minutes in, but I was able to redirect him enough that we were able to see the whole movie. The candy trick didn’t work as well with him, and he needed to be reminded not to talk a lot more than his brothers. While he did have a good time, the verdict with Kid #1 is that he is not quite ready for a full length movie trip yet.

Kid #2 (the younger twin) was the last to the movie. Even though he is better at sitting and has less symptoms than his twin, he had almost as much trouble as Kid #1. The difference was he was quieter and lasted 45 minutes before getting bored of sitting. Unless it’s something he insists on seeing, we’ll probably wait awhile to bring him to the theater again as well.

What worked well?

The prep leading up to the trip (including the home movie night) helped quell most of their fears of doing something new. Explaining what it would be like and showing them the social story helped get them comfortable with what would happen. Going on a full stomach kept their moods even. And making it a special trip just for them (individually) made them more excited to go and much easier to manage. It definitely would have been harder if the adult to child ratio was not 1:1. It was also helpful that my husband and I had already seen the movie. Then we knew when the slow and scary parts were ahead of time.

What worked okay?

Having a snack to get them through the slower parts of the movie worked to a point. And will mostly likely work better as they get more used to going to the theater. Going at a slow time of day, meant the there were less people in the theater and less people to bother if they started being antsy.

What would we do different next time?

Next time I think I would try to show up as close to the movie starting as possible, maybe even skipping the previews to make the time sitting in the theater shorter overall. Also next time we will try going even earlier in the day. Our theater also has “Sensory Friendly Films” movie showings that we will try out this summer. The lights are left on a bit, the volume is slightly quieter, and it’s okay if the kids have to stand up now and then or if they need to talk some during the movie.

Overall I think getting them to the movies was a good experience. We learned a lot, they had fun, and we now know where the bar is set for each child. Every day is a learning experience and if that experience happens to include popcorn and movie, then all the better. ;)

If you have any questions about our experience at the movies, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Peace of Mind

Soft Landing by hopeimages

A lot has been going on lately. My youngest started his special pre-school after the child study team finally decided to test him, and low and behold he came up autistic. Quelle surprise! We were all sick with a “flu like virus” for a week and half (which I’m pretty sure just means we had the flu). And it has snowed every week since the beginning of the year. In addition to the normal ups and downs of having three special needs kids and keeping up with my editing job, you would think at this point in the year I would be at my wits end. And up until this year you would be right.

But something amazing happened to me in January. Something that was long overdue. I finally went to see a psychiatrist about my anxiety and depression, and he, in his infinite wisdom, put me on anti-depression/anti-anxiety meds…AND THEY WORKED!

They didn’t just work a little either. After three days on half a dose I felt completely different! What does that mean for me? Let me explain.

My whole life there has been this running commentary in the back of my head. Anytime I would have to think over a problem or something would go wrong, my brain would start working out how to fix it and/or how it could be worse or how it was worse or what tragedies would befall me or people I love because of whatever it was I was thinking about. This kept going until a new thing would pop into my head or needed addressing.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t want it to be happening. But I couldn’t make it stop.

Three days into the meds something amazing happened. My mind was suddenly silent. The running commentary was gone. The constant chatter of a thousand worries had quieted. For the first time in my life, I could sit in peace and think about nothing or (and this is even more amazing) I could think about something, and then I could stop! My worries and cares no longer sat on top of me all day. I could still think about problems I was having or try and work out solutions, but the thoughts no longer haunted me hours later.

The closest comparison I can come up with is imagine you have tinnitus. There is a constant buzzing in your ears 24/7. Now imagine one day…it just stopped. The feeling is incredible.

I never really knew what other people meant when they said “relax” or when people talked about being at peace until now. I thank God my husband kept on me to go and talk to the doctor and that the first thing he prescribed me worked. There is still a lot in my life that needs fixing and organizing, but now I feel like I have the presence of mind to do it.

I am sharing this post because I know there are a lot of people out there who are afraid to go to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist because of the stigma of mental diseases. I am here to tell you that you have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to gain from getting help. Anxiety and depression can be fixed, sometimes with therapy, sometimes with medication. I lived my whole life not knowing what having a peaceful mind meant and now I do. And I couldn’t be happier. Please, if you think you need help, get help. You are worth it. :)

Title image by hopeimages.

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