Saturday, November 29, 2008

Doing the UN-Thinkable

Pamela is ready for the holidays year-round because she loves watching Dr. Seuss - How the Grinch Stole Christmas and even snagged a copy of The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat and Grinch Night but, thankfully, drew the line at the live-action version. She even loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer plus the highly cheesy spin-offs, Rudolph's Shiny New Year and Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July.

But, that is not what was un-thinkable about yesterday . . .

For the first time in her life, Pamela succumbed to the Black Friday hoopla and decided we were going shopping on that ominous day. Ominous because I hate shopping and the day I hate most to shop is black Friday! However, I will do anything for Pamela and we braved Walmart together in search of stuff for an elder basket and an angel tree child. Fortunately, because we waited until after lunch shop, we did not witness any stampeding shoppers. Of course, in a town south of the Mason-Dixon line with population 4,000, one would not expect such unladylike behavior.

We picked out three of four items on the wish list of a four-year-old girl who is part of the angel tree program hosted by our church for foster care children in our area. Pamela enjoyed picking out a Baby Alive Sip 'N Snooze for she thoroughly adores the Baby Alive (a baby, not a D-O-L-L) she received for Christmas last year. She scratched and sniff all three kinds of Dora dolls present (lemon, cotton candy, and cherry) and chose lemon, of course: Stylish Scents Dora- Lemon Drop. She smiled when she tested out the Vtech Write and Learn Letter Pad and wrote a letter on the pad. We included extra batteries that came with a wind-up panda toy plus two books: The Animals' Christmas Eve and God Knows All about Me.

Our church also participates in an elder basket program in which people fill an ordinary laundry basket with packaged food, personal care, and household items. Pamela helped me pick out items for our basket and I used up the rest of the baby blanket cotton yarn on a Basket Weave dishcloth, nubby-scrubby washcloth, and extra thick potholder and I still have enough remaining to knockout another basket weave dishcloth I plan to include two bars of Ivory soap for the under-a-dollar gift I'm supposed to bring to the monthly Bible study class next month.

David, the giant, jolly elf, decorated the Christmas tree. He also terrified our gentle parakeet Lily by putting a gargantuan lifelike bird on top of the cage. She flustered about the cage, so he took it off after a minute and replaced it with less intimidating froppery. And, when he was not busy entertaining the neighbor's grandsons, David took a picture of the Arwenator wearing a Santa hat . . . I guess all that hard work makes up for the disappearance of half a container of ice cream, egg nog, and pumpkin pie . . .

Steve nearly finished his mammoth to-do list, which included doing Christmas cards, which he decorated with the most interesting collection of stamps. . .

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday Thanksgiving Meme

I found this meme at a knitting blog:

1. Which do you like better: Cooking at your house, or going elsewhere? Hint: Last year, we served champagne in Dora the Explorer paper cups last New Year's Eve. I am not Martha Stewart, nor do I play her on television. Of course, I prefer going elsewhere so I do not have to overextend my meager decorating and culinary skills!

2. Do you buy a fresh or frozen bird? I buy frozen, or better yet a ham to avoid being the subject of any thanksgiving horror stories. While my dad is brave enough to manage a fried turkey without blowing up the house, I am better off with a plain-old, garden-variety ham!

3. What kind of stuffing? I like gluten-free, casein-free cornbread stuffing with mushrooms, nuts, and other goodies (but no innards or oysters, please); Steve prefers Stove Top when he is not visiting his mother, who makes fabulous stuffing that I cannot match!

4. Sweet potato or pumpkin pie? About the only thing I can do well is a gluten-free, casein-free pumpkin pie, made with a nut crust, except for this year because I blackened the outer edge in honor of my Cajun friends.

5. Do you believe that turkey leftovers are a curse, or the point of the whole thing? Any leftover is a blessing in the home of the anti-Martha Stewart! I grew up on Exxon Valdez stew (leftovers with a splash of lard to stick to your ribs).

6. Which side dish would provoke a riot if you left it off the menu? I am pleading the fifth because none of my side dishes are that popular.

7. Do you save the carcass to make soup or stock? Yes, I do and that is why I am the Queen of the Crockpot!

8. What do you wish you had that would make preparing Thanksgiving dinner easier? I wish I had someone else to do the cooking. Oh, wait, I do! It's my husband, Steve!

9. Do you get up at the crack of dawn to have dinner ready in the early afternoon, or do you eat at your normal dinner hour? Snort! We eat dinner when it is done. The year we lived in Oliver's Fun House in a fishing village in Alaska (see the image I found online of one--no, that is not me nor did I ever smile while cooking on my oil stove), the turkey wasn't ready because our dual-purpose stove (which heated the house and the hot water heater, neither very well) had a cracked kiln. We could not crank up the thing to avoid sooting up the house. So, we rotated the bird periodically to eat it evenly.

10. If you go to somebody else's house, what's your favorite dish to bring? I always bring homemade cranberry conserve and pumpkin pie!

11. What do you wish one of your guests wouldn't bring to your house? I guess it would have to be Senor Influenza!

12. Does your usual mix of guests result in drama, or is it a group you're happy to see? We keep it small and cozy to avoid the drama for my momma, who lives across the street from us.

13. What's your absolute favorite thing on the menu? My absolute favorite thing on any menu is dessert!

14. What are you thankful for this year?
  • We live in a country where we can speak freely, worship God freely, and homeschool!
  • My husband is a great breadwinner, who does not mind cooking or helping out with the house.
  • My two kids have taught me so much about patience and never giving up.
  • Our extended family loves and accepts our autistic sweetie pie for who she is.
  • I am thankful for my local skin friend (and the one who moved away last spring), my skin friends from high school and college, and all of the aut-2b-home, homeschool, RDI, CM, gf/cf, whatever cyber friends.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

County Champs!

Tonight was David's last soccer game for the year. He did not start playing soccer until three years ago. He has been playing on the same team for our county recreational league since we moved here: the first year they won, last year they lost, and this year they won again (there are three teams). The first two years, David played defense, but this year, his coach moved him up to midfield! He started out the year playing the mininum required quarters (two), but tonight he played all four quarters--I was so excited for him! He is definitely more aggressive with going after the ball and has enough control to pass it to other players. He does not have the skill of the teammates who probably started handling a ball as soon as they could walk, but he has made great progress in the past three years.

Tonight the weather was brutally cold: my car said 38 degrees Fahrenheit, but, according to, that felt like 32 because of the mild wind. As you can see, I bundled up and am so thankful for the alpaca poncho that Steve bought for me on his first trip to Chile. I was fairly warm with all of the layers (three pairs of socks, one of which was thermal). But, still . . . it's cold out there and the weatherguessers are predicting freezing cold temperatures tonight!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

Before I get to the main course, I have to share two appetizers. Yesterday, Pamela did two lovely things.

When David came downstairs, ready for church, he sat on a chair to watch television. Pamela walked into the room, and he said, "Good morning, Pamela!" She walked to him, gave him a big hug, and said, "Good morning!"

Later, at church, Pamela was being very static about Steve's traveling schedule next week. He told her he was flying to Atlanta on Thursday, but she was trying to convince him to drive instead. He explained that the flight to Atlanta is short, but it would take eight hours to drive there. She still thought her idea was better. She tapped him on his forehead and said, "Use your brain!" This was pure Pamela because we have never said nor done such a thing to her!

This year, Pamela and I put together a shoe box for Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child. Pamela decided to do a box for a little girl between the ages of five to nine. On Friday, we walked to a local discount store, bought a plastic container, and filled it with toys. Since we are working on living with uncertainty, I showed Pamela some money and put it in my pocket. We went on a walk, but I did not tell her where I was going. Clearly, she was curious because she asked me about it half-way to the store (there are several stores within walking distance of our house). However, she was collected enough to avoid the static on our walk and made lovely comments about what we experienced on the way.

On Friday, we bought all kinds of toys (a Beanie Baby doll, yo-yo, jump rope, ball, pink boa, and Slinky), school supplies (glue, markers, and crayons), and personal items (a handmade washcloth--I crocheted it, soap, barrettes, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and pretty socks). Pamela focused intently on her mission and did not always communicate well. When pointing the way, she did not always check to see if I am paying attention. As usual, I talked too much! I love her little asides . . . "I stole it" (when I told her I lost the list), "Ha, never mind!" (after I found the list), "No, I can't! How come?" (when she was ready to stop), "Over there, I told you" (after I failed to follow her). I loved our little problem-solving moment at the end when we were deciding if the box of crayons might fit. And, of course, I accidentally left one segment upside down . . . I'm tired, cold, and cranky and I'm leaving it as is!

On Sunday, Pamela typed a short letter with a picture of her and her babies. We wrapped the box and took it to church to meet today's deadline. First, we packed the box. Pamela focused on packing but did pause to make a couple of comments about the glue made in Columbus, Ohio, the Beanie Baby doll not being an animal, and the soft boa. She adjusted to me when I suggested doing the big things first, picking a better spot for the yo-yo, and looking at the musical toothbrush after I shook it.

When we wrapped the present, we kept our roles fluid to create uncertainty. Sometimes, I cut the tape and she placed it on the gift, and, at other times, it was vice versa. After we finished, we talked about what the little girl receiving the present might say and our favorite things in the gift. She was so delightful and really seemed to enjoy putting together the shoe box.

Here are some close-up shots of our box and all of the boxes our church donated.

Our next big projects are delivering meals on Thanksgiving and putting together an elder basket for Santee tribes in our state (due November 30).

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Pamela surprised me today several times in very promising ways:

1. Pamela is loosening up on the "sacred hour" which has been an institution around here since before we started RDI. She used to be quite adamant about watching television between noon and one, kicking David out for the duration. She only allowed exceptions for travel and for expected appointments away from home. I have noticed her loosening up on the sacred hour for the past two weeks. Today, David called me and said, "Mom! Look at the time." It was 12:25 and Pamela was soaking up rays on the back porch.

A few minutes later, Pamela happily checks to see if we have GF/CF chicken broth so she can make alphabet soup when we get back from shopping.

2. We drove to Walmart and picked up a couple of things. My mind was on all the things I had to get done today and it was Pamela who pointed out some girls' underwear with Sponge Bob, Dora, the Little Mermaid, etc. Although it was a short interaction, I felt she was truly sharing joint attention with me. Later, we looked at the books and she pointed out different picture books to me.

3. Then, a mini-miracle happened. We were heading over to the self-checkout and bumped into a kindly lady I know from church. Pamela has been staying home from church, and I am hoping she will choose to go with us one of these days. She had not seen this lady in ages, so I introduced her as J.B.'s mom (J.B. rented a house to us for 18 months and Pamela knows his name and who he is, so this was my way of scaffolding interest). The lady said, "Hi, Pamela, I’m N."

Pamela smiled and said, "Where are you from?"

N. needed me to repeat Pamela's question and said in a very engaging way, "Why, I'm from Manning, just like you." She patted Pamela on the arm.

Then, Pamela said, "I was born in Alaska."

"Alaska? It's so cold in Alaska."

"Yes. Where's David?"

I told N. that David was at home. Then she said, "Was David bad?"

Pamela shook her head and said, "No. David's not bad." Pamela likes to cheer people up after an argument (which we did not have with David today), so she gave me a hug.

Then, N. said, "Why Pamela, I just love hugs!"

And, Pamela hugged her. Pamela asked to go sit on the bench and I agreed. N. told her goodbye and Pamela waved to her!

4. And, if that wasn't enough, Pamela had brought a thick stack of old photographs in the car. While I was driving, she would make comments. Usually, she talks about the state, time zone, and/or Chinese astrological sign for the year the picture was taken. Today, she made very declarative comments with very little of the static.

She looked at a picture of a bunch of us midshipmen jumping into the pool with full dress uniform. Pamela said, "Swimming pool." So, I said, "Did you see what we were wearing?" She laughed and said, "Yes, clothes!" (I am one of the people in the blur . . . after the final parade before graduation, we all jump in a pool to celebrate because we no longer need those uniforms . . . crazy tradition, huh?)

Pamela was very fascinated by a picture of Hawaiians standing on boats at the Polynesian Culture Center in Hawaii. She said, "Boats." I told her that her dad took Grandma and Grandpa there when he lived in Hawaii. (This was before he and I met!)

She showed me another picture from the same place. I told her that Lisa met her husband Johnny at the center when he worked there. Last summer, we met Johnny and their beautiful daughter Leilani for the first time. (Lisa and I met in high school in Newfoundland.)

She showed me a picture of Steve boogie-boarding in Hawaii. She asked me, "Where's that?" because she truly did not know. I told her that her dad was at a beach in Maui, Hawaii. She did mention Hawaii Standard Time, but then asked for the city. I told her, "I don't know!"

She asked where this picture of Steve and I near a flooded swing-set. I asked, "Where do you think?" She said, "Sand Point." I said, "No." Then, she realized it was another island with tundra, "Adak, where you were born!" Again, she did not know the location of this shot.

She looked at this baby picture of herself and said, "Eating food." I said, "Yeah, you made a mess!" (Wasn't she a cutie?????? I can tell this was taken in December because four red advent candles are in the forefront!)

Then, she looked at this picture of Steve's parents' house in Louisiana. I know she remembers the house, but there was snow on the ground. She asked, "Where's the house?" I said, "In Louisiana. In 1989 Grandma and Grandpa had a crazy snowstorm." She smiled and said, "Uh-oh!" I laughed and said, "Yeah, God sent a big surprise."

Pamela saw this picture of her aunt and herself near a pool. Pamela said, "That's Florida." I said, "Yes, that was Aunt Essie's house. She’s in heaven." (I took this picture when Pamela was fifteen months old. When we got home, we took her to that fateful vaccination (MMR and DPT on the same day). What a mistake! She was already having health problems with never ending diaper rashes and ear infections. Her illnesses and autism ramped up after this!)

She showed me this picture from Disneyland and said, "Rocket!" I replied, "That's when we took you to Disneyland!" (We visited my sister in San Diego and hit Disneyland on the way back. We had just started the process of getting Pamela evaluated. We did our best to fake enjoying the trip for Pamela's sake. How could she notice our heartbreak?)

She showed this picture from Germany, "It's a church!" I replied, "That's when we saw Oma and Opa in Germany." (Pamela was four on this trip. She was afraid of Mom's canary and hid behind the couch a lot. She did well on the trip except the jetway terrified her and the people smoking after dinner triggered an allergic reaction in her. David was a baby, and his great Oma just loved him because he would play with the ball of yarn sitting in the basket!)

Then, she held this picture of David and her in the plastic pool. She pointed, "David's in the pool." I said, "Oh, yes, you were playing." Then she said, "Ariel." I said, "David was so cute." She pointed to his shirt and said, "Baloo!" (Pamela attended special education classes in the local public school. Steve and I were on active duty in the Navy.)

She saw this picture of her on a slide and said, "Florida!" I said, "Yes, that's when we moved to Connecticut!" (We visited my sister in Florida on our way to Connecticut. Both kids enjoyed playing with their cousins, who are about the same age as my kids.)

She looked at a picture of her and David on farm and asked, "Where's that?" I replied, "Allentown, near Philadelphia." Then she said, "Five more states" because she realized it was during our move to Connecticut in 1995 after Steve and I left the Navy and began homeschooling.

Then, she saw a picture of David at a playground. She said, "David's sliding!" I said, "That looks like fun!" She said, "Just like gravity!" (Pennsylvania had several wonderful playgrounds, and we had a pool, swingset, and climbing trees--a kid's paradise. They spent many happy hours playing in our backyard.)

She commented on this shot of the kids doing a homeschool Christmas program. Pamela said, "David's signing 'Silent Night!'" I said, "He did such a great job!" (We attended a fantastic co-op in Pennsylvania. The kids loved going to classes and all of the field trips and other activities. It was a blast!)

She showed me this mystery road and asked, "Where's the road?" I told her I didn't know but said the date was August 2001. Then, she told me, "That’s Alaska!"

I felt like this conversation was much closer to the joint attention we are seeking because many of her comments were declarative. When she did ask, she truly did not know or was confused. When I did answer with the name of the state, Pamela did not fall into her typical patterns (state, time zone, Chinese astrological year). She did not ask me to tell her what she already knew in a static conversation. She made different comments based upon the pictures themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Uncovering Uncertainty

Today we celebrated Veteran's Day by attending our town's first annual Veteran's Day parade, which started promptly at 11:00 AM on November 11. Bravo Zulu to all of you veterans who served our great country! Thank you for your service!

After the parade, Pamela and I collected some fall leaves for a friend in Florida, whose children have never seen snow, much less autumn colors. We are goint to try to rectify that situation in a small way. It is a lot easier to mail leaves than snow! Afterwards, Pamela enjoyed the neighbor's swing before we headed into the house to get ready to hit the store.

Uncertainty about Hidden Things
We continue to investigate what forms of uncertainty make Pamela anxious enough to go static and stimmy. I am fairly certain that not knowing what hidden things are do not fluster her one bit. This package for someone at church has their name in care of me. It sat in Pamela's view all day and she never asked what it was and to whom it belonged. She does not the recipient, and I am surprised she did not ask.

After the parade, I put two of these buttons in my jeans pocket. Before we left for the store, I put my hand in my pocket and said mysteriously, "I have something in my pocket." When she asked what it was, I smiled but didn't give her an answer. She showed no interest until I mentioned it again in the parking lot. I put one on her zipper handle and began jiggling it. She said, "Rattle!"

Uncertainty about Directions
Pamela has a keen sense of direction, partially because of her eye for pattern and because we have been so many places. She was born on an island in the Aleutians, halfway between Russia and mainland Alaska. She has lived in thirteen different homes, not including three weeks in a high-rise apartment in Santiago, Chile and three weeks visting family in El Salvador. She does care about routes and even tells Steve which road to take home sometimes. I tested her yesterday and today by taking round-about ways to wherever we were going. In both cases, we traveled down streets we have never seen. Pamela asked, "Where are we going?" I scaffolding by telling her our destination and adding, "We are exploring right now." Pamela was not a bit angry or concerned. In fact today, she said, "New. Brand new" when we entered an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Next time, I plan to remove the scaffolding by having a destination in mind, but not tell her. I am not sure how Pamela will take that level of uncertainty.