My son made this. It's more than a little awesome.

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Please, go to sleep...



My autistic daughter hates to go to bed. She loves to sleep, but she hates the lack of stimulation that's required for her to wind down enough to actually fall asleep. So I have to sit with her every night for a little bit until she dozes off. My presence keeps her from getting back out of bed, turning on the lights, and staying up all night playing.

Last night, though, she just kept babbling to herself, and babbling and babbling. I took this video at about 5:30am. I'm so glad for the iPad and the iPhone. A few years ago, I would just have to sit there in the dark and likely would nod off, myself, before she did and would wake up in my chair an hour or two later to find her out of bed and playing with her toys. Now I just watch netflix until she goes to sleep. Last night I watched about half a season of Warehouse 13.

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A few months ago, when I heard about
this book for the first time, I laughed like a crazy man through the entire thing. It was perfect.
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My girl's hidden masterpieces.



A little
video I made about my autistic daughter's hidden digital drawings. (Best viewed at 720p and fullscreen.)
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Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie

Last night we chased and almost caught a juvenile mouse that was endearingly bumbling around our front room. It was confused, and small, and obviously was feeling the effects of our recent campaign to push out a sizable mouse infestation that'd we'd experienced this fall. We'd eliminated just about every food source that the mice had found so enticing (our pantry is at least temporarily empty and a forgotten bag of dry dog food amongst some boxes in my office is now removed). We'd also already caught eight other adult and juvenile mice so most signs of the mice were already gone. Just this little mouse who, if you stood still, would stand in the middle of the carpet cleaning itself or walking around the furniture and only dart away if you made a sudden move. It even walked past my immobile feet a couple of times as if I were simply another piece of furniture to use as cover.

We laughed and were excited as we almost tricked it into walking into a sandcastle bucket from the toy box so I could transport it outside so it'd have a chance at a life likely no less dangerous, but at least not in danger from us. It's impossible for us, as humans, to not begin to love that which we become used to, and we were rapidly becoming used to this little mouse's bumbling antics.

I never caught it. Twice I almost coaxed it into the bucket and from there to the outdoors. To an unseen fate that I could pretend wasn't likely to be tragic and that I wouldn't have to feel responsible for. Even in it's bumbling way it eluded me, though, and eventually it went under a large, non-movable piece of furniture and we went to bed.

This morning, I found what was almost certainly the same mouse dead in a trap. I lied to my son and told him I thought it was a different mouse. I'm not openly weeping for the death of the little mouse, but I am feeling more than a little heart-broken.
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Bedtime

There are days when, despite all the peculiarities of my kids, I do a great job as dad and I take care of and teach my children. I finish the day feeling good about them and our lives as a family. On those days I feel like I've won.

And then there are days when I feel like I've been soundly defeated.

My daughter is severely autistic. She can't speak. My parents and her teachers will argue with me on this point, but, despite knowing a handful of words, she simply can't use them in any meaningful context. This makes taking care of her remarkably difficult. She doesn't really like to go to bed because the time between laying down and falling asleep is a time where she gets very little stimulation and she leads a life
devoted to stimulation. From her sense of touch to her sense of taste to her sight, she is always sampling her small world. The dark softness of her bedroom is the opposite of interesting and therefore a form of torture for her. Since she hates sitting still and falling asleep, I have to sit with her every night in her bedroom diligently watching over her and making sure she actually stays in bed. She has to have this time of no stimuli or she'll simply never fall asleep. If I were to let her decide her own bedtime, she'd simply go on sampling the world well into the wee hours of the morning, only falling asleep at four or five in the morning when she's completely exhausted herself.

I, on the other hand, am not so resilient and tend to run out of steam not too much past midnight.

Tonight, as has happened a few times before, I drifted off to sleep before she had and woke up, bleary eyed and panicky, to find her bed empty. Tonight she'd merely gone to the unlocked master bathroom and unspooled the roll of toilet paper and shredded it and taken the bottle of talcum powder and spread it all over the counter and floor. On other occasions, though, she's found much more horrible and frightening messes to make. She once decided to draw herself a bath of nothing but cold water on a cold November night and I found her standing in an overflowing bathtub shivering and blue.

So on most days I do things right and I anticipate her and leave the bathrooms locked and make sure she's sound asleep before I go to bed. Those days I win, but tonight, as I'm damn near crying with frustration at battling with a child who seems determined to hurt herself, I feel like I'll
never really win.
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Conversation with my son before he fell asleep.

My daughter is autistic and has no speech. Because of this, I can't explain to her why she should stay in her bed or even her room after we turn off all the lights in the house and she and her brother are tucked into their respective beds. My son usually falls deeply asleep fairly quickly, but since my girl sees no good reason not to go ahead and get back up and go play, I have to sit in their room with them until she goes to sleep.

So each night I typically listen to podcasts on my iPhone and foil my daughter's escape attempts until she finally winds down enough to go to sleep. Tonight, however, I ended up having a long conversation with my son, instead.

Sadly, my constant occupation with keeping his sister out of dangerous or even merely difficult situations means we don't really leave the house much. She's non-verbal, but she's amazingly bright. She knows when to make a successful break for it, and she's
very fast to find trouble so she requires constant vigilance. That means that restaurants or the movies or swimming - instead of being relaxing - are merely long nightmarish marathons of keeping a step ahead of her and hoping that whichever relative had enough clout to talk us into being there would soon be satisfied enough to allow us to head home before I collapse. As a consequence my poor son hasn't had as much social experience as most kids his age. (Also I haven't really had a chance to teach him how to swim.) Mostly this summer he watches loads of star trek and proclaims loudly that someday he's going to invent impulse and warp drives and build starships.

Well, today he went to a pool party for his friend's birthday, and I was nearly having an anxiety attack over it.

There was no way I could take his sister to the pool so I'd have to leave him there for the two whole hours of the party. I suppose it's post-traumatic stress after already been through losing his mother, but the thought of leaving him there without my watchful eye scared the
shit out of me. Rationally, I knew he'd be safe and it would be monstrously unfair not to allow him to go, but even up to 15 minutes before the party time I was seriously considering calling his friend's mom and canceling. I was just terrified that I'd once again win the tragedy-lottery and I was actually making myself ill with worry.

I explained to my son what was going on and that I wanted him to go but I was afraid. He's only 9, poor kid, but he acted very mature. He was calm and just kept promising me he'd be very careful, but he really did want to go so could we just go already, please?

He went, and he had fun and was perfectly fine. Tonight, though, before he fell asleep, he started asking me questions:

"Did you really think I was going to die at the pool?"

I explained that I didn't really think he was going to die at the party, but that when Momma died it made me very scared of the idea of losing either him or his sister. I knew it wasn't going to happen, but I was still scared a little.

"Can I hire my cousin as a lifeguard so I can go swimming again?"

I had to tell him that his cousin was already pretty busy this summer, and that the pool already had hired people to be lifeguards. But since his sister would either poop in the pool or drink gallons of heavily chlorinated water (or both) that meant that it wasn't likely we'd be going back.

"Did your heart break when Mom died?"

This caught me off guard and immediately brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to make sure he wasn't being literal, though, so I explained that a broken heart just meant being really, really sad. And, yes, I was very sad for a long time after his mom died. I grieved for almost three years before I started to feel like myself, again.

What he said next, though, really started me crying because I instantly knew what he meant.

"Someday, I'm going to invent a time machine and save Mom."

Of course it's a fantasy that often crosses my mind though I never let it linger for too long. It's seductive yet completely impossible. Go back in time and prevent the accident that claimed his mother and brother. Rescue our family before it's shattered forever. Preempt the scars and prevent the hole left in our lives by their absence. Nothing could be simpler and nothing could be less possible.

It wasn't easy, but I explained that time travel is just fiction and that you can't bring back somebody you've lost. I told him that the best we can do is try to live good lives and be people she would have been proud of. It was a lame answer, but that doesn't change it's truth.

It was enough. Soon he was asleep, and I was drying my eyes and gently nudging my girl back into bed each time she tried to sneak past me.

4 hankies
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Resistance is Futile

I had a little fun with my boy, today. I have a CoreDuo mac mini hooked to our HDTV so we can watch podcasts and iTunes movies. He was in the front room while my daughter was watching a movie so I decided to have a little fun.

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He figured out it was me fairly quickly, but for a few moments there he thought the computer was talking to him.

(In case you're wondering what a
doodle pad is. And, yes, I know it's supposed to be "you're". BASH doesn't like the apostrophe, though, so I had to use a homonym.)
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Double Dare 2000

My son and I were watching Double Dare 2000 on Nick GAS and as the episode ended, the family playing completed the obstacle course and won every prize. We ended up cheering them on, and when they won I got a little misty-eyed. 1 hankie
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End of Term

This has been an amazing year for me as a parent. My son is wrapping up second grade, and I've always seen this age as a pivotal one because of what happened to me at that point in my own life. I discovered books. I read "I Robot" by Issac Asimov when I was in second grade and I was hooked. I started reading the Caves of Steel trilogy after that, then the Robots of Dawn books, and from there it was naturally on to Empire. Unfortunately, my paternal Grandfather had passed away just before, but fortunately he left his personal library of thousands of 50's through 80's Sci-Fi paperbacks to my parents. This gave me an endless supply of reading material that lasted me well into high-school when I started building my own library.

So you see why it's a pivotal year. My mind had finally developed enough that I could start to really soak up and retain information. Which brings me to my son's second grade year and his own little informational epiphany.

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He's been a Star Trek fan for a couple of years now. I have the DVR set up to record pretty much every series - the Original Series, Next Generaion, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise - he loves them all. Space opera is the perfect vehicle for a little boy's imagination. There are ships and ray guns and aliens and infinite adventure. He especially loves the ships. I've bought him the technical manuals and encyclopedias from amazon.com and he spends hours drawing pictures of bridges, warp coils, nacelles and hulls.

More recently, I've shown him how to do searches on Google and Wikipedia to find more Star Trek stuff, and here's where I seem to have opened the flood gates.

We were all getting ready for school, one morning, and as I'm running around getting his sister and myself ready to leave, my son starts yelling that there were three Titanics! I knew he'd seen the movie a couple of years ago and I figured he was adding his own imaginary spin to what he remembered of the story. I told him that pretending was fine, but that there was a real Titanic, and we couldn't change history. He still insisted that there were three Titanics and he even provided the names of the other two: the "Olympic," and the "Brit-titanic" (his pronounciation). I was still rushing around the house getting ready, and, frustrated at the distraction, told him, "Man, you can't just go rewriting history on a whim. There was only one Titanic." He was more insistent than ever, though, and started pulling me to the front-room computer. There, on the screen, was a wikipedia page about the Olympic Class ocean liners from the turn of the 20th century - the Titanic, the Britannic, and the Olympic. I was floored. He then started to tell me about the fates of the three ships that he'd read on their various wikipedia entries.

I was so thrilled at the step he'd taken. He'd been looking for "Olympic Class" on Wikipedia trying to find the Star Trek vehicles of that name, but got the early 20th century ocean liners, instead. Then, after finding this new information, he read it and retained it. Here was the same developmental leap I'd taken at the same age - acquiring and retaining data. There's a huge difference, though. I had a limited amount of data that I could acquire, but he, via the internet, has nearly unlimited information at his disposal.

I'm eager to see where he goes next.
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