Monday, July 24, 2017

Wirecutter: The early years

Phteven returnphs

Some people are so touchy


Fair warning

I get this all the time

The answer is always the same, "I do what I do because it's what I do." Every parent has challenges, mine just seem to be a little more obvious. If I was given a choice? That's the second most asked question. Knowing what I know about raising autistic kids, if I knew before I had kids that they'd be autistic, would I still have them? Well, would I also know about the joys? The hugs and sweet cuddles after the storms? The laughs through the tears? The soft hands taking mine for reassurance when we face new challenges? Hell yeah, I'd do it again.

The last few weeks  have been hard. Challenging. Painful. Teen Queen has been having frequent violent meltdowns. Most autistic kids have meltdowns, to varying degrees, either directed inwardly or outwardly. Baby queen has moderate meltdowns when she's tired, frustrated, sensory overwhelmed. She's self-injurious, head banging walls, doors, floors, windows, furniture. I've patched more than a few holes in the sheetrock where she's headbutted. She also whacks herself in the head with her forearm until she has large callouses and calcium buildup on her arm and forehead. We have an MMA padded sparring helmet that we put on her to keep the damage to a minimum, but it pisses her off even more. TQ doesn't normally have the same frequency of meltdowns, but hers are more violent and directed at anyone in her path. Think of a 5'10", 300 pound, pissed off tornado without reason or the ability to register pain. That's my TQ.

When a meltdown occurs, the reasoning part of the brain is shut down, so talking doesn't do anything but aggravate; your voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. The best you can do is try to get them someplace quiet away from any sensory stimuli, and hold on. I've been trained on holding and takedown techniques, but when you're wrestling with someone bigger, stronger, and insanely pissed, those techniques don't always work. I do my best to keep both of us safe, away from other people and Max. (Max thinks his one job is to protect me, and when she melts, TQ is an enemy. I have to protect them from each other.)

In the last three weeks, TQ has had 4-5 meltdowns a week, a couple severe enough to need sedation. Better living by pharmaceuticals, right? It got to the point we were both so bruised and sore, exhausted and scared, that I got an emergency appointment with her psychiatrist. We sat down and tried to figure out why, all of a sudden, the increase in occurrence and severity; and the therapist came up with something so simple, so obvious, I'm ashamed I didn't see it. She is in flux.

TQ has graduated, aged out, of the only thing she's known since she was three. She's been a student at PISD schools for 19 years. But she knows that's over. Something good is coming up, but it's new, unknown. Unknown is not good for autistic people who thrive on schedule and continuity. Summer break is hard enough without knowing what's going to happen when it's over. TQ is nervous, scared, stressed, and that's a volatile combination for anyone. So we have a starting place, how do we fix it?

There are programs for people who fall in the category of Mentally Impaired (used to be Mental Retardation, but that's changed for a number of reasons). Two things have to happen to access them: the individual has had to have been tested before the age of 18, and they have to go through an intake evaluation before placement. A lot of parents balk at the thought of having that stigmatizing label attached to their child. Denial runs deep. But if you don't get the diagnosis, you can't access the programs. Then you're child is screwed. TQ was evaluated every five years from the age of 6, she has the diagnosis. I sat in the momvan in the garage and cried for almost an hour after the first test. Her intake evaluation was supposed to happen on July 11, but she was in such a state of turmoil, they couldn't complete it. We rescheduled for August 23. Until then, we're preparing her. She can't attend the Borger Area Learning Center until after her IE, but she can go to some of the social events to get to know the other "clients" and counselors. She'll become familiar with the building and people and hopefully some of the stress and fear will ease up over time. TQ went to the first event last week, Wednesday night. The group went bowling and Pizza Hut. There were some nerves, some tears, she crushed my hand for the first 10 minutes; but when a couple of the other young ladies came to talk to her, she loosened her grip. By the end of the evening, I was sitting against the wall watching my oldest angel take her first step into a new world. Yeah, there were tears.

So, knowing everything, would I do it over again? Damn skippy, I would.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I would travel to see this monument

This would be Grandma Doris

Grandma Evelyn was a renounced Catholic free spirit.
Grandma Doris was a Southern Baptist Lady
and member of the Canadian WCTU
(Women's Christian Temperance Union, and yes, it was active into the 70s).
Tornadoes wouldn't DARE touch her china.

Why did they stop making these?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Angel and the piglet

In an earlier post, I mentioned an encounter with a fetal pig that put me off pork for some 20 years. I had so many incredulous responses that I thought I should tell the story, you know, maybe garner some sympathy.

My 8th grade Life Sciences class was taught by the 9th grade Line coach, Coach Tversky. Coach T was short, round, and extremely funny. He called us "mullets" (the fish, not the haircut), and was generally well-prepared to teach the subject. Made it very interesting. During second semester, we hit dissection. Think Springtime in Texas, and carving up dead things.

We started off slowly with earthworms. Can you really dissect an earthworm? Why yes, yes you can.

This didn't bother me at all. I'd been baiting my own hook since I was eight. Kinda cool to see an earthworm's innards. Next up was a frog. A little gooier, but still not a problem. We're making our way up the food chain, one type of bait at a time.

Then we did a fish, at this time we started thinking Coach T was just catching stuff in his backyard and bringing it in for us to cut up and keep us busy. We hit mid-March and Spring Break with the promise of something bigger waiting for us when we got back. I was not prepared.

We could smell it walking down the hall the first Monday after break. Sickly sweet, a combination of Coach T's German sausage lunch and formaldehyde. I can close my eyes and still bring up the memory of formaldehyde. It has a very distinct odor. And it sinks into everything, your clothes, your skin, your hair. You can smell and taste it hours after class, and after a few days, you can't get rid of it. We walked into class and found trays of fetal pigs laying on the lab tables. Unlike the other specimens that were plentiful, we didn't get our own pigs, thank God. We doubled up with a lab partner, two to a pig. My partner was Beth, daughter of a surgeon, ambitions of becoming a doctor herself, scalpel-happy Beth. She was delighted to do the cutting while I did the diagramming and labeling. We made a great team. Monday was a just get to know your pig day; Tuesday we opened the thoracic cavity. She cut and removed organs, I diagrammed and labeled. Wednesday, abdominal cavity, same routine.

Okay, Friday is test day, that means I just have to get through Thursday and I'm home free, right? RIGHT??? So Thursday morning, I'm standing by Petunia (yeah, she was a little girl pig) waiting for Beth. The bell rings, no Beth. Tardy bell, no Beth. This girl is NEVER late, and I'm sweating, Thursday is brain day, and I haven't cut on anything with a brain. Shit.

Coach T ambled over grinning, looked at me over the pig and said the words I dreaded, "Beth is sick, you're up." Double shit. I haven't even touched the thing yet and now I have to untie two of it's little hooves, flip it over, and cut out it's little brain. I'm not sure why the pig bothered me so much. I guess it was cuter than the worm and frog; it was a mammal. Still had it's umbilical cord attached. But it's a little baby pig and now I have to cut out it's little baby pig brain.

So there I was, Vicks Vapo-Rub stuffed up my nostrils, hands shaking and a nauseous sweat rolling down my face. I made the first cut through the derma, tough, pickled with the formaldehyde. and took a deep breath. Wrong move, gag. The second move was supposed to be cutting through the skull by chipping away with a pair of sharp scissors. Note: Do NOT give me anything sharp. I was chipping, chipping, chipping and the brain came into view.

I gagged, I jabbed, I cut the membrane surrounding the brain, the brains started leaking out. According to Coach T, it was just a little bit, but I remember it as a virtual Mt. Vesuvius of gray matter. The cold nauseous sweat turned hot, my ears started buzzing and my eyes started blurring. Then I was out. Cold. Face first in the pig brain.

When I came to, I was on the floor, pig brains and puke (Coach T said he couldn't tell if I puked first or passed out first or if it was simultaneous) was matting my Aqua Net stiffened bangs and Coach T was grinning over me. "Nice swan dive, Chumbley. Go see the nurse, you're done for the day."

I gathered my books and stumbled down the hallway to the nurse's office to get checked out for the day. Back then (actually my folks still live there), I lived across the football field from the junior high. I walked to and from school every day, rain or shine. Boo hoo. But that day, I would have paid anything for a ride home. When I walked in, Poppy was home for lunch and offered to make me a fried SPAM sandwich.

And that's why I didn't eat pork for 20 years.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Metrics are for pussies

Sometimes all it takes is yoga pants

Forgot to Put My Toys Away Woman

Now if we can just get the thought to spread

Science Teachers

95% of science teachers in Texas are football coaches. 4% are lesbian girls' basketball and volleyball coaches, and 1% are other. These are their stories.

Throughout Junior High and High School, I had a total of seven science teachers from basic science to advanced chemistry. Only one of my science teachers wasn't a coach. Only one was a female. And yes, she was a coach, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. My 6th grade science teacher was Mr. Gordon; young, relatively fresh out of college, and also an aspiring football coach. They take any teaching job until they can land a coaching/teaching job, so teaching usually isn't their primary focus. Mr. Gordon was different; he was a true science geek. He loved meteorology and watching the skies for tornadoes. Freaked most of the kids out. He was also extremely blunt. We were in the primary blast zone of Pantex, home of the nation's nuclear bomb arming operations. If anything went BOOM at Pantex, duck and cover was just a formality. Mr. Gordon went into explicit detail explaining the science behind what would happen to our tender little bodies in a nuclear blast. Really put tornadoes into perspective.

Then came junior high and Coaches Schneider, Tversky, and LaGrone. Coach LaGrone now owns the largest funeral parlor in Amarillo. Schneider was a hoot, Tversky made me dissect the brain of the fetal pig which is why I didn't eat pork for 20 years, and I spent a year in Physical Science watching Coach LaGrone try to solve a Rubik's Cube.

High school was interesting. I had enough credits to graduate a year early, but the school counselor wouldn't let me. Said I was too immature to go to college at 17. Doodyhead. I showed her by CLEP-ing out of two semesters and starting college as an 18-year-old Sophomore. Anywhoo....where was I?
Oh yeah, high school science teachers. My physics teacher was the very brilliant MS. Camden, volleyball coach and surprisingly smart scientist. She saw the court in terms of physics and was the winningest VB coach in the school's history. I really enjoyed her class even though I never understood a thing that was going on. Same for her "best friend's" classes Calculus and Trigonometry. Makes you wonder what the pillow talk was like.

My absolute favorite science teacher was Mr. Finis Brown, Advanced Chemistry. He was about 60, short, chubby, bald round head and round glasses. Here's a fairly accurate representation of Mr. Brown and me in my Senior year:

I swear to God and all that's Holy, Mr. Brown looked just like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. Sounded kind of like him, too. I enjoyed everything about chemistry, mostly that chemicals don't have guts, but it made sense to me. Everything had rhyme and reason and balance. I came very close to majoring in chemistry, and if I had it all to do over again? I'd probably be a meteorologist.