Birthdays and Sleep

Michael’s been missing his birthday, even though his party was six months ago.  This is something my brain totally doesn’t understand but yet has to deal with.  Just about every morning he wakes up, when I greet him with a cheery “Good morning!”, he responds with “I’m sad.  My birthday’s all gone.”  Sometimes that’s it, but sometimes it escalates into more crying, more anxiety, total withdrawal from what’s going on around him.  It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but now he can’t get dressed.  He can’t pay attention.  He can’t make it to the breakfast table.  And I have two little ones who also need changing and dressing and feeding who are crying because they’re hungry too.  It can be a mess.

I have no idea what this is.  I’ve heard autistic people can sometimes have a delayed emotional reaction.  If this is that, it seems pretty extreme.  It could also be that he has a ton of family members (yes, it’s actually a ton), and they’ve all been having birthdays recently, so maybe it’s just triggering a memory for him.  Or it could be he’s upset about something else and doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell me what it is.  As a fairly concrete person myself who just likes to march in a fix a problem, this whole affair is a bit too nebulous for me.

A lot of family and friends have had some nice ideas about hosting little birthdays, or unbirthdays, and the thought is nice, but it’s made me a little wary.  I have no idea how that will translate into his head.  He would never understand an unbirthday.  In his mind, if there’s a party, cake, or gift, it’s a birthday.  Then I wouldn’t want him used to having “birthdays” more often.  And let’s not forget that he was SO excited about his real birthday last November that it actually made him sick and more autistic for almost a whole month after.  It doesn’t help that it’s right on top of the Christmas season.  He didn’t recover from the all excitement until February.

His RDI therapist had some great ideas about how to cope with this, and they’ve been working!  One time, when we were in the living room, he spontaneously fell into my lap having one of these spells, and I picked up a plastic toy pie from the floor, sang him happy birthday, and had him blow out the pretend candles.  Because we used a toy, he knew it was only make believe, but living the memory seemed to be a temporary holdover for him.  She also recommended we show him pictures of his party, so I did that, and he was thrilled to see his cake again.

*Side note: This cake was a huge deal for him.  He started asking for an Iron Man cake four whole months before his birthday.  He reminded me EVERY SINGLE DAY that he had to have an Iron Man cake for his birthday.  He was SO excited when a friend came over to help me make one (because I had no idea where I was going to find a dairy free Iron Man cake, and I wasn’t paying for a special order).  He went nuts and loved it, and now it’s one of the things he cries that he misses.

The famous cake

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We’ve also been trying to help him sleep better at night.  Despite my effort to keep him outdoors for hours at a time, his body is often quite restless at bedtime, and he won’t fall asleep till hours after he’s been put to bed.  I’ve noticed he’s often much calmer in enclosed spaces, so we pulled the baby’s pack ‘n play out of the attic, filled it with blankets and pillows, and that’s his little man cave for when the world’s a little too overwhelming for him.  He seems to alternate between the pack ‘n play and his bed throughout the night, but he’s not calling out for us or disrupting his brothers quite as often, so this has been a good development.  He’s too big for the pack ‘n play and really needs a larger “sleeping box” at this point, but we’re still in the planning stages of that.

Last night, Nate and I came home very late from church, and my parents had put the children to bed.  True to form, Gabriel and William were totally asleep, and Michael was still energetically bouncing about, unable to relax.  When the birthday talk started again, I printed out a little page with his party pictures on it and put him in his pack ‘n play with the page.  He was so happy just looking at everything and narrating each of the pictures that I thought for sure he would be up for at least another hour.

Five minutes later, I found this.

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And his sleeping partner.

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We do whatever we gotta do to get some sleep, am I right?? 🙂

Happy Thursday!!

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Exercise and Sleep

Exercise seems to be emerging as another piece to Michael’s puzzle.  We always knew that it was very important for him to move around, but it amazed me this week to see how strongly the lack of exercise affected him.  With the gorgeous weather last week, we spent hours and hours outside.  The boys would run around, help with clearing the brush, Michael would climb our tree and jump off his playhouse.  With the rain we had Monday and Tuesday we had to stay inside, and immediately by Monday night he could not sleep.  Tuesday was absolutely horrible.  The kids were grouchy, tired, and hyper, which is pretty much their worst combination ever.

We visited with our RDI consultant again Wednesday.  We are still trying to walk Michael through his self control training.  It’s very hard right now.  He doesn’t want to cooperate, and I have to carry him a lot, but when I can run preventative interference for him, he does well.  Now we have to figure out how to weave the exercise factor into this.

I worked at it very hard yesterday.  We spent an hour at the park in the afternoon and another hour outside after dinner.  The boys had a lot of fun and burnt a lot of energy but were clearly tired at the end of the day.  It was the first time I saw Michael VOLUNTEER to go to bed!  I was so excited, but then in his usual fashion, as soon as he was in bed, he went from sleepy to wide awake and could not pass out.  He bounced around in bed for two hours, though I guess I should be grateful it was not his typical three hour stretch to sleep.  It didn’t seem like a good trade-off though, two hours of outside time for one less hour of sleeplessness.  We’re gonna keep up with the outside thing, and I’m really hoping there’s a good cumulative effect.  At the very least, he didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, and that’s a really big deal.  I do hope we find a good exercise/sleep rhythm for him.

May you all have a very blessed Easter!!

Grateful For A Reset

After a rough and stressful week, I was well taken care of over the weekend.  A wonderful friend brought food so I didn’t have to cook, and another family invited us over for Sunday afternoon.  I relaxed and let things go a bit and tried to forget the stresses of the week.  Nate and I were able to spend a little time together, and I must say I am much more ready to dive into this week than I would have been without the help and generosity of these beautiful friends.  We were also able to start Michael’s self-control training, which despite some pretty emotional outbursts seems to be going well, and William is responding to his sleep training as well.  Aside from one 6 by 6 foot poop mural incident Friday night (I’m still trying to figure out how he got it up so high) this weekend was a great reset, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Now I must go, because there’re just a few dishes and laundry that need attending to. 😉  Happy Monday!

Major Milestone!

I am so excited and proud to report that William has officially transferred to his bed for night time sleeping.  I don’t know if I have ever been so relieved to get our bed back just to the two of us!  He’s doing alright with it.  He still cries for a few minutes, but then he lays down and goes to sleep, with only one appropriately timed nighttime feeding.  My neck and back are grateful, and I’m actually starting to get some sleep at night again.  Michael and Gabriel are also settling down and not waking up so much in the middle of the night either, and Nate is looking a little fresher himself.  Nothing like a good night’s sleep, right?

William still has problems with napping during the day.  He will sit in his crib and rock and cry instead of sleeping despite the fact that he is clearly tired, but even though it’s painstakingly slow, he’s making some progress on that end as well, and there is loads to celebrate!

Thank you all so much for praying for us, and Thank you, Jesus, for sustaining me and keeping me calm and going through a time of severe sleep deprivation.

Pulling A Miracle

I know I haven’t been writing as regularly as I would like here.  Sleep training William makes me feel like I’m descending into my own personal circle of hell with all the screaming and crying and sleep deprivation.  Every time I want to quit, he gives me a decent day or night, so we press on, but I have to say I cannot wait till this is over.  I know it’s only been 5 and a half days, but it feels like a stinking year.

(Side note: To everyone who tells me I will miss these days, I smile and nod, but I just can’t believe you yet.  Maybe one day wisdom and hindsight will teach me differently.  I hope you’re right.)

I’m just sort of plodding along, trying to keep us all alive until that time when things are better, and this has unfortunately affected my walk with God too.  Sometimes you just are too tired to have a good quiet time.  But He is every loving and gracious and giving me what I need for each day, whether I realize it or not.  Just this morning, I read the story in Matthew when Jesus tells his disciples to feed a crowd of 5,000, and they tell Him they can’t with only the few loaves and fish they have, but Jesus does a miracle and takes care of everyone anyway.

I feel like that now.  Making it through a day with all the screaming, crying, meltdowns, and tantrums that happen regularly… well, you might as well be asking me to single-handedly feed 5,000 people.  I tell God, I’m only working with four hours of sleep, two hands, and one very short temper.  I just can’t make it stretch that far.  But through this story, He is assuring me again, that whatever I have to give Him will be enough, He’ll take care of the rest.

Between you and me, I really can’t wait to see how He pulls this one off.

Searching For True Rest

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I keep praying for the Lord to show me what this looks like in my life, especially in these high stress days of no sleep.  I think sometimes having the ability to reach out to someone who is greater and more powerful and in control than I am is a start.  I figure the only way to truly know this aspect of Jesus though is to be in a time of unrest.

So here we are, I’m waiting for my lesson!

Today we have three therapy sessions, and I bought 40 pounds of chicken last night that need butchering.  Should be fun. 🙂

Where Are The Naps?

I think someone dumped Kool Aid in our water supply.  The kids have been acting like they’re all hopped up on sugar and red food dye.  They were actually flipping furniture yesterday.  At one point, I think I actually had to wrestle them into shoes and coats and drag them one by one down the stairs and strap their thrashing butts into car seats so we could make doctor and therapy appointments.  Fun times.

So the news from one doctor was that William’s liver is running pretty sluggishly.  Now we have to figure out how to get that up and running correctly, but hopefully that will correct a lot of his digestion problems.

We went back to our RDI consultant last night and basically yawned and stared our way through the meeting, but I think we’re making some progress.  Unfortunately Michael’s ADHD is becoming an obstacle in dealing with the autism.  We’re trying to figure out new techniques to work with him and temporarily slow his brain down, but that’s not going to happen until we’ve had a nap or two.  She gave us the talk about having to figure out how we’re going to take care of us right now.  I don’t think Nate and I can have that talk either until we’ve had a nap or two.  I’ve been sensing a pattern. 🙂

With this winter storm hitting, I’ve decided to just bunk up for the next few days.  We’re taking a break from school stuff and I’m gonna keep the chores to a minimum.  If Nate’s office closes, I’m going to see if we can fit a few naps in there.  I’d like it if we weren’t both delirious for Valentine’s Day.  Rest shall be the name of the game.

Hope you all have a fun long weekend!