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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Moody Meltdowns

Korban has had some really intense meltdowns this summer.  I think it has a lot to do with the schedule changes for the summer, and hopefully we are adjusting.  Summers aren't easy for the kiddos with autism!  (Or their moms.  Or their dads.  Or their sisters.  Just sayin'.)    Changes are never easy, even if the changes involve a more laid-back schedule and more "free time."  Free time isn't always a good thing when you have a child that with very limited play skills.  I didn't know play was a skill until I had a child who spent his time lining things up incessantly and crying if something wasn't just so.  Play is a gift, and it's one that shouldn't be taken for granted. 

So anyway, summers are a mixed bag for us.  On the one hand, I'm always excited for summer, but I also dread the negative reaction the change will provoke.  Extended school year is great for keeping them "in the groove" so to speak, but that's different teachers, different classmates, and in Korban's case it was at a totally different school this year.  So we tried really hard to make the transition go smoothly, and he did well at school for the most part.  Home, not so much, but hopefully things are evening out now.  ESY finished last week.  About the time Korban got used to it, which is always how things go for us.  As soon as we get used to one thing, it's time to move on to something else.  

As I've mentioned before, Korban has been struggling in church here lately.  But this Sunday all seemed to be well.  He got up in a good mood, and off we went.  He went into "big church" with me and Brad and was sitting quietly.  Then Brad got a text saying that Selah was upset and crying for us, which NEVER happens.  So he went to get her.  I wasn't sure whether to stay in the service or leave, but finally my concern over Selah won out and I told Korban we needed to go.  He didn't want to leave!  I thought that was sweet.  I explained that we needed to go check on Selah, and he left willingly after that.  On our way out, he whispered to the usher sitting by the door "Bye.  We're going to check on Daddy and Selah," and that tickled me.  Brad was walking Selah in the hallway, and she was still whimpering on his shoulder.  (She didn't seem to be feeling well.  Took her to the dr today and she had to get an antibiotic for her big ol' tonsils.  She may wind up following in her brother's footsteps and losing those puppies!)

So on the one hand, we were disappointed that even though Korban had done so well, we STILL didn't get to stay for the whole service, but on the other hand it worked out okay.  We weren't there for a very long time and it definitely gave Korban a chance to succeed, so to speak.  We bragged on his good behavior and he got a sucker as a reward when we got to the van.

We decided to run by Kroger because Selah needed chocolate milk.  Of course, both kids wanted to go in to ride in those horrible car buggies.  Those buggies are cute, and all kids seem to love them, but I hate them.  I CANNOT drive them!  They are bulky and hard to steer, not to mention I'm so short I can barely see over the top of my kids heads when they are seated in one.  I have to get a running go to turn a corner.  I have been known to bump into other buggies and take out store displays on occasion.  Kroger still lets us shop there, which believe me, really says a lot.  That being said, if you should ever see us in Kroger and you run the other way instead of speaking to us, don't worry.  I totally understand.  Plus, I probably won't even  see you. 

Sunday, Daddy was there to drive the buggy and I was glad!  Of course, we wound up deciding we needed more than chocolate milk once we got in there.  Korban did really great at first, but after awhile he started getting edgy and fussy.  As he grew louder and louder, I warned him that if he didn't calm down, we would have to leave the store.  He was asking over and over for a "flower balloon," and I didn't have a clue what he was talking about.  Kroger has balloons, but we always gets ours at Dollar Tree so I didn't think he was expecting to get a balloon there.  He kept on hollering about it until I said "That's it," and took him out of the buggy.  It's important to follow through on things, but it sure isn't fun.  We left Selah and Brad to finish shopping and Korban and I took the "walk of shame."  He was screeching pretty loudly at this point, and I'm sure we turned some heads, although I did my best not to notice.  (What's the point in staring?  We were leaving!)

I really thought he would calm down once we got out to the van, but he just got worse and worse.  He did NOT like being taken out of the store.  I hope that will be a lesson to him, but it sure wasn't a fun one to learn, for either of us!  I managed to get him strapped into his car seat as he continued to squirm and scream.  I sat down in the front seat and waited for the meltdown to pass.  It didn't happen fast, let me tell you.  I tried talking to him, singing to him, encouraging him to take deep breaths, turning on a favorite movie for him.  Nothing much worked, and he continued to get more worked up.  He even did something that he hadn't done in quite a while--he bit himself.  It didn't break the skin, but it left a big bruise on his forearm.  He took off his shoes and threw them at me.  Then he took off his socks and threw them at me.  He was kicking and flailing around, and I realized what was going to happen about a split second before it actually happened, but I was powerless to stop it.  In all of his kicking and knocking around, he pulled his legs up and crossed one leg over the other, leaving his foot pretty much directly in front of his face.  His gaze zeroed in on his big, uncovered toes and before you could say "snapping turtle," Korban stuck his own big toe in his mouth and bit down.  Hard.  Then he screamed a lot, so I imagine it hurt a great deal. 

I could see that things weren't getting any better, and I was starting to get frustrated that Brad and Selah weren't already back at the van.  Now, I assumed when I left the store with a beginning stage meltdown-ing kid in tow, that Brad would immediately head to the front of the store, pay for the groceries, and come straight out to the van.  Here's some words of wisdom--NEVER assume anyone (particularly a man!) can read your mind.  Korban really wasn't that upset (compared to later on) when I left the store with him, so the other half of our family just kept right on shopping.  I started to text Brad things like "Come on please.  He's having a big meltdown," and when that didn't get a response "Seriously, dude.  COME ON!"  Still nothing.  And by then our van was starting to rock and I was afraid the people passing by were going to call the police.  So I called Brad.  (FOUR TIMES!!!!)  No answer.  And then Korban peed in his car seat.  I was seriously praying that they would come on to the van and thinking about how if I had Selah with me I would just leave and let Brad find his own ride home.  (Don't sweat it.  His parents live really close to Kroger!  ;)

While I'm praying and fuming, I look up and see Brad, Selah, and the ginormous car buggy moseying out of the store.  No hurry.  Just driving a car buggy on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  No big.  Then of all things, my sweet husband did the unthinkable--he stopped to look at the Redbox movies!!!  It was about this time that I think he actually felt the heat of my glare from across the parking lot.  (We haven't been together for nearly 14 years for nothing.  We really can read each other pretty well.  He just clearly wasn't getting my Bat Signals prior to this.)  I watched as Brad turned slowly away from the Redbox kiosk and honed in on the van.  Maybe he could see the smoke rising from my noggin, or perhaps the van really was rocking, but I could see this "Oh, crap," look slowly spread across his face.  He whipped his phone out of his pocket (which I then realized he had left on silent, since we had just come from church) and when he saw the screen I could see his eyes bug out from across the parking lot.  Let me tell you, my husband can make those clunky car buggies SCOOT when he wants to.  He loaded up our groceries and our Selah in record time, and as we sped out of the parking lot, I tried to remember that it was, in fact, the Lord's day and that I might not should say anything I would regret later, but I think I might've maybe said something to the effect of "You and the kids are all grounded from going into a store with me ever again and from now on I'm going to do ALL the shopping by myself and you guys better just hope I bring home something you like."  Brad was seriously clueless and had no idea that we were struggling and truly was apologetic.  And on the bright side, he seriously did get some things that we were in need of, like toilet paper and freezer bags.  Those things are good to have around. 

He also purchased a mega-pack of paper towels, which sort of struck me as odd.  Half the time, we don't even buy paper towels.  I mean, I like having them, but they probably aren't good for the environment and it's just an extra expense.  While I was wondering about the wisdom of this purchase, I started wondering about the wisdom of something else.  Brad was obviously in a hurry when he loaded our (his!) purchases in the van, and he made the mistake of sitting some items where Korban could reach them.  He was still throwing a nice little fit, and was mad because his pants and his seat were wet by this time, too.  So he wasn't happy. 

As I watched fearfully, he managed to snag the economy pack of paper towels, rip them open like the Incredible Hulk and start chunking paper towel roll projectiles at us as we are driving down the highway.  Once again, I unbuckled my seat belt and rocketed myself to the back of the van.  I wrestled Korban's weapons stockpile from him, while thanking God that paper towels are soft at least.  Korban didn't like giving them up, and was slapping and kicking at me.  "Use the paper towels to protect yourself!" Brad shouted to me from the front of the van.  Thanks, honey. 

By then, the meltdown was starting to run it's course, and I started singing to Korban and this time it actually worked.  By the time we pulled onto the street we live on, he had his arm around my shoulders, pulling me down to face level with him and was stroking my cheek saying "I love you, Mommy."  And just like that, my sweet boy was back.  I sure was glad to see him, too. 

Incidentally, I figured out later that the "flower balloon" he was asking for was a small balloon on a stick that Kroger sells in the floral section.  We've bought those for him a couple of times before, and he clearly remembered and wanted one again.  We were all the way across the store in the frozen food section before he even mentioned a "flower balloon" and when he said  it, I truly didn't know what he was talking about.  How frustrating it must be to not be able to communicate the way you want to!  To have all the words in your head, and not be able to get them out in a manner that even the people closest to you understand. 

I talked to him and told him I was sorry I didn't know what he meant, and that Mommy and Daddy would've been glad to buy him a balloon, but that he can't get treats when he screams and hurts us.  I told him next time to try to show me if I don't understand what he means.  I hope it helps.  Even though that was a rocky time, our day was not bad.  He was quite good after that and we had an enjoyable Sunday.  So here's a couple of things to remember:

1)  If your child is prone to throwing things during a meltdown, it's always good to have an abundance of paper products lying about.  They don't hurt nearly as much as harder, heavier items.  Like, for example,  firecracker popsicles.  Oh yeah.
2)  If your wife should ever leave a store with your child, follow her as if your life depended on it or risk being grounded from shopping forevermore--every man's worst nightmare!
3)  No matter how frustrated you get, never, ever bite your own toes.  Apparently, it hurts a lot and I don't imagine it tastes all that good either.
4)  To the best of my knowledge, nobody, not even husbands or Autism Mommies, can read minds.  So maybe we all ought to cut ourselves and each other just a little bit of slack. 
5)  Remember no matter how bad the meltdown is, it won't last forever.  All is not lost.  Mop up the pee and work on a better plan for next time. 

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