Tag Archives: playground

Sweet face and an empty space

28 Jan

At 7.5 Alex finally lost his very first tooth lost naturally.  Does that make sense?  He had one pulled a long long time ago and has a spacer and now he lost one of his lower front teeth.  He was both elated and disgusted by the sensory aspects of the experience and as he was sleeping in my room he suggested that we leave the tooth in the kitchen for the Toothfairy as she is “THE” Toothfairy and would know where to look.   Love his logic!

Here’s my baby boy:

I was just thrilled he finally lost one as on the morning of the day that he announced his tooth was loose I was telling his Dad that we need to make another dentist appointment for him and I was worried that he hadn’t yet started losing his baby teeth.  I lost my first one at a restaurant in Provincetown, MA at age 5.  It fell out in a bowl of rice and my mom cut apart each piece of rice to try to find it.  Baby teeth really are tiny and somewhat rice like.

The second tooth, that I lost, happened in school.  I was in Miss Kelly’s class:

(I’m in the back row, third from the right…Blond with bangs)…

We were having show and tell and I brought in these nifty German handpuppets- I believe one was a fox and the other was a bunny.  I still have them- they are those stuffed creatures with the little button/earring -Steiff makes them…

Anyway, I did not like having attention paid to me by the whole class at once.  The idea scared the daylights out of me then and now.  It’s probably good that I veered away from teaching after a rocky start in my studies.

So my tooth came out right before I was supposed to go on.  I didn’t want to call attention to my predicament so I went on as scheduled and pretended to do voices for my puppets (which isn’t really something I ever had done as I wasn’t big on making them have conversations aloud). Mumbly voices- one high pitched and one lower.

I can’t remember what I made them say but I do remember feeling relieved when my time was up and we headed out of the building to the playground.  The playground had a jumpy bridge- planks of wood connected by chain that rattled and bounced when a kid would jump on it.  The jumpy bridge was always my first hurdle on the playground.  If I could stand in the middle and jump a couple of times then I could definitely stand at the top of the fire pole intending to slide down but never doing it because aside from the swings, I was not a fan of having nothing under my feet for even a brief moment.  I remember that I would smell my hands after grabbing the pole so hard that my palms were a shock of white and reddish pink.  The smell was metallic and to this day when I smell that watery metallic smell I’m right back there at the top of the pole, not feeling defeated because I knew I would try again the next day.

The little slide was wet so I turned around and went back over the bouncy bridge.  I stopped in the middle and jumped and gulp.

I swallowed and as I swallowed I remembered that I still was concealing that little tooth in my mouth and down it went.

I thought I was going to barf.  I worried that there would be a scene if I did and then the janitor would come and sprinkle that weird Pepto Bismol pinkish dust on my embarrassing puddle of barf and tooth.  I always thought that the Pepto Bismol would have helped more if they gave it to kids before they barfed but now I know it’s not really Pepto Bismol, but it was that weird pink.  That weird Pepto Bismol meets 1980’s ceramic bathroom fixture mauve-y pink.  It’s also the color of the upholstery on the exam tables in many OB/GYN offices. Not that I have been to enough to really extrapolate with any accuracy.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the offices I have been to, and pretty much everywhere I have been that medically deals with human vaginae, hospitals, offices, etc…, prefers that color.


Oh the tooth.

So I freaked a little.  I was very upset about the tooth and my face, normally a vibrant pink blush, had taken on such pallor that the teacher did send me to the nurse.

I didn’t confess anything to her.  I liked her. She was a good school nurse, very kind and a good listener. I was the weird kid so I spent some time in her office at least once a week. Not because I was sickly or anything, I was just strange and preferred talking to adults if I had the choice.

I did confess to my mother.  I was upset that because I had not swallowed by pride but I had swallowed my tooth.  I had this dreadful sense that The Toothfairy would not be making a stop at our home in the woods because there was no tooth under a pillow to beckon her.   I thought putting the tooth under my pillow was kind of like the Batman Signal being activated.  No tooth, no signal, no toothfairy money or little five piece pack of Trident.

So I wrote a letter, hoping it would help.  I even included my phone number in case she needed directions or had to send someone else for this particular unusual case.  I was hoping that she could accommodate me and the tooth that was somewhere in my guts, hopefully avoiding my appendix.  I had just reread the Madeline book where she gets her appendix out and I was a bit concerned.

You can tell how truly upset I was because my spelling was abysmal.  I was reading at an adult level at age 5 and my spelling was pretty good thanks to the Stephen King that I was reading (that no child should ever read).

Here’s my letter:

and here is a self portrait.  Rainbow dress and high heels at 5 years old…  I think that style wise I was the opposite of me now.  Now I’m all about jeans, black v-neck, charcoal grey hooded sweater/cardigan/fleece… Don’t worry, I’m my own best customer and I almost always have some fantastic glowing piece of my art on me somewhere.  But here’s how I saw me in first grade:

Bright colors and all girly and smiling huge.  Clearly this was before the 2nd grade destruction of self-esteem.  But we’ll get to that another time.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of the tooth of my youth.

If you have a funny loose tooth memory please share in the comments or blog and post a link in the comments here!

Happy Weekend!

Oh and there are a couple of new pieces up in my shop just clickety click here!




Alex this week…

5 Feb

Tomorrow marks the end of Alex’s first full week on his new schedule… It is also a week and a half since the playground beatdown.

So, how is he doing?

He didn’t stay in his “old shell”, but definitely regressed into a much nuttier version of himself…. On most days we find ourselves questioning the validity of an ADHD diagnosis as the “H” only shows up in specific stress situations. It has seemed like more of a branch, a facet of his differentness… Not my most favorite facet, but at least the rapid lap-running around the kitchen island, the constant little professor chatter, and the inability to hear us at all, without seeing our faces on the same level, at least those things are a type of communication. So the end of last week and most of this week (so far) have shown us that he is handling the schedule change remarkably well, on one level, but it has also shown us that he has learned to dampen his responses to change on one level, which is a very social thing for him to do…However, we can’t seem to break through to find out what part of the past week and a half is sticking with him…

But we are working on it…

More tomorrow…

Sleep well!



Alex’s Wishes.

29 Jan

Alex is back at school today. We had a good meeting with his principal to discuss safety, Asperger’s, and helping him and she had a brilliant idea. She is going to talk to his teachers about changing his school schedule, not because of what happened on Tuesday, but to give him more space and attention, so his sensory stuff won’t be the focus, and he can flourish…. He seemed a little better today, I sent him off with his qcharm bracelet (will blog more later, it’s pretty cool) and hugs, and I printed out a social story on bullies. School apparently thinks this is an isolated event. I hope they are correct. They thought the boys were just playing rough. I mentioned the foot prints on Alex, and we had a good discussion about playgrounds, bullies, and kids who can’t understand intent.

I have been meaning to share this with all of you… This is a note Alex wrote to his Dad when his Dad was up in Boston in November, visiting his dad/Alex’s Grampy (he has lymphoma, but at that point he was in ICU barely holding on, so we got hubby up there as quick as possible to help his family and be with his dad)…

Alex may not understand people’s intent. And he is not so good at reading facial expressions, subtext, that sort of thing. He is very black and white, not a smidgen of gray area.

He does understand: Happy and Not Happy.

He wants us to be happy. We do our best to make sure he knows that any tears, any anger, and crankiness is not because of him and we try to show him and tell him that we love him and that he belongs here with us, in our family, and that we are a team. He knows we love him and that won’t go away.

But he does know when we aren’t happy. It’s a reminder of how kids read the undercurrent of emotion in a household, in a family, between parents. If my kid, who has difficulty with social communication, can sense this and simplify it so that it means something to him, how are (for lack of a better term) neurotypical kids understanding what our families go through all the time, but especially now in this time of great strain in our world- how are they perceiving family security, relationships, economic hardship, violence anywhere? I half watch the news every night and if I had to sum it up in Alex’s terms I’d say “not happy” would be the state of the world… Hope is everywhere, change is upon us, but change is difficult on everypart of our bodies, our minds, our families… It takes time. But as a point in time I’d have to say “not happy” seems to be everywhere… The principal mentioned that everything- the general vibe, the volume, the attitude- has changed at school. She thinks the kids are feeling the changes in their homes, the worries, the strife. I believe that.

Anyway, Alex knew Grampy was very sick, so every night we blew wishes (kisses, but he tends to hear things a little off…like playing operator) and they flew up to the ceiling, got caught in the current of the ceiling fan and flew to the door…I’d open the door and out they would fly to the universe to make the universe happy so it could help Grampy. Pretty fantastical and abstract, but there are a few things he takes, in his rule based world, as fact. Blowing wishes and holding them and letting them go when someone needs the help of “best wishes” is fact, it’s real. And it is soul soothing for both of us.

Alex wrote this note to his Dad. He announced he was going to write his “rules for Daddy”…

Here they are:

Alex's Rules for Daddy.

Alex's Rules for Daddy.

Yesterday, when we returned from school and the post-meeting trip to Target (out of printer ink and diet dr. pepper…yes I admit it. I can’t function without the stuff and I don’t drink coffee and some days tea does not cut it as much as I love love love tea), he wanted to use my little stapler that had been relocated from the fridge (magnetic everything!) to my nightstand as I had been in bed organizing his papers earlier in the day. So I sent him to get paper and he came back with his little notebook (that I forgot he had…he has a big guy journal he writes in on occasion, but this one has been around since he was a baby…it was his blues clues notebook for a while, but we kept forgetting it) and showed me that he wanted to staple the letter he wrote. He managed to get two staples into the sheet and still wouldn’t listen that staples are connectors/fasteners so I decided to give him a visual demonstration and I asked him for the paper.

While Jeff and I were in the kitchen talking, when he was hanging out in his room listening to his Ode to Joy CD, after the playground thing, he wrote this in his notebook:

Letter to Mama and Daddy

Letter to Mama and Daddy

“They were not being happy. Please be happy. xo Alex”

It doesn’t seem to register to him that it is ok to be unhappy. I have tried, and will continue to try, to instill in him that a negative emotion is a sign that something needs to change- something major or something minor- that it’s a sign (I call it a green light) to figure out what and why something is making one not smile and a point from which to make things different and better. Sounds more complicated than it is…Basically, I’m giving him the tools to break things down so he can understand them better- the tools to see the colors that make up the big picture. Again, sounds more complicated than it is. We have seen moments of it working, one of the techniques is writing or drawing…

This was what he wrote… We are worrying about him and he is worrying about us.

So we are breaking it down further, and we do need to find a better way to help him understand that he makes us happy, but that’s not his job and that he brings us great joy, but he isn’t responsible for bringing us joy.

I guess I just don’t want him to feel like he has ever failed us. I don’t want him to waste his time feeling responsible for our happiness, I rode that treadmill for over 30 years until I finally realized I had to get off or I would lose what was left of me, I don’t want him to ever feel that…. I’m digesting the shame and confusion he has felt since the incident on Tuesday and it is paralyzing (and dehydrating). I asked him about the playground and the kids and their faces and their words and he blushed. He was embarrassed about it. I have never seen his cheeks rosy other than from exercise.

Unfortunately, his take on this is that the kids were happy they were hurting him.

But he knows he is sweet and smart and funny and kind and cute. He cannot connect why they hurt him to anything and takes it as fact, like just being happy to hurt him makes it an acceptable reason.

His teacher said this morning that she didn’t know it had been that bad on the playground as he sat and had lunch and didn’t cry or say much of anything. Then again, she doesn’t know the shell he disappears into as well as we do. Perhaps now the lines of communication and the potential for education will be wide open…

Hubby just left to go observe playground time…

Fingers and everything else crossed…



Screw survival of the fittest.

27 Jan

Alex came home today, his face streaked with dirt, even his eyelashes and eyelids had streaks of black dust from the rubber playground mulch.

The kids in his class, most of them younger than Alex, gathered around and told my husband what happened, when he came to pick kiddo up from school.

The teacher didn’t say anything, so my husband asked and was told by the teacher and the principal that the kids were playing rough today and incident reports were written up.

The little kids weren’t so gentle in their telling of the happenings on the tiny, fenced playground, today.

The group of kids that were playing rough apparently shouted “Pot!” at Alex. He often mishears things, so we don’t know if they were actually calling him “Pot!” but he is upset about it. So he yelled back “Meatball” which he thought was a terrible thing to call someone, and appropriate if someone called a person a pot.

“GET HIM!” one child shouted, and ran after Alex. They tackled him and pushed him to the ground and started kicking him. When he tried to get up they pushed him down again, and kicked him some more.

He came home and they told me this. Alex was very matter-of-fact but he was also quick to change the subject, which is what he does when he is in more of a typical, traditional, stereotypical state of his autism. When things are new or different or he is nervous he lectures, factual and emotionless. Our little professor. So he went right into his dissertation and I tried to ease him back into the more interactive kid we have started seeing more frequently at home, when it is just the three of us and everything is calm.

“He’s not ok”, I said to hubby.

I asked Alex if he would like to take a bath to get all of the dirt off as he is not a kid who handles dirt well and it’s only recently that we can get him to not compulsively wash his hands between strokes on the paper with fingerpaints.

He said yes, and I got a washcloth to try to get some of the black dirt off his face, and we talked.

I asked where they kicked him, when they kicked him when he was on the ground, and he pointed at his chest and turned around gesturing at his back. He said “my spine” and “my back hurts”

I helped him take off his school shirt and there were black dirt foot prints that had sifted through his shirt, stamped onto his skin. Between his shoulderblades, on his lower back, on his chest.

He’s in the tub now, having a bubblebath.

I’m shaking. My heart hurts.

Tomorrow we have an appointment with his headmistress, we made the appointment awhile ago, but now it is more urgent and important than ever.

Something has to change. This could happen anywhere, but we would have more options up north. Here we are all stuck, and we are all feeling a bit downtrodden and frustrated and overwhelmed.

One of the number one issues we have these days, is that Alex cannot reliably pass information to us, at least not in a timely fashion. A year from now, he will mention today. Ten years from now he will mention today, and the playground, as though it just happened. I am grateful that the other kids in his class look out for him, they know he’s different but they don’t see that as a bad thing most of the time. He always forgets to grab his lunchbag from his seat when we pick him up, so another kid will bring it to me (or hubby) as soon as one of them spots us at the door. Then all of them say “Alex, your mama is here” to him, gently coaxing him to look up and focus and see us and his face lights up.

I don’t know what happened on the playground today.

I know we will never know what happened on the playground today. I know that school won’t let us see the tape. I do know it was more than playing rough. Alex said the kids were bigger than he is. I have a feeling the set up for today’s incident was thoughtlessness and carelessness. It’s a small playground, the classrooms are mixed ages, but blending those mixed ages with the next age group up, on the playground, with non-too-diligent observation by staff, is not wise, even from a layperson’s perspective. I realize that Alex isn’t necessarily a complete innocent and I know we will be working intensively with him on this stuff throughout his life, but I also know that nothing should ever get this out of hand, in a 500 square foot playground, with supposed supervision. Kids fight, I know. But a bunch of kids chasing another child (who is 5 and small for his age and different from them…which may be why they were targeting him to begin with…) is unacceptable.

Screw survival of the fittest, this is my kid.

But I feel like this horrible thing reinforces the care and support he needs and that we need, and will hopefully open a discussion that will help all of the children in the school.

We were going into our meeting to see how all of us could work together for Alex’s benefit. Now I feel we have to fight for a basic need of all of the children, so they can learn in safety and in peace.

I need to calm myself, meditate, write down our game plan for talking to the principal tomorrow.

Perhaps we will have a more focused path after the discussion tomorrow.

I can hope though, that’s all I’ve got right now. Hope and Alex.

%d bloggers like this: