Category - Twins

Identical yet different

1
Ten Reasons The Library Rocks
2
Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun
3
Scouts and Such
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Sam’s Credo
5
Of Slides and Such
6
A Most Patient Cat
7
National Geographic: Twins
8
Home on the Range
9
Summer’s Finish Line
10
Words

Ten Reasons The Library Rocks

John took me on a library tour last weekend. Both of my boys love maps: Sam likes to draw them and John likes to scroll them. That is, he likes to pull them up on his iPad and peruse the roads in real-time or street-view. I first noticed something was up when I saw him magnify the iPad with one hand and use his finger to “walk” down the street, stopping and rotating the view to take everything in. The world is your oyster when you can visit real libraries virtually — even if they are in states far, far away.

But last weekend we were on the road, headed south with Sesame Street Live show tickets purchased last Fall, and from the backseat, John started to call, “Exit 21, Ware Public Library” and then: “Find the exit! New Bedford Public Library,” and later: “This library please,” which is how we found ourselves at three different book repositories in one day (four if you count the drive-by of the closed Spinney branch).

And one of these libraries, even though out of our geographic network, allowed us to open a library card anyways. We may be the first patrons ever who will return checked-out materials via the U.S. Postal Service ( 4 Sesame Street DVDs that we already own, by the way).

Ten Reasons The Library Is Its Own Reward:
1. Every single library adheres to a similar flow…
2. Children’s section with DVDs
3. Children’s section with CDs
4. Children’s section with interesting computer games (with bonus points for Sesame Street-installed)
5. Large smorgasbord of titles to check out and Mom never says No, no DVDs today
6. Large open spaces in which to run
7. Large open spaces in which Mom always says, “Please walk, don’t run”
8. Large open spaces in which Mom always says, “Shh… inside voices”
9. “First grocery shopping, THEN library” and “First post office, THEN library” and “First doctor visit THEN library” and so we do AND we get stuff done
10. The library is less expensive than the book store. Or Target. Or any of the million places where a DVD display sits. Which is most places, you’d be surprised. (Or not — maybe you know exactly what I mean.) 🙂

Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun

Ihave been combing through the past of late, sitting with my boys and watching videos of their early years. This is Sam when he was just three years old. I first posted it back in 2008.

I realize that John is doing now, at nine, what Sam, at three, insisted on every single morning: A schedule.

autismtwins.com“John’s schedule?” he asks, after fetching orange construction paper and a crayon and handing them to me — a demand. He is eager to see the regular things: Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Go to School, but he is waiting for his favorite activities to appear too: The Library, DVDs, The Beach. It is very important that I think this through — what new activity will I need to ask of him today? How must I couch it between his favorite things in order to avoid upset if we have an unscheduled stop at the grocery store? I must be precise as well as build in room for the unexpected, and so I will add a question mark or two or indicate a time and underline it. For example: Walk on the Beach IF IT’S SUNNY. Or Go to Library AFTER SCHOOL, and just hope that he can go with the flow.

Sometimes we are successful and sometimes, well, we are not.

On Sunday he woke up at 6:00 a.m. and asked for the days’ events. I pondered (because I had just brewed my first cup of coffee and was in no hurry to leave the house) and slowly I wrote: Wake Up, Sit with Mommy, Eat Breakfast, Watch Sesame Street, Read a Book, Draw a Picture of Elmo, Get Dressed, Go to Library. He ran to his room, emerged with clothes in arms and said “Get Dressed. Go to Library. John’s Schedule.” — all before 7:00 a.m. “LATER,” I said. “Library is CLOSED,” I said. “Leave for Library at 10:30,” I sighed. Meltdown.

Not always successful.

When Sam insisted on these schedules, he did not wait to see his activities for the day appear like magic. I took dictation — it was his schedule, his order of events and I dutifully captured it as he ordained (within reason because he was only slightly more agreeable to alterations). Obsessed with the weather (extreme and otherwise), his daily schedule usually starred current conditions, along with any books or DVDs in rotation at the time.

Coincidence? John is watching the same DVD on a loop, Family, Feelings and Fun. I think his favorite part is the Feelings Song, mostly because he puts his elbows on the table and presses his face near the screen while it plays and sometimes I actually hear him hum. Probably because of that and the fact that he pauses and rewinds to it over and over.

“What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside —side —side
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
And tell me what’s inside

Do you feel EXCITED?
Do you feel SILLY?
Do you feel SCARED?
Do you feel GRUMPY?

What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside

Do you feel SICK?
Do you feel SURPRISED?
What are you FEELING?”

Exactly. I ask this question of John countless times a day. In an effort to get a spontaneous response, I sometimes make my voice rea-lly LOW and I intone: “JOHN. Do YOU. Feel. MAD?” and he’ll mimic my facial expression and say “MAD!” Or sometimes I’ll make my voice high with sadness and say, “Boo-hoo, Mommy cry,” and then turn it over to him: “John cry?” He’ll mimic me down to my last inflection and say “Boo-hoo! John cry.” I get up, take his hands in mine and we twirl around until I stop suddenly and say “Woah! SURPRISE!!” He startles then laughs. I tell him it’s his turn and he makes his eyes big, rounds his mouth and says, “SURPRISE!” What a mimic, he has a gift.

I love that he is studying and exploring, just like his brother did so long ago, because in addition to being able to tell others how he feels, he is learning about how others sometimes feel and that is a link to community, to empathy, to a bigger world.

Scouts and Such

autismtwins.comWhen I was six years old, I was a Brownie / Girl Scout for all of ten seconds. I remember the mint green uniform, mostly because of this picture — here I am tucked between BFFs, Lisa and Greer. (It’s been forty years but I still remember those names, wouldn’t you?) I love that we each have the Brownie Guide tucked into our skirt pockets and I also remember, like it was yesterday, that I really wanted that (optional) yellow neckerchief.

Sometimes you have to look back in order to see ahead and what I see is innocence. I wonder at the cares of young girls who dreamed and read of magic mirrors, elves, and Brownie friendship. I wonder about my hair and why it is so flippy and short. I wonder what was going on behind the camera, in the lives of the adults who snapped these pictures, because soon after this was taken my parents divorced and we moved far away.

autismtwins.comWhen Sam asks to join Cub Scouts I pause before answering. Do I want to go camping or hike outdoors or build rockets and soapbox cars? Er, no. Mommy likes to knit and draw and walk on the beach. Mommy is not Daddy, but truth? there is no Daddy here. So I sign him up, order the uniform, the Webelo guide. We practice the oath and the handshake and he takes great pride — his memory is made for this, after all. He is eager to belong to something bigger and male even if it’s Mommy bringing him there.

We meet in a clearing in the woods, scouts and parents and… nature. Bugs. Outdoorsy things. Sam joins his pack and John skips into the field. I watch warily — John no longer runs away, he runs around, but still. I am primed for a chase.

autismtwins.comSoon I relax because they both seem at ease. Sam and his scouts assemble for the Pledge, and John sits in the grass — “Picnic?” he says. We hike to the pond and scan for frogs on the bank. John runs up ahead and then behind, impatient for us to first get there then get back, yelling with frustration when we stop. “GO!” he says. We eat hot dogs and chips, we swat flies and soon it’s almost natural and not so preposterous. I guess I am some sort of Den Mother.

autismtwins.comThe next time we meet at the clearing in the woods I leave John behind — I think it will be easier for all and especially for him. Surely he’d rather be at home doing the things he loves best: the ipad, with his DVDs and CD covers. But when we return, he runs up to me. He says, “Cub Scouts?” Then he looks at Sam’s uniform, touches it and says, “Cub Scout shirt?”

Oh, the sorrow of realizing I erred, that I assumed he would not want, could not be a Cub Scout too. His face is growing angles and he is still a young boy — but still so much of his thoughts remain a mystery. Sometimes with the frenetic pace of our days I forget to look deeply into his eyes. Sometimes I forget that I am his conduit to the world and to new experiences, and that he needs me to lead him there.

autismtwins.comThis is what I’ve come to know: John does not prefer to be alone. He would rather be among the bustling activity of others but it’s so hard to be among those who can effortlessly just be.

He sprawls on my lap and brings my face to his face. I ask him, “A kiss?” He makes a squashing sound to the air. His limbs are long and heavy like logs, and I hold him and spill out my heart like a pitcher of juice. I want to fill him up and I want him to know that Mommy is sorry. I want him to know that I see him, that I see how his thoughts are rattling around inside looking for expression. I want him to know that I know. Of course he can be a Cub Scout.

autismtwins.comAt the end, I’m empty with sorrow and he touches my face. “So. John. Do you want to be a Cub Scout? Yes or no.”

“Yes!” he yells quickly and jumps down from my lap, excited. And so now I have twin Webelos — Twebelos, if you will. And we have gone camping and touched bugs and built rockets. And even though it’s harder for John, and he protests along the way, he lets me take his hand and lead him through it.

It is not lost on me that, despite our best efforts, history has a way of repeating itself. I will not lie, it has been hard for them, hard to leave the only life they ever knew. It is hard for me to gather the debris, push and mold it all into this new life, hundreds of miles away from our old life, but I am gathering the debris, transforming it with magic mirrors and holding on. But this time it is my boys leading the way.

Sam’s Credo

I came across this scribbled drawing as I gathered the dozens of pages Sam leaves strewn across the house. Our house is on the market, have I mentioned this? That we need to move? and life on the market means keeping it in showing condition always. An impossible feat in the best of circumstances — really really, difficult with two 8-year-olds. I vacuum, I dust, I hide things in drawers and closets as I shoo the boys closer and closer to the door. Some days I just order them to the car with iPads and tell them to sit … it’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, I spend 15 minutes in one room only to return 10 minutes later to destruction.

Anyways, I digress.

So I was cleaning for a showing and piling Sam’s drawings into a pre-recycle bin — the one I use BEFORE I dispose of his scribbles into the actual recycling bin, when I came across this one. It struck me as simple, direct, a credo.

I  think we need happiness and trust too. Don’t you? And love like this…it would be a good start.

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Of Slides and Such

We are surrounded by hundreds of sunbathers at a very public pool. Even though you are nearing me in height I must hoist you up into my arms (to the amusement of those around us), and walk deliberately into the water. Long ago I mastered the ability to keep my face calm as the icy water envelops us.

We are in now, and as always, you are glommed onto me. Every 30 seconds I say, “John, not the neck!” and pry you from my windpipe. We bob on the water, you and I, and I see you relax in increments. We look for Sam and I point to him high up on the water slide.

You say, “Go water slide?” and I repeat, “Go water slide? Yes or no.” You say, “NO!” Okay. We bob some more, we glide from one end of the pool to the other. With a splash, Sam lands in front of us. You grin. Sam says, “John! Go water slide?” You are excited and flap your hands, I know you want to, how you want to!

“John,” we say together, “Go water slide? Yes or no.”

“YES!” you say. So out we get and Sam grabs your hand. I am hopeful but this scene has played out before: we always come down the slide… just always the wrong way.

We begin our ascent and fall into line behind at least a dozen kids. You are still excited. Sam says, “John, it’s so much fun! Go water slide?” and I see your face waver and fill with doubt. You say, “Go home.” I tell you that it will be great and not to worry, Sam will go first.

Finally we arrive at the top. There are two slides, a blue and a green. Sam shoots down one and I hold your shoulders until the lifeguard gives us the signal. I glance behind me: the line snakes below.

This is it.

“Green!” shouts the lifeguard. You break free, scream and say, “GO HOME!” I glance at the guard, certain that what I see will be impatience and I steel myself for the long retreat down the stairs. Instead I see compassion. He says, “Take your time.” Other kids fly by us while you stomp your feet and yell “ALL DONE!” We are quite the spectacle up here at the top. A few kids stare at you but most smile and tell you, “Hey, it’s fun! Don’t be scared!”

I think this gives us both courage. I kneel in front of you. “John, I know you want to go down this slide. Mommy is going to help. I will put you on it and meet you at the bottom.” You yell your protest again but I see a small smile, which baby, is your dead giveaway. I explain to the guard what I’m about to do and I hoist you again (you are getting so big) and sit you at the top of the slide.

One push and you’re off.

Even though I know the pool at the bottom is just three feet deep, I panic for a second — now what? The guard, who is the calmest, most adult teenager I’ve ever seen, says, “if you shoot down the blue slide you’ll beat him down.” Now your mom hasn’t been on a water slide since the 1970s and really doesn’t care to change that but here I go. I hurl myself down the tube and land what seems like an eternity later with a splash below. I look everywhere for your bobbing head. Are you okay? Did you already get out?

Thirty seconds later you appear (indeed your slide is slower), and the grin plastered on your face is a beautiful sight. I catch you, and hug you. “John, you did it! Baby, you did it! I am so proud of you!”

I see that you are proud too.

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A Most Patient Cat

It’s hard to remember how scared of cats my kids used to be. Ever since we added this love to our family, there has been a thaw. John often gets down on the floor with the T-cat and squints into his fur. Sam likes to dress him up.

Troy is a willing model. As long as he’s in the thick of the action, he’s happy.

(Just don’t forget to scratch my ears).

Sam, who has memorized every U.S. president as well as the political party to which they each belong, says, “Look Mom, Troy is a Federalist. Like John Adams!”

There is dignity in toilet paper.

National Geographic: Twins

Happy New Year, dear readers.

January 2012 National Geographic Magazine

Jan. 2012 National Geographic: TWINS

My boys are profiled in the January 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Pretty cool to have visitors from around the globe.

If you’re new here, welcome.

When we agreed to be interviewed for the NG story, life was a bit more predictable. Leave a crisis to change things a bit — stupid crisis is all me, me, me. It’s hard to focus when the fabric of your life is shifting. I must honor that shift, my writing feels contrived when I don’t. And yet? I’m in the thick of it.

You see why I haven’t written for some time. (And now I see that this is exactly what I should be doing.) I love this quote by Gilda Radner:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”

Yes. Exactly. All in due time.

Home on the Range

We are again driving to the library. This time the subject is Extreme Weather. An earthquake, Irene, lots of reasons for Sam to shift his focus to hurricanes. It’s not just Sam who would live at the library if he could — John has been asking to go for days. Lately his selections lean to Wiggles and Raffi music. The truth is what he really wants are the clear CD cases and as soon as we get them home, he will remove the music, the liner notes and line them up next to ones he already has. He will also peel off the library date stickers and I will use a lot of tape trying to fix them before they are returned.

But sometimes, like today, he hands me a CD of Sesame Street songs and says, “Play music?”

So here we are on our way to the library. John is content because Elmo is singing us there. Sam is happy because he’s brought along his Weather Encyclopedia (again to get additional books about the weather because there are never enough).

“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day…”

Elmo and Sam sing along. Suddenly Sam stops and says “Why do they say the deer and the antelope play?”

I say they are animal friends and they’re playing. You know, with the buffalo.

“But they have different habitats,” he says.

“Um, really?” Do they? I have no idea.

“Yes, Mom. The deer live in the temperate forest and the antelope live on the tropical savannah. They have to arrange them to play. Like a play date.”

I’m dumbfounded. Do you know he’s right?

Summer’s Finish Line

John had the entire month of August to get sick but instead spiked a fever the night before the first day of school: a day circled and highlighted on our calendar since the end of June.

July was a piece of cake with summer camp to fill our days. But August! A month of unstructured weeks and hours. Fourteen days at the beach with family had its own poetry and routine but that left two more weeks. Two more long weeks. Pool fatigue set in and really — you can only go to the library so many times. That finish line was looking mighty fine for us all.

We went to open houses, met teachers, surveyed the land. We went to Target, stocked up on supplies, cleaned backpacks and lunch boxes. I began to talk to John in earnest about going back to school. “Back to school?” he laughed, jumping up and down. We picked out clothes, read stories about school, ticked off our classmates’ names (a total of four).

Finish line.

And then the middle of the night fever, the early morning refusal to eat or drink. The phone calls to the pediatrician, the bus depot, new teacher and school. The disappointment. (We were all disappointed, I will not lie!) But I felt so bad for him.

John loves school.

He loves the bus, the staff, the routine. And I love that he loves something that is apart from us. We had made it through so many days already, what was one more. But John sobbed for nearly two hours, I told him, “First doctor, then school tomorrow.” He’d repeat it, calm a little, then as if heard the injustice for the first time, cry again and wail, “School tomorrow?”

So John’s first day of school was Sam’s second. We were lucky: strep was negative and he awoke happy and fever-free. When the bus pulled up, he ran down the drive to meet it.

And his teacher this year? Fabulous.

Words

At the pool during adult swim: 
I want to go swim big pool with Mommy Daddy Sam John?
Holy macaroni, a 12-word sentence uttered by a most quiet boy.

Time to eat scrambled eggs s’ghetti meatballs dinner time?
A most quiet boy who this summer is something else: a boy who wields his words instead of pulling me places. Not all the time, of course, but people!

Tubby custard, I want go airport library grocery store?
Most of the time I get the gist but sometimes…? He stomps and yells if I don’t understand. I so want to understand! As his language has multiplied, his temper tantrums have intensified.

It’s a beautiful puzzle.

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