I’ve Got a New Favorite Number

Have I really left you guys hanging for six months. Man, time flies when you’re having fun. At least I left you on a high note, right?

And time has, surprisingly, held that high note through all these months. Things have been going spectacularly. Javan went manic, like he does every fall, though it waited close to winter to peak this time. It waited so long to show up that we really wondered if it wouldn’t come at all this year. He’s still manic now. But it’s been nothing like the last two years, where he was in and out of the hospital and no one knew how to help him.

In fact, as hard as mania is with it’s periods of sleeplessness, obsessions, speeding thoughts, and hyperactivity, in retrospect I’m glad it did come this year. Because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to see my son fight through it like the fierce warrior he is. Javan has handled his rages, when they’ve come rushing to the surface, with zero instances if aggression or major destruction. Rages don’t happen often at all these days, but when they have, I’ve seen his pupils dilate, face get red, whole body tense…and him keep his hands balled at his side, controlling himself through all that anger. I’ve seen him choose to separate himself from others rather than hurt them. Scream at his bed and throw his pillows instead of throwing books through the walls. Self-control in the face of anger is hard for grown people with no mental illness. To see my 11 year old boy with all his added struggles achieve the levels of self-control he’s headed for fills this mother’s heart with indescribable pride.

But, like I said, rages rarely happen these days. What’s more pervasive in day to day life is the constant planning and obsessing over unrealistic goals. For instance, we went to a friend’s house for dinner. Side note: They have a five year old girl that he played wonderfully with! Yay! Anyway, there was a fishing show on TV there that he got interested in. For weeks afterwards, Javan watched countless fishing shows, even documentaries, at home, and made pages-long lists of the best fishing sites in the world and the most profitable fish to catch and sell. Wonderful organic learning happened. But he fully believed that our family was going to immediately prepare for a trip to the Nile to catch some rare fish or another, bring the fish home, and sell them at a fish stand. Cute, right? Tell me that after he’s begged you in earnest for the thousandth time to get the plane tickets. And after your living room becomes a cardboard box boneyard and you’re tripping over cardboard box fish stands trying to get to the laundry couch. What, I have a laundry couch OK? Laundry chairs are for amateurs.

And the hyperactivity, whooo, the hyperactivity. Boy, that is something else. I think we’re coming down from the top of that coaster. We went from hardly being able to get Javan off the couch to not being able to get him to sit down at all. It can get pretty intense. But I’ll take it over worrying he’s going to develop couch sores and blood clots any day. He’s grown taller but hasn’t gained any weight, probably due to activity. He’s actually starting to look a little athletic.

Combining the obsession and hyperactivity can produce some interesting results. For example, over the colder months, he’s developed a passion for fire. Exciting! *pastes on a happy smile* Everywhere we go, ignoring my protests, he collects fire wood. Even though we have a quarter rack of fire wood in our carport. When we visited his Uncle Noah’s house, he indulged Javan by lighting the huge fire pit in his back yard. Javan grabbed a bucket and worked for hours, seriously like 4-5 hours, running around the woods collecting sticks, branches, leaves, pinecones, anything flammable, and dumping it all on the fire. I’m pretty sure at one point he dragged a small tree over. He was red faced and sweaty and stinky and determined. And happy. We gotta do that again soon. He spent a full hour at homeschool park day one week stuffing our SUV with tree branches from the surrounding woods. I’ll probably never get all the leaves out of our car. By the time he was finished, there was hardly room for us to get in! I spent the entire drive home with a branch stabbing me in the arm. He’s spent hours collecting leaves at his grandparents’ house and hauling them back to the burn pile and his great grandpa guided him in starting his very first fire. Obsessions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re just super intense.

Socially, he’s making huge strides. I mentioned earlier that he played well with my friends’ five year old daughter. We didn’t expect that to go so well. We went over armed with tablet and headphones in case it didn’t. He wasn’t sure at first and just observed from the sidelines for a while, and then he came over to her and introduced himself sweetly and that was that. On Christmas Eve, we went to a family gathering which included Javan’s adorable baby cousin, Lillian, who’s four years old. If y’all have been with us a while, you know that Javan has a fear of babies and baby germs…and he generally considers those five and under to be babies. No one knew what to expect. We knew we may only be able to make an appearance and then skedaddle. He did the same sideline observer routine, and then went over and asked Lillian if she wanted to play Beyblades with him. The brand new ones he’d just gotten for Christmas. He patiently taught her how to play and didn’t even freak out when she accidentally shot her Beyblade into her mashed potatoes. He just calmly wiped it off and gave it back to her like it was no big deal. Y’all. I just. The adults around the table just gave each other these wide eyed “what’s happening” looks. Javan and Lilly were inseparable for the rest of the evening. The only thing he didn’t want any part of was playing with her realistic baby dolls that really pee. Understandable. He was so excited when his cousin Addison, five years old, came to our place to celebrate Christmas. He pulled out toys for her to play with, jumped on the trampoline with her (and Uncle CJ), and romped around the house with her being silly and having a blast. He even let her ride him like a horse! He can’t wait to see her again. He’s expressed several times to me over the past months that he really thinks he’s getting over his fear of babies!

And it’s not only “babies” that he’s socializing better with, but kids his own age too, and that’s always been the most challenging group for him. At park day last time we went, he ran around with the same two boys, aged nine and ten I think, for nearly an hour. They mostly just walked around and talked, I have no idea about what, but it was beautiful to see. The Age of Play Dates may finally have arrived for us.

Ok, what else is there? We’ve talked about mental, physical, social, emotional…ah yes, academics. He is doing amazing. About two months ago he started complaining that the Level 2 Math we were doing (second grade, but we don’t say it that way because levels is truer for us) was “baby math.” So I put him on Level 3 math (we use an online curriculum that makes switching grade levels a breeze), and not only has he excelled at it, he actually enjoys it more! He’s on Level 1 Language Arts, but after last night, I’m ready to bump him to Level 2 and see what happens. What happened last night, you ask?

Last night, my son read for enjoyment for the first time. As an avid lifelong book lover, I’ve striven yo give my son a love of books. And he has always loved being read to, but getting him to read himself has been a Huge Struggle™. Javan and his Dad went to Half Price Books the other night and came home with Star Wars books galore, some of which were leveled readers. So yesterday afternoon, I told Javan one of his school jobs was to read one to me. He not only didn’t complain, but he actually far surpassed my expectations on how well he did reading it. I only had to help with a few words. Then, get this y’all, then last night while watching the Olympics, Javan asks if he can show Dad his new skills. I’m like, um yeah OK, expecting some sort of forthcoming light saber demonstration, when he pulls out the reader, sits in Dad’s lap, and reads him the whole book again. He wanted to show Dad his reading skills. Then he gets his stack of older easier readers, sits in my lap and reads me THREE in a row! Because he wanted to! Yasssss!!!! Here are the books he read, because I want to remember this forever:

And yes, that is a Christmas blanket I’m covering my legs with, because it’s so stinking soft I think I’ll keep it out year round. (Thanks Micah!)

School usually goes without a fight these days, though Javan does have a special way of adding some extra spice every now and then (OK, often). The time I asked him to write the date, for example:

Translation: Thursday January the 11th, 2018. Thank you for writing this even though I ordered you to do it. By, Javan.

I didn’t complain about the extra writing practice.

All in all, I just wanted you guys to know how great he’s doing. It’s gonna be OK. We’re gonna be OK. This year has been wonderful, and 11 is my new favorite number.


Black and White. And Gray.

Hey guys! Yes, we’re still alive and well here. I don’t even have a good excuse for not blogging lately…just haven’t been motivated to write. I’m going to challenge myself more in that area.

Things here have been GOOD! As most of you know, this time of year is generally filled with hospitals and heartbreak, but not so this year. Not even close. This summer has been one of great growth for our boy, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ll fill you in on details later, but for now I just wanted to write a quick post about two awesome conversations I had with Javan today.

So much of the time, people see labels as “boxes.” As neat little areas that define people. But people are so much more complex than that. Take people with autism for example. Folks often say things like, “Autistic people take everything literally” or “People with autism see only black and white, no gray areas.” But I think these two conversations, had on the very same day mind you, are a great example of how complex each person on the spectrum really is.

This afternoon, on the way to the grocery store, Javan and I heard a radio news story about a woman in our city who ran into a Whataburger to escape an alleged attacker. I normally switch stations when the news comes on because he is very sensitive, but they snuck this little story in quickly between songs. I looked over at Javan to see his response. The conversation went like this:

Javan: Should we go investigate?

Me: No. there would be nothing to investigate. The woman ran into Whataburger last night to escape an attacker, but she isn’t there anymore. It would just be a regular Whataburger with nothing different than usual.

Javan: Not even, like, a big dent?

Me: *pauses in momentary confusion and then LIGHTBULB! Trying not to laugh. Failing a little* No. She didn’t run into the Whataburger with her car. She was running with her feet and went inside the Whataburger because there were other people there and she wouldn’t be alone with an attacker.

Javan: Ohhhhh….thats much less exciting.

OK, so not only was that conversation hilarious and adorable, but it does in fact highlight a hallmark of autistic thinking: taking things very literally. But then tonight, as I was holding him while he fell asleep (read: holding him while he talked and talked. And talked.), he brings up one of the songs he likes on the radio. The song is “Shut up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and the lyrics go like this:

Oh don’t you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you’re holding back,
She said shut up and dance with me!
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

And Javan says, “You know, I was thinking about that song and when he says ‘You’re holding back,’ I think that could mean one of two things. One, she’s holding back her love for him. Or two, and I think this is more likely, he thinks she might be hiding something. Because she says ‘Just keep your eyes on me’ so maybe she’s trying to distract him from something.”

Wow. Have I mentioned this is coming from an 11 year old boy? He blows me away every day. How very different this is from the Whataburger conversation! He took nothing about the lyrics to this song literally. He didn’t think the woman was holding back as in physically holding her body back from the man. He knew it was metaphorical. As in, not literal. Not black and white. Gray.

No box could be big enough to fit him, or any other autistic person or any other person, period. Diagnoses and labels are informative and can help us understand ourselves and others better, but each and every person is a complex being. A complex thinker. A complex feeler. A beautiful, whole person full of beautiful mysteries and surprises.

Don’t focus on the label so much that you miss seeing the individual, because when you really see them, their complex beauty will bless you.

Click Here to see the music video for the song Javan talked about. Its kind of fabulous.

My Biggest Fear

I recently shared this meme on my Facebook page just to see what goofy things my friends would come up with:

The answers: there were several Snake Women, Abandonment Person, Mediocre-Life Girl, Captain Everything, Fall Girl, Commitment Man, Spiderwoman, DyingDueToTreatableIllnessWithoutHealthInsurance Girl, Scorpion Lady, Blood Woman, Stifleshnookums (afraid of having her shnookums stifled, I suppose. I mean, aren’t we all?), Spiderbite (that’s me), and Car Wreck (who wins the awesomest catch phrase with “Car Wreck to the Wreckscew!). My friends are awesome.

But then I got to thinking about my actual deepest fear. I’m terrified of spiders obviously, but also heights, snakes, bugs, the usual stuff. But they aren’t my deepest fears. Not even close. In fact, I’d face every single one of my fears a thousand times over if it meant that my deepest fear would never come to be.

My deepest fear is a future in which my child is incarcerated, homeless, or worse due to his mental illness. A future in which he needs care and there is no one to care for him.

As awful as this fear is, it led me to an amazing encounter today. Today I met Mitchell. I’ve been passing Mitchell on the highway for years. He’s always pacing the same stretch of sidewalk. And he’s always, always engaged in animated conversation with… Himself? No one? He’s usually also counting on his fingers. I make a point to smile at him as I drive by and he always makes eye contact with me. In response, he sticks up another finger and counts one more. Is he counting smiles?

Today, Javan and I stopped for McDonald’s sweet tea before a doctor’s appointment. Mitchell was standing on the sidewalk out front talking away to some imaginary being. As we pulled out of the drive-thru, I pulled up next to him on the sidewalk and handed him the small amount of cash I had with me. He asked if we had anything cold to drink. I asked him if he could go inside to buy a drink. He told me he isn’t allowed on the property because he “broke some trees.” He gestures to a short row of crepe myrtle that look just fine to me.

The heat index is a whopping 102 degrees. I give him my sweet tea. He is reluctant to take it because he knows I bought it for myself, but he takes it with many thanks once I assure him that Javan and I could share. I’m thinking to myself how miserable and disgusting I am driving around with a busted AC. This guy must be fifty times as uncomfortable. All day every day. Before I drive off, I shake his hand and give him my name, wondering when he last experienced the basic civility of a human touch. He does the same. He’s so polite, genuinely sweet, and surprisingly intelligent.

I tell him I pass him all the time and if he needs anything to wave at me. It feels so lame and small. Of course he needs something. He needs everything. And there’s no one to help him.

As we drive away, Javan, who isn’t thrilled that he now has to share his favorite sweet tea, asks me why I did that. I said, “Because he needed it. Because he doesn’t deserve to be homeless. Because he’s mentally ill, his brain doesn’t work like other people’s, so he’s homeless and it isn’t fair.”

But inside I’m thinking. “How do we change this? How do we create a society where the sick are cared for, not punished for an illness they didnt ask for? How do I keep my sweet boy from becoming the next Mitchell?

And I don’t know.

I don’t know how.

But damn if I don’t want to find out.


An Encouraging Note

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending my oldest nephew’s high school graduation. My in-laws were so sweet to keep Javan so I could enjoy the ceremony, even though they already had plans to go to a  celebratory retirement dinner for a friend. We knew Javan had a higher chance of success at the restaurant with them than he would have had at the graduation with me, but they realized the possibility that they may have to leave the party early if things went south and they chose to risk it for me. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Apparently things went very north! While at the graduation, I was texted a picture of Javan standing with a circle of men just taking with the group and happily holding his own in conversation. It helped a ton that two of these guys just so happen to work with Javan’s daddy and Javan already knew and adored them all.

And Javan must have been pretty successfully visiting with new folks too, because a few days later my mom-in-law called to read me this precious card that her friend had sent her:

The note (shared with permission) reads: 

“Ken and Annie,

Thank you for coming to Kent’s celebration. I am specifically writing to thank you for bringing your grandson. I wish I knew his name. 

As I was conversing with him, I didn’t know his medical history. Those diagnoses also run strong in my family. 

His conversation bright joy to my heart. He reminded me so much if my Isaac at that age.

He is a tremendous thinker, deep in the world of his invention. With every intricate question I asked, he had an answer… lots of layers.

I was impressed that he could hold a conversation with an adult for so long.  All to say – keep up the good work as grandparents and parents. Many prayers go your way.

I have four sons and we have dealt with Bipolar and Asperger’s – all is amazing now. Hold strong. Persevere.”

Thanks for the encouragement! 


Not-Even-Humble Bragging

Wow, guys, it has been an INCREDIBLE three months since my last update. Maybe the best we’ve ever had. 

When I left off, Javan’s schizophrenic symptoms were cresting, and we started him on the medication Seroquel. After three days of him being on that stuff, I called the doctor and said, “Help! This isn’t working! It’s making things so much worse!” To which the doctor responded, “Try giving him half a dose in the mornings in addition to what he’s already taking at night. If it gets worse, we’ll try something new.” Y’all, this right here is why it’s important to find a doctor you trust. If it had been a different doctor, I would have been all like, “Did you not hear me say it got worse? And you want me to give him more? Nah. Bye, Felicia.” But, this guy, this doctor has stuck with us through thick and thin and he knows his stuff and he knows my child. So we tried it. 

We could tell immediately that we’d found a for-now-magic-bullet. Javan is peaceful. He’s Happy. He’s himself. We’ve been doing an online school curriculum, since my traditional approach just wasn’t holding his attention, and he’s doing absolutely fabulously with it. I sit right with him and guide him through the activities and read the text aloud to him. And he just… complies. I say, “Its time for school and chores. Which do you want to do first today?” And nine times out of ten he says, “school,” sits down, grabs the mouse, and gets started without another word.  And say, seven times out of ten he does it with a good attitude. But it always gets done. And then most of the time when it’s time to move to chores, I find that he’s already made his bed the second he woke up. Who is this kid? 

He’s Javan, that’s who. The real Javan. The one he always wants to be. I hope he always remembers this is the real him. That when his behaviors are beyond his control, they aren’t what defines him. I hope I’m showing him that. 

He’s no longer afraid of baby germs, although he still prefers to avoid company of the youngish variety. Last week, I meet a new mom who joined our homeschool group at McDonalds, along with her precious two year old son and husband (and his service dog! Exiting!). Javan wasn’t in the best mood about being there, but his face never morphed from unhappy to mean or unfriendly, even toward the babies that climbed past him on the playground. They climbed past him,  y’all. And it was fine

Javan sat at his own table with his back to me and my new friends, shoulders hunched, refusing to take any part in this social nonsense. Until, Sam, the husband-dad-person with the service dog somehow engaged him in conversation while I was talking to the other mom. They talked pretty animatedly for quite some time about I don’t know what, but it doesn’t matter. When we left, Javan told me Sam was his friend. Those of you who’ve been following our story for a while know that Javan does not have nor want friends, and never uses the word friend in relation to himself. Ever. But this guy made it so far up the friends list that Javan even said he’d enjoy going to their home one day (we were invited) even with a two year old there. What? This is good stuff I tell ya. I really gotta follow through with this friendship thing before its forgotten. 

I’m not even done bragging yet, so grab some popcorn and buckle up. Just kidding, just kidding, I’m really trying to consolidate here. Guys, Javan had to have two adult molars pulled yesterday due to overcrowding. Basically there wasn’t going to be enough room for his canines to come in, so they would be forced to erupt way high up on his gum line above his other teeth. Since Javan is definitely not going to handle getting braces, pulling teeth was really the only option. I’ve been stressing about yesterday for over a month. We prepared him repeatedly, but of course were meet with negative responses. I mean, I like my teeth too, kid. I get it.

The dentist’s office was unable to put him under anesthesia, so he was awake during the whole nasty process. We were able to give him an Ativan prior to the procedure, which actually helped a ton, but he was by no means sedated. He was highly aware of everything that was happening. We brought his favorite “couch blanket” and covered him up, tucking and in nice and tight. And we brought Rosco, who just laid on the floor the whole time since the chair was pretty small (my kid isn’t exactly ‘pediatric dentist chair size’), but just knowing his best bud was there gave Javan comfort. Javan knocked the dentist’s hand out of the way only once, more out of reflex than opposition, and he immediately apologized. He really gave his all to do his best. And honestly I think he did way better than I would’ve. He didn’t even cry! The dentist was as amazed as we were at Javan’s complete cooperation and was like, “Whoa, maybe I outta start using Ativan in my practice more often!”

OK, OK, almost done bragging. I gotta slip in just one more brag and I ain’t even sorry. Javan went to Aldi grocery store with me today, the Saturday before Father’s Day. Not my best planning, I’ll admit. Crowded is an understatement. He wanted to push the cart and have me walk Rosco. He pushed the cart the entire time, and my list wasn’t small. I only had to remind him very few times not to crowd others with the cart. We were separated once, albeit barely, when I walked forward and another shopper pushed his cart between us. Javan did not react. He just waited until he could push up next to me again. Another shopper offered to pay a million and ten bucks for Rosco. Javan just said no. He didn’t act threatened or offended like he might have in the past. Due to the crowd, Javan realized (on his own, mind you) that he was in the way of a woman wanting to buy eggs. He opened the freezer door, grabbed a carton of eggs, and handed them to her like a perfect gentleman. Did I mention that this woman did not speak a word of English? Afterwards,  when I commended him on the interaction, he told me that he didn’t even realize until later that she hadn’t spoken English, he just understood by what her body did. He read her body language. Amazing!

Whew, that was fun! Thanks for enduring all my mom bragging. I’m so very proud of this kid. He accomplishes so many things that I wasn’t sure he ever would. Always, always on his own timeline. I’m learning to allow room in my expectations of the future for him to continue doing just that.


Schizophrenic Delusions

Well, the psychiatrist visit didn’t go quite according to plan. I thought we were just going in to get something to help Javan sleep, but after presenting the doctor with my notes on Javan’s behaviors per usual, he had a different reaction than we expected. Normally, I give him the notes of what’s been going on since we’ve last seen him and his reaction is that it’s nothing too severe and I leave feeling comforted. This time, he read the notes and then just held his face for a while before gently saying, “Look. I know this isn’t what you want to hear. But we really need to get him back on an anti-psychotic. His schizophrenia is obviously progressing.”

His main cause of concern is Javan’sleep current delusion that if a baby touches anyone between the ages of seven and twenty, that person will die from baby germs. I’m pretty sure this evolved from confusion over some of our recent discussions of “big boy hormones,” since puberty is unfortunately a thing that exists. (Why, Nature, whyyyy?) His body is changing and his hormones are changing, so maybe he’s incorrectly inferred that big boy hormones replace baby germs and that those experiencing puberty are somehow fatally effected by baby germs until they reach adulthood and become immune. Of course, this is all just an educated guess about his thinking process on my part, but even if I’m wrong it’s obvious that his thoughts are highly disordered.

This delusion has made it especially difficult to attend homeschool park day, as of course there are several babies that attend. I’m still trying to push park day as I know when we stop attending it makes it that much harder to get back into that routine later on, but we don’t stay long and I have to be hyper-vigilant about keeping an eye on Javan while we’re there. This week, I had to approach a stranger who isn’t part of the homeschool group and explain to her why we needed to keep her adorable toddler, who was obsessed with Javan’s low-to-the-ground three wheel bike, and my son apart. I explained that he has schizophrenia and all about the baby germ delusion. That’s a forward and awkward amount of information to confide in a stranger, but I felt that it was a safety necessity. Luckily, she responded with understanding and kindness, telling me that her mom works with developmentally disabled adults. She didn’t seem disturbed or accuse me of having my son in public when I shouldn’t or any of the myriad of other negative responses I have to mentally prepare myself for before such encounters. While returning to “the mom table,” I noticed Javan riding off from said table while the moms giggled helplessly. My sweet friend, Janis, who never misses an opportunity to joyfully greet my son, knowing full well that his responses are unpredictable and loving him enough not to care, received this response to her greeting that day, “I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you over all of my not listening to you.” That’s the joy of having friends who know your situation. They laugh it off and keep trying.

Other presenting signs of disordered thinking, which is what Dr. Fulsom kept pointing to as the indicater that Javan’s schizophrenia is progressing, include having trouble completing thoughts or taking an unusually long time to complete thoughts, OCD characteristics like refusing to count backwards or alphabetize words because the numbers or letters will get stuck in his head forever (and beating his head when they do get stuck in there), stating that “when his brain tries to confuse him with words, he gets a red flash of pain in his brain and feet,” and weaving a startlingly detailed story in Dr. Fulsom’s office about how he goes out at night and collects the world’s supply of Idiot Repellant, which he pretended to spray the doctor with repeatedly throughout our visit.

We agreed to try the anti-psychotic Seroquel, which can help order his thinking, reduce or eliminate delusions, and help him sleep. This allowed us to decrease his Tinex, which was given for tics and behavioral issues, which should help with his chronic constipation. The most unfortunate side effect ofor Seroquel: it causes weight gain. We just got him to a healthy BMI after taking him off his medications last year and now this. I’ve explained to him that weight gain is a side effect of his new medication and, at least in theory, he agrees that eating healthier and getting more exercise is in order. Since starting the Seroquel three nights ago, he is sleeping through the night without interruption for 10-12 hours. YES! Can I get an AMEN!

We did get two full school days accomplished last week, in which Javan became unwaveringly convinced that Thomas Jefferson is a fictional character and that Vincent Van Gogh was sending us a message through his famous painting, The Starry Night. 


“Wait! Those don’t look like stars. I think they may be time-space portals!” According to Javan, when such portals align in a particular way, such as in the painting, they can form a powerline, which can lead to the destruction of most of the Earth’s human and animal population. When the powerline reaches the moon, the moon will rotate 180° and cause a central portal to appear. The central portal is forming in the middle of the painting. Contrary to popular belief, that’s not wind. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Attempting to lead him away from this line of thinking, I asked him if there was anything in the non-sky portion of the painting that interested him. “The tree in the front. It’s in the middle of the powerlines.” From this, Javan inferred that Van Gogh was leaving us not just a warning, but a clue to a potential solution. Maybe an antidote for the powerline can be found in tree bark! Impromptu nature walk, here we come! We collected tree bark and flowers on our walk to aid in Javan’s scientific investigation of powerline antidotes.


You may be wondering if this is a delusion or merely childhood creativity. I’m not sure. I’m thinking just creativity, because although later that day he went on another walk and collected twenty or so more baggies of sticks and twigs as test samples, those samples are still sitting untouched on my kitchen counter. Sadly, that’s probably not the strangest thing you’d find on my counter. The point is, he didn’t perseverate on actually making an antidote, so logic would point to him not actually believing an antidote is needed. One thing I do know for sure is that he’s made real connections to Van Gogh’s painting and is learning to identify details in art that give that piece of art meaning to him.

The weekend, we’ve been completely couch potatoes, taking care of a sick Daddy and trying to decide if Javan and Mommy should get sick too. We’re still of the fence. Either way, we’re ready to tackle another week!


I Don’t Think We’re in Traditional School Anymore, Toto

We’re two days into our first full week of homeschool this go-round. It’s been a very…untraditional…two days that have only solidified the rightness of our decision to homeschool. You see, Javan is hardly sleeping at night. He’s definitely showing other high signs of bipolar mania as well, but sleep is the one that effects us all the most.

He slept three hours last night. Three. And not much more the night before. By the time “school time” rolls around, there’s not a chance in, well, anywhere, that he’s going to be able to think clearly and cooperate. When I try to start school around the right time on a morning after Javan has been up all night, I’m often met with anger, defiance, and resistance. Instead of having to fight with a child that’s incapable of learning due to sleep deprivation (like I’d have to do if the homebound teacher were still coming out), I can enforce a naptime.

Now, as you can imagine, to decree naptime in the presence of this particular ten year old boy is to ensure a different kind of fight, but it’s one that I can usually win and that actually results in a mutually beneficial end game. I may or may not “get school done” later in the day, but the rest of the day is sure to go more smoothly once everyone is at least minimally well-rested. And I’ve been pleased with the amount of non-traditional learning that’s taking place even when our planned learning does not.

For example, here’s a picture of something of the resources we were planning to use for school yeaterday:


Those resources cover history, art, spelling, writing, math, and visual literacy. Other subjects are covered on other days. Well, due to sleep deprivation, what we actually got done with that material is reading two pages of a history book during lunch. That’s it. Today’s school materials were not touched at all after that pitiful three hours of sleep. Napping was needed more than schoolwork, because survival.

But when I say learning happened anyway, I mean it. We saw Javan’s Weebo (gramdma) yesterday and while there he write this sweet love note for her and put it on her office desk:


That’s not a lot of writing, but it is writing! And it’s organic, meaningful writing, which is worth ten times the canned, forced stuff. He had to ask me how to spell “buddy,” so that counts as spelling for the day. And I’m sure there’s a self-guided good citizenship lesson here if you want to get all teachery-sounding.

While at Weebo’s, he also designed and built this double-crane race car:


What learning happened during the building process? Tons. Planning and implementation, creating structural soundness (he added the supports in-between the cranes after he realized they were a bit wobbly), problem solving, symmetry, work ethic (cleaning up after his building process), fine motor skills, and probably more I’m missing.

After Weebo’s, we had an extra half hour to blow before picking up Dad from work. Javan came up with the idea of bringing half-priced Sonic drinks to the techs at the airport fueling station who had let us in to see the super awesome jet last week. That’s economics as well as good citizenship  (giving, service). There were no planes fueling up when we arrived, but because they had no business, we got a free, unrushed tour of the aviation center and airplane hanger. We (mostly me) asked every question we could think of about the eight or nine different planes we saw. We learned that the wings double as fuel tanks! I had no idea.

Again, today’s lessons didn’t get done either. But this afternoon, Javan’s Grammy took him fishing at the park. They fed the ducks, Javan chased turtles, and he caught three fish including his first bass.


Afterward, he was filled with renewed curiosity and passion about deep sea creatures and deep sea fishing. When we got home, Javan watched half an hour of a National Geographic documentary about deep sea creatures while I cycled the laundry. When I asked him if the documentary was any good, he replied, “It’s awesome!” So he got an entire afternoon of unplanned hands-on and self-led science study.

We didn’t get to our scheduled work or our books. I didn’t check anything off of my teacher to-do list. I recogniz that those things are important and we will have more success with them at times when Javan is more stable. But I bet he learned more in these two days of embraced chaos than he would have from any lesson I had planned. It’s so good to be able to go with the flow again.

We have a psychiatrist appointment tomorrow afternoon to get help with sleeping, so wish us luck!


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