One Healthier Autistic Dude

Last year at this time, Leo met with an endocrinologist to assess his health. Partially due to the medication he takes to help him manage his anxiety, he had elevated blood sugar and triglycerides. The first put him at risk for diabetes, the second for pancreatitis. Both of those conditions, in case there are any doubts, are best avoided if possible. The endocrinologist recommended eliminating sugar from his diet, increasing exercise,
Leo walking the new Devil's Slide trail.
[Description: teenage boy with a blue &
orange jacket and gray shorts, seen from
behind, walking the dashed yellow line on a
black asphalt bike lane, with bushes, hills, &
fog in the background.]
increasing his daily dosage of cod liver oil, and meeting back in a year to see how he was doing.

We did all of those things. Yes, more fish oil (he didn't mind). We removed juice from our house, eliminated sweets except for special occasions and even then reduced portions (bringing along substitutes like apple slices), and stepped up his exercise program with track running and stretching, soccer, swimming, and more hiking.

And guess what? It worked.

His blood sugar is now within acceptable limits. His triglyceride level was halved. His height/weight ratio (as a side effect) improved significantly, by medical standards anyhow. So that's good. Diet and exercise really do matter. Who knew.

Leo still has room to improve. He still needs less sugar and more fiber/whole grains. His morning yogurt -- practically his only calcium source -- is quite sugary. So we'll try cutting that with plain yogurt. He eats bagels for breakfast a few times each week; we can swap the plain version for whole wheat. And there is always portion control -- lately we've been bringing thinly sliced apples everywhere -- increasing the crunching/chewing to volume ratio seems to satisfy him.

But I'm proud of him, and relieved. (And hoping to follow his example as two days ago my own doctor read me my own medical riot act re: cholesterol & triglycerides, damn it all.)


Beach Day at "Camp Mom"

The kids have the entire week off. All three of them. No school, no camps, no travel, just quality time with their favorite mother/drill sergeant. Which means we left the house at 8 AM amidst much moaning and groaning, and headed for our gorgeous California coast with the goal of exercise and fresh air.

Northern California beaches are not exactly magnets for summer sun worshippers. Though they are magnets for fog and crags and bouldering and giant mussel shells and running around writing the names of one's favorite band in giant letters in the sand (if one is fifteen) and appending "sucks" (if one is nine).

We never get bored by our coast's geological variety, either. Especially if it provides hidey-holes.

As usually happens, the kids get along better as a trio than the girls do as a duo. Though Iz & Mali  put visible effort into not using their brain powers to explode each other's heads today, which I appreciated and so did Leo (he gets very upset when they spar). Or maybe the head-exploding beauty of our surroundings was all their little neural nets could take, at that time. Don't care. Grateful.

Leo has definitely taken to using me as a walker of sorts, whenever he's not entirely certain about where we're going, and when we're going uphill. He was also taken by the hundreds of giant mussel shells on the beach, so he took one -- as you can see if you look closely. Mussel shells make great stim objects! They are good for rolling between one's palms. Leo's new shell didn't leave his palm all day.

Another reason people may avoid our beaches: they can be treacherous, though not always not obviously so. But we respect signage, plus we've heard too many stories about friends-of-friends and local folk swept off beaches and rocks by rogue waves. This beach has the added challenge of being located across a somewhat busy two-lane highway from its parking lot -- a challenge my kids faced and overcame with shockingly minimal grousing. Probably because they could see how pretty the beach was from across the road. And then once we were across the road we got to talk surf fishing with the surf fishermen. A lucky sort can catch a halibut right from the shore, we were told.

Camp Mom includes errands (Target, a group exercise in patience and fifty variations on rephrasing "No."). And then there's chill time. And then there's focused 1:1 time for each kid. The girls, spoiled things, got to sit with me while I demanded they "be brutal" in purging childhood memorabilia. Lopsided, unusable coffee mugs from a 3rd grade Art in Action class -- cherished memories though they evoke -- sometimes simply have to go. And though we have a few jettisoning sessions left, we can now see the tops of both of their desks. Plus we found the missing liver from the anatomy doll Iz gave to Mali last year.

(Mali also used her 1:1 time to ask me if I'd noticed that it was always the youngest kids in Greek mythology, like Zeus and Uranus, who staged the big takeovers. She then backpedaled as hard as she could when I asked if she was plotting a family mutiny, saying she was just pointing out patterns.)

Leo and I did his room purge earlier this year, so we spent some time checking out a new iPad app called Drive About: Number Neighborhood (disclosure: ArtGig Apps send me a code). Even though Leo is of course quite independent with his iPad, he still sometimes needs help focusing with new apps. And sometimes when we explore new apps together, we discover unexpected areas in which he needs support.

Most of the activities in Drive About: Number Neighborhood were straightforward for Leo to use, and were the kind of activities he enjoys: practicing number identification, matching, ordering, etc. through animated games. But when we got to the whale counting activity, he was stymied -- because the counting was done via slingshot, and that is apparently a concept for which Leo needs extra processing & practice. He kept trying to push the green balls into the whale's mouth instead of pulling the slingshot back to shoot the them in. After a few sessions of me demonstrating how it worked and then showing him how to do it, he started to get it. He'll need more practice, though. And I would never have realized how non-intuitive Leo considered the slingshot concept if the game hadn't included it and I hadn't sat down with him to play it. One more example of apps teaching our kids more than they are designed to teach.

Much of our trip to Target was to replace last year's destroyed pool toys. I spent a good deal of the post 1:1 camp sessions looking like this while the kids asked if the floaties were ready yet were they were they?

Which was worth it. Because Leo & his sisters now have new floaty chair rings, which are apparently the most wonderful pool objects ever designed -- the declaration was unanimous.

We closed out our first day of Camp Mom by watching HellBoy. Which Mali already loved, but which Iz & Leo hadn't seen. Leo's reaction was initial interest, followed by falling asleep on the couch. But Iz declared it the kind of movie she loves. So, more HellBoy-like movie suggestions are welcome.

Four more days of Camp Mom to go!


Trampoline Exuberance and Bickering Death Match Time

Summer starts today! For Leo, anyhow. His sisters have been out of school for two weeks, doing their best to keep the tradition of Bickering Death Matches alive and well and my heart rate proportionately elevated. They are free to a good play date (Mali) or babysitting job (Iz), please note.

Leo got a jump start on summer at his twin friends' birthday party two days ago. At a trampoline emporium, during trampoline emporium slow time. The results can only be summarized as OMFG YAY:

I think it's time for Leo to make his own transition from Pump it Up to Trampoline Emporium birthdays. Another milestone. For our increasingly grown-up dude.

And now, off to those lazy days of swimming, hiking, and -- if the girls keep it up -- gimlets or possibly even Xanax (for me, not them, ahem). Any bickering defusing advice would be so very, very welcome. They are nine and fifteen. Help.