Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Nancy Dearest

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Nancy Dearest

Oh what a difference a little time to myself can make. Yesterday I found myself free to enjoy a day with no tight schedule, and I begun the tasks I have wanted to accomplish for over a week now. First of all, Erik slept in until well after 7 a.m. Since I was up at 4:30 a.m., I made coffee and watched an hour long program on home building that had nothing to do with world news (meth-buying/gay-bashing evangelists, Iraq, pre-election mud slinging, etc). I lit candles and sat in the dark. Fabulous! When Brian got out of bed, I located my lost box of Cappuccino Splash hair color under my bathroom sink. I was officially weeks overdue and had roots the same color as a geriatric mouse. I lounged on the couch in my official hair coloring attire (XXL Old Navy T-shirt and workout tights) while the chemically carcinogenic color soaked into my hair and I enjoyed yet more coffee. After another screaming lobster-hot shower, I saw Brian off to his football game in the valley and attended to our son's morning routine. Erik seemed cheerful enough to take out for a late morning grocery shopping excursion, so I put on some lipstick and perfume and headed to Safeway with my slightly gothic-colored hair. What was beautiful about yesterday is that I didn't have to hurry Erik to sleep and could escape the house with him. Usually time requires me to put him to bed at 9:30 or 10:00 in order for him to sleep before I have to work, and I end up trapped here all morning. In theory, this sounds good, which it normally is, but it does feel isolating on a daily basis when every minute of my afternoon is already spoken for and my free time is limited to being at home.

At the store, I bought a package of sushi from the deli for lunch and meandered through the store collecting greetings and good mornings from the other shoppers as Erik began happily addressing each of them. I'm becoming accustomed to this now and have learned it is perfectly acceptable to let him do the talking. I just smile various smiles, the type of which depending on who Erik is addressing. It's easier than I thought it would be, as he does all of the work! We couldn't find a mango for the shrimp tacos I planned on making myself for dinner, so I bought a small can of crushed pineapple instead. I recently invested in sturdy, nylon shopping bags, as I think the flimsy plastic ones are pure evil, so it takes an extra few seconds for the checker to set them up to fill them with groceries. She took her sweet time, anyway, to admire Erik, who suddenly decided to be a little shy. His hair is darkening but is still blond enough that we get comments on it often. It was a relaxing, enjoyable outing, and the world seemed to be in a cheerful mood. Upon arriving home, I fed Erik his standard morning snack of graham crackers, peanut butter, and milk, brushed his teeth, and put him to bed with his stuffed doggies.

The time had arrived to give this house a serious enema.

I washed all of the Pergo floors with vinegar until there were no more Erik drool/slime trails. I scrubbed toilets. I scoured sinks. I Fabreezed curtains. I evicted spiders. I changed the cat box. I did laundry. I scrubbed petrified drool off windowsills. I dusted. I shook area rugs. Once I had everything done but Erik's bathroom, I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to watch a shamefully trashy movie on the women's channel. Halfway through my glass of pinot noir and five poorly-choreographed love scenes, I decided I was lonely and called my neighbor to come down to join me. We drank wine, watched the Food Channel, and talked incessantly about the rotisserie she bought, on which she cooks everything now. I had to laugh, because I suddenly felt like I was a creepily overenthusiastic audience member at the taping of a Ronco rotisserie infomercial (SET IT AND FORGET IT!). I love that neighbor of mine.

I worked with Erik on kicking a little bit yesterday as well. He kicked once! Today I will try it with a ball and bubbles. I also did some research on his constant wheel spinning. I allowed him to tweak doorstops and spin wheels yesterday while Lisa and I were having our girls afternoon but interrupted him now and then to do something else. Apparently, this kind of autistic-type activity is called "stimming," and everything I read concluded it is completely developmentally unhealthy. I have now heard his therapist use this term, and she stops him immediately from doing it. There are many theories as to why this occurs. I know Erik isn't overstimulated or stressed, so I discount that theory, at least in him. I tend to subscribe to the one that states it occurs when a child has trouble with visio-spatial tasks (classic in Williams' syndrome) and finds comfort in the feeling he gets by doing a repetitive activity, like spinning things. One researcher stated that it is believed that these behaviors release beta-endorphins in the body (opiate-like substances) which provide a powerful form of physiologic pleasure. One writer even used the word "addiction." Short of taking all of his cars away and removing every doorstop, I can't completely cease this behavior. Even if I did go all out-and-out Joan Crawford and removed every wheel and doorstop from the house, he would find things to roll or turn, such as shampoo bottles, Tupperware, appliance knobs, etc. I would have to banish all round items from our house altogether. I shudder to think about what would happen next. Removing these items would result in only sharp edges in this home, and I would probably cut myself a lot. In addition, Erik would undoubtedly take up another behavior to replace stimming, such as smoking, women, or gambling.

In summary, I am formulating a plan including exercises and games that will hopefully give Erik extra confidence in visio-spatial tasks while I limit his wheel exposure somewhat. Did I mention that part of this plan will be praying really, really hard? I'll do some of that, too. I can use stimming as a reward as well to teach him to do other things or distract him while I stretch his heel cords out. Hey, I guess I'm learning to make lemonade from all of these darn lemons.


Blogger Kerry said...

I hope you can keep Erik away from the smoking and women.. I have to say I am using my gambling money from last weekend to buy Christmas presents with tonight, so the jury is still out on that...

All kidding aside, thanks for all that info about the stimming. Brady rocks his head back and forth in what the therapists call "self-stimming", which sounds like what you describe for Erik. My OT said to let him do it a minute then hold his head and say "all done!" and change the activity, start playing with something else or put him in a different position. I guess you don't want to "make" them stop it. I have noticed he mostly only does it now when he is ready for bed, and since the brushing, he is doing it less.

Everyone has mentioned kids mostly grow out of it and as Erik can learn to do other things he may lose interest a bit. I think that's a great idea you have about working with him on other activities. You are such a cool mom. :)
Love -K

7:02 PM  
Blogger Amy K said...

Stimming is a tough one as it is something they need, but the behavior becomes inappropriate when it interferes with other activites and it does need to be squashed. Avery is a rocker, but her OT assures me as she gets older there are methods for redirecting the behavior in the classroom in particular. So keep an eye on it and see if there are activites you can come up with to redirect it. And remember, this is something that will take some time to address and prob. won't disappear 100%, because he still needs that activity. Your day sounds awwesome! Except for waking up at 4:30 a.m. I need a dye job, bad! The greys are now 1/3 of my hair color.
XOXO Love you guys!

5:38 AM  
Blogger Aspen said...

I too have done a little research on Stimming. It is hard to get a concrete answer when it comes to stimming. Some doctors and therapists say to stop it immediately, others say that it shouldn't cause too much trouble and it is needed to help them relax. Sigh. Do what you feel is the best method for Erik.

I am so glad you got to enjoy such a nice quiet day. Those days just can't come often enough. Happy Monday!

7:48 AM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

I think you did more cleaning on Sat then I have done in my intire life...atleast at one sitting...Thank god for Elsa, she handels my wood floors ;)

Wheels and spining are pretty cool you really can't fault him for picking something interesting... Sounds like a bridge I may have to cross later so glad I can watch what you all do.

3:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa Reynolds said...

Matthew spins everything and rocks back and fourth. I guess I've got the double whammie.
Not one of my therapies said it was bad so I guess that will be my next question tomorrow.

3:54 PM  

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