The Big 4-0

Well, it has finally happened—Chris has joined my decade! I feel a little less cougar-ish now that he, too, is in his forties…even if I’m further into them than he is.

We didn’t do anything lavish to celebrate the occasion; it was on a Wednesday, so not exactly a prime day for excitement. But, Chris did take the day off work and accompany Theo and me to Sacramento for a study at the UC Davis MIND Institute. And Sam came along for the ride, since we weren’t sure we’d get back home in time to pick him up from school otherwise.

Theo was participating in the HELP study, which stands for Higher Learning, Emotional Cognition, and Language Processing and apparently “aims to learn more about the language and behavior of children and adolescents with ASD when they think, learn, and play.” When they called to ask if we were interested in participating, I figured it’d be a fun one for Theo because he’s so verbal, and they are looking a lot at language. As it turned out, he did indeed have fun—they played some games, did some puzzles, and talked to him a lot. At one point, when I was in the waiting room filling out mountains of paperwork (my favorite thing!), the psychologist working with him came out and said, “He asks a lot of questions. I mean, really a LOT. Is this typical for him?” I started laughing and said, “Oh, you have no idea… I go to bed very tired every evening.” She started laughing and said, “I can well imagine!!”

They all got a kick out of Theo, who, when he found out he could take as many breaks as he wanted for free snacks and drinks, said, “I better take advantage of these free snacks, Mom!” and proceeded to devour an unbelievable amount of snack items! (Related note: He is most certainly in a growth spurt—he is now officially tall enough that his feet touch the ground when he sits on his bicycle, which wasn’t the case just a few months ago!)

At one point, Theo and I got to go into a room for 25 minutes and have a videotaped back-and-forth conversation based on topic cards. Sometimes it would be a card for me to read, sometimes a card for Theo to read, but we always discussed the topics together. It was pretty funny—a lot of them were things like, “What are my parents’ rules about homework? Are they fair?” And “How can I earn money? Are the ways my parents let me earn money fair?” You can imagine that Theo–Mr. Identify the Injustices in the World–had a field day with those!

Anyway, it was fun, and we go back for a second appointment on Tuesday. While we were up there, we had lunch and a quick visit with Grandma Diane, and on the way home we stopped in Davis at Dos Coyotes for a yummy Mexican food dinner for Chris’s birthday. And at home, we had a strawberry pound cake I had put together, since Chris loves strawberries. (Sam’s allergic to them, but he won’t eat dessert anyway—he just likes to eat a bowl of whipped cream with a spoon, so that’s what he had!)

Our night out for Chris’s birthday was Saturday: the night of the Down Syndrome Connection’s annual gala. Since it was so close to Chris’s birthday and we didn’t want to pay for babysitting twice, we figured we’d just make that a treat for his birthday, too. The theme was An Evening in Paris, which is where we spent the best part of our honeymoon, so it was fun for us. We only stayed a few hours because we were both exhausted (more on that later), but we had a really good time and helped raise money for a cause near-and-dear to our hearts.

It was actually our first grown-up night out in almost a year. I have learned that babysitting is very hard to come by! I’ve had some referrals to local people, but they never work out. They’re always busy on the day we need or just don’t call us back or whatever. And I don’t really trust people I don’t know with my kids, so I didn’t want to just go on and find a sitter–I wanted a referral. But I recently found out that Sam’s former preschool teacher has opened her own preschool/daycare and does babysitting on evenings and weekends, too! I knew she had opened the daycare, but I thought it was just a Monday through Friday 8-to-5 kind of thing. I was ecstatic to find that she does evening and weekend hours too, because the boys both LOVE her, and we completely trust her. She does live a good 30 minutes from our house (otherwise I would send Sam to her preschool in a heartbeat!), but it was well worth the price and the time spent driving to leave the boys with someone we trust. I can’t say we’ll be doing it often, just because babysitting is expensive. But it’s nice to have someone local we can use when we need to. And the boys had a blast! She has two daughters (11 and 15) who got a total kick out of Theo, and Sam apparently took a particular shine to the 11-year-old. They also have a kitten that Theo really liked, and they all watched movies and ate pizza together. When we got back, Sam was snuggled up on the couch with his former teacher, cuddling his Thomas the Train blanket and drinking milk, and Theo was laughing hysterically at a Chewbacca video they were watching. And boy, were they tired! They got to bed at 11pm (as opposed to their usual 8pm), but do you think they slept in? Nooooo…up early as always! (Well, Theo is normally up at 6 sharp, and he slept until just after 7. But still…not much sleeping in.)

Speaking of sleep…in case you’re wondering why we were too tired to stay late at the Gala, we can blame one CPAP machine, one four-year-old, and one eight-year-old. I got sent home with my CPAP machine for apnea on Friday, and I eagerly hooked it up Friday night. I was all excited because I felt very comfortable in it—it fits well, and the air blowing into my nose isn’t uncomfortable or distracting. So I thought, “Great! I will go to sleep and have a much more restful night of sleep than usual!” I have rarely (as in, could-count-on-both-hands rarely) had a full night of sleep in the past 25 years. I normally wake up at least three times and am restless throughout the night, too. And after hearing the respiratory therapist talk about her own experiences before treatment (restless sleeper with frequent wakings) versus with the CPAP (calm night of sleep with maybe one waking), I was very hopeful! I’ve been so tired lately that I fall asleep multiple times each day, so I really need some sleep. It was mildly embarrassing to fall asleep sitting up in the waiting room of Sam’s OT appointment on Friday, for example.

Alas, it is not to be…at least not yet. I got all relaxed and comfy, put on the CPAP, and settled in to sleep. And waited. And waited. And waited.

No sleep. After an hour, I got up and took a ZzzQuil (it’s like NyQuil, but without the medicine—just with the sleepy stuff). And waited. And waited. And waited.

No sleep. After another hour, I took a second ZzzQuil. And waited. And waited. And waited.

No sleep. I took off the damn mask around 1am and decided to heck with it—I needed to get some sleep. And waited. And waited. And waited.

No sleep until sometime after 2:35am (the last time I looked at the clock). And then at precisely 3:07am, I was jolted out of my sleep by Theo standing at our bed saying, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t sleep! Sam won’t stop screaming!” And indeed, over the monitor I heard Sam screaming—it hadn’t been loud enough to wake me up, but Theo was right.

I just about cried. I was so exhausted, had taken two sleeping pills, and had finally fallen asleep…only to get woken up. I believe I let out a string of swear words and begged Chris to tend to the boys, since he had been peacefully sleeping for four hours by that point. And, nice guy that he is, he did. And took the baby monitor with him downstairs so that I could sleep the rest of the night undisturbed. (You see why I married him?? That’s a good man, right there.) I can’t say it was a restful night—I was restless for the rest of the night. But I did stay in bed until 8am, so that’s something.

So the next night, I decided I would give the CPAP one hour, and if I wasn’t asleep, I’d take it off. Sure enough, same drill: I was comfy, I was sleepy…but I couldn’t sleep with it on. After an hour I pulled it off, rolled over, and promptly fell right to sleep.

I’ll keep trying it for the rest of this week, but I’m not sure it’s going to work. I so desperately want to find the key to cure the insomnia I’ve had for decades, but I have tried literally everything over the years, and nothing has worked. I think it may be a lost cause, unfortunately….

Anyway, that’s why we were tired at the Gala. I had a rotten night of sleep, and Chris’s wasn’t a whole lot better. Sam woke up screaming again at 4:45am, apparently, so Chris had to run in and get him and take him out to the couch. Sam then fell back to sleep on Chris, but Chris couldn’t really sleep.

It’s very out of character for Sam to cry or scream in his sleep, unless he’s sick. So of course I was petrified that he was sick, but he’s acting completely normal and showing no signs at all of being sick. So I have another thought: molars. He has been shoving his fingers way into the back of his mouth and chewing on them for months—to the point that his teachers have asked me if he’s teething, and I have even said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were teething!” But he already has all of his baby teeth, so that’s not possible. However, he doesn’t yet have his six-year molars. Theo got his super early (which was funny because he got the rest of his teeth late!), and Sam got his two-year-molars early, so my working hypothesis is that Sam is working on his six-year molars now…just very early. Certainly, that would cause pain while lying down and might make him wake up screaming….

Anyway, we kept it close to home on Sunday because we were all tired out from a big Saturday night of Gala-going and babysitting, so we just got lunch and went to our little local airstrip to watch the planes and helicopters take off. They have a big open paved area for bike riding, so Theo got to ride his bike a lot. (Sam refuses to wear a helmet, so alas, no bike-riding for him!) Milestone: Theo is finally tall enough to reach the ground with his feet when he sits on his bike, so he learned how to push off and start on his own, instead of having to rely on us for a push to start! My boy is growing up, that’s for sure….

Speaking of growing up, he became a Bear this week in Cub Scouts! I usually don’t attend the meetings because they are at 7pm, and Sam turns into a pumpkin around 7pm. (Read: Sam becomes a grumpy pill around 7pm, as it’s nearing bedtime.) But because Theo was moving to Bear and Chris was leading the meeting, I made an exception and took Sam. I can’t say it was actually very pleasant—Sam was whiny and grumpy and hard to handle. But I was glad to get to see Theo’s accomplishment, and it was fun to see Chris lead the meeting!

Before I sign off, I’ll direct you to another post I wrote this week, in case you missed it. Click here to read this piece inspired in part by the Gala.

Anyway, hope you all had a lovely week!

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