On Valentine’s Day

I almost let a holiday go by without mentioning my inimitable 11-year-old’s reaction to it this year.

Frances: There’s too much “love” involved — and happiness. And pink. Blech.

This is a first. She used to enjoy Valentine’s Day (although it was probably access to the candy, now that I think about it).

I can’t wait to see what she says tomorrow… It’s my birthday. 😬

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A matter of where you are when you’re outside…

Figurative language can be a struggle at times for Frances; sometimes, it’s a product of her young age, but at other times, it’s the struggle that many people with ASD have.

Frances has a great sense of humour, so when the following happened recently while watching an ad about the benefits of spending more time outside, we both immediately had a really good laugh.

Narrator: Return your loved one to nature…

Frances: What?! What does THAT mean?

Me: Not what you think it does!

Disbelief

This past weekend at Grandma’s birthday party, Grandma and her sons were trying to find a vase for the flowers we’d bought her.

Frances, focussing on her iPad, muttered, “God, don’t these people have a sense of depth?”

I leaned over and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, can they not look at the flowers and look at a vase and predict with some accuracy that the flowers will fit or will not fit the vase?”

😂 Sometimes, I wonder how it is that I don’t choke because she says the funniest things when I happen to be eating.

Let me be clear: Frances is not being mean; she’s being honest — at a time when most people wouldn’t be — without a stitch of malice.

Hands down, it was the best comment of the evening — and, even though she definitely has to learn not to express these thoughts, her cleverness made me proud.

Yes, I do have to teach her that saying these things aloud isn’t okay, but convincing her lately has become so very difficult.

I have to do it for each instance, too, because she usually wouldn’t generalise.

“We have to keep that as an ‘inside thought’,” I usually say.

“Why? Why can’t I say this?”

“Because it hurts people’s feelings.”

“That’s silly. It’s just an observation…”

And so it goes. Lots of conversation about why we’re having the conversation. So, dear readers, this area of things doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does become funnier! (At least in our case.)

Honesty

Me: How was your day?

Frances: Meh.

Me: Oh…that’s too bad. Now, you can ask me how my day was.

Frances: I’d rather not

😂

It’s a good thing that I was leaving the room at the time because this exchange made me giggle. Frances is all kinds of amazing!

As she grows, I believe that she will find friends who appreciate her honesty as much as we do.

This must be Thursday…

Welcome to Thursday...
“I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”

The weather here has been ridiculously cold. We’ve all bundled up under extra blankets for windchills in the -20s and -30s.

We’re approaching the end of January, and, unfortunately, Frances has been pretty sick for much of the month which has prevented her from enjoying the snow whenever it appeared.

In fact, my highly active, super-humanly energetic child has been lethargic and disinclined to do much besides watching her documentaries and playing iPad games.

She keeps asking, “Mummy, why do I feel so sick?”

Because it’s winter. Because it’s cold-and-flu season. Because the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, but it’s best to get one to lessen the impact of the flu. Because you’re young and you haven’t been exposed to many viruses. Because kids at school are sick…

And so unfolded our Thursday conversations throughout the day (once I returned from Pink Cup Sister’s appointments).

The good news on this particular Thursday is that I finally took the ornaments off the Christmas tree. I had been preparing Frances for this event for some time, but she was still a little shocked and perturbed as I carefully packed up our glass ornaments.

There is usually a meltdown when Christmas decorations slowly disappear throughout January, but Frances has done well.

Happy New Year!

Each year, I end up writing about Frances’s reaction to the festive season. This year, there was a noticeable increase in stress for her, as school finished up and decorations appeared, compared to other years.

There is always some degree of stress for her; however, we were seeing daily meltdowns at least 3x per day, and I was tempted to pull her out of the school concert.

In the end, we had a great, exciting Christmas. Frances received a stack of Breyer horses as tall as she is. It was, overall, just a delightful experience.

I do think we have to do a better job next year of shielding Frances from stressful situations. I mean, we did do so, but we’ve more clearly identified triggers as of this past holiday.

She recently said to me:

“Mummy, I don’t like uncertainty in my life. I run on a schedule…”

How insightful she is! Thankfully, horse riding is year-long, so that part of her schedule remained very close to the norm for her. In fact, like most “horse” people we know, Frances and I were there more often because of the break from school.

Picture of pony

One notable difference this holiday from my perspective was that, at the Christmas dinner, she spoke eloquently about her interest in writing and her ideal projects. She actually sounded like an adult! I have to remind myself at those times that she is only 11 years old.

Anyway, I hope to provide more updates and anecdotes this year than last: family emergencies and some serious health issues for me meant less writing.

But now that I’m back up and running, so to speak, do expect more from A Pink Cup 🙂

My blog is still active

I’ve been away from the blog for quite some time while recovering from an unexpected surgery and complications of serious illness.

Things have changed around here: after my three hospital admissions in the last while, Frances and Pink Cup Sister keep wondering if there will be a fourth. (I highly doubt there would be.)

Frances told me recently: “Your unexpected health crisis has forced me to mature more quickly than I would have preferred.”

Honesty is good; hers is great!!

Purposeful activity…

I have to do a lot of convincing to get Frances on board with the idea of going to social groups. Usually, she will say things like, “I don’t mind groups; I just don’t like the people.” Though it sounds funny to us, she is quite serious.

She always has at least one group ongoing.

Of this group, the one that she has been going to weekly for several years, she says that she doesn’t like the people or the activities. We actually don’t give her the option of not attending. At this point, opportunities to socialize are opportunities to learn and to hone developing skills.

Also, at least once per year, her name comes to the top of the waiting list for a social group at the local children’s hospital (whose primary focus appears to be autism and ASD).

This year, the interventionists of the upcoming session asked if they could interview Frances on her own to determine her suitability for a group that starts this week.

I explained that she probably wouldn’t agree to an interview without me present and that the prospect of joining a group would not motivate her to be independent in this respect.

So, I had permission to be in the room while the interview was conducted. Her answers were not entirely predictable: she thought she had some friends (she doesn’t say this consistently), she liked to be on her own during recesses and lunch (she didn’t mention that she doesn’t know how to not be alone at these times), and she didn’t find this kind of group very helpful at any rate.

Near the end of the session, she truthfully said, “I’m really not much of a people person.”

Now, I completely understand this: she says it more often these days, and I believe her.

As clever and as smart as she is, however, she doesn’t believe Pink Cup Dad or myself when we tell her that social groups develop her social skills, that when she starts practicing and using her social skills she may enjoy interacting with people more than she does at the moment.

The reasoning behind development of these groups is that, as kids take social risks and interact, there are professionals on hand to intervene in order to start interactions, sustain interactions, and even end interactions. The children learn about cues and how to read them. They learn about what subjects are typically okay to discuss in different situations.

Personally, I like the groups even though it’s a struggle to get her to go; and, in this case, the parents will have their own concurrent group, too, which is a new development in the programming.

I jumped in at the end of the interview only to ask Frances if she had any questions for her interviewer about, perhaps, group size, the attendees, the activities or the expectations.

I also reminded her that there are times when she feels very lonely and that, perhaps, she could learn how to be less lonely by joining this one group.

I think that’s what did it; when asked a third time, she said she would give it a try. Yay!

The only downside is that this will mean that our time, from Tuesday to Saturday, will be busy: private group on Tuesday, horse riding lessons on Wednesday, hospital groups on Thursday, violin and flute lessons on Friday, and volunteering at the barn on Saturday. (She starts violin lessons on Friday just before her sister’s flute lesson.)

I’m actually starting to consider Monday to be a break! Except, of course, throughout the day during the week, there are appointments — one or two per day — that keep the girls and myself busy.

But it’s all good — it means someone (either Frances, Pink Cup Sister, myself, or, rarely, Pink Cup Dad) has access to a resource from which she or he will likely benefit.

Changes

Things have been insanely busy around the Pink Cup House, but I wanted to catch you up.

Frances, at nearly 11.5 years, is changing.

For one thing, she has become very tall and lanky, and she’s starting to appear more teenager-ish.

For another thing, she is now likely to share facts with people as a way to connect, and she takes advice about how to interact. The risks she takes often pay off. Recently, I overheard her approach a group of adults and say, “Hi. My name is Frances.” People spoke positively about her to me frequently throughout the evening.

Moreover, she now combines honesty and humour to affect someone. For example, with all four of us in the car one recent evening, we had the following conversation:

Me: One day, girls, we’ll get a new car.

Frances: When Daddy finally agrees to spend some money…

We all laughed out loud.

As I mentioned before, her teacher has described her as “delightfully sassy.” The other day, I asked Pink Cup Sister to go to the basement for a step stool. She came back empty handed because all she could see was something that looked like a bench. Pink Cup Daddy went down to the basement and grabbed the stool. At this point, Frances said, “Don’t worry, Mummy. You won’t have to be disappointed in me: I know what a step stool is.” 🤭

So, “ribbing” her sister, her father, and, sometimes, me has become second nature to her.

She still plays with horse dolls, skips from place to place, but she is growing up.