Learning to swim

The last few months Billy has been really obsessed with swimming. Any time he sees water, some hotels, swimsuits, or anything related to swimming, he begs to go swimming.

Most people would be like "oh, that's awesome, kids love swimming! It's good exercise!" But most kids don't wander off under your nose to do whatever they want, consequences be damned either.

Accidental drowning accounted for 91% of all autism wandering related deaths the last few years. And Billy has to be physically restrained every second he's by a pool lately, because he thinks he can swim (he has had a few successful swimming events with a swim vest on) or because he wants to lay down on the edge (or crouch, yikes!) and splash his hands in the water.

With the warrmer weather coming, and his increased tendency to elope and his strong desire to be independent (he headbutted me in the face to try to walk unaided in a best buy parking lot a few weeks ago, and has been constantly trying to dart out into the parking lot before we can take his hand lately, screaming NO HAND NO HAND NO HAND! and crying his eyes out and refusing to walk if we take his hand (no way do I give into this nonsense, if he refuses to walk he gets dragged)). Not going to lie here, I was starting to get downright paranoid about the issue of him drowning.

I've taken a two prong approach to addressing wandering and drowning.

  1. Secure the perimeter: our house already has a security system we use in annunciator mode at all times, and leave set to "stay instant" all night. But we are not at our house much in the summer. I can't fortify my parent's house, a DNR cabin, a hotel room, or a tent. But I can buy one of these (which I will review when I get it) that allows me to prevent doors from being opened. That should take care of everything but the tent, and I have some ideas on that front.
  2. Address the risk: I do not have a pool, nor a friend with one. How should I teach my child to swim (especially when he doesn't listen to me half the time anyway?) Fortunately, the YMCA has the answer to that! The YMCA in Birmingham (the detroit suburb where I work, about 20 minutes from my house) has no less than 4 special needs swim instructors who are able to perform a 6 week, 1:1 swimming lesson to Billy that should address this. I also took the opportunity to sign the family up for access to the YMCA so we can help give him outlet for his swimming needs, and also accommodate Becky's longstanding request to join a gym with childcare. (Talk about a solid win!)

Anyway the swim instruction starts Wednesday so I'll update everyone as to his progress.

Interesting story during our tour, the lady signing us up was making small chat about things, and was aware of our special needs swimming class needs and the impetus, and asked if we had any questions at the end of our tour. I asked if there was any policy on whether we can practice swimming with Billy fully clothed in street clothes, including shoes. She was caught off guard by this, then suddenly you could see it click in her head why we would want to do this, and she got this look that seemed like a cross between understanding, sympathy, and horror. Apparently that can be worked out with the instructor, which is good. 🙂

If you would like to learn more about autism and wandering, please visit the National Autism Association's excellent site on wandering here

And on a lighter note, here he is crashed out on the couch:


One of those nights (grossout warning)

So I had some issues that kept me later at work than I would have liked. I get home, and we have dinner. Billy hasn't been feeling well today, mostly coughing fits. No school for him tomorrow. Mommy needed to run an errand, but left her car lights on so her battery was dead. Went out to give her a jump, and she was on her way. I came back in, and Billy wanted a bit more food. He saw the guacamole from the chips and guac he slept through before dinner, so I made him a little plate, and retired to the restroom to attend to some personal needs.

I'm just about done in the restroom, and I hear coughing, some gagging, and a plate hit the floor. I jump up to see what's going on, to find that there's no toilet paper. I disregard that, and I see an upset billy sitting there in a chair, covered in his own vomit. He coughed, gagged, and puked in his plate. Upon seeing his own vomit, he freaked out, tossed his plate off his tray. He looked over the edge, saw his own vomit covered plate, and puked again over the edge of his chair all over the chair, the plate, and the floor. And then he laid back in his chair and closed his eyes to get some rest. (hey, puking a few times is hard work!)

So after procuring myself some toilet paper, I had to clean off a groggy, not feeling well boy, and his chair, the floor, and the table.

I could kiss the creator of Clorox wipes on the mouth. Even if they were a big ugly dude. Encouraging the people who make things like this is THAT important.

Autism screening paperwork

Now we've got the 16 page medical history form, and the 40 question social communication questionnaire out of the way, we only have the 12 page questionnaire, and the 100+ question child behavior checklist (actually visible at http://www.aseba.org/forms/preschoolcbcl.pdf ) to fill out before we can schedule the autism screening at Henry Ford's Autism center.

I don't know who they're testing at this point – him or us. I swear some of them are just to make us feel forgetful or senile. "At what age did your child first walk?". The questions are always thought provoking and remind us the ways he's different from other kids, as many of them besides the speech delay are subtle. But they're interesting nonetheless.

"If you come into a room and start talking to him without calling his name, does he usually look up and pay attention to you?" "no"

"Does he ever use odd phrases or say the same thing over and over in almost exactly the same way (either phrases that he hears other people use, or ones that he makes up)?" "yes"

"Does he ever have complicated movements of his whole body, such as spinning or repeatedly bouncing up and down" "yes" (they don't have a "basically constantly" option)

The master plan to be debt free is coming into place…

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
— Jim Rohn

Sometimes it's harder to be honest with yourself, than it is to be with others.

Ever since 18, when I began living independently, I learned a lot about putting myself in financial peril the hard way. Between numerous (likely actionable) missteps by employers when compensating me in my earlier years, misuse of credit, failure to plan ahead for my savings, failure to pay my bills timely, failure to stay organized, failure to file taxes timely and keep proper accountings of things, and unexpected expenses, I've put myself in quite a perilous place.

I make more myself than the average income of my neighborhood. But a few months ago, I was so far behind on my bills I was struggling to keep the lights on, and was only weeks from foreclosure. I didn't want to talk about it. I still don't. You write hardship letters to banks, and you don't know what to say. It's not like I lost an arm in a machine shop and lost my income, I made a ton of poor choices, poor organizational planning, and didn't keep track of what bills I was paying and when they were due. I was often a month behind on all my bills. I had only $500 in savings. When unexpected expenses came up, no way I was going further in debt, but I always thought "I can pay this, I have money in the bank!" and then a week later, I was all "oh crap, I forgot to pay DTE. That's why my power just went out.".. yeah.

2 years ago I locked all my revolving credit cards except a small $300 limit one for emergencies in a firesafe. I haven't touched them since. I cut my debts in half by focusing my efforts on paying those down as aggressively as possible. But I wasn't keeping track of things well, and more than a few times got more aggressive than I should have, and put money toward debt retirement I should have put toward normal bills. Obviously this was an untenable plan. I sat down and realized if I didn't put some serious math toward things and figure out a plan, I'd lose everything I worked for, and worst – continue to work my ass off and have nothing to show for it. I'd get massive bonuses, and dump them into paying bills.

I realized between jacked up penalty interest rates as high as 30% on balances as high as $5,000, and late fees, that my previously affordable plans had become a massive mess of unpayable penalties. I was getting kicked when I was down from every possible direction, and was liable every month for more than I made, despite the plans being affordable only months before. When you fail to pay one card, all the other cards take notice. They crank your limits down, they jack up your interest, and when you pay late on them, WHAM, 15% revolving interest just became 30%. Your budget to pay this card off in 3 years? No longer makes the monthly minimum payment anymore, which by the way  now has a $35 late fee.

After putting my head around every bill I was past due on, every revolving credit line I have, and the rare few collections I had, I realized I need a comprehensive plan. And then my car insurance doubled. WTF.

Today I got the fedwire transfer from a massive 401k loan (at 4something% interest). My first impulse when I saw the amount in my bank, combined with my biweekly paycheck, was to run to tijuana and say screw it all. But of course,  my debt will be 100% paid off in 5 years, and I'll save thousands in interest. The money I'm saving will be going directly into savings to cover rainy day funds, and my goal is to build up 3-6 months of pay in buffer money, as the financial folks always recommend.

I know 401k loans can be risky, but I read the risk carefully, and fully understand what I'm doing. By doing this, I've saved literally $500 a month in late fees, excessive interest, and other costs. That will obviously help when it comes to savings. I'm going to leverage the situation to try to refinance my horrid sub-prime 8.25% mortgage (shouldn't be hard, they said I could before if I were caught up in payments (as of tomorrow, I will be current to 4/1/2013 – I am current on mortgage payments on day 1 of the month for the first time in 3 years!) it's not like my debts disappeared, they just all went into one place). I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And esurance cut my insurance rates in half for the same coverage. So there's another $150 a month I can put toward savings. EXCELLENT.

And when I have a buffer, I can safely put all my bills on autopay, and never screw them up again.

Things are coming together nicely! For the first time in 3 years, I'm looking forward to opening quicken, my online banking, and I'm feeling better about answering numbers I don't recognize on my cell phone. My credit score dropped 200 points this year. It's at 550. I have a long ways to go, but I'll get there. I can do this.